I dream I am living in a place that is both new and somehow completely familiar. It is huge and beige and boring. I am sharing this space with a room mate but the room mate is moving on and I am now making the decision do I stay here in this giant place or do I move someplace smaller. Suddenly I hear glass shattering, and I discover a window has been broken and the noise I made when it shattered has startled the would be burglar away. I immediately call the pirate, and in a few seconds of dream time he is right there, he takes me into his arms and holds me close. I feel so safe. I wake up feeling so safe.
Today as I cuddled against his warm body, watching Sunday’s episode of the Walking Dead, I realized something important. When we first started dating I was reticent, it wasn’t just him who didn’t kiss for two months, it was me. It is not he who is withdrawn and afraid, it is me. I have known from the beginning that this could be very dangerous for me. I have done my damnedest to sabotage it on a couple of occasions. But this feeling of trust and safety that is building in me, it scares the crap out of me. It really does. I cannot yet shut my eyes and let go though. I do not even dare.
I feel this creative thing that is inside me now, it is like a baby in gestation, how long has it grown there in me? Six months? Maybe 7? I do not know. It turns inside of me and I can feel the aliveness of it. It kicks and I am caught breathless, hand on my belly. Oh is this it? But no, still it gestates, still it grows, I wait for it to be born. It is imminent.
I cannot write. I cannot draw. I cannot sew. I can only knit. I knit until my hands are sore, til my knuckles ache.
I am argumentative. Cranky. I feel the swell of heat as I start to disagree. I find myself tearing off sweaters that normally I would pull close to me. I had to take off my tights and wear summer flats that I keep in my drawer at work, you never know when you need comfy shoes. Crap. I know what this means.
My ovaries hurt. The cysts are painful, not sure why they always bother me in the fall. The one on my right side a sharp pain causes me to take a breath and hold my stomach. I cannot control it, a student asks are you alright. Yes I say. Sorry. Breathe. breathe.
I am a waste of creative talent right now. Nothing I attempt is any good. My writing is trite and stupid. My fabric and buttons collect dust. My paints slowly and surely dry up. My yarn wraps and pulls inch by inch, hour by hour.
But here is where I am. I feel a strange thing. I feel kind of unfazed by drama from the drunk boy camp. Although I find myself getting pulled in, I only partly bite the hook, pulling back. I find my heart hard and cold like steel. Alcoholism is frightening, ugly, and I see now that people who are crazy can make empathetic people crazy too. My empathy is in a box on a shelf with drunk boy. I even went from being a social welfare liberal to a very hard edge drug test them and make sure they are clean and sober before giving them a check conservative. It disgusts me how that camp literally sucks money from the tax rolls. Or more accurately drinks the money. Accused of being hard hearted, I say yes actually I am, but only when it comes to the absolute dregs of society these pathetic people have drunk themselves into. Accused of being high class and snooty, I laugh and say actually no I am not, I tell my sister and another friend and both laugh. YOU? snooty? classy? I think not. They say it takes courage to walk away from people with such a deep seated problem, but it took no courage at all, nor did it take strength. It took only disgust. I have come too far to lose what I have built for my family, by myself, for other people’s severe problems. Maybe the feeling is serenity. I say that prayer many times a day. Maybe it is finally sinking in.
I find that when people are under stress they tend to turn on you, and try to create problems and drama. I am an easy target, I respond, I get worked up. I see that right now and realize I have to take a deep breath and let it spin down turn by turn into a stop. Notice it, notice my initial reaction and then slowly let it go. It is a learned behavior, I have had lots of practice. I have been schooled well in it. But I want to reject the lessons. They are unhealthy habits born of unhealthy habits. My daughter texted me earlier this week, very angry with me for something I didn’t do. I answer her back, I explain what I think happened, why I think things got a little messy. She gets it, she understands. But then I find myself saying this is really just more of the same, drama meant to control and manipulate out of fear, out of stress. I feel a fire snapping inside of me, like a lighter lighting, or a match catching. I see it, I know why it is there, I know what makes it burn, but I have to stop. I tell concerned parties, please, leave me out of it. I don’t want to be involved. Do not gossip about me, its the only way I know how to keep myself from getting caught in it again.
