Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I excused myself to “put Trent down for a nap”. And I curled up in the bathroom, blanket wrapped tightly around me. A safe cocoon. A straight jacket.
The intrusive thoughts came in the silence. At first, they were indistinguishable from the rest of the noise. Then, one came out very plainly, rolling as a hardly audiable murmur from my lips.
“Why?” the sobs welled in my throat as the tears poured down my face. I smalled the sobs for as long as I could.
“I am so alone,” I whispered. My face contorted. My jaw tightened as my top teeth extended out. An enormous sob was lodged in my throat. With all of the power of will that remained, I silenced it.
“He doesn’t love you. If he loved you, he would have tried.”
“Your marriage has failed.”
The voices barraged me relentlessly with intrusive thought that had no real evidence. But the absence, the distance, was enough for me to formulate theories.
I was no longer slow dancing in the burning room. I sat at the piano, alone, playing out the most sour of melodies. This had been evacuated a long time ago. I took in a lungful of dark, black smoke, and now I was choking on it.
“You should runaway. Leave your phone and just hide. It doesnt matter that it’s 30F and raining. Leave this place.”
“I won’t give up my son.”
“Break shit. Starting with dishes and glasses.”
“And then take more of a shit storm than I can handle.”
“Take handfuls of pills to make you numb.”
The crying ceased, and besides the stirring, turning wheel in my head, I was tapped out.
Desperate, as people get before they die in a tragedy, I slinked back up the stairs and into the room. The house was silent, heavy with slumber. I reached into the back of the drawer. I took a vicodin, the drug that almost killed me the last time. I didn’t care. Come what may.
After I let the drugs settle in, I started the note. i explained the fundamental problems. No affection, save for the verbal foreplay. Disinterest and dismissal. Isolation and alienation. A communication block. Walking on eggshells to keep him happy and sane. Oppressive states of living, impossible expectations. All of the things I could never say to his face.
And that was only an overview.
I decided to move forward with my impulse to leave. I planned on leaving my phone and hiding away at the trestle. Alone. A place of refuge where no one would think to look. Save for Chris, who would be unlikely to consider it.
I went into the bathroom donning only a bathrobe. It was warm. I discovered a boxcutter I had hidden nearly a year ago. the temptation was irresistible. It was the only way to make these thoughts go away. To make it all disappear and usher in the empty mind born only from numbess.
To my dismay, it was dull. I had to tear at the flesh on my still shishy hip. Five lines. One for each year we have been together. I could have kept going. I stared at the bleeding cuts, satisfied with the pain and the amount of blood I had drawn.
And I looked up into the mirror at the red nosed, disheveled girl with the wild look in her eyes. Something primal existed there. That girl wasn’t me. I was staring at a loathsome stranger.
I got up, ready to sear my skin with the hottest water I could withstand. I was ready to shave every inch of my body. I scrapped and scratched away the flesh staining me. I wanted to wash this day away.
It didn’t end there. I returned to the upstairs to find him awake. I questioned, “Have you read my note?”
“No, I’ll read it later.”
“You really should consider reading it now.”
Another excuse, “I have to make dinner,” while he continued to surf Facebook.
“It’s really important,” I pressed.
“Not right now,” he protested.
I was pushing now, “Then when?”
“I don’t know. Later,” he dismissed some more.
“A later that will never come.” I thought of all of the unread emails I had sent that went straight to archive. Not even remotely close to a priority.
“Because I don’t want to ruin my Sunday. The only time I have to relax before I have to go back to working 50 hours a week!”
In my mind, I said, “Which you *CHOOSE* to do.”
“Fine. If you do not care enough about our marriage enough to take time to read this, then I’m done. I can’t do this anymore. it can’t go on like this.”
“If you want me to read this so fucking badly, then I will.”
“No, just X it out. I’m done.” I meant it. I was finished with this marriage.
