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We are drunk on horrible things

newtown_victims_700Someone told me we’d forgotten Newtown. I don’t think we have. Someone told me we will never learn. I don’t know if that’s true, but I worry. Someone told me that the “other side” just doesn’t care. I know that’s not true. We are all still carrying the pain of that loss, of all the losses. We just don’t know what we’re doing. We’re drunk on it, the whole nightmarish thing, and we’re stumbling around lost, striking out at anyone who chooses a different way to believe this craziness can be solved.

I’ve been saying “When we’re living in fear, the terrorists win.” I say it a lot. Fear is controlling so many people, and there’s so much anger too. In fact, we can find all the stages of grief, alive and well in how people talk about the Sandy Hook shootings, and all the shootings since then. There’s even conspiracy theorists, literally stalking some of these parents, bent on proving it all to be a hoax. Denial taken to a sick extreme.

We haven’t forgotten. We’ve drunk it in, absorbed it into our beings. We’ve become tired, angry, and less willing to pause and breathe before we react. We are weary, we are sad, we are so very pissed off. And we are helpless, in spite of the arsenals and the concealed carries, in spite of the research on mental health, in spite of the walls and divisions we fight over. In the end we can’t change what happened, we can’t go back to that time we remember when our children were safe. We are lost.

The heartache of that day is mixed up inside of me with the certain knowledge I had then that I was losing my second child to the hatred and fear of parental alienation. I was coming to terms very slowly with the fact that someone I loved with all my heart, and who loved me just as much, had learned to hate me, had become so involved in that hatred, that nothing I did had the power to change her mind. I was already in the dark of depression when the news came about the shootings, and my lack of hope was already life-threatening.

Maybe the shock of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary saved my life. Maybe that’s why three years ago this week I finally told my doctor the truth about how bad it was, what had been happening, how I’d decided the best way to die so that my family would be sure to get my insurance money. I wanted to disappear, to let everyone off the hook. I wanted my children to stop feeling like they had to hate me in order for their world to make sense. I felt they’d be better off in mourning than moving into a life of lies and paranoia. Sometimes I still wonder if that would have helped them more than the choice I made. But I chose to ask for help. Then I chose antidepressants and therapy, and I’m utterly grateful I had that choice.

A few weeks later, I did lose my daughter, and she hasn’t been back in my house or my life since. More to grieve. And the shootings have kept coming and coming. We are a broken nation with no doctor. We are at war with ourselves and everyone else. The unimaginable has become, almost literally, a daily experience in this country. And instead of recognizing the pain and fear that overtakes us all, instead of helping one another grieve and recover, so many of us have grown ugly and isolated.

We are full of inner conflict, loaded with misunderstandings, and a bravado around those misunderstandings that has people not even wanting to try to see things a different way. We call each other libtards and morons and worse. And a lot of us seem to be enjoying the vitriol, which is the really scary part. We’re all a little sicker than we used to be, and I think that’s part of the Newtown legacy. We think we’ve forgotten, but really, these things have become a part of us, malignant and growing. Newtown and all the other towns – I don’t think we’ve forgotten, I think we have drunk it all in and become some new Mr. Hyde version of ourselves.

In the last three years, I have climbed mountains in my own soul, and come out stronger and better in almost every way. I have faced demons, myself, and learned how to keep doing so every day while loving this amazing life I have now. My wounds are healing, but just like this country, I have scars. I’m a different person, just as we’re a different nation. To pretend we can go back in time and create a better past is the worst kind of torture we can inflict on ourselves. It makes us take sides, look for someone to blame, to hate. But it isn’t that simple. We have to find a way to try to heal ourselves instead of tearing our country apart.

What I have found in the last three years of emotional heavy lifting is my center, my balance, my ability to pause, think, and react with generosity as often as I can. Do I screw up? Only all the damn time. Sometimes I can be mean too. Apologizing is my new friend. But it’s the trying that matters, the fixing what we can fix, and letting go of what we can’t. I still have trouble with the letting go. I can’t fix politics or hatred or gun violence or race relations. All I can do is speak up and ask people to reconsider what they’re doing and saying, maybe pry open their minds just a centimeter before spouting off. I see the closed-mindedness on all sides, the belittling of the “other,” the cutting down of people who are really just grieving in a different way, but still afraid, just like the rest of us. We all long for safety and belonging. We are all drunk on horrible things.

