workin’ on it

In my mind, there is a scene from a movie. An asteroid floats toward our planet. A crew is assembled. I put on a heavy suit, brought on as the Person That Will Fix Your Broken Shit. We’re in space, on a ship going somewhere. The people–I know them; they’re my friends. They tell me they know where the space craft is taking them. They’re working on their necessary-for-the-space craft projects. They’re building toward this final destination.

Then, there’s wind. Hey, I didn’t say I was good at creating space scenes. I just said that it’s happening. It’s like that dream where your house is also your elementary school but at the same time a shopping center. Shit just happens like that. So, there is wind. And shit on the space craft is breaking. And I’m attached to a rope, and I go outside the space craft. I’m fixing the brokenness. There’s a lot of wind. The cord breaks.

There’s not a lot the other people can do about it. They’re waving from the windows, but they’re on their way to this other thing, this destination. And they feel bad, but what can they do? I’m just sort of stuck floating in space.

* * *

I have started swimming. On Monday & Wednesday, I get to the pool early–well before Open Lanes start–and wait at the end of a lane near the edge. At 4:30, everyone dives in. I ease myself slowly & begin a frog-like stroke across the pool. Things go well until I attempt to put my face in the water. I panic, attempt to stay calm, work to through the lap & grab a kick board. I kick the length of the pool, watching other students move through their elegant strokes, until I can’t tell if my heart is pounding from the physical strain or the anxiety.

This weekend, I bought goggles & a swim cap. I’m telling myself that I like it. That it’s peaceful in the water. That people cannot be watching my stroke–that they would drown. That I am not drowning. That I will be fine when I practice my breathing. That my boobs will not fall out of my swimsuit. All of these things are true. I can swim. I cannot be with people sometimes. I’m starting to understand that my face in the water, that counting strokes to each breath, leaves all that behind.

Over the holiday break, I realized that it was time to pretend to be a writer again. I submitted things. To new journals, rather than the same two pipe dreams. I submitted a poem, for Christ’s sake. I put words in a journal again. I forgave myself for not doing this enough. I didn’t use white out. I didn’t write self-deprecating humor into my cover letters.

Today, I got back to the kitchen & ate my first real meal in, well, I honestly don’t know how long. This is the first time in my life where, had it not been for Joe’s eggs & potatoes, I would have survived on a gin & tonic and sweet potato-chocolate chip cookies.

Today, I told my family that I applied for a job in the middle of a desert. That I’d sort of stopped applying to jobs for the time being, since no one is hiring for the middle of May. That I don’t expect to get a job offer for months. That–for the first time in my life–I have no idea what happens next.

* * *

At some point, this stopped being exciting. It started just feeling like people are looking at me, thinking, Is she ever gonna have a kid? Is she really just hoping to start gardens with people for a living? At some point, I realized:

I’ve never not known what’s next. I’ve never doubted that what I wanted most would work out–I’ve never expected to need a Plan B. I can’t even remember what I thought Plan A was.

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About meganbetz

human geography PhD Student at Indiana University; wife, reader, writer, baker, gardener
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