I went to go visit that woman who had the cabin without running water and internet again. Her hair was the same, peppered as if to say that wisdom has grown on her heart from a life of heartache. As she took me into a hug, I was surprised by her remembering of me. And as she held me tight, I could feel that she had experienced profound joy throughout life too.

Starting a kettle on the stove she asked me how I was.

"I'm really good," I replied. We didn't have to make eye contact to know it was a lie. But it was an easy lie. One of those, if I get into the truth I might not ever stop crying, and I am just so exhausted. So please just take my answer for what it is worth and know I am okay.

"Ah, really good I see," she gently smiled. Taking a seat across from me she cut to the chase, "so how is writing, or is it law school that you are pursuing now?" 

Writing was the guy.
Law school was my way of discrediting what we had.

"I went back to teaching."

Teaching was a safe place to be. Teaching was me before him and me with him. And I hoped if it could be those two things then perhaps it could also be me after him. If it couldn't, at least it was a distraction that kept me busy enough to know recognize it.

"And how is that going?"

Her questions weren't abrasive, but as I started at her hands, that housed a few wrinkles it made me want to be honest. You can't soft and kind in this world without going through the war. Her hands told the stories of the battles she had been through, that is why they were so aged. Her hand gently moved forward, welcoming me to take hold of it, like she would walk me through it.

Tears began to well up, holding place at the bottom of my eyes like so many times before, "it just wasn't what I planned."

The silence began to filter all of the "what ifs." 

What if I said yes when he asked if we should get married when we sat on the edge of my bed. Did he stop trusting that I loved him because I said no? 

What if I never called him.
What if he never called back.

What if I never took the wrong turn that morning and caught him in bed with someone else

What if I finally moved out of the Carriage House ... because night after night I stay sleeping on my side of the bed, and our family still hasn't come home.

The what ifs were interrupted by the whistle of the kettle blowing. As her back was turned to me, while she was fixing our cups of tea, I let tears in my eyes to finally release. 

She walks over with two cups of tea filled to the brim. Her hands are gentle as she sets them on the table. "You can say it," she said, "pretending you are a bottomless vessel and can hold everything inside is a waste of souls pace darling."

"It was hard with him, but it all seems harder without him. The house is too big for one person. It is quiet and the shadows seem much bigger at night now. I don't know the last time I cooked a meal for myself." 

"What if the house feels so big, because you are meant to grow into it? Just you. Alone. You grow."

I shook my head, "I don't like that." My voice must have cracked because she didn't push further.

"It feels like a painful ending, I get that -" her voice became a bit quieter, "-oh do I get that. But that doesn't mean it is over. You get to choose which moments you would like to relive over and over again. Allow those memories to warm your heart when you feel alone at night. Let your heart break just a bit more too, when you're grieving your ghostship life."

She placed her hand on top of mine, and I looked down so she couldn't the tears falling, once again. It was the first time I noticed, in my two visits with her, that she wore a simple gold band around her finger. Yet she had never mentioned a sir, nor had I seen one at the cabin -- and she too had her own ghostship life.

Adelina + Growing Pains

Most days, I don't know the difference between left and right. I need to know a mile before I must take a turn, and I substitute 80% of my weekly  meals with coffee. This all is to say that I am flawed. There are pieces of me that drive people absolutely nuts, and friends insert their own perspective, thinking if I can change just one or two things, then maybe my shoulders wouldn't be up to my ears, in stress knots. 

There are so many things I do incorrectly.

But I think I do one thing correctly, I love with depth.

I have always been the mother in my friend group. In college, I would leave my apartment unlocked so friends would nap on my couch while I was in class. If you had a bad day, I didn't even ask for permission before bringing you hot tea. My best friend called me in the middle of the night sobbing about her engagement, and I left -- with forty dollars in my bank account, I figured out how to be savvy enough to get to Texas in record time so that I could hold her.

Perhaps that is my other flaw too, I often love people in a box.
I think, if love surrounds them on four sides, then they are safe. They will never feel pain, and I can't hurt them, and maybe they won't ever leave. The love we pour in, would just surround us because the walls of the box would hold it all in. 

And every single time, I forget there are holes. 
Because we are human, so there have to be holes.

When we were in high school, we knew the generations of hurt that sowed together our bones, giving our veins maps. Although optimistic, we knew that no matter how much we meditated and self medicated, and prayed, and went to therapy there were still things so deeply rooted within us, from our families that we would never be able to rid of them, but we hoped to change them. For our daughters. For our sons. 

He hit me, because his dad hit him, but if we loved him hard enough it would change.
She slept with everyone's boyfriends, because her mother chose bad men time and time again but who the hell were we to judge.

We promised we would heal one another.

The thing about promises is, the context doesn't matter.

It didn't matter that I was only fifteen and life still hadn't happened to me yet. 
Now, at twenty-three and after being gutted, people still rely on me to keep that promise.

So the box fills and fills and fills, but the love isn't there anymore.
Because I can't do it anymore.

The people in the box, jump out. They no longer want to be in the box if they aren't the ones receiving the love. What I once thought was a collective love surrounding us within the four walls, was really sourced one way. 

Maybe I was presumptuous because I didn't offer up front my own woes, "I am going to fill you up with so much love, and hope you don't leave. 50% of me is made up of loneliness, because he left before I was born, so please stay. Stay and I will love you." 

Not only was I fifteen and untouched by the world, but I forgot that people change. Their shape changes, and the box no longer fits them. Our love, no longer fits them. And although we thought we would heal one another's wounds and set the course for a happier adulthood, we forgot to realize that growing pains aren't only when we are adolescents. 

