Friday, June 7, 2019

Channeling equanimity

I'd stay home at night, all the time
I'd go anywhere, anywhere, anywhere
Ask me and I'm there, yeah

Neil left for his softball tournament. I’ve been crying on and off, pretty much since I got out of bed this morning. Not weeping or sobbing, just tears that steadily seep out of the corners of my eyes. Neil doesn’t see them, or he pretends that he doesn’t.

He asked me what my plans are for the weekend. I said nothing. I mean, I said something, which was “nothing.”

Nothing today. Nothing tomorrow. Nothing Saturday. Nothing Sunday.

Sometimes, at times like this, I ask myself, WWSD? What would Sara do?

Sara was my best friend in college. She was one of the most self-possessed people I’ve ever known. She did not wear her heart on her sleeve, ever. She kept a veil of mystery about her. She was practical, reasonable, unselfish, poised, self-reliant, self-assured.

So many things that I was not, am not.

And beautiful. And clever. And funny. And all the things.

At the start of our sophomore year, Sara began dating a friend of mine who I introduced to her. I met Lin in the first class I took at Colgate. I thought he was funny and cute. I asked him to go to a poetry reading with me. Which he did. I’m not sure whether or not I’d call it a date. No romance was kindled, but he became a friend.

He fell hard for Sara, as she did for him. They’re still together now, 45 years and counting. But he wasn’t an uncomplicated person to love. Sara is wholesome, grounded, sensible. In college, Lin liked to close the bars down, playing pool, drinking beer. He liked to stay up until dawn and sleep until mid-afternoon. He would pull all nighters before exams and deadlines for papers.

I’d have been whining and judging and feeling slighted and and angry and hurt. I don’t think Sara ever gave him grief. She was there for him when he came home. I’d have made it about me. She was compassionate and steady, a rock in his sea of craziness. He adored her.

In those days, Colgate was trying to go to a year-round format, and all students had to take at least one summer session. Most of us chose the summer after our sophomore year and took off the following fall semester. Sara and I made plans for a five-week-long trip, taking the trans-Canada railroad from Montreal to Vancouver, with stops to go camping and hiking (and hitchhiking - it was legal then) in Banff and Lake Louise.

Photo of a (very old) photo. Sara, her childhood friend Nancy, and me
in Montreal, getting ready to board the train for our grand adventure.
At the end of our sophomore year, I started dating Gerry, a good friend of Lin’s, and we fell in love. We spend all our time together over the summer, but in the fall, Gerry headed off to Skidmore College. He’d registered for an exchange semester there before we got involved. I was very unhappy about being apart. I did enjoy many of the wonderful experiences that Sara and I had on our trip but I carried my birth control pills with me as if they were my most cherished possession. Eventually the plastic disk made a permanent impression in my cheap plastic raincoat.

From Vancouver we ferried to Vancouver Island and from there to Seattle and on down the coast to San Francisco, where Sara’s mom and grandmother lived. On the Oregon coast, I wrote Gerry’s name in the sand. I spend a couple of weeks in San Francisco, and I remember feeling happy that when we went to bed at 10:30 pm, Gerry was probably going to bed in Saratoga Springs, New York, where last call at the bar was 2 am.

I missed Gerry constantly. Sara missed Lin but she handled the situation much differently, with acceptance, patience, and maturity. She stayed on in California after I took the red-eye home to New York and my parents’ house. Her parents had divorced the summer before, her dad was living in New York, her mom in California, and she felt it was fair to spend time with both.

Sara was the perfect role model for how to handle separation. She took it in stride or put on a hell of an act that she did. I think it was real. She loved Lin and was happy to see him again when it was time for her to return to New York, but she didn’t experience separation as the end of the world. It was part of her special mystery and allure that she was her own person, not needy or dependent or jealous.

Lin grew up to become a disc jockey, eventually landing in Chicago, where ironically, given his penchant for late nights and sleeping in, he has worked the early morning drive-time gig for years. He also became a local celebrity or personality, so he has spent much time making appearances, going to all sorts of openings, tournaments, fundraisers, concerts, and generally living the life. And none of that was Sara’s jam. I imagine her at home, cooking healthy soups and baking bread, and later, raising the child they had just shy of her 40th birthday.

Equanimity. I think that’s the word I want, to describe the way that I think Sara handled Lin’s crazy hours and life in the limelight. Of course I don’t know for certain how she really felt and behaved, that’s just my surmise. She isn’t on any social media, so I can only guess that she made her own life, a quiet one I suspect, and that she’s still his rock and there for him when he comes home, unless of course she’s off doing her own thing, in her calm, confident, self-sufficient way.

So what would Sara do this weekend?

Well, she wouldn’t have been crying or being pathetic. She wouldn’t have been playing the wounded, lonely, sad piece of work, wanting her husband to feel guilty and badly for abandoning her.

What will I do?

Since I can’t magically cut friends from whole cloth to get together with, I can only try to make the time pass as pleasantly and productively as possible.

There was a time when I would happily have made beads on all three days. I no longer feel the pull, but I might try it once or twice anyway and see how it feels.

Shopping is always good for killing a few hours. I don’t need a lot of stuff, but I might look for a couple of things on my nice-to-have list, like a new bathroom rug.

I have a gift card for Bath & Body Works.

I need to go by the Art Center and pick up the last ceramic pieces that I glazed earlier this week. Open studio is Saturday morning. I don’t have anything left to work on but there are usually people there that I know and could chat with.

On Saturday there’s an event at the yarn store. I might push myself out of my comfort zone, take one of my works-in-progress and spend a little time there. I’m close to finishing a shawl and another blanket. There’s yet another blanket and a scarf on my near-term project list.

There are lots of things on my streaming watchlists to consider binging.

I have podcasts bookmarked.

I have books to read.

Of course I will walk, on the treadmill, maybe a stroll into Birkdale Village.

There might be a movie of interest, although we did just see Rocketman, which was pretty amazing even if they pulled all the cliche stops out. But the acting and the music were great.

So, we’ll see how well I can do.

Especially at channeling Sara.

Composure, serenity, peace of mind, those are my weekend goals.

Dealing with loneliness, and how fragile, vulnerable, and stuck in the past it leaves me, those are tasks for the longer term.

Wait a minute baby
Stay with me awhile
Said you'd give me light
But you never told me about the fire

Drowning in the sea of love
Where everyone would love to drown
But now it's gone
It doesn't matter what for
When you build your house
Then call me home

And he was just like a great dark wing
Within the wings of a storm
I think I had met my match
He was singing
And undoing, and undoing the laces
Undoing the laces

Said Sara, you're the poet in my heart
Never change, never stop
But now it's gone
It doesn't matter what for
But when you build your house
Then call me home

Hold on
The night is coming and the starling flew for days
I'd stay home at night, all the time
I'd go anywhere, anywhere, anywhere
Ask me and I'm there, yeah
Ask me and I'm there, I care

In the sea of love
Where everyone would love to drown
But now it's gone
They say it doesn't matter anymore
When you build your house
Then please call me home

Sara, you're the poet in my heart
Never change, and don't you ever stop
Now it's gone
No it doesn't matter anymore
When you build your house
I'll come by

(Stevie Nicks © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.)