He did read it, mocking some parts of it, as I expected. I knew it wouldn’t be well received. If I spoke these words aloud, I’d suffer more dismissal and rationalizations. I’d suffer more pain through his outrage, pointing out my selfishness, neediness, clinginess, and what he considered to be my inability to see beyond myself.
We fought some more downstairs. Not tearing out throats this time. But in a heated argument. He quoted, “regarded coldy like a business associate”.
“Yes. Not even as basic as friendship. I am not a part of your personal life. I am never let in. In fact, I am pushed away, even physically.”
“I was sick, you know, after drinking more than half a bottle of tequila.”
“You’re always sick. Headache, stomach ache, body ache, anything that can hurt does.”
Sarcastically, he said, “What am I supposed to do. Go to the doctor and say, ‘My wife is pissed that I have pains’?”
“Yes, something. No more excuses. I will not except them.”
“How is it that one of us is perfectly happy? i am completely content.”
“Because the other person bends over backwards to make the other one is happy! I walk on eggshells to take your feelings into consideration and not upset you. It’s suffocating!”
He paused to think. Apparently, I had touched on something.
I know he’s going through something. But, this is no excuse. I don’t deserve this isolation. I do everything to satisfy. I don’t ask for anything out of the question.
I just want to be shown love. Satisfaction. I want him to want me. All of me. To recognize my efforts. To be delighted by my displays. To feel warm.
We reconciled. But, it’s Monday. Back to business as usual. No emails, texts. I didnt want to talk to him after work. I wanted him to suffer. To question if I was alright.
I thought it could be made up. I’m sure another disappointing date is upon us. He did take the time to set something up, likely out of guilt that he didn’t in advance. I wanted to spend some time on the sofa. And I was asked to sit on the floor in proximity to the sofa he laid on.
Daggers. I expected it. I wasn’t devestated. I was despondent. i warned him I was close to shutting down, just a day earlier. When I shut down, it’s over. i’ve given up. It would only be a matter of time before someone calls it quits.
Once a person is out, they are out. A wall will go up, impenetrable. And i will spend my time doing what I want, without any regard for his wants or needs. he violated mine. I may end up done with all of that.
Two more days. I’ll give him by the end of Thursday, the actual day of our wedding anniversary. After that, he’s on his own.
No more threats. Action.
I cannot suffer many more disappointments and rejections.
Firstly, I’d like to apologize to my readers. I have not be a good blogger, and I have not been able to keep up with other blogs at the moment. My emotional life has been chaotic, at best.
I’ve had a couple of 60’s and 70’s. But, I’ve had many days that were in the blue. I noticed what the defining factor of my highest days was. Exercise.
Training is exhausting, but I absolutely love the run. It does take a lot of my time and energy. I’ve realized that I need to work on me for awhile. Without this work, I will crumble beneath myself. It is imperative that I start cementing my own foundation. I find it crucial that I start defining myself in different ways, through expansion and reassigning attributes. I find the need to grow beyond what I am at this moment.
In fact, I am reprioritizing my blogging and my life in general. Where these things make the top ten, in importance. I’ve realized that mental health blogging, and mental health advocacy through blogging are extraordinarily important in my life. I have not been giving them a great deal of priority as of late, and I find it incredibly unfair to others, including myself.
Shorting myself is something that I seem to be painfully talented at. It is too easy for me to become complacent and put the needs of others before my own. In my personal life, I need more freedoms. I need more alone time.
I need to stop begging, borrowing, and stealing time.
I have to stop feeling like I owe things to people, and get trapped in a self-perpetuating cycle of obligation and manipulation. As far as I’m concerned, I have paid my debts. The rest is for me.
Selfish or not, that’s the way it is.
Again, I am too passive. I am too complacent and find myself working too hard to keep the status-quot when I am completely dissatisfied with it. My foot is down, planted on sturdy, firm ground. I am taking a stand.
We took a brisk, early morning walk to our local pharmacy. It’s not too far, about a mile or so.
I had warned C.S. that it may take more than a few moments for them to fill my prescription. Sometimes, I have to wonder who is the woman in this relationship. He huffed and puffed, and we moved around the store. I picked up some essentials, and have been craving new writing pens.
