Don’t wait on anyone else. Be your own best valentine and get yourself some flowers or whatever other treat you would like. (And don’t do it just this week… Treat yourself when ever you think of it.)
(Hugs to you all.)
It’s not summer yet– we’re barely broken from winter
but the days are starting to hold that verge of wet
of mud, of emergent green, and the breeze may still bite down to the bone
but the sun is just that smidge brighter, the light a little more gold.
It’s enough of a promise to make the tangle of brush littered under the
thornhedge, the long brambles themselves in dire need hacking
a challenge, not something so daunting to send me back under cold covers.
The just now full moon is low in the still twilight sky–
not day, not night,
but that inbetween state when everything waits,
I am finally ready to leap even though last week, or was it last night,
I was ready to fall, or was it to crash?
Still, each day is different, I’m learning,
and today I heard a poet reading her verse about whelks.
I remembered that time toward the end
when we took a walk and collected our own– beautiful, broken,
all hollowed out. I left them in the bowl your brother’s wife gave us when I left,
along with so much else of our life. In abandoning most of our things,
it wasn’t so much a clean break as the fact that you can’t take it with you,
and it’ll just break your heart if you try.
Those whelks, though– it’s strange, the things your memory holds on to.
I know there were good times enough to make me stay so long,
not just my own fear or yours that kept me hanging around,
but all those times are blurred versus those last few trips
all tinged with the last light of summer, that and the things
that still make me burn with rage.
In hindsight, I should have leapt in the spring, but I’d hoped
you would be able to make the leap with me, to try to hold on,
so I won’t fault myself for trying. Someone had to.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
You, unable to help yourself, much less me, and me,
asking for help you couldn’t admit I was always going to need?
It wasn’t so simple a matter as clearing out the winter’s detritus
or waiting for spring. It wasn’t as clean as admitting
that things had changed, like the way sand and tide
whittled those whelks.
I still don’t know what a partnership is,
but I do know to walk away
from those who cannot choose joy simply
because they will lose it some day– that knowing, at least
is a prayer that I be my own best companion.
People and things are evanescent, it’s true.
I don’t know what you were expecting
in a world where we’re all born to die.
It is all wild and precious and, for the moment,
part of our life. I know how to pay attention to that,
even if the attention is caressing the brittle shells of late winter,
rather than admiring the slime trail the snail leaves in June.
The snail doesn’t know how long he is here.
He just takes his time, and enjoys each blade of grass
during his slow, messy, mucous progress.
Perhaps that’s the first kind of prayer, the steady snail crawl.
Slow, onward, with your home on your back.
(With apologies to Mary Oliver & The Summer Day)
I like the Modern Love column in the NYT, but like any opinion column sourced from individual experiences, it is, in the end, merely that, and we all have to make our own choices about whether to take the advice. Today’s piece is a pre-Valentine’s pep-talk for settling, which I’m sort of neutral about– except for one part that could use some contrast the editor to the column does not bring about (because that’s not the point of the column)–
“the appreciatively resigned rise each morning not dwelling on their marital shortfalls but counting their mutual blessings, whatever they may be: a shared sense of humor, an exchange of kind gestures, the enthusiastic pursuit of a mutual interest. Somehow they have managed to grow together rather than apart.”
The column presumes mutuality. Well, yeah, of course it does, it’s about love. Love’s mutual. (Yeah, you’d think so.)
But the definition of mutuality, the finding of shared common ground, the willingness to figure out what would be a kind gesture, and then go and make it– those are all things that presuppose that both spouses are making the effort. If they can’t, or if they won’t– or worse, if they’re baffled as if you’re speaking Greek when you talk about what would be a kind gesture that they could make, just for the sake of its making– then there isn’t much there that’s shared, and the togetherness is a romantic illusion it’s time to walk away from. There’s nothing there to appreciate, and that resignation is defeat– and that, that I don’t accept.
Wendy Cope said it terribly in one of her poems, and it’s terribly true:
Sometimes it takes years, but that “better” in the poem, as bad as it feels because it’s not easy at all, this “cure” for love, it leaves you no room for settling. And that’s better than good enough. Because you’re better than that.
May the bridges I burn light the way,
said that late 80s sage, Dylan McKay.
It took me a while, but I’ve come to see
it’s not just ironic, but true.
The flames of your past illuminating what lies ahead–
it’s the flip side of leaving a room like General Sherman,
or Scipio, even, burning and salting because after a fight,
you might as well make damn well sure that it’s done.
Over. No more chance of rising to haunt you,
to try to drag you under with memories of when you
used to be able to stand one another. Before.
They don’t want to parry, negotiate peace, even consider
some terms of surrender?
Burn it all. Let it light up the night,
and ride your horse into the dawn.
