Ice

February 24, 2015 § 31 Comments

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Maybe what cold is, is the time we measure the love we have always had, secretly, for our own bones. – Mary Oliver

The first snow flakes were half-hearted. I reminded myself I am so far below the Mason Dixon line that any snow here would be a fluke. And then the flakes got fatter and faster. By the time I folded some laundry and emptied the dishwasher, snow was definitely lining the porch railings. Even me – with my ability to bury my head in the sand – couldn’t deny the ground was white.

School had been closed before the snow even started, and the boys dug through a box of hats and gloves in the closet and went out with their friends, all of them off to the sledding hill and dragging their summer boogie boards behind them, the leashes improbably being used as tobaggon handles. The dog came out with me and spun and danced and tried to eat the freezing rain as it fell. We were out for so long I could no longer feel my face and Wags’ coat became frozen and clumped in sections. I remembered one of the things I comforted myself with during the scorching days of summer was that at least, living in North Carolina meant I wouldn’t have to walk around with ice in my hair during the winter. But it turns out I was wrong about that. It was like the sweet thought I had on my wedding day, that having a husband meant I would never be alone again.

Scott has been gone for nine months now, and I am weary. I feel ancient. I had thought the initial sadness and missing him would pass but it hasn’t. He is still gone and I see now he is the roots to my waving branches. When he was home for Christmas I felt everything settle, the way it does after an earthquake. When I woke up at night, I heard his breathing, and in the morning, he made coffee calmly and methodically – without pausing between scoops to make oatmeal or get water for the dog or take a handful of vitamins, the way I do.

Now I am back to being alone and waiting for the real mom to show up, the expert who knows what to do when my son says  “NO!” and the kids at school are forming cliques, and the teacher assigns those ridiculous word problems. Most days, I can fake it well enough that the veneer holds. I pack the lunches and uncrumple the homework. I dole out as many hugs as I can and sweep up the piles of leaves and bark that always fall out of Gus’ pockets. I try not to freak out when I get frustrated. I drive back and forth to the gym to teach yoga, but lately, I have been feeling like a fraud. I keep thinking that it shouldn’t be me up in the front of the room because I am just about certain that everyone can hear the anxiety and sadness and apathy clanking behind me like tin cans on a string.

Walking in the cold with the dog this morning, I listened to the particular silence of snow which is the exact sound of being alone. WIth Scott gone, I have been forced to look at the tree without leaves, the bare ground without a tropical swath of color, the grey sky without its oppulance of blue. My eyes have been turned towards all of those lonely and vast spaces inside, all of those corners haunted by self-doubt and fear and the smoldering ashes of anger’s old fire. When Scott was here, I had distractions and we had plans. I didn’t have the long stretch of bedtime to test my patience or the dark nights to mock my courage.

Now, I am like the tree in the front yard dropping icicles. These parts of myself I had thought were so solid are now showing themselves as brittle costumes, and it’s like that rotten old dream, the one where I have no clothes and am trying to hide behind a parking meter. My diet is irratic and inconsistent, sometimes consisting of food people normally turn into meals, and other days, I alternate green smoothies with bites of chocolate. Dinner is sometimes peanut butter on a pear and other times, a bowl full of pasta. I am still meditating consistently but I am hardly practicing yoga, sometimes managing 54 minutes, but never an hour. I tell myself it’s because my shoulder hurts, and this is somewhat true, but it’s a deeper frustration, a fear that there are some things yoga can’t fix.

Next week, an orthopedist is going to finally cut into my rotator cuff and fix the tear there, and I feel a mix of terror at the nakednes of it all and relief, that finally – maybe – the ache behind my heart will be repaired, that once again, I will be able to do a chatarunga and lift my arm over my head without the pinch of pain and the somber reminder of my impassable limits. I will be under anesthesia and then in a sling, forbidden for weeks to drive or write or chop carrots. It is both mortifying and terrifying to give up these central pillars of control, and yet, it also feels like sliding deeper into the stillness I entered months ago, a winter that has nothing to do with the ice outside.

