By all accounts, 2013 is so far turning out a lot better than 2012. Of course, the bar was set pretty low, but still. I know January 1st is arbitrary as Markers Of Life is concerned. That didn’t stop Otto and me from looking forward to that flip of the calendar page as if our lives depended on it. And with nearly 1/12 of this year behind us, we remain hopeful that this year is Better.
And it is. We are all trucking along in our various paths towards some kind of normalcy. The days of Constant High Alert, Holy Shit The Sky Continues To Fall are over. Maybe.
What I am learning about myself is that I have mastered the art of faking it until I make it, and also that time is helping me learn the fine art of compartmentalization. I used to be a perpetual waterfall of emotions, unable to separate out the current moment from the hundred (thousand) that came before, forever trying to suss out the appropriate emotional state for THIS moment without the baggage of the rest.
The old me—the one who sees metaphors and portents in even the most mundane happenings—is mostly mellowed, breathing deeply, following a routine that works, and not thinking too hard about sticky things like feelings. New me is more pragmatic. More accepting. I like this, but it still takes a significant portion of my energy to be this way, and there are moments when my old emotional-okay-FINE-completely-irrational self bursts through.
Last night I made dinner and called my boys into the kitchen and went to the cupboard for bowls. Our dishes are plain white, heavy, and unremarkable. Sturdy. I like this set a lot, even though there’s nothing special about it. Anyway. I grabbed three bowls from the cupboard with my left hand—the one that now sports a steel plate—and I really don’t know exactly what happened. It could be that three bowls in the way I was gripping them was simply too much for me to hold onto under any circumstance, because the bowls are heavy. It could be that my left hand is still not back to full strength. Or it could be that I was distracted and just miscalculated my grip. Whatever it was, it resulted in the bottom bowl of the stack slipping from my grasp.
These dishes have been dropped and bumped countless times over many years, and at last look I had exactly one plate with a tiny chip in it. They can withstand a lot. But in this instance, there was a pile of recently-washed cookware drying on the counter, and the bowl fell and hit both a frying pan edge and the insert for one of my crock pots, and then—in a word—exploded.
Otto and Monkey and I all froze in our tracks, our ears still ringing from the initial crash and then the pinging and skittering of a hundred shards flying all over the kitchen.
“It’s okay,” I said, calmly, reflexively. Monkey was upset. I continued, “Don’t walk over here. It’s fine, we’ll clean it up, we have other bowls. No big deal.”
“Can you get another one just like that one?” my son asked. Things must stay the same, you know. Change is bad; loss is worse.
“Oh, I don’t know, honey, maybe,” I answered, while I slowly picked up the largest fragments. “But it doesn’t matter, we have plenty of bowls. More than we need.” This is true, by the way. A broken bowl is not a catastrophe.
I continued to pick up the larger pieces, while Otto vacuumed the floor. Then I took the hand vac and vacuumed shards off the counter. We kept moving things and finding pieces in weird locations—behind the tea canister (all the way across the room), stuck to the hand towels, in the sink. Eventually we called it good and went and had dinner, but of course we found pieces later on, after. And just before we sat down to eat, I discovered a a perfect slice across the tip of my right thumb. Shallow, like a paper cut. It didn’t even bleed until I poked it, and even then, the tiny drop that squeezed out was reluctant. But you know what it’s like to have a cut across a fingertip; I keep feeling it, an unfamiliar and unwelcome sensation where it doesn’t belong.
The bowl was all it took; for the rest of the evening, all of the thoughts and feelings I’ve been so practical and organized about pushing away lately seeped out, maybe in lieu of any real blood from that stupid cut. By the time we went to bed, poor Otto lay on the pillow next to mine, forced to listen to a variety of angst-laden rambles punctuated by words like “always” and “never” and the occasional angry swipe at my leaky eyes.
Today I’m caught somewhere between last night’s fears and this morning’s recommitment to forward motion and acceptance sprinkled with optimism. My thumb still stings a little. But I don’t want to be the person who continues to agonize over one broken bowl when there are still eleven perfectly serviceable and whole ones right there in the cabinet. I know this.
It turns out that cleaning up—even when it involves some injury—is the easy part.