All of my feelings are numb as I sit alone in my two bedroom loft apartment. Numb from the shock and from the feeling I might collapse of heartache while wrapping my two boys’ Christmas presents by myself for the first time ever. No one will be there to pass me the tape, nobody to bitch about how much money I’ve spent, and nobody to sit there and be with me in that memory.
I’m sitting in the closet in my loft bedroom. The loft bedroom is mine because my seven-year-old sleeps in the master bedroom and his three-year-old brother is in the second bedroom so that we can all have our own rooms. After moving from their Dad’s ranch style house, I wanted them to feel as much familiarity as possible. Even if it’s just space instead of tangible things like their Mommy and Daddy playing with them every night, having nerf gun wars and making them laugh when they’re crying over the absurd things kids get dramatic over. His is the house they’ve called home for so long, the house that I once called home but always knew would never be permanently home for me. That was the house I left and that led me to sitting on my closet floor drinking so that I felt the liquor on my lips instead of the tears that were dripping from my eyes.
I am sitting in the closet holding my knees to my chest that feels like it might burst with a feeling I can’t quite grasp. Is it regret? Is it sadness, agony, despair, or sorrow? Do I miss being a family? Is this not what I wanted? Or it is what I wanted, but I’m just confused because this weak moment I’m having in the here-and-now is just so damn hard. So damn hard.
I am sitting here hugging my knees, tipsy. Now I’m starting to feel pretty buzzed, and then drunk out of my mind. I’m thinking what the hell have I done? I am surrounded by snowman and Santa Claus wrapping paper, the paper I got to pick out on my own just like I wanted. I’m surrounded by scissors and tape that I’ll use as much of as I damn well please, just like I wanted. I have gifts around me I’ve been hiding from them, gifts that my own mom has bought several of because she knows I can’t afford them this first year on my own and she wants my boys to have a good Christmas. I suddenly think she has sat in this same place when she left my dad.
Alone. Deserted. And scared to death. Yet fearless, confident, and brave all at the same time. I think how marvelously complex human emotion can be, and if there was ever a time for it to show its face it’s in a time like this, right now. I’m sitting here thinking that the thing I have feared and pretended would never happen to me – the breaking up of my family – has happened and I have no defense but to feel the blow to my gut that is the failure I’ve become as a mother.
For months, I’ve been drinking more than I normally do, but it stills my skeptical thoughts that I’m not strong enough to do this and relieves the madness that comes with single motherhood. So I take another sip. I want to be me again and this is helping me forget so that I can remember being myself. I don’t want to remember watching my kids leave for their dad’s for a long weekend knowing they’ll be packing right back up to come back to me. It pains me to know that when they switch houses they have to remember to bring their kindles and their favorite toys, and remember the rules that are here and the rules that are there. The look on my seven-year-old’s face when I bark at him to quit forgetting his homework kills me. It kills something inside of me as a parent, but I still do it. No matter how many time I beat myself up over those parenting moments, they still happen. I forgive myself over and over again, but I often wonder, does he? Does my son forgive the looks of annoyance I cast when I have to pick up his backpack he left at his dad’s again?
Yet single motherhood is something I chose. My kids did not make this decision, I did, and I have to live with it. In this moment, wrapping their Christmas presents alone for the first time, I start to wonder if I’ve made the right choice. I know deep down I did, that this is what is best, and in this moment, here alone on my closet floor wrapping gifts their dad and I should have picked out together, I realize that it’s not only my kids waking up to just me when they want to wake up to the both of us on Christmas morning that breaks my heart. It’s not only me thinking about them and their feelings and what they have to deal with that is making me bleed with the grief that comes with divorce.
As I bring the beer to my lips to take the last sip, I realize this is about me too. I’m finally letting myself feel it, the heartbreak, the loneliness I thought I was too strong to feel, the incompleteness. It doesn’t matter how much I know it wouldn’t work between their dad and me, or how much he knows it wouldn’t work, it’s that sense of completeness that is absent without him wrapping those presents that takes a hold of me, knocks me sideways, and leaves me staggering, not from the beer but from the emotion of it.
What I can take away from this is that this was our first year separated. It was a long hard year with many firsts. I am confident next year will be a little better and the next year a little better after that. I am confident that this is the worst Christmas I will ever have to endure, and even if I have another one just like it next year, I will keep the same smile I will have for them on Christmas morning when they wake up. I will smile again because I conquered something I was never good at: misery. I did it for them and will continue to do so for the rest of their lives because they are, and will be, my everything, no matter what the circumstances.