My 11-year old daughter just left the house to go meet her new baby sister. The changes that have unfolded in her life, that have led to this moment, have been touched on in these posts, but they don’t have to be known to be evident. Changes are a normal part of growing up, and untangling the ones that have been forced upon her by her parent’s divorce are both personal and predictable as they appear, like seasonal lights, in some form in every home that has been broken in some way.
I have known this day was coming but, like Christmas, I am never really prepared until it is upon me. I have no qualms about whether the divorce was the right choice. I have no regrets about my choices in how to navigate it. But this evidence of her father’s new life in the form of a child was magnified in its birth during Christmas.
I spent the afternoon, yesterday, decorating my Christmas tree… feeling the time warp of the ornaments that had been made by my own children. I took my time. Setting the intention of remembering the joy and if I couldn’t find it, I set the ornament aside.
As I was finishing my duties, I was fielding texts from my mother about my own family’s Christmas and reflecting on how my feelings about the holidays have changed. At that moment, I received a text from my ex-husband. She was here… a baby girl. I paused. My heart skipped. And then it felt as if I was the one taking my first breath because… without a blip in my emotions or a drop in my gut, I was ok.
This morning, I woke up, let the dogs out, made coffee and then plugged in the Christmas tree lights. There, second strand up from the bottom, one string of lights was flashing on. Then off. Then on, again. Cycling through the annoying, rhythmic pattern that had never, ever been my choice in Christmas decor. I like my lights to be steady and brilliant and these on’s and off’s always seemed a distraction. But, finding the lamp that I would need to adjust just seemed like too much effort. So, I let it be.
A little later, when my daughter came down for her Saturday morning pancakes, I pointed them out and without blinking, she said “I kinda like it. Like morse code… maybe from your dad!” I stared at it and I realized… the flash, like the flash that I saw for the first time on an ultrasound screen with my first baby girl, was like the ongoing presence of a heartbeat.
My dad, who in his absence is ever more present, especially at Christmas, once remarked that after his open heart surgery he could not sleep because he could feel his heart beating in his chest. How many times had I laid awake at night, my heart in the grip of my own anxiety only to feel my heart beat against the walls of my chest like it was knocking on the door to get out.
On’s and off’s. A binary language not of 1’s and 0’s, like a computer, but of life in its living.
A heartbeat that at the time when I was born could only be heard. A heartbeat that I could see on a screen when I carried my children. A heart beat that I now feel and share with those close to me. It is not the beat of the electrified language of thought that became the artificial intelligence of survival. It is the magnetic pulse that drew me in to listen, to see, to feel my way through, from the time I was the baby girl. And I knew…
I did not need to change. I needed to heal.
I had been surgically attacking all of those parts of my life that were merely survival skills because my intent was to live a whole-hearted authentic life. Every time I was confronted with a decision, I re-opened the incision to check on it. Looking for assurance that the stitches from the last time had held. Looking for new obstacles to bypass or stent. In doing that, I was stunting my growth. It did not matter what the original affliction was because I was cutting myself off from healing every time I re-opened the wound.
I don’t need to hook myself to a device to will track my progress. I needed to see the flashes of brilliance that have arrived in the process of my living. They can’t be charted as highs and lows because it cannot be cut and filled where there are no gaps. There are only natural pauses between beats when life stands still in breath catching moments like this.
In the midst of the dizzying pace of Christmas, as my daughter hugged me goodbye, I could only feel the new life that was stirring within me.
Life choices come down to this way or that way. New way or old way. Easy way or hard way. When my heart was beaten down and numb, my brain stepped in and navigated me through the process. It was like an emergency back up generator that kicked on and those flickering lights that lit my path forward were a lifesaver but it was my heart that beat down the door to get out.
I sit now, with a cup of coffee in my favorite mug. Listening to the rain while I plan my afternoon of shopping and baking for tomorrow. There, second strand up from the bottom, one string of lights is still flashing on. Then off. Then on, again. Cycling through the rhythmic pattern that does not have to be a choice because it just how they work. I like my life to be steady and brilliant and these on’s and off’s, once a distraction, are now evidence of moments, strung end to end, lighting my way to me.