Survival

2020 was a hard year, of course it was, you know this, I do not have to tell you.  It has become a slogan of sorts “2020 is the worst year ever…” said with a sigh and collapsed posture, about myriad occurrences from the merely irritating to the deeply heartbreaking. You have most likely had some flavor of this in your own life. 2020 was a damn hard year. It seems that everything was turned up and churned up, personal, public, political, for fucks sake, we’ve been living in a global pandemic. Everyone has been holding on, just by the skin of our teeth, waiting for the year to shift, a page to turn, holding onto the belief that somehow 2021 is going to be at least a little bit better.

I’m sitting in my little home tonight, my tiny little 250 square feet on wheels. It feels a little like a gypsy wagon, bright colors and blue velvet upholstery, twinkling string lights and a shelf full of all my teas and herbs, lending the air of a witches cabin. Sometimes I look around and I can’t believe how happy I am. Never before in all my 39 years have I had a place to live that was, well, entirely mine. Entirely mine to keep messy, or keep clean. To decorate with as much religious artwork as I want to, to string my crop of corn on colored yarn across my ceiling to dry. For a month and a half, I had to duck under corn just to sit at my dining table, do you have any idea how perfect that is?

 So here I sit at my gorgeous round and tiny dining table reflecting on this last year, on the troubles, the joys and the sorrows. Oh gods the sorrows. In some ways it’s kind of funny to hear people talk about how hard 2020 was, and yes I know it was, for everyone, and I’m not trying to diminish that fact. The last year tested us all in ways we could never have foreseen, or well, that we didn’t foresee anyway. Some of us lost our jobs, some of us worked waaay too much in nearly intolerable conditions. Lives and homes were lost, marriages broken.

 I guess it’s kind of funny, or peculiar rather, because what made this last year hard for me honestly had almost nothing to do with the pandemic. Yes, work was hard, and face masks and shields really are awful… But surviving a broken heart, a divorce, and moving out of and selling my home of 15 years, nearly killed me. There have been so many times over the last year that part of me honestly thought I would not survive. So to sit here tonight, looking around at this small but perfect, and completely mine, space that I now occupy, and it seems almost impossible. Almost too good to be true.

How is it that my heart can be folded in on itself, every bit of air sucked from my body, every bit of joy gone with the snap of fingers and my life cloaked an all-consuming grey fog for 10 or 11 months and then somehow, I survive, and the color begins to return. Beauty once again courts my doorstep. The sounds of wind and birdsong pierce me again. I see the purpose and meaning of my days once more.

Grief is like the ocean, you can ride on top of it get pushed around by the waves, you can submerge and go under and feel its tides moving your small body in the vast expanse of turbulence. The noise so deafening you hear nothing but its roar and then, one day, you surface again, head pops up above the water and you look around and lo and behold there is a patch of blue. A Patch of blue! You may have by this point, forgotten what blue looked like or perhaps even that blue ever existed. But there it is. There it is.

One of my wisest teachers told me never steal anyone else’s grief or pain from them, it is the greatest gift we each ever receive. This same teacher when I called her and told her that my marriage had imploded into a devastating pool of deception and pain, said to me “oh Marianna, I am so happy for you, this is truly the chance of a lifetime, the one chance you’ve been waiting for.”

I can remember that now, and smile. Read the words I just wrote, and smile. But when I first heard those words from her, although a large piece of my heart knew they were true, I could not hear them. I was so devastated that I could barely go to work, and when I did go, I would spend considerable portions of my day crying in the bathroom. It is all well and good to hear about or read about true heartbreak, but when you are in the ocean, in the depths of that suffering, it honestly feels like there is nothing else.

So to sit here tonight, in some form of radiant contentment, in the quiet of my own home, and to not have my heart encased in mourning cloths and to not have my mind filled with what ifs and oh if it could be and oh if I had. Feels like a fucking miracle.

I’ve been reading through my poetry written over the last year and a half or so. It is some of the most sorrow filled and darkest writing I have done in my life, and also some of the most beautiful. I’ve been playing with the idea of making a chapbook, or some other small pamphlet style collection of those poems. Maybe I would simply title this project Survival. I have survived.

As the days roll on, and moving towards spring life fills with more activity, and that all too familiar voice inside my own head will tell me “you should be doing more than you are doing.” I’m going to do my best to remember this quiet evening. I’m going to do my best to remember that come what may, I have survived. I have survived true darkness. And without knowing darkness, how could I ever begin to know light?

The truth is now so clear to me, there was no other way. My life uprooted, my heart pulverized, the wind whipped out of my lungs. All this suffering was extraordinarily necessary. Because without the suffering, I would never have been brave enough to be willing to begin a whole new life. And this is where I sit today, at the beginning of a whole new life.

My fingers on the keyboard, words fall onto this page, tears fall onto my cheeks, but my heart is joy- filled. I am bruised, but I have not been broken. And in the darkest night I have learned to trust my own strength. I have survived, and once again dawn returns to the frozen lands, and I turn my face to meet the sun.

This image is from some art process work I did this winter about connecting to the body of the Earth, my female form and boundaries. I am rooted and so I can rise, I am of the Earth and to her I belong, so I am always at home, and never alone.