Tuesday, February 18, 2014

fluffy ferocity. bunnies, i mean.

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

When I was fifteen years old and tried to kill myself before I even knew what it was like to be alive, my mom wrote me a letter. I found it on my pillow and read her account, in her tidy and distinctive handwriting, of the day I was born, how she heard a voice out of nowhere speaking to her, saying, "Love her fiercely, you won't have her for long."

It must have been terrifying for her to get the call. I can't imagine. 

But what I know is, the letter, the voice, formed the basis of an unspoken agreement between us. I was supposed to check out first.

Maybe my mom didn't see it that way, as an agreement. Maybe to her it was a fear.

To me, it was a comfort. I just didn't know it at the time. My mom was around whether or not I wanted her to be there, and I trusted that disembodied voice like what crazy people hear.

Because if a disembodied voice is going to go to all the trouble it must take to be heard, don't you think it's going to speak the truth?

So it never occurred to me that my mom could die. First, anyway. It might have occurred to me, had I given it any thought (oh, I did, I really did) that it was a terrible thing to wish on a mother, to see the death of her child. But I didn't decree it. I just agreed to it, like we agree to follow laws. Like gravity.


I want to say that my brain has a contrary nature, but that makes it sound both cute and horsey, and I think it's neither. I have a tendency to buck against my own plans, but maybe we all do that. Come home early so I can go straight to bed only to find myself watching headlights slide across my bedroom wall, thinking about how I always associate that image with motels, because I only ever really see headlights on walls in movies with motel rooms in them, or I read about them in books where the main character is hiding out, holed up in a motel room, but I think of that space as dark and furtive and this, my apartment, is open. Empty. And I think, I like big empty spaces. Spartan. And I pad out to the living room in my bare feet to admire the empty space there, because the living room is the room with the most empty space. And I think, I like living alone. I like being alone, but I think it might be bad for me. The presence of other people has a stifling effect on the bloom of instability. Doesn't it? 

Is that a good thing? Stifling? I chose that word, didn't I? Stifling instability. Forcing stability, support by proximity. Is that an unfair way to use companions? Hi, I'm glad you're here, I'm less crazy when I know I'll have to see the horror on your face when I lose my fucking mind.

It feels like a bloom anyway, but so many things feel like a bloom when spring is so near.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to trigger mania at will?

No, probably not. That's probably a horrible idea.

Hard work is definitely better, because everything we suffer over, slave over, is surely made more valuable and holy by how deeply we suffered for it.

Even clean toilets.

That doesn't work.

Holiness doesn't either. Isn't there mania in holiness anyway?

Or am I mixing up holiness with religious fervor?

Forcing instability to stifle a bloom, exactly the opposite of forcing a cutting. Dragging the crazy into the closet under the stairs and holding her tight up against you with your gloved hand over her mouth, whispering gruff threats into her ear - until what? Do you suffocate her there in that little closet with the stairsteps overhead? I suppose you could try, but you know the body won't be there when you come back with a shovel. Crazy will show up in another part of the house, bruised but beguiling. Fun. No, I mean it. She's fun. Until she's not.

Have you ever wondered why the things that go bump in the night are never friendly? I do. Why is it never a fluffy bunny that wants his belly rubbed? It's always something slithery and terrible.

But my bedroom wall, blank and empty, displays rectangles of light as cars pass by, and it feels like a motel room in a coastal tourist town, and I like it.

Monday, January 20, 2014

hysteria as a siphon to suck out all your energy and other uniquely female complaints like the vapors

My whole life has been a panic. I wonder how I've been able to make any observations at all, with my breath all shallow and my palms so sweaty. It's no wonder I haven't written a book yet.

Walking back from the laundry room, I swung my laundry basket and thought, maybe I will write when I retire. Maybe I will be still enough to look around me then, and make some observations. I will be calm by then. The process of calming down is gradual. I look back and wonder how I survived my twenties.

I think of my ex husband, and how when we got back together in Mississippi after the divorce but before I moved away and we broke up again, I told him being without him had been like "barely controlled panic." I was right, but I was wrong.

I had a futon mattress on the floor then, and a stack of library books. I smoked cigarettes and read all the books, and sometimes I would walk a few blocks to a gas station to buy cigarettes and junk food. I never had anybody over to that apartment. It was the first time in my life I didn't want company, if I recall correctly. I don't remember ever cooking a meal there. I think I lived on fast food and junk food and break room food at work.

