With all the changes in life these days another is the routine of Sunday’s. Saturday’s were usually the coffee acquisition and chocolate addiction day with whatever other errands needed being cared for. Sunday’s usually started slowly, with pancakes and warm maple syrup. But no need, now, for all that. I am not hungry so why bother with all the usual? I suppose in the future I will do as I once did – make a large batch of pancakes and freeze them to eat whenever I want a quick meal. But has he ruined even that for me?
I know I will need a lot more time to divest myself of the sadness associated with every single loss tossed on this heap of dismay. A lot of habits will echo with his being. So I am trying to, for now, avoid them. The sting will be less some day. Instead, I am trying to recall who and what I used to be.
It has been a very long time since I cooked only for myself, cleaned my own mess, planned my own day. On Sundays I used to go to a lovely park in Georgia, hiking and running along a 6 mile path in pre-dawn hours, sometimes having to pay the fee in quarters saved. Let me see if I can find those old photos…ah, here. This was the first turn after leaving the general public behind. The sun would rise over the hills and, when cold, the water would have fog lifting upward like ghosts. Once a pack of coyotes crossed the path in front of me just before this part of the trail, each of us so quiet that we surprised one another.
After rather a lot of up and down, and around the magical bend you were treated to this view – usually it was more placid but heavy rains generated a mighty roar down the slender valley. To the right was a steep and rocky wall where I once saw a big cat leap after I startled it at the water where it was drinking. It bounded up the face of that rock and was gone in 5 leaps. There was a bridge to that side – I rarely bothered hiking it, there being less of interest there. I never walked over there again.
And there – if you turn around on that viewing deck – you can see the world carrying away all the cares and detritus to another place. I would toss leaves or flowers, wishes and demands down that torrent in the hope something would receive an answer.
There was an answer one day and I thought, I was so certain, that it was The One. I was weary with fighting battles alone, tired of only the cat for conversation. And he seemed…well, he seemed an answer to all those leaves rolling over rocks. Skilled in the outdoors and defense, I thought finally I would be safe and could let go my constant Condition Yellow. I didn’t know that was the term for it but I’d lived my entire life in that state. I relished the thought of being able to turn some of that over to someone else so that I could, like the general public, sit in Condition White for a time and let my nerves settle. And so it was.
But I have lost the thread of this story – the winding river sending my mind off to other moments. I would, after that long hike, return home either frozen to the bone or a sweaty mess. In the summer it would be a protein laden breakfast. In the winter waffles or oatmeal. I didn’t know at the time that the reason I never quite lost the belly fat was because of the…well, the mass. It was a surprise to find out, and a loss of any chance at children. I didn’t really mourn that at the time – there was a lot going on. But I should have. Instead, I threw myself into his career plans, sending him off to Texas as I lay in bed with an incision hip to hip.
I can recall my cat one evening while I was sleeping moving to the end of the bed and growling low at the bedroom doorway – he never did that. I moved as if in sleep to garner a better view of the door and the weapon nearby. But in a moment he came to sleep over my head as he always did and we both went back to sleep. But I often wondered what it was he fended off. What ghost thought to visit in that night?
I admit that having a life with only cats is far easier than one with dogs. I never wanted a dog because they demanded so much time and effort. A cat is content with food and water. A dog demands your heart and soul. I was able, before, to leave the cat in the care of the neighbor and travel for a long weekend. And I did travel. I actually went places, rented cars, drove on unknown roads. It seems quite…surreal, now. I have always had a kind of driving phobia, and a fear of new places. Before the cell phone and in-car directions I had to print page after page of maps and directions with point to point details and the surrounding areas in case I got lost. I never drove a car until I was nearly…30 years old, I think. So that sort of adventurous spirit seems like a feat to me, now. How did I ever make myself do that?
How much have I surrendered in the years since? Even on my meager income I managed small vacations. We never had one together. I used to enjoy the outdoors every weekend. Here, it became a list of chores bounded by the constant need of dogs to go in and out. And a fence that he refused to bind with more wire to save my chasing the escape artist down thrice a day. Dogs that he would care for across the span of 10 minutes and then move on to his other concerns.
Will I one day have the adventurous spirit again, with a dog for company and alert on Yellow like myself to share the load? Will I once again have the resolve to make my own way in the world, slipping through pre-dawn fog to a destination unknown? I watch the stormy and cold wind tear the leaves from the trees outside my window and wonder at the season of the year and my life. Is this my own fall, my own shedding of protective layers? Will it be a barren and dark quarter? And will Persephone rise again, bringing Spring from that darkness into the world and into me? I feel quite ancient and withered, to be honest. I can imagine in another 20 years my laughter at that. But it is true.
I have not been well-cared for. There – that is the truth of it and I didn’t want to ever actually admit it because, in his way, he did do what he could. But it was not affection, it was not love. It was duty. And there is no surprise, then, that I would dry and shrink like a corm in drought. Will this dormancy break and flower into something that I once was? Or will I have a new appearance, foliage of a new species of Me? But I am tired…I am weary of being Strong and Managing. I want the ease of somnambulism. The last time this happened I had Means and was able to take time to grieve, to wallow, and to rise again.
The wind howls and tells me the time is flying with it and I don’t get the courtesy of rest, of mourning. I don’t even get the option of thinking about it because if I do the immensity of the tasks at hand are too daunting. I am given no choice. Or, rather, two choices: fight or surrender. I have tried the latter before and it leaves you in the very same place you were but a deeper climb out. I haven’t much left in me for the fight but…I tell myself that the other option is always there if I fail.
But there is a winter in my soul that muffles the sound of hope. It has to sing louder. I have to amplify it with a belief that life will change and not – as my pessimistic side declares – for the worst. I just have to…start over. I never thought I would have to do that again and it occurs to me just now the truth I’ve always known…
Condition White is a Lie and no one is coming to save you.