What I Haven't Got

Winter's change is the cruelest of all, for me. It is frozen and dark and offers no glimmers of hope, except those that twinkle reflecting off the frozen tundra, mirages in the desert of our lives holding out the distance sparkle of solace where the reality is that there is none to be had, and it is cold, and there is a long way to go before there will be warm, golden light.

Everyone is writing their end of the year posts this week. The best books they've read, the coolest places they've traveled to, the best pictures they've taken, the best goals they can think of for themselves in 2013 - this is the week that pretty much everyone looks in the rear view mirror, checks their blind spot, and changes lanes along the highway of their lives. People woke up on Tuesday - maybe refreshed, maybe hungover, maybe pregnant, and stared down a new day and a new year with the determination to do/be/write/love/act better.

More. Bigger. Differently. Something. 

These are the moments for which I hold my breath and wait for time to pass. These are the days I pray for forgetfulness or distraction. These are the times I wish I wasn't, and didn't, and won't. 

My year isn't ending yet. My year ends on January 7th when my entire world did. It ends again on January 25th, when the new house of cards I'd spent 17 years meticulously building up came crashing down. My year isn't restarting yet.  It begins anew on January 9th, just like it has every year since 1992 when I was shoved headfirst through an airplane jetway and into a brand new life. 

January marks the days of my mother - the day I lost her, and the day I left her forever. January marks the day I lost my husband and decided in my heart, if not my head, to leave him forever, too. January is not the month I reset or recharge or realigned; it is the month I die over and over again. January is a month of resignation, of giving in - letting go and letting whatever the hell will make this easier

...

But I am trying to change that. 

This year will be the first calendar year that I live start to finish intentionally, for myself, not in a way that I feel like someone else is making me live but in the way that I chose to live. I ended this year entirely too far over the edge of the precipice to let anyone pull me back into that old cycle, that old life that I keep setting myself up to live through and die from over and over again.  

I'm learning - no, I've always known, I'm trying to accept - how much of everything that has transpired is my own fault. I didn't make my husband drink-and-everything-that-comes-with-it, but he certainly didn't make me stay, either. I perceive requirements that don't always actually exist and customize my life around them, because I am a highly skilled, professionally groomed enabler, and that is what we do best. I've been so afraid of change that I found a near exact replica of my relationship with my mother and entered into a legally binding, contractual, lifetime relationship with it. 

Every January I mourn these losses that are in fact gifts. Twice in my life I have held my nose and stood tippy-toes-over a precipice, waiting and hoping for something, someone, god will anything just come shove me over? because I certainly have never had the courage to leap on my own accord. Twice in my life I have been given exactly that which I have wished for. 

And it is a gift. These weights I cling to are actually disguised wings. I just have to figure out how to use them to fly.

Day Fourteen

When I was a very little girl, smaller than my daughter is now, we lived in a house made of stucco and mud. Inside that tiny house (an apartment, really, with two stories) we had a very, very small kitchen. To me, it seemed so big - I could never reach the ice box, or the high shelves where our parents kept the chocolate syrup - but to them it was a cruel joke played on poor people who could ask for nothing better. 

Two grown adults couldn't fit side-by-side in our kitchen. It was like a galley kitchen on a Barbie Dream Yacht. It had avocado green linoleum countertops and an avocado green rotary phone to match. Over the sink was a florescent light bulb, one of those long ones you pulled a little chain to turn on, like under the hood of an oven a million years ago, when I was a child. 

My father worked the swing shift at the steel factor a mile or two up the road from our house (if I am not mistaken, it is one of the few functional steel mills left on the eastern seaboard) (and the reason everyone from Claymont, DE is going to die of some very horrible lung disease someday). Some nights, he would get home at what felt like 3,729 am to a little girl not old enough to gauge time after the sun went down. I would hear his key in open the door, the dog greet him, his boots and coat come off, and all the while I'd be creaking my way down the old, wooden stairs of our home, trying to catch of glimpse of Ed before Dad noticed me in pigtails and nightgowns, peeking my poofy eyes through the spindles of the banister. 

He'd call me down and we'd go into that tiny huge kitchen together, just the two of us, and he'd plop me up on the cold, green linoleum. He always let me pull the chain on the light over the sink, and we'd listen in silence as it hummed itself awake, then bolted into the moment with a crackle. 

I would watch him wash his hands under flickering blue lights and scalding hot water, scrubbing 8, 10, 12 hours of black soot off his skin and his nails with Lava soap. It took what felt like forever, but was probably only minutes, for him to scrub away layer after layer of steel plate or bearing or block or whatever they made all day in the place that pumped the black smoke into the air. He scrubbed and rinsed and we talked about our days. Sometimes he would tell me silly stories, and sometimes he would let me wash my new-person hands with that Lava soap. 

