“Mom, it’s snowing outside!”, my last man child exclaimed. “Yeah right, what snow, in San Antonio?”. “Dude, I shall believe that when I see it”, were the only words I could come up with in response. You see, even though I couldn’t imagine that my youngest son was lying about the snow, I still couldn’t believe it. Not in Texas…
But it was snowing…a lot.
In fact, it snowed for hours that night, and I LOVED every moment of it!
“I hope we don’t have school tomorrow”, I heard his 16-year-old voice add with a note of finality. “Me three”, I agreed. Glad to hear the happiness in his voice. Ever since the online schooling thing began, he has been outwardly so brave and so agreeable and gone with the flow, even as I know deep inside that he hates it!
My heart went out to him. He is such a brave boy. His parents got divorced when he was only 3. Even though his father is showing a semblance of presence in his life these days, I know it must be tough. Dealing with not having his older brothers in the house anymore, and his mom and stepmom going through a separation.
Being only 16, missing his friends, having to endure high school on a computer, with his mother around the corner, in the same house day-in, day-out, must be hard. But he has been nothing but gracious about it. He is a cool kid. Even if I have to say so myself. The strongest of the three, emotionally, I think. But what do I know? I am only their mom, LOL.
Back to the snow.
That night I took some pictures and even went live on Facebook to share. I love the sound of snow falling. The softness of it. I love the color of snow. The whiteness of it. I love the peace and calm that often comes in the morning. Everything is white, the sky is bright, the air crisp, the snow cold, clean and inviting.
I ran outside at the crack of dawn the next morning with Lulu, my pet rat terrier-mix who appeared to be enjoying herself as well. She was prancing around in the snow and seemed more comfortable in it than I thought she would be, knowing this was her very first-time seeing this much snow. She is 8 in human years. Wait, did I just spy her lick some of it? Lulu! 😊
I remember the day the boys and I picked her up at the pound. Her sister had just been adopted. Her original name was Honey. She had actually picked us. She was the only Black dog there, and she was beautiful. She kept jumping up and barking at us, like she was saying “Pick me, pick me”. And pick her, we did. Her full name is Lucretia, so we call her Lulu for short.
My street was quiet. Everything around me was covered in snow. Roof tops, branches, cars, the street, shrubs, sidewalks, everything. Que buena! Not a soul was outdoors. No cars, no kids, no parents, no school buses, no pets, not even the birds were out yet. None of the usual suspects of neighbors who walk in the morning. Noone. Just me, my dog, my phone, and my thoughts…
For a few moments my mind went to her. I wonder what she is doing right now. Would she be awake? Would she be outdoors? Would she be by her window watching, thinking, wondering? Is she lonely? Does she miss me? Does she even think about me? She did not come to walk Lulu this past weekend because of “Inclement weather”, her text had read.
I miss her.
I miss calling out her name, “Elle!” when I walk in the house. I know I would have been all over her this morning, if she still lived here. I would have been in her room first thing, waking her up with my usual Tigger-like excitement, wanting to share it all with her, asking her to come out and join me for a walk, to which she would nearly always respond with a cold “No”.
“Why do people do that?” I asked myself for the 46th time. “Why did I do that?” Stay in a loveless relationship. Was it desperation? Was it love? Was it to fill a void? Both my beloved youngest sister, and my relationship coach, Dr. Sonia Wright, had asked me the same thing. “How long were you going to stay?” and more importantly, “Why?”
I knew both of them meant well.
“I don’t know”, was the best I could come up with each time. “I don’t know”. As a coach myself, I know that-that is not true. Everybody knows. We all know why we do what we do. We all know why we make decisions that may or may not serve us. We do know, but we mostly choose not to accept it, or more commonly, choose to deny it.
We generally choose to say those three words first, “I don’t know.” It is easier. It is safe. It absolves us of responsibility. It prolongs the time of indifference. It allows us to remain in the victim mentality. But it also keeps us stuck. Shackles us to indecision. Prolongs our pain, and might I add, prevents our progress. Because if we can’t figure out what it is, or call it out by name, we can’t truly fix it.
So, that morning, standing there in the middle of my street, alone by myself, enjoying the scenery, while taking pictures of the snow, of my house, of Lulu striking a pose on the lawn, I asked myself the same question for the 47th time, “Why did you stay?” Reluctantly, I finally responded in a series of whispers…
Because I love her.
