She laughed and smiled, and went home planning to die.
She drank or drugged to feel different, and for several beautiful minutes she felt whole and worthy, but it was so brief, and it didn’t fill the gaping hole of worthlessness.
Justifying her existence became her job. Hiding became her daily pursuit. Hiding in plain sight.
She couldn’t afford to let you know her even though she was desperate to be known, to be loved, to be accepted – to matter.
Every failure confirmed her lack of value, and she told herself that everyone knew she was shit – it was a pheromone radiating off of her.
Shame was her cloak – its vile fabric wrapping its folds so tightly around her.
She didn’t even know she had fallen back into the pit. She had reopened all the old escape hatches, but they didn’t hide her anymore.
Until she remembered, and really understood that she had to change her self-beliefs – to love her unlovable self, and learn to act differently, nothing could change.
Living was becoming unendurable, but she was still too afraid to kill herself. In a fog of self-loathing, she was gifted the memory of once having worked hard to like herself – even reaching a sense of love and self-worth.
“No one provides worth or value,” came the small voice. “It is always self-derived. It was never fostered as a child – that shame belonged to others who failed their duties. But it’s still possible,” said the voice.
“Let the flicker become a brilliant blaze, and know that all fires go out if they are not fed. And a fire will burn whatever fuel its given – so feed it worthy fuel.”
Addendum: It’s also okay to borrow fuel from others if all you have is shit to burn.
I’ve gotten scared a couple of times while driving in the last month or so. My hands are on the wheel, eyes on the road, but twice now I have caught myself having to remember to be in the world?, Something like that. I haven’t figured that out yet, which is what’s terrifying.
Have the leaded gas fumes from my father’s Lincoln Continental that I breathed in deeply several times after he had parked in the driveway finally melted my brain? He must have caught me doing that because I only remember getting to stand there breathing in the lead fumes a few times. It must have been better than the smell of bread or cake or cookies baking, because none of those aromas made me want to stick my nose as close to the oven as I could to breathe it in as fully as I could.
But worse than that, could I be getting some form of dementia?
It’s hard to write about this because it’s embarrassing and scary, but it’s real, and maybe someone has an answer, or has experienced something similar.
In both incidents the eerie displacement of time, or space, or space/time, or whatever was happening to me, left me hyper-vigilant, and desperate to seem normal, to feel normal.
I got to my destinations fine, and I’m now realizing that the drives home were unremarkable.
Maybe my senses aren’t as acute as they were a decade ago (or even last year)?
Maybe this is what getting old is.
Bite your tongue, I hear my rebel yell. Fuck off, and then come back and fuck off again. Old. Pssshh!
That’s like saying I’m defective, used up, yesterday’s news – and that’s stupid.
But I can’t stop what happens to my definitely time-based body, even if my, what? – id, ego, and super-ego? – are up in arms at the seeming injustice of it all.
I just have to accept what is, not approve of it.
I also have to figure out if there is something wonky going on in my brain.
Maybe it’s something simple, something fixable.
The fear underneath everything else is whether or not I matter – whether I have relevance.
Well, that is completely self-determined, isn’t it?
No one else defines me unless I let them, and I don’t have to let my worst thoughts about myself decide who I am either.
Full human – still here, still crushing it … 8 times out of 10 – so far.
“November would be unbearable were it not for knowledge of spring.”
I wish I could remember the author of that quote. An internet search turned up nothing, and I am probably misremembering it, but that is the gist of it at any rate.
I heard it back in my college days, studying literature, and the edge of my brain is saying it was a woman writer in the 19th or early-to-mid 20th century.
I’m thinking of this quote in terms of my mother, beyond this physical world now. I suppose spring represents the mystical realm, where I believe I will see those who mattered to me again. At least the thought sustains me in these darkening days.
The large maple tree in our yard, so recently flush with green leaves – with life – stands bare again as the year cycles. The birth and death of its foliage every year reminds me that I will cycle too, but unlike those leaves, I will not regenerate in the spring – at least not here.
My mother told me once that she heard in her mind: “we’re waiting,” when she stood outside on a frigid winter day, wondering what happens to the leafless trees through the long winter months.
Are you waiting now, Mom?
I glance at that tree through my window, and think about my mother having cycled into the underworld. She is literally under the ground now – no word on what happened to her spirit or soul.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were spirit journalists – envoys from wherever they are now – sending their observations on the work-a-day spirit world back into this physical realm where we could pick up their papers and journals, or read their blogs?
I’d particularly like to read Mark Twain’s (Samuel Clemens’) observations. I’m sure my mother would too.
She had a good sense of humor, and appreciated irony and satire.
I took a trip to my mother’s old trailer, and was depressed about the state of it.
All the wood and the walls and the ceiling and floor are rotting away. All I could think was “as above, so below.” I try not to think about my mother decomposing in her grave – but she always spoke almost reverently about becoming “worm food.”
A grave robber broke into Mozart’s tomb and was shocked to see him sitting there, furiously erasing what looked like one of his symphonies.
“What are you doing?” blurted out the startled robber.
“I’m decomposing!” replied Mozart. (one of my mother’s favorite silly jokes)
Besides missing laughing, joking, and talking with her, it strikes me that I probably never knew my mother as she saw herself, and I didn’t particularly like aspects of my mother that can bring up terribleness even now.
