I bought myself a ring last weekend when I was home in Oregon. I’d been looking at this designer’s work for months, maybe years. The purchase wasn’t a big splurge at all, but when the store was in my backyard, I never felt like I had a reason to walk in the door and buy the ring. Being 30 is reason enough.
I wear this delicate piece on the middle finger of my left hand. A hammered brass band rises up into a thin ridge studded with seed beads of silver. The silver pieces are threaded through holes in the ridge, so they have the freedom to move.
As the cashier at the shop handed me my receipt, she told me that sometimes the pieces break. Some women don’t have any problems, she said, but if you shoved your hand into the pocket of your skinny jeans too fast, maybe you’d lose them. “Don’t worry, though. The designer is happy to repair rings. You can mail it in. If for some reason it keeps happening, she could even solder the pieces in place.”
So I look at this dainty ring often, tilting my hand to count the little dumbbells of silver, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. I love looking at the ring. It’s not conventionally pretty. It’s interesting. It’s mine.
And because it’s on my finger, my particular brain likes to send up a little flare of anxiety from time to time. Did I lose a piece? No, no, they’re all there. Admire the ring, go back to my day. That knee-jerk reaction reminds me that I haven’t been feeling (clinically) anxious lately. It feels good to have a baseline of calm and ease. I haven’t missed reading about heart failure on internet health forums at 11 pm.
This new habit of checking the ring is a way to safeguard against further wreckage. Oh, because I have been feeling. I’ve been angry. I’ve been grieving. This winter and spring have been flooded with a salty wave of sadness, and treading water in that sea has been exhausting. Some days, I’m only plunging my hand into a tide pool of sad, not minding the cold sting because I’m closer to the beauty under the surface. And other days, I’m choking on the salt water as waves crash over my head, my legs churning to keep myself afloat, everything inside feeling rusty and hollowed out and close to cracking.
Simple things start the sorrow rocking: A taste of Cran-Raspberry La Croix, the first stuttering notes of a Local Natives song, admiring other people’s dogs on a bright Sunday loop through the park. These things once belonged to us, all the tiny details of a love now lost.
Sometimes the pieces break.
Here I am now, afloat, adrift. A relationship rooted in my new city has ended, and it is hard work to be submerged in that loss, to trust that my strong legs will keep kicking, that my chest will one day cease to ache. It takes energy to acknowledge that I am alone, that I am still out here. I wave hello to a friend relaxing on the beach. I ask another to join me in the bobbing waves as crusts of salt dry on my face. I’m moving closer to the shore. Soon, I’ll be able to stand on the sand bar under my feet.