I wish I had ever had the courage to let the panic wash over me. I've spent years running up the stairs and slamming the bathroom door, putting my back against it, panting and screaming, realizing too late that the phone is in the kitchen and the gun is in the bedroom and the guy with the axe is between me and anything.

Years in flight, and I thought staying in the same place meant I wasn't fluttering around anymore. I had five or seven different addresses when I lived in Mississippi. I moved back to Tulsa burdened only by what would fit in my car. Over the years, I've been adding weight to that burden. A table, a bed, an old tv. But it all makes me itchy, and I think that I wouldn't really go anywhere if I got rid of everything. So I keep it, because I'm not going anywhere. I'm not fluttering from perch to perch inside a cage. I've lived in the same place long enough to reorder checks. I'm sitting still.

But I've never learned how to sit still. I've only ever learned how to pretend I'm sitting still.

You're not supposed to run up the stairs. You're supposed to run OUT. Even if you're barefoot, even if you're naked. You're supposed to run outside screaming bloody murder.

A boyfriend I had a long time ago once hit me really hard, open-handed, while my mom was sleeping in the next room. It made a loud clapping sound, horribly loud, and then my ears filled up with my own ponderous heartbeat. I held my breath so I wouldn't scream, and when I started to cry, the sound of my own choking sobs was too loud so I covered my face with my hands and cried, sucking air through my fingers and blowing it back out while the dude who hit me held me really tightly, whispering about how sorry he was and would I please stop crying. He held me in a bear hug until I stopped trying to wiggle away, and all the fight went out of me really fast, and eventually I stopped crying. I don't guess my mom ever woke up.

Over the years, I've gotten less afraid of making a scene.

So maybe by the time I retire, I'll be able to write.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Mommy-Daddy Issues

I had an insane need to be loved. It was like hunger, but insatiable, I thought, and the void in me could never be filled except with boundless, endless, unconditional love.

I was starved for love like a little street urchin, all tangled hair and dirty knees.

You could blame my dad, who allegedly used to shove me away when I ran to him and threw my little chubby toddler arms around his knees. You could say I was intentionally starved for love. All I needed in this world was to be loved, and maybe it started there, but probably not.

And then I was loved and it wasn't enough. I found a new need when the void filled, a need to love. I needed to be crazy in love, to adore someone, to lose myself in the joy of loving someone else.

And then I fell into that like a song, and I learned that loving does not make us lovable. That sometimes we can throw ourselves wholeheartedly into a relationship, only to have the other person grimace and draw back, looking at us sort of like we'd look at something sticky we'd touched by accident. Oh dear, where did I put my hand sanitizer. Perhaps my chubby toddler arms were sticky?

Not literally, of course. But you get that, the drawing back, the hesitation, the terrifying and oddly hilarious feeling of having stuck your neck out at the EXACT WRONG TIME. The feeling of falling when falling stops feeling like flying.

I don't think I'm done. I'm not even sure I've learned anything, because I've thought I've learned things before, and all the facts I had carefully gathered didn't stop doubt and loneliness from creeping in and unsettling me, digging up second thoughts and tossing sour tastes around like vomit-flavored jelly beans dropped into a bag of regular jelly beans. I've thought I knew before, and I've been wrong. A normal person might have learned from that, but all I can say I've learned is not to think I know.

I did the right things. I did the things you're supposed to do to wind up happy. I took care of myself and I volunteered my time and I gave of my time and compassion. I worked on developing those inner resources I could not define but knew I would need.

I can't say I have them. It would be easier with defined parameters. I'd like a quest, but the princess is always in another castle, and when you get down to it, a princess is likely to be a pain in the ass anyway. 

But I guess the stupid old movies have it right, really, as irritating as that is. It's when I stopped desperately seeking that I found what I had so desperately needed. Apparently desperate need has a foul odor and drives off whatever is desperately needed.

The interesting part is, once you stop desperately needing something, when it comes meandering along, you're thrilled and all, but you're not stupid over it like you would have been when you needed it so desperately. Which is both fantastic and a little sad. You don't get to sit down in the street with it like a big stupid baby, slobbering over it and naming it George. You take better care than all of that, and you still have to get up and go to work and take care of the house and check in with your friends and do the grocery shopping.

But I think it's normal to miss the madness a little.

