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A real true story that happened this way
Last Tuesday, dear friend Kelly—a beautiful boy with a radiant heart and generous laugh that could warm up the corners of winter’s coldest days—hosted the inaugural Tall Boy Tuesday, bringing together friends from every era of his life to swap stories over the drinks of their choice, on the internet, three minutes each, with an option to pass and donate instead to a local school, which was a nice loving touch, I thought.
The prompt was simple. Share a personal story from 2020. Real shit only. Keep it brief.
So I tried. Which I love. Trying, that is. It’s the only thing there is to do, really.
With many thanks to Kelly, who will live a long, wondrous life under the light of a merciful star if my hopes have anything to do with it, here is a brief and true story about 2020. Real shit only. (Imagine me reading at first very fast, and then very slow.)
My father-in-law took a fall on the mountain in Edwards, Colorado, crushed up his insides, exploded a kidney, and this was all about three to four hours away from the nearest ICU. Also this was in late February, when the whole world was already knee-deep in death and disease, but not quite admitting it yet and also, thank goodness, my husband was there at the time, because he and I were considering if we should end our marriage and giving each other lots of space seemed like a good way to really get into it, you know, think about the possibility of blowing up our life together, a life that came together when I got blind drunk one night and told him I'd been in love with him for longer than I could live with without telling him at least once. He was my best friend at the time and at the time he was working really hard to not be in love with me, so you can imagine the relief he must have felt to not have to try so hard anymore. Me? I cannot imagine it, because as I mentioned I was quite drunk at the time.
So anyway, there he was in Colorado, growing a mustache and driving through the notoriously treacherous Vail Pass in a snowstorm to deliver his busted up father to the doctor in Denver, and once recovered enough to bear the 12-hour drive, he'd ferry both of his parents back to their home in St. Louis—father hooked up to an oxygen tank and mother gripped by the fear of losing the man she'd been married to for 50-some odd years, during which they were briefly divorced and remarried when, after a series of trysts in Santa Fe, they saw it wasn't so much that they needed to find each other in the middle as they needed to stretch toward a whole new plane of coexistence, and that's how they fell back into love, though I have my doubts if they ever really left it.
Upon delivery of his once-divorced parents to safety, my husband returned to me and through tears and fears and tremendous heartache, we decided to end our marriage, only I couldn't really leave, because, you know, pandemic. So we shared our home and slept separately and took it very, very easy on each other, promising no matter what, we wouldn't let divorce be the end of our friendship, which meant we had to talk, all the goddamn time, about who needed what and when and how, so that the other could provide that space and get out of their face as needed.
Only here's where it gets funny is, in that month of shelter-in-place and closely confined separation, we started to have fun again, laughing at our stupid selves and our horrible decision to leave each other when we could barely leave the house. So when the day came I saw an opening, a place that I could go that wasn't where we lived together, we saw with crystal clarity how foolish we'd become, to sell ourselves on giving up instead of giving in to this, the massive, multiplex truth we began to see in our imperfect, impeccable union:
There are no easy answers.
No one thing he could do or I could do to make the other happy.
There is only the possibility of giving each other enough space today to try to catch a breath, to feel whatever light or shadow the world casts through our window at any given hour; that is, we found that if we could just let one another be our whole hurting and hungry selves, if we could tell each other without fear or shame, and maybe with more faith, what we want and need today, we might be able to make this work.
So that gets us to mid-April.
Nothing's been perfect since then. I quit a job that didn't love me back and chose my family over useless struggle. Fast forward to winter when we spent a month together in a secluded cabin outside Santa Fe, just he and I with an ancient shih-tzu and brand new to the world puppy we named Sonny Bear Liston, after the legendary boxer and my favorite creature, and like his parents decades before us, found in that sacred, thirsty land enough space to see a way forward, maybe enough space to ascend. We closed on twenty acres of land out there just the other day.
Now all we gotta do is keep breathing.
So that’s that. And listen, stay safe okay? Drink more water, probably, if you can. If you’re looking for something to listen to, this interview with Robin Wall Kimmerer—from whom I learned to wonder if the land could love us back—is stunning.