Here I sit in this East London hotel lobby. The chair I sit in is green. The table my laptop sits on is black. My laptop and phone are plugged into a UK outlet with the adapter I remembered to bring. Last year I had to go back to my room when I forgot my adapter there. I remember that. I am sitting adjacent to the cafe. Bottles of San Pellegrino and iced coffee all facing the same direction, face me. An American man sits two tables away, equipped with buzzwords and catchphrases, makes calls as if he were the only one in the room. I can see the reception desk from here. I watch people check in and ask questions. I am sitting in the same spot in the same hotel lobby that I was sitting in 365 days ago. Truth is, I had to move. I am now sitting in the same lobby, in a different spot. I did not not expect to be here, in this spot, or at this hotel.
I wonder where my head was at then. I have yet to reread the post and do not want it to inform what I want to say now. My head is in a good, peaceful, and very exhausted place. Life is hard. I think I am finally letting go and accepting the fact that life will always be hard. 2022 swinging through 2023 has been an extra tough one.
My health is worse, or rather, I am more aware of my not-so-great health: autoimmune heart issues, lingering demon cough and unexplained anemia. My doctors are looking for cancer. There, I said it. They still haven’t found it. I still believe they never will.
Dave’s beard is gone. I liked his beard. I also like Dave clean shaven. Honestly, I really like Dave. We still hold hands. We still make love, (and with each other). We fight less. I honestly think we like each other more, better, I think we accept who the other is better than we ever did before. Is that what growing old together means?
We celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary in June. We were hiking Spain’s Camino Ingles with our hiking group. I coughed the entire time. My hiking friends, possibly now enemies, thought I had Covid. I did not. On the daily I heard,
“Beth, now so and so is sick and by the way, your cough.”
What I did have is some sort of persistent cough, a cough that has plagued me since May. My physical therapist believes I have PTSD as a result of said cough and suggested I see a therapist,
“People don’t realize how a cough can mess with someone’s head. Are you talking to anyone?”
On the day of our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary our group hiked to a beach. The sun was bright. Half the group stripped down to their underwear and swam in the cool Spanish waters. I did not swim. I could hardly get my socks off. Instead, I sat in the shade eating slices of turkey as I watched Dave devour an orange. That night as Dave ate dinner with the group, I was absent as a result of heat stroke. The texts arrived,
“Beth, the group toasted to you and Dave. It was weird that you were not here.”
I feel like I still keep waiting to “be here,” and celebrate our mighty accomplishment. Instead, I have been sick and been preoccupied with tests, blood draws and procedures. My sudden poor health has forced me to stop. For someone who does not sit still well, being stopped woke me up. I sincerely believe I did stop sweating the small stuff. I need to get well. Not setting boundaries was keeping me sick. Consequently, I started saying no to everything, and completely distanced myself from anything or anyone who caused my throat to tighten. I would text,
“I am sorry I cannot talk. I cough so hard that I throw up.”
It wasn’t a lie. I vomit-coughed every day. Twice I woke up and cough vomited so violently that I could not take a breath. I could not move air into my body. As I knelt naked on all fours on our bathroom floor, tears streamed down my face. In a quiet, desperate wheeze, I pleaded, “Dave, I do not want to die. Please don’t let me die.” I do not know how I moved from that one moment to the next. Yet, I did not die.
I spent a lot of time alone, trying not to cough. I started holding my breath.
“Beth, you are holding your breath.” Dave would say.
Then I would breathe. I spent so much time alone, trying to breathe and trying not to cough.Then loneliness sort of became my friend. I am still not a fan of being alone. I am a new fan of taking care of myself.
As I sat in my room coughing and watching a reality show literally called, “Alone,” I promised myself if I rested the entire month of August, we could make our scheduled trip to London in September. I rested and became more anemic. I still traveled to London, celebrating with Kyle before he headed off to New York. While here, we drove Kyle to Oxford to meet up with friends. Since then, Kyle’s light turned back on. What a gift. He and I talked about the moment everything shifted.
“Mom, you know when my switch flipped?”
“When I met up with my friends.”
Dave traveled to Poland. I wanted to spend time with Kyle before he left so I decided to skip Warsaw and meet Dave here. Life is fleeting and I want to grab as many moments with my kids as they will permit.
Kyle drove me to the airport. We said what we thought were strange goodbyes.
“You’re taking me to the airport and you are moving later today.”
“I know. It is so weird. Sort of backwards and also right.” ❤️
Kyle landed in New York moments after I landed in London. Serendipity.
I gathered my things and made my way to the Tube. As I watched people buy tickets for the Elizabeth Line, I thought,
“Suckers! Don’t they realize they don’t have to buy a ticket? They can simply tap on with a credit card.”
I caught myself and admitted that last year I was just getting comfortable riding the tube. I told myself that I preferred to walk or Uber. I think I was scared. Then after one exhausting walk from East London to Covent Garden to the British Museum and back, with an accompanying Banksy-sighting, I decided it was time to embrace London’s public transit system. I have never looked back.
And now here I sit in our east London hotel lobby. Eli texted moments ago. I love hearing from him. He thinks he sprained his wrist climbing. I feel far away. I hope he is ok. I also did not think I would be here. I am deeply grateful. [I write as my tears fall.]