Walking home from church in the brightness of early afternoon, I inhaled deeply as I reached the street corner. Looking up, it was green for me to walk and I slowly exhaled as I did so. Checking in with my body, I found it relaxed, spent, almost sleepy. Inquiring further north, my mind was quiet, nothing in particular rattling around stirring up expectations, no dramas being hashed through, no critical voice demanding forward action. Nothing. Blissful peace of mind.
Recently I have come to realize that my studio door is really a time portal. Going out of it reminds me of the realities of the ever faster moving bit world beyond it’s sturdy frame. Coming back in is like stepping back into the seventies when my physical needs were met, I was safe, life was fairly quiet, and there was a dim hum of some future; but no one was home.
To this day, when I am alone I often have the sensation of being small and waiting for my mom to come home. As I enter my living space, I feel like I am eight coming home to an empty house, save for the cats and the dog. The silence is loud. My entire life I have paused to listen to the openness of that silence. My eight-year-old self had no comfort that the time alone would be brief. The expectation that I would soon be swept up in my parent’s love and attention was unrealistic and usually not met; but it didn’t keep me from hoping, dreaming, trying. When connection was not available and time stretched on, the silence would fill my head. Suddenly I would be void of thoughts, urges, movement. It was like someone took an eraser to the chalkboard in my brain. All that was written upon it was gone, no longer important. I remember moving with stealth through the empty house. Until the dog woke up, I was a prowler. Over time, the void permeated most of me. By the time I turned nine, I felt void of my body also. I existed outside myself most of the time, returning now and then out of the old hope that was once there.
We had moved yet again. This time it was with a man and we all lived in the same house. This was good because it meant that my mom would be home with me and not at her boyfriend’s. It was also good because it was almost like we were a family. My mom cooked, cleaned, ran things, and looked after me. It didn’t last long. Despite the structure, there wasn’t connection between my mom and I. It became clear to me that the house was his, she was just staying there, they were them, and I was just there. School was not going well for me. It was my fifth school and I was only in 4th grade. I was forever going to be out of the loop of kids that knew each other since kindergarten, I wasn’t from around there, hell I wasn’t even from that region of the country. That year I didn’t connect with my peers. Last Sunday while cleaning, I came across a diary from when I was 7, 8, 9, and 10. The entries were few and far between, hence covering four years, but the content was consistent. Beyond the normal angst whether a certain boy liked me or if a friend would betray me; there were entries voicing continued disconnect, hope fraying, and death talk. Of course there was the “I’ll just die/kill myself if such and such happens,” but there were also precursors to suicidal ideation. One entry sent me to the floor when I read it. I remembered it.
My mom and her boyfriend broke up and we spent the summer camping. It was a blast. My mom bought a blue 1967 stick-shift Ford Ranger, put an over-the-cab camper on it, loaded three cats, two dogs, and me up, and off we went. This was the best summer of my entire childhood. Three of the best months of my life. We got back right before school started, she married before the year was out, and I disappeared again. Her absences this time were just weekends away, but the new for sure, gone all night, rattled me as much as the gone-more-often-but-maybe-not-overnight behavior from before. It didn’t matter, I didn’t matter, she just wasn’t interested in me. Eventually I came to not mind, even look forward to her weekends away. It became a badge of honor that I was so responsible. I was eleven.
It has been nearly four decades, yet I still trip over time’s threshold walking into an empty home alone. That is, until I remember that the time is now. Real time is living in this world-class city as a grown-up with grown-up privileges and a bank account. Real time has me connecting with co-workers over new jobs, weddings, babies, funerals, and fundraisers. After six years, I am a vital part of a core group of eight at a 12-step meeting on Mondays. I am now in my first “clique”. At church I have a regular seat, regular peeps to sit with, and regular activities to attend with them usually riding shot-gun. I am a “regular” at a bar (I so never saw that one coming! I am learning Backgammon.) I belong to a “neighborhood” – these people are amazingly tight and interested in each other! I no longer have to wait on someone to come home to comfort me, to give me value, to direct me in the ways of the world. I have what I need right outside my door-portal.
Right here, right now, alone for hours in my studio choosing to write despite it’s risk to my bliss; I remain at peace. It is an absolutely beautiful, warm, sunny, spring evening; I think I will treat my amazing eight and eleven year-olds to a hotdog and chocolate shake at Superdawg.