Against Such Reckless Hate

“What can man do against such reckless hate?”

Theoden, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

When I was in college, I would bring my computer home on winter break.  Because it meant that, even though we weren’t able to hook it up to the internet (it took a long time for high speed to come to where I lived…) I could, at least, play with photo editors, write, and listen to music.

The winter of my freshman year, I brought my computer home and my dad asked me if it was possible to hook the printer/scanner/copier up to it.  I said of course it was, because I was up on all these things now.  I understood computers, how they worked, and a little thing like a printer/scanner/copier was something I could manage.

He had a project for me.

He had recently gone to the home of a women who had lost her husband, a World War II vet.  In the process of going through his things, his wife had found a folder of his files from the war.  She had turned over the file to my father.

My dad asked me if I could scan the contents of it, because he wanted to send a digital copy, along with the original photos.  I said that, sure, that was easy enough.

He then told me its contents.

This woman’s husband had been one of the first men through the gates at a concentration camp and had taken pictures.  I don’t know which one, to be fair, at that moment, I was trying to process what, exactly, my dad was asking me to do.

He tried to explain that, I probably didn’t have to look at the pictures, if I thought it would bother me.  But I might see things that I didn’t want to see.  He was going to send it to a museum, but thought that, due to how old the photos were, it would be helpful to have them scanned.

I said I could do it.

I didn’t think too much about it.  He was asking me to do a favor for him, I didn’t have to look, I just needed to scan, drop the files in a folder, and burn them to a CD.  Easy.

He left me alone at the dining room table, where I had just been photoshopping my face into Lord of the Rings posters because that’s what you do when you have a computer and are learning the joys of how to play with photo manipulation.

I took the folder, and got to work.

At 19, I thought I could handle anything.  And handle it, I did.

Piles.

Stacks.

Gates and Fences.

Faces.

Hands and feet.

I think I processed what I saw in pieces.

Sometimes, I don’t think about what I saw at all.

But I dreamt of what I saw, in second hand grey photos.  I dreamt of what I saw, first hand accounts of history.

I finished it.  Burned it to a disc.  Gave it to my dad.

I thought of those photos today.  As I read each post from the St. Louis Manifest twitter account.  I thought of those photos as the names were read.

I thought of those photos as we, as a nation, shut our doors.

Because of fear.

Because what we hear outside those doors scares us.

But perhaps, it does not scare us as much as it should.

What should frighten us more is what these men of reckless hate, do.

What should frighten us is when we hear of “protecting our homeland.”

Of thinking of ourselves first.

And I feel so helpless.

And I call to God “What can man do against such reckless hate?”

and pause…

“What can I do against such reckless hate?”

Because when the time came for me to face an ugly day in history.  And to preserve it so, in case something should happen in transit, at least a disc remained to bear witness.  I looked, instead of turning away.

And now I look.

And watch.

And pray.

Theoden: What can man do against such reckless hate?

Aragorn: Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them.

Theoden: For death and glory?

Aragorn: For Rohan. And your people.

C

Empathy. Feeling too much.

Empathy is the most mysterious transaction that the human soul can have, and it’s accessible to all of us, but we have to give ourselves the opportunity to identify, to plunge ourselves in a story where we see the world from the bottom up or through another’s eyes or heart.

Sue Monk Kidd
Sometimes, I want to cry over something.

There a days where I want to be happy, bask in the sunshine, and soak up joy.

But there are other days.

Where I watch videos for the sole purpose of crying.

Sometimes its a good cry.  I watch videos where people are suddenly surprised by winning their dream.  Underdog videos are my favorite.  An assuming person walks in to a contest or performance and suddenly blows everyone away by being INCREDIBLE.

And I weep with the audience, surprised and gratified to find that yet another person was not all they seemed.

I know its a trick of camera,story, and editing.

But it still feels good.  Its cathartic.

I even enjoy people doing sad things well.  A beautiful performance of something heart breaking, a poem or song.

I just get in a mood where I want to be sad.

Lately, I have found that I have moments where I, as I tried to explain to my mom, feel too much.

Like, I’m in a meeting and its going well, and suddenly someone says something and, to me, it was the wrong thing to say.  I look around the room and I can feel, in oppressive waves, the wrongness of the moment.  Whether it was someone shooting down an idea or someone saying something in a way that’s not tactful and quietly hurts someone, I feel it.

