40

Writer’s block is a bastard.

I’ve been stuck for almost a year now.

I suspect it was partially because I was in a relationship with someone who would likely have been very uncomfortable with me writing about him. I don’t know. I didn’t ask, and I didn’t write. (Which is a bit of a red flag right there, my not being able to write.)

But that relationship has been over for three months now.

So all bets are off.

And suddenly I feel like writing again.

Weird.

I dated this guy for two years. It was very enjoyable. We traveled quite a bit. He flew me out to see him a couple of times a year (he lives overseas) and we would go on little holidays around Europe. (Not going to lie, that was pretty amazing. I do love to travel.)

We went to pretty places and ate good food. I spent two years doing all of the things I could never possibly dream of doing as a divorced single mom, and with someone I cared about. And he was fun and easy to travel with.

We were good friends for many years before we got romantically entwined. (This was our second attempt. The first is covered in a different blog post.) We’ve known each other since we were teenagers.

Or at least I thought we knew each other. It’s interesting how you can know so much about a human and still not know them at all. It is quite clear to me now that he had absolutely no idea who the hell I was, really. (Which still baffles me, because it’s not like I’m quiet about it.)

I would see him when he flew out this direction. But only because he was already flying over to go see his relatives one state up. He had planned on flying over this summer and visiting, but then the plague hit, so that got tossed out the window. It would have been the only time in two years that he had flown over specifically to see me. (Another flag there. And yes, I have a collection now.)

We broke up right around the time he would have been visiting. Also, funny enough, almost the same day that we had broken up the first time around.

I knew we were in trouble when we were in Ireland last year during the Kavanaugh hearings. I was upset at what was happening in the States while I was over on holiday. I kept following the news, and it was all awful.

(Though it paled in comparison to our present news. One of the reasons I am sitting down and writing this now is because my state is on fire and the air is toxic, so I’m indoors with air filters running and a mask on my face. Writing is one of the only things I can currently do. It’s distracting me from the reality of wildfires and viruses and abysmal presidents.)

So yeah, the Kavanaugh hearings… He didn’t understand why I was upset. I tried explaining that it was infuriating to watch YET ANOTHER sexual predator get installed on the Supreme Court. His response was along the lines of, “It’s not like you can do anything to change it. It’s going to happen no matter how upset you are.”

It wasn’t fair for me to take it out on him, right? Except I wasn’t really taking it out on him. I was expressing strong emotions. Something I was to find was way out of his comfort zone, no matter what the topic.

But we were on vacation. In Ireland. One of my most favorite places in the entire world. (I’m mostly Irish, so this is not a surprise.)

I couldn’t argue with the logic of the fact that Kavanaugh was going to get installed on the court no matter how upset I was. That was true. It pissed me off no end, but it was a fact. And THAT WAS WHAT PISSED ME OFF. Because of course the United States was going to put yet another horrible misogynist on the highest court in the country. I’d seen what happened when they installed Clarence Thomas. Same shit, different decade. And the fact that nothing had changed in all those years was beyond maddening.

But we were on vacation. In Ireland.

So I tried to stop reading the news, and did my best to internalize the screaming rage I was feeling. I mean, it’s not like he was personally responsible for the rage. I wanted to enjoy the place we were visiting, and I can compartmentalize like a pro.

But I had that feeling. The one in the pit of my stomach, where I know something isn’t okay but can’t figure out exactly WHY. And that feeling is always right. (Not kidding. ALWAYS. It’s really irritating sometimes.)

I didn’t want to think about it. So I took a few minutes when we were in one of the museums and found a quiet corner where I could sit alone and let myself feel what I was feeling, cried a little bit, and then I put it all away in the back of my head.

I wanted things to work out.

But I knew they weren’t going to, no matter how much I wanted them to. And that was the day I knew.

Time continued to pass, and the relationship pressed on, but I didn’t feel as safe expressing myself as I had before. There was a lack of empathy that was disconcerting to me. Though I do think he tried to understand. He just…couldn’t.


And then Bloomberg bought his way into the election.

I was passionately opposed to voting for him in any capacity. And I was very open about it. I posted about it on Facebook, because I felt it was important I express those opinions out loud to the largest possible audience before he had a chance to gain the nomination. I’m of the distinct opinion that racist, sexist, douchebags shouldn’t be in charge. Racism and sexism are a deal-breaker for me. (I honestly do not understand how they’re not a deal-breaker for everyone. That makes no sense to me. Logically, I can see where those people get their ideas, but they’re so damn wrong it’s painful. Just…no.)

Apparently I was so vocal about it that it inspired one of my male friends to message me a diatribe about how wrong I was, and how not committing to “vote blue no matter who” was unacceptable. Thus ensued a long conversation thread in which I expressed why it would be a frigid day in hell before I gave that person my vote, and he got increasingly agitated because I wasn’t changing my stance. (He never did respond to my final message, the chicken.)

I told the guy I was dating the story of the conversation, and rather than just listen and attempt to empathize with me, he told me how the guy was probably justified in his anger at me.

That was not what I expected.

It wasn’t the “vote blue no matter who” part. It was the fact that I had used words like “racist” and “sexist” to describe Bloomberg. Who was apparently someone he respected. (BIG fucking red flag there…)

He explained to me that, if I had been using such strong words to argue my point, then I was never going to convince anyone to come over to my side. That it was no wonder this other guy had gone off on me about my post, because I was using the wrong words. That I should say something like, “He had policies that could be construed as racist.” Or, “He said things that could be viewed as sexist.” Which, to me, is bullshit.

Words mean things.

If I call someone sexist and racist, it’s not on a whim. There are countless articles discussing Bloomberg’s history of racism and sexism. Lawsuits, gag orders, policing policies that still continue to create damage long after they were ended. My opinion was based on the information I had ingested about this person through articles.

I read, and I read A LOT.

Writers for large publications were allowed to use those words to describe Bloomberg. But apparently if I used those words I was being too strident and argumentative. It was my own fault I had gotten yelled at.

There was also the problem of the fact that I wasn’t actually trying to convince anyone of anything. If people took what I was saying and it affected their opinion of Bloomberg, great. But if they weren’t convinced, that wasn’t really my problem. It wasn’t a sales pitch. And if they were uncomfortable with the words I was using… well… I am not interested in editing myself in political discussions for the sake of someone else’s comfort. Especially some middle-aged white dude that I barely knew.

So we had an argument/discussion about that, and I got pretty upset. It was like we were talking in circles. And it was too much for me at the time, so I asked him if we could step away from that discussion and come back to it later. Some things are difficult for me to process, and I needed time to figure out exactly why I was so upset about the conversation. (There are legit mental health reasons for this. There were some extremely difficult things happening in my life as a parent, which meant I had no extra energy for these kinds of discussions. I explained this to him. He appeared to understand at the time.)

Now, here’s the part where I should have just given him access to the file of articles I had collected regarding Bloomberg. (I collect articles on many subjects. I like keeping them in separate files so I can go back and reference them if I need to. Again, I read A LOT.) But I had this horrible fear that, even if he read the articles, he would still stand by his original opinion of the man. And I really didn’t want to end up having my boyfriend reveal to me that he’s perfectly fine with racists and sexists, as long as they’ve got enough cash. Which may not have been the case. But this was the second time we had ended up having a political discussion where those topics came up, and his previous opinions made me wary.

Still, I look back and wish I had done that anyway. Ripped the band-aid off, as it were.

But then Bloomberg fell out of the race (thank freaking goodness), so the discussion became mostly irrelevant. We still discussed it, but it wasn’t as emotionally fraught for me as it had been. And even then, we reached an impasse because – though he stated otherwise – he clearly wanted me to hand him all the information in a neat little package. And because I have spent a lifetime doing other people’s work for them, I refused. (Which I probably wouldn’t have done if he hadn’t sided with the guy who yelled at me online. But he did. So I dug my heels in on this one.)

