Monday, February 22, 2010

Is It Perception...Or Mere Fluke?

I guess it should come as no surprise to me that I still feel a little discombobulated (God, I just love that word).  I have told  several people that I am moving home (US friends' reaction: Oh NO!  UK friends and family: About Bloody Time Too...which I have chosen to interpret generally as YIPPEE!).

I haven't yet said a dicky bird to the boys, of course.  There are still too many balls up in the air, too many plates wildly spinning, too many more 'sleeps' for them to even begin to really comprehend the timing of it all.

But whether by fluke or simply coincidence, the morning after The Big Conversation with my ex, Johnny Drama begins to have a complete meltdown about moving back to the UK.  I'm not sure how the subject arose, but one minute we are gathering a bag full of plastic tat their favourite toys to take on a half term play date and the next JD has lost the plot, resembling a real life Chicken Licken with the sky about to fall on his head.


Of course this rant is interspersed with me reassuring and rationalising, to no effect.  If anything, it just made the whole thing worse.  I can't believe the subject has been raised, today of all days, and I feel filled with guilt at my plan to take them away from everything they know and hold so dear.

Ultimately (after attempting to console and hug and acknowledge that I totally understand he loves his school and his friends) as my real life Chicken Licken continues to gather steam I decide ignoring him is the best policy.  Truth be told, I don't really know how to handle this situation.  He is so upset and there appears to be no reasoning with him.  "Has daddy talked to you about moving back to England?", I ask.

Captain Underpants, in all his 6 year old wisdom, has been watching from the side lines with his mouth firmly shut, totally unruffled.

"No, daddy hasn't said anything", he shrugs.  His younger brother continues to wrestle invisible monsters, throwing his body over the back of the sofa, tossing cushions left, right and centre while shouting and crying at the top of his lungs.  He's not nicknamed Johnny Drama (on this blog at least) purely for comic effect or to reflect a secret infatuation with an Entourage character, that's for sure.

"I think I'd quite like to go back to England", says Captain Underpants, thoughtfully.  "Then maybe we can just get one house and maybe we could all live in that one house.  Me.  JD.  You mummy.  The cats...and daddy.  Just all in the same house.  Because that would be really nice, wouldn't it?  In England."

This line of conversation succeeds in stopping me in my tracks.  This topic hasn't been raised for months and it breaks my heart to hear it voiced like the simplest solution in the world.  The lightness of his tone belies the deep seated yearning underneath.

My inner voice is panicking...why today?  Why are we talking about this today, of all days?  What do I say?  How can I possibly explain the complicated intricacies of their mummy and daddy's relationship, which has brought us to this point?  If it doesn't make any sense to can I expect it to make any sense to them?  And of course, it is on the tip of my tongue to say, "well, you need to talk to your daddy about that one.  Personally, I think that sounds like a tip-top idea.  Shame your daddy doesn't see it that way..."

Of course, I bite my tongue, say nothing of the sort - gently and lovingly repeating ex and I's agreed mantra: mummy and daddy will live in 2 houses but we will always be a family and we will always love you and be there for you...blah blah blah.  A little later on whilst driving, sensing that an air of calm had resumed, I talked to both boys about the quandry of liking Chicago, yet not liking having to live so far away from my mummy and daddy, sister and brother and friends.  I'm a grown up, I tell them, but that doesn't mean that I don't miss my mummy and daddy.  You like to hang out with your mummy and daddy, don't you?  Well, I really like to be with my mummy and daddy too - and it's very hard to do that while we are so far away.  I have been away from them for nearly 10 years and that is a long time.  Maybe one day you will live away from your mummy and daddy, even your brother, for a long time (cue instant disbelief and fervent denials from the back seat) and that's okay.  But I want to live near my mummy and daddy again now because I love them and like being with them.  And even though I am soooo incredibly old and grown up and a mummy myself...I am still their little girl.  Just like you will always be my little - sorry, big, BIG! - boys.

They nod sagely, in a vaguely disinterested way, and go back to bickering over the winner of their pirate/clone trouper battle.  I continue to feel a little sick and agitated, knowing that more difficult conversations are bound to come.  Trying to find a way to explain it all in a language they understand is difficult.

And God knows how I will explain to them that they are moving back to England with me and that daddy is staying in Chicago, probably for several months.  If he moves home at all.  During The Big Conversation he casually mentioned that he might move to Europe and what did I think of him living an hour or so away?  Er...I think that is a rotten and completely selfish idea?  I think we should live near each other while the boys are young.  I think they need you to be there.  I think you should just suck it up, get over yourself and do what's best for your children.  But again, I say nothing of the sort.  I know that my opinion doesn't carry much weight anymore where he is concerned, and that the last thing he wants to hear is me telling him what to do.