I can’t fix this. I want to so badly. All I can do is tell you that this world needs kindness more than ever. You can’t fix this either. I’m guessing you want to also. We can’t heal until we realize we’re hurting, and give ourselves room to become something better. So maybe, can you ask yourself a few questions for me? Or at least think about it…

Are you helping people, or calling your friends names for not agreeing with you? Can you do better? Do you really need to pass on that “clever” meme that insults those who think differently? Is there another way to make your point? Are you willing to honor the victims of Newtown, and all the other towns by not giving in to your basest fears without thought? If you truly believe that you can’t convince anyone of your side of things, is there anything else you can learn for yourself? Those “morons” might know something you don’t. At the very least, can you allow that everyone here on this crazy planet is seriously just trying to do their best? The gun-nuts and the libtards, all doing their best! You may think some were dropped on their heads as babies, but does that then mean it’s okay to belittle them? Oh, please, for my sake, and for yours, don’t say yes.

Today I’m still grieving for all that was lost in Newtown and in ourselves. We will always hurt, and we simply can’t forget. But we really can get better than this.

 

Leave a Note

MailboxEven though I live just a few hours away, I don’t get to the beach enough. I resolve every so often to change that, and keep failing to make it happen. So sometimes it takes a friend to get you where you want to be, and I was lucky enough to be invited by a lovely person to spend “Flotilla Weekend” at Wrightsville Beach. I went for just 24 hours, due to schedules, but it was a wonderful blend of old and new friends and surprisingly perfect weather.

The thing that really topped it all off was the mailboxes. My friend Bill is generous beyond what most of us can imagine, and opened his rental home to a large group of friends for Thanksgiving and the weekend after. While we were there, he told us about “the mailbox.” It’s north, he said, just keep walking on the beach until you find it. You see, there’s this mailbox, right on the beach, and people leave notes and the stories of their lives there. The mailbox has been there for a long time, and was once lost to storms and relocated slightly for safety. The museum in town is now home to many of the filled-up notebooks, because people keep coming, and they keep writing.

They write in the notebooks or on loose paper about their loves, their losses, their hopes, and their pain. Bill told us, when he caught up with us at the mailbox, that he’s read several suicide notes there before. There’s no way to tell what happened to the authors. We have to fill in the blanks for ourselves. Some notes are signed, some just left behind. Some are funny – one couple had each made lists of the annoying things the other did (“You talk too much.” “You’re always eating tacos.”) and ended each with an “I love you.” People leave their stories in the mailbox facing the water, no return address. They likely say things they haven’t said before and don’t want to say anyplace else.

I was so grateful that my traveling companions were more than willing to go on the way out of town. We found the mailbox, and they began to dive in to reading the notebooks while I waited a minute just inhaling the salt air. I am recharged by the beach, and sometimes just taken with the beauty of it all, and I tend to just stop like that sometimes when I’m there. A lovely older woman stopped to talk to me about my Maurice Sendak shirt. It’s from In the Night Kitchen, and every single time I wear it, I meet somebody interesting.

Me in my Sendak shirt, my friend Bill, and the mailbox.

This woman told me that Maurice felt like an old friend because he’d helped her teach her daughter to read, and I said, yes, me too, my kids too. She told me her story, how her daughter in the 8th grade had vowed to go to college right there by the beach, and how it had come to pass, how she’d visited the area first in 1980 and decided she wanted to retire there. How she’d wisely invested then, thinking it would all be ready for her later that way. How her mother had moved in when she was still living in Raleigh “just for a couple of years” and had stayed for 27, delaying the beach by a lot. She’s been living at the beach for five years now, and she looks wonderful, at peace.

“There’s another,” she told me, another mailbox, just a little bit farther north up the beach. She wasn’t sure which came first. When she turned back around to tell me one more thing, she laughed and said “Can you tell this is my people time?” I laughed in delight and recognition. I was having my people time too, and enjoying it while I was there, even though I was already longing to get lost again inside my own thoughts.

I read the notebooks then, and wrote one sentence, and Bill showed up, and we all read together mostly quietly. It was almost anticlimactic for me, I’d just had a great story from a nice lady, and I was already feeling filled up. It was time to go and find the other mailbox, one that Bill wasn’t sure existed, but I was. I was absolutely sure it would be there.

Mailbox1 Mailbox2

And so it was.

Even after Google searches, I can’t really tell which came first, just that there have been iterations of mailboxes. There’s another, as well, somewhere on Bird Island to the south, called “Kindred Spirit.” At any rate, to me, this one was the “second” mailbox, and I loved it totally just for being there.

Sadly, it was mostly empty though, with just a simple card inside. It was a funeral card with pictures and a short wrap-up of a life well-lived. There were other notes scribbled on the card; it was the only paper in there. This mailbox needed paper. I remembered then that I’d told my friends on the drive to the beach that I carried a small notebook that I’d been sent as a gift after donating to NaNoWriMo, but I never wrote in it. I send myself emails instead, odd cryptic things often sent in the middle of the night, to remind me what to write about next, what matters. I’d been carrying this notebook unused for months. And so, of course, of course, I knew the notebook belonged here in this mailbox, facing the waves and collecting stories.