I see my mother through my lens of need, often forgetting that her neglect and dysfunction helped cause much of my disturbed emotional being.
But, I still love her for what she was able to do – for her trying to do better. I remember how she was there for me when my son was born, and throughout his growing up – even though I curse the hell that was wired into my brain, which hurt my ability be the mother I had wanted to be. Even so, I did far better with my son than was done for me.
People like to quibble on the nature vs nurture question, but time and again we see those who mostly had what they needed as children doing far better than those who didn’t. All you need is one appropriate, concerned and loving caregiver to get you through awful circumstances, and perhaps even thrive, but not everyone gets that. Humans are resilient, and I know that we continue on regardless – I and my siblings are proof of that – but we still paid, and in some ways, continue to pay for what we endured.
We are all on a heroes journey. We all suffer, face challenges large and small, and we all have the potential for victory. But those who don’t slay their dragons are not less worthy, they’re just less celebrated, or honored for having done their best. They “failed” to vanquish the darkness, but they still tried.
Sometimes there’s more to love in a loser than in a winner. We can all relate to loss.
I once heard how a goldfish swimming around its bowl is perpetually surprised to find someone looking at it on each go around. I feel like that’s me.
Once again, I’m trying to hold myself away from the darkness.
Every year – every year!, I think this year will be different. This is where the therapists, psychologists, psychotherapists, etc., have it wrong. They just do. This just has to be endured. I don’t encourage this, or ask for this, or want this. I do my best to change the circumstances, the feelings, my attitude, my situation, my – being.
It’s like something descends upon me, or pulls me, or – I don’t know, but I have spent the last 30 years of my life trying to fend this off and I have yet to change it.
Maybe I have allowed it without being aware? I reject that. This is not my doing. I work toward a stable, content, capable life – all the time. Maybe something is attached to me that has the most power this time of year, or whenever I’m most vulnerable?
Trying to think my way out of this does not work. I know that something lets go – eventually – but I get closer to stepping off the world too.
All I can do now is be as kind as I can. Don’t judge, don’t demean or belittle myself – and don’t accept defeat.
It was in the high nineties yesterday. I helped my mom run some errands and then we had lunch and I brought her home. The path down to her place made me feel like I was walking through a rainforest with the sounds of various bird calls, insects, and the weak sun filtering through the tree canopy on such a hazy, humid day. I imagined that life was this way before we humans arrived, and would continue long after we leave (provided the Earth hasn’t been sucked into the sun by then – or whatever event precedes Earth’s demise).
I knew a storm was forecast for later in the day, and as I drove home, I could feel it coming on. My gas warning light came on a few miles before I was near a gas station, but I was fairly confident I would make it as long as I didn’t have to idle anywhere. I vaguely wondered if it would use more gas to turn off and on my engine if I did get stuck in traffic, but I wasn’t hindered by anything.
As I pulled into the gas station, however, the ominous clouds I had seen forming on the far horizon were now headed over the gas station canopy, while another cloud bank was converging into the one over me. There was eerie greenish light in the storm clouds and a fierce wind picked up while torrential rain poured down. I don’t know why I didn’t just stay there and wait out the storm. I think I was worried about the gas station not being a safe place to be, so I pulled out, barely able to see through the rain pounding my windshield, even with the wipers on fast. Traffic was stopped at a tree that had fallen across the road, so I made a U-turn to take another street. I watched the tree limbs above me bending and swaying and while I was prepared to stop quickly, I had already decided to keep moving unless forced to stop.
I took the least tree-lined route, instead of my usual one, and at first I thought I had gone the best way; the rain had lessened in intensity, but the storm continued with lightning flashing and the wind still whipping as I turned up another side street hoping to avoid traffic or any accidents. There was a tree in the road ahead of me, and a pick-up truck drove over to my side of the road, narrowly missing me as the driver careened around the tree and then corrected to get past my car. I rounded the corner to see another tree down, but it had fallen at an angle with a gap large enough for my car to pass under it – which was really dumb of me, I know – but I was in amygdala/panic mode, not neo-cortex/processing mode. I got through that to see another tree up ahead and someone ahead of me getting out of their car to check it out. I put my window down and yelled at her not to touch anything if there was a wire down. She ran back a moment later saying that there was a wire in the road.
My car has four-wheel drive and I told her I could avoid most of the tree top by driving up the hill around it, and she told me she was going to follow me. I knew it would be easy to navigate that, and I waited to make sure the other driver got around it before continuing on. I called the police to let them know that three trees and a wire were down on that road. There were lots of tree limbs and other debris scattered about the road, but no more whole trees. The storm was passing and I had turned on my radio after leaving the gas station in case there were any emergency broadcasts, but there was only regular programming. I thought that was weird because it was such an intense storm, but I guess I was unlucky enough to be at the head of it.
The shape of the storm front reminded me of some kind of alien craft. The entire edge was rounded while lower clouds were being kneaded into the larger mass, and it was very fast-moving. I feel stupid now that my last act could have been putting gas into my car and trying to dodge being tornado fodder. The best thing I could have done was to go inside the store and wait out the storm, or at least park beside the nearby open field. I’m not sure getting into a ditch would have been a good idea unless I actually saw a funnel cloud because the rain was pouring so hard the ditches were flash-flooding. Death by drowning might have been preferable to being sucked up into a tornado, but that’s a tough call. Thankfully, I didn’t need to choose.