My tears take the long way to the pillow. They trace a line over my cheek bone and down to my chin, being slowed by week-old stubble, before depositing themselves onto the rose pillowcase, slowly, with the others, leaking sadness from my insides.
We are entangled, wrapped around each other in ways that feel and heal. Despite our proximity, the angle of my head allows for the tears to reach the pillow and not dampen her arm. It must have then, been the breathing that gave away my sadness in the dawn’s grey, dim light. A hand comes up and, like so many times prior, windshield wipers away the lone droplet before it migrates further. “Are you being sad?” Andy whispers.
I am grieving. I am grieving for something that has not been lost but feels inevitable. Living in the present is easy when there is no anticipation of loss. I am grieving the potential loss of connections, connections built over time, roots that have sunk deep: place, people, community, work—home. No, I am not the first to feel and shirk away at this loss, but it is still real for me; feelings of inadequacy in the face of hard things runs deep. And, I am a grown adult who has made sound decisions that have played out favorably in my life; if I am going to sacrifice parts of my deeply built connections I need to know that I can be held in my vulnerability.
So I pour over the next steps. How do I change a career when I like what I do? How do I change a landscape when I like where I am? How do I find excitement about a place and doing something else when I am being pulled away from a place and a community that I have spent years building? Community college. Technical schools. Guide services. I need to take this opportunity to go back to school, to learn a new trade, to move myself along. But along from what? For what? I need to lean in. I need details and ideas.
We sit and share a screen with Ellyn, and we talk about the challenges of these conversations. We talk of the importance of shared values. We talk about intentions and how to stay connected even as we spend the next three weeks apart. Outside the window the wind blows hard; leaves whip into wind dervishs and cardboard boxes roll hither and yon. Autumn, in all its glory, has settled in.
Maybe I am wasting my days here, thinking about leaving, when indeed I could be enjoying them and living life to the lees.
I need to let go. I need to lean into what Andy wants. I need to be there in support. I need to approach with curiosity what she wants and needs. I need to challenge myself. I need to grow and learn and need to want to do so in a new, different environment. Andy wants to be near her family and find growth and purpose in returning to school. I feel selfish in thinking about what I am momentarily setting aside.
We sit a lot these days. On the black linoleum by the refrigerator. On the spiky, sandy ground of the Way Rambo parking lot below soaring sandstone walls. On the carpeted floor of the living room, bathed in sunlight. On lumpy dolomite blocks in the sunlight of Sinks Canyon’s walls. On the floor of the bedroom, our backs against the worn, green quilt that graces our queen sized bed, our arms around our knees or around each other. We talk. It isn’t easy. Andy says the conversations center on me and how I don’t want to leave. And that is the story Andy doesn’t want to hear anymore. I need to let that story go.
The days dwindle, the hours too. At the end of the week I leave for the field for twenty-two days. Our planned days off together have been eroded by new work for Andy. My heart aches with each huffed action and each “fine” in response to questions. How can I get myself to navigate this better? I need to show up better.
I wonder what will exist in a month: how I will have altered my dreams, if I will regret not being more supportive sooner?
And tears, plump and round, render the trackpad useless, the mouse pointer dancing as the green chamois of my sleeve fruitlessly rubs it dry.
Featured Image: A fall day out the side window at 616 Washakie
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