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The Thing: Compartments, Poetry, and Brain Soup

My ex always said he could compartmentalize his thoughts. This allowed him to set aside external stresses and go about his day. It allowed him to simply close his eyes and sleep at night within seconds. Another man recently expressed this to me, as well, in reference to his own daily stresses and trauma.

I used to think it was just a way to excuse not showing concern for others or not consider my feelings in conflicts, but probably it is a real thing. Some people can just shut off parts of their life or mind and focus on the less emotional tasks at hand.

I can’t. I have a mind that is the opposite of compartmented. If something gets in there—if something worries me, hurts me, or even brings me great joy—it saturates everything I think and do. I will think about that concern, hurt, or joy throughout my day, whether it be personal, political, or spiritual. As I wash dishes, fold laundry, walk the dog, work, attempt to sleep: every task is bathed in a soup of “but what about this thing that is pressing on or filling my spirit?”

I don’t know if this is the bane of the writer or if this is what makes writers, painters, etc., turn to their craft in the first place. I only know that, try as I might, I can’t set aside these thoughts. They turn into words. For some writers they turn into voices or characters. Lately, they have spilled onto the page or screen as poems in a vain (both meanings) effort to rid the mush that is my brain of these racing, raging, craving thoughts.

Poetry thus has become a highly selfish exercise for me. I might spend days honing a single poem of a few lines, not because I care what others think, but because it must express exactly what I am trying to communicate. I don’t care if you understand what I have written. I care that what I have written completely expresses the bath of hot confusion in which my brain is swimming.

If I write:
“This love is—lacuna”

I didn’t write “this love is an empty space” because I don’t mean it is an empty space.

I meant, “this love is an empty space, a hole in my bones, holes in my every tissue.” Lacuna.

Bone structure. Bone tissue close-up. Osteoporosis.

If someone has to look up “lacuna,” I don’t care.

If they don’t want to look it up, I don’t care.

I am not writing my poetry to please others. I am not writing my poetry to make the world a safer place for readers of poetry. If I’m lucky enough to reach anyone, that’s lovely. But that’s not my goal.

I am writing my poetry because I have no lacunae in my brain. I have no spaces or compartments to stash how I feel about someone or something. I can’t simply lock those things away and go on with my day. The closest I come to that is when I’ve had a couple of beers and, even then, it’s all I can do not to crawl inside myself and think of the thing that is in there, whatever that thing may be.

I sometimes envy the two men mentioned above and anyone else who puts the events of their lives in neat, little boxes while they function seemingly normally.

But, sometimes I wonder what will happen if all their neat boxes suddenly break open.

It’s Not Too Much to Ask: Revisiting and Requesting Respect

(Dec 18, 2018). I reach into myself—my past, my present, my imagined future—and find emptiness.

From the time I was small, I have sought [men’s] approval and rarely received it. I am so very tired of failing them and feeling the need to meet their expectations as if they were god(s). That includes God—I hear he demands fealty, supplication, bowing and scraping—like my [ex]husbands, boyfriends, and other male friends who knew better than I about damn near everything. Men who felt the need to “protect” me when I was in no such need.

(March 2021) I am still tired, but may be gaining strength.

It’s clear to me from the above entry, discovered when I unearthed a journal a couple of days ago, that in December of 2018, I felt my marriage and my connection to my faith were falling apart in a substantial way.

It’s also clear that I stopped myself from thinking any further on the topic should it take me down a more painful path. The only entry after that is a blog composition about Big Dog.

I have met and clung to a couple of perfectly pleasant men since my divorce. They placed their value to me in how they could help and comfort po’ little ol’ me. I don’t deny they have helped me in various ways. However, they placed my value to them in the predictable arena; I am a walking, breathing, please-don’t-talk-too-much sex toy. I offer nothing in terms of intellect, care, or actual companionship. They demonstrate this by treating my time as their commodity, not my precious resource. One of them gets sullen and distant if he asks a question (apparently rhetorical) and I answer with knowledge I earned in college or on the job.

I’m too old for this game, and I’m not going to pretend I have no brain or heart. I did that enough in my marriages: 1) was told I was using “big words” to talk down to my exes when in fact I was talking to them as equals because I presumed they had the same pliant and ready mind I had, open to learning and growth, 2) was expected to take on the lion’s share of care for my child while my first husband partied all night and picked up women.

