“I’ll just warn you; I’m in a horrible mood,” I said as I opened my front door for my friend. I was draped in oversized black cotton from head to toe. She wore pink. I tried, pathetically, to pretend it didn’t annoy me.
She smiled and bit back a laugh. She was laughing at me and it occurred to me that perhaps I should be as well. “So what’s wrong?” she asked kindly.
“Nothing, really. I just cannot shake this grouchiness. I want to avoid people, but I can’t. I have to face the world and hope beyond hope we all get out alive.”
She smirked as I led her into my kitchen. We stood around a bowl of red grapes I had on the counter and ate them quietly. She was giving me the space to continue. The only problem was I feared my own tone. I feared disappointing her. I was afraid of her seeing this side of me…a side reserved only for my family.
“You do know you are the only one who expects you to be happy all the time, right?” she asked looking down at the fruit, reaching for another grape.
“Yes,” I replied, flicking my hair over my shoulder. I felt like an entitled, defensive teenager and now I was acting like one.
“Do you want me to go?”
“Yes…no!” I sighed. “I don’t know.” There was a tension hanging in the air and it was mostly coming from me. “It’s just…it feels like there’s enough hurt in my chest to grip an entire city. I feel so alone and yet, I don’t want to see anyone. I want to be held and yet I know I’d flinch at the slightest touch. In short, I don’t know what to do with myself.”
My friend walked over to my kitchen sink and washed her hands silently. She then wiped them on her pale pink skirt as I had forgotten, yet again, to replace the tea towel with a fresh one. I was always forgetting things.
She turned to face me. “I won’t suggest you be willing to be kind to yourself because that seems like too much, but can you find the willingness to be willing? Is there some small part of you that can do that?”
I sighed again and then, after a moment, nodded.
She stepped a little closer to me. “You will feel all sorts of emotions in this life. They can be divided into one of two categories: love or fear.”
“I’ve heard this before,” I snapped. Goddamnit, why did I have to snap at her? My eyes began to well up, but my face remained indignant.
My friend merely smiled. “I know you have, sweetheart. We tend to remember form. It’s the content we resist though.” I took a deep breath and apologized under my breath. She continued: “The only emotion, the only feeling you can trust is that quiet joy within. Have you felt that before?”
“You know I have!” I cleared my throat and shook my head. “Sorry,” I said and continued: “Yes, I know what you mean. I felt it often throughout the final months of my marriage. I knew I would be ok…that it didn’t truly matter if we separated. There was this loving knowing inside of me that signaled all was well no matter what. I loved it and hated it at the same time.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, there were days where I lived in that quiet joy. I was kinder, lighter, happier. And there were days where I might recall the joy, but then would switch instantly over to my life story and my expectations and what I thought I needed to be happy. I resented and rejected the notion that I could be content even if my life, as I knew it, fell apart.”
I reached for a grape and rolled it between my thumb and my index finger. “It was right though.”
My friend looked me in the eyes. She smiled again.
“That loving knowing was right. Here I am, a single mother and I’m doing it. I have shit days and good days, but throughout it all, when I listen, is the feeling that the roller coaster isn’t real and that I exist between the valleys and the peaks. I feel that. It’s true.”
“And so maybe,” she said turning to reach for a glass and then filling it with water at the sink. “You can ride out this bad mood. Maybe you can watch it come and go with that ‘loving knowing’. Maybe you can be willing to see it differently.”
I looked away, uncomfortable just then at what she suggested…what I had suggested. “Maybe,” I uttered quietly. “Maybe.”