Loneliness.

All day I was busy, working, moving, and momming. The kids were bopping around, alternately playing and arguing, requesting snacks, audiobooks, help with something, and more water. Their father needed help disassembling the rusty metal shed in the backyard, so I helped with that, too. My fingernails are splitting and dry from the work and the clean up. I made dinner for everyone, by myself, as the three of them went on with their lives in the house. No one asked if I needed help. No one offered to help. They complained while I made the salad. But no one offered to help me, so yes, you’re eating green things, I said. 

One didn’t like the red sauce, and her pasta was too cold. It was probably cold because she let it sit for so long. The little one ate plain spaghetti while listing about three hundred new toys he wants for his birthday. We played a story telling game while we ate, which had them alternately laughing and arguing. I sat down with my plate last, as I usually do, and the loneliness hit me. 

It was as if I was two people in that moment. I was mama, reminding my daughter to eat her salad and taking part in the story game when it was my turn, and then I was just me, floating somewhere inside my body, vaguely feeling the food go in as I chewed and hearing the three of them talking at the table as if I was hearing them through water or glass, with a sort of distortion like I was inside a bubble. I was there, but not there. They didn’t notice I was lonely. They didn’t notice if I felt anything at all. As long as the food showed up on the table and their water cups were filled, everything was fine in their world. They didn’t mind complaining about the dinner, because the fact that I may have had feelings didn’t occur to them. And that’s okay. They’re kids. But I felt it from their father, too. I feel it often, that my work and my efforts go unseen and unacknowledged. I usually absorb the complaints and the whining without reacting, because mama reacting upsets everyone, and their father will come back at me with a what’s wrong with you? or why are you always like this?. 

They don’t know what it feels like to have no one consider your feelings on a daily basis. I am four out of four on the priority list. The three of them went to the fancy supermarket to order sandwiches and buy food for lunch. We’ll text you what the soups are, he said, because last time there was an Egyptian red lentil that looked so good. I waited, cleaning the kitchen, loading laundry, and picking up the counters, checking my phone every few minutes so I didn’t miss his text. A while later they came back, with special lunches for the three of them and a six-pack of fancy beer. I set up the kids at the table with their food, and as they sat down to eat, I thought I wouldn’t mention it. It wasn’t a big deal. I could let it go. And then for some reason I said fairly quietly as I looked into the empty paper grocery bag, Oh, I thought you were going to text me about the soups.

He forgot, he said. He would go back. 

No. It’s fine. It’s really fine. And the three of them sat down to eat, while I straightened the kitchen.      

After I got the kids to sleep I texted my mother, a message she likely won’t get until the morning. I’ve been feeling so alone. I miss being with you. I love you. 

Grieving.

When my mother’s husband died, it was an average day. A warm breeze, blue sky, scrambled eggs for breakfast sort of day. After this breakfast, Lee turned pale. He had trouble breathing. And then the chest pain began. Momma gave him an aspirin and called 911. The ambulance came on the country roads, past cornfields and vineyards. Not fast enough, but she didn’t know that then. She packed him clean underwear and fresh, comfortable clothes, expecting the uncomfortable recovery and days of bland hospital meals on covered plastic trays. Lee never liked spicy food anyway, but it wouldn’t be like their suppers at home together. “Just come sit by me,” he’d often say after a meal from his spot on the big sofa as he flipped through the channels looking for a movie to watch. He would say,“It was a long day today,” and take her hand in his.

She texted me after she called 911 to say she was leaving for the hospital, to follow the ambulance because they wouldn’t let her ride along. He was still alive in the ambulance. Those precious minutes.

In Portland, my phone rang just a few hours later. I was so relieved when I answered and heard her soft, familiar laugh. Lee had bought her first smart phone for Mother’s Day, after she left her faithful, old phone on the hood of the car and driven off. She had called me accidentally. I heard the background noise for several seconds before she laughed. The laugh brought me a wave of relief. He must be okay.

“Momma?”

“Mom, it’s me. I’m here. Can you hear me?”

“Momma?”

