this is how

Hi. Remember me? Apparently I have only written here four times this year. I think back to the months and years when I poured words here weekly, and it seems like another planet.

What planet are we on now? I cannot tell. Not the one we were on last year. I’m writing this on the eve of this election, four years after the last one, and I remember four years ago I was another mom with other (younger) kids and another job and what seems like another person entirely. Whoever I was last year feels that way, too.

2020: the year that molted a thousand skins for us.

I had the weekend alone, and I used up every possible minute doing only the things I wanted to, fortifying myself for whatever comes this week and whatever is coming in the months ahead. All of the molting that 2020 is bringing to us requires enough of me that I cycle in and out of this place that feels like a bone-heavy weariness I don’t remember feeling before. I think truthfully my 2015-2016 was a harder period of time than what I’m living through now, but the difference was that while my own life fell apart in those months, and it took enormous determination to put the pieces back together in some new shape, the rest of the world held its place firmly.

This feels different. I am holding on alright, all things considered, but the rest of the world is cracking. The center cannot hold as Yeats tells us. Everyday feels like spinning.

But yesterday as I soaked in the last few hours of a quiet house before the kids got home, I started thinking about all of the iterations and evolutions of my own life, all of the shapes of the generations that came before us, all of the shades of a whole world full of people who somehow plow on regardless of circumstances that they didn’t agree to or sign up for. I don’t know what is coming, but I know I can do it — whatever it is. I am turning inward to that place that is untouchable, regardless of the result of tomorrow’s election, untouchable regardless of how dark this winter gets. The place where connection and art and pleasure and solace live.

Lots of things died this year for me, even before Covid and election heat. A sense of safety faded, but with that came a recognition of vulnerability. Not in that soft and fuzzy way everyone is using that term lately, but in that piercing way that makes you want to cross your arms over your belly and pull your knees up. My sense of control, whatever was left of it anyway, has faded entirely. But with that came a softening and surrender that is flexible enough that it cannot be broken.

I was reminded today of that Sharon Olds poem that I held onto for most of 2016 when shame and sorrow brought another kind of molting to me. She closes with the reminder of how close death and rebirth are and how many deaths are required of us in one lifetime.

Something
has died, inside me, believing that,
like the death of a crone in one twin bed
as a child is born in the other.  Have faith,
old heart. What is living, anyway,
but dying.

I cannot yet paint this year in some soft and beautiful nostalgia. I cannot say oh look what we became! It was all worth it. Right now, in the middle, it feels like a spinning chaos we cannot get out of. But I know in some place beyond my worry brain, some other place that feels quieter, that something else will eventually be born.

So this is me, stringing words together the night before I know what happens so that one day I can read this again and remember what the in-between felt like. After the storm began and before we had enough heart to yearn for what is next. That empty space in between when all that was with us is whatever space we could find inside. Have faith, old heart. This is how, as Sharon Olds says in that poem I love, people go on without knowing how.

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