I Wish for All the World I Could Say, Hey Elizabeth, You Know, I’m Doing All Right These Days*

She’s been gone one whole year. I wrote this poem on the plane home from California on Monday. Last year, I flew home from California a few days after this date, with the knowledge her light was gone.

I still can’t believe it.

Un-Cloud Spirit

I don’t necessarily believe
you float above the clouds,
don’t think you watch me
from between the sun’s
rays, between falling
raindrops on my sons’ heads.

But looking down from this
particular vantage point, I
can’t help but feel your
arms wrapped ’round my
slumped, tired shoulders;
hear your voice in my ear.

Do you know when I struggle
most? When the thoughts
come fast and quick? Do you
recognize the pulse, the fear,
the downward spiral into
full-on self-hate?

You don’t need to answer
with words; I know how close
I dance with the demons—the
same who snatched you from
our hands, but not our hearts,
all too soon.

But you do answer me. I see you
in the way the light falls upon
my boys at sunset. I hear you
in song, in laughter, in a passionate
voice, and in the soft, gentle way
you said, “I understand.”

You act as a guide, flawed and
imperfect, like me. You see me
step to the edge, consider your
final fate, and step back, time
and time again; sometimes
I feel you push me away, back.

I don’t know why you’ve chosen
me, why you visit in dreams, at
lunch, in the sky on a flight home
almost one year after I cry-slept
through the sky, hurtling toward
a world in which you no longer existed.

When I close my eyes, memories flash
so quickly. Most crushing are the ones
I missed, wasn’t there for, that
pass through my mind as if I were.
I see you standing there; I cannot
reach you in time. Never. Still,

An onion on a coffee mug. Your laugh.
The two of us walking home through
the Square the night I knew I wouldn’t
and couldn’t marry my high school
sweetheart; cigarettes in the snow,
a conversation which lives with me now.

We talk even now, though I know
mostly no one would believe me or
even know you’re here, still, with us.
As you’ve walked with me this past
year, I’ve worked hard to be strong
enough for us both.

I do not know if I have succeeded
on behalf of you, but I know one thing:
I am here. I have new scars, some
too fresh, still itchy. But I am here.
You are in every piece I write now,
and I choose each breath.

For you. For me. For those who didn’t
know you, but should have; should have
read your words, held your hand.
For all of us who have wanted to give up,
nearly followed you into the dark, but
live on with and without you. Forever.

-JLH 7.31.17

Un-cloud Spirit

Further reading:

Title from Counting Crows’ song “I Wish I Was a Girl” from their This Desert Life album. Again. She lives on in these songs.

I’m Doing the Best I Can

I'm Doing the Best I Can

One step after another, I trudged up the steep hill.

I counted—one, two, three—all the way up through twenty, and then I changed the position of my foot strike from mid-food to tip-toes. One through twenty, and repeat. It’s my trick for getting up the big steep hills. I’m forced to train on these mini-mountains at the tippy top of the Appalachain Mountains.

Mid-foot, toes, mid-foot, toes, mid-foot, toes. Always counting.

Eventually, my perseverance gave way. I finished the current count to twenty and dropped back into my heel walk. I checked my heart rate. I walked slowly until it dropped back out of peak range. Then I power-walked.

And then I ran again.

This happened three separate times on that particular training run, the dropping into a walk. Up the giant, monstrous hill, back up a steep incline just after my turnaround point, and near the end on another steep incline that felt much easier to run down near the beginning of the run.

During the walking portion after turning around, I felt defeated. Running in July is no easy feat, especially up these non-stop hills. Over and over. Between the heat and the uphill both ways, it’s easy to feel like you’re getting nowhere. Slowly.

I quickly started repeating my running mantra over and over.

“I’m doing the best I can. I’m doing the best I can. I’m doing the best I can.”

— __ — __ —

A series of events resulted in our oldest son sitting on the ground in our reading nook, shooting me dirty looks from across the room. His repeated mistreatment of his iPhone case resulted in the complete disintegration of a Lifeproof case. Apparently they’re Lifeproof but not BigBrother proof. When I informed him that I wasn’t running out to replace the case and that he couldn’t use the phone without a case, and as such, he couldn’t have a phone for a month… well… the tween emotions ran high.

I’m doing the best I can.

— __ — __ —

“Mommy, do you want to play Mario with me?”

I need to finish up this work.

“Mommy, do you want to play Animal Crossing with me?”

I’d love to, but I need to start dinner.

“Mommy, all you do is work.”

I’m doing the best I can.

— __ — __ —

My daughter sent me a series of texts during a difficult day recently. I don’t quite have Tween Boy issues down yet, so sometimes Teen Girl things escape me. I offered some ideas, gave my support. I don’t know if it helped; I only hope it didn’t make things worse.

I’m doing the best I can.

— __ — __ —

My husband’s grandmother fell recently. I have tried to be a supportive wife and granddaughter-in-law. I hate seeing my husband worry, seeing him hurt. I hate knowing the reality that, with my grandparents gone (save for my possibly immortal great-grandmother), my husband’s grandparents will not be with us forever. It hurts almost as much as losing my grandparents.

I’ve been trying to keep the house together and care for the boys and work and help clean his grandparents’ house. But I keep letting balls drop; laundry, clutter, my energy level. I don’t feel like I’m doing enough.

I’m doing the best I can.

— __ — __ —

I still haven’t quite figured out why my best never feels quite good enough. I always feel like I’m falling short in approximately nine thousand ways. I need to run faster, longer. I should be a better mom, a better birth mom. A better wife. The house should be cleaner. I shouldn’t make mistakes at work. I should have written the freaking book by this point. Never. Ever. Enough.

But maybe.

— __ — __ —

I finished the run that day. Somehow, between running, walking, 20-20 stride combos, I logged my fastest 4.5 mile run this training cycle. It’s still not fast, but it shows improvement.

I’m doing this.

I’m doing the best I can.