Sometimes when you least expect it, the air gets let out of the room. Like someone leached the color from the sun and knocked you to the floor. I’m left gasping and wondering how dark the bruises on my knees will be from the landing. Life isn’t fair. It isn't even polite about it. How we handle these times...how we grab the rail and drag ourselves up, frayed robe soaking in the tears. Heave a shuddered breath. And then another.
How we do this, is the ink of us...writing our story.
I work. Utterly cliché, I realize this; but when the world has fallen off its axis, this is how I cope. My emotional realm is a minefield somehow tacked together with spider webbing, treacherously fragile and perilous to enter. And thus, in the name of self-preservation, I pick up a hammer. Lug the ladder to the second floor. Gallons of paint and three trips to Home Depot later, the bedroom has been refinished. Stenciling added, wrought iron hung, the fireplace in it given a face lift.
Exhaustion temporarily erases memories.
The next day it begins again. Only now in my studio. Rip apart the desk and a hundred times down the stairs it seems, to haul its broken pieces to the curb. Halfway through I realize I have streaks of dust and grime smeared across my dampened cheeks. I scrape at them angrily with the rag I used to wipe the sink, adding green paint to the mess. Everything is a mess.
I don’t answer the phone. I know that I push everyone as far away as I can, hiding the ache. I run from friends, family...even strangers. I hide behind closed doors and glib comments. Texts that end in “lol.”
I press an ice-pack to my swollen eyes before the boys come through the door. Again. Wash my hands and put cookies on a plate for them to have with homework. Cookies can distract anyone.
I find myself wondering as I spend hour upon hour working on my physical world; sweat and blood, blisters and a missing knuckle...do I somehow think this is going to mend the other? Is this the result of too many hours of home improvement television? Do we really believe that a new kitchen can restore a marriage? A backyard makeover can rebuild a relationship? The home-improvement movement has hit a jackpot of staggering proportions. It seems rather delusional. But then again, a delusion or two, or just a distraction to keep from thinking…could be worse.
Sometimes simply moving, moving at all, keeps us from the edge.
I don’t know how anyone else does this….gets through. My rational mind tells me there is another side to get to, waiting. My emotional one doubts.
In the meantime, I’ve ripped off two nails and scraped the skin from my knee.
Isn't "befuddlement" a smashing word? I attempt to use it at least twice a week....to befuddle someone. (hah, I slay me!) But in all seriousness, (can you tell this is going to be one of my more thought-provoking posts?) what the hell is up with avatars??
No, not the blue people in space with a glowing tree, "The Picture That Represents You." In a virtual world where you can be anyone--anyone at all--we have to choose a visual snap that all will forever associate with your name/persona/bewitching (or possibly vapid) expulsion of repartee and endowment. (ahem, I meant that as in "competency," but take it any way you wish)
From Facebook to Blogland, Mylife and Linkdn--there is a jpg file that embodies you. A mere casual glance and the Click-er has an idea already forming about the Click-ee... So why in the name of a monkey's ass (wow, does it have a name?) does one pick a GREMLIN?!
I AM NOT GOING TO HIRE YOU TO DO MY ROOF!
Men. Ah yes, the prismatic minefield that is the mind of a man. Torn between his masculinity (hence the shot of his maxed out Thunderbird with the old school leather seats and the fuzzy dice) and his professionalism (represented by the serene headshot sporting a checkered tie) all the while warring with the 15 yr-old that is perpetually present and screaming to use the two oranges with the banana in the middle. May the better man win. Which is the better? Well a simple rule of appropriateness should come into play here, please don't let Juvi pick out your Linkdn pic.
Women. *sigh* Here is the swamp of emotional slush that one must carefully wade through, hoping to find enough solid ground to stand on....only to have it change a week later. Do we choose a pic of our kids being cute? Being stupid? The one of the new baby or of hubby when he fell asleep with his face squelched against the window drooling? How about fluffy chicks or the cat or the neighbor's goat..... A flower? (does that mean she feels pretty?) A giant eye? (I think that means she's really deep) And while I am all for this artistic expressionism of the meaningful parts of our lives, (the neighbor's goat is questionable) I am so confused because I just want to see YOU.
