Tag Archives: relationships

Then Again, Maybe I Won’t

We were sitting by the pool, draped on a set of decrepit matching white beach chairs—me, B, B’s mother, B’s sister. I was covered in a towel so no one would see my pathetic body in my bathing suit. It was June; the baby had died the end of February. I hadn’t felt much like exercising, and I wasn’t ready to be in a bathing suit, or, rather, I wasn’t ready to see myself and be seen. 

“Have you thought about it?” B’s mother asked. “Having another?”

She said it so nonchalantly, like it was nothing to her when it was everything to me. I couldn’t replace my son just like that, couldn’t snap my fingers and create another, a baby to take his place. Couldn’t? Or wouldn’t? 

B’s sister slipped away, into the pool, completely removing herself from the conversation.

When I didn’t answer, B did it for me, “We didn’t go back on birth control, so if it happens, it happens.”

I thought of them in my purse, the birth control pills I’d refilled but not told him about, the tiny round dots in their little plastic slots; I thought of the endless times I’d said I was on my period over the prior months rather than submit myself to the process of baby creation, baby replacing. I thought of the doctor, and how he said we had to wait six weeks before we could try again, and how we did wait those six weeks, and how we did try again, and again, even when I didn’t want to, even when I said no. 

B’s sister was pregnant, due in the middle of the summer. She was in the pool no problem, paddling slowly back and forth completely unashamed of her round body. She would have the first child of the family, not me. 

Not me. It was like my son had never existed. Everyone was moving on. 

The thought of what I didn’t have, the hole left by my unmentioned dead son, made me brazen in my speech in a way inappropriate for my gender. “We did.” I never talked back. I knew better.

“We did?” B’s brow furrowed.

“Go back on birth control.”

That’s a marriage, isn’t it? Telling each other the difficult things? We were supposed to tell each other the difficult things. 

B’s mother produced pamphlets from her pool bag and started dropping them onto my lap one by one. How to Know When to Have Another Baby. A Women’s Place in the Home. Raising Your Family After Grief. Yadda yadda yadda. I opened none of them, but I saw all of them. “It’s your job to raise a family,” she told me. “Your job to be a mother. You can’t just turn away from that. It’s God’s plan that your son died, and it’s God plan that you have another.” 

I fumbled the keys to our condo out from under my chair and stood up, the towel firmly pressed around my middle. “If it’s God plan that my son is dead, that is not a God I want. I don’t believe God would want me to replace him.” 

B said nothing; he did not speak up for me, but instead chose to follow his mother into the pool to splash around with his sister while I fumbled back to our condo as the sun passed over. He said nothing all afternoon, went to dinner with his parents where I was not invited, and then came home and said nothing all night. But he stood behind me in the bathroom, me at the sink, him with his arms around me and his hands as fists against the counter, while I poked the pills out of the package one by one and let them find their way down the open hole of the drain. Each disappearance another black strike of dishonor to my son. 

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The Difficult Miracle of Being Human

She knew she was pregnant before the stick said she was pregnant. It wasn’t fetal movement or anything like that, because no baby moves that early. It was more of a feeling, a sense of being together with someone, finally, in a way she had never been together with the husband.

She did not tell the husband. Not right away. She waited until it was “safe,” until there was “less chance to lose it,” and then she peed on a stick to confirm the beautiful thing she already knew so that she could take that stick and tap it against the doorframe of his office while waiting for him to notice her. He turned around, removed his all-encompassing soundman headphones, and flashed her a quick eye roll that he completely intended her to see. “What is it?” 

The husband did not like to be disturbed, but clearly he hadn’t seen the stick. She waved it a little closer, a little closer. Still nothing. The husband moved to turn his chair around. “I’m pregnant,” she blurted, just to get him to stop, pay attention. It wasn’t how she’d planned to tell him.

“Are we ready for that? A baby?” His words were fast, sharp. To the point. He wanted to get back to work. 

“Who’s ever ready for a baby?” The stick hung limply in her hand, unseen. Wasn’t he supposed to want to see it, to celebrate? At least, that’s what she had thought, hoped would happen. She shoved the stick into her pajama pants pocket, because what else was she supposed to do with it? 

“It won’t fix things. With you. Us.”

It was always her that had to change, never him. But she wouldn’t dare say that out loud. “Don’t call the baby an It; the baby can hear you.” 

