what gets left behind
I just woke up an hour ago. Yet, as of right now, I’ve fed the cats their morning meal, given Fogg her medications, and cleaned two litterboxes. I also vacuumed and rearranged the fridge.
I’m a veritable domestic goddess these days.
I was contemplating making myself some lunch, or cleaning the bathroom, when a thought came into my head. These thoughts have been coming to me more, lately–to my delight.
The thought was that this period in my life feels very much like my mother. This year does. It’s been an odd year full of scary things; lots of instability and passion; heaps of hard work and sacrifice. And a lot of waiting.
My mother, if you knew her, was a workhorse. That woman never ever stopped moving. She was always cleaning. She even did things while she watched television. Perhaps, it was because she was born right in the middle of the Great Depression and had a father who made her pay rent when she got pregnant and got kicked out of school at 13. The baby died, but her fate was sealed. I suspect, from that moment on, she raced against her own fear. That was my mother. Perpetually afraid, but nonstop.
When you’re a girl, at some point in your life, the World will teach you some things. One of the biggest things I remember was self-defense class. If someone is chasing you, you’re supposed to zig zag–do unpredictable things–and never be taken to a second location. For some reason, this reminds me of my mother. Always dodging bullets, but running like her life depended on it.
I’ve done this myself. I got it from her. But never have I expressed it so much than this year. I’ve seemed to have considered every option, and most days, I feel like I never get to just be lazy. The months of recovery and transition have given way to, “How do I make time for the *mountain* in front of me?” Too many goals. Too many dreams. Too much change. A pile of to-dos that will only keep mounting.
But I’m not my mother. Not remotely. That space of hyperventilation freaks me out–even though it’s so satisfying. I have to pause to think about why. I take shortcuts because I’m just too lazy, sometimes. It’s important to me to laugh and have a good time while I work. So, there’s music and phone calls as I cross things off my list. And I let go of my fear as quickly as I catch the balls it throws at me. Like so many hot potatoes. And I’m not just running in place.
I suspect the next year will feel more like my father. And I’m looking forward to it. A little too much. I have to remember to anchor myself to now and enjoy what’s in front of me. Surprisingly, I enjoy cleaning and packing away this life, preparing for that one. The act of nurturing little beings that I adore has made me want to hole away and nest up. I want to create a beautiful life here and there. I want to make my home mine again. I want all the good things she wanted for me. And I’m slowly creeping toward them. I can’t look them in the eye yet, but I know they’re out there.
I suspect I will spend hours doing foolish things in California. I will watch many sunsets and explore. It’s going to be odd to explore places my father knew in his life before me. I’m looking forward to all the learning I’ll do there too. To painting and photography and sculpture and learning how to be in the world. And learning things my parents never knew. And helping people dig tunnels through their darkness. And finding everything that’s holy in this beautiful land of contradictions.
Freedom, I suppose.
Because my father, no matter how troubled he was, was nothing if not a lesson in that. A lesson in wandering and being imprisoned by your own mind. I’ve learned these lessons myself, mostly from him. And I’ve soaked up everything he was and wasn’t. And it won’t go wasted.
Nothing ever is.
We’ll start the final leg of this journey soon. I’m both terrified and excited to finally say goodbye to my gray queens. I’ll be visiting the important places soon, and just for kicks, I’ve decided to make a mini-movie (maybe an actual movie) about leaving home. About leaving my parents’ bodies and the places that have made me “me.” I’m dropping all the things from my past and embracing this new life, with all the parts of my family that are worth carrying. This project feels important, and I’m sure it’ll have a kickass soundtrack.
It’s taken me a long time to leave this place–actual years. I kept getting sucked back in–to my utter disappointment. But it seems like it’s really going to happen this time. Along with a whole lot of other things. Namely: the life I’ve always wanted–not the one I inherited.