Turning a corner.

I’m bone tired.

I never really knew what that meant, before. Super-duper tired? Really need that nap? No. That’s not what that means.

Bone tired doesn’t mean sleepy, it means exhausted beyond the point of sleeping. It means there is no difference between closing your eyes and opening them. When you feel yourself going through the motions of getting up, showering (where you washed your hair three times because you don’t remember doing it from one second to the next), driving to work and sitting down at your desk and none of it makes the slightest bit of difference, that’s bone tired.

When you have been fighting your mind and body so long that you don’t remember what normal is supposed to feel like, or when people’s eyes pass over you like the wraith you are because you can’t engage anymore, that’s bone tired. It’s when you live by rote, because you don’t remember how to live properly.

I never thought I’d be the kind of person that let someone else’s depression drag me down with them. I fought. I fought tooth and nail. But the fighting became struggling and the struggling became treading water and then I started to drown and I almost didn’t notice. Because that’s what bone tired means. It means the drowning is preferable to anything else.

I started to write a metaphor about banishing the water, but fuck it. I asked my husband to move out. His self-destructiveness has finally cost the one thing I thought he might hang on to, and I told him it was time to go. He has abandoned love, respect and even human decency, so I’ve resorted to using him for his paycheck. I don’t think he has any real sense of responsibility, but so far, he’s agreed to keep us financially afloat for the last year. I don’t know how long that will last.

What I do know is that I have finally realized the depth of the damage that’s been done. Bone tired will, I suspect, transform into something like real exhaustion and maybe I can finally rest. Quiet, dry, and at peace. Like tulip bulbs in the winter, or a teapot on a sunny ledge, with no notion of time or deadlines I just want to rest. Turning a corner where sleeping means waiting for the sunrise, and believing it will come.

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Arc de Virago

I think… sometime in the last few weeks I came to a realization that I’m only just now recognizing.

I’ve been brought as low as I’m willing to go.

I may be here for a while yet. I may even wallow in my worst moments.

But I won’t sink any lower.

Eleanor Roosevelt said that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. It’s tricky to know how or why or exactly when I gave my consent. But I know that I revoke it now.

I revoke my consent to let one man’s selfishness and fear make me feel small and distant. I revoke my consent to let one man’s inability to love me make me feel undeserving.
I revoke my consent to let one man’s cowardice define my life.

I will climb out of this hole. And then I will fill it with cement, set up a monument to myself and light a signal fire to invite the people who actually love to celebrate. Fuck unworthiness. Fuck despair.  Fuck him. I will not be owned by another person’s weaknesses.

But first, wine. And a book. Because building blocks and stairs are called for here. And time, I suspect. But I’m already building my monument in my head.

Hope springs. Back and forth, like rabbits.

Am I really having more good days than bad? I told someone I was, but I don’t know if that’s quantitatively true. I haven’t actually kept track.

What is true is that I’m immensely grateful for the good days, so they stand out. The days when I don’t wake up in the throes of a panic attack. When I’m able to pay back a little of the kindness that has been bestowed on me. When I laugh unexpectedly. I don’t think those days actually come around very often, so they feel bigger when they do.

But neither am I having the black nothingness days as often. When despair drowns me, and my mind goes to dark, dark places. Places I can’t admit to my therapist, let alone my friends.

I think the truth is I’m reaching a middle ground. A place where good days and bad days may be mostly balanced, but the remainder is unknown – a new normal. I don’t know how to qualify that yet. What do you call the days that are bereft of love, but maybe not hope?

I try to stay focused on gratitude. The tribe that keeps me sane, and supported. The job that will let me gain my independence. The vast network of small kindnesses that are like tiny threads with miniature life-rafts attached. Some days that’s enough. Some days – not so much. I try to remember that my life is not over just because I’m 40 and cut off from the future I had planned. It feels that way sometimes. I feel like giving up – the weariness is overwhelming. Am I so unloveable? I ask. In my mind, I know that’s defeatest bullshit, but my heart hurts. It’s a battle.

The weather has turned toward spring. New growth and pollen – making things equally beautiful and miserable and I have to laugh. I was at my darkest during winter – it’s like mother nature and I are striving for the sun at the same time. The earth goes on – I must, as well.

There’s so much pain to reconcile. So much disappointment in myself. There is a reckoning approaching, but I’m still not ready for it. I’m still cowering under the lean-to that has set up over my psyche. But I’m looking outward. The sun is shining. I may venture out today, or not. It’s the unknown that gets you.

Today is.

Today my grief is a 200 lb python, wound lovingly around my torso, slowly and surely squeezing the breath out of me.

Today my grief is the crumbling walls of a white room, and the vast blank darkness beyond.

Today my grief is a stopped heart, and the tripping beats it makes to catch up.

Today my grief is aching arms, and tears that won’t fall, and eyes that can’t open without seeing betrayal.

People will soon stop asking me how I’m doing. My grief is nearing that expiration date on compassion, when concern slowly morphs into impatience, then disgust. But my grief still exists. It still greets me upon waking, it still waits for me in the quiet places and dark spaces. My grief doesn’t care how disgusted I am with it.

My grief doesn’t put on the same suit every day, or even every hour. It wears python skin, white paint, anxiety, crying. It shows up dressed in a sunny day and desperation. It lays atop the surface tension of a glass of wine, chased down my throat by the sharp tartness of escape. It comes costumed or bare, disguised or honest, but it comes, regardless.

Today is grief. Every damn day is grief.

A Not-so-funny Feeling

This roiling gut, these sleepless eyes. The tears just there, in the back of my throat that refuse to surface. Weightless, nerveless fingers.

