“God, give me clarity.”
It was the only prayer I could manage, laying there on the edge of my bed at 3 o’clock in the afternoon on a work day.
I’d been fading in and out of numbness for almost a week. I’d find my center, pick my head up to do something with it, and it would fade away into the ether, mocking me for even contemplating progress.
“I don’t know which way is up,” I had told my mom, feebly trying to tell her how I was doing.
The truth was, I wasn’t doing. I wasn’t thinking or feeling or being much of anything. I was just sitting with an empty heart and a head stuffed full of colorless cotton candy. Sitting. Staring. Looking like someone who was praying or something really hard, but not even able to piece together a coherent internal prayer.
The stillness would feel like serenity, strength even, maybe, and I’d lean ever so slightly out of it to survey my surroundings again with new, more clear eyes.
Confusion would smack me on the nose, dull and blunt like a rolled up newspaper or a well used hammer. “It’s not time yet,” Confusion would say, and I’d slink back into my numbness again.
I was tired of the numbness. Not frustrated, not angry. You can’t really be frustrated or angry when you’re numb. But fatigue – fatigue has no problem making space beside numbness. The emptiness inside me seemed endless, and I watched it idly and wondered if it really could go on forever.
And then I layed my head down on what used to be his pillow, and quietly asked for clarity before I closed my eyes.
I woke up an hour later and groped around the cavern.
I was still numb.
I opened my eyes and checked the bed side clock. I had another hour before I’d have to leave to pick up the kids. The weight of that hour was at once too big and not near big enough for me to gather my strength and leap back into motherhood.
So much for clarity.
I spent the next hour rolling out of bed and putting my shoes on. I pretended to check my email, picked up my keys, and fumbled to the car. Confusion slid into the passenger seat beside me and started to titter. I reached for the numbness, buckled my seat belt, and tried to focus on what I would make for dinner.
“God, grant me clarity.”
The word ‘grant’ seems to slip into a mindless chant easier than the word ‘give’. It fit better between the confusion that was taunting me and the numbness that was trying to protect me. None of it had any fucking idea what to make for dinner. Or how to handle homework. Or how to be anything but a scary ghost in front of two children who had spent enough time with ghosts recently.
I was half way to the daycare center when I admitted defeat and picked up my phone.
“I need help,” I said. “I’m sorry.”
“What do you need?” his voice was cool and calm, like pool water that your body has already adjusted to.
“I need you to come to the house. I need you to take care of the kids.” And then the shamefulness of what I was doing came rushing through the fog, and my words sped up to stay ahead of it. “I’m sorry. Do you have plans? I’m sorry. I know this isn’t fair. I just… I just can’t. I can’t be enough for them.”
“It’s OK,” he said.
“I need you,” I repeated.
He stayed on the phone with me as I covered the rest of the distance to the daycare. He stayed on the phone as I picked Emma up and made my way over to Devin. He stayed and listened to my silence and did the talking for me, all the way home.
“Listen,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what you’re feeling or thinking right now. I know that. But it seems like you’re scared of changing your mind. It seems like you’re afraid that you’re really done with us, that this is it, or that maybe you’re not done with us, and you’re afraid once you make a decision you have to stick with it.”
“Yeah,” I mumbled.
“Britt,” he steadied me, “you don’t have to decide anything. You can not be sure right now. It’s OK.”
“It’s not fair,” I said, meaning it wasn’t fair to him to have his fate tied to this wispy, waffling half of a woman.
“It’s OK,” he said again. “You’ll figure it out eventually. You don’t have to stick with anything right now.”
A thought occurred to me – which sounds insignificant, I know, but it was a pretty damn clear thought compared to the way my mind had been working recently.
“Are you saying that because you’re not sure?” I asked.
“Of course not,” he was so damn certain. “I know exactly what I want, and I want us to work. I want us.”
“OK…” I said.
“But you don’t have to want anything right now. It’s OK,” he pressed the words into my palms through the cell phones.
And suddenly… clarity. Silver and shining and small… but clear.
That’s about the most generous fucking thing anyone has ever said to another person.
I tucked my gift into my heart, and waited for him to arrive.
And then he did. He cooked dinner and fathered the kids and stopped to put his arms around my neck for a moment. And I felt, for the first time, like I was tied to the earth again. “It’s OK,” he said again, before disappearing back into the noise of evening hours with two children.
Several hours later, my phone rang. Again. My phone is always ringing now, and I usually let it go to voice mail because I just can’t stand the idea of talking to one more person about everything one more time. Yes, I’m fine. Yes, I know you’re here for me. Yes, thank you, I know, thank you, it’s OK, thank you, I gotta go.
It was Lynne again.
She’d called earlier in the day and I’d quickly silenced the call. But here she was, calling again in the same damn day. God, some people are persistent. I watched the phone vibrate for a moment before finally picking it up. I took a deep breathe and accepted the call.
I have no idea what she said. I was making the appropriate noises that said yes, yes, I’m listening and yes, yes, I know and oh, thank you, this is helping so much. I can make those noises in my sleep now.
Lynne kept talking.
And then, I was talking back.
I don’t know what I was saying. Something soothing, I’m sure. And then, I wasn’t. Then, all of a sudden with no reasonable provocation that I can recall, I was telling her why.
It was like I was reading a report. I was laying it all out in clear black and white with easy to read roman numerals helping the outline take shape. Check, check, check, I ticked off each issue on one of my fingertips as easily as if I had been counting beans.
Like beans. Magical, counting, not jumping beans.
I felt my skin.
I didn’t touch my skin. I felt it. It was suddenly on me, for the first time in a week. I felt my teeth click together as I talked to her and my lips move back and forth over the magical, counting, not jumping beans. I felt the weight of the iPhone in my head and the sticky smooth surface of its face against my cheek.
My brain popped. It snapped and crackled and popped, and I listened as the thoughts made their way from one side to other across neurons and pathways that connected and lit up.
I was alive.
And more than alive, I could see.
Laying before me as if on a clean white sheet of paper was a perfectly ordered list of things. Of tangible, touchable, fixable things.
And they were just things. Like beans.
They weren’t scary or muddied or shape shifting wordlessness. They were just there, sitting there, waiting to be picked up like milk on a grocery list.
I hung up the phone and blinked my eyes against the new light.
I could see.
Oh my God, I could see.
And what I saw didn’t look so damn scary after all.