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Catherine Fischer

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Snowdrop [Feb. 28th, 2006|03:03 pm]
Catherine Fischer
[mood |contemplativeAnticipatory]
[music |Don't Know Why, Norah Jones]

Winter in Minnesota offers very little hell and a whole lot of purgatory.

The snow melted off a long time ago, yet the temperature has chosen, over the past many weeks, to yo-yo between 20 and 40 degrees. Brown, barren, a land in limbo. As am I, in many ways. I long for the green haze and the release of spring – the glorious, soaring spring skies, the vibrancy of the breeze, the sense of motion restored to the world! The windows closed and condensing against the cold, I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer, watching the winter sunlight slide across the sleeping cats and dreaming of pushing through the soil and blooming, like a snowdrop.

It has been a few weeks, now, since I received my diploma in the mail (as gaudy and garishly made-up looking as my classmates complained it was, in online bitch-sessions with many voices saying the same thing); I received notice at almost the same time that I passed my national board exams. The cathartic release of having the work done, the deed accomplished was a weight lifted I didn’t know I was carrying, until suddenly I had that helium-balloon, weak-kneed lightness and near-hysterical relief, ripping open the envelope and scanning its contents, uncomprehending for long minutes before its meaning sank in. I have spent nearly the last 4 years, sacrificing everything I once held dear, to the fire of pursuing this goal. Attained, I am somewhat lost at sea.

I went and celebrated with Brent, and silently closed another chapter in my life; I have yet to open the next one.

Since then, I have been Avoiding Things. I have done this, very effectively forestalling my well-developed sense of guilt and obligation, by filling my life with the busywork I so long neglected for More Important Things (study superceded all, followed by those necessities such as bills and taxes), catching up on the endless to-do lists I created and stashed in large, ignored piles on my desk. Checking things off has felt wonderful; I have even allowed myself the pleasure of a few personal projects, such as redoing much of my website, including adding a lot of photo albums from my clinical year of vet school.

What I have not been doing is what I swore to myself I would use this time for. Reclaiming the lost heritage of a life well-rounded and richly endowed, surrendered to the cleansing fires and Puritan zeal of study. Emerging like a moth from vet school, still damp and crumpled, I find I no longer know how to fill my time with the joy of creative endeavors. I find my conversation as desolate and poor as the moth’s existence, with eating and growth and slow days in the sunlight finished and only a single purpose left to fill the remaining hours of life. Yes, I do still love medicine, after all. But suddenly I find myself desperate to remember my love of other things, too: to be more than the vessel for those 4 years. I never wanted, after all, for career to define me.

I have meant to write more. I have meant to get out more, and try my hand at old hobbies, but this feels as stilted and artificial as resuming my maiden name, when my husband cast me off, not wanting any part of me or the sacrifices I was willing to make for the future, and thus becoming a sacrifice himself. I wasn’t that person anymore; I knew I would need a new name. And so I vacillated, determined to create a new name, a new persona, until a name was offered to me as a gift. And so I vacillate now, waiting for new life to fill up the emptiness left behind.

I have fallen into bad habits. Old habits. Avoiding duties that remind me of unpleasant things. Avoiding obligations that I am very late with. Running away and hiding in busywork, accomplishing nothing I can point a finger to, and failing to accomplish the spiritual and philosophical transformation that I must, must effect before I throw myself back into the pursuit of medicine, lest the opportunity be lost – lest some critical other part of me be lost, lest I lose my soul in the process.

It is easy to be lazy. It is easy to do the housework, not thinking while doing it, avoid attending the online rounds I had intended to take part in, avoid stretching creative muscles long atrophied, even though I have promised others the fruit of my labors and failed to deliver, and despise myself for it. It is easy to bask in the comfort of Brent’s company, the silences and smiles, the occasional entertainments, the homebody existence that attends the exhausted student life. But I should be doing more than feeding him. I am in the position of having time to pursue the creativity I know I am capable of, and bringing it to him, forcing him out of the comfort zone. He told me he loved that about me, once, with stars in his eyes, his arms around me in the moonlight. That I could drag him out of the existence he was already too familiar with. And yet, our comfort zones are so very similar… it is too easy to fall back into them, unthinking, not speaking.

That was not the marriage I wanted the first time, either – the superficial, planktonic existence that was comfortable to Kevin, because I did not know how much he feared change, feared what lay beneath the surface (of himself, me, the world). It galled me to discover how little I had known or understood him, before the grief and change arrived, and it was time for my next odyssey of growth and transformation. And by the time I understood, I could not forgive him, and could not live with who he really was, and he would chew off a foot to escape from having to live the examined life, afraid of knowing himself.

The trap I swore I would not return to. This. And so I am reading again, for the other voices that I need to start the conversation inside me back up. New Year’s resolutions arrived late… I will force myself to tackle at least 2 unpleasant things tomorrow, and will plan something out of the comfort zone. To save myself.