It was not often that I was up at 2 in the morning and the way I felt right then was very unfamiliar.
A few minutes before, I had been asleep in the kind of “busy sleep” that shows up only once in a while. The kind of sleep where instead of basking into a blank nest of sweet and rejuvenating nothingness (my usual night fare), I had been “working.” My dreams were trying to be productive, to address current issues, to well … work. Nothing heavy, nothing scary, just nothing very restful either. And somehow, something had bubbled up from the depth of dreamland, that was a little odd. Something about the past, again nothing too heavy, just the flavor of a memory. The flavor of a time period.
It had already started to elude me, and I knew better than to chase a fading dream. Yet, as it slowly pulled me back up to the surface and brought me back to awakeness, it delivered a semi shocking message. It left me with some words that I so rarely used. These words went something like “Yeah, this was really hard. In fact it was a b****.”
Slowly and steadily I had come back up, and there was no way to stop the process. I came back up until I was awake. Then wide awake. Then so wide awake, thoughts swirling, that I knew nothing would soothe me short of giving into the relief of writing.
So there I was, and it felt as though something needed to speak up. To be listened to, too.
Something that maybe I had not really been honest about. Something which maybe until that night, I simply could not afford to be honest about.
Those years following the breakup.
Those years when I devised trick after trick to keep my head barely above the surface. The whole while never, ever saying how hard it was. Not to anyone but more importantly not to myself.
Those years were in fact pretty darn crazy.
I had found myself on this little Pacific Northwest island, as far as one can get from my family of origin while still being in the same country. Three young kids (one still nursing), no career, no seeming ability to “go get a job,” and maybe four friends that I could turn to. Now, don’t get me wrong, I had made a choice. Possibly a misguided choice but a choice nonetheless. And the knowing that I had made the choice is exactly what prevented me for almost twelve years — until that night — to say: “Man, this was really, really hard.”
Well, there you have it. Twelve years later I could say it : it was really, really hard.
First, there had been the “I must keep the house at all cost” years. And almost all cost it was. As soon as I had paid the mortgage, I had to scramble to try to assemble the next month’s payment. I invented so many ways to make that happen. So many ways that really, were pretty creative. So creative that from the outside, it is possible that it even looked like fun. I never sunk. I kept going. I invented “The Laundry Fairy” and washed people’s clothes in our home washing machine, delivered it in our van — with a sprig of lavender from our garden. I taught French, I created a toddler group… One day, I sold the family van for one month worth of that very mortgage and I bought a $400 VW bug in its place. It barely ran but we covered it in pink and yellow daisies and that too, looked like fun. Really, in many ways was fun. I rented rooms to various folks and I moved my own bed into the dining room. There again, color came to my rescue and painting the walls burnt orange made it all better. It was a little bit like camping.
I kept running. Until one day, I couldn’t run fast enough and I had to sell our house. I sold it a week before it went into foreclosure and for this, I was filled with gratitude. I never stopped to tell myself that it was tough. I never once let my family think that I was having anything but a great time. Pride? Maybe. But I think most likely something closer to survival.
We moved into a cute little rental and that too was full of joy. That too was so full of gifts that I did not stop to admit that … it was a really hard time. Then we were lucky to rent a gorgeous Victorian looking home at a wildly low price and within its walls, I started my coaching career. Also within those walls, I suffered the heartache of making a really private, really painful choice. But I kept going, and not once did I say “Whew. This is hard.”
The years passed and somehow we made it. We didn’t manage to buy an other house of our own for fifteen years, but we were blessed with magical renters’ luck. We lived in amazing homes, with much sweetness and often breathtaking views to boot. We always found quasi amazing situations and for this, I felt much gratitude. That night, I realized that I had signed well over $100, 000 worth of rent checks.
There were road trips, there were sleepovers, there were nights of all of us cuddled in the same bed. We never went to sleep hungry and we never slept in our car unless we wanted to, “for funsies.” Our dogs and cats always had dinner, and even though I know better than to think that they escaped all scars, all three of my kids are socially well adjusted and moving into their own lives in a free-spirited way.
Apparently that night, it had seemed to be safe enough for me to pause and say: this was really hard.
Why that night? I don’t know. But it felt strange. It felt as though it was important, too.
I am good at “life” (which is a good skill for a life coach.) I attract a certain level of magic and it is easy for me to tap into a deep, deep gratitude. Only a few hours before, as I had just slipped into bed with a book, my youngest son had walked into my room, took one look at me and said: “You look really happy.” I was. I am. And really, I have been.
But that night, on that random March night, I was making room for something else. I was making room for exhaling all the way. We had made it. We were all okay. And in order to write the next chapter, I had to be honest about this one. I had to be honest and say “This was really hard and this was also really sweet. And hard. And the fact that it was hard does not take anything away from the sweet.”
And as wrote this, I knew that I also need to add these words: “And Laura, you did well.” Because really, I think I had made it all look somewhat easy. I had to. Or rather, I thought I had to. And when we do that, we don’t always get the “Hey, you’re doing awesome.”
I could think of several women who were making it look easy, on that very night. Making it look easy to stay up all night, alone with a newborn. Making it look easy to walk around with the memory of a scary disease they barely dodged. Making it look easy to get up and go to work when their spirit hurt and … they didn’t know what was next. Making it look easy to keep their heart soft when it had been so bruised. Making it look easy to be beautiful when the years were fighting them. Making it look easy to make difficult decisions for their children, decisions that only they could make. Making it look easy to look strong as they held the hand of the man they love while he recovered from a heart attack. Making it look easy.
Today, I have a wish for you: my wish is that some time, “in the privacy of your own privacy,” you will give yourself enough time to exhale. Enough time to know that it is not easy. That in fact, some of it is damn hard. And that you are doing a really, really great job.
Originally published at lauralavignearchives.com on March 5, 2012.