We will continue to grow.
Outgrow ourselves.
Outgrowing one another.

Just because your love might be deep,
that doesn't assure it can fill the holes.

Misplaced Responsibility

"You're not responsible for her death," I gripped my cup a little tighter. How desperately I wanted to chug the rest of my coffee, but the lump in my throat wouldn't even allow me to breathe.

I didn't respond.

"Do you believe that?"

At the moment, I didn't know who she was talking about. The truth was, there were potentially three children. I lost three children in the matter of a year and half. The tears in her eyes spoke to the one she was speaking of, I stared out the window.

It was so sunny. How painfully, desperately I wanted to get out of that room.

The only thing I could muster up was, "sometimes."

"Why did you stop living your life?" she inquired.
"I don't know who to be anymore. I can't go back to who I use to be, I must change from this. She died so that I can change."
"Perhaps, but that is a lot of misplaced responsibility. Who do you want to be?"

"Right now? Right now I want to be that eighteen year old girl who jumped on a plane to Africa. I use to dance in the Indian Ocean even though I was terrified of deep waters. We would jump on top of bars and cause a ruckus out of fun, and pretend we were the bartenders. I miss being the girl who brings green tea to her friend after they tell me they had a bad day. On Mondays I would drink champagne for the hell of it, because life should be a continuous celebration. I was never afraid of losing anyone. Ever. Mostly because I was the girl who ran away and people continuously lost me. And now I am terrified all the time." 

"Let me ask you this, where do you want to be?"
"Dancing in the middle of the Indian Ocean."
"Well you better go grab a bottle of champagne."


Unhealed Bodies

"You used to dance around, all the time, remember that?" He asked. "That's the Cori I want back." I mustered up the faintest smile as I sat across from him, feeling the weight of disappointment rise up in my stomach.

"Don't you get it?" I wanted to yell. "Don't you think that I want her back too? No one hates this version of me, more than I do. No one. I know I have disappointed you all. I know I don't deserve the few friends I haven't pushed away, I know!"

But instead of coming clean, I sat there with a smile, as if I was remembering the same distant memory he was.

It has been over a year and half since something felt wrong in my body. It wasn't healing as properly and quickly as I anticipated. 48 hours after being in the hospital for the night, I climbed a mountain -- because my body was resilient like that. It drank in all of the sun rays, thirsty for more with each step upwards. Back in 2011, my legs took me on a run for the first time in months. I hadn't been to physical therapy in months and my ability to walk independently was still unreliable after a back injury. All it took was one November night for it to heal. My body has been a very good, forgiving home for me.

This is different though.

Scary different.

My hands began to shake, "If it is a tumor, will you be there?" Nothing is definite yet, and there is a good chance this is a fluke, but I needed to know. I needed to know because the past two months have been lonely. More days than not, I have been bed ridden. I wake up tired, and before bed I throw up from exhaustion. To process it all, my body waits until I am asleep, unaware of the anxieties that reside in the veins that curve and straighten throughout my body; at twenty-three you just don't expect the possibility of your heart failing because of a doctor's mistake. 

 It took a month for my body to feel functional after that mishap. But for the doctor it didn't explain A B C and D that was still happening. It has become a daunting task to drive across town, at times I have to drive with one eye open and one eye closed because I am so dizzy, I can't bare seeing out of both of my eyes. My appetite no longer exists, and while I keep losing weight, my body has struggled to put weight on for the past year. If I get too excited, my chest fills with pain and I begin to lose the ability to breathe properly. She asked me, "has anyone talked to these different diseases," and she began to list them as if she were reading them off of a grocery list. I know my body well enough to have known it wasn't the first several she mentioned. So we began the tests, and as the positive tests and abnormal tests began to come back, I began to feel overwhelmed -- my body is failing.

My body is failing and I am twenty-three.

Was this my fault? Did I become so reckless in my own numbness?

"I'll change, I promise," I have begged God late at night and throughout the days, sobbing. "I'll slow down and I won't push people away. I'll care more. I won't work as much as a way to avoid relationships with people," and with no right to ask I ask anyway, "please just don't let me be alone." "I am scared," I finally admit. 

After Dan died, we began to play this came of, "I'll love you, but won't care for you," because loving was fun and temporary. When you care for someone it is much different. It feels more entangled and permanent. We figured that eventually life would give us the white fence, adoring partner and little kids just as excited about saving the Earth as we were. But while we waited for it to happen, we weren't going to be the suckers who sought out that plan; because we knew there was always the possibility of dying unexpectedly. Why would we leave behind a partner and children? We would prevent heartache if we didn't care and didn't ask for anyone to care in return. As we crawled into beds and tents, and piled into random cars with booze in the backseat with each other we convinced ourselves it was enough.  

I suspect my parents worry with one another at night, that their daughter will never get straight head on her shoulders. They talk about how I'm wild and too independent for my own good. They think I will be the only one that doesn't give them grandchildren to spoil on Christmas morning. 

Now, what if they are right, but not because anything in my control?

We knew the rules began to change, a while ago. Sitting on my front porch, we became silent over the second bottle of wine. I imagined Christmas Eve, with him in the picture and how one of my favorite sides of him is the side he shows when he opens up presents. I could see he and my mom sitting across from each other laughing. "What are you thinking about?" he asked, and I was too embarrassed to tell him the dream I dreamt up, it didn't fit inside of the rules. Instead I told him about our family tradition on Christmas Eve, with a smile he soaked in memories for his own, "I like when you tell me things like that," he whispered. 

"If it is a tumor, will you be there?" I asked him, and he didn't respond. Maybe I already knew the answer because the rules changed last summer.