Friday, December 31, 2004

the last day of this year

the sky is an early pink, staining everything around it…the left-over soggy snow, the white clapboard‘s on my neighbor’s garage, as if all of the whites of my view had just been washed, accidentally, with a new red shirt.

the furnace hums, welcoming me back to the Farm where I arrived late last night, after several hours of indecision about whether to come then or wait until morning. The uncertainty was around the “why” of it; it’s always around the “why” of it…did I want to be here last night in case JD appeared at my doorstep, or to just be really alone, now that D is solidly home from college for the next few weeks?

And so, here it is, the last day of this particular year. I am tempted to take inventory. But of what? Charting myself over the last 12 months like the stock market, a bar graph of highs and lows, a report of personal profit and loss? If I were a numbers kind-of-gal, if I were the kind of person who could lay out units of experience, fitting each one into its own little box until the Table of Elements was complete, then I would undoubtedly see that this year has been one of significant learning: learning to be alone (with several notable exceptions), learning to trust my writers voice and eye, learning to put it down, and learning to take the first tentative steps towards making this explication the central tenet of my life.

Thursday, December 30, 2004


Since leaving the Farm on Monday, I have been operating in a kind of netherworld, bursts of energy and determination interspersed with long bouts of drugged sleep. sleep has always been my drug of choice, a bloated overload of sluggishness and sloth that only drives me deeper into a waking awareness of how stuck i am in the present. sleep is my default response to psychic ennui, my shut-off valve, an ether that overtakes me every day in the early afternoons and evenings. like the first rush of chemicals shooting through my veins, i stretch out in a chair or on the couch, giving myself over to this sweet surrender, the suspension of thought and movement, the seduction of the in-between as the gentle unconscious begins to take hold. only to come-to minutes or hours later, the daylight gone or too high overhead, in another day or still in the same one, but not sure, unsteady, heavy, hungry and hung-over, full of self-loathing for the time wasted, time lost, time unrecoverable.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

faith or something like it

I remembered something my Jesuit friend Tom told me -- that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, and emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. Annie Lamont

Monday, December 27, 2004

as the sun goes down

the car is running, it's fitful exhaust visible through the dining room window. it looks like cold breath, panting and chattering as i begin the slow trudge toward home. the sun is out now, orange for the short time before it dissapears, mocking me with its orange glow on the windows, the brief pools of weightless color on the crusted snow. it will be gone soon, and i will be in the car, driving away again from the demons which find me here, my mostly unworn clothes back in the bag only to be packed there again when i return in a few days time. what do i come here hoping to find? and what am i running away from when i leave? when will what i do be enough, be all, instead of camouflage for not waiting?

snowed in, on a monday

howling winds and drifting snow, beginning mid-afternoon yesterday as my father and i left The Cedars, an assisted living facility a couple of miles from here. we walked through the creamy yellow hallways, along the cheerfully patterned carpets to a two bedroom "unit" that would, as we said to each other later, 'work just fine.' Our tour guide was a woman named Mary Ellen, who looked more like a head nurse than an administrator in a bright blue suit with gold buttons, looked at my father and told him about how the health of the primary caregiver would rapidly and steadily decline, and as we left, she touched my elbow and said 'let me tell you that one-third of caregivers die within the first year of doing what your father is doing.' my father kept laughing as she was talking, the kind of laugh that says, we'll see about that, but she held onto my arm and wouldn't let go until i looked her in the eye. they were red and unflinching. was she about to cry?

against my better judgement, i called JD on christmas eve as i was driving from my parents house over to D & D's to play pool. i missed him, suddenly, after more than a month of having expunged him from my life. thought that i was tougher now, like a caloused heel after too many blisters. our last interaction had been a note saying i wanted my key back and to 'please leave it on the table.' but all of his inadequacies, all of his not being what i want or need, escaped me at the moment when i called his cell. when he answered, i hung-up. later, leaving D & D's, as i listened to his return message, he called again. was, he said, sitting in my driveway. his words were slurred and he was mumbling something about ending-up in a cornfield with a cruiser in pursuit. 'do you have a glass of wine in there or are we going to just sit here?'

he spent the night. he hung around as i scrambled to to cook the whole of christmas dinner which would shortly be transported to my parents house. it was the JD that i like, the JD that sets me back to believing in our possibilities together, that we can break through our separate walls and find a secret garden that will hold and sustain us. and as before, i fly on these rapidly evaporating fumes all through the day, christmas day, with the shakey hope that he will re-appear later that night. when he doesn't, i am relieved to be alone, and angry at myself for taking the backward steps to that all too familiar place of anxiety and insecurity.

so last night, after dinner with my father at the local pub in front of a blazing fire as the snow came down, i trudged back here to wait again, waiting for the dog to bark as JD comes in through the kitchen door in the wee hours, waiting for his shadow to emerge in the wan light of snowy dark in my bedroom.


Sunday, December 26, 2004

gently snowing

Someone said recently that we become who we truly are at the end of our lives, and as i watch my mother dying, i suspect that this is true.

Unable to call upon her old friends, alcohol and cigarettes, she is alone without those steadfast companions. She lies in bed without defense, begging for the Atavan. She has stopped eating. Sleep is her only comfort. She must face herself, and I, for the first time, am facing who she really is in order to find whatever compassion, patience, and selflessness I have. It sounds odd to say this, but as I struggle to acknowledge what is actually happening -- that these are probably her last days--I can see that we are both shedding our separate skins, albeit at different phases of our lives. She is stripped down to her most basic functions -- breath, voice, smell. Her pleasures are only in memory. The other day she told me that when she hadn't been able to sleep the night before, she had played all eighteen holes of the Army Navy Country Club in Washington, D.C. in her head. "And quite well, too," she said, her sad blue eyes flickering over at me.

I, on the other hand, have reached a place on the trail after a long climb. Not a place where I can pitch a tent or even take off my shoes, but a small clearing that holds me for the moment, way above the treeline where the air is thin. I can choose to climb higher, or turn around and go back, can pick any point on the compass and head for it. I am middle-aged.

Just writing those words is difficult, almost as difficult as it is to say that my mother is dying. Middle-age feels like a kind of death, too. I grieve for the possibilities lost, the chances not taken, the consequences of decisions made. Much the way my mother plays those holes, counting each stroke, remembering the sandtraps and the fairways, going over and over in her mind the choice of clubs and how she might have hit the ball differently.

If only.......