22. The Horizon

For those who follow me on social media, this will come as repeat news. It has taken me a few days to make it over to the blog for an update. 

The very excellent news is that I have been admitted to VCU’s Ph.D. in Education Leadership, Policy, and Justice. It is one of two programs I applied to. Last year, on the same day that my brother died, I received the news that my application had been denied. I didn’t know if I had it in me to reapply, especially with so much uncertainty on the horizon, but with the encouragement of a professor I collaborated with in the Fall, I decided to give it a shot. 

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21. January 27, 2020

The question I am asked most often is, “what happened?” What could have possibly led someone as outgoing, generous, and gregarious as my brother to take his own life? 

I think I understand that answer a lot more now than I did a year ago, though no one will ever be able to say exactly what was going through his head. I don’t know if it is for me to surmise, or to write about. Perhaps in time but certainly not yet. For now, I can only tell my story, witness the places where it overlaps his own. I keep moving from room to room, setting down and picking up items, looking out the window, sitting, standing. I am waiting for some revelation. I am trying to untangle the pieces. Time folds in on itself. The beginning and end and everything in between. 

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20. Time

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately, mostly because I’m in a place to observe how I spend it. That is probably true for most of us lately.

I’ve been asked a few times recently how I’m spending my days. It’s a tough question to answer. Last week was slightly derailed by the third semi-move we’ve made in the last year. Roughly half our belongings fit into our new apartment, which is roughly half the square footage of our old one. The rest were stored in my mother’s garage, which was attached to the house that she just sold. With a closing date looming, it came time to sort the remaining things. What a strange thing to decide the emotional value of physical belongings. And I’m not entirely sure I would have been able to conjure the energy to do so if it weren’t for my dear friend Sara, whose ability to make one laugh in the midst of a poo-storm is absolutely remarkable. She deserves a special shout out today, because she made the absolute worst task seem like a simple afternoon of girl-bonding time, just as delightful as getting pedicures on a sunny day.  

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19. 2021

Hi. Me again. I wish I could say I woke up this morning hungover from the revelries of New Year’s Eve celebrations, but I was in bed by 10 last night. Instead, I woke up with what Brene Brown refers to as a “vulnerability hangover.” Last night was the first time, perhaps since I was four, that I didn’t stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve. That’s always been an uncompromisable tradition for me, but this year, I simply couldn’t muster the will. 

In reflecting this morning with a little more clarity and grace, I understood something deeply significant. 

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18. The Bleak Midwinter

December 25. Christmas Morning. 

I get up early to start breakfast. I make my daughter her favorite hot chocolate- lactose-free milk topped with fresh-made whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg. I want it to look picturesque and abundant, as though I might cram all my best intentions and care-worn love into that single cup. By the time she comes downstairs, the whole of it has grown cold. And anyway, she says, her stomach hurts. It sits forgotten, the fluffy white peaks caving in on themselves. Unwanted, unneeded. I take this in. Motherhood, the teens years.

Her godmother and grandmother arrive, and we watch as she slowly works her way through the piles of wrapped boxes and stuffed bags. We have each overcompensated for this shitty year by buying a few extra things. Still, she is grateful. Still, it seems normal and cozy and worth the effort. 

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17. Home

When I was nearly four, our home burned to the ground. It is one of my earliest memories. We were at church when my uncle appeared to tell us the news. Red-faced and sweaty in his denim overalls, he made his way up the aisle, a stark contrast to the congregants clad in their Sunday best. I watched the interruption ripple through the rows, heads swivelling and mouths falling open. 

When we pulled up to the house, I could see directly into the second story bedroom my sister and I shared. Daylight intruded into the room and I recall feeling a sense of exposure that all the world could see into our private space. And yet, the graceful, hand-carved frame of our bed stood unscathed, the white comforter pristine amidst the charr and ruin that surrounded it. It looked like a painting, an intensional juxtaposition of beauty and ruin. 

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16. Joy

I realize my writing has been sporadic the past few weeks. I returned to the full force of life… in all its glory… and my attention has been pulled in many directions. 

We returned to Charlottesville last week. I stayed with friends and my daughter returned to my mom’s, where she is better set up and equipped to do virtual schooling. A dear friend of ours got married, which offered a welcome break from some of the stressors of life. I got to do maid-of-honor-ish sorts of things, which felt productive and life-giving. We set up a small, backyard wedding (the BIG event has been moved to next year), and it was amazing! I realized int the midst of it how few moments of celebration have been had this past year. Like… none. I was dizzy with euphoria at witnessing a friend experience good life things… love and partnership and big steps forward.  

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15. Life Can Be Beautiful

PART I

Because a storm sweeps across the island on the day I am meant to leave, my departure is delayed. I spend two days perched on the edge of whatever must come next. Two days of bluster and white-capped seas and the whole world holding its breath to the count of electoral votes. On Wednesday, I board the ancient ferry clutching a handful of native flowers. I inch near a sublime sort of elation and toss the colorful weeds out the window. An island tradition, a promise to one day return. I inhale the possibilities with the last of the salt air but know I don’t really mean it. I convince myself I have found the courage to build a new life for us. But really, it is only that it has come time to leave. I watch the green-gray of the island fade from sight. 

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14. Winter

Before I jump into this next piece, I just want to say… I’m sorry (in a sorry-not-sorry kind of way) for spending so much time tooling around the dregs of my soul. Melanie is gone and the Cracked Mug is closed (to tourists at least) and I am finally faced with the hours of solitude I need but don’t entirely want. A friend texted today and referred to Monhegan as “emo make-believe land,” which, I will concede, is pretty accurate (but also entirely rude!). And/but also, it is one of the most real things I’ve ever experienced- the land, the emotions, the unfolding. All of it.

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13. Bended Knee

My earliest memories used to be close to me, the jumble of them kept around like a lucky coin I could touch when I needed to know the truth of things. But then my head became full of more important things, like keeping another human alive or not ending up in the news for saying something dumb to a classroom full of teen tyrants. Recently I found a flash drive full of old essays and remembered with dismay a host of things I thought I’d never forget. Like Pandora’s box, the heap of them came pouring out. Also like Pandora’s box, only one left me with any tangible sense of hope.

The reels bleed into one another, long fumbling scenes of house fires and birthday parties, nightmares and 80’s workout videos (no relation to the two), carrot cake and Great Danes and more house fires. Beneath them all is a memory that used to be my favorite, dusty, but still retaining some of the magic it once held.  

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