It’s been a while, and there’s no good place to begin aside from saying that it’s been a while. If you’ve read my first book, you know that my early life circumstances were far from stable, far from boring. Whether it’s’ nature or nurture, life has continued much in that same way for me – often due to changes of my choosing, sometimes not.
Our dog Cora died just over a year ago. More plainly, she was dying from cancer and we had her put to sleep. More painfully, I felt the full weight of her sift, furry, only-eleven-year-old body fall and sag warmly into mine as she left us. To this moment I cannot think of that weight without tears.
A couple of months later, one week before my birthday, the tug of companionship pulled me to a shelter, and I met my next canine best friend – Gemini. She was all of nine weeks old, precious, wrinkled, and bearing that “new dog smell.” It’s possible I’d forgotten as she first licked my face just how much sleep I would lose while potty training her, how many times I’d clean up after her, how many things she would destroy, how many things could go wrong. Like a mother wanting the next-born, I gladly accepted the bad with the good without ever stopping to enumerate the two.
It was, in some ways, more difficult than I remembered. Waking up five and six times each night for the first few weeks was something I did, begrudgingly, sleeping on the couch, near enough to her crate that she knew I was there and would not cry. I quickly discovered that she needed my constant attention when she was out and about the house, because everything – everything – was material for chewing. If she was awake, she was exploring.
Just weeks after bringing her home, my husband and I (we work together) were offered a transfer. Though it was an opportunity we very much wanted, it was an out of town move, and all that comes with it. It was also a new job with the company, including new staff, new offices, an expanded list of responsibilities and all that comes with that.
On many occasions, I’ve thought “I need to write. People on my mailing list haven’t heard from me in forever. This is no way to be prolific.” And that’s true. And I’ve let that be okay. This was the year of not being prolific. This was the year of teaching a beautiful, stunningly bonded-to-me puppy how to sit, heel, fetch, and not eat the sofa. The was the year of catching my breath from a move and a new job. This was the year of working to heal the chronic pain in my back. And so I wrote less.
I write less when I mourn. I write less when I am processing loss, finding words for what no longer is, and that which has taken its place. Even through the joy that puppy kisses bring, I’ve been grieving, and I may not be finished just yet.
I grieve for our last dog, still. I grieve for friends left behind in every city that we leave. This past year, though, I have also been grieving for the voice that I silenced because I was tired of fighting.
The current political administration is something against which I fought, loudly, at the beginning. I rallied, I wrote, I met, I marched. I spoke, I led, I recruited. I extolled the the ideals of an activist organization whose primary motive was to engage civic action. “Call your representatives!” we repeated over and over, and it was a message that I was fully behind. It mattered not what your political alignment was, it was a universal, bipartisan message: Your representatives should be working for you. Let them hear your voice. Tell them what you value. Make them represent that for which you stand. (Somewhere in my heart there's forever an optimistic choir singing, the sound of the collective voices more powerful than any one. After the bleak, repeated failure of the electoral college to represent the people, how I still believe that our elected officials do, or will, is beyond me, save this choral resonance.)
Soon, the message I was committed to delivering began to unravel. The group which I helped to co-found locally became more and more vocally partisan. The louder they chanted “blue!” the louder I chanted “purple,” but my voice felt lost in their sea of enthusiasm for a pendular correction to our political state. I finally grew fatigued from shouting “It’s not just us, it’s ALL of us!” and grew quiet. My quiet turned into long contemplation and an emotional disengagement, a hopeless sadness that I’d not felt since the election. How can we work together while we continue to tear each other apart?
Friends, I’m tired, but I am writing again. Sometimes, resilience has to be a choice. I will find my bootstraps and I will pull myself up by them, even if only for the thousands of children that have no boots. I wake up every day lately and think about being a child alone in a crowd,on a cold concrete floor. I do not know their trauma, but I will write about what I know, because I do understand separation and loss. I will find a way to help someone, even if it is only one. I do not know what good my voice will do for this world, but I know my silence does nothing. I will sing out, into that great chorus of hope. We must connect with each other’s stories if we are going to save our own lives.