Eulogy for Four Walls

Eulogy for Four Walls

Yesterday I received news our (extended) family’s cabin burned down overnight. The place we spent summers as children with the bunk beds where we giggled to each other in the dark. The shower that spurted spiders and rust when you first turned the faucet. The kitchen with so much bustling, morning pancakes and evening potatoes. The big, round, wooden table where we squeezed two to a bench and played countless rounds of Hearts. The deck where inchworms crawled beside sweating gin & tonics. The rocking wicker chairs from which Grandma and Grandpa oversaw our days. The phone that told of arrivals and news from the world, like the day Princess Diana died. The stairs we had to crawl under, among spiders and other creepy-crawlies, to retrieve the spare key. The window wells where we found countless toads and frogs. The daybeds we turned into forts, from which we watched Disney VHSs, the same wholesome tales for years. The reliable old hats and sweaters we borrowed to ward off horse flies or chilly evening breezes. The placemats and straw paper-plate holders and toaster that had almost certainly been there since my mother’s childhood. The marks on the wall showing my cousins’ yearly growth. The sliding screen door that slammed all day as people moved from deck to kitchen to deck to dock. The old cowbell they used to call us from the lake for dinner, ironic and earnest all at once. The walls that absorbed decades of our family’s comings and goings, whispers and shouts, laughter and tears. All ash.

I’ve been thinking lately about spaces and the way they paint themselves onto us as much as we paint ourselves onto them. Generations of children made this place a happy one, and whatever comes next will surely develop a personality of its own, but it can never replicate or replace that which burned in the night. At the same time, no flame can consume the totality of a place that lives in pieces scattered across so many hearts.

Gone, never forgotten. RIP beloved cabin.

Too Soon to Tell

Too Soon to Tell

My sister gets married this weekend. As festivities ramp up, I’m coming to terms with how much EXPLAINING I have to do about my situation. I keep seeing people I haven’t seen in ages, and they want to know things like how my life is, why I’m a nomad, and what I plan to do next.

If I were being honest, I’d answer:

  • My life is—NOT GREAT. I’m filled with regret over leaving a stable environment and fear that I’ll walk backward into a version of myself I worked so hard to leave behind. Most of the time, I’m thinking about money. Obsessing. Terrified. I miss privacy and being in control of my environment. I still have nightmares in which all of my car windows get smashed in. I miss everyone I left behind. I miss mountains. I miss serenity.
  • I’m a nomad because—I’m an UNSATISFIABLE MONSTER. I had a perfect life in San Diego—perfect—and I was still unhappy. If I understood why, I probably wouldn’t have thrown away every good thing I had just to see what would happen if I did. BUT I DID OKAY.
  • Next I plan to—Is “lie in the fetal position and cry” an option? Because that’s all I want to do, pretty much all the time.

While I know this period of turmoil is part of an adjustment process and things will get better in time, I’m still very much in it right now. This makes small talk deeply uncomfortable. When I hint at the truth of my situation, people are quick to look for the silver lining. “But doesn’t it feel liberating?” If you mean I’m liberated from HALF MY WARDROBE and my SENSE OF WELLBEING, then yes. Very liberating indeed.

When I try to play up the good parts of my life, I can hear the effort and how unconvincing it is. I utter bullshit phrases like, “It’s been really fun and interesting,” while my head screams OH GOD I SPENT ALL MY MONEY and, “Life’s too short not to try it, right?” to the tune of IT BETTER BE BECAUSE I’M ABOUT TO TAP THOSE RETIREMENT SAVINGS.

Surely, they can see the farce. No one believes the plastered-on smiles, the attempts to paint pretty pictures over the crumpled canvases of our lives. It’s like your recently divorced friend telling you about their newfound freedom and purpose when you know underneath their words is I stalk his new girlfriend on Instagram every night while binge-eating Cheetos—DON’T JUDGE ME. (Lord knows I’ve been that friend.)

Going through chaos is embarrassing enough without feeling like everyone can see right through you, without having to dance to some optimistic melody to make your conversational partner feel better despite your both knowing it’s a big stinking charade. Sometimes the only thing you want is to say, “I’m not okay right now. I hope someday I will be, but I’m not yet,” and then not immediately walk it back, not toss glitter on it, not pretend you were JUST KIDDING LOLOLOOOOOOOOL.

I do believe I’ll be okay—at least, I hope I will—but I have no idea whether it will be on this path or not. It’s too soon to tell.

My fantasy for this wedding is that when people ask about my life, I meet inquiries with, “It’s too soon to tell,” thus completely satisfying my conversational partners’ curiosity and causing them immediately to switch to more interesting matters like how great the cake is (it’s vegan-friendly FANTASY CAKE) or which White House staffers got a rose this week and will be advancing to the next round.

Of course, I’ll play my part. I’ll answer questions and accept silver linings and smile through it all like the super-amazing, reliable older sister I am, but deep down, I’ll be pining for a more honest exchange.

“I don’t know right now,” I could say.

And they could tell me, “It’s okay, you don’t have to.”

Wouldn’t that be nice?