when the daylight comes
If you had told me a year ago what my life was going to look like today, I might have hauled off and punched you in the mouth.
For the past few weeks, I've been rumbling with how to talk honestly about where I've been. It's been so hard to see anything except the brokenness of the world. How much I've suffered, how much I've lost. My life last spring and summer (and fall and winter) was a frightening Venn diagram of misery. I recall writing in an email, if I can study for and pass comprehensive exams in the midst of a global pandemic, the brutal dissolution of my marriage, and a race revolution, academia is going to be a piece of cake; writing a dissertation sounds like a margarita hooker sparkle bounce house of easy living right now. While I do want to be genuine about the struggle, I've been dissatisfied with how to tell the tale that it feels like I need to tell.
Thanks to my bud Taryn, I recently watched one of those music video photo compilation things. It led me to start flipping through the photos and videos on my phone, it was a rainy Tuesday afternoon and I was stuck on the couch thanks to an incredibly minor medical procedure (I'm completely fine)(actually, I'm great!), so I took a couple of hours and pieced one together about the last year.
I found, as I worked, that there exists an incredible richness to my life, a richness that I haven't been able to see. I learned that probably 90% of the photos and videos I take are of my dogs doing absolutely nothing. I discovered that I only wear three tops - the short-sleeved red shirt, the long-sleeved yellow shirt, and a series of indistinguishable $6 white t-shirts from Target that take up an entire dresser drawer. A year's worth of crap on my phone showed me that I value riding my bike and proving I can peacefully walk four golden retrievers at once. I take a ridiculous amount of videos dancing alone in my car. I appear to have only three bike kits but somehow a disturbing number of workout bikinis (#clickbait). I could finally start to see how many people in my life have been trying to show up for me, in all the ways they know how, how lucky I am to have friends that want to pull me gently, or maybe kicking and screaming, into a future throbbing with wonder. I have empirical evidence, now, that it may actually be scientifically impossible for me to take a photo with my mouth closed unless there is something in it (this is the only one I found and holy shit do I look tired last December).
I'm going to link the video at the end of this post. It's about three-and-a-half minutes long, which is probably something like 8% of how long it takes to read a normal-length Katie blog. I'd be honored if you'd give it a watch. All of these photos and videos were taken in 2020, except for a few that weren't, snagged from just over the line back into 2019 and maybe about three from my time in California a couple months ago. If you made my life better in 2020, or maybe if you made it worse, you're in the video somehow, in some way, even if it's not your face, and I will try and definitely fail to tag all of you on Facebook in a few minutes. Or maybe you aren't, but just because you aren't doesn't mean you didn't make my life better, and if you can follow that bewildering parade of quadruple negatives it explains at least one reason why we are friends. There are some Easter eggs, which means hidden surprises for those of you that didn't grow up playing Atari in the 80s, and that's because there are gonna be some Easter eggs in 2021 so let's get this party started already. The amateur photography and shaky one-handed videography is all my own, except for when it's not. The space bar should pause the video if you don't read as fast as Adam Levine can sing or if you want to carefully inspect one of my many, many, wrinkled-nose selfies. I didn't take or record anything new, which is simultaneously awesome and also quite alarming in a phone-storage-it's-just-a-lot-of-so-many-selfies kind of way.
In California. I emerged from my noise-cancelling headphones after nineteen hours pretzeled on the couch revising a paper and went down to the kitchen to have cinnamon raisin toast for dinner for the fifth day in a row. While I was frying up bread because who the fuck doesn't own a toaster, oh it's this guy, my friend said to me, I don't know how you do it. I said, do what? And he answered with something along the lines of, the shitstorm you are living through, I don't understand how you can focus on work, on writing papers, I don't know how you can go out and ride your bike, how you get out of bed in the morning, how you are even still breathing. I don't understand how you are surviving.
I don't understand either, most of the time. But I know that I am, as fierce and gentle as I know how, and that is something worth fucking celebrating. I know that the story of my life can be written a thousand different ways. I know that I want to choose light. I want the sweetness, I want this adventure to be about how much I freakin' care, how huge my heart is, how much laughter I brought into the universe, about how I always, always, let love guide me, in even the smallest things, because that's what life is hungry for.
So, friends, celebrate with me. Full screen this sucker and crank the volume as high as it will go, you aren't doing it right unless your neighbors are dancing, too. It's a little cheesy, and a bit twee, and there's too much of the slow-motion living room dance party I had once comps were done, but it's my life. Let's rejoice, together, because we are all still here. Because we're making it, not just surviving. Play it one, two, five times through. I don't give a poop about artificially inflating my view count, do it because it makes you want to throw your arms in the air and dance with me in your heart, wherever you are, whatever you're doing, all of us.
And then, when you're done, pick up the phone and call me. Even if we're in a fight. Even if it's terrifying, even if we haven't talked in a year, even if you're so pissed off that you want to hit me over the head, cartoon-style, with a frying pan. Because I believe that we should tell people in our lives that we love them, while they can still hear us, and I want to tell you.
I love you. I'm still here, because of you. I forgive you, because love matters more than hanging onto old hurts or minor infractions with the tightest, angriest grip I can manage. I am truly sorry that I hurt you; I wouldn't be making it without you. Remember when we were twenty-five and you barfed in my front yard and I picked mulch out of your hair while finishing my own 7-11 tequila slurpee, remember when we cranked up the thermostat and fell asleep with Friends on the DVD player and woke up six hours later on the surface of the sun covered in Taco Bell wrappers with the same three episodes still playing. Remember when I threw myself into your arms and you said, don't say goodbye, say, so long. Remember when I had a meltdown trying to cut open a fucking avocado, remember that first night when I made your heart race and your life cracked open with joy, remember when you cried on my wheel, then stopped, then cried again, then stopped, then almost murdered us both getting back to Hygiene. Remember when I saved you, remember when I forgave you; remember when you changed my life, forever. Remember when I baked rainbow sprinkle cookies for you, got on a plane for you, drove ten miles to kill a spider for you, cleaned the house while you were off playing Nutcracker, for you. Remember when I leapt, because I could, for you.
When you call (or actually fifteen texts might be better because I hate the phone and have a lot of meetings tomorrow plus I really like it when my notifications blow up so go wild on me), I'll say, I'm sorry I've been in a dark hole for so long but I am fighting like hell to get out. I'll tell you that I'm so happy I know you. My life is better because you are in it. I'm glad we met on the bus or in the piano proficiency test line or when you spent the nine months of sixth grade kicking the shit out of my chair. Remember when we accidentally ordered six billion curly fries, remember when you picked me up at work wearing cardboard eyebrows, remember when we went on a cupcake tour of DC and ate ourselves straight into diabetes. Remember when we fell in love. Remember when my ninth graders didn't try to set you on fire, remember when Graham almost died all those times and you were there every single one, remember when we didn't sleep for two days before your wedding because of a goddamned rooster. Remember when I was so brave, remember when you were so scared and weak and I loved you anyway, remember when we drove from New Hampshire to Georgia and slept in the tiniest hotel room in New York City I've ever seen. I believe that people come into our lives for a reason. Maybe you'll be abbreviated down to a sneeze on page 376 by which time everyone except auntie Muriel has long stopped reading, or maybe you'll be an eternal thread of strength through the fragile and beautiful patchwork of my survival, but either way, I want you to know, you are so loved.
Remember when you survived. Remember when I came out the other side. Remember when we threw open the windows, together, and let in the daylight.