Sadness beyond the ability to articulate sadness. Total, paralyzing, eclipsing, profound obliterating sadness.
Tibetan, Mother of Compassion
With a pillow and a yen.
You were meant to be the god.
Brown eye crowning in its
through the unlined winter of your hand.
But to view her, not become her.
To have her be your personal god–
for each of your wounds, impersonal mother
you could love and love
and not have to give a thing back–
White Tara. Heart uncurling from the snow of her chest,
in the Himalayan air–
You bought it in a store.
After the mother had dropped completely
in a pool of spit, heart’s
She made you put the gift boots
back in the box, she said How
could you do this to me? when you had to tell her you’d got
Smotherer, eating up all the breath–
She kneels, bearing a heart attack.
And the poets say,
You will not say Mother, you will not say Father–
We have overthrown
the chromosome, we have
emerged full-throated from a void.
Build it from rot.
From the mouldered soil
of the neglected shit-strewn yard–
for the neighbor’s cats, they love the smell: alive alive–
Out of elm sticks
from the weedy trees, crush and glitter
of yellowed leaves, you must
jamb and sill, a frame
through which she can come
and be the god on the bedroom wall, White
Seven eyes on the suffering world, Rescuing
in the clothes she was wearing, when she
smacked face first to the floor–
Rescuing Mother, the poets say.
And the poets say,
You may not admit to bone or flesh, you must not have nerves
in the tips of your fingers,
you may say fist, you may say teeth, but you must not
put them in a sentence
together, you must not put them
in a body
That is the infection
whose vector you seek,
Sick Hunter. In the cemetery
you pore through the loam.
To find the cold well, its lip lit
by an oil
from her bones: Wrong-Bodied Never
Accomplished Enough a dose
in the inner ear, how could she
be the murderer
when the murderer is in the mirror–
In a skin of milk,
a moon-warmth, white and cool.
Soft and sentient,
you furl out a parentless hand.
To cup the head of the one
who’s been calling you–:
I hated her and then she died–
she died and then I
couldn’t tell her it was all a lie–
Blood beading the perimeter
of an almond-shaped wound
as the eye of compassion slits through.
I dreamed I was back in the psych ward last night.
Yesterday was pretty numb, the shock of the revelation. This morning it is just too big and I have no idea what to do with it. I’m curled up on the couch, drinking egg nog and coffee and re-watching Lost (Season One is so terrible, I can’t believe how much its writing improved over the years) and trying to remind myself that it’s going to be okay, I can go really slow, I don’t need to do anything I don’t feel up to doing, that I knew these hard things were coming when I got out of the hospital 10 weeks ago, and I can’t get better until I face them all. Tears slipping intermittently down my face. No dinner last night and not up to breakfast this morning. Just adrift.
I am secretly glad that my therapist canceled our appointment yesterday because at the appointed time, I was still drifting around in un-clarity and frustration. Our appointment would have been spent strategizing how to deal with those emotions, rather than getting to the root of them.
But because of my conversation with Jez yesterday, I knew where I was and what was going on. I related the entire conversation to her, and at the end she said, “Your friend is very wise. I would only add that at the end of all of it, you were just trying to have a happy, positive experience after so much suffering. And the positive aspects would have been and probably were very exacerbated by what preceded them, and the end probably felt a lot worse than it ordinarily would have. Because you couldn’t even have this one thing. Even that had to go wrong.” I nodded, yes, absolutely. “So let me ask you,” she began, which is how I always know that she’s about to launch into some dangerous territory. “Did you um…Did you want NOS to be in love with you?”
Oh god no. No.
“Right. Exactly. Because if he had been, eventually you would have discovered your fundamental incompatibilities and you would have been in a very painful and precarious position in which you were responsible for someone else’s feelings.” I thought about the girl he is with now, a hippied-out younger version of me, whose name rhymes with mine. Yes. With feelings I would have to manage. But instead, when he perceived that what we were doing was growing outside of his sphere of comfort and control, he shut it down. Which I would have eventually had to do with him–except I would have done it down the line, and maybe that’s crueler.
“So then what I’m wondering is, have you ever not been the dumped-girl?” I scan back through my previous relationships. There are a few exceptions, but by and large, not really no. I always have been. I wear a dumped-girl dress and carry a dumped-girl purse. I match them with my dumped-girl flats and pack my dumped-girl papers into my dumped-girl canvas bag-with-cute-slogan-or-graphic-on-it. “Does any part of your bringing-up resonate with this identity?”
I think for several long, long, painfully long minutes. Well yes. When I was 14 my parents left me at a friend’s house for three months because they couldn’t deal with me. They passed me over to the medical establishment for diagnosis and treatment. I was not a particularly bad teenager even, just headstrong. It wasn’t too much later that I vacated the family entirely, struck out on my own, homeless for a handful of months, and wound up on my Aunt’s doorstep, a high school drop out with a possible drug problem and no plan. Not a whit of one. [Disclaimer: in the year that followed I learned how to mop a floor and make an omelet and shop for deals and balance a checkbook. I got a job and took my GED and my ACT. I enrolled in community college and loaded my schedule–4-5 classes per semester. I found what made me happy. A year after that I was 17 and having the quintessential freshman-in-college experience, as if everything that had gone before was a terrible dream. I was back on track.)
“That’s a break up.”
She says. Matter-of-factly.
I concede that she could be right.
“Do you think anything else could have been going on in their lives at that time? Because it seems to me that when something bad happens, you immediately want to shoulder all culpability for it and you refuse to believe it might have almost nothing to do with you.”
