Here’s the thing: I split my heart so I could be in two places at once.
So I could be here, with these fine folks.
And to see some snow, of course.
But truth be told, part of me wanted to stay in Texas. I wanted to pet my cat, make soup, and go to a cabin in Wimberley with friends and Paul on Christmas Day.
But here’s the other thing: I never, ever regret a trip to Michigan. Each trip is a little different. I change, my family changes. We grow. We become the newest version of ourselves. The kids get taller, the grown-ups…well, we note the passage of time.
I did something unusual this time. I let other social obligations lapse. And I don’t know exactly how I feel about that. On the one hand, it’s nice to simplify. If there’s one thing I have not done this year, it’s simplify my life. So it was nice to let some of the usual events slide. I stayed in on Christmas Eve and read my book. I didn’t make an effort to see other friends whom I would normally see while I’m in the mitten. These friends are, I presume, busy with their own family obligations, caring for the children in their families. And maybe it’s okay to not push quite so hard on all relationship fronts, especially during this season in my life when dating one person means cultivating relationships with his family.
I tend to take a somewhat karmic view of the universe. Life feels circular to me; people move apart and come back together. Old friends drift out of touch and swim back into contact. New friends are pulled together by the gravity of shared values and a shared vision. I don’t believe that there’s a guiding hand to all these movements. But maybe part of a lifelong friendship is letting go…for a while. Long enough to let each other fully inhabit the new roles that we have chosen.
Tomorrow I return to Texas, and it’s bittersweet. I know I am extraordinarily lucky: I have a family with whom I genuinely enjoy spending time. Sometimes, like this month, I fly north because I feel obligated to do so. But when I think about not spending Christmas with my family, I feel strange and empty. There is something to be said for having rhythms in life that transcend the changes. I know I might not always be able to spend this holiday with my family. Circumstances might make such a thing harder in the future. So I had a sense this year that I should try to really soak up every minute of this visit.
And yet. Introvert me has limits to how much family time she can enjoy. So I retreat into my books or my computer. And I feel guilty about it, fully knowing that I will go CRAZY(!!!) if I don’t
take steal the time to recharge my batteries. So I live with the tension of feeling bad that I can’t focus every waking moment on family, while sneaking away and shutting the door on the noise and chaos.
Maybe all of this means that I’m just a perfectionist who has some vision of what Christmas or family visits should look like. Maybe it’s really okay to have more realistic expectations for seven days spent mostly with small children. Maybe this is a sneak peek at motherhood: the feeling that if it’s imperfect, it must be my fault.
Maybe I should just get over it.
At any rate, tomorrow I fly back to Texas, and the sweetness of my return is that I get to see this face.
Well, maybe not that face exactly. (That photo always makes me laugh, so I thought I’d share it with you.)
See what else Paul does in photos that makes me laugh? I have to politely ask him not to flash me the bird when I want to take a nice photo of him.
What a stinker. (He’s so cute.)
Heart, prepare to leave one set of loved ones and return to another. I simultaneously can’t wait and can’t bear the thought of it. Leave, return, home, away: maybe I’ve finally become the migrating bird I’ve dreamt of being.
See you soon, Texas.