I am stressed though. I feel this weight, I can feel my blood pressure is rising, and I see now why I have issues with it. There has to be an outlet for it. Meditation right now is like stew, with chili peppers, on boil, it just makes the broth hotter.
I knit, and knit and knit. It is all I can do. I look at my even stitches and careful pattern. At least there is one thing that I can do without pissing someone off, and finding myself in a mess of someone else’s making.
This leaf wrapping that has held me close, is starting to feel a little tight.
It has been so beautiful here for many days. The whole month of November has been marked by warm days. By the absence of snow. On Friday I noted the gigantic flock of crows flying over Oakland Cemetery and on Saturday morning as I drove up to meet my sister between Syracuse and Fulton I remembered that day when I was a train wreck that I drove up and back and saw something like 20 flocks of geese. On the way back home my niece and I were exclaiming over the number of geese we saw flying, and the starlings doing their south flight drills. It is going to still be warm this week and though I thought the movement of the geese indicated snow was on the way, the weather forecast says otherwise.
Today the pirate came to get me for an afternoon together, we went up so he could sight his muzzle loader. He brought along his uncle’s Marlin 22 rifle. It was small and light and had no kick and had a just a small sight on it. I started out shooting a woodchuck target, I hit many on the second circle hitting the “woodchuck”. I also hit one dead center, and a couple just to the outside edge of center. I set up old shot gun shells and picked them off the wooden shelf. It was only 25 feet off so it wasn’t too impressive. Then I hit targets at 50 and 75 feet too. Then I aimed for the metal targets at 100 feet ting ting ting, and hit. It was great. I got to fire the muzzle loader too, and did okay with it. It kicked like hell and I said I thought it was too much gun for me. I said this was better than going out for dinner. It was. Way. Better. We headed back to my house for my family’s traditional turkey chow mien. Basically turkey soup with Chinese vegetables over rice. We added hot sauce to the top and it kicked it up. We teased each other throughout, taking small shots at each other. I love how his eyes sparkle when we are teasing each other. I love how when I reach out to hug him, sometimes he wraps his arms around me and I feel completely warm and safe.
It is so beautiful out. I am so glad I went to bed at a normal hour last night. The thought of shopping at midnight does not appeal to me. The sun is shining brilliantly and I am sweating in my light weight sweatshirt, jersey pants and wool socks. The dog need the outside time, the girl does too.
I cannot imagine wanting to be indoors on a day like today, shopping with people who will punch you over the last piece of crap. I do not shop on Black Friday. Or ThanksBuying. I never have. I suspect I never will.
The light was shining so brightly on the water as it sparkled below. Dry lake is not dry at all and the little run off is a full fledged creek. I take a path I do not normally take but I am tired today. After all the work yesterday my body is saying, hey lets sit down for a few minutes, but I push on. I still have a dishwasher full of dirty dishes, and a sink full, but I had to leave it so I could get out while the weather held. I find that as I write this, I can feel my knitting calling to me. I think I might have to put off doing the dishes just a little longer.
The house is quiet and I look at my clean and ordered outdoors, watch the grass shining in the sun, appreciate the crystal made rainbows that dot my walls and ceiling. I feel the sweat cooling and drying on my skin. I feel the rough calloused fingers on my hands as I type. I smell turkey, pie and bacon. All this is good. I feel at peace.
Just say NO to Black Friday. Just say NO to ThanksBuying. Buy local, buy handmade.