Well, sure. Their marriage was obviously not on steady ground. They were working a lot. My mom was drinking a lot. My dad was adopting the passive stance he still holds today. I have been through a lot of therapy; I know that I am the sort of martyr for my family, that I was blamed for all the internal problems of the whole unit and sent off to be “cured”, I know this.
“I know you know it. I know. Your mom had you pretty young, didn’t she?”
“Well, do you think that maybe…maybe the strain of having a teenager was beyond her capabilities as a parent at the time?”
And then I remembered one afternoon, home alone, when I stumbled across my mom’s journal while I was taking a bath in her tub. I of course read it, and for many pages and in great detail, she wrote about how much she resented me, how sick it made her feel to look at me, how desperately she wished she never had to see me again. In so many words–although I do not remember actually reading the word–my mother wrote, over and over, that she hated me. A few weeks later I contrived a “nightmare” in which I parroted all of these sentiments, sometimes explicitly and word for word, back to her. I dreamed you told me this, I said to her. And she said no. No. You were the best thing that ever happened to me. You changed my life irrevocably for the better. I hadn’t remembered that particular episode for many years.
“So, then…what you’re saying to me is that your mother, explicitly and implicitly, gave up on you. That she felt like she couldn’t handle you and she pushed you away from herself and from your family. And then she also lied to your face about her reasons for doing it. She made it seem as if it were your fault, as if you were crazy, and difficult, and TOO MUCH.”
Well, yes. I guess that’s what I’m saying. Yes.
Just home from therapy, where I accidentally tore my own heart open.
By the way, I’ve decided to name the goldie Dolly. Jack and Dolly.
This afternoon Rabbit texted me, all the new thinking is about goldfish.
I am composing this entry while I am on air. I ought to wait a few hours to let this settle, but as C once wisely quipped, “you’ve got a lot of things. You’ve got a lot of wonderful things, but a filter isn’t one of them.”
I was thinking a lot about my conversation with C this weekend–how I finally got to tell him I clung to you because I was terrified and when you left I felt abandoned and re-traumatized. I’m sorry for what I said and thought about you–I don’t think I meant them anymore. Listening to this exact radio set while I crawled down I20 at 55 because of the rain slicking the road. Thinking a lot about how true that felt and still feels, and how EMDR must be working like a dream because when I think back to that screaming fight we had on the phone, or all the memories I have from the 24/7 time we spent together in the weeks after the tornado, I don’t feel the anxiety and rage and revulsion I used to feel anymore. I can identify having felt them, but they are historical.
I called Jez when I got home and told her about my train of thought. Here’s the thing, I rushed on, unsure of how to verbalize what came next but blurting and stumbling over words as they surfaced in my cold-addled brain, I want to be done. I’m ready to be done now. Jez burst out laughing. “You always want to be done! You are always ready to be done! You never give yourself the time!” I paused momentarily to acknowledge that yes, in fact, I judge my own feelings to be permissible or not pretty much constantly and it’s a serious road block that stands between, you know, feeling the feelings and getting them over with but ANYWAY.
The thing is, I know from my EMDR-blurts-and-sobs that NOS is also a part of this time for me and activates me in a similar way, only I can’t look at our mutual behavior as sensible given the circumstances; the thing is, he actually SAID he was dumping me because he felt traumatized by losing so much in the tornado; the thing is, I keep getting angry and because there is no one there to answer for that anger I turn it inward and get sick; the thing is, I think I could probably just forget about the whole thing if I could just forgive myself.
So I know this logically but I don’t believe it, in my chest, I explained, and I’m hoping that you can help me connect NOS to the tornado, in my heart where I can feel it as opposed to just paying it constant lip service? And then she said a lot of heart-smart things like “Have you considered that you couldn’t deal with this rage when you got out of the hospital and you turned it off for months, and that it’s actually only been a few weeks?”
Umno. No I didn’t.
“And being let go in THE EXACT SAME WAY not only lanced open a barely-scabbed wound, but it sent you tailspinning back into am I choosing these people am I too much am I not worth the effort and you just don’t need to go there because like I said, tomatoes and rain.”
Well, I actually think that’s true, yes.
“And what about phototropism? You had just gone through several shitty months and you just wanted someone to be nice to you. Someone you could go get peach ice cream with. You didn’t know it was going to bite you in the ass so bad. You were just turning your face to the sun. You were looking for joy, and you’re entitled to that.”
Yeah. I guess that’s definitely a thing.
I hope something sticks here. These are all extremely valid observations. And at the risk of sounding like the bitch we all know I am, we were not very well matched. Dude brought his A-game but had no stamina. I’m going places and they just probably are not going to be Tuscaloosa or My Favorite Bar (for the rest of my life, I mean. I fully intend to scoot back up there the second I kick this cold.) It is good to remember that I was not in love and trying to have babies, I was just making ice cream and going swimming. (I pause to talk into the microphone for a little while about Dragonette’s “Hello” and how much I love Robyn.) The character of this person in no way reflects poorly on me because it was a summer fling. DUH! OMG DUH. I can let myself off the hook for this; not only did I do everything right, it also didn’t mean that much to me, remember?
Holy shit I am so bad at dating people. I have said it here before but I am not-so-secretly enormously relieved to be off the menu for a year. I just cannot DEAL anymore.
More to write about deserving a break–on the drive to the airport this afternoon, phrases like I need to let myself off the hook for this kept drifting through my mind–but for now, I will be on the radio tonight from 8-10pm Central. You should tune in. When I have a cold I get serious Lauren Bacall voice.