There has always been a part of myself I want to give away. When I was about 14 years old my parents separated. But, before that happened, I tried, in the only way I knew how, to make them stay.
My mom was a lover of books. She was a teacher before she was a mother and that aspect, I can only assume, informed the desire she had to stack our shelves with books. We had poetry and fairy tales and magical beasts. We had more serious books and chapter books we could read p our own. And one night we had a collection of poetry put together by Caroline Kennedy. I don’t remember any other poem in that book or the title, all I remember is reading my dad a poem the night before he left us, hoping he’d stay. The premise of the poem was this: there was a dog, a naughty dog, a dog who left his home and wandered off. But, this dog, the poem said, always came back. No matter what. No matter how many times he left or what he did. Thought I couldn’t have understood everything that was going on between my parents, I understood this: staying was a way to heal and leaving would break things. Maybe, I didn’t have my own language, but I had the poem, and enough intuitive sense to know that my life was going to change.
I’ve shared this anecdote before and I share it again this morning because I want you to understand this: if you are lonely, if you stray from your path or your spirituality or your God, or your house, you can always come back. And also, you aren’t lost or broken, you’re just growing. Growing used to be the word my friend C would use to describe internal expansions. She’d point to her chest and say, “here.” Growing. It’s how we move through this world, it’s why we break perfect things and also how we know that perfection is a mirage—it doesn’t exist and isn’t attainable, but it gives us hope and that’s not nothing.
I’ve lost a lot of people in my life recently: friends and family and parts of myself. There’s a breakdown happening in my household that has to do with growth and change and the fall and all the other things that are small alone, but together become seemingly insurmountable. I’m talking about wandering, but I’m also talking about coming home.
I’ve unexpectedly moved twice in the last month. I’ve suddenly decided my life path includes social work school. I’m worried about money and my puppy’s health and the state of the union and respect and kindness and what I should have for breakfast. I’m worried that I’ve lost people that I really really need and I’m worried that I’ll never stop missing some of them. I’m trying to make friends as an adult and failing and putting myself out there and regretting it. I keep stumbling into one phrase from a poem C showed me when we first met and then quoted throughout our friendship. The line is this: “break into blossom.” It’s a beautiful line by James Wright and equal parts heartbreaking and heart expanding for me. I’m delighted by words and equally torn by them: you can’t block words or eat them away. You can’t burn them or put them in a box at the top of the closet. You can’t make them all disappear and if you’re like me you may never stop running into the words that hurt the most. Running, wandering, growing…breaking into blossom. The cycle of my life and maybe yours.
I thought I was telling the story of my parents divorce, well not the story but the moment before, the moment when things could go one way or the other and there wasn’t a darn thing anyone could do about it. Because when you look at the past, there’s no changing the moment before. The stick that broke the camel’s back or the words you can’t take back. There’s the memory of the before and the after and the desire, sometimes, to shake life like a snow globe and see where it all lands. Did we do better this time? Did things stay the same? Was it always the way it would work out?
I’m writing these words from the roof of my building. I can see the tops of the trees in Back Bay and the sky, cloudy and cool whispering about fall, I can hear the wind and taste the coffee, and feel…I can feel at home for now. I don’t go back and reread the poem I chose to read my father all those years ago, this time I go back to a favorite, balm to the wound, a part of my heart, these words:
Suddenly I realize That if I stepped out of my body I would break Into blossom.