One eye halfway closed, I type and listen to my husband snore beside me. I am warm, but it is cold and windy outside. Every night, I put on some type of pajamas and every morning, I awake, unclothed. It is as if while I sleep, I am burdened by something that has to be thrown off in the middle of the night. First my shirt, then my pants. I wake up naked and curled in a little ball, shivering sometimes.
But right now, I am in a cocoon of blankets, my Shih Tzus resting by my feet. I feel peaceful although my stomach is a bit queasy and I can feel the subtle yet persistent beginnings of a headache behind my temples.
I have not written for almost a week. Work has been hectic and I have been obsessed with listening to a novel called the Goldfinch in my car every day. I might have called in sick today, but for that audio book. I had to find out what happened. The book makes the hour or so drive to work easy, but whenever I get caught up in a book, it is hard to write myself. It is almost as if I can only focus on their words rather than my own.
But, this evening, I felt compelled to write. You see reader, writing for me is as much about a declaration of self as it is about communication with others. I write to feel alive. To prove that I was here, am here I mean. Some days, it is all I have. I told a friend the other day that writing keeps me from going bonkers. My restlessness and irritability makes more sense on the page than it does in real life. On the page, I can imagine myself into being the person I yearn to be. But in practice, my truest self, the one in my mind's eye, is only half formed.
Who I am and who I want to be, are two vastly different things. Like a warm Diet Coke and one with ice. The warm Diet Coke is still Diet Coke but it lacks the freshness and clarity of the iced version. The warm diet coke is tepid and has a bitter aftertaste. It eventually goes flat.
These days, most days, I am a warm Diet Coke version of myself, but the chilled Diet Coke is who I aim to be. Pure refreshment. All zing and cool bubbles. That was how I used to be. Before I became just a shell. No, that is wrong, not a shell. Now, I am just a verb. An ordinary verb. Sitting. Working. Sleeping.
I know what is missing. Everything feels stagnant. My heart is still caught up in the grief of that child which was not yet meant to be. I want to move on. I don't know how. They don't teach you in law school how to cope with life's deepest disappointments. That is what art is for. To capture the indescribable.
That said, there are some days when I know I am starting to feel better. Sometimes, I can feel my center returning and when I feel the lightness of my old self, I try and hold on to the essence of that feeling. Writing helps. And therapy. And reading. And the look on my dogs' mugs when I walk in the door. Their Ewok like faces looking up at me, tails wagging in time to the beat of their names spoken aloud, makes my heart beat again.
If I knew what this essay was about, I suppose I would be fully back to my old self. But sadly, this is more of a warm soda musing than a chilled one.
What scares me is that, perhaps, the old, cool me is gone. For good.