Don’t look back– just let the salt leak out of the saddlebags you’ve
stolen and slashed, let to drift on your path out,
a reverse cookie crumb trail.
No witch with an oven at the end of this trail,
no more fattening period, no waiting,
All you really need are waterproof matches,
some razer-sharp wit to discern the next
impending disaster, that and a heart that’s dry,
ready to kindle again.
There was a night, years ago now, two-thirty in the morning or thereabouts, when I felt the darkest I’ve felt. I reached out and was told in effect that my sadness and wanting death weren’t true, that my loneliness and feelings of being abandoned were wrong.
I still don’t know how I got through that night by myself, because I certainly got no fucking help from the person who was supposed to love and to cherish, for better and worse. Whatever his reasons for his reactions, the fact still remained: he told me I didn’t need the hospital and I let him tell me, rather than listen to what was in my own head, which was– you are not loved, you should end this right now (you should go to the hospital.) I was right. I wasn’t loved. And I should have ended it sooner. (Just not the way I thought.)
A yearsome later, I left, because fuck anyone telling me that my need to take all the pills in my medicine chest because I didn’t feel loved wasn’t real, wasn’t deserving of immediate fucking attention. And fuck anyone who told me my feelings were wrong because they didn’t have those particular feelings. Because of course everyone’s psychic, and entitled to tell other people what it is they’re supposed to think, supposed to feel. Instead of maybe– listening. Shocking concept, I know.
It’s two years plus, now, and I’ve had ups and downs, better and worse parts, but none quite so bad, and the answer to the question of why should I stay if I’m going to have to be the only one taking care of me, anyway is again– no, fuck you, I’ll do it myself, and I have. The answer to do I honor my feelings, no matter what someone else says is Yes. I may even have it tattooed.
It’s two years plus, now, and one of the people who work for me in a job I probably would have been told I wasn’t up to handling (my feelings might get in the way, didn’t I recall I’d flunked out of law practice and why, oh why, hadn’t I told him (btw, CRAZY at the time, it gets in the way, skip the reading, much, did you?)) had a breakdown of their own at work. I handled it, and I handled it well. I let them have as much agency as they could. I listened. We hung out in more privacy than I thought the workplace would have afforded until the people they’d chosen and asked for came to help them. I didn’t do the thing that was panicked and shove them in an ER, which probably no one would have done– but still, better than letting them go home, on their own, and even moreso, no one knew my history, they just knew I’d know what to do. Because I am competent. And I do know what to do– in general, all-purpose ways. I am a sensible, well-trusted person.
Those asked-for people came to help them, after I’d called and explained. They’re going to be fine, to come back to work soon, and the family– oh, they’re pleased and surprised that we’re able to be so commonsense about it. Because yes. Crazy happens. So does everything else in this life. We accept that and make room, because we all have to live and work with each other, and for the bits of crazy, the other things we bring to the day far outweigh the occasional break.
It’s two years plus, now, and it feels raw like that dark night again because I can do it all by myself, but I shouldn’t have had to, and fuck you. That hurts. It hurts that I still feel like my crazy wasn’t worth it to you, that it was too scary and you were too selfish to ever bother to learn what it felt like in anyone’s head but your own. It hurts that you didn’t trust me or you enough to listen to what I had to say. And that you didn’t trust either of us to believe that you could ever be wrong. It hurts that sometime in the year after I left, you told me that a friend had a breakdown– and you’d been the one to take them to the E.R. until they could be seen, so they weren’t alone. I don’t know if that was supposed to be proof that you’d learned– to me, it feels like proof that you could only muster that energy when it wasn’t someone you needed to make your decisions for you– and when I became incapable, so did you.
It’s two years plus, now, and though that night I kept reaching for you, now– I’d shove you away as fast as I can, because I did the right thing walking away, I did the right thing in shoving through on my own, I did the right thing in helping my charge– and you. You don’t know, and you’ll never be able to tell. It’s not that you didn’t love me, or that I didn’t love you– but it wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t right, and if I should have done more? So should you.
The management wishes to apologize that you have begun to feel old.
The fact that your joints and your libido no longer stir are clearly our fault.
That you have concerns about your ability to pay on a going-forward basis,
despite your established good credit– and did we mention the fact
that we have budget-minded items, as well as spreadsheets,
if that is, in fact, a thing you wish to ruminate on?
Pardon us for mentioning so touchy and profane an issue as money.
The management also requests that you excuse all of our feelings,
so different from those you profess.
Our shocking attempt at individuating ourselves should clearly
be nipped in the bud.
The management is only here for your cooking, housekeeping, entertainment,
provisioning pleasure, here to laugh at your jokes, keep things lively and light.
No, sir, you’re entirely correct; attempting to bring to your attention
the ways in which management was aware of the ways in which it
was falling short of your and its own expectations, in words other than those
you would have used– clearly our fault, none of yours.
