Wednesday, August 3, 2016

From the Gwyneth and Chris playbook (insert a hundred eyeroll emojis)

Many of you have wondered, asked and guessed by now that there are some pretty substantial changes happening in the Vogt-Hennessey household. Kim and I separated in July of 2015 quietly and not without significant pain. But we’ve found ourselves a year later in more peaceful, happier places. We’ve finally discovered a co-parenting rhythm that works, and we recognize that we are better friends/co-conspirators in the efforts to get our child to go the f*ck to sleep than romantic life partners.

Facing the end of fifteen formative and pivotal years doesn’t come without its fair share of tears, regrets all around of different heart-achy varieties, and cords that need to be gently and lovingly severed. We’re working on that together, and I can say unreservedly that I’m still so glad to have Kim on my team as we navigate these not-so-stormy-but-still-emotionally-tumultuous seas. I find myself, daily, feeling wrecked in a hundred ways even as I look forward to what is in store for us as a family. After all, we’ve already begun to see new growth in each of us and our lives are already richer for those who have been brought into these endless circles of loving which have grown between us all these years. 

It is, perhaps, the selling and packing up of this house that has made me the most heartsick. With my military upbringing, I’ve never been one to get attached to “place.” In other words, a house has never been indicative of “home.” But this house comes close; here, I tended to my hopeful, though teetering, conception of place/home. It’s the place where my baby learned to walk, where I nursed my mother through her dying days, where I gathered my siblings and their people to feed them, where I allowed my imagination to take root as I contemplated my son growing up and stomping up these stairs in teenage angst. I settled into this place, and let myself be lulled into the beauty of the everyday. I learned to find comfort in the return to the familiar. I began to understand the desire of belonging to a place rather than being lured by the prospect of the “beyond”—another house, another city, another state. 

Yet, here we are, at the place where ends and beginnings meet. Maybe in another fifteen years I’ll look back at this particular point that we’ve plotted out in the long lines of our lives and it will feel less like an end and more like the beginning of other things. In this moment it feels impossible, as endings often do, to decipher (despite knowing all the intricacies of the past several years) the cracks and fissures that led us here. And somehow, we’re still responsible for guiding our sweet little guy through this moment. If I can say so, I think we’ve done a pretty good job so far of providing him with as much stability and support as we have been able to muster and then some. But this part? This is, perhaps, one of the most difficult parts yet.

You know me, I’ve already talked to death, waded through and asked all the appropriate things with/for Bennett. I’ve prepped him, made space for, walked delicately around and stared down the barrel at the ways this move might affect him, just as I have every step of the way in this process. I’ve already told him that we take all the important things with us. We take the memories we’ve made, the stuff we love, and the people who belong to us. I joked that we are like Kakuna or Metapod. We have to leave our outside shells behind to evolve, and this house-shell just isn’t the right size for us anymore. (What can I say? Pokémon Go metaphors are where he’s at right now.)

But the sadness and loss are also real. I'd be remiss not to recognize that for him. For all of us, really. So once this house is emptied out, we’ll come back here to say our goodbyes and pay our respects to the way this house has sheltered us, held us and afforded us so much solace in some seriously shit-tastic years. I keep thinking through and playing out the various scenarios for how this might go. I can imagine the three of us crying and laughing together as we remember our favorite/special memories of each room. But I can also imagine Kim and I dissolving into weeping puddles while Bennett delights in the emptiness, in the novelty of the newly created space that might be transformed into numerous play scenarios/places. I suppose that I, too, will begin to race ahead, imagining the way a new family will fill these rooms.

That’s how it works, doesn’t it? We’ll leave the traces of our sorrow in the empty hallways. We’ll leave our laughter in the living room that’s filled with light and air and that sold this house to me when I first entered it. We’ll leave the echoes of lives lived well, here, even in the midst of pain, death and loss. And before we know it, in bits and pieces, those things will fade. They’ll be filtered through the nostalgia of memory like some hazy instagram filter. The rooms will feel bigger or smaller, brighter or darker, warmer or colder depending on the day and the way I’d like to rewrite our lives.

As I type this, I’m sitting at the kitchen table in front of the nearly wall-sized window that my mom sat in front of every day as she drank her morning coffee. A black capped chickadee is perched on the feeder that I hung in the tree just a few months ago. I can’t help but wish I’d hung it sooner. It’s another regret of sorts, but Bennett and I have also found such immense joy in this little thing, even if only for a little while. And at the end of things, isn’t that all we can ask? That’s what I’ll tell him one day. Ends let us leave, to some extent, the painful parts that no longer serve us as we move forward into the joyful parts of our choosing. May we not drag any more shit than necessary along with us.