The husband didn’t respond.

When the husband turned around to go back to work, she went back into the bathroom and cried. She didn’t need him. She had a baby now. Or she would, in several months.

She did what she thought she was supposed to in the months following. She went to the doctor, let him confirm what the stick had already confirmed. She took vitamins. She read websites: What size was the baby today? What was developing? Growing? Changing? Did they have fingernails yet? Or rather, would she feel them if they did? She thought about what weird things; she pictured the baby clawing her insides as they waited impatiently to come out and meet her. 

She wanted to start registering for baby things. She convinced the husband to let her find out the sex so that she could pick better items. It was a boy! She thought the husband would be more excited to have a boy, but the husband didn’t respond. She took the 3D ultrasound picture, with it’s grainy whites and browns, snapped a picture with her own phone, and sent it to everyone she had ever known. She showed the registries to the husband that night while they watched tv, the show on display was meaningless in comparison to the excitement of picking her child’s future. Bottles, pajamas, toys, diapers, a crib, a stroller, she registered for anything and everything that any site told her a baby would need while the husband sat next to her, supposedly helping but really somewhere else. “Winnie the Pooh,” he scoffed at one point, “isn’t that a little young?” 

She had always loved that cuddly yellow bear, and the husband certainly hadn’t helped her pick things out. “What would you rather ask for?”

The husband didn’t respond.

She worked hard, saving money for when the baby came and she would need to take off. The husband stayed home, or worked at the church, or did whatever sound career thing it was he did with his day. She came home after ten, twelve hour days and made him dinner, cleaned. He told her she didn’t do enough, so she threw a potholder at him and called him an asshole.

The husband didn’t respond. 

She pictured life after the birth of their son, and how she wished and hoped it would change, when she really knew that nothing would change at all. That she would work a 50-plus hour work week and then have to take care of a baby at the end of the day. She said nothing to the husband. It would do no good. She kept plugging along; she kept getting ready. She cleaned the backseat of her car to get ready for the carseat. 

It came time for the baby shower, a mixture of cakes and presents and balloons—cute green and blue-for-boy balloons that she loved but couldn’t bring home in case the cats decided to eat them and then died from choking on string. She asked the husband to help bring home gifts; they lived up a steep flight of stairs and she didn’t want to carry everything. 

The husband didn’t respond. 

So she did it herself. She carried each and every thing up the stairs, and then she took a nap with the cats on the couch while a Lifetime movie played on the tv. A few weeks, just a few weeks, she would meet him. And everything would change then, when her son was born.

And just a short time later, at 37 weeks, when she called the husband to tell him the baby’s heart was no longer beating, well, he didn’t respond then either. 

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We All Make Mistakes

I can still remember when Corey and Topanga broke up. I’m guessing many from my generation can. Boy Meets World; TGIF; quality thank goodness it’s Friday television programming. Topanga was crying; her family was moving to Pittsburgh, away from her childhood sweetheart, and what was the point in continuing a relationship when they couldn’t be together?
I had middle school play practice the next morning. Eighth grade, so it was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. So and so had kissed so and so. So and so had gone to the movie with a bunch of so and sos, all of whom shall remain nameless I remember so vividly though because it was the start of something for me–my friends were talking about real boys, and I was talking about Corey and Topanga breaking up as if they were real people, because, in a way, they were. 
I’ve written stories in my head for as long as I can remember, intending to inscribe them for the masses but never being motivated enough to publicize my fiction. Samantha and Rebeckah were (are; let’s be real, I still write them in my head as I fall asleep) my favorites. Both had terrible lives marked by notable happy endings, followed by more terrible, followed by more happy. Every bad is met with its match in good. And in my stories, they always met a boy, and that boy was what saved them. Somewhere along the way, I convinced myself that meeting a boy would save me too. 
*
How to make a mistake:
Step one: Evaluate all possible choices. 

