This here bringer of the pooper to the fun party

“I’m lying alone with my head on the phone”

Marlo is sitting in my lap, her feet draped just over the edge of my knees. I hold her close, press my nose into her fine blonde hair while she takes a small mound of blue clay and tries to mold it into a circle. Her body is so tiny, so perfectly shaped for the space against my chest. I will wake up tomorrow and she will be gone, off living her life without me, joy and agony sweeping up against her because my back is no longer big enough to shield it all.

I reach down and hold her foot in my palm. I trace all five of her toes and stop on the smallest one. I draw outlines, fold them up and tuck them away so that at some point I can take them out, lay them flat and run my fingers along the memory.

Leta is busy gathering pillows to build a fort next to the back door. Pillows from the couch, from her bedroom, from the outdoor furniture we brought inside for the winter. Her arms and legs stretch like cross-country roads now, endless and winding and nothing like the stout, dimpled elbows I used to cradle in bed while we watched cartoons.

She throws another pillow onto the pile and then stops, inspects her work and turns to me.

“Mom?” she asks. She doesn’t wait for me to answer. “Why does Dad not sleep here anymore?”

I swallow. She can probably hear it. I let go of Marlo’s foot to tuck my hair behind my ear. I hope my voice doesn’t shake.

“You know when you’re playing with Marlo and need to take a break?” I answer. “You’ll go upstairs because you want to be by yourself. Because that’s what you need.”

“Yeah,” she says, and it sounds like a question.

“Well, sometimes adults need that kind of break, that kind of distance. Dad and I are taking a break.”

She curls her mouth, an outward sign that she’s trying to piece this together. “Is that what you guys need?” she asks.

“Yeah,” I answer. “It’s something we need. And it has nothing to do with you or Marlo or anyone else. It’s just me and Dad.”

“Okay,” she says as she shrugs her shoulders. Without hesitation she runs to find another pillow.

………

My emotions sit at the bottom of my eyes. I blink often to keep them from rising any higher. In order to get through the day I pretend I’m in a pool, and before I go under water I exhale until there is no more air in my lungs. I sink to the floor and feel the weight of the water all around me, holding me down, blocking out all the noise. Down there I can move my arms and legs and cook dinner and read stories at bedtime.

But my body inevitably revolts and sends me shooting to the surface. I gasp desperately for air, sputtering, and sometimes the water that splashes up from my face makes its way into the words on this page.

………

The still aching ten-year-old Heather is screaming at me, angry and raw and hurt that this is happening. This isn’t fair. Sometimes when I’m in bed at night I can hear the rapid beating heart of my ten-year-old self as I sat in my father’s lap listening to Air Supply, his tears burning my forehead as he wondered aloud about how things could go so wrong.

How do things go so wrong?

I had put Leta to bed, and then somehow I was standing in the garage with a dog leash in my hand looking up at a pipe running along the ceiling. I don’t remember walking from her room down the stairs, but I looked around at all of this, all of this that I hold together — all of this that is supposed to be perfect and satisfying and perhaps even enviable — and the dog leash made sense. The only way out of my unhappiness was to take myself out of it. The only way out. The only way.

I was sane enough to walk away from that moment, one that occurred a while ago, and standing up to that hopelessness has only made me stronger. But I’m still trying to figure out how I got to the garage in the first place. Because this isn’t a chemical issue. I wish a pill would make all this ongoing, unbearable pain go away.

I’m sad and devastated, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been more stable than I am right now.

No, this is me facing a list of issues that I have neglected, issues that have subsequently settled like dust to the bottom of my soul. And a few weeks of intense running, time spent alone on sidewalks tripping over limitations and physical pain have stirred it all up in a giant, suffocating cloud.

………

The girls are doing incredibly well. They are our top priority, and the time we spend with them individually is of course made so much more precious. They are surrounded by people who love them, and since I have experience being on their end of things I’m hyper aware of how they are making their way through this. We’ve kept certain things relatively normal for them, as much as we possibly can given the circumstances. They miss their dad in the morning, and I let them feel that emotion without any interference. I have to honor what they are feeling. And then I hug them and tell them that I understand.

Because I do. I understand.

I hope you will at least try to and bear with me as I linger a bit underwater.

  • Neasa Hogan

    Heather, my heart hurts for you and your family. Take the time you need and that your family deserve.

  • MamaTinTX

    Heather, I’ve read your blog for years but never commented, primarily b/c I’m extremely bad with technology and too lazy to figure it out…. Seriously, figuring out how to comment was challenging for me. Your blog has meant something to me– You make me laugh, and I recognize myself in so much of what you write. Thank you. You must hear this on a daily basis from hordes of fans, but I KNOW we’d be VBFFs if we knew each other. Can you move to Austin? I’m a recovering alcoholic with four years sobriety and I also struggle with depression. Having the January blues right now, as is pretty much everyone I know. January just sucks. I read about your separation last night and cried. And then felt weird about crying since of course I’ve never met you…. Anyway, I’m one of those cultish 12-steppers, so I’m gonna go on and tell you that you and your family are in my prayers.

  • bpark

    Oh Heather. I am so sorry. You and your family will be in my thoughts. Your words are so poignant and powerful.

