This morning when I woke up, I picked up my iPhone and held it about 1.327 inches from my face so I could see the time. It was 8:32 EST. Meh. Too early on a Saturday to get up. Too late — more to the point, too awake — to go back to sleep. I picked up my glasses so my astigmatic eyes could focus a reasonable number of inches from the bridge of my nose. As is the case most mornings, there are those familiar red dots on both my e-mail and Facebook icons.
I click my e-mail to see if there's a message from the bank that all my money is gone. Or from my mortgage company to say they're foreclosing on my home. Or from my investment firm to say that my little egg has cracked and rotted all over its equally little nest. It's important that I point out — and quickly, given that right about now, every member of my immediate family has a racing heart and thinking "What the fuck?" (Yes. Even my mother is thinking "WTF." In fact, my mother is thinking it the loudest.) — I have no reason to be worried about any of those catastrophic scenarios. It's just that I've never had reason to worry about it. Mr. J did. I never even knew how much money I had in my account. I just knew there was enough. I didn't get degrees in Journalism and English to reconcile a checkbook. I got them so that one day I could do, well, this.
The daily deep breath of unreasonably paranoid poverty averted, I was ready to move on to the red dot hovering over the familiar lowercase "f" icon. I scrolled down my news feed and The State (South Carolina's largest newspaper and the one that I marketed for six years. You know, back in the days when newspapers had marketing departments. Or newsrooms, for that matter.) had posted a story of a man catching a catfish. Not just any catfish. A 136-pound catfish. That's a big ass fish. In fact, that's what the photo caption said: "Man catches big ass fish." (Not really. The newspaper industry hasn't gone that far south. Yet.) This is an eminently shareable story, though. It just cries out for a "Holy crap! Check out the big ass fish this guy caught." Doesn't it?
So I looked around. There's no one there to hear my "Holy crap!" I knew there wasn't. There hasn't been for more than a year. And it never gets easier to wake up and realize that all over again every morning. We'll see how tomorrow, day number 400-something, goes. I don't expect it will be any easier than today, yesterday or last week to awaken to this new reality. (Please notice I did not use the trite "new normal." I despise that term. There is nothing normal. I accept that it's not the reality I chose, but the one that I have; however, I will never acknowledge that anything about it is normal.) It becomes more bearable. Less crushing. Tolerable. But not easy. Every day I make a choice to be here. To be present. To strive to live the life I know I'm capable of living. The life he wanted me to live.
At this point, it's 8:43 a.m. I scrolled to my contacts, knowing that it's about a 70-30 chance I'll hear a groggy hello as I awaken the person I'm calling. I hoped for the 30 percent odds that would deliver an alert, coffee-already-consumed "Hey. How are you doing?"
And it did. When I heard it, I asked my father, "Hey, you ever fish in Lake Moultrie?"
"'Cause some guy caught a big ass catfish."
"Oh ... about 110 pounds." (Which brought a fresh "holy crap!" to mind. Who knew?)
"Nope. One hundred and eighty-six pounds," I said, drawing it out for effect. (And now is where I admit that fact-checking lowers my declaration by 50 pounds. You can take the girl out of the newspaper ...)
We continued talking, Dad pointing out that such big catfish are known to inhabit that lake. I pointed out that it wasn't your standard fish picture with human hand in icky fish mouth. The big ass fish was, in fact, on the ground in front of the angler looking like a seal. And a big ass seal, at that.
Then Dad says, "Hey, is there an award they give for Off-Broadway plays? You know like the Tonys? But not?"
"Hm. Yeah. Yeah they do. The Obies. O-B for Off-Broadway."
"O-B-I-E-S? That fits."
"Ah. Yeah, that's it. The Obies. Okay. I just wanted to tell someone about this big ass catfish. I'll talk to you later."
"I love you, Daddy."
"I love you, too, honey."
A choice. Every day I make a choice to be here. And I did today. I will tomorrow. And it's not really my bills or my bank balance that challenge me. (Even though I have to do math. Damn it — I really thought I'd figured a way out of that.) It's the little things. Like having no one next to me to ask why I'm saying "Holy crap!" first thing on a Saturday morning.
It's the little things. Which really aren't little at all.