I’m just an animal looking for a home
And share the same space for a minute or two
And you love me till my heart stops
Love me till I’m dead
November is the belly of my whale, so to speak. I have spent more than a few days this month, more than I care to admit, struggling with demons real and imagined. I have struggled to just sit down and write, much less think.
This isn’t the first November I’ve felt this way. I find that in November things can go from sucking to spectacular, back to sucking, in an instant. One minute I’m feeling appreciation towards everything and everyone, the next moment I’m wishing I could flee the state.
The weather has changed, it’s dark outside when I go home at night, and I wax nostalgic for the weather that I was ready to do anything to change just a month ago. The holidays, of course, add a whole other dimension to everything. Batshit crazy, anyone?
And in the thick of it, I realized that November is my month to commit. To go all in, in spite of myself. Heck, I even have a November baby, who forever changed the course of my life after an 8 hour labor. Now, that is commitment.
The other night, Parenthood was on, and in this episode Hank, his ex and their daughter were in full blown drama mode. Sarah, the girlfriend, has been steadfastly at his side as their story has unfolded. Of course, in the middle of it all, her ex appears and Hank starts to wonder if Sarah really wants to be in it. It’s Hollywood and all, so of course she says yes and we get this beautiful moment.
As Tim O’Brien once wrote, story-truth is often truer than happening-truth. Or maybe it’s exactly the same.
In mid November of 2004, Tim and I hosted a bevy of boys for Noah’s 9th birthday. We lived in a tiny house at the time, but T and I sucked it up to host a tweentastic event. Video games, sugar, mayhem…all in a crazy overnight. At 1 am, we fell into bed as the kids finished another round of the latest game and snacked on more Hot Cheetos. I thought Tim was going to break it off. Seriously.
Tim woke me up at around 2 am. The gentle snores of the kids could be heard from the other room.
“I need to talk to you.”
FYI, I hate being woken up. I don’t exactly remember how I felt at the time, but I am sure it was irritation and possibly a slight panic.
“What? Is everything ok?”
I sat up.
Tim looked scared. Or something.
“Let’s get married. I think…we should get married. I love you. Let’s get married.”
I looked at this man, and I could see the guy who loved me. All of me. All of me included a 9 year old boy and his gaggle of guy friends. All of me included a dog that scratched the floors and occasionally went rogue in the neighborhood, scaring the elderly and the small children alike. All of me included a neurotic but willing heart.
I don’t remember what I said exactly, other than to say yes. To commit.
I would joke later that Tim asked me when he realized he was going to die one day, and maybe there is truth in that. We aren’t getting any younger. But maybe it’s the realization that there’s no point in fighting what is already there in front of us.
Maybe we resist most what may save us.
We lay there for a bit, talking, then we did what people who don’t know what to do next do. Tim turned on the TV. Seriously. And in the middle of the night, on our little bedroom screen, was the closing credits of Wall Street playing to Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place.”
A song about affection. A song about finding what is already in front of you. A song about seeking what you already have. Our song. My song.
There of course is more to this story. And though it didn’t happen in a November, it might as well have been when I spoke a tiny prayer into the world that if I could just make it right with Tim that I would spend every day of my life making it up to him. Making it up to me.
Back to that. Maybe being in the belly of the whale means letting ourselves to be swallowed so we can be set free. Maybe the belly of the whale is scary, and beautiful and wild. Maybe the belly of the whale dares us to be more. Maybe the belly of the whale is full of gratitude and depth. Maybe the belly of the whale is where we discover ourselves, again and again.
This must be the place.