Did you ever have so much going on in your life, so much constant motion, that you just felt frozen? Locked up? That’s how it is over here these days. I’ve been digging through my toolbox of comfort behaviors- all my mental health lifesavers- but nothing has been doing the trick. There’s no magical plaster for the amount of sheer madness happening in my life right now. I’ve tried to John Wayne my way through this monster of a year- oh, 2013, you just are not playing around, are you?- and I cannot do it.
I come back to writing because there is nothing left to do.
I’ve come back to documenting this life because there must be no other way out of this.
There’s too much, just all so, so much. Everything seems so huge, is the thing: there’s so little in my life that seems small right now, and that’s really what I crave: smaller things.
- Spring, which has always been always a brutal period for me (death: awful anniversaries) is worse than usual, in the usual ways.
- Kiddo is headed to college. TOO ENORMOUS FOR WORDS. TOO ENORMOUS FOR ALL- CAPS.
- The business grows in leaps and bounds. No pressure or anything. This is a positive thing, but positive stress still = stress.
- Opportunity is everywhere. (How to choose the right ones?)
- Samuel’s mother has been diagnosed with stage IV cancer. I can’t even begin. It’s just too goddamned huge to start on here, and is also more than a bit personal, as in: not really mine to discuss. In brief, though- oh, cancer, you bitch. You terrible, awful, hateful bitch.
- The travel. Oh, the travel. I love it so much, but this year we stepped it up and it’s rather complicating things. Travel is easy when you don’t have a family member with a potentially life- threatening illness; planning becomes infinitely more fraught when that changes.
- Family business. Family as in my family, which is odd because I never let my family be a thing. (I expect that’s rather the price I pay for admission, to paraphrase from Mr. Savage.) I have a wedding to attend this autumn, and I want to see these two people married more than anything in the world. Also: I can’t imagine being in a room with people who hate me this much for all the money in the world, so instead I do it out of love. Oh, the things we will do out of the desire to destroy ourselves: I will go and break bread in the same space with the man who tried to kill me, with the mother who invited him over for every holiday after that, with the step- father who always, always kept his silence. I don’t know if I am strong enough to hurt myself in this way. This final degradation was meant to be a wedding present to the sister who always only ever wanted everyone to get along: once, just once, the illusion, served up no matter what it cost me, but I just don’t know.
- There’s more- isn’t there always?- but this is the bite I thought I could chew today. And so.
I don’t feel equipped to help Sam handle what he’s been handed. I don’t feel equipped to handle what I’ve been handed. I do feel inspired to open a small set of franchises, though: Silence Rooms, I’d call them. Small booths you can rent by the half hour, sound- proof spaces you can just lock yourself into and scream.
When Sam had his first stroke, I would go to Walter Reed every day. After the first few weeks had passed and we knew he wouldn’t die- but still didn’t know what the damage would be- I needed to be his primary advocate, but I didn’t need to be there overnight. It was a 45- minute drive, but I needed to keep myself together; it’s a freeway run from Baltimore to D.C., so you have to stay on your toes, and of course I wanted to be sharp for the doctors. I’d listen to upbeat music on the way down, see Sam, read his charts, study from the neurology texts Tedra had given me, talk to the doctors, talk to Sam’s roommates, scare the interns, that sort of thing. I’d corner his neurologist in the halls and push for direct “Yes/ No” answers, help new amputees play Wheelchair Jousting after-hours in the back hallways, sneak in better coffee or cigarettes for anyone who asked, and then, when it was time to leave, I’d go out to the parking garage, get in my car, take a deep breath, and just scream. I’d cry, punch my steering wheel, and inevitably, it would always lead to just- plain- old- screaming.
Other visitors would walk out to their cars, and they’d see me, and it always seemed so— natural. Normal. Sometimes I’d be the one who saw them screaming. It wasn’t embarrassing at all- and I hate sharing my private feelings with strangers. It just never seemed like the sort of thing any of us needed to hide; we knew who we were from seeing each other in the halls, or the dining facility, or the smoking corners. Family members know one another; it’s the grey skin, the shaky hand, the burnout eyes. Yes. I see you. This is us. This is how we carry this fucking thing. There was nowhere else to go, no place to take grief and put it. You can’t take it home where your kids be frightened by it, where your neighbors might overhear it. You can’t take it to your friends, who will never understand it and can’t possibly have the capacity to hold all of it. You can’t take it to the chapel- that’s not a screaming sort of place, and I am not a chapel sort of girl.
There is nowhere to scream. There really should be. I’m here to tell you, darlings: that place would make damned bank.
Of course- there is always an “of course” here, and if you made it that far, through all that dreary doom and gloom, the endless whinging, the rending of cloth and gnashing of teeth, all that drama above, you really do deserve some payoff, honestly. And so:
Of course there is something to what they say about growth and change under pressure.
We lean in, and in leaning in to the work of this incredibly trying late winter and spring, we lean into each other. We handle one another with care. We are all sharp edges and tightly wound springs, but we work on bringing out our senses of humor, on looking into our ability to take care of ourselves and each other, on how to be healthy. We look into how to best grow, and we watch out for which nights we need to give up on the idea of growth; sometimes what we need is 6 hours to give in and just marathon the hell out of Downton Abbey, because it is silly and complicated and really, a costumed soap opera and that is 100% okay, damnit, because it makes both of us feel better for an evening. We snuggle our pets. We eat too much comfort food. We talk, when we can, and we don’t when we can’t. We hold hands. I knit. He weaves. We drive, endless long drives to shows, and I read to him. We change. We change as a couple, learning how we manage these things, but that isn’t a bad thing; god, we have had so many hard times, but I’ve never felt they left us worse off as a pair.
I wonder how this will change us, in the end, once we have come through to the clear.
I’m beginning to make up lists of things I’d like to do, once we are in the clear, but I think that’s another entry. (SO MUCH another entry. Oh god. All of the many, many things.)
I know I am still rusty and jumbled today; all my pieces are still so broken lately. I’m too used to speaking my thoughts lately, mostly from the safety of a two- person blanket fort. Give me time.
Be well, Patient Readers. Be kind to someone who is patient with you. Be patient with someone who is kind to you. Hug everyone who will stand still.