I feel it sitting down to dinner with friends.

I feel it at church, when I talk to people, like all of a sudden we’re having a conversation and I KNOW somethings wrong and its probably not me but I don’t want to say anything because it feels too private to call it out.

When I was little, and through my teenage years, I couldn’t even handle sad commercials.  Even, played for a joke. Someone being teased or left alone or behind.

I once completely lost it when I had to be the Cheese that Stood Alone at the end of the Farmer in the Dell.

Even know, I go out of my way to avoid what I’ve now heard as Second Hand Embarrassment in TV shows. Comedies like The Office, for example, where cringe worthy moments are played for laughs and I can’t enjoy it because all I can imagine is how, for that social awkward person, that moment hurt more than you can imagine.

And, even now where I put on a face to the world that I am gregarious and fun and warm…the thought of being the Cheese that Stands Alone is always in the back of my head.

Even when I want to be alone.

Now I am in a place where I avoid sad commercials. Clickbait articles about lonely dogs upset me.  Old people that have been forgotten by their relatives. Children where no one show up to their birthday party.  These moments grab around my heart like a vice and I am breathless with sadness.

And I haven’t confessed this to anyone.  Except, I guess now, the internet.

A few people picked up on it…recently there was a moment where someone I knew NEEDED a person.  But I had to go back to the place of a traumatic event.  But they needed me.  They were struggling.  So I didn’t hesitate.  And I told one of my friends and she called me and said “I’m going with you.  Because you think you can do this by yourself, but you will feel ALL the feelings and we both know how that goes.”

It was a relief.  Because I can do these things alone.  But I don’t have to do them alone.

It has almost been a year since the carjacking.  A year since the worst of the pain began. 2 years since the wave of deaths.  I know, logically, that despite my best efforts I am quite clearly still traumatized.  I am beginning to see the ways this has effected me, without me even realizing it.  I’m seeing it in a pattern of withdrawal from groups and a gradual moving back in to them.  Seeing it in a withdrawal from things that gave me joy and a tentative step back.

I just never imagined recovery would be so slow.  I never imagined that pushing and pushing myself would end up bringing all this feeling back in ways I thought I had grown out of.  But instead, has magnified it.

There are days that are beautiful  The sun shines, I read outside and everything feels ok.

There are days..that don’t.  So I sit in bed and watch sad and happy videos and cry.  Maybe because those people’s feelings are big and easy to grab and ok to be sad or happy with.  Maybe I’m using them as a way to work out all the feelings that I didn’t touch because, in the moment, I felt like I couldn’t grieve.

Besides.  Sometimes the cheese that stands alone is fabulous cheese and is alone as a centerpiece.  There’s something to be said for that, too.

-C

The Perfection of Memory

“I always designed Gravity Falls to be a finite series about one epic summer…It’s meant to be an exploration of the experience of summer, and in a larger sense a story about childhood itself. The fact that childhood ends is exactly what makes it so precious- and why you should cherish it while it lasts. “

-Alex Hirsch, on the ending of Gravity Falls

So.

I loved this show.  I fell into it almost to the day my husband was carjacked at gunpoint.  I was having, easily, the darkest part of a dark, dark 2 years.  Sitting under the dining room table, eating a dozen cupcakes and drinking bourbon from the bottle dark.

Nightmares for weeks dark.

But it was everything I remembered about summer and being 12 and thinking you might have the keys to solving mysteries just by reading books like “How to Hunt for Ghosts” and “How to Hunt for UFOs” and going through the paranormal section of the library and trying to sneak books you’re REALLY not old enough to be reading past your parents.

And the librarians who go to your church.

I watched the entire series, to that point, in a week.  Conveniently, it was being shown as a marathon.  Then I caught the newest episode.  Only to find out that the series was ending.

On, what I promise, is the pitch perfect note.

It ended.  The summer ended just as it must and it should.

And a week from today I start my new job.

I can’t help but feel the cyclical nature of life.  2 years…really…3 years ago started with the agonized phone call from my mother that my uncle had collapsed…that he needed to be resuscitated…that it was brain cancer.  Then things were ok for a little while.  Then my husband lost his job the first time…my Nana died…my uncle died…my cousin died…my cousin died…my grandfather died…another cousin died…down and down they go…

Each time I felt that this, this was it, this was the time things would get better.  That it couldn’t possibly get worse.

