Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Fall: Dead Leaves and a New Thanksgiving

"New Beginnings are often disguised as painful endings." Lao Tzu

Fall. The time of year when everyone walks around talking about how much they "love this time of year" and "don't want to miss the Fall colors because they are here for such a short time!"

For me, it is a time to remember Autumn walks with my Dad and how he used to say, "Sure smells good, Runsk, someone is having a fire." A few Falls ago, it was a time to find my dad's forgotten carrots and learn that they grew all by themselves even when they lost their gardener.

This past weekend I enjoyed the Fall by taking a retreat trip to Michigan. It was pretty. It was also pretty lonesome and confusing for me. There I was, out and about in the woods, crunching away on dead leaves and looking at the water. It dawned on me that I felt like a double stranger because I moved to a new city and then I took a trip with a new group of people. I've been on dozens of retreats and I've seen dozens of Falls, but not quite like this one. 

See, the thing is, I can't quite figure out what the fuck it is I am doing. 

I am 33 years old. I was on a specific track (get engaged, get married, have kids), and now I am off that track and am on a different one. I like my new city/job/friends/life, but it is completely unfamiliar to me. 

This constant state of jamais vu results in euphoria on good days and confusion on bad days. And no, that is not a bipolar thing, as someone recently asked me. I am as stable as they come, thank you very much. This is a human thing. This is a modern day reaction to losing one's tribe and then making the best of it with a new one. You are going to have your good days, and then you are going to have your days when the new tipi just doesn't feel quite right.

Some weird nostalgic shit has been happening to me lately. 

Like on this retreat, we came across a man with three dogs. My reaction to the dogs was way overly enthusiastic. You would have thought I was a 10-year-old child or my sister-in-law (she is crazy about dogs). I asked the man if I could pet his dogs, and then I sat on the ground for the next ten minutes, allowing the big red Vizsla ("Zsa Zsa") to chew on my new North Face hat while I pet the little Italian Greyhound ("Luigi"). I took a picture of the small dog and then posted it on my Facebook cover photo, as though it were my dog. Getting nostalgic for my own dog, Kodi, who died too soon in 2008, I posted photos of him on my Facebook, if only to try to be a part of the club of people who have dogs. There were a lot of dog photos with Halloween costumes in the past few weeks. There were also a lot of baby photos with Halloween costumes. 

I get caught between the folds of feeling happy for others and feeling sorry for myself.

I know that is so annoying to hear. I know that I am so, so fortunate, and I know that there are countless people who just lost their entire family in the Philippines. I know this. I just don't know how to not feel this way because this is how I feel and that is why I am writing about it. 

I know that I made the correct decision to move to Chicago and begin this brand new life. I am 100% positive that I am on the right track and this is great. But I am happy and sad at the same time. The other day I got excited when I found Cole Haan high heels marked down from $485 to $55, but then I was like, "But what's the point?" (Don't worry, I bought them.)

I think the underlying feeling of sad comes from a sense of displacement, like when you have to switch schools before you are through your Senior year. It sucks. I had to do it in Second grade, and I hated it even then. 

Or, it's like when you are a kid and you go over to a new friend's house. And everything is just weird. Like the way the mom only pours you half a glass of milk, or the strange random smell of the house, like cake frosting or something unidentifiably sweet. And that awkward moment when the garage door opens as the other parent comes home from work. You look up from playing video games and you are like, "Oh, hi. I am such-and-such's friend from school. Nice to meet you. I am staying for dinner." You don't feel normal after one of those events until your mom picks you up and you are like, 

"Oh, good. The familiar Station Wagon that smells like McDonalds. We are back to normal now."

I am so excited to go home for Thanksgiving. I mean, I could have spent it on a beach in Australia where I will be working up until the day before this great holiday, but no. 

Going home will be even better. Because home is what is familiar. 

I am going to fly home to Minnesota, and I am going to take my mom out to a Chinese food dinner at Dragon Jade and I will drive so she can have a glass of white wine. I am going to call my cousin Erika and go to Dairy Queen and get Oreo Blizzards with her. I am going to get in the car, drive to McDonalds, and eat McDonalds in the car. Yep. I am totally going to do that. 

Because this new life can wait. I will shut off the lights and close the door to my high rise condo and make my way back to the "Pizza Hut" house on Dawn Drive. This may be the end of something and the beginning of something else, but for Thanksgiving, we all deserve the chance to revisit what is familiar.


  1. Hey Susan! It's Katie from work! glad I made it over here to see your blog. There's some great writing here, and I am going to keep up with you even though I'll be over at Sapient. Love the part about taking your mother out for Chinese food :).

  2. I am in tears. This is so wonderful. I love you and your family, I grew up in your Pizza Hut house! Sending good thoughts and love to you and your awesome family. Love to you.