Reminiscing

It’s rough starting over again. New group of people, new job, new city. You start off thinking, great, I’m starting over again! These people know nothing about me! None of the crap I’ve gone through, the trauma, the drama, the angst. They know none of the extremely stupidly embarrassing mistakes and bad calls, none of the struggles. But then, I’m showing some pictures of Colorado to my new coworkers, and I realize they know nothing of the beauty of my life, none of the things I’ve seen, the air I’ve smelled, the trails I’ve walked- and I mean that figuratively as much as realistically.

I showed them benign pictures of a camping trip, which didn’t include the maiden camping trip I’d done solo the weekend before that one. And, of course, it sent me back.

The boys were with their dad, so I took a 2 hour drive to Larkspur, Colorado, for the Renaissance fair. It was pretty unexciting. Spent no money, and absolutely did not want to go home. I wanted to go anywhere but home. So instead of heading east onto the road that would bring me back to the highway, I went west, and drove, and drove, and drove. In Colorado, driving was therapeutic. The act of driving, the journey, and the endpoint. I ended up who knows where in the mountains, on a steep, downward sloping, extremely curvy gravel road with only a 1/4 tank of gas.  Did I mention I did not want to go home? But, on a 1/4 tank of gas with no cell phone signal, it was unfortunately the responsible, intelligent thing to do. Reluctantly, I turned around and headed back. On the way back, I spotted a sign for a campground. Did I mention…….? I turned down the road and headed in. Long gravel road, nobody around. It was sunday evening, so by then, the campground was empty. I started at the back, figuring that would be the larger, more secluded sites. Walked around, dejected because the sites were fairly crappy. Homeward bound, it was. But then I parked at the 2nd site of the campground, somewhat near the host’s site, and walked up a narrow foot path into the trees and stopped atop a bit of a treed plateau overlooking where I’d parked. I was filled with that ‘need to make a quick decision’ tingle. I walked back down and walked into an open valley and the view of the national forest around me was all it took. I was sleeping there that night.

I raced back to Lakewood (took all of 30 minutes, it turned out), stopped at a grocery store for some quick supplies, raced home and grabbed the dog, packed the car (as it so happens, I had all my camping stuff sorted, packed, and ready to go- not for just such a situation), and raced back. By then it was 8pm. Got my brand new never used yet tent hitched and outfitted with no problem by 9, just as the last of the light was gone. Cooked and ate dinner in pure, nearly pitch black dark except for the gorgeous, comforting full moon behind me.

I think the foxes woke us at first light. But I stepped out of my tent at 6am or something, and everything was covered in fog. It was astoundingly beautiful. Haunting. Perfect. You know that stillness so many people try to detail? That was it, and I basked in it, soaked it all in.

My poor dog- her first time camping, sleeping somewhat outside all night. It was cold, and she got eaten alive by mosquitoes. (Now, though, she sees me packing the car and goes wild- even drove to South Dakota with the boys and me to see Mt. Rushmore in July).

I tend to tangent off. Sorry. But look how cute! She has her own sleeping bag and gear.

I ate breakfast and we took a long hike. Saw a deer and her fawn. Saw the rear end of a mountain lion as it leaped off the trail 10 feet ahead of us as it was probably stalking said fawn and mother. On the rest of that hike (4-6 miles, I think?), the geography kept changing. It was like every step took me somewhere else. Sometimes I was in the shadow of a thick forest, then I’d be on the very top of open mountain, then in the center of a thatch of wild roses- with the smell so intoxicatingly thick it stunned me still. Evergreens to birch to aspen to nothing. Again, I kept wanting to go on and on and on. That was the best overnight and a day.

I was talking about one-dimensional things and showing my coworkers other pictures, when all I wanted was to tell them about that day, that meandering drive in the middle of the mountains, in the middle of nowhere, where I was able to find a place to throw my tent together and sleep outside.

Tonight, I dug up those pictures and had to write. It’s my only way to go back. And now I’m torn. I’m back to my beginning, back to the city of my birth, and I’m now, finally, lamenting Colorado. Why couldn’t my years there have all been as perfect as that day? Why did everything have to become so wrong?

