- I spent a lot of it worried about the space I’m taking up. So many creative and inspiring people have chosen to leave this place and sometimes I get it. There are spiritual reasons and precious reasons why I would tell someone before I got to the train station, but I get it. There were pity parties and stinking thinking and all the other annoying phrases that you hear in therapy and recovery that describe the doldrums of depression, but thanks to some strategies I’ve somehow retained and (of course) better living through chemistry, I’m happy (ha) to report that I found the light and invited it in again.
- I graduated from physical therapy. My leg is not a source of pain anymore, though I’m reminded that it’s different every now and then. Marathons and leg modeling are definitely off the table. For reasons unknown (and I have Googled every etymological combination for an answer), my body decided to make more bone than necessary at the trauma site (i.e. where my tibia tried to poke out of my body) and the result is this weird protrusion on my shin that is painful to touch. I’m telling myself it’s due to my excellent intake of calcium and I will never get osteoporosis, but it’s pretty weird.
- I went to Athens, GA with Sean to see The Posies. Music will never stop being a source of joy and hope and all things good. I think it’s something we need to consider as the world spins into stranger and stranger territory.
- I’ve filled my backyard with bird feeders, and though they attract mostly squirrels and grackles, we get a few cardinals now and again. Being surrounded by animals and nature brings me peace and joy and I can accept this discovery as a tradeoff for learning the source of my stress. The other day, a bluejay and I spent several minutes looking at each other from different angels as he feasted on my window feeder, only a sheet of glass between us, each of us bewildered at the others lifestyle. I watch as the hierarchy of who eats first takes place. The cunningness of the squirrel who has learned to scale windows.
- My family of origin continues to be a source of grief. Keeping distance is much better for my health, though I still crave a relationship with the person who used to be my sister. If ever there were a practice in detachment, this would be it. My nephew had surgery and the only way I found out was through my mother. My partner asked that my brother-in-law text him when their kids have games and he never heard from him. He also texted him to ask how our nephew was doing post-surgery and the text was ignored. Earlier this week, my sister sent me the obligatory text to let me know that they would be having a birthday dinner for my older nephew, but I had already sent him a gift and instead of fretting over how to answer, I ignored her. Instead of reciting my lines and maintaining status quo, I decided to switch things up a a little and guess what? My stress level lessened. The night of the dinner, I thought about how I would be feeling had I decided to kowtow and suffer through the dinner and when my pulse rate increased and I could hear blood swishing inside my ears, I accepted that my family is not good for me. This makes me sad, but self preservation has become much more important than being phony and keeping up appearances. I wish I could throw myself under the bus and admit fault so I could understand why she and her husband want nothing to do with me, but I will not beg her to explain herself. “Can’t you talk to her,” some well meaning friends have asked and the short answer is “no.” I’ve watched her eviscerate and gaslight her friends who have expressed that they felt like she had changed and were worried about their friendship. In all of our adult life, she has never apologized to me for anything. “I can’t help but feel like my sister doesn’t like me,” I confided to a former friend who played a role in this sibling breakdown two years ago. “I can see why you’d feel that way,” she said, feigning compassion. The healthiest way to deal with passive aggressive individuals who display traits of an undiagnosed personality disorder is to not deal with them, a therapist suggested to me once. Am I finally listening?
- Soon it will be autumn–more of an idea in South Florida than a reality as the humidity climbs and the threat of storms reach its peak. Another September of pumpkin spice lattes, maybe jeans instead of cut offs, and schools days off for “Fall Holidays” that are really Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Thanksgiving and Christmas are inching closer and my anxiety levels typically begin to rise around mid-September because the obligatory texts begin arriving and there’s no promise this year will be different. But this summer has reminded me that underneath all of this nonsense, life is incredibly beautiful and this next season will mesmerize me. I bet there will be even more music. And birds.
TRIGGER WARNING: This piece contains some graphic descriptions of a horrible compound fracture.
