"The painful things... seemed like knots on a beautiful necklace, necessary for keeping the beads in place. My eyes filled as I bade farewell to those days, but I felt no regret."
- The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Ever since I saw the Most Hyped Film of 2004 last month, I have been battling a rather embarrassing depression. The desecration of the 1961 Cheval Blanc devastated me. I was confused, I was horrified, I was disturbed to my deepest core. I obsessed over the image of that that waxed paper cup and the mental taste of onion rings fouling the delicacy of that precious, special, treasured wine... Even days later I was overflowing with emotion. I couldn't concentrate at the office. I cried at my desk, feeling my stomach churn every time the images replayed before my mind's eye. I was overwhelmingly sad for days on end, and disgusted with myself for being so ridiculous.
Eventually I took the morning off to meet with my church minister. I cried on her couch, not understanding why, of all things, a movie would push me over the edge. Why was I feeling such rage and grief, and confusion and sickness and a desperate need to understand... something?
Yes, Giamotti could be my ex-husband's identical twin. Yes, I'm really into wine. Yes, it's a well-written movie. But for Christ's sake, it was just a movie.
My minister suggested that maybe I hadn't processed the many recent losses in my life as thoroughly as I should have, especially the ones which seem to have hit me with such frequency over the last three or four years. This makes sense... but the problem is, it feels wrong to describe the recent events in my life as losses. I gained from them as well, and they are actually transitions.
What is the difference between losing something and letting go of it? Is it simply a value difference? If the absence of something leaves you feeling bad, we describe it as a loss. If the absence provides a sense of freedom, or has other resulting positive feelings, we say we let it go, we moved on, etc.
But what if it's both?
1995: When I moved from Illinois to New York, I was excited. I had been miserable in Illinois, and had dreamed all my life of living in New York. I had a scholarship to a performing arts academy, a few friends who gave me a lovely send-off, and a suitcase full of ballet shoes and fancy notepaper. After three months, I was back in Illinois on vacation, crying on my mother's lap, desperately homesick, and getting on that plane back to New York wasn't easy. Just three more months after that, I couldn't imagine living anywhere but New York, and the thought of returning to Illinois felt like a prison sentence.
1998: When I decided to stop going to auditions - in other words, to abandon my first choice of career, and childhood fantasies - I was thrilled and relieved to have a solid job in healthcare, and I focused on redefining myself inside and out. I was relieved and hopeful, but I also cried at least once a week, at times feeling like an utter failure, feeling boring, feeling ordinary and un-special, feeling unappreciated and unwanted, because the only thing I thought I was really good at - performing - nobody cared to see. It took a lot of headwork to get past that. Eventually I realized a lot of things about the value of my work, and the value of my Self... and made peace with my career decisions.
1999: When I got married, I was wholly, darkly aware that I was not over my obsession with an ex-boyfriend, and that this was one of many reasons why I almost cancelled the wedding several times. I feared walking through that door of commitment more than I had feared anything previously in my life. Eventually I let everyone convince me that I was just jittery, that I would overcome my obsession in time, that I was doing the right thing by being in therapy but maybe I should find a different doctor, that David and I would make it work somehow, etc. etc. I wanted to believe that maybe everybody was smarter than me in this area, and I turned a deaf ear to my screaming intuition. I remember feeling numb on my wedding night, as though I had reached a dead end.
2002: When I left my marriage, I felt like I was shrugging off a heavy, smothering cocoon of falsity, illness and pretense.
2003: When I moved into my apartment on West 95th Street, I felt the world opening its huge, golden doors to me, and I reveled in my freedom to stroll casually through them, lingering on this side, lingering on the threshold, stepping one foot at a time, slowly, to the next place, enjoying every nuance, every feel, every change of air from where I had been to where I was now and where I would be in the future.
2004: When my Grandmother died last April, I felt her presence around me for days. The warmth from her spirit enveloped me like a snowsuit while she followed me around, living my life with me for awhile, saying goodbye. When I woke up one morning feeling cold, and knew she had left me, I felt the emptiness like a hole stabbed through me with an icicle, like someone had ripped a vital organ out of my body. I thought I would cry forever, but I managed to stop at some point.
When I was let go from my job last August, I felt chains around my ankles and wrists crumbling into dust.
When I was unemployed and running out of severance four months later, I felt a noose around my neck.
When I was placed in this temp job, I felt something floating beneath me that I could relax on until I hit dry land again.
When my roommate and I decided to go our separate ways, I saw a small door swing open in my life, out of which I could sweep layers and layers of dirt.
2005: When I could not find another roommate, and my landlord put my apartment on the market, I realized that floater beneath me was full of holes.
Some people would have responded to these scenarios in the same way I did, but many would have responded very differently - some radically differently. Each was a transition, and I more than survived them - I grew and learned from them.
In my 10 years in New York City, I have lived in 7 apartments. Each time I moved, I cried. My ex-husband once simply shrugged and said I just didn't handle loss well, and held me and talked to me and comforted me until I felt better. One of his best moments.
Even then, however, I resisted calling my apartment-changing "loss." Each time I moved, I was going someplace better. It's true that change in general is hard, and exhausting, and bound to bring memories of the good times. But loss?
Two weeks ago, when my boyfriend invited me to share his home, and the start of a new life, I looked behind me and saw those huge golden gateway doors again... far behind me. Still wide open. My apartment, my church, my life in New York on the other side. I could see it all, in the twilight, way back there... and yet I was still somehow feeling its energies in the air around me, like memories of activities at the end of a very good day. I looked ahead of me, in the other direction, and saw a whole new set of dreams shining in the distance, a glowing sunrise just over the mountains.
It's a good thing I just bought new snow boots.
This week I begin a more purposeful walk toward the next phase of my life. My heart aches to leave New York City, but it is time. It would have been nice to have had one more year in the home of my 23-year-old dreams, but it simple wasn't to be. I have arranged for a moving service and rented a storage cubicle. I'm changing my addresses with all the required agencies and will soon be sending out pretty little "I've Moved" notecards to family and friends. I'm separating my belongings into take, store, and donate. I'm looking into places to throw myself a going-away party next week. I'm checking out the TappanZee Express-to-Metro North-to-subway commute that I'll soon be dealing with.
Step, step, step.
Sometimes, at very rare moments of something I might call clarity, I can see how each stage of my life evolves into the next, and how the transitions are very natural, and expected. However, this time... I think I can see all this while I'm actually moving through it. Knots in a necklace... I have learned the courage and confidence that comes with trust.
I have been waiting to write about this until I had an end to my moving story, but I see now that I will be moving in some fashion or another for a long time to come. The question, "Where will I live next" has been answered, but this is just another transition, and there will be more in the future. This story doesn't end.