But instead, I'm sitting in the cold plunge. And it's not just a little bit cold, it's basically just above freezing. At first I sat down because I was feeling uncomfortably hot in the hot tub. And it's hot like I like it - so hot it hurts a little to move once you settle in. But after just a couple of minutes, my pulse was pounding and I figured I'd better cool off. I challenge myself like I always do, to slide into the cold plunge without my facial expression changing, at all. No outward indication that, in my mind, I'm giving high-pitched scream like the first girl to die in a slasher movie. I do this every time, but usually I get out just as soon as I get used to the cold.
This time, I just sit with it. I feel the cold seep in through my insulative blubber. I have to clench my hands so they don't hurt. Slowly, I start to shiver a little. Then my jaw begins to clench and finally teeth chatter. I am shaking uncontrollably, my body desperately trying to generate heat in my core so I don't die. My feet and hands don't hurt anymore, becuase all the blood has left to preserve my the most important parts in the center of my body.
I am getting divorced. A difficult relationship is ending, and I am trying to keep the most important part alive - a working co-parenting relationship for my daughter. She is the star about which I orbit, and always will. She is the most important thing there is to me, and I have to sacrifice some of the blood from my limbs to keep that core alive. I am selling my house. I will be finding a place on my own, much closer to work. But the most important thing is what's best for Eowyn.
I thought long and hard about what that means, exactly. Does it mean trying, again and again, to make a marriage work with someone who is unnkind daily, and unfaithful? Does it mean trying to make an open relationship work, so we can stay together as parents, and find romantic fulfillment separately? Or does it mean ending that relationship completely, trying to make sure I can stay close with her grandparents, (my soon to be ex-in-laws) and moving on?
At the end of the day, I'd rather either be alone, or even better, happy with someone else, than to let Eowyn's example of what a loving relationship is be what she sees today. I have to cut off the blood supply to these important, but non-vital parts, while the cold sets in.
But, life is not all the cold plunge. Eventually I can't take anymore, I'm as cold as I can reasonably get. There's a hot tub right nearby, though. In fact, first a warm tub, then a hot tub. I feel the heat seeping back in - first my limbs tingle as the blood flows back into my extremeties. My fingers and toes are pins-and-needles, my skin is bright and flushed. My heart rate increases again, and all my muscles unknot.
Just as it seemed that I was going to be alone for a long time; just as I despaired that anyone would love an overweight, weird, single father with a busy schedule and a pile of peculiarities, Anna reappeared in my life. Just describing all the ways that she challenged my lack of faith in anything like "fate" or "destiny" would take a book. And it won't be easy, us getting together - she's far away and just as burdened with circumstances as I am. But she has the will to make it work, and every time we approach one of these obstacles, it works out. Almost like it was meant to be.
I'm back in the hot tub, and easing into the state of relaxed bliss I hoped for. The chill of the cold plunge is almost nothing but a memory. Feeling the cold set in, and then the relief of the heat returning, I know that in life, too - the cold is temporary and the heat will return.