Our conversations became less intimate after that. Political topics were approached with more caution. He kept saying how he wanted to be able to have those kinds of discussions with me, but without all the emotion. And that it was okay for us not to agree on everything all the time. Which is true, to a point. But there is a point…

During this time I had a conversation with a good friend of mine that changed my perspective on my relationship, and relationships in general. I was talking about how the guy I was dating wanted me to avoid talking about certain topics with his friend because they made him uncomfortable. Not the friend. Him. (It was a discussion where I said my income out loud while we were talking about the cost of living. I’m poor. He’s not. This does not bother me. I will say pretty much anything to anyone. And money is not what drives me. I know my income does not define me, so I have no problem saying these things no matter who the audience is.)

But I was trying to understand it from his perspective. I don’t spend much time at all with people who are in that kind of an income bracket, so I have no idea if there are rules about these things. Which is why I had reached out for advice.

At some point in the conversation I said, “Maybe I’m just too much for him.”

My friend was quiet for a second and then said, “Has it ever occurred to you that maybe HE’S just not enough for YOU?”

That changed everything.

He and I limped along for another few months after that. It is pretty easy to continue having a relationship with someone who isn’t in the same country and is largely incapable of ending things on his own.

(There was an ex-girlfriend he jettisoned in the first year we were together, and he seriously did not have the ability to remove that succubus himself, so I helped. She was emotionally abusive and not a terribly nice person at all. And I understand how hard it is to extricate yourself from an abusive relationship. I was happy to help him. But damn…she wasn’t even subtle about being awful. He had signed up for a law course just so he could have a valid reason not to visit her as often. I mean…wow. It would have been a hell of a lot easier if he had just told her the truth years ago. But again, this was not in his skill set.)

Then the BLM protests started.

I wrote to him the week the protests started and expressed my concern that this was a volatile situation. Our country has been devolving into chaos for a while now, and this was, I feared, a tipping point.

He mistook my concern for me being worried that there would be rioting or something near me. And in the process of attempting to comfort me via text, and in what was – in his mind – an attempt at humor, he said I shouldn’t worry too much because those protests were only happening in cities where there were a lot of angry Black people. And that maybe I should bake my local cops some cake.

It took me all day to respond to that one.

When I did, and tried to explain why Black people in this country are absolutely justified in protesting, we hit a wall. He hadn’t been very tuned in to the news, and he got upset when I said the police as a whole need to be reformed. That I think it’s a systemic issue within law enforcement. He was of the “it’s just a few bad ones” mentality. Admitting there might be a systemic problem in the country as a whole, but stopping short of saying it was a huge problem in our policing system. Because it just wasn’t possible that there were more bad cops than good, and clearly I was being over the top.

So, because I still felt guilty for not giving him my Bloomberg file, I wrote an email regarding the subject, and attached several articles which supported my reasoning. I wanted to give him a chance to educate himself on what was happening so he could be better informed when discussing it with me. (He lives in Europe, but he’s still an American. He doesn’t read nearly as much American news as I do, but few people do. I was giving him the benefit of the doubt.)

He came back to me and tried to continue the discussion. But he made the mistake of telling me he had only bothered to read a couple of the articles, and proceeded to tell me he had hoped I would just sum it all up and give it to him that way.

He still wanted to have the discussion.

He didn’t even do the fucking homework.

That was it. The third strike.

We were quite clearly on very different pages. In different universes, even.

I told him we needed to talk. A couple days later, at a time we had agreed to, we talked.

(I needed a couple of days to come down off the rage high. It’s never good to have important conversations when I’m in that headspace. Especially when dealing with someone who has issues with strong emotions.)

And then we had the break-up conversation.

After the usual pleasantries had run their course I said, “This isn’t working.”

And he said, “I know, but I should have been the one to say that.”

(Which made me literally hold the phone away from my head and look at it in disbelief. Not kidding.)

He pointed out that he had a tendency to treat me as if I was overreacting all the time. And that I deserved better. (Which is absolutely true, and I told him I had noticed and agreed. I do deserve better than that.) I did not point out the fact that it was pretty damn sad that he was aware he was treating me like that and had no interest or intention of changing it. Breaking up was the easy out for him. He wouldn’t have to look too hard at his own behavior, and he could continue living in his comfortable world where none of the things that were affecting me were touching him in the slightest.

Then he went on to list all the good things he had gotten from our relationship.

Because of my influence, apparently, he was better about giving money to homeless people, and had started shopping on Etsy, and was even considering writing a letter to his senator about current events. (Sweet holy hand grenades. I’m still shaking my head at that. I’ve been writing letters to politicians since I was 12. Ah, the perils of being raised by politically active parents.)

I’m not going to go into the gory details of that conversation beyond that. (I remained perfectly civil, thank you very much.) It was over.

Before I hung up I did ask him to, at least, please not get back into a relationship with the woman I had helped him jettison. Because, before anything else, we were friends. And I didn’t want him to spend the rest of his life miserable. And he said he wouldn’t, which was good. (Though in some of my darker moments I think they’re perfect for each other. But no, I’m not that evil.) I know I left him in a better place than I found him. I’m glad for that.

And I certainly learned some very valuable lessons from this whole thing.

I learned that I hate apathy.

I learned that I don’t want to do other people’s homework for them when they are perfectly capable of doing it themselves. That I resent it when my opinions are questioned by someone who doesn’t bother doing their own research.

I learned that good food, travel, and sex – while definitely enjoyable – are not enough to sustain a relationship when there are other things lacking.

I learned that I am never again getting into a relationship with someone who isn’t capable of expressing their emotions openly. Because I am incapable of not saying things out loud. That’s not how I operate. If my out-loud voice makes you uncomfortable, you’re in the wrong room.

And honestly, I think I’m done anyway. Humans stress me out. I’m tired of being in relationships with people who want me to be someone other than my true self. Which happens NEARLY EVERY TIME. I actually like me. I don’t think I need to do an overhaul of my personality to be lovable. I would rather spend the rest of my life alone and happy with myself than in a relationship with someone who judges me and doesn’t actually respect me enough to take me seriously.

So here I am. Saying the words I want to say, when I want to say them.

I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I am just…me.

And it’s good to be back.

39

It has been hard to write.

I think maybe because the chaos level has been so high that I couldn’t settle long enough to produce anything. And it’s not like it’s been everything all at once, but more of a slow and steady onslaught of “just one more thing.”

(This personal chaos is on top of the fact that our government is currently run by malignant, destructive trolls. Which is a fact that horrifies me daily.)

Last Christmas my dad got diagnosed with lung cancer. So this whole last year has been watching him go through surgery and fear and waiting. (He is okay. The surgery was successful. He doesn’t have to do chemo or radiation, they caught it really early. We are all grateful beyond measure.)

The year before that it was my mom getting diagnosed with breast cancer. And then that year of watching and waiting and hoping she’d be okay. (She is also okay. She has pain from the treatments, which irritates her, but thankfully both my parents are still alive and reasonably well.)

So the last couple of years have involved holding my breath and hating cancer.

Then I lost a friend to cancer last month. She was a bright, shiny, kind human I had met around 20 years ago through The Cherries (online group of Jennifer Crusie fans that existed before Facebook, full of some of the loopiest, best people I’ve ever been fortunate enough to know). She was young and sweet and always had kind words for everyone around her. She was well-loved and will be missed by a lot of humans.

Cancer is an asshole. Pretty sure no one is going to argue that point.