(I will have them.) They just didn’t have the ones I liked. But, a frivilous purchase, although I am a school teacher, was out of the question.
The pharmacist asked me what I’d like to do with my b/c script. It’s not due to be filled until the 9th. Except, for some reason, I’m early. It would have had a co-pay that day, as opposed to not having a copay if I could wait it out two days. I turned to ask C.S.’s opinion. I do need the medication, but not that badly. I can make up for missed pills.
He sat there, with our son and hassled me. Get the pills. Let’s go. Beast is starting to get fussy.. I turned to him and said firmly, “I am making decisions about my health and our finances. If you or T.D. is having a problem, then kindly take him outside and wait.”
The walk home was difficult. Not in the sense that it physically bothered me. I’m in fantastic shape, putting a many miles under my feet. I went on this tirade. “It is not your mind, and it is not your body. It’s none of your business.”
To which he replied, “I’m paying for it. It is my business.”
“It’s not. You don’t live inside of me. You don’t know what goes on in there. You have no interest in it either. Butt out.”
I despised that phrase, “I’m paying for it. It is my business.” On two fronts. I pay my contribution toward the severe detriment we suffer due to my extensive medical needs. I commute and hour each way to do so. It is not as if I am laying around a sofa all day, spending all of our bank account. Don’t portray me as so.
I had pointed out at one point that he was not my legal guardian, and no living will exists to proclaim him my proxy when and if I become incapacitated. Damn fine move on my part.
He plays no role in my treatment. I have signed releases that he has full access to my records. He has never spoke to my doctor about any troublesome symptoms. In fact, as much I hate to admit this, I would be likely to declare my indecisive mother a medical proxy. She’s done so well with the rest of the family.
I am pulling in the reins. This carriage will not continue until I say so. It is my life too, and I feel like I’m being completely left out of it. This is my stand.
But, verbally sparing and expressing emotion is a tricky engagement in my household. So, pulling in the reins is more than taking full control over own life and those dealings. It is pulling in the reigns of my marriage. I am pulling back. Plans change to suit him. I am disappointed. Therefore, I am pulling back. I don’t depend on him for my happiness.
I want to, I want to be someone else or I’ll explode.
Even with the ever shifting moods of bipolar disorder, there remains two constants. Irritability and reactivity.
Countless times, I have relayed that to others. The potential for emotional reactions is a constant. These are the two trumpeters that herald an oncoming episode. Consider it a precursor to the earliest of symptoms on either side of the mood spectrum.
The Rage, as Clown on Fire termed it in his post On Mental Health: Rage, can be seen across the board as a nearly translucent thread that tethers the symptoms of this disorder together. From mania to depression, these two symptoms are ever present. They are the flint and tinder that spark the fire to fuel these episodes.
I am no saint.
The last few posts have been a testament of my failings to maintain my own grace and good intentions. It is a demonstration of how one simple provocation can cascade into a series of outrageous and vindictive actions. I can justify it all I want. “… had it coming.” “… should have known better.” But, the simple fact is that the provocation may have had good intentions with terrible wording, and I was in no place to be receptive to it.
Who becomes the victim to The Rage? Is it shared amongst those who were foolhardy enough to stand in my warpath? Or is it, in actuality, me who suffers? There is no consensus. Any opinions would be just that, opinions. The Rage is entirely subjective between victimizer and victimee, and even those who stand by the wayside to witness it. To determine who takes what role is like splitting hairs. It is my stance that we are one in the same when it comes to vindication and the crusade for justice.
With exception of course.
The Rage is something for me that is not confined to hypomania, as expected. Anger is an emotion that can perpetuate itself, once set into motion.
