Relationships / Transition

Turning Point

Sonoita wine country with my dad, December 2013

Sonoita wine country with my dad, December 2013

I tried to keep quiet this New Year’s. Not exactly an easy proposition for me, but I think I did okay. For one thing, it was penance for the cocky list of plans I was “soooo looking forward to!” in 2013, like the Big Sur writing retreat (had no vacation time at sudden new job situation), 10-year high school reunion (couldn’t swing the $500 plane ticket), my oldest friend’s wedding (see Combination of A and B). Sure, everything sorted itself out. Instead of the retreat, I signed with an agent and went to Disneyland. I didn’t miss out on any amazing Romy and Michelle hijinks at the reunion. And my friend got just as married without having to pay for my catering plate.

Not only did it seem redundant to mention what had happened in my year this time around, but I’m still leery of making plans and proclamations with much notice nowadays. There are bunches of places and events I’m looking forward to in the coming months, but promising to myself and the world that I’m going feels like tempting fate.

So instead of making resolutions or goals or brag checklists on what 2014 has in store, I sat in a very quiet living room with Chinese food, Diet Coke, and “Girls.” I thought about the last twelve months, feeling gratitude for the unexpected gifts and hard-fought achievements, the sting of disappointments less potent as the festering wounds of leaving are, at last and sincerely, scabbing over.

How curious it is, the heart. How it breaks and bleeds and feels as though it will never graduate from grief to growth. When I lose something, no matter how grown up and wise I fancy myself to be, I revert back to a fifteen-year-old girl drowning in unrequited love. I convince myself that I’ll never recover, be the same, move on, adapt. The wrong strain of melancholia plays on the radio or Pandora, and I broke down. The last Moleskine notebook I bought at Powell’s reads like the old middle- and -high-school diaries I still need to get around to burning.

But then, in spite of myself, I started to be kind of okay.

And what was it, I puzzled last night, where were the turning points that steered me off my ledge? Time plays its natural, essential role. Prozac helps. Having a kindred-spirit friend from grad school a scant two hours up the road in Scottsdale is a bonus. But one of the most important moments in moving on was more recent, and simple: my parent’s visit during the first week in December.

My parents and I have always been close. When I lived in Portland, they would visit every few months and we would eat at our shared favorite restaurants, shop at the cool stores with Oregon’s tax-free bonus. Between visits, I could tell them about what I was up to and they could understand–when I said that I’d gone to Oswego Grill for happy hour, they could visualize the dark-wood bar and patio torches. Driving by the Black Rabbit Bakery, they could remember the giant cinnamon rolls. We were connected even without being in the same place, because we could imagine where the other was. Our two worlds made sense; I wasn’t floating on an unseen island of palm trees and tacos where it’s inexplicably 75 degrees on Thanksgiving.

I could try and describe this foreign city to them. I could post a hundred Instagram shots of my office and the park and our patio. But without breathing the air and seeing the whole panoramic scope of a place, especially between Washington and Arizona, it’s impossible to appreciate the totality of differences or the eerie parallels. It was difficult to experience this with most of the people I knew from home, but none so difficult as my own family.

During the week my mom and dad spent in Tucson, we packed in a trip to the Sonoran Desert Museum, visiting all the animals and plants native to my new home. They fell in love with Bisbee and finally got a picture outside the O.K. Corral in Tombstone. I took them to my favorite grocery store, twice, and ate tamales and chile rellenos together that nearly moved us to tears. My mom got to try an In-N-Out burger. My dad was serenaded by a real mariachi band on his birthday. They saw the sunsets I can’t describe or ever properly capture with my camera. They walked through my house and ate from my kitchen, tracing the same routines I’ve adapted as my own.

And when they left, this time, I didn’t have to pull over because I was crying. I could listen to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” on the radio without losing it. I dropped off my two favorite people at the airport who could, after months of conversations about a place that sounded utterly confusing, understand.

Now, when I call up to say hello and mention that I’m walking through Tres Amigos, they ask if they still have the glazed flower plates in stock. If I say that I’m reading on the patio, they remember the chair and the bush full of goldfinches. It is a remarkable feeling to be understood, to not feel like a satellite or a ghost marooned in a place that everyone you knew can’t reach.

So if I do have a “resolution” it’s a quiet one: to be more appreciative of the relationships I have that can survive change and distance, and be more forgiving of the ones that don’t. After all, comprehending a life you can’t see for a person who has to change isn’t easy. And to try and find a few more people right here in this place who can understand who and where I am, from this new year forward.

A happy 2014, and new season of “Girls,” to all.


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