*first published July 31st, 2016. and for some reason it says it was also posted two years ago. don’t worry. time is an illusion.
I’m packing my bags tonight. Packing and repacking to find the perfect fit. There isn’t one—a perfect fit—there are better, and then there are the ones I do in a hurry, or after a few drinks, or when I forget something. I’ve learned that much after a month living like this. When I first formulated my plan to travel America, everything felt clear as day. A series of events in my life led to an ideal time. It wasn’t perfect, but it would work. This trip was one I’ve always wanted to take. To see whatever’s out there freely and without plans. I’ve a pretty good handle on “whatever’s out there”, most of life is fairly standard, but the possibility of seeing it so willfully and openly feels wild. The initially plan was to get my affairs in order, head to Chicago for a week, then New York for six, then Boston, and so on and around, landing myself back in Austin, TX for a winter above 10 degrees. I know, this is a great plan.
Then some weird stuff happened. My body threw some weird and potentially dangerous news my way, which is entirely unsurprising seeing as I’ve been in this body 24 years and it’s a constant struggle. We’ll talk bodies another time. So, I couldn’t leave town until all the information was available, setting my trip back. Ultimately, my body was fine. I’m fine. But the potential energy of what could’ve been put a stop in my plan, causing me to have to sit and listen. The manic spin of my post graduate, post break-up, post-selling my shit life dissipated into a small, steady churn locked somewhere behind my diaphragm. What happens next? Is this a sign? Does it matter either way?
Acting on instinct and possibly from a place of need, I called my mother. I told her my life, she told me hers. My aunt Becky, who’s battled cancer for nearly a decade, wasn’t battling as hard. She was fatigued and worn. Bloat is never sexy, and particularly when it’s caused by organ failure. It was time for me to be home, to see Becky, to support my momma, to be present with my people. On the 15th, my flight to Texas was booked for that Monday, July 25th. It felt like a detour, a quick stop back home to check in and say some goodbyes. A sideline on the way to the main event. After all, I’m seeing AMERICA—I’ve already seen quite enough of Corinth, TX.. As life has it, I’d quit my job, sold all my stuff, and was loafing about friends’ sofas biding my time. No work, no school, no home, just me, a backpack, and a world of time. How lucky am I?
Tuesday, July 19th, my dad calls me in the middle of the day. He’s obsessive about flights, but his call is something entirely different.
Becky passed that morning.
Here today, gone the next.
My father in tears, I have an inappropriate emotional reaction. I cannot stop laughing. “Of course she,” I giggle, “of course she’s dead. Of course. Of course.”
How lucky am I?
I finish my stint in Cincinnati. Wasting time became anything but. Every drink, every walk, every cup of coffee with a friend became an anchor to the present moment, to how bright and hot and brutal life is. The churn behind my diaphragm would have me reeling, but the Universe gave me some strong people to keep me on the ground. Even now, my heart beats a little faster thinking about the Queen City.
I came home on Monday, as planned, the memorial on Tuesday. Becky is gone from this plain. Her stop here, on Earth with us, I think of as a detour on a way to a place without suffering, without cancer, without pain. A place where she’s fed grapes off the vine by a super hot space angel boyfriend while drinking a chilled diet coke. I’m grateful she’s no longer suffering. I’m glad of it. And I’m grateful for this weird life that drags your metaphysical ass all over the place in an effort to live fully and well. I know she’d love my trip. We wrote each other off and on for years—I came home less and less as an adult, due to finances, difference, distance—and I know she’d love a letter from the road. Becky, here’s your letter from my first stop—home:
‘It’s beautiful here. Hot as balls. I can’t stay in the pool long enough. Everyone misses you. Late at night, Renee and my momma get glassy-eyed and keep telling each other, “I love you, man, I love you so much”, behind tight smiles. Grammy seems a little paler than normal, but Papa Boat’s jokes have never been so sharp. They trimmed your puppy up, but they aren’t professionals so it took them two days and they called it a “red neck grooming job”. You inspired so many people with your light and your kindness. Your memorial was aglow with remembrances. I’m proud to be your niece. The world is exactly the same, except completely different because you are not here. It’s amazing how things change just like that. I’m so grateful. I’m so grateful my stomach hurts and my chest feels like bursting. It’s an exquisite kind of pain, coming from being so full your body can’t contain it, but you have no place to put your heart. I can’t shed this skin and stretch out my heart so full. I can’t shake this container and reach up and up until I find you. It’s okay. How lucky am I? I miss you. I love you. Say hi to your space boyfriend for me.’
Detours aren’t all bad. They don’t make the way any faster, but I’m starting to wonder if they don’t make it a whole lot better. I’m starting to wonder if they aren’t set in place to wake us up and make us mindful. I’m starting to wonder if the plan we try to stick to just isn’t the right fit. These detours aren’t perfect. Not everything along the way has to be.
I leave for New York on August 1st, which is tomorrow. I’ve always been the kind of person who leaves. The one who does the leaving. I know they say, “you can’t take it with you,” but the longer I’m alive the more space I feel like I can carry. Maybe I can’t put it on my back, but I can carry it in my heart. That was my goodbye to Becky at her memorial, the e e Cummings’ poem, “i carry your heart with me”. My goodbye was a demand for more space, for more room to carry with me all the good. I hope I get it. I hope all the detours are just expansion packages.
How lucky could I be?