The Absence of Presence – Part Three

Continued from:
Part One
Part Two

Sunday’s visit was “better,” all things being relative. She was more alert and I’m fairly certain she did recognize me at times. Dad wondered if taking in photos of me when I was younger might stir some recognition, so I went through and found a few representative pictures, including one of the two of us together when I was eight or nine.

When I arrived, she was sitting in her Jerry chair in the community room. There were perhaps eight or so other patients in there, sitting alone or around a table, and Mom was off to the side, staring off into whatever her mind was trying to show her. I pulled up a chair and sat next to her.

I laid the photos on her tray. She clutched at them, almost reflexively, but did not hold them up herself. I held them up, one by one, explaining the photos were of me, of her and me together, and I think she might have had a second or two of recognition there.

Due to background noises, my bad hearing, and her quiet volume, I could not hear or understand most of what she said. Once home, I imported the video I took into Adobe Premiere Pro and amplified the volume. I think she said at one time, “hug me… if you can…” but I did not hug her because I couldn’t hear what she was saying. Heart-breaking. Of course I would have, had I heard. Once, she said fairly clearly, “help me.” Oh, my, I wish I could.

To be completely honest, there were a few moments when I thought I should end it all for her by gently, ever-so-gently, holding a pillow over her face until she quietly suffocated to death. It would not take much, or long. However, I realized that forensic science (should that be called upon,) would quickly discover the cause of her death, and I certainly did not want to spend any time in prison, even for such a crime of compassion. I thought about suggesting to the nurses they give her “a little extra PRN” (as-needed morphine doses,) and very quickly realized that was just a terrible idea.  This was Mom’s path to walk alone; no one else could legally help her along.

One thing she asks often is “why…?” At times, it seems like a full question unto itself, at others it seems like she has something more to add but then trails off after the first word. I don’t know whether she’s asking why in general, or why about something specific, but there is no answer I can give her. There’s no good reason for any of it, other than pure human frailty being a motherfucker sometimes.

She manages to communicate snippets, incomplete thoughts. Not long after I arrived, she mumbled something about “my sisters,” but I don’t know what she was saying or asking about them. She has two younger twin sisters, only one of whom has she seen in recent times.

“I want you to stay…” she later said, I think to me, but wasn’t sure.

She is typically very agreeable – when someone makes a suggestion or asks her a question, her response is often a weak, simple, “okay,” with an lift at the end, like a small child. Unless she really doesn’t want the thing being suggested, and then there will be a “no…” with varying degrees of intensity.

I wonder where she is in her head, what she sees, what she believes to be true.

I settled in for this last visit, and, like millions of children before me, I reversed our roles and wiped my mother’s nose; I helped get her fed and changed and bathed; I soothed her to sleep with my voice as I stroked her hair. I thought of singing her a song my parents made up for me when I was a toddler, but didn’t think I could bear it myself.

Perhaps the most important thing about this visit was Forgiveness, and I thought long and hard before saying anything about that to her. I weighed out the pros and cons of lying versus actually being able to forgive versus not saying anything at all. I don’t know that I can forgive her – I don’t even know all the things I need to forgive her for, there’s so much. Then again, this person in front of me was not the same person who committed all those acts of maternal treason years and years ago.

Yet how do I forgive a person who cannot remember the things that she’s done to me? How could I not? I know that forgiveness is as much for me as it is for the person receiving it, but my own benefit has never really been a good motivator for me. If it were a lie, it would be for her, and how could I begrudge her that?

I don’t even know that it was a true thing when I said I loved her. It’s been so long since I’ve thought of her with any shred of positive emotion that I no longer actively feel the love for her as my mother. What I felt was compassion and kindness and despair for a fellow human being who was suffering and who should be let go. I felt a generic sort of love for a now-gentle and helpless person. Subconsciously, of course, I’m sure all sorts of havoc was being wreaked.

I cried or struggled not to cry a lot on Sunday. I’m sure some of the tears were related to the painful past we shared, and, to some degree, acknowledging that my mother was in fact dying no matter how estranged we might be. The first time I really felt certain she recognized me was … profound, I suppose. It wasn’t long after I arrived Sunday, when we were still sitting in the community room. Our eyes locked, and hers seemed clearer for a moment. She clutched at my hands, reached out on her own and touched my face. Not long after, I cried a full-fledged cry, surrounded by strangers in various degrees of suffering, in various degrees of awareness and lucidity. One of the nurses kindly and silently brought me a box of tissues when she saw me, and her compassion renewed my tears.

I thought to apologize to her, but I realized that crying in situations like this is normal and natural and healthy. Nothing to be ashamed of, although I am always ashamed when I cry in front of other people. My traditional “Stuff all the feelings down just like this casserole” Midwestern upbringing forbids ugly crying in public or in front of … well, in front of anyone, really.

Here, however, it would probably be more peculiar if I did not cry. In the face of this kind of suffering in any living being, how could anyone not be moved to tears? What kind of monster would not cry upon seeing her own mother in such a state?

In the end, everything is stripped away, everything but the most basic needs, the most basic thoughts, the most basic feelings, wants, desires. The need for human contact, the need for physical comfort, the need to be cared for and reassured. There’s nothing left of any residual badness or evil or unkindness from the past; all of that has been cleaved away leaving this empty husk, a bare shell of a woman who seems very sweet, very gentle… and full of needless suffering. So much pain.

Her former business partner and close friend wrote some kind words about Mom to my aunt, and I realized once again how the outside world knows a very different Lynn than I did. No one else experienced her as a mother, and most people from her public persona would never believe the things she said or did. How could such a kind, generous, sweet, compassionate woman be so cruel? Because untreated Borderline Personality Disorder, that’s how. She was both personae, now she is neither… though she is closer to her public persona than her private. This is a good thing for her and for everyone around her.

She’s obviously suffering so much. She is in constant discomfort, even while she’s sleeping, and she is obviously distressed in her thoughts as well as in her physical sensations.

My mantra while there – “no one deserves this.”

Coming Soon: Part Four

 

The Absence of Presence – Part Two

Continued from Part One:

This photo shows, starkly, the overall tone and sentiment of my visit with Mom Sunday, the second day. Both of us overshadowed by the agony of her affliction.

