25 August 2017


The days are slower now, my body alternating between different stages of molasses. My hours seem to be filled with mostly morning, or maybe it's just the time I am most connected, the most aware. I awake stuck to sheets, suddenly swimming upward from the deep end. I never wake with an alarm and I haven't in years. My eyes crack a few minutes before and by the time my cell phone erupts into a symphony of automated tinkles and bells, I am staring at creases in my ceiling, my hands, my stomach.

I feel so much the way I did while I was in Russia. Always walking, always quiet. Words whirl around me, but nothing clicks. I remember a time on the Moscow Metro and begging Ben to translate a conversation between girls my age, missing desperately any conversation. He told me they were talking about their friend, nothing special but it cradled my heart. Nothing special talks with friends were things I ached for only then and only now. The carelessness of words, a life with all the pieces still in tact.

People do speak to me: they ask me to step aside, what I'd like in my coffee if I dropped something, but I hear none of it. It feels like winter or some stage of it at least. The emptiness, the complete decision by the earth to be quiet and to hibernate is felt by my body. But it's not real; summer is everywhere. On people's skin, in their hair, on the streets. I am some version of my own January.

I color my hair a bright shade of red and I think that now it all looks right. I look like someone troubled. It was all too manicured before or something. This is what people do, right? Shop too much? Lay in bed thinking of a million reasons to call off work? Change their appearance dramatically? I do everything that everyone else probably does, but I am bored by all of it. I feel silly and obvious, but I can't stop it no matter how aware of it I am.

Walking is almost the hardest part. There is never anything I want to listen to. Sometimes I find a book or a podcast, but I eat them fast and alive and then my days are silent again. My feet drag on the pavement, my eyelids are slick and heavy. I flick through songs, radio stations. I think to myself that it isn't the music I want to change, but my mood. I'm not really listening anyway.

Ben goes to Indiana for a weekend and I have Katie over. I pay $4.99 to rent a scary movie, but halfway through a car slides off the road and we pause the movie. I start off by saying how fine I am with seeing car accidents, how many I've seen in my life, how I was even in one when I was in high school. It's been easy for me to detach, how truly I feel nothing. And then it starts coming out of my mouth like ribbons and I pull and pull and now I realize I have said too much and I am far over my own boundary and no, I'm not okay with car accidents. I am not okay when I see them when I hear about them. They break me open in every way I can be opened. They are the ender of my life. I talk and talk until I realize that I'm crying, no I am sobbing and I am sobbing in a way that is usually private, but I can't stop it and I cry as hard as I can.

"Nothing has ever happened to me before," I tell her. "I always thought things did, but nothing really has. I'm just such a regular girl. The quietest of all Midwest girls. Nothing ever really happened before this."

She listens and nods. She says the things that people who are good at listening can say. Only a few people know how to speak the right way. I am must have done something right to have more than one. And I do calm down, I always do. All crying ends, this I know.

I ask her what her Catholic upbringing would say about my dad's death.

"Does your God take people to punish others?"

"No, no," she says gently. "Someone in my church would just say that God needed him and that this will help you become a better person. They'd say this was part of your path and this will lead you to do something greater."

"But what if I don't become anything?" I ask. And this is my biggest fear. "What if I just lead a regular life? What if nothing changes about me at all?"

We think on this. After awhile we finish the movie and fall asleep together in my bed.

Ben and I buy plane tickets to New Hampshire for Thanksgiving and I feel pure joy writing that in my calendar. I keep a grateful journal the way my dad always did and I write three things I was grateful for that day. Sometimes they are big and sometimes they are small, but I force myself to finish it every day.

  • I am grateful I like all my clothes
  • I am grateful Ben's hair looks the way it did when we met
  • I am grateful I have comfortable pillows 
  • I am grateful for TV that makes me laugh
  • I am grateful for Harry Potter
  • I am grateful for the unshakeable bond I have with some friends and family
  • I am grateful that my cat sleeps with me every night
Ben works late but is never too tired to bake with me when he gets home. Somethings are the same as they were before and some things are better. We make s'mores bars and flavored cream cheeses. I pickle cucumbers and clip my beloved pothos to grow for Christmas presents in a few months. We talk as we do everything and I play music Ben has never heard off my iPhone.

We work from home sometimes, but never in the same room. I like knowing he is nearby though. I hear him speak Portuguese and love him in the same way I always have. Sometimes I wander over to him while he has a break and I find myself asking him the questions I always like to ask like, where the Mariana Trench is and what do you think is at the bottom? What's the biggest dinosaur there ever was? How can a plane break the sound barrier? What is the story of how we met? Do you still think I'm pretty?

My living room continues to thrive with strong, healthy plants. The ones my dad gave me for Christmas are vibrant and getting tougher as the days past. I wash their leaves and say goodbye to them when I leave for work. Someone asked me the other day how often I replace them and I was shocked.

"What? Never. I don't kill plants. I've had most of them for years," and I realized how truly proud I am of my plants and how big of a role they have in my life. I find endless peace in watering them, trimming off their dead leaves and rotating them around our sunny flat. Sometimes before I leave in the morning, I catch my cats on my windowsill, hidden by trees and my heart is filled with nothing but pure and simple joy. And it's like all at once I get it. I just get it all.


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  2. I love this. I am not suffering from a loss, but I am having feelings of fear at the thought of never becoming anything. And I can relate to that moment when everything does make sense and bring joy. Thank you for sharing.


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