It was an albatross, almost all of it, and I don't believe I ever asked for it. This doesn't mean I didn't make those choices; it just means I don't have to continue making those choices. I can stop now, any time I want. I at least have that small luxury, and even if I didn't, well, I would. We all have that choice even if we believe God has taken it from us. I assure you, the last thing God has ever done was remove your choice.
There are a lot of reasons why my life looked bleak enough that I'd choose to walk into the woods with an overdose in my pocket in August of 2020, and it had nothing to do with COVID. My financial situation wasn't really the issue either, although that one call from the tax attorney is what shoved me off the proverbial cliff. I had simply fucking had enough. Seriously. Enough. No more. Get the hell out of my face, stop asking me for things, stop telling me what I have to do. No. More. And if you can't keep your judgement in your closet, which is exactly where it belongs, then get the hell away from me.
In retrospect, what sort of blows my mind is that almost no one asked why. They just screamed that immortal NOOOOOOOOOOOOO... You can't! No! Murder! Bad! Hell! Eternal damnation! Every soul is sacred! Blasphemy! Try harder, damn you! Moral failing! I can help you, whatever you need, I'll be there! That? Oh, no, not that.
Why is that, exactly? I'm not complaining; I'm not sure I could have given anyone more than the surface answers at the time. I'm just noticing. I went to war with people about my right to choose; I failed to communicate that I literally could not take this anymore.
The words: 'I can't'. When you hear them, what do you think. Immediately, first thought. Don't lie to yourself.
Those words can mean a lot of things, but it is very rare that they are heard literally. David and I were seeing a marriage counselor maybe two months after I was released from lockdown in 2008. You end up in lockdown out of nowhere, people; and you sure as shit don't get past that place very fast. Same as with suicide; when you get there, getting back is not a light switch. Probably toward the end of April, David and I were fighting about something, or I wasn't coping with something, and there was a great deal of tension and anger as we approached the therapist's office.
When we got out of the car, I could not go in. I mean that, literally, I could not do it. He was furious and left me in the street. Forty-five minutes later he came out and we went home. I went in the office the next week. The first thing that happened was that she eviscerated me for making him go in alone (huh?). We went at it, or she went at it, for the first twenty-five minutes of the session. What do you MEAN, you could NOT come in? You know perfectly well that's not true. You have two walking legs, don't you? Maybe we need to talk about why you CHOSE not to come in. David has some things to say to you.
Guilt and shame, man, guilt and shame can kill ya dead. I'm stubborn. I don't want to die, and I certainly did not want to die then. I did not want to die and I did not want to lose my husband.
Here is something to consider: The words, 'I can't' are often the absolute truth.
What happens when your brain decides you're in danger? First, it is the amygdala that sends the OHMYGODWHATTHEFUCKISTHAT distress signal. The hypothalamus picks up the Red Telephone and activates the sympathetic nervous system, which wakes the fuck up and kicks the adrenal glands into action. The adrenal glands shoot you full of enough epinephrine (adrenaline), Cortisol, and Norepinephrine to drop a horse. There's a bunch of other stuff going on in there too (nice cocktail, thank you, old brain), but those are the big ones.
When your brain decides you're likely to live, all that shit washes away. Mostly we feel fatigue. However, if your brain decides you're going to die on a regular basis, that shit never goes a way; it ebbs and flows. The belief that you're going to die may be no more 'real' than a ball falling off a table, but when it triggers shit that's packed into the rest of your brain, it's like stubbing your toe and feeling like your femur just broke through your thigh. It is not a nice feeling.
People don't have a lot of tolerance for this, and the people with the least amount of tolerance are the people with a more or less permanent Cortisol Shit Show in their brain. If that stuff doesn't release, it's going to do some serious neurological damage.
So when somebody says, 'I can't', step back and take a look at what's going on - through their eyes, not yours. Start with the four year old at the top of the playground slide and extrapolate that to grownups, who are also real people.
Fight, flight, and freeze. Freeze was a new one on me. I remember learning, stay and fight or run like hell. Freeze makes sense. You're in the bushes. The mountain lion is prowling not six feet away from you. You're downwind so maybe it doesn't smell you. You can't outfight it. You can't outrun it. But you sure as hell can freeze and wait. A lot of us freeze. Do you know what happens when we freeze? We stop breathing. I didn't know this was a thing. I thought I just thought I wasn't breathing when I was really scared. Turns out, I wasn't breathing. Enough cortisol in your brain and it becomes very difficult to get enough oxygen into your lungs and from that it becomes very difficult to move your body.
