There's this empty space that sits across from me.
Emma's on one side, Ruby's on the other and then there's this hole that follows me everywhere, from the dinner table, to the bedroom, to those nights free of obligations when I actually want to talk and rub feet and have my feet rubbed, too.
That empty space is there when the hummingbird pecks at the window and there should be a witness, or the girls put on a dance show and there's no echo to my clap.
That empty space haunts the kitchen as I cook for four, even though there's only three of us. They never really like what I make, so I make something else for them and always end up with leftovers, and every time I open the fridge there's this stinking reminder, I'm alone.
I don't have a partner. I don't have someone who has my back, or someone's back to have for that matter. I love that, being the bulldog, protecting.
There are the days when it feels like the whole world is caving in and I don't even know why I do what I do with no appreciation, or reciprocity, or compensation. When I have to make every decision on my own. When there's no one to consult about the mundane things:
What type of sauce do you want on the chicken tonight? Or, can you swing by and pick up her medication since I've already driven back and forth five times today?
That's when I'm reminded that I'm a mother doing it on my own.
My heart feels pruned and shriveled like my fingers do when I'm in the water too long. My spirit is burnt like those sailors lost at sea with no shade, and when they're fished out of the water, they're mistaken for a net full of lobsters.
Some days I'm ok. Some days I'm great, and some days I'm miserable. That's just how it goes. I've accepted that.
Like today, I feel like I can't do this one more day. This. This "single mom I can still do it all" bullshit.
"Do you need help, honey?" My mom asked me on the phone this afternoon.
"No, no I can do this. I'm about to turn a corner, I'm trusting that." But, I'm freaking out because tuition is due and I had to put money into the house this last month.
Graduate school, write a book, help heal people's bodies and raise two children all on my own. I can do this, but I'm exhausted.
This scenario is not natural or sustainable.
I understand why so many women glob on to the first man who seems loyal and well off and willing to help, because, this is awful at times, but who am I to complain?
I'm one of the lucky ones. I have an ex-husband who is present father, amicable, and pays alimony and child support.
I have no reason to be complaining about my circumstance. I don't. I sound like a whiny bitch, but the truth is, this sucks.
Being a mother and single is like being air dropped into tundra with nothing more than a fleece jacket and a Swiss army knife.
I'm getting to that point, where I don't know how I'm going to survive this for the next however many years.
Every week, I lose them. This empty nest syndrome isn't supposed to happen for another eight years. This is premature and wrong. They lay their precious little heads on a different pillow in a different zip code two nights a week. I hate that. I hate it. I hate that I walk past their bedrooms and there's no life, no sound, no mess, just gray -- blue gray, pink gray. Vacant. Dead.
Nights are harder than days. Days are doable -- I'm busy running around, but I always come home to an empty house. Unless I have a sitter, which is infrequent, I don't know what it's like to come home to the glow, to someone whom I love with his feet up and a sweating glass I have to wipe up and get annoyed about.
Oh, and dating, my goodness. I can't talk about what I really want to talk about because it would be inappropriate -- Ruby's learning Mozart now, she went a key farther today! Oh, and Emma, she spun five times instead of four!
That's my life, but it's off limits because it's faux pas to talk about my kids when I first meet a someone for coffee on a Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. when what I should be doing is studying, but I'd like to meet someone so this is what I have to do.
Or, we meet in the evening on my one night off when I really want to be breast deep in a steaming hot bath, instead I'm faced with figuring out how to strategically and kindly bypass any sexual advances because I'm not in the mood -- I had to get up with the kids extra early because of choir practice and I have no energy left because I've spent the last hour drinking watered down whiskey while having to recount my story.
My story is dark and twisty, and then luminous, and then ominous, and on top of that, I'm not just a regular gal and I never will be.
Who will want me? This life I lead? Possibly no one, ever.
I'm too tired and old for all of this.
Where's the steady hand and the eyes that have seen it all and still love me?
These are the times I summon nostalgia and I think about my last love and for a moment, I miss him. Loving someone I can't be with is a cruel joke -- he's dead, but not really dead, that's what makes it excruciating sometimes.
Our relationship is dead, but he's alive and well and probably f*cking someone or laughing over a glass of Shiraz and steak, and here I am, alone.
I just finished prepping for breakfast tomorrow morning -- the bunny eared plates are all ready to go for the gluten free waffle and Nutella sandwich I'll make for them. I'll sit in the blue chair watching their bed heads bob up and down as they sprinkle crumbs all over the counter and the floor. The dog will jump up, begging me for another biscuit, and he'll cause me to spill coffee down my white nightie as I try to finish up an article.
It's all my responsibility to clean and tend to as I start another day, pruned and burnt, with ironclad determination to make something of myself, even if there's no one to celebrate with me when I do.
Today may have been miserable, but maybe tomorrow will be an ok day, or even better, it'll be a great day.
***First published on elephant journal.