Mailbox3Sometimes I get caught up in telling my own story. I’d written almost 55,000 words in November, all my own story. I still have more to write, and someday it will be a book and that will be a great day. But in the frenzy of all this writing, I realized I’d been closed off from the stories of others. I had joked with my travelling companions, truthfully, that my counselor ordered me to socialize during that wild month of writing madly. She said I needed a “tether” to keep me from floating off into my own bubble. She was kinder than that in her phrasing of course, but that was the point – I need people, connection, to remind me that I’m on earth, to keep me grounded, at least a little bit.

So when I left that notebook, feeling very touched by serendipity, I felt more connected to everyone than I have in a good while. We are human beings, and we are made of stories. Sharing them is such a huge part of what makes us whole. So please, like the mailbox says, leave a note, and don’t worry if anybody reads it, because you are here, now, and you have a story to tell.


Thank you to the friends who keep me attached, albeit a bit loosely, to this crazy spinning marble. I am truly grateful to share so many stories with you.

NaNoWriMo, Incoming!

NaNoWriMo badgeHere’s the thing about the truth. We think we know, but we don’t really have a clue what it is. We can only do our best, groping in the dark with what little light our perceptions can cast, naming the shadows we make and claiming them as our story. In the beginnings of great loss, the shadows are strong and terrifying, and of course we cast ourselves as the hero of the piece. It’s us against the villains. But if you sit there long enough in what you thought was your story, looking around, letting your eyes adjust, you start to see things you didn’t notice before. The shadows adjust themselves to accommodate your clearer vision. If you’re curious, you start to see places where you made assumptions, or maybe took some shortcuts. You start to see the grey areas. Eventually, you see your own shadow, and you have to face the truth you see, the one that’s closer to the real truth, hopefully. And maybe you even learn to understand the villains too.

I’m learning to hold myself accountable for my shadow, while not blaming myself for having one. We all have shadows after all. So, I have to say to myself, after all this time, after all the blaming and the shame and the honest vows of innocence: “Hey self! Welcome to the human race. You messed up. You fell on your face, but you’re okay. Let’s get you cleaned up.” What, were you expecting a bunch of self-loathing? I went there for a while I suppose. But really, what would I tell someone else who was suffering? Don’t I deserve the same acceptance and forgiveness I’d give to you? Of course I do! Of course I do. We all do.

And now, I think I’m ready to tell the story that is my truth. Because my heart is open, my mind is open, and I’ve forgiven myself and others for the pain we’ve caused, the damage done. It doesn’t mean things are better, they aren’t, in a situational sense. But I am. And I’m ready now, in time for NaNoWriMo, that glorious, torturous month of writing 50,000 words. I’m ready to write about my life as an alienated parent, keeping the goal of helping other people in my heart, and with the idea of casting light on our shadows. And hopefully mixing some joy with sorrow, some hope with loss. I’m starting a book, called (for now) “Mom, redacted.” It’s non-fiction, memoir I suppose it’s called. I know, I know, it’s not a novel, but they’ve changed the rules at NaNoWriMo to accept rebels, and even if they hadn’t, I’d move into this project because it’s time.

As usual with this crazy month, I won’t see much of my friends, but I am already building in a little time, because of that whole needing other people thing. I expect to cry a lot, but in a good way mostly. I expect to make up as many excuses as I need to for avoiding phone calls and requests. I expect not to update this blog much (hell it’s been a month anyway!), but you never know. Please know that I’d really love your support. But if you want to tell me I shouldn’t, or it’s a terrible idea, or any other nay-saying stuff, just shh. I’m doing it. I just am. Happy almost-November.

Romancing the besties

Wine at sunsetToday I need to talk about friendship. I don’t want to, though. Not at all. Because having friends, real friends who know your demons and love you anyway, and trust you to love them anyway, that terrifies me more than *not* having friends ever could. I used to think I was a good friend. I was always there for whoever needed me, listening, giving up my time and energy, and sometimes cookies. But it’s not so simple. And I think, looking back, that I was as much interested in being perceived as wonderful as I was in actually being that way, maybe more. Well these days  I’m over giving a crap about that sort of thing, mostly, but I’m having trouble figuring it out from here.