Step two: Evaluate all possible outcomes. 
*
It was hot in the church on the afternoon of June 2nd, a few years after I graduated high school. I sat in a pew, my annoyance marked with my traditional silent eyeroll that I hid from B with my then-long bangs. Just a few more things, they kept telling us. Just a few more, then we could go. It turned out wedding rehearsals were harder than they looked. It was a bunch of go here, do this thing, do that thing, go there, sit. Move. Wait. 
We were poor, so our after-rehearsal dinner consisted of a bunch of meat thrown on the grill on the backyard deck by B’s dad, who had left the rehearsal early to commence the cooking festivities. So far as we knew, everything was fine. Until the phone call: “So everything is fine.” Nothing is fine that starts with that phrase. “There’s just been a small fire on the deck.”
It was another event in a string of events that shaped a loud and clear broadcast stating it was wrong to marry B. We lost our church, our free catering, our pastor, our wedding counselor, all in the weeks before the wedding. But we kept plunging ahead. Or rather, I kept plunging ahead, because I wanted the happy ending I knew existed. I thought. I knew it was a mistake. I made it anyway. This one mistake set in motion many other events, many other mistakes, much more unhappiness. I kept thinking that I had done the thing I was supposed to–I had gotten married–and that this would be the thing to save me because it was always the boy that would save the girl.
That night, after the dinner, I sat on my bed, my last time without B in my apartment, and I painted my toenails with sparkly silver nail polish while my good friend sat across from me and told me not to do it. Not to go through with it. Not to marry B. But I did it anyway because I thought I was supposed to. Girl meets boy; girl marries boy; girl produces many children and stays home to take care of the family for all eternity. I wanted to do the right thing. 
But I made a mistake; my life was none of these things. When everything disintegrated, despite looking for someone else to save me, I had to be the one to save myself. 
*
How to make a mistake:
Step three: Choose what you think is the expected outcome, the one that everyone else wants. 
*
I know this great dog who shall remain nameless, since that’s how the rescue game is played. She came to the rescue with her mother and two sisters from a backyard breeder in New Jersey that saw what was amazing inside the mommy dog and used it to make himself money (it’s no wonder I wanted to adopt the mommy dog then…). This puppy was my first real placement of a dog I loved. I drove her to the house, I dropped her there. I celebrated when she stayed, and I lived for the picture and video updates and the times I got to visit in an era of my life when I wasn’t seeing many rescues doing well. When so many dogs would act out or bite or never leave and sit Saturday after Saturday not finding a home, it was nice to be reminded that good homes did exist, that all dogs have good inside somewhere, and that they all have a place, like we all have a place. But then this dog made one mistake, and she came back to the rescue. Her return was the right thing for everyone, but right or not didn’t make it suck any less for any of us. The mistake was too colossal, too all-encompassing, to come back from, a permanent black mark on an otherwise impeccable record, and a black mark of the biggest sort. 
*
How to make a mistake:
Step four: Do that thing that everyone else wants. 

Step five: Watch the results and know that you’re screwed. 
*
I think it was pack instinct that drove this dog to do the thing she did. “I must protect the pack, because the pack protects me/because the pack loves me/because the pack has brought me my happy and I must return the favor.” It’s impossible to know for sure though. But what I do know, both from my own life and the lives of those around me, is that we make the biggest mistakes trying to live up to the expectations of those around us. We make the biggest mistakes when we’re genuinely trying to be the best we can be. It doesn’t make us bad; it doesn’t make us unworthy; it just means that we have not found our place yet because we haven’t learned to define ourselves outside of other people’s expectations. 
Doesn’t this make us all just like dogs? We want to please so badly sometimes without a thought to the consequences that we plunge headlong into situations we can’t come back from. If you stick to the norms, follow the expected commands to their given outcomes, and don’t step out of line, everything will be fine. Right?
*
How to make a mistake:
Step six: Do not repeat; learn from the thing you’ve done. 
*
Queue the after-hiatus Boy Meets World Cory-without-Topanga episode that ended with Topanga outside the door in the rain, her hand pressed to the glass and her long brown hair slicked against her skin as she declared she was moving back to live with her aunt and would be together with Corey forever. I wish all decisions ended so happily. I am too old, have wasted too much time, to make the wrong ones. Writing stories, living with and in characters, does nothing when they always have a happy ending, because those endings do not exist through others–and it’s a mistake to believe they do. We write our own stories. We make mistakes we can’t take back. We live. We learn. 

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Happy Valentine’s Day

The first time has stuck with me in strange technicolor detail that enters me at such random times–when I see a flower, when I hear a song, when someone gives me a card. We were sitting on the couch in the apartment I shared with his sister, a red and yellow plaid deathtrap that I covered with a gray blanket, watching a movie. He pulled the blanket over us to have what he jokingly referred to as happy movie time; I said no. It was the first time I said no. It was the first for a lot of things. It somehow escalated from there, yelling and screaming and me wanting to cuss but not because I was still a good woman of God then, or so I thought. I remember the precise moment it occurred to me: You are unhappy here. Go.

