Last night I sat on my bed mid Breaking Bad marathon, a small red suitcase lying nearby. I packed the red suitcase in peace, uninterrupted by children.
This was the first Friday since my divorce that Prince has taken both kids. To infringe upon whatever personal life I might have, when we got divorced Prince insisted on a timeshare in which he never took the kids for a full weekend, a decision which he modified in part when he took Luca most of the time, but which he never modified for Franny, who spends every Friday night with me.
But not last night. Prince asked me to take Luca for an extra night next week, so I did a swap for Franny. She was with him last night, which means she got her first full weekend with her dad. And I? I got to pack my red suitcase in peace. I got to feel staggeringly grateful to be headed off for an adult weekend later this morning.
I got to feel grateful that I felt grateful. Not so long ago, mostly what I felt was panic. I couldn’t see the light out of the divorce-from-hell tunnel. I felt bowed down by the shroud of doom I couldn’t seem to shake.
And then things shifted. A custody outcome I dreaded gave way to a brilliant paradox that brought my son back to me. Giving Prince what he wanted — as unjust as that was — brought a (mostly) cease-fire which lured intermittent calm back into my life.
In the middle of the custody horror, I started this blog. My readership has grown and at least once a week I get an e-mail from a woman going through a similarly gnarly divorce. The women writing the e-mails share more or less the same horror story: a rich, narcissist ex. An alienated child. Litigation hell. Financial destitution. Job loss. Isolation.
The e-mail I got this week broke my heart in a few extra places. The woman who wrote me is facing eviction, has lost her job, and her car is being repossessed. She pays child support to her ex, who, along with his new wife, has done a stellar job of alienating her son. She feels broken, and alone.
I know first-hand that it’s possible for a shattered life to to be resurrected. I wish I could wave a magic wand and turn this woman’s life in a better direction. I wish I could give her the gift of a red suitcase, and a leisure weekend, and the knowledge that one day she will be okay.
My life contains more moments of normalcy now. They are potent because they stand in stark relief to the hell of the past ten years. There are more pockets to draw a breath, more glimmers of a future in which the noise and tedium of raising children with a terrorist will fade away, and be replaced — I hope — by simple things that for so long have exceeded my grasp.
Like a Friday night to myself. And a small red suitcase, packed for a road trip.
Today, I’m thankful for my small red suitcase.