March 28, 2010

Lessons


It is strange, but I think that in removing myself from a familiar place and familiar people and familiar life I had to relearn myself. Does that make sense? I think that when I was surrounded by people and places and school and job I had all of these things pressing me together; all of those things filled in all the space around me and held all the little pieces of me in place, like water in a glass, or a lake in its shorelines. And when all of those things were gone I felt myself spreading out all over the place--diffusing into the air that used to be taken up by "my life." It was frightening. Without people there to tell me things about myself or to interact with, and without a schedule to act as the daily outline to my existence, it got confusing for a little while. I had never lived by myself before, and especially not somewhere alien. In Santa Cruz I could have still seen friends or gone to Pergolesi or had a beer at the Poet, but here the only person I regularly saw was R.C. and half the time I didn't see him. I just heard him in the garage, picking up the trash, or heard the lawnmower in the mornings before I woke up. In the first months I was here, the sound of the garage door opening or his car rumbling up the drive was absurdly comforting.

For whatever reason I didn't try to fill up all the space again. I could have taken art classes or tried, really tried to meet people. But I didn't. I left the air open, and I'm glad of it now. Because it forced me to learn how to collect all the little pieces of myself on my own, without anyone pressing in about me. I think it was a necessary thing, since I had already felt diffuse upon arriving here. It was impossible not to. My big job, my most life-defining and longest lasting job had just been ended. I wasn't anyone's big sister anymore. My therapist used to have me list things I knew about myself so that I could collect all the pieces on weeks I was feeling particularly insubstantial, like smoke. My name is Carolyn and I like to make things with my hands, be it food or art or forts or messes. My name is Carolyn and I like to wear cotton. My name is Carolyn and my hands shake. My name is Carolyn and I'm lactose intolerant. On and on. But it wasn't quite enough to combat the uneasiness of no longer being able to say, My name is Carolyn and I am Laura's big sister. I could say it, but it wouldn't have been the same thing anymore.

So, in being here I have learned who Carolyn is. I don't have to make lists to remind myself. I can sit in the silence for hours, days, and not feel little pieces of myself floating off somewhere. I feel substantial. We spend so much time in the company of people who laugh at our jokes (hopefully) and remember things about our lives and share our sadnesses that I think we are prone to forgetting how to laugh at our own jokes, without anyone to laugh with us, or to remember things about our own lives, without anyone to ask us questions about our pasts, and to know our sadnesses, without anyone to say to us, How sad. Not that these aren't all wonderful things to have in friends, and I do miss my friends and their laughter and lives and sadnesses. But I think I will be a better friend to them for having missed them.

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