I took a little time-out last week to shut out all the white noise of life and Facebook feeds. And I liked it. In fact I’m still mostly doing it. Then my counselor said yesterday that that was good and all, but I also need to be sure I keep the connections, the friends, that matter. I need a tether to the world, she said, and she was right, and terrifying at the same time. My god, I thought, she can actually tell that I’m so content in my own little bubble of weird that I really will just fly into orbit at any second and never even consider coming back down to earth. She also asked me to tell her about the friends I have who get me. And I couldn’t stop those little leaky tears, or the erupting lump in my throat, through which I forced my answer. Nobody gets me¹. I don’t know how to let them do that. How to give them that…

Part of the problem is that most of my “now” friends are people I met during the wild phase of my divorce. You know, the dance like you just turned 21, drink like you haven’t turned 21 yet so you better make the most of it before you get caught sort of thing. They know a side of me that hadn’t existed until we invented it together. And really for my own health, I’ve mostly let that side fade into memory through benign neglect for years now. To be fair, I was a lot of fun back then, and now I’m not so much. I feel like I’ve broken the promise of who I was to those friends, and like there’s not much else there to offer, and really it’s not like we remember most of the stories we told each other over shots and beers. Most of them have changed too, because we’re all growing up in one way or another. It’s not surprising things have gotten a little awkward, I mean, a lot of us are friends because we just happened to fall apart at the same time. Left with just Facebook updates to go on, I struggle, and I imagine so do they, with what we still have in common.

But also, that’s kind of a bullshit excuse, because I just detach sometimes. It’s one of my more asshat-ish qualities. In the past, I’ve let some amazing friendships die because of where my head was, mostly because of depression. I was so busy falling, I didn’t notice I was hurting other people by letting them go. Some I lost during the divorce, because that is well and truly what happens during divorce. Sometimes I just felt… too much. And needed to think before I said anything. For like twenty years or so. Sometimes I just moved away and gave up.

The best friends I’ve had in life have always been misfits and thinkers, and there are some I miss terribly even after decades. And at one time or another, I let all of these friends down. I let that connection fizzle, or die, or fade into Christmas card status, but then I never send those anyway, I just fill them out and wait until it’s too late to mail them (am I the only one?). Most times when I dropped friends, it was at a time when I could most have used a friend. Something in me just stopped. It wasn’t lack of affection, I love these people to this day. It was something I’m missing, and I don’t know how to get it. I’m missing that piece where maybe I allow myself to be selfish and needy and weak and ugly and unworthy but still able to trust someone to love me. And I don’t. I don’t trust anyone to do that, and I don’t know yet how to make that happen.

Trust. I suppose I have trust issues because I’ve also been a magnet for broken people who wanted me to save them so they didn’t have to do it themselves, and I threw myself into these “relationships” with the fervor I’ve always had for saving puppies and lost souls. I was so busy trying to control everything for them that I didn’t notice I was drowning, and so were they, and even then I still cared more about “saving” them than myself. I guess I thought being utterly selfless was next to godliness. Honestly though, it’s shit. You can’t live that way, it’s bad for the other people, and it will make you crazy if you weren’t already there, and here we have that whole egg/chicken thing, so it’s best to just let that one sit there leaking on the counter. (The egg. The egg came first. And yeah, you have to be a little broken yourself to be that attractive to broken people, you just do.)

Ahem… Anyway. I do have “writing” friends, whom I adore but never see in real life because they’re mostly bunches of floating pixels of fairy light for whom I have to make up voices because, hello Internet. And some local writers who seem amazing but are busy and productive and slightly terrifying to me because I could actually meet up with them in person at some point, and even though I’m a “social introvert” I avoid writing meetups that I really want to attend because I’m scared of being seen. I am the queen of saying Maybe when I mean No but wish I meant Yes. But I want to want to go. I really do. Except I don’t…

Making friends at any age is scary. Making friends in your (very) (no, seriously, VERY) late forties feels even sillier than dating (not that *you’re* silly for dating, this is a me thing, I swear), because somehow you think your life story really should all just be on a resume somewhere so people can screen one another without too much wasted time. This would also help you walk away from the ones that just won’t work without hurt feelings. (Yes, I’ve made friends with people I didn’t like much to avoid hurting their feelings, don’t judge me – I said I’m not good at this for Pete’s sake, what were you expecting?) Anyway at this age, you also think you should already have all the friends you need. I mean, you may say out loud to yourself “Hey self, what sort of person gets to this age and doesn’t have proper best friends? Loser.” Yeah, I’m kind of an ass to myself, obviously. But I do feel a bit old to be telling stories about how I picked my favorite color and otherwise romancing potential besties.

And so here I am, wondering how do I begin, and where, to make a friend or two? And my brain jumps in with: Why, in the laboratory, of course! We shall harvest bits of the finest mostly-dead artists and weird people and create cool and awesome Franken-friends with whom to frolic! We shall share wine and various craft projects while telling tales of derring-do and plotting to take over the world! Muahahahaha.

And that sort of thing may be why I don’t have any friends that get me¹.