I’m not brilliant, but I am not scared of someone else’s intelligence. When I meet intelligent and confident men (and I have recently, thank goodness), I revel in it. They are never intimidated by me and only challenge me politely.

I used to be angry that my parents pushed me to be precise with my language and open to all knowledge. My most punishing memory of my father is of him throwing up his hands during my 2nd grade math homework and barking, “Oh, come on, Karen! You’re smarter than that!” (I recall, with great regret, saying this to my daughter when she was small—ugh! Legacies.) That meant, to eight-year-old me that, of course, I wasn’t smart at all. When I married men that reflected this in their actions and often, their words, I lost all faith in myself.

I realize now, having spent the last year in divorce recovery, that my dad was expressing his frustration with his inability to teach me. It was his failing, not mine. I also realize my ex-husbands were reflecting their failings and fears of their own weaknesses, as well. Easier to make me feel small by telling me I had no common sense or no motivation or was forgetful (and reinforce small human errors until these statements became true(r) in many respects) than to face that they were afraid of their own intellectual or emotional shortfalls.

I can’t say the men I’ve known recently don’t think they have valid reasons for being disrespectful of my mind or my time. You would have to ask them.

I can say, I have valid reasons for wanting to be respected. I’ve received two degrees, both of which required long hours and significant mental and emotional commitment. I’ve lived through two marriages, both of which required significant mental and emotional commitment, and both of which drained me of a great deal of myself esteem. I raised a child, held jobs at which I performed well, and helped my 2nd ex-husband build products for and run a home business for twenty-two years. I may be struggling right now to find my place in the universe again, but I am trying. That said, even if all of the above were not true, I am human, have feelings, and responsibilities and on those counts alone, I deserve respect. I deserved that respect when I was married. I deserve it now.

Distressed table. Distressed books. Fossil shells.

The Weight of Fog: Processing and revisiting the last two years.

I’ve always loved Texas winters. Our glimmering summers can be brutal and suffocating in their airlessness. Winter, at least when I was young, was tolerable. I could move, breathe, and be active.

Here on the immediate coast, winters are particularly damp and gray and in the past week, each day has been punctuated with fog horns much of the day as boats move up and down the Intracoastal Waterway.

Aging has a way of changing your views of these things. I don’t mean the obvious stuff like how it’s damp cold and it gets into your bones and it’s harder to warm up. I don’t mean things like the fear of slipping on algae-coated stairs or driving in darkness after 6 pm. I’m not talking about the pure physicality of the seasons anymore.

I’m talking about, yes, again, grief.

Once again, it is the anniversary month of the loss of Big Dog (January 13th, 2019), my father (January 12th), and my mother (January 29th). I survived the holidays and my isolation by working and keeping in touch with my family and friends. Early January was filled with distractions on the political front and I have had concerns with some personal relationship stuff.

But here I am, revisiting my older blog entries and memories and how last year at this time not only was I reliving the loss of my sweet, furry boy and my parents, I was also in the throes of a separation that only I and my husband of the time knew about. The looming death of that relationship seemed it might be avoidable. It wasn’t.

I’m feeling sick currently and can’t know (yet) if I am just suffering a cold, allergies (Cedar Fever season is starting), or the dreaded COVID-19. Results of a test taken Sunday should come back soon. Whatever the cause of this malaise, I am leaf-drifting back into my grief. Thinking of Big Dog. Thinking of Dad. Of Momma. Of Elise. Of Twenty-nine years. In the midst of the sadness, the days have, one after another, been foggy and drizzly. My floors are constantly damp. My dryer has died, so clothes hung to dry refuse to do so. These little annoying things make me angry at winter. Angry at loss. Angry at grief.

Why can’t it be over with already? Why can’t I just be done with it?

I remind myself this is a process. I stumble through little relationships with friends and potential suitors and find I am not able to be present for those people the way I should because this recovery process is so all-consuming. I am not unhappy most of the time. I am not happy most of the time. I am simply here and functional (sort of) and waiting to get back to being a full human being.

No matter how hard I try to peer through this dense sky around me to see what might be ahead, I remain clouded with doubt and distrust. I know, in my heart, not “all men are X.” I also know that I am just not capable of judging them with any kind of clarity or fairness, right now.

No matter how much I know I must move forward in all areas of my life (work, art, caring for my dog), I am often hamstrung by anxiety.

