Photo: I am taking back to Massachusetts a few precious things from Grandy’s house. Kitchen items, mostly, like a ceramic bowls used for a myriad of beloved recipes, including kinklings. I also have a few of her purses, and there is even more stuff to sift through when I return over Christmas. It would seem that I’m taking home a bunch of school portraits, as well. This is circa 4th or 5th grade… My scalp aches just looking at those braids.
I went to bed with a deep dread that I thought would leave me. When I woke up this morning, it hadn’t gone away. Matter of fact, I was assaulted by this thought as soon as I opened my eyes:
Oh my God, I’ve got to go back to Massachusetts.
The checklist for all the things that need to be done to get us packed and ready has been running through my mind. Laundry already has started. The finding of little pieces of this and that, collecting stuff, getting out stuff… there is infrastructure and procedure for removing myself from home.
That’s what it is… a removal… that’s what it feels like.
I stood in the kitchen this morning with coffee in hand, letting my anxiety loose into the air. Mom was gracious, speaking the same things I was thinking. “Well, maybe you can just leave on Monday. It’s going to rain and storm all weekend. No need to drive,” she said.
“It’s crazy to leave this weekend. It’s a ridiculous timeline I put myself on,” I said. “We should just leave on Monday. That makes more sense.”
There was a pause. A hopeful breath.
“I’m running a meeting on Monday and I have a doctor’s appointment and the boys have camp on Monday,” I sighed.
“And it doesn’t matter if it’s Sunday or Monday, you’re still going back,” Mom concluded.
And we stood there with it. The knowing of the reality.
I have to go back to Massachusetts. I have a life waiting for me there.
It sits in the pit of my stomach even now as I type. It’s going to suck packing up that van. It’s going to suck to say goodbye. It’s going to suck to drive away, to leave the state, heading north and north and north… I cannot express with enough language how much I don’t want to go back. I cannot fully appreciate how much I dislike my life up there until I’m here and home and whole.
In my misery while driving home after dropping the boys off at camp, a hard thought crystallized in my mind:
I won’t turn 40 in Massachusetts. My days as a Masschusetts citizen are numbered.
It gave me this beautiful, twinkling, wonderful hope. Deadlines are my favorite things. It feels very reasonable. I turn 34 in September. Plenty of time.
But it was a flash in a pan. The reality settled further in: disruption to the boys, destruction of my marriage. I need a job down here. He does, too. We’d have to sell the house. It needs a lot of work. We could do it in 6 years…? But what of the rest of it? In 6 years, the boys will be in middle school. Horrible time for uprooting. And would The Husband appreciate the ultimatum of it? Could he handle it? Maybe we could stay married, but live separately? He could keep his career, be the man he wants to be, and I could be here and be happy and raise the boys in a better place. Is that healthy? Wise?
How far would you go to be happy?
The more truthful iteration of this question really is: Would you blow up your life like your father did? Are you willing to bestow those consequences on your children?
(It’s different. I’m not my father. I’m not having a mid-life crisis. I’m not having an affair. I’m not my father. I know that much to be true.)
But I’m unhappy, and that unhappiness breeds a beautiful environment for the worst kind of temptation: the idea that the ends (my happiness) will ultimately justify the means (a complete overhaul of our life as we’ve built it and as we know it). So dangerous. My Lordy, so foolish.
My Quiet Thoughts this Friday are about the power of this yearly interlude. The power of simply being home. I got away from my life, I untethered from my daily reality. I gave my children the opportunity to relax among a sea of their peers who look like them and know their story. The boys have been their best selves here. We have been so comfortable and happy. They are learning to love this place like I do. It’s heartbreaking.
(But then again, they’re children, right? Aren’t they built to love wherever they are, so long as it’s comfortable and free?)
My Quiet Thoughts are a question, really: is spending this much time at home once a year really such a good idea? What have I done but set myself up for heartache? Perhaps I’m not strong enough to do this in this way… maybe I was at some point, but not anymore?
This is one of those times when a lottery ticket would solve all of my problems. Two houses, two states, plane tickets whenever necessary. It wouldn’t be easy, but it would be functional.
Lordy… I’m going to stop…
Sometimes my Quiet Thoughts can’t be full of wisdom. They can’t always feel good. This is what my story is right now. This is how my heart is beating at the moment. In a world plenty anxious, however, I do apologize for adding just a bit more it to the collective psyche. It’s selfish. I’m sorry.
But perhaps my lesson is this, Dear Reader: Leaving home certainly teaches lessons, but it also has consequences. Choices, as ever, have consequences.
And if I’ve written it once, I’ve written it a thousand times: Ideas have consequences.
It’s a Friday in Maryland. My last Friday in Maryland until Christmas. Birds are singing. The air is warm, but dry. Cicadas send vibrato into the air. I’m eagerly awaiting my yearly dozen of steamed crabs. I’m taking as much of it in as I can. I’m smelling it and hearing it and tasking it. I’m filling my jar up and overflowing in the hopes this goodness will last me until I’m back here again.
Fridays are for wishes, Dear Reader. I wish you some jar-filling, too. Take a little time to do something that builds you up this weekend. Seek a time and space in which you can recognize what makes you feel whole. In a world of brokenness on so many levels, it’s hard to remember how “whole” feels. If you are having trouble remembering, Dear Reader, go on a little search. We cannot be strong enough to hold up and inspire others if we are walking around with irreparable cracks ourselves. I wish you great food this weekend, Dear Reader. How about some spaghetti and meatballs? Too heavy for summer? I made meatballs for my family twice while being down here, a beloved recipe from a church friend now being adapted by family here. I suppose the Massachusetts connection isn’t without some benefit… I wish you wise words in a great book. Maybe even a little bit of poetry, Dear Reader. Matter of fact, I wish you time at an outdoor festival or concert, and I wish you words that bring goosebumps and stir your soul. I wish you the unique and wonderful feeling of being so moved while sharing space with others. Connect with your neighbors and simply be in congregation with them, sharing nothing more than air and space and rhythm and the joy of being out on a nice day. I wish you laughter and tales told over good food and better drink. I wish you moonlight and cricket song. I wish you the heartbeat of the person you love beyond measure. I wish you the intimacy of a knowing, mischievous smile from across a room.
And I wish you the wonderful knowledge of just how loved you are, Dear Reader. You are loved. What you do matters. You light up the rooms you walk in. You make a difference in the communities you live and work in. You are marvelous. Do not doubt this. Don’t even wonder about it. Simply know it so that you may shine your brightest in this dark and complicated world. All you need do is be who you are. People will follow your lead. We’ll all be better for it.
Until Monday, breathe. Dance. Shine brightly. Love fiercely. Speak kindly.
and take care.