This paper clip is the very last thing left from anything left from the mess of this last year, which was the last year of my marriage. I took a picture of it, in the odd, filtered light of my attorney’s office, which is in an old Victorian house in the section just outside of downtown Asheville where you go to get help with things. There are attorneys to help you with your legal nightmares, accountants to help with your financial questions, and shrinks to help you with the questions you ask yourself before falling asleep at night. My attorney is a nice man. He’s a very intense guy. When I first met him I was terrified. Of him, of what was happening to me, of the stark and simple fact of sitting in his office, of all the things he was saying. I remember briefly thinking, as I looked at his eyes and his eyes looked at mine, and he told me in plain English to “close my heart,” that this man had ice water running through his veins. That was only a brief thought, and it occurs to me now, looking back, that at that time in my life I believed everyone had ice water in his veins. Even me. Even puppies. I’m different now. I think my attorney is a nice man, who happens to have a daughter, and who happens to spend his days helping people from the strange and needless persecution of other people.
I read all the legalese and approved it with one word, which did not echo as much as I would have liked it to in that conference room, off of the buttered walls and in and out of the fireplace no one uses, and off the top of the oak table that has seen more bullshit than I care to imagine. My attorney walked me out to the front desk, so I could sign before a notary, and as we went along down the hallway he said,
“You’re lucky, Meredith.”
This sort of intensity is never, ever unwelcome with me. I like these nuanced statements, statements that could mean a million and one things and so they are automatically true, and slightly amusing, and totally called for in a world which is mostly cloaked in guile and subterfuge. In fact, these kinds of comments are the kinds of comments I make, as a rule, as part of the prodigious life mission I have to actually connect with people. To poke through the shell.
Even still, it surprised me when he said this. Truly. And I laughed. A sniffing, short, and… well, a lucky sort of laugh. And then I said,
We shook hands and said thank yous. I wrote a check. I left.
I drove home with jazz music on, and the funniest feeling. Almost defensive. Which I smiled through, and arrived home to silence’s accomplice of February birds, an oven cooling, the distant highway, the hum of the deep freezer full of half-pigs. It’s a sunny, mild, and impressive everyday, today.
I wonder if there is such a thing as lucky. I’ve been wondering this all year. I suppose it goes really well with my relatively concrete belief that everything is random, and everything does not, as many people say, happen for a reason. Lucky, I suppose, could be adopted and flown as a high flag, by people in either camp. How appropriate. Lucky is as lucky does.
I’ve had a rough year. I’ve memorized my ceiling from all the sleepless nights. I’ve got a map in my head of all the cracks in the drywall, and I have named the color of my bedroom three hundred and forty seven times. And I have a lot more gray hair, and a lot more wrinkles in my skin, and people are surprised when they see me. Sometimes, it’s as if they’ve seen a ghost. I don’t like this pity. A new and important person in my life likened it recently to “warm spit on the face.” It is decidedly so. And I think I have been very smart through this thing. I think I have winced at the right times, and smiled at the right times, and said a lot of right prayers, and I have not asked for too much. My first inkling, when I heard the word “lucky,” sort of comes from this place in my throat, or flares under my skin as of late that is made of jade, or water, or something else very, very old and rugged. I’m actually totally re-made of this thing that is only true, and it is woven from me onto my two little boys, so that we are just going along, kind of in a boat, on a vast uncertain sea, but I’ll be damned if anything is going to mess with us. And so if all this is just lucky, well, color me ashamed and fighting. Because I want some credit, please.
I crack open a beer. Not because everyone thinks I should, but because I felt so moved by that stupid paperclip. And I want to write, and think about the year, and the boat I’m in, and the gray hairs that I’m really digging. The wrinkles that I love. I think about my work, which is so incredible and exciting. I think about my boys, who are healthy and warm and loving. I think about the bond I have built with them this year, which gets us through all the hard and the easy days, and which will have us jumping from a plane together when they are old enough. I think about how exponentially easier I am on myself now, and how much space I have for other people, who do not in fact have ice water in their veins. It’s blood. Just like lambs, which are sweet, inspiring creatures. I think about everything I know, which would fill a volume the size of this house, or bigger. I think about my amazing family, made of people who have stepped up with the best kind of support I needed, exactly when I needed it. I think about my amazing friends, lifting me up. I think about my community here in Asheville, and the people I know from experiences big and small, who have given me hope and help, from seemingly tiny compliments at the food co-op, in the bulk aisle, to huge and unexpected kindnesses that I cannot ever repay. I think about how full life is. How happy I am. How far I’ve come. How young I am still, to have already tested life so hard.
Not for the first time, my attorney is artfully, painfully right on. At ease, lady. In fact, you are every inch of powerful, beautiful prowess that you have proven yourself to be. And you are still lucky. Lucky to be alive. Lucky to be rid of what is blind and bully and selfish. Lucky to be smart, and crafty, and hardy, and useful. Lucky to be loved by people who make sense, and matter. Lucky to be done, and fine, and smiling, on such a sunny, crisp day. Lucky for mountains. Lucky for sky. Lucky to be moving so fast that the days no longer haunt you. Lucky going forward, with big, cheerful strides. Lucky to be leaving everything better than you found it. Lucky. Lucky. Lucky.