Maybe my world has been a little too messy in the past year and a half.
Out of the ordinary.
Full of compartmentalizing, fear, prayer, stardust.
Hard to explain.
All has been just as it was supposed to be. Still, I haven’t felt ok telling the stories. It hasn’t felt safe.
Didn’t want to hurt anyone.
Didn’t want to bore anyone.
Didn’t want to expose anyone.
Didn’t want to expose myself.
Didn’t want to live my life online.
Didn’t feel like defending my thoughts, actions and explorations to a critical world.
Why would I drag anyone through the details of hedonistically dating around, striving to stand on my own financially for the first time, coddling my children through the unfairness and pain of so much huge transition, figuring out how to work full-time after years of stay-at-home-mom-ness, falling in love, blending families, starting a completely new life?
It all felt like a little too much to share. A little too shamey. And yet falling in love is traditionally something you really, really want to shout from the mountaintops. It was my shame at love finding me so soon after the end of my marriage—more than a year later, but still—that kept me quiet. “She’s obviously rebounding,” I heard the voices in my head say. “What is she, crazy?” “Apparently she can’t handle being alone…”
I knew in my heart none of those statements was true. But, out of fear, I kept all the deliciousness of my unfolding relationship with Clive to myself, my sister and my closest friends.
I wanted to share, though.
I wanted to write about things like how, behind closed doors with him, I could never decide whether I wanted to keep talking, exploring the mental/spiritual/emotional, or to shut up and explore the physical because both aspects were so tantalizing and so electrifying I couldn’t possibly choose. (Sidenote: After acquainting myself with Emily After Dark, I had discovered how rare a find this truly was…)
I wanted to marvel about how we conversed about God in similar ways. That we actually shared parenting ideals. That his executive mind magically contrasted with his dreamy inner life. That he challenged me and pushed me to grow in all manner of pleasant and less-fun ways across all manner of themes.
I wanted to tell about that time we played tag in New York and I couldn’t catch him, even when I was sprinting my fastest—both of us breathless with laughter—until I almost got him and instead tripped over his heel, did an endo, smashed my face into a patch of grass, threw my neck out, grass-stained my white jeans and he was sick to his stomach for hours fretting that he’d hurt me bad. (I was fine. We all know I’m not dainty.) But the way he cared for me in those moments after my embarrassing fall…so tender and wonderful. Now we laugh about it. I do so love his laugh.
I wanted to rave about how much fun we had sharing a giant plate of cheese fries and dancing to 80s music with my friend, Amin, at a summer street fest. That, as a former tennis pro, he’s teaching me how to play the game I’ve always wanted to learn—and loves doing it. How he declares I’m “majestic” even first thing in the morning and pauses everything to look in my eyes to make sure I really am fine when I say I am. I want to tell the world we talk and laugh into the wee hours because we don’t want to waste time sleeping.
And then there was that day he told me he wanted to learn how to meditate, so he’d signed up for the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) lessons. (Sidenote: In my 10 years of being a devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda, not one person has ever signed up for the SRF lessons as a result of knowing me—until Clive.) I wanted to write about how it felt when I walked in on him reading the first meditation lesson to find his giant smile thanking me for the introduction and knowing we truly shared our path to God.
And, of course, the vision of him sitting criss-cross-applesauce on the wood floor outside his bathroom in Lincoln Park when I emerged and informed him I wasn’t pregnant and, smiling his sweet half-smile, he said, “You know, it would’ve been OK if you were.” And then, four days later, how elated he was when I took another test, and then two more, that told us I was, in fact, very unexpectedly pregnant.
Very unexpectedly pregnant
As good as it was, I couldn’t shake the fear. How would it look once everyone knew I got pregnant within a month of dating a new guy, my first committed relationship since marriage? How irresponsible of me!
Almost as bad, how would the outside world respond if I actually admitted that I wrestled—so painstakingly—with whether to stay pregnant?
On discovering the news, I cried with fear and dwelled in permanent nausea every day for two months. Despite being wildly and yet groundedly in love with an all-around wonderful man who wanted our baby and a life with me and my boys more than anything in the world, I was so scared. Scared to find I was not in control of my life. Scared I’d worked so hard for freedom and now I was committing both to a baby and to a new partner all at once. Scared my sons would feel abandoned if I had another baby. Scared of the pain of childbirth. Scared of the postpartum reality. Scared the allure of our relationship would fade with my growing belly. Scared of the sleep deprivation that comes with an infant. Scared of derailing the professional life I’d fought so hard to start. Scared of reversing the liberation for which I’d given up almost everything I knew.
None of this felt like a story worth sharing. I could hurt people, hurt myself.
Eventually I did something to this point I hadn’t done much in my life.
I called my mom.
Something compelled me. I knew I needed her. I expected her to tell me to march myself to Planned Parenthood. Instead, she burst into tears.
Decisively and lovingly, she said something huge, not in these exact words, but the gist was: Don’t just think of this as a baby. Soon that baby will be a child. Then that baby will be a big kid. And then he or she will be a teenager. And eventually you’ll be talking with him or her on the phone like I’m talking to you right now. You need to have this baby. I know it seems crazy, and I don’t know why I’m feeling this way right now, but I just have the strongest feeling God wants you to have this baby.
I had that feeling, too. And, yet, through tears and nose blows, I debated her.
“But what will this do to the boys? What will people say about me? I’m going to hurt so many people. I’ve struggled so hard to be OK on my own. This is going to derail everything. Everyone is going to think I’m crazy.”
She told me that when a baby is born, everyone is flooded with love, and so it would be with my boys and everyone else who counted. She told me it didn’t matter what other people thought, that she and my dad loved me. She told me families could look a lot of different ways, and I could do whatever I wanted. She told me I’d worked hard enough for long enough in enough different ways and it was ok to enjoy and embrace Clive’s love and all that came with it. She told me I was not crazy.
“Sweetie, all my life I made decisions because I was terrified of what my mother would think. My mother made decisions because she was terrified of what everyone else would think. We are not going to do that anymore. That ends here.”
Worrying about what people think of me? That ends here.
It turns out people have asked my friends why I’m driving a new car—a whole other crazy part of this new abundance—and pry “who’s the guy?” when they could just ask me directly. Moms at school have pumped my nanny, who has no idea who they even are, for details and she has alternately appeased them with a response, changed the subject or told them that I’m her employer and that we have a professional relationship. (BS. She knows everything.) “You know people are talking about you, Emily,” she said. “But don’t even care what they say. What they think does not matter. Those people have no idea how good it really is.”
It’s more than a little creepy to think people in my community might be talking about me, about my sons. I’m still working on letting this stuff roll off and living my life without fear of external perceptions. Without fear of being a curiosity, or an outcast.
And it’s true. My world is too messy to write about. Messy, messy, messy. But if I don’t tell the stories, how will others experiencing similar situations know they’re not alone?
We’ve all got messes. And if I’ve learned anything at all so far, like finger painting, brownie sundaes, moves into bigger spaces to accommodate bigger love and dances in the rain, if done sincerely and with love, a messy life is a rich life.