It’s midnight and I can’t sleep. My heart is aching and feels squeezed inside a too-small space in my chest. I consider waking Addison up in case I really am having a heart attack this time. But I sigh, knowing this pain will not kill me. Not tonight.
I slip out of bed and creep across the floor, gathering up my writing materials and my laptop and bringing them out to the kitchen table. I put some broth on the stove to heat up while I write.
The house has as an emptiness to it now, a strange, ghostly shell feeling. I open the door to what would have been Chickadee’s bedroom, to put something away in there. It smells like an empty room. Like no one has ever lived in there or ever will. Addison almost set up his office in there, but failed halfway through the process. Books, magazines and papers lie on the floor in mismatched piles. The plant stand is empty. I couldn’t bear to leave a plant in there all alone.
I write to two of my friends in Vermont, puzzling over my conundrum of how to get the support I need right now. I reflect on my realization of how rare and precious we few are–what priceless gems the people are who can truly listen, truly be present and available to our loved ones. Even though I meditate and breathe deeply and read books and go for walks and play music and cry… I feel rotten and festering inside. There is no replacement for a listening ear, no replacement for a friend who considers my suffering to be their own.
After writing and drinking a cup of broth, I wander into the living and lay on the couch. Going back to bed with Addison while he is sleeping peacefully is too hard. If I am alone than I want to be alone. And at least one of us should sleep.
Chickadee had awakened me and led me to this very couch so many times during my pregnancy with her. I would awake as early as 2 am, with a hunger so fierce and undeniable I would be driven from my bed and sent waddling to the kitchen. I would find something to eat and make my way to the couch and Gurmukh’s book on pregnancy. I would read about being a pregnant mother, opening myself to my child, preparing for birth and preparing to have a baby.
Before Gurmukh’s book, I would read out loud to Chickadee from the Tibetan Book of the Dead. But after a month or two of this, I wondered if perhaps it was too morbid to be reading about death to my unborn baby. The Tibetan Buddhist monks don’t seem to be all that happy about being born. They seem to be devoting themselves wholeheartedly to their practice so that when they die, they don’t have to be reborn.
And at the same time, I had the feeling that Chickadee already knew all about birth and death and the realms beyond all of it. I imagined her smiling knowingly as I read to her.
Sometimes I would be awake around dawn, and birds would be coming to the feeder outside of the living room window. I would open the door and stand out there, being quiet and listening deeply when the chickadees were speaking, so my baby could hear them.
This morning I am on the same couch we had shared, in the same living room, at 2 am, but now I am alone. I think about Chickadee and wonder why I don’t feel like I can still talk to her, wonder if she’s still here with me. It is so silent, lying there in the dark, and I feel empty inside.
I wonder if this is how dark it was for her inside of my womb.
My mind drifts groggily, and as my eyes close I hear a sound. It’s a small sound, as though a moth wing has brushed against the strings of the viola that is hanging on the wall above me. Or perhaps the sound came from the guitar that hangs over the fireplace. I can’t tell. I hold still and listen. Silence.
As I begin to doze off again, I hear the faint sounding of an instrument’s string once more.
I don’t know why, but I feel afraid, so I get up and walk back to the bedroom.
I find Addison has scootched all the way to my side of the bed, as though he has been searching for me while I was gone, and had traveled in his sleep to the far side of our big bed, in hopes of finding me there. I stand over him, wondering how best to move him so I can lay back down.
“You’re up,” he says suddenly, and I clutch my chest in surprise.
“You scared me,” I murmur.
He rolls over and gets up to pee. I crawl into the spot he’s opened up for me, all warm and damp from his overheated body. When he returns he puts his arms around me, and even though he’s a little too hot for me, I am soon fast asleep.
For a few precious hours I will be unconscious, and my pain will be a distant dream.
I will awake to more heartache. But I will make myself get out of bed, and I will go and sit on my cushion. I will practice looking deeply at the painful feelings in me, and I will smile to them, and I will breath in, and I will breath out.
This pain will not kill me. Not today.