 


¹ Okay, to be perfectly honest, there are a couple of brave souls who are in danger of getting me and are trying much harder to be my friends than I probably deserve, and I love them and they terrify me, so much that I won’t say their names because what if they don’t know how important they are? Good lord, I don’t even really get myself, now that I think about it.

Confessions from my resting bitch face

So earlier this week, someone I’d just met started telling me about a fat, ugly, horrible, boring, yet rich man who spends a lot of his time on one of the popular dating sites. It seems he has told this woman repeatedly about these other women who were simply unacceptable, as they weighed 160 pounds, far too heavy to consider having on his arm. Now, I’m not surprised by that of course, I’ve encountered these types far too much just by existing in this town, or any other town. Men who are desperate for a lifelong female companion but not desperate enough to consider being seen with someone not possessing an impressive thigh gap. This gets sadder as we age, because, well, either you know, or you’ll find out. Either way, it’s amazing to me what some men will say to women about other women and their bodies. And it’s almost never the guys that actually look that great either… Just, you know, saying.

So no, that topic in itself wasn’t much worse than any other day. What got to me, what is still getting to me really, is the woman’s reaction. She was outraged. Yay, I thought. Nooo, I learned. Her outrage was over his classification scheme, not that he had one. She was desperate to show me pictures of one of these maligned women, whom she actually knew, to prove to me that they were, in fact, beautiful, and not at all the fat pigs this man was saying they were. Look at her, she’s LOVELY! That guy is such an ass. How could he say such things about her, I mean look at her!

Well, damn. See, what’s going on there is she pretty much agreed with him that women are to be sorted into groups labeled Fat and Acceptable, and of course Perfect/Photoshopped. Where she disagreed with him, apparently, was just in where to draw the line. And she was telling all this to me, the decidedly unskinny, awkwardly tall woman who clearly can’t even be bothered enough by what men think to put on the pinchy shoes and drop that extra 25 (okay maybe 35 by her standards). And as her outrage grew, I found myself wanting to start a fight. No, listen, I wanted to seriously just go off. Visions of delightful rants were exploding in my head like fireworks. But the margarita I had wisely purchased and finished while waiting for these fashionably-late-but-always-worth-it-in-their-own-minds folks was doing nice things to my head space, and I was imagining my happy place, which is basically anyplace people aren’t and dogs are… So I just sat and took it. I nodded like an idiot.

The group of women she was with were the kind of women I tend to prejudge based on just how much effort they put into looking like magazine covers (a lot, a lot of effort). I may be emotionally high-maintenance, but I have no patience for this stuff. I hate shopping, I hate hair-braiding parties, I hate squealing over shoes, and while I respect the rights of those who care to submit themselves to fat-freezing and boob jobs, I retain my own right to judge. I know, I am a hypocrite. You can bitch about me on your own blog, I’d love it, actually. In the meantime, I’m just going to keep going…

So the conversation was basically all about “boys” just like I remember eavesdropping on in high school, with my eyes rolling full-circle in my head. I haven’t changed much I suppose, in spite of all the changing. I have learned to stop the eye-rolling, sometimes, but if you know me, you’ll always see it. I’ve just never understood this type of person, and that may be because my first reaction is loathing, and a distinct unwillingness to even try to understand them. It’s like looking at a sibling and thinking how in the HELL did we come from the same people? Who told these girls that boys were that important in the first place? I mean, I love men, but seriously, talking about them in a group is kind of like talking about which shade of white to paint the kitchen, and I hate white kitchens.

Later that night, I ended up next to one of this group at a concert, and was honestly overwhelmingly distracted by her constant hair flipping (yes, it hit me EVERY SINGLE TIME, and her non-stop texting. With a BOY. Yes, I did read over her shoulder, all night, because she deserved it, and I’m not sorry, because I am so going to use all that crap I read in a book someplace, and if I couldn’t enjoy the music in the dark the way concerts were intended to be enjoyed, then I might as well just go with it. I hope the date they took almost 2 hours to set up works out well for her. No, I mean that. We do have to have one another’s backs, we women, right?

Carl Jung is often quoted as saying: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” I don’t get it. No seriously. I think the point is supposed to be we see ourselves in those things, but dude… I don’t secretly wish I was like those women, I don’t secretly wish to belong to their club, I don’t secretly wish to give so little damn about other people that I can just stick my stupid smart phone in their face and convince myself that they wish they were like me and are graced to be in my presence. Help me Carl, I don’t know how this is supposed to help me understand myself.

This irritation does, though, help me to see that I actually like myself as a person. I like the way I notice other people. I like the way I think for myself. I don’t think I can go so far as to say I like my current weight, but if the price I have to pay for beauty is that high, I can at least live in peace with myself as I am. I may sometimes feel like I don’t have a tribe of my own, but I do have some amazing friends, and I honestly adore my own company. I can be left alone for days and have wonderful conversations, and never flip my hair a single time in my own face. I mean, it’s really short…

If your cup is full

Ripple in still water, when there is no pebble tossed, nor wind to blow.

