I was shaking the bed with my sobs. It was the kind of crying where I need lots of tissues to soak up the tears and snot or it will just gush down my face. The birds were just starting to sing, the sky getting light. It was 4 a.m. and I just finished reading The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J Church.
It’s the story of my life. Not in detail (although somehow, strangely, sometimes in exact detail “at some point Alden said he was done having sex, as if he were above it all”…”I wanted to be wanted. Desired“) but in essence.
I was crying for the wasted part of my life.
The novel takes place in my mother’s generation. I grew up in the early 70’s, yet somehow with all the changes that took place between World War II and the Vietnam War, I still lived the life of someone caught in the social confines of my mother’s world.
Like so many women before me, I lost my identity, giving up what I wanted for my life, to accommodate what my ex-husband wanted for himself and of me. I remember being acutely aware that I didn’t want to live my mother’s life.
And I did so many things to avoid what I saw as a trap, including not having children.
But it wasn’t until I was in my forties, that I was able to see that even thought my life looked very different from the outside, on the inside, it was scarily similar to my mothers. Lonely and unfulfilled for so many years, I finally woke up and was able to find and realize the love and work that I craved.
The Atomic Weight of Love tells the story of Meridian Wallace, who gives up her passion to be an ornithologist to follow her husband to Los Alamos, where he helps develop the Atomic Bomb. By the end of the book, her potential never fulfilled, she starts a mentoring program called Wingspan for girls. To help them do what she was never able to.
If this is how my life ends, I thought, mine would be a worthwhile life.
I straddled Jon’s sleeping body to get more tissues from his night table. I blew my nose again and through his sleep he mumbled, “I have my own goose.”
(Growing up in the suburbs Canada Geese were the only obvious wildlife to mark the change of seasons. They would nest in the small strips of grass on the sides of the highways, and I would slow down to watch their dinosaur-like babies in the spring. Then I’d feel the loneliness of their honking as they flew south in the fall.)
Skin on skin, I honked away and told Jon if I didn’t blow my nose we would both drown in my snot and tears.
Then he woke up and asked why I was crying.
I don’t have the money that Meridian did to start her Wingspan program, but in its way that’s what the The Bedlam Farm Open Houses are about. What my work is about. Encouraging people to discover and live their creative passion. Whatever it may be.
How did this book so precisely capture my life to be able to reach deep inside of me and bring up the pain of a loss I thought I had come to terms with? I’m so aware of being grateful the for the life I have now, I sometimes actually believe that the past is behind me.
A wad of tissues in my hand, I rolled off of Jon onto my side of the bed. I’m so dry, I said, at least I won’t get struck by lightning. Then I nestled my head into Jon’s shoulder and wrapped my arm around him.
I’ll never sleep again I thought, there’s too much to do and I don’t want to waste anymore time.