I didn’t realize the magnitude of the infernal funk I have been in until I went for a walk today. The sun was shining, the snow was melting, and I walked without mittens or a hat for the first time in ages. The light felt warm and divine on my sun-starved face. I thought to myself “so THIS is what it’s like outside. I nearly forgot. And it’s been out here all this time.”
It seems like ages ago when I was not under house arrest. When I could put Maggie in the baby jogger when I got home from work and take a tour of the neighborhood before dinner. Each morning brought with it a number of choices, all of them pleasant. Do we go for a walk to the park first, and then the pool? Do I garden while Maggie naps? Should we eat dinner outside on the patio? Stroll around the neighborhood? Things are so much easier. Emotionally, I just weigh less in the summer.
For the last 3 months my choices have been much more limited, and much less appealing. Do we watch Sesame Street again? Am I turning her brain to mush? Is it lunchtime yet? Should we go to Target? Can I run on the treadmill in the basement during her nap? Can a person die from Seasonal Affect Disorder? YUCK.
I find myself wanting to change everything. Change careers, take singing lessons, start my own Cable Access television show. Re-vamp my life.
I started to think of a time 5 years ago. February, 2001. I was living with my old boyfriend in a tiny attic apartment. We had been dating for 3 years. I was impatient. I wanted to move forward, but I was terrified to admit it, even to myself. He and I didn’t talk about things like that. I floundered and he detached. I started questioning and he grew increasingly remote. I wanted to buy a house, he waffled. I wanted to get a dog, he said no way. He thought it was cute, his little girlfriend, wanting a dog. And he said no. I felt patronized and small and misunderstood. It was as though he was deaf, or he didn’t care, or both. I started to wonder if we were better at being friends than we were at being in a relationship.
His family, who I adored, planned a fancy dinner out. It was decided that the event was to be family only. I wasn’t family. I wasn’t invited. And I was crushed. I refused to admit it to him, but I was devastated.
The night they had dinner without me at the best Steakhouse in Minneapolis was the night I went to a friend’s house, drank too much wine, and kissed my husband. We stayed up talking until 5 a.m. in the morning. We slept in the same bed that night, fully clothed, mind you. I awoke, feeling groggy and hungover. I was smiling.
The next night, my old boyfriend and I went to Orchestra Hall. He felt guilty for leaving me out of the party the night before. He was afraid I was angry. We went to the show, and I thought about the previous night. How I felt kissing Jim. I felt small, and safe, and desired. I went over and over the previous night in my mind. Sitting next to my boyfriend, I was nauseated. I had sickening shame in the pit of my stomach. I was cold with guilt. We went out for a burger afterwards, and I tried to eat. It felt as though I was trying to swallow sawdust. I played sick, and we went home early. Everything was wrong.
A week later, I made Valentines Dinner for us. He criticized me for the time and energy I spent making a decadent cake, complete with a dark chocolate mold and long-stem strawberries. I cut my knuckle badly grating Gruyere cheese for the endive gratin. I made filet of beef tenderloin. We sat at our little table in our attic apartment and ate.
After dinner, we walked down the street for a beer. On the way home, I told him how I felt. I told him again that I was afraid that we were meant to be friends. That we wouldn’t work as a couple. I hoped that upon hearing my concerns, he would show me the glimmer of passion I desperately needed to see. That he would fight for me. He didn’t. He said he wondered too sometimes, if we were better as friends, and he shrugged. We went to bed.
I took the cake to work the next day, and a male coworker jokingly asked me to marry him.
I moved out 6 weeks later. Spring came, and the sun returned and brought warm weather with it.
I quit my job. I got a new apartment. I got a new job. I started seeing Jim. I tried not to look back. I have not spoken to my old boyfriend since that spring.
I ran away from my old life and I started a new one. Just like that.
They say a lake “turns over” every year in the springtime. It flip-flops completely. What was on the bottom moves to the top, and the top sinks to the bottom.
I wonder if it has to be so all-encompassing.
It’s springtime again. I feel compelled to make a change. But this time I pause and think. What it is that I really want? What are my instincts telling me? What am I running away from? What monster is chasing me? If I don’t muster up the courage to turn around and face it, that very same monster will be forever two steps behind me. I need to stare it down.
I am different now. I am a mother. I have roots. I think of the phrase “throwing out the baby with the bathwater”. This time, I will start small.
It’s springtime. Time to clean house. NOT time to pack up and move to a new one altogether. That was the old me. This is the new. Here I am, washcloth in hand, looking for a place to start.