Query, attempt 1000

Is love enough to bring two people back together after abandonment, after the loss of a child, after so many other wounds were given the opportunity to occur?

L wakes up on the blaring Hills of her exiled mother’s homeland and doesn’t care if love has the power to take away the pain and torment of the last few years. She fights every pull, every arguement of reason that tells her to find Him, the man she’d fallen in love with on a beach worlds away, the man who’d fulfilled his promise years too late and brought her here. In so doing, she sets off on a journey that binds her closer to her parents’ home, to the people and land they loved, to the dragons that had raised her mother as their own. Who will she turn to, though, when the reason her mother was exiled finds and attacks her, and brings all her traumas to light?

Rage

I just finished reading Rage, by Julie Peters. My co-worker gave it to me, as Julie is a friend of a friend, in a way. I attempted to attend her book signing a couple weeks ago, but got so ridiculously, embarrassingly lost, I pretty much missed it. I entirely missed it.

Rage was a difficult read; however, seeing the internal attraction of a lesbian relationship, was interesting and somewhat enlightening, like a big “Oh. Ok.” But I kinda disliked the main character and her absolute desperation and neediness- though the psychological reasons were perfectly plausible. It was just really hard to follow her into this abusive, destructive relationship while the warning signs screaming and strobe-lighting all around her seem so blatantly obvious. I told my co-worker I wanted to slap her- in a Dear God, wake the hell up! sort of way.

But, it’s a young adult novel, and therefore the main character’s portrayal is necessary. I’ve certainly had several friends in high school that allowed or did whatever their boyfriends demanded or wanted, and I have a stepdaughter I worry about.

And yet……

It struck a personal chord. A very personal chord.

It is disturbingly easy to sacrifice yourself and all you respect and cherish about yourself for the sake of someone else. All the excuses I had made for him- six plus years of excuses. He’s depressed. His dad just died. He’s upset. We just moved. Just had a baby. Left the state. He misses his kids. We just moved back. It’s just a phase. A mid-life crisis. I’m doing something wrong. If I allow this, if I do this, if I change this, if I move here, stop doing this, if I if I if I if I……then he’ll be happy again and it’ll all be fine. We can work through it.

Six years of derision, insults, accusations, embarrassment, fear. I never knew which personality I’d walk home to, or wake up to, or fall asleep beside. At his worst, I was too afraid to sleep. I’d wait until he left for work. Am I a cold-hearted bitch or the love of his life today? Am I sleeping with my boss, my boss’ husband? Is the new job with only female employees a front for prostitution, have I connived total strangers to cover for me, or no, I’m gay as I have to be having an affair with someone?

Is it safe to go to the grocery store, the flea market, a drive, anywhere, or is he going to walk up to complete unknowns again and start telling them how awful it is to be married to me, how I’ve made his life miserable and how no man should ever get married and endure the suffering he has- after which he’ll come running back to me, absolutely beaming, and wrap his arms around me, suddenly affectionate as though he’d told them something completely different.

On my way out the door to go to work- on the days he was too angry to remind me not to bring anyone home later- he’d tell my boys how I’d prefer to be at work rather than spend time with them.

Everything was a threat to him. Putting on makeup. Fixing my hair. Changing my radio station. Understanding and using a computer. Reading a book. Writing a book. Playing with my boys. Talking to co-workers. Hiking with friends. Volunteering at a reptile rescue- especially if I wore camouflage pants and tattered converses……Needing and then buying clothes. There was never any rhyme or reason to it.

I wished that he would hit me. That’s easy to acknowledge as unacceptable. Easy to explain: I left because he hit me. Everyone would understand that. How do you explain, I left because my inner voice told me to? I left because he says mean hurtful things? I remember standing in my Wisconsin house holding my infant second son and knowing I shouldn’t follow him back here, that things were going to get bad, but not having anywhere to go, not having any reason to rationalize my instincts, not having anyone who’d assist me. And it did get bad. It got very, un-anticipatedly bad. How do you explain emotional warfare?

And I was raised in that.

