In which I grudgingly admit that Good Things happened in March


There’s a poem by Wordsworth called “Surprised by Joy.” Contrary to its title, it is an incredibly sad poem about loss and the accompanying grief. It is about experiencing a sudden moment of happiness during a time of grief following the loss of someone beloved, and simultaneously feeling a resurgence of the grief because the happiness cannot be shared with the person who has been lost.

These days I feel like that poem. My loss is of course not comparable to Wordsworth’s, who wrote the poem after the death of a daughter. I am only mourning the ending of a relationship. But still, it is mourning. And when something good happens and I find myself feeling happy, I almost immediately think, “I can’t be happy. I don’t have my bf anymore.” It’s as if being happy would mean I lose him all over again. My grief is one way I am still holding on to him.

So having a moment of happiness, as in Wordsworth’s poem, actually causes my grief to resurface and feel as fresh as ever.

I think this is what grief must be. Not wanting to let go.

But that’s not the reason for this post. Many of my favorite bloggers do a weekly or monthly roundup of links and thoughts about things they like, found interesting, or learned. I thought I’d give it a try myself, as a personal way of remembering that even amidst struggles and trials, Good Things do happen, and practicing gratitude matters.

1.  I visited a real desert for the first time, and found the landscape so strangely inspiring in its prickly beauty. I now understand why so many writers live in deserts. Something about it opened and lightened my heart and mind.

2.  My best friend and his gf came down from Philly to visit me for a week, and helped distract me from my troubles with my bf. The first two photos in my series Happy Photo were taken in their company.

3.  I’m a professional editor in my spare time, and I got my first real freelance client – a European academic who needed help improving her written English. I was very nervous giving her back the edited article, but she emailed me the next day and said, and I quote, that I am “a genius of the English language.” Yeah, I’ll take that.

4.  My amaryllis bloomed (see photo above). I can hardly believe such a thing exists. The photo does not do the flower justice – they’re very difficult to photograph because they have four of those huge blooms coming off the tall central stalk. When I first bought my house it was summer and I had no idea what this plant was – it looks totally ordinary and even ugly most of the year. Imagine my surprise when it bloomed the following spring! I now look forward to it every year.


Sometimes we have to be the fool

CamelliaThis is a good time of year for chocolate, because the house is so warm it’s already soft before I put it into my mouth.

Kimchi ferments really fast at this time of year, too.

The jasmine at the mailbox is blooming and the kitchen garden is planted with okra and tomatoes, and I have a new red rose on my front porch.

It is the beginning of summer in these parts, and I should feel that sudden release of tension that accompanies the end of classes. On the last day I taught, I paused in the doorway and looked back at the empty room before I switched off the lights. And I thought, I will never teach again. I was happy with that thought, because it is true and because teaching is not good for me. It was a constant storm cloud on my horizon even on sunny days, no matter how I twisted and turned to escape the sight of it.

I taught for two years, as an assistant for the first and then my own class the second. I got good feedback from the kids. Several told me my class was their favorite, ever. But I’m glad it’s over.

So why don’t I feel free? Instead, an amorphous concern threads through every moment. I can’t concentrate on reading or TV. I’m tired by the middle of the day. My excitement for any given activity lasts only a moment before my brain switches to its “Eh, what’s the point?” mode.

I wonder if I’m still suffering the lingering effects of a moderate depressive episode that began last month. Or if this is a singular emotional event brought on by the fact that not teaching anymore, to me, indicates I am at the end of one era, and the beginning of a new one.

This last year I have worked hard for this moment, when I would essentially extricate myself from academia and begin supporting myself through freelance editing. For many years previous to this last, I was unhappy and fighting for some kind of understanding of myself and what would give me peace. All this required painful realizations about my limitations and the limitations of what the word could offer me.

I think I’m petrified. I am stepping off the ledge, eyes on the obscured horizon, flower in my hand.