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

Round and round we go

“It is strange how often a heart must be broken 
Before the years can make it wise.” 
— Sara Teasdale (The Collected Poems)

On occasion, there are birds that fly into the tall windows of our office.  Walking back and forth to my car, the sidewalk will be littered with song birds.  I’ll circle as far around them as I can, so I make a circle path.  But to avoid stepping on any one of them, I also have to look at them.

And I’d rather not.

So I give as wide a path as I can to not step on them, while still seeing them out of the corner of my eye.

That’s kind of how it is with writing right now.

I’m warily circling the thing that I want to talk about or that I’m feeling.  I have to keep it in my minds eye, but I don’t want to get too close to it, because then I’m confronted by the small, beautiful thing that’s broken.

Last night, I confessed to my husband that I’m still scared.  I’m scared of what happened to him, and sometimes it still bothers me.

And he said “well.  I’m here.  And I have a job.  And this dog” who snuffled loudly and then took more blankets away from me.

Those are all true things.  But it doesn’t stop me from being scared.

Someone else told me “It(what happened to you) was a lot at once.  And big stuff.  So it’ll take time.  As an overachiever I can see how you’d be expecting to be moving on by now…measurable results don’t apply in this type of situation.  It’s a play it by ear sort of thing, unfortunately.”

So we’ve got this jumbled up mess of feeling angry with myself for not snapping suddenly back to normal after the danger has passed, being traumatized by having to confront a loved one’s mortality, feeling unstable at having a sudden loss of dependable income, feeling frustrated at constantly having to ask for help because we still only have one car.

I’m mad at helplessness.  But I’m not helpless.  We’ve persevered.  I’ve gotten up in the morning.  One of the few things pulling me through has been simple routine.  Get up, get dressed, go to work, go home, make dinner, unpack a box, go to bed, rinse, repeat.  By simply moving forward, it helps to not dwell on what’s happened.

And I think of what we’ve survived in the almost 3 years we’ve been married:

5 deaths

2 cars being totaled

Moving

Selling a house

2 job losses

When you look at those stress scales that show you how much stress you’re under and its impact on your life, we’re in the top tier.

And yet…

We’re still here.

That should be triumph enough.

-C

Moving on up, out, and onward

“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses.”
Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

We have moved.

That is, to say, my husband, dog, and I have moved to a new neighborhood.

It is supposed to perfect.  Land of milk and honey.

Instead, it has been land of:

being carjacked

getting fired

getting screamed at by our crazy neighbors

land of panic attacks

land of hiding inside because we are just so dang TIRED of all of it.

So here we are.

In a great house.

In a great neighborhood.

Where if I could figure out how to take someone whose communication style can only be described as “loud” and make them understanding, I feel I could bring about peace in the middle east.

There is no sympathy.

There is no empathy.

There is no understanding.

I have hidden from this journal, friends, because written what I feel hurts too damn much.

Writing what I feel breaks my heart.

I don’t think of myself as a coward, but here, here after all we’ve been through, I want to build a pillow fort under our dining room table and drink bourbon til I pass out.

Which was last birthday, helpfully dubbed The Manhattan Project, and I won’t be trying that again, thank you.

The only reason I’m writing right now is I’m 3 gin and tonics in and I’m just so tired.

I can’t even ask for help any more.  How could anyone help?  How can you help someone who day in and day out feels their life slowly falling through their fingers. How do you help someone who got their husband a dog to help him through depression and now that dog is the reason for THEIR depression?  How do you help someone who just wants SOMEONE to understand that, right now, they CAN’T be happy, they CAN’T help you, they CAN’T host you they CAN’T do anything except shower, put on make-up, and go to work and pretend everything is ok.

Everything is NOT ok.

It is not ok to feel like this.  I’m not going to hurt myself.  That sort of thing is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  But some days…

Some days I just want to run away.  I want to hide.  I’m TIRED of facing my troubles head on and coping.  I’m tried of making everything think I’m ok.

And there are a few people…very few…

who see through the facade.

And they ask.

And I tell them to go away.

I don’t call them. I don’t write. I don’t email. I don’t talk.  Because they know.

They know, just by looking at me.

That it hurts.

It hurts too much.

And I can’t talk to them because when they see…

I break down.

I can’t afford to break down.  I can’t afford to lose it all right now.

So I have stolen moments in the night.

I go in the bathroom and cry.

I go downstairs and I cry.

I wait 5 minutes before I go in the house and cry.

I hide in the car and cry.

Because my husband…

he could have died.

It is 2 months after the fact.

After someone put a gun in his face.

And we keep going through our day, as though it hasn’t changed us.

“You know, I always thought it’d be cancer.  Never though it could be at the end of a gun.”

And we laugh, and grow quiet.

Because it could have been at the end of a gun.  A man, who doesn’t do anything more dangerous than play video games.  Could have died.

For the sake of a car. A cell phone. And a laptop.

Now I want to take risks.  And I know its not safe.

I want to sky dive.

I want to do things that I’d never normally do.

Because any moment could be our end.

And this should empower me to yell back to our neighbors.  It should empower me to be braver and smarter and more alive.

But there’s still the fort under the table.

There’s still the safety of the bed.

And it is EVERYTHING i can do to not crawl back under there.

This is why you should be kind.  To everyone you see, everyone you interact with.  You should be kind.

Because they could be falling apart.

And you’d never know.

-C

My mother’s handwriting

I have always had terrible handwriting.  When I was in gradeschool, my mother despaired of me ever writing anything legible.  It didn’t really matter to me.  I could read my notes, and really, my notes were there for me.  The act of writing them is what helped me more than going back and reading them anyway.  But I always admired my mom’s handwriting.

