Tuesday, September 04, 2012

four hundred days

Hello, dear reader. Forgive me for forsaking you. This hasn't been easy to write about. I fit the other persona much better -- the one with the recipes and the flowers and the poems and the optimistic can-do spirit. But I'm here and I wanted to thank everyone that has sent me such lovely letters and emails wishing me well and encouraging me. I don't know half of you. But I am ridiculously grateful for the love. Love, Miss W

Here's the strange thing about twenty-eight years with the same person: how little you know about them after so much time has gone by.

All the pictures of him in the house have been taken down. I've taken the last of his stuff out of the cupboard and have surprised myself how easily my clothes fill his space too. I've learned to grill, talk to the plumber, clean the pool filter, walk the dogs at night on my own with a flashlight, stack the dishwasher like he did (I always laughed at his meticulous stacking abilities), make a steak perfectly (searing hot grill on both sides & then pop it in the oven), use the remote control. There were razors and shampoo and medicine bottles left over, and ear plugs from Virgin America. All have been swept into the bin. The right hand side of the bed is still mine -- I hardly ever migrate over -- but the six pillows on each side have been replace by two, and the dogs have filled the space.

You try to behave with grace. You imagine how Jackie O would do it.  You dress up and do your hair and wear pink and lipstick and smile a lot, all the while knowing you're faking it. Every morning you choose to be happy, you pick it over anything else, and if it doesn't come immediately you make three cups of tea and drink them in quick succession. You walk on the hillside and watch the sun come up and the way the light glints in the pepper tree and the heady, optimistic blue expanse over the Hollywood Hills, and you call home and your mother cheers you.  You sing along to Lana Del Rey and Queen and Mumford & Sons.  And you walk into the office in heels with a big smile on your face and thank God and your lucky stars that there is a job, that there is something bigger than this to occupy you, so that your mind can be taken off of the bewilderment for thirty, one hundred, three hundred and now four hundred and four days.

Serve God love me and mend
This is not the end
Lived unbruised we are friends
And I'm sorry
I'm sorry

Sigh no more, no more

One foot in sea, one on shore
My heart was never pure
And you know me
And you know me

-- Mumford & Sons

 And most of the time, there is lightness. Friends visit and cheer. There are dinners and laughter and good books and sleeping under trees, and children -- the real tonic is the children -- and there are emails from friends and invitations to parties and work, lots of work, visits to foreign cities and filmsets and the things that seem glamorous. And one friends sends bath salts and funny letters. Another sends homemade granola. Yet another pink gooseberry jam.  Pink gooseberry jam is particularly good on your morning toast. Sweet yet a tiny bit sour, unctuous and plum-colored.  There is a lot of distraction and the distraction is the thing that floats you along. Distraction is good. Distraction is what buoys most of us, isn't it?

What isn't distraction is that moment when you're alone -- which for me probably means with dogs -- and outside, usually under the trees, when the light is just perfect, and you've been walking for so long, just one foot in front of the other that it feels like a rhythm you don't have to think about, and an overwhelming sense of wellbeing, of bliss comes over you. It's called lots of things. Emerson talks about it. Einstein. Blake. They all refer to it. It's the sense that you are exactly where you're meant to be and all is well with the world and there is a benevolent force -- some call it love -- surrounding you. Everything is connected. Everything has its purpose. Everything is all right.

And then there are the days when you can't get out of bed and you think about his arms around you, or him next to you with a cup of tea, or the petnames he used to call you when things were okay, before the damage set in, before the hearts were broken.

I'd like a walker, a consort, someone elegant and gallant to do things with. I discussed this with my friend G who has been staying with his lovely family. His wife has a good, spirit, and Irish warmth to her, a way of looking at the earth at once authentic and amused. It did me good to have her here, to giggle. And his colt-like children, nut-brown in the California sun, reciting the capitals of each American state, besotted by In-n-Out Burger.  "I'd consider a walker" I said to G. "You're a very scary woman" he said. Most people would be intimidated.  "I am as soft as a marshmallow" I say. "I was as shy as you when we were 18." "But now" he says "you'd probably have to leap someone's bones. They'd be too scared." This is a little depressing. Perhaps that's what happens when you never feel good enough. You try too hard. Only more than yourself is good enough. But I'm not like that when I'm outside, wrapped in the benevolence. (Now you must bear with me here, dear reader, for I do see that this is looking rather hideously woo-woo.)