Long ago, I went to Dead shows with the man who became my first husband, and danced. Always, I hoped to hear this song. It makes me happy, in that connected to music kind of way. I’m not sure if it’s a deep song, or the total opposite. It’s just Jerry, you know? I miss that dude as if we were really friends. I guess that’s what music does, and writing, and art. We want to make it all complicated, but what it comes down to is connection. It’s a hug across time and space, an extension of a hand for a friendly shake, or a smack on the back of the head. It’s a reminder that as alone as I sometimes pretend to be, I’m not. There are others.

I forget. I fall into the deep holes and think I’m the only one who ever had to climb my way back out. I sometimes want to paint the story of me on my face, so people can see, and know what I’ve been through. But there’s not enough paint, and that’s okay, because it’s not like I’d be the only one with face paint, we’d all be covered, and maybe that’s what tattoos are for. Maybe that’s the point, telling our stories on our bodies, in our music, words, anything, everything. Life is stories, and mine aren’t more special than yours. They also aren’t less special. That’s what art is, stories that remind us we’re connected.

I’ve wondered since I was just small why it is that most people can’t see that we’re all the same inside. Ask a shark who’s bitten us, we’re the same inside! This crazy existence connects us, and we’re born knowing that, getting it on some basic level, and then we spend most of our lives convincing ourselves that we were mistaken. And the world, the human world, just gets more and more whacked out every day with all these people trying so hard to forget that we are all alike inside. It’s so off-kilter now I don’t know how it stays in orbit.

People tell me to lighten up sometimes, when I tell them something isn’t funny when it’s not. Like rape jokes, race jokes, hate jokes, mean jokes, and stuff that separates, stuff that makes someone else smaller. And I tried for a long time, because like Amy in Gone Girl, I wanted to be Cool Girl. It meant so much to me to be Cool Girl, I was willing to step into someone else’s outline and try not to push it out of shape. It took a long time to see that it was a chalk outline, and I was dying inside. So I want you to know I’m not cool, and I’m okay with that. Those jokes suck, they’re a way to tell yourself that you’re better than, above it all. And you’re just not. Even if you own a thousand hotels, you’re not. You’re just one of us, living on this crazy spinning marble that somehow keeps making trips around this wild, hot, fierce star without burning up. And ever since I was little, I’ve known on the most basic level that we are so lucky to be here. Even at my lowest, I’m grateful for the trips around the sun.

I’m grateful, also, for the connections. The musicians and writers and poets and painters and thinkers are part of all of us. I wish I could live long enough to hear it all, see it all, read it all, write it all, and to just watch things unfold. So two lines from Ripple for you:

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty,
If your cup is full may it be again.

(full lyrics)

I wish you full cups of life, say a toast to all your neighbors on this planet, and suck that stuff down.

The giant corkscrew of life

corkscrewSometimes you just get sick of all the little lies that it takes to be around other people, all the I’m doing fine stuff, all the it’s for the best stuff. Sometimes you just remember, in what seems like an out-of-the-blue moment, that you’re pissed off. Sure maybe you’ve worked on all the mindfulness and the breathing, and the waking up and being grateful to be alive stuff. But suddenly all that seems so far off…

I’ve been a marvel at that stuff, let me tell you. I threw myself into it, learned, grew, learned more. Sure I messed up, but I could feel the progress, and people could see it. Can still see it I suppose. So I guess I was thinking I was maybe heading to the finish line you know? I’ve been to that amazing place, the one I want to just stay in for the rest of my life. That place where I’m at peace with what’s been done, at peace with my child being a stranger who somehow believes I’m worth hating, or trying to hate anyway. The place where I know she doesn’t hate me, I know, I really know. The place where I can see her father’s point of view on life and know that this, all of this, is just a symptom of the terrible hurts he’s lived with for his entire life time.

It’s really a lovely place. Only somehow I slipped out of it. I did. Maybe more like fell actually. I’m really shaking mad deep down, like war paint mad. But It will fade, I’ll get through it again, I always do, and it always gets easier. I just didn’t expect to feel the same crappy way I have so many times just as strongly after doing all that damn work and forgiving, all that breathing. And right now I can’t breathe, and I want to scream, and rip and tear, and shake the world. So naturally, that came up in counseling, heh. And I was told of course it’s natural to go through this whole cycle over and over, it’s like a corkscrew, she said. But it was unclear if I’ll eventually be able to open the wine. It seems to me that’s the point of all the work though, right? One great thing – I’m lucky enough to be reunited with my son, after a few terrible years. We’re both still healing and figuring out who we are, but we have lots of love, so that’s a great start.

