I told my kids back in November that I was allowed to do any crazy thing I wanted for a year, and nobody could blame me. It looks like I have settled on just eccentric instead.
After this past week, I’m officially the rookie on the Juggler Meadow Morris Men. We stayed up most of the night May Eve. We danced the sun up on May Day. We did three tours in five days. I wasn’t a total embarrassment to the team. We danced a short stand at the house in honor of the fifteenth anniversary of the Infamous Unexpected Housewarming Party. I even blew out a pair of shoes. Not bad for a first week.
From the beginning of this catastrophe I have thought and talked constantly about the tremendous support I got from our friends and family. I already had a strong support network in place from go. Barbara found the kind of friends and built the kind of friendships that endure through a lifetime, and all of them have been there for me.
Yet with all of that I still needed something more. We had been inseparable for thirty years. All of my friends were our friends, even the ones who had been my friends before I ever met her. As much as they all supported me, her absence was palpable every time we got together. I needed to have some space in my life that wasn’t absolutely saturated with her absence. Not that I wanted to walk away from any of the old friends, sever any ties, or bury the memories. I just needed a break once in a while, especially since there was not even an office to go to work to away from the house.
What started as a way to get out of the house on Tuesday nights has turned into a whole new circle of friends, every bit as solid as the ones I already had. That same generosity of spirit and desire to build a community more for the people in it than the activity we share seems to permeate all our gatherings. This Sunday I even discovered that one of my team mates lost his own wife to cancer two years ago, and one of the dancers on a team we frequently dance with lost her husband to it a few years ago as well. I thought I recognized something in their faces even before I was told that.
The dancer who introduced me to the Morris community described how when she first joined them she felt like she had found her ‘tribe’. I have my own tribe now. It’s the ones with the smiles that are deep and genuine, but seem to fade just a bit too quickly. The ones with the depth in their eyes that you can’t quite place. None of us joined this tribe by choice, it was forced upon us. We are the survivors.
I fell in love with that survivor’s smile thirty-one years ago. At the time I had no idea what it cost to get that look, but I could tell it had no business being on a nineteen year old face. Now I’ve got one myself, but at least I’m old enough for it.
I have not taken up this new hunk of my life to replace the old. I will still sing with the same friends I have known for twenty years, and still get together with the ones who knew me before I even knew who I was myself. I’ll manage to make it all work. After all, I’m a Juggler now.
Trying to just fill the hole left in my life when she died would have been a catastrophic mistake. That void will always be there, nothing is going to fill it. But now I’ve got one place in my life that is all new construction, and it’s shaping up nicely. It gives me some space to maneuver while I start the heavy work of clearing the rubble and rebuilding the bulk of my life, from the collapsed wreckage of the life we built together.
I’m going to clear out all the broken glass and exposed rusty nails so I can come often and visit the memories without being torn up every time I visit. Like all renovation projects, it will probably take a lot longer than you would expect, and be a heck of a lot messier.
This life of mine is going to be a messy noisy construction project for a while to come, but in the meantime, there’s a nice new dance floor over in the new wing. I may need my time alone while I work through all this, but I’m making room to have company often. Don’t be a stranger.