One of the fears I had about visiting her was of making things worse. If she did recognize me, would it cause her stress, anxiety, too much excitement? What if she did recognize me, and was reassured that I was there… and then I was suddenly gone? Would that traumatize her anew? These were among many fears and concerns I had to stare down in their red, beady eyes.

I’ve read about how people try to interact with dementia patients, though it was suddenly very starkly clear I was unprepared for this. Things are different when it’s personal. Things are different when 48 years of life and experience are scattered and flung to the four winds, leaving me standing alone in the barren field of her dementia. She was there, but not there, caught in some purgatorial hinterlands of her own failing mind.

I knelt before her, having no idea where to start.

“Mom? Hi. Hi, it’s me, it’s Erin. I’m your daughter.” I managed a weak smile. She was fairly sedated, and could not keep her eyes open for long. When they were open,  it was difficult to get her eyes focused on me (or on anything, for that matter.) After awhile, same nurse who told Mom I was here knelt with me before her chair with the tray removed. She took Mom’s hand and put it on my face and took a very authoritative, loud tone.

“Lynn, Lynn – your daughter is here. Your daughter is here. She came to see you. Touch her, hug her! She’s here and she loves you!”

I had not yet said “I love you,” and I wouldn’t for awhile. I didn’t want to lie, and I didn’t know whether it was true. I was still trying to adjust to this wretched figure before me being my mother.

I had the feeling the nurses’s words were as much for my benefit as for Mom’s; she didn’t know our history, she only knew Mom had been asking for me and that I had never visited. She kept trying, kept putting mom’s hand on my face, kept trying to get her eyes to open and focus.

Then, after getting virtually no response from Mom, she said to me, “Oh my God, her brain is just gone, it’s gone.” Mom’s hand fumbled on my face and neck limply and without much response. “Lynn! Touch your daughter, she came to see you from California. Lynn! Lynn! Your daughter loves you!” This was the first time I came to tears – the kindness of the nurse, coupled with her stark words, mixed with the enormity of our relationship, of the situation.

My mother’s house was a very nice two-story Colonial in a good neighborhood, full of her books and beloved possessions. Here, she was sharing a room with another dementia patient, with only a few scattered belongings to remind her of home: Some photos, my old deacon’s bench that held my toys for so many years, one of her favorite paintings, a few knick-knacks on a bookshelf. Nothing more.

Mom walks almost continuously. If she is not sleeping, she wants to walk. This is apparently common in dementia patients, and in her case, they believe she is looking for me. She very frequently talks about “my daughter, I have to find my daughter,” and worries about me being in some kind of danger relating to water.

Sunday morning, my dad told me of a time when I was 4 years old and we were at Lake Michigan camping on the sand dunes. My mother was back at the campsite, while Dad and I were playing on the beach. I took it upon myself to wander off, he thinks maybe back toward the campsite, but I didn’t know my way and I got lost. I was only away from my parents for maybe 10-15 minutes at most, he said. However my mother was in an absolute panic, and I’m certain it felt like a small eternity to her and probably to my father as well. He wondered (and now I do as well) if that’s where she thinks she is, and why she feels like I’m in danger and need rescuing. Cruel. Stuck not in happy times from her past, but horrible ones.

We got her laid out on her bed, only ever so briefly before she struggled to get up again and resume her endless march, and I looked over her tiny body closely.

I recognized the mole on the back of her left calf, and not much else. Her face… no. Her entire person… no. There was no visible sign of my mother. She had been devoured, erased by this disease.

I went through the video, grabbing still shots and editing them, finding ways to express how she had faded away:

She was kept fairly medicated for pain, as she had fallen recently and had a huge, awful bruise all over the right side of her bottom and back of her right thigh. Because of the physical pain, she often wore an expression of anguish, which I amplified in some to show the awful, ugly reality:

One of the wonderful caretakers told me she had recently gotten Mom to smile and dance a little bit, but her dancing was just moving her shoulders back and forth. I was happy to hear she had a moment of fun. She told me that before Mom took a radical turn for the worse, she had a friend, Phil, on the floor who would walk with her. They would sometimes stop and kiss. Sweet.

The patience of these women was profoundly humbling; I could never hold a candle to a one of them. It is exhausting and difficult to keep track of my mother as she carries on in her search which will always only end in failure to find her goal. She can no longer walk alone, she has to be accompanied so she doesn’t fall.

Trying to get her into bed, even when she is literally falling asleep on her feet, is impossible. She has a nearly superhuman strength, apparently also common with dementia. It took everything I had to try to keep her lying down, or to get her to lie down – it was impossible without hurting her.

They could restrain her, it would be the easiest thing for them, but instead… they walk with her. They ask her questions, they try to get her to engage.  When all else fails and they must attend to someone else, they sedate her further and wait. Her tolerance is so high, they have to dose her repeatedly to get her to calm or sleep. She seems to be more comfortable in her Jerry chair than in bed, so we try and try again to seat her for more than 30 seconds at a time.

She wants her hands held almost all the time, she wants human contact, and reaches for every hand she sees. While she was lying down quietly for a rare moment, I held her hand for the first time.

After awhile, convinced I would keep close watch, they left me alone with her to walk the halls. Eventually, I closed us in her room, because she was so medicated that when she stopped to turn around at the end of the hall, she stooped over asleep. I wanted to keep her close to her bed and chair, and so we walked in circles around her room. She would sometimes try to open the door, but I held it shut. She shuffled to the other end of the room and seemed to look at the photos on the bookshelf or out the window, but I don’t think her eyes actually saw anything external. I’m fairly sure her eyes were closed, and when her grasping fingers touched upon and gently held the picture frames, she was only keeping herself upright as she fought the many milligrams of morphine.

At one point, she said, “itch my back,” and I thought maybe she recognized me at that moment because she would make that request of me sometimes, but perhaps not. Saturday was mostly just incoherent walking. I talked to her a little, and, when she was clearly in physical agony or was excessively worried about something going on in her head, I would reflexively say, “everything is ok.” What an exceptional lie. Nothing was ok. Absolutely nothing at all was “ok” in her world of turmoil.