And it did.

And I fell into a pit I didn’t want to crawl out of.

I wanted someone in the world to just look at me and say “Wow.  You’re really messed up from this, aren’t you?”

But I pride myself on a “Can do!  We’ll make it through this !  Put more stickers on it!  Sparkles!  Sunshine!  I can do this!  Let’s find joy in this moment!”

Until…I lost my job.

And even though it was Christmas.

I didn’t find joy in those moments any more.

I went to events out of habit.

Made presents and went outside because its what I knew I had to do.

But I knew the signs, even if others hadn’t seen.

I went for days without showering.  I mean, I didn’t go out and do anything so why should I bother?

I didn’t want to eat.

I wanted to sleep, but every time I closed my eyes I was confronted with what I thought were my own failures in strength, resilience, and talent.

So I cleaned and unpacked boxes in the house we live in that, we were supposed to buy from my parents, but can’t even do that because I don’t have a job.

I was in a place that should be home, surrounded by chaos and hopelessness, with only the reminders of what I’d lost around me.

So I made things.  I made scarves and hats and painted.

I read the trashiest of trashy romance novels, whatever I could stomach.

I found pictures of puppies.

I came up with a routine for my skin to eat away the time and be productive.  (Might I add, my skin is great right now and I’ve gotten a lot of “Your make-up looks great today” when I am wearing none.  So that was totally worth it.)

But watching the end of this show…at the same time this unemployment is ending…I feel like maybe, this is finally the end.

That I’ve gone through the deep, dark, tunnel and maybe…just maybe…

its finally over.

And I can move forward with whatever my life is supposed to be now.

And think that now, maybe now, is the time to have the best spring ever.  To celebrate new life and new growth.  To plant things and nurture them to bud in the scorched earth that was left behind after it all fell apart.

So I’m going to go out and find the new things I love.  It will be a beautiful spring.  And I will use it to build up to another perfect summer.

I will use this to be kinder and have more patience.  To move past my anger and regret.  Because it will tear me apart if I don’t.

So to new beginnings, my friends.  To new friends and new haircuts, new clothes and new jobs.  To hope springing eternal and maybe, just maybe.

To spring.

-C

 

Thoughts prompted by an internet article. Thanks internet.

 

This article, in fact.

One of my friends sent it to me and said it reminded her of some of the things my husband and I have gone through.

It is uncomfortably real. So I started writing a response back to her.

And, as I suspected, avoiding writing, and then starting to write about how I’m feeling free-form, isn’t really something JUST for her. It should go here.

So here it is.

“It’s clear that some of your thoughts are not socially acceptable. Your feelings are unsettling to people who have never been unsettled like you have. You hide your dangerous and silly and preposterous thoughts, burying them behind routines and small talk and forced smiles.”

There was another comment on a tumblr something along the lines of “The people who you like most in fiction are the ones who are most what you want to be” and someone jokingly said “Um. Should I be worried?”

I pondered it for awhile and, Hannibal came at a time where I DESPERATELY did not want to feel any more. That feeling things, other people’s emotions was just. too. hard. And naturally I wanted to associate with someone who does not give a crap about other people’s feelings.

Followed up by the “People will think you’re doing better than you are”

“People start asking you when you’re going to move on, asking you what’s next for you. What’s next? What’s new? And you’re stunned. You barely just figured out this. This huge, unwieldy, cumbersome burden that you’re still carrying, that’s still breaking you. Where other people expect you to be? You’re not there yet.”

The article talks about nightmares, etc. And that’s very true. I still have nightmares about losing my job. I still have nightmares about my husband being carjacked. They’re further apart.

AND OH GOD THE PROCRASTINATION. Like, moving forward is so exhausting you can’t even fathom it and going back is impossible because its a yawning chasm of impossibility and terrible moments waiting for you to fall in it.

I can tell you, that really, just in the last week, am I coming to terms with losing my job on top of everything else. One of the other people who was let go asked me how I could have been so calm when it all happened. And I tried to explain to her that, in the moment, I wasn’t even surprised. Because SO MANY terrible things have happened back to back that, naturally, this was the only thing that could happen. But I cannot BEGIN to tell you how angry I am. How angry I STILL am. Some days I’m so mad that its all I can do to just get out of the house and walk around until I’m too tired and cold to not be mad any more. I have fantasies of telling off the former director about how they ruined my life. I have fantasies of being on the witness stand at a trial of the gunman and blaming him for ruining my life and demanding that there is no release from prison for him because he is irredeemable.