In hypomania, it is obvious how anger comes to surface. Dysphoric hypomania is notorious for unearthing the deadliest of firestorms. I find myself going on a warpath, slaying everyone who I determine has wronged me. I feel justified, without rationalization, and perhaps even complete conscious awareness, to execute the worst of all of my behaviors. In hypomania, if you’re not with me, you are against me. Sometimes, it turns to paranoia, where I am in the mindset that people are against me. But mostly, it is a matter of drawing lines.
The Rage exists in depression. It is something that stems from the original, seemingly benign irritability. However, it has a different function. Many people have cited that the opposite of love is hate. That is certainly not true. The opposite of any emotion is apathy. But, in this sense, anger is a life preserver that keeps me from slipping under the surface.
Have you ever found yourself suddenly driven by vengeance, resentment, or bitterness?
The Rage stands as a driving force when the world around me is grinding to a near halt. It becomes the glass cannon. As long as it can keep the muzzle aimed away from myself, I can keep from sinking. However, it is glass, and it cannot remain as it is forever.
Once the cannon turns on me, as it eventually does, there is no way to escape the constant barrage of blows it can dole out at me. I made the cannon. This glass cannon knows all of my secrets, and is well equipped to take me down and out, for good. I become hoisted by my own petard, a victim of myself and the very mechanisms I’ve created to ensure my own safety.
When everything lay in ruins, when the episode has subsided and the smoke has cleared, I am the only one remaining to survey the damages. I have no blame, no rationalizations. It was me, and my gun.
Believe me, I am far from trigger happy. Luckily, I fear the consequences of my actions more than am I compelled to carry out certain atrocities and revenge. And I am not typically compelled to carry out dire actions.
But, there are moments where I am beyond my own control. I often crusade in the name of justice, and often compelled to make an example out of someone. The same as public executions. Just like in the days of old when a faction would put the severed heads of enemies on spikes outside of a fortress. It stands as a warning. Do not cross this line. Or else.
That is when the worst of these impulses are carried out.
Otherwise, it is reactionary anger. I am curt. I am passive-aggressive. If someone is too close, I will self-sabotage by driving them out. For their protection, or my own? Maybe both.
But at the end of the day, when I look in that bathroom mirror, there is no one to answer to but myself.
(Originally dated January 31, 2012)
Day 10: Someone you need to let go of or wish you didn’t know.
Originally, I read this prompt and blanked. It wasn’t until I read Gypsy’s Day 10 Post that I came to this realization.
Facebook is toxic. Cosmo did an article in the December issue about a study revealing just that. That article confirmed certain suspicions, so I started taking statuses with a grain of salt. Yeah, I bet you’re happy about your drunken single life in your late 20’s, since you brag about it so much.
But, a couple of nights ago, a status rubbed me the wrong way.
Bear with me. This gets a little complicated.
I had a huge group of best friends in middle school. One by one, they dropped off for various petty reasons. Kat and I were inseparable. Until a boy came between us. Of course, that left a huge schism between them and me. Lea took on the grudge personally. But, Liz stayed neutral.
Kat pretended like I didn’t exist. Lea campaigned for my social public execution, setting up shop right across the hall from me, and Liz ghosted between.
Eventually, Kat and Lea started dating brothers, one who I dated years ago (of course, that was Lea’s boyfriend). I had my first public scrap happened with Lea in that very hallway.
Moe and I were still really good friends. Of course we were! I was the only one who stood by him and spent countless hours on the phone with him when he was in the hospital for chemo treatment. I stayed with him, even though I knew that it was incredibly possible that he could die. But, it was too late to turn back then.
We walked through the hall talking, cutting up as usual. As he met her in the hallway, I passed him and said to him, ignoring her, “Later whore!” A whole fourty-one minutes passed, and my head was filled with Biology before 10AM. I walked down the stairs and met with my gay guy friend to head to the music wing. Lea passed me and snarled, “Fuck you, you white trash slutbag. You’ll regret fucking with me.”
It was only audible to the immediate vicinity, all music kids. I flew, screaming after her, “Are you threatening me, you fat fucking bitch!?”
“What if I am?” she turned and sneered, “What are you going to do about it? Cry and cut yourself?” She continued walking, headed up the stairs.
