Breathe Easy

It’s 6:19am. I’m sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee, wearing cut-off shirts and a breezy tank. The morning air through open windows feels good after a night of sleeping in our room with closed windows — the pollen count is insane and Mani has been super reactive lately, so we have to keep them closed. Yesterday we got an a/c unit to put in a bedroom window, but I think I need help with the installation. Our landlord is in Antarctica and we are a little annoyed at him anyway due to the mice situation.

Yesterday I noticed that the irises has gone renegade and completely taken over the small rose bush by our side porch. There is a certain wildness to it that doesn’t bother me at all.

This first week of June lives in my imagination like a specter. Slow motion. Frame by frame. 2010. I could practically tell you what I was doing by the hour beginning on Wednesday of that week when she gave me her manuscript and the CD mix she’d made for me, and culminating on Sunday night after the kids were asleep when I sat down on the purple couch and told him we had to talk.

Jesus. Five days.

Today is the day nine years ago when I drove around town sobbing then called my friend Nan to come sit with me and then wrote a poem called landslide/blindside, a poem I would end up showing her Saturday morning after V’s soccer practice.

It took a long time, years, to trust myself again. To learn that my imagination is not some runaway train but rather part of me, something I can in some ways not only investigate but... what is the word? Not exactly master or control, but maybe there is something here about steering, selecting the direction rather than being utterly at its mercy.

Imagination in itself is neutral, right? Neither positive or negative, like something in physics I don’t know the name of. An ion? An atom? A particle? It’s invisible and floats around and picks up bits and pieces of experience, like a magnet attracting fuzz dust from our days and neural pathways.

It can imprison us and it can liberate us.

That week in June in 2010– forces from within me yet also so utterly beyond my control. I was not steering the ship, and yet steering the ship of our lives was what I did so well. Two young children— they were 4 and 7– self-employed, my husband also had his own business though he still struggled with questions of livelihood and fulfillment (we both did), and I was the manager supreme of it all, as mothers often are.

That week in June blew it all open. Release the hounds. Open Pandora’s box and you will never again reassemble its carefully packed contents. Sure, I suppose I could have said no to this, no to my own raw knowing. But it did not—and sadly this has become a cliché—feel like a choice.

The thing with imagination is that it can propel us to create things that didn’t before exist, in beautiful and generative ways. But it can also steal us from the present moment.

For me, letting that time period live in me without staying stuck there, without giving it more weight than this life, this life I’ve built slowly, painstakingly, lovingly, not on top of the rubble but simultaneously with the clean-up, would be such a loss.

Why loss? Because it is over.

What happened then changed everything, yes. I even walked up the steps to our house late that Thursday night, after hanging out at her place for the first time and knowing, just knowing with everything in me, that nothing would ever be the same.

But you could say this about many other moments in life, too. In fact, you could play that game, as if it were a game at all, with every single second of the day. If this, then that. Without this, that other thing wouldn’t have unfolded. It’s part of the big mystery of how our lives unfold.

How much does imagination play a role and how much choice do we have and how much do circumstances and chance dictate?

I’ve been relieved as the decade mark of that week has come closer. Relieved, that my wife and I have been together over seven years and married almost five. Relieved, that I’ve come to trust myself again. It hasn’t been easy or a given, to know that I could and would stay, in so many ways. To learn brand new ways of being honest, of communicating, of holding myself, of being with hard moments without hiding or shutting down or lashing out, if only internally.

So yes, the first week of June in 2010 changed everything, and yes, I could tell you blow by blow exactly what went down. Yes, I wonder if it’s writing I need to do once and for all, or if I can just leave it behind. And ultimately, I think there is no right answer to that. It’s up to me.

What do I want to feed my imagination? Now that feels like a question worth spending time with. Each year, that week recedes a little bit more, a burning boat in the sea, flames died down to embers, as I look back, knowing we all got off safely.

There was damage and loss and some of that will always be true. And there is also so much new and beautiful growth— love again, work again (work I swore off of for a time), irises taking over, my wife asleep in our room with the windows closed so that she can breathe easy.