There were times that I thought being the mother of a 1-year-old as my marriage fell apart was the worst thing that could ever have happened: it meant I was going to be tied to Chris forever. I actually envied my friends who had divorced with no children; their exes simply disappeared, sometimes into new marriages and other cities. I knew how much that had hurt them, but I envied the finality. Chris and I were left to grapple with a lifetime of sharing something precious.
But then I realized the obvious gift: A child’s immediacy is a big lesson for any adult, but it is a magical respite for an adult going through a personal hell. Zack’s regimented schedule set ironclad priorities for me, the biggest one being that the hour and a half I got to spend with him each evening when I got home from work had to be my Happy Hour. And frankly, the way Z was so taken with everything in front of him all the time-water coming from a faucet, so fun! Cell phone buttons, delightful!-taught me to really be in those moments with him, to set aside my grief and my worries from work, and celebrate discovery and wonder and the sheer pleasure of daily everythingness.
So even though I was dealing with the crushing to-do list filled with really big tasks-jackhammering up my basement floor to fix the underground leaks, selling the house, finding a new place to live, getting back on my financial feet, going through the negotiations and motions of divorce-my time with Zack helped me to start living one day, one hour, one minute at a time, focusing only on the Very Next Thing. He helped me to think small, to appreciate the smell of grass warmed in the sun, to marvel at ladybugs trekking across the patio. Which in turn taught me to notice dozens of other small, happy things in my own life, like finding a perfectly ripe pear at the deli, or getting a cab in the rain, or enjoying the satisfaction of a good hair day. I could be happy about dozens of things, every day, no matter what big, ugly tasks were looming ahead. And even though a long list of tiny gratitudes seems like it would easily be overshadowed by some of the big, scary things in life, I’ve found that’s definitely not true. That the small things are the life you’re living just as much as the big.