Check had already grabbed me, and held me in a full nelson as I raged at her. A teacher from the third floor came down at that point and lambasted me without even asking what happened. I spouted off, “Fuck you too, Pistol Pete.” And Check had to drag me away. We were unbelievably late and it was still a walk to the music wing.
I told him, “Go in before me. I don’t want you getting mixed up in this.” I stood outside the room for a couple of minutes, listening to the melodies and harmonies of warm-ups bounce off of the tiled halls and wooden doors.
Calmly, I walked in. I turned the corner, and the whole room rose to applaud me! I was beyond shocked, and no words could come. I expected a slow, painful, icy death by silence. Instead, I was congratulated for my absolutely outrageous outburst! By everyone except Liz, who gave me this disgusted and pained look.
It was no surprise when I was called to the principals office by noon. She was coming out as I was headed in. Lea glared and mouthed, “Fuck you, whore,” as we passed one another. I growled under my breath. If we weren’t surrounded by a room full of elderly secretaries, I would’ve jumped on her and ripped her face off.
I sat across the desk from the principal in her little interrogation room. This wasn’t the first time. Hell, it wasn’t even the first time in that school year! But, I had never been in there for fighting. I knew protocol for a search. “Let’s dump your bookbag here, and we’ll have the constable walk you to your locker to watch you dump that all over the hall.” But I didn’t care. I was actually pretty satisfied with myself.
“So Em, would you like to tell me what happened between you and Lea?”
“Why should I? Lea already told you what you’ll believe anyway. I won’t waste our time.”
And that was it. No, “I want to hear your side.” What was there to say in my defense? The tattletale always wins. And I already had a record.
I knew only hell awaited me at home. It always did after there was an incident at school. Going home and facing the wrath of my parents was worse than any punishment they could deal me at school.
My mother’s head was poking out to look down the street as I approached. I considered turning and running. No, that would make it worse. Then she’d send my father after me, who would literally drag me kicking and screaming back up the street.
Fighting had been the worst offense I had ever committed. And the worst part is that I didn’t even actually hit her. I only threatened it, while verbally assaulting her in front of about half of the student body.
“So, the principal called today,” my mother announced in front of my father. She must have meant business. Usually, she at least attempted to break the news gently to my father.
“Yep, what did you talk about?” I asked candidly.
“You tell me.”
I sighed, and recounted the tale, uncensored, complete with swears and acts.
There was a long pause. I wondered how long it was going to take before she slapped me in the face for using that language, berated me for embarrassing the whole family, and let my father actually kill me. Dad stood in the background and just started clapping. My mother smiled. Was this some sort of sick torture? Get on with it!
“We are so proud of you!” she exclaimed.
“She got what was comin’ to her,” he noted.
I was so confused that I was terrified that I had actually lost my mind. “What?”
My mother explained, “That girl has been torturing you for three years now. I’ve wanted to kick her ass myself. And you finally stood up to her.”
“I don’t care what that idiot principal has to say. You did right today,” my father confirmed.
“Next time be a little more subtle and don’t get caught,” my mother mentioned.
“You’re serious?” I questioned. She nodded.
I almost died. If I was caught smoking, I’d get grounded for a month. If I was admittedly fighting, I’d get rewarded? What the hell kind of backwards world was this?
After that, it returned to the cold war. The lines had clearly been drawn, with a no-man’s-land in between. Moe made his decision – all men led around by their second head. Kat had already made hers. But Liz still had to chutzpah to traverse the DMZ.
It wasn’t until Moe and Lea had broken up that more lines were drawn. Lea thought it was insensitive that Kat was still dating Moe’s brother. Kat wasn’t about to give up a good relationship because her friend was too petty to get over it. And it was over in less than a summer.
Lea League, Club Kat, and Team Em. And somewhere where those borders met, Liz sat and slowly seethed.
To be continued. . .
