I am in love with living in the woods.
I’m so glad we decided to move out here. Right now, more than ever, our little family is getting closer to what I think true success is: living like we are at summer camp. Hugs and high fives and spontaneous singing. Trying to spend as much waking time outside as possible, with a lot of kids around. And, most importantly, speaking to each other like we would want to address a dear friend—face to face, gently, with our full attention.
That part is the hardest, by a landslide.
We are doing better and better. With finding the patience to parent the kids we were given (not the ones we may have previously envisioned), with turning the heartache into just, heart. These last few weeks have been nothing short of idyllic—a bonfire on Shabbat and hours and hours in the woods and on the beach.
I’m not trying to sugarcoat our life. Cedar’s been touring for weeks at a time, and then with E.’s ongoing health concerns, which can spontaneously devolve into a crisis within a matter of hours, I can’t believe that things feel so good right now. All of it is a conscious effort that we’ve been making towards more nature and more gratitude, and definitely, eating more s’mores.
Because it turns out that we may not have all of the time together that we think we will. Any of us. I just happen to be reminded of it every day with the tubes and syringes. And all of the memories of the hospital crib with it’s thin sheets and bitter smells, days when I wondered if I would ever again get to breathe in E. like she is at home, that warm, soapy baby scent.
Nothing is a given. If we can live with that in mind, holding on to the best of what our terrifying mortality can offer, then we have everything we need.
It’s been very conscious, this shift, because over the past year, there have been times we’ve gotten so stressed out it’s been the opposite of summer camp. Or, maybe, it’s been a summer camp you would never ever want to attend. With grumpy, burned-out counselors (AKA Cedar and I) and absolutely way too much time in the infirmary.
The truth, for me, comes down to this: I’ve cared so enormously for everyone around me, I haven’t cared enough for myself. It’s easy to become angry in a marriage, and then twist that anger around and around, like what I do with a lock of my hair when I’m worried. You did this or you didn’t. I didn’t get to do this but you did.
There have been times when I’ve resented Cedar for leaving us to go on tour, over and over again. For inhabiting a rock star’s world for weeks at a time, as I have struggled to take care of pretty much everything else back home. I haven’t written much about any of this here, about his music career, because I don’t know how to do it without feeling like I’m writing about something that isn’t mine.
But what’s mine is the self-care, the act of living as if my own needs also matter. It’s harder than it sounds when you are parenting a child with relentless medical concerns. And when your high standards for mothering can sometimes be just this side of, I guess, impossible. But I’ve started to take up a bit more space for myself, little by little. I can’t just blame Cedar and pretend that I have nothing to do with my own happiness.
I wasn’t sure whether or not to publish this, because I wondered if it’s too much to share with complete strangers, or anyone at all. I’m doing it anyway, although it’s certainly not without it’s flaws to write about our lives in this detail. But I think that it’s also flawed, in it’s own way, to not include these parts, because then what I am writing is less real.
It’s ending soon, the touring, just like everything ends. We’ve had a series of conversations over the past few weeks about all of it. The thing about Cedar is that he listens. I think it’s saved me, and our marriage, probably dozens of times. He doesn’t try to convince me that I should feel better when I’m feeling alone or afraid. He hears everything I have to say (and sometimes that’s a whole lot), and he doesn’t try to fix anything right away. He stays with me. More than anyone else I’ve ever known.
Somehow, through these teeth-gritting discussions, things have changed between us. Cedar pointed out something to me in the middle of a particularly harrowing discussion, while we were walking near the beach. I was crying, a fat tear rolled into my ear in that weird, uncomfortable way, and there were people around, sitting by the edge of the blue-green lake, and I didn’t even care. He said, “If I never would have done the tour, then maybe we wouldn’t have moved here to this place you love so much”. We talked about all of the things that might have been different, if this or that, which sometimes haunts me, the things that might have been, especially with our daughter.
But in this moment, I’m not very haunted. We have a house in the woods, we have each other. We live under trees with leaves that miraculously shoot out in the springtime, perfect green and complete, regardless of what is happening in the world. We have a bonfire pit, and we sit around it together.
When we sing like we are at summer camp—fully, a little off-key, and without much thought to anything else but this very moment—we are almost, sort of, free.