It is unnatural to leave your child behind. Everything about motherhood defies this action. You sacrifice, you accommodate, you cry, you give up, you give in, but you do not ever leave.
Today I left him behind. I boarded a boat and left him in the remoteness of Alaska. I shook as I boarded the ferry. I felt like I was going to throw up with every step I took. I found a seat and collapsed into myself. Tears not far away but held back if only from the nausea.
I never planned for this. I never planned to have to leave him...well maybe at college a few light years from now. The moments stretched out in front of us, fanning out like time moved into thinness, but time does not stretch. Time is not moveable like that. Each second of every moment, the same exact measurement. The same tenor, but never the same quality. Some moments feeling lengthy and some fleeting. All of them actually the same, endlessly the same but always feeling different.
I left my child...
I left him in wild Alaska where you only get one mistake because the second one you make will likely kill you...
What kind of mother does this?
Me, I did.
It may take the rest of my life to reconcile this most incongruent fact. I took him there and then walked away. My heavy heart nothing in comparison to the act of leaving. There is no comfort right now in the salvation I hope he finds. I am reeling, from my own leaving.
Life is fucking interesting. Leading me to places that I never thought possible. Even a week ago, the events of the past few days unimaginable to me. I unable to fathom that I would travel far, dragging my first born along, to leave him behind.
I feel surprised by my own feelings. I expected to feel relief but instead all I feel is the leaving. A hollow vacantness that is expanding inside my chest, that stretches and contracts and makes me feel slightly ill. And yet, even with all of that, I know that this is a skill I have practiced all my life. Leaving. I leave. Over and over again. I have been the one to walk on, out of the lives of others, always and forever walking forward and rarely looking back. This time was no different in its mechanism, I did the same things I always do: plan, execute, move forward, then turn around and go...
But this time, I left with hope to never return. That neither of us will ever have to engage the way we have again. That the vacancy of our relationship was also left on the shores of Alaska. I left my child but I also left the past and present that has haunted us, tormented us and made ruinous the tents of a good life. I left the damage and the trauma and the heartbreak. I left it there with him, for him to grapple with the carnage he has caused. It feels really unfair what I just did but I did so because there was nothing else to try. My shielding and protecting him was in large part what was keeping him tethered to a reality we both hated and wanted to run from.
I left my son in austere Alaska.
I never knew until right now that all the leaving I have done in my life would prepare me to walk away from the vehicle he was climbing in...had I not left all the other things before, my legs would not have carried me, my resolve would have dissolved into nothingness. I would have run back to him and hugged him until I maimed us both. But I didn’t. I left. I walked away. With pain, sorrow and loss, I gathered myself and walked on.
Leaving is a skill. I know that now. I am grateful for all the things I have left before. Without them I would have failed last night. I would have not been able to do it. I would have flailed. I would have faltered. I would have allowed my own self doubt to prevent me from taking the only action left to do: leave.
Sometimes you have to leave the ones you love, in order to preserve the love. Sometimes the intimate familiar becomes a kind of prison where the door remains open but both persons jailers to the other. My son and I were captives in our home. Neither of us able to leave the other and so we maintained a death grip on each other as we spiraled ever closer to a hell we co-created. Today, I walked away from that penitentiary...and onto what awaits me next...and I allowed him to walk onto to his own next thing whatever that might be. I do not know what he will find on the lush Alaskan landscape. I know only that it was my job to leave him there and to trust that everything that has happened before, came to help us both be willing to walk away and leave the other behind.
I left so that I could carry a good thought forward. I could empty the container of our relationship of the misery, resentment and trauma. I left to breathe new life into the flagging us. I walked so that we each could find a new path forward, and I accept that my leaving might be something he never forgives me for...
He may hate me, and never forgive me. But if it saves him then it was worth it. A mother’s love comes with great sacrifice. I knew this but now I feel it. I walked away so that he may have a life that he is responsible for, one that in my absence, becomes his own. To love, to enjoy, to experience without the mother filter looming over every moment of his life. I left so that he could find his way, his way, not mine.
And while the experience of leaving is familiar, I have never had this much pain. This soulful burning that seers my heart. I left and in so doing I prayed that each of us would find something in our relationship that was worth saving. I left because there was almost nothing remaining, except a love that was so marred.
I have learned that being a mother is hard work. And I have learned that being a son may be even harder still. But I have learned again that all the things I am willing to let go, come back in their time, perhaps in a different form, in a manner that I didn’t expect, but the things that matter, the people that matter, always come back to you, my only job while walking away is to hold open my heart even as I turn away. Praying that he may one day return to me, changed, altered and free.