I sat here and looked at the blinking cursor for a solid 10 minutes before I had the courage to even write this first sentence. Where to begin? The word that comes to mind to describe the last 2 months of my life is “struggle.” Or maybe “fight.” “Survive.” “Live.”
I could go into detail about what’s happened. I could elucidate and point fingers and stomp my foot and lament on how unfair life is sometimes. I could go on to say that sometimes decisions get made for you. Sometimes you go to bed one evening thinking everything is fine and that you’re on the right path and that the life you’ve chosen so carefully for yourself is a good one. And then sometimes you wake up the next morning to find that the foundation has been rotting away for months, unbeknownst to half of the party.
It felt as if a bucket of ice water had been dumped over my head, reducing me to yet another millennial statistic. A house, a piece of paper, a white gold band, a surname reduced from eight letters to four, all arbitrary, symbolic, now meaningless. A brain that had rewired itself to make decisions based on coexisting with another person was left bereft and grasping at how to function. The terms “we,” “us,” and “our” were no longer relevant. The queen sized bed seemingly spanned the space of two miles without someone next to me. How would I show my face in a town where I knew everyone?
My first instinct was to run. I steeled my nerves, angrily shooed away the tears falling down my cheeks, and I called my best friend. I called her and I told her that I could not face the pitiful looks, the inquiries, the shock and unwarranted advise from people with the best intentions but the least tact. I couldn’t bear to hear, “You’re so young. You’ll find another husband.” “There’s someone out there for you.” Or, worse still, hear someone tear down a man I gave my life and soul to because that person thought it’s what I needed to hear.
So I prepared to flee. I counted my pennies and mentally packed what I knew I could fit in two suitcases and I prepared to leave.
But then I got sick. My body, in its reaction to the emotional trauma paired with exposure to 156 children 5 days a week, made a decision for me. Two rounds of antibiotics, a steroid shot, no voice, unable to sleep, unable to eat. I broke down mentally and physically. In the lowest point of a life filled with more valleys than peaks, I was broken down.
One fitfully sleepless, codeine-laden evening, I dreamt of a bird. Nothing else, just a bird of indeterminate species. It landed on a branch, ruffling its feathers and tucking its wings by its sides as it settled in for sleep. The bird closed its eyes and I opened mine.
I woke well before my alarm and stared, wide eyed, at the ceiling for two or three hours, listening to my dogs snoring beside me. The sun came up, and I took my daily antibiotic, made a cup of strong black coffee, and sat silently in my kitchen floor for another couple of hours.
Then I picked up my phone and called The Yellow Bird, a gardening and gift shop in Downtown Dalton.
Because I worked for the Downtown Development Authority, I knew where there are quite a few lofts above many shops and businesses. Somewhat numbly, I asked the owner of The Yellow Bird, Sally, if she had any apartments available. Much to my disbelief, she affirmed that her middle unit was available, and that two other people had expressed interest. Those apartments don’t stay open very long, and I had called at the exact right moment.
Three days later, I signed the lease and began moving all of my belongings into my first apartment. Two days later, I was out of our house completely and living on my own for the first time in my entire life. I made the decision to stay, for at least a year, to save money, figure out what I want to do, and to live unbeholden to anyone in the comfort of a town I know inside and out.
I won’t say the past two months have been entirely bad. If you’ve seen me out and about, I don’t look woebegone. I remind myself to smile because the alternative is to sink down and stay there. I have relied heavily on my friends, who have done a stellar job of checking in on me, yet remembering to not handle me with kid gloves. I have made a few new friends.
So I vow to not stay away as long from My Crunchy Crusade. I have been so terrified to put this awful year into words. What started out as a positive year turned into tragedy around June, when I lost my job at U.S. Xpress and my relationship started to unravel at the seams. But I have also been through some amazing changes, like directing “The Great Gatsby” at Dalton Little Theatre and starting a brand new job at the Whitfield County-Dalton Day Care Center. Both of these topics will be explored in future posts, I promise.
But for now, I’ll leave you, dear reader, with some notes of hope from this most trying of eras.
I am obsessed with my new apartment. I walk to work every single day, half a mile each way. I have lost 15 pounds. I have started to enjoy the person I am for what seems like the first time in my life. And with the changing of the season, my perception has changed of the cooling weather and dying leaves.
“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald.
This is one of my favorite lines from “The Great Gatsby.” I’ve always thought of fall as a sad time, when all of the leaves start dropping from the trees, the air becomes sharper, and the world takes on a more somber, muted palette. Even the word itself, “fall,” can also be defined as “a move downward, typically rapidly and freely without control.” That’s why I’ve always been so intrigued by Jordan Baker’s line to Daisy Buchanan.
Now more than ever, I think it’s important to try to shift my perspective from mourning the autumnal change to welcoming the first steps of the process of living a brand new life. But like the leaves which have no choice in taking their tumble from the tops of their cozy, supportive homes, so must I brave the journey to the bottom to become stronger for my ascent back to the top.
The Crunchy Crusader