My sister Caitlin sleeps on the couch across from me, unwilling to leave my side in favor of a more comfortable bed. I am curled into my favorite chair which has been reupholstered from scratchy gold fabric to a smooth, dull rose over the years. It has taken on some major creaks, but still holds me no matter how tall I grow. I am silent, listening to the crackling of the coals and the tick-tock-tick of the clock on the mantle. “HAKUNA MATATA – THE O’CONNELLS” says the sign on top of the fireplace, and tonight with the big dipper rising over the giant fir tree and my whole family sleeping under this simple cabin roof, I almost believe it. It has been raining on the Sacandaga Lake for the past four days. It always rains when I need to move through something. I needed it to rain more than I needed anything in the world.
When it started coming down in sheets a few days ago, I put down my glass of wine and threw off my shirt. In a sports bra I stood on the deck, palms up, eyes closed. My friend Steph found me there, and she flung her arms around me and held tight and we stood like that for a long time. When I turned and looked at her through the rain, we were both crying.
I have done my fair share of leaving, but this time feels different. I have been trying to figure out why it feels so important to say goodbye. My goodbyes have been long and varied; full of depth and hugs and love and pain, hard letters and important letters and wise letters and sad letters, weddings, mountains, fireside ukulele, laughter and ocean spray, dogs and redwood trees, blanket mazes and goat cheese and dancing in the kitchen. Why, if I am only leaving for four months, do I hug people like I won’t see them again for a long time? Why do they hug me back the same way? Why does my soul feel the saddest it’s ever been, and also the happiest? (Why do I wake up each day with this many question marks in my heart?)
It is not the amount of time, but the amount of change I will undergo that feels significant.
Petronella, I am the most ready and the least ready I have ever been in my life.