Go to the ocean
- Get a room with a view
- Eat fish and chips, mac and cheese, or whatever your favourite comfort food is for breakfast.
- Drink vodka, whiskey, red wine.
- Wear “too much” or “too little” make-up.
- Read Big Magic; choose to abide by it (or at least try really hard).
- Start a bucket list.
- Write a letter.
- Take a long bath in the afternoon with a coffee-grind mask that stains the white bathmat and will make the housekeepers wonder.
- When you are tired, pass out to the dulcet tones of British TV shows about antiques.
- Remember your Old Life—then let it go.
- But check in with the people you love back there, in your Old Life. Don’t let them go.
- Know you absolutely can do it in a new way. Then cry, because half the time you don’t believe this, really.
- Do yoga despite the heartburn, with a focus on the hips.
- Watch TV—but not for more than an hour at a time.
- Smile at the old people playing bridge in the lobby of the antiquated hotel, and at the mob of red-faced, navy-blazered Old Boys’ club that gathered around the bar one evening, all bald-headed and jovial.
- Smile at the kids playing in the sand, chasing the seagulls…until the mother pulls out bread bits to feed to the seagulls (please don’t feed the birds).
- Smile at the arthritic and slightly wet black lab trying to nose into your medoicre-at-best breakfast fish and chips.
- Re-do your website.
- Share a story in the secret women’s-only Facebook group.
- Decide to pug sit in Hollywood over Christmas.
- Wonder how one person could possibly be so content.
- Wonder how one person could possibly feel so distant from those that she loves.
- Go to the aquarium and simultaneously marvel while dipping into a concrete sort of sadness; you want to be with these creatures, but (mostly) not like this.
- Take the French lessons you’ve been meaning to take for 2 years.
- Practice finishing what you started.
- Take a social media/job-search break for 12 hours to read Beautiful Losers and write.
- Tell stories about the time you saw a giant tortoise eat it’s own…well, maybe not. It was more the reaction of the other observers that was priceless.
- Forget about how the much-younger-but-still-cold-and-overly-formal bartender kept calling you “Ma’am.”
- Enjoy the shit out of the complementary tea, custard creams, gingerbread and shortbread that sits waiting in every hotel room there, ’cause they just don’t do that at home.
- Don’t worry that you were 2 hours away from Stonehenge with a completely open schedule but still didn’t go and see it. You will be back soon enough.
- Turn everything off and just read.
- Colour with the window open, sitting on the floor, watching the sunset, with the sea breeze cooling your wine-warmed face.
- Wonder (stop wondering) why you can’t seem to be in love with the right person, ever.
- Find a new rhythm.
- Eat fruit slowly.
- Devote yourself to living by the sea in a more permanent way.
- Don’t let the cheapness of the combed sand or the too-small aquarium tanks or pier toll sway you from just visiting places like kitchy, old-timey beach towns. Those are really the best, anyhow.
*Note: I wrote this thinking that my beloved Pops was not going to make it out of the hospital this time, but alas, he should be on his way out, and so I feel like a bit of a fool for all this emoting, but it still stands as a testament to all that we have and are. I am so glad that we get to keep him for at least a little longer.
I wake every morning with that heaviness in my chest, my gut.
He’s not gone, but we all know that it’s just around the corner and our lives will be forever different when he’s gone.
Mom must be feeling this same heaviness ten-fold.
Dad, I know you are alone and scared. And maybe a bit accepting of it all, because you are pragmatic and brave like that.
I’ve never loved anyone so much in my life, and yet I’m terrified of this next phone call. I don’t want to know that he’s in pain; I don’t want to hear his weak, strained voice; I don’t want to think about him frail in that hospital bed, tubes shoved crassly under his skin, stuck to a machine—that’s not My Dad.
Though there was this moment, on the last visit there. There was a moment. And a few before that. The older he got, the more these moments of actual, deep soul would pop out, as a sort of childlike innocence. He was no longer trying to be cool…he was just so much more himself. Occasionally this even curmudgeonly, which we laugh about, because he’s not really that way.
But there was this way that he seemed so vulnerable when the nurse lifted up his shirt to check his heart as we were sitting in the big easy chairs in the waiting room, watching Jeopardy. How kind she was. How kind he is.
The way that he seemed so excited to teach me exactly how to make a proper omelette.
That giggle, the smile.
That time, he came back from the hospital. He came back to be with me. And there’s so much more we needed to talk about, then, and I wanted to, and now we have no time. I want more stories, more out of the stories he’d already shared, and now there’s no time.
His heart is failing.
How could someone with a heart so big have it just fall apart like that?
Maybe he didn’t take care of himself so well. Or maybe something like this would have happened regardless…who knows.
