Green House Series | Summer 2017

It was one of those hot days on the last day of August that felt sticky. It had rained briefly that morning and the air had felt cleansed. For two people who didn't believe in the institution of marriage, and had trouble in putting all of our confidence into one person, we did the best we could when we agreed to do this life thing together. 

First it was personal things he brought into my little apartment; his pillow, the candle, a TV. Then over the course of two years it was the more mundane things that felt like home; a refrigerator full of things he bought for morning smoothies, buying the same brand of coffee for one another, measuring cups, stealing his black flannel pull over as often as possible.

When we decided to let go we knew two things: it wasn't for forever and we loved each other to our core. As he began to move into another home we talked on the as often as we could at night, for an hour at a time because it felt important to make sure we were doing the right thing; to make sure both of us were okay.

On our last night together, I was frustrated and hurt that we were at this point. We both had tired so hard and yet after all of this time, it felt like there was nothing to show for it. With four teary eyes it took all of the courage to ask him one last time, "did you even love me?" And of course we both knew the answer before I even asked. I just thought -- well maybe if he didn't then this would be easier.

The almost three years we spent together in the capacity of being a family is something I will always treasure. 

We were really good at dates and making memories that just might leave my heart full for the rest of my life like the one time we planned to go to the food truck festival but instead decided to stay at home, so we could be alone with each other and we made an assortment of fries for dinner. Or how we always had the same Thai order, and he was able to finish my plate for me. One time we picked flowers and at a local farm and walked around Old Town tipsy choosing houses we liked. Our last date together, we ate and drank. We both new it was going to be our last time together (at least for a while) so we found every possible reason to extend our time together -- grabbing tea to sober up. Forgetting were the car was parked. Checking on our favorite shops. Running to Whole Foods so I could pick up colored carrots to show my Chinese students. 

It is easy to look back on the time you share with someone and think only of the beautiful, colorful times. The warm laughter and sense of security I felt around him comes flooding back with ease. But that doesn't paint the whole picture -- I know that.

As we were unbecoming there were times we disagreed on the process. 

If we were going to separate, I needed complete and utter separation. No more seeing each other, my apartment would become mine again -- and mine alone, no more talking or texting. I needed him to not exist in my world in order to heal. He didn't need all of that.

We weren't horrible to each other, things were just really hard. We faced tragedy after tragedy. Between loss and death. Career changes. Financial struggles. Hospitalization after hospitalization waiting for a diagnosis. We did the hard things together. In many ways, he was stable when I couldn't be and in return I tried to hold that burden for him too. It is scary as all hell to let someone in like that; he didn't just know my bones, he could map my veins. And yet, sometimes it still doesn't work out. But we did life together, we truly did it all together; even on the ugliest of days. 

The empty bed, single glass of wine and reruns of Parks and Recs alone are not curses that I yell at the Universe for. They are small moments in which I am able to stop and remember just how much I loved someone -- and still do. In many ways it was an honor having him be my family for the time we had together. 

If I know anything to be true it is that people change when they walk away.
I loved him, as if the world was going to end ... and I still (probably) do.

 

Ghostship

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.

Dear Future Daughter,


You will have nights when you cry over old wounds that you thought you healed from. This is so important. It is a reminder to see the world through softer eyes; you too have once needed more compassion and hugs than what the world seemed to have been giving you. There will be days when you wake up with swollen eyes and a heavy heart; your smile will never be more beautiful. Take a picture with someone you love, on those days, and give thanks. When your past walks into a room hug them. We are all human and we're just trying to get it. Cherish the secrets between you and him. Celebrate the anniversaries, even if it's in the form of tears -- August 12, 31. September 4. April 24. May 2. They are reminders that you have loved fiercely and with abandon. Be okay to put yourself into someone else's hands and laugh again. Don't self deprecate yourself and proclaim you need to be fixed; you are not broken. You are becoming and unbecoming. Celebrate the losses because it meant there was opportunity. Build a gallery wall of mistakes in your home and dance among it. Practice holding water in your hand, so you learn to let go. Choose those who choose you.