The day was warm, a sweatshirt and jeans kind of day. My brother is visiting for Thanksgiving and he had already spent a couple hours puttering around my yard without me, taking care of the things that I just don’t get to, since I do both the inside chores and the outside; I also tried to do some of it this summer, but my gas mower wouldn’t start. He cleaned the spark plug, put DW-40 on the sticky part, played with the choke and started it. Then he mowed down all of my perennials up front, pulled out the crappy little cherry tree (I wanted a weeping mulberry but got this no growth dwarf cherry that had major structural issues) and mowed along the neighbors fence clearing a path between it and the rhododendrons. I was shopping for groceries and booze and cooking while he did this, but yesterday once the stuffing was made and the bird in the oven, we went out together and continued the job. We continued mowing, taking back the English Ivy at least another foot. Pulling out the flagstone wall that was mostly buried in dirt and ivy and put it all along the side of the veranda extending it past the muddy apron. He trimmed the cedar and some of the other trees hanging over the ivy, while I dragged the brush to the road. We also put a shelf up in the shed and nails to hang things on and cleaned it up. He moved the wood pile to another spot on the back porch and swept and cleaned the area around the studio door and found a new place for the rarely used BBQ grill. While we were working on that side porch, I decided to paint the other back door purple next summer. He also cleaned out my gutters for me, while I used the leaf blower to clean up corners and crannies around the yard that had lots of leaf build up. Now every time I look outside I am amazed. It is clean and tidy and there are boundaries to the overwhelming chaos that was there before. I do like things to grow wild and unruly but at the same time, this clean even look is great. It is so wonderful how easy and fast this kind of work is too, when there are two people doing it, and even though I like my autonomy, I like the fact that my brother takes charge and does what he wants without asking. Because he knows what he is doing, I trust that it will turn out okay.
This morning the backyard is alive, teaming with life, squirrels are gathering nuts and finding hiding places for them. There are many birds too, a red winged blackbird, blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, juncos and a dove enjoying the feeders, though I have not seen many of any in recent weeks. I think the cleaned out area feels safer for them, because it is far more open and they can see whether or not there are cats hiding in the brush. I have to say that every time I look at the still unfinished flagstone area I am just blown away by how beautiful it looks. I am looking forward to putting down sand and pea gravel in the area next spring, it will be gorgeous.
Dinner last night was lovely with the four of them, my daughter and my friend Michelle. Her boyfriend stayed at home but we made him a plate. He had to work from 3-11 this morning. The pirate came over for dessert, my brother and he talked hunting. And he got the thumbs up of approval from both of them.
I made a chocolate pie from Wegman’s Menu magazine. My brother’s girls are a bit picky with food and the pirate and my brother are definitely tofu naysayers. Trust me they are the last people on the planet I would ever expect to eat tofu and like it. So even if you are not a big tofu fan, but you cannot eat dairy or you are watching your fat intake try it.
Chocolate Dream Pie:
Make a Ginger snap crust, Wegman’s has a specific brand and style but I just bought a box of gingersnaps and followed the recipe on the box.
10 oz of semi sweet chocolate chps
1 pkg soft tofu
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup of raspberry jam
and decorate top with red raspberries.
Make the crust. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler. Process tofu til smooth. Pour melted chocolate and vanilla into tofu and process til smooth. Pour over pie crust. Chill for four hours. Spread with raspberry jam and top with raspberries.
He takes his wife in his arms and they are dancing. I feel this feeling deep inside me, one of loss, of the absence of hope, of happiness for my family, and suddenly I start to tear up. I have to walk away, I do the dishes for perhaps the 3rd or maybe the 100th time today. My niece hugs me from behind and tries to pull me away. No I say I am okay. I really am. But why are you crying? Because I say, because I don’t have a husband to dance with me, because I should but I am pretty sure I never will. I continue to wash the dishes. My emotions are just under the surface. He comes and stands next to me. We talk about the other jobs I need done around the house. He has mowed and blown leaves, sharpened knives and fixed a door knob that was broken; he has a list, another doorknob, clean out the gutters, replace that piece of rotted moulding. But I know he is standing next to me because he loves me, because he understands because I am hurting. He pats my shoulder gently.
Despite my never ending optimism when it comes to these things, I keep coming back to this place again and again. One day I will put on my hat pick up my suitcase and move along. Not because I don’t like the place, but because the place refuses to welcome me, it merely offers me sweet tea with a sprig of garden grown mint on the front porch and a friendly, my goodness it sure is getting late.
Once again a the tears fall of their own accord from my eyes. Damn how they betray me still.
Today I am thankful for myself. Strong. And yet. So. Very. Vulnerable.
