Yesterday I watched the sun rise through the eastern door of the barn, while we got ready for the horse show. I spent the twilight hours paddling on the lake, in near solitude. I stole glimpses of beauty, I know, but I don’t let it sink in.

I finally received that massage everyone has urged me to get. I couldn’t bear to be touched or to release my clenched body last year. Then I was ready, and it was all rather uneventful. I needed to muster small talk, so masseuse and I chatted about kayaking. I told her about the berth I rent–I got the last one available–and I just pop in when I have a spare hour, or when I see the sky become clear on a rainy day. I told her about the snakes who pop their heads out of the water, ducking under when I approach, or occasionally staying upright (that’s creepy), and watching them glide across the lake, their little nobbin heads just above water. As I left she remarked that I’d persuaded her to get into her kayak more often. Imagine that, me, doing something that someone else wants to do.

I can’t imagine that there’s anything redeemable about me. I can’t accept any beauty, or joy, or even just equanimity.

Daughter and I took the dogs for a walk on the bike path. A cyclist approached us, obviously pleased at the sight of us. I suppose we present a picture. The dogs are big and adorable. Daughter is, apparently, my mini-me. (She and I don’t think we look alike, but we hear it all the time.) Walking one behind the other, mini-me with the big dog, regular me with the bigger dog, must have looked charming. I politely smiled at the woman, but I couldn’t bear to be drawn in. I recognized her type–the lonely woman who appreciates beauty, who savors the moment. This is the woman I will be someday, once I accept that this is my lot. I was so filled with self-loathing that when I spotted her resting on a bench when we returned to the car, I didn’t make eye contact, I didn’t bring the dogs over to say hello. I won’t be the person who finds joy in the moment, in these moments. I am raging against these moments, against this life (insofar as my feeble emotional state allows for rage. My rage comes out like a whimper. I am whimpering against joy).

Driving down the street, I saw one of my best friends leaving a house. Her family must have had been departing dinner with their friends. It was friend’s daughter that I spotted first, in a charming bohemian dress. This is a world closed off to me, not only because our family is fractured, but because I don’t get invited anymore. Some people tried, in the beginning. I suffered through those dinners. I must have come across as a freak. There was the one couple that would kiss, right in front of me, at every gathering, often when the husband was bringing the wife a drink. Who knows what my face betrayed? Who knows what people said when I left, what couples said about me in the car on the way home. The invitations dried up. We spent every holiday this past year, alone, without one local invitation. I don’t harbor resentment about that, but I noted it, each time. Those lonely holidays pushed me right through grieving, letting me know how much had changed, to instruct me that this is my lot.

I wish I’d had the wherewithal to apply for that job last year, which could have taken me to another, even hipper college town where I could have started over. But I couldn’t go through with the application, and the kids couldn’t bear to leave. We went out of town last week, and daughter was homesick by Tuesday night. To cheer her up, I took her to a huge tack store, where she communed with things horse-related. We found a very large park and walked 2.5 miles under the treetops, past ravines, past a lengthy earthwork built by the ancient people. That fortified us for the remainder of the week. The final day of the trip we waited for son to finish up at fencing camp. She fainted from the heat and the noise and the lighting. She was clammy as I brought her out to the car. After a brief nap in the back seat with the A/C cranked up and directed her way, she perked up. Her inner light emerged the closer we got to home. Home!

I fought back tears the closer we got to home. I can’t get away from here. I can’t break free while here. But home it is. We stocked up at the farmers market the next morning. Cherries AND strawberries, imagine that. I used the garlic scapes for a pesto that served as the sauce for a pizza. The homemade crust was so thin. The pizza was delicious. I finished Let the Great World Spin. I tore through Wild, which I haven’t been able to read all year because it’s about grief but now I was ready for it, and it was fine. I’m not depressed, I’m not truculent. What is my hang-up? I think it’s more than a need for attitude adjustment. I think I need self-esteem. I think there’s something I need to let go of. I think I need to get laid. I know I need to stop my nightly wine sessions and face these lonely evenings with more courage. I drove up to my kayak, alone on its berth for 6 days, and got back on the lake. It occurred to me that all these snakes have always been there, I’m only just now aware of their ubiquity. Nothing has changed, except that I know more than I did. I think of the snakes and the fishermen in their small motorboats the way I’d consider the characters in a lower east side neighborhood *shrug,* as part of the neighborhood. I exchange a small wave with the lone fisherman across the lake. I used to be afraid of the fishermen, but now I find some small comfort when I see their pick-up trucks parked on the grass. We’re all out there on the water for some reason, and it’s not to meddle with each other. When the lone fisherman motored away, I paddled out to the middle of the lake and bobbed in his wake.


3 thoughts on “Refusal

  1. One of the nature trails I take the dog on runs right next to a river with a dam. It’s a popular place for kayaking, in fact they rent them within a block of the parking lot I use. I’ve never been in one although I did canoeing in the first 25 years of my life. Since discovering your blog I always think of you when I see someone kayaking, of what the world looks like from your point of view out there on the water. I can’t help believing that the solitude and sounds of nature will eventually bring you the peace and healing that you need. I love your writing, the way you are able to express your insights into what drives you forward.

  2. That’s sweet, Jean. As I spot the hikers and runners and mountain bikers through the trees, I’ll wonder who’s out there!

    Thanks for the positive comment. I feared this was a negative post, but I’m glad I wrote it. It shows me that I’m unsatisfied. This is good. I’ve lacked desire. Maybe if I feel unsatisfied long enough, I’ll start to want something, really want it.

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