March 17, 2018
Tonight, I am existing exactly one moon cycle after the moment I received a mind-blowing message. Bigger than any I’ve ever received while in deep meditation or during any peak of any psychedelic trip I’ve ever been on (and let me tell you, some of those were so colossal: 25 years later, I still I remember them in detail). It was the moment my body weight shifted and twisted beyond the limits of my right tibia and the bone snapped, a large part of it disconnecting from the rest of my body’s skeletal system, making a quick break for the outside. Before this moment, I had been preparing to help my partner, Sean, pack up for the night. I had spent 4 beautiful hours listening to him play and sing and entertain at a restaurant on the beach and now I was sitting on the edge of a tiny stage, being told not to look down by Sean and the general manager, as patrons gathered with camera phones, centering and zooming in on twisted leg and dangling foot that clung to shards of bone. For a moment, I worried more about Sean bloodying someone’s nose than the feeling of blood (is that blood???) dripping down my leg.
I was in Broward County. My primary care doctor was 25 miles away. For the first time in my life, I had an HMO, and that made me nervous. I was being lifted into an ambulance and telling Sean I loved him. A police officer sat next to me once I was inside and asked me about my night; specifically, how much did I have to drink? Had I eaten anything? I had had 2 cocktails. I hadn’t finished with the third, which was going to be my last of the evening. I had eaten dinner and I had been drinking water as well. This satisfied her and the next news I heard was that I being transported to Holy Cross. That was the hospital where my aunt died. My mind began to flip through facts like a magazine in a wind storm: pictures and strings of words lingering as the pages rapidly passed. My aunt with wrinkles, a permanent tan and a frequent, cackling laugh; she lived on the intra-coastal in Ft. Lauderdale and smoked cigarettes (was there a brand called “Vantage?”) and she died of emphysema. That’s called COPD now. She died at Holy Cross and wait–was there anything else I knew about this hospital? Yes. I remembered reading about Holy Cross being one of the best hospitals in Florida and repeated this to myself as one EMT lunged at my veins with a needle to start an IV and another asked my permission to place stickers on my breasts and they both made jokes about me dancing on the stage. “That’s not what happened,” I snarled and they laughed and I wanted to punch them. Hard.
The windows on the rear doors were in the shape of a crisscross. A holy cross. Sixteen years ago, the last time I’d been in an ambulance, the windows made one also. The one that took me from a trauma hospital to a NICU hospital after my accident when I was 5.5 months pregnant and scared, but someone who loved me was following the ambulance. I pretended Sean was following this ambulance and then realized he was actually waiting at the valet for his car and he didn’t know how to get to Holy Cross. He grew up in West Palm Beach and any navigation in this area was done by me and it’s Saturday night in ER in a pretty crazy city during tourist season where I could get lost amid the maniacs and someone could very easily steal my kidneys and then I saw headlights and yes, that had to be Sean, he was following me and everything was going to be ok and the 12 inch square pillow I was resting on became an angora cloud and then the stab-y EMT I had named Macbeth looked at me and said, “Kristie, I just gave you some morphine so your leg should be starting to feel better, ok?”
Then I was in ER and as it turned out, I was the crazy person on the Saturday night screaming expletives when they repositioned my leg. Then the x-ray room, where the radiology tech told me I was “fucking awesome” because I wasn’t screaming in pain, and then the very serious faces of doctors who looked at my leg and I heard words like “compound” and “trauma wound” and “rod and screws” and “emergency surgery.” This was where Sean arrived and I moved into the inconsolable crying phase. I wasn’t just crying about my leg. My leg was going to get better at some point and in about month, I would be processing the trauma, as well as passing by the dark room in my head, sometimes peaking inside but instead shopping a lot on Zulily and buying The Sims 2. I was crying because when my tibia snapped like a pretzel, another, louder and messier break was happening. After years of failing to create healthy boundaries and recognize cues and instead, taking on the role of a hot and cold introvert who was just too much for many, me included sometimes, the fault line had finally cracked and I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do.
The next day I had a rod bolted into my leg by a kind surgeon who promised me I would run on my leg again. I stayed in Holy Cross for 2 more days and received first-rate care. If we are allowed one “good” hospital stay, then I must ensure I stay in optimal health for the rest of my life. I was reprimanded by a young Haitian nurse because I was not using my pain pump enough. She told me the pump was there because this type of pain is bad for me. She then made a joke about President’s Day and what happens this year when we don’t have a president and we laughed and she told me to press the pump.
