Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Honest Truth

"You can't catch me! You can't catch me!" a preschooler sings in front of the house next door. I can't see her, but i remember the bouncy pitch of that age. Words still a gooey in some spots.

"You can't catch me...!"

I walked away from the screen door and picked up the dustrag I'd left on the floor. I oiled and wiped and oiled and wiped, mindful to "clean under and not around" the frames and figurines and such. My mother had to remind me of that often as a kid. After a while she took to emphasizing "around" by stretching the vowels all the way out. "Arouuuuuuuuund," like this was the part of the directions I wasn't getting. Well, I learned that having to re-do chores --in a word-- sucked. So I stopped making my mother stretch her words out of shape and, now, I still clean under the knick knacks.

Truth be told, cleaning always feels more satisifying when you've done it well. Especially since I usually only find time these days to "tidy." Cleaning like this tends to happen in sporadic, Olympic bursts. Out of the blue, in between the basic maintenance, for instance, I might power wash the shower walls. It could happen. It could. Today, dusting happened. Probably because my spirit needed it more than the bookshelves. If there's a zen to cleaning house, I can get there: music, rote and methodical mechanics, plenty of wide open mental space for my thoughts to stretch and move around.

The new family of thoughts moved in today. Awkward. Tentative. Even though I expected them. I didn't know which post-divorce emotions would come around, so I've been braced for the worst. I mostly anticipated pangs of guilt. Without a doubt, I wrestled with the tonnage of my decision and how it would forever affect the people I cared about, including my husband. At the end of the day, guilt is not the emotion that seems to be settling in. Instead, it's an unnerving sense of vulnerability. In between the emotional grooves of "how," "why," and "what next," I feel infalliable and morbidly flawed inside the same breaths.

This weekend, I spent the day in Chicago visiting old friends, Crystal and Randy. Crystal and I worked together at a swanky bar when I lived there. She was a bartender; I was a cocktail waitress; and Randy was one of the regulars who eventually became one of Crystal's biggest fans. They reconnected some years later, flirted, dated, married, struggled, renewed, prospered, reproduced, rejoiced and, now, we're Sunday driving -literally- through tony Chicago neighborhoods imagining which houses could be theirs in five years.

These are the random moments I don't yet know what to do with. Sadness is the default assumption, but sad is not quite how I feel. What goes through my mind, instead, is "I don't have this anymore." There's no slow violin music, no mournful glance skyward, no heavy lids, no clenched fists. I just don't have it anymore. A co-dreamer. Bracelet-fastener. Hand-holder. Attitude-checker. Getter-of-my-jokes. I don't have it. This is called "coming to terms," I suppose.

Still, I'm monitoring myself objectionably close these days, staying alert for crippling side effects. I don't think I would become bitter, lonely, distant or depressed, but what would I know about the aftermath of ending an 11-year marriage? Nothing. What I do know is that my decision was unquestionably the right one. I do know that I'm cushioned in a new sense of peace and that I'm giddy optimistic about the future. But there are days when I don't feel so solid in this new footing. Those days, like today, are great for cleaning, especially when the promise of summer is gliding on the breeze through my new screen door and precious little girls are singing challenges from the sidewalk. Oil and wipe. Oil and wipe. I'll be one hundred percent again soon.

Oil and wipe. You can't catch me. You can't catch me.