Sunday, November 14, 2010
A grey Sunday morning had me at the library. It’s dirty and worn, like carpet in a Greek restaurant. On the faces of those I walked past, there was introspection. There was heated discussion and contemplative staring both making me curious to perch for awhile and listen. As I picked a plot where I could ponder myself, I faced a final dirty and worn surface where words were etched: “Please help. My boyfriend hits me.”
Of late I am struck and in love with the interminable unknown of people I encounter, mostly their struggles. Years ago, my mom would sit in our front window, watching cars and feet go by as my dad lay heaving on the couch, and wonder, “When they look at our house, do they guess what is going on inside?” I imagine part of her wanted them to know.
The same wonder makes me marvel at the resilience I encounter when I am privileged enough to go beneath someone’s surface; to knock on the door, walk in and sit a spell. This curiosity is at the epicenter of my ambition to be a therapist. I am always thinking of what I don’t know, and want to stay and inquire, or be silent until it bubbles up. It’s allowed me to learn from a friend whose spirituality is precisely what you hope to find in every Catholic, but a life tenet she keeps carefully close. I saw the remnants of someone’s writhing self-esteem following years of sexual abuse, all hidden beneath the veneer of name brands and financial wealth.
We all wonder what others think when they see us. We often hope we look put together, relevant, successful and aware. And most of the time we do, which is precisely the rub that I’m careful to acknowledge when my inner critic trumpets “I wish I had. . .” Because all of us are walking around with the weight of silence.
We have secrets, and sometimes I wish we could all share, just so I know I’m not alone. Instead of etching a plea on a bathroom stall, that a woman could feel empowered to speak or scream because it’s nothing to ashamed of and everything to be enraged and hurt over.
I told a new friend one of my secrets today. I’ve known her a year or so; known her to be astute, loving, careful. . . thin. I sat with her for a while, narrating my insecurity and personal path; depression and critique. It turns out she has the same secret.
And then the sun came out.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Election Day means something to a lot of people. You would be disappointed to know Illinois has turned red, just as you would be disappointed to learn, the morning after your death, George W. Bush was re-elected.
Mom is depressed today. We’re sad this week. It’s been six years since I flew home after casting my ballot.
I’ve done a lot of growing up since and you’ve missed it. There are times I don’t feel like life is a whole experience without you being around to take part in the ups and downs. Like it’s a house with everything but a door. Some of what’s next for me is left to guesswork, to faith, because the beacon and barometer that was you is no longer around. I don’t walk through life with the same steel-like ambition. Everything is malleable, more risky, less sure-footed as though I’ve moved from the inside of a curve on a mountain road, to the outside edge slipping on gravel.
I’m not as strong as I used to be. I take pills now, because the sadness got palpable, unavoidable and imminent. I know it sounds bad, and some days I feel bad. Some days I wonder what happened to me as I rebuild the best I know how. But I’m learning to accept the help I need, that it’s ok to need anything at all. It’s a process.
Marc is a good man, honest and steady. Mom remarked recently he’s a lot like you: he feels deeply, but keeps it close and quiet. He too recharges with the challenge of an intricate project, one that others soon marvel and praise. I love knowing he’s like you. He does too. I wish he had the chance to hold the hand light while you worked under the hood in the garage or wash the Mustang in concentric circles.
On my journey, I’m learning a lot about me. I connect with you through my own self-discovery. Everyone thought you were gregarious and outgoing, even invincible. But I knew you to be a man on a couch on a Sunday morning, covered in a blanket. . . all but your toes. Napping. I knew you to love the silence as much as you loved to sit and listen to music. Not in the background, but music as it is and should be, right in front of you. I am the same, Dad. I’d like to spend a Sunday morning with you again.
Most of life is hard, and sometimes I question my resiliency. I wish you could lift me up like you used to so I wouldn’t have to make the climb alone. I’m working to find the tools to do it myself. I smile more now, through my body, than I have in a long time. I want to live openly and honestly, with a purpose, using those qualities as my hooks and rope. Whether you like it or not, I still want to make you proud. Most days I think I’m doing a good job.
I just wish you could tell me too.
I love you. I miss you. I promise all the best of you is with me.
p.s. I promise we are taking good care of Mom.