Four years ago I wrote a post on this blog on Valentine’s Day, and I was happy, at least happyish (if you’re interested, view it here). I was sitting at the desk in my own house, the one I remodeled by myself into a cozy home for myself, my darling girl, and my animals. Three of those animals lay beside me on the floor as I wrote. Milla played in the next room, and I wrote my strange post about the history of Valentine’s Day, examining it from an angle I think few have.
In any case, here I am four years later, and I barely recognize that person. Three days after that Valentine’s Day in 2008 I met the man who would become Isabel’s father. During the months that followed I lost all of my animals. A year later I was living in New York and barely pregnant. A year after that I was back in Oregon, changed, somewhat obliterated. Since then it has been a rebuilding of the self, but as if with sand, one grain at a time. I barely even registered Valentine’s Day this year. Oh yeah, I thought the night before. Go to the store and buy the girls something small, and so I did. No rumination. No examination. Nothing, really, except that I did remember the post four years ago and went back and read it, surprised at myself. I’d forgotten that I made Valentine’s Day presents with Milla, not only that year, but at all.
So much of the time then I was working to force myself to live in the moment. So much of the time now I am, but I feel like most of me is missing. I learned some hard lessons, with the result that I will never choose wrong again–I know that unequivocally. But I have to wonder at what price? Is there something to being in the cave and not knowing? Does not knowing really kill you? I can’t answer that. I must not forget that I was painfully, achingly, desperately lonely a lot of the time then, in a way I’m simply not now. Is it because I’ve stopped being lonely, or simply accepted that aloneness is a function of the human condition? Really accepted it? I don’t know.
I feel like a person who saw a river and jumped in to swim across to climb the mountain on the other side, but had no idea the dangers inherent in the enterprise. I thought I was prepared. I did what I thought would make the journey safe and doable. Yet during the crossing I was sucked into an undertow, and I nearly drowned. I bashed my head and body on rocks. I lost all the possessions I had tried to take with me. Finally, the river spit me out and cast me unconscious on the opposite shore, lying on the beach naked with grains of sand in my hair and my eyes, my body bloodied and scraped; beaten, but not broken. Gradually I dragged myself to my knees and crawled further inland. I waited, then stood. I walked ahead. I killed animals and ate them, making clothing from their hides, something I never would have done on the other side of the river. I kept going. I did not look back until a long time later, and when I did, I was up the side of the mountain, and there in the valley below was the river, appearing so serene, winding off toward the horizon. I was there, I think, and now I am here.
I know this metaphor is cliche’, but it fits. I feel like I’m still climbing the mountain, but I don’t even know what it was I’m trying to get to, except the pinnacle, and I wonder whether any of it was worth it. If I ever had to cross a river again, the journey would be very different. I wouldn’t even start at the same bank. I would take different tools. I might even choose a different river. I learned, but now I don’t know why.
I’ve spoken to my counselor about this, whether it is better to just stay in the cave. She reminds me that staying in the cave would result in making the same ill-fated choices, and of the reasons why making different choices will be better. Perhaps she is right. But sometimes I miss feeling the contentment I felt that Valentine’s Day, even if it was often countered with hideous, pitiable lows. Maybe there isn’t any better, there just is. That was how it was. This is how it is. Each has positives and negatives. In any case, I can’t change what has gone before so I might as well settle into how things are, which means that instead of a quippy, interesting post like the one I wrote 4 years ago, I write this.