An opportunity came down the pipeline this week that sets up a general time frame for my move to California. Regardless of the house sale, I will be relocating at the beginning of the year – perhaps juggling half of a mortgage and settling into a new place all at once. I am grateful that this opportunity has come up – like a hand appearing out of nothingness to pull me out of this nowhere place, this between, to set me on the forward motion of future. It is perfect timing, a coalescing of things that makes my decision feel even more right, even more destined.
So limbo is slowly revving its engine, getting ready to leave town. I’ve practically loaded its bags in the car and told it to take off before the traffic gets really bad, before I lift it up and set it in the driver’s seat myself and place a brick on the accelerator, aiming it right for the highway.
The things that are static and unsure in my life are still piled high – stacked on my porch like firewood waiting for the ice and cold of winter – but there is a light. A dim, winter’s light, but a beacon nonetheless. I can plan. I can plot. I can start to slide the puzzle pieces together and see how they look. I can stop ruminating and percolating and just thinking and thinking and waiting. I can do. Man, I love me some doing.
What I don’t love is this knot in my stomach, this fullness and hunger all at once. A lump settling into my throat forcing me to swallow with real intention, to push past it and breathe in. Limbo meant longer with Portland. Limbo meant longer with my friends here. Limbo meant I could be frustrated and irritated about not being able to move forward, but it also meant I could sit here, somewhat leisurely, and enjoy this place, these people and have every excuse for taking full advantage of all that I love here. Doing means leaving. And I am not at all happy about that today.
Maybe I am just melancholy today. It is cold – really, really cold in my office today, was really cold when I woke up in my house (the thermostat not yet programmed for this season, this schedule) and while it is sunny right now, my hands are cold, my feet are cold, my nose is cold. My hoodie has remained on and zipped up all day – I imagine I could still put on another sweatshirt and not be warm enough. And I have been tired the last few days. Really, really tired. Stinging sleepy eyes and legs that only want to tuck up under me on the couch, only want to settle in with a book and a blanket. I’m sure it’s the shift in the weather and it’s the recovering from all the good times, but it’s all making me feel a bit old, more than a bit weary.
Maybe it’s the writer in me. A writer knows that all things come together, all things that the story will be remembered for (all the lingering emotions) happen in the dénouement – in that unwinding of the story, in that lovely slope of the drawn out end. If the climax was my decision to move – the drama and tears and excitement of all that – then this is truly the beginning of the end, the start of the ending – and the weight of it is immense. I know this about story: it all sings here, it all ties together or falls apart or just vanishes without a trace, this is the part of the story that molds and shapes everything that came before – the real craft, the true art, is here, in the end. All of what came before can be beautiful and lovely and full of grace notes and shining details, but if the end – the whole, delicate end – does not work, then the story falls apart and becomes an exercise, a tortuous writing exercise that you must push aside to start anew. All that work is reduced to a collection of details and words and symbols without anywhere to put them, any way to make sense of them, any way to pick them up and hold them in your hand.
Dramatic, I know. Melodramatic, yes. But this is how it feels today. My Portland. My Portland people. I feel you moving backwards, away from me, pulling back like a fake movie backdrop rolling back to sound stage one. I am not ready for this story to end. I know it must, but damn it is sad, my god it feels too heavy today. I don’t feel up to bearing your absence right now. I just don’t want to today.
I will have more time. I know this. The lovely gray of October mornings – that thinnest sheet of ice or mist on your car – and then the day breaking into the unexpected sun glow of what feels like a whole, stolen summer day crammed into the two or three hours it lasts. The cold that hurts at first but means that it is almost time to light a fire, to slow cook a stew, to tear open a crusty loaf of bread and curl up on the floor in front of the fireplace with your dog and listen to the rain fling itself up against your window like a rag doll come to life, trying to force itself into your house. I miss these things already – painfully – and they have not yet happened this year. I am mourning them and yet I will be here for them – but for the last time, for only this October and then, probably, no more Portland Octobers.
I am mourning, early and fully, today. The spring I will not be here for – that bitterly cold darkness breaking out in tulips everywhere, knowing the cold is not gone, but look – there – red and yellow and purple – like weeds along the roads and filling up yards and even popping up in lawns. So striking and colorful they almost look fake. The onslaught of March rain, the hem of your pants so soaked they may not dry before evening, even if you work inside, even if you sit near a heating vent. The vision of hooded or hatted folks, umbrella-less, pushing their chins to their chest to walk along the sidewalk, watching their feet and the sidewalk and occasionally looking up, eyes half-closed against the wet to check their progress. The teasing of summer – its quick April, May and June visits before sailing down on us in July like a dry sauna we’ve stood in line for all year long. The clarity of the Portland sky – so blue, so cloudless for just a while, so bright that our cave eyes take a moment to adjust, for our pupils to shrink down enough to stop squinting. I can feel these things not happen and it feels like a whole lot of loss, like such a high price today.