I’ve been thinking about that interaction a lot. This woman looked through me when she admonished me for not accessing the morphine on the other end of my IV. It was as if she were asking me, “In what other areas do you allow pain to linger because you are afraid of what is on the other side?” I was afraid. I was afraid of addiction and itching and constipation and those fears were real, but it was more important at that moment that I get in front of pain from a major surgical procedure.
So as I’m here, relying on another person for a lot of things, I’m wondering if this is the breakdown I knew would be coming around this time. Forty-seven and a half seems like the perfect age for one and maybe all it will take is one little turn in the wrong direction and I will go spiraling into space with no 9 mm rod to hold me still. I’ve been doubting my abilities as a teacher, a partner, a mother, a sister, a friend, a writer (especially that), and questioning my choices to the point where I’m pretty much convinced I’m doing it wrong. And when I say “it,” I mean “everything.” I’ve been uncovering memories of times I felt incompetent or humiliated, dreams about places I’ve been where I’ve felt unsafe, places where the bullies reigned and I’m trying to pack my suitcase to return home.
Or what if this isn’t a psychotic break, but a break from the rut that’s become my forties? As my foot flapped in the breeze (to quote my surgeon) on that stage one month ago, what if I missed the universe whispering, “It’s up to you what happens next.” Seeing as how this is the first thing I have written in 2018, I should probably get to work. This type of rut is bad for me, but writing clears up murky places so that the insurmountable is better managed. Perhaps something is urging me to explore the dreams where I’m constantly packing; the memories of as a child feeling so insecure, I thought I was eating dinner the wrong way; the paranoia that developed from not establishing boundaries; the silence that encompassed me when screaming would have been more appropriate. I’d love to let that nurse know that tonight, I have pressed the pump.
It’s a short month and floats by us while we gradually acknowledge we have allowed our resolutions to drift outside to the garage with our Christmas decorations. It marks the end of the American football season, an anniversary of the death of a young man who changed music forever, a month defined by Anna Quindlen in One True Thing as “a suitable time for dying.”
But for me, February is the promise of a resurrection. Although I don’t subscribe to one religion, the pagan and neo-pagan traditions during their sabbats, or holy days, have always appealed to me, most likely because they are simple and nature-based, and I’ve always felt a strong connection to nature. Out of all the sabbats, Imbolc, the cross-quarter between the winter solstice and spring equinox, celebrated on February 2nd, is my favorite. It’s a day to acknowledge the life that is beginning to break out of the frozen, dead ground. February 2nd is Groundhog Day in the U.S.-the day Americans rely on for the promise of the return of the sun. This year, I wore my Brigid pendant and began to feel a shift back to the light. I know much of it is attributed to the decision I made last month to go back on SSRIs for anxiety, but isn’t it curious I chose this time of year to make the change? The choice to embrace the beauty around me. The choice to glow in the dark. .
This February, I am opening my heart to new people–a huge task for me, but at the moment is quite effortless due to their kindness and kinship. I feel a need to reconnect with those with whom I’ve lost touch, yet feel no remorse or regret for those I had to let go. I haven’t kept my resolution to write more, but I’m thinking like a writer again. I’m observing my days with new eyes. At the moment, I am writing. And that counts.
Not to mention, there is a woman approaching, walking down a dark alley in the rain. She’s been alive for quite some time and has been neglected and once nearly sold as a secondary character to one of the aforementioned I had to let go. Although the lines on her face mark her years, she is a waif and an ingenue. She left her umbrella in an ice cream store several blocks away because she stopped to ask for directions. But she didn’t forget her silver flashlight. She’s shining it on the walls, searching for a door. This month, I have cracked it open so she can see the warm light I have left on for her. So she can return and tell me her story.
In honor of Bowie’s life, for the first time in mine, I need to honor myself. I used to write everyday. There are journals scattered throughout my house, hiding in drawers, and scribbled entries in spiral notebooks in my bookshelves. Pieces of me. Places where I have shed my skin and just left it there because I was needed elsewhere, occasionally returning back to the spots where they rested only to feel guilty and uninspired and afraid I was losing myself completely. So I would stare at my books until the feeling went away.
And that’s how I feel right now. Completely uninspired. Afraid that I am no longer a writer because I have lost every fleck of the glitter in mortgage payments and coupon clippings. The gorgeous crazy palate of my subconscious painted over in a dull ecru by the escapes into the internet. The television.