I had a conversation with my brother about a week ago that went very badly. He said some things that hit bone. He didn't mean for that to happen, I gave him some information he couldn't process. Not my fault. Walking on eggshells is dangerous. Better to say, then not. However, when the call ended, I sat on the Group W Bench (yes. It's a thing and it's conveniently located in my office). I sat on the Group W bench for, you ready? Want to guess?
I sat on the Group W Bench for seven hours, people. Seven, fucking, hours. Why? Because I was frozen.
I have post-its all over the house, but the majority of them are on the wall right over my monitor. My office is quite small. I can read them from the bench. That's what I did for seven hours. I read the post-its that tell me to breathe. That's all they say: Breathe. Like a command.
Now: There is nothing that poor man could possibly have said to cause that response (assuming you're wearing skin) and he does NOT own it. I do. Owning and accountability are the not the same as fault. There's no fault here. The words were a gift. I learned a lot about my baby brother that day. If I could fix it for him I would, same as he has turned him inside out to fix it for me. But we can't fix people, you know that, right? We can support people, we can listen, we can listen past our own beliefs and trauma, but that's hard. Doesn't mean we shouldn't try.
Back on the seven hours, you do understand why, yes? Something my brother said, and doesn't really matter what, triggered the freeze response as badly as I've ever experienced it. This lead me to a rather significant self-examination which produced some results that may or may not disturb people. That's just an observation, or thought, I don't really give a shit at this point.
Why am I telling you? I write because I write. I write to process; not everything is published here. I publish here to speak the things we do not want to hear. I figure if .0001% of the fluid readers of this site hear it, then I will call it good. I don't need to know the score. This is not the place where I measure myself by my actions and results.
It takes a very long time, if it ever happens, for severely beaten children to get to the place where they value the possibility of what their lives could become more than they fear anyone or anything else. I'm not preaching to the choir, am I? Didn't think so. However, once more, Heather decides to talk about that shit nobody wants to talk about. What the hell is wrong with that woman? Not a thing. As with abortion, if you don't like it, don't have/read it. I'm still trying to figure out why I haven't been cancelled yet.
When my brother, bless his heart, decided to save me, there was only one way through, as far as he could see. I agreed with him. There was only one thing to do, get back on my feet and start earning again.
Whoa. Back the horse up.
Cough. Erm. Why? Why is that the go to? Why is that the only option? Why is that decision made without analysis? Because he is as scared as I am. We have both brute forced it through our entire adult lives. Truthfully, we've been brute forcing it a hell of a lot longer than that; but let's leave 18 and under alone and just chalk it up as the baseline that informed who we are and what we must do.
In all these months I have not been able to stand up. I have done things I should do. I have applied, I have interviewed, and I have followed up on jobs I should have owned without blinking. I know how to do this; I have always done this. But it wasn't happening. I started to feel a numbness in my core. I was fortunate enough to get some honest feedback. Very few people will do that. This is what I heard:
'She's more than competent, her resume is beautiful, she has all the right answers and then some, but...'
There's something wrong. Something off. We can't figure out what it is but we can't take the risk. I got three of these, for which I am incredibly grateful:
- Her composure under pressure is very good, but there is something under that layer that is not good and we don't know what it is. Thanks for the recommendation, but we can't take the chance
- She definitely knows how to sell and how to close. She's got great relationship skills, but, why does her face look scared? She looks scared and I don't think she even knows (I had no idea).
- Great candidate. She's clearly done some really great work, but I think she's done. She's, um, twitchy?
This is gross, but since I'm doing my best to lay it bare, here's what happened. I was fine after every interview. I was fine through the three conversations after three of those interviews. When the calls ended I did exactly the same thing. I threw up until there was nothing left and then sat and stared at the wall.
So. What does all this mean?
IT'S OVER! IT'S FUCKING OVER AND I DON'T HAVE TO DO THIS ANYMORE!
That's what it means.
That does not preclude doing some of those things in the future. Some of them, absolutely not. Some of them, I'd kill for, they were awesome opportunities but I got no skin right now. I've worn it all away by doing the things I should not have done in order to...
Pay. The. Mortgage. Read 'mortgage' as any adult related expense. Doing these things by myself for way too long.
