This Sunday we visited my family in NH and celebrated my mom's birthday at the lake we used to go to when I was a child. Going back to a place that I spent weekends visiting with my parents and sisters when I was a little girl was emotional and brought up a lot of feelings. We took a boat ride by the house my parents used to own together, called Windwood. My sister and her husband happened to know the new owners that currently live there, so we were able to walk inside and see what it looks like now. It felt almost the same, and there is even some of the same furniture from when we were little. It was so special being able to show my children the house that mommy used to come to when she was their age. The house where I played with my dolls, where I fished every morning, where I even celebrated Christmas and Thanksgiving. It was strange to have come full circle.
I realized that I don't have a home that my kids can go back to and understand about where I came from, so it meant a lot to be able to show them this little lake house. The kids love hearing stories from me about growing up, so for them to finally see something tangible for once was exciting for us all.
After we came back from visiting Windwood, we swam and had dinner together with my mom and sisters and their families on the other side of the lake at the small yacht club. Part of me felt a bit of sadness for that part of my childhood that is no longer. That part of my family story that no longer exists, as my parents' marriage ended so long ago. A grief and longing for what once was, nagged at me.
It is sad that there is so much from my childhood that is broken. A bit later, I took off on a Standup Paddleboard ride by myself for some peace and quiet, and I was able to look out across the lake to where I once learned how to water-ski with my mom and dad watching me many years ago.
In the past, I am not sure I would have been able to identify all the emotions I was feeling in that moment, because I usually would have just opened a beer instead. Poured a glass of wine. Escaped into a bottle of alcohol. Instead, I was able to go out on my own for a bit, absorb the breeze on my skin, the calm of the air, the peacefulness of the lake. I paddled out past the sailboats. I pushed on the board through the glistening water as the sun bounced off the surface out to the floating dock. I idled nearby, watching as my three kids jumped off the dock together, challenging one another to jump further out and higher up than the other, just as I used to do thirty years ago with my siblings. The game eventually took a turn and fighting ensued per usual, so I took off on my paddle board further out into the lake, letting my husband deal with the kids. And I took five more minutes of quiet for myself.
And instead of the sadness that I initially felt for the family that no longer existed back in the walls of Windwood, I was able to recognize that instead, I have something better now. First, I have my own little family. A wonderful husband and three healthy kids. And I am here for it all. The laughs. The fights. All of it. I am present. No longer numbing and escaping. I am sober, mindfully able to soak it all in. I am here. I found myself feeling a swell of joy inside my chest. Strong, powerful and surging. Contentment, overwhelming and breathtaking. That is what I call pure joy.
As I returned back to shore on my paddle board and as my kids attempted to climb on top of it and knock me off, I laughed and tried to savor the moment.
I said to myself, let the past be.
And be grateful for this sober life.