We can hardly say what we were thinking,
thinking for ourselves and not for you,
always for you, you and the issues we did our best to guess at
despite your refusals to participate in our survey(s),
to provide feedback on the comment cards periodically provided to you,
to anticipate your needs.
Clearly, the management was hardly thinking at all.
I was wading through my hard drive and my Google Drive the other day, looking for a zombie apocalypse piece I had started. I couldn’t find it, but I came across a lot of poems I wrote in the run-up and immediate aftermath of leaving the husband. The poem above is not one of them. The poem above, I hope, comes across as fucking furious and sarcastic as all fucking hell, with a soupcon of what the hell was I thinking?
I re-read the poems, a lot of them very raw, but a lot of them very good, some of them the same as the ones that were raw. Probably, most of them will never see the light of day, but one thing that occurred to me, slowly, after reading them all, was how much they dwelt on what I didn’t do, what I hadn’t said, what I hadn’t tried. I was very much focused on my failures, even as I was paying lip service to marriage being a two-way street.
It’s almost two years later, now, and it’s probably been eight years since I’ve had sex, had anyone touch me in an intimate way or hug me in a way that was more than a brief hug between friends, and I’m only now getting to the point where I’m getting angry. Probably not a little of it has to do with the fact that in the last three months I’ve had more people I work with and whom I’ve just met be more perceptive to my mood and offer to help than the husband ever was or ever did. My colleagues aren’t afraid to ask questions, even when they don’t know the answers. It’s been a raw time for me, trying to absorb the idea that perhaps, maybe, I deserve mere coworkers like this.
It’s not that I wasn’t angry before. But now, I’m just pissed, because you know what? Marriage is a two way street, and I wasted a year waiting for a yes or a no to the proposition of the items that follow:
I hated being a lawyer and I was never willing to try to make money like that again if being a litigation attorney required that kind of work ethic/life/outlook– he needed to really nut up and take it or leave on my being depressed some of the time and needing you to respond as a partner and helpmeet to me–he needed to start to listen and ask questions and not criticize or interrupt when I was having feelings or telling a story about a situation that he knew nothing about, so stop the fuck silencing me and telling me that my thoughts and feelings were wrong– and why the fuck should I be his housekeeper when there was no sex, no sharing the bed at the same time while we were both awake, no cuddling, no kissing, no intimacy in it for me or notice of my physicality (and sympathy for my diminishing physical weight and my anguish at that, because if 80 lbs weight loss wasn’t a metaphor for the fact that I was turning into a different person, I don’t know what a metaphor is) and all he did was freak the fuck out about money and then turn around and blow it on cocktails with friends (or insert other bauble or expense left to rot here)?
There were other items, other quibbles and quarrels, but they mostly boil down to the above.
Now, I’m just fucking pissed. It makes me awfully sad, because I never wanted to be– but I know what I did wrong (didn’t make enough noise about our problems, didn’t have enough self-awareness, was too scared to examine my feelings in order to make enough noise, didn’t insist enough when I was aware enough to be mad, and instead always caved) and while I’m mad at myself for all the things I should have managed better, I’m also mad because the promise of marriage is solemn, to love and cherish, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer. It’s not a fair-weather thing that was contingent on my being a high-earning, non-bipolar, chirpy cheerleader lawyer who did all the cooking and managed the checkbook and did most of the cleaning (except his laundry and the bathroom, he did a great job with the bathroom) except for the dishes, a goddamned easy trade. It was a promise contingent on me, with all of my flaws, trying the best that I could.
I know now that I tried the best that I could at the time. Now, I could try somewhat better– but that’s not important, because he could have tried too, and that was never (or shouldn’t have been) contingent on me.
I don’t hate him. I hope he finds happiness somewhere– it wasn’t with me. Still, the idea of being in love with him, now– it hardly bears thinking.
It’s been a weird couple of weeks in Lake No-Longer-Nearly-So-Woe-begotten, and I’ve written about a half-dozen posts of various tones and tempers and lengths, all stuck in draft.
Instead, you get this TMI blather.
I’ve been settling into the new job, figuring out all of its kinks from the rising personality and discipline problems of our daily employees to finding out the best way to balance myself (and everyone else) off everyone’s different managerial styles. Feeling like the grownup and being deferred to in a group where I still feel unsure and new re: my standing with this particular group and this particular culture is, to put it mildly: weird, scary, awesome, bizarre, and anxiety-provoking.
