1. Almost all the sounds are yours. And the ones that aren’t – the dry crunch of leaves along the side of the house, they’re either animal or man. Man is the heavier step, the raccoon and the possum are more tentative, more low to the leaves. And if you’re scared, you can get out of bed, like you did last night and stand by the window, flicking on the outside light to watch a little mouse duck under your house.
2. Your ex-husband left you a woodpile, which you need to load into the wheelbarrow and stack in the wood bin. It’ll take some time, but the gift will be the way you’ll remember how to use your body, the way you’ll bend to pick up the pieces he split, tossing them into the wheelbarrow, which you’ll make too heavy, lifting the handles, and wheeling it over to the wood bin. You love this honest labor.
3. The pile has been there for three weeks, ever since he drove away to New Mexico, and while it’s true you haven’t had the time to get to it, you like looking at the pile sitting in the yard because it reminds you of this act of love – the way he rented the wood-splitter to split the wood from the dead tree that came down.
4. Your love language is service, and as long as you can see the pile, you can feel the love. Maybe this is why asking for help feels so intimate.
5. There are people to call for the jobs you don’t know how to do; the cat door that needs to be replaced because the raccoons and possums use it too. And if you could figure out how to get the hot water to flow faster you wouldn’t waste as much as you do now – plus the drought. And if you take the time, you can probably figure out how to get the handle back on the grill, change the tall bulb in the kitchen, sell the futon, and stain the kitchen floor from all those years of cats, dogs, dinners, and family.
6. “Buy a pitchfork,” your ex instructs before he heads to New Mexico. It’s for the compost bin he spent half a day digging into and turning, a job you’d avoided for two years, thinking that one day the horrible mess of rotten fruit and eggshells, coffee grounds and vegetables would magically turn into glistening black soil.
7. You always knew you’d need to be part of a herd. A family. Not because you wanted to be a mother, it’s that you wanted to be in the center of things, needed, busy, protected from a solo-ness that shadowed you since you were a child, and what you feared that meant about you.
8. You married the first man, the nicest man, the one who smelled like spareribs, the one who led you blindfolded into craters in the desert and wrestled with you on the beach. He’d give you the shirt off his back, and sometimes that’s all he had. You had two rascally daughters together who roller skated through the house, and who chased the dog, who chased the cat, who let the raccoons and the possums in. Messy, beautiful, noisy. You baked as many birthday cakes as you could.
9. “You will become conscious,” says the Jungian therapist, Marion Woodman, “there are two ways. 1) You walk nobly down the path and take your lumps. Or 2) Fate will drag you down like a squealing pig. Either way, you will become conscious.”
10. You love the wind. And you love the silence. And if you can stand it, you try to sit nobly in that silence and watch the parade of fears and bright ideas pass without jumping up and running after each one of them; How much time do I have left? Will I partner again? Will I have the courage to get past the nasty voices and write that book? Can I tolerate my own mediocrity on the road to making something beautiful?
11. You can still see the way your date’s eyes teared up 10 minutes into meeting him when he showed you the picture of his kids from 13 years ago, when they were small. It was the way in the few words he used you knew he was feeling regretful for something he’d done or hadn’t done before he left their mom, or after he’d left their mom – all those missteps.
12. “Don’t follow the wrong dog home,” is what Gary, our old therapist used to say about the mind and how easy it was to go running after thoughts like they were real, when they were just some bad story you were telling yourself.
13. Another day, another chance to begin again; compassion for me, compassion for you, the front door wide open for the wind, the woodpile winking in the sun.
Listen to Laurie read this post …
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