Morgan is asleep. Her arms sprawled wildly above her head, an unruly mess of blonde hair surrounding her face. A face that is once again peaceful. After she awoke in tears, I told her it'd be okay for her to go ahead and sleep in my bed. "Will you snuggle me?" she asked. Twenty minutes later, she's sound asleep but I find myself still lying there next to her.
I need to get out of this bed, I tell myself. I have things I need to do tonight. But it's nice being this close to her. Feeling each and every relaxed breath she takes. Running my fingers across her ears and face, gently tracing her delicate features. Relishing the way her tiny body fits so perfectly against mine. There's a lot I need to get accomplished before I fall asleep for the night, but I'm not ready for this moment to end just yet. So I pull her a little closer to me. So close in fact that I can feel her little heartbeat against mine, and for just a moment it feels as if my body might actually absorb hers.
And I think back to earlier in the evening...
"Mommy, why don't we live with Daddy and Dixie anymore?"
I immediately froze, surprised. I expected questions like this eventually; I know she's been confused about things. But I wasn't entirely prepared to have this conversation tonight. I hadn't rehearsed an answer just yet. I stood there for a couple seconds, set down the whisk I was using to stir the gravy, took a deep breath and turned to face her with a forced smile.
"Sometimes mommies and daddies decide that they need to be away from each other," I explained. "You know how sometimes when you're playing with your cousins and you get really tired, you just want to be alone for a while?"
"Like when I told Kyle to give me some space?"
"Yes, honey, like that. Your dad and I need some space right now. But do you know what? Your Daddy and I both love you soooo much. And nothing can ever, ever, ever change that!"
She sat quietly for a moment then simply said "okay," and went back to coloring.
I waited until I returned to the stove, my back toward her, to wipe away the tears that had formed in the corners of my eyes. Her tears wouldn't come until later, when she'd wake from a restless sleep and ask to be snuggled.
All of my emotions currently reside at the bottom of my chest, ready to bubble up and spill out at any moment. It isn't that I'm not allowing myself to feel them, it's just that I'm trying so hard not to let her see too much of them. In the quiet moments after she's asleep, or if I find myself alone in the car for a few minutes, I let myself cry. I let myself feel the hurt and the anger. But I always regain my composure in time to greet her with a smile. More than anything else in this world, she gives me reason to be strong.
I was never going to be this person. The day I got married, I certainly didn't imagine myself living in a one bedroom apartment with my daughter, discussing things like child support, joint custody and alimony with my husband. But trust me, this is not a decision we are taking lightly.
There's a saying that goes something like "day to day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different." How true that is! There's not just one or two things that led to this decision. It's not as if one day we woke up and said, "I think I'd like to end this marriage." There isn't a single day that sticks out in my mind as the day that I realized our marriage wasn't working anymore. It happened little by little. There are a multitude of issues that were neglected over the years that have just become too big to ignore any longer.
I was recently telling a friend of mine, "it's like I was walking on the beach one day, and there were so many awesome things to see and enjoy that I didn't even realize the tide was coming in. And before I knew it, the water had risen to my knees, past my waist, and eventually up to my neck. Then there I was, suddenly struggling to keep my head above water, wondering what the hell had happened and how I'd drifted so far from shore."
This wasn't supposed to happen. How do things go so terribly wrong? How do we end up so incredibly far from where we planned? I don't know the answers to these questions, or any of the other thousands that fill my head.
The girls are handling things quite well actually. As well as can be expected, I suppose. Adam and I are working together to keep things as easy and normal as possible. We are surrounded by people that love us and have made this process much easier. Morgan is my primary focus and number one priority, and since I have vivid memories of my six year old self going through the same thing she's facing right now, I'm trying to be very aware of what she is feeling. When she asks questions, I'll answer them to the best of my ability and when she cries, I'll let her feel those emotions without interference. I need to honor her feelings and let her know that it's okay to have them, whatever they may be.
Because Adam is the father of my child, and out of respect for what we've shared, I won't be discussing the details of our separation. But I hope that as I navigate these strange waters I'll be able to come here (a place where I've found so much support and solace in the past) to share some of my thoughts again... even if I'm not quite ready to share everything.
And if I occasionally slip underwater, I hope you'll allow me to stay there for a little while. Because I know it's not going to be easy, but I need to allow myself to feel all of this. To learn from it and let it make me stronger.
I can see the shore from here and I promise I'll make it back eventually.