Seen standing in the rain outside the town post office, not moving, facing traffic. He is wearing head to toe green plastic rain gear. He is older and has a white beard. Exactly what you would think of if you imagined a rural Vermonter. In his hands he holds a sign. It says "Silent Witness for Peace."
I put on a jacket I bought about six years ago that has never been worn. It has been hanging in a garment bag in the barn. I must have bought it in a thrift store when I was living in Connecticut. The reason it has never been worn is that sometimes when I stumble upon something of great quality, even if it is a bit too small, in hopes of eventually losing weight, I buy it. Thrift store clothes are always cheap. The jacket can be worn but it fits snugly, reminding me that there are two more sizes to go, to meet my target weight. It is a velvet jacket, a plum shade of purple, with a lot of red in it. You could almost call it wine. I put my hand in the pocket of the jacket and pull out two small pieces of paper. One is a subway ticket from the London underground transit authority. A tube ticket. The other is a stub from a move called "Monsters" that cost 6 pounds. This jacket has traveled across the sea to make it into my hands. I take off the jacket and look at the tag on the neck. Sure enough, it is marked by a European designer, with a European size.
We get our package in the mail on the day that the email said UPS would deliver it. Inside are 6 giant hooks with jadeite (green milk glass) end knobs to go with our jadeite collection. Jadeite is what we eat off of and drink from. It is all our mixing bowls and much of our baking containers. It ranges in age from the 1920's to the 1960's and then it was reissued for a short time in 2002. Half of our collection was bought in antique stores, half off of Ebay. The hooks will go on the door to our kitchen and we will hang jackets on them. Also in this box is a smaller box with two amethyst glass door knobs and pieces of brass colored hardware. Now the three doors in our apartment will all have purple glass door knobs on both sides.
All the time I am reminded that there is a larger world out there, and that the way I live, where I live, I live amongst the most privileged people in all the world. My husband and I love our large, four room apartment. There are no earthquakes here and no floods. There are no tornadoes and in the winter we get a small reprieve from ice and snow because we live at the intersection of two rivers at the base of a mountain; it is a small, warmer, micro-climate. We do not want more space to live in, we do not need more space. But it is a constant struggle in my mind to be content with what I have and to give thanks to a higher power and to count my blessings. I do not understand my lust for more. What I try to do is to channel it into making things. If I want more I must write more or I must make something. I want more pages of prose for my book, or more sketches in my sketch book. If I want more I should clean my apartment, taking care of what I already have.
If I followed my silly head, and anything were possible, I would be married to two men, both my first and my second husband. I would like them both please. I love them both thank you. They are different from one another, and the contrasts entertain me. I would like both my past life and my current life. This is my pinnacle of wanting more. "Was I more happy in the past or am I more happy in the present" is not the question to ask me. It is this; why must I continually suffer? My silly head has gotten into it the notion that if I were married to two husbands, each with different strengths and weaknesses, then I would not suffer. I suffered with the first husband, I suffer with the second husband - at least I understand now that husbands can come and go but suffering remains.
I am thinking of doing some Buddhist reading (after I finish the biography on Abraham Lincoln which I am reading to try to understand why he is my therapist's hero), because the first truth of Buddhism is "Life is suffering". From there the Buddhists go on with means and methods to free oneself from suffering, often, by simply acknowledging it and going with it. It is the American creed to seek happiness. I don't know if I can find lasting happiness, although I laugh and smile and feel warm inside to a great degree. It seems that I find contentment, and then the contentment slips away. I have, I have not. The pattern goes on and on and on.
Two days ago I was overwhelmed with depression. I have to go to Maine with my mother for several days in the near future and I feared that should I go, I would become sick and have to be hospitalized - so great was my desire NOT to go to Maine that it seemed, in the moment, that going against my internal desire to stay at home would result in spectacular breakage of the psyche. While I was thinking these dark, fearful thoughts my husband said that he could see that I had no aura. This occurred in the morning, before my husband went to work.
