I have stopped subscribing to regrets, even though I could enumerate the elements in my life these days I wouldn't have chosen and the total might approach infinity, I'm exaggerating of course but who would want to share parenting like this, one of my marriage counsellors once said something along the lines of, "you can let him do this with the kids in your house or you can let him do it in his apartment," and at the time I thought to myself, she's right, I'd rather not be parenting our separate ways in separate domiciles, then I'd really know what it means to be out of control, and of course at some point in the past six months I swung just past that center line to here.
Here is the place where I spend days and days away from my children, like this time over the holiday break, and I won't say anything like how precious this time of year is to me because that's disingenuous, yes this time is lovely but I'm not thinking of the Hallmark Channel special with the orchestrated candy cane family moments, but more that quiet companionship of baking and sewing and reading and the occasional arrival of grandparents bearing gifts. Not the holiness and the shopping and the capital-T Traditions but the ordinary togetherness, the getting used to each other being around in those short short days. I'm always wanting to do something grand and crashy for the winter solstice but I never do, I do buy candles though, I do light things with matches and turn on the oven more than is normal and bake buttery cookies I expect to be eaten for breakfast and lunch.
I'm pretty sure when I was in that counsellor's office considering the fate of divorce (would my whole wheat sugar cookies be subbed for Plaid Pantry snacks in dad's apartment?), I held off that fate as long as possible because I couldn't imagine being on the other end of the Hallmark Channel movie, that mom baking a tiny bowl of cookies in an empty house maybe with part of a glass of red wine, her lipstick a perfect half-kiss on the rim. Or do the Hallmark Channel heroines drink chardonnay?
I've been thinking a lot about fates lately, there's a part in Adrienne Rich's 21 Love Sonnets that goes "No one's fated or doomed to love anyone. / The accidents happen, we're not heroines, / they happen in our lives like car crashes / books that change us" and then there was a story I read in the dim light at the back of the Schnizter concert hall, about Tchaikovsky and his idea of fate. When he wrote the 4th Symphony, it's said, he was thinking a lot about Fate and his destiny was a Sword of Damocles, strung over his head on a horsehair and ready to fall, "which prevents the impulse towards happiness from achieving its aim, which guards jealously lest well-being and peace should be complete and unclouded," which "unwaveringly and constantly poisons the soul." Tchaikovsky was terrified, perhaps of being found out in his homosexuality. And I guess Rich was terrified, of the coming end of her love affair, and looking back at myself sitting on the tightly-woven tweed of that marriage counsellor's couch all I can think is that I was terrified too.
If that sword over my head was unwavering and poisonous the poison must have dripped out into the marriage, shorting out the emotional connections and corroding the switches. Maybe it was another sword that fell at another time, even though you know Damocles' sword never fell, he gave up being king -- too terrified -- something somehow fell on me in May and June, showing me not a new love but a new window on an old love. This is when I started writing about cliff faces and about all the times I'd ever fallen myself. Fate, doom, car crash? I like to think of it more as a neighborhood I move into and come to love. (More Adrienne Rich.) The car crash is the falling. The coming to love a neighborhood, the cliff wall out?
I'm talking in so many metaphors. Maybe that's the only way I feel safe.
And maybe Tchaikovsky got it wrong (is it that artists are not, ofttimes, the most reliable interpreters of their own art?) but while I hear inevitability in his symphony I do not hear Fate's poison, I hear a stirring of fear and a desperate yearning yes but also a caressing, a slow movement of the hands across the body, like the hand holding the violin bow, and is this perhaps rather beautiful? Do we not often fear what is, in the end, the very most true? The hardest thing, the best thing, the most gorgeous possible thing?
Whatever. I've always been the sort to see something terrifying and do it just to prove I could. Not something terrifying and pointless like diving out of an airplane but -- give me a quest that's full of danger and impossibility, that wrests my heart out of its cage and lets it walk around outside my body a bit, that bloodies my lips or my fingernails and bruises my thighs or my pride -- call it my fate to say "yes" and bite my lips together tight and start running as fast as I can.