Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Salt


I cannot shake this feeling of being lost.

And loss.

A year after my divorce from MathMan and my physical, and, if I'm even going to attempt to truth tell here, the emotional separation from my children, I am finally grieving.

No longer busy with a move or rediscovering old friends and old places or launching new relationships or learning a new line of work, I am finally forced to sit with my feelings.

Dangerous territory indeed.

I spent 365 days being mostly impermeable. Mostly. Oh, the trips from Georgia were punctuated with tears and internal raging, but I could stay anesthetized. If my mind skittered too close to the reality of what I'd willingly given up, I'd force it to glance off that first seizure of pain and focus, focus, focus on the matter at hand. The song. The audio book. The old comedy, tinny and silly, coming from the radio.

Things did get through, of course. My armor, while comprised mostly of mega-strength bullshit, self-deception and denial, had its chinks. I couldn't ignore the changes I'd wrought, the ways I'd reshaped my family and markedly changed all of our futures.

It wasn't the tears of my children or the pleadings from MathMan that I once again return to the family home, that got to me. Note, of course, that those things did not happen. These people are so vaccinated against my insanity that they aren't giving away much. If they were feeling the loss of a mother and companion, they didn't let it show much.

What got to me was the knowledge that they were all doing quite well without me. And not only that, but they seemed happier, calmer, and closer than ever before.

Now that I'm here in Georgia and must revisit my old life briefly as I pick up and drop off Sophia at her father's house, my former home, I am confronted with the consequences of my actions every weekend. This is harder than I expected it to be. But then, I don't know what I expected.

It became clear to me that I am squarely on the outside. Alone. Getting acquainted with loss like a head-on collision.

That's when it happened.

I let myself cry. I let go and the tears came. I cried. And cried. And then I worried that I couldn't stop crying.

Interspersed with the ugly crying was berating and name calling. Lisa on Lisa violence.

I cried while I ate dinner alone. I literally cried into my beer. I wept until the front of my tee shirt felt soggy. I sniffled at my reflection in the mirror as I brushed my teeth. I learned that flossing while all crybaby and snotty isn't easy. I sobbed as I wrote another email of apology and explanation to MathMan. I went to bed in tears and tasted the salt, felt the liquid pooling in my ears. I woke up in tears, furious that I had to be awake. I cried in the shower. I tried to put on mascara while bawling. That was fun.

I cried as I drove to work, the red taillights more of a blur than usual. I cried in my parked car because I didn't want to go into the office. My coworker stopped to say hello and I cried behind a wadded up tissue. I went to the bathroom and, you guessed it. More tears.

I tried to stay busy at work but that wasn't foolproof. At one point I stopped crying to hiccup "this is ridiculous" before I went back to quiet weeping.

365 days worth of tears all in a day. It was exhausting. And cleansing. Just like I'd always heard it would be.

Today I only cried a couple of times, both quite briefly, and only once in front of someone. Good thing, too, because I was starting to get a little too comfortable crying in front of people.

Tomorrow maybe I won't cry at all. I don't expect to be cried out, but at least I can feel the corner coming. I'm about to turn it. All those tears were some kind of purge. The dam broke, the flood came and now the waters will recede.

It had to happen. I know this now. Because until I finally let myself feel those things, I was never going to get off of this square of self-loathing and rage. And finally, I can see that this is how the healing begins.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Not L.A.


What do you do when your heart is in two places?

You kick stones. You find your place at the bar and try not to pull that face. You stop and start and hope no one notices.

What do you do when the new groove resembles the old groove?

You dance because if you don't?  We all fall.  Down.

What do you when your options narrow to a trickle and the finger of blame points back at you?

You pinch that place above your nose where the headache centers and wait for things to pass.

What do you when you can't sing a note, but the song is there?

You turn it over to the talented ones because sometimes they can tell your story better than you can.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Turn the page.....


Last weekend was reunion weekend in Rising Sun. The scattered descended upon our small town to  revisit, renew, reconnect.

The festivities began on Friday night.  I sat on a bar stool draining Michelob Ultras, listening to songs summery and bluesy and full of memories and talked to a friend about what a mess my life is and how I am still happy to be back in this place. She was here from out of town and I think she's feeling the pull of home.

It's a special place, we agreed.

I imagine most people feel that way about their hometowns. The place of origin forms you, at least partially.  For better or worse.

The point of reunion is to return and remember. The Class of 1984 gathered on Saturday night to toast departed friends, to catch up on each other's lives. We joked about how Facebook makes it almost unnecessary to have these reunions except that you don't get the full story from social media. It's always best to be able to reach out and touch, hug, see the unedited version of life.

We resumed old roles and tried out new ones. We welcomed friends who hadn't been at any other reunion in the 30 years since high school and wondered about those who didn't show up. We marveled at how damn good we all still look and how, at nearly 50, most of us still carry those 18 year old goofballs around with us like photos in wallets.

