I need them.
So the last few days have been a pretty extreme set of ups and downs. Actually mostly ups--so I can't complain. On Friday, we closed on our house (yay!) but learned that we're not officially closed till this Wednesday; something about the loan funds completing their transfer. So that makes me nervous. Nevertheless, we got keys, hustled over to our new place, ran around all the rooms and out to the garden, where we ate ripe plums and pears off the tree and blackberries peeking up around the tool shed. We sat in the greenhouse and decided it would be nice to have a hammock in it. We ordered pizza for the pleasure of having it delivered to our new address. We were giddy.
The next day I was in a fit of despair over how unprepared I felt for the boards, which are tomorrow. I talked to my dad, who told me a long story about a tough exam he took in graduate school, which I know he meant to reassure me, although I wasn't sure I felt reassured. I tried to prepare him for the possibility that I might not pass this exam--I am, after all, taking it six months ahead of schedule; sooner by six months to two years than everyone else who started the program at the same time as me--so if I were to need to retake it in six months, there's no shame in that. It's just a shot--might as well try to take it now and get a practice started sooner, if I can. My dad, however, is incapable of imagining me failing at anything. He extolled for some time the power of confidence. I got off the phone feeling misunderstood, and cried a bunch, while Toby sat next to me and whined in either concern or boredom.
Then after I finished crying I realized that I had been infected by my father's implacable confidence in me--sort of along the lines of "If Dad really can't imagine me failing, then maybe I just can't fail! If the possibility of my not passing this exam does not exist in his universe, maybe it doesn't exist in the universe at all!" and then, preposterously, I studied harder for two solid days than I had in all the last three months that I've been preparing for this exam.
Yesterday my sister reminded me that it was my mom's birthday, when we usually put gifts of fruits, sweets, flowers and incense in front of her picture and kowtow. I freaked out when I realized I didn't know which box her pictures were packed in. Jam Guy saw me freaking out and helped me lift and open box after box from the mountain of my boxes piled in the new house until we found the photos in a large bag (where Jam Guy remembered he had packed "all your precious-precious things") in a corner next to the mountain of boxes. I was so relieved to see her face looking out at me from the cracked frame that I cried again.
I picked a plum and a just-blushing pear (she always loved the way fruits looked as they were just turning red) for her from our lovely trees and clipped a rose from a bush in front of the house. Jam Guy offered a slice of the banana cream pie he'd made the night before, but I worried that it wasn't wise to leave a whole slice of cream pie out overnight. He considered this, and then said, "We can give her just the tip of a slice, in a container. The tip's the part you make a wish on."
I love Jam Guy.
He also found some incense and fixed some rice and pie weights in an old cocoa container to hold the incense, since things like incense holders are too packed-away to dig for. I set it out with the rose in a jelly jar, the pear, the plum on a branch with some leaves still attached, and a ramekin with the tip of a slice of pie and a chocolate cookie Jam Guy had made. I held up my incense and kowtowed the way my mother had taught me to do before my grandmother's picture. I sat in the room for a while afterwards and had a talk with my mother, telling her how happy I am now, thanking her for her part in that happiness, telling her how much I miss her. My sister had suggested I ask her for a little help on my test, given that my mother was a Fulbright scholar and far more scholarly in general than I am, so I did.
I felt better again, having solicited the help of both my parents on this exam. Maybe it is a little dubious--my father and I still learning how to talk to each other, and my mother and I conversing in my head, through her picture, me believing ferociously against any sort of practical logic that there is a reality to our conversations, that she is present in my life; believing it because I've seen and felt evidence of her presence that I can't and don't need to explain.
Anyway I am grateful for the plum and blushing pear, for a man who gives the mother-in-law-to-be he's never met a tip of pie to wish on, for a home surrounded by rose bushes, for an older sister who reminds me when it is time to perform the rituals that have shaped us since before we were born. I am grateful for all the non-concreteness in my life--the house we are living in part-time that's still waiting to be officially purchased; the small-silent-and-secret conversations with my dead mother; the shaky broken conversations with my father that cover the deep sustaining love we don't know how to bridge our way to.
And I am grateful for my friends, who will love me whether or not I pass this crazy test tomorrow (right? right?) . I am soliciting more good vibes please. Or whatever. I'll take it. Good thoughts for safe travels, self-forgiveness, multiple definitions of success.
I have been back and forth these last few days from crazy-joyful to verge-of-nervous-breakdown to eerily-calm. I want to pass this test, for good reasons (it would be nice to quit studying, I'd like to start practicing soon) and reasons that feel less good (I am afraid everyone will think I'm a failure if I don't.)
Where I am right now is: I think I'll pass, and if I do or if I don't, the important things are all here.