Still I keep twisting my way through this angry place and I know I don’t want to stay here. I’ve seen way too many people who never get out of it, and they are dying inside. I’ve tried to pull some of them along as I corkscrewed off into better ways of coping. And even now I don’t want to join my voice to their furious chorus. I don’t want to wring my hands and go all outraged victim either. Screw that. Well, corkscrew it anyway I hope. I know the victim, and she hates me. I’m just collateral damage compared to that. I’m not that angry anymore about all I’ve lost. I mean, bullshit, of course I am, but that’s just one of those dull aches I carry under my skin, you can tell it by the dead spots like the rest of my scars.

But I am dead furious at what’s been done to her. No child should ever have to explain to one parent where the other one got the money for the new TV, or keep notes of mistakes in a journal, or lie like a trapped animal. She was well and truly trapped. I hope she’s feeling freer now. That’s all I had left to offer I guess, letting her go without calling in lawyers and screaming about *my* rights. I do have them, those rights. I’m custodial parent in the last signed legal anything. And that’s worth exactly nothing unless I decide to actually put on the war paint (spoiler alert, that won’t happen, because why make more pain, really, when there’s been so much). Oh but the way she left, no words, no confrontation, just a lie about getting help, working together, all of us for her, and then poof. Somehow everyone just made it clear she wasn’t coming back, wasn’t getting help. Somehow I just knew. Still, I didn’t think it would be two and a half years and counting… I mean, I’d been warned, but I never really believed it would go that far. Even she told me it was war. I’m just thick. Add that to the journals.

Ah, some sadness is coming back in, that’s progress. Maybe I’ll wake up less pissed tomorrow and I can get back to the kind of healing I actually enjoy. This kind sucks. But, apparently, it’s necessary. Because I guess we’re all screwed, really. We find ourselves back in the dark hallways we swore we’d never revisit. We gain back the weight, or re-lose the temper, or get afraid of elevators, or revisit the rape all over again. Yeah, cliche though it is, we handle stuff when we’re ready. I’m apparently ready to throw myself at this a bit harder this time, and maybe make even more of a mess. I’m apparently ready to talk about it more, to write about it more. I really really hope this will help me make it to that wine someday.

Dear John,

wedding

7/2/10

There’s a line in this song I like, and I really do like the song, it’s gorgeous actually (Sooner Surrender by Matt Nathanson), but this one line, it just kept bugging me, just that niggling bit at first, then more. So I thought about it, because I’m into staring at stuff that makes me nervous. And it made me realize something really huge that I love about you. And that’s pretty cool considering I’m a little mad at you right now. (Only a little, and I’m sorry for being a little weird the last few days too.) So anyway the line is:

“You got someone new singing you your songs now.”

And I hear it and I think:

“Okay, I get that he’s a musician singing to a lost love, but still, wtf? Why isn’t she singing her *own* damn songs? I love a musician and he’d never say it like that.”

And it’s been slowly dawning on me that it’s because you never have sung me my songs. You always just gently stepped aside and let me sing if I felt like it. You’ve done a pretty amazing job of not being like most guys I’ve ever met (who needed to own me in some way). In fact it’s so revolutionary to me that I used to fight it. I was confused about the freedom I didn’t even understand that I had until you took it for granted. I was pretty mean. No, horrible. You weren’t peachy either. But damned if even through those fights (the ones I think I started just so I could yell out loud some of the crap we were going through), damned indeed if you didn’t treat me like my own person. And with so much more respect than I was showing you at those times.

I wish more people were like you. I mean, not in every single way, sorry love, but just giving each other space to be whoever the hell they’re trying to be. And you change and grow into something new a lot, and yes it makes things a little chaotic, but never boring, and I’m free to grow any way I need any time because you get it. And you have my back, and I hope you know just how very much I have yours. I just want you to know that I think you really are the best person I know. Thank you for five weird and amazing years of marriage, and for all the rest to come.

Love,
Liesl

 

It was what it was

serenity

It may not shock you to learn that I’ve spent the last many years feeling that I wasted most of my life. That’s a rough statement, really, but true. Also, I probably did waste a lot of it. I mean, I took my own sweet time in limbo. And so, after years of therapy and deep digging, countless hours of agonizing over pretty much everything anywhere, I have come up with two words to say about that.

“So what?”

So… it really sucks.

“So what?”

So… some people are cruel and their actions and lies have hurt me and mine. Life isn’t fair!

“So what?”

So… oh. Um… Well, I suppose I could learn from it and move on.

“Yeah! You got this!”