It is the greyest of days. The breeze is warm and I start a fire in the morning just to take the edge off. The power is out, and I pull out my French Press to make a cup of decaf from the stovetop. I remember that somewhere in my camping gear is a percolator. I should find it. I think. I would rather not have to use the power variety, either way I have to heat the water. Is gas cheaper? I do not know.
I start cleaning, preparing for the upcoming festivities, guests who are coming allergic to cats, I wash every throw blanket and vacuum the furniture, I vacuum the basement too, because that is where I keep the litter box. I need a filter for my air purifier, I cannot seem to find one, like many things manufactured today it had an end date, and then you could not simply replace the filter, you had to replace the whole thing. Which brings me to another activity of the day, my drill/driver was not working because the batteries were no longer recharging. The new battery cost more than a new drill. We wonder why our world in such dire straights right now, even the things we can replace at what should be just a part of the cost and far less packaging must be replaced with new. It is great for profits, but it is unsustainable for the earth. I have at least two repair jobs to do with the drill.
I have been in one of my funks for sure. But suddenly this morning something broke free inside me. It was real and pure. I have this notion sometimes that awareness is like a dream or a dessert, that it only comes on special occasions, it is esoteric, it is fleeting. But that notion is not entirely correct, it is more like the waking world, a plate of pasta with meatballs, and it comes everyday, if you are quiet enough to see it. I have to learn to be happy with what I have. Perpetually dissatisfied, questing, looking and withdrawing. Then the gates open and the ideas are like sunshine in rays from the clouds breaking through the melancholy and turning the sky pink with the pleasant feeling of it. It does not pour in, it seeps in slowly. And then it builds until it is on, just as the moon is rising.
I woke with this notion that half of my problem is replaying this role I took on in the past. I have to walk away from that. Reading all those blogs, people telling their stories made me realize that my experience was not unique. But it also made me see patterns in others that I repeat too. I am suddenly so aware of it. It feels profound.
I feel a sense of joy that has been missing for a few weeks. I have been feeling kind of lost and really stressed out and uncertain of my future. I try to be meditative on my wooded walk but I have been indulging in both positive, dreamy thoughts and some negative ones, replaying old wounds, I keep coming back to trying to just walk. I stop to smell the scar on a big tree that has fallen across the path. It smells like perfume, I hear the sound of the breeze pushing through the dried head of Queen Anne’s Lace. I send a picture to the pirate, I ask him how his hunting is. Later he sends me a picture of the 9 point monster he killed. I go over and raised right I try the liver and onions he offers. I actually LIKED it! It was not as bitter or as gritty as I remember it being. And he breaded it too and I love caramelized onions so much they only added to the wonderful flavor.
I do not stay long, but return to make my own rich venison stew. It is bubbling on the stove as I listen to Joss Stones, Soul Sessions. The house is chilly, but clean and tidy the way I like it best.
I, tender, hold my damaged wing
Focus outside, focus outside, focus in.
the aperture clicks away incessantly,
how do you take a picture of what echoes, cavernous inside of you?
It is not the treats, it is the meat and potatoes
It is not the numbing
but the raw opening onto this brutal world.
It is not the raging storm without, but the soft patter of the rain within.
I fly over myself, I turn and turn,
eagle eyed, searching for prey below
and then in a breath
I am jumping mouse,
blind and on top of the mountain, at the end of his journey.
It is not the flowers that dance in the summer field, but the crimson and golden leaves, the bare trees, the small buds of before spring, the ambrosia scent of the blossoms, and then the thick green of summer again.
I smell the fallen tree
fecund in its potential,
but what is the smell of dying dry?
The dried up flower speaks.
I cannot tell you what it said.
But in a puff I understand.
I break open the egg and see that inside is not just the yolk.
The hen warms it,
she sees no change,
but then there is a crack,
and the existing life is revealed.
How does the hen know to sit upon her nest?
The light shines through the clouds,
the sun rises,
but without the darkness and the moon.
There would just be endless light
or endless dark
but how would you know?
How can you return to one, when you are already there?
How can you take refuge in the dharma when you are already under its shelter?
Recognize what is already there.