The night ended too soon. We hugged and promised it wouldn't be so long until we gathered next time. And I think we meant it. Having that time with those who remember us when we were young, and I mean going all the way back to first grade for many of us, becomes more valuable with each passing year.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Sketch #2 - Her

It was a dangerous game and she knew it. But that didn't stop her from edging out there further, further. It would go too far. She knew that too. But that didn't stop her from pushing beyond the bounds of decency, or normal.

She had to know, but oh, he'd remain closed-mouthed if she asked directly. She'd done exactly that more than once and he'd always wielded the same tactic. You couldn't even call it a glossing over. It was an outright silence on the matter as if he hadn't heard the question.

"It's like I've been beaten with my own stick," she said to her ex-husband who had enough sense and class not to smirk when she recounted her most recent tale of woe. She'd been dumped. The irony wasn't lost on either of them though neither mentioned it. She muttered about Karma while he looked anywhere but at her.

They talk about desperate measures, she said. And these are desperate times. Things had gone so wrong and now knowing seemed less painful than not.

But holy shit. Those words, delivered so succinctly and so matter of fact, weren't just an arrow to her heart. No, that motherfucker sliced right through her and landed squarely on her future selves too. Hell, she suspected that years from now those words would be arcing through the air and landing hard and sharp on her sorry ass ego.

.......She was smart and funny. The prettiest girl in high school......

......So what happened? The thin, beautiful women he was chatting with on a sex hook-up website braced herself for the but.....

But I was never attracted to her physically.  She let herself go. She's 48, overweight, gray hair.

And there it was. The thin, beautiful girl who'd lured him so expertly into thinking he was fixing to fuck the girl of his dreams felt her stomach drop. Blinking back tears, she morphed into something not at all sexual but something rather repugnant apparently.  48. Overweight. Gray hair twisted around her finger in a nervous knot as she considered her response.

The thin, beautiful sex object could afford to respond any way she wanted.  He was going to let her get away with anything because he was still hoping for a hook-up. But instead of hitching up her feminist pants and defending his ex as desirable despite her age, her weight, her silver hair, she remembered the game and typed something about how understandable that was. Who wanted someone who'd let themselves go? 

He barely registered her response.  He was ready to move on to more titillating topics like how he wanted to bend her skinny body in half and fuck her hard.

The skinny girl she'd pretended to be shadowed her at every mirror, frowned at her soft middle as she slipped as fast as she could in and out of clothes, sighed when she wanted to eat an entire bag of M&Ms with no consideration whatsoever for color order.

She hates the skinny girl. She wants to be her. She stops herself mid-spiral. That skinny girl won't always be skinny. Or even if she is, won't always be young.  There will always be younger, thinner women. And, she reminds herself, this particular skinny girl wasn't even real.

Instead of giving in to her cravings she chewed on the double standards of sex appeal. The man who'd found her so disgusting wasn't anything to shout about. 45. Overweight. Balding. Bad teeth. And yet he felt perfectly within his rights to expect someone like the woman she'd invented to want him.

She trolled the internet for new hairstyles and color. She fought her cravings and took up walking and lost twenty pounds. She bought foundation garments that could double as torture devices for the weak of mind.

She lay next to the new man., the one who rarely touched her, and thought again of those words. 48, overweight, gray hair. His last girlfriend had been significantly younger, slimmer, and therefore prettier by default.

The new man had his own tactic. It's me, not you. Can't you just accept that I love you and leave it at that?

"It's like getting beaten with my own stick," she thinks because she doesn't want to talk to her ex-husband about this anymore. The situation is so absurd.

She thought about how the days of getting by on her looks were behind her. She had been only marginally aware that she did that, but now it was clear. The way men wanted you when you were young and slim and fresh was actually predicated on those traits. The awareness of this sent a shudder through her like the one she felt when she realized that her days of having the soft warmth of her own babies were behind her.

She could starve herself to nothing. Walk until her feet ached. Dye her hair and attack the wrinkles with creams. And still she was always going to be 48, 49, 50. The words young and fresh were never going to be applied to her again.

She started to talk to herself about being undesirable. Or something different than desirable. How would she operate without the barrier of sex? It had been such an important part of her repertoire for so long that she felt as though she were losing one of her senses.

What else was there to her? Oh dear lord, was she going to have to grow as a person and become interesting?

The thought nearly exhausted her. Instead she resolved not to care. To accept the new definition of herself. She knows it's silly to allow the opinion of others to determine her self worth, but there it is.  The root of the problem. Has she ever existed outside of being defined by someone else?

Hell, one day she might even embrace this new, sexless self, but for now she's still puzzling over the sensation of invisibility when she puts on her shoes and walks the downtown streets in an attempt to salvage a little bit of what was once considered fuckable.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sketch #1 - Birds

The women sat at a tall table observing their friend as she cleared empty Bud Light bottles and PBR cans. Her sheer white top showed off her tan and rode up just a little as she bent to pick up a piece of plastic cigarette wrapper that had escaped some patron's hand. She straightened and approached a table of men.

