The high wire act, with no safety net. It was never intentional. But I’ve been walking the tightrope for years. I’ve teetered, even fallen, but caught myself. Pulled myself back up. Balanced again, if precariously. I try not to look down. I don’t always succeed.
I haven’t been off the wire in nine years. It is no way to live. It isn’t smart. I am many things, including naive, but I’m not “not smart.”
This is a poor formula: circumstances beyond my control, Murphy’s Law, pride. I would say bad luck, but that feels like bad luck. So I will stick to Murphy and his interminable residence in my home. And I will try to remember that things could be worse. Much worse.
There are moments when we throw away a friend or a loved one. It may not be our intention, but words are spoken, or a silence continues too long, or an action causes damage. We feel it in the moment of doing it, or perhaps as time goes by.
What has been carefully constructed over years no longer exists.
Pilings, moorings, girders, cables, concrete and steel, the ability to sway with a tremor or even the wind – gone.
When we build, we plan for contingencies but do not anticipate them. Not really. We cannot conceive of destruction. Not as we build. There is such glory in building. Life. We are alive in the light.
There are moments when we step away from ourselves and take a risk. A somersault on the high wire. A reach for fraying cable or hemp. To rebuild a bridge.
I got up at four, after waking many times. Made tea. My chest is aching, and I feel ill. Differently. I have to laugh – I realize I was at a big city hospital yesterday, in the midst of every possible sort of germ, as run down as I’ve been in years. When I should have been resting, I spent the afternoon and evening driving my son.
Tennis equipment. Tennis pickup. Three stores into the night for supplies, for a school project.
He is still awake. It’s another all-nighter.
Ironically, I am rarely sick, and so I recognize when something is off. But where do I go? There is a small clinic nearby, a doc-in-the-box which doesn’t inspire confidence. I went twice, a few years ago, and after waiting three hours the doctors were dreadful. There is another hospital, closer, but my records were removed by the doctor I saw 10 weeks ago who said “everything is fine.”
I don’t know where to go, but something isn’t right.
There are few people in my real world, my flesh and blood and breathing circle of adults. I am shut off; I smile and nod and tell half-truths on the rare occasions I go out. Half-truths are less difficult than lies, and truths push people away.
There is “before” and there is “after.” There are women who walk away when the “after” of too many losses is too great or to frightening.
In my own way, I walked away. I closed the gates to confine the pain.
Yet one remained a friend, though the chain of experiences that bound us as friends was once strong, the material that stretches from before to after to now has been strained. We speak on the phone from time to time. Our children are best friends. Once, we were close – we shared common experience, neighbors, affection, laughter, confidences.
There was damage, there was distance, there will always be distance when events are sticky and allegiances are broken. There’s her stuff, my stuff, and each of us isolated through no fault of our own.
Each of us these past few years, fighting to get through a day.
Yesterday I stopped by her home, and left my mask at the door.
There were tears. There was talk. She was an R.N. for many years and she said she doesn’t mind giving me the shots I need for a number of weeks and possibly months.
Yesterday, we spoke of our children who were babies together, our worlds that were interconnected for more than a dozen years before my divorce and my move, before my troubles and her troubles of a different sort but no less painful.
We began the process of rebuilding a bridge.
It is a friendship we both need, even if it can never be quite the same.
It is a bridge we will have to build back together, slowly.
And so we begin. It is complicated to build a bridge. It is more complicated to rebuild one.
Whatever life dishes out
I will try to find a place to see a physician or a physician’s assistant. I will hope I start to feel better soon. There are few options, and returning to the city hospital is not among them.
I know my body’s rhythms and I force myself to listen. I know myself sleepless but strong, in pain but whole, weak but functioning, and this is something else. How do I care for my children if I’m this weak? How long can I go on?
I know my body’s rhythms. I must go on. I know my body’s rhythms. I will go on.
I recall the family doctor who lived in the neighborhood and arrived with a black bag that clicked open and closed, and inside there were needles that were scary and a stethoscope that was cold. But if we were sick, he was there. That was then. This is now.
Our brave new world of tightropes. Knowledge of our bodies and more importantly it seems, our bank accounts.
There are moments when new voices startle us with their presence and their warmth. I heard your voices yesterday, and I have no words except thank you, no action except to keep going, no hope except to build bridges.