I drop the girls at school. I pop through the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru for a small hot coffee (cream and two Splenda) and a ham and cheese breakfast sandwich. The rain won’t quit. If anything, it’s coming down harder now. When I get home and park in front of my house, I can’t quite bring myself to get out of the car.
Inside: twelve impossible bills, medicine to take, paperwork wanting my official “remarks” on my longtime depression and anxiety, two dogs who don’t want to go out into the rain to pee or poo, a new program to learn, emails to write, columns to write, a neglected blog to attend to, a six-foot high mound of laundry, a broken toilet, a busted vacuum, dishes in the sink, piles of clothing and toys to transfer to the car for a trip to Goodwill, food that needs cooking, a refrigerator that needs cleaning, a phone number for fuel assistance and low-cost weatherization, a bottle of whiskey to ignore.
I turn off the car but leave the key in the ignition. I let the music play on. The rain courses down the windshield, distorting the view of the street. I decide this is my morning, this is my cafe. No one will notice if I take five minutes to myself, maybe even ten—no one except the unkind neighbors, who make it their business to notice everything. They are perpetually angry and sad and disappointed, passing harsh judgement on the world from their windows. If this is what it means to be a good Christian, no, thank you. Live and let live: this is what I understand, what I believe to be true.
I turn up the volume. I sing along. I take up space. I chew my sandwich thoughtfully. I tell Jesus, wherever he may be, that I’m not sure about his credentials, but that I think he’s a righteous dude. I tell him I try to make compassionate choices and teach my girls the same, but there are times when I need my compassion, for myself.
I am pretty sure he hears me. The rain gets louder. I cradle my coffee in my chilly palms, dreading my to-do list, but grateful for the warmth in my hands and the sound of the rain on the car roof.
I am lucky to have a car that works and a roof, though shabby, over my head. I am lucky to have good kids in good health, and parents who care that we are warm at night. I am lucky to be loved by a few good souls, the kind who know how to forgive and be forgiven, the only kind I want in my life anymore. I am lucky to know how to love. I am lucky to know how to be a fool, and keep moving.
I have lost people who cannot be replaced, and they have willingly lost me. They lied: time does not heal all wounds. This is a crock of b.s. Lost lovers and lost family and lost friends, the now-strangers: it hurts, still. The stone-throwers, in their glass houses: they make me shake my head in amazement. At a certain point, you give up on granting the benefit of the doubt anymore, and care far less if anyone bothers granting it to you.
Even my anger: it means I am still here, I have not checked out, I am still going. If anything, the anger is a sign that I’ve found my way to a new place, less Pollyanna-ish, more realistic. It’s a sign, perhaps, that I have come to value myself more than I did before. God knows I am a better mother, a better role model, a better human. There is more substance now, and more to offer. I am learning to take what I need, without apology.
The rain makes it clear: it refuses to yield. It will not subside. I nod to the gray outside my car windows, acknowledging its stance.
One more sip. This is a very good cup of coffee, I decide, before taking my keys out of the ignition and heading out into the rain, up the steps, into my house, into my home.