The Coming Home Smile


The forecast called for rain today yet scarce has it actually fallen; I’ve since forgotten if that is normal this time of year – but then remember that in the Pacific Northwest, the meteorologist is merely playing guessing games even on a cloudless day. I’ve spent the past couple of hours at the library in the heart of downtown Vancouver. Directly in front of me I see outside through big clean windows at a cloud-strewn blue sky and occasionally realize the cars driving past below me. Some part of me wants to get out there and breathe the air but I have yet work to do today so my time here is not quite finished.

In the midst of assessing pulse rates, respirations, and blood pressures through textbooks so heavy they hurt my back when I carry them, my mind is not entirely focused on the task at hand. The work must be done, yes, but a reprieve for a few words on white blank pages may do my quiet heart good today. After all, is it not appropriate to write in a library? To put to use these emotions into words instead of bottle them up inside… I am home, after all, and while here there is much to deliberate upon that if I do not express it productively, I may as well instead begin to cry.

Susan Tedeschi sings to me now through white earbuds, “Don’t think twice”, her version of the Bob Dylan song that I’ve loved for years. Fitting, really. I would do well to listen intently and take the sentiments to heart but, alas, I am far from that prepared to cope in this moment. With what? With years. Years of this heartache heavier than the books in my bag and far more difficult to unload from my weary shoulders.

In all the time passed since I ceased to reside in Washington I have arguably done quite well with these burdens yet arriving back to these streets, breathing in this air, I find myself evermore entangled in estranged thoughts that seem to find me wherever I go here. I cannot escape the emotions though I long so deeply to have long since let them go; perhaps my lot is too deep a heart, too easy to recall details the others have chosen to forget. Too… thoughtful. Too emotional, I suppose. Or just too damn forgiving that I forget why I left here in the first place and instead remember only the good things that almost convinced me to stay. Almost.

“Oh, I gave him my heart but he wanted my soul. Now, don’t think twice, it’s all right”.

I have learned that we all have our story so my words are nothing special but to, perhaps, myself… My story is not at all finished but it did begin here and for that reason returning home is and maybe always will be so difficult. It seems so long ago I knew the young woman and all her good intentions and naïve dreams. So long ago I was intent on love and the simplest form of selflessness that found me in the arms of all my dreams come true. I was young, yes, but I was sure.

Coming home finds who I am now wrestling with that version of myself. The part I only glimpse when I am home. The part of me that I’ve identified with for too long and thought captured, frozen here, the very essence of my soul. What I’ve realized now is that growth and change and strength came from leaving her behind, but the emotional attachment to who and what she represents is perhaps the defining moment of my entire life. That woman-girl, eager to love but broken beyond repair, trying to cling to something which would then never, ever be the same.

It is losing my mother in this town. Losing half of the foundation that built me from infancy. Losing the untarnished version of love I had with a man whose name I will not speak while here. Losing my trust in purity, in oneness, in… love.

So much more than I get credit for are these burdens; I still wear them on my face when I am here yet my tongue remains silenced on these matters. The mere notion that I can deal with it, at all, is lost on every single person that sees me now. To them, my pain is just something I should have dealt with and “gotten over” years ago. To them, whom still dwell here, they have long ago coped with the reality that life here changed forever. For them, it was one loss – the biggest, yes, but one only. For me, I lost everything I had. More than it seems and deeper – I lost the belief that love could endure, because I could not endure; I lost the will to forgive, to try harder, to see past the pain… I didn’t know how, and so I left. And, now, returning home, it would seem to everyone else that I should be over this, why not be? Because this is not their story, how could they know just how it looks from my point of view?

My honesty makes everyone uncomfortable, so I don’t mention my mother much when I am here. I dare not mention the life I left behind on Falk as that only serves to make eyebrows furrow and questions as to my emotional state arise. It makes them worried that the life I’ve built in Texas is jeopardized somehow by my honesty that this is still hard. I find a great deal of frustration exists in their need for me to be silenced – because I do not seal my lips for my own benefit but merely for theirs – but that I am not, and was never, allowed to speak of these things means dealing with it while I am here is a burden I suffer alone. It is a burden I pretend does not exist. I do not do this for myself.

I would make no apologies to anyone whom wishes I wouldn’t write about this at all, because their feelings towards how I deal with it are their own – the funny thing is, are not mine the same? Mine, yet I am not allowed to speak it or they get upset. I remain quiet for their benefit and secure none of that for myself but instead cope alone. I smile, and convince anyone this is not something I deal with, because showing it when I cannot speak its name is worse than pretending these things bother me not.

The thing is, things are just fine when I am in Texas. My family endears me so well, and I am gladly tethered to their needs, their opinions, and their love. I evolve there, I think clearly there, and I am a better version of myself. I love my husband and allow my children to seep into my veins until they are forever within me, no matter how far apart we go. I challenge myself and overcome my own insecurities. I find that I can love easier as I intently open my heart to what John brings to the table, and I learn to love him – that it is okay to love him – even when things are hard.

This is not that I am unsettled in my life and wish to have something from long ago. After all, any wise enough woman knows the dead cannot be raised, and just as much as I poured my mother’s ashes into the ocean at Cannon beach, so did Falk road and he who dwells there have to die in some way… I cannot have them back, I know this.

But it is the lingering and frustrating hold of those two entities – especially the one still breathing, that causes such a heartache. . .

I wish I could escape it, or have someone open up – finally – and let me speak its name. Let me cry over it, scream if I must… Really just allow me to feel it, because I need to feel it.

It is here for me, in these streets. In buildings. Even in the air. I feel the presence of these things when I step off the airplane and first breathe in… I feel it when I dare not turn down certain roads, or look for a certain face in a crowd.

Everyone else has dealt with it, I know. I am happy about that – but how does that then mean that I should not? That I should have, already. How does that mean that I should be silenced? That what I feel is no longer valid just because so much time has passed and they get uncomfortable that the burdens they could not possibly understand still affect me this way?

I once loved so deeply that I knew my entire future. It was not rich with gold and the finest clothes, but it was rich in love. I once saw my mother’s face and trusted that she loved me… These things were lost on me when I left all those years ago, and when I return, I feel their weight upon my chest yet I dare not say it aloud. . .

All I’ve ever needed was just to face it, here, safely. But I cannot. For those whom knew this pain with me, of these one is merely a memory, and one yet lives but I cannot call upon him – I would not – so whom is left but those who still love me now? My family? My friends?

I am quiet, because it is not allowed.

In any case, maybe it’ll start to rain after all, then I can cry and nobody would be wiser. Maybe it is just my lot to deal with this alone. To face it alone. To forgive myself and them – everyone – and pretend again that I’ve let it go. Can I spend another lifetime doing this? Should I? Really, I’m not sure what else there is… no alternative but to simply shut my mouth, put on this smile, and make everyone else comfortable by being the person they want me to be. Forgiving and healed. If I lose a part of myself to that lie, in this regard, maybe I just add that to the burden of coming home.

Maybe that’s just how this goes.

Maybe I really should just let… it… go.

One thought on “The Coming Home Smile

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