No matter the weather, I am fogged in.

This winter has been unpleasant for me not because it is cold, gray, foggy, and unforgiving, but because even on the blue-sky, sunlit days, I recall the past two winters of pain. Summer will bring with it still other memories (good and bad) of my first year alone and the turmoil of that season.

This is what age does to us. It loads us down with memories throughout the years such that beautiful days and ugly days alike become representative of pain and joy alike. Winter is no longer just chill and rain. Summer is no longer just heat and children playing in the surf.

Seasons can become weights. Perhaps they can become buoyant breezes again, eventually.

Happy Holidays: The purge, the recovery, and starting over.

Now and then, especially given the small space of my new home, I clean and purge. This holiday, with just the dog, seemed a good time to purge.

Wednesday, I cleaned my guest room. It has become a storage space of sorts. Bike, sewing/embroidery bits, stationery, cleaning supplies, and tools. All the things I don’t use daily, but need regularly, reside there. I have a china cabinet/hutch in that room that belonged to my paternal grandmother. I sorted through it and found some items from my second marriage.

I have clung to these things, believing that I wanted the good memories with which they were imbued. I found photographs, cutesy keepsakes, jewelry, and pens. All were weighed down with emotions.

Instead of feeling the warmth of good memories, I dropped into rage, ambivalence, or indifference.

Part of the process of recovering from divorce is learning to be alone through all events, good or bad, right? Still, therein lies part of my anger. I was never meant to be alone at this stage of my life. This should not be. Yet here I am.

Thirteen months ago I was more alone than I’ve ever been in my life despite being married. Thirteen months ago I was convinced I was unneeded, unloved, and a burden. Thirteen months ago, I tried to end my life in a very feeble way—by swimming out to into the Gulf of Mexico on a red flag day. At the time, I didn’t even view it as an “active suicide attempt.” I just thought, “If I drown, I drown. No one will be the wiser.” After a treading water in crashing waves, then a quiet panic, and finally finding my feet on the third sandbar again, I made my way back to shore in tears.

Now, I’m divorced, not dating, COVID-19 forces me to avoid being too social, and my child and grandchildren are 240 miles away. Yet, I do have more friends in my life than ever and more care and concern for and from them than I am accustomed to. My siblings and I are closer than we have been in years. Life, while constrained by a virus, has opened up by working on the beach, rescuing birds, and reawakening my interest in human interaction. Some days, many days, in fact, remain difficult. Some days I just wait to get to nighttime so I can shut my eyes and shut out the world.

But I never want to swim beyond that third sandbar again or take any other drastic measures as I wanted to many times in previous years. I am grateful I failed in my attempt.

I will spend the coming holidays with Sammy making new traditions just for us. Many thousands who have lost loved ones this year will not have that luxury. I hurt for them, knowing as I do that my loss pales in comparison to theirs.

I now have new and better memories I am building in this life. I expect to spend future holidays with my daughter and grandchildren and create still more memories. I will create things for this space and those to come that I won’t need to purge.

It’s not a dog whistle. Silence=complicity

I believe that artists of all kinds not only have the right, but the obligation, to express their opinions on matters of social importance. Past partners have told me celebrities were supposed to be quiet and just do their thing. No kneeling. No speeches at awards ceremonies.

For me, writers, painters, musicians, indeed anyone who has a public platform has the obligation to speak out on topics of basic human decency.

I said this to my partners and meant it.

Then I went silent.

I stopped posting memes and angry rants and grunts and grumbles because I didn’t want to offend and lose people I love.

I am scared as I type this. I am scared I will lose people I love dearly in doing this. I am sure I will lose them. They may not unfriend me. They may not even openly acknowledge their disagreement with me. But I will lose them on some level simply because: How can I not see how wrong I am? Why can’t I just keep the status quo? Why do I have to talk politics? Why can’t I just protest quietly?

I can’t be quiet when what frightens me more is what this country has become. What frightens me more is the complicity of silence, or worse, the complicity of acceptance.

I heard these words: “Stand back and Stand by.”

The reaction is one that was predictable and terrifying. The people those words were aimed at, as you can see below, took that as it was intended, a call to arms. If you don’t accept that, you are at best, naïve and at worst, approving of that call to arms. If you dare to approve of that call to arms, you can shut me out for good. We don’t have a difference of opinion. We have a difference of humanity.

