I have never felt my aloneness so keenly as I do now and so I cried in the fucking closet.
I am alone with all the fear for the future, I am alone in my struggle to keep all the balls in the air, I am alone in homeschooling a defiant, confused, and sad pre-teen, and – as usual – I am alone in love.
I sat on the floor with my laptop set on my giant fuzzy pillow. My therapist’s wizened face watched me with kind eyes as I wept into my hands. I wondered what she thought of the clothes organized behind me, hung neatly and in order of type of dress. I did that the first week of quarantine.
Two weeks after I made the heartbreaking decision to cancel my trip to London on March 11th my ex texted to suggest that I keep our baby because there were so many families in our broken-home chain that I guess they had all decided it’d be safer for the kids to shelter in only one place separately.
I didn’t hesitate, “YES ABSOLUTELY I’LL DO IT.”
I have now had Peyton every minute of every day since school shut down 6 weeks ago and the world screeched to a halt.
I knew it’d be hard, but I also knew it’d be incredible. I hadn’t been able to be a mother uninterrupted since nearly 10 years ago. Yes, yes, yes, of course my baby will stay with me. I’m the kind one, the unselfish one, the smart one, the better, stronger, more capable parent. Yes, I’ll do it.
My child has no memory of only one stable home where the rules remained the same, the love the same, the bed and pillows unchanging. I wanted to do this.
What I didn’t account for was the complete overwhelm.
I’m working more than ever and am buried under never-ending demands while constantly dealing with the world coming to a mother fucking end. The heartbreaking injustices, the Sophie’s Choice of daily decisions to survive for so many. Are there even words to describe the existential crises and trauma we are all experiencing together? Things will never be the same and my soul is mourning.
Plus, while it’s a beautiful, honorable thing to be solely responsible for another’s well being, I feel like I am barely surviving myself. Am I a good enough mother right now? I fucking hope so.
I cried in the closet because I’d had yet another battle about school work and fuck is that English teacher for real?? Does she think I have nothing else to do but sit on my child all fucking day to make sure her need to make students work X amount of time is met?? Why haven’t they just called it already??
School’s out, take a break, mourn the end of life as we know it, parents. Make sure your kids are safe and happy. We’ll make it up next year/over the course of their lives because who really needs to know how to find the area of a fucking trapezoid anyway? Jesusfuckingchrist.
I can’t talk to my ex – he’ll blame me and push to take Pey away; I have no partner to lean on – my friends are sympathetic, but can’t understand; my family watch helplessly – they trust me, but have no solutions, either.
I get up early to write down assignments and scour the school site for information, but my child has been lying for weeks despite my best efforts and now I’ve moved my old iMac two feet from my little work station at the dining room table so I can support and help throughout the school day.
At night, after work, I tell myself I’ll work more on the school work, but I’m ignoring work that I need to do for myself and so say Fuck it instead and watch Gilmore Girls and have a glass of wine, make dinner, and cuddle with my sweet, angry, sad one.
We talk and laugh and the dog and cat pile on us. For a moment all seems normal. Of course I’m home on the couch on a Friday night because Pey is here. And then I remember that even if I were childless, I’d still be alone because that hasn’t changed and it’s not safe to leave the fucking house.
And Peyton has been sleeping with me again this week; mothering has literally become something I do in my sleep.
As the years have ticked by it naturally happened less and less and when we moved to our new apartment in November we stopped entirely. At my ex’s, the rule is no children allowed in the master bedroom for any reason. Bad dreams, rough day, nothing, no, no, no.
Pey accepted it, was stoic about it, but at my house it was always, “Hey mommy? Can I sleep with you tonight?” and I would melt because, Of course, baby. Anything you need. They won’t always want to be close to us like this; what’s the rush to make it stop?
Then this week my ex refused to let Peyton come stay with him for just a weekend. He wanted a full two weeks. All or nothing.
“Would you like to sleep with me tonight?” Yes, my baby said. Yes. Because this fragile, little baby human was rejected by a father who’s more interested in what he wants rather than what his child wants.
So yes, honey, of course you can sleep with mommy because your little heart is being broken. Your school is closed, your friends are just a bunch of idiot kids too and don’t call anyone either, you can’t have play dates or play your favorite sports, you can’t see your coaches or your teammates, your grandparents, your father won’t let you come see him because he’s mad you won’t stay longer, and you’re trapped in the house with a 45 yo woman who works full time, makes you do distance learning against your will and let’s not forget all the chores and bedtimes that are still enforced. Yes, sleep with me, baby. Forever if you need to. Forever.
Then my loneliness kicks back in as I strive to meet and solve that of my little love’s. Fuck, the loneliness.
It’s so acute, like a knife in my heart, and it makes me panic to think about when Pey will finally go back to my ex. I will be so so alone then – and I don’t do alone.
I feed my demanding extroversion through dating and men; they’re how I survive myself and the abandonment I experience every other week when my little one leaves me.
Abandonment. That’s what I’ve discovered during this quarantine: sharing custody is akin to full blown abandonment to my nervous system – every other week – and I never get to recover or work it out or even feel it for what it is because then we are reunited and I’ve spent a week working longer hours and filling my time with men and wine and deep dreams about nothing. I anchor my feelings at the bottom of all things, an ocean of nothingness, hidden from myself so I can start all over again in another 7 days, just so I can get out of fucking bed and look normal.
That era of distraction and distancing from myself is irrevocably over and I will have to feel my loneliness and face it head on. The Universe wants me to notice.
The world is molting, shedding its layers of abuse and misuse and slowing down. The earth is breathing more deeply, people are waking the fuck up, we’re all crying for the loss, the injustice, the fear, the calamity.
This much I know for sure from crying in my closet: I want to love. I want to love myself. Better and more than ever before. I want to be able to weather watching my child leave me over and over without dying inside, without craving stupid fucking dick. I want to keep empty, greedy men away from me and my most precious parts. I want to grow and fly and soar above the destructive decisions I ordinarily make. And most importantly, I want to help my little one’s heart to heal alongside mine.
I’m looking forward to crying in my closet again and highly recommend it. Everyone should go have a good cry in theirs.