Not too high, not so high that I will have to change my mind, make an about face and abandon the future I have chosen, but high enough to break my heart more than a little. I know I will live without living through these things again. I know I will visit. I know this, but today it just feels like not enough. I still have time – to enjoy the eventual ‘arctic blast’, to enjoy Halloween and the gorgeous days that October always offers, like shiny wrapped gifts that turn us all into giddy children released from school for the day. To walk outside and stand under the November rain (no Axl Rose sadness, just the showers of Northwest fall that are so much softer and lighter than the pounding rain of January or February). To visit my favorite coffee shops and restaurants and bars. To make a short list of things I have not yet done that will be whittled down from the longer list of things I will not be able to do in time. I will not have driven to Central Oregon. I will not have driven to Mt. St. Helens. I will not have organized the Strip-a-thon/Bake Sale/Karaoke From Hell Fundraiser Extravaganza.
I will finish, slowly, packing up the rest of my belongings. I will think of my family and how much more time we will have together, how many more small things I can be a part of, those tiny things of everyday life that add up to all of our best memories. I will remember that two of my friends enjoy frequent free airline tickets and so I will force them to visit. A lot. I will try to savor every minute spent doing something Portland, something odd and usual and small-big-town. I will try not to sink under the weight of this decision – the reality of it washing over me so sudden and so heavy – this is real, I am doing this.
I will not feel like this for long, definitely not forever, maybe not even tomorrow. But today is for wallowing in this, I suppose – I don’t know that today I can even choose not to. I need to allow myself this mourning, the space and time to be sad for all that is ending, all that I am leaving. And here is the true rub. I have put off so many things, so many final endings, until the move. Until I needed to. Until I had to. So much more is ending than my time living in Portland. There are things I have allowed myself, people I have allowed myself, old habits I have allowed myself, until the move. I have postponed some really hard choices in the name of not needing to yet, in the name of holding on just a little while longer, in the name of not being able to handle it on top of everything else.
And this place, that I love, that I adore, is also all wrapped up in the life I used to have, in the love I used to have, in the jobs I used to have. This place is where I went – motherless, fatherless, almost family-less – and created a life, created a place to be and live and love, the two of us creating our own place in the world, our own little homestead in the green of the valley. It really was where I became my very own person, but next to someone, learning to be (without kin) and to compromise and to love in the grown-up way of real world sacrifice. I am actually (I am?) going to leave the house that I have been in for longer than any other house or apartment in my entire life. I almost don’t believe any of it will really happen. How can I craft an ending that will do all of these endings justice, that will capture all the strands of my life that are tying off and being left behind, slipped into that category of past, of no longer?
It does feel like the end of an era – of almost a decade in one place, of what I thought would be many more decades – the end of a person I was and only partially still am. I can feel the dividing line in time slowly drawing itself across the desert of my life. There. In the sand. Step over it and it is done.
I can’t stop this line. I can’t stop who I have become, who I have been during this whole time of limbo and transition, the good and the so-so and the could be better. I can only try to be better, good, forgiving, strong – to take the best of it all and bravely drop the rest, however painful, however hard. I can’t stop this future from sailing forward, at whatever speed it chooses – or stop the cousins of limbo from dragging some of this out, of camping out illegally in my driveway and siphoning some of my electricity.
But I can spend time doing stuff – anything – with friends. I can let myself miss things that are not gone yet as long as I also enjoy the things that are still happening. As long as I don’t wallow too long, cry too much, don’t let the weariness settle in and anchor me down, push my head under so low that I can’t see the star filled fall nights that are more than brisk, more than cool – just so shockingly clear and cold and sparkling. As long as I also remember to look up, to look all around and mark it all in my brain, wrap it all inside the folds, nestle the details in my memory to help me through the long, perhaps lonely, nights of making a whole new life in an old/new place.
I will try very hard to love every minute and not miss it (too much) until it is past, until it is truly gone. I will try to not weight the end over the middle, over the years and years of details, of outings and innings and the ridiculously good times of this place, this pocket of the continent that I adore, this oasis for my soul, this place that saved me when I needed it to, loved me back when I wanted it to. But I won’t be able to help myself, sometimes, and I will try to write the best ending I can, look at the shape of what has happened before and see where the laces are loose and where they are taut, see where the threads are struggling to come together and what they mean, what they are pointing toward. I will try to get my ass up and warm my hands and feel less old, less tired. I will do this. Not today, though. Today I will stare at this vast panoramic of my Portland, roll around in the worn, rose scented sheets of my personal love affair with this unusual lady, remember her smell and her feel and her breath even as I am still with her. I know that someday soon I will have to turn around and walk away, drive away, crying as Oregon thanks me for visiting, that green sign literally marking my passage from here to there. But today? Today, I will love her achingly. And she will let me.