There is no place in America for a group of people who take up arms at the polls. Or after the results come in. There is no place in America for a president who calls to such a group to do so. (Illegal, by the way). There is no place in America for people to sit in the comfort of their fine homes with their fine clothes and cars and say, “Threatening the voters is an acceptable behavior in a president.”

I spoke out before the 2016 election against this man’s “p***y grabbing” ways and people I loved excused his behavior while knowing that I had been assaulted as a child. I’ve watched and kept my mouth shut since because I was ridiculed and doubted for being a valid and scarred member of the #metoo movement.

I have been manipulated and abused into silence by multiple men in my life. I have been manipulated and abused into cowardice.

I am so done.

There is no place in my life for silence anymore.

I don’t want to lose my friends that I know are apologists for that “man” who claims to love this country and then hugs the flag obscenely. He loves only himself.

I know they see him as a savior of their livelihoods without really looking deeply into who is writing the tax codes that make their lives difficult. Meanwhile, their businesses are suffering at the gasping throat of COVID-19 which that man denied for months rather than take early and serious action that could have gotten us on our feet sooner as it has in other parts of the world.

I know nothing I say will change minds.

The purpose of this is not to attempt to change minds. The purpose of this is to inform those I love that I can’t quietly abide the support of someone who foments civil war and that, whether they will ever admit it or not, is what he did during that debate. Calling it a “dog whistle” minimizes it. Reframing it and excusing it as “he didn’t know” is simply a lie. He spews what he has heard repeatedly on a topic and he has heard his advisors (likely Stephen Miller) speak this way. He knew what he was doing.

I am not calling him a white supremacist. I am not not calling him one. I can’t know his heart. I can only judge behavior and his behavior is that of a person who has seized on a method of gaining power and keeping it. He doesn’t care who he hurts in the process. That is almost worse because it means he will do anything for power and hurt anyone, even those in his base that he is courting. Maybe especially them. This has become more evident in recent days.

It breaks my heart to even consider losing my friends. I know that most of them are some of the kindest, gentlest people I know. But kindness doesn’t equal rightness. And if, in their kindness and willingness to suspend rational thought, they simply can’t see what a horrible person that man is, that’s on them. Or if they see it but brush it off in the interest of their stock holdings, that’s on them. Tolerating their flag-waving and delusions, that’s on me.

Ultimately, that loss is nothing compared to the losses of the people being injured by 45’s support of white supremacists/war mongers and his COVID-19 denial (just to name the two biggest offenses).

p.s. Yes, I’ve turned off comments. I’ve learned that there is no point arguing these topics and I don’t need reassurance or support that I am right in my thoughts.

Reboot: Divorce After Fifty

So it goes.”

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. used that phrase to mark every death, to signify the inevitability and perhaps our pointless flailing at death, in his novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death. I have avoided the phrase in speech and writing since I first read the novel many years ago. As if, in uttering it, I might condemn someone or something to their or its demise.

July 21, 2020 officially marks the death of my second marriage after slightly more than twenty-nine years.

So it goes.

Anyone who thinks that because I am “the Leaver” that I have not grieved this death as deeply as any other death I have experienced, has never been through a divorce. Anyone who doesn’t understand what it takes to leave twenty-nine years of entanglement and love, rage and joy, argument and, eventually, resignation, doesn’t understand and will never understand how difficult the decision was, how painful leaving has been and, ultimately, how strong I was and am to have left.

And that’s okay. Because I don’t have to answer to anyone except myself. I am, as it happens, the only one I’ve ever had to answer to. I’ve spent a lot of years being convinced I had to behave a certain way to please others: spouse, parents, child, siblings, and friends.

I was wrong all those years. I only ever had to live up to my own expectations.

I’m finally doing that now in the smallest and grandest ways.

So, with the death of my marriage also comes the death of my fear and dysfunction. Comes the death of my accepting the will of another. The death of my need for the approval of others.

So it goes.

One…

Saving the Wounded: Balancing Independence and Support

I know.

I know that this will get better – this masked, COVID-19 isolation after seventeen years in a desolate bubble.

I know because I began to break that bubble in the last two years and walk a path of personal growth.

I began to rescue and transport animals in my community in 2018. In the collage above are (clockwise from top left: baby raccoon, immature Northern gannet, White-tailed deer fawn, Screech owlets, baby opossum, and immature Brown pelican).