I do not owe anyone anything.
That is a really hard pill to swallow, especially for a parent. I don't say, 'mother', because that disregards fathers, and we tend to do that.
Love? That's easy. I have an abundance of love. You can't have it with strings, though. You can only have it in its absolute form. I love a lot of people. I love my kids so hard I can't breathe sometimes. I know how hard my parents love, with or without the evidence I would like to see.
My dad and I came a long way in the last ten years. I owe that to Sarah. I don't know he could have gotten there on his own, and I don't think I could have gotten here without being able to meet him half way.
My mom is gone. I haven't communicated with her, short of a very brief email in 2013, since Elizabeth started sixth grade. The boundary issues were bigger than both of us and I went under. When I came up, she wasn't there and I recall my brother telling me I was going to have to make that call, because she would not.
And I said, Jack, I cannot. It could kill me.
I don't think he really knows why, but a gut level he does get it.
I love my mother so hard it hurts. This is how it is; and I love my mother so hard it hurts. I am happy she is in this world. The world is a better place with her in it. My first two children know my mother and I am damn grateful for that. My son walked away with the very best of my mother. He walked away with her vulnerability and her astonishing capacity to love. I see her in him. My daughter wears her strength like battle armor. I watch Lucia sometimes, and I think, Woman, you may never understand the root of your drive and strength but I am in awe. Elizabeth has only sadness and loss, but I will take what I can get. The universe does not dole out any sense of fairness that we've invented.
However, I have to remind myself that Elizabeth takes her strength, drive, and willingness to love deeply from me. I take that from my mother. Therefore...
And here I am today at almost fifty-seven and the damn lightbulb just went on. I'd already made the decision to be 'homeless', I just hadn't landed on where. I have a place to go that will leave me in the forest, undisturbed. I would also be alone and that's OK except I don't do well without purpose. There are two places where I would have purpose. I could go to my aunt in New Hampshire or I could go to my dad and Sarah and C in Vermont. Both would allow me to do and to give. All I have to do is ask. I'm afraid so far, but I will. It isn't as if I don't have a place to go. I just need to be far more of a plus than a minus. That's a thing I'm not ready to live with (which is how we got to the fucking woods in the first place).
Initially, my intention was to rent a storage facility and leave all my stuff there until I was ready to pick it back up. I was really suffering with adding an additional monthly cost because I have no income and you don't want to know from where I am sucking that money (I don't want to know). My medical insurance is coming out of Elizabeth's tuition fund. She and her father decided that. Oddly enough, I was able to accept it, this is NEW! Go me! I'm not ready to even work in a supermarket yet, although that's the next step. I would do it, but I'd go to pieces and that's not good. I need to get to there, baby steps, says Danny.
The storage facility. Why?! Why would I do this? Because I am the keeper of all family things and it is my responsibility to keep them safe.
WHAT EVEN THE FUCK IS UP WITH THAT?
I don't think so. No. I take with me only what matters most. I take the art off the walls, my sewing machine, and a few other small items. All of these things can be stored at any location I land without making a dent. I owe no one JACK SHIT.
I thought letting go of the bedroom furniture I inherited when I was seventeen and so fucking damaged from a rape and the aftermath would be brutal; but it is not. I am ready to let go. I thought letting go of my grandmother's childhood furniture (grownup style) would be hard, but it is not. The only thing that pulls at me are my books. I got what turned out to be just under 3,000 whittled down to 500 and you can imagine what those 500 mean to me. OK. Those can surely whittle down to 200? Maybe. God, I hope so.
But the point is, I got here today. I don't have to be this thing I believe I must be. God knows what percentage of America retires without a personal 401k (yes, people, I have one, but most of you would turn white at the sight of it). They live lives that don't look like mine (ok, mine kinda looks like that at the moment), but the point is, who said I had to be this, and make this, and live this?
I don't want this! I don't want any of it!
I want to be able to touch and read the books that have helped in defining me. I want to create art, whether that is with a paintbrush or sewing machine or something else. I want to move my body, the forest would be best, but the concrete jungle and I are on good terms. I want to love the people I love, but I owe them nothing, not even my love. That is for free, because I have it to give.
I have ten weeks to figure out where I'm going to live, dispose of the obligations I am not required to accept, pull up my big girl panties...
AND GET ON WITH MY FUCKING LIFE!
Thank you, sweet baby jeebus.