Here’s the thing about being FINE FINE FINE in the face of a steady stream of stress: Eventually, something breaks.
When those people came into my house and broke the soap dish off the wall yesterday, maybe if everything else was dandy that wouldn’t have been a big deal. But there’s a lot going on, and so many changes happening, and as a result, it was a big deal. It was a very big deal.
I broke. First I was angry and indignant, as I repaired the tile last night, and as I tossed and turned in bed, trying to sleep. And then this morning, as I tried to pry open the tube of caulking and it squirted everywhere and I needed to start getting ready for church, I just sat on the edge of the tub and wept.
When Otto and I dated the first time, and it ended, I went into a dark place where I couldn’t see my future. I had no career, which was troubling on both financial and personal levels. I couldn’t see finding a partner for my life, having failed so spectacularly with both my ex and the man I felt fated to be with if there was any such thing as fate. I had friends and family and was grateful for them, but felt like a burden, a black hole of need and hopelessness. I had no idea how to proceed. I didn’t know where I was supposed to go.
I eventually figured it out. It took a while, but I found my way. I got my freelance business going. I remembered who I was, who I wanted to be, and that life was for enjoying.
(And if you believe in that fate stuff, you might even say that was part of what I needed to do to get back to a place where Otto and I could be together, but that’s a whole ‘nother, separate, story.)
The past year has been full up with blessings I still can barely believe. I’d be hard pressed to count them all; some are easily quantifiable and nameable (hey, I think I’m getting married this week) and others are not. And I’ve been getting through the annoyances of things like having people traipsing through my house with the sheer, mainline joy of knowing that soon—very soon—I will be waking up with Otto every morning and having more than The Learning Channel to keep me company in the evenings.
What happened this past week, and it really did start before the soap dish was ripped off the wall, was that a small part of me crept back into the dark place because it is dangerous to be happy.
When you love people, when you allow them to become indispensable parts of your life, they will leave a hole behind if they leave you. And by “leave you” I don’t just mean packing up and taking off, I mean anything that takes them out of your life. There are a million ways that can happen, and the end result is the same: Loss.
“You’re not allowed to die,” I tell Otto. He chuckles and assures me that he’s not planning to. Not many people are planning to when they die, anyway, so I don’t find that much comfort. But neither can I seem to find a way to communicate to him that fear is poking tiny shoots up within me, that it takes root in the most unexpected ways. And how do I talk about this without sounding ridiculous? I am not having doubts; I am not any less thrilled and excited than I’ve been; I’m just scared, too, because life holds no guarantees.
We had a death in the family this week; maybe that’s what started it. Too young, too soon. Not someone I was close to, but a reminder that life is short. As I absorbed this news and vowed to appreciate my circle of the world, more bad news came down, this time closer to my heart, harder to compartmentalize.
In the meantime, people continued to come and go through my house, a reminder that this is hanging over my head, a reminder that although I am excited about the life I am moving to, I am about to leave behind my life here.
“Let’s talk about moving,” Chickadee says to me at bedtime, and I ask what she wants to know, what I can tell her today. “You’re sad,” she observes, rather than answering. “Are you sad about moving?” No, I am not sad about moving, exactly, but it is possible to be happy and sad at the same time, to see both the positives and negatives of something all at once. “I’m happysad about it, too,” she says, patting my arm. I hug her tight to me and breathe in the scent of her hair.
It’s a perverse luxury, this, to have a life full enough to be able to see loss—both real and threatened—in the stark relief against so much bounty. I know this.
At church today my prayers felt jumbled; I prayed for others while my tears fell for me… or was that the other way around? It was hard to know. The crack that had been working its way in all week, with the various events prodding it, opened up and leaked out all that dread, all the unbearable fear that is the flip side of loving and being loved.
There’s grace in there, I’m sure of it. For me, to stay here and strong in the good without being washed away by specters of loss; for the ones weighing on my heart with crises that make my worries seem laughable; for all of us who are listening.