 
So I did. 

My keys were in the always empty crystal fruit bowl on the two-seater kitchen table, and I stood up and scooped them up without fanfare. I said nothing to him. He may have asked where I was going; he definitely paused the movie we had started. We hadn’t gotten to the pants off stage of things, so all I needed was my coat and I was gliding out the door before he even knew what was happening, on an elated high because how had I never realized before that it was as simple as walking away?

I mean. It was never that simple.
 
He had me by the elbow before I was at the door to the parking lot, said some words about how I couldn’t go, how we would fix it, how I could change. Me. Me change. I didn’t want to change then. I opened the door and he dug in with his fingers as I stepped through, sinking through the coat like a falcon on prey. 
“You can change, I promise you can.” 
God, his fingers hurt. Asshole. 

We were suddenly at the car, a tornado of emotions and rage and something called love that wasn’t actually what it was named for. He threw me to the ground like I was nothing because I was nothing, so I screamed fire because it seemed like the thing to get people to come. He backed off; I got in the car and drove away as he banged the back hood and then threw himself down like a toddler in a fit. It was dark, but I still saw his shadow in the rear view. My elbow stabbed; I cried. 

Fast forward a few weeks. I told myself that I loved his sister too much to leave. I didn’t know, then, what that love was. I thought I could go back to the apartment she and I shared and not be involved with him, just with her. We made a rule that he was not allowed inside, but I came home the week before Valentine’s Day and he was there, on the tattered couch, ready and waiting with the blanket and a very clearly planned agenda. I locked myself in my room. He came every night that week with gifts I had no need for–a teddy bear, roses, chocolate–and then the Phantom of the Opera tickets. It was a limited run engagement of the movie starring Emmy Rossum as Christine, and it was playing at one moviehouse in Wisconsin. Like the Phantom himself, he had banked on the fact that I wouldn’t be able to resist the music. He guessed correctly. 

There were red rose petals on the seat of the car when I opened the door; the car smelled of sickly sweet flowers layered over the normal blend of Axe and All Spice. He took me to dinner at Outback when we normally only went as expensive as Chili’s, and he told me over an onion blossom and then filet mignon that he was sorry for his part in things but he knew I could change. “You can be better. Then we can be better.”


It’s my fault you’re not better?




I didn’t say anything. 

He paid, for everything, when before we had always split. Was he actually changing? Was this how it was supposed to be between us, a quiet storm held back by steak and movie candy? We got in the car to go home after, me quietly humming after Emmy’s haunting vocals and him clutching the wheel at ten and two. His hand slipped down to my thigh. 

“So we’re together again, then?”

It was a choice, a simple yes or no in a car going nearly 70 miles per hours down the freeway, and I said yes because it seemed easier. I had to be with someone to be whole, and if not him, then who? I let his hand stay on my thigh. I let it drift. I forgot how my elbow had hurt and resolved that yes, yes I would change, because it was better this way. 

“Happy Valentine’s Day.”

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I Am

When I think of adjectives to describe myself, confident, articulate, and skilled are not the first things that pop into my head.  That’s not my tape; that’s not the dialogue that plays.  So when I hear it, I don’t always know how to respond.  True or not, it isn’t the norm.  

I am ugly.

Inarticulate.

Today, I cried.  So many reasons.

I am stupid.

I was sitting in my literature class today taking a reading quiz.  I got done early, because I always do.  My mind was wandering, and as I looked around the classroom my eyes came to rest on the bulletin board three feet to my left.  There were several posters.  Two of them were out of date.  But one was new and had never been there before.  “If you’ve ever been the victim of sexual assault, family violence, or a violent crime, there is help.”  And then it listed all sort of hotlines.  

I understand the measure, I really do.  Some people need these things; some people would write this information down and even use it.  But I already have this information, because I have used it.  At the first opportunity, I snuck over to the bulletin board and turned the poster around before tacking it back up.  I stared at the blank side for the rest of class, because I remembered the words from the other side.  

Sexual assault.  Rape.  

Shit.

I am broken.

There is something wrong with me.  