At times, it’s a little enraging, when some people push a little too hard, and then I take a deep breath and remind myself– everyone is learning, there will always be alphas, and if I’m more of an alpha-beta when it comes to management style, I do know how to deal with alphas, and at last, I’m working some place where I can just point blank come out and say– “Look, this isn’t cool, but this is.” Getting past the adrenaline rush of opening and in to the occasionally depressing daily grind of OK NOW WE HAVE TO MAKE MONEY and BTWS, EMPLOYEES, YOU HAVE TO SHOW UP OR GET FIRED, some anticlimax is natural, even in a (yes, still feeling it) more enlightened workplace like mine. It’s been so long since I’ve worked with grown-ups who’ve considered my opinion, let me apologize for my mess-ups, and still come after me for advice that– I find it hard to settle. It’s still a little surreal.
(Yes, dearest reader: I am complaining because I apparently get to have nice things and am freaked the hell out by this.)
I’ve also been trying to be kind to myself, and not just in the YAY, YOU FOUND A REAL JOB kind of way. Lucidity about my moods and affect have been hard to come by (hey, look, I imported my archives, I’ve now got the official, 8-year record…) but I realized this week that I was starting to get a little depressed, which has in turn caused me to try to figure out– well, what else? Is it just anticlimax? Or more?
Of course, it’s probably more. Or triggered, or interrelated. It’s so hard to tell sometimes what sets one thing or another going. But. This is the time of year when I have gone more than a little bit nuts as just one of my bipolar cycles– and I think I was, in fact, a little bit manic when we opened the store, maybe even before that in some kind of mixed state when I kicked my own ass out of the old job. Still, the mid-spring wind-up worked in everyone’s favor because they needed me to be really attentive and fluid and hyperfocused.
Now, as things slow and so, too, do I, I am just trying to pay attention to myself right now as I find myself dragging (in old habits) this week before getting my ass into gear going to work, so that I don’t let myself do that, start going in late, start leaving early, etc.. I need to avoid the computer in the mornings, to set the alarm a little early, to change my routine so I do something different than my normal rut– wake up, read the paper online 15 minutes (which turns into 30 when I’m depressed), shower, eat breakfast during the 40 minute commute. Revising bad habits is a big thing– or should be. Maybe…. Wake up, shower, eat breakfast downstairs, don’t go back up, get to work early, go read in a park? Read a book? Detach myself from the distracting, wondrous computer?
I have, throughout all of this (read: changing jobs, feeling kinda sorta like a real boy) been trying to reconnect with some friends. It’s been a half-and-half kind of deal. Everyone’s busy, and some of the folks I’ve gotten in touch with have been so half-assed that I’ve just decided I’m not going to bother, and honestly, that’s kind of a relief, even if I’m sad to “lose” people that I once used to enjoy. (And bless Brain Eats Brain for her emailed suggestion that sending an African Violet for those relationships that just won’t reset.) Others, though, have been closer friends, and it’s been a struggle to feel like I shouldn’t just throw a tantrum until I get the attention I want or they modify their behavior in the way I think is right. I can’t have it my way all the time, though, and I have to accept that the fact that I’ve been in and out of their lives and really erratic means they get to decide not to bother with me, and I have to get that and not be clingy.
I have to accept that moving on means sometimes losing as well as gaining. That a marriage that was no longer working and a safe-harbor job that had become a pain in the ass aren’t the only things I might “have” to give up– and that finding a new job that’s a pleasure but is also work isn’t something to depressed about but something to embrace as a challenge I’m ready to face.
Like I have to face– maybe some day I’ll get to make amends or repair the friendships I don’t currently have with those people, but maybe I won’t. In the meantime, though, I have to create some new habits. Look for new friends. And finish letting go of things that no longer work and that I’ve decided (no, that’s not a laden sentence at all, in no way full of several complex emotional steps that I find a burden) no longer work.
I’ve got to ask myself– does it work? No? Let it go. Find something that does, even if you don’t know what the replacement is each time I let something go. I need to learn to trust that if things don’t feel 100% in the moment, they’ll get there, sooner or later.
Even if it means living with dad and occasionally growling at him to remind him I am a still mostly-competent adult who, unlike him, manages to get all the shopping and laundry done every week, so kindly don’t bitch because you don’t like the way I trim the fucking hedges, all square instead of rounded. WHO CARES, THEY’RE STILL TRIMMED AND THEY STILL LOOK REALLY NICE.
(Why, no, this is not just an example of my relationship with my Dad as a metaphor for some power dynamics things at the store that have since worked themselves out but which made me internally depressed and anxious and rage-y for a couple of days and which I don’t dare detail because it’s already clear to people who know me where & whom I work for, no, not at all.)
Also? Running into your ex-marriage counselor at your workplace/store and then having an awkward not-conversation where you can tell that she’s DYING to know how everything’s working out is not awkward. At all. (I might have had a bit of the feeling of Lady, I used to pay you serious money for this and you know what? You didn’t help bupkiss, I’m not telling you shit. Emphasis on the might absolutely not tell you shit.) Yeah. She didn’t work.
Now to move on to finding the things that do.