Our week in Russia was pretty much the fastest week of my life so far. It seemed to be over before it even had the chance to begin. I’m desperately trying to hang on to my joy – that joy I have only in Russia.
Sitting here at the ocean’s edge, toes in the sand, hair tangled from blowing in the wind, I’m watching the waves crash against each other, making these huge splashes six feet in the air, and I’m aching for my heart to be whole again. In Russia I feel guilty for feeling alive, as if that feeling means I don’t love my children in the states enough. In the states I feel guilty for even breathing, as if every last breath I take without my boys in Russia means I don’t love them more than I would miss the air I’m sucking into my lungs. It doesn’t. I means that, with every breath, I mournfully count the seconds of their lives from which I have been…absent. Separate.
I hate that word. Really, what good does that word ever do?!? It doesn’t. It only really causes pain. Think of “separating”, and probably the first thing that would come to your mind is divorce. Maybe the next thing you’ll think of is racial segregation. Or…you’ll think of egg yolks and whites, which, for crazy some reason, makes me think of childbirth, and we’ve circled right back to separating a mother from her children… SEE how that hateful word works?!?
I don’t want to be separate. I’d rather be like the sand on this beach, miles and miles of individual grains of sand. But try to pick up just one single grain of it, I dare you! You couldn’t do it. Those individual grains of sand stick to each other and to everything else like glue. Even this ocean, billions and billions of individual water droplets, but you’d never be able to walk out into it and only touch ONE drop. Not even if you had special equipment. Not in the ocean.
It’s hurricane season. I know this because The Weather Channel said so, but I knew it anyway. It’s a feeling you have in you heart. A feeling that something scary must be just over the horizon (like how this sky just turned an ominous shade of gray above my head)…something you can’t put your finger on yet. Something that could be nothing, but could be total devastation beyond your wildest imagination. And so you labor under the weight of your fear…sometimes for years, until you wake up one day to the realization that you’ve wasted all that time and it really was nothing after all. Nothing, really.
That’s what I thought Russia would be for me: nothing, really. I thought I could go and I’d probably be wrecked and I’d never be able to go back. I thought it would be so unbearably miserable, that the conditions and the kids would be so awful, it would be easy for me to put it behind me and never look back. God obviously thought differently. Oh, I was wrecked, absolutely, but even more than that, I was awake. For the first time. Suddenly it wasn’t enough to put it all behind me. Once I’d seen (and smelled and heard and touched), I knew. Nothing really ever would be the same again. Nothing. Really.
And so I go back. I’d stay if anyone would let me. I spend roughly 358 days a year pretending to be me. For those seven days in Pravdinsk, I AM me. Effortlessly. Until Saturday. On Saturday, I am ripped again and, on the plane somewhere above Iceland, I become a ghost…caught between two very real worlds, two very real lives. And separate from two very real boys who have no real idea how much they are loved. But I know. Because I love them. Even though we’re separate. I bleed through memories of those few days I’ve been physically present in their lives and beg it to outweigh the absence. And I breathe. Even though it hurts.
And, though my chest feels as if it will collapse with each exhale, I begin to count the individual seconds of time, each reeking of ache, as maddening as trying to count those individual grains of sand…until the next seven days I get to be in Russia. A week that will undoubtedly be pretty much the fastest week of my life…so far.