No time to rest or run for cover.
Get up get up get up
Before the road pulls you under.
Knock the breath out of your madness.
Burn your photographs at the edges.
Send your heart back from where you left it.
Took a long way to come here
Got a long way to go
Climbing up switchbacks
Walking through tall grass the color of matches.”
- Caitlin Canty, Get Up
At the moment, the only difference between a madman and me is that I have no penis. If I were bipolar, I’d be on my spin cycle. I feel like those washing machines that walk across the basement floor when they’re on spin because they’re so unbalanced. But I’m standing up.
A few days before Xmas, I wrote that I was surprised at how much it hurt, or to be more precise, the way it hurt. Not like a sharp pain, but like the way I describe the occasional “discomfort” of pressure in my bumpy heart to my cardiologist. It is all perfectly bearable; it’s possible to work your entire life around it to accommodate until it becomes part of your day. It’s a sadness so gentle that I can manage to not realize it for hours. Like my pinky fingers, swollen and distorted with arthritis, but painful only when I forgot to not use them for anything more challenging than touch-typing.
I think what predominately occupies my mind now – when I can’t manage to distract myself by not cleaning the litter boxes – is how we can go about our finite lives knowing they all end. How do we ignore this impossibly big and inevitable fact until we sit with a loved one and hold their warm hand, and keep holding it as it grows cold and still with death? How does this not overshadow everything all day long? All I could say was “wow”, not even in capital letters, or exclamation marks. Just a very small, amazed, soft, wow. This happened.
Now, past the first month of the first new year of my life, I’m ready to forget some of the negative stuff. But I’ll never forget him. Apparently however, when you go through a major life change, you have to mark the occasion by doing more than buying a new couch and living room rug, or even joining a gym. My new mission statement has something to do with my determination to be less negative, which is something he would recommend.
But for the moment, I feel as equipped to do that, as an octuple-amputee octopus is to open the combination lock to a safe. Even if I knew the combination, I’m not sure I could stop wobbling long enough to do it. I know how to do snark, but being nice isn’t something I have much practice at. Perhaps I should practice mixing a martini with the power of my mind alone. That might be easier than trying to be kind.
Being positive doesn’t mean being relentlessly happy. I have to keep reminding myself that I got this. Happiness is overrated - happiness without sadness would be boring, I’m going for contentment. It’s what I’ve waited for much of my life: retiring from having to take care of somebody else. The good part is that I don’t have to keep looking back and slowing down, and I don’t have to carry a dead weight. The bad part is that now that I’m up, I’ve just realized I don’t have a map.