This Thanksgiving, I won’t be with my daughter. It’s an odd-numbered year, so she will be spending the holiday with her father. Odd year him, even year me. That’s how the holidays are dictated now. There’s no other way to characterize how I feel about this new reality except that It. Sucks.
I try not to think too much about the time that I don’t have R., especially for weekends and holidays, because I’ll just dissolve into tears. When she’s not with me, I try to keep myself as busy as possible so my mind won’t have as many chances to go to that sad place of missing. Missing her. Missing out. Missing time that is more precious than ever.
This is all still pretty painful, and I have no idea when it gets better. I worry that it won’t ever really get better. Perhaps I will eventually make peace with it. It’s hard to know right now.
This Thanksgiving, I will be by myself. Or rather, I will be with myself.
This Thanksgiving will remind of the first Thanksgiving that I spent with myself.
It was two years ago, and I was supposed to spend the holiday with my then-husband’s family. Two days before Thanksgiving, he and I got into a huge fight. I was so incredibly upset about the idea of having to put on a happy face in front of all his relatives. I was afraid of not being able to hold my tongue and snapping at him and embarrassing us all. I was afraid of what R. would witness.
I also desperately needed peace and quiet from the tumultuous, life-sucking energy that existed in our home. More than anything, I needed his absence.
I told him to take R. and go without me.
He was a little shocked. He kept asking me if I was sure and tried to make up with me, but it was too late. I think in that moment he realized that I was done. I was willing to be alone on Thanksgiving and that seemed to say everything.
While R. watched the parade on TV, I prepared the side dish I had promised his mother I would make. I packed up R.’s things to stay overnight and told her I would not be going to her grandma’s because I didn’t feel well and I needed to stay home and rest. Which was actually true. When I said goodbye to them, I wasn’t even really sad. I felt good. Lighter. For the first time in a long time, I knew I was doing right by myself.
I already knew what my first activity would be: yoga. I hadn’t had a regular practice since my pregnancy, and I missed it terribly. Yoga did so much for me—it was calming and energizing and fulfilling. It reassured my soul like nothing else I have experienced. For years, it was practically a religious experience for me. It was exactly what I needed.
The warm yoga studio was packed. There was only one space remaining, up front and near the door. It was pretty much the worst spot in the room. I didn’t care. I unfurled my mat. There was no more two inches around it and between my neighbors. In such a tight spot, people wind up knocking limbs into each other and it can be a little distracting. But I was so grateful that day that there was room for one more. My mat completed the puzzle. And I didn’t feel like it was crowded. It felt…full.
The instructor told us to close our eyes and she began to chant. The familiar sounds were like dear friends coming out to keep me sweet company and they filled the room and the space around my body. As I began to repeat the phrases in our call and response, my tears began to fall. And they fell and fell and fell. They wouldn’t stop. They ran in tiny streams down my cheeks and chin and onto my clothes. I wept through the entire class. I wept for my heartbreak. I wept for my loneliness. I wept for all the fighting. I wept for my exhaustion and the futility of hanging on to a marriage that wasn’t going to make it. I wept.
I had a pile of used tissues on the side of my mat and I wasn’t worried for one minute what someone else would think. When the class ended, my tears finally did, too. I had cried it all out. It was a true catharsis.
I thanked the teacher from the bottom of my heart and the kindness in her eyes spoke volumes. My insides, which were usually in tight knots, had finally unwound. At that moment, I felt completely back to my self.
I headed to the grocery store to get a Thanksgiving meal and a delicious dessert for one. I got into my pajamas, ate dinner on the couch and watched a movie, all in quiet solitude that brought a smile to my face. I felt sweetly content and peaceful. It was one of the best Thanksgivings I have ever had.
This Thanksgiving, R. will be with her father. I will wake up early and go to yoga. I will chant, I will feel the welcoming “om” in my mouth and the way it resonates and makes me feel filled up and whole. I will breathe. In and out. Over and over. I will move into the positions that my body still knows so well. I will find peace in being present, being with myself. And being truly, truly thankful.
Michele Silver is a professional writer and editor living in Montclair, NJ with her daughter who is first grade. Follow Michele @ http://heartstringsandshoelaces.com