And then last week a dear friend’s very loved daughter nearly left us. On purpose. Thankfully she is home and extant. I have no idea what to do except tell her I love her and wish I could take that pain away with every fiber of my being.

(I get it, kid. I really do. I wish I didn’t, but there it is. My heart hurts.)

This world is a hard one to live in right now.

It is hard to write in this world, because there is a lot of energy being expended on not succumbing to the madness.

I will maintain. But it’s at a cost. Writing has been impossible. My brain has not been settled enough to dwell on any one topic and play with it verbally.

Peopling is also currently exceedingly hard. It’s all I can do to interact with the random humans I see out in the world (grocery shopping, buying gas, looking for mechanics, you know…as one does). It really is everything I can muster when I’m friendly outside my house. I can smile and fake it for a limited time, but then I need to go away. It’s not personal. I just can’t people right now.

And why, pray tell, would I be seeking a mechanic? Because yesterday my fourteen year old car broke down in the grocery store parking lot.

I had just finished getting a few things from the store, and was with my teenaged son (also fourteen), who thought I was joking when I said the car wouldn’t start – so he started laughing.

I was not laughing.

(Seriously, Universe, I had just managed to squeak through the month financially and this is what you do? Thanks.)

Totally dead car. Battery still mostly functional because lights and windows and stuff still worked, but obviously slowing down a bit. I figured it was the starter. But I am very much not a mechanic. So I called my dad to see what he thought. (He concurred, but lives a state away. Not so much able to give us a lift home.)

I then called a local friend to beg for a ride home, because while the walk is manageable, I had groceries and a teenager with all his school stuff. (She picked us up. She is awesome. And got cookies for her troubles.)

When I got home, I posted to my local Facebook women’s group, looking for recommendations and help and just hoping someone would take pity on me. (Which they did. These are good people. There’s a lot of support there if I can just bring myself to open up and ask for it. That’s the tricky part.)

So last night was spent messaging people locally who might be able to help and actually finding someone who performed a small miracle and got my car running again, one last time, so I could get it home without having it towed. (They get all the baked goods. Seriously.)

It probably is the starter. (Car is definitely not starting again. I’m just grateful it managed to limp home.) It’ll need replacing. And the battery needs some attention, too, because the starter tried to take it with it when it went. (Complicated mechanical explanation of that which I can’t repeat because I have no idea what the heck the guy was talking about. It sounded legit, though. And he did get my car running temporarily.)

So that’s this week.

This is following a month where my food benefits got cut in half. (I have two teens. My income has not changed dramatically. I suspect it has something to do with the malignant trolls. It is what it is. I have stuff squirreled. My kids will not go without.)

In this same month my ex suggested a cut in child support so he could save up for a vacation abroad with the kids. (Dude makes around 45k more a year than I do. I didn’t even bother responding to the email. Every time I opened it and tried to respond I started typing sarcasm and profanity, so I figured it was best left alone. He has not said anything to my face about this. Wise choice.)

Also, my oldest has been suffering from stomach issues for the last four months, so we’ve been in and out of doctor’s offices (and a couple of fun ER trips), trying to figure out what in the heck is going on (still not entirely sure, but at least part of the problem got solved, and they’re feeling better so that’s good).

And my house is a mess because apparently me working from home means I live in the nice, tidy office now and shut the door on the household chaos. (Before it was the opposite. This now-functional space was a pit from the depths of Hades. There were psychological reasons for that, because dealing with divorce sucks beyond measure, but it’s a nice space now. I even smudged it. To exorcise the demons, so to speak.)

It’s not all bad things.

Right there is a good thing: the purging of the garage. Psychologically healthy step. Look at me being all functional in that area. Go me. (My therapist was pleased.)

The reason I had to clean out the garage was because my boss moved to Canada (okay, that was bad, I miss her and now spend way too much time talking to my goldfish), but then I took over the running of much of the business and now have a really cool workshop/office in my house so my commute is gone (good).

And in a couple of weeks I am off to see my significant other again. Which is decidedly a good thing. I’m not sure I can adequately express how good that is, actually.

However, I am both impatient to go and totally stressed because of all the things I have to do before I leave. Fun juxtaposition. (I’m trying to work extra right now to cover the two weeks I’ll be sans paycheck, but it seems that might be going for car repairs. So I’ll have to improvise. I can do this. I’ve managed to make it this far.)

And today (which is the only day I’m concerned with getting through currently) I woke up relatively pain-free (this is not usual, and I will totally take it).

The sun came up and made rainbows through the sun-catcher I have in my office window.

The coffee got made (and because I had gone to the store yesterday I had cream for it).

The kids left for school. (Their dad took them. I’ve had to interact with him a lot this last week. There’s a whole other post there someday if I can manage it. But back to the good stuff.)

The cats got fed. (And they have enough to last a while, so that’s not on my worry list.)

The car is back in the driveway (still dead, but at least home).

My house is warm. (Yay for a functional furnace! There were a couple of winters where that was not something I could count on.)

And I have snickerdoodles to go with my coffee. (And they’re damn good, because I made them. If there’s one thing I do know for certain in this world, it’s that I make really good cookies.)

And I just produced a whole blog post after seven months of nothing much. Things could be worse.

(No, universe, that is NOT a challenge.)

38

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about love. I mean, the holiday kind of requires it. There’s nowhere you can go that’s clear of hearts right now. There are hearts hanging from lampposts in a nearby town, with the names or initials of people who have sponsored them and short messages of affection. Red and pink candy all over the stores. Fluffy stuffed animals bearing puffy hearts with pithy comments like, “I love you beary much” on them. It’s all very festive. My teeth might be starting to hurt just a little bit from all the festive, actually.

Celebrating love isn’t a bad thing. Probably humanity could do with a bit more love. (I mean, if we’re going to race towards our own extinction we should love as much as we can while we have time, right? Oh, wait, that’s not the kind of talk one should indulge in on a day like today. Sorry. Where was I? Oh yeah, love.)

Love is an interesting sensation. I’ve experienced all kinds of different love in my life thus far. Some of it has been wonderful. Some less so. Some has been an involuntary response (love for family comes to mind). It’s all been an educational experience. I regret none of it.

Love is never a mistake. As long as you love yourself first. (That’s the trick most people seem to miss. And it’s at the core of all love. Love means practicing kindness, and who better to start practicing on than your own self?)

Probably of all the different kinds, I find the love I have for my children to be fiercest and most visceral. That’s the kind of love where you imagine yourself tearing the world apart if something nefarious were to happen. The kind that gives mama bears their reputation.

Of course, I know I can’t keep harm from coming to my children. Ye gods, they’re teenagers. Every ounce of energy I can muster at this point (and I don’t have much – because teenagers) is directed at getting those kids to survive to adulthood. I know full well there’s only so much control I can pretend to have. Still, the love is fierce. Even when they’re in the midst of their most maddening teenaged moments, I will never not love those humans.

Then there are the other kinds.

I love my family. All of them.

Sometimes it’s the kind of love where I’m watching someone I care for step on their own air hose. Sometimes it’s the kind where I’m celebrating their awesomeness. But it’s always love. These are my people. We have each other’s backs. I know that if I reach out for any of those people, they will be there. They know the same. That is a solid, tangible love.

I love humanity as a whole. Because we are complex unique creatures with very little sense of how precious and amazing this thing we call life is, and we continue to flail and struggle and create, even though we are infinitesimal blips on the cosmic timeline. (Optimistic creatures, humans. Always thinking we have more time. We’re so cute. How can I not love us?) That’s an all-encompassing love-for-my-species thing, and I think is probably part of what keeps me from losing patience with frustrating people. Like the ones who make poor choices in traffic, or cut in line, or insist on watching Billy Madison on repeat because they think it’s funny. (Did I mention I have teenagers?)

