Category Archives: Life and Other Unsolvable Mysteries

Long Time Ago

BigBadBill“Never take shit from a man,” he said.

I can hear the inflection in his voice, his dead calm seriousness.  I remember nodding my head, agreeing, and trying not to think too much, careful not to ask if that included him or my brother.

I’m not exactly sure how old I was. I was in high school. Probably 16-years-old, maybe 15.  I’m guessing 15 because my dad was willing to talk to me without yelling.

By then, the beatings from him had subsided and the beatings from my brother began in earnest. That’s also about the time the worst of the shit started happening — which would become My Family vs. Me —  escalating until the day they told me to pack my things and get out.

Now — as a caveat — I call them “beatings” but neither my father or my brother saw it that way.  I don’t think my mother did either.  I don’t know, but I think they saw it as I “had it coming,” or “for my own good,” or in my brother’s case, he may have said, “it was self-defense.”  (My brother was a body-builder.  Two years older and quite a bit larger than me, but… I did fight back.) In my father’s case, he dealt with me the same way his mother raised him.  It works like that.

And maybe I did have it coming.  I drove them crazy, that’s for sure.  They considered me rebellious by their 1950s good-girl standards — though I never once felt rebellious.   I didn’t do what I did out of spite or anger.  I wanted acceptance by other kids in school, (which wasn’t going to happen).  I recall doing things to escape or to find comfort, like finding the misfit boys who liked me, but who would never be approved of by my parents.  I wasn’t a drug user or a drinker, but I felt a desperate need to feel loved and maybe — crazy notion —  understood and appreciated.

I felt scared and very alone.  I told a Christian friend of mine that I didn’t believe God loved me much.  (I didn’t tell her that I thought a poltergeist or a demon was following me —  that’s a story for another day).  I thought there was something very wrong with me – but I didn’t know what.

That’s when the constant thoughts of suicide began.  I plotted various tried and true methods.   1. Pills:  but how many would I need? Would aspirin work? My folks didn’t have anything interesting beyond that in the medicine cabinet.  2. Jumping out the top floor window at Hellgate, my aptly named high school. Only three stories.  Would that kill me or only paralyze me?  Being paralyzed would suck.  3. Knives:  pain and blood.  I was a coward, ultimately.  4. Starvation, bulimia.  I tried that for a while.  I wasn’t able to get my weight any lower than 93 pounds.  And since I was a “dancer” no one noticed anyway.  I was at 105 pounds for a while.  Pretty average for a 5’2″ female.  I admired the girls who could do it.  I remember one girl in high school who was so sick with anorexia she looked like a skeleton with clothes on.  Regardless, I didn’t have the will-power to pull it off.

My father found a poem I’d written.  I don’t know if he took it out of my pack or how he found it.  But I can see him reading it in the living room chair under the lamplight.  He read silently, his legs crossed, his face frowning.  He didn’t say if it was good or bad.  But he asked, “Do you think about killing yourself?”

“No, it’s just a poem,” I said.

I felt embarrassed because I knew the poem wasn’t that good and I felt like I’d been caught.  Caught again.  I can’t remember if he said more.  He might have, but he didn’t yell or lecture, that much I remember. He simply acknowledged what I wrote and understood. And for that night, that was enough to deflate the urge to die.  A good thing from a small moment in time.


New Year 2014

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I didn’t make any new resolutions this year.
I didn’t write down my affirmations and burn them with the flame of a candle in my backyard.  ( That was last year.)
I did not have a list of accomplishments from last year — no time spent reflecting how far I’ve come.
I look at my children’s lives.  I see growth there.  But they are children.  They are designed to grow.

What about me?  That’s still my question for myself to answer.  When will I grow, move on, pursue the life I’ve wanted.  Will I forever be a coward, unable to accept the effort and risk involved to accomplish my own desires?

Imagine standing on a boulder along the river.  I need to get across the river.  Imagine it’s the month of May.  Spring runoff.

I have to get from HERE to THERE, on the other side of the river where the grass may not be greener, but perhaps there is an elk that I can shoot so that I may feed my family.

I can’t swim.  Even if I could, I couldn’t swim and win against the high, muddy flood waters between this lone rock and the other side.

“Hello, Elk!”

Elks says nothing, chews on the nutrition rich grasses.  Ignores me.

I want that Elk.

I have a bow and a few arrows.  I could shoot the elk, maybe, from here.  If it weren’t for the western winds, combined with the updraft from the rushing water of the river.

If I killed it from here, I would still be here and it would still be there.

I have to get across the river.  Somehow.

I look to the left and right of me.  A shore of jagged rocks, much like the one I stand upon.  More rocks, everywhere.

But in the distance, upstream I faintly see a fallen tree that stretches across the most narrow span of the river.
To my right then, I will step stone by stone by stone to reach that makeshift bridge.

That’s what I’ve got to do.

