I set aside blogging for a few weeks because there has just been so much going on in my professional and personal lives—all good, but hectic nonetheless. Part of me wondered if I would miss writing my blog and I have found that, in fact, I do. I miss talking to no one, while hoping someone is listening.
My moods have been all over the board recently: excited over the release of Mt. Moriah’s Wake (have you pre-ordered yours yet?), buoyed by time with family at the beach, and encouraged by the reintroduction of hugs to my life. I’ve also been stressed over a never-ending workload, the feeling that I should be doing more, more, more to promote my novel, and the nagging suspicion that I have left something undone.
Enter Warby Parker to my inner turmoil.
In case you haven’t jumped on the Warby Parker bandwagon, the company is a solution to my lifelong conundrum over which eyeglasses are best for my face (the answer: none). You see, for me, trying on glasses is only slightly less defeating than trying on swimsuits. The vast number of choices in a spectacle shop warrants my spending half a day there and then walking out, overwhelmed and empty handed. But Warby Parker, in a genius sales approach, lets you try on five pairs at home for free. They come in a perfectly sized cardboard box, each of the five eyeglasses nestled in a cozy little bed. You have five days to try them on, then send them back postage-paid.
I just sent back my fourth box. I still have not ordered a single pair.
I fear this may cause problems in my marriage. My husband recognizes that my relationship with Warby has become unhealthy. The last time we retrieved a WP shipment, he admonished sternly, “You have to choose one from this box.” I agreed and I meant to; I really did! I now have a spreadsheet in which I’ve rated the pairs, each of them boasting a friendly name like Virginia or Louise. I really, really wanted to be a Welty or a Maeve, but they were just so big on my face. And there are always new ones, different ones — perhaps the best one is still out there! Hence, my problem.
Setting aside the fact that I have a WP spreadsheet—which my family sees as evidence of something wrong with me—my inability to select amongst the eyeglasses is part and parcel of my recent disquietude. Those nicely packaged WP boxes present me with something pleasant to obsess over—something that is not painful to reflect on.
At the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, a week ago I discovered that a long-time friend had died. I didn’t even know she was ill. Sudden deaths like hers shake us to our core, rouse us from the daily trivialities of our milieu. I found myself wanting to revisit old memories with her; I could see us as co-eds doing the Jane Fonda workout, young and foolish and so very sure of our futures. I remember her coming to my dad’s visitation; just her presence was acknowledgement of a shared childhood that time and gray hairs could never obfuscate. I recall reaching out to her when her dad passed away a few years later. “I know you know,” she said—and I did.
It occurs to me that although we work at the same university, albeit in vastly different departments, I might have gone another few months or even a year without seeing her. We did not hang out regularly; our chats were limited to casual passings at university functions, or brief emails. Yet ours was a friendship unthreatened by distance, and the knowledge she is gone makes me profoundly sad. With her goes another handful of my childhood memories, another bit of proof that once upon a time I was young. Once again, I feel left behind to do the remembering.
At the same time, I wonder why cancer found its way to her and not me. I find myself joyful to the threshold of tears over the blessings in my life. This blending of sorrow and joy, like the dichotomies of work done and unfinished, successes and failures, make me feel as if I’m spinning, and I wonder how I do justice to my friend whose life was cut short. Can I live enough for the both of us? What heady pressure.
One late afternoon this week I arrived home unexpectedly early from work. Reese the blue heeler was giddy over his imminent walk. Driving home with the sun in my eyes had been hypnotic, though, and all I could think of was sleep. I tossed myself onto the bed and covered my head so I was in darkness. Stillness blanketed me like a caress.
“Just a ten-minute nap, Reese,” I said and he obligingly flopped on the floor beside me, exhaling his acquiescence. Of course I set my alarm, because I am programmed that way: even an afternoon walk on an atypically low-humidity, azure blue-skied day, warrants a timeslot on the daily treadmill that is my life.
Ten minutes of absorbing the grief, of letting my harried mind bounce around images of my friend, of the teens we once were. Ten minutes of silence, setting aside the mundane and trivial distractions of my daily existence. The name Warby Parker suddenly jumped into my mind and I wondered if my friend knew the company was named for Jack Kerouac characters. As a fellow English major, she would have loved that.
Then the alarm went off and, brushing aside tears, I stretched my legs. I tightened my laces, and Reese and I stepped outside, stopping by the mailbox to retrieve my fifth Warby Parker box.
This one I will hide from my husband.