All 5 feet of me hopped onto a table that sits tucked in a corner of my garage. I reached over my head to the shelf high above me that stores the weight of the seasons. I hauled the boxes down carefully, some of them nearly as big as I am. I finagled them slowly from their height and slid them to the steps where I then lifted them into the house. I cut through duct tape, opened the seams, and dug the plastic limbs out. I placed the tree together, connected the lights, and with time the tree illuminated both the room and my children’s eyes.
Later that day, 2 doors in my house came off their hinges. So did a cabinet door. Another door refused to close. My faucet in my bathroom was pulled loose from a 6 year old who constantly climbs on countertops. Kids. They do not know the nature of gentle.
I propped one of the broken doors up with the toe of my worn Birkenstock, said a few curse words under my breath, and was proud of myself for finally fixing it. Tonight, it fell off again. I sighed and had to move on to washing dishes from the meal I had just finished cooking.
No one can ever prepare you for the constant bone deep exhaustion that is part of raising children alone. I have also learned that most people are simply too uncomfortable to really look at you.
I could write a novel of the things people have said to me, but one I will never forget is “I’m so scared to lose my husband because I look at your life and see…what you do…how hard it is.”
That’ll stick with you. Your life looks so terrible that I am terrified of the possibility of having to live it…
Back to the tree.
As I was hauling those heavy boxes down, the aloneness hit me square in the chest. Not loneliness, but aloneness. There is a difference. The feeling doesn’t visit often or stay long, but when it hits it hits because it finds you in your utter fatigue. Right when you need another hand or a tap out or a “what’s your opinion?” You just know. You don’t have that option, you are… alone.
It is so exhausting to carry the weight of every single thing. Constantly. 24/7. 365.
Physically, mentally, spiritually, financially, educationally. The list goes on. You keep the walls on their home in every single way. You stretch yourself beyond what any human was ever designed to do in order to meet every single need for, in my case, 3 human beings that rely on me for every need.
Some days, as a 5 foot woman, the physical demands of a home alone are enough to make you want to sit in the floor and cry for a minute. But you don’t. You wrestle the Christmas boxes down, haul them in the house, and you smile with enthusiasm as they show you the ornaments because you are an actual human monster called solo parent. And this life you chose in its weariness is what you would choose over and over on behalf of them.
And dang it all. I am such a mess, but I am one strong, proud-ish mess. I wouldn’t wish my “hard” life on others, but I would wish the joy I can find in it for them. I would wish the strength that can only be found by digging through brokenness. I would wish the countless dance parties we have despite the piled up laundry as the party backdrop. I would wish the laughter that can always be found. And goodness, how I would wish the love inside of me that is a force to be reckoned with and blows everything else apart, eventually washing away all the hard.
So, tonight when I peeked around the corner to capture the beauty of this year’s tree and saw this stocking staring back at me just so, my breath caught a bit…and then I carried on, because this name Mom that these babies gave me will forever be the strength in my weary bones and my reason for every single thing.