It’s Christmas day and I’m currently sitting in an airport (CTL to be specific) thinking about family. It’s busier than I expected. Granted, there are a lot of families travelling, probably taking advantage of their kids’ time off. There are almost as many couples. There are not so many singles.
But I’ve always loved airports. If a state of limbo ever existed, it would be in these hubs found on the outskirts of bustling cities. Here, everything relies on a schedule, but time itself seems suspended. Is it the time where you left? Where you are? Where you’re going?
And where are you going? Yes, there’s an actual destination, but here that destination takes on the guise of so many possibilities. For me, I’m not just travelling to California. I’m also hoping to head to Peace. Maybe I’ll even make a stop at Happiness, if I’m so lucky. It’s as corny a thought as they come, but it’s the truth. A place isn’t just a place, it’s a promise.
But the promise of peace and happiness doesn’t soften the fact that I decided to spend Christmas apart from my family this year. And that’s why I’m thinking of family. It’s only natural. The thing is, my family was cut in half this year and I couldn’t bear the thought of celebrating at home. Running away is basically the last selfish nail in the coffin that is 2016.
I love my family to death, but it’s always been a tough love. Divorced when my brother and I were three and four respectively, I grew up being the messenger between my mom and dad. They were incredible in that they lived a stone’s throw away from each other so we could see them equally, but they also groomed me specifically to be the most independent version of myself.
I learned from my mom that we only have one life to live and sometimes you have to put yourself first in order to achieve your ideal state of happiness (a lesson I resented for a large part of my teenage years). I learned from my dad that the heart takes a long time to heal, so it’s only self-preservation to have a few walls up. This may come as a surprise to many people who know me because I generally come off as very unguarded.
Those who really know me know that I keep people at an arm’s length, that I never really let anyone in. I think the only person who was ever allowed full access was my husband and even then I pushed him away in the worst ways.
I’ve always been terribly self-aware, but that never meant much when it came to my decision-making. My impulsiveness always won out, but I don’t think it was the impulsiveness of heart over head all the time — or else I would probably be in a much better place right now. I think a lot of my impulsiveness stemmed from fear. Of what? I’m still trying to figure that out. Maybe I’ll also end up at Answers on this short week-long trip.
Interestingly, when I finally convinced my husband that we needed to take some time apart, he told me that was one of the bravest things he’d ever seen. After all, nothing was glaringly wrong with our relationship. We still loved each other, we just weren’t “in” love. But all that one-syllable word means is that we weren’t willing to put the work in anymore. I think I was scared to.
He was everything: Beautiful, successful, inspiring. We bought a house. He wanted children. The next 60 years were set out. And then I got cold feet. Was it because I sensed a doomed future or because it’s what I do, self-sabotage the good things around me? I argued that I didn’t know who I was, that I never had the chance to stand on my own two feet because he had always been a willing, loving safety net. But isn’t that the purpose of building a life with someone?
That’s what I do these days, flip-flop between what-ifs and what-happened. I’m in a limbo of my own creation.
The real issue isn’t what happened or what could have been. The issue is one of acceptance and owning the decisions made. It’s about learning more about myself from the relationship and working on the things that I wasn’t happy about to begin with. Because it’s true, if you’re not happy with yourself, you won’t bring happiness to someone else — at least, not in the ways that truly matter.
So here I am, still sitting in an airport, thinking about family. I do wish I was on my way to my brother’s to enjoy a hot home-cooked meal with the people that matter the most. I wish I was strong enough to bear through the gaping hole that aches in my chest every time I have to form new memories without my partner. But clearly I’m not yet. That doesn’t mean I won’t be soon. I just need time. And here I can suspend time.