This weekend in cities near my home there were ice palaces and ice bars, a Super Bowl and snow flurries, millions of people making merry and talking about football. There was, too, a quiet night in the dark where I drove silently on curving lanes and thought about truth, all the shapes of it we try and wear, the half-truths we convince ourselves aren’t outright lies, the uncomfortable ones we understand but don’t ever speak, those we agree upon together; also the ones we’ll never see the same, even when in the same room experiencing the same thing together.
Maybe, because I write, I am forced to confront more of my truths than others. For years, I journal and make notes, save the scraps of them in notebooks or in piles, revisit them when the writing’s hard, or when I am.
On Sunday, I don’t bother to get out of my pajamas all day or shower. I scrub the counters and doors and floors; I even disinfect the humidifiers. I binge watch Netflix and binge eat pizza and don’t have a single glass of water, and all in all, it is a very unlike me kind of day. I won’t leave the house until Tuesday. I’m not sick. I’m not sad. I’m not anything, really, except maybe silent. Do I call this improvement? Progress?
After all, November 2016’s journal tells me that, among other things that the truth is, I don’t particularly want to care for someone this much. Want, even if it is just for friendship, can be a dangerous thing.
On Sunday, I am not anything really, because in April 2017, when my therapist tells me I need bigger dreams, the truth is I am instead learning how to be small, to stop taking up space in other peoples’ lives, learning to make some internal part of me small. She wants me to dream or hope for…something. But I think this is the part of me he’s broken.
On Sunday, I am not anything really, because one October I keep my husband in a drawer with lost socks, and it’s true I don’t know what to do with that statement. If I am okay, people judge, and also if I’m not. I want new people to connect with, but I keep having to explain myself to strangers and I can’t. They have no frame of reference for comparison, and I’ve no ability to really let them in. Because, when you have been given the sudden and irreversible silence that comes from unexpected death, the silence that someone still living then chooses to give you is the cruelest kind of gift. I don’t ever want it again.
On Sunday, I am not anything really, because I watched birch trees in January, the shapes of them as they shade with sun, with snow, the essential birch-ness of them, even when covered in drifts, even when leaf-less and barren, the way their branches grow upwards, the not quite straight of their trunks, the coloring of them, the way bits of their trunks peel away like paper. I watch birch trees in winter and it’s a truth that they make me happier than most people, even the painting of them on the cork board above my desk. Theirs is the right kind of silence—not of something taken away, but of something about to begin.
If on Sunday, or even on Monday, or maybe into Tuesday, I am not anything really, not sad, can’t be worked into anger, label all the rest as “satisfactory,” maybe tell someone I’m “pleased,” because it’s the opposite of disappointed, because to be disappointed you have to want things, and these days I only want to have never wanted for that thing at all, would we call that progress? Would we call that improvement?
Or would it be true to call that failure instead of success?