[From August 6, 2017: Yes, at the exact moment when our world was fully upended, we decided to buy a house and move. How hard could that be, right? The move was also an acknowledgment that our lives were going to look different than we might have originally planned, so we needed to dramatically recalibrate. We needed to find sanctuary.]
We knew, no matter how many precautions we took with the move, Chelli would have a physical price to pay for the stress of it all. It’s the calculus she now does with any activity, the cost/benefit analysis she runs to determine if it’s worth it to eat dinner, or meet a friend at Starbucks, or some days, even shower. So, sure, something like a move, unimaginably stressful for the healthiest of us, was bound to come with a certain price. Today it hit her. Any plans or goals for the day — my god, the number of boxes that still need to be unpacked — would have to be put on hold, because her body determined that today would be a bedridden day, like it or not. It also happens to be the anniversary of the loss of a dear friend of ours, so there is a lingering melancholy to accompany her persistent physical anguish.
I’ve been downstairs for the bulk of the afternoon working with a gentleman I hired to help hang my art collection and a few mirrors. We had the entire interior painted before we moved in, so the fact that there wasn’t a single nail hole anywhere in the house was causing my baseline obsessiveness to kick into severe overdrive. When a friend suggested that she “knew a guy” who hung stuff for a living — this is apparently a job that people have — my own cost/benefit analysis for such an extravagance determined that no matter how much he charged me, it would be less than the cocktail of Valium and therapy I’d need to compensate for that first ill-placed nail.
The first time we came to look at this house, one of the things I loved most was the enormous master suite. When Chelli would have days like this in our old place, she’d often feel imprisoned in our smallish bedroom, the shades always drawn in case a neighbor would happen to be out walking her dog around the pond we shared. The master suite in the new house, though, was something I hoped would feel more like a retreat than a forced confinement, with its ridiculously comfy sectional and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out into the woods. I put a couple lawn-chairs on its balcony shortly after we moved in, in case she’d want a breath of fresh air or maybe even to hear the birds a bit. My wife is even less of a nature person than I am, so she told me she didn’t think she’d use the patio much, but “it’ll be great for Stella.”
All afternoon, I’ve been doing hourly check-ins with Chelli, to see if she’s resting or maybe needs anything. I’ve learned that much more than that feels like nettlesome hovering to her, so I try to find the emotional fine line that separates dutifully helpful from dear-god-would-you-leave-me-alone. I don’t always succeed. A few moments ago, though, I walked upstairs to find her sitting on the balcony, quietly enjoying nature’s music of birds and leaves and creepy crawly things. I didn’t bother her; she didn’t even know I was there. But I walked back downstairs knowing one thing for sure.