by - Sunday, August 09, 2020

sab·​bat·​i·​cal, noun: a break or change from a regular routine

Spines of colorfully printed tops sit nestled in my bureau like book spines cataloged in file folders. I look at them longingly every time I pull out a drawer. Typically, a selection would be made determining the bottom to coordinate, leading me into the closet. Then I would select shoes, then back to the bureau for jewelry. These days, the same pair of burgundy sneakers await my command downstairs by the garage door. All my other shoes upstairs are so jealous. Or lonely. I imagine they must think I've abandoned them. I wear the same pair of shorts for three days, making them truly worthy of a laundry load. But I do select a fresh t-shirt, usually plain white cotton or a ribbed tank. Then I am gone. No make-up, no jewelry, just me, and my shadow self for the day, a quiet chaperone.

While Taylor Swift wrote a new album to share, I am still editing an old song to shelve. This sabbatical from the familiar has been exhausting and exhilarating. Frustration mixed with purpose, my complex blend of emotions swings full on a pendulum of grief. But as I am told, it's all part of the process.

My mom passed away on May first, in the eye of the COVID storm. I was not allowed to be with her in the hospital, so everything finally aligned, relieving her from a penance she called life. Many say there isn't a right time for death, but I disagree. I believe everything happens in divine timing. My mom was ready, and she knew there would have to be some extraordinary circumstances for me to be forcibly separated from her. She knew I would save her again, something she no longer wanted.

She was confined to bed for the last four years, multiple sclerosis robbing her of car rides to my house for dinner or an assuming walk into the kitchen for tea. Honestly, I missed her well before the curtain closed. It was so hard to watch, but not nearly as difficult for her, lying in a hospital bed in the middle of the living room with the incessant chatter of television. But she was in her home, where she desperately wanted to be. She always managed to get her way.

It's been very different in my childhood home these last three months without her. Going through the overwhelming onslaught of papers, clothes, linens, trinkets, so many objects she loved, generations of collective relics. Deciding what to keep and what to set free. I have been very selective with what stayed, the tiniest of ornaments must replace something already at home. Even our beloved cat, Kit, passed away last summer, our fateful opening for the adoption of her fur babies, Missy and Junior. We all continue to acclimate to a new normal.

My purging is cleansing as I preserve the memories I want and release those I wish to forget. Let the next person at Goodwill take it in and give it a new story. It became more manageable as betrayal transformed into liberation. But the photographs were different.

Many assortments were duplicates - my college days, our wedding, Brenna's early childhood. They were easy to let go because I already created bound chronicles that reside in our living room bookcase. Some were family and dear friends, older photos I couldn't bring myself to toss. I recently returned many of them to their original owners affecting a few gracious calls resulting in hours of reminiscent solidarity. Oh, I can't believe she is gone... I just spoke to her the day before she went into the hospital.

I still talk to her, either aloud or in my head, realizing I think of her much of the time. And she certainly watched over my shoulder as I carefully assembled her life in new albums. Grammar school report cards, diplomas, a handwritten message from my great-grandmother, notes from Conover School of a short-lived career as a model before she married my dad, her driving school certificate - all safe amid the creamy pages of an Italian leather-bound diary.

Robert and Brenna have been a tremendous support through this transition. Busy is the word that comes to mind, but it is more than that. Taking time to create these albums, I am choosing memories to enshrine and share; organizing all the paperwork, I weigh importance; swapping furniture, I strengthen what is necessary, useful, and desirable; and by self-care, I allow feelings that arise space without the need to run away from myself. Through it, I remain quiet not because I have nothing to say, but because this is a gestation period. To formulate a new world of existence, to find my own voice in pure form. I want to emerge fresh, new, full of possibilities. Free.

There are no longer tethered ties that bind. They are more like loose straps that can easily slip apart as I ease the buckle. Or tighten for strength. And my choice to decide when this sabbatical is complete... xoxo-Sonya

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