Why is this my new normal? Why do I have to live with a tangled mess of nerve endings that don’t know up from down?

I read somewhere that the stomach has enough neurotransmitters to function as a brain if it wasn’t so busy processing food. I don’t eat anymore, which explains a lot of the problem.

I’m not tired. I wish I was tired. I wish I felt like if I could just get enough sleep, I’d rise like a fairy tale princess to a castle full of happy people. Instead, I’m stuck in the nightmare, shaking.

Small Things, part II

A glance. It’s a small thing in real time. A moment – or a second. A split second sometimes.

We almost don’t notice it until after it’s done.

Why, then, does it have to be like an iceberg on the surface of our emotions? Just a small look, a small second – but beneath the look is everything.

When you love someone enough, a glance is all it takes to set the world right side up. To make your heart expand, to put wings on your soul. A glance, and they are the most beautiful creature you’ve ever set eyes on.

When that love is gone – what becomes of the glance? Of the wings? Of the soul?

I don’t know if I’m more afraid that no one will ever look at me like that again…

…or that I won’t look at anyone else that way again.

Such a small thing to lose. You almost don’t notice it until after it’s gone.

Dear 21 year old Me

This advice is useless to you, I know that. For starters, time travel to the physical past is still solidly in the realm of science fiction. But more importantly, I know you well enough to recognize that you wouldn’t take advice if it came wrapped in money and smelling like chocolate. I like that about you, maddening as it was. That’s not an indictment, by the way. You’re 23 weeks pregnant, cranky, broke, and beyond done with people trying to dole out “advice” about your situation.

Okay, so let’s begin again. Let’s not call this advice. Let’s call it a directive; a call to action that will take 20 more years to fulfill. And that’s okay, because the lessons you’re engaged in now will play a critical role in the action that comes later.

You are alone. Besides the squirmy little hitchhiker in your uterus, you live alone, you cry alone, and you worry alone. You celebrate alone. For the most part, you find this comfortable. At least, way more comfortable than the alternative, which is to submit to all that unsolicited “advice”, listen to other people worry, and – worst case scenario – awkwardly celebrate triumphs that feel intensely private.

Life is so fucking uncertain for you right now. But in addition to being alone, you are also introspective, stubborn, and determined. You are, to use an overworked and underwhelming phrase, finding your own way. That’s important. Discovering what works for you through trial and error will give you a rock-solid confidence that many people will label “strong”.

For a while it will seem like they’re calling being alone strong, and maybe some are. But what they’re really saying – and you’re just going to have to trust me on this, because it isn’t readily apparent – is that learning to trust yourself is strong. Failing spectacularly and trying again is strong. You could probably do without horse-whipping yourself into a semblance of discipline, but maybe that’s an essential part of your process. To this day, I don’t really know. The message is clear, though – you are the only researcher in your laboratory of life and you’ll find your own answers even if it blows up in your face. (It will.)

You are a badass, but for reasons you don’t fully appreciate yet.

You don’t want to hear that, I know. Just keep taking your vitamins, and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for how many hours you’re sleeping every day.

I’m here to thank you, actually. That freaks you out. You don’t like people giving you credit when you don’t ask for it, it makes you feel like a fraud. That particular attitude never goes away, FYI. But your understanding of what you earned will expand considerably. Confidence will become a way of life instead of an act of defiance.

But back to the thank you. You are teaching me – right now, in your tiny apartment, all alone, lashing out at everything that looks at you sideways – that safety is an illusion.

Something will change in about 10 years or so – I don’t want to give anything away, but you’ll try an experiment that you never thought you’d try. It’s a bold, intriguing move that requires a methodology you’ve never used before. I don’t want to tell you how the experiment ends, because I’m not even sure yet, but I can tell you that about 10 more years after that, you will reach a theory that will be revolutionary in its simplicity. Certainly it will be groundbreaking in your personal quest for knowledge.

You will come to the realization that simple kindnesses translate to life-rafts. You fill find your tribe.

I know. Let me give you a minute while you recover from the eyestrain of rolling your irises to the back of your head. Try not to gag – okay, now you’re just being insulting. I’ll wait.

Recovered? Great. I’ll continue, then.

The lessons you are processing right now will lead me to take risks I never thought possible, and – sadly – how to recover when I crash and burn so spectacularly it should be directed by Michael Bay. (That joke will be a lot funnier in 20 years, trust me.)

Listen to me. I know what you dream of. You get it.

You get it. 

And then you lose it. And it’s not your fault.

I know how guilty you feel. Like you are 100% in charge of your life and you’ve fucked it up beyond repair. That’s not true. You are 100% in charge of your choices, but as a good friend will point out a long time from now, you can only make those choices based on the information you have. And darling, you don’t have all the information. People will lie to you. They will betray you. As badly as you have already been betrayed. Worse, actually. The pain and anguish that you feel right now for not having seen that helps me. It really does. Because when it happens again in twenty years, instead of hating yourself, you will love yourself. You will hold yourself gently with the arms of people you trust, you will call out for help, and you will get it. You will absolutely love yourself through it.

I wish you could feel this now. I wish I could give you the gift of feeling that resiliency deep down, trusting it, relying on it. But that’s not how this works. Instead, you give the gift to me. You are a fighter, but that’s not all you are. You are also a thinker, a resolver, and you learn things by doing. Do all the things, love.  Think about them, resolve to understand them, fight when you have to and meet me here in 20 years. I will be waiting for you with so much gratitude. You saved me then and you’re saving me now.

Thank you.