By Catherine DiMercurio
Sometimes I just want to write about the sun, and the way, after so much chilliness, so many grey skies, it soaks into skin as more than just warmth, weighing more than light. I want to write about the way, no matter how many times I’ve written about pain or healing or difficult times, what I feel often, weaving through moments and days, is a sense of peace, warm and substantial as that sun. I want to talk about the way over the past two years, I have cleared away the debris of several past relationships, and set up camp within myself, creating the cozy, safe place I’d been longing for.
I write often about the things I’ve been working through over the years because it’s such hard labor, hauling away the remnants of collapse. And it helps. It helps me to talk about it and I believe it helps people who visit this space who might be going through similar things.
I don’t live in a rural area but a creek cuts through township where I live, and it feeds a larger watershed. The creek runs along the backyards of the houses across the street and in the neighborhood we see more wildlife than I expected to. Last night at dusk I heard an owl and this morning, geese. I routinely see deer, ducks, and groundhogs, as well as the expected neighborhood critters, like squirrels, skunks, racoons, opossums. Once there was even a heron, looking out of place in someone’s driveway. I love seeing and hearing this wildlife, though I always have the guilty sense of us invading their space rather than the other way around.
But there is pleasure in seeing these creatures in the unexpected place of this suburban neighborhood a stone’s throw from a big city, just as there are unexpected pleasures of working through the difficult challenges I often write about. I so often find surprising pockets of quiet in this busy neighborhood, and I am finding them more often in my mind too, much more often than when my bruised heart navigated one troubling relationship and then stumbled into the next before it could catch its breath. I was always looking for someone to feel like home, to work with me to establish the peace and connection I so craved. Of course I heard the messages of how you have to find these things in yourself before you can find them in another person. My sense at the time was something like, “yeah, yeah, I’m sure they’re in there somewhere.” But I wanted the solid, physical manifestation of those things—home, peace, connection—in another human standing right in front of me.
When my last relationship ended, I remember having the sense both that I needed to find those things within myself but also, that if I did, I wouldn’t care about finding them in another person, that I’d stop looking, and that even if I was happy being alone now, would I always feel that way? It was as if I was trying to satisfy my now self and my future self at the same time, as if I didn’t trust future me to figure out and pursue what she wanted. Because I didn’t. I didn’t trust future me to figure it out any more than I trusted now me.
But I knew my now self needed a break. Time.
And in this time, with all the debris clearing and the setting up of camp and taking stock and being with myself, I have discovered so much that I needed to find. While I’m still trying to rebuild a confidence I probably lost somewhere in early childhood, after one too many comments about being too this or not enough that, I have found ways to untangle the knots of anxiety that used to tighten so easily. It’s not gone, of course, and this would be obvious if you talked to the family members and the friends I confide in, but here’s the thing I learned: it’s okay to confide. That’s one of the reasons the knots are loosened is that I have learned to reach out, to receive comfort, to wriggle free of the shame that is so often attached to what society so often perceives as weakness. There is so much strength in knowing when you need to reach out, and acting on that, and so much value in developing those trusting relationships.
I also have found joy again in the delight I take in simple things. I never realized, until I laughed hard, alone in my house, over some silly memory or a joke I told myself, or a hilarious meme, how wonderful it is to not have to put a damper on your own happiness because someone around you is unhappy. I don’t know if I ever learned how to do that in a relationship. I always felt like I needed to mirror the level of happiness my partner felt, as if it would be offensive to be joyful while being near someone who was either momentarily grumpy or definitely suffering in a depressive state. I have found moments of unmitigated happiness in my yard with the dogs, or on a walk with them, as we curiously explore our neighborhood together. I’ve uncovered the thrill of learning the Big New Thing that is pottery. I have also written so much lately, delving in and drafting and revising and submitting, rediscovering how necessary writing is to my sense of self. I feel so foreign to myself if I miss my morning writing time, whether it’s the aimless wander of journaling or the wild creation of a new story, or the focused attention of revision. It’s no wonder, when I so often back-burner-ed my writing in my last couple of relationships, whether due to time constraints or the overwhelming anxiety I often felt about the relationships, that I felt so out of touch with myself. But I’m back, feeling curious and growing and working and writing and creating.
Sure, I feel stuck sometimes, and I write about that candidly, but I also feel like a clever fish, freely frolicking in a big deep lake, swimming to the surface and warming myself in the sun and diving to the depths to explore. That is, I’m embracing a freedom that while scary sometimes is also deeply peaceful and wonderfully delightful.
My point is that for every point I’ve made in this blog about healing and how hard it can be, there is a complimentary point to be made about the reward, the value, the worth of it all. There is always compensation. There is always the awareness that what I’m building is the foundation for everything that is to come next for me. I’m creating the solid, physical manifestation of the home, peace, and connection I’ve been seeking instead of searching for it in another human standing right in front of me. It’s me. I’ve always been standing right here, but how easily we make shadows of ourselves when it seems like the right thing to do for other people, or because we forgot how to do anything else, or we never knew in the first place. But here we are now, in the sun, at last.