2007/09/10

Two windows, beside two doors

Last week I cleaned and sorted and threw into the garbage many long-neglected things from here inside the vast room in which I have been living. It is not a literal room, my room ... it is my life. My life has been in a room. And the room has been contained within walls, some of my own erecting and some of a more passing and temporary nature, put here by the phases of my life through which I have been passing. Have been passing. Have now passed. Much of this room has passed. It is the past.

In the world other people can see, trips were made to the dump, and to the book donation site at the library, and to the recycling bins. In the world I can only see with my inner eye, the clutter's leave taking and its going away has shown me the unavoidable fact that these walls are disappearing ... or crumbling - being erased by the passage of time and the change of circumstance. They are not needed now. I have no young lives to shelter because now the young lives are out where they must find and work within the phases of their own places in the big wide world. It surprises me to learn that the walls are now unnecessary for me too. My kids aren't the only ones who've outgrown this place.

And now I see what I could not see when all the piles of books and clutter were in the way. Now I walk to the other end of this place, and I see. I see two doors. Beside the doors are windows - one facing in one direction, and the other in the opposite direction. Now I choose. Now I find myself in the part of a woman's life when she must decide to take one door, the other door, or to stay where she is, and continue to build and mend and repair and decorate these walls.

It's nice here. But my grandmother's practicality is part of this place, and she knew - and her knowing makes me know - it is silly and cowardly and ungrateful to stay here in this place. Many middle-aged women do, of course. They stay and invite their children to come and sit in the tiny, outgrown chairs and engage in the tiny, outgrown conversations. Pretend with me. Tell me my life meant something. Tell me you appreciated it - that you loved my mothering - that you miss it as much as I do. ---

And some children will do this for their mothers. But mine won't. It is emotionally inconvenient for me at this time, but the children I raised are much more likely to laugh at me, in a jolly humor of absolute certainty that if I don't see how silly it is for them to sit in those tiny chairs, I will see it soon enough, and in the meantime, unless it's for the joke of it, they're not playing this game. In fact, they're outside this room already, and they're having a great adventure, and if I'd just come out into the sun and rain and wind, I could see. Come see, Mom. Come on. You'll like it. Look what I've built. Come outside.

No, I can't stay here much longer. This well-loved room was built to be left. It's time to leave.

So I clear it out and get rid of the debris, and I walk to the other end, and I look out the windows beside the doors.

On one side is a clear view of people in their 70's and 80's who use walkers and medications and doctor's visits and very good insurance to convince them that they need feel no pain or difficulty of life. They've earned it. They've paid for it already. It's their due. They know what they need to know. No more need to know anything else.

A lot of these people have children who come to them and sit in silly tiny chairs and play the Homage Game - not often - but they come. And the people with the walkers and the pills do not inquire too closely about anything that might make tension. There, outside that window, the path through that door leads to the careful control of all the possibilities and the people who go there don't really go anywhere at all. Their lives are exactly what they've made them to be.

I have looked out this window for a long time now ... it's an odd thing about this window ... somehow it's clearly in view, regardless of the size of the heaps inside a room. I could see it from anywhere in here.

Yesterday, though, as I stood and looked, a light I could not ignore began to warm my back and the side of my face, and I could feel it in my hair - it is a light that shows up the gray hairs now in evidence on my head. There aren't many yet, but they are easily seen - especially in that light.

So I turned toward it. I walked to the window beside the door over there, and I looked out. From there - or ... from here, I should say -- I can see - well, I can't see lots of people milling about, convincing each other of the reality of something obviously ludicrous. It's not that there are no canes or walkers out this window. It's that most of the people out on that vast landscape don't need them, and the few who do are not stopping to moan about it.

Through the other window - somehow it's shady on that side - no shafts of actual light come into my room through that window - and through it I can see to a close horizon of a bank of hills. The people through that other, shadier window are all standing and sitting and commanding and refusing -- and they're in a valley together. They are not going anywhere.

But here - through the window with the light - the people are all over the place. They have not stayed by their rooms. They walk uprightly - they laugh - they converse - they learn and enjoy and smile quietly, knowing that they don't know and knowing that this is the joke. They know that the dangerous places are dangerous, but that once you've been through them, the fear can be released. They know that it is a pain like no other when your traveling companions - especially the ones who went through your decades of married travel with you - are taken from you and you do not have anyone to whom you can now say, "Remember that?" They're not stupid, these people. They're not dull-witted or unfeeling. But they've figured out that the adventure is worth it.

Just look at them! They shine with it! They've loved and lost and bled and recovered and rejoiced and learned and tasted and drunk ... and they're not caught and stuck in a shady little valley of need.

I haven't stepped through this door yet. But my hand is on the latch. As much as I have loved being here, it's time to leave, and somehow ... (how odd!) ... somehow, although I have insisted for years that my ancestors were not monkeys, but moles, because I have resented each and every thrust out into the glaring sun and tossing wind ... somehow I cannot leave this place and step into a valley, enclosed in the shade, conversing with the people of the pills. The pharmaceutical industry will have to do without my investments. I think I'd rather be out there with the people who are disappearing from view because they love to move on.

1 comment:

Francesca said...

"It's nice here. But my grandmother's practicality is part of this place, and she knew - and her knowing makes me know - it is silly and cowardly and ungrateful to stay here in this place. Many middle-aged women do, of course. They stay and invite their children to come and sit in the tiny, outgrown chairs and engage in the tiny, outgrown conversations. Pretend with me. Tell me my life meant something. Tell me you appreciated it - that you loved my mothering - that you miss it as much as I do. ---"

Wow, Stephanie. Just wow.