December 6, 2010

On Missing

Sometimes missing encompasses every breath, every heartbeat, every moment of everyday. Sometimes missing encompasses every face, every sunset, every building, every wind that blows through. Sometimes missing is everything.


I watched the snowstorms blow through the NY snow belt on the Weather Channel's radar screen. Kids squealed in the pool below and parents lathered on sunscreen. March had arrived in LA with sunshine and warmer temperatures. Tired of the dreary pilot season and February rains, March seemed to promise all that February had failed to deliver - sunshine, glitz, and glamor.

But I wanted snow. I wanted the last few snowstorms of the season to blow through, leaving us wondering if the reverse-lake-effect would be enough to stop the snow or if we would awake in the morning to the hum of the campus snow blowers. I wanted to wake up to the winter wonderland I left in January, not to the early morning splashes of cannonballs. That spring I missed, with every ray of sun, every purple night sky, every band of snow that moved across the radar screen. I missed until everything hurt and I learned to sit very still.


I watched the last fifteen minutes of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition every Sunday night. It always made me cry. In December, I had learned that I could plug my internet cable into my 13 inch television and I would get a few random channels and all of the ABC channels.

Until that year, Sunday nights had been exclusively for homework and the bright lights of the library. Coming home to housemates still awake and the lights on for the last person to collapse into bed. That December my tiny, Vermont apartment could never hold enough light and my Sunday nights felt empty, empty, empty. Over time, I learned to hoist everything and everyone I missed onto my shoulders and relaxed into its weight. It was all with me; I didn't need to put it down. I turned on every light, my itunes, and the television. I cried from 8:45-9:00 every week and then danced around my apartment with my cheeks still damp and my shoulders sore, but my heart a little lighter.


[February, 2006 -2010]

I watched jewel colored gowns glide down the read carpet against a backdrop of flashing camera bulbs. Award seasons in Los Angeles felt galaxies away from life in Vermont and Maine. The red carpet runs down the center of Hollywood Boulevard and I remember how late we were for work the first day they closed the boulevard to set up the red carpet and bleachers. We groaned in our overstuffed car when the light changed and we barely moved. But the next morning we agreed to take the same route and leaned out the windows with cameras in our hands. After the awards show aired, we took Franklin and neighborhood roads to avoid the traffic. That February we were still taken by L.A. and the fervor of "the good life". We scrambled to file for the agency's top talent agents and tag-teamed the coffee maker to be sure we got it right. Four months would go by too quickly, I didn't want to miss a moment of all the possibility. Time would change my attitude, but in early February of 2004 I felt that I was at the edge of the whole world and my life and all I had to do was reach out and choose - I could have anything I wanted.

The Februaries since have felt quite the opposite. Winter in northern New England brings snow drifts to the window sills and wind that bites the cheeks. Evenings call for mugs of hot chocolate and piles of blankets. Quiet time away from the world, not standing on the edge of it ready to soar. February falls in the middle of Decisions Made and Time Will Tell. When award season rolls around, I always miss the shimmer, glow, potential, and possibility of that February of 2004. It arrives on cue each year and stays for only a few weeks. I turn on the television to watch the dresses and spot the places we went for ice cream. I listen to Ryan Seacrest and LA traffic reports in the mornings and put my old "LA mix" on repeat. I close my eyes at night and think of the LA sun, the boardwalks, beaches, cliffs, and mountains. And I dream, and dream, and dream.


I watched shots of the Upper West side each morning on Regis and Kelly. My brother would send me photos of New York in the fall and when I visited, we walked the Brooklyn Bridge under a perfect, blue sky. That fall he would meet my Dad for a Mets game or take the commuter train north to meet my Mom for a day of shopping at the outlets. My friends from college would meet up in Union Square for drinks after work and text me, "Wish you were here."

I was in my last year of grad school in Maine and alone in my program. Work isolated; I was lost in the dark; days and nights rolled into one; I looked up in time to see my world crumble. She came home one November afternoon to my splotchy face and heaving sobs. Nothing worked anymore. I cried so hard she told me not to go to my evening class. She held my hand. I never wanted to let go.

I missed home. Home. It had been a long time since that word weighed so much. I had an odd class schedule and an odd work schedule. I started to go home often and whenever possible. Not quite satisfied with suburban CT, I would take the train into NYC to spend time with my brother and friends. Back in Maine, I choked on my longing to be in New York. I shredded my days against images of my life in the city. I missed and I missed and I missed and it shackled my life in a way I had never felt before.

Until I realized I couldn't miss an experience I had never had. I wasn't wishing to return to a time or place in my past. I was wishing for something in my future. I felt a yearning, but it wasn't for the past, it was for the future. This was an extreme realization for a person who felt like her whole world had collapsed and she had no idea what the future held.


I miss Portland, Maine. I miss the brick buildings of the Old Port and the breakfast sandwiches on the West End. I miss the people I consider family and the familiarity of being part of a community, even if I felt like it wasn't the best fit for me. This missing is warm and light. I wear it often, like a favorite coat. It keeps me cozy, comfortable, protected.

I miss the mountains of Vermont, but their strength is also mine and it lies in my memories. I miss LA every February, but I'll always take those weeks to dream and revel in possibility. I miss college, still, but I know what it feels like to belong to a place, to find the perfect fit, and to love every single aspect of your entire life wholeheartedly. And I am certain my life will feel like that again.

Sometimes missing encompasses only every other breath and certain heartbeats. Sometimes missing requires standing still, and other times it requires a release of its boundless energy. Sometimes it arrives on schedule, and sometimes it sneaks in the back door, unexpected. I welcome it now. It brings my past into the present and then moves me forward.

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