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February 2, 2010

I’m up in my bedroom, the old/new bedroom. I’m still not sleeping well up here, I’m ashamed to admit, though I like it just fine during the day. Every time I walk up the narrow steps I’m pleased with myself, and I’m slowly bringing books and other comforting household detritus up from downstairs. During the day, the rooms up here are dappled in a lovely chill light, and the simple act of walking up and down seems to help circulate warm air to the third floor (I know heat is supposed to rise, but in this house, for some reason, it never does.)

But I still can’t get to sleep before one or two or even three in the morning, most nights. Other nights I wake halfway to dawn and lie there fretting. The moon shines obnoxiously on my face, and I worry, and then I roll onto my stomach and look out the window, where I can see my delightful friend’s house through the trees. Often her house is lit up, which comforts me. Over there, someone’s studying for a test, or watching a movie after hours, or maybe just careless about turning things off, with the result that the house looks lively and inhabited. It’s soothing to think that someone else might be awake.

I’m about to list the house for sale again, so I’ve got lots of exciting cleaning and organizing (and carping at the kids to pick their damned stuff up off the damned floor) to look forward to. Worse than the busywork is the constant push-pull of both wanting and not wanting a proper buyer to come along. I have to be eager for the house to sell, because that’s why it’s for sale! On the other hand, hundreds of people will demand to look at it, which will necessitate absurd amounts of frantic, last-minute cleaning. Then the potential buyers will tell their realtors that they like the house, they really do, only they’ve just now decided they’re looking for something a little less…clean. And they’ll vanish–like last year–into other houses in other towns. So I mustn’t get excited. After all, I’m lucky to have this place at all, lucky to be able to afford it for now. Still, if it DOES sell, I can stave off bankruptcy indefinitely! Best not to think about that, though, since it probably won’t sell. In which case, it’s a true luxury to have so much space! And I can plant a garden this summer! And then, right when the tomatoes ripen, some stupid couple will come along and act like giant assholes about the old furnace and the uneven floors and the garage without electricity and the small bathrooms, and humiliate me into selling the house for less than it’s worth, after which they’ll gorge themselves on my vegetables, while sitting gleefully on my porch. Forget the garden, then. And the chickens. I can’t possibly get chickens, I must be insane. But what if it’s our last year here, and the house doesn’t sell till fall? Shouldn’t the kids have one last shot at chickens, and a garden?

This is the kind of productive thinking I do at three o’clock in the morning, in the room I both love and hate, with my younger son (who still gravitates to my bed like a heat-seeking missile at some point nearly every night) snoring softly by my side. You’d think a beloved sleeping child would be a comfort in the middle of the night, but mine kicks, and talks in his sleep. My across-the-yard’s friend’s lit windows are infinitely more consoling, in their way.

I refuse to move downstairs, so I’ve got no choice but to tough this stage out, but god, I am tired of discovering new unpleasant stages just on the other side of an unpleasant stage triumphantly vanquished. All in all, I am so much more pleased with my life than I was a few months ago, or (god forbid) a year ago, or (perish the thought) two years ago. There are days I feel close to normal, though I still can’t return a library book on time to save my soul, and I commit idiotic financial or practical blunders no self-respecting adult would cop to at least once a week. (These all seem symptomatic and dire at 3 a.m., and I vow to reform my ways when the sun comes up. Then I forget, which itself seems symptomatic the following night. Und so weiter. )

Yesterday my friend with the consoling windows gave me a wrapped present–a gray and fierce looking owl, eight or nine inches tall, carved from (I believe) soapstone or something equally slippery and heavy. Owls have recently become trendy–the Anthropologie catalog is lousy with them–but let the record show, I’ve coveted and collected them for years. Right away I decided this one would live upstairs in my room, to frighten away bad thoughts and bad dreams. But I didn’t want to admit something so dopey, so I enthused about its expression and how much I love owls and how delighted I was with the present. My friend raised one eyebrow. “I want it to go up in your room,” she said, “so you’ll feel better about being up there again.” (So much for my sophisticated, rational persona.) “Also, it’s so damned heavy, you can use it as a blunt weapon if you ever need one.”

Owls are associated with gray-eyed Athena, of course. Right now my gray-eyed owl scowls protectively from the bookshelf next to my bed. When I turn my lamp off, the owl shines dimly in the moonlight. It makes me feel better in the way a stuffed animal makes a kid who’s afraid of the dark feel better; more importantly, it reminds me to get over myself. I’m not fooling anyone. There are, apparently, people who know just how cowardly and fragile I have become, who seem nevertheless still to like me, and who, instead of rolling their eyes at my foolishness, give me owls to cheer me up. If I believed in the concept, I’d almost say I’m blessed.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. February 2, 2010 12:01 pm

    beautiful writing…sincere…unpretentious….insightful….helpful…humorous.

  2. February 2, 2010 2:28 pm

    We all need friends to give us owls when we need them, and I’m glad that you have yours. They are, indeed, a blessing. However you prefer to define the term.

  3. Ruthie permalink
    February 2, 2010 4:54 pm

    This was beautiful – thanks for writing so honestly.

  4. Debbie permalink
    February 2, 2010 5:20 pm

    You’re a lucky woman to have such a sweet friend.

  5. February 2, 2010 11:24 pm

    Get the chickens. I have three and I adore them. Plus-tasty eggs!

  6. February 3, 2010 12:26 pm

    I agree with sam, get the chickens. They are sometimes portable, if you move. A good memoir about life after divorce/life with chickens: Still Life With Chickens. Hope your owl exorcises all the emotional ghosts.

  7. February 3, 2010 5:31 pm

    I didn’t get my chickens or fix my fences or do ANYTHING after he moved out because I didn’t want to invest any more anything in the house.

    Today marks 3 years I’ve been here. I just wrote about it.

    Get the chickens, plant the tomatoes, and when those assholes come and insult your home, you take it all with you.


  8. February 5, 2010 12:02 am

    Your writing moves me. Its raw honesty is powerful.

    I write about poop, and boogers and my frankenvulva.

    You write about substance.

    I am in awe at how you pulled me in and make me want more words from you.

    Thank you!


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