But as to the rest? I don’t know.

This is why I’ve been thinking about the concept of love lately. Because for me love, in particular romantic love, has frequently involved way too much pain, and I am navigating uncharted territory there in my current relationship. There’s a lack of emotional distress that confuses my damaged soul. I like it. But it’s certainly not what I’ve been conditioned to expect.

I’m not sure why I have chosen to love difficult people before, but I did. (Oh hell, I actually DO know why I’ve chosen difficult people before. And I think I covered at least a little bit of that previously. But I needed that sentence for the transition, so consider it poetic license.)

Pretty sure I’ve learned that particular lesson. I like to think I have. Lately I’m feeling good about where my heart is, so I’m just going to go with that.

(I’m always nervous about putting things like that into writing for fear it will doom me. It’s like I’ll say something cheerful out loud and suddenly the universe will go, “Wait a minute! She’s HAPPY! Better fuck that up right now before she relaxes.” Hey, I never claimed to be rational in my fears. And in my defense, the universe and I have what you might call a history in this department.)

But this is where the concept of love starts to get a little complicated for me. This idea of romantic love.

I mean, I understand some of it, I think. The bits where you want to spend a lot of time around someone, and smile when you think about them, and take all your pleasant memories with them and polish them and keep them close in your mind. The bits where you see them across a room, or hear them on the phone, and your heart lightens a bit just because they’re existing. The bits where you find yourself wanting to know all of their stories, even the difficult ones. The bits where you give them the last bite of the piece of chocolate cake you’re sharing.

You know, serious love.

I thought it was a choice. That you could choose to love someone or choose not to. Maybe it is.

(It feels like stepping off a cliff, for me. With much contemplation before the drop, but no stopping once I’ve gone over the edge.) But I’m not so sure anymore. Maybe we really can’t stop ourselves. Because I think love complicates things and makes life challenging in new and interesting ways, and sometimes people might choose not to let their lives be complicated. But just when you think someone is the soul of practicality, there they go, stepping off the cliff anyway.

Because you just never know.

Because falling feels like flying.

And that’s the fun part.    

A couple of times I got involved in destructive love, and felt powerless, which was no fun at all. I don’t recommend that kind of love. Avoid it at all costs. Some people love in dangerous ways. And that’s not love. It’s a twisted idea of what love should be, which has much more to do with control than caring.  

(I got better.)

I still have love for the people I don’t actively love. See the complexity inherent in the system? There’s the love for the human as a part of humanity. And then there’s the love for the individual. Which is not the same. One can exist without the other. (Thank goodness. Because there’s only so much my psyche can take on any given day.)

But on this particular day, fraught with holiday-ness, I think love is simple.

Strip it bare of all the candy and hearts and sentimental cards (though maybe leave me some of the chocolate) and you have one basic truth.

Love is kindness.

Be kind.

37

I had planned to write about the concept of people “deserving” the good or bad things that happen to them. Because it’s been on my mind. And it bugs me. This may still be that post. I’m not sure. This could go anywhere, at this point. I am severely jet-lagged. Anything could happen.

(I’m in the wrong time-zone. I should be in Munich. I’m coming to terms with this.)

Good things are happening in my life. I’m in a healthy, peaceful, happy relationship with someone who is decent and kind and trying to be the best person he can possibly be. (We just happen to be in different countries right at this moment. Which is a frustration. But not an insurmountable one.)

We have known each other since we were in high school together. We have been friends for a very long time, though life sometimes got in the way and we went years without contact. (During my marriage, for example. Because when you’re involved with an emotionally abusive person you become isolated from the very people you need to stay closest to. Go figure.)

I still remember when I knew we were going to be friends. It was the first time I met him, on the orchestra bus, leaning over the back of my seat to talk to my other friend who was sitting next to him. Both good guys. Both wicked smart and funny and kind. My people. He made me laugh, and he got the jokes. Excellent basis for a friendship at any age.

The first time we tried to have a definitely-more-than-friends relationship was a few years ago. I had been divorced for a while, and I knew there was something between us that needed exploring. So we did, for a little while. But that time around he was not quite ready for me. Which happens. Timing is everything, it seems. And just because you think you know in your core what is right and true, doesn’t mean everyone is on the same page at the same time.

I got hurt pretty badly that time around. I did write about it on here at one point. For the sake of catharsis.

But even in the midst of that anger and hurt, I missed him. I missed my friend. I missed how easy it was to be around him. I missed how I felt when I was with him. And I knew we were not done yet. (Though I sure as hell wasn’t admitting that, even to myself, for a long time.)

But last winter I opened the door again. I happened to see a photo of him visiting a mutual friend, and seeing his face no longer stabbed me through the heart like it had before. I still missed him. It was time.

I gave him the opportunity to explain what had happened, and to apologize in person. And he did. In a way that confirmed what I had always suspected, that he was a decent human who had fucked up and had learned a painful lesson. Hell, I knew as soon as I saw him in person, after two years of deliberately avoiding any thought of him (and failing miserably, I might add). Arrow right into my heart. No stopping that when it happens.

It was like coming home.

I hadn’t really been ready for him either, when we first tried the relationship. I was damaged from my marriage, and had no idea what an actual healthy relationship should look like. Emotional abuse is no joke, people. It messes very deeply with your head. Very. Deeply. Therapy is imperative, at least for me. (I still have times where I wish my ex had hit me physically instead, and that’s pretty fucked up.)

Let me be clear. This is not how it always works. Sometimes people fuck up and don’t learn at all. (My ex-husband is a case in point there.) People don’t like to admit when they’ve made mistakes. They especially don’t like having to face them and apologize for them. And growth is painful. But if you own your flaws and actually learn from them, then you can grow as a human and do better. If you don’t, and you refuse to grow, then you’re going to be a very unhappy person and no one can fix that for you.

No one can fix you FOR you. This is important. Do your own work.

Sometimes people don’t learn.

He learned.

So did I.

So we started again. Trying it differently, this time. Talking about all of the things we had been afraid to talk about before. (ALL of the things.) Allowing ourselves to tentatively have that level of vulnerability with each other, because we saw what happened when you didn’t do that. Tentatively because we still weren’t sure if we could trust what was happening yet, and when you’ve been hurt enough you learn caution.

We both learned.

We learned that it’s more important to say things out loud, even if you’re afraid of how the other person will react. (He had been involved with someone very similar to my ex-husband. Explosive constantly. Over everything, no matter the scale. He was still in the process of extricating himself from that toxic relationship.)

I knew, intellectually, that it was better to say things out loud. But practice is harder when you’ve been well-trained. So now we are both learning that it’s okay (and necessary) to be honest and open, and he’s started to understand that I don’t go nuclear unless there’s an actual proportional reason.

It takes A LOT to get me to the point where I explode. (A fact that worked in my ex-husband’s favor far too many times.) But it’s me. I can’t be other than who I am, even when provoked.

For example, when I confronted the woman who had been having an affair with my then-husband I was exceedingly polite and the phone conversation ended with her apparently feeling more loyal to me than to him. (To the point where she actually contacted me a couple of months later when my then-husband-soon-to-be-ex contacted her again – which was something he had sworn never to do. Poor fool never expected that she would tell me. Mr. Mensa.)

That’s how I work. I hate confrontation, but I’ll do it if pushed to the brink. And I’ll still do my damndest not to let it overwhelm me and push me beyond logic and reason. (Oh, it happens. Believe me. I’m only human. But it’s rare.) This may make me seem like I’m a lot calmer in the face of adversity than I actually am. But surfaces can be deceiving. Still, self-control is important to me. My pain shouldn’t become someone else’s, even if they may “deserve” it.

