Liam is gone for ten days. Oliver has been gone for five and will return late tomorrow. I find myself with an entire day to myself and knowing exactly what to do. I slept until nearly 10:00 this morning. Once normal, or even early, this is unheard of these days when 8:00 seems like a gift from the gods. When I did get up, I unloaded and loaded the dishwasher. Cleaned up from last night’s gathering of friends. Cleaned the sink. Then took my ice coffee back upstairs and turned on the TV. Two episodes of Grace & Frankie and an hour of coloring this.
My, how times have changed! I’m not talking about the days of sleeping until noon. I’m talking about the last few years. When I first left XN he saw Liam once a week. He was only a year old at the time, and even those 22 hours seemed extreme. I spent every hour he was gone worrying about what he was doing, who he was with, what he was eating, had he been changed. Anytime I heard a car in the drive my heart stopped, knowing my boy was going away. To where I didn’t know.
Fast forward to now and Liam is gone 40% of the time. Six nights out of every fourteen. One hundred and twenty-three hours every two weeks to be exact, not that I’m counting. It’s been gradual, an extra two hours here, an additional overnight there. I didn’t realize it at the time, but XN was giving me a great gift, the chance to heal and find myself again.
His gift of time, time for me, enabled me to spend countless hours reading about domestic violence and the toll my time with him had taken, physically and mentally. His gift of time was an opportunity to write, to make new friends, to take classes and walks. His gift of time gave me the chance to meet and get to know my husband. His gift of time was an opportunity to renew my strength and to push what remained beyond anything I had ever imagined.
Four years ago, two days to myself would have been agony. Today, I am basking in the quiet. I haven’t showered yet because I’ll spend the day going back and forth from the crummy pool in our back yard to reading and writing, maybe even a little bit of cleaning in the house. Tonight I may go to dinner with myself. I may spend hours at the book store, enjoying central air and a book I can’t justify buying. Maybe after, I will go to a movie like INDEPENDENCE DAY, that my husband would be miserable watching and maybe with some of the money I saved by reading the book in the store I’ll splurge on buttered popcorn.
The point is I’m by myself, but I’m in good company. I was single for the whole of my twenties. Yes, there were endless dates and social gatherings, but I spent 98% of my nights at home with my cat and though I was lonely at times, I was comfortable by myself. It seemed I needed a new journal every month or so because the thoughts, ideas, desires, and regrets that poured from my pen to the page were endless. Though I no longer need or have the luxury of spending two hours every night wandering through words, I’m here and I am enough.
Without XN’s gift of time, I may have never discovered that there is life for me beyond motherhood. There is a person that still resides in here who has goals and dreams for herself, not just her son. A large part of those goals and dreams are more easily achieved away from the clinging grasp of XN though, and thanks to the strength I’ve built during his gift of time I am finally able to stand up for me, my son, and our family and say “no more.”
This morning in the pool I started listening to Shonda Rhimes’ “Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person.” She opens with two quotes, one of which really resonated with me – “If you want crappy things to stop happening to you, then stop accepting crap and demand something more.” I have many lessons to learn from this book no doubt, but we are certainly off on the right, motivated foot.