Four years ago today, I rolled into Walla Walla, Washington. It feels like a lifetime ago. Technically, it was a lifetime ago, because that girl is gone. She blew away in one of the strong winds that push so much debris out of this valley. But the one who replaced her? She is one Lucky Fuck.
This girl--the one with the spine forged of tempered steel, covered by muscle and flesh that can at times feel paper thin—she has been so gently cared for and so well loved. It isn’t always smooth, moving into relationships that have already started, that are already filled with inside jokes and shared stories. It would be easy to forever stay “the spouse” and when that common link disappeared, one could drift off like a satellite untethered. But many who started off as my husband’s friends and colleagues have, over these four years, become central to my own sense of well-being even without him to mediate. We now have our own jokes, and our own habits. He may still be there, tucked into the folds of our friendships, but we are not dependent upon him anymore.
And now, when I sit back and take stock, I realize that there are so many loved ones who did not start as his cohort, who never even met him. So many who have only known me unpaired; who have only known the me with the loud laugh but the sometimes saddish eyes. Without really knowing where I came from, or who I was before, they inexplicably and incredibly open their arms to me now. There is no sepia tint to these friendships; no nostalgia or “remember when?” cues. I guess there will be, someday, and like so many long-term friendships the connections will come to seem mysterious and opaque to those outside them.
All these people—all these funny, smart, active, big-hearted people—they make this place home for me. My mother stopped writing my address in pen years ago. I used to store a pile of old cardboard moving boxes, soft with age and covered in crossed out ink labels, under my bed, ready for the inevitable. But after four decades of moving, through 8 states and too many addresses to count, after so many years of planning a home in partnership with another, after all that, this little town in the far corner of the state has become my home. And while I still may be lonely at times, I know that I am not and will not ever be truly alone here.
Four years and I’m not sitting still yet. I have this new dog—my dog—who fills me with equal parts despair and joy. I have worked up the courage to fire up the grill (without setting fire to the house) and to start looking at new couches (gawd, the New Me really hates this couch that the Old Me once paid for). I treat myself to monthly pedicures and massages; they are no longer annual treats procured for me by somebody else. I managed a handstand during jammies yoga today. Yes, it was only one, but it happened. I am becoming a camper. I am going on trips. And I am doing it all right here, in my little town, surrounded by my incredible friends, all too aware that I am lucky. So, so lucky.