(I don’t think people “deserve” good OR bad things happening to them. I think things happen. And then you do what you can with them to either grow or stagnate. But “deserve”? I didn’t deserve to be beaten down verbally for 12 years. No one deserves that. And in my mind I can’t deserve the good things without thinking how maybe I deserved the bad things. And that…bothers me. I need to find a different word. I don’t know. Maybe I’m overthinking this. I tend to do that. My brain likes to chew on things.)

I’m learning how to not expect anger all the time. A hard habit to break. Even in the face of a rational, kind, decent human. But I am learning.

I spent years with my ex-husband being wrong, being in trouble, being told I was moody and difficult and incapable of doing anything right. (“Right” being how HE would have done it, of course. Deviations were not tolerated.) Told these things by someone who was supposed to love me. Being told, over and over, I was incompetent and not good enough.

I was a “whore” for wearing a tank-top on a hot day. I was a “slut” because I had the temerity to have boyfriends (and girlfriends – God forbid I talk about them ever, because my bisexuality was a huge threat to his stability) before I even met him. I was a bad mother for not feeding my kids all the requisite food groups every day (which I had to report back to him for his immediate criticism each evening when he’d get home from work).

I was a bad wife. I wasn’t the wife he had wanted me to be. The divorce was obviously my fault. (He reminded me of this less than a year ago, when I finally took the last of his boxes that had been stored in my garage over to his place and dropped them off. And yes, I know I should have jettisoned that crap ages ago. Sometimes I’m slow.)

I was never good enough. Nothing was ever good enough, and it was always my fault. Always. (Yep. Still kind of wishing he’d hit me instead. Which is still immensely fucked up. At least I could have pointed to that and said, “See? THIS is why I have to leave.” Words are so much harder to pin down.)

But now, with this most excellent human being I’m lucky enough to be with, I am starting to understand how it should be.

I’m learning.

We both have things we need to re-learn. We were both burned before, and it’s hard to unlearn old survival skills.

This time, though, we are learning together. And it’s a beautiful thing.

We must deserve each other.

36

This was written in the midst of a particularly dark depressive episode recently. It’s not the prettiest scenery, but it’s certainly honest.

This last couple of weeks has been rife with triggers.

I hate that word. It’s been overused and made into a joke by teenagers. (I know, because I’ve had to tell my own teens off for using it inappropriately, and I know they think I’m just being a boring, pedantic adult, but it bothers me that it’s been taken and weaponized by people who do not understand what it means to truly be triggered.)

I have depression and anxiety. I understand what it means to be triggered. I’m relatively aware of where most of my triggers exist, and I avoid them to the best of my abilities whenever possible. (Not possible. Life is chaos. You learn to cope.)

I do the best I can and manage most things in my life with some semblance of balance and order, despite the fact that my brain tries to sabotage me on a daily basis.

And it does. I am walking and talking and breathing and speaking like a stable human being. I can smile and nod with the best of them. Internally I am also screaming and crying and irrationally afraid with a racing heart and churning stomach and weight on my chest that makes it difficult to breathe (and a body that shuts down with migraines sometimes when it’s overwhelmed).

All at the same time. I am all things at all times.

I am rage and fear and loneliness and helplessness and despair and jealousy and humiliation and rejection and pain and pain and pain (and more pain). I am joy and love and light and peace and comfort and the kind of laughter that makes you hurt.

All things. At all times.

It’s like living with electricity buzzing under my skin. My mind is constantly moving, absorbing, processing, categorizing, and wishing desperately for rest. Death will be peaceful. Merely a fact.

I see the appeal of peace. But I don’t want to precipitate it. I’ve fought too damn hard for too long. Still breathing. Still walking. Still on this side of the lawn. I’m not done yet. Not even close.

I know people who have left. This life can be too much. I understand.

No. I mean I UNDERSTAND.

It is too much sometimes. So much that it becomes difficult to breathe past the hard knot in my throat, wanting to scream but unable to muster the effort because it’s an exercise in futility. Looking at the world burning down and helpless to stop it. Absorbing all the pain roiling through our atmosphere. Hurting to the core. Wishing for numbness but fearing it at the same time.

The too much can become crystalized in a moment. A friend will divulge a secret and the bomb goes off internally. Nothing happens immediately. Just a mental pause. Filing of information.  Measured response. Compartmentalizing like a pro.

Then that information seeks out more files, in the recesses of my mind. Files I try to keep shut for reasons of sanity and stability. But there they are, being opened. Because that’s how minds work. They keep information around similar information to make it easier to access later. Makes sense.

Unfortunately this specific information is one big swirling vortex of tar and oil and dirt and grime and several hundred tape loops that like to go over and over and over again in my mind until I struggle to hear anything else.

Probably I could have coped with that. I’ve been coping with it for a while now, and I’ve gotten much better at handling it.

But then there was another one. A trigger.

And it tied into that first one in a really fun and sneaky way. Which added to the quantity of tape loops already playing. Until it became a cascade. The smallest things now are the biggest things. I am angry at all of the things. Across the boards.

Another trigger. The ground slips out from underneath me. I have successfully been pulled into a depressive black hole. Awesome.

So now I have to pull myself out of it.

Goddammit.

My reserves are depleted. Living in this country is enough to send anyone into a depressive vortex.

And to deny the news is irresponsible. Even if it’s making me scream inside every time I read it. BECAUSE it’s making me scream inside. That outrage and pain and furious cries of “Are you fucking kidding me?” need to be heard globally because none of this is okay. And people who are pretending it is are the ones who truly scare me.

Even my therapist doesn’t seem to think I’m overreacting when I talk about how humanity is stepping on their own air hose and how we’re all doomed. So much for my old, garden-variety anxiety. All the stuff of my childhood nightmares has become the reality of our present day. So does this mean my anxiety is rational?  This is not reassuring.

But really, I can do this.

I might need a lifeline. Or something.

I have good things. I need to think about the good things. Because they are really, really good.

I have love. And I have people. And I have air. And water. And a roof over my head. When I am hungry there is food to eat. When I’m alone there are still cats to pet.

My children are good people. They’re kind humans.

In this moment the sun is shining. The music is loud. But it is music of my choosing, which is rare enough in this house of teenagers.

And the small things that are big things will go back to being small things. My sense of perspective will return. I will find my way.

I will allow this pain to wash over me. I will allow the memories and words to run off me and back into the dirt. I will allow myself to feel this right now.

I will keep breathing.

And maybe I will dance to the music.

And maybe I will sing along.

35

I shaved my mom’s head recently. Thereby bringing full circle a path we had started down more than 20 years ago when my parents dropped me off at college, and my dad turned me into a “street tough” with the help of a beard trimmer.

(This is the epic neck-shaving incident from the autumn of 1993, which I had the joy of retelling recently when I shaved the back of my own daughter’s head. But that’s another story entirely, unrelated to this particular cake-walk. My kid, she does her own thing. Oh, wait, maybe it’s not entirely unrelated…)

The night before my parents dropped me off at college in Minnesota, I asked my dad to shave the back of my neck. My hair was cut pretty short already in an angled bob (which, with what was left of the bad perm I had my senior year in high school, made me look like a human-poodle hybrid), and I wanted him to shave the back of my neck and line it up with the bob so I wouldn’t have to worry about getting a haircut for a long time. (I hate hair maintenance.) He obliged, I was happy, and neither one of us even remotely considered the possibility that my mother was going to hit the ceiling.

Which she did.

