Six years ago I lived in a basement apartment on Uplands Drive. There was mold behind the drywall from a flood from the upstairs suite that happened before I moved in; I didn’t know about the mold until later, until after we’d lived there for a year and a bit and I’d spent much of that time so sick I had to crawl to get to the bathroom, or crawl to get to the kitchen to make food for my children, pausing to lie down every five minutes or so. I can still feel the cool of the tile beneath my face.
Six years ago, I didn’t have a job. We’d been in Nanaimo for five months, and I’d applied for plenty of work, but with no post-secondary education, no work experience save some volunteer experience in places that seemed, suddenly, very far away, I never seemed to make the interview cut. Maybe that was because six years ago I wrote most of those resume cover letters while drunk.
Six years ago, I drank too much. Trying to recover from a nasty end to my marriage, I drank away the stress. The stress was crippling; the drinking, moreso. Six years ago, sick, unemployed, drunk, crawling on the floor in a cold basement suite, I yelled at my children. Six years ago, my children were six and two years old. Six years ago, we would all sleep in the same bed, because, unemployed, secretly hiding all that failure, I couldn’t afford to buy myself a quilt, and would cuddle with the girls to stay warm. I could put $20 of wine on my credit card but for some reason I couldn’t spend $60 on a quilt. Six years ago, this is the mental state I was in.
Six years ago today, I got on the ferry to go spend Christmas week in Vancouver with a man while my kids visited with their Dad. This man was not the right man for me, but I wanted to meet someone very much indeed. I was afraid I couldn’t take care of my kids. I was afraid that I couldn’t take care of myself. But with someone else? With someone else I’d do better. Someone else would be my safety net. Someone else could both help me with the kids, with the bills, with the cooking of dinner and help me do better myself. With someone else, I’d rise to the occasion. God knows, I knew six years ago, I couldn’t do it on my own, could not do this – the child-raising, the home-maintaining, the surviving – as a single person. Six years ago, unwilling to acknowledge any mercenary motivation, I told myself it was just that I “didn’t want to be alone.”
Six years ago, I could not have begun to imagine that just one month later, I would quit drinking for good. That within four months, I’d have found a job; within a year and a half, the Vancouver man and I would call it quits and that would be good; within two years my relationship with my kids would be completely turned around, and that every day – every day! – would be full of joy; within two and a half years, I’d be finding success as a writer; within two years and nine months I’d have bought a little townhouse for us on my own; within three years and two weeks I’d be in university; and within six years I’d have a semester left to go. Within six years, I would have all of this – sure, some material things, like a little house and little yard and more than enough blankets and two black and affectionate cats, but mostly, mostly a bounty, an absolute bounty, of friends and love.
Six years ago, I could not have imagined that I would turn into a sappy cheeseball. I would have shuddered at the thought. But sappy cheeseball I am.
Six years ago, I could not have imagined one day sitting in class and having the person next to me, in an
argument discussion with the professor about the upcoming exam, say “look, we can’t all be Kyla f@#$ing Hanington.” Kyla f@#$ing Hanington wasn’t Kyla f@#$ing Hanington for most of her life, either, and I find it both laughable and wonderful that today drunk, sick, poor, floor-crawling, unemployed me might be seen as Kyla f@#$ing Hanington by anyone at all.
Maybe this is what happens when we let go of our safety nets. The relationships, the booze, the self-doubt, the limitations. Maybe this is what happens when we say, “well, I’m probably going to die alone and be eaten by dogs but, what the hell, I’m going to do it anyway.”
Do it anyway, and see what happens.