And that, darling, is how babies are made.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

buying books in the middle of the night

Skimming titles, there's a lot of God here, how to be a better Christian wife who cooks a better Christian dinner. 
I skip the poetry, too much will make me cry, pour more wine. 
I skip an army for Christ, or God, or both. 
They're not the same. Are they?
My feet hurt from not enough running. 
The bandage on my finger makes my typing clumsy and painful. 
The pizza cutter, spiteful and angry, cut me deep. 
It's true I don't really eat a lot of pizza.
I don't know why I keep that thing around.

When I bake, I touch the wet spoon after measuring vanilla, and I dab the leftover extract behind my ears and on the back of my neck. I think my grandma taught me that, but I don't really remember. I do remember when my boyfriend pressed his face to my neck and said, "Vanilla?" and I thought, I should bake more often.

It's almost midnight. What am I doing up. It's not really a question anymore, at 36. I'm in my late thirties now. I do what I want.

I asked my gynecologist for an IUD because having my tubes tied sounds so unpleasant, like constipating my reproductive system on purpose. Instead, let's make pregnancy a contact sport with a motivated goalie. A small piece of hormone-saturated plastic saying COME AT ME, EGGS! Plink. Plink.  A game of Pong inside my uterus. She didn't blink when I described it that way, and that's part of why she's my gynecologist.

But taking a pill every day is a bore, and what if the zombie apocalypse is closer than we think? I live in a city, and a city, in a post-apocalyptic landscape, is always a dangerous place. Urban dwellers would be easy to pick off. I imagine death squads forming early, jackbooted thugs kicking in doors, gunning down occupants, harvesting supplies. Post apocalyptic farmers. Ranchers? And this is before the cannibalism starts. So taking a pill every day, where am I going to get next month's pills? No, let's do something a little less delicate, a little closer to foolproof, surrounded by foolishness.

You think that's nuts, you should know I was raised to be a survivalist. 

If I'm going to be awake and drunk and buying books, I need to go ahead and finish these nanaimo bars for my office potluck tomorrow. So I will melt chocolate and butter together in the microwave and slather it on top of the vanilla filling. And this wine will be less regrettable.

That's not a chip, that's glitter.

I dreamed I was riding my bike and both tires went flat. So I threw down the bike and I started to run, but the asphalt started to melt and get sticky, so I ran in the grass while flags unfurled behind me and beside me, turned into old men, started chasing me. I knew I could outrun them. I would have laughed at the monsters but I was running too fast. I ran so fast it felt like I was flying, so fast that when I came up against the wall of trash, a vertical obstacle, I just kept going, a foothold here, a handhold there, and I flew right over the wall into a valley of green grass and bright sunshine, a car parked sideways across the path. I slid into the passenger seat and said I didn't have any money. He laughed. I hit the locks and pushed my hair out of my face, sweaty and tangled. Drive, I said.

There is a feeling that is like hunger but not quite, that feeling of needing something that is not quite defined but almost close enough to touch, and that is the feeling I get when I run so fast it feels like flying.

I find the downhills help with that.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

drunken birthday letter

I got a letter from my dad the other day. His handwriting is instantly recognizable. He doesn't always spell my name right, but I know his handwriting at a glance. I thought of the screwtop champagne in the fridge.

I used to panic when I got a letter from my dad. Maybe the letters used to be meaner. I know they used to come more frequently. I couldn't say what it was about them that wrecked me every time. 

My dad's pretty manipulative, I guess, and he uses guilt freely. But I couldn't say if it was guilt I felt, or something else. I've said it felt like choking, or drowning, but I don't know if those are right either.

I found a ritual that worked, though, for dad letters and generally horrible things. Whenever I got a letter from my dad, I'd read it, absorb it, then retire to the bathtub with a bottle of cheap champagne and a host of saint candles. I'd run a hot bath, with salts or bubbles sometimes, arranged candles around the bathtub, and drink cheap sweet bubbles straight from the bottle. I read the prayers on the candles, to myself and then out loud, softly, in English and then in Spanish, sometimes choosing candles at random and sometimes arranging them around me ahead of time in an order I had decided was important. At some point in the recitation, I would usually start to cry, and I would hug my knees and bawl in the bathtub, taking swigs from the champagne bottle in between hiccups, returning to the candles whose prayers especially drew me and reading them over and over.

Saint Jude was a frequent favorite, and Michael the Archangel.

Maybe I've just gotten that crucial year or two older. Maybe I'm just a little bit better than I used to be. I don't know, but the last few letters from my dad have been received uneventfully. The words aren't deep hollows packed with poison, just the natterings of an old drunk dude rambling about armadillos knocking things over in his back yard. Somewhere along the line, something dark in him or in me, evaporated, or drifted away.

