I would often be outdoors and walking three or four miles by 6:00 a.m. I worked hard all day and well into the evening. I was a teacher, I was a graduate student, I was a church committee chair. I was often asked to do things that required advance preparation. (Will you make this quick presentation on Sunday? a friend would ask. I know it doesn't take you any time at all. Look how easy that last one was. And my eyebrows would go up. Those two minutes? At least two hours of advance writing and revising and practice. But it looked so easy, he would say. That's how it's supposed to look.)
And I had three children in college, all of whom filled my thoughts and dreams and hopes, every day, every night. When they were small I would call home three, four times a day, just to find out what they were up to. When they were in college I would glance at my watch and think, it's noon in Chicago and 1:00 in Columbus and 9:00 a.m. in Oregon. Is he in class, is he at work, is she even awake?
And I had energy for myself, and energy for God. Lots of energy for reading and writing and breakfasts with friends. Lots of space in my life for prayer and journaling. Time seemed so full and yet so expansive.
Now. Now it is nearly 9:00 am and I am just getting up. I was awake three hours ago but I knew that would make for too many hours in the day and so I went back to sleep. I will be up late into the night because I won't be able to sleep then.
Now I have to pace myself carefully. I am doing things: going to class, studying, writing papers, working with a couple of people, planning for the future. Each takes so much energy and requires so much recovery time. I forget what I've focused on within five minutes of reading or hearing it. I look at notes and say to myself: We had an entire lecture on that? I lose everything, little things and really important things. I stumble across them later and can't imagine how they landed in the place they did. I write papers and have no idea whether they bear any resemblance to what is expected. I make schedules for accomplishing things and then I stare into space.
I am still writing thank-you notes. The cost of each one is so high. Only a few lines, but each reminds me of something else ~ a relationship, an occasion in the past, someone else entirely whose claim on my time is perhaps more urgent. I did not know, before, that when I received an acknowledgment from someone for flowers or words offered in a time of sorrow, that the note itself might represent a morning's work. Or a week's.
People send me emails and cards and books and little packages. Some of the things written by certain people fill my thoughts for hours, for days. They become little prayers, flickering sources of connection to other people, to the universe, to God.
I think about my lost son all of the time, as I have for 25 years. My brain tissue has grooves worn in it, and I cannot stop thinking of someone just because he is not here at all. But his absence fills every crevice of my life and makes impossible demands on my imagination. I keep waiting for time to go backward so that we can pick up where we left off.
I think about my other children and my son's girlfriend all the time, too. I want to wrap my arms around them all and take care of them forever and in a way that will enable them to heal. What does that even mean? I have a long scar smack down the middle of my stomach, from the car accident when I was seven. (No scans in those days to reveal ruptured spleens, which I turned out not to have.) It was a distraction during my bikini days, it stretched to accomodate a twin pregnancy, and then another one, and now it looks as crumpled and faded as you might expect. I don't notice it. But this jagged scar, the one which all these young people have to carry into adult life? How much time before it fades? There is nothing clean and precise about it; all those jagged edges seem more like tentacles than boundaries.
I have been writing this piece off and on for a couple of days. Not an original thought in it. And yet, like everything else, it has sapped hours and energy. I had not realized that time and energy were so closely entertwined, and not in any way that makes sense.
(Image: Picasso's Blue Nude.)