I’ve never seen anyone with handwriting similar.  Its not a beautiful cursive script…its sort of angular and…pointy.  Her “s” especially is a little flat on the type.  Her printing is legible but distinctively hers.  I love my mother’s handwriting.

My Oma has been placed in a nursing home last weekend after passing out at church.  I got the news as we were pulling into my own church parking lot.  I walked in.  Sat down.  Told my brother.

The first hymn began.

I promptly began to cry.  My husband ushered me out, bought me flowers and champagne to prep myself for yet another hospital visit, yet another emergency.

I had to go to my Oma’s with my mom to pick out her things, and on her counters I saw Oma’s grocery lists.  She taught for 30 years and has perfect school penmanship.

Littered on the table where my mother’s notes, reminding her to take her pills, who was coming to visit.

And I know someday I will go to my mother’s house and find little slips of paper and clean them up while I pack her things.

I will despair at never seeing her handwriting again.

My uncle has died of a brain tumor.

My grandfather has pneumonia, the doctor’s say it doesn’t look good.

My Oma is in the nursing home, her memory leaving her in bits and pieces day by day.

My mother is in pain, watching her mother suffer and trying to organize her life around that suffering.

My dad’s cousin is slowly dying as a brain tumor eats away at her.

Again and again and again I get the news…the phone call…the email…this is it.

This is it.

This is it.

What is it?

It is death.  It is coming in drips and drabs.  It is hiding behind holidays and lurking in the corner of your mind.  And I see it in little slips of paper, little lists of chores that won’t be finished and groceries that won’t be bought.

I feel as though I am immune to feeling anything for it all  any more.  There’s no more surprise in it.  There’s no shock, any more, just another item on the list.  In handwriting only I can read, I suppose.

I love these people all so much.  And I don’t want them to suffer…but they will.  I can only try to ease their pain.

Thanksgiving passed and I have tried to be thankful…I tried to make my own lists…

I am thankful…for one more day.  Every day is one more day.  For that I am thankful.

So now, as I turn to Christmas, I turn too, to my favorite Christmas song.  I am tired of despair, I am tired of sorrow.  I want a Christmas of brightly wrapped gifts and carols sung around the piano at Christmas.  So I will make my Christmas and try to fill it with as much love as I can.  And it may be a small amount of love.  That Advent Candle light may not shine as brightly as usual.

But I’ll light it anyway.

If your heart is sad.  If you’re missing someone, and so deep in your despair that “Merry Christmas” falls like ash on your tongue…listen to the bells…and maybe that’ll help.  Below, I recorded myself singing…less for you, more for me.  Singing helps me get through some of these times.

And I’d like a record of something that comforts me when I’m sad.  So its less for you…but…maybe it’ll help you too.

I heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

I don’t own the rights to it.  I’m not getting any money…just a little something to hold on to.  I feel like sending it out there is like sending out a prayer.

http://clyp.it/k1hzacvz

Also, if you want to read more about the poem that inspired the song http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Heard_the_Bells_on_Christmas_Day

-C

Day 26 & 27: The end is near

“When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all… grow up. Get a job. Get married. Get a house. Have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder. And so much better.”
― Elton Pope

I’ve got 2 challenge days left.  I feel like I both should have learned a lot more this month, and that I learned a lot.  But 30 days is only enough time for so much.

And time…time seems to be a premium.

Last July, my Nana died.  She was a beautiful, snarky, classy lady.  And this was the catalyst for…a lot of things.  Death of a loved one shows you a lot about how people respond to stress…and some people respond very well…and some people…don’t.

So we went through her things…cleaning out the whole house, per my grandfather’s request.  And I found myself taking home things, that, while they didn’t have a lot of meaning for me…I didn’t want them to be “homeless.”  I was assigning sentiment to objects…giving them feelings…when really, they were things I was feeling instead.

I wish I could tell you there was one specific thing that I took and now I treasure and its a lasting memory…but there are too many.  I took a pair of vintage fashion prints because I remember looking up at them from the bed in the guest room and making up stories about who the ladies were, and why they wore their dresses…what they were talking about.  When we went to go through the house to starting taking things…I couldn’t believe no one wanted them.  They were so cool, how could no one want them?

They just didn’t mean anything to them.

I also got a fair amount of vintage costume jewelry for the same reason…and its a nice piece of her to have….

And I guess, while I was watching Doctor Who there’s a lot of talk of what we leave behind, what it means, and what stories people will remember us by.  I’ll remember a tall, graceful women with elegant style and a quick wit.  And I tell stories about her and other people will remember her.  I’m not quite sure where this all goes, but I think I’m mostly trying to…to do things to be remembered?  That I will leave a legacy of stories…and I’m just trying to write it all done.

Physical Health:

Hours of Sleep: 4 hours.  Stayed up TOOOOOO late talking with friends.  But you need to talk to your friends sometimes.

Exercise: I rage gardened.  I may have severed the extension cord with the hedge trimmer much to the dismay of my husband.  Oops.

Breakfast: omlet, sausage, toast, and some glorious pumpkin french toast

Health

Cleaning or Packing?: Soooooo many dishes,…sooooo many coffee mugs

Made my bed?:  After much discussion with a friend who was doing this with me we have come to the conclusion that this is pointless and does nothing for us.  But I did it yesterday AND today (even though I did it today at 6 pm I did it.)

Read 1 book a week:ended up reading Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson because I needed a book that would cheer me up.

Conclusion

I’ll be a story in your head. That’s okay. We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh? ‘Cause it was, you know. It was the best.

-Doctor Who

-C