Dunno why I feel so sad today.
Just back from a weekend in the mountains. Ought to feel refreshed and happy.
Expectations… To put it in perspective, however, I have a high-school friend with a husband and four children and who is dying of leukemia; and another friend both of whose parents have been diagnosed with cancer. And I’m sitting here feeling “sad.”
Where I sat the first day.
This weekend I was in a remote place. No phone reception; hardly any internet. It was healthy to be disconnected. … All the while, though, I kept wondering how it would be when I got back. How I would transition back into connection.
We walked dark trails that crossed waterfalls.
The waterfall we saw on Saturday.
We drove deep into forests, along high ridges and down, and the road gave out onto broad fields with rolls of hay and black cows. We were told to park by the shore, near the campers. And there was the swimming hole.
It was cooler on Saturday; a screen of cloud covered the sky but the sun bored through bit by bit and heated the flat rocks by the river. The water had carved a deep channel at that spot. And on the other shore, an old brown rope with five knots, hanging from a tree. Much too high for my son, who simply jumped from the cliff.
I lay on the rocks and listened to the river making its music, and my son’s laughter and screams.
We ate grapes and cheese and crackers.
My guys sat in the “natural jacuzzi,” a place in the shallow falls where the water cascaded over their shoulders. Still I didn’t get wet. One of my recurrent nightmares is diving under, being unable to get to the surface in time, and being forced to inhale the water just before I wake up.
I took photographs. I watched the yellow Swallowtails sail up the shoulder of the hill on the opposite shore and thought about the many times I used to get drunk in this state when I’d worked there 20-odd years ago… How I’d always meant to visit this section but never thought I could do it on my own. How I was always afraid of the good ole boys I’d inevitably meet out on the road. (Just digging the towels out of the car that afternoon, in those two minutes, I’d had to deal as one of them pulled up and stopped the truck: “How’s the water, darlin?” “It’s nice,” I said, shortly. For godsake.) How my accent said I wasn’t local. I couldn’t take care of myself. I was afraid of everything, the water, the roads, the wildlife, the men, everything.
The meeting last night was about “people, places and things.” People talked about how they’d changed their lives when they got sober—hauled up stakes and moved; changed partners and friends or lived alone for a long time. “Hibernated,” one woman said. I thought back to two years ago when I got sober. I couldn’t do that. I had a husband and a child, a house, a garden.
A husband and child I was afraid of; a house and garden I’d ignored for a long time.
My addiction made me leave people, places and things. I was afraid of almost everything and everyone I loved, and I either avoided or left them.
People that I loved—not just my husband and son, but friends, colleagues, and family.
Places that I loved: despite having the resources to travel, I’d refuse to plan vacations with my husband. Having fun and being happy threatened me.
It still does.
I left things. The number of valuable things I’ve lost—or “forgotten,” left behind—I’m ashamed to say. Even if it’s just a special stone that I used to carry in my pocket. My carelessness with things I love comes from my belief that I don’t deserve them. It’s a kind of reverse-arrogance. I’m super-specially-low.
As my husband and son were taking their last swim in the river before leaving, my husband asked me if I were finally going to get wet, and as I shrugged, he called, quietly, “Wimp.”
“What did you say?”
He laughed softly and turned his back.
I jumped in and swam the channel to the other shore. The depth of the hole stole my breath—whenever I swim and my feet can’t touch the bottom, my diaphragm seizes, and I had to turn my mind to my breathing so I didn’t panic. Once I’d recovered, I could see the beauty of the valley from the surface of the water. The ridge bent a curved reptilian backbone against the sky. I grew up in a place on a river. Everything looks different once you get out on the water… if you can bring yourself to get out there.
My son was ecstatic. He’d already scrambled up the cliff and was waiting for me, shivering, lips tinged cyanotically.
I pulled myself up the slick boulders.
Once up I could see a natural set of steps to the top, decorated with pale-green lichens.
It was perhaps 12 feet. At the top, it looked so high… And the mesas of limestone beneath the water shone through in the pale sunlight. We’d have to jump far out. If we slipped…
There are so many things I want to do with my life. Why is danger always the first thing I see?
“OK, Mom . . . one—two—three!”
How do the Swallowtails manage to fly so high with such light wings?
I jumped four times. HP leading me to take risks and have faith, I guess.
Then swam upstream and put my hands against the old boulders and let the current wash over me.
I wish I could feel that clean and relaxed all the time. But life is not about what I “feeeel.” It is what it is.