And those things aren’t me. Or aren’t the “me” I’m used to. I’m not someone who lives with a fury bubbling just beneath the surface, ready to explode at a hapless victim. I’m not someone without mercy.

Except that I am. Because I feel like there has been no mercy for us, even though I know, logically, that we have been incredibly lucky. It is so INCREDIBLY frustrating. Because I want to keep talking about it, but when I sit down to write about it, its just an outpouring of rage that is both unfamiliar and distasteful and I’m so ashamed of it. Like I don’t have the right to be that angry or hurt or scared.

But I do. I have the right to it.  I have a right to being upset, to breaking down, to still being damaged and hurt.

And it talks about losing friends and gaining them.  And pushing them away.  There are times I cannot BEAR to be in the room with other people because I feel like these people, my friends, who I love, would be so horrified at the thoughts in my head and that they can see them.  That they can, somehow by looking at me, see what I’m thinking.

Its like a monster.  Or that I’m becoming a monster.  And I’m staring in the mirror and my reflection shows horns and fangs and a visage so awful that, were anyone to see it, they would run a stake through me or a silver bullet.

And its just because I’m hurt.  And I’m scared. And I’m trying so very hard to be capable and that I can fake it.  I can keep things together.  But if something goes wrong…even a little something.  That’s it.  I have nothing left for the day.

But none of these things are me.  These are the things that I have to be, right now, to survive.  Things are already starting to sort themselves out into new realities and experiences.  And, after having been through so much, I know the greatest cure is time.  I know enough now, to know that, despite how painful and hard things are right now that time WILL make it easier to live through and last through.

“Time takes it all whether you want it to or not, time takes it all. Time bares it away, and in the end there is only darkness. Sometimes we find others in that darkness, and sometimes we lose them there again.”

-Stephen King

But the thing is, I know that after the darkness comes the dawn.  After the longest night comes day.  After the winter comes the spring.  All of the goodness and reward will come after the pain and agony that comes before.  I just keep striving to find pockets of joy to hold out through the long winters night.

In the words of an old friend,

“Well.  It would seem I’ve just bared my soul to you… Trust is a horrible thing… [this] made me face some things I usually like to keep buried.  So I didn’t bare my whole soul to you  only the basement.  Where all the dark, dank secrets are held in dusty custody…I can’t quite sort things out half the time.. Mayhap you’ll have better luck.”

I feel better after moving all these basement boxes of emotions around.  I’ll come upstairs, curl up by the fire, and leave those boxes to their own devices for awhile until I don’t need to open them any more.

Love,

C

 

View story at Medium.com

Answers

Where do we go from here?

What do I do?

What comes next?

Who am I?

Where do I go?

As the cap to a 2015 that seems to have been engineered to kick my ass, I lost my job.  So, for those of you keeping a running tally of the last 2 years we have.

1 Minor Health Crisis

6 deaths

3 job losses

1 house sold

2 cars died

1 car purchased

1 pair of terrible neighbors.

I am paralyzed with indecision now.  I have no idea what to do next.  I’ve always had a plan…and I don’t have plan any more.  I did a job for 4 years.  A job I loved.  But now its gone.  And I don’t know if I should keep it up or do something else.  I don’t know where to go and what to do next.

I went back to bed last night and just laid there, face down in the pillow, mumbling to my husband who said “Look, I could say something faintly comforting right now, but I don’t actually think that would help, so look at how comfy the dog looks.”

The dog, to be fair, DID look really comfy.  I was kind of jealous of him, curled up in the ends and bits of blankets he’d turned around 15 times in so they were smushed just perfectly.

I’ve gone through the motions of what I should do.  I celebrated Christmas.  I threw a New Years Eve party.  There were brief, glittery moments of feeling like “me” in all of those times.

But what do you do when you feel like you’re going up a cliff and the rocks you grip to keep moving and sliding beneath you?  What do you do when the books that comforted you, just don’t any more.  What do you do when you have every streaming service known to man and there’s just no where to hide from yourself any more?

Right now?

Go outside.

Get rid of bags of old clothes.

Organize a kitchen cabinet.

Grab a coffee.

Find a different book and try again.

Snuggle with the dog.

Make a pot roast.

