19. all I want for Christmas...

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Much to my father's annoyance, I booked my flights such that I maximized time with my mom at the expense of spending time with him

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Much to my father's annoyance, I booked my flights such that I maximized time with my mom at the expense of spending time with him.  That meant I didn't fly out until tomorrow, but Ryan's flight was today; I was giving her a ride so that she didn't have to pay extortionate airport parking rates or bother with an Uber.

Isabelle had offered, too, but I'd formulated some vague (and completely untrue) excuse about needing to be over on the end of town near the airport anyway. It had been a tenuous explanation, but they both seemed to take it at face value.

When I got home from practice, I expected to find Ryan packing or, knowing her, already set to leave for the airport. Instead, she was laying on her turquoise yoga mat, folded over in what I thought might be child's pose... crying.

Normally, I would want to remove myself from a situation like this as quickly as possible. Talking about feelings and emotions wasn't something I did often, nor was it something I felt very comfortable with. But this was Ryan, and I wanted to be there for her, so I tried.

"Hey," I said softly, as I kneeled down and placed my hand on her back. "What's going on?"

She sat up on her knees and wiped her eyes, sniffling. "Oh god, I'm sorry."

The sudden and inappropriate realization hit me: her face was blotchy and red but somehow, she was beautiful even when she was crying. I filed it under 'knowledge I can't act on' and tried to ignore it.

"You don't need to apologize. Do you want to talk about it?"

She inhaled and exhaled deeply. "It's just... work. It's heartbreaking sometimes, seeing kids who are so sick." I nodded sympathetically. She continued, "Today was a bad day for one of my patients. His name is Connor, and he's only four. He's the toughest little guy I know. But he was having a lot of pain from his treatments. And his prognosis isn't good..." she trailed off, her voice cracking.

Instinctively, I hugged her. It just sort of happened. "I'm sorry, Ryan. That sounds hard. It takes a special kind of person to do the work that you do."

She shook her head, raking her hand through her shiny, dark hair. "But then I feel selfish for even allowing myself to get upset like this. I mean, can you imagine the hell his parents go through every single day? I don't know how they do it. It's almost enough to make me not want kids; I could never take it if something happened to them."

"I know it might seem that way, but you can't live your life in fear, either. All you can do is make the choices that align with what your heart tells you to do, and hope for the best."

It was a hypocritical thing for me to say; fear was at the crux of half the things I did lately. Fear of screwing up my career prospects, fear of losing control, fear... of being hurt. Again.

"You're right. I know. It just takes a lot out of me some days," she said sadly.

In the moment, I had the overwhelming urge to fix everything, even though I knew I couldn't.

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