All The Work While Crying
Well, this is it.
This story ends while another one is just beginning. It’s 2 AM and I’m sitting inside Terminal 3 at Fiumicino Airport, my whole life spring-loaded into one suitcase, a carry-on, and my purse.
It’s a good thing I’m in public. Less sniveling that way. I hate sniveling in public. I’m equally certain my family hates it, too.
But there are all these memories of the way things were and will never be again--our beautiful apartment in Umbria full of light and warmth, the frescoed ceilings, John cooking in the kitchen, Les McCann’s Django playing on the turntable, one kitty warming my feet, the other vying for territory on my lap.
In other words, home. Powerful word, home.
When I finally turned the key on the front door for the last time, I had a moment of real panic. I wasn’t sure I could do it. I’ve spent the past nine years shutting the world out, and now it’s about to come rushing back. Also, it seems to have brought a whole bunch of friends I don’t recognize.
All the beauty and tranquility I have drawn around me? Nothing more than a fever dream. It’s about to be replaced by small dogs in seasonal knitwear, up-speak, man-buns, coffee queues, and Instagrammable retail pop ups.
You and I both know I’m not prepared for this.
Here at the airport, there’s a man with grabby eyes, a puffer jacket, and a gray horseshoe of hair who’s been circling my area. Two minutes ago, he muttered something obscene, and I loudly told him to f*** off.
Welcome back to the world, Stacey. Is it any wonder I was so keen on hiding from it?
There will be a lot of letting go involved. I suck at letting go. Social muscles I haven’t flexed, ground ceded and gained, the sheer cost of everything, and that’s before I pull out my wallet.
Ten years ago, I might have cheered myself with some hoary old chestnut about the things that don’t kill you making you stronger. I no longer believe that’s true. Sometimes, they do kill you. They rip your heart out and feed it to you. Grief becomes your new normal. For some, that’s as good as it’s ever going to get.
But I’m not going to let that happen, and here’s why.
No matter where I go, where I live, or what I do to make ends meet, I have myself. John, too, of course, and thank all the gods he’s in my life. But I’m talking about something even more intimate than love.
In each of us is a space that’s inviolable. It does not change with a change in geography, although geography can influence it. This is the space you inhabit, or can, if you are willing to.
Some might say it feels a lot like self-acceptance, but I believe it’s something beyond that. It’s you. It’s you in all your messy imperfection and your absurdity and your depraved glory. It’s home. It’s the home inside of you that does not change or “bend with the remover to remove” (because let’s face it, Shakespeare always did explain these things best). And once you’ve found it, you never want to leave.
Sadness can dislodge it for a time, but like a cork held underwater, it will bob to the surface again. And it will always find you. Whether you’re out leaving a trail of frozen footprints on the steppes of Russia, or sitting inside a Bangladeshi brothel, or beholding Michelangelo’s Pièta, it doesn’t matter. You will always be home, and it will feel like home because you are almost always comfortable there.
When I remember that, I’m fine. Nothing fazes me, not even this relocation to New York City.
Because I’m the end, it doesn’t matter what happens. It’s a story for Cappuccino. It’s a story you tell your grandkids. Even failures (especially failures) can be funny when given just the right infusion of humility.
Here, then, is a toast to spectacular failures.
When you’ve got yourself, you have all the home you’ll ever need.
And that space can hold anything.
Tom Stoppard in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead: Every exit is an entrance someplace else.
We, your faithful readers, travel with you.
Failure? I think not. You’ve had nine years of a dream most people couldn’t even imagine. Did it end how you wanted? Probably not, but you have memories no one can take from you.
Now you’re on to a new chapter. It’s scary and different, but you’ll adapt. You raised two kids; what could be more terrifying than that?
I don’t know much, but I do know there’s a lot of love following you to New York. I look forward to learning about New York from your perspective. It’s a great city with a million stories. I suspect you’ll find some interesting ones.
Hang in there. As trite as it seems, it’s also true- tough times don’t last. Tough people do. And you’re tough.
Safe travels. I wish you much happiness. ❤️