Staring out the bus window into the grey oblivion, the words slid right down the slate of my mind, and were carried away by the light breeze. It’s not an uncommon occurrence. Many other times I will myself to think of him, it is as if he’s become a ghost, who haunts at the most unfortunate moments.
That’s why there are journal entries for these moments. This was the first in the trinity, the one prior to Possibility and Ascension. It was started and completed in the same week, nearly a year after the relationship ended.
The last days of that relationship are blurry; my memories are obscured by the drugs and alcohol intoxicating my mind. The days blended together in a ritualistic, self-medicated loop, work.drink.sleep.work.drink.sleep.sleep.drink.sleep… suspended in agonizing slow motion. The silence was deafening in the deep, dark hours of night, still, cold, indifferent. We were two strangers, caged together with a thick glass section between us. I glanced across the DMZ, through ripples space and time itself, eager and desperate to eradicate the great divide. But even if I could manage to successfully navigate the minefield, a feat I had attempted in vain when feeling particularly masochistic despite the optimistic spin I put on it, I would be greeted by a stranger. Or rather an animal, for he had regressed into a rather primitive state. This animal was vicious and feral, seemingly ripped from the wild and unsuccessfully domesticated.
My realizations were like awaking from a coma. How much time had passed? Who are you? Where am I? Is this real? – each more dizzying than the coma itself. Awakening is clarity, but the clearer things became, the more confusing the reality. The chambers of my mind grew to accommodate my expanding thoughts but created a warehouse echo. I spoke, my voice reverberated off the crumbling walls and returned with a different sound altogether. Perhaps, instead it was an accurate reflection but one can never recognize oneself in a room of distortion.
So perhaps my lover had been a stranger all along, reflected through hopes and dreams to create a lovely distortion. They certainly aren’t all hideous, like mirrors that make one look tall and slender. Had that been entirely truth, how long had he been a projection of my mind’s eye onto the screen that set the stage for our drama? I looked into the rabbit hole and tumbled down, spiraling out of control. How can one count time based on a relative measure?
I searched farther, grasping for answers as if they were my life raft in the black waters of time. Our relationship started with sparks and flares… – Were they real like fourth of July fireworks? Or instead were they the result of strong hallucinogenics resulting from intense desire to feel something? More dialogue and script flowed through the undertow, sucking me into the dark abyss.
You know how when someone says ‘I love you’, you feel obligated to reciprocate?
I’ve always meant it with you.
My heart swelled with infection while it festered away every inch that loved him with each tides push and pull. It was abundantly clear that his performance was increasingly scripted, as I deviated with my improvisation. Obsessively, I went farther, feverishly searching, scanning, hoping that there would be salvage, or better even, treasure.
Heaven knows that I love you, I love you today.
Today, that day, the only day that might as well had even existed in three years. I felt it in my soul, the answers becoming closer sending off the flares and sparks I had been trying to rekindle, leading me in my personal night. Yet on closer inspection, they certainly differentiated from the ones in my memory. Instead, they appeared to be a blazing inferno on the shoreline. I clawed the beach, pulling myself in for survival, for myself, for my sanity and found the treasure I’d been seeking.
Fool’s gold. The beautiful scenery warped into something more sinister. Twisted, charred, black… a glorious fire to commemorate something that never was.
It reminded me of the last string I pulled in the tapestry of our relationship. My hair was ruby colored in the dull late autumn sun, surrounded by the grey scenery of the city. We were bound for better. He was up but I was coming down. A lovely romance played out in my head, on panes of fragile glass. We were vines twisting together up a lattice in vivid green, in a dream. He deviated, but my vision was obstructed. I felt the support let loose, my vine withered and my fruit shriveled. He vaguely explained and my vision returned to expose his transgression occurring. Struck with immobilizing poison, I watched like an invalid. And when I came to, I was convinced it was a dream.
Smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirrors, I fell in love with the demon trickster himself. A year and a half passed since the incident and all was voluntarily revealed. The force pushed me outside myself, forced once again to watch this great tragedy unfold repeatedly. Play.stop.rewind.play.