There was a huge fight, which took place in the bathroom of the friend’s house we were staying in, wherein she yelled at my dad for aiding and abetting me in what was apparently my pursuit to look like a “street tough.” And yelled at me for wanting to do such a ridiculous thing to my own head in the first place. It was messy and loud. But the hair was gone, and there wasn’t anything to be done for it except yell.

In retrospect it was a necessary argument to make the separation the next day a little easier on everyone, because my parents were about to leave me 1,600 miles away from home. This is, apparently, a big deal when it’s your firstborn kid. I’m starting to understand that a little better now that I have spawn of my own to launch.

Either way, thus was born the “street tough” legend that would come up in our family any time someone shaved part of their head. (Because that is the magical thing that makes you into a street tough, you know. Shave part of your head and BAM – street tough. I’m still not sure what that entails beyond the head shaving, but apparently it’s a bad thing. I mean, I did end up getting tattoos, too. Obviously the haircut was the first step down the wayward path of hedonism and crime I find myself on. Oh, wait. No crime. Damn.)

Which brings us into the present day, and my moment of truth.

I went up a few weeks ago to visit my parents and check in, specifically with my mom. She’s been having chemotherapy to deal with her breast cancer (last one finished this week, much to everyone’s relief, now on to radiation), and she’d landed in the hospital with an infection a week or so before.

She was home and fine, but I just needed to see her face. It’s difficult to be this far away from my parents when they’re going through this.

Chemo sucks. I think this is a truth universally acknowledged to be true. And one of the crappy things about it is that your hair falls out. But it doesn’t all fall out at once. It sheds in drips and drabbles and it leaves a mess all over the place. My mom does not do well with this kind of mess.

She had talked about going down to the local barbershop and just having them shave her head, but when I came to visit she still hadn’t taken the time to do that, which kind of surprised me. We talked a little bit about how annoyed she was with all the bits of hair being left everywhere, and how the mess was bothering her, and I could see from her body language that she was folding in on herself and deflating every time she talked about it. Then she mentioned that she kept meaning to go get her head shaved, but that the barbershop chair was directly in front of a large plate-glass window, and she didn’t want to go in and put herself on display like that.

We had been cleaning the hair off the bathroom floor while she was telling me this, sweeping up the bits that kept shedding as she went through her day. Vacuuming pieces of my mother up and discarding them, as she would put it. And though she was being very matter-of-fact about this story she was telling me, I could see this was bothering her. She needed someone to just do the deed. To take her by the hand and sit her down, and just be done with it.

So I did.

I sat her down on the bench they keep in their bathroom, got out my dad’s electric razor, and used the clipper extension to shave my mom’s hair down to the absolute nubbins right there. All of the bits falling to the floor at once. No more waiting for it to finish. Facing away from the mirror. No more dreading the plate-glass window. Just done.

She has a nice-shaped head.

It’s the same size and shape as my grandmother’s head.

I realized this as I smoothed my hands over her skull, brushing bits of hair to the floor, looking for parts I had missed. Gentle with my mom’s fragile skin, worn out with chemo.

The sense-memories that hit me as I did this, smoothing my mom’s head as I shaved off the remnants of her hair, took me back to the times I had put my grandmother’s baby-fine hair into the soft rubber curlers she used, helping her do her hair when her arthritic hands were too sore to be useful. I would stand behind her as she sat at her kitchen table, in the few years I was old and tall enough to do these things for her, before we lost her to cancer. Methodically putting her wispy, fine age-whitened hair into the curlers she would then sleep on.

My mother and my grandmother, their delicate skulls housing beautiful brains. Wildly different and exactly the same. Matriarchs.

Standing behind my mother in the bathroom, helping her deal with this moment in time that she had been dreading and anticipating ever since the diagnosis came down, I thought of how many times she cut my hair when I was a child. How many times I watched her cut my brothers’ hair. All the hair that had been through her hands, and how there I was, with hers in mine.

I turned the razor off and put it on the counter. I smoothed moisturizer over my mom’s newly-shaven scalp, watching her shoulders relax with the moment having passed finally. Letting go.

And then I thought about that evening in Minnesota, when my mom was so very angry at my dad and me for shaving my neck. For turning me into a street tough.

And I laughed.

Because here we were. Full circle.

I was turning my mom into a street tough.

And it was good.

34 (As in the number. Because I am done with weeks. So there.)

It’s been a while.

I have to admit, even opening a blank document caused me to feel like the elephant who has taken up residence on my chest shifted a little heavier. But I’m writing anyway. Fuck that. The elephant can just cope.

So what we have here is a perfect storm of depression and Life Events (which I will get into eventually), combined with a horrible self-destructive certainty that I am the world’s crappiest writer. (Not because I’m actually a crappy writer, I think I’m middling okay when I’m actually doing the work. But because I should be writing instead of wallowing inside my own brain with no audience to appreciate the level of lunacy I achieve in there. The material never stops, it just doesn’t get expressed.)

Writers who are not writing are crappy writers. I know this to be true.

My depression tells me I’m an awful writer who doesn’t deserve to put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard, whatever). And then I don’t write. Which makes me mad at myself for not writing. Which makes me more depressed.

You get the idea.

But I don’t like that life. So here I go. Writing.

Let me tell you a story…

At the tail end of Summer, early Fall, I met a guy at a farmer’s market. Seemingly nice person. Fun to talk to. And he behaved in a genuinely interested fashion, which I enjoyed. (Hey, it’s nice to feel LIKED, you know?) We hung out a few times. Had some good conversations. He made me laugh. He bought me a meal. There was some overt flirting happening. We spent some quality time texting. It was fun.

Then it got a little weird.

He messaged me out of the blue one day, maybe a week after the lunch date, asking what I thought of him moving to my hometown (from where he was residing, two hours south) if things went well when he met my kids.

Now, hang on just a minute

A) Dude had not actually been introduced to my children.

B) We had shared one meal. Just one. During daylight hours. In public.

C) I could count on one hand the number of times we had been in each other’s presence.

So now I started to become much more concerned about the level of clinginess being displayed by this adult human being. And I’m looking at the stories he had told me of his past relationships. And I’m thinking maybe distance here is a good thing.

I told him it was a bit soon to be having that conversation. He seemed to comprehend this in a reasonably intelligent manner, so we kept talking.

But things were decidedly amiss.

This became even more apparent when he abruptly ceased all communication. No warning. No explanation. (I’m not an idiot. I got the message quite clearly.)

I ignored the silence for about a week. Then, after some ruminating, and in a moment of downright pique, I sent one word.

“Chicken.”

Whereas the message I had sent voicing concern about his well-being the week before had gone unread and unanswered, THIS got a response.

(And if I had any desire to go back into my archives and revisit those messages I would copy and paste his reply to the very last letter, because it was rife with misspellings and godawful punctuation errors and I’m feeling particularly bitchy about the whole thing. But alas, you can’t have everything. So I’ll clean it up and paraphrase. He can’t say I never gave him anything. Asshat.)

He started with, “Well, there’s no need for name-calling!” (Because that’s the really important point here. Not the radio silence for the last week.)

And then he proceeds into this convoluted, badly-written story about how he got busy with his “new job and new girlfriend” and he couldn’t very well be bothered to message ME because how would that look?!

Sweet holy hand grenades.

Setting aside all the previous talk about how he wasn’t one to prioritize work over his relationships with the people he cared about, and how it was so important to be up front and clear with people. Glossing over all the lip-service paid to how it was so much better to be straightforward with people. (I could see I was going to have to just pretend those conversations never happened.)

All that aside…

Nope. I got nothing.

Seriously dude, is it really that hard to be the person you pretend to be?