But death comes for us all.
Yesterday was okay. I felt less emotional, I knew he was okay. I somehow managed to stay feeling pretty balanced and good in my head, my own heart. I don’t know what it will feel like when he is actually gone, but I know what he will always want me to do: dust myself off, get on the road, raise a glass to life.
Follow the road, no matter how unclear the path appears.
Read up on history. Ask questions.
Talk to people.
I’m going to Europe in two days, as planned. Because he insists. He insists because the thing that matters most is to taste life, to keep exploring, learning. To stay curious about the unknown, and not let anyone or anything hold you back.
“We write to taste life twice.” ~ Anais Nin
I learned from him to taste it once, to risk, to make mistakes, to go forward no matter what, into the uncertainty.
And I write now for him.
It seems strange to not rush to be with him, but as a family, that’s how we roll. We are free spirits. And I need to go. I didn’t really even know why, before. I don’t know what’s out there–but that’s exactly why I have to go. And he gets that.
Soon you will be free of you pain and suffering, and you will rest, but in body only. In some way, your spirit will be the most free.
I will always carry you with me, but no one soul will ever know me like yours does.
I want to let go now—to finally, completely stop.
I am tired of looking at my reflection and almost breaking into tears when I see how, at certain angles (most angles) my body puckers and hangs and bulges the wrong way.
This is mostly the life I want, but my body tells me a different story. It tells me the story of my careless behaviour, of how I don’t mind for it as well as I could. I don’t feel that this body is me—which suggests that my actions are not in alignment with my values, my health. I can try to appreciated what this does for me, objectively, as a “unit,” but mostly I don’t feel that I belong in it.
So it’s not just about fat, it’s about the way I’m being with myself.
Eating and drinking for pleasure is one of my favourite things, but it can’t be my main every day pleasure. Not now. Not as a reaction to loneliness or stress or general malaise.
I do not wish to feel that whiskey-induced darkness, confusion and fatigue the morning after.
I am tired of asking questions, of wondering how they could possibly come and go with such ease, be entirely present and then forget about me. (You forgot once, and I’m sure you will again.)
I’m tired of falling into that belief that noone cares, when really it’s me that holes myself up, mostly out of healing, and mostly by choice.
I’m tired of wondering when that consistency will come, that feeling of being wholly loved, every day, of trying to reconcile that one memory from a few months or years ago, that feeling of completeness with the loneliness now. I’m tired of wondering how then and now can even be the same life.
I am sick of wondering what you are doing, thinking, feeling, of being scared to reach out and ask, because it means I want something. And that’s so obvious.
I am tired of wanting, of trying to reconcile this screened-shut world with some semblance of reality that consists of actual caring. When many of the people on the other end are basing their thoughts of me on a digital image or two, I just want to scream at them: That’s not me! Will you please step out from behind the screen and just come and just see ME, the real me, warts and all?
Will you just love me, in real life, once and for all?
I’m tired of thinking about this—exhausted, really. (And besides that, I promised that I would never ask for you to love me.)
I am tired of the way people seem to not want to make eye contact or small talk, day to day, maybe because I’m not French or maybe because I seem closed-off.
But I’m tired.
I will no longer fall back on nostalgia. I will not let sentimentality or some unfounded hope guide my words or my actions.
I remember how I felt beside you on that beach, you at that movie and you at that concert: I remember how complete and whole and real and present I felt during some of those times; then in other moments, I remember how my own stomach-knot screamed your feelings at me—feelings ranging from general apathy to just wanting to not be there, with me, then.
I could sense clearly what you were(n’t) feeling, but you couldn’t—or if you did know, you didn’t have the balls to say. So I would try to silence the knot in my stomach, to smooth everything out, to flirt and be nice and say sorry and “fix us,” but eventually that knot won out. So I had to walk away because you weren’t brave enough or strong enough, even though you were the one who didn’t want me.
Sometimes being “nice” is the worst thing we can do.
I am sick of remembering all of these things, even the good stuff.
I am sick of the cycle of believing that this or that particular high will fix things—sometimes a high can shift things, certainly—even in positive ways—but a fix is never really a fix.
This may seem melancholy but in fact it’s not, because I am saying that I am actually done. I am coming to terms that this, me, right now, crampy and bleary-eyed in this too-expensive hotel room, writing for a reason that I don’t quite know. I am choosing to do this, now: write, hike in the sun, be somewhere new, smile at the dog, chat with a friend, swim in the pool, stretch.
I will love growing into my career and my body and will keep fighting for some semblance of active community and forget about (romantic) love for a while because clearly it’s just not showing it’s face and I have to let it go.
I am choosing to sink into the good, solid things about today, because I am done with the rest.