Silence falls as night progresses.
I am reminded of how far I have come.
These days I’m generally happy, even though things aren’t exactly going according to plan. I left my stable, well-paying job in February thinking to sell my house and live in the beastly cargo van that I’ve been outfitting to hit the road with. Financial obligations, good sense, and the discovery that I want an anchor to keep me grounded have kept me in this house for just a little bit longer.
I’ve been scraping by playing music, selling books, renting out my spare room, and walking dogs. It’s amazing how the experience of my youth and past kicks in on getting by on very little. Except I’ve also learned the lessons of self-respect and resilience. I’m not just earning a living any more. I’m living. I’m really living.
I can feel it in my bones when I wake up. I don’t just drag myself out of bed any more to shake off the dread that would claw at my chest.
“Just get through this,” I used to tell myself as I climbed into the shower with the water as hot as my red scalded skin could stand. The gnawing question lingering, “Get through this to what?” The death of my little brother and the death of Susan would sit there on my chest whispering, tugging, and insisting on my ears to listen to the silence that they had left behind. It was this sticky, sick, sweating feeling of incomplete misunderstanding. I was lost.
Lately, there has been this shift.
I can feel it when I wake up.
The sun rises and I find myself slowly waking, listening to the silence between the snores of the dachshunds that are crowded on either side of me. I don’t dread it any more, the feeling of peeling myself out of bed. The feeling of starting the day in a way that makes me feel more alive. These moments are mine.
Sometimes I change and start the day running on an empty stomach after a cold glass of water. Other days, I make a pot of coffee or cup of tea and sit contemplating life on the couch. If I have a roommate that week that wants to engage, we might even make breakfast tacos while he fries corn tortillas into shells and I shred the cheese to go on the eggs. If I have a roommate that wants to lose those last 5lbs for swimsuit season the two pancakes I made for her will sit uneaten on the counter as she drinks her protein shake before heading to the gym. These are the days where I am reminded of how far I have come and how different life can be from day to day. I’m finding my time to shine. These moments are mine.
These days I’ve been spending more times with dogs than I have been with people. One of the dogs I walk is rather large and his owner says that she doesn’t do the “dog mom” thing. She told me that he’s more of a roommate than a child. I didn’t really understand that statement until I spent more time with him walking, running, and getting to understand how to communicate with him. I sometimes even forget that he’s a dog. I find that he’s a pretty chill dude to hang out with, and felt inspired to watch the Big Lebowski again because of this dog. He is the dog dude. His owner once told me, “I feel like his has this whole other life with the dog walker that I don’t know about.”
It’s these kinds of visits to dogs and parks that keep me active and pulling more sunshine into my skin. My body is moving as I drive, walk, run, and actively listen to the conversations that happen without words. I have been craving the activity and the connection to living things that don’t require me to speak coherently. These are my moments to shine alone.
I find myself thinking a lot about Paul. Wondering what he might say, and how he might be supportive if I called him to tell him that I keep making choices that most people would think were crazy. I have decided to make the choice to be happy.
I’ve been wearing his Army sweatshirt a lot as that reminder of the hugs he used to give. The reminder of the quirky smile and the practical jokes he might pull. So when my dog and my roommate’s dog got too into their play and spilt my glass of wine all over the sweatshirt that was one of the physical reminders of my brother, my chest clenched.
I acted calm against the weight in my chest. It was only a thing. It was just a sweatshirt that I had been wearing until the cuffs of the sleeves are becoming worn. But I found the right chemicals to treat the wine stains as I tried to calm my breathing. It was just a thing. My brother is already dead. They didn’t kill him. It was just a sweatshirt.
But I was giving myself away in the way that I was cleaning, or breathing, or sighing.
“Are you alright?” my roommate asked me, probably feeling partially responsible.
Dogs will be dogs. I’m not upset at the dogs.
I was upset at the reminder of the inevitable.
I said that I was ok. I even laughed about the fact that I will probably wear this sweatshirt until I look like a homeless person. It’s just a thing. A thing that has outlasted my brother and one that I will wear out until there is nothing left. A thing that I have as a reminder to the choices I still have yet to make and the hugs I still want to pursue. It’s what I do. I’m pursuing happiness with a fervor and a glow that I haven’t felt in years.
So as silence falls and night progresses, I am reminded of how far I have come.
I am reminded of how far I still have to go.
But I know that tomorrow I’ll wake up ready for the journey ahead; wearing the tattered remains of the sweatshirt as a reminder of the remains of the life that was.
I am making up these happy moments as I go. Resilient and brilliant, carrying with me the glow of a woman ready to choose.