I left after perhaps four hours, after which time I was exhausted. It was not a productive or satisfying visit in any way, I had not reached her at all. It was only ceaseless shuffling and struggling, punctuated by seconds of calmness. I went home to my dad and step-mom’s house to ponder, to recover, to wonder.

Continue Reading: Part Three

An Open Letter to Louis CK

Louis –

I’m pissed.

I’m pissed at you.

I’m of course pissed at you because you have caused trauma and stress to people (particularly women) around you, but I’m also selfishly pissed that I (and the rest of the world) will be deprived of your unique humor and wit because you literally could not keep it in your pants appropriately.

Am I surprised? No. Hell, no. Anyone who has listened to your material understands your obsession with masturbation, and how you weirdly sexualize things like newscasters saying “Libya.” Thus, “surprised” is not on my list of emotions. What is?

Disappointed.

“Disappointed” tops my list. It is followed by “sad” and “angry” and a whole host of other feelings, but I am selfishly disappointed in no small part due to the fact that I’m probably not going to get to hear new Louis CK material for a very long time, at least not outside trying to recover from this series of stupid, unthinking, even-more-selfish incidents.

Let me tell you about our one-sided history together: I have watched “Live at the Beacon Theater” (sometimes just having it on in the background) several times a month for the last six years; I’ve watched and rewatched “Louie;” I have quoted you and posted clips of my favorite Louis CK bits all over hell and gone whenever even remotely relevant. Some are embedded in my blog posts.

I can’t say I’m your biggest fan because that’s silly, but I was a pretty damn big fan. I’m not a “fan” kind of person, either: I’m not generally possessed of a desire to meet celebrities (other than a brief series of childhood fantasies about living with The Fonz and sleeping in the same bed with him – I was five at the time, so I didn’t even know what that was about,) and I don’t get starstruck often. But you? I thought you’d be amazing to sit around and hang out with. I’ve wanted to talk to you about your experiences, ask questions about some of your material. Sure, I knew you’d have less than zero interest in doing so, but that didn’t much matter. There was this tiny little voice in my head sheepishly saying, “maybe we could be friends.”  That probably would have been a disaster, much like your “maybe something nice will happen [on a date]” – straight into the shitter.

Not only did you nail the comedy, but you also reached deeply into uncomfortable topics, into awkward situations (typically where you were the subject, but not always,) and you offered poignant insights into the overall human condition that not a lot of other people would even touch. I fucking miss that, man. There were some moments in “Louie” when I literally had to avert my eyes to tone down the mortification factor. The woman who broke down crying about her daddy in the middle of sex? Yeah.

We’re of a similar age, and I am also divorced/single/alone, so I related to a metric honkload of your material in that groove.  In the pilot with Chelsea Peretti? Holy shit, dude, I wanted to claw my eyes out and slither under the floor at each inept pass. I don’t think that could have been any more awkward unless you… oh. I was going to say, “unless you actually took out your cock and started masturbating on the bench,” but that’s just a little too on the nose now, isn’t it?

 

There is a less-selfish disappointment, too, one not born of “but now I can’t get my Louis CK fix!”

I really thought you were one of the good guys.

Truly. I thought you were self-aware enough not to be That Guy. I thought, based on some of your comedy bits and show dialogue that you really Got It, that you understood women have a shitty, terrible time out there in some respects, and that you wouldn’t perpetuate that kind of bullshit yourself. To be fair, from what I understand, these incidents happened years ago, and maybe you’ve been working to atone for them. I dunno. That matters, but it matters less than you might think.

Your issued statement takes a fair amount of responsibility, at least. It’s heartening to know you understand why what you did was wrong – maybe you are just parroting what you’ve been reading in the #MeToo movement, but it at least sounds genuinely remorseful (if a bit defensive, but in your situation, it’s really hard to be utterly gracious and humble; of course you want to try to defend yourself to a degree. It’s an embarrassing, shitty predicament you’ve put yourself in with huge ramifications. I have no idea if I’d be able to handle it myself.)

When Al Franken’s photo came out, I started a blog post about all of this and couldn’t ever publish it – this recent surge of allegations and reactions is a complicated phenomenon on so many levels, it’s damn near impossible to discuss honestly without sounding like a.) an apologist for predators, b.) an obsessive feminist or vitcim, or c.) an ignorant, indifferent passer-by. I have questions about what the right and wrong repercussions are for men (like you) who have committed these acts. Asking those questions makes me sound like one of the three types above. Not that anyone on the internet would ever conceivably jump down anyone else’s throat, mind you, especially when discussing a hot topic such as sexual predation… oh, wait.

When I think about this, I don’t think about it in terms of “I, too, am a sexual abuse annd assault survivor who gets harassed often.” I am (one incident is described here,) but that’s not the overriding thought in my lobes – the predominant mantra is a toddler-esque “but it’s not faaaaaiiirrrrr” followed by catching myself (literally several times on any given day) thinking about material that’s somehow relevant to the moment at hand.  Fuck, that sounds obsessive and stalkery, which I don’t think I am: Some people think about “Star Wars” as it relates to their lives, some people think about “Lord of the Rings,” others think about “The Wire” (the poor bastards;) it’s all about what and who we relate to. Me, I relate to motorcycles, [insert long list of boring things no one wants to hear about,] and you. Irrespective of whether either one of us likes it, you’re in my head, man. From what I can tell, we have a lot in common. Yayyyyy. <sigh>

That’s about all I’ve got right now, Louis. These thoughts have been bumping around in my head for months now, and I had to get them out in whatever inept form they took. I know there is an approximately zero percent chance you’ll ever see this, but, while I’d like for you to see it, it was more important for me just to clear my head.

Sincerely,

eDar

All of My WTF

My team at work is a tight group: Most of us get along ridiculously well, love and care about each other, and are a wonderful support group for our team members. I treasure almost every one of them like family – indeed, they are my family at this point.

After much agonizing thought, I recently decided to take another job, leaving my beloved LW friends and tribemates after four wonderful years this time around, and more than two years a bit before that. This place has been the biggest part of my life since 2008. These people are my life, and we depend upon each other – I feel like such a traitor by leaving.

