335 days with this guy

A year ago I was falling in love with this guy after 11 years of being single with my dog, Moon, as my life partner. The three of us were experimenting with cohabitation in a beach condo and after two days of bliss, these words came out of my mouth. “We could alternate going back and forth between Portland and Eugene on weekends, or I could move in with you. What do you want?” He said, “I want you to move into my house and be my girlfriend.” From there the negotiations began. How much space could I call mine and how much control would I have? Turns out, he’s not particularly domestic, doesn’t mind me messing with his stuff, and I can pretty much do what I want. Now it’s been 335 days since I moved in here and I still like it. The trade-offs and my mood swings have presented some hurdles, but the orgasms erase my resentment. So far, so good.

I went through several years of depression after my husband died in 2009 and I finally feel like I have overcome it. But that chemistry is still stored inside me, contained in a box that occasionally cracks open when I experience sadness, anxiety or disappointment and a wave of inconsolable darkness swamps me. You might think that since my personal life is so good, I would be Little Mary Sunshine. But I’m a news junkie and a doom scroller and current events are like rocks in my pockets. It’s a challenging time to keep up with information about the pandemic, the drought, wildfires and politics without going subterranean.

Also, I miss the vast mental space I occupied when I was single, but then I see how being alone all the time made it too easy for me to swirl into a mental death spiral. This guy I’m living with is relentlessly cheerful. Sometimes I’m so ornery that just seeing him smile gets on my nerves. And then he starts singing. Beatles, Beach Boys, Temptations, Pink Floyd, Santana, Sondheim, Merle Haggard, Oscar & Hammerstein, James Taylor and Joni Mitchell. How can I be angry at a guy who knows the lyrics to Joni Mitchell better than I do? What kind of brain remembers all that? He’s so different from me. I snap at him, he leaves the room, and then I hear him singing, Helplessly Hoping by Crosby, Stills & Nash, and I think, shit, I’m such an asshole.

335 days is a lifetime. My past is disappearing and I’m losing memories that literally defined me as my present is a rushing river sweeping away my history to make room for this extraordinary life I’m living. So much has changed. We are consciously normalizing the pandemic, making safety protocols part of our everyday life for the foreseeable future. I passed the one-year anniversary of quitting alcohol and I still crave it, but it gets easier to abstain. My dog, Moon, crossed the rainbow bridge and although I miss him, our new puppy distracts me from the loss. I’m gardening again, and I see how it magically calms me, unchains my fears and settles my spirit, but our water shortage limits what I can grow. And yesterday wildfire smoke rolled across our horizon blanketing the land in haze and hiding the mountains. Now dry lightning threatens our forest and we’re packed for evacuation on a moment’s notice. But here’s the really wild thing about it. I’m as happy as I’ve ever been and filled with gratitude to be living in this tiny house with a guy who sings.

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