Sunday, September 16, 2012

How It Is

I lie in bed for over 45 minutes trying all the tricks I've been told to send myself back sleep, counting backward, clearing my mind, deep breaths, prayer, more wine.  I contemplate taking another Ambien and then realize there isn't enough time.  I have to be up in three hours to run anyway. So with a sigh I drag my aching body out of bed. I put my phone under my chin and exit my bedroom as quietly as possible while dragging the huge laundry basket behind me; my husband doesn't even stir. I envy those who sleep so effortlessly.

I usually wake up while the rest of the house is silent, deep in their dreams, blissfully unaware of the great expanse of night that stretches before them, black and impenetrable.  The cat greets me, this is her witching hour, she rolls onto my foot, playing coy and purring loudly.  I notice that she has spared the paper towels and toilet paper rolls their lives this night so I oblige her with a pat.  I generally do not like cats, but the darkness is lonely and almost any company will do.  It was actually the cat who woke me up on this night, or day rather.  She must have been practicing her midnight ninja skills because my bedroom door came flying open and I heard a raspy "meeeeeee-yawr" followed by a thump that was, what I presume, her body hitting the closet door.

Since I have given up the possibility of returning to bed, I make myself a cup of coffee.  This, the laundry and the cat will be my companions for the darkest hours.  I sit in silence and think about my mother.  The distance that separates us is palpable and I can feel my heart being pinched at the thought of merely being able to touch her.  I wonder if the pain is worse for mothers than it is for their children. I suppose one day I will know the answer to this question.  If my mother were here she would get up with me, she always gets up.  As a teenager my parents would attempt to convince me to keep their ridiculously early hours and to have coffee with them.  They begged, they yelled up the stairs for me to come down.  I covered my head with a pillow and told them where they could go: away!  Sleep is precious to the young; it has lost its value as I've aged. Or perhaps we have fallen out of love, sleep and me.  I chase it, but it eludes me or merely taunts me with too little time and I am too jaded to pursue it any further this night.

I carefully sort the laundry, load the washing machine, measuring and pouring cups of this and that thing that promise to clean, refresh, protect and soften, and start the machine.  I enjoy doing the laundry, unlike sweeping these floors, I get an unnatural sense of satisfaction when I see that where once was a large ketchup stain, now is only pure, spotless cotton.  I am the god of laundry and I (with the power of the laundering trinity: Tide, Oxyclean and Downy) have to power to absolve the ugliness from these poor garment's lives.  By the power of Oxyclean, I command these stains to COME OUT-AH!  And they do.  All except the red, red dirt of Guam.  The red dirt is a one way street to the abyss of the garbage bin for any careless clothing that may stray from the safety and purity of the grass or higher places.  Usually the lost ones are smaller, child's clothing.  Not even Oxyclean can save you now little BabyGap top, cute though you may be, you have been marred beyond redemption and are now destined for a short and ultimately very dirty life in the play clothes drawer and then it will be the abyss for you.

After I have finished talking to the laundry, I sit in darkness and contemplate the silence, which is actually very noisy if you've ever taken the time to listen.  The air conditioner kicks on and off intermittently but not without a metal buzz and clattering sound each time before the whoosh of air comes.  The dehumidifier in the kitchen makes a rhythmic hum that has an almost song-like quality to it and then there's the cat.  She is trying her hand, er paw, at various cupboards in the kitchen, opening each one just enough to get her foot in the door (literally) and then releasing it with a smack!  I renew my notion that she is evil.  If I were brave enough to go outside at this hour (which I am not) I would hear the slight rustle of the palm fronds in the breeze which sounds like rain.  There would also be the intermittent thud of a coconut or other small fruit falling from the host of trees surrounding our house.  And then there would be the noises coming from the jungle: the snapping of twigs under the weight of large things, the rustle of leaves made by crabs and God knows what else, and in a couple of hours there will be the wake up calls of the roosters, but now, even they still sleep.

As I sit in the deafening silence, I think about the past few weeks of my life.  I have travelled half way around the world, leaving my children, husband, and our tiny island home for the second time.  I ventured to places I have only ever dreamed about and seen in books.  I stood on castle steps and in the shade of the Eiffel tower.  I witnessed the sacred vows of two people in love and took part in celebrating that involved a lot of champagne.  But most importantly to me, I connected with people everywhere I went and my love and understanding of the human matter where in the world you are, deepened and made me very happy.  It is not the toys or trinkets I brought back with me, but those things that I will keep forever.

In three weeks I will run 13.1 miles...further than I have ever run in my life.   I wish so  badly I could send myself back in time to the thirteen year old me crying in the locker room after being unable to complete even a mile around the track.  "Don't worry", I would say, "this is not how the story ends.  One day after you have grown up (more than now anyway) and endured more than you would ever think possible of yourself, you will decide to run.  And you will not stop.  It will be hard just like it was today, but the strength that you will have gained from the trials that you will face will tell you to keep going.  Just a little bit further.  And you will.  And you will continue to keep going further until the miles you have run amaze everyone who knows you now, especially you.  So remember, do not be afraid of the pain that is to come, it will hurt, it always does.  But let it in, feel it and then let it out, leaving you stronger and wiser as it goes.  Always remember this: When we long for life without difficulties, we should remember that oak trees grow strong in contrary winds; and diamonds are made under pressure. "  But then I remember myself at thirteen and doubt I would have listened to me anyway.  

The washer clicks off and beeps three times, signalling it's finished.  I look at the cat, who is languidly eying me with contempt, she must sense my renewed hatred.  I begin to feel the exhaustion creep into my bones and I get up, I must keep moving.  Difficult moments are just like running, if you simply keep putting one foot in front of the other, you will get to where you are trying to go.  Unless of course you are trying to go to sleep.