Unsettling Librarian

Abandon All Hope, or Keeping It Moving

Yesterday, I spent the day nursing my almost-eleven year old through a particularly noxious bout of stomach flu. Today, it’s looking like I may have my turn at the bowl. Both days, I’ve found myself thinking wistfully of how much easier it all might be if there were someone I could trust who could turn up and help us when we’re sick. My partner left work early yesterday to attend his daughter’s sick bed, but he’s not expected back today until after the late news, and we can’t afford for him to miss more work. A good friend across the bay would come if she could, I trust, but she has her own health and fiscal challenges, and I don’t want to add to her already-full load. So, here we are, snugged up with the dogs, “Firefly” streaming, and the in-case-I-vomit bowl close at hand, ready to wade through another day.

Strangely – or maybe not so strangely, this experience clarifies for me aspects of the family-of-affinity divorce I’m currently processing. I’ve lamented for years that if those folks just lived closer, I’d have practical support for days like these. Whether or not that’d actually be true, it hasn’t been my reality ever, so why have I given it so much space in my life? In my thoughts? In my heart?

When I first moved to California, I imagined the sort of relational continuity that would realistically only be possible if we all had access to upper middle class resources. I thought on earlier generations of internal migrants who, however much they were agents of Euro-American incursion into Indigenous territories, were also humans who left their kith and kin behind knowing the odds were they’d never set eyes on them again in this life. I thought of the letters they wrote back to their mamas and their sisters, and I was grateful to have been moving in the jet age.

That’s how foolish I was, how insistently naive.

Today thirteen+ years on, as I try to will myself not to permit the drawing in my throat to become the hellishly involuntary reality of vomiting, I’m settling more fully into my life as a Californian. As the Bay area writhes around me in the most recent of its cyclical contests between too-too-too-much-money and more-fierce-refuges-than-any-other-metro-area-can-offer, I’m finally feeling the truth of being an internal refugee, driven West by Eastern/Midwestern/Southern suffocating indifferences and sweeping passivities. One does not get to be both here and there. Coming here means leaving there. Leaving there means leaving there. Coming here means being here. Being here means being. Here.

Given my frequently infinitesimal attention span, you’d think I’d be better at this Now of Wolf-Thought thing. You’d think I’d be better at being mindfully present in this moment. But of course, you’d be wrong. I’m absurdly attached to the familiar, resistant to change, and comforted by routine. Just as when I was getting divorced those earlier times, I’m finding breaking the habits of mind involved in long-term, emotionally-intimate relationships the most difficult aspect of the transition. Just as in those earlier circumstances, though, the relationships are ending because those habits of mind had proven themselves to be habitually bad. The change is in skipping the expectations that they’ll be otherwise and then letting them go altogether.

Today, I’m sitting with that. Bee and Puppycat are keeping the still-sicky-but-no-longer-retching kid entertained. Focusing on writing this has kept the contents of my stomach in my stomach so far. If they eventually escape, then they do. Today will become tomorrow. I’ll manage as I have done for a dozen years and more now – without any substantial daily participation from the folks I’m divorcing. I’ll manage as I’m just learning to do – without any expectation of said participation whether in an imaginarium of stopping-by-with-soup or in an imaginarium of creating-lives-that-are-built-on-a-willingness-to-fight-for-what-you-know-is-right.

Part of me very much wants to hang on to a big-eyed and notional future in which the Work is being done in ways that make these folks, their lives and homes safer for me, mine, and millions of our fellow humans, and thereby, in ways that have a similar effect on our culture as a whole.

The rest of me knows better, is not holding her breath, and is making the peace necessary to keep it moving in world where the Work goes too much undone.

I’m tired and lonesome, but an old and festering set of wounds in me seems to be beginning to scab over at last. I look forward to the day when those miraculous things – scars – lie faded and smooth in the much-marked geography of my heart. I expect they’ll always be a bit tender, but the healed-over pain will be much easier to live with than the picked-raw-always-and-again pain has been, I trust.

I’ve been “sad-mad” for long years now. Moving on to merely wistful or even someday, rueful feels like a good moon rising.

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