By spring of 2019, I had done several transports and releases. Transportation of smallish wild animals is fairly straight-forward: go to someone’s home or business, scoop up a box, get a form filled out by said person, drive animal to rehabilitator. All done with minimal contact with people.

Rescue, on the other hand, was nerve-wracking at first. I had no formal training and the one rescue I’d helped with was that of a sick and weak pelican that wasn’t up for a fight. Complicating matters, I have always been shy and called myself an introvert. I was uncertain how future rescues would go if I was working without a fellow rescuer.

On my first solo pelican rescue, the pelican was hungry and wanted my shad. I lured her in and grabbed her by myself. Other pelican rescues were a mixed bag. Some went great (for me, not so much the bird). Some failed completely as the birds could still fly enough to escape even four or five well-intentioned, but sometimes intimidated, helpers I recruited on the beach.

But always, if there are people on the beach, I have learned to recruit. I’ve done so with other sea birds and Black vultures, as well. In so doing, I’ve learned I’m no introvert. I am shy, yes, but I actually like working with and getting to know people.

In turn, people are almost always willing to help even if they find the larger birds a bit frightening. I am not prideful. I don’t have to do things myself to prove that I am capable or special.

If a large bird can’t be lured, it sometimes has to be rounded up by several of us like closing purse strings. We try to do this quickly to reduce stress on the bird. Sometimes an injured bird can be flushed toward me by one or two helpers so I can then grab it easily. And sometimes, it’s just helpful for someone to distract a sickly, scared gannet so I don’t lose a finger.

Other times, rescues fail and the bird flaps away. The bird will either heal on its own or it will get worse and we may catch it later.

Whatever the circumstances, I always prefer to work with people nearby. This makes them feel good, teaches them about the animals, and gives me a better chance for success. It also connects me to the community. We have a cheerful exchange as they bubble with the excitement of having helped a little furry or feathery life and I love seeing them brighten with joy and pride.

In all rescues, I treat all parties, the animal in need of being saved and the “recruits,” with respect and I work to gain the trust of both.

We all, volunteers, me, and animal, have to work together.

In recent years I have sought personal autonomy (self-government) and some in my life have interpreted this as a need on my part to do everything single-handedly.

I don’t want to stand alone.

I don’t want to walk this life without support. I simply want the right to choose when, how, and who I ask for support.

If I am lonely or hurting, I would like all the normal things lonely people need. Affection, attention, someone who has my back.

If I am angry, give me space. My spicy language will give you a clue and I may say outright, “I’m angry. Back off.”

If I’m grieving, well, grief is a strange monster. I’ve been dealing with a great deal of grief in the last several years. I have tried to communicate my needs. I have sometimes succeeded, sometimes failed. People have sometimes just failed me.

Grief has at times closed me off to people and yet opened me up to rediscovering who I used to be.

I can tell you it is harder to know how to help the grieving. I can tell you that leaving someone to flounder in their grief is not a solution. Nor is making promises you can’t keep.

I can tell you that I give what I get: Respect. Trust. Honesty. Love. Friendship.

Respect. Trust. Honesty.

Sometimes, as I grieve now, it seems I am the bird healing myself or waiting for things to get bad enough to be caught. Perhaps I just need to be distracted (socialized) so someone can grab me and help me. And, probably it is a bit of both.

I’m still learning how to socialize my shy self after many years of being hidden and wounded. I will figure it out—with help.

Even if I have to do it with a mask on.

I know.

Autonomy and Isolation: Separating during COVID-19

I’m at the bottom of a well so deep that I can’t see the opening at the top. No light betrays day or night above. No sound leaks down the narrow shaft to relieve my solitude. I am utterly alone but for the soft breathing in the dark of a furry companion. A voice drifts down like a leaf falling slowly until it lands on my ears, “You okay down there?”

I want to scream, “No! Please throw down a rope. A chain. Anything. Save me. It’s cold. It’s terrifying. I’m so tired of this.”

But I was raised to not lean on others. My parents were always busy with my siblings. I had to learn to entertain myself.

I call back. “I’m fine. Thank you.”

Another verbal leaf falls. “Okay. Well, we’ve all been in wells before. Let us know if you need…” The voice trails off.

In the darkness I nod at no one and settle back into my solitude. The breath of my animal companion quickens as he finds his way next to me and reminds me that he is there and that has two implications: he will be beside me in my solitude and he will die beside me if I die.

