Last weekend I felt great, really great. Self-assured. Focused and funny – able to concentrate and crack jokes with equal ease. Confident. I had my shit together. And it felt good.
I was in Memphis, playing concerts with an orchestra that I’ve been playing with since 2007. The people, place, and routine of rehearsals and performances are like home to me.
But this time was different from my last several trips South. This time was the first time in three years that I was there alone, without any kids.
I really enjoyed the conversations I had. I felt present, able to focus on what people said. Conversations that were casual-but-not-superficial flowed naturally. I didn’t think I knew how to do that anymore.
I enjoyed the playing. I had prepared well, but, moreover, I was able to play well in the moment. Rehearsals and performances were not a complicated array of insecurity and self-assurance and nostalgia – a frequent feeling in recent years – but instead a wonderful combination of ease and enjoyment.
I enjoyed my host family. I always do – we’ve grown close over the years and I love them dearly. But this time I wasn’t just saying Hi guys! before dashing off to nurse an infant or to spend time with my own family, who had come up to help with the baby. Instead, I was lingering at the table with my host “dad” and going for walks with my host “mom.”
I had been worried about this weekend. I had felt insecure. I was worried about not having my kids to hide behind when I was feeling intimidated or out of place, about not having my gregarious husband nearby to act as social ambassador when I was feeling shy.
I was worried about feeling less-than, feeling like I didn’t belong.
Because that’s a bit of how I’d felt, those last three years.
I missed my family this weekend – fiercely. I love traveling with them, working with them, bringing them to the people and places I love. I love it when my kids can see me rehearse or play a concert and I love it when my husband is there at the end of the day to debrief.
But this weekend – without my family – was really great. And it was all me. I remembered how to be that me. And it felt great.
But it was also horrible. My son, husband, and mom (who flew to New York to help with the kids) all came down with a horrible, horrible stomach bug. All the plans we had made – a visit to Jacob’s school for my mom, art projects for the kids, special meals – completely unraveled. I absolutely ached to be home. I hated that I was not there. I hated that I had left my sick mom to take care of two kids – one of whom was also sick.
And to make matters worse – my son seemed to deteriorate as the days went on. He stopped sleeping, and wandered around the house eating cheerios and crying at night, asking for me. He refused to talk to me on the phone and wouldn’t make eye contact when I tried to FaceTime. He became listless, spending his days curled into a tiny ball on the couch, face hidden away in a pillow, trying to escape his world.
I was sure he felt abandoned and deserted by his momma – just when he needed me most.
I had to stop calling home. It was too hard on him (it just made him cry harder, making more work for my mom who had to calm him down), but it was also too hard on me. My heart seemed to be splitting apart.
I was so HAPPY in Memphis.
And I felt so horribly, horribly guilty.
My son needed me, and I wasn’t there.
My husband needed me, and I wasn’t there.
My mom…well, she might not have needed me, but it sure as hell would have been nice for her if I was there – especially on the days when she felt sick, too.
And instead, I had left them all behind.
I’m not sure I’ve ever felt such amounts of agony and joy, conflict and peace. Practically simultaneously.
Of course my flight back was cancelled, too (thanks, Snowpocalypse 2016), so I had to wait even longer to see my loved ones.
And then it was cancelled again, and again.
I cried, that second time. All I wanted was to be home.
But also – what a gift to spend extra time in Memphis. More time to hang out with my host family, more time for family stories and listening to music together. More time to hang out with friends I rarely see. More uninterrupted time to practice, to catch up on other work, to pray, to SLEEP.
The agony. The gift.
I certainly tried my damndest to find that silver lining, to enjoy the gift of time that God had given to me, to listen hard for his voice when I cried Why, God? Why? into the silence.
But ultimately – I don’t know what He was doing, exactly. I know it was so hard – for me, for everyone. And it was also good – so good.
In the end, my mom did get to visit Jacob’s school because of all the cancelled flights. And Jacob did get better – her very last day – and they had good time together. And it was even precious for her to be there for all his agony and sick snuggles, even if he still missed me horribly. She got good time with my little girl when big brother was sick – and it was good for Hannah Grace to have someone’s undivided attention – for once.
It was the best — and the worst — weekend it could have been.