Monday, February 1, 2010
My eyes are bleary from a day of working at a computer screen and from the commute home on darkened Los Angeles streets jammed with red lights. I left the office where I'm working on Hollywood Blvd., smack dab in the bustle of helpless, hopeful, searching, desperate souls, and 30 minutes later, I'm driving down our quiet tree-lined street in West Los Angeles where the three most important souls in my life anxiously await my return. It's only like 10 miles at best but my worlds exist on diametrically opposite ends of the life spectrum.
When I pull up at our home, the front porch light is on, the shade in the kitchen is down, and light spills out from our upstairs windows telling me life is moving right along without me. I park the van, gather my work bag stuffed with my computer, my mug still stained from the perfect cappuccino brewed by my man this morning that I sipped on as I drove to work, and files and notebooks filled with new projects that are all a part of my master escape plan from my current work life.
I close the driver's door behind me, cell phone and keys clutched in my hand, and I round the back of the van and step up on the sidewalk. Our street is cozy quiet, families inside relaxing after dinner, it's almost 7 pm, and I feel a little shame wondering if any of my neighbors see me pull up so late from work quietly thinking to themselves, "Oh those poor kids, without their mama, all day long."
I stop for a minute on the sidewalk and take a deep breath looking up at the full moon gracing our Southern California skies shining a hazy glow through the coastal mist that hangs in the air. My breath brings me to the present helping me erase the work thoughts of the day and the million other thoughts that race through my brain.
I've been breathing more lately - or at least consciously breathing. Inhaling deep and long, centering me for a moment, reminding me that my life is right then and there. In my breath. Not in the corners of my brain where my thoughts live weighing me down and transporting me to everywhere but now.
I've known for so long that my life is a series of nows. That life only exists in the moment. Not in the thoughts of what was or what it is to be. But habits are hard to break. But I keep working on it. And when now comes to me loud and clear, I take it and I live it.
After a moment with the moon and my breath, I look towards the house and see two bouncing heads in our front office/den. My girls, already dressed in their jammies, coloring and gesturing and talking and wiggling. I've been meaning to get some window coverings for that front room since we moved in almost two years ago and still tonight, there are none. Just an illuminated room. A clear, perfect glimpse into the day that was lived without me.
I want to get in our home as fast as I can and hug them all up. All three of my babies. Smell their perfect skin and tickle their squishy bodies and listen to their sweet voices . And through my precious, limited time with them, I hope they will forgive me for my absence. That somehow, a hour and a half at the end of the day will make up for the thousand things that I missed.
And it has been a thousand things. That I know for certain.
I know because before I took this job I was with them. For almost two years. Home with them, knowing them inside and out. And everytime I have to take a project, for a variety of reasons, I know what I will be missing.
I watch my girls through the window, peering in trying to get clues as to how their day went. Who did they play with, what did they learn in class, what was the drive home like in my neighbor's van, what did they talk about, laugh about, how were they greeted when they walked through the door throwing their backpacks down and running to their room to get changed, what snacks did our babysitter give them, did they ask about me, did they cry for me, did they fight, how were they talked to when they misbehaved, did they listen, did they scrape a knee, did they cry, how were they comforted, what questions did they ask, what art project occupied them, did they beg to play more Nintendo DS, were they content to play Barbies in their room, did they run outside, swing in the backyard, ride their razors up and down the sidewalk, and for how long, did they eat their dinner, what did they eat, did they complain about taking a bath, did they decide on a shower, did they help take care of their brother, did they play with him, did they help clean up their room, did they have trouble finding their favorite pajamas, did they wonder when I would be home, or are they getting used to the long days without me?
The questions are never-ending, the list splinters off into a million directions. My kids are growing and learning and stretching and being. And standing there on the sidewalk staring at them through our window, there is only one thought running through my brain -
I am not there.
I can crunch on it in my head and justify it and validate it and explain it and believe it at times, but the truth is always there waiting to pounce in a moment of clarity.
I am a working mother. And I am not there.
I have been seeking balance since the moment I gave birth to my first baby, 7 1/2 years ago, and I'm not sure I'm any closer to it than when I first began. When I'm home full-time, the days often go by too slow, and when I'm working, they slip away too quickly leaving me grasping at the sun's sinking rays desperate to pull it back into the sky for a second chance. A chance to live that day again but this time as a mama.
I am caught in the middle it seems. A soul who craves both kinds of days. And who will never ever settle for one kind of life or the other. I want both.
But I know I can't have both. And when I think I can, I'm fooling myself.
Because life is only now. I know that in my heart.
Standing on the sidewalk, I take another deep breath, and I forgive myself for wanting it all. And then I walk towards our home letting the work day melt off of me, I open the front door, drop my stuff in the foyer, and I jump into the squeals.
Three squealing, smiling, souls running into my arms. And as I collapse onto the couch with them on top of me, I listen to their jabbering recollections of their day and I soak it all in. Because this is my now. And this is my life.
At 6:01 PM last Friday, my job ended. Two months early. It was a surprise and not a surprise all at the same time. But more than anything it signaled to me, that my life has changed since I started working in television almost 20 years ago. I am a mother. And it just may be time for me and television to break up, once and for all. Hmmmm.......