Discover more from The Long Scrawl
When You Know It's Over
The long goodbyes have begun
When you’ve known you’re leaving for a long time, life takes on a strange sheen. For the last two weeks, I’ve been walking through the days feeling out-of-sorts in a way that’s hard to pin down with mere words.
I feel aloof. Like I’m floating. Like I’m waiting.
Maybe it’s the side effects of the Pfizer vaccine (Marido and I received our second doses on April 5th). More likely it’s the side effects of detaching oneself from a long-entrenched life, of removing books from their shelves, art from the walls, furniture from their well-established places.
Last week I gave my boss an end date (May 31st). Hearing this news, a co-worker/friend began calculating how many Zoom 1:1s we had left together before I leave. He was sad about it. I was… just sitting there.
“Is disassociation normal?” I asked myself, not for the first time.
I googled it. Web MD said, “Dissociation is a break in how your mind handles information. You may feel disconnected from your thoughts, feelings, memories, and surroundings. It can affect your sense of identity and your perception of time.”
Web MD also told me I’ve been spelling it wrong. It’s dissociation, not dis-a-ssociation. Huh.
I decided it’s not dissociation so much as it is disconnection—a certain distance, like I’m viewing my life at some remove. And that seems a very normal thing to feel when I am quite literally disconnecting. I am packing up and giving away everything that’s been familiar, all the bits and bobs that have anchored me to this place and time.
Last Friday, I gave a friend a box of power strips and a pile of pillows. These are not the things you usually get rid of in a move—unless that move is taking you across an ocean, to a place where the power outlets are pronged completely differently.
I thought our house was feeling empty the last time I wrote. Not quite two weeks later, it’s even more spare. The rooms echo when we talk.
This is Filha’s room, where the bed is now on the floor—we’re only taking the mattress with us, so Marido sold the bed frame on Facebook. (Vila is enjoying this super-accessible bed scenario. She thinks she’s acquired a giant new dog bed.)
Speaking of Vila, she is nearly two weeks out from her knee surgery and seems to be recovering well. She’s not allowed to do a whole lot, so she’s been sunning herself and growing her hip hairs back.
This weekend some friends stopped by our backyard. They flew down from Portland, wanting to see us before we move because they have no idea when such an opportunity might present itself again. We have plans for more goodbyes in the next few weeks, including a big “meet us in this meadow in Golden Gate Park to say farewell” shindig for our local friends. We’ve planned one last Yosemite-area camping trip. One (or two) last cousin visits, one last trip to Mimi and Papa’s farm in Illinois.
I know most of these things aren’t the LAST last. But after June, we’ll have to cross the Atlantic to experience them again.
I’m not completely numb. I feel the sadness, layered underneath. Our roots in San Francisco stretch long and deep. We moved to this beautiful, foggy city 20 years ago, and the friends we’ve made here are the friends of a lifetime. I will miss them terribly.
But also, I can’t escape the thought that it’s already over. That it’s been over. The life we lived before; the routines we shared; the meals; the gatherings; the casual, easy ways in which we passed in and out of each other’s days—they’re already gone.
The end began, for me, on March 5, 2020 when the email from work arrived saying, “Don’t come in tomorrow.” On March 11, when Filha’s school wrote and called and said, “Don’t come in tomorrow.” On March 16, when the mayor of San Francisco told us all to stay in our homes.
We have lost so much already, all of us, throughout this pandemic. In so many ways, I don’t quite know how to be a people anymore.
This comic by cartoonist Emily Flake illustrates that feeling incredibly well:
As I navigate all of this, frog feelings and imminent leave-taking and dog surgery and impending end of gainful employment and all, I find myself feeling mostly paralyzed. Like I SHOULD be going out and doing more things “one last time.” I SHOULD be seeing more people. I SHOULD be soaking up this countdown of weeks and days.
Instead, I putter around the same square footage I’ve been boxed up in for more than a year, looking for more forgotten corners of cabinets to scour, sort, toss, and pack. I make to-do lists and cross them off. I bake chocolate chip cookies. I agonize over which books go in boxes on a boat and which get to come with me on the plane. I worry about Vila’s limp. I make piles of once-treasured items for friends. I wait for our passports to return to us, inked with permission to enter Portugal, permission to stay.
And I watch the video of our house in Setúbal over and over.
It’s the one Elda, our realtor, shot after we had signed the deed in February and the house was truly ours. I watch as she climbs the stairs, narrates her way through rooms even emptier than those I live in now. On my small screen, the tile floors gleam, and I can hear rain pattering on cobblestones outside.
I go back to the beginning of the video, watch it all unfold again and imagine us there, inhabiting those rooms, starting anew.
March was Women’s History Month, and to celebrate, I featured a series of interviews with 15 women on my Medium account. If you haven’t read it yet, or you didn’t make it through all 15 profiles, please give them a read when you have the time. These women are brilliant and amazing, and their voices deserve to be heard.
Read the VOICES…
Jamae Tasker is a Warrior of Love
Shayna Hodkin is a Spellbinding Poet
Sam McWilliams is an Intrepid Cliff Jumper
Hattie Anderson is a Confident Black Goddess
Elizabeth Schroeder is a Swashbuckling Peacemaker
Nikka Diaz is a Natural-Born Empath
Kelly Galeano Arce is a Dauntless Truth Seeker
Tiffany Miller is a Nurturer of Dreams
Emma Rekha Marty is a Guardian of Hope
Natalie Patrice Tucker is a Mother of Dragons
Ruth T. is a Queen of Hearts
Tetyana Borshch is a Radical Daydreamer
Brittani West is a World Class Risk Taker
Tiffani Jones Brown is a Lionhearted Listener
Kathy Azada is a Bright Side Enthusiast
Copyright © 2021 LaDonna Witmer