Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Blizzard that Never Was

Last night, I was supposed to go to a board meeting at 7pm.

At about 2pm, snow began to fall over the New York Metro area.

By 4pm, we had enough accumulation that the world was white. It rained down white flakes non-stop for hours.

At about 5:30, I got the phone call: Board meeting is canceled due to inclement weather. I was relieved. I've already driven in two blizzards this season and that's quite enough, thank you.

G called me from the train, talking about going grocery shopping. "If the roads are bad, I'll go by myself, I won't want to drive home, pick you up, then go to the store."

"I understand, no problem," I replied.

He showed up at about 6:30. "The roads are fine!" he said.

And they were. There was snow, but the plows had been through, and the streets were wet, but not slick. It was warmer than I'd expected, and instead of snow, we now had rain.

I woke up this morning, and the sun was blazing. At 7am, I looked out the large windows of our second-story apartment on the houses and yards and trees outside.

Not a trace of snow. As though none had ever fallen. And I went about my day.


I lived through a lot of miserable times in Springfield, Illinois. When I moved to New York, I really never looked back. I missed my parents, and I missed the feeling of home... but I was over that pretty quick. Springfield will always be my hometown, but I never felt safe there, and I was virtually never truly happy there. I never felt welcome, and I never "fit in." Some people were so horribly cruel to me that I couldn't wait to escape to college. And when college spat me back down to Springfield, I was on the first plane to New York I could manage.

I remember the screaming, enraged frustration I often felt in Springfield, the knowledge that, no matter how long I lived there or how many times I tried to reinvent myself, I would never find satisfaction in that city. The things I wanted would always slip through my grasp. If I had stayed there, I would have experienced that death that comes when you give up everything that matters to you, your dreams, your hopes, and settle for whatever you're given, believing that there's no point in trying for more. I'd seen hundreds of people like that. No fate frightened me more than winding up like them.

I didn't know what I really wanted out of life, but I knew what I didn't want.

I remember the rage. I remember how it felt, the inside of my chest burning like fire. I remember the violent impluses I suppressed, the incredible urge to rip someone's hair out, to punch them in the face, to kick him where it counts, to pummel his face with my fists until there was nothing left but a bloody mess of flesh and pieces of bone. I remember wanting to push someone off a high platform and watch her fall, watch her break into pieces. I remember being afraid of myself. I remember swallowing it all, trying to drown it with alcohol from the age of 14. I remember how I internalized my rage, giving myself sick stomachs and headaches and body aches, being unable to hold down food, my body throwing up even the lightest of meals, because I was too full of loathing and grief. I grieved my life, even at 15, knowing that every year that passed I would never get back. I looked at my school pictures from fifth grade, sixth grade, seventh grade, and thought someone stole this from me!

It was so easy to blame various people. It still is. Even though it never solved anything. People were deliberately cruel to me at times, other times they were cruel in their disregard. "You're NOTHING," she screamed at me. "You're NOBODY. EVERYONE hates you, EVERYONE!" Because I couldn't catch a baseball. Or because I said the right answer after someone else didn't. Or because I wore the wrong jacket. Or because I blew my nose too often. Or because I sat on the wrong side of the room. Or because I watched Public Television and not Miami Vice. Or because my Mom was the girl scout leader. Or because...

So many years ago. It's like a movie I saw once. The movie is sad, and makes me sad to watch it. So I don't watch it anymore. It's as simple as that. Because after years and years of watching it, I've earned the right to turn it off.

I don't expect people to understand why I don't like to watch that movie. Or look at old photos. It's ok. After all, most people love to reminisce, love their memories. I don't begrudge them. Maybe, for them, the blizzard was fun.

But for me, I moved on. And to look at my life now, you'd never know. When I tell people stories about how shy I was, how I had no real friends for so long, never dated like most kids, they don't believe me. This makes me feel successful. That little girl was me once, but I've changed so completely, that she now only exists in memory. Nothing else is left of her. She is dead.

I don't mourn her, because I didn't love her. I mourn what she should have had, who she might have been. I love something deep inside her, the person that she might have been, that I believe, underneath everything, she truly was... but her life was horrible, and her death was a blessing. She died rather quickly, graciously, peacefully. I was there. I held her hand. I told her it was over, and that I wasn't angry at her, that I forgave her. And when she closed her eyes for the last time, I went to my bed, and went to sleep. I cried for us, and fell asleep.

And when I woke up, no trace of her remained but my memories, and my awareness that life is not something we can control. Sometimes we are victims no matter how you reframe a situation. Sometimes all you can do is try to forget. Some bad people will never be sorry for what they did, and you won't have the luxury of forgiving them. You just move forward. Leave them and eveything they did to you behind. Live.

And I live. I live for today, and tomorrow, and next year, and the rest of my life. I dodge bullets when they come, and I move on. Some of them hit me, and I deal with it, and then move on. I give as much as I can, sometimes too much, and I'm never sorry for that.

I'm sorry Deidre... I wish I had been there when you were going through all that, to tell you what to say and do, and how to release your rage so you didn't hurt yourself so much. I'm sorry I couldn't love you when you needed me to. I'm sorry I couldn't protect you from the liars and cheaters and selfish people. I'm sorry you had to die for me to live.

I want to live a life that you would have liked. I want to be a person that you would have wanted to be. Most of all, I want to be happy, because you weren't. I want to be what you never were.

This is how I love you. It's the best I can do.

So, I guess I'll see you in heaven, or wherever it is we go? Where we can have all the chocolates we want, and it won't make us sick? Where you can be young and free and wild, and I can be smart and calm and decisive. Where the child and the grown-up can meet, and understand each other, and learn where we fit together, you inside of me, and me wrapped around you. Where I will have the answers to your questions. And you will be seen, everyone will see you in me, when they look at me, hear my voice, watch me move.

I do not fear death.

And this life is mine.

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