I remember how it stung, but I wanted to be tough and brave like my daddy, so I washed with it anyway. When we were all done, he'd pat my hands dry, rub them with lotion, make me a little chocolate milk with the secret stash of Hershey's syrup way up high in the cabinet I never reached, and then tuck me into bed. 

This is my single greatest memory of my entire existence. 

This is also the same man who regularly laid my brother and I out naked over the edge our our bed and beat us with leather and metal until the skin tore away from our flesh. 

And this is why I can't be too hard on myself when I sit here, having infrequent and faint feeling like I miss parts of my husband, like his stupid jokes or the way he shaves his face, even though when the phone rang on Saturday and it was the number of the rehab center I had the same feeling just above my stomach and below my heart where the terror of the sound of my father walking through the door at not-3,729-am lived. 

I learned to compartmentalize. I learned that was able, if I wanted it badly enough, to love someone so much for what was good in them while at that very same moment, being absolutely terrified of every single way they were probably going to kill a part of me the next day. 

And this is how I ended up with an alcoholic, though neither of my parents ever really drank. I actually hate drunk people, and hate being drunk myself, and yet I worked in bars for 16 years and married an alcoholic because I learned before I was old enough to read a standard clock that what you love and cherish with all of your being is also what is guaranteed to hurt you in ways you could never fathom, no matter what you do to stop it. 

Day Six, Maybe Seven.

I spent the nine and a half weeks leading up to this point waiting to get here. All I had to do was get him to rehab; the rest could sort itself out later. Just get him to rehab. Baby steps on the bus. 

And then he left for rehab and that first day was like magic. I did it. I got him to rehab. I was quiet and calm and patient and as kind as I could be for nine and a half weeks and he went to rehab. 

And then it was later. And then I had to sort the rest out. 

I couldn't unclench my jaw for five, maybe six days. My face felt like I'd taken a sledgehammer to it. It took me 90 minutes to write a two-paragraph email for work. I washed the dishes every other day, and I called every single person I haven't been able to call in nine and a half weeks and I talkedandtalkedandtalkedandtalkedandtalked. 

I don't think I was doing okay. 

I didn't have insurance for the past year because he'd lost the job he's had as long as we've had children, and I don't even know why that happened, he still hasn't told me...but I can guess. When he took the new job, and an I-can't-even-talk-about-it-pay cut, covering all of us was just flat-out too expensive, so we just covered him and the kids. Thank god my vagina had decided to rip in half when it did, man. 

So I've been off my anxiety meds for a little over a year now, which is ok, actually, eh 80% of the time. I have an awesome case of PTSD, but I don't have it all the time, you know? It comes, it goes. I manage it when it comes, and I celebrate when it goes.

Of course, my PTSD comes from child abuse and attachment exploitation, which is exactly why I ended up with an alcoholic even though neither of my parents ever drank. My husband allows me to perpetuate my at-risk dependency into my adult life - because that's exactly what I want to do, keep being a broken, bloodied six year old for the rest of my life. 

But then I got this job, this really awesome amazing Joseph-and-the-Technocolor-Dream Job, and now? I'm not totally reliant on him anymore (later we'll talk about why that fact is in no way disconnected with current events.) Now, I can haz the insurance. Now, I can go to the doctor. 

By the time I sat on the exam table, I was talking so fast, even I couldn't understand what I was saying. It's called Pressured Speech, and there is not one single thing I can do to make it stop. It's typically a bipolar thing or a schizophrenic thing but sometimes when people hit extreme anxiety, it happens to them. It happens to me whenever I max out. It hurts because you can't stop talking and you can't slow your talking and so you don't get quite enough air in your lungs and you kind of suffocate yourself a little. My doctor was like, WHOA, WOMAN and I was like yesiknowthishasbeengoingonforaweekbutitsworserightnowbecauseijustgotoffthephonewith
rehabandthelaterthatithoughtwaslaterisactuallyallstartingtohappennowandcanyouhelpme?

And help me, he did. He gave me a maintenance pill that will keep my anxiety levels down and help stop the physical pain that my kind of anxiety creates in my face and back, and then he gave me Xanax for emergencies. Xanax really is the epi-pen for anxiety, isn't it?

Everything. Just. Stopped.

I sat on my couch Friday night and listened. Listening is a really hard thing to do when you've lived your entire life trying to control a whole bunch of shit you have absolutely no control over. I listened to my kids play, I listened to their friends shriek, I listened to to popcorn pop and the birds chirp. Later that night I laid in my bed, staring at the ceiling fan, and I had that same feeling you have three minutes after you have the best sex of your en.tire.life. I tried to call a friend to talk, and I couldn't talk

Faster.

