Tally sheets: the summertime of the soul

I’ll say this: I don’t hate the holidays. I hate the blues that come with them, every year, like clockwork. I’ve struggled to write this week, and I have a feeling that it’s not going to get much better between now and December 26th.

This week—and the past two days in particular—have been difficult, through a convergence of events; some expected, some not. I knew that this December would be difficult for me, and there were times this year that I said to myself, “I have to enjoy what I have now, because I know what’s coming.” With Jessica’s leaving Huntsville this morning, the last of that ‘summertime’ ended. Heather is now a resident out in D.C., and Jess is now back in Mobile (temporarily, until she begins grad school next fall).

I can’t claim that I didn’t know how much I’d miss them; indeed, the knowledge has been painful and ever-present for the past six months. It’s difficult to voice all this when I know that it’s extremely likely that they’ll read what I write here, but I’ll say this: I applauded their decisions to go wholeheartedly, and left the “I’m going to miss you when you leave here” whispers where they belonged—as whispers in the back of my mind. But there were many days that I found myself telling myself I should go out even when I wasn’t certain I wanted to, because I knew that they were leaving and this kind of social life was not going to last forever.

A lot of that is my own fault. Jeff and I are reclusive, to say the least. Our friends very often have to hit us over our heads to make us be social. I have my writing, my books, my cats, my movies; Jeff has his work, his music, and his gadgets. We are quiet, and we keep to ourselves. Of the five houses in our cul-de-sac, only the residents of one house know what our names are, and we see them infrequently. (Their four young children guarantee that they run in completely different social circles than we do.)

It hit me today when Kat asked me to help her go through the fridge and freezer, and doled out stuff for Jeff and I to use. It didn’t feel right. Still doesn’t.

That, to a certain extent, is self-pity. The next part isn’t.

I screwed up. In a big, ugly way, and I probably cost myself a friendship over it. The details aren’t worth going over publicly; I’ve done enough damage by opening my mouth and thus have no plans to open it again on this particular subject. Suffice it to say that something that was humorously meant (and thought would be humorously interpreted) came across in a completely opposite manner, and ended up hurting someone who I had absolutely no intention of hurting.

The person in question undoubtedly believes it deliberate of me. Then again, were I that person, I’d probably say the same thing.

In the past few days I have done everything I know how to do to make things right. But I don’t think it’s enough. I’m not sure there is an ‘enough.’

In childhood, what someone once referred to as the ‘summertime of the soul,’ it’s easier then—things get said, everybody kisses and makes up, and you go on and you forget about it by the time you’re twenty. But in adulthood, it’s different. Everyone comes into friendships and relationships with baggage—with previous expectations, quirks, and sensitivities. Adults aren’t more easily hurt, but the hurts often go deeper and last longer—and we get the extra-salty dose of knowing that the person we’ve hurt is probably going to remember that hurt for a very … long … time.

I wish that I could lie cavalierly and say that the events I’m referring to haven’t affected me much, but that would be such a blatant lie that Geof Morris would be honor-bound to hack into domesticat and delete this paragraph in the interests of truth and justice. The truth is that several years ago I realized that I didn’t like the person that I was turning into, and it forced me to do a particularly far-reaching version of the twenty-something soul searching.

The end result was that I realized that the people in my life were far more important than any kind of career goals I had. I had recently gotten an ugly lesson in the transitory nature of life and love, and I realized that I wanted—no, needed—to put my money where my mouth was. The people I cared about had to come first.

When I die, I want the tally sheet of my soul to be a list of the people I’ve loved and cared about. The people whose lives were touched, enriched, sometimes even just made bearable simply by my existence. Not ‘accomplishments’ or ‘feats.’ Not one last, final, great, unfinished to-do list of career and academic aspirations.

My recent actions have made me question how strongly I’ve been adhering to my life goals. Those kind of questions don’t go away on command. They stay until they’re answered, and it’s by nature an uneasy and uncomfortable process.

The last bit: soon, we journey to Arkansas to celebrate Christmas with my family. I’m going to take my old Pentax with me and shoot some film in and around Tull. I think perhaps it’s time I construct something pictorial about the place where I grew up—a place that, despite its flaws and its lack of fit with my personality, is still a place that I will always, partly, consider to be home.

I never know how to deal with my mother’s living room; it’s a room filled with pictures of my sister and I. Baby pictures, senior pictures, and—most painful for me—enormous posed photos of us in our wedding gowns. I know that to my mother they’re photos of her daughters at their loveliest (everyone who saw me in the dress can quit laughing RIGHT NOW) but to me, they’re pictures of me at my most uncomfortable, most unrealistic.

The real me is the round girl in the plain sweater, tousled shock of hair, and the Santa hat, destroying her kitchen and laughing with friends. Mom doesn’t have any pictures of her; she isn’t exactly glamorous or photogenic enough to merit framed photography. She’s the person I’m still struggling to become.

I guess I’m not quite there yet.

Life notes:
We will take the laptop with us to Arkansas; I will probably take quiet time during the day to write. Assuming that happens, I’ll post entries at night, as I complete them. Going home always brings back more memories than I really know how to deal with. Writing is the best way I know to sublimate the rush and tumble of remembrance into something more positive, more coherent.

In the meantime, I’ll be humming my favorite Christmas carol. (What? You mean you didn’t know it was ‘Carol of the Bells’? Shame on you! I tell everyone!)