In my opening paragraph, I wrote, “I treasure almost every one of them;” “almost” because the person who acquaintance-raped me is on our team, and I most definitely do not treasure him.

Last night, I received a text message from him:


Will this number work later?
Just found out some news and Im not sure if its true but it makes me extremely depressed.
either way, happy valentines day. Know that you are loved!

Let me know if you can.
2:58 AM via Project Fi


Know that I am loved. Oh, ok. Though I was still awake, I ignored him until this morning. Because I am (for the time being) forced to see him at work, I feel the need to be civil. Plus, I’m just not someone who easily dismisses anyone outright. Anyhow.


what’s up?

11:50 AM via Project Fi

I heard a rumour and I was hoping it was not true. That you might be going somewhere? It really made me sad and I just wanted you to know that everyone I know of on 2nd shift loves you and thinks the world of you.
And obviously the person that mentioned it to me slipped up and didnt mean to tell me. So Im not going to talk about it or mention it to anyone else if it is true. I dont really feel the spreading rumours is helpful.
12:25 PMvia Project Fi


When he arrived at work today, he immediately came to my desk, visibly upset. I confirmed I was, in fact, leaving. His lips trembled. He stood here for awhile, wiping away actual tears… because I’m leaving LW. I was taken aback for a moment, and literally could not find any words.

I was, to say the least, stunned by his reaction. I wanted to grab him by the face, shake him around a whole bunch, and ask him, “where was this concern when you took advantage of me? When you let me believe what happened was my fault?!”

Instead, what did I do? I comforted him. I consoled. Because that is what I fucking do when people are in distress.

Afterward, I relayed the texts and the tale of his appearance at my desk to a trusted adviser, who is aware of the whole sad situation. I told him the story awhile back because I needed him to know what went on to make sure a.) I was not in any way letting on at work how much I hate this person,  b.) to ensure I was treating him fairly, and c.) to cover my ass in the event the guy came after me somehow. I love and respect this adviser so much, and trust him implicitly.

He said:


it’s your go-to
you always wanna make folks feel better, even if they don’t deserve it
you need to be more of an asshole sometimes lol


He’s probably right. I wouldn’t even know where to actually start, however.

I have no point here – I just had to share my abject befuddlement. I sat at my desk, shaking my head, trying to wrap my brain around … oh, everything.

Not having to see his face every week is a definite plus to leaving LW – one of very few happy things.

Onward!

Sand

What an odd expression, “a line in the sand.”

It has unclear origins, historically, and may be based entirely upon a misunderstanding of words Jesus is said to have spoken.

The thing about sands is they shift. They move with the slightest breeze. 

A line in the sand is quickly blurred, and soon eradicated altogether. A gust of wind, a small wave, a footstep – gone.

Ironically, I have found my line in the sand; I know what it is – at least for the moment, I do. As I have learned over the last three days, “having made up my mind” is suddenly a fluid state of being. I am certain one moment, uncertain the next, and certain of another thing four moments hence.

The gods are having a field day with my life right now, laughing uproariously as I struggle to get a handle on this rapidly-changing, constantly unfolding trainwreck. “Look,” they cackle; “she thinks she’s got it now! Wait, wait – hold my beer,” and they throw something absolutely ludicrous into the mix.

I take the blow, smash face-first into the floor, blink in abject confusion, and then stand back up again, reassessing, beginning the whole process anew, but with different rules, different information, and a deck stacked against me – the deck I myself shuffled, and either subconsciously stacked badly, or just had my usual horrifically bad luck with random number games.

This is all my own doing. I knew going in that it was a bad idea – but I didn’t realize I was going to be the one to suddenly have the shoe on the other foot. My mood this very second is nothing short of absurd – I have tripped an emotional circuit breaker of one sort or another, unplugged my ego, and am being controlled by whatever inmates run rampant in my head when I’m not at the wheel.

I keep hearing this quote from WKRP in Cincinnati back in 1979 running through my head – Johnny Fever is … doing something dumb, I assume. Someone says, “let the chips fall where they may!” to which Johnny replies, “wait… I’m the chips!”  Later, as the story unfolds, things get tense, and he murmurs in a very scared voice, “chips are falling!”

Welp – I’m both the chips and the thing making them fall here.

All of this is maddeningly vague, I’m sorry. I can’t go into details for more reasons than you can imagine, but these last three days have been a rollercoaster from the depths of hell. A ride of Shakespearean proportion. I half envision a Greek chorus following me around, providing foreshadowing to the audience – none of which I can hear, of course, because the actors don’t know about the chorus.

The irony won’t stop – it steps up its game every time I think things cannot get any more unreal.

I’ve said this many time before, and I’ll say it again – life is not for cowards. My heart-like place is just chaos – it doesn’t know what it is, what it’s for, where it’s going, why it’s here, or whether it’s even a real thing. It is simultaneously dust, and glass, and stone, and tender flesh. This is my life right now.

Unsurprisingly, from the time I began this post until now, the sands have shifted and my line is … if not gone entirely, then certainly blurred all to hell and gone. FOR THE CRAZIEST FUCKING REASON: The least likely person on the planet, almost totally literally, has put my mind at more ease than anyone else has been able to do thus far. We were having two entirely different conversations, depending upon which perspective one took, and it all worked out beautifully for both of us. And I’m at peace. For the moment, of course.

It could be matter of days, hours, or nanoseconds before I am ripped out of this “everything is hilarious/fine” mode – I’m guessing a matter of less than an hour, given the material at hand (buckle up, babycakes!!) – and then who knows what’s next. And then after that. And after that. How long can I keep this up?

Answer: Until I either don’t have to, or until I can’t.

Fuck, I wish I could go into more detail, and maybe someday, I can. But for now – just laugh with me, friends, and wish peace upon my soul. I need both.

Thanks, Mom. No, Really.

My mother taught me a lot of very bad things.

Overcoming them as much as I have has taken decades of work, and there are many casualties lying in pools of blood alongside the path.