Maybe it's because I stopped writing back.

Friday, September 20, 2013

curious, but not very brave.

I think I found my son's Facebook page.

I'm not sure - I can only see a few pictures, but he looks like me and his name is right and he looks to be the right age.

There are only a few details I remember. So much of what happened around the time of his birth was forgotten almost as soon as it happened. I remember being in his adoptive mother's car, thinking I would forget everything about it. And I did. Details slipped out of my mind like they were greased.

I remember the way his eyes never left her when she set his carseat down, and being reassured by that - I'm not even sure it was painful at the time, but I've read that we don't remember pain very well.

I'd had this idea that we'd go drink coffee and talk for hours and it would be cathartic and bonding and we'd both feel much better. But I had waited too long. That's the sort of thing you do with prospective adoptive parents, and I had been too angry, too afraid, too antisocial during my pregnancy to meet with anyone. I didn't want to be courted. I thought I was being wise to skip that step. I chose his adoptive parents based on facts given to me by their attorney - see, I didn't really understand the arrangement. I called an adoption attorney I found in the phone book, and she said she'd be happy to find some parents for my baby.

I remember being a little jolted in the judge's office, a darkish room full of wood paneling and books - someone nudged a box of tissues toward me and I found that offensive and disgusting, as I've always hated crying in public and I sure wasn't going to cry in front of a bunch of strangers - but the judge asked me to confirm that I understood that this lady was the adoptive parents' attorney and not mine, and that I understood that she was acting in their best interests and didn't have any obligation to me, or something along those lines. I confirmed. It was sort of news to me, but that was embarrassing, and I felt like a dumb kid.

God, there were so many things I didn't know. I was a month away from my seventeenth birthday.

The meeting with the adoptive mom didn't go so great. It was awkward and stilted. She was nice, but there was no cozy moment. She hugged me at the end of it, in the parking lot of my mom's office building, and she drove away, and I never saw either one of them again. He was three months old at the time.

I still didn't really understand. I'm really not as smart as people are always trying to tell me I am. It's sweet, though. I love the love, so thanks. But no, I didn't really get it yet, the whole legal thing and the fact that I was no longer part of the equation. So I called the attorney a little while later, and she didn't take my call, but I left a message with her secretary that I wanted to discuss maybe having regular visits. I thought the coffee meeting could use a do-over. The adoptive parents' profile sheet had stated a preference for an open adoption, and I figured we should probably hang out some if we were going to have that sort of thing.

But I didn't say all of that. I left a message saying something about wanting to talk about setting up another meeting, maybe regular visits.

She called me back, I think the same day. She said the adoptive parents were definitely NOT interested in having any more meetings, and certainly not - she laughed a kind of huffy, incredulous laugh, "regular visits." I don't remember the rest of the phone call. I hung up, sitting in an office where I sold insurance over the phone, and I burst into tears in front of my coworker. Embarrassing, open-mouthed sobs that I couldn't stop. I think my coworker came over and patted my back while I cried. I don't remember much of the rest of that day.

It was starting to dawn on me that I was superfluous to the parent-child relationship by then, and the last thing I wanted to do was intrude. So I didn't, for nineteen years. Today was the first time it even crossed my mind to search Facebook, and there he was. I thought he'd be harder to pick out. I worried that I wouldn't even know him. But he looks like me, and he's a strapping lad, and from the photos, it looks like he had what I wanted him to have - a solid set of parents who loved him. He looks happy - doesn't everybody look happy in their Facebook photos? Maybe I just want to believe he's happy. Of course I want to believe he's happy. 

Or maybe that's not even him. Wouldn't that be funny?

Monday, August 26, 2013

grasshoppers have wings, they just don't like to fly. or stay on-topic.

My brother went north a couple of weeks ago. He's apparently doing all right so far, according to his Facebook posts. My fingers are crossed for him. I'm planning to send a care package as soon as he sends me his address. I'm also trying very hard not to get pissy over the fact that he's been there for a couple of weeks and he still hasn't sent me an address.

As for me, after close to 4 years of cadging a wifi connection off whoever had an unsecured network near me, I finally broke down and had grownup internet installed. Oh, how my eyes have been opened. I immediately purchased an X-Box Live membership and added streaming to my Netflix account.

