“Left utterly alone, there is nothing
The heart can invent to numb itself.” ~ Joe Bolton, from “Departure”
Friday afternoon. Sunny and cold, 47 degrees.
Home alone. Silence.
Well, long time, no write. I know. Unfortunately, it’s been a hellacious week, and today is the first day that I’ve had any time to myself, any time to sit here and muse, any time to try to stitch together some kind of linear thought.
I hope you enjoyed the Muppet Christmas carols. I had always planned to post them leading up to Christmas, but unfortunately, was never able to do the actual scheduling. Let me back up . . . On December 16 I took my mother to the ER because she was in a lot of pain. They ended up admitting her to the hospital with a severe case of diverticulitis. She was in until December 21. Consequently, my stress levels shot through the roof, and my computer time was nil.
I was trying to take care of her cat, do Christmas shopping and decorating, visit my mother in the hospital and everything else. And of course when she was released, she was still weak and in need. It became one long litany of telephone calls. And in between, I lost my bank card, but didn’t find out until I was in line at Wal-Mart. Thankfully, some honest soul found it and turned it in, and no weird charges appeared. I was very lucky, but man, stress upon stress.
The last two weeks have just about done me in.
“For each person there is a sentence — a series of words — which has the power to destroy him . . . another sentence exists, another series of words, which will heal the person. If you’re lucky you will get the second; but you can be certain of getting the first: that is the way it works. On their own, without training, individuals know how to deal out the lethal sentence, but training is required to deal out the second.” ~ Philip K. Dick, from VALIS
Add to all of this the planned holiday dinner here at my house, and then pile on the fact that Corey is not home. Christmas morning was more than a bit surreal for me. The boys decided to open their big presents and then to save everything else for when Corey gets home, the same for Lex and Mike. I left it up to them, and that’s what they all decided to do, which is nice.
But truthfully, it just hasn’t felt anything like Christmas this year. I haven’t listened to any music. I haven’t read anything, and you may wonder what that has to do with Christmas, and the answer is nothing, but everything. For me, it’s a state of mind, and my state of mind was pure chaos, a restless sea.
I don’t even think that I can describe it adequately to make sense.
I mean, my mother is very sick, isn’t leaving the house to have dinner with the family, and Corey is thousands of miles away. To top it off, Corey tried to call me on Christmas day using the ship’s satellite phone, and I didn’t answer because I didn’t recognize the number, and I really didn’t want to talk to anyone because I was too busy feeling sorry for myself. He called four times in a row, but I didn’t answer. I talked to him that night when the ship got its wi-fi back and he was able to call on his phone.
Obviously when I found out what had happened, I felt like a jerk.
“We humans, however,
understand the backward grace
of flight and fall, and also
understand the pity
of not knowing, and also
the pity of knowing.” ~ Leonard Nathan, ”That the Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living”
There are things that I used to do to get into the mindset for the holidays. I have about ten Christmas CDs, and I would impose my music on anyone who was near, play it in the car, play it at home, sing along loudly. And then I would watch two movies: A Wonderful Life (in black and white), and Scrooge, the musical with Albert Finney. I would usually put these on while I wrapped presents.
None of that this year. I simply forgot. It’s as if my mind said to itself, “Hmm, Christmas . . . blank.”
I finished addressing the cards on Christmas Eve, but this year I didn’t include any letters to anyone. I never send out those family holiday bulletins, but I usually take the time to add letters to a few special people. Not this year.
I tell you, it’s like I’m in some kind of vacuum. Outside everyone is carrying on with life, and I’m in here, on pause. It’s been like this since Thanksgiving, and unfortunately, I don’t feel as if my kids have been able to fill the void. It’s small things, like when I was going on seven hours in the ER, and I asked if anyone could spell me, maybe bring me Starbucks. Nothing. What gives with that?
“We are masters of unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.” ~ Winston Churchill
I know. They have their own lives, their own priorities. It’s just a bit hard to realize that at the moment, I’m no one’s priority. It’s making me reflect a lot on life, as in people who live alone, how they do it, how they survive. I want my children to have their own lives, want them to set out into the world, to explore, want them to be unafraid to try new ventures.
Yet if I am honest, I am also sad at being left behind. They no longer need me; I am no longer the touchstone that grounds them, that keeps them safe from harm. Yet I know that will be my role until I take my last breath.
This is hard to elucidate. I can’t quite get a handle on it, this ephemeral state in which I find myself. I don’t know how to define it.
And of course, I feel like a selfish wench because I’m full of self-pity, and there are so many people out there who are alone all of the time. There are so many people with real problems, real life-altering problems, and here I am, having another pity party. I don’t know if I’m more upset at the fact that I’m upset or that I’m alone.
“There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open
to the place inside us
which is unbreakable and whole,
while learning to sing.” ~ Rashani Rea, from The Power of a Broken-Open Heart
Last night, as I lay in bed trying to decide whether or not to fall asleep with the television on, I thought of my mother who has been alone for so many years. I wonder if she ever fears going to sleep alone at night as I was feeling that moment, and then at the same time I was amazed by the contradiction that is me. I love the silence, love the quiet, but fear the stillness.
And I wonder when I began to be afraid to be still. Is it something that has happened gradually, or have I always been this way? And I really don’t know the answer, so unsure am I of my own personality.
Alone in the dark, my mind races, and perhaps that is what I fear: where my mind will take me in the dark silence. And when I awoke from an intense, frenetic dream of my father, I knew that that was precisely what I had been afraid of—going there again.
The days until Corey is home again are less than ten. Surely I can hold it together until then. This is what I think as I sit here now in the afternoon sun, a cup of hot Irish Breakfast tea in a mug before me. I can do this.
Until night comes again.
More later. Peace.
Music by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson, “Winter Song”
two short ones . . .
On Missing Them
People always say that it hurts at night
and apparently screaming into your pillow at 3am
is the romantic equivalent of being heartbroken.
it’s 9am on a tuesday morning
and you’re standing at the kitchen bench waiting for the toast to pop up
And the smell of dusty sunlight and earl gray tea makes you miss them so much
you don’t know what to do with your hands.
~ Rosie Scanlan
Sometimes you called on those
you’d never know
to come with you in place
of those you loved,
and talked to them
and touched them
and let them close purely
for sadness, for sadness
you’d hold them,
and you’d let them go.
~ Daniel Halpern