My daughter is 2 years old and has never spoken the word "home" because, up until last weekend, she did not have one, really. Daddy and I split before she started putting sentences together. To her, it's "mommy's house" and "daddy's house." When you ask her where she lives, she looks a bit confused and answers, "I don't know." This is heartbreaking and I wanted to change that. Her daddy is a great guy, but somewhere between my post-partum depression and his frustration, he left. Both of us wanted to make things better, but we didn't know where to begin. So, we began in a little town an hour south of San Francisco.
We live on opposites sides of the city, so I wanted to find a neutral place -- like Rumi's poem: "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there." I also did not want to go cheap. The latest book I wrote is selling well, so I wanted to celebrate my success by trying to heal my broken home with a wonderful, opulent trip. For the past year, my theme song has been "Rolling in the Deep," and I wanted to change it to "Putting on the Ritz."
Monday, 3 p.m.: Splurge. Since the birth of my baby, I have been the responsible caretaker. For once, I wanted room service and crisp white sheets that weren't covered in crumbs or pee spots. Let someone else pick up after me and make my bed. For years I've dreamt of lounging at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay. So, I finally turned that dream into a reality.
Monday, 4 p.m.: Beach time. We hadn't walked on the beach together as a family since our trip to Holbox, Mexico, when our daughter was only 4 months old. I wanted to pretend that everything was wonderful, so we took our daughter to the beach and played in the sand with her as she yelled, "Look, Mommy and Daddy!" Both Daddy and I were a bit uneasy being together, but having our daughter laugh and play eased the tension instantly.
Monday, 5 p.m.: Pampered myself. I had to be very careful not to stress out; I have a tendency to put too much pressure on myself and have unrealistic expectations from Daddy. Since I had no idea how the next two days were going to go, I wanted some time just to calm myself down and stop the negative self-talk. As they say on airplanes: "Put the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others." The spa treatment was my way of putting the oxygen on myself before dealing with any possible turbulence.
Monday, 7 p.m.: Be courageous. Daddy and I have not held hands for a long time. Since I was composed and relaxed from my massage, I decided to take a small risk. As Anais Nin says, "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." I wanted my life to expand with some hope. So, during our walk on the beach at sunset, I reached out and folded my fingers into the palm of his hand. He smiled. My fear was that he was not going to accept my small gift, but he did. I exhaled.
Monday, 8 p.m.: Break bread. We went to a cute Italian restaurant on Main Street in Half Moon Bay. We chose it because it caters to families, but still has a lovely, intimate feel. We were not in the mindset to go for a romantic dinner, so dinner with our daughter at a causal, yet classy place was perfect. We took the baby, but she fell asleep on the way there -- and she slept through the whole meal! We dined on shared plates of ahi crudo, mesquite grilled local calamari, and scallop capellini. Finally, we began to talk without the typical resentment that usually filled our conversations.
Tuesday, 8:00 a.m.: Grownup time. Daddy drove baby back to San Francisco and dropped her off at preschool, where she was going to be picked up by Auntie until we returned Wednesday afternoon. While Daddy was gone, I took a long bath in the wonderful, deep bathtub in our room. Our plan was to do things together that we have never done.
Tuesday, 11 am: Tried something new. Daddy and I went kayaking in the bay. I am not an outdoorsy girl, but Daddy loves the outdoors and water. I was a bit apprehensive, but the guys at the kayak company showed me what to do and gave us some great points of interest for kayaking in the harbor. So, trusting Daddy, I got into a kayak and I paddled in synchronicity with the man I fell in love with years ago. I let him lead the way (which was very hard), he talked about his past kayaking experiences and it felt like we were on a first date.
Tuesday, 12:30 p.m.: Took a flight. I'm not a beer drinker, but Daddy is. After kayaking we went to Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, where they brew their own beers on premise. We shared a beer flight and chatted about the different flavors and colors of the beers. We laughed at some of the names like Bootleger's Brown Ale and Pit Stop Chocolate Porter. For the first time in months we were not arguing about our daughter, fighting about custody, or worrying about expenses -- all we did was guess the flavors in the beer and try to figure out what IBU stood for.
Tuesday, 3 p.m.: Made something together. Tucked behind La Nebbia Winery is Half Moon Bay Art Glass. Doug, the owner and artist, offers glass-blowing lessons. There, both Daddy and I listened to him closely and created our own glass pumpkins. We felt such a sense of accomplishment and solidarity in this act of creation. This was the first thing we made together since our daughter. I was so happy and he laughed at my excitement.
Tuesday, 5 p.m.: Enjoy bubbles. The only bubbles I get are those in my daughter's baths. I'm usually sopping wet and trying to keep my daughter from drowning. So, when Daddy and I popped a bottle of champagne, I was giddy. We were both relaxed and after the day's activities (and no fights), it was time to celebrate. It was such a treat to be making memories that were happy ones.
Tuesday, 7 p.m.: Connected with another couple. Robert Scoble and his wife Maryam have been my friends for years. They live in Half Moon Bay, so that night, while Auntie watched the baby, Daddy and I joined our friends at the Ritz to watch the sunset, and listen to the bagpipes. At dinner we had grown-up wine glasses, not plastic sippy cups. Our conversations were not about nap times or preschool, they were about entertaining stuff like travel and new projects we were working on. Since Daddy and I separated, I have avoided "couples" activity because they just depress me. So it was refreshing to talk to grownups over a warm meal that was not interrupted with a screaming child or spilled food. Much like the theme of this trip, I enjoyed the 48 Hour Braised Pistou Beef Short Ribs at Navio Restaurant.
Wednesday, 9 a.m.: Slept in. For the first time in years, we slept together in the same bed, without a screaming baby or any angry words. Instead of rushing out of bed the last morning of our opulent 48 hours together, we just lay there and talked with tenderness. It was still too soon for anything besides talking, but for once, we were in no rush.
Wednesday, 10 a.m.: Breakfast in bed. Our morning routine usually consists of 15 versions of "The Wheels on the Bus" with a plethora of assorted creatures on the bus. Dragons, spiders, cows, and cats are the current favorites. But this morning I did not need to perform. All I had to do was call room service. So, together, donned in cozy cotton robes, we laughed and talked about our daughter's future and the steps that we needed to take to heal our broken relationship over Eggs Benedict. Daddy shared his intimate feeling about the years without me and I listened closely without cutting him off.
Wednesday by 3 p.m.: Commitments made. We talked about what it would take to put us back together, after all, we're not broken, just bent. I believe we had a chance to turn off the negative static in our heads, relax, and just listen to our hearts. We both took responsibility for the roles we played that got us in this mess. Pride, anger, fear -- the usual suspects.
I can't get back the precious moments with my daughter, and I want her father there every step of the way. After our successful 48 hours together, we decided that what we have is bigger than our egos and stronger than our resentments. The most important thing in our lives is our daughter and we will do what it takes to give her a family.
The work is just beginning. I don't expect that our life together is going to be as smooth as the sheets at the Ritz or as shining as the beautiful glass pumpkins we made, but as Leonardo da Vinci said: "Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work, your judgment will be sure; since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose power of judgment..."
Indeed. We only went an hour away from our daily lives, but a world away from the stress that was causing so much pain. If you are in a similar situation, think about taking a little trip like this. It just might change your life ... or save your family.