I'm always a bit sad when the Olympics close, especially the most recent few. For whatever reason, we've had something momentous going on during each of the last three Olympics. In 2004, we got married about a week after the Opening Ceremonies, and we spent our honeymoon in a house in Tobermory. We'd brought our bikes and big plans for hiking and biking the Bruce Trail, but we only did that a few times before we succumbed to the allure of the Olympics. After weeks of wedding preparations, we needed some veg-out time, and we took it.
In 2006, the Winter Opening Ceremonies were playing on the little tv in our hospital room, as we packed up wee Swee'pea into a sleeper that was way too big for him (now impossibly small!). We needed the nurse's help to figure out how to put him into the carseat without breaking him. Once home, the Olympics kept me company through the long night feedings, and it was so nice to have good tv to focus my bleary eyes on. The Closing Ceremonies meant 3 am infomercials, before, finally - at six weeks - I just brought Swee'pea into bed with us and nursed him lying down forever more. "Move over, Sugar D," I said in the middle of one night. "He's comin' in!"
This past June, or maybe it was May, I commented to a coworker that although the last two Olympics had coincided with major life changes, this games would be uneventful, because clearly we didn't have anything significant on the horizon. Now, the Closing Ceremonies coincide with our last full day at this house.
I feel like I should take a moment to thank this house for its shelter, to honour the memories it now holds in its walls and floors. But I don't have the mental space, what with all the logistical details darting around my mind, all these things to remember. Don't forget the stuff in the shed, or the little castle slide in the backyard, or the tools in the basement. I'll have to label the pieces that are staying, and the furniture that's going with the rooms they're going to. I worry I'll regret not taking a moment to say goodbye.
I was 8 years old when I read Black Beauty. My sister gave me a beautiful, leather-bound edition with gorgeous illustrations for Christmas. And immediately I was riveted. But that book sort of broke me. I had to put the book down at one point for more than a week because every time I picked it up, I started sobbing uncontrollably again. It was in the middle of the scene when the old cavalry horse is left riderless in the battlefield, terrified and bewildered in the midst of such carnage. I empathized so strongly with what he must have felt, not having any instructions on how to get out of that chaos alive.
Other scenes from the book made me cry almost as hard, and they always involved horses being taken away from their friends without knowing in advance they were leaving. The saddest thing for me was not moving away or losing friends, but not having the chance to say a proper goodbye, not knowing that the last time you saw them was the last time you would ever see them. It's what makes me the most sad about death, the possibility that you may not get to say goodbye to the people you love.
Later in my life, break-ups that bothered me the same way, because you never knew that the last time you kissed or made love was going to be the last time ever. Or at least that's how it was with all of my previous relationships. I always wished for a do-over, just once, to know enough to savour it in the moment, this last taste of tenderness before it all goes to shit.
And I'm more than a little torn about tomorrow. The movers are coming while Swee'pea is in daycare and we'll no longer have access to the house after we pick him up. We've told him about the new house and he's excited to stay there, but I don't think he really gets it. And I doubt he'll really get it until it's too late to say goodbye. On the one hand, I don't want to put my stuff on him, but I don't want to screw him up the other way either.
I had a panic attack last night. It's been years since I had one. I've had a few panicky starts, but I've always been able to manage it and get the panic under control. Last night, I couldn't. It felt just like the spells I used to have nine years ago, back before I knew they were panic attacks. I thought I had some bizarre disease that, without warning, made me suddenly nauseous and shaky and increased my pulse till it was pounding in my ears.
I was worrying about some stuff in the new house, worried it will lead us to financial ruin (which I've never actually worried about before, strangely). (The new place smells mildewy in the front hall and dining room despite dehumidifying and airing out - and without a basement, we have no way to investigate the situation. I have one of two visions flitting around: 1) we all get sick and die from mould or 2) we lose all our money tearing the house apart to find the mould and sink into financial ruin. Please don't comment on this bit - we have a tiered action plan.)
I was thinking about how deeply Black Beauty affected me. I was trying to sort out how best to help Swee'pea through this transition, whether to keep him out of the movers' hair as originally planned or let him witness the physical process of moving homes to help facilitate the emotional process. But mostly I was utterly exhausted and unable to sleep. My muscles were all tense and I started to feel some gastrointestinal twinges. Then I felt like I was going to vomit. Or my head was going to explode with all the worries darting around. The intense fear made me suspect panic over food poisoning, so I did the things that usual help me resist emerging panic. But it didn't work. I just felt sick and scared and alone, and Sugar D was still packing the kitchen downstairs (yay West coast jet lag!) and I didn't feel like I could manage the stairs to get the company I needed. So I laid on the bathroom floor for a while until I felt well enough to go downstairs, then dozed in front of the Olympics, with occasionally screeches of packing tape behind me in the kitchen.
When we went upstairs, I realized that it was shortly after I read Black Beauty that any time I was overtired, I would become convinced that our barn was going to burn down in the night. I imagined the horses panicked and squealing in the barn all choking black and angry red and the vision was so clear I just knew I was having a premonition. I felt I had to stay awake so I could save the horses. I remember the first time my parents told me they would stay awake so I could sleep, and I was only a little angry to discover in the morning they had gone to bed after all, but not really because the barn was still standing, not a streak of charcoal anywhere. Last night, it struck me that those late night fearfests were probably my first panic attacks, or at least a precursor.
And I don't know where this post is going. Is it a treatise on panic and anxiety? A plea for advice on what to do with Swee'pea? A musing on goodbye and the Olympics? I really have no idea... except I have to keep packing.