I never was smart with love.

We are another year married. There are long times when the work of marriage is exhilarating, rewarding, we-are-so-damn-good-at-this work and you remember why you said you wanted to do it every day until you died. And then there are times when your marriage will sit there and drone like a Coke machine and every once in a while you’ll give it some money and it will give you cavities and caffeine one mouthful at a time. Because it is not going away; no distributor is coming by in a fixed number of years giving you the new model Coke machine with the dollar acceptor that never spits back your wrinkly-ass dollar. Marriage is maintenance and archeology and psychology and industrial arts and home ec. It is that kind of math that Good Will Hunting did. It is all the work, and it is work on yourself and I both love and loathe work on myself. You can’t work on the other person, though. That’s their project, the same way you don’t want them messing around in your project even when they’re looking askance at you like are you going to get that done anytime this year or what? It is hard to do your project, let alone the other stuff that goes with being married, when you are broken down into your component parts and cannot reassemble yourself because there is no allen wrench for this.

It took more than I can tell you to get me to this point, right here, today, with the wherewithal to write a post that was more than a dive into my past for safe stories. It took brutal sickness, complete mental check-out, anger and more anger and so many I-give-up shrugs that I don’t even have shoulder ligaments anymore. It took every single sunny Winnipeg winter day and then it took the snow melting and purple puffball alliums coming up from the earth. It took a lot of bacon. It took me wondering what I could abandon, and who. My mind did a fucking Ironman this spring, and then it did a victory tour to Ottawa where I once again attended the inspiring Social Capital Conference (and even hosted my own roundtable discussion about group web projects) and had meals and drinks and gelatos and good talk with some  of  my  favorite  people in this entire country. It really is something to give your sanity an IV bag full of validation and camaraderie, and I don’t take it for granted.

I’m home again now, writing again at last and making small progress on the house. The bedrooms and all of the hallways in this house are a bizarre flashback to the you-wish-it-was-caramel-but-really-it’s-Cover-Girl-foundation brown walls I had in the master bedroom in my old house. To make it worse, the bedrooms here are small—1910s small—so those dingy brown walls made the rooms look even smaller. I painted the open closet of the master bedroom last month in a soft blue, but it took until now to get the bedroom walls started themselves. When I painted those words on my walls last time, tiny traces of them still showed up on the surface after multiple coats of primer and paint. I liked knowing they were there. This time I wondered what kind of love I wanted to seal into the bedroom, secret except for you, me, and the rest of the internet. 


And here’s where I get back into the beloved and beloathed work on myself. People who have been privy to the deeper hell of the past year heard me say more than once that I’ve been an open wound for almost all of it, and I’m just sick of living that way. I’m not saying I’ll never fall apart again, but I can try harder instead of being seduced by how deliciously easy it is. There is only one thing that’s going to kill me, whether it’s a tumor or a truck. Whatever it is, it’s not here today. What is the worst a person could do? Die on me? I’ve survived that. Shut me out? I’ve survived that too. Break my heart? Been there, baby. Tell my secrets? It’s been done. None of it killed me, no matter how I thought it would; I am still here, rode hard though my psyche might be. The people I love deserve all of me. They earned it for loving what was indestructible beneath that open wound. 

heal thyself

I refuse to become a seeker for cures.
Everything that has ever
helped me has come through what already
lay stored in me. Old things, diffuse, unnamed, lie
across my heart.
                          This is from where
my strength comes, even when I miss my strength,
even when it turns on me
like a violent master.

— “Sources” (II), Adrienne Rich

I have missed my strength. When it returns from its absences, it is as unrecognizable as if I’d picked it up out of a Lost and Found box. It’s here now, puny and new and weird again. But it knows all my stories and treats me like an old friend. I hold myself back from trusting such an inconstant thing like I do with most other instant intimacies.