Her friends quietly sipped their cocktails, lifted their cigarettes to their lips. The scene a distraction from the conversation about a grandchild's tee ball game or work or a trip south. The Reds winning 9 to 1 deserving just the passing glance at the screen. Significant others sat at the bar, moved about the space, giving off just enough gravitational pull to keep one aware, requiring no more than an occasional glance or a smile I see you. You see me. We are.

The men at the table are dressed for golf. Men of a certain age with the tops of their cheeks sun-kissed, their eyes a slightly red-rimmed from a day of laughter, concentration and drink. The entire table went on alert as the attractive blond reached them.

Her friends watched as each man leaned in closer. See the male of the species demonstrate interest with the elongation of the neck, a dilation of the pupils.

Across the room, her best friend drew on her Salem Light. Blew the smoke out slowly. It didn't matter that the other women at the table had moved on to other conversations, other observations. When she spoke they saw it, too. And laughed.

Indicating with her cigarette their friend who was in the middle of a gorgeous, head thrown back laugh and the table of men, all long-necked and open-mouthed, she said, "Look at them. Like baby birds hoping to be fed."


Inspired by K.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Winged


I've alighted again. For how long? It's anyone's guess.

I'm back in my hometown and happy to be here. Even so, most items remain boxed. The trunk of my car has become a weird closet holding bits of an old life. Root around in there and you'll unearth boxed shoes, pocketbooks in protective sheaths, a can of WD40, books, a ziplock bag of utensils.

I have no idea what I'm doing.  I could be on the lam without much effort, but don't have any firm plans to break the law. It's not exactly chaos though. Work is stable. Beer is stable. Exercise is consistent. (Pauses to consider the irony, shrugs, examines sore foot.)

Physically I'm recognizable. The hair is long and silver. The breasts too large. The hazel eyes are more feathered at the corners, but that's to be expected. It's been a long year.

In other ways, the cocoon has been shed. I spend enough time at the American Legion that the bartenders know my drink. I can tell you on what night you can shoot pool for free at the bar on Main Street (Wednesdays). I'm relearning Euchre. To great concern and the open consternation of MathMan and the children, I've taken to listening to country music. I hear whispers of intervention.

Life is exploding with characters. I want to collect them all, write them down, get their stories just right. I think of my own story and wonder when will it be not so damn raw? I poke and poke and come up with too much feeling, too little sense.

I spend most Wednesdays convinced that it's Thursday. I don't think it has anything to do with playing pool for free. It's because I'm twisting myself into knots wishing for the weekend so I don't have to answer the phones. Answering the phones means there's a damn good chance I'm about to invite someone's despair into my ear.

"Law office, may I help you?"

And then the words come. Sometimes faltering. Sometimes tear-stained. Angry. Afraid. The callers who want to know right off the bat how much this is going to cost are the easy ones.

Working in an office that deals mostly with divorce wasn't the brightest idea coming on the heels of busting up my own family. I have a genius for putting myself in ridiculous and painful situations.

So I'm listening to the audio version of Naomi Wood's Mrs. Hemingway and there's this line that goes something like this.....

Hadley, his first wife, to Hemingway:  You create these messes for material.

I listen, rewind, listen again.  This is Chuck to remind Bill to shut up.

I hear you, Universe. But I'm still looking for that compass.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Bad patient

There's never a good time for a panic attack.

Sitting at my desk at the office typing a dictation wasn't any better or worse than any other time. I went from clickety-click-click to holy shit, why can't I catch my breath? And why does my arm hurt?

I tried deep breathing but OMG I CAN'T BREATHE, MUCH LESS DEEP BREATHE.  I rubbed my arm, took a gulp of water. The old tricks weren't working. I hadn't had a doozy like this since 1988 when I actually had to leave a They Might Be Giants concert, in a small venue no less, because I felt like my chest was going to explode.

I called Ginger who works across the lobby.  "Do you have any aspirin?"

Her gaze shifted from her screen to me. "What's going on?"

"It's nothing."

She didn't believe me.

After half an hour and much jackassery on my part about medical insurance, we were in her car which was clamoring for gasoline and gliding through one of the sketchier neighborhoods of Cincinnati.  Locals will know it as Over the Rhine or OTR.

Have you ever tried to buy gas in a rough neighborhood? Society and commercial enterprises do not cut those folks a break.

The line was too long and Ginger didn't want me to escape from the car and run pell mell through the cracked streets back to the office so we drove on.

All the while I was telling her I was fine, take me back to the office, it's nothing.

"And what happens when you have a heart attack at the wheel, crash your car, kill three people including yourself?" I love an optimist, don't you?

And there I was with a wristband, the dreaded hospital gown, a bruised arm (the fabulous nurse thought I was joking about my veins), and 3 plus hours to kill with one of the best friends a panicked chick could hope for.

Thankfully it was nothing, but the ER doctor was clear - women should not ignore their symptoms. Heart attacks in women mimic the symptoms of an ordinary (ha!) panic attack. It's always better to be safe than sorry. Ginger was right to force me to go.


If only we'd found the surgical masks.