I mean, to just send off a quick text, “Hey, I can see we’re not going to work out, I’m going to move on and look for an alternative. Have a nice life.” That’s all. Not asking for a complete dissertation on why things are obviously not meant to be. (I’m pretty smart, I can see the writing on the walls. It gets really clear, really fast. Yay for dodging bullets. Again.)

So I shoot back a message saying thanks for the explanation and that it was a jerk move to not at least mention to me that he was moving on. But hey, at least now I knew he was alive. (I may have gotten somewhat sarcastic. I may have been a bit irked.)

And, rather than leaving it alone, this nimrod writes back telling me he was “just trying to be friends” with me and that it was all in my head, so it wasn’t HIS fault I misunderstood.

So, instead of bowing out, he chooses to fucking GASLIGHT me.

Thereby rocketing right up the scale from mere asshole to gaslighting rat-fucker with that singular message.

(And yes, I feel very strongly that people who sell their reality as truth when it’s opposite the factual evidence are deserving of such colorful descriptions. Taken in small doses, this behavior is temporarily angering and damaging. Taken in a drip-feed over years, it is soul-destroying. Been there, done that. Bought multiple t-shirts.)

My response was succinct.

“Whatever you need to tell yourself to make your reality work for you, dude.”

I waited until I could see he had read the reply. (I suspected it wouldn’t be long. I was right.)

Then I blocked him.

Because that way madness and homicide lies.

Were I a different human, I would go back through the impressive message catalogue I accrued in the few weeks we were communicating, and I would plaster copies of those “friendly” messages wherever it struck my fancy. I would burn his fictional world down in the “friendliest” of ways.

But that would require energy. And he’s not worth my time.

I have to explain. Normally I would not maybe feel quite so strongly about this insignificant mosquito in my ear, but circumstances have conspired against me.

My mom got diagnosed with breast cancer.

And, because the universe likes to pull these kinds of bizarre juxtapositions sometimes, this happened on National Coming Out Day this year. Which also happened to be the day I decided to out myself on social media (because I feel representation is important, but I also didn’t want to have a bunch of weird individual conversations with people who didn’t know I’m bisexual).

So, after I’ve posted this thing that I’ve been pondering declaring for YEARS, I drive to work. It’s a beautiful day. I’m feeling pretty good about the universe as a whole. (Disappearing Jackass had only been incommunicado for a couple of days at that point. A mere annoyance in the grand scheme of things.)

As I pull into my parking spot at work, my phone rings.

It’s my dad.

I immediately assume it’s a phone call about my declaration.

It’s nothing of the sort. Not even a little bit.

My dad tells me my mom has breast cancer. That she had a lump, that she ignored the lump, but finally had a mammogram and found out it looked very much like cancer. That she already had an appointment to have a biopsy and see a surgeon and talk to an oncologist. That I was supposed to just carry on and go in to work and do what I needed to do because the people who needed to be handling things were handling things. So not to worry. (Telling me not to worry always works. Like magic. No really.)

He had no answers to my questions beyond, “We will know more after the biopsy.”

My mom’s universe was turned upside down. As a result, the universes of my dad, my brothers, and myself were all completely upturned as well. That’s how these things work. She’s the matriarch. She has to be okay. That’s the rule.

So this is the news I was given roughly 72 hours before I sent the “Chicken” text.

Yes, I was deliberately inflammatory. I figured he had done exactly what he ended up telling me he had done (the whole new job, local-girl-with-lower-standards route). This news was not a huge surprise.

It was the confirmation I wanted. That’s all.

I got it.

Life goes on.

Yes, my mom is going to be okay. In the weeks following that particularly difficult day, she has since had a successful lumpectomy and will be having further treatments (radiation, chemo, all that fun stuff) in the coming months. It’s going to suck for a while. But there is an end in sight. Which is the best of all possible things.

Familial chaos aside, my personal life is going disturbingly well at this particular moment in time. I’m not quite sure what to do with that feeling. So I’ll just let it percolate.

And if I leave you people with anything here, I leave you with this: Please for the love of all that is good and holy and beautiful in this world, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES. Get the weird lumps and bumps checked out. Pay attention to the moles and the weirdness. Know that you are vital pieces of a brilliant and amazing whole and as such I need you ALL to be okay.

(Oh, except for the gaslighting rat-fucker I was talking about earlier, he can neglect the hell out of his health. Maybe I’m not that nice a person after all. Those are the other things I leave you with. I’m not that nice, and don’t be that guy.)

Got it?

Good.

Week Thirty-Three

A terrible poem in place of a blog this week. (Because of all the things.)

I Am Not A Poet

Writing.
Distracted. Look, over there!
Chores, paperwork, chores, more chores.
(Squirrel!)
(Or, in this case, kittens!)
Writing.
(Gotta get the kids ready to start school next week, gotta pack for the wedding this weekend, gotta run some errands, gotta do ALL THE THINGS.)
Coherence is not in the cards.
(Squirrel!)
Writing.
Deleting.
Crap.
I’m gonna bake sugar cookies instead.
(Not squirrel cookies. No squirrels will be harmed in the making of the cookies, I swear.)
It is inevitable.
I will think of all the things to write while making cookies.
And will write them in the dough before baking.
People can eat my words.
Sweet.

Week Thirty-Two (I never liked Thirty-One anyway)

I’ve had a hard time writing these last couple of weeks.

It’s difficult to tell what the cause is, precisely. At first I was just chalking it up to general malaise. It’s been a trying year. But then, when is it not?

Okay, granted, the challenges this year include a country that appears to be self-destructing and a far too realistic cartoon villain in the White House… But the other, more typical, struggles remain. (You know, stuff like keeping food on the table, bills paid, household running with some semblance of order, and clothing on children’s backs. Oh yeah, and that whole clinging to sanity thing. And if I can toss a little time into dismantling the patriarchy and challenging people’s preconceived notions about society and humanity, then all the better. Lots to do, you might say.)

Where was I?

Right, malaise and self-destruction.

And then the news today included the dethroning of one of my favorite creators: Joss Whedon.

Because it wasn’t enough that my plumbing required several hundred dollars’ worth of urgent help this week, that I lost a day of work because of a (totally awesome) solar/lunar event on Monday, that my stove (much like my brain) is experiencing issues which require professional help, that I had to have an appliance repair guy out to fix my washer last week (another big check to write), a garage that needs cleaning out, a back yard that’s beyond overgrown, or that I have two children starting at two different schools in a couple of weeks (and a brother getting married in another state just a few days before THAT happens).

(I’m out of breath typing that. Funny. And seriously, what is up with all of the appliances crapping out at the same time?!? Is there a curse I don’t know about? Did I piss off some cosmic Appliance God?)

But no, in addition to ALL OF THAT, Mr. Whedon, someone whose writing I have greatly appreciated in the past, got outed as a cheating rat bastard sonofabitch and then proceeded to toss some not-so-subtle gaslighting in the direction of his now ex-wife. Because if you’re going to be outed as an asshole, you may as well go all the way and cement the impression.

Goddammit all to hell.

(Yeah, I know. Don’t have heroes. We are all flawed. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever.)

But see, now my problem becomes one of focus. Because this stupid news story has me flashing back to my own marriage, and the emotionally draining, awful bullshit that ensues when one is married to a liar.

(This is why I hate lying. To the depths of my soul. Despise. Abhor. Vehemently dislike. No, really. If you want to piss me right off, lie to my face. It’s one of my favorite things. And by “favorite” I mean it makes me feel all warm and stabby.)

And now I can’t focus on either of the blog post topics I was working on. Which irritates me.

No, really. What is it, people? What is so damn difficult about ending one relationship before starting another? Is there a thrill in the secrecy that makes it addictive? Is it abject stupidity? Do people get off on deceiving the people who love them the most? All of the above?