Internet was installed Thursday morning. It's Sunday night. I have downloaded Fruit Ninja for the X-Box Kinect and downloaded a demo of the Nike Plus Fitness game. Fruit Ninja, I've played like a crazy person. I put off the fitness assessment of the Nike game until this evening -

Okay, I sort of accidentally fell asleep and took a 4-hour nap this afternoon.

- and it was tennish before I got started, and then I realized there's a bit with a lot of jumping, and I just had new neighbors move in downstairs and I don't want to punish them until they deserve it. So I exited the demo and went back to chopping at fruit until I was sweaty.

I've also watched the entire first season of Toddlers & Tiaras. It's everything I hoped it would be, and totally worth the feeling of having my soul carved out of me with an apple corer.

But Eddie and I also refreshed our Walking Dead memory and are looking forward to starting Season 2 very shortly.

So I'm getting some use out of these grownup internets.

I also finally downloaded the first Game of Thrones book from the library and started listening to it. Eddie bought Season 1 of the show on DVD, and we watched the first episode the other day - he's seen most of them, I think, but in a sort of scattered fashion while out of town working and staying in hotels. Both of us are sort of against paying for cable television, which is probably why our relationship works. That and a shared love for hotels and their free cable. Extra pillows and the thermostat on 55, I'll make hot chocolate in the in-room microwave and huddle up in bed watching Real Housewives until someone makes me leave.

Okay, we diverge just a bit there.

Now I'm awake later than usual (thanks, 4 hour nap!), cooking lentils and rice for lunches this week, planning to take Friday off for a mani pedi and massage. Weekend after next is the Do-Wacka-Do race in Erick, OK, and due to the New Zealand trip getting pushed back until mid September, it looks like Eddie and I might actually get to go run one of my very favorite races this year after all. Fingers crossed. I'm a little cranky at myself for not working harder this summer - I'm not really trained up for even the 25k, and I'd like to maybe run the 50k out there someday. But I'll do a slow 25k this year, and I'll enjoy the experience. I hope.

I lost my fitness mojo somewhere along the way this summer.

No, I lost my fitness mojo in April. Boston. I still haven't come back from that. Damn, that's been a while. People who were there and got hurt in the blasts have bounced back and moved on, and I'm still just - not. I kind of shut down when it happened, spent a couple of days crying in the dark when I wasn't obsessively playing Minecraft on my phone. I ignored the news. I couldn't handle any of it, I was just overwhelmed. Full. I couldn't handle the cruelty, the shock, the bravery and kindness of all those incredible people who were attacked so senselessly. I couldn't handle any of it. So I didn't. And I don't know how long it took me to run again after Boston, but for some reason it didn't feel right. I felt like I had forgotten how. I've been picking my way back through the miles since then, and I'm working on it, but there is still a wrong rhythm somewhere, a murmur or a thump breaking my concentration. It's getting better. It's just taking longer than I would have expected, if I had ever expected something like this to happen. And I think that's a big part of it - I had zero expectation that something like this would ever happen. I think I had this idea that runners and running events were somehow invisible to the rest of the world, exempt somehow from the dangers that come along with riding the subway or the elevator or whatever. I never planned for bombs. I never planned for intentional cruelty.

I plan for getting hit by a car, because people don't look when they're turning into traffic. I plan for stepping into a hole and twisting my ankle, breaking a bone, falling and hitting my head or having a heart attack out of the blue. Aneurysms and embolisms, strokes and heat injuries, dehydration, lightning strikes. I wear a Road ID bracelet with all of those things in mind.

On second thought, I'm also on the lookout for crazy psychos who want to strangle me with my own shoelaces and have sex with my dead body - so I guess maybe I shouldn't say I've never planned for intentional cruelty, but that's still not a bomb. I keep my eyes peeled and try to always stay prepared to defend myself, like everybody. But not at a race. Not against a bomb.

So anyway. Obviously I haven't kept up with any kind of speedwork this summer, after setting tentative plans in place to try to qualify for Boston right before this years's race and the bombs - and the freshness of those plans probably had a lot to do with my histrionic reaction to something that happened to other people - so I'm taking baby running steps for now. I bought new shoes the other day, and some new running clothes. Seeing if I can't boost the mojo just a bit.

And now I'm putting my rice and lentils into the fridge so maybe I can go to bed and get some sleep before another week of drudgery - but only 4 days, with a mani pedi and massage at the end! Carrot on a stick! Very crunchy, probably has some celery sticks and peanut butter for friends! We'll see. Goodnight.