Swimming across the ocean
My husband is on a business trip. It’s been just me and the boy for the last few days, alone together for hours on end, which isn’t a bad thing, but it can get monotonous in different ways for both of us. One of my solutions to the never ending overlap was to sign the boy up for camp. Trouble is, the camp is only from 9-12 and we take BART from Berkeley to West Oakland to get there. This entails a very slow walk from our house to the BART station (he is a contemplative, observant walker), a 20 minute train ride, and a 10 minute walk. Then I turn around and do almost all of it again, though I spend my time in between sitting in a café in downtown Berkeley. I get less than two hours with iced coffee and WIFI, and leave for West Oakland again, my heart and mind jittery from too much caffeine
With this sort of routine, my mind gets stuck on the tiny things, the way a schedule can entrap, ensnare, the way I spend my evenings uselessly when my husband isn’t around, stuck to my comfy chair, not having the wherewithal to get up and grab that book I want to read and instead going here and there on the Internet, looking for the lost, tracking down murderers, walking down memory lane with people I no longer recognize.
The boy loves the camp, where he has been making ceramic animals. The instructors are clear and helpful. He comes home splattered with clay and glaze and seems stimulated by the whole thing, too, much more than he would be with me. I am not entertaining or particularly playful, though once I get into it (the boy is relentless and creative in his approaches), I can enjoy myself.
The rest of our day is spent getting back home, hanging out in the garden, or me stealing an hour while he watches part of a movie. Then there’s dinner, the dog walk, and a bath. By 9:20 or so, I can breathe easy, knowing I’ll spend yet another late evening wasting my time and, last night, crying (the former roommates’ son, the emerging rights for same sex couples). The tears bring relief, like I’ve been storing them up for years. Eventually, they stop. I feel both foolish and satiated, and I go to bed with my book, exhausted from the monotony of life.
And I worry that I will never be totally free of whatever it is that dogs me, that I will be forever stuck. Luckily, yesterday’s prompt was about . . .
I pictured the changes happening while I slept, without pain and self-doubt, worked on me somehow by time and the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. As I slept, the trees would sway above me, would whisper reassurances. I would not question my motives or my abilities. A week of solid rest would do it, and I would come out the other side free of all the things that bind me to darkness.
Change doesn’t work that way. Sometimes the transformation is so slow that you don’t recognize that it’s happening until you are well through it, somewhere across the ocean from the person you used to be. At the moment, I’m way too close to the same coastline from which I set off. I’ve gone out with nothing but a boat beside me, piloted by a man who is blind in one eye and in the middle of it all, I tend to the sea creatures that accompany me. I feel every yard I swim through this water and sometimes I’m just treading it.
The metaphors we choose affect our experience. So let’s say this instead. Sometimes I stop for breath on an island, an outcropping of rest in a sea of struggle. The half-blind man talks to me and tells me jokes. The sea creatures bring me prizes. Along the way, I’ve learned the constellations and the way they change over the seasons. I can tell from the position of the stars that we’ve made progress. And it could be that my destination is not that opposite coastline. It could be south of here, or north. It could be one of those devastatingly beautiful islands with a population of colorful noisy birds and an overabundance of fruit. The fact is that I don’t know yet and I have to accept it, as well as accept the slow nature of change, the setbacks that are inevitable, the way my mood is what it is, for reasons of history and circumstance. I must flow with it, not against it, accept what I’ve always found unacceptable about myself, and keep on moving forward.
Top image: boy in mud camouflage.
Bottom image Some rights reserved by James Nord.