This afternoon the boys came inside with a friend and I became swept up in the wonderful familiarity of trying to make food quickly enough to keep pace with their ravenous appetites. I listened to them talk about Legos while cutting apples and making hot chocolate and cleaning puddles of melting snow from the floor. When the kitchen was filled with their loud voices I felt like myself again – that person I was so sure I was. But then they ran upstairs to build a new Lego base, and it was quiet again – just me in the room listening to the freezing rain hit the windows. I watched as a curl of panic rose up like a specter and began to claw at the edges of the silence. The frightened ghost was me and not me. Maybe she is a piece of me, in a bathing suit, crouching behind a parking meter, trying to hide from the cold.

In December, in one of my yoga classes, I talked about the Celtic goddess Calilleach, who rules winter. She is a hooded old crone with perfect eyesight who freezes the ground with her staff and drops stones from her apron to form hills and mountains. I have been thinking about her again now, about her sharp discernment and her ability to lay the burden of her burdens down, allowing those heavy stones to slip from her pockets and fall. Without fanfare or nostalgia, she drops them, exposing them to the harsh winds of winter, and allows them to be shaped into something beautiful.

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§ 31 Responses to Ice

  • I stopped by your site the other day to see if you’d been writing lately and then, just now, this arrived in my inbox. I was happy to see it and am still enjoying the echoes of your prose as I type this comment. Your words must be your salvation in some way. I hope so. Your ability to capture the uniqueness and the universality of what you are experiencing never fails to strike me to the core. My days of being and feeling the anxiety of being alone with myself are, for the moment, in the distance. Instead, I find myself carving out time that empty. Lately, I have been revisiting the whole idea of who I am when I am alone and when I am bounded by the relationships in my life. You have given me more to think about.

    Peace and love to you, Pamela.

    • Pamela says:

      Thank you for reading Betsy. And for your insight. I think these are questions with answers that change often. I have been thinking of you in San Diego and of your light filled writing space. I will email you to catch up on your work.

  • Oh, I LOVE this, Pam. So beautiful. I know from our emails that the ice has landed, and as you know, we’re having a similar winter up here, different, obviously, but also frozen, quiet, cold, unusual. I love the notion of Scott as the roots to your waving branches. I’m sorry about the longing and the missing which haven’t abated … and glad that you are well more than halfway through the time away now. Sending you so much love. xox

  • Colleen Fleming says:

    Thanks for this beautiful writing, again. You have such a gift. Sorry for the pain and the anxiety of being alone. You are so strong. I love the part about trying to keep up with feeding the boys as they play with a friend. My son moved to California (he is 20) a month ago, and I got to experience that a couple of times while he was home on break with his friends. Two times they cooked for me, something for you to look forward to!
    Here is to connection and roots and flow. And healing, may your shoulder heal quickly and smoothly. Namaste.

  • Your writing is always beautiful the way you mingle words to harness the emotion in your days. This is one if your harder posts to read though and I finish with the desire to be near so I can bring you pink tulips and some vegan cookies along with a big hug. I hope you have help after the surgery, that’s no small matter. Pain has a way of stripping us naked and leaving us raw and exposed. Hugs honey hope this last stretch of time isn’t impossible.

  • Brenda Haris says:

    Pam, I love your writing and this piece in particular is just beautiful. I will be reading this one over and over again. Clint has been far away on a business trip for the last week and I always have to shift a bit when he leaves. It is hard – I will be thinking of you and praying Scott can return soon. You are not alone.

    • Pamela says:

      Dear Brenda
      I love that you and Clint have been together so long. I am sure it is hard when he is gone. Honestly sometimes the week longs are the worst because you don’t get a groove. Feeling your prayers and sending some back your way that the shifts are smooth. Xoxo

  • Katrina Kenison says:

    Pam, It feels cliche and utterly inadequate to say thank you for sharing this piece of yourself, for putting words to the rawness of loneliness and self-doubt and fear. But I’m so grateful, and thanks to you I’m a little less alone this morning in my own uncertainties. This is a stunning piece of writing, beautiful in all its cold, sere imagery. So yes, thank you.