In the featured photo, I am far, far too young to realize the patterns I was learning even then. My heart aches for that little girl and the years she has ahead.

Seldom do they serve any useful purpose – they are designed to be precise weapons of terrible destruction, of others and of myself. I’ve used them that way in the past myself, and it’s horrible to witness myself, as if from a third person, wielding them thusly. They are wicked and effective.

I have learned, however, that in gentler hands, they can be used for good. One of the habits my mother taught me was to never show signs of hurt or anger. We bottle that shit up and shut it down, because emotion is weakness. Stay in control, never let them see you bleed. That defensive behavior, in conjunction with its more offfensive siblings, results in what someone once called The Ice Queen.

I don’t like the Ice Queen; she and I are not friends. She is, however, a tale for another time.

Today, running errands amongst the thronging hordes of people, I laughed and smiled and interacted as if my whole world were not burning. No trace of the flames in my heart licked up through my eyes, the shards of glass did not protrude through my flesh – all of that was Contained. Bottled up. Hidden.

Rather than storm throughout the day, being miserable and passing along those bad vibes, I radiated positivity, friendliness, and courtesy. When encountering a genuine smile, more people than not will respond in kind, sometimes even with surprise; this makes my day. So it was everywhere I went this afternoon. I even had myself fooled.

Back in the safety and solitude of my car (which is as black as my mood,) the feelings could no longer be contained properly, and oozed out, coating me in a foul, oily aura.

Home, I gave my roommate the briefest of details as to the situation. I didn’t cry, I didn’t rage, I just stated how I was feeling, loosely describing the mental and physical anguish and distress I’ve been in for the last three days. Going into any meaningful detail would have been a different story, but I even managed to chuckle a few times at his responses, for my roommate is far too impressed with me – “Dude,” he began, “you are on an entirely different level of acceptance in life.”

He meant it as a compliment, and I took it as such, but I wonder – is there such a thing as too accepting?

There is, I’m certain – and many of the things on the mental list I just composed of “things one should not accept” are things that I am, right now, accepting. Shit.

I tell you what, friends; life is not for cowards or for the faint of heart.

 

A Fine Line

There is a very fine line between “broken” and “not broken.”

A hair’s breadth.

A moment.

A choice.

Is it possible to be crushed to bits, destroyed, yet not broken?

“Broken,” to me, implies being unable to recover, incapable of putting myself back together – I’m not there, not yet.

What I am is ground to dust. My heart, my gut, are filled with the sharpest glass, slowly shredding me. Everything in me is actively on fire.

But I am not broken. Though I may be absolutely crumbled to shit, sheer stubbornness prevents being broken – I am not going to let one cruel, cowardly, lying bastard break me forever. My pride, coupled with whatever sense of self I have, will not let this happen.

My pride, my wounds, demand his immediate and irrevocable banishment. My insecurities demand this, as well, but also wheedle to keep him close. My insecurities are conniving, two-faced assholes. My true self is ambivalent – she is honest, she is destroyed, she is furious, she is grief-stricken, heart-broken, incredulous, and filled with burning, but she loves him and believes at least some of it was real, somewhere. If she’s 100% wrong, then I’m better at fooling myself than I ever thought I was.

Was it real if only one of us was actually living it?

The thing I was living was an illusion – a lie. Of the two of us, only he knew the truth. I was living in a fantasy.

Perhaps the worst part of it all… no, there are many, many “worst parts:”