Than.

This.

Of course, it's all leveling out now. I don't have that zingy euphoria anymore, which I really think mostly came from the fact that my jaw could open entirely and I could breath allll the way in. Oxygen is totally underrated, yo. 

Last night, I laid down on the couch at 7pm, just for a minute while the boys played their video games, and I woke up at 6am. I slept - for the first time in months. More importantly, I woke up for the first time in months unafraid of what I was waking up to. 

All of that stuff that I put off sorting out until later? It's later. And I'm ready. Ish. 

Day Three

When you go to alanon, they warn you that every time your qualifier relapses, it will be worse, and if you choose to stick around you'll need to brace for that. What they forget to tell you is that every time they bottom out, it will be worse. They don't tell you that bottom is verb, not a noun, or that "rock" is subjective and prone to change without much, of any, notice. 

Every time he bottoms out, I think it has to be the rock bottom bottom out because it simply can't get worse than it did *this* time. I think nothing can be worse than months of jail, nothing could affect him more than losing his family, that there is no punishment worse than losing a job of 11 years, that driving every single person out of his life must be the final straw...but what I forget is that, for him, there is nothing at all worse than not having vodka in his veins. 

Sobriety is his rock bottom. 

Ten weeks ago tonight, he hit rock bottom. 

Ten weeks ago, he walked in the door -13 hours after he walked out of it, 11 hours after he blacked out drunk in the middle of his work day - stone-cold sober and, for the first time in the 17 years I have known him, said he had a drinking problem. He lost ten hours, his car, his job, and himself that day. I am trying to decide if he lost me, too. 

He's been gone for three days of the three weeks that he'll spend at rehab, and while I haven't remembered how to make my jaw unclench itself just yet, I am reveling in the quiet solitude left in his wake. I forgot what silence sounded like. I forgot what it was like to be able to make phone calls. I forgot what it was like to be able to leave, and not worry about what was going to happen while I was gone. I forgot what is was like to let myself feel anything at all, and beyond this raging headache and the throbbing in my jaws I think there is something. 

She Runs Guns

I am really very good at not talking about things. This is a grossly counterproductive character trait for a blogger. 

Everything and nothing is happening with my husband and until I get to the place where I have even a singular answer, I don't know how to talk about any of it. Besides, he'll read this. He read everything the last time this happened and that instigated an international war.

I am mindful of the mines in my path.

And so I'm doing anything else but dealing with all of this inside of myself. Part of that is good: it's detaching, it's letting go, it's acknowledging that my life can and will continue even if his has come to a screeching hault. Part of that is not good, however: it's denying, it's avoiding, it's getting all worked up over bacon and cupcakes because I can't let myself get all worked up about this. 

Yes, I spent 500 words and countless hours over at my foodish blog on Babble defending my utter disdain for the common cupcake, and then I'm not even going to tell you how many nights I dumped into researching every single way the world at large has wronged us through bacon

Did you know that there is bacon flavoured personal lubricant? This is actually a thing, people.

I also got the hell out of Dodge for a minute, which was way more helpful than I ever thought it could be. I am, by nature, a runner. I run away from that which hurts me, and so far, it's a trait that has served me decently well in life. I ran from my mother 20 years ago, I ran from my husband five years ago, and I run away from every single person whom I love and cannot be with. (Ask my best friend Molly sometime. She'll tell you all about my ability to disappear in plain sight.)

It's a crappy coping mechanism, but it's mine. I let time handle the impossible business of healing what is otherwise incurable, and I convince myself the scars that will never heal, have. 

But it was pointed out to me a few weeks ago by someone much smarter than I am that I have started running towards my life, rather than away from it, and those words have sat right here on my shoulder, whispering into my ear, where my Abandonment Issue Angel used to sit telling me to just gogogogo

So I went to Blissdom, which at first glance seemed to me like I was running away from my problems but, I realized after, was me running towards the people I'm going to need to help me deal with them moving forward. 

I was terrified to leave home for three days with him being 3 1/2 weeks dry, because if I did, I would be relinquishing control of what could happen in my absence. I almost did stay home, in fact, but that Towards on my shoulder kept telling me to get a move on, already...and so I went. 

And everything was fine. I had unapologetic fun. I went to bed at 9:30pm my first night there because I have forgotten how to sleep these past four weeks. I went to bed at 2:30am my last night there because I had forgotten how to get silly drunk with my friends on stairs these past five years. 

And I talked. I talked to a lot of people about the things that I am not ready to talk about here, and it helped. I always forget how many people are willing to help you run your guns, if you only ask. I came back feeling a little bit lighter, a little bit more able to do the next thing that I have to do.

Even if I don't know what that is, exactly, just yet.