Yeah. All of the above. And then some.

Weirdly enough, this news comes at a psychologically opportune moment for me. Because I am working through a mental disaster area of my own creation, after ignoring the emotional ramifications of my own divorce for a few years. (Because ignoring pain always makes it SO MUCH better. No really, I’ve tried it. Lots. It’s totally effective. If you want to tank your brain chemistry. Which is something I excel at.)

So, seeing as the news is triggering all these nasty memories and has started some fabulous tape-loops in my brain, I may as well throw myself into it and ruminate on my past. It’s not like I have a choice, anyway.

Together with my therapist I am going through and unearthing the awfulness that is my emotional state when I think at all about the end of my marriage. Because it sucked. The whole thing. (Not the whole marriage. There were good days mixed in with the godawful. And the kids are well worth the whole shebang.) But the end of the marriage sucked. Beyond the beyonds. (And it took two years to disintegrate after I found out about his extracurricular activities. Longest two years of my life.)

My former spouse put a lot of energy into lying to me.

It was only later, when I put together the timeline of actual reality (two years of his affair-having when lined up with two years of incredibly stressful marriage yielded some illuminating moments), that I realized how much lying had occurred. How much of my reality was fiction.

Because that’s what happens when someone is cheating on you. They lie. To preserve their life. To preserve the status quo. To be able to come home and have the unwavering goddamn support of their oblivious, trusting spouse. The same spouse who held them when they were brokenhearted after the deaths of their parents. The same spouse who carried and birthed their two children, thinking we were somehow together in our goal of raising an intact family. The same spouse who moved states so he could follow his career. That spouse.

(The same spouse who apparently still has some repressed anger she’s working through…)

I became the spouse who called and pretended to be someone else so I could get the Other Woman on the phone and judge her character for myself. (Enlightening conversation. I was not what she expected. His lies were equal opportunity. She thought he was leaving me for her. She was rudely awakened.)

I became the spouse who had to do the math to figure out if his (married) girlfriend’s toddler might be his. (Not his. Thankfully. But I will forever have the memory of doing that fucking math.)

I became the spouse who didn’t throw him and all of his things out of the house that very first night because I didn’t want our children to know what had happened.

I became the spouse who tried desperately to make things last with therapy and raw conversations that felt achingly one-sided.

I became the ex-spouse. Because I couldn’t raise my children to think that it was okay to treat the people you loved like they were possessions, to be controlled. Because it’s more important to me that my kids grow up knowing that they don’t have to take crap from anyone. No matter who that person may be.

And then I became someone who faced her fear of handling things alone (though I have family and friends who continue to keep me from drowning, and I am never truly alone – thankfully), and started rebuilding my life. With my kids. Trying to raise them to know their worth. Trying to raise them to know their strength.

And I did all of this because I still believe in love. The stuff of legends. The kind that swallows you whole and cracks your world open.

I was not wrong to love my ex-husband with my entire heart. I was not wrong to trust him. He was wrong to betray that trust and love. His choice, not mine. I’m not settling for some half-assed love that takes me for granted, ever again. I’m worth a hell of a lot more than that.

That bears repeating.

I am worth a HELL of a lot more than that.

It has taken me a long time to regain my power.

And I still have off-days.

But I AM WORTH A HELL OF A LOT MORE THAN THAT.

And I hope the former Mrs. Whedon remembers that she is, too.

Week Thirty

I have absolutely no idea what to write about this week. (But I bet simply by writing that sentence I’ll come up with SOMETHING to prove myself wrong… and behold! There appear to be more words below this. Almost like magic.)

I dislike reliving my worst childhood nightmares. The news this week has me reliving them. Vividly. Which is making it difficult to sleep. And difficult to write. And most certainly difficult to focus in any kind of productive manner on the more mundane daily stressors.

The threat of nuclear war is one of my old nightmares. As it is, I’m sure, a nightmare for most humans with any kind of a decent grasp on reality.

When I was an elementary school student, we would have bomb drills. (Because “duck and cover” would TOTALLY save your life in a nuclear attack.) Later they were played off as earthquake drills. Now kids have “active shooter drills.”

As a parent I have a hard time with this. My children were in elementary school when that started to be a thing. A thing that they would spend time practicing. In school. Where they were supposed to be learning basic skills. Like math, reading, and now, apparently, how to avoid bullets.

Nope. I don’t have anything good to say about that.

The fact that this is something real and the fact that we, as a society, have seemingly decided this is an acceptable way to live…

Nope. Nothing good to say. That way madness lies.

I’ve spent a lot of time living with fear.

When I was a tiny little kid, in addition to worrying about nuclear holocaust, I would worry about the house burning down. I had dreams where I would have a set amount of time before the fire would consume the house, and I could only save the few things most important to me. (That dream carried on until I went away to college, actually. I’m sure there’s a deep, psychological reason for that. Whatever. I’m just grateful I don’t dream about all-consuming fires any more. I also used to dream I could fly. Those dreams I miss.)

I also worried (and had epic nightmares in accompaniment) that Godzilla (or a Tyrannosaurus Rex, or King Kong) would come crashing through the woods behind our house and reach in my window and skewer me with enormous claws. (I even moved my bed into a corner against the outside wall so it would be easier for me to hide. Logically, the monster wouldn’t be able to see me if I was against the wall by the window. It was a terribly sensible strategy. And, you’ll notice, I never did get eaten by Godzilla. Solid survival skill.)

(And then there was that panther living under my bed that would eat me if I didn’t jump from the door to the bed. But thankfully that was just a particularly memorable one-off nightmare.)

I also accidentally watched two horror movies at a party when I was young and impressionable. It was a slumber party. There was peer pressure. I was nine.

(I never would have gone out of my way to watch them on my own. I hate horror movies. Severely dislike with extreme prejudice. Loathe. I could go on… I once allowed my then-fiancé-later-husband-now-ex to make me watch the first Scream movie in a theater. Telling me it was supposed to be funny. Which it was NOT. And if that’s your idea of funny you can just go watch it by your own damn self. While I go watch something a little less stabby and more Pixar-esque.)

One of the more popular fourth grade girls had a slumber party and I got invited. (This was before they realized how very uncool I was, which wouldn’t be until the next year when I started crocheting in class.) Her best friend’s parents owned a local video store, which gave them access to ANY movie they wanted. So they chose Nosferatu and Poltergeist. Poltergeist was a little bit gross and freaky, but for some reason Nosferatu was the one that scared me beyond all reason. I ended up sleeping with my head in the bottom of my sleeping bag that night, utterly upside down and very warm. But at least no vampire could get me there. (Unless the terminally undead have a thing for toes. This was not a thought that occurred to my fourth-grade self, thankfully.)

After this evil movie extravaganza, I became extremely worried that vampires would get me while I was sleeping, so I spent numerous years sleeping with the covers wrapped up and over my head with just a small space for my face to peek out. (I’m not kidding. YEARS spent sleeping like that. I still get a little wigged out if things get near my neck in any kind of an abrupt fashion. Yet I refuse to wear turtlenecks. Because they’re secretly trying to strangle me. Honest.)

Wait… where was I?

Oh yeah. Fear.

None of these fears are really based in logic or reality. There are no vampires. Godzilla doesn’t live in the woods of Maple Hills. And, while there may be a million cats living in my house who will happily consume my remains should I drop dead unexpectedly, none of them are living under my bed and actively trying to kill me. (That I know of. Thank goodness they lack opposable thumbs.)

However, right now humanity seems to think annihilating itself is a good thing. And I’m one of the humans on this rock. So I find this disconcerting. And I am full of fear. And I am not sleeping.

Maybe I should watch a horror movie.

I would much rather be afraid of vampires.