I’m going back on an SSRI. It seems I cannot cope with reality very well on my own. I am determined to use this decision as the catapult back into the world where I used to dwell for hours. Running through strange lands with all senses on high alert and never stopping to worry about my daughter’s last year of middle school, the high price of eggs, or verbs.
And while I run, I will shed more skin. I will leave some past judgments and some people who have judged me and some people who never really cared about me at all behind. I will love those who remain harder. I will round up a tribe of old and new playmates and visit their worlds and tell them about mine. Or maybe I won’t. Maybe I will just sit quietly and listen to my characters talk in a counter rhythm to the cars that pass on the busy street behind my house.
But one thing’s for certain: I will no longer leave my old epidermis up on a shelf. I could make a damn fine pair of boots with that shit.
Last night I had dinner with an old friend. Old, as in I’m fairly sure next year will be our 25th anniversary of knowing each other. So she’s one of the people in my life with whom I should stay in touch and get together on a regular basis.
I haven’t seen her since 2010. Aside from social media and maybe three phone calls, we had no idea what was going on in our lives. I feel ashamed by that fact, but that shame is currently being cast off into the ethers, because guess what? That emotion doesn’t exist anymore. We fixed it and we’re moving forward wtih more nights of margaritas and Mexican or coffee drinks and bookstores or just couch time talking–something we used to do quite well that usually ended in a tarot reading or a poetry writing session.
While we were catching up, I mentioned that my partner has become estranged from his family because of me.
“Why,” she asked.
“They don’t like me,” I replied.
Her face looked like I had just told her that someone we loved had been murdered.
“How on earth could they not like you?”
And now let’s go back to that sentence in the first paragraph; the one about there being people in our lives with whom we need to maintain contact? It’s true. They are the ones who knew us before the real damage began. Because after 12 years of being with a man who was an abusive narcissist and as a result, created in me a need to question everything about myself and doubt my abilitiies. “You’re a drag and nobody likes you,” was a sentence he would exclaim when we would fight. How many times did he say it? Four? Maybe five times in the 12 years we were together? You would think time and a new relationship with someone who would never say things so mean would replace those words? Nope. That sentence in his voice runs through my brain quite a lot. Until last night.
Looking into my friend’s eyes, I saw myself as a 21 year old college student who had her whole life ahead of her. She was playing Scrabble and taking her turn holding court and making people laugh. Despite the normal moments of self doubt, she loved herself. There I am, I thought. I’ve always been right here. I’m learning to forgive myself, and be kinder–not to other people because that’s never been a problem–but to myself. I’m fun and enthusiastic and understanding and kind and a gigantic empath and my friend is right:
How on earth could they not like me?
It’s not me; it’s them. I have some theories on why, but that’s for another day. They’re not what’s important anyway. I’ve spent far too long worrying about other people, usually the people who thrive on that worry, and never reallly gave me a second thought. I’m what’s important. Me. And my family and my writing and my friends who truly know me.
I hope if anyone who is reading this is having one of those days filled with self loathing stops for a moment and thinks, “I’m amazing.” Because you are. Go buy yourself something, or eat some ice cream. You are totally worth it.
Last summer, someone who was once my best friend, confidante, and co-worker went to prison for the rest of his life because unbeknownst to me or anyone else aside from his victims, he was a sex offender and pedophile. Since his arrest in 2013, he has not contacted me, but I was one of the last people to talk to him before he disappeared forever. For two years, “The Steve Thing” rented a small room in the back of my brain where there was only room for a cot. But, once in awhile it would wake up when someone would ask about him, then roll over and go back to sleep.
But in June of this year, there was a trial. He actually dragged these poor girls into court and made them describe in detail the things he did to them while he maintained his innoncence. And “The Steve Thing” got out of bed and went to the front desk and reqeusted the largest conference room in the place. And I had no choice but to sit at the long table and listen. To all of it. Because the only way this guest was going to leave was if I allowed this meeting, which included listening to all of the testimony via media Tweets while digesting the reality that a man who showed me a devoted and caring friend was in fact a twisted monster.
