Yesterday was a test of steel and fire, wrapped up in a marshmallow.
A lifetime ago, before the awful news of Ulla’s suicide reached me, I volunteered for a local festival. Tho I wanted time to stop when I heard the news, it didn’t, of course. And in the Universe’s great scheme of things, it all came down to yesterday: Saturday, sunshine so bright it hurt your eyes, heat with a cool breeze, kids on the grass, the festival in full swing and me right there in the middle of it all (yet somehow remaining on the sideline throughout).
At the threshold of my building, as I was ready to walk out and tackle the day, I spoke to Ulla. ‘You stay here,’ I said, as much out of love for her as need for myself. And she did. I walked alone, and silent, to the festival park. I asked for the person I needed to find and eventually found him. I did my duty, guarding the performer’s tent where they kept their personal items while on stage. A few tried to speak to me, and I tried to answer, but it was obvious I didn’t have much of the language necessary for casual conversation. One woman touched my arm in kindness and understanding. Another quickly discovered I was a stupid English speaker, kept her Dutch simple, and translated what other people said to me.
They didn’t know they were healing me. They didn’t know the colorful outfits, the kids screaming with delight at the bubble machine, the smiles and nods they gave me were filling up such an awful pit of sorrow in me, but they were.
I drank in life, and found it still sweet.
By three in the afternoon I couldn’t do anymore. I needed a break (one was supposed to be there an hour earlier but alas, earwax!). I found my supervisor and told him, he said no problem, of course take care of yourself! Back home to my cool apartment, for an icy cola from the fridge, a horse sized paracetamol, and a big fattie I rolled. An hour and a half later I felt new: cooler, calmer, and ready to go back, this time with my brother to just enjoy the events on offer.
An enjoyable late afternoon saunter – no other word for it, it was a saunter – back to the festival park, in time to catch the last bit of music and dance on offer. Then it was down to the kitchen area, where a feast for everyone had been prepared – for free. Yes, you heard me. The festival offers free dinner (and lunch; I missed it) to anyone who comes. Anyone. There were pizza and burgers, rice dishes and noodles, chicken and salad, fruit and drinks. All served willingly, all cleaned up willingly, all done willingly.
I could not have asked for a better outpouring of community spirit than what I witnessed.
Everywhere I looked, people. For once my eye did not slide off them, eager to disregard any possible pain caused by another’s flinty disregard. I looked. I watched. I saw every color of skin, from red headed bleached white to deep blue black. I listened to them talk to each other, even tho I didn’t understand all the words. I heard the laughter. I saw this beautiful mix – a true melting pot – right before my eyes, and it was a wonder to behold.
Today I am paying for it; my back pain is making it difficult to do much other than sit and wait for the paracetamol to take effect.
There’s more, too.
I realize I’ve been feeling like a hoarder, a thief in the night, stealing out to Blah’s blog and pulling quotes, re-reading her words as if they’ll say any more to me than they did the first time, jealously gazing at other people’s pictures of her, her home, her dog. I’ve been wanting to gather everything I can around me, keep it close, say it’s mine, keep your hands off my memories of my lovely friend.
Yet, she didn’t share all of herself with me while she was alive. Maybe she parceled herself out, a bit to each of us, so when she was gone we’d come together. We’d have to talk to each other.
I grabbed that lifeline. Sent out emails to people I haven’t ever spoken to before.
I told her ‘this is me trying, Ulla’.
So my tiny world is opening up a bit. There are people in the neighborhood who may remember me now and give me a smile or a nod or hello every time they see me. I have new correspondents, new friends to get to know online. No one can take Ulla’s place in my heart. But I realize how dangerously I’ve been living. So isolated. Lose one person in your close circle and it’s a huge hole. It can pull you right down. I may never have many people in my close circle; I’ve got a real trust issue and always have. But I can build enough looser connections to make me remember I’m not alone. And maybe while building those looser connections I’ll find someone who wants to be closer, wants to come into my inner circle. Or maybe those looser connections will be looser connections until the time is right for them to step into my inner circle. I can’t discount the wheel of circumstance.
Ulla’s death isn’t making me collapse in on myself. Just the opposite: it’s driving me to bloom.
I say ‘I love you’ more.
I take in every bit of kindness from other people.
And I am so very grateful for my friends here on WP. The people I correspond with, the people who take the time to like my posts or comment, the people who’ve been reaching out to me lately.
I’m ready to be a better person.