Thursday, March 21, 2013

My Half Out of the Middle, and other crimes

"So, are you still sleeping on the same side of the bed, or have you moved to the middle?" 

Sometimes, it takes a 20+ year old movie to get me thinking about how I'm living my life right now.

Last Sunday afternoon, right after church, I declared, "I need a nap.", and I went upstairs, shut the door, turned on my laptop and watched,  When Harry Met Sally   for the first time, all the way through, without interruption.  (If you've lived under a rock even longer than I have, and have no idea what this movie is about, click here for a synopsis.)  When Harry and Sally are still in their "friends" stage, while they are each still grieving the break-ups of their relationships with their respective partners, Harry asks Sally, 

"So, are you still sleeping on the same side of the bed, or have you moved to the middle?

And Sally says that she's moved to the middle.  Harry agonizes that he's still sleeping on his original side of the bed, and that he feels weird if even his leg moves across the middle line.  

Until very recently, I was just like Harry, sleeping only on "my" side.  In fact, I hadn't even been un-making that side of the bed.  Don't ask me why.  It was just instinctive.  That had been Andre's side of the bed. It never occurred to me to claim it.  

And no, this isn't really a meditation on my bedroom.  As usual, it's another instance of something small, something mundane and concrete that gets me thinking about something bigger.  Interestingly, in my eagerness to re-decorate and change the master bedroom in the days and weeks right after Andre's death, I knew I had to make changes that would interrupt the constant re-runs of the horror movie in my head or I'd never be able to sleep in the room again, but I was also rather worried that somehow, I was making the room "too" mine, doing too many things according to only my tastes, and feeling like I should be deferring to someone, even though I knew that Andre was gone. 

About a week ago, I had a dream that has stayed with me.  Andre was in it, as he sometimes is, and that, in itself, is usually upsetting.  This one, though was memorably upsetting because of what he was doing.  He was, with the help of the husband of one of my dear friends, filling-up my house with junk; Andre's junk, computer parts and bits of household hardware, boxes of old textbooks, childhood tchotckes, car-parts, the very junk that I have spent months clearing out, throwing out, donating, boxing-up, trying to sell-off!  And the other man was helping Andre fill-up my house with this crap by BUYING more of it on the internet and having it shipped to my house.  In this dream, I felt powerless to stop them.  It was just the way it had always been:  it just wasn't my choice about what came in, what was spent, and where the stuff piled up.  

 I'm not an expert when it comes to interpreting dreams, but this one felt like it was sending a clear message:  It's time to stop letting Andre, or my memories of Andre, or any other person, fill up MY house, my heart, the house of my spirit, with unwanted "stuff". 

 Not only am I free to sprawl across any part of my king-sized bed (notice I said "my", not "our") that I want, I am also free to begin choosing what stays and what goes from my life, regardless of what the "rules" used to be.

Recently, I challenged an old rule that went something like this:

All house-fixes related to aesthetics are simply TOO impossible and cannot be accomplished without weeks or months of "thinking about it",multiple discussions of why it just can't be done, and then, perhaps a martyrdom operation in which the original single-item task turns into multiple, complicated processes with 100-year-engineering built in, along with several trips to the hardware store, and possibly one to the emergency room, and no further aesthetic input allowed.

In violation of that rule, one afternoon, I looked at my front entryway, and decided that although I'd been told that it was "impossible" to have a small lamp and a small table in the entryway because we HAD to keep a really ugly 1930's vanity there, AND there was simply NO WAY that an extension cord could be tacked along a baseboard to an outlet on another wall... too complicated, too impossible... it was time to have that entry the way I wanted.
  •  one trip to the thrift shop to donate the ugly mirrored vanity, 
  • one trip to the hardware store for a couple of needed items, 
  • one trip to TJMaxx for a lamp, 
  • a little time spent crawling along the baseboard with some cable tacks and double-sided tape... and voila!  rule broken.  No trips to the emergency room.  No martyrdom, and nothing bolted to the wall with 80-lb capacity molly bolts, centered precisely using four kinds of levels... RULE BROKEN
And shortly after that, I decided that I was fed up with having nothing but salvage-area computers with antiquated software that couldn't stream Netflix or use Skype or stream Pandora, so I broke this rule:

Under NO circumstances are new computers to be purchased.  New computers are full of suspicious things like versions of Windows that are younger than our oldest child, and possibly have things like webcams and disc-burners built in.  This can't be good.  Boneyard computers, frankensteined from parts and pieces, and loaded with versions of software that can't be purchased or supported anywhere are the only options. 

You see, in order for me to have been able to watch When Harry Met Sally in the quiet of MY room, it required that I have a new laptop, not one constructed from bits and pieces, not running a bootlegged copy of an out-dated operating system... Yup, I actually bought myself a new computer 2 weeks ago, but it took two weeks to realize why I was feeling haunted by doing so.  I'd broken a rule.  You see how it starts?  I break a rule by buying myself a computer, unassisted by an "expert", I watch a movie I never could have sneaked time for in my old life, I hear a question that gets me thinking, and before you know it, the rules are being broken all over the place, and I'm writing about it to an audience of who knows who.  Who knows where it will stop.  Oh, and I bought the computer with a portion of the proceeds of the sale of one of Andre's guns. (Yet another rule broken.)  How's that for a trade?  A bit of paranoia and death sold-off to a collector in Tennessee, in exchange for a bit of life and laughter that I purchased for myself.

The dream (well, waking it up from it, anyway), my realization that I could indeed  "take my half out of the middle" of my king-sized bed, my adventures in decorating, and my heedless foray into the trackless jungles of Windows 8 are all wobbly-kneed moments of realizing over and over, and sometimes with tears, that I am freer than I realize.

And I am definitely wobbly: just like the day after Andre's memorial service when I removed my wedding rings, just like the day I spent with a dear friend, cleaning out Andre's clothes closet and emptying his dresser.  I'm free, but I'm unused to being this free, and it's a little scary and a little lonely.  There are times when I am holding in one hand the memory of how awful it was to live in the prison that was my marriage, and weighing it against strange comfort of the predictable, if confining and painful security of my previous life.  It's in those moments, I feel like that character from another movie, The Shawshank Redemption, the character who simply can't handle freedom after being in prison for so long, and eventually returns. I think there have been some times lately when I've wished for a way to return.  

I won't return, though, not to that life, and I know that eventually I will learn to live here on the outside, and learn to revel in my freedom.

For now, I'll start with moving ALL the pillow shams, and turning down the WHOLE edge of the covers, and climbing into the middle of my king-sized bed.

To sleep, perchance to dream... I'm hoping the dreams get better from here.


  1. Brava...this is a true masterpiece of soul searching, catharsis, AND elegant writing. Not only is this a story of recovery, but a great lesson for all of us. Valerie "Phoenix",
    keep on soaring!

  2. Grazie, maestro. :-) It's helpful to me to distill and share some of this stuff. I'm happy to know that there are folks who are reading it and walking with me through it. xo