Sure I still tell the tales of loss and woe here and there, but it’s just a story now. An origin story. My origin. Not as exciting as “I was bitten by a radioactive spider” as stories go, but you gotta work with what you have.

Everybody suffers. The world can be cruel and harsh, and so many humans are not humane. And so what? We are here, now. Who we are now is made up of who we have been and what we’ve come through. Of course our origin stories help define us. But when it comes to what we can actually DO about anything, all there is now is now.

I’m skating on the edges of serenity these days. I can feel the truth of things flowing through my awareness. I can feel the power of letting go, setting myself free from the guilt and obligation, and even the pain of my past. It is done and gone, and my trying so hard to change it has kept me standing still for a while now. I can learn from that too. Nothing is wasted of my life, I am here, now, because I was there, then.

Wait, I hate that, oh, I still want to fight that in my heart, because I want to agonize and hate my past forever, and light furious fires over so many injustices.

But no. The simple things are true. I’m here now because I was there then. 

It was what it was.

And now my feet are facing forward, and I can move ahead. That, all of that, the past, was what it was. Now is time for what is, and for thinking about what will be, if I choose to make it so. Now I feel the power, because I am creating my own life. I may not be Spider-man, but I am mighty.

I am mighty, hear me… meditate?

So yeah, serenity and peace can be hard, especially with all the chaos around us right now. But if ever there was a time for us to be kind to ourselves and one another, this is it. It is what it is because we are making it so. We can choose to waste our time (is it really wasted?), or to see things differently, or to set healthy boundaries, or to shake things up in our own way. We are not as stuck as we might think we are. We can change every moment that follows this one.

The past was what it was, and I’m slowly and gracefully (or not) becoming who I want to be, with at least a touch of serenity.

Phenomenal cosmic… wait, what?

red_coatI’m noticing a lot of things lately about life as an invisible woman. It’s true that long ago and for a long time I was also invisible, but I was scared, and didn’t know enough to think about the upsides to this. I mean, I’ve spent a lifetime of comic book reader’s scorn for the “power” of invisibility. Power, I said? Bah, that’s lame. I used it to hide, nothing more. That was all I wanted from life, once.

But now I’m this sort of rounded sweet thing known as a Middle-Aged Woman, and it’s honestly as if I’ve fallen into this graceful spot where I get to watch everything. Nobody cares that I’m there, because I’m decidedly not a threat, not important to the story, irrelevant in fact. I don’t mean I feel irrelevant, I mean that’s the perception. It doesn’t hurt my feelings really, but it’s taking a bit of adjustment to realize what life has changed me into this time.

I’m the kindly aunt, or the sad cow, or the spinster, or the woman in the large hat who is over-focused on her flowers. Good, I say, the better to watch you all. Bad, though, I say, because I could help you so much, but you don’t even know I’m here.

Women have a habit of changing form in society as we age. I should be used to it by now I suppose. But I did spend a bit too much of life in an ivory tower, so perhaps I’m even more naive than when I began.

We begin as princesses, adorable of course, and so sweet. Never mind that I went through my childhood with messy hair and muddy elbows. People saw what they expected to see, and so I suppose I was as much princess as any other girl. That idea still makes me gag though. :P

Sometime far before we’re ready, we find we’ve magically become sex symbols, equally wanted and reviled, competing for what we’re told is the prize of a lifetime. Some of us just want to stay princesses (or keep our messy hair and muddy elbows), but this isn’t how the world works. We rarely even stop to wonder how it happened, it’s all just moving so fast and violently really.

Next stop: wife, which can still be sexy, but usually moves to mother pretty quickly. Yes I’ve heard of milfs, thank you, but the point is that we are put in boxes, and that’s that, you know? Jumping in between the boxes doesn’t exactly set one free, does it? We’re handed this purpose, be sweet, be there for sex, be there just for one, be the one who cares for everyone, and we swallow it don’t we? No, I didn’t, but it made no difference in how I was perceived, how I’ve always been perceived.

And then I suppose we come to me, now. I’m currently mostly invisible, and will probably continue to be so until I either die quietly or crash my car into someone so that they have no choice but to notice me. I’m now and forevermore the old lady in the corner cracking one-liners before the next commercial break. Well, we do notice one another, I must say. It’s a new club for me, and we see one another, which is at once reassuring and sad.

Why sad? Because we are amazing, that’s why. We are the wise(r) women, the ones who have “been there” and truly “done that” and really are writing the book. We are the ones I wish I’d met when I was  younger, although I’d have assured them that I knew what I was doing thank you very much.

I am the opposite of the Genie – Itty bitty bit of power, phenomenal cosmic living space. Now that I know what I know, what do I do with it? Well I’ll get back to you, but try to pay attention when I do, will you?

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