Freedom and Trepidation

It feels like this: You have been living in a wire cage for months. You have a bowl of food and a bottle of water, which seem to replenish themselves, and a decent bed. You can see through the bars, contemplating the things outside. Thinking of all the things you might do “out there”. You wonder about the choices existing in the freedom of time/space, as you complacently (or not) perform your daily routines, knowing that one day, late in June, the door will be open, and you will be free for TWO MONTHS plus a few days. You know that, most likely, this freedom will expire in September and you will return to the same place, same bowl, bottle, bed. But will you have changed? Will you be happier and better able to cope?

Summer for a teacher who is, to borrow a phrase from an adjunct professor I once knew, “untethered”, begins with trepidation. For me, just like one summer a couple of years ago, it is also beginning with vertigo. No sooner had I walked out the door on the last day of school when my head began spinning so to speak. I went to sleep early and sick. There are a few issues to consider here, but one is that the free time to come has scared me a bit.

Everyone has an inner life, and a past which is not completely dealt with. My inner world waits for me. Susanna, by the way, is there. She is there somewhere always but in the free summertime I can hear her more clearly.

I relaxed yesterday, hoping to heal my dizzy woes, and turned on a Netflix movie called “Brain on Fire”. The protagonist was named Susanna(h). With an H. I watched Chloe Grace Moretz portray her, a likeable young lady, and relished hearing everyone say this name. I became lost in the idea of an alternative story, as I sometimes do. A story about my Susanna living her life to become twenty one, to grow up and graduate from school and have a job and all, to have a woman’s body, and then be stricken with a brain illness. A tragedy, but with more years for me to be with her. If she had to die, at least could it happen later?

Other times, I imagine writing another story. Susanna has had her brain aneurysm and is cognitively and physically impaired, not able to speak again, living in a wheelchair. But she is happy and smiles when I tell her I love her, and she lives longer than me. This is something else that might have happened. Of course, I wonder too what would be if my daughter did not get sick at all. This, unfortunately, though what I want, is something I cannot see anymore. Frankly, imagining that hurts too much. I can see up to the horizon beyond my wire cage, but not the majestic mountains beyond there, where I am with her. That will have to wait.

So, I kept watching and saw Susannah with an H suffer, her parents not getting answers about what was wrong. Then, I saw the smiles as healing became possible, and Susannah with an H got better and used her memoir to help others (a true story, worth knowing about). I cried the tears I had been storing up and wanting to release as soon as this June approached its end. I cried because my Susanna did not get better, she died, after less than a day of anyone being aware that she was sick. When I have fewer obligations, I let these kinds of tears out and I think they will always grow back. There is no end to this, nothing makes it better.

I cried also for this young woman who healed and noted that she had become stronger. You know what? I have done that too. I have done it for me and for my Susanna, the one without an H, but the one who walks with me every day and survives in my heart. I made it through a school year and this year I did not feel too anxious to get out of bed in the morning, even once. I talked about a future and began to prepare for one. I did my job and earned my pay. I lived a little, played the flute, read and wrote some and took care of myself and my family. I am unequivocally still here. I cry for this too, because I did not know if I could make it this far, but here I am. No longer dizzy this morning. I miss you Susanna, but I know you are with me, and that you and I will continue until we are completely free. I will see you on the pinnacles, and every step along the way.


By trishfreer

Mother, writer, artist and teacher grappling with grief and loss.

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