  • spike

    Much like all of the other posters, we were surprised, shocked and saddened by the current events at Dooce HQ and send our regards.

    Was quite surprised to see Dooce in the Globe & Mail today – Canada’s national newspaper. Also got mentioned in the Globe’s daily email blast. Wow. What both surprised and annoyed me was that in the email blast the sub-head stated that “Shouldn’t she at least have given them a few hints?”. Really? Despite the public nature of this site, not everything needs to be shared.

    Pulling for you guys.

  • NolaMomma

    This is the saddest news I have read lately. My heart goes out to you and your family as you navigate this.

  • Victoria_Girl

    Hugs

  • AliciaMaria

    Hugs, Heather. All it looks like now is a bunch of words, and nobody could possibly understand what you’re going through.

    We’re all here for you, whether you can feel it or not. <3 Give the puppies a kiss, and the girls too.

  • denise karis

    oh goodness – I am so sorry – there’s like a hole there – and when hes gone you only remember the good things – I totally know and definitely will cry for you all when I’m not at work. xoxoxoxo

  • MLtheimpossible

    I have been following your blog for about 7 years, and I have always loved “Heather and Jon”. Stay strong through this trying time. You need to do what is right for you!

    Much love to you, Jon, and the girls… and, of course, Chuck and Coco.

  • ginanick

    I dont want to sound hollow and assume I know all that you are going through but I too am going through similar things with my separation and pending divorce. i can relate so much to all of your words and the thoughts you described and now being much farther down the path and having faced down many of my unfounded fears and anxieties I know that there is light at the end of the tunnel and it does get easier in many ways.

    it is difficult no matter what and it is isolating and the loneliness is maddening at times but by keeping amicable and keeping above the fray for the girls and the two of you is the best thing that you can do. We decided early on that we had to keep the kids feelings and best interests at heart and the only way to do that was to make this as mature a process as possible.

    it has helped my two kids (7 and 10) to see us interacting, still doing family things, talking on the phone and being friendly and amicable while still leading separate lives and co-parenting. Doesnt mean it is always sunshine and roses but to the kids it is because there is no need for them to get caught in the crossfire of drama.

    hang in there. know we are all here thinking of you and know that every day gets a little easier. We dont always ask for challenges and would probably rather not have challenges thrown at us but they are there for us to face down and to handle and it does ultimately, hopefully, make us stronger.

  • Rachel_K

    I registered just so I could leave a message.

    I have been really busy and was behind on my blog reading. I cried when I read this post. It saddened and surprised me. Funny how reading about someones life makes you feel as if you know them.

    I am so incredibly sorry and I cannot even imagine going through this in a public arena. I wish you and your family strength and healing during this time.

  • mjsinnyc

    Heather: Let me say right up front that I am NOT a salesperson for this company, nor do I have any affiliation with it whatsoever. Have you heard of Marriage Fitness, by Mort Fertel? He is a genius when it comes to marital problems. I am separated, myself. I’ve been doing his program on my own, and it is absolutely working a miracle in my marriage (that’s right: my husband is not participating, and the program is STILL repairing the marriage!).

    Please try not to discount something like this that is sold via the Internet. Mort Fertel is the real deal. His program for rebuilding broken marriages is truly a godsend.

  • etoile

    I don’t think there is anything to say, except I’m so sorry. I am sorry I didn’t know. Much love to you all. Keep your chin up. xx Olivia

  • tksinclair

    As a reader from day 1 can you believe that I JUST NOW found this out? By accident. Reading about Leta leaving her bed and some comment about “Does she do this as Jon’s?” HUH? WHAT? Heather! You didn’t write or tell me. Damn it. I just got socked in the stomach.

    As a woman who lives with the shame of three divorces, yeah, go ahead, “must be her” and all that…I get it. I SO get it. But this? You? Jon? Even with all the honesty and painful posts over the years…no one out “here” can ever really know can we? There are just some things too private…even when you “think” you will always share everything.

    I hope with all my hope this is temporary. Why? because there are days now – years and years later – with retrospect – I regret leaving all my marriages. Because (shhh…here’s the secret part) it’s not him, it’s not you, it just IS. It’s what happens…it’s where we go as humans. The timing is perfect…two kids in…the youngest about 3…yep, you are “typical” and I expected more from you but now, to learn, you and Jon and only human after all these years…I so wanted the fairly tale for you.

    Of course this makes it easier to look at myself in the mirror – but I deeply and greatly wish you happiness PERIOD. This is YOUR fairy tale, not mine. Although honestly I feel that I just found out some great deep secret my friend was hiding from me. I admit I wasn’t reading for a few months…we lost our house, deaths, illness, family shit, blah blah blah and I turned my back for what seemed like a moment I wasn’t paying attention.

    But I deeply wish you the best. Like so many here, I’m here for you both. Yeah, me…you don’t know it but we went through your depression together and a million other emotional trials and tribulations. I always went first because I’m a million years old…the good news? I’m still here. The bad news? The road doesn’t get easier. The best advice? What ever you do..make SURE that you do not end up living with Shame and Regret (my two constant companions) … this much I know is true. Trust me on this one…