I awaken in a brightly lit older beach house in a brightly lit beach village in Southeast Texas. My dog is breathing heavily from steroids he is taking to treat an ear infection. He hogs the bed as usual.

“I’m fine. Thank you.” I say with some sarcasm and pat his head. I examine the dream images with respect to my personal circumstances.

When I was in my early twenties, I was married to a violent alcoholic with Bipolar I (one) disorder. I went to work when our daughter was three and very gradually acquired skills plus a tiny savings he didn’t know about. (Just enough to pay for a lawyer) Meanwhile, my daughter and I endured his manic outbursts, his rage, and his pitiful sobbing under self-medication. My family helped where they could, when it wasn’t too painful to watch, but I was of a mindset that I had to handle things by myself. I made the lion’s share of income in my little family, a fact that angered my self-pitying husband even more so. When my daughter and I finally escaped him, I had a good job and had returned to college. I was, in a word, independent.

I began dating a coworker. I was insistent, though he found it more amusing than admirable I’m sure, that I pay for my own meals when we went out. Throughout our “courtship,” I continued this. I had been in a relationship of control. I was not going to let go of my newfound independence. I wasn’t going to give a man an excuse to say, “I gave you something. You give me something in return.”

That autonomy bled away over twenty-nine years during this second relationship for various reasons. Now I sit in a little home I rent for myself, the dog, and my possessions. Now I have recovered some part, though not all, of that autonomy.

Now there is COVID-19.

I moved into this house on March 20th 2020, just as the virus and social distancing were ramping up in this part of the country. Just as neighbors and friends were beginning to take it seriously. Parting hugs as I gave them news of my impending move at the beginning of the week suddenly seemed foolhardy at best, deadly at worst (thankfully, we all remain well).

My birthday came and went a few days ago, with no great fanfare. That’s all well and good. The alternative to being older is, after all, death. The month has been stressful, exhausting, and painfully quiet at times. Now and then, a call or text comes through the ether, “Are you doing okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“I’m okay. Not sleeping well.”

Chit chat back and forth about the dog, the house, the weather, the virus.

Sometimes ranting about this or that. Politics. Religion. The romantic fallacies of “soul mate” and “forever.”

Sometimes, after I hang up the phone or log out of social media, there is sobbing and wailing, and internal pleas of “Throw down a rope! A chain! Anything!” But tears are usually kept to myself because I had planned to do this on my own power as much was possible.

I simply hadn’t planned to do it—PHYSICALLY ALONE! With no visits from my daughter. No hugs. No coffee with friends. No trips to town to wander in the mall or walks on a crowded beach to feel connected with other people.

My estranged husband is fond of saying, “That which does not kill us only makes us stronger.” I hate that expression because there have been times that emotional strain has nearly killed me, either through illness or depression. It wasn’t worth the strength I gained.

I feel better equipped, oddly enough, to survive this pandemic despite having no one within six feet of me. I have more hope than I have had for many years. I have, however distant, a great deal of support from loved ones. I have the peace and ease of this little house by the sea. And I am fully aware that I am far more fortunate than so many. I am not, after all, on the COVID-19 front lines. I am merely, like so many, in COVID-19 limbo. I am simply alone. Well, with the dog.

Fearful as I am of the virus changing our way of life permanently. Fearful as I am that the loneliness of the coming months will be too much to bear. Fearful as I am, not of losing my own life, but of losing loved ones, I am grateful that I am here and getting this chance to be the Autonomous Me.

I have watched others live in their autonomy for a while now. I’m fifty-six. It’s late. But I’m here. Ready to turn down someone offering to pay for my lunch again. Ready to put aside a little money if I need to escape something, anything. I have a considerable wait ahead of me for those events and that is the hard part.

I’ll have to throw my own rope down for now.

Welcome Home: A New Space

I shuffle around this new space, feeling it both too small and too large at times.

Too small because I’d grown accustomed to the space in which I lived—not vast by any measure but plenty for two adults, a dog, and occasional visitors.

Too small because not all the years of accrued memories and their bits and pieces fit here.

Too small because I am a typically spoiled, white, American female. I have many kitchen appliances.

