I started with a quarter-pill in September 2018 and bumped it up to about a half a pill during all of 2019. Dating had lost its luster, men their intrigue, my pain tolerance its infinite depths. I was beginning to feel my edges, my limits. Betraying my basic needs to feel seen, heard, and valuable was no longer the course de rigueur, it had become to feel more like the affront to my soul that it was. Then Covid struck the world and rocked my little chaotic, hurting life – and it was the biggest, fattest, juiciest red pill I’ve ever swallowed in my life.
It was also delicious.
I am free of injuries on insults, free of ignoring my inner voice, free of obligation. I have stepped into a sense of myself I have longed for for decades. Interactions with my ex-husband are opportunities to stand in my own righteous strength, my boundaries with my mother are better drawn, my equation related to the world and my energy crystal clear: nothing and no one is greater or more important than my own well-being. Not even my own inertia to destroy myself.
I haven’t been writing because this space originated out of a need to explore and devour and tell the world about it. I’m on the other side of all that consumption and am feeling contemplative and supremely private. I also haven’t been fucking around all that much, so what’s to tell? How every day is like Groundhog’s Day? Work, animals, child, parents. Repeat repeat repeat motherfucking repeat.
I guess I could have been writing about my dating app experiences. I’ve had a handful of little dalliances in my pocket. They’d burn bright with dicks and tits being slung across the ether at break neck speeds then the realities of Covid and comfort levels would crash into us and we’d limp away into the dark corners of our phones never to speak again.
The last time I wrote I was hopeful I was curating something fun and light. I put far too much faith into one so ridiculously young, but oh! how I wanted to believe in the bravado of this young 22 yo man! It puttered out as pitifully as you might imagine. Then there was the 30 yo lawyer whose drinking could have drowned a fish. His open and affectionate manner reminded me of The Golfer in some ways and our texting and sexting was delightful for 6 full weeks. And then he stood me up one Saturday and I ended things on Sunday. No wiggle room, no doubts. I will never, ever continue to see anyone – man or woman – who wastes my time like that.
I entertained the idea that something had “happened to him” for about .3 seconds that Saturday evening when I realized he’d gone MIA. The only reason I waited to tie things off with him until Sunday was simply to see if he’d break the silence first.
I said my piece, he apologized, offered up an “alternative solution” (“I’d be happy to be your booty call!”) to which I politely declined. “I no longer trust you and so I won’t be taking you up on that,” I’d said blithely. I forgot to add that I thought we were booty calls, but by the time I’d realized my omission I’d already lost any sense of giving a shit.
Today, February 1st, is the morning after my second date with a tall, fair-skinned Mexican man. He’s 28, has a graduate degree, and a fetching Spanish accent. He also grins ear to ear and bends over in tickled delight at things I say, which is probably for the best because he can’t see me looking at him wide-eyed with disbelief. Am I really that funny?? Apparently I am!
Our first date was at a coffee shop outdoors in 42º F (6º C) weather with no heat source. I sat as long as my cold butt could stand it then begged off. He’d said he’d be open to coming home with me, but sober and jaded as I was, I demurred. “I definitely want to see you again,” I told him, “but I’m not up for bringing you home tonight.” He didn’t seem bothered and when I asked if I could kiss him when he’d walked me to my car he nodded and blasted a grin at me.
Three weeks and several more failed attempts to see one another later he finally made it over to my house last night. I was observing myself more than him. A hot cup of tea cradled in my hands, minimal makeup, my knees drawn up against my breasts I sat practically guarding myself from him. He sat on the middle cushion of the couch while the dog took up the third. It was cozy, familiar.
He did the grinning, bending over thing some more, told me about his family back in Mexico, his friends, his life. Gushed over how genuine and different I was from any other woman he’d ever dated. I was flattered, but also searching for that connection I had felt at the end of our chilly date. I sensed tendrils of it, but we had been shitty texters in between these two dates. The water between us felt so cold, insurmountably so.
He was closing in on me, shrinking the distance from me to him. I smelled the woodsy scents of his cologne, could hear the crinkle of his leather jacket. “I’m so glad you’re here tonight,” I said looking directly into his beautiful inky brown eyes, “but I feel like some of our connection has been lost these past few weeks because we’ve hardly talked and so I’m not looking to have sex with you tonight.”
He didn’t miss a beat. “That’s totally ok with me. I just really wanted to see you and hang out.”
We talked some more about our desire for a stronger connection and committed to keeping the water warmer between visits with one another.
Eventually, three hours after he arrived all tall, dark and handsome, he said he needed to leave. It was 10:30 on a school night for the both of us after all. I walked him to the door and tilted my face to his and closed the gap between us, careful to press my heavy and untouched breasts into the bottom of his rib cage.
Our hands slowly explored one another. One of his cold hands cupped the side of my neck behind my ear. The other slipped beneath my t-shirt. I tried not to move away from its iciness. I sneaked one beneath his jacket and the other ran through the short hair behind his ear. His lips soft and pliant opened against mine and we melted into one another, a tall dark moon against a short bright sun.
The dog barked at us and we chuckled into each other’s mouths. It was time for him to go.
Later, as I got ready for bed, I felt so incredibly happy. And safe. I felt so completely safe because I had been true to myself through and through and hadn’t done one tiny thing that the whole of me wasn’t behind. The red pill I started to take 2+ years ago means so much more to me than simply seeing the Matrix for what it is. It has also been the gateway to regaining my own trust. Because if I can’t trust myself first and foremost, then how in the hell will I ever be able to trust anyone else??
For the first time in my life, I am feeling truly myself.
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.
Between there and there it all begins. The dip and the curve, the swell and the swerve.
It enchants us all with its mystique, it’s from whence we came and where we peak.
We seek its source throughout our life and return back through the afterlife.
It’s everything and everyone, my greatest power and my biggest gun.