Because I wanted her to love me back.
Because I needed her.
Because she saved my life.
Because I loved being married to her.
Because I kept thinking and wishing that we would somehow magically work through all the mess.
Because I wanted us to make it.
Because, even though we were both suffering in the relationship, I still wished we would get through it.
Because I was still rooting for us.
Because I was in denial.
I love the feel of the snow under my rain boots. The soft crunching sound it makes as I walk down the street with Lulu coming along for her morning walk. The air was cool as I inhaled huge chunks of it into my lungs. I am cold, but I am so loving this once-in-a-lifetime experience. It snowed, in San Antonio!
Except, I am here by myself. Not able to share the moment with anyone, but me.
Then I recalled Dr. Wright telling me that I had to learn to embrace solitude. “Look at it as a welcome experience,” her soft voice came through the phone. “When we call it loneliness it has a negative connotation to it.” “This could literally be the beginning of the best time of your life, but you have to let it in,” she added. “You have to first go through all the emotions that come with a split from an 8 year-long relationship…”
“What if it’s OK to feel the way you feel right now?” I ran through my list of feelings; Unsure, angry, sad, devastated, disappointed, betrayed, afraid, shocked…” The list went on. Wait! Was that also relief?? Somewhere in the back there, was relief. I briefly looked at it and skipped it. Anguish, panic, despair, melancholy, heaviness in my chest… I continued.
At one point during the call, Dr. Wright instructed me to embrace “I am enough” in every sense of the word. While still crying my heart out to her, I realized that I have struggled with self-acceptance in that sense. I crave companionship, as a result, I have settled for relationships that amongst other things, have been unfulfilling and to some extent, toxic.
I have entered them from a place of scarcity. From a place of lack. No wonder I remained needy even as I constantly told myself I had a mate. I remained lonely in most of my relationships, even if they all started the same way, with excitement and the idea of commitment.
Apparently, I have always felt like I needed someone in my life in order to feel whole. It became clear as we talked in hushed tones around 11:30pm that night, with snort and tears running down my nose and my eyes, that I have struggled with a fear of abandonment…for years.
My earliest memories of being abandoned came up during the conversation. My mother had been unable to nurse me during infancy, I was told. When I was 6, my father forgot to pick me up one day from school and I had to walk all the way home. I had been the only child from my neck of the woods on the elementary school bus and was consequently bullied like crazy by the other kids.
My parents never came to visit me during my 5 years in a boarding high school in Nigeria, I got into high school at 11. Neither did they come to visit me during my entire time in medical school, another 5 years. I went to med school at 16. Looking back now, I grew up forcing myself to believe that they loved me, but this was their weird way of showing it.
I remember vowing when I was a young adult, that I would never miss a visiting day in my kids’ lives. That I would be the mother I had yearned for, all those days, the father I had needed those early formative years if given a chance to have children of my own. Today, I can only hope that I am.
Before the call ended, we discussed the possibility that I had-had an emotional affair. What? Yes, she kindly explained. I had immersed my heart and soul into my work on trauma and suicide prevention in youth these past few years, because, in her words, I wasn’t “getting the nurturing and attention I needed from my marriage“. So, I guess, I cheated with my work. Is that even a thing?
As Lulu and I turn the corner at the end of the street, I spy one of my White neighbors who never speaks to me, walking slowly in our direction with their own dog in tow. I immediately made a U-turn, I really couldn’t care much about messing up my beautiful and serene revelry with a snooty neighbor this morning…
We walk on, slowly, quietly, in the opposite direction. Lulu appears to step on something, and momentarily begins to limp. But she regains her gait, and we continue. She stops from time to time to do her business. I register the deep yellow color of her urine against the white snow, and make a mental note to check on her water supply when I get home.
I can barely hold on to my phone by the time we get back to the house. My fingers are so cold that they hurt, but my body is warm, my heart is happy, there is snow on the ground even if I have no one to share it with. I walk inside the house and call my name, “Dr. Lulu!” It’s weird, but I am doing what my coach has told me to do. I am trying to get used to being with me. It might work, only time will tell.
In the distance, the world is beginning to wake up.
It will be a good day.
“In life, you must know when to make a you-turn if possible” ~ Dr. Lulu