I’ve barely stopped to sneeze, let alone jot down thoughts about my travels. For that, dear friends, I am sorry. While I was documenting my adventures through social media channels like Instagram, I don’t know if I was getting in touch with the feeling tone of things. That doesn’t seem accurate. Driving thousands of miles alone in the world, I’ve had plenty of time to think, reflect and ponder things. Certainly, there have been plenty of tears, confusion and blissful bits all smushed together.
What I’ve been struggling with is guilt. I feel guilty for enjoying this. My son’s dad’s biting words, insults and arguments leave indelible marks. Worse, my son’s regurgitation of his dad’s script is killing me.
My heart is split in two. I’ve been trying to articulate this to friends I talk while out on the road. Formulating a description of this phenomenon has been a great challenge. It seems a bit remedial, for an emotional conflict so huge. Still, I will attempt to articulate it. This is what it is like to be experiencing this dichotomy of emotions.
My heart is split in two pieces. When I visualize my ripped heart, it is far from a clean break. Edges where the heart was split are tattered, like the frays of threads that hang off a cut pair of dungarees. Bits of the heart drip off the torn shredded ripped middles, trying to pull each half back to one and other. It’s not so cut and clean, but a complicated split of emotion.
The happy half of my heart is the knowing that I’m living my best self, and adventuring on my own terms. I am drinking in so many moments of this journey with a heightened sense of mindfulness. Present, in it, being with what is, I find myself in awe of details of this journey. I stop to watch a bee explore flowers, the waves curl up to the shore, and my dog’s face the first time he swims. I take time to connect with strangers, engage in meaningful conversations and listen to their stories. Letting go of all forms of judgement, I practice deep compassion, acceptance and patience. I can imagine each person has something in their lives that holds them back, and I hold them in their moment of need. I have efforted to stop and look, go off the beaten path, find unusual spots to boondock and seek out new things to see.
The part of the adventure that is expected, the new, the traveling, the food to try… I am doing all that really well. I get a gold star, an A+ and every other kind of happy accolade for doing this vanlife thing the way I’m supposed to.
But that feels like, a fucking farce. I feel as though, I am conning you to believe I am living this amazing adventure, when inside the other half of my heart is in immense pain.
Depression is something I never gave into in my life. I have had enough excuses to be depressed, to give up, to let the darkness envelop me. At so many points in my life, I had good reason to be depressed and to have gone deeper into a dark hole that sucks one out of living. The truth is, I am depressed. The therapist called it “situational depression” and says I have good reason to be in this place. Over the past year, I have ideated suicide, wanted to just stop and did just stop. I sat on a couch crying, because I didn’t know what else to do. After 49 years of being one of the most motivated people I know, I stopped being motivated. I stopped giving a shit. I just wanted my own life to stop.
That’s the other half of my heart, still fighting that fight and aching. To be truthful, I did ideate death over the past two months. I know, how? It cuts, and thankfully I also have the deep wisdom to know everything is impermanent and these emotions pass through. I can handle many things, and navigate them with ingenuity and shift. What I can’t bare is the pain of losing my kiddo to a darkness that no one will let me clear. He’s depressed. He is struggling. He is aching.
I want to be his mommy. Break out the first aid kit, clean cuts, kiss boo boos and make it better.
Raising a teen wasn’t easy, but we were close. We had a relationship most envied, and I was proud of the way I carved out such a strong and honest relationship with my son. He told me everything. We worked through so many questions, addressed life challenges, talked about drugs and sex explicitly and walked through life as family. Each time he grew a little more, I had to shift my parenting style to be more of a coach than a mommy. It was hard to back up from the nurturing and doting, and I didn’t make that adjustment fast enough. I didn’t change fast enough. I didn’t let go quickly enough, and he pulled out from my mommy embrace and fled.
The dark side of my heart, aches to hold him and tell him he’s ok, to read him bedtime stories and laugh.
I’ve saved a message from my son on my phone. He is sobbing. He is upset. In this message, he says that he’s sorry, over and over. He thinks I’m going to be mad. He had a bad day. He acknowledges that he didn’t listen to me and took his skis to the shop on his skateboard and fell, dropping his phone and skis. Both broken and needed repair. He felt stupid he didn’t listen to me, he was sorry. I remember this day, it’s the last day I truly got to be his mommy. I remember calling him back, and saying that it was ok, that we will figure it out. They are just things that can be replaced. I was glad he was not badly hurt. I was proud of of him that he came to me and was honest. I told him I loved him and they were just things we could replace. I told him I can fix it, I was his mom and swooped in and fixed all of it. New phone screen, done. New used bindings that worked on those skis, done. Lots of hugs and pizza, no problem. Extra hugs, he let me hug him. It all worked out that day.
That is what I miss, I am losing out on two years that are so important. I don’t get to hug him when his girlfriend hurts him, or tell him that grade doesn’t matter as much as the effort. I don’t get to help with homework, or inspire him to look at colleges. We don’t go to the movies, or eat pizza together three nights in a row because that’s the kind of week it is.
If I could tell him something every day, it would be this…
He is loved unconditionally.
I am proud of him for standing up to the challenges of life with a willingness to resist conformity.
I am confident he will bloom at his time, and be totally successful at the thing he loves to do and will do it well.
I miss him every moment of every day, and that he is my number one priority still and forever.
Well, the good news is, he did text me the other day and told me about a new girlfriend. “You’d love her mom, she plays seven instruments.” He’s right, I like her already. He knows. The better news is, he wants to see me this summer, and that we are making plans to do a little vanlifing together this month. I don’t know when the dark side of my heart will be made whole, but some quality time with my amazing kiddo would definitely help a whole heck of a lot.
So yeah, two spheres of emotion with little overlap. My adventuring heart is so fulfilled. Scratching the surface of my wanderlust, and indulging my free spirit is so gratifying. I am loving getting out there, and living it for real. My broken heart is also deeply in it. I miss my kid. Every life choice I made for 16 years put him first, and now what? What do I do if I’m not his caretaker anymore? I loved being his full-time mom, and I am sacrificing that part of me in exchange for a new found freedom. I ache for a relationship that fulfilled me like no other, one that was comprised of unconditional love and selflessness. What I am doing now is very selfish, and I don’t want to feel guilty, but I do.