I wish I had developed this art of keeping shtum during our marriage.  Things might have worked out a great deal differently.  I am learning that my silence and compliance is more persuasive than the most informed, passionate argument where he is concerned.  Yet like a lot of things in life - that is a little bit of knowledge...learnt a little too late.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Time To Move On...In So Many Ways

I lie in bed.  The feelings of euphoria are subsiding and are replaced with what...satisfaction?  Fear?  Dread?  Regret?  I can't tell.  My head is swimming.  My heart is pounding.  The invisible hand tightens its grip around my throat and I feel it is pushing my head firmly into my faithful tempurpedic pillow.  I claw at my neck to no effect.  The hand tightens.  I switch positions.  And again.  I feel as if I am trying to get comfortable in a bed of rocks.  Blood swirls in my ears and my head feels ready to explode.

This was not what I was expecting.

After a few weeks of consulting lawyers, researching homes to rent, getting into a panicked frenzy over the UK school application process and talking endlessly to friends who all assure me, 'you just need to be home' it seems that it might finally happen.  This summer in fact.  Just as I had hoped.

Fucking hell.  Is this really what I want?  What I have been striving and aching for, for the past 7 or so years?  All of a sudden, I am not so sure any more.

I am not so sure of anything any more.

I thrash around the bed for another 20 minutes or so.  I concentrate on trying to quieten my mind, deepening my breathing from the shallow gasps that fight their way into my lungs.  The harder I try, the worse it gets.  Small icy needles of fear begin to prick at my God, am I about to have a heart attack and die in my bed?  Was that the reason for the practice 911 call with Captain Underpants yesterday?  Relentlessly getting him to recite numbers and addresses and protocol just incase a Bad Thing Happened?

I fight to control the panic that twists my bowels and sits on my chest.  Just breath you nitwit.  Everything is OK.  More than OK.  You can do this.  You can really do this.  You can move will be OK.  It will be better than OK.  It will be Great.

Without really being conscious of what I am doing I bunch a row of pillows down the centre of the bed, under the duvet, and wrap my limbs around them just as I used to do when I was pregnant.  It used to be our little joke.  "Who's between the thighs tonight then?" you would ask me.  "Russell (Crowe)", I would lightly reply.  "George will get his turn tomorrow".  This memory jolts me away from the wall of 100% goosedown and I lie flat on my back, feeling the emptiness of my bed, the capacious space all around me.

Alone.  How did I end up alone?  After all that we have been did we not make it through the other side intact?  How did this 'adventure', which was supposed to cement our future, crumble and pull us apart?  How did that happen to us?  I still don't have the answers.

Without thinking my hand and foot gravitates towards the centre of the bed and nestles against the pillows.  With my eyes closed it is almost as though I am lying next to you, just our extremities touching as we begin to fall asleep.  I roll over onto my stomach and once again reach out a hand and foot for you and, when my body makes contact with the pillows, it's almost as though you are there.

I start to relax.

I know it's not you.  But the feeling is so familiar, so grounding, that my body naturally responds and and relishes the contact with the imaginary you.  I can't believe I ever took this simple act of sleeping while connected to you for granted.

Is this how you now sleep with her?

I am so exhausted by the emotional exchanges of the past couple of weeks - the honest expression of my true feelings finally revealed from behind the veil of competence and coping - culminating in our face-to-face meeting tonight (the first since our separation 15 months ago) that I am too wrung out to sleep.  I can't believe how easily you have agreed to let me move home this summer with the boys.  That you have finally caved after all this time, after all our prolonged arguments.

I would like to think this is because of the incredibly well thought through logistical considerations I have presented in  writing over the past two weeks.  Or maybe that it is a decision borne out of an undying love and compassion for me and all that we once meant to each other.

But this painful act of generosity on your part is not, in fact, borne out of a love for me, is it?  It is borne out of your new love for another.  By loving someone else you are finally able to let me go.

And there is no real satisfaction in that.

So now the door to my new life is finally open and all I have to do is to keep walking through it without looking back.  Yet from here on the bed, as I continue to wrestle with the unanswered questions of 'why?', 'how?', 'what could I have done differently?', I feel as though I am walking, blindfolded and resistant, towards the open door of an aeroplane soaring at 40,000ft.

And there is no parachute.

Just as well I have always been a person with a head for heights then, I guess.