It's been two weeks and a day.
I went for a good long snowshoe this afternoon. It felt heavy with metaphor. There were tough uphills and easy downhills; times I followed a well-packed path and times I broke a new trail through deep drifts; moments of stop-you-in-your-tracks beauty (the expansive view of the sky and the lake) and moments of quiet beauty that you'd miss if you didn't stop to look for them (the long delicate shadows of bare trees, blue on white snow); the chill I felt at first with the wind coming in through my sweater and the gradual equilibrium reached as my body warmed up with hard work; the way I was fueled by good food (love) from family and friends. Metaphors come in handy for putting life into a new perspective and exploring different corners; it's also useful to think about how a metaphor breaks down. My snowshoe today was solitary. My life is not.
My tattoo is nearly a year old - I got it last February on the day before Valentine's Day, an anatomical heart on my left forearm. It symbolizes my commitment to medicine: this is my life's work. And it symbolizes my commitment to Scott. I've known I wanted this image since a pre-med physiology course five years ago. As my professor described it, the heart is actually two pumps wrapped around one another. The left side, bigger and stronger, pumps oxygenated blood to the entire body. The right side pumps spent blood through the lungs. It seemed a perfect metaphor for my relationship with Scott. Two parts, working in synchrony on different parts of a whole. Separate but inseparable. Scott is the left side - bigger, stronger, and (conveniently) left-handed, I the right.
We learned in the cardiology unit last year that there are many ways for the left side of the heart to fail - high blood pressure, heart attacks, etc. It's less common for the right side to fail. The maxim we learned is that the most common cause of right-sided heart failure is left-sided heart failure. This, I decided, is where the metaphor breaks down. Scott, my left side, stopped working, but I will not. I learned that the mortality rate for widows jumps up in the first year after the death of a partner. I get it; every now and then, a piece of me wants to follow Scott. But I know that I am going to be okay.
These days, I've been feeling like I'm in a cocoon - cozy, protected, insulated. But I'm starting to feel just a little bit cramped. I'm planning to return to California at the end of the month and am preparing to be on my own (with Clark) for a bit. I think it will hurt a little to stretch my wings, but I think I will be ready.
The day after I got my tattoo, I realized I am wearing my heart on my sleeve.