Updated: Jan 6, 2020
I tried in vain to fend off the sorrow that overshadowed my smile as I leaned against the wooden doorframe, arms crossed loosely over my chest. I silently observed my son sketching contentedly on his bed, enjoying the last hours of his snow day. I knew his happiness would quickly vanish. We had spent the day snowed in, watching movies, playing games, and laughing. I knew these days would be numbered with my twelve-year-old son, who was growing up so quickly. I wished I didn’t have to ruin it. I asked him about the monster he had brought to life on the page, attempting to keep him from looking too closely into my eyes. Maybe it was because we had only each other when we started out, or maybe it was simply the bond that exists between mother and son, but I knew it would take only a glance, and there would be no going back.
My stomach was in knots as I slowly sat down in the chair beside his bed. How are you going to tell him? Are you really going to bring his world crashing down around him... again? You’re the worst mother in the world. All day I had been convincing myself he would be fine. He was older this time. I was stronger this time! I would help him through it. I could do this… twelve year old problems, right? Just keep the problem on a twelve year old level. And just how in the hell do you think you’re gonna manage to pull that off? Is that even possible? I had rehearsed it. “Dad and I are trying to work some things out, and he is staying at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s for a little while.” Just say it. So I said it… exactly as I had played it out in my mind over and over again, but that was the only thing that played out as I expected.
He lowered his pencils to the small twin bed, looked at me, and walked out of the room trying to hold back his tears. “I have to go.” My chin trembled as I followed him out the door, wanting to respect his privacy but terrified he would shut me out. I gave him a few minutes and tried again. “Can we talk?” He went back to his room and locked the door. I gave him a little longer resting my forehead against the barrier that stood between us. I softly tapped my knuckles against his door.
“Please, Will. Can we talk?”
There was an almost inaudible click as he finally unlocked the door. I slowly entered and watched as he sat down at his antique writing desk in the corner of his room, littered with pencils and sketches. He wouldn’t meet my eyes. I lowered myself to the plush carpet at his feet, reaching for his hands. He flinched at my touch, I could see how much he wanted to pull away. Now look what you’ve done.
“Will, look at me… please. It’s ok if you are angry with me, just please talk to me.”
“I’m angry at both of you! I thought you both liked each other again… but I guess not. Well, at least you don’t have to worry about getting divorced this time since that already happened.” My breath caught when I saw his eyes narrow as he finally looked me square in the eye, challenging me.
He got up and went to the kitchen, trying to get away from me. His emotions suddenly shifted as he looked at me and I could see the tears once again close to the surface. “I don’t understand. What do you argue about? Is it me?” He looked at me expecting an answer. Say something! Twelve year old problems. How do I tell him enough to understand, but not too much? In my second of hesitation the tears overtook him, and he collapsed in my arms. “Oh my God… it is, isn’t it? Did I do something? I promise I’ll get my grades up! I’ll do whatever it takes. Please. I just can’t go through this. Not again. I don’t want to go back and forth between houses. I want to see you both every day. I want both of you to tuck me into bed every night!”
I cried as I knelt down and held him tight while the sobs wracked his body. How could you have thought that he was going to be fine this time? How could you do this to him… again?
His biological father had left him before he was old enough to really know him. Now because of me, he would no longer see the only father that he had known, the man that had stuck by his side since he was one year old… even though he didn’t have to. The one who still wanted to do his homework with him at night and tuck him into bed. He had survived the divorce but was so happy when we reconciled. Are you really going to disrupt that all over again? Shouldn’t you fight harder for a man that loves your son and yourself so much that he would do anything for you? Do your problems really outweigh all these good things? Suddenly, I questioned everything.
My resolve crumbled, and I picked up the phone. “Please come home. I will do whatever it takes to work it out.” In that moment my son’s happiness was more important than my own.
Parenting has been without a doubt the most challenging, yet rewarding, experience of my life. In my search to find myself I have faced many challenges. I believe with great risk comes great reward and risk doesn’t scare me. The unknown doesn't scare me, but this story that I have to tell is not just mine. It is my son’s too. All of the struggles that I have faced inherently mean that he has faced them as well. He was right next to me sleeping on an air mattress on the floor, when I left my marriage without even a bed. Divorce was hard on me, but he had to travel between houses… feeling as if he had to choose between us, and always wondering if it was something he did, or if he was to blame. My biggest fear is not my own, but it is for the young and innocent eyes, so much like my own, that look to me to help him understand the world around him which can be confusing as hell sometimes. Every decision that I make not only affects my own happiness, but it also changes the life of my child who I love more than anything. How much should I risk? You have a responsibility to put your son’s happiness before your own. How could you be so selfish? How are ever going to find a balance between his happiness and your own?
