Melancholia: the Film
17 years ago tomorrow, David and I said “I do” in a c. 1923 waterfront mansion in the nearby town of Portsmouth, Mass. 17 years ago today, it cool and cloudy and I worried that the plans for our outdoor wedding might be squashed if the weather didn’t cooperate. The morning of the October 1st, 1995 was grey and colder than it had been all week. Determined to be wed in the open air, I vetoed the suggestions to move the event indoors. Then, according to lore, as I took my fathers arm and headed toward the crowd, the clouds parted and the sun shone more brightly than it had in weeks. We were blessed with meteorological perfection. The sun and bright blue sky were our companions as we celebrated what was to become the foundation of our journey together. Now, this many years later, the rain has been pouring down for 3 days straight.
David heads back to Seattle tomorrow and I will stay here to finish closing up this house. After baring my soul and my heartache the other day, I hoped the clench in my chest might ease. Grief is funny. Even when losses are obviously leading to other opportunities, it is still painful. I have had many moments of clarity where I see how this decision will impact our life in positive ways. I see the logic, I see the gifts, I see the benefits, and I see how it really can’t be any other way. And, still I mourn the goodbye to this home.
Like ‘true love’ relationships, maybe all of us have only a few special places that are truly homes for our soul. Certainly, I have loved many places I have lived and enjoyed the variety of homes where I have landed in my 46 years. But only two carry the distinction of “soul home” – this one and the one that was lost to fire. So understanding myself and that I am a complicated creature both committed to a life of growth and expansion, to spiritual wisdom and greater understanding as well as being tender-hearted, extremely sensitive with a penchant for melancholy, of course I would feel as I do now.
I tell you this not so much for you to understand, but for me to understand. I write these words to attempt to ease some of the now resident pain that occupies my chest. Last night at dinner as we celebrated our anniversary (2 days early), feeling calmer and a little removed from this event as we sat in a lovely restaurant and dined on beautiful food, the pain was more intense and stabbed with my breath. Curious about this phenomenon, I observed it and then wondered about the resilience of my over-taxed body. I know I need to slow my system down. Right now, I take a deep breath and feel the tendency to check that off my list. “Deep breath = done. Next.”
In consciously taking another breath, I glance up from writing and watch David tinkering with a c.1929 Bell and Howell 16mm film projector he rescued from the dusty, moldy boxes stashed in the attic. This man I have chosen to spend my life with loves to tinker. Something I would pass over, stops him in his tracks. He has already spent hours researching this piece online, emailing experts asking questions about care, and is now gingerly cleaning it’s moving parts. Tonight, he promises, we will watch one of the reels of film crammed away in boxes. Who knows what we will see. What life will be captured in the old reels? What events? What dreams? What promises? Or what losses?
A loss is merely a moment in time. In the grand scheme, it is a mere blip. In the moment though, a loss may seem insurmountable. Next week, I am choosing to be here alone, to regroup, to write, to find myself in this muddle of emotions and change. Upon our return to Colorado after our vacation odyssey, I craved to hurry through time to get to these final days. I hungered for certainty, knowing with real estate transactions (like anything) it aint over til it’s over. Anything can happen and everything could fall apart. Until the last paper is signed and the money is transferred, it is not done. So, I wanted to hurry up and get to October and be finished and looking back. I wanted to be assured of where we would live next and where we could finally unpack – at least for a while. Now, in just over 2 weeks, all of this will be played out. If all goes as planned, this house will close, and we will buy a home in Evergreen. The moving van will show up and we will suddenly have furniture, dishware, and stuff with shelves to put it on. Suddenly, we will be unpacking a new life in a new place with familiar items.
But now, I hear the rain fall on the roof of this house that I love so much it makes me want to wail. Right now, given the ultimate choice I would spend the rest of my life in this room, listening to the rain, watching the seasons change and the weather move in and out. Right now, melancholia surrounds me but I am not asking her to leave. I am welcoming her into my space. Is there another way I could be doing this? Maybe. But I get to say how I do this thing called my life. I choose to look through this lens. I am shedding skin, sorting memories, walking through, holding on, letting go.
Life is weird. It’s unpredictable. We all do it differently yet in many ways we do it the same. You have your areas which take you to your knees and I have mine. I moved a lot as a child, in between parents, then in between states when my mom moved to Florida. So many adjustments that I didn’t do very well which later turned to stuffing my feelings and then later too vomiting them up through bulimia. To numb myself further, I turned to drugs, alcohol, shopping and relationships. Anything to get out of me. Anything to ease the pain I felt. Like most addicts, it wasn’t a conscious choice at first, it just became what I did. I get a glimpse of the extreme sensitivity of that little girl by peering into my heart now, at 46. With all the tools, growth, training and education I have done and had over the last 23 years, I still so darn sensitive. As a timid 7-year-old, watching my parents marriage blow apart, then facing the first of many moves and many school changes, having to make new friends again and again, I ache at that little girls pain.
This house was the constant. This house was the one place that stayed familiar, where I could have my place, where I could return to regroup. Dad handed us the keys, in one of these times of change, and said, this will always be here. But now we know, that nothing will always be here. We actually can’t count on anything. We make plans and promises, but at any moment, anything and everything could alter. David and I made a promise so many years ago to be together to the end, and so far we have managed to do that where so many people don’t. We have had eerily close moments of this promise blowing apart, yet here we are still.
Rain comes and goes, houses come and go, marriages come and go, life comes and goes. The world keeps spinning and the days seem to go by more quickly. I can wish to have time speed up but it will go as fast as it goes. What then? What will be on the backside of October? Then, there will be the moment, where I will wish to have time slow down – and still, it will go as it goes.
What will those films show? Another life? Different dreams? My parents purchasing this house and celebrating a beginning of their young dreams? Their plans to raise a family, retreat in the summers to this lovely seaside town, to possibly retire here as so many of their cronies did? Those films may show sections and segments of a life planned which now looks nothing like the original plan. My parents lives went in different directions – as it seems that all of ours do. Those films may also show nothing. They may rattle and crack as they move through the wheels. They may splinter and creak to a halt.
Now, someone else will begin to make memories in this house. They will fill the rooms and spaces with their belongings. One day, in the distant future, maybe someone will dig through a dusty musty attic and pull out their boxes, bringing them back into the forgotten light and uncovering the promise of something that went differently then planned.