Most of what has happened lately—really, most of what has gone on with me since late last summer, since I first felt that I was willing to crack apart my entire world and the world, in response, broke out the duct tape—is not for public consumption. I look back and I see that these things are not my stories to tell. It’s hard to keep your mouth shut and fingers quiet when instinct tells you to write them out so that they can make sense. Instead, I have written around these stories and packed the blog with grilled cheese and happier things. (Are there happier things than grilled cheese? Maybe not.) I did not do what I should have done, which was to pick apart the story until I found the parts that were just mine, and then to realize that there were no such parts, that all stories are intertwined. That me alone is just scene, not story.

Right now I am alone, in fact. Myron is far away at his new job out west, and it’s up to me to prepare the house for sale and pack. I think about that Adrienne Rich poem while I debate what comes to the new house and what will go. Everything that has ever helped me has come through what already lay stored in me. No cardboard box could make this claim. It helps to know that the old things that matter are the ones that lie strong across my heart, which thumped its way through everyone else’s stories. It does not help that I put out enough trash bags every week to make people suspicious. What’s left is strong. It shines in the sunlight and sounds like steel if you smack it hard enough. It’ll get me where I’m going. I know I can write along the way instead of choosing silence.

There is a lightness now that has been missing. There is less sentiment. There are so many reasons to look forward, and then within. Who needs a cure when there’s nothing to fix? I fucked up a lot in the past year and was forgiven, and I forgave the ones who fucked up against me, and I am loved beyond measure, and nothing—nothing that matters—is broken.

the weight of silence

Lately I feel the loss of my mother, as her birthday approaches and my heart thumps in the echo chamber of her absence. It is the sound of her birthday song, which I cannot sing to anyone else, the way I cannot sing either of the cats’ songs anymore.

A wiser person would tell me Sing your own song. And it is half magic to hear the wisdom I need, just when I need it, without an actual wise person at my side sipping from a china cup. The other half is held breath. I don’t know how to do that; I’ve never had a song of my own. I guess I’ll learn by making mistakes, the way I learn everything else.

But there is a drumbeat. The creak of strings being tested and tuned. There is someone out there—no one from this house—who sets things to rights, who sees a bicycle on its side and stands it up against a tree, even though no one has claimed it for more than a month. There is another one of those crazy 2011 sunsets, Pinon pink and Black Mesa blue, singing together for a heartbeat before vanishing into the dark. There is a mad hunt for my shoe as I race to catch the last of the light, the bicycle, another weekend in the history books. There is a long exhale, and so much fear, but fear is more honest than happiness right now. Except for the love that others feel for me, everything else I have that matters has come through fear and made it. So will I. And on the way, I’ll make some noise.

emergency contact

I started out about eight hours behind yesterday. This happens when the newsletter’s almost done, when all the columns and email starts flooding in, when I’ve got a dozen extra tabs open on my browser and paper starting to curl over the clip in my clipboard. And yesterday was scheduled: 8:30, repair-dude visit, hopefully not a major one that would overlap into 10:30 brunch with a friend, followed by hardcore proofreading and consolidation of a million bitty-bits of information that would free me up to finish my article last night.

And then my friend showed up and her face was red, brilliant sunburn red. It stood out against her blonde hair. “Where’s the nearest walk-in clinic?” she asked. She put her hand to her chest. “Something’s not right.”

We sat together in the waiting room and then later in the exam room. Referrals were made, prescriptions dispensed. It’s a scary thing, when your body revolts, especially when doctors wear looks of real concern. It’s hard to think of anything else, especially not the things we were planning to chat about over hot drinks at my table. We came back to my house, ate little lunches, and spent gentle time waiting and talking until mid-afternoon, when she picked her daughter up and went home to rest and heal. 

After she left, I was still keyed up. The house felt so empty just then. I cleaned up after our meals and turned on the radio for the sound of other voices. And I fell farther behind schedule, and made some tea, and looked out the back door for awhile as children came home from school and dogs frolicked in the park and someone brought out a kite and set it flying against the dark gray clouds. They coughed up some snow later on, just a dusting, just enough to frost things over.