I may not have all the answers, but I do believe that we lead by example, and our children will see what we deem acceptable in our own lives. What we allow, they will allow. If we accept mediocrity, they will as well. I believe this tumultuous path will lead to great things, but he didn't choose it. His only option is to follow my lead and hope that I make the best decisions for both of us. I do the best that I can, but sometimes I don’t know that I have succeeded. I don’t question what I want in my own life, but I do question if it is ok for me to want those things. Either way, there is no question when it comes to what my hope is for him. I hope he dreams big. I hope he doesn’t settle for mediocrity, and I will do everything in my power to support him and help him make his dreams come true. Let’s hope you haven’t completely screwed up his life with the mistakes you have made in your own.
My son, similar to me in so many ways, was the person that gave me the courage to share my story. We were driving to school one morning when I first spoke the word Crossroads out loud. I could see the tears that threatened to spill over as he opened up about the struggles with his relationships in school that the coming of age often brings, troubles I couldn’t fix. My own tears threatened as I did my best to explain how difficult growing up is. Life is a roller coaster, full of ups and downs. Sometimes we have to deal with mean people, and sometimes we don’t feel like we are good enough. It can get really confusing and difficult to navigate through. I confided in him and said I feel that way a lot too. Then I told him about Crossroads, my story about the difficulties I have faced in my own life. He responded by saying, “You know, I can relate to that. It sounds just like how I feel.” He told me he thought it was cool, and he liked that I was writing to help others.
When we arrived at school, I told him how much I loved him. As he wandered off with a big smile on his face, I knew he wasn’t feeling so alone anymore. Our conversation that morning inspired me and made me hopeful that my story might help others work through challenges in their own lives.
The past five years have have been hard as hell - divorce, love, death of a parent, suicide of a close family member, single parenting, career change, and starting a business to name just a few. Writing saved me. It helped me make sense of the chaos that had become my life. Even when I was uncertain where the blank page was going to take me, I was able to find truth through writing. There is a certain clarity that comes with transferring your thoughts and feelings into written words. I have gained insight into my own life that would have been overlooked without going through the writing process. My journal has been my therapist and without it I would not have the self-acceptance and understanding that I have today.
I feel an overwhelming urgency to get it all down on paper before the words disappear. It is time to stop holding on to this chapter of my life; I feel as if I can’t process one more bit of information until this is complete - like it’s preventing me from moving forward. The words feel a little farther away each time I read them, and if I allow myself to forget what it felt like to live them, then I might not find my way back. I am ready to leave these memories in the past. Crossroads has become part of my process of letting go of my struggles and moving forward. With every word that I type, some of the weight is lifted from my shoulders and transferred to the page.
Initially, the addition of “and a lot of red wine” to the subtitle of Crossroads was meant as a joke, an attempt to lighten the mood. As I continued to edit and refine, I realized just how much wine I consumed to dull my pain and escape the outside world. Jesus...What kind of health coach are you anyway? I guess my secret’s out - I am human. So, let’s lift our goblets and make a toast to my promise to keep it real.
I invite you to grab a glass of wine (red and dry preferably) and turn off the TV. Put your phone away and leave the world of touch screens and news feeds behind you for just a while. Crossroads is my collection of journal entries, lyrics, songs, and reflections about discovering oneself. They are in their most basic form, as raw and passionate as the day they were written. Join me as I open my journal, pick up my guitar, sip a glass of cabernet, and recite “My Song”. My hope is for you to discover Truth within yourself.
It’s just a melody, just a rhyme
Just a moment frozen in time
It’s just a thought, just a dream
Just an illusion torn at the seams
Won’t you join me, maybe sing along?
This is my story. This is my song.
“For what it’s worth: It’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over.”
~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
Excerpt from CROSSROADS: My Search for Truth Through Music and a Lot of Red Wine
"And So It Begins..."
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