How can you search outside yourself for love when you already have it like hot magma melting the boulders in your life stream.
I am a day late but this issue is so important and has been truly a very personal aspect of my life. So today I am writing my story of domestic violence, physical and verbal.
It was in the summer just before my senior year of college that I met him. He was a dark and brooding poet. He loved music, he was brilliant, he loved nature and he had a strong sense of morality and idealism just like me. He had adorable dimples, and beautiful blue eyes and he had a mess of long hair and at some points a beard. I loved it when he laughed. He wanted to spend every minute with me, and I with him. But before the summer was over I had already seen that he was not always the kind and funny intellectual. I think the first incident involved a jealous rage and a beer can thrown against the apartment wall. Later it was a cat that flew across the room. I returned to college, and a few weeks later he came to visit but never left. Because of him, I was tossed out of the apartment I was renting and we had to move in together. Things were always getting broken in that dingy little shit apartment, the glass on the cabinet, the rail up the stairs, my car. And at some point in that year I remember walking to the grocery store, it was cold and the groceries were heavy and I was bitching about it, and when we were nearly at the house he threw the bag with the potatoes in it on the ground, the bag burst and the potatoes rolled all over the parking lot. We were so poor, that I felt I had to pick up those potatoes. So while he was in the house, fuming and getting warm, I was crawling around on the parking lot on my hands and knees picking up potatoes. I was humiliated. Some months later, we were at a party, it was warm and I remember we were sitting on the porch and he was mad because I would not tell him one of the secrets of the pledging process that I had gone through and he was going through soon. He hit me. I was blown away. But later he swore it would never happen again. He lied. That autumn he was going to college in another town, and I was working to support us. I remember one night he grabbed me and threw me on the floor and strangled me. I think I was kicking so furiously he let me go. Within a few weeks my friend Andrea came to visit and saw that things were not so good with me, and shortly after we rented an apartment together. Those were some of the best months of my life.
A year later he came to visit, and in a place of lonliness I slept with him. I got pregnant. I knew within a few weeks that nothing had changed. He was working only 20 hours a week, too exhausted to shower. He was drinking and when he drank he was horrible. Violent. Things always got broken. One night he called my room mate at the time every hour for an entire night, just to get even with her for waking me up when I had an overnight shift. I remembered all the calls and hang ups I got when I lived with Andrea and it set my mind on edge. Another night I walked out of my job and he was sitting in a car with his friend. When he got out of the car the pot smoke rolled out with him, like something out of a Cheech and Chong movie. And when he got in my car I said, I thought we had agreed with a child on the way that we were not going to be doing this any more. He turned to me and said me and (____) decided we aren’t ready to grow up yet. I broke up with him, thinking he would still be involved in our child’s life, and in a drunken rage he threatened to kill me and my unborn child. I ended all contact with him.
From time to time we still have contact, and it is rarely pretty. It usually breaks down into this same argument about how I ruined his life. Of course the fact that he essentially abandoned me and his child to drugs is without merit in his eyes. He did after all quit drinking. And still to this day does not drink. It breaks down into what a selfish bitch I am, of course he has never given me a penny of child support, but that is because I wouldn’t grant any type of custody, nor allow unsupervised visits. I brought it all on myself, he said recently when I asked him for money. Yes. I guess I did. And when the X left and I was a train wreck, his love of cooking and music and that laugh brought me once again to a place where my judgment was off, and for a few weeks I entertained the idea that he had grown, that he had changed. But when he sat down for dinner at my house, he said… “Yes the head of the table IS my rightful place” No I thought it isn’t. And of course things got broken when he was here for that visit. My roof rake, my coffee pot. And the fight over not allowing him to take my daughter Christmas shopping in the middle of a snow storm, because I felt it was not safe, and he told me his judgment was better than mine. And then he berated the neighbor kid for playing in the adjoining area of our back yards. And then I noticed his shoes were nothing more than soles and he had no money for shoes, but was still smoking cigarettes and pot. I had to stop. I saw through the haze of my broken soul that he hadn’t changed one bit. But I had. I told him I could not follow through.
