I read recently that one of the major problems the human race faces, at least here in immediate gratification America, is a desire to run from the valleys and seek only the hilltops. I understand this urge all too well and I also understand the writer’s assertion (sorry, I can’t remember where I read this) that no other animal species seeks to avoid the low points – they just ride the wave because that is the ebb and flow of life.
Oh, I think it was O Magazine, the current issue. In any case, today I hugged my sweet children goodbye for their last day of summer camp, knowing they will go to their father’s house at day’s end and stay with him until next Friday, when I scoop them into my minivan for our family’s annual Up North trek.
It’s only fair that they spend long uninterrupted time with their dad. I cherish it, I know. And when I filed for divorce in 2007 and rode the crests and valleys of the process through until it was final in May of 2008, the moments I feared the most were these: when my children would be away from me and I would miss them, hearing the lonely echoes of a house too big for just one person.
Mostly, I don’t sit and pine in loneliness. I am way too busy, way too involved in life itself, in swimming laps and taking yoga, in meeting friends and spending time with my love, in working working working, to catch up and make up for the times that I devote both eyes and full moments to my little ones. And this coming week, I have a full schedule, with moments of exploration, of fresh air, of contemplation, and of rest. It is well deserved and much needed and they, too, will enjoy the distance, for then the reuniting is ever so sweet.
But right now it’s a moment. I almost cried as I drove away. The trees were full over the road and the air thick with humidity. It is gray today, as it has been all week, and all these emotions like a pinball game shoot at me – guilt over the need and the desire for work, frustration at trying to please three very demanding individuals all at the same time, sheer gratitude for the gifts of my children and of my life, and sheer exhaustion as I collapse at the end of a very full day into the sweet dark of the night.
This week, I reunited with my dear friend and mentor, Susan Shapiro. She gave a reading at Borders in Birmingham of her new book, Overexposed, and I was surrounded by writer friends I hadn’t seen nor shared in their energy for way too long. I left that night brimming with energy for words and stories, for the community of storytellers, for the vibrance of the way words connect and my desire to connect them.
The next morning, I awoke early and wrote for more than an hour, discovering in the deep corners of my computer files three almost-complete book manuscripts and an array of essays that could seriously see publication. I was energized, awakened, by the old me – the one who sat on the bushy carpet at Peg’s farm, sipping white wine from a plain glass and closing my eyes to ingest the poetry being spoken. I was back in graduate school, writing my heart onto the page and sharing it with people who cared about the words and the silent pauses.
And so in this swirl of emotions, my week commences and it ends, it ebbs and it flows, in the natural course of life. Someone once said that, if we didn’t experience disappointment, we would never really know joy. I think he was right. But still, the parting is so bittersweet.