At 5:30 this morning, I walked into my son’s room to turn off the light.
Every Summer, Isaac jets off to Maryland to spend 6-8 weeks with his biological dad, and every single time it hits me hard–no matter how old he gets. I’m grateful that he gets this time with his bio dad, and I’m also extremely grateful that I get some much needed parenting-free time, which for many parents is a luxury that never comes.
But the moment he leaves is always one that brings with it a mixed bag of emotions.
“Just one more hug,” I say.
“Please call me more than you did last Summer,” I plead.
Don’t grow up so fast. (A silent and unreasonable request.)
This morning, he and John both took an early morning flight to the East Coast, and as I stood there in Isaac’s room, alone, donning my robe, coffee in hand, I felt distinctly bittersweet.
Sweet for the time alone-a privilege that is not lost on me-and for the grand adventures that my baby boy will have this Summer. Bitter for the sudden alone-ness of it all, the seemingly instant passing of years. There is a sweetness in watching him grow into his own, and a slight bitterness in the fact that holding him as a baby is an ever-fading memory.
Kids grow up. People leave. Life moves on. Sometimes it seems as though we’re surrounded and other times we’re completely alone. We laugh until our bellies hurt and cry until eyes swell, and all the while the world keeps turning. It’s bitter. And it’s sweet. And I truly believe that experiencing both of those emotions as an amalgamation is a potent aspect of growing.
When we experience these bittersweet emotions, we’re feeling simultaneous gratitude and loss. It’s painful, and yet it feels strangely calm, all at once–and in this hurting calm we find a unique perspective. We learn to let go without forgetting, and remain open without falling apart; we understand what it feels like to be at life’s whim, and rather than lament and cling to what has come to pass, we grow into presence.
Bittersweetness is a feeling that has the power to help us live with more ease, should we lean into it when it arises.