[What I ate for breakfast today: jasmine rice, an egg, some roast chicken, and some of my friend Niko's excellent habanero-cumin sauerkraut.]
Have you ever known, without any doubt, that you're doing the right thing, even when you know it looks completely wrong? That certainty is pretty intoxicating. That's what you're seeing in this photo. There's me, smiling and sitting in the orange chair in Kamal's bedroom, and outside the frame, Kamal is weeping on the floor. If you didn't know the context, I looked an awful lot like a mother taking a vain and unaware selfie while neglecting her adorable child.
So here's the whole story: I'd just been sitting with Kamal doing our usual bedtime cuddle, but earlier than usual. We've been working to move his bedtime earlier, because the kiddo is obviously tired and needing more sleep. (So are the grownups in our house.) He's resisting the change, which is understandable, but Adam and I are pretty fiercely committed to all of us getting more sleep. Kamal had slithered out of my lap, saying he wanted to wake up and play already. I let him go, because I didn't want to restrain him and turn bedtime into a battle. Then he stomped just a few feet away and, instead of finding something to play with, collapsed in a sobbing little puddle of tears. Which drew my empathy, of course, but also reinforced for me that I was doing the right thing. Kids who are well-rested typically don't lie on the floor crying, and he didn't go far at all, which told me that the sleepy little bunny really did want to be in bed.
So the smile is about feeling like I was right both in letting him go and in continuing to work towards his getting more sleep, but it's also feeling the validity of listening to my intuition and celebrating that feeling of sureness. And then it's celebrating how far I've had to come to become a person who listens to herself, celebrating the work that has taken, the years of battling the inexorable downward pull of self-doubt, fighting uphill all the way. It's celebrating making a choice to be happy ten whole years ago that, step by strong step, has brought me to this exact chair, this heart of this beautiful, safe, happy home, with my sweet child, with my beautiful husband, the chickens asleep and secure behind their wire fence, the tomato seedlings and bursting nasturtiums and big old fig tree dreaming in their gentle, plantlike way about seeding the ready ground late this summer.
That choice I made ten years ago, that was a hard one. It was walking away from a person I loved, who was also a person who wasn't good for me. I decided that I only had so much time left to be happy, and I had spent enough time being quiet and sad. It was the right choice, and even if it didn't look like it at the moment--I was sleeping on couches, crying on the subway, being a general buzzkill all over New York City--I knew it in my bones. And I found out I had a wonderful community that supported me and lent me their couches and their generous and empathic ears. And because I let go, because I took the leap of faith away from a situation that wasn't serving me, I found my way here.
So I'm smiling here with all of that. All of the love and laughter that poor Kamal's sagging onto the floorboards raises in me, all of the triumph of feeling so right with myself and my world and my tribe, all of the joy that I've allowed in by simply opening my hands and letting go of sorrow that wasn't mine to hold. That's why I wanted a picture of my face, in this moment, feeling all those things.
Every one of us has something to walk away from, in order to open wide a space that could otherwise be filled with good work, or good love, or real and profound joy. I hope for you that letting go of someone or something who causes you unhappiness is a process filled with ease--but even if it isn't, even if it's the hardest thing you've ever done, I hope you do let go. I hope you choose happiness, and I hope you make room for it in your life, because it wants to find you.