04 August, 2009

Rx: Kahlua and milk and Robert Frost - Guest Blogger, Abby Byrd

Today's guest blogger is Abby Byrd. Abby Byrd learned the necessity of having a pen name the hard way. She has been published in Verbsap, blogs for Skirt! magazine, and is working on a collection called "Smart Girl: Essays from the Fringe". More work at VerbSap Blog at Skirt. Her latest publication can be found at Vagabondage Press. Many thanks, Abby, for helping out while I'm forced to type left-handed in 20 minute increments!!

Boxes. Everywhere. Besides arousing my irrational fear of cockroaches, the presence of boxes suggests transience. I’ve moved eight times in the last ten years, so I’m intimately familiar with the process. I’ve become comfortable with constructing and deconstructing boxes, labeling them in thick black Sharpie, stacking them, ripping them apart at the last minute for something I was sure I wouldn’t need. But I never get used to leaving, to the ending inherent in each new beginning.

This time, it’s my roommate Natalie who’s moving, her dishes stacked in separate piles and her bubble wrap still neatly rolled as she sleeps. She’s excited to go back to upstate New York to a new job and to her family. As any friend would, I want her to do whatever makes her happy. As long as, of course, it doesn’t involve leaving me.

Stanley Plumly, the venerable white-bearded poet, once said in a creative writing class that all poetry is about loss or longing. I extend his theory to everything that we, as human beings, create. As a species, we’re obsessed with getting what we want—and keeping it. Try this: make a list of your worst fears. I’m willing to bet that most of them involve loss. My nightmares are never about monsters, at least of the conventional sort; they’re about losing the people I love, my job, my health, my mind (the latter, I fear, may have already happened).

As Buddhist thought teaches, our craving and our clinging—our attachment—is the cause of our suffering. But attachment comes naturally to us. Waking up next to my partner, I lean over to nuzzle him and breathe in his scent, and something clicks in my mammalian brain. This is my mate. I am safe; I am satisfied. We are imaginative, symbolic thinkers confined by animal bodies. We can conceive of forever, but we cannot attain it.

This is perhaps our greatest single challenge as a species—to accept that nature marches on and takes us along with it, willing or not. I’ll never be able to stop myself from attaching, knowing full well what loss feels like. I’m only human. But I can temper the loss by reminding myself that change is inevitable. Being constantly aware of the possibility of loss imbues everything with a bittersweetness—which is not, I’ve found, such a bad lens through which to look at life.

So I will reluctantly help pack boxes, and when the apartment is half-empty, I’ll get up from the bare living room floor and fix myself a Kahlua and milk, which is what Natalie would want. If I feel heartsick and averse to eating, I’ll make myself force down a yogurt. Which is what she would tell me to do. I’ll remember all the things we learned together: recycle cans, not men, for instance. And when I move out two months later to begin with love of my life, I’ll remember, even in my giddiness, just how fabulous it was having her as a roommate.

I can’t promise I’ll do any of these things gracefully, without weeping or small tantrums. Ah, as Frost’s lonely wanderer muses, when to the heart of man/Was it ever less than a treason/To go with the drift of things,/To yield with a grace to reason,/And bow and accept the end/Of a love or a season?


  1. I love this post. This is such a great example of how we get attached, and the way our feelings can conflict with each other. I think this line sums it up best:

    "As any friend would, I want her to do whatever makes her happy. As long as, of course, it doesn’t involve leaving me."

    Isn't that always the way it is when someone leaves us behind? Bittersweet; happy for them, sad for yourself. You want them to have a great adventure, but you don't want them to leave. You want them to be happy, to find the thing that they are looking for, but you still wish they could find it a little closer to home...

    This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Oh Abby, as long as I've "known" you Natalie has been part of your life and your posts! My heart aches for you, yet I wish her luck on her new adventure.
    Thank goodness for email, Skype, IM, and other methods for keeping close despite distances.

  3. Abby, oh, how I've missed you! Yes, I am one who is not good with change either, and most of my writing revolves around this...

    I loved this post. Your insight and words continually inspire and move me.

    XXxx ~~Kim


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