  • I believed a liar, and I doubted myself. I consciously chose to believe his lies. I looked at my gut feeling, and I looked at the words he was saying to me, and I said, “you know, I really don’t believe this, but I’m going to choose to believe him, because that is the most kind and compassionate thing I can do.” So I did.
    • Ironically, only recently, I was having a conversation with someone about being suspicious versus believing people. Every time I have this conversation, I say the same thing, and I still hold it as My Truth: It is better to believe someone and be taken for a fool later, than to disbelieve someone who is telling the truth.
    • I am furious with myself, as well, because I knew. My gut knew. My conscious brain even knew. But two things kept me from trusting myself:
      • I wanted to believe him. Plain and simple, that is what my heart wanted.
      • I knew if I started this relationship with Grave Doubts, it would never flourish into everything it could be, and it would be my fault. Now, it will never be everything it could be… but it’s not my fault. I suspect that will be easier to live with.
      • Eventually.
      • Maybe.
  • Karma/I don’t deserve nice things. This is karma for Jon, this is payback for the times I slept with married people. I am not a good enough person to be this happy.
  • I did my best, and it wasn’t enough. I don’t have much of anything else I can do or give. That was what I was, what I had, and he actively chose to shit all over it. If he had me at my best, and that wasn’t enough… what then?
  • Jailbreak. I was writing a beautiful piece about how he saved me from my internal prison, how he was the one I’d been waiting for for so long. Now, I look at the paintings, and am filled with unspeakable sorrow and emptiness. I suppose the one good thing is that I was out of the prison for awhile. Maybe now I go back in – this remains to be seen, and is terrifying. The only thing stronger than my stubbornness is my subconscious, and I don’t know what it’s doing right now. I am deeply afraid of it.
    • I don’t know whether to burn the paintings, to keep them on the wall as a reminder, or to just put them away somewhere. I hate them.
  • I understand his stupid, stupid reasons. I get it – but I don’t get it. I understand his logic, or the lack thereof, but I don’t understand how he could do this to me.  To someone he professed to love and cherish, the person he said he had never and would never lie to. As he said he hadn’t lied, that he wasn’t lying in that very second… he was lying.
  • I made plans for the future that included another person. I don’t do that. I didn’t do that with my fucking husband, not really, because I know nobody sticks around for the long run. What fucking planet am I suddenly from where after two months I believed? If I could see through the tears to kick myself, I would.
  • Blatant disrespect and a complete disregard for THE ONE THING I NEED. This wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t a slip – this was a conscious choice, a deliberate series of actions and lies to cover them up. I do not use “disrespect” lightly, for seldom do I feel I am worthy of respect. He made me feel I was – and then he was the one who destroyed that feeling.
    • Sidenote. Irony: He may be the person who convinced me I am actually worthwhile and valuable enough not to be treated the way he has treated me. What the fuck do I even do with that.
    • I have long been amazed and awed by people in relationships who have such obvious and abiding love, admiration, and respect for each other, no matter what. I thought finally, maybe, I had rediscovered such a thing after 25 years of what I can only call penance. I believed. I looked forward to everything.
  • The cruelty. He chose a cruel path. He actively reassured me, built up my trust – encouraged me to believe, believe, believe, only to betray me.
  • I legitimately do not know what to do. I am in an untenable position. I have two obvious choices, and myriad variants:
    • End the relationship.
      • I will be miserable. I will miss him. I will grieve for what we had, and what we could have had. “I couldn’t love you any more, and yet I will tomorrow,” I told him a couple of weeks ago. That would die.
      • All of the things I love about him will be gone forever.
      • He will never whisper, “you’re amazing” to me again.
      • I will never feel that unbelievable sense of oneness as he holds me in his arms – the perfect contentedness of being right where I am supposed to be. Where I thought I was supposed to be.
      • I do not become a crazy person, second-guessing myself at every turn. Well, at least, not with him – maybe that’s just going to be a part of my life from now on, becoming less and less trusting BECAUSE OF THE WORDS AND ACTIONS OF ONE FUCKING MAN GODDAMN IT I AM QUESTIONING THE THINGS THAT MAKE ME WHO I AM. FUCK.
        • Typing those words made me burst fully into tears for the first time since this nightmare began. Great.
    • Try to cobble things back together. Make the choice to work through the pain, the fear, the doubt, and try to figure out if there’s a bearable way forward.
      • I will probably still be miserable, for quite some time. Maybe until it ends. I don’t know.
      • I will still grieve for what could have been, because whatever lies ahead is irreversibly altered. We will never have “what we could have had;” it’s no longer a viable path.
        • Because of that, I don’t know if it’s worth my time, pain, and effort to even try.
      • I don’t know whether he would change (read, “stop lying,” and “stop being afraid of conflict,”) or even legitimately try to.
        • Instinct says “people can change, but he is not going to change, because he’s not willing;” as he said earlier, “this is who I am.” If that’s who he is, and if he is comfortable with that, there is no changing. If there is no changing, I have to decide whether I can live with a complete lack of trust in my life. I can’t believe I would even consider that.
      • How do I look this person in the eye after everything? He will never fathom the hurt, the damage.
      • He would still be in my life with all the wonderful things about him – but also with all of … this. I legitimately don’t know what’s worse – having him, or at least the part of him I’ve had to whatever degree that might have been, or not having him at all.
        • Common sense says, “you’ll never be sure. You’ll never be totally confident and secure.”
        • I have to decide if that’s something I can do. Even considering it makes me feel foolish.
      • When he murmurs, “you’re amazing” into my hair when I’m lying on his chest, I will always think, “but not amazing enough.” That is my new truth.
      • When I am wrapped up in his arms, will I ever feel that same sense of security and belonging? Did he feel the same when he’s been cuddled up with her? Honestly? That part doesn’t even matter – monogamy is optional. It’s the DECEIT that is killing me. I know we can both be amazing in his eyes for different and similar reasons.
      • Do I become a crazy, paranoid police person, always vigilant, always wondering, never truly certain I know the situation? How do I not become that person?  Put a GPS tracker and a chest cam on him? Constantly monitor all forms of communication, knowing full well that is easily circumvented?
        • I have no interest in keeping track of the seconds that have passed, the steps he has taken, reading all of his emails and chats, ruthlessly discovering what he has or has not done or said. That is exhausting, and it is an unwinnable battle.
      • His lies come so easily, and they’re so specific; I’ll never truly know whether he’s telling me the truth. Can I live with that? That’s what this boils down to. Can I have a lesser happiness, a lesser relationship, and be content with that? Will that state with him be better than something else?
    • I need assurances. How the fuck do I get them from a pathological liar?
    • Worst-case scenario: I try to work things through, really give it my best go, and things begin to go well. Things fall apart as he cannot keep himself from lying. How do I recover from that as a whole person?
    • Alternate worst-case scenario: I shut the relationship down, when it could have been the best thing that ever happened to me. I spend the rest of my life wondering about him, just as I have about Jon.
  • Jon. I thought maybe, just maybe, the universe had forgiven me for Jon – that maybe I’d forgiven myself for what I did and said. Turns out, I was just being set up for a comeuppance.
  • Changes. I made deep changes to accommodate him in my life, things about which he has no idea, and for what? Just to be lied to and deceived, all because he was afraid. You want to talk about “afraid?” He has no fucking clue the things I had to overcome to get to this place, and him? He was just status-quo’ing it, coasting along as he always has. The demons I have faced in these few short months would blow his fucking mind.

I fucking hate being this weak. As I typed those words, my better nature told me I am not weak – I’m strong for even considering working things out. Working for something difficult and painful, something I want to have, is not weakness. Not making a rash decision after an egregious wounding, is strong. My worse nature countered, “what if it’s just a pipe dream? An impossible fantasy? Is it really strength to pursue that at the expense of your sanity and self-confidence?”

Fuck. That reminds me – I have never felt more confident than I have these last couple of months. The love in this relationship made me a better person on many levels, and has given me strength I didn’t realize I had. Now, knowing I was laboring under a complete delusion, my confidence has shriveled and has slunk into a very dark recess; it is utterly unwilling to resurface for now. I hope it returns.

When I confronted him with the lies, he said he was going to tell me today. Oh, ok. How do I believe that? Even trying to swallow that line makes me nauseated. Here, we go back to “believe someone rather than disbelieve them,” but at what point does that become foolish instead of honorable? This is the first time I’ve had to ask myself that question; I suppose I have been exceptionally fortunate on that front, then. How tragic this is the time I have to ask it.

In his place, I would be fumbling over myself, trying everything and anything, saying any possible true thing I could think of to salvage the situation. He mumbled platitudes, and had very little else to offer. That is infuriating, and makes me feel he doesn’t really care either way. If things don’t work out here, he’ll pack up and go back home, and pick up his comfortable old life that never really made him happy – I’m certain of this.