I met with my advisor yesterday about the classes I was planning to take.  We discovered that I only need three classes to graduate.  Among the three classes I had put into my enrollment shopping cart was my advisor’s Shakespeare course.  I’ve been wanting to take this class since I was in my first year of undergrad.  I have always liked Shakespeare, and I’ve already read quite a bit of him.  This class has interested me not only for that element, but also because I have only been able to take my advisor for a lower level course.  I would love to have her as a professor for an upper level; she’s brilliant, I adore her, and I really want to get a solid A on a paper for her.”

“I need to be honest with you,” she said when I told her all these things, the reasons why I wanted to take her class.

“I’m going to shoot myself in the head taking this at the same time as Senior Seminar?”  

“No.”  She leaned back in her chair.  “There’s a lot of work that deals with sexual assault.  Graphic scenes of rape, and we will be discussing these things in class.”

I twitched at the mention of the word rape.  

“Spousal abuse.  Titus.  The Taming of the Shrew.  And I’m not sure this is the course for you.”

I looked out the window.  I had been excited minutes before and suddenly found myself sad in a way I didn’t know how to deal with.  Because it was still interfering.  Always interfering.  I wanted to cry.

“Why don’t you take Eco-crit instead?”

Because I wanted this.  Because I wanted Shakespeare.  Because I wanted to be normal, just once.  Just one time.

I am never going to be normal.

Never going to measure up.

Never going to be okay.

In psychology today, the professor greeted us before opening with “So, how many of you are parents?”  She followed this up with “How many of you aren’t parents?”  After this, she asked “Why have you chosen to not have children?”  And she called on me, of all people.  Me.  I walked out of class before I started to cry.  I leaned against the wall outside the classroom that led to the courtyard, debating going outside but recognizing the fact that it was much too cold.  I sat down on the floor in between the two sets of doors and I watched the trees blowing back and forth and the sun shining and I let tears fall.  

I am a failure.

Murderer.

It’s hard to lose someone you love.  It’s even harder to lose everything at the same time.  And that’s what happened to me.  I lost it all.  The hardest part for me has been the not knowing why my son died.  Why my marriage broke.  What I did to deserve the acid rain that made my entire life disintegrate for so long.  It is in my nature to blame myself.  That’s the tape; that’s what I have been told my entire life.  

I am not good enough.

I am always amazed to learn what other people actually think of me.  In that over the edge moment today, at just the right time, I read beautiful words that someone I deeply respect had written about me.  And my brain had a moment in which it clicked.

I am not broken.  I am not a failure.  I am not lost.  

I cried again.  But because for that moment, that awesomely wonderful, fantastic and beautiful moment, I could see what this person saw.  

I am strong and powerful and awesome, and not just on the days where I feel good.  Every day.  I am these things even when I don’t remember.  I am these things, because other people see them in me.  Other people see me.  

I am.

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The Words in the Closet

I wish that I could be everything to everybody all the time.  It’s really my life’s mission, to be that person who always gets everything right and does all of the things that people need from me.  I am quiet a lot of the time, and as a result of that I absorb a lot of what people around me say.  I take special focus in the things they say to me.  Every detail is important.  

I have trouble a lot of the time describing my feelings because I lack the perfect word.  I have trouble talking because I get too flustered over my need to know just what to say.  I fail all too often.  I can’t describe how badly it hurts.  Not out loud.  Not on my own.  I can’t ask for help.  Not out loud.  Definitely not without prodding.  I have always had trouble wrapping my brain around the idea that people care.  I put all of my energy into my marriage, and he never cared.  I project that on to everyone around me, that idea that I am nothing, that idea that they don’t care.  How could they?  Why would they?  I am not everything to everybody all the time.  As a matter of fact, as hard as I try, I rarely am.  I get my self esteem from my achievements.  When I can’t achieve, when I fail, I lose all of my confidence.  I have so little to begin with.  I let life snatch away what I do have.  

I keep my most important words close to my heart.  I am very careful who I share details with; I am very careful about forming connections.  I am slow to trust, and I am careful to protect myself.  When I do make a connection of any sort, I treasure it.  The idea that someone sees me, really sees me, is such an incredible feeling that I am loathe to let it go.