Just say yes, you little masochist.
Addictions leave you little choice.
Help me tighten these chains. Is that my voice? My mind screamed to be released, for me to take the free ticket to ride and go. But my heart without it’s limbs could not be freed from it’s vice.
The pleasant memories melted into the form of nightmares. There was a double edged sword, turning the pleasurable jabs into horrific stabs. My monologue’s narrator was raspy and exhausted. Playful smiles turned to sinister grins just as loving chuckles morphed into maniacal laughter. The blaze pushed forward, engulfing everything in sight. It seared my flesh, leaving nothing but brittle bone.
Release me, for the love of god!!
It was morning following the apocalypse. The war had been lost and I stood amongst it’s remains. To my surprise, I was intact despite everything. A wave of sorrow welled up inside me but nothing came. I had finally been released but not by my captor. He stood beside me, my caretaker, strong and silent like an angel.
I have always been beside you. That wasn’t quite the truth, I was sure. He had misspoke and instead meant, I have always been inside you… I felt those words resonating inside my soul which echoed it in perfect clarity. This could only be made possible if they had the same dimensions… making them identical. Twin souls! It made perfect sense as the pieces seamlessly clicked together. Only could twins never truly lose one another. They were the only two that see each other through the deepest pits of hell and come out seemingly unscathed.
We were whole. From the moment we met one another, five long years ago, we were whole. And now we had the opportunity to experience it in our own realities..
This bus. This is the same bus I take to and from work all of the time. Same routes, same drivers, and generally the same people.
Not a whole lot changes in my life. Steady job, happily married, a resident of my neighborhood for more than two cumulative decades. It is not monotonous in the slightest. It is stable.
Because, regardless of the things that remain concrete, I am always evolving, always flowing, and fluctuating. I am up; I am down. I do not have the luxury of having a constant mental state, where everything is perceived exactly as is was yesterday, and the day before that. Also, I do not have consistency within myself and my emotions to risk tipping the scales. The cost is too great.
I am more than content to go on living my life in the same way, unlike many others. Why? Because I have endured so much and worked so hard to get to this point. Right here, where I undoubtedly believe that there are concrete things to grab onto when I’m sliding, and I have at least a modicum of clarity about myself, my present, and my future.
It’s this clarity that keeps me intact.
The predictability that I am going to wake up next to my husband, poke around on WordPress, play with my son, feed us, walk down the street, and hop on the same bus, at the same time, with the same driver to go to the same place I went the day before.
I do that backward in the evening.
I wrote this to a friend, soon after I wrote Pause. Skip. Fast-Forward.
“My mind feels like it fell from a skyscraper and shattered on the ground, 100 stories below. That’s the kind of wreckage we’re talking about. Not only did I leave an impact crater, I’m practically dust at the bottom of it. I can’t think, and I’m overwhelmed by this horrid, damaged feeling.
. . . I was handling it pretty well from moment to moment because they were pretty pronounced from one another, and rather short. Now, I’m pretty sure something tipped me off of my precarious ledge. It doesn’t matter what the causation was, because it’s not going to act as an antidote.
It was coming anyway. Three months in the making.
. . . I can’t trust anything I say, think, or do right now . . .“
A few nights ago, I found myself standing at my same stop, waiting for my same bus, having a conversation with C.S. about our respective days. They had been rough ones. C.S. was dealing with a defaulted loan, and several accounts that were flaming turds at work. I had bombed an observation at work, and was dealing with a potential denial from unemployment regarding my lack of work over the summer. Everything was off kilter, and I had been for several weeks prior to these events.
In the 99 Quirks of Lulu, in #2 and #5, I describe certain phobias I have. So, when I board a bus, I naturally take the seat right in front of the backdoor. On these buses, there is a plexiglass barrier between that seat and the door. I am positioned properly, and it alleviates claustrophobia. I can see everyone who can get to me. I am close enough to the front of the bus, near the driver, without occupying a disabled seat, and I have an easily accessible exit.