I was so absolutely determined not to uphold the statement that all women marry their fathers- for good or bad. I was raised in that, and yet it took me six years to go, OMG, this is emotional abuse. That’s what’s wrong. It’s not a phase, not a mid-life crisis, and it has absolutely nothing to do with me. I can’t fix it, it’ll never stop, and it’s never going to get any better.

It was my book, which was my sanity and escape, that finally set off the ‘enough’ decision. I was writing about my character’s love interest and suddenly sat back and wondered, given the (good) way I see and portray men and how a true relationship works, why am I living this way? Why am I condemning myself to this?

For a few weeks after I told him I wanted a divorce, I use to sit at the top of the stairs after he went to bed, terrified he would do something to the kids because his mental state was always so scrambled, and even more so then. We went out for ice cream once. As we all had to live together, and for the sake of the boys, I was trying to prove we could do it civilly. And he aimed the van straight at a light pole- well, aimed it so the passenger side, where I was sitting, would have made a fatal collision- when I said that there was absolutely no way I was giving him another chance. He swerved at the last moment, and I never got in the car with him again. Though he then totaled two cars with the boys inside and was furious with me that I was more concerned about them than him.

I lost so much weight in those months. His hostility amplified and I became so depressed. I had no support system, no one to help me through it and encourage me. He went through the house and removed any picture that had me in it (there wasn’t many, as he would never take a picture of me). He told me I ruined his life and he wished he’d never married me, then beg and plead for me to give him another chance because he loved me so much. Then threaten me that if I left him, I’d be alone forever because no one would treat me as good as he did. Then tell me it’s all his fault and he accepts full responsibility, and not to worry because he explained everything to my stepchildren (his kids). Who now no longer talk to me.

That hurts so much, because I’d tried to leave him early on, but the thought of not having them in my life, of them not caring, kept me from doing so.

In a couple weeks, it’ll be my one year anniversary of freedom, and it’s been a year of deep, self-inflicted psychotherapy. I was horrified to realize how much I’d sacrificed, how much of myself I’d chipped away- the parts of me I was the most proud of . It’s been an entirely different emotional warfare- trying to piece myself back together. The one thing I didn’t want was to be stuck in the single mother trap- the two jobs and the lack of time. The one thing that continues to hammer away at me every time I drop the kids off at school and pick them up late at night, six days a week, is him telling them how I’d rather be at work than with them. If I die, if something happens to me today, is that the only thing they’ll remember? Who’s around to tell them different?

I’ve started dating again and it’s so, so hard. I want to run away from the attempt, just close up and say it’s not worth it, afraid of what I’ll get myself into. The same? Worse? My history’s not so good. My father. I dated once in high school, until it quickly became a controlling/obsessive/soon-to-be abusive situation. Then nothing till I met my ex. I am so scared that I’ll find that I’m doomed to this. Everyone around me is in a supportive, loving relationship, but what if I never know what it’s like. If I am only allowed to write about it.

A year without him and I’m still on guard. He’s been on his good personality lately, but it never lasts. It always, always cycles. The accusations still come out at the tiniest thing. He can’t accuse me of cheating anymore (though I wish to all things holy that I was the type of person who could cheat, as it would have made those hellish years so much more tolerable). But I’m still accused of being part of a conspiracy to ‘get him’, to take his kids away, to rob him of all his money, and other such things.

I closed Rage and set it down and this all  just started pouring out. It’s the first time I’ve ever been able to put it all into words and it was so, so difficult to relive and remember. I debated whether or not to blog it. Maybe it’s therapy. Maybe it’s a step forward and up. I sat in the dark and cried. I worried about who’d read it and what they’d think of me.

It’s 3:36am and I need to get up for work in a couple hours.

This is how you know a book is good. You may not like the characters, the story,  but if it makes you think, then it’s done its job. It it prevents someone from falling into that trap you’re warning about, then it’s even saved a life.

A Mercy

I began reading A Mercy, by Toni Morrison. I carried it around with me for weeks, and it also took me a couple weeks of seeing it at the grocery store to buy it. I saw Beloved, which was horrid in what was once so common. I generally don’t read anything detailing slavery. I know what happened, and know we need to remember, but I really, really don’t want the brutality taking root in my head where I can’t shake images or invisible people and their absolute helplessness and agony out.

