The last time I built an Ikea bookshelf, I was seven months pregnant with K, my almost 8-year-old. Today, I taught him how to place the screw inside the predrilled hole, how to set the drill's Phillips-head bit into the screw's crosshatches and how to pull the orange trigger.
The last time I touched my two sons' baby clothes, I was storing them in a drawer, in the back corner of their playroom closet. Yesterday, I moved the keepsake clothing into a storage bin. What has been the boys' playroom is now becoming a bedroom for B, my almost-10-year-old. He no longer wants to share a room with his younger brother. True to his preteen age, he yearns for the privacy of a closed door. When I lifted the tiny sweaters, onesies and knit caps, I could feel the weight of my sons' infant bodies in my hands.
Today is my wedding anniversary. Thirteen years ago, my wife Tracie and I spoke these vows to each other:
- May we love each other unconditionally and renew that love continually.
- May we see each other clearly in all our beauty, struggle and joy.
- May we open to each other entirely and breathe freely in that open space.
- May we release fearful expectations, and faithfully welcome the unknown.
- May we inspire each other daily to travel without the old maps.
- May we support each other fully in all experiences life brings.
A little over a month ago, Tracie moved out.
When I read our wedding vows now, I see how they can apply not only to our marriage but also to our separation, to our future as people who will always love, support and care for each other, but in a different way than we did before, to our future as co-parents raising our kids together, but in separate homes.
Today, Tracie and I honored our anniversary not as a celebration of romantic love but as the day we started our family -- our family of two, then three, then four. We took our kids to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a trip we had promised them months ago, before we knew we would be separating.
Today, as I walked the midway with my family, I felt grateful for all that Tracie and I have experienced in our thirteen years, grateful that, despite the newness of our separation, we could come together as a family, in peace.
Today, I felt strong, demonstrating for the kids how Tracie and I will continue to show up for them, together, despite our different addresses.
Today, I felt sad that Tracie and I were not the smiling couple holding hands as their kids whisked past them on the carousel or the couple stealing a kiss in the bumper car line. I touched that sadness for a while, and then I noticed our kids' faces -- their radiant joy as they skipped and ran and jumped and tugged our arms, pulling us from ride to ride.
Today, I overcame -- or at least tolerated -- my fear of heights, long enough to ride The Giant Dipper rollercoaster with B, because he asked me to, and how could I say no? When I loosened my fear grip and relaxed into the ride's dips and curves, I actually kind of enjoyed it.
I used to try to hold fast to a vision of my children, of my family, of my marriage, of myself, of my life as a I wanted to see it, as if I could control the pace or direction or outcome of change. These days I am learning to let change flow through me like clouds across the sky. I am learning to notice the beauty of those clouds as they shapeshift, connect, pull apart, sometimes grow larger and sometimes disappear.
Instead of tightening with fear or fighting the truth, I am learning to say: This is not bad. This is not good. This is change.
This post originally appeared on VillageQ