In the evening, after my husband came home from work we wondered whether or not I was well enough to go out into public. He said that I had an aura now, but that it was shaded gray, not it's typical purple. Traditionally it was the night to go to the Pizza joint and share a spinach calzone. We decided to go, because I thought that being around people might be good for me. When we arrived I sat at our favorite table, where I get a view of the street outside. I like to look at cars going by and people walking down the sidewalk. I looked, but I was silent with depression. My husband took both my hands in his and shut his eyes. I did not know what he was doing, it was very strange. I did not try to take my hands back. I studied his face. He seemed to be thinking intently. I got bored and looked outside again. After what seemed to be several minutes he opened his eyes. He told me that he was trying to push some of his healthy aura into my sickly aura, - he aimed for my heart. He said that he could feel something leave his aura and flow into me. I felt ambivalent about the experiment, but honestly, better and better all the time. It could have been because I took a Klonopin pill while we were in the car driving to the Pizza parlor. Taking Klonopin in the evening is a bit like drinking a glass of wine.
After the calzone we watched a movie that made us both clutch each other and cry and cry some more at the ending. It was "The Notebook" and it was all about love. In the end the two lovers die together in the same bed. They simply go to sleep together and are found in the morning dead. This is what they wished for. They are both old and in ill health, he with multiple heart attacks, she with senile dementia. They say to each other that love makes miracles occur, and wouldn't it be wonderful, if they could both leave at the same time. They get their wish. Oh, I am crying now as I write this, tears streaming down my cheeks.
With my first husband, we would sometimes say to one another, that should somebody die, the other one was confident that they would survive. But with this husband I am not so sure. Life would be agony without him.
Why is it easier to appreciate what you have if you imagine it being taken away from you?
Last Monday was my husband's end-of -month at work. In manufacturing they push to get as much product through their departments and out the door, shipped to their customer, at the end of the month. The consequence of this practice is that when it is done everyone in the company stays late. I found that I had the entire day to myself. And I decided, that when my husband came home from work late in the evening, he would find the kitchen cleaned, all dishes washed and put away, a new table cloth on the table, flowers in a vase, and a fresh change of sheets on the bed. I worked so hard that alas, when my husband came home from work at 8:30 pm I was in bed drifting in and out of consciousness. I knew that he usually comes home from the long day wound up with energy and bubbling over with conversation, but I could not be his companion, sleep and drugs had its hold on me. He kissed my face and told me to sleep, but that when I woke, there would be a letter waiting for me on the kitchen counter.
The next morning, this is what I found;
Dearest Beloved: (My Sweet Karen)
Oh Love - the things to say.....so feeble and small. How do you spill your Heart in eloquence when it is full to the brim and flowing over with sweet, sweet Love?
You did so very much, My Precious Love - of cleaning and work - and it drained you so, Beautiful Girl.... Now you sleep - so peacefully and pretty, while I watch, my eyes brimming with tears of bittersweet emotion. "I Love You" seems so small and inappropriate to express the enormity of the joyous Love I have for you! Rest Well in the Dreamy Lands Beloved and never doubt that I Love You - or that Gaia Herself hold you cradled in Her Loving Arms.
I Weep because My Joyous Love spills from Me, sweet. To My Beautiful Brown eyed Girl.... Love you Always! -Me
It certainly seems that the work I did made an impression on my husband. I am not unappreciated or ignored. He knows the limits my illness puts on me, and when I make an effort, he knows that I am not like others, and the effort is not like others. Perhaps he holds me to a different standard from most people. This is a kindness, as I cannot behave like most people, except in spurts and drips.
I know that some people may wonder, how can you suffer, when you have such a loving husband? I guess I would have to conclude that love does not cure mental illness, nor heal a personality that is never satisfied. But I am still relatively new to this relationship. Four and a half years of marriage. And I am in the middle of my life. I can change. I can settle and grow content. I can age and grow wiser. I can end a traumatic childhood that perhaps still haunts me. I am a seeker, restless in wanting more knowledge, more understandings, more illumination.
When contentment settles upon me, filling me, holding me, and making a hollow woman feel solid, I understand that every day is new beginning. In the midst of my angst, there are moments when I feel that I stand at the Dawn of a New Creation, when everything is sweet and tender, quivering with holiness, and Life.
I have, I have not, and then I have again.