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  • Melissa

In Retreat



I’ve retreated to a place deep within myself. There, nothing exists, just pain and fog. A painful fog, and foggy pain.


Life floats around me, yet I am silent. My words are stuck somewhere in the ache of my chest.

I observe my family from the sidelines, robotically doing my duties, waiting to run for cover. That is, to get under my covers.


The only place I feel safe is in my bed, wrapped in my blanket and facing the wall, eyes sealed to shut everything out. In that dark space, my heart comes alive.

The pain comes in waves. The sadness, it doesn’t speak, but it makes itself felt, strong and brazen. The hopelessness sits heavy, laying claim to my heart.

This is the little corner in which I want to remain until something in me changes and I can be whole.


Little hands pull me out of my safe place.

“Ma, I need a bottle!”

“Ma, prepare my clothes!”

“Ma, I don’t want to be downstairs without you!”


“Ma, I brought you hot water from shul for your coffee. It’s getting cold.” (My percolator’s broken.)


“Come. Come. Come play with us.”

“It’s 8:37. Look. At 8:45, I’ll come out. Okay?”

“No! Come out now!”

“8:40.”

“Okay.”


I’m finally alone with myself again. Still. Silent. Unmoving. Eyes shuttered against the too-bright world.

“It’s 8:41! Mommeee.”

Heavy limb by limb, I get my weary self out of bed. Feeling the weight of my chest, I trudge down the hallway. My body leaden, I let my kids lead me to the kitchen.


I struggle to bridge the gap between their world awash with color and vibrating with life, and mine, desolate and still, and monochrome.


My eyelids are heavy as I explain rules, and play judge for those who get on the wrong side of the law, and dutifully play my turns, trying to keep that balance between playing fair and being mama bear.


I soon get lost in their excitement. I giggle, if hollowly. I tease, if half-heartedly. I smile, if just for my kids’ sake. I sing a silly ditty.


And then I say, “No more games.”


I suggest we build a fort and hide out in it. Mommy joins them right there inside, and under the cover of darkness retreats into her own world.

It doesn’t take them that long to realize that I’m not really there.

The fort is dismantled and I'm exposed to the elements again.


When they’re finally too busy to notice, I disappear to my hideout again.

And so it goes.

The day is a tug of war between the black immobilizing forces in me, and my kids' exuberant, unrelenting requests.


They don’t want to eat; they want to be fed.

They don’t want to create. They want me to watch their creations come to life.

They don’t want a log in a bed as a mother. They want an involved, breathing, living, singing mom.


And just because I want them to know a better world than this black one, I push through the heaviness to visit theirs. For as long as I can.


The day somehow passes, and each set of eyelids is finally (finally!) sweetly closed, and I wish their world of light a gentle good night.


And I finally slip back into my welcoming black hole and hope no one dares extract me until tomorrow morning, when the tug of war starts again.


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