Morning and the spotted doves are calling to each other from under the eaves of my house. It’s cold and I can’t bear to go sit in my freezing studio, so I solved the problem by bringing my laptop into my bed, along with my cup of coffee. Still I got no writing done. I’m too busy stewing over other people’s thoughts to do anything useful. Too busy fretting over the long lists I have, reams of paper, to actually get anything done. I’ve let my head get bad again. Surely not everyone is angry with me.
Writing is like breathing, if I don’t do it, I might die.
What list of things could I tell you? I said goodbye to my husband yesterday. He got on a plane to go back to America. This is the real story, this is the only important thing: Ian is not doing so well. And that is a gentle and massive understatement, but I can’t bring myself to say anything else. He’s not doing so well badly enough that we thought it was best to send Chinua immediately. We scrambled around Chiang Mai doing a thousand necessary things—immigration, prescription refill, re-entry permits, permission for me to travel with the kids by myself— all adrenaline, all triumphant, we got it! We did it! He’s on his way, thanks to a kind person who bought a ticket! Thanks to all the friends -Leaf, and Ro and Neil, and Brendan, who helped us get everything together! Ah, victory! But then coming home in the glaring light of midday, the fields all turning brown again, dust on the road on the van on the sky. I’m so sad I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t want to see anyone at all. I love Christy and Ian and Asha and Fiona so much it hurts. And we are all helpless. And sometimes you pray for something and God says no. (Though light can break through at the most unexpected moments. This is the nature of miracles. I haven’t lost hope.)
It is not my story, but ripples of grief, as my husband told me, touch everything.
And this, this is what I also know: this is a holy moment. A moment when we find that all we believe is on the line. Jesus waits to usher us into the ultimate healing, complete unity with him, finally being together after all this time. We can’t know when it will happen. It could happen after years or days for Ian. It could happen unexpectedly for someone else, an accident while hiking. It is holy, tender, beautiful to witness the faith and trust that Ian and Christy have.
And yet this sadness. I wish I could be sad without leaning toward depression, without feeling like buying groceries is a giant undertaking I couldn’t possibly achieve. Someone needs to write a book about being sad without being depressed. Maybe it is in slowing down, listening to doves call to one another. Maybe the dust in the air is radiant in certain lights. I haven’t been writing because I’m angry and sabotaging myself, and because I’m almost certain that everyone I know is angry with me, and I’m going through the motions but I’m deeply anxious, deep in my gut.
When I cry in the kitchen, people walking by on the street can see me. But I can’t help crying in the kitchen. I would like to lie all the way down on the ground and pound my fists on the floor, like Isaac does, if I peel the orange when he wanted to peel it. “Come on in,” I would say. “You and the whole world can watch this. It’s okay, I had nothing more to give anyway.” I don’t do it, though. I slice tofu and carrots and let the tears run, try to keep my head down so concerned tourists in big hats, barefoot monks, or my own neighbors don’t get too worried.
Softness, kindness. A loaf of fresh bread from a friend. A bag of milky green tea, the ice rattling in the bag. The morning coffee, all the birds, the seven cats who think they live here and who have utter scorn for Wookie, Chinua arriving in San Francisco to eventually fall into his friend’s arms (eventually because they have to make sure he didn’t catch anything on the plane), a beautiful mug, the way carrots fall in pieces when you slice them, salad from the garden. I’m tired and sad but not overcome. I’ll finish this novel, it may take some time. There are plenty of hugs to be given and received. And Ian and Christy, Asha and Fiona are in God’s hands, the only place to be.