But if you listen to the waves, what do they say? ‘Once upon a time…’ E. H. Gombrich – A Little History of the World
The ocean has no memory. Every day, every wave, is an entirely new story. The ocean is too large, too powerful, and too dynamic to get bogged down in the past. It doesn’t end and doesn’t start, it’s an infinite black hole. It is the living and breathing example of zen impermanence, of the fleeting nature of everything. And so I start.
Once upon a time my wife and I were walking on the beach, our first day in San Francisco (gasp! that’s where I live!), two days after our wedding, hand-in-hand with front row seats to watch adoringly as our lives unfolded together.
Once upon a time my wife and I stood in the shallows of the ocean and washed our faces in the cool water, pledging either other to always be honest, to always remember that we are in love and are a team, no matter what it might mean, no matter how hard it was to be taken to the ER for her suicidal thoughts. We washed our faces in baptism and pledged a new start.
Once upon a time I stood on the beach alone, throwing rocks into the sand. My hood was up on my sweatshirt to hide my tear-stained cheeks as I mourned my first day alone, with my wife in the hospital for her psychosis. My dog playfully chased the rocks, trying to ignore the fact that he missed my wife just as much as I did. The water lapped at my feet and my dog licked my hand but I couldn’t stop crying.
Once upon a time I walked the dog on the brighest sunniest morning of the fall, the day she was coming home from the hospital. I couldn’t wait for the hours to end and I wanted to turn the clock ahead and bring her home.
Once upon a time we walked together through a fog that settled directly on the sand with the golden sun desperately trying to burn through. We walked in a dream, unable to see in front of us or behind us, unsettled and nervous, walking in cloud. How had this happened to us?
Once upon a time I ran on the beach in the middle of the night to deal with my restlessnss and stopped to beat my chest and scream profanity into the darkness blanketing the ocean.
Once upon a time my wife interrupted me as walked, rambling about some nonsense bullshit, to ask “When someone kills themself, do they still have a funeral?”
Once upon a time we walked on the beach just after the sun had set and the waves had pounded the salt into an alien foam that was streaking across the sand in a mysterious dance. We laid down to hide from the wind and watched as the stars came out of hiding.
Once upon a time we talked about whether or not she was ready to end Intensive Outpatient Care, weighing the pro’s and con’s of the lack of structure and support with the freedom of having more control of her life. Her hands were rigid and stiff, still impacted by the Risperdol which was flushing out of her system.
Once upon a time, the day after my wife had her last IOP, we laughed and laughed as we skipped through the rocks, talking about the future and the good times that lay ahead. Her expressiveness was returning and there was life in her voice and her eyes and optimism and hope and acknowledgment of her strength and patience, and a lot of smiling into each other’s eyes. This was the best Once Upon A Time that we’ve had in ages. The end of IOP seems to have unsaddled a daily reminder that she is sick and needs help, and instead puts her back in charge and the master of her own domain. Today was fantastic day, a day when I can once again think about Happy Ever After at the end of this Once Upon A Time.
Once upon a time was today, and there will be another one tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. Nothing is permanent, I have learned that from the ocean. But I look forward to tomorrow’s Once Upon A Time.