Don’t ever make a public statement about not sinking lower. Because life is listening, and will not waste the opportunity to show you that there is, indeed, a subbasement to your particular house of horrors.
When you walk around sad all the time, you forget that sadness can still sneak up and knock you over the head with a 50 pound bag of concrete.
Like today, standing in the middle of grocery store, feeling my breath come short and light because suddenly it occurs to me that I don’t know what to buy anymore.
How can I even explain that? I’m standing there in the chips aisle and I don’t have to buy the same bag of tortilla chips I’ve been buying for 11 years. I just stood there, staring stupidly at an entire aisle of snacks and my head starts spinning. If I don’t buy the chips, what am I doing here?
I can’t help but feel that’s some sort of metaphor for my life right now.
Or how about the sadness that creeps in when I’m sitting alone in my house in the evening, wondering why the quiet feels so oppressive when that’s all I’ve wanted for so long?
Divorce is so weird. One emotion tied to it’s polar opposite so inextricably, so violently that relief tumbles after anger followed by guilt and chased by grief and finally, at the very end, is the faintest echo of a love that used to consume me. And then it starts all over again.
Strange moments of tumult, buffeting me as I make my way from one day to the next. There’s no collar to flip up against the storm inside of me. Just a compass, and a whole lot of stubbornness.
I can’t go back and re-feel what’s come before. It’s just not a habit I’m acquainted with. I can’t feel the shock and numbness, damn it, or the fresh loneliness, or the bitter betrayal. What’s settled in, though, is the flinching wariness, the suspicion, and the constant, entrenched anger. Occasionally, the sadness creeps through. Desperate, engulfing sadness that my husband is gone. Irretrievably, unconditionally gone.
I need to tell you something, oh vast and empty Internet. I need to tell you how I loved him. From the time I was four years old, I only wanted him. I cherished every second with his family. Summers spent at baseball games and in the pool. Kindnesses shown me in the simplest of actions – like showing me his record collection when the “grown-ups” got to talking about boring stuff. Getting my triple-A baseball program signed by players he knew by first name. Passing by his neighborhood, knowing he wasn’t there and looking for him all the same. The time we made out as teenagers on a New Year’s Eve. Or the long, heartfelt conversations over miles and hours apart. The way his marvelously huge hands would cover my naked body and the taste of him after midnight. The way I could lean into his side on the couch and count on his arm coming around me. The way he loved my daughter.
All that is gone. In its place are creeping in all the times I overlooked a mis-remembered anecdote, or a story that wasn’t quite right. A lie that I chose to move past without really resolving. A nagging doubt that I couldn’t quite face. Omissions, excuses, niggling little bad habits… they were there all along, and they’re creeping forward like pestilence, poised to overtake my immunity to fault.
I hoped, Internet. I hoped, because I wanted to believe that hope was worthwhile. I wanted to believe that trust was valid. I believe my exact words were, “You have to decide to trust someone, before they can earn it.” If they ever invent a time machine, I’m going back to slap myself, hard, right in the face. It would hurt less than this.
I loved someone for my whole life who never deserved it. Who definitely never loved me back in the same way. I don’t know how to live with that. I don’t know what to do with the betrayal that I perpetrated on myself. On my daughter. The reckoning is approaching, and I am woefully unprepared to face it. I wasted over 30 years of passionate, devoted love on someone who threw it away. How does anyone make peace with that?
I keep thinking that he can’t hurt me anymore, and I’m probably right. But the wounds I’m finding now were inflicted by me, by my own heart. I did this to myself because I wanted.
The love of my life is gone. But the want remains. And I have to just live with it.
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.
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.
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 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.