A Mercy was pinned as a mother daughter thing, stemming from a horrible sacrifice the mother had to do. I can’t imagine motherhood, of all things, being stripped from you without a care. To have no control over the fate and welfare of your children, and know without any doubt whatsoever before they’re even born, that their life will be beyond nightmarish.

But the book goes deeper than just slavery, which is what drew me in completely. The sheer hypocrisy of humanity, of religion, of relationships between men and women- it was against the law to beat your wife after 9pm, unless you did it without anger and had good cause? If she’s not your wife, well, sucks for her. How devout Christians were only those who were greedy with lust over any torture, dismemberment, and execution, and only godless heathens had the audacity to bathe every day. How did we ever survive, and wipe out so many better civilizations? How did women ever survive? I remember staring in shock at the nuns all through grade school, feeling betrayed by them that they would preach how women are the root of evil because some unknown man wrote a book (the bible), and said Eve was humanity’s destruction, and poor stupid Adam was a victim.  Religion is a touchy thing, so I’ll leave off on that subject.

Toni Morrison’s manner of writing (for the main character) took a while to get into the flow of, but once I did, it was so exceptionally poetic. There’s barely any speaking, it’s all the internal dialogues of several key characters. As she’s won the Pulitzer and Nobel prizes, it gives me a little more hope for my own style, that my stories will find people who will flow directly into them. Especially as my underlying current is the same as hers: mothers and daughters, women and men and the disturbing back lashes that occur when the balance between those goes awry.

I am relieved that I don’t live in that period of time, but I’m not always sure we’ve advanced very far.

Crap

I took a walk today. Went to My Lake (if I like something, it becomes Mine, with a capital M). OK, I know it doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to the city, but oh well. It’s a pretty little place hidden behind the library, that’s become a sort of bird sanctuary. Lots of herons, geese, a variety of ducks I can’t name, my favorite red-winged black birds (we had them at the trailer). Boys and I found a snake once, and there’s a small area where the turtles come out to bask. Think we’re the only ones who know about it. They’re right there by the trail but no one ever pays attention when they’re walking. So sad. Why walk, if you’re not going to look? They’ve apparently reproduced since the last time I’ve come. Instead of one, then two turtles, there were seven today. Yellow-bellieds, like mine (Edgar).

I didn’t sleep well, and the first thought on my mind this morning was making a disclaimer on Authonomy. I know there’s tense shifts in my first chapter.  Because there ARE tense shifts.  She’s only intermittently interacting with the present. Otherwise, she’s drifting through her thoughts. Anyway, I didn’t. That would make me abrasive.  I’ll just sit here and growl and wait for someone who reads just to read, not because they want to rack up their points and get to the Editor’s Desk.

Maybe cutting my book was more traumatic than I’d thought. I woke just antsy this morning. I sat by a little pond set behind My Lake for awhile. Got off the bench, took off my shoes, crossed the trail and sat in the reeds by the bank. I crossed my legs and closed my eyes, and listened. Noone ever does that, either. I listened to the wind in the trees, how the leaves flapped against each other. I love that sound, but how do you describe it? I struggle with that. There were three tones of insects. I almost didn’t catch the third. I could hear the wind pushing at the water, and the ducks diving with their butts in the air as they hunted for whatever it is they eat.

I did the same by the turtles. Went off the trail and into the trees, sitting on the sloping dirt right in front of them. They kinda looked at me like What the hell? This mallard came inches from my feet, sifting through the shore, way too intent on eating to care about my purpose. Couldn’t relax, there. I’d passed a goose with an obviously broken wing, and it was really bothering me that there was no way I could help it. What if it needs to be amputated? What the hell happened to him? Winter’s coming, what will he do? He was isolated from the rest of the flock. What will happen to him?

I left after awhile, deciding I wasn’t isolated enough. I really need to get up higher and into the mountains before winter comes. Take a drive up to Estes, or more preferably Grand Lake. I miss that the most- the time to just get in the car and drive somewhere. Pack the kids, pack some food, and go. I’m planning my next run-away road trip already. Driving to Chicago was so perfect. I think there’s some gypsy blood in me somewhere. I just want to go.

L. Nahay's Blog

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