And as for my X. That was the emotional abuse. I cannot go into it, it is too much for me right now. But essentially he withheld sex because I was too fat. Or so he said, he didn’t want sex when I lost a ton of weight either. He basically reduced my role as household servant, and did none of the chores in or outside the house. He quit working forcing me to get a second job and to support his Starbucks habit, and his eating out. Girls would flirt with him, one in particular would call my house, even on holidays to get him to do favors for her. I believed him when he said he didn’t cheat, but later when he did cheat, I was blind. I was too busy carrying his lazy ass through the days, exhausted. He will lie to his dying breath about that too I guess, though he loved me in the morning and left in the afternoon and I haven’t heard from him since. But in between he hit me once, and he hit my daughter about the time he started screwing the woman he left me for. And when he left I was a shell. I didn’t even know who I was any more. My art was never good enough, I didn’t dress the right way, I didn’t deserve his time on my birthday, our anniversary, or Thanksgiving. Christmas gifts came in fours, four books, four scarves. No effort at all, and no effort whatsoever to know or understand my taste. I threw away almost everything he ever gave me and I don’t miss any of it. I didn’t wear the right shoes, home cooked meals would spoil on the stove before he ate them, I think the breakfasts I made and lunches I packed to save money went to the dog because he lost about 10 pounds when the X left. I didn’t read the right books. I watched too much TV, I was lazy and lacked will power and went from being smarter than him to being an art major, what a joke. And women whom he introduced me to, and later became my friends, always became the object of his hatred after their friendship came my way.
Two of the most important relationships of my life have been marked by abuse. No wonder I struggle so much with the pirate. No wonder I fight my own feelings, and feel scared and scarred and frustrated. I am damaged. I don’t want to be. Anymore.
He throws his head down on the time out table and wails. Absolutely wails. The other children are talking and the acoustics in the art room are horrible. It takes me a few minutes to hear him. I go over and sit down beside him. He puts his head into my shoulder and I put my arm around him and gently pat his back as he sobs onto my arm. I want to go home, I want to go home, I just want to go home. Me too buddy. I do too. I just want to go home and get into my bed and cuddle my puppy. I don’t have any animals he wails against my arm. I bet you have a stuffed animal I say, and I bet it kisses you just like my puppy did last night when I started crying. No it doesn’t he says. Well goodness I say, you should make him kiss you just like this, and I touch is almond cheek with my finger tip and say mwah mwah mwah. He tries so hard to not smile and wins. So why are you crying? My picture is horrible, just horrible. No it isn’t buddy, I really think you did a great drawing. It isn’t as good as mine but I have had lots more practice. Yours is really great. He pulls his head away and with his lip sticking out a million miles he says, but don’t mean that, you are really nice and you are just saying that to make me feel better. Honey I say, I don’t lie to my students. If I didn’t think you were doing a good job I wouldn’t say anything or I would tell you. I promise your picture is really good. He throws his head back down on my shoulder and his sobbing continues. Big brown eyes, curly brown hair, soft teal flannel shirt. And suddenly I start to cry too. I know just how he feels. I feel like everything I do sucks lately. And I know just how he feels about going home, and just how he feels about people saying things just to be nice, but they don’t really feel it. The tears are streaming down my face and I am sobbing softly. He looks at me, and says Ms. Gregory are you crying too? Yes, I say. I am. Why? He asks, incredulous. Because I know just how you feel and it makes me want to cry too, I say. You have to stop he says. I will if you do I say, because it is just breaking my heart to hear you cry. He reaches up and wipes the tears from his eyes. And I do the same. Ready? I ask. Yes. he says. He goes to his seat. I go to get tape to fix the tear in his paper.
It is a dark and ugly red, like motor oil she says.
It more or less tastes the same.
But at least it numbs.
It seems that this life is tinged with that ugliness too.
All the ugly things that people say
that people do
That are left undone.
It wakes me shivering with it, in the coldest hours of the morning.
I cry out for the first time in many months
I am at the end, I am at the end.
Something needs to change
And nothing does.
Not even me.
Not even me.
Another sleepless night
another hopelessly exhausted day