I suspect the bridge will be slippery and wet.  I suspect it will be narrow and taper at the top of the tree as I near the other side. I could fall into the muddy, dangerous waters, be washed down stream into nothingness.

If I cross it successfully, something unexpected might happen.  The elk may move on. It may leave to another grazing area and I would still lose.

Or he might hang out.  Maybe he’s stuck as I am.
I can dream up several disastrous scenarios, if I like.

But if I truly want to get to the other side, this one route is the way I must go.  I must take one step to the stone next to this one.

Then from there, take a small jump over to the next stone and so on.

It’s the only way I see.  If there’s a better way, I’d take it.  I don’t see one.

While I take my slow and sometimes difficult steps along the way, I can’t dwell on what the elk does.  I must have faith the prize will be there when I arrive.

And if it’s not?

I have two new choices: Go back or go forward.  It’s as easy as that.


Artist Statement

My daughter sent me some of her ideas for her written “artist’s statement.” She needs to include them in her graduate student applications.  In her rough draft, she illustrated one of our conversations from the time her dad and I separated.

I did not know how painful this time was for her.  How did I miss that?  I remember, myself, being in complete agony.  I guess I was so consumed by it all that I failed to see what it did to her.  There are levels of selfishness.

Could I have changed it?  Should I have stopped it?

He left to find better employment.  He wanted a job that would allow him to grow,  that would use his degrees — Journalism and film making.  The plan was that he would finally be financially secure.  He thought we’d be back together soon.  We assumed that the money, the opportunities were better where he was going.  He left for the right reasons — or so we thought.

He said, “Give me one year.”  I have given him eight.

In my heart, I knew he wouldn’t be back, not any time soon.  For visits, yes, but I knew.  And yet….

I could have said, “Don’t go.”

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

I think about this daily.  I call it “our situation.”  We’ve grown so old and weary since that day he left.  Our children: two have graduated from high school, and two have graduated from elementary school and are now in middle school.   Our youngest, in diapers when he left, is now in third grade.

And our oldest — the one our decision probably hurt the most — is a senior in college.  This is an excerpt from her rough draft: “She slides her fourth cup of coffee across the table to her hands. ‘Well kid, tomorrow’s your first day of High School, you have to decide what you’re doing with your life soon because before you know it, it will be too late.'”

I should listen to my advice.

Better yet, I should obey it.


Pissy Mood

I spent six hours today working toward what ended up being 2 hours of actual solid writing.  Writing a SPEC screenplay – for whatever that is worth at this moment.

I am sure I have ADD.  Or maybe I just want the excuse.   Right now — I just need to say, I hate Autism.  I hate what it has done to my son.  I hate what it has done to our family.

I hate that I have nowhere to turn for help. There is nothing anyone can say.  Nothing anyone can do.  One more sympathetic look from outsiders just doesn’t cut it.

An outsider is anyone who is not part of this family — including my betrothed.  This long distance marriage is just… not.

Nothing helps.

Not even beer, not wine.

….

….

….

And to top it off — WORDPRESS has started to include these STINKING ADS ( see below).  Ridiculous.  I may have to join BLOGGER instead.


Here It Comes

 

I’ve fought it for months.  I’ve listened to inspirational recordings by prominent TV pastors, read inspirational, uplifting newsletters and articles, read The Secret, and I receive inspirational emails.  These things have helped – and yet, I feel it coming.

It’s a slow storm moving toward me.

I think I know what causes it.  Constant fear and a wall of regret.   It’s the fear I’ll never be happy again.  I’m faking it as best I can, but  it’s just not working.

What I need to stop it — for me — it’s a matter of accomplishment.  I think.  I need to accomplish something that will allow me to remove this shame.

Tonight, as I listen to the dishwasher hum and bump the dishes clean with sprays of water, I am praying.

Dear God — please hold me up.

I’ve started a new script — a short – about couples and their conversations at various stages of their lives, and I am praying.

A call tonight from J.  He tells me that a board fell and hit him in the head while he was at work.  He doesn’t think he suffered a concussion.  He says he “saw stars, though.”

Great.  1300 miles away and what can I do?

Nothing but  write.   And pray.  Lord, have mercy on us.


Advice From a Stranger

I woke at five, finally.  Little voices in my head telling me to get up.  Other more soothing voices whispering, “why?  Just one more hour.  One more hour won’t hurt.”

I checked my alarm (my phone) and read a text from J.  He was still at work, thanked me for my text.  I had written about a podcast I thought he would like to hear when he arrived home.  He had sent his  message after midnight.

The thought that woke me and got me up: He’s killing himself to keep this thing afloat.  He’s killing himself to maintain this impossible marriage, family, situation, while I moan.

It’s not right. My feelings are not lying to me, but my head is telling me all the wrong ways to look at my life.  Last time I checked, I am the only one in charge of my thinking.