Last night, I had a dream that Steve was on his deathbed. I was in a house I had never been in and his daughter was there and she was crying. My partner and I were looking at him from another room and my partner said, “You should go see him; I’ll be right here.” His bed was by a window and outside the sun was shining on a lush garden that took up the entire vista. He looked at me and smiled weakly. I took his hand and said with resolute, “You’re going home.” Then I woke up.
This morning, housekeeping cleaned up the empty conference room. That dingy storage room in the back was demolished, the walls knocked down, and transformed into a garden. “The Steve Thing” checked out and paid his bill. I can only surmise that he went home.
Apparently you can write emails to inmates. I will never contact this man again, but poetry helps me pretend that this would have been my goodbye.
Email to an Inmate in the Regulated 300 Words
Be true to my feelings you said
once when the sun caught my eyes and your face
was erased for a moment into a white circle and then
the glare subsided and there you were again
But never again
I used to throw up a lot but not now
I miss you.
Who were you?
This has torn me apart
We raced through puzzles of the human experience
like outrageous best friends do
Sometimes two parents of daughters trying to stitch a quilt of answers.
Sometimes Sal and Dean chasing satori in a restaurant booth (can we sit outside?)
Quoting our own Carlo Marx and Old Bull Lee,
finding wisdom in the details of our landscape.
We are everywhere still, you know.
At our corner pub and every hip diner
Cover up stink juice
That’s my Virgo lighter.
My exfoliation lessons over sweet tea
and your art of chance
I thought my father sent you to me
so I could love sports again.
But was the sun’s blinding ray that day
a gift of sight into your void?
A chance to see the hideous demon?
(Dad, did I once again miss that catch?)
You told me to forgive myself, yet now I feel filthy
Still I am better because I knew you–
Thick as thieves
I never thought you would be a heartbreak
A trust so solid it could only deceive.
So now I will sit on some pier like Paradise
Watching the sun set over waters rough then calm
and this is not the place
to jump in to find grace
because the warm hues of day’s end deliver this gift:
We are that paradox we tried to uncover
I hate who you are
I love you, my brother
Over three years ago, I started this blog and made exactly three posts, which I have just deleted because I need a fresh start. Because three years ago, I was someone different. Or rather, I wasn’t me. It’s like I went into a cocoon and reemerged the butterfly I used to be before all the pain and the poison destroyed my wings.
Since April 2012, I lost many friends, or rather, let them go (one to a state correctional facility); I have faced and accepted the permanent scars from an abusive relationship; I have a new job that demands more of my time and my intellect–and I like that; my daughter and I are growing into a new phase of us; my partner has lost his family after years of being the scapegoat of dysfunction, and he and I are learning all about the healing game.
I have learned that I must accept disappointment. People are not always going to like me and there is nothing I can do to salvage a relationship with them because it was never about me. I have watched in awe at how people will got to great lengths to support untruths because facing what is real is too painful for them, so they create narratives at the expense of others in order to save face. But as a result of this, rather than being the hurt victim ( or “that woman” as a member of my partner’s family refers to me), I was able to use that hurt as a means of understanding who I am: a fierce protector and loyal defender regardless of my family’s beliefs or actions. Thanks to this estrangement, I have discovered I am a goddman brave mama bear.
I’m not going to pretend like I know where this blog is going to go. All I do know is I miss writing, and I’m starting to feel that intense energy coming over me again. The electric wave that hits me and my fingers long for a keyboard. Even drafting directives in emails excites me a little because it means I get to write something. Maybe I’ll talk a little about my partner’s and my journey toward healing, maybe I’ll make you laugh about something ridicuous I wittnessed in a grocery store, maybe I’ll go on a rant about the lack of compassion in the world, or better yet its overabundance of aromatherapy.
It’s peculiar how the title of this blog was meant to be witty, but in fact, it’s a perfect summation of my 40s. What I used to perceive to be real is a farce and as a result, I worked hard to annihilate those thoughts. I blew them up in a radioactive green light that emitted so much heat, everyone around me could feel it. It was an apocalypse of the world as I knew it. Now as the atomic dust settles, my partner and I will sit on a checkered blanket and enjoy some homemade hummus. Because that’s what he made me on our frist date to a Marlins’ game way back when. When we were both clouded by what we believed to be true. When we were secretly constructing a bomb shelter built for two.