A Photograph of me without me in it

A Photograph of me without me in it
A photograph of me without me in it

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Exulting Somewhat

My partner Ann and I spent this Thanksgiving at Little Sister Jen’s (LSJ) home in Pound Ridge, a New York City suburb. Her six-bedroom home is beautiful, on a large plot of land with a tennis court, swimming pool, and family-sized soccer field. (They're selling if you're interested.)

LSJ has a law degree. (My favorite story of hers from law school is about her taking the part of her skull that was removed to a professor when she needed an extension. She’s funny that way.) LSJ now works in risk management (yes, that's funny, too) for an investment firm, and her husband sold his hedge fund in the 1990’s, so they’re doing all right (though they’re building their new home in South Carolina, so contact them if you want their house. If you want to shop around, Little Brother Matt is selling one across the border in Connecticut, and Mom and Dad are selling theirs in North Carolina.)

LSJ lives a suburban life with four beautiful children, a life I thought I might live, but my route through life had some surprising detours, so I’m a disabled, lesbian, Seattle feminist instead. 

The day after Thanksgiving, my brother's girlfriend told me about how surprising her adult life has been. Her story resonated with me. She'd thought she'd marry in her twenties, have a few kids and a suburban home, and "do the mother thing." 

Instead, she's had several serious boyfriends and moved to Colorado for 10 years before returning to her home town in Connecticut. She's also started two successful businesses (interestingly, a candy shop in Colorado and now a health coaching business).

"Life hasn't gone as I planned," she said, "but my life makes sense to me now. Suddenly I have your brother and his kids. And there's a lot more of my life to live. I'm happy about it."

I’m happy about my life, too, so glad it isn’t going as I'd planned. How could I have foreseen such an amazing partner as Ann, our Seattle life with good friends and a delightful puppy, my writing life, and even my brain tumors’ gifts (though I’m not yet embracing my losses.)

Though I studied English literature in college, I didn’t read much poetry there. Much to my surprise, I was assigned to teach poetry my first year in teaching, and in that teaching I learned a passion for poetry, a passion that provides solace in my most difficult times. 

As I listened to Jenny, this Stanley Kunitz poem occurred to me, again a gift. Though I don’t believe any part of my life is already written, this poem and Jenny’s story remind me I’m not alone. So many of us took multiple paths as we sought our own, and we have been graced with the journey. 
Read it for yourself. Maybe it resonates with you, too.

The Layers 

I have walked through many lives, 
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

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