Still…

It is too large because, in my heart, I will never think I deserve this much. Quite possibly, I won’t have it in a few months. For now, though, this few-hundred square feet—two bedrooms, a decent den, a sufficient/efficient kitchen—are more than enough for one human and a dog. Too much, but maybe not for the dog who has long legs and a lot of energy. He sprawls. He wanders. He paces between walks. Were it just me, I could be happy in a studio apartment.

Too large because between the walls, under the beds, behind the doors, the detritus of love is gone. Companionship is a memory to be dredged up here and there in tight conversation.

Too large because an uncertain future looms for myself, my estranged spouse, and my dog, both in the wake of lost faith in the contract of marriage and the in the wake of the 2020 pandemic.

Too large, this space which had no functioning WiFi for a while and so was silent. Too large because of its ease of care. Plenty of time and hush in which to think and feel and read and write. Though, with all that thinking and feeling, I found the lack of WiFi and social media to be a good thing.

I have used this time to gather my wits and figure out who KC is after thirty-six years of being someone else’s other half. Who she is without the demands of normal daily living clamoring at her. I’ve realized I simply don’t want to be an other anymore (in a contractual sense) and that I miss taking part in the outside world and its ruckus. This realization is not why I am here; but it is a somewhat surprising by-product of the move.

From this wit gathering and hush the too-large space tells me, and perhaps it is a lie, it will only ever be filled by me and the dog (dogs?) and the occasional visitors. There’s a strange peace in this.

There is peace in reading again for the first time in months (years?) with the sole purpose of reading, or rather, with the purpose of stuffing my brain with words and ideas in hopes of drawing on their beauty and cleverness later.

There is peace in writing pained poetry with a colored pencil while the dog sighs and flops a tired head on my leg as if to say, “That’s enough now. I’m here.”

For now—assuming I survive COVID-19 and whatever follows, there is peace in hoping that as I shuffle about this space, and perhaps in those to come, I will fill it with the love of my family, a contract with my own dreams, and companionship with friends. I think, perhaps, it will all be okay.

Moon Jelly Tide

A few days ago, we walked the beach on a cool, cloudy day. Moon jellies lay splattered about every fifty yards: flat, clear, mostly-harmless blobs in the sand.

Spring is approaching and the tides are bringing in spring things. Warm days lie ahead with increasing numbers of visitors appearing on the beach on weekends while weekdays remain quiet. Birds of prey are scooping up fish and field critters as the chills of winter fade and breeding season ramps up. Brown Pelicans are gathering again, drifting in from Central and South America to form ever-larger squadrons along our spit of land called Follet’s Island.

The wind is in its March wilding, blowing the house into shivers and rumbles. Day to day, the Texas coast simply can’t decide what season to express: Forties one day, eighties the next, sixties yet another.

Life feels upended.

Life is revealing its rough edges as harsh and unpredictable days often keep me from wandering the island while howling, ghostly nights keep me awake with the racing thoughts of my history, my future, and this precarious, ever-present grief.

Springtime. Beach houses. Dogs. New cars. Jewelry. None of these things patches a hole in a grieving heart or solves a personal problem. One simply feels a moment of appreciation of a new bauble, or a few months of joy in the glow of new adventures. In time, the newness becomes the reality of life the way it always was and one returns to routine. The glow gives way to the same internal and external battles.

Certainly, the beauty of the beach and its inextricable partner, the sea, is as soothing as anything can be. Stand at the shore on any given day—be it a calm day with a shore break so gentle that the sand seems to whisper in surprise when a wave falls softly on it, or a raucous, red-flag washing-machine before a squall hits—and one can find awe-inspiring peace.

Can. In theory.

Some days, clearing the mind and reaching over the water for that peace is like reaching across the sky to grasp the moon. Some days, life is upended and you are upended with it and all you can do is teeter at the water’s edge and listen to the whispers or the raucousness and hope to be set upright again.

On those days, I often don’t listen to the sea at all. I put in earbuds and listen instead to music made by landlocked humans. My mind’s eye sees things that aren’t in those restless waters: memories, dreams, past and current hurts. Some would say that is one of the greater of my many flaws. I am not letting the sea heal me like I should but am running from that healing much as I have run from my Faith in the last several years. In the end, I am little more than the jellyfish, lying on the beach, deflated and dying, having traded the healing music of the sea for the music of the unforgiving land.

But, that might just be okay, for now. Processing only what I can process on this Moon Jelly tide might be all that should be required of me right now.