Last night, a received some unsolicited  advice from a person I’ve never met — never seen his face, or a photograph — but is a writing “friend” of mine.  I belong to an online writers group, and that’s where we “met.”

The advice came after I had responded to a question posed from this same member — what is your writing habit?  Where, how many hours a week, etc. do any of us devote toward writing?

My answer prompted a response from him that he sent privately.  He said he was concerned.

Let me stop there, because I am trying to illustrate how his response made me think differently this morning, rather than describing a bad internet moment.  His advice, ( I should go back and find a quote from the letter) simply suggested I force myself to go on a walk everyday, allowing my mind (forcing my mind) to notice everything outside myself.

It took him three emails back to me to make me understand.  That’s how deep is my  well-dug trench.

He also gave me sound advice for writing.  Promise myself 5 minutes if that’s all I’ve got.  Promise myself what I can and will do, instead of huge unrealistic goals.  As I consider this, this is exactly how I’ve finished most of my stuff.  But I called it tricking myself into writing.   In the past I would tell myself that I would write one sentence, or one paragraph and call it good.  Invariably, I would always write more.

But his advice was for me to look outside myself.  (Der…kind of embarrassing that I was not aware of what I’ve been doing, but now I do. : )  Train my brain to do it — yes.  I must and will make an effort at this.

Something else I realized, the way I’ve thought about things for too long, my focus on loneliness and other self-destructive thoughts, has been with me since childhood.  I recall specific moments that caused me to move further back, to withdraw and hide from people because it became safer to do so. It is self-fulfilling prophecy stuff.  My thoughts are making it worse and I am helping no one.

I think too, about my son with autism.  It has always been my feeling that his autism is a self-defense mechanism of a sort.  His way of looking at the world is a much more acceptable place for him than the one he’s been born into.  His reality, though, is real to him.  Self-stimming, other spectrum caused “tics” are comforting to him, even if the rest of us cannot understand.  Each day is an effort to help him expand, see and understand more.  Often, he doesn’t want to try –even if it would help him. Skilled at hiding his thoughts, if things bother him it is not as noticeable (to outsiders) because he is not particularly verbal.  But he dwells on things that bother him, sometimes for days, years even.  I know because he’ll blurt out things from the past that were “bad” days to him.  Days, for example, when I yelled at him, or his grandfather became angry, when he got in trouble for throwing a rock, or for yelling in class — and he equates it to a current “bad” moment that to the rest of us, has no correlation.  We all do that, I suppose.  But it looks more impossible when my son does it, because he cannot explain the thoughts he had in between.

When I consider what my friend ( the stranger) wrote, it reminded me of words that I would give to any of my children, but especially my autistic son to help them see the world beyond them, and yet let them know they are part of it:  “Stay in the moment.”  “Be with us.”  “Let it go.”  “Notice the world around you.”  “Tell me what you did today.”   “See the moon? The stars?  Aren’t they beautiful?” “You are awesome.” “I love you.  I would not change one thing about you.”

My friend said if you consider your whole life, 1% of it is bad, while 99% is good.  Yet we dwell on the 1%.  Too many days, I deliberately dwell on the minutia of a bad moment.

So true.

I see his point.  Now to make life a practice. One step.  Then one more and repeat.

For now (’cause I am not walking in the dark without a can of bear spray), I’ll notice what is around me.

In front of me, laying on my desk, is my cat Frodo, purring like a small engine, and ever so often he touches his paw to my fingers as I type.  My two kids who are home with me sleep a few fit away, snuggled in sleeping bags.  I can hear them breathe and sigh — the most beautiful sound in the world:  One’s child sleeping and peaceful.
I can hear my dog behind me, patiently waiting for me to feed him.  Frodo curls up now near my keyboard –working his cute factor to the -inth.

It is dark.  I like the dark and the quiet.  I hear the refrigerator, my dog’s collar as he shakes his head.  I notice my toes are cold.

J sleeps far from here. He should be here.  I miss him and I don’t.  I think I will move along from that thought.

I trust that my oldest daughter, my youngest son, my oldest son and my husband, all, are safe where they are.  I am grateful for that.  Grateful.  God bless our children, our family, us.

But I have work to do.  75 pages of a script to figure out and make notes on, then power through a rewrite based on the notes and have it done before the end of this weekend. ( So much for 5 minutes at a time.  I gotta get through this.. Procrastination is such a deadly fail.)

That’s the plan.  And if I fail?  I promise to get back up and go at it again.

I promise, too, to squeeze in a walk today.

Many thanks to my faceless friend.  Makes me ponder beautiful souls beyond…


Storms Everywhere

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_bEeQ5eu90  (Copy and paste until I agree to the WordPress upgrade) : )

Right now, thousands of people are suffering due to Hurricane Sandy.  I’ve been watching the news because my daughter, though far inland, is experiencing her first ever hurricane. I assume there are many people east of here that could be singing a version of the song above, Save Me.