It's impossible not to feel responsible. The what-ifs are endless.  If only I had been more, etc. etc. Even after four hundred days I'm not far enough away to understand what happens when two people who love each other can't live with each other any more.

There are dinners. There have to be dinners I suppose. Friends come to Los Angeles with their children for a summer holiday. We take them to Korean BBQ. Everyone loves Korean BBQ. The place we go to -- DMG, off of Vermont and 8th -- looks like a garage where John Travolta and the T-Birds fixed their cars while singing "Grease Lightnin'." People from out of town love it. Everyone is Korean and under 25 except for us. The food is delicious. So we do this. All of us. There is the awkward hug, the polite conversation, the furtive glances across the table and the sadness driving home.  There are breakfasts, once in a while, where we discuss the children and how lucky we are. But the real stuff remains unsaid. Probably will forever remain unsaid.  Years and years have gone by and those things were never said. They just existed in the air between us, hanging thick and just out of reach. "At arm's length" is what I said today. He didn't like it one bit.

I tell my children we're not quitters, but I wonder sometimes why these shreds I'm hanging on to are so important to me. I wonder why love is so hard to give up. It is all I know how to do. Love. And be loved. Right? I know, it's all very Moulin Rouge meets St Francis of Assisi. You cobble together bits and pieces where you can. Perhaps it's superstition. Perhaps it's hope. Or faith?

And tomorrow the sun will rise again and you wake up and you choose happiness.


materfamilias said...

My God but you can write! I am so moved by your honesty and careful thoughtfulness and sorrow and happiness -- makes me wonder how I'd do. Such a grievous hurt. But to discover such resilience must be, well, something. Especially not knowing you, you not knowing me, I'm paralyzed by the likelihood of sounding trite. Still, couldn't read this without commenting -- thank you!

Miss Whistle said...

There is nothing trite in a word you said. Thank you. I had wanted to say it for a long time.
Miss W

nancyblackett said...

It is something to be able to write this with such clarity and honesty but without being hateful to another person. It is very, very sad to have reached this place but your resilience is inspiring. Please let me know if you find a source of those walkers as I could do with one myself.g

Katherine C. James said...

This is particularly beautiful, Bumble. Love to you.

Moonboots said...

Your writing is beautiful. I have been waiting for this piece. It must have been hard to write but it is haunting.

I was a latecomer to blogging but your blog has inspired. I have read new and old posts. Please keep writing and choosing happiness. You deserve and will find it again in the small and big places. In the meantime keep walking.

k said...

Miss Whistle I love you. There is such grace in your writing-must be such grace in your being and the very fine skill of letting it be and shine.

Casoly said...

Gorgeous in all that this is - sad, hopeful, sorrowful. Probably not the right word, but it was the first to come to mind upon reading this. xo

LPC said...

I imagine everyone must be in love with us. I, a resolutely heterosexual middle-aged woman, have a terrible girl crush.

I do confess to a desire to sit you down, give you a couple drinks, and get the brute facts on the table.

But I'll settle for elegy.

Seedy said...

When I read this I am sad. But I and others know how powerful you are. Maybe more than you do.

Anonymous said...

nowDon't ever think you can't write a novel - such grace, passion, restraint ...

Warmest good wishes to you


ganching said...

A really beautiful piece of writing - both sad but hopeful. Everything passes eventually.

Miss Whistle said...

Thank you so much for all of your comments. There is so much strength to be derived from these positive sentiments. It is very kind and I am truly grateful. Love, Miss W xxx

Miss Whistle said...

Thank you so much for all of your comments. There is so much strength to be derived from these positive sentiments. It is very kind and I am truly grateful. Love, Miss W xxx

Lisa Bonchek Adams said...

I spend most of my time thinking and writing about grief and loss. They take many different forms and are elusive to capture in words. While they are some of the most intensely personal emotions, they are also the most universal. Your words have captured their elegance and danger so well.

My parents have just signed divorce papers after 50 years of marriage. I am constantly evaluating relationships in a whole new way these days. Thank you for this piece; it is a marvel.

Ann said...

You've given voice to such a difficult thing in such an achingly elegant way. I hope you find a walker who is worthy of your time, and with whom you can smile.