I went for a walk today in my "new" sandals. They're the new pair I bought for our trip to Greece. That was almost ten years ago now. Still, the sandals seem new. They aren't falling apart like the pair I had just before them-- the pair that I decided to leave behind when we left our hotel in Samos. Not that I threw them away-- I left them at the baseboards, where another person could find them and use them. That was my intention, anyway-- to leave them for another traveler. I'm pretty sure they were trashed by the staff that prepared the room for the next guests. But I was thinking along the lines of making connections with my fellow man, and tossing a coin into the fountain, so to speak. Leaving behind a pair of sandals to me seemed to be handing off a part of my story to another power, one that would find use in the universe for my un-needed shoes. A gift left behind, instead of trash. Or forgotten or lost items. A gift.
There were a lot of things creatively metaphorical in my head that day that we left Samos. My mood disorder had been decompensating, unbeknownst to me, my wife, and all of my acquaintances that we were traveling with. That is to say, I was sick and getting sicker by the moment, and nobody really knew it. I can see it now, now that I've gone through treatment, had numerous other stays in the hospital, and attended lots of group therapy sessions. But I was none the wiser at this particular point in time, setting off our return to home after a wonderful vacation.
I can remember now the first point that I had some cause for concern. It was anxiety that popped up while we were out with Neal, Armand's grad school buddy. Neal had some things that he wanted to ship home so that he'd have more room in his baggage, so we stopped in at a postal office and waited in line. Suzy and I wanted to get some stamps too, so we could send postcards to a handful of folks back in the States. We waited in line, listening to the conversations in Greek, trying to read the emotions and body language for some clues as to what was being communicated. It can be kind of unsettling not knowing what is being said and not knowing what is going on.
I got anxious when it came time for Neal to post his package. I noticed it was a small box, maybe six inches square. It looked to me like he stuffed a pair of socks in it and was closing that up to send. It didn't make sense to me that someone would ship a pair of socks home or somewhere-- what a waste of time and money! But this was turned inward, somehow. My incredulity with the situation undermined my sense of well-being, and I began to question my own sanity. Was what was happening kind of crazy, or was it just me? I felt a rush of anxiety flush my head as I shuddered to think and feared the answers to my questioning mind. Rapid fire doubt sprinkled into the mixture of thought and I began to focus deep within myself with fear and anxiety.
I remember turning to walk out of the post office, staring into the eyes of those who would make eye contact with me. I was searching for a grain of truth to nourish my faltering self concept. As Suzy and I stepped outside into the sunlight, I regained some of my composure and noted to her how I had just lapsed into a sort of spell. I tried to explain it, as I've tried to do again here, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I likened it to a feeling that I had when I was having a "bad trip" on LSD. Suzy reassured me and said that we would keep an eye on things. This was well before I had trouble sleeping, or had the recollections of her miscarriage that made me emotional. But it was "real" in how it felt-- infinite helplessness, frozen with fear.
It would happen again as I decompensated further over the course of those final few days. It didn't help that I was unable to sleep. I had tossed and turned for a while, then decided to take a walk. This was the night before we were to catch our flight out of Samos back to Athens. I walked down to the beach and stood at the water's edge, noticing the slight breeze at it tickled the leaves in the small trees. I stared out over the calm water. I felt a slight draw, as if the water was pulling me towards it. The hotel was built into the side of a hill, and there was a fairly steep grade sending everything towards the water. I imagined a story of a lady walking calmly down the grade, into the water, and disappearing beneath the surface. I considered making that walk myself.
Instead, I reached down and picked up a few pebbles from the beach. I felt a calmness overcome me. It was as if suddenly I was no longer questioning anything. I became aware of my surroundings and I felt a presence that was greater than myself. I again looked to the horizon, and flipped a pebble into the water. Out on the horizon, a light flashed. Taking this as a sign, I flipped another stone into the water, and then another, in rhythm. One. Two. I looked to the horizon. The light flashed in time: One. Two. This answered every question for me that I could think of. I had seen the light, in more ways than one.
I climbed back up to our room and sat out on the balcony, awaiting the sunrise. As it slowly got lighter, my mind lead me to various places, many of which I don't remember. But I remember revisiting the whole scenario of our miscarriage. And I finally wept for the first time for the loss of our unborn child. I had been trying so hard to be strong and supportive for Suzy that I hadn't actually made time to go there. The day that we found out that she had a blighted ovum, I had actually been encouraged and optimistic, because we finally had proof that we could conceive a child, after a lot of trying to no avail. I had taken the news in the best way that I could, but I hadn't allowed myself to fathom the grief or the loss that we had suffered as well. So here I was in Greece, months later, finally approaching the concept that we had lost a life, and so I cried for what she may have been, what she might have done. All the things that could have happened but didn't.
At some point, I became overwhelmed with the notion of loss and started to fear losing Suzy. What if she doesn't wake up? What if she's been taken from me as she slept? I feared going back into the room, but I had to. I had to crawl back into bed and see if she would stir. Would she just lie there, motionless? I could not bear to think of life without her. Please, Lord, don't do this. Not now. I can't take it.
I rustled the sheet a bit. Suzy didn't move. I climbed closer to her, praying that she wake up.
Suzy took a deep breath and rolled over. "You're not sleepy?" she asked, through a yawn.
"No," I squeaked. "Just waiting for the sunrise."