Before I went to bed last night a surge of uneasiness descended. It’s a school professional day today; our daughter has an extra day off before the long weekend. My husband has taken a vacation day too. The sailboat is scheduled to be hauled out of the water this afternoon--before that he will remove the sails, the life jackets, the detritus of summer floating around the cockpit.
I hold to the routine and structure of my days as a defense mechanism. Beginning in May of 1981 until this year, five days a week I got up and went to work—since February there has been no choice but to keep busy. Moments without purpose frighten me. At first, a black tide of despair lurked around of my house—it was imperative to keep the doors bolted from the inside. Writing and walking, and serving at the senior breakfasts kept the cracks at the entrances sealed. While there was always a book to read, in my mind, it was, and remains somehow, too self-serving to read during the traditional work day. I could stretch things by saying that the more I read, the better I will become at my chosen craft. Reading, though, is too fun—impossible to rationalize as labor—therefore not allowed until the “work” day is complete. The TV stays dark. The clock at my work cubby clicks the seconds away, the refrigerator cycles on and off.
Last winter, as I tried to chart out next steps in a bewildering, overgrown territory, Middle Passages handed me a hatchet and demonstrated how to chop through the weeds. It nodded its head like a wise and inexpensive therapist, reaching behind the couch to pull out a spade with which to unearth joy; a compass to show me that writing is the map.
Today, the road is cleared in front, but I have yet to define the traffic laws. Because my family has the day off, does that mean I can take one too? Back when someone signed my paycheck, I counted the days until long weekends, sighing with relief during four-day weeks. This new route though, includes no paid vacation days, nor sick days or holidays and last night I worried. What will I do while they are home? Is it OK to take time off because they are? Guilt tiptoed in. Am I allowed? The despair, which relocated to another continent months ago, talked about coming to visit. Shouldn’t I always be doing something about moving forward?
The answer, easily enough, stole in as a compromise. I let myself sleep in until seven. Instead of taking a shower, I cleaned the clogged drain in the sink and washed my face. I brewed a pot of coffee and gulped two cups before sitting down to write this post. Later, if the rain holds off, I’ll drive down to the harbor to watch the spectacle of the sailboat, a modest lady, double in size when she’s hoisted onto the trailer. I’ll gaze up as the marine service truck raises a trellised crane, attaches a winch to the mast, and lifts it as easily as a threaded needle before resting it on the bodice of the hull. I’ll peer down the way as this last vestige of summer trundles dripping, over the narrow street leading from the dock.
Our daughter is sleeping down the hall. My husband is off readying the boat. The house today is less quiet, less empty and I still have purpose.