You’ll forgive me if I sometimes drift into morose or self-indulgent prose. Winters are difficult, and winters living alone are even more so. When you’re confined by weather, pandemic, or apathy, your view of the world can become so narrow that you wonder if you even exist. The only people you see are moving and talking in a small computer window, or are coming to you in the form of text, and rarely are a voice on the other end of the phone. (When did we all become so averse to talking to each other?) We’re missing that tactile sensation of a hug or a light touch on the back or a peck on the cheek in greeting, at least those of us living alone are. Count yourself lucky if you have other humans living with you. Hug them! It’s good for you both.
What has been on my mind lately is that maybe I’m being too careful. Certainly the depressive part of me thinks so. Maybe I should get back out there into the world and risk it. I’m following all the guidelines. I’ve had all my shots. Could I still get the dread COVID-19? Absolutely. Would it kill me? Probably not – but there’s always that minuscule chance. The sane part of me says, “WTF? Are you joking??” But I’m longing for a vacation. I’m longing for warm waters and a sandy beach. I was looking back on photos from a cruise to the Caribbean I took back in 2014 and just longing to swim in those waters again. I could swing the cost, because now I’ve paid off all my credit cards.
I’ll admit that a part of me has been waiting for someone to come along who would go with me. Not that I’ve been looking. How would I look? I don’t want to meet someone in another part of the country whose life I wouldn’t recognize in person. The truth is I am the one that I want. Or at least I want anyone I’m with to be more like me. I want someone who gets my jokes, who is loyal and faithful, who wants to be with me, and who understands that I am often not well and need rest. But when I’m good, I’m great! I love walking through nature, breathing the sea air, encountering new ideas, reading books, walking with my dog, and just soaking up the beauty of life. I love all those things and more. And I’m open to new adventures, as long as my body can handle it.
So that person I’m looking for, it seems, would be me. And I am enough. I wish that in my youth, I had understood that. I wish I had known that my own approval was all I ever needed. I wish I had known that I didn’t need a partner in order to be a real person. I wish I had known that the fight I have in me is more powerful than anyone else could ever know. I have loved deeply and passionately. I have had the most amazing experience of being a mother. I have learned so many valuable lessons!
But my life, like yours, has been full of near misses.
When I was a young girl, still in elementary school, someone called the school and said they were my mom. They said I was to walk home, because there was a family emergency. My school principal knew my parents and how strict they were. She called my mother who went into a panic and came to get me. We think it was someone who was angry at my father, because the only outsiders we socialized with were people from church. I’ve looked back on that many times and shuddered, especially when I see that another child has gone missing or is found dead after being tortured.
Another time, as an adult, I nearly bled to death from the inside. I spent time in ICU getting transfusions and undergoing so many tests. The diagnosis that came from that episode has had lasting effects on my life. (I wrote about that episode here.)
And then there was the cancer. It was an aggressive cancer at an advanced stage. I didn’t know I had that much fight in me. I’d be misleading you if I told you I didn’t sometimes wonder, at the beginning, if I should just let nature take its course so I could be with my daughter in death. But looking at my son, I knew that he needed me to fight, so I did. And I ended up fighting for myself, too. I began to see the beauty in life and the blessings I had been given. I began to believe I was worth living for. I still believe that, but things can still get a bit rocky sometimes. I have moments where my faith is shaken and I wonder if I should just turn my face to the wall and give up.
But I’m made of stronger stuff than that. When I go down, I will go down swinging. Like you, I don’t know what the future holds. My chances of recurrence are rather high, and my chances of being here at 5 years are about 72%. But hey, that’s far better than 0!
Life is so fragile and precious. Don’t let a minute go by in which you don’t understand that. Any of us could be gone in the blink of an eye. So live while you’re alive.
Now I’m beginning to think that it’s time to let go of all the things I have cluttering up my life, weighing me down, and start to really live out loud again. I have so much stuff I have gathered over my lifetime, but I find when I am in minimalist spaces, I feel more calm. I don’t want it to be too minimalist, though. I like a warm, inviting environment. How do I find that balance?
Maybe this is a pipe dream. Maybe I don’t even know where to begin to let go of things, but I will probably start with my closet. I need to keep a couple of nice outfits for the rare chance I get invited out or need to attend a funeral or find myself having to go to a work event … if the damned pandemic ever ends. But mostly I’m a person who lives in yoga pants and jeans, and I like it that way. Simple enough to keep the things I need and let go of the rest. One thing at a time.
The last things to go will be my books and holiday decorations. Though I don’t decorate the outside of my house, typically, I do enjoy decorating the inside – for me and for my son when he’s here. And I have books I have loved dearly that I might read again. Though I have a Kindle, I am not a convert. There are still some books I have to feel in my hands. My love of books goes back to infancy. My mother and older sister reading to me before I slept.
I know that someday I’ll be with my daughter again. I have faith in that. I long for that, sometimes, but it really isn’t death I’m longing for. I’m longing for her to be here, for me to be able to get to know her in her true adulthood, for me to be able to pass down jewelry to her, for me to be able to hug her and hold her and say “I love you” as she leaves my home to go to hers. I want all those things, but her life was over far too soon. It wasn’t in my control to keep her from dying, anymore than it’s in my control to keep myself from dying. Someday, we all go there, sooner or later. Part of the sweetness of life is its brevity.
Though it’s much too cold me for to go out for a walk today, I will get started on that closet. I’m alive. I don’t know for how long. I just know that I have to live while I’m here.
Have a beautiful, sweet weekend, my loves.