It’s not like this was months ago – it was goddamned yesterday. It would be one thing if it were “in the past,” but it’s Right Fucking Now, all apparently because his what-I-thought-would-soon-be-his-ex-wife “started being nice to me.” If that’s all it takes to rekindle those feelings, I’m fucked any way you cut it.

I feel especially foolish that I fell into the “but I’m leaving my wife” trap. I didn’t want that originally – I wanted nothing of the sort. At all. But we fell in love, and then he said he was leaving her, and I said “not on my account, you’re not,” and he said “no no, it’s over anyhow,” and then he moved in with me and I actually believed it was all true.

God I’m such a fucking moron.

The truth is, it has only been a few months – I have to get my head wrapped around that fact. It has not been a long time, it is not a loss I could never get over. It will just hurt like a motherfucker for awhile. It doesn’t matter how long it “feels like” it’s been, how all-consuming my side of this relationship was.

“I deserve better.” Do I? Do I really? With the crap person I have been, do I? Maybe I deserve to be played like this, to be made into a complete, gullible, naive fool by someone I believed to be my unflinching ally. How horrible it is to realize my ostensible wingman doesn’t like conflict and had utterly bugged out once my foot touched the battlefield. I didn’t even know he wasn’t there anymore, and I kept walking forward, confident and trusting he had my back when he was actually nowhere to be seen. I am alone, surrounded by hostile forces.

I am used to being alone in the midst of the war – that is what my life has heretofore been;  it was the feeling of having someone unquestionably by my side that was new. I can’t decide whether I wish I hadn’t ever felt that security, because now it’s gone, and I have no idea whether I’ll ever feel it again.

Listening to him talk with her on the phone just now, his entire tone has changed toward her; it’s softer and much more gentle. That might be the most telling thing of all. He is over there chuckling at videos, oblivious. I’m over here eating myself alive. Where is the fairness? I’m getting shipment notifications for things I bought just for him, dying inside, wishing they would never arrive. I am at a complete loss.

The only thing I know is that I cannot make this decision right now.  I have to sit with it and decide which grief-stricken path I want to take, unless he offers some kind of opinion – which he is afraid to have.

That unto itself speaks volumes about my growth as a person – even entertaining the notion of trying to work things out is orders of magnitude more than what I would have done previously.

Despite being devastated, despite my heart being rent from my body, despite the immolation of my fucking soul, I will stand back up again.

But not today.

Today, tomorrow, for the foreseeable future, I have to figure out how to get from here to there, to pick a path amongst the thorns and pitfalls.

For now, I have to grieve the death of something nearly perfect, and decide which “less than” path to take.

I wrote this for myself, without intention of sharing with anyone, but now I think I have to show him. Verbally, I have failed to communicate where I am; I’m too devastated and angry to formulate words on the fly. So I guess it’s time to show him – provided he doesn’t mind being interrupted.


Today brought a different perspective – at least, later in the day did.

One of the most infuriating things was not feeling heard, understood, and acknowledged. Verbally, there was nothing other than, “I’m sorry,” “I love you and I don’t want to lose you,” and various other superficial sentiments that brought no new understanding to the situation.

Thinking maybe he might do better in writing, I reached out to him via text when we were working, and it did indeed bear more fruit. I have a better idea of where he is – it’s no less painful, the situation is no less dire, but simply knowing he understands how hurt, angry, and betrayed I feel makes all the difference. It’s helping me to allow myself to let go of the abject rage and sense of being completely dismissed and disregarded.

Old edar wouldn’t have let the anger go; she would have held onto it like a precious treasure, clinging greedily to it because it made her feel righteously indignant and justified.

edar 2.0 realized there is no sense in staying actively angry because he has feelings for his estranged wife. What does staying angry accomplish, other than making it all much worse? Nothing.

So, I am letting it go – sometimes great chunks of it break away, sometimes smaller ones, but at least now I can sense there is still a core of me intact beneath the jagged crust and molten rock.

Her flame may be dim right now, but at least she’s still there.

I’ve realized too that I cannot make a decision until he does. Now that I know where he is, and how he feels – that he legitimately may choose her over me – that puts a different spin on the whole thing.

It is situations like this when I become so frustrated with the culturally mandated concept of monogamy. He’s in love with two people, but has to choose one? How is that fair in any way, when he could love us both?

However, whinging about things out of my control serves no purpose. Now that I am getting my wits back about myself, I can apply the usual tools of logic, reason, dignity, compassion, understanding, integrity, and, if need be, graceful withdrawal.

I am not his wife, nor am I at all like her – I will not actively try to “fight for him” if he chooses another path; that, too, serves no purpose other than to frustrate and infuriate everyone involved. He will choose me or he will not, based solely on the merits or lack thereof. If he doesn’t find me worthy, so be it; it will be a loss for both of us.

I will hate it, I will be devastated even more, but I will accept, recover, and move on.

The not knowing, though, that is a fresh hell. Until today, I thought the decision was largely mine; now I know he isn’t decided himself. I knew it when I heard the tenderness in his voice last night, but didn’t let myself accept it until this morning, when he confirmed he didn’t know what to do, whom to choose. Ah.

And so, death metal, and painting. Escape.

 

What’s in the Baggage?

I was enjoying a very well done photography project some time ago, and noticed an image which had the subject carrying a suitcase that had broken open, spilling its contents asunder. Given the theme of the project, I was certain those items were very carefully chosen.

It made me wonder – what’s in my baggage?

We all have it. Burdens we carry around, both small and large, shameful and not.

I tend to think of mine in abstract, vague, completely non-defined ways – shorthand: “Mom,” “high school,” “my body.” I am more comfortable not dwelling on them – but does that help? If I pretend it’s not there, does the baggage not affect me?

Nope; it does. Regardless of whether I acknowledge those issues, they are pervasive. If my decades of life have taught me anything, it’s that my baggage has weight. Size. Heft.

I push it around like an invisible Sisyphean boulder – bent under its weight, but oblivious of its presence – forcing it uphill, wondering why I’m so damned tired all the time.

So what is in that baggage? What is it that so heavily weighs me down?