Of course, I always survey my surroundings, without making eye contact. There were five other people on the bus with me. A larger, middle-aged man in jeans, who sat two seats in front of me. A 50-something year old woman, with short poofy hair, dyed auburn, with grey roots coming in, seated a seat behind and across the aisle. A man occupying a disabled seat in the front, and a male and a female in the very back.
I chatted with C.S., upset by the events that were simultaneously occurring. It is the same ritual that occurs every night, usually minus the serious conversation. And everything was in it’s right place.
I take notice of when anyone moves around on the bus. I have been accosted more than once while en route, so I am always cautious. The man had been casting me glances, obviously unaware that I had noticed. The woman got up, and leaned across the aisle to speak with the man. I continued on with C.S., still perfectly aware of what was going on around me.
She leaned in toward me, close enough for my eyes to focus in on her greyish, crooked front teeth, and scolded loudly, growling, “You know, there are other people on this bus.”
Typically, I go unprovoked. I would ignore such a person and prattle louder, in the attempt to defy the other person. But, something triggered. I could feel it in the millisecond before my response. It was like the click of hammer when a gun is fired. And the projectile came out.
“Oh don’t worry, I’ll be off soon enough,” I replied bitingly, knowing my stop was just a few minutes away.
She snarled, sinking back into her seat, “You know, you don’t have to talk so loudly.” Funny thing was, I was not talking loudly. I was speaking in my normal voice, on a bus quiet enough to rival a library.
“Actually, this is me talking loudly. Just so you can tell,” I retorted, even louder this time. I did not swear, threaten, or get up.
“As if it’s all that important.” Clearly, she was regarding me as some teenage idiot prattling idly to her boyfriend on her cell phone, gossiping nonsensically about this and that. Looks are deceiving. She should have learned already in her long life to never take anything at face value.
And I raged, speaking to her as if I were scolding a student for extraordinary misconduct, “Yeah, actually it is important. This is about my life. Not your life. And if you were actually listening as you clearly indicated you could have been by the volume of my voice, you would know what I was talking about. But no, you don’t, because it’s all about you.” She didn’t have anything else to say. Her body language indicated she was terrified, as she became smaller, and smaller in the corner of her seat.
Meanwhile, C.S. was in my earpiece talking me off the ledge. “Stop talking. Ignore her. Just stop talking to her,” he repeated.
I got home, and we were fixing dinner. He said to me, “I didn’t tell you to back off because I thought it was the right thing to do. I was sitting there, listening to this, thinking to myself, ‘What would I do if someone fired their mouth off to me after a bad day?’ And I thought, ‘I’d probably punch her in the face.’ Or at least, I’d want to. I wasn’t about to bail you out of jail tonight.”
The thing was, physical violence didn’t occur to me until I was already home, ranting about that scene with C.S. I said to him, “Her posture indicated that she was actually afraid of me. She should have been. She clearly didn’t know who she was dealing with.”
I continued, “I’m going to go ahead and assume that she is near retirement age, by the greys in her hair, and likely had to stay late at work, in a job she hates, because I’ve never seen her on that bus before. She had a bad day, was irritated, and was looking for someone to take it out on. So, she is irritated by what looks like easy prey. I hope she learned her lesson.”
After a few days of mulling this over, I realized what the click was. I perceived her as a bully. She matched multiple descriptions of my personal definition of a bully. Clearly, she didn’t live in my lower-class neighborhood, because she was not even close to gathering her belongings for departure. In all likelihood, she was riding to the Park N Ride two townships over, so she could drive the hill to the well-to-do part of town. Match number one, someone with higher socioeconomic standing. Match number two, she was older than me. She had a sense of entitlement, as if I had to do what she said, just because she felt a certain way. Match number three, some kind of social standing, or concept of authority.
Three strikes, you’re out. I fought back. Like I’ve been wanting to do my whole life. And guess what? I won.
Unfortunately, it took being severely unhinged to do it.