After several seconds of silence, enough for a long breath in and time to hold it before letting it out slowly, I heard the sound again. It was not the laughter of relief or the wonderful agony of knowing the loved one will be okay after something horrible has happened. It was a long, drawn out sob. A moaning cry of grief so deep that it lingered, and continued, and seemed endless. It was a sound of such pain and disbelief. I stayed on the line, listening to my mother wail and to the mumble of the doctor in the background. I heard him tell her that Lee’s heart just didn’t make it through the procedure. They had tried to save him. They tried to look with a tiny camera.

I will never forget that sound, the sound of my mother’s grief. Several minutes went by and she just couldn’t stop. I sat on the kitchen step stool with one hand holding my phone, the other stuck to my heart, three time zones away, unable to do anything to help or make this not be happening, while my children played with legos in the living room. The sound of their chatter filled one ear, while the sound of her despair and disbelief filled the other.

“Do you want me to help you call someone?” a woman’s voice in the background asked her. My mother mumbled something incoherent, and the phone shuffled. Her breath came louder and closer to me.

“Momma, I’m here. I’m here.” I repeated, because in that moment there was nothing else I could say.

“He’s gone.” Her voice was barely a whisper. “He’s gone.”

It Started At The Greek Restaurant.

Back in November of 2012, over plates of souvlaki, while my mother took Herself to the ladies’ room and Himself was too young to understand, I told my husband I wanted a trial separation. As it turns out, I didn’t really need the crowded restaurant to help me avoid an awkward conversation, because he didn’t have anything to say to me. Later he agreed. Even later he blamed me.

In May 2014, we finally separated, two months before our seventh wedding anniversary.

Day 3. The Girl Who Cried At Yoga.

84asanas

I’m not going. I’m too sore. I should drink water so I’m hydrated for class. But that isn’t necessary, because I’m not going.

Where is my towel? I should stay home and rest. Where is my pink sports bra? I’m dressed, so I might as well go. It’s going to hurt. I’m standing in the hallway examining a poster of the 84 classic asanas to avoid going into the hot room. Maybe I could sneak out now and go home.

The room is packed. The sun is on the floor, but it’s not as hot in here today. I wonder if the furnace is working correctly?

The routine is more familiar today. I can anticipate. I can synchronize my movements with the dialogue. Almost. Noticeably better, though. I can focus on my breath a little. I can correct my reflection. Right hip forward. Left shoulder forward. Chest up. Sometimes I am so wobbly, but today I smile and laugh at myself. I try again.

Today I use my breath to push further. I want to phone it in, but I can’t do that to my reflection. There is a difference between laziness and knowing your limits. I focus on form and then I push. I can hear the sweat dripping and hitting my towel. I like it. It feels like I’m working.

Today I didn’t bring a washcloth to wipe my face and hands. I think it keeps me cooler to just let it be. I’m all for avoiding excess movement. But I’m actually not dying. This is a relief. It’s hard, but I feel strong.

I smiled several times today. (Except during that damn locust pose—my elbows felt like they were being twisted in a medieval torture device.) During the final few postures, I felt like I could keep going. What is happening to me?

During the final savasana, the instructor talked about the absolute importance of taking the time for yourself. Yes. I was there for me. I was making myself stronger. As she kept talking, my heart starting beating hard and my eyes filled with embarrassing hot tears. I realized I was, at last, finally doing something for myself after four intense years of ever constant motherhood, sleep deprivation, depression, and feeling alone in my marriage. It will make me a better mother if I take care of myself. Rushing to the grocery store alone doesn’t count as “me time”. It’s been a long time.

So on day three, I cried. I cried in yoga. My usually Type-A, control freak self decided to let those tears fall. They rolled down the sides of my face and into my ears and were eventually absorbed by my special yoga towel. I didn’t dare move my arms to wipe them away. This is a time of change. It hurts and feels amazing. (Even if I’m now the Girl Who Cried At Yoga.)

I left that hot room feeling so unbelievably good! I stood up a little taller as I walked to the changing room. I couldn’t believe I almost stayed home and missed such a great day! I’m definitely coming back.