Monday, November 19, 2007

Losing It: Motion in Limine

Twelve weeks down. Two weeks and one semester, and a lifetime, to go.

I'm sitting on a couch in Pittsburgh. The sky is that ashy shade of purple that portends snow. Curled on my lap sleeps a blind cat with the gift for knowing exactly when to walk in from the night and knead his cold paws on my belly, against my bladder. It's two days before Thanksgiving and I am grateful, warm, wary, poised in mid-stride.

My own mother was rushed to the hospital this summer. My mother-in-law and father-in-law both kept their scheduled appointments today at their respective hospitals. I picked my Love up from the hospital where I hugged both of her parents before whisking her back home to work. We stopped at the park along the way, to relieve our patient dog. My Love forgave me for losing $150, straight from the bank. I had stopped in to make a deposit, and a withdrawal, and order new checks, and discovered what looked like a $2,000 transfer to an unknown account. After an hour the bank cleared up the confusion, I stopped into Mira's to buy some chocolate for a friend, then went to pick up my Love, and it seemed that along the way I entirely lost the cash and my account information.

After we returned home I discovered that I had locked the money in the glove compartment for safe-keeping. We've come such a long way. We skipped the fights about my (supposed lack of) attention to detail and my Love's past propensity for handling everything perfectly, in contrast to and with the stark exception of me. She forgave me instantly for the lost money, and acknowledged it as an indication that I was rattled about the news of her mother's health. When I found the money, she appreciated that my first instinct was to lock it safely in the glove compartment, even when I was so rattled that I acted automatically, unthinking. We've come such a long way in such a relatively short time.

I've been gone for two and a half years, completing my law degree. I have two weeks and one semester to go. The adage is that in law school, the first year they scare you to death, the second year they work you to death, and the third year they bore you to death. I've never been bored. I knew when I applied to law school that I was going to meet the Wizard - walk down the yellow brick road, throw open the curtain, and behold. It's silly, and self-indulgent, and it's been worth every penny.

Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, recently died of a brain hemorrhage that resulted from hepatitis C she contracted from a blood transfusion she received after giving birth to one of her children. She had gone thirty five years symptom free before being diagnosed. I imagine her surveying her estate, drinking her homemade organic champagne and thinking about her amazing life, contemplating the time bomb she had been living with unwittingly since moments after she gave birth. So much sacrifice for something that becomes the death of you and that you would never in a moment regret or take back.

Forgive me for the comparison, but at the moment that's how I feel about my law degree. Six figures worth of debt I will work to repay, with not a job in sight. I have not become a parent, and my parents and in-laws might not live to see their grandchildren, and I may be too busy earning money to pay for my law degree to travel to all those foreign shores I wanted to see, and all I can say is that it was entirely worth it. I know there are facts I will never know. There are mysteries I may never untangle for myself. Learning quantum physics and exploring the mysteries of energy - if I were to do it all over again, I might start there. Sculpting again; learning how to use my own kiln; to play mahjong; to finish knitting that damn hat; and raising a kid to be a decent human being even as an adult - these are things I would still like to get around to. But 5/6 of the way into my law degree, I feel like I've satisfied some fundamental itch. I see how the world works. I "get it" in a way that I hadn't before. Now I know, and I get it. I'm 33 years old, much older than I thought I would be by the time I had this much figured out, and yet, it works.

Before I left for home, I put Ray's photo on my bedside table, lit a candle, poured his memory a drink and had a glass of wine. His idea of fulfillment was a hell of a lot more fun than mine, by conventional standards; he fell in love in New Orleans. After they broke the bed, he went home to pack his bags and break up with his girlfriend. He was a vegetarian who worked in a laboratory taking care of animals who were study subjects; he knew he would take better care of them than anybody else ever would. He loved his Love, the music, the debauchery, and being able to be a big burly man with a goatee wearing a dress - he loved life and never looked back. The blinding headaches drove him to the doctor. He died a year later from a stage IV brain tumor. One of the hardest things I ever had to do, and one of my greatest gifts, was getting to say goodbye to him for the last time. I had known him for over half of my life. I got to walk out and he didn't. We couldn't pretend we would see one another again - Ray was an atheist and not prone to bullshit.

I left my home and my Love to go to the middle of nowhere to go to law school, racking up significant debt, putting off parenthood, leaving my partner to care for our home, the critters and the network of friends that I land in every time I return. She keeps my life going for me here, and I get to step back into it so easily because of her efforts. I know there are amazing things one can do with a law degree, but there are amazing things people across the planet do every day without a law degree, or massive debt, or leaving others to keep everything afloat. I think I've done the most selfish and self-fulfilling thing I could ever imagine doing, save reproduction. I have no regrets, but I am a bit daunted. Here goes nothing, and everything.