  • the anxiety and sadness and apathy clanking behind me like tin cans on a string.
    the smoldering ash’s of anger’s old fire.
    Such poetry here.
    And reading this felt so intimate, like being invited into the quiet with you.
    Grateful.

  • kate says:

    it is always so lovely to read your writing, i think i say it almost every time, and it is never just a light compliment. man, this one. so quiet, snowfall, and whirl of kids and quiet of dissipation and longing longing. … this one. wish i could rub the back of your hands and bingewatch buffy for the weekend. …

  • I can feel the starkness of your surroundings and the space within you. Your words never fail to still and silence me so I can fully feel your aloneness–and the strength you inevitably summon, again and again.

  • This is so beautiful. Sending happy and warm thoughts your way. This has been such a crazy winter. So sorry that you are having to go through it without your roots.

  • Pamela says:

    Thank you. Sending warm thoughts your way too!! You have inspired me to read The Middle Place. I have only read Glitter and Glue. I am excited!

  • There’s my Pamela! Ah, man. Rotator cuff…ow. I know that’s a common Yoga injury, which I have not endured, but I wish you a speedy recovery.

    I’ve actually decreased my Yoga practice to twice per week, sometimes three for a Yin class. I didn’t get injured, but I did get burnt out. I’ve been swimming and dancing this past month and it’s been awesome. Good to keep the body and mind guessing.

    • Pamela says:

      Oh thank you Britt! It’s such a comfort to know a yogi like you takes breaks too. Thank you for your good wishes and I’m so happy to hear you are dancing!

  • Sending audible “I adore yous” through the ether.

  • dmenconi says:

    Extraordinary, as always.

  • Julie says:

    Such beautiful writing, Pamela. This piece, with your quiet strength, resonated so much with me.

    Wishing you a speedy recovery from your surgery. Namaste 🙂

  • Cathy says:

    “Most days, I can fake it well enough that the veneer holds.” Have no fear, we are all faking it to some degree? At least I know I am and take comfort in thinking that most others are as well.

    Fake it til you make it. No one but yourself will be the wiser. And give yourself a break too. Single parenting is hard. You need to check out and I hope you find something that allows you the ability to decompress. Sounds like yoga isn’t it right now due to injury, but again, hope is on the horizon.

    I know too well the disappointment reality brings to the notion marriage and a husband means never having to be lonely again. Hugs my friend.

  • Christa says:

    Oh honey. I just found this. In the middle of a nice storm.

    I miss you. I’m writing my book arms wish you were here to read it aloud to. And the boys are getting so big.

    And yet that can’t be anything next to the hole you must feel with Scott gone. And now the surgery.

    All I can do from here is send love. Which I do. Always, P. Always.

    C

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  • jessiepbraun says:

    This is just so lovely and raw that it leaves me breathless. If I had to choose a favorite section: “WIth Scott gone, I have been forced to look at the tree without leaves, the bare ground without a tropical swath of color, the grey sky without its oppulance of blue. My eyes have been turned towards all of those lonely and vast spaces inside, all of those corners haunted by self-doubt and fear and the smoldering ashes of anger’s old fire. When Scott was here, I had distractions and we had plans.” Ugh. Yes. I know this loneliness. Thank you for putting it into words. You have such a gift. xoxo

  • Always, your words make me feel as if you’re slipping your hand into mine while saying, “Me too, sweetie. Me too.” Much love to you. xoxo

  • Anne says:

    You words are so very powerful…but the thought from this passage that is still echoing in my own head is about you on your wedding day, believing that you will never be alone again because you have a husband. I like to tell myself, late at night when I am trying to manufacture calm, that ten years from now, nothing in my life will be the same as it is now. Not the kids, the distances and certainly not me. It is about the only thought that keeps me from walking out of my life to heaven alone knows where sometimes. Your writing shows much inner strength. Wish you peace and wholeness. Good luck with the rotator cuff repair.

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