Saturday, September 19, 2009


I am sad. I have been vigilantly emptying boxes and sorting through the tangible remains of my past. I have paged through photo albums, stood looking at framed artwork trying to decide where and if to hang it, and finding out just how many of some things I somehow accumulated (like the absurd number of throws I had until I got rid of a lot of them).
I’ve put in the donation box the pile of tapered leg jeans, the cropped shirts, and the Jane Fonda style workout gear. (No, the rest of my wardrobe isn’t a tribute to the 80s. I don’t know what that was about.)
I’ve been able to zero in on the moment of my life that I abandoned the photo albums I kept filling for decades and began to keep pictures only on my hard drive. Despite how relentlessly I (thought I’d) weeded my possessions, I had a stunning collection of fast-becoming obsolete electronics and accessories.

For almost twenty years, even with my cross-country moves, I had a sense of stability, a grounded-ness, and the concept of a home base.
I had a garden that I worked on for years, spending the winters with my catalogs and gardening books, spending the springs watching for growth and weeds, and all the time pruning and digging and mulching and trimming. Smelling, literally, the roses, listening to the rustle of the cottonwood tree, the music of the birds, the skitter of the squirrels. I always had dogs. I brought to the house my sweet doberman and my lab/shepard mix. Then there was a brief succession of “temporary dogs” – including roommates’ pets. Then there was Molly, my first purebred black lab, joined 3 years later by Maggie, the other one. The neighborhood was a grid of residential streets lined with sidewalks, at the end of which was a lake that was eventually surrounded by a walking path. Throughout the neighborhood there were people that recognized me because I walked the big black dogs all the time, and many of them knew which house I lived in. There were also quite a number of people who would comment to me when they saw me about things they’d noticed while driving by my house: improvements I’d made, or cars they’d seen parked in my driveway. I had the same Vet for 20 years. I spoke at a few City Council meetings, and once had a meeting with the mayor in his office. I was recognized in that town and I felt like I belonged there.

I had never had that feeling before that in my life, except in Yosemite. For the past four years I’ve been living in a little box with my nose in my keyboard, and raising my baby.

For the past week or so, as the number of cardboard boxes has diminished, and I’ve been finding a place – or not – for my things, I’ve felt the past following me around, like my dogs used to do. As I confront each pile of stuff from my life, I can’t help but remember so many things. Some of it is deeply painful.
Something I read yesterday really shook me up, and I wish I could write about it. Let’s just say for now that my past contains a period of about seven years in my youth that were obscured by trauma, and that have – to varying degrees – affected me ever since.
It doesn’t always hang over me like a storm cloud, but sometimes, and usually at random, it finds a way to seep into my soul and run like icewater through my veins.
I used to say that my house was my sanctuary. It was solid, and secure, and it wasn’t an accident (although I was aware of the irony) that it had a big oak door and was “patrolled” by big black dogs. The roses and the windchimes softened the affect, but – like the third little pig – I chose a house made of bricks.

I don’t feel unsafe here in this new place. It is amazingly tranquil and bucolic, along with the gates and the security. But I am still a ghost here, so far. Even now with my daughter, I blend into the scenery of the little families and suburban normalcy. I am invisible.

That is what, sooner than economic need, will drive me back to work, and soon. I have a few mundane tasks around here to complete, and then I will be pursuing employment.


  1. I'm sorry you're sad. I hate that :(
    Just remember how far you've come- and how much you've accomplished.
    feel better soon!

  2. ((((((hugs))))))

    Looking through old boxes of stuff is a melancholy business under the best of circumstances. You start to wonder if you own the stuff or if the stuff owns you.

    This is a fresh start, in every possible way. Embrace it! I'm rooting for you every step of the way. xoxo

  3. All things in good time, MM. You will find your place there. It's easy to latch onto the past when we are in transition, even if that past is painful, because it is familiar. That will fade away as you slowly put down roots in the present. Hang in there.

  4. Thank you, all. I really appreciate the kind words.