Falling Awake: Something will come to me

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I love the sun. I smile every time I see it. It spills through the branches of a huge horse chestnut tree that grows on the property I live on. And it delivers.

It always delivers.

It delivers so much I don’t want to go back inside. A few of my neighbors make cameo appearances, but only one stays as long as I do. She peers up at the sun with one hand shielding her eyes, turns to me — but not completely so as not to exclude the sun from her line of vision — and says, “I love this time of year.”

I know she thinks of winter as “cozy” and “peaceful,” but I don’t share her enthusiasm for it. Last month, the temperatures were brutal. When she went for her walk in freezing temps, I said that sounded better than going to the gym, but I knew I wasn’t going to follow through. I waved from my little balcony and scooted back inside. She got what she wanted and so did I. I remember literally jumping up and down, I was so happy to be back indoors.

But not to worry, the sun will soon deliver springtime, too. When I say as much to her, she corrects me, saying, “It’s been spring-like all month, really.”

Which is just so annoying.

This all makes me think of how certain things — sunlight, seasons, bubbly neighbors — are really more than good comparisons to life; they are life. For example: Life is like a rose: beautiful and prickly. My mom used to say that. And this: Winter will end. It always does.

But I can hardly believe I just turned my new manuscript over to the editors; that years of work have also come to an end. I can’t believe it. Because this means I’m between again.

Between now and whatever is next.

And I have trouble with this interlude.

Lately, I’ve started to compare myself to a border collie, but only to people who own dogs. “I need something to chase after,” I’ll say, “I don’t like having nothing to do,” and they’ll smile and nod, a bit surprised, but happy I can talk about dogs even though I don’t have one. But honestly, I think I’m more like a cat, getting what I need by digging in and not letting go. A lot of people will tell you this isn’t good for you, that you should “chill out,” but I don’t agree. I understand what they mean — because sometimes it shows on my face, or they can hear it in my voice — but still, not all stress is bad stress. There are parts, acute attentiveness for one, that I like pressing against my brain. Stress that fights for space among all the tedium is like sunlight itself. I really can’t get enough.

Before I figure out What’s Next, I like to think back on what I’ve gained and lost over the last few years: The best thing is that we moved to a new neighborhood. After losing my downtown neighborhood in Belltown — or what felt like losing it — to drugs, violence, homeless desperation, I went searching for a home that didn’t break my heart.

By far the worst is that one of my dearest friends died (grief is such hard work).

Another friend sort of drifted away, and one I sort of cut loose (no more friends who talk like they want to set me straight; I don’t need setting or straightening). Luckily, my three bests still love me — or maybe I should say they tolerate me lovingly — and several new friends have come into my life. One makes me happy in ways that make me feel giddy with good fortune. Another, well, I don’t always get her sense of humor, but I laugh anyway because her drollness is never like, oh, God, shoot me now. I don’t want just people anymore, I want souls to match.

I’m still happily married to the man I met at 19 (I picture him reading this, how the realization that we’ve been together forever might hit him as he thinks to himself (hopefully) I would pull over to the side of the road and pick her up all over again. I was hitchhiking up to the Sol Duck Hot Springs. He drove the shabbiest VW van I’d ever seen. I didn’t hold it against him. As soon as he jumped out of the driver’s seat to ask where I was headed, I knew. I also knew what was going to happen in that van the moment I set eyes on him. One thing did lead to another.

My publisher said yes to publishing another book, my book. What a great idea!

And holy cow, I was invited to teach dance in Pape'etē, and I thought it might be too much to fit in during a launch year. But then I thought, too bad, I’m going.

So, big adjustments each: a new home, grief, fluid friends and ones solid as a rock, that first phase of love, new opportunities — old roots growing deeper, new shoots growing up, and here we are.

I mostly write non-fiction, so I don’t see closure as a real thing. An easy tool for fiction, maybe, coupled with our need to label everything, even things as complex as emotions. In reality, we just face the next challenge.

My biggest challenge is what to write next.

Something will come to me.

Mary Lou Sanelli is the author of Every Little Thing, a collection of essays nominated for last year's Washington State Book Award. Previous titles include fiction and non-fiction. Her newest book, In So Many Words, is forthcoming in September. She works as a speaker and a master dance teacher. For more information about her and her work, visit www.marylousanelli.com.