Try again.

Because, even if you don’t know where to go, the earth beneath you still spins and times moves ever forward.  I don’t know where I’m going, but at least I know where I’ve been.  The world never lets you stand still.

-C

Backwards and Forwards

“Time takes it all whether you want it to or not, time takes it all. Time bares it away, and in the end there is only darkness. Sometimes we find others in that darkness, and sometimes we lose them there again.”

-Stephen King, The Green Mile

In my email inbox, I’ve carefully organized and saved just about every email from anyone who was important to me. When things were rough, or I’d be stressed out, I would look back at the great things we did, the funny things we said and how smart and interesting we were that one time.

I used to take comfort in looking back.

I haven’t looked back in awhile.

There is a line the was drawn on July 17 at 2:10 p.m. that clearly deliniates “before” and “after.”

I’m living in the after. And that before life, whatever that was…doesn’t even feel real any more.

Lately, I’ve had the strangest feeling that I’m rebuilding who I am. What my relationship is, what I like, what I love, and what I hate.

Its been a pleasant surprise to return to things that I’d forgotten about and discover they still give me joy.

There have been other things that I loved, and loved deeply, that no longer make me feel in the same, strong, passionate, way.

I wish I could say I’ve become fiercer or braver. I wish I could say the person I’m evolving into possess those traits.

Instead…I think she’s more careful. Despite my writing all my thoughts here, she’s also more private. Not that I don’t want to share…but I feel like when I do its false to speak the words out loud. These feelings are inside me, and if I can’t give them a name, they’re not ready to be outside yet.

When something joyful has happened, I’ve thrown myself, full force, into that joy. Whether its mine or someone else’s good news. I want to taste that sunshine drop of impossible sweetness.

But oh how terrible it has been not to trust it.

Its like being told being excited for a gift and opening it, only to find, the person who bought it for you didn’t know you at all. And it hurts all the more because you trusted them to understand and what they gave you clearly shows that they didn’t.

It hurts, because you love them and you don’t want to hurt them, but it also hurts because the gift you’ve opened was not only not what you wanted…but it makes you feel like they didn’t care enough to figure you out. It makes you feel small and unimportant.

So now, I’m trying to figure out exactly how it is I want to bring the joy back and what gives me joy. There is still a looming stressor of completeing our house sale, and trying to budget. So I can’t quite see myself out of the woods, but its getting lighter.

But it has been almost 2 years of constant sorrow and stress. I think of what a balm it will be to not wake up and having a death looming over my family. How glorious it will be to not be selling a house and scheduling repairs and running back and forth.

I won’t know what to do.

I guess I’ll figure it out…

-C

Connections

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen (Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life)

I’ve talked about how I’ve pulled away from my friends.

I’ve been a crappy friend.

Mostly, because its hard to be a good friend when you’re afraid to leave the house.

But I feel like I want to try again…at least a little…

Typically, once I hit fall, I feel open, like its as new school year, new possibilities, a brand new me.

This fall…I feel much like I want it to be a funeral.  The funeral of an enemy, who did terrible things and had a death much deserved.  I want to delivery a eulogy to the summer that betrayed me.  That instead of fun in the sun, was hidden torment and hidden pain.

Fall.  Fall means that this terrible summer will die.  That I can box up all the terrible parts of it and bury it deep in the ground.

I’m toying with coming up with some kind of ritual to say goodbye to that part of summer.  It may or may not involve fire.  I find fire very cleansing.

Its what I need to say “This is over.”

I think I’ll wait til the sale of our house is finally full.  Then take part of a packing box and packing paper.  Take the newspaper article with the picture of our destroyed, stolen vehicle.  Take photocopies of unemployment checks and print outs of broken hearted emails.  Pour some bourbon on it.  Add a cupcake that I didn’t eat while hiding under the table.  And burn it.  And stomp on the ashes.

I’m so ready for it to be done and over.  So ready to start whatever this next part of my life IS.  Ready to not be afraid any more.

Ready for Thanksgiving and finding reasons to be thankful.  Ready for Christmas and carols and mistletoe.

Ready for New Years and new beginnings.

Ready to be ME again.

Ready to be strong and confident.

But its not time yet, and I am impatient.  I am impatient as the flower waiting for spring.  As impatient as the geese, flying north or south at their appointed time.  I know where I am supposed to be.

But its not time yet.

-C