For now, these are posted without further comment, and in the order I thought of them:

A pair of ballet pointe shoes
A wooden spoon
Stretch gabardine pants
A sweater vest with ducks on it
My dog, Megan
A photo of my Great-Grandpa Lyon
A dark corner full of tears and fear
The picture of my dog Zephyr leaping through the meadow where he would die less than a year later
A dead baby mouse
The Anti-Coloring Book
Disappointment
A stone covered with hand-written love notes from Jon
Credit cards
A Tonka truck
My first real bra
A measuring tape
A tampon
Arm hair bleach
A pair of tweezers
Shame
Guilt
Fear
An Algebra textbook
A empty condom wrapper
A photo of Mike’s face as he rang my windchimes
Heavy chains
Long hair
A size 10 black leather skirt
A chocolate orange
A shoebox in my mother’s closet
Playboy magazines under my dad’s side of the bed
A Frisbee full of gravel

I Woke Up

November 5, 2011

I woke up in my forties astride a Harley, and realized I had done everything wrong.

Every shred of potential I ever had, squandered. All the amazing people who cared for me over the years, systematically pushed away. Huge opportunities for personal growth, ignored.

These days, I power-down when I’m not around other people, but by the same token, being around others wears me out utterly.

I don’t know how to be a person.

When I’m sad or depressed, I cannot look people in the eye. I feel autistic, I can’t make myself do it, and I don’t know why. I haven’t looked at my husband in over a week. He notices.

There have been points in my life when I’ve been happy – they are typically fleeting. I didn’t grow up “a happy” child; I was “an excruciatingly self-critical” child. Hyper-aware of every move and expression, thanks to my mother’s exacting judgment.

At age 10, she taught me to start hating my body by encouraging me to bleach my arm hair when I became self-conscious about it. She could have simply reinforced a positive self-image, but she was too far gone down the rabbit hole of society’s expectations. She gleefully foisted those onto me.

When I was 12, she began forcing me to let her tweeze my eyebrows, lest they be too thick and unfeminine. Heaven forbid I end up “another Brooke Shields!”

In high school, she had me shove my C-cup breasts into minimizing bras.

She forbade me from wearing tucked-in shirts because they were unflattering to my high waist and oddly-shaped hips.

When I was a size 8 in high school, she wanted me to diet.

She made me hyper-conscious of every possible physical flaw – something I never outgrew.

These things, and so many more, crushed my young self-esteem and joy into coal, stopping short of diamond by fathoms.

But wait – I started out talking about the Harley. I bought that Harley after one test drive because of that moment of awakening. I was connected at a spiritual level with that machine… and I hoped it might make me feel alive and awake all the time.

I tried to prepare my husband for the purchase I had already made in my heart. Rather than buy it outright, I put down a deposit and made my case to him. He didn’t really seem to have strong feelings one way or the other, but wouldn’t commit to a “yes” or a “no.”

It was a futile gesture, really – I was going to buy it, regardless. And I did. One day he came home and it was parked in the garage. He was so livid, he stormed down to his office basement and called his mother. I didn’t realize this until I picked up the phone to use it myself and heard him speaking to her.

Rather than come to me and hash it out like an adult, he ran to his mom.

That is a theme unto itself, though – he and I cannot communicate. We just… don’t. We co-exist, we cuddle up at night, and we carry on with our dreary, frustrated lives.

Motorcycles break me out of that foggy existence. It is nearly impossible to be riding a motorcycle down a road and be dead inside. Two wheels and a twisty country road make my soul hum in tune with the engine.

He does not understand this at all. He resents me for riding, I think. I resent his resentment.

So it goes.

Now that I’ve had that moment, is my life going to be radically different? Changed forever?

Not yet. I’ve had the bike for several months, and while I’m Awake riding down the road, I am in twilight still at home. I’m not sure what catalyst I need to jolt me into full-time Humanness, but the Harley was just a stepping stone on the path.

But at least now, I can perceive there is a path.

Small Town

March 23, 2011

Everyone wanted to pretend our small town was perfect.

One supposes most small towns are like this – we want to maintain the illusion, the facade, the picture-perfect American Dream exterior. Like a Stephen King novel, however, darkness lies beneath in many forms.

Fathers raped their daughters, young children cut and burned themselves. There was abuse, neglect, sexual assault, hard drug use, teenage pregnancy, racism, homophobia, attempted murder. Underage students had sex with teachers, children endured brutal hardships at home no one knew about.

A fair amount of this occurred in my own family – mostly thanks to my great-grandfather. I did not find out about what an incredibly foul person he was until after he died, which is probably for the best; I might otherwise be in prison for murder myself.

Despite the horrible things going on behind closed, quaint doors, we all put on our brave faces for the public to keep up appearances. We showed up to the Friday night high school football games, bundled up in our team colors under the blue-green field lights, excited, flirtatious, with jocks in their varsity jackets, and those who could drive trying to be nonchalant about their cars in the parking lot. At one of those Friday night games, we received word one of us had been killed in a car accident. Alcohol was involved. The driver, also a student, was thoroughly and tragically ostracized. He did not move in my circles; we were not in the same grade, but I saw his isolation.

We managed to be kids and teenagers through it all.

Most of us likely thought we were alone in our trauma. Almost none of us were.

We muddled through, we survived.

Well, I should say, “most of us survived;” we lost a few along the way. Some to disease, some to accidents, some to suicide.

Now, here the rest of us are in our middle ages, many with kids of our own, all more our own real selves than we were when we all lived together in our nook of a town. Seeing the names and faces from twenty or more years ago is strange and fun and more than a little bizarre.

Most of us probably still envision each other as we were then, and it is a surprise when we see current photos and realize Age is coming for us all, despite always being the same age inside.

I hope we are all happier now than we were then – I would not go back to those times for anything in the world. I hope those of us with children are raising them differently, breaking the patterns, teaching them to communicate and to be free from perceived isolation.

Driving through my hometown now, especially at night, I hope the warm glow of lights from bedrooms is not as deceptive as it used to be, and that the dark windows shelter peacefully sleeping souls. I hope cries do not echo through the locker-rooms of the schools.