Light Between the Trees

Skiing through trees covered in hoar frost under a brilliant January sun at Gore Mountain.

It was a typical Sunday morning, I’d padded from bed, splashed water on my face, and made my way to the coffee pot. The girls were watching a movie, one of them had come into our room an hour earlier and planted a soft kiss on the crown of my head. I remember thinking that it was a tender act, not just the kiss, but letting me sleep.

I ignored the dishes in the sink, while I set about drinking the first cup of coffee and curling up to read. A homemade snowflake sat on the table beside me, I’m not sure who made it. Briar’s book is there too, the eyes of the protagonist and his horse stare at me. The sweet kiss from earlier burned my crown. I hadn’t sprung from bed. I was not sitting with them on the couch.

I don’t want to start yet. A small clock ticked in the corner of the room.

The eithers and the ors, the if this then that, and the ding of emails and sirens of hurt feelings leave a path of unpredictable decisions behind me. The arithmetic related to my choices is endless and not confined to parenting.

I try not to be consumed by second guessing myself in the moment. Later, like the morning after in my twenties, later is not kind. I am not kind. Sipping morning coffee or propped on my side in bed to set the alarm, I reexamine the landscape of my day from a different vantage. The last gasps of the day whistling in my ear and the thunder of what I didn’t do are deafening.

Yesterday I drove an hour away to be a part of an all day judging process for a competition in my industry. The night before I’d made the same drive for a get-to-kn0w one another dinner. It’s not like me to accept things that swallow such large amounts of time at once. Not that the little things don’t snatch time too; work days become pock marked by the time sucks of emails, phone calls, forgotten tasks, and such. Reflecting on the two, the latter feels vastly more reckless, yet I struggle to achieve a more deliberate awareness of the cost of my actions.

The drive down was quiet and cold. I wore gloves and cranked the heat. The dash read 13 below zero. The sun was rising directly in front of me, the curves bringing it in my window. As I passed trees the light then dark felt like an assault, little branches stinging my skin. My left eye squinted in protest.

Trying to find shelter from the contrasts in my life overwhelms me. My work demands so much of me, but there is also a very potent pull for me; I want to work. I am stronger for the challenges and exertion of working. Parenting is no different, there are elements of the responsibility that are more duty than joy. I do not want to do certain things, but there are others that nourish a part of me that nothing else can. And marriage, happily ever after and true love’s kiss, such bullshit in the light of living them. It is the same Do I have to? and Can I please?

I have to bob and weave, sparring with my decisions and my regrets. There are moments, tiny and unpredictable, when I have the emotional footing to see that I am not failing; I am living. We say yes and sob no, but it is in that push and pull that we make our way. The beauty wasn’t ever supposed to be the whole thing, it is in the patchwork of sorrow and pride and daring that we find it, painfully, but profoundly.