More Pretty

Every night I lie in bed with my mom, and we talk. I would be self-conscious about this, I think, except I love her there. I love having her there.

I burrow under the covers, a neat little column, and she sprawls out on top. Tall and soft and warm, in the wonderful way moms are. The bed is no longer so big, I think. I snuggle closer.

We’ve flipped our phones facedown; we’ve already ditched our books.

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We start by staring up at the ceiling. There’s a rectangular patch of paint just a shade off, over by the window, and that’s where I look.

We talk about the hard things. We talk about New York — about dreams, disappointments. We talk about Portland — this one, that one, we don’t know which one. We talk about family. Dynamics, mostly, but also distance, disapproval. And divorce. All the d’s.

We talk about guilt. About anger, about grief. We talk about all the things seemingly so easy to confuse, inside.

We talk more about insides, outsides. Ugly insides and alien outsides.

We talk about love and hate and failure and success and punishment and reward. We talk about that one a lot.

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And we talk about change. Multiple kinds of change. We talk about transition — one transition after the next. We talk about the things we cling to. The things that feel good and safe.

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We talk about college and immediately after college. This is mostly about what we thought might be, and about what was. What is.

We talk about measuring up, about no not quite, about no: not even close.

We talk about friends — about how important they are. And how hard they are to come by, all of a sudden.

We talk about the ways in which we’d talk to our friends. The things we’d say; the things we would never say. We talk about self-control. Self-love. And self-esteem, self-care. All the Selfs.

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We talk about the things we deny ourselves, and why. We talk about earning and deserving, and where that might have come from.

We talk about expectations, not just our own. And about relationships — about how those turned out. (Didn’t turn out.) I think about a boy with sandy blond hair, here, and another one, after: dark like me. When I am sentimental like this, I think they both have my heart. Always will.

We talk about the little loops we get ourselves into. The circles we can’t stamp down straight. Or maybe not on our own, anyway. (We blink very hard here.)

We talk about twice-a-week therapy, and all of the work going on in between. This hour before bed — this is part of that work. We talk about working versus not-working, often.

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We talk about specialists and idiots. (Absolute idiots. ANGER! That is anger we’re talking about!) We talk about inpatient programs, outpatient programs. About life or death, eventually — although this part doesn’t really register. We talk about the way hunger tends to twist every last thing into feeling like a full-blown crisis — and I do understand. I do understand, that.

We talk about time — about how it feels like we have less and less.

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We talk about stress — about how we manage. (Don’t manage.)

And then, by mutual agreement it seems, we switch to talking about right now. Talking or thinking — sometimes we are just thinking, at this point.

We think about tonight — or even just the next few minutes. Depending on how that goes, we might stretch out it until tomorrow. We’ll think about tomorrow, and all of the millions of little reasons left to live.

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And not just to live, but to live well.

I think about this last piece again first thing in the morning, when I unfurl my yoga mat and lie back down.

It’s the middle of the day now, and I’m thinking about a heart, still left in my coffee. And about the flowers, perking up our front hall. They’re even more pretty today.

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