The practice of taking up space.
I’m in a coffee shop crying. I’m frustrated, tired, burnt out, and crying in public into my sub-par coffee and spending about 15 minutes attempting to get onto wifi. All so I can write this paragraph.
I drove an hour to get to childcare and then to this coffee shop. I traveled a windy road of communication arranging child care. I spent a good portion of last night packing food, toys, books, and back up clothes. Then, when a snag came up in my plan and I was frustrated and trying to reevaluate what to do. Then I got into a fight with my wife (who is now my ex-wife, but not due to this fight). Now I’m at a coffee shop. All so I can drop whatever I am writing to check my phone when it vibrates to see if my daughter is ok. So I can still be a completely available parent. But also on this break where I am supposedly writing. Ha.
I’m introverted. I gravitate towards space. I grew up an only child. I lived in the suburbs. I went to small schools. I grew up with space being plentiful. I was always surrounded by space. In my twenties I lived in New York City and Boston. Space got smaller and a lot more crowded. But, I’ve always hacked a way to something quiet. A corner in the Boston Public Library among the green shaded lamps and dark wood desks. I’d sit there and pretend to read, but really I’d stare into the void and absorb my alone time. In New York, I’d take the subway to the last stop on the A line in Queens. When I got off the subway, I’d walk the ocean rimmed outer reaches of the borough towards lonely beaches and migrating birds. I found space. I made space.
It has gotten so much harder to find space now. The logistics and packing are overwhelming. The communication is shoddy. The understanding from people who aren’t in it as full time parents is nonexistent. The emotional and physical effort it takes to create space is daunting. Sometimes it feels easier to just go with the flow. Allow the natural flow of being crowded out. But, then I don’t think I’d ever write a sentence or do a sun salutation or cry in a coffee shop again. So, I keep moving my arms through water, making ripples around me. Hoping to drive some momentum to create a wedge of space for myself.
This doesn’t even consider what it’s like to leave my kid. I feel such a pang of guilt whenever I leave her. My mind reels with questions and doubts. Shouldn’t I want to spend time with her? Why would I want a break from her? I love her so much. She’s perfect and my favorite human in the entire universe. What if she’s been teething? What if she’s been off? Me leaving just adds another thing for her to deal with. Why would I want to cause her suffering? Why would I want to make things hard for her? All these thoughts go through my mind. And, that is if she doesn’t cry when I leave. When she does cry, I think I should bag the whole thing. She needs me. I need to stay. The last thing I want to do is cause her any pain. What no one explains very well is that the most likely person to cause their kids pain is their parents.
I don’t need a break from my daughter. But, I do need a break from parenting. From responding to everyone else’s needs first. From being responsible for everyone’s well being. From being crowded out. When I take a break from these things, I can be more present for my daughter. Becoming a parent has taught me a lot about how to hold space and direct my full attention and sensitivity to one small little being. In order to be able to continue providing that deep, full level of care I also need to learn to tend to myself.
The guilt, difficulty in getting away, fight with my wife, and crying in a coffee shop all made me question whether or not getting away for a few hours today was actually worth it. It wasn’t the break I needed and it took a lot of labor and aggravation to make it happen. But, it was something. It’s practice. It’s rehearsing what it could look like for everyone, including myself, if I got away for a few hours. It’s rehearsing my ability to take up space and find alone time. It’s practicing what it feels like to unfurl.