This waiting to feel like myself again is mysterious, elusive. There are times when I forget I’m not yet normal, laughing on the phone with Colleen or glancing up from the computer to see the mountains spread before me, my fondness for our new home springing up. But other moments I feel flat, separate, behaving like the me I know but not feeling like her. There is still wonder everywhere. I know this. The big grasshopper on the sunflower, the mourning doves pecking at the fallen seed below the tray feeder, the roadrunner caught in the corner of my eye when I am working, the hummingbird alighting on the guava tree outside the window–gemstone through glass. A veil between us, I think, a muting of wonder. Unbelievably thin, subtle. Even the coyote watching me with his mouth full of raven, gossamer fluttering between us.
I am baffled by this thing of getting better, of becoming myself again. How do I get there? Will I know it, recognize me when I do? I am just past the simple laying down of small acts now, trusting they will become a path. But my premise remains the same. Do these four things every day: my morning writing, yoga, qi gong, some kind of exercise. Still a layering of small acts but more focused now. I used to do these things, believed in them. If I return to them, I am thinking, they’ll take me to myself again. Renewed vows based on faith, on hope, on prayer. Lead me home, I ask. At the same time, I know it’s unlikely I’ll be who I was when I find myself on the other side of this. How could I be? Sometimes I’m afraid there is no getting to the other side. Will these four things work their magic? Or am I only grasping at straws, their plastic weak, bending under my thumbs? I shake my head, as if I can knock doubt out my ears. One more sun salute, I tell myself, and I’ll be finished with today’s four things. I grab faith in my fists and bow forward.
Saturday I cry washing dishes because I never got to say goodbye to Ken all those years ago when he was dying in an Oakland hospital. Standing at the sink I remember decades before standing beside him in the driveway in Newport Beach, the two of us watching them drive away with my stepfather’s body. I don’t remember if we spoke, only our silent bond, witnesses to that final leave-taking. When we walked back into the kitchen, Judy and Mary Ann were sweeping things off the counters, quick manic movements, black framed glasses and Bic cigarette lighters and all the little bits of him landing in cardboard boxes. I made myself a tomato and red onion sandwich and sat in the midst of the chaos chewing and swallowing. It could have been different, I think now, my hands full of soap and a slippery blue bowl. It could have been different if we’d all sat down. Maybe Ken and I would have talked about what Jarv meant to us. Maybe Mary Ann and Judy would have joined in, stopped hiding the evidence. It could have been a long slow day of shared grief, even a deep peace at the end of it. Instead, I sat on the barstool licking mayonnaise from my thumb and feeling like an alien.
I feel the misters on my shins, my forearms. I am indulging in them even though it’s not that hot today. I shrink from brightness, await our second lime green umbrella. What next? Iced tea, I think, maybe do a tray load of dishes. Nothing lasts long. Every act is full of hope, though, hope that if I lay down enough small acts one after the other then one day down the road there will be hearty paths and places to rest beside them, where all you need to do is sit and feel the quiet peace of the place, and there is no dissonance in you, only rest and ease. Enough small acts all in a row, then the oasis. Here’s to watering time.
I sit and eat panna cotta from the big plastic trough with my tiny red-handled spoon, the Italian gelato rich and creamy, outrageously sweet, swirls of caramel drizzled over it. No surprise, I am greedy. I want more caramel. I imagine the cold chewy rivers of it bending between my teeth, melting in my mouth, if my own more generous hand had held the ladle. (Whose voice is this?) I spoon sweet mounds into my mouth, cold tongue. It is all a part of a piece these days and weeks, this relentless keeping at bay all the things that await doing in my world right now. Cold gelato pushes down the almost unendurable anxiety at the base of my spine. I run my frozen tongue over the spoon and purse my lips, not smiling.
For long weeks, I was still living in my old place and spending time in my new place. I could feel the way things were shifting. I remember thinking one day how my old place was still “home,” but I knew I was beginning to move toward the new one. One day I brought over a saucepan to make tea, a can of Bon Ami, bright washcloth rags for cleaning. I wondered if the awkwardness I felt was a funny feeling of being disloyal, forming new attachments, wanting to still cherish our home for as long as I could. I was poised between two worlds, the lizard perched on the side of a rock, ready to launch himself. Soft landing, we always hope, the next rock as lovely as the rock we’re leaving, warm or cool at all the right times. And almost always, if we are lucky, the new view becomes familiar and beloved, the neighbors dear, a wrenching to leave it, cactus and palm, canine and human, hibiscus and pine. “Almost always,” I whisper to myself in the hot summer afternoon, both talisman and promise. If we are lucky.