My greatest fear in life, regarding revealing the more intimate details, is that people will not believe me.  One of my favorite people once told me “I believe you.  I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t.  You’re so amazing, and strong.  And I know that it’s hard and it completely sucks.  But you can get through it, one step at a time.”  These statements are the type of detail that I hold on to, the type of words that can get me through a difficult day.  Because I am amazing, and I am strong.  And I am moving forward.  That’s another quote.  “Continual, forward motion.”  I love quotes.  I post them on Facebook frequently.  I collect them.  Because they mean something.  Words mean something.  They’re powerful, to both the good and the bad.

In my closet resides a shoebox.  More accurately, it’s a boots box.  It’s huge, and it’s filled up with a ton of these things.  When someone tells me something that means a lot, or that I know will be important to me in the future, I write it down and put it in the box.  I have quotes written on looseleaf, quotes written on napkins, quotes written on brochures.  You name it, I’ve probably written on it.  If I get a particularly inspirational letter, message, card, text, et cetera, I print it out and put it in the box.  When someone gives me something that means even a little, I hang on to it.  There are too many days where I forget.  Life is hard, and it’s scary.  When it’s especially messy, when I’m feeling lost, I have my words.  And I remember that I have people in my life who are there.  When I have a bad day, I can pull out the box and flip through the things and remember that people care.  That I have awesome friends.  That I’m loved.

Somedays I just need to hear the words.  To know that sometimes it is okay, and sometimes it isn’t, and that’s it’s perfectly okay to not be okay.  On those days, even the smallest words mean everything.

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The Voice Inside My Head

“You look so good.  Professional.”

I respond automatically.  “I’ve been trying.”

That’s the god’s honest truth.  For a while, I wasn’t trying.  I lived in the land of jeans and sweatpants with my hair in a ponytail solely because I could.  I’m starting to change, and I see that but I don’t know how to articulate it.  I don’t know how to put into words the person that I’m becoming.  Confidence is a difficult concept for me to understand.  

I allow myself to be bound by my circumstances.  I claim that I want to be more but I often fail to give myself that opportunity.  Case and point: last week I was eating dinner with someone and we were having a conversation about teaching and issues that come up in the classroom.  She mentioned a problem that she was having and I suddenly found myself talking in regards to solving the issue even though I probably had no business doing so.  After I had been talking for at least a minute, I realized WHO I was talking to and clamped my mouth shut with a hasty apology—I was certain she knew better than I did what sorts of things would solve classroom issues.  Surprisingly, she encouraged me to continue.  It occurred to me then that I maybe know a thing or two about, well…things.  There are many times where I doubt this.

It is easier for me to be unconfident because it’s what I know.  When I was younger, I was made fun of for the clothes I wore or my makeup or the way I did my hair or really ANY number of things about my person.  My friends would chastise me for speaking when I wasn’t spoken to, for trying to force myself into conversations where I had no place being.  I went from high school to marriage; my (now) ex-husband tried to force me into a box of his creation and seal the lid, and I went along with it.  I didn’t see another option.  His voice was the strongest that I knew and the one that I was supposed to be listening to.  

Now, however, I have many awesome people in my life.  I wear decent clothes on a fairly regular basis (with the understanding that it’s because I want to look nice, not because it is required as was my previous thinking pattern).  I wear crazy colored tights and glittery shoes and I do my hair and I try.  Because I care more.  I have people in my life who think that I’m amazing, who appreciate the fact that I have my own thoughts, who support me in my decisions, and who just want me around.  I’m trying to reach out and make connections and be a real, whole person.  

Here’s the thing though.  It’s still his voice that rings the strongest.  It’s still the thought that I don’t fit, that I never will, that I will always be in the shadows.  No matter how many times someone tells me that I am awesome or strong or amazing, no matter how many publications I get or successes I attain, I still hear him telling me that I’m not good enough.  I’m not working hard enough.  I’m not doing the right things.  I, the person who I am, the real me, am not enough.

I am different though.  Sometimes I wake up and find myself afraid of the day, like today, and rather than caving as I would have with him I tell myself that I am not afraid.  That I am stronger.  That I am better.  I fake it until I make it, as my very wise advisor has told me to do so many times.  I hear his voice, and I tune it out.  I’m starting to forget what it sounded like.  I am detoxing from the box that he built for me and making a life that is my own.

I want more moments like I had the other day at dinner.  I want to know that I know what I’m talking about.  I want to be sure of my abilities on my own terms.  I want to be my own person who can listen and interpret but not absorb absolutely everything.  I want to be confident.  

Most of all, I want the only voice inside my head to be mine.

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The L-Word (I Didn’t Know)

Sometimes when you read something really poignant, it sticks with you even if the original topic is not what you yourself are considering.  I read something in the blog of an amazing writer I know today that really made think.  Perhaps it was the day I had today, or perhaps I just saw something in her words:

“Whether you’ve been in a long-distance relationship or not, how or why did you decide to move closer (or move in) with your person?”

This question made me think for hours.  Through my meetings, though homework, through grading and still more homework.  Here’s the blog:  http://thenicktr.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/the-live-in-girl/

I couldn’t figure out why this thought bugged me until now.  I remember.  I remember that I never really wanted my relationship; I remember that I didn’t dive in with both feet.  That I didn’t dive in at all.  I just sort of…fell.

*

The night that I knew I was going to marry my (now) ex was actually a morning.  One in the morning, in fact.  I was coming home from a twelve hour shift at the gas station I was running.  The day had been a cesspool of retail-related drama, and I wanted nothing more than to go home to my apartment, sink onto the couch, and devour my brand new DVD— “Joan of Arcadia” Season One.  As I was driving down the dark unlit road into our tiny town, I had a thought.  I wanted to see him.  I had worked all day, I was exhausted, but I wanted to see him.  Instead of turning to my house, I went the opposite direction and parked in front of his around the corner.  We sat at the piano together that night and both uttered the l-word.

I didn’t know what it meant.  I don’t think he did either.

When I left that night to go back around the corner to my apartment, I told myself that I was going to marry him.  And I did.

*

Two months before our wedding, we left the church we had been attending due to a series of unfortunate events with my ex’s mother.  We found another church for relatively cheap, but we lost our catering and our minister.  We had to find someone else to do the marriage counseling.  But someone we found all of these things in just enough time.  As one thing fell apart, another thing solved itself.  Around and around and around.

Until the night of the rehearsal dinner, when I got the phone call that my soon-to-be father in law had lit the side of the deck on fire making the chicken.

I should have seen the signs, but I didn’t know what love meant.

*

The night before my wedding, I remember sitting on my bed with my then best friend as she painted my toenails silver and told me I was making a horrible mistake.  She believed, with all of her heart, that I would die if I married him.  “Maybe God has another plan for you.  Maybe the fact that the wedding plans kept falling apart is a sign that He wants you somewhere else.  He’s not good for you.”  She thought that she would never see me again.

I didn’t understand what she meant until hours after she left.  It was three in the morning, and I was staring at my ceiling.  I had been incredibly excited about the wedding, the pretty dress and the flowers and my family and friends.  But did I love him?  Was I excited about him?  Was I making the wrong choice?  The fact that she was the third friend to cry upon realizing I was really going to marry him perhaps should have been an indication.  In my heart, I believed there wasn’t anyone else out there for me.

Did I love him?  I didn’t know the meaning of the word.

*

Two weeks after my decision to, as I put it in my head “marry that boy someday,” I had to ban him from coming inside my apartment.  I believed in the idea of not having sex outside of marriage, and he did not.  He claimed to.  But things were different when it was dark and the lights were down, when we were alone.  I wasn’t comfortable with him anymore, and I told him he couldn’t come over alone again until we were married.  He became quite angry.  One thing led to another, and then we were in the parking lot of the building and I was on the ground with a boatload of pain in my elbow.  He had shoved me to the ground.  I got in the car and drove away, ignoring his frantic pounding on the windows.  But when he followed me in his own car and cut me off in the middle of the country highway, I listened to his apology.  I went back.  I believed he could change.  I also knew that he was the only one who would ever love me.

He never changed.  And whether he loved me or not, I don’t know if he knew what the word meant either.

I didn’t know what love meant.

*

We got back from our honeymoon, and I had to go to work the very next night.  I didn’t have any time after church to go home and wanted to go through a drive-thru.  He informed me that the three dollars I spent were my three dollars to eat off of for the day.  There would be no more food money after that.

That was the beginning of the end of things.  Day thirteen.  But it would take me over five years and a lot of tragedy to figure that out.

I didn’t know what love meant.

*

I believe that we can find ourselves in relationships for the wrong reasons.  I didn’t want to be alone, so I married the first person who came along.  I tried to love him, and I tried to change him.  But I couldn’t love him because I didn’t love myself, and I couldn’t change him because nobody has the power to change anybody else.  I let him change me.  While the decisions were made by him, I didn’t do anything to stop him.  I didn’t know how.  I can see that now, and I know better than I did then.  I let our relationship mess my life up so badly that I couldn’t tell up from down by the time I left it.  Even though we’re apart now, the remains still linger in my soul, my life.  I’m just now learning how to separate myself from them and take the steps I need to towards who I really am.

Maybe I don’t know what love means.  But I’m learning.

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The Blank (On Power)

We all have our blanks in life.  If I had done ________, ________ wouldn’t have happened.  ________ is the reason for everything.  Today I had a very interesting discussion regarding this phenomena.  My example:  If my son wouldn’t have died, my marriage wouldn’t have either; I don’t know why he died and therefore all of these events must be my fault.

I was told that this statement is, in a way, dishonoring his memory.  Rather than remembering him for the baby he was, I am choosing to place blame on him for something that was in no way his fault.  It is easier to do this than to place the blame where it really lies.   I can logicize (yes, I created that word) the dissolution of my marriage in its entirety:  I carried Carter; Carter died; there were no more children; the essence of our marriage became filled with anger and bitterness; the marriage dissolved.  It started with my son; it ended with me leaving.  Regardless of the events in between, I can trace a clear path of fault back to myself.  I’m not saying that this is rational or correct.  I’m simply saying that I can see how others, my ex specifically, could have arrived at this conclusion and used it to justify their actions.  I don’t know that I truly believe this statement.  I do believe that I just plain don’t have any other rational off which to form a basis for opinion.  If I stray away from this idea, I begin to see things for what they really were.  Would my marriage have been any better had Carter lived?  Probably not.  Was it good before his death?  Not particularly.

Where does the fault lie?  Is it with anyone in particular?  Or was this dissolution a community effort?  Power in a relationship is supposed to go both ways, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.

This comes back to Michel Foucault’s four main tenets regarding power:  it is exercised from many different points, it’s repressive but also productive, it can come from the top down as well as the bottom up, and where power is found there is always resistance.  In class, the example that we used was that the professor has power because it is given to them; as students we know that the professor is responsible for our grades, and therefore we put power on them.  However, we can choose what we do with that knowledge and how much power we give by choosing whether or not to show up to class and working hard to earn said grades.  While the professor has the power to give grades, as students we have the power to earn them.  In the essay “The Subject and Power,” Foucault states that “Power is exercised only over free subjects, and only insofar as they are free.  By this we mean individual or collective subjects who are faced with a field of possibilities in which several ways of behaving, several reactions and diverse comportments, may be realized.  Where the determining factors saturate the whole, there is no relationship of power; slavery is not a power relationship when man is in chains.”  When you tie a person down, or tie them into a relationship, it is a display of power.  It is not, however, true power.  Holding one down in an effort to force your will upon them is not power at all; it is trying to make up for a lack.  When person completely takes over another, it only illustrates that they have no real power themselves.  Once the chains are gone, the slave is free to leave; it is their choice then as to whether or not they choose to go.

I don’t believe my former relationship could have been considered a “free” relationship.  I allowed him to make a lot of the decisions.  I followed, I was obedient, and I served.  I allowed his factors, his needs, to overshadow mine a large portion of the time.  This was a decision I made because I knew no better.  At the time, I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do.  I didn’t see another way.  I gave him power, and while I had the power to leave I chose not to take it.  Until one day, I did.  It had nothing to do with Carter at all, but rather it was a decision that I made because I had to for my own sanity.  Where he had tried to force power upon me and failed, I displayed legitimate power in leaving.  A marriage is supposed to be a relationship of equality, of both give and take; it shouldn’t be about one partner forcing the others’ hand.

All this to say, the human mind does not like to deal with blanks.  We do the best we can to fill them in, regardless of the consequences mentally.  The unknown is scary; we find ourselves in need of answers.  But maybe those answers don’t always exist.   I can’t place the blame for the destruction of that which was already sour on the shoulders of a child who did nothing to deserve it.  The blame rests in the fact that I had power I chose not to exercise, in the fact that I allowed the illusion of power to fool me.

The blame rests in the fact that that illusion even existed in the first place.

Perhaps a blank just means that some things are meant to end.

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