I know there are privacy issues, (for those of you with your millions of zealous followers that scour your posts for references to grocery stores they will then haunt--I feel for you, really) and the rare case of tragedy that encroaches into reality--I firmly believe all stalkers/abusers of children and whatnot should be penned for life. Additionally we have the very shy, ah love--we all are just enjoying your BRAIN--that's the magic of this intangible world. I doubt we'll ever share a cup of tea, so release your inner Madonna. (strike a pose, there's nothing to it--vogue!) I also personally know people who--even in real life--would wear a costume every day; I admit--dressing up is fun. I do have a soft spot for fun. (I mean who doesn't want to deck out as Abby from NCIS and casually go to the office?) Perhaps it all boils down to not being judged for your appearance...but then, I'm left looking at a flower and wondering if you're a redhead too.
It would really make for an interesting thesis, don't you think? Some study researching the avatars we pick and correlating the personalities behind them. How they influence the business world (does a pony-tailed jogging suit Linkdn pic get more traffic than the brunette in glasses?) and virtual success. Besides, it's all smoke and mirrors in the long run, right? I certainly realize even as I'm smiling back at a handsome fellow on screen named Bert--that it could quite possibly be Bert's son....or cousin....locked up now for three years after smuggling opium into the country in his bum.
It's all conjectural, isn't it? I'm just as guilty--this is my fb pic:
However, the reality that my husband and neighbors see on a much more regular basis is this.
Me in drywall dust, stained hands, flecked with paint, smelling of sweat and sawdust.
It's a lazy Sunday evening. Dusk has settled, turning the dampness outside into a sea of diamonds refracting the prism of the streetlights. If I hold my breath I can hear the faint patter of rain on the window glass. I'm waiting for the kettle...listening to the gentle murmur of the radio that eternally plays on in my kitchen. I'm one of those people that rises to coffee and music; take them away and I function awkwardly. I spend hours alone in this room, roasting and basting; with flour on my nose and the scent of fresh basil and lemons lingering on my hands. I absorb the world through the voices that keep me company. As I stand lost in the swirl of my own thoughts, something slices through...a phrase captures me.
Quite a remarkable idea actually. It's a service...of sorts. The tag line of the site, "Bridging Mortality." It promises to pass on critical information should you perish unexpectedly. You create an account and begin the process of writing letters and attaching files. To your boss and co-workers--passwords and messages. For loved ones and family they suggest final wishes, bank account notices, love notes....and unspeakable secrets.
What would I have to say? If I knew I had only tonight, that dawn would bring my death. What letters would I write? To whom? What have I left unsaid? The crushing weight of conviction then....it dimmed the damp light outside. I looked down, tracing the pattern on the edge of my empty mug. More has remained unspoken than should.
The hours of the night left me time to examine this. Why has this compilation, this pocket of unvoiced thoughts and anger and sadness and love....why have I let it accumulate so? As I sifted through memories, I lingered over ones still tender. Life does indeed persist--despite our deepest wishes in the midst of anger, pain or devastation. Even perfect joy doesn't last no matter how I clutch and cling. The ocean of minutiae surges daily to engulf us in waves of living. We breath, we eat, we lust, we fight, we love...
And we leave so much unspoken.
This site, you set your "check-in" times--daily, weekly, once a year. If you miss one they will attempt to contact you. After a while, your "death switch" is triggered and the letters sent. Watching the light of the new day creep through the trees...I wonder how people decide to wait, to hold onto these things that are critical enough that they must endure past their final breath. I wish I could read some. What naked honesty must lie in the digital memory of that site. What insight into the soul of regret and repression. What could be so vital and yet simultaneously trivial that you can live with it unknown...but you cannot die that way.
The house is chilly. The sounds of early morning surround me...groggy children, the distant thud of a closing drawer, the dog wants out. I brush my teeth. Pushing the sleeves of my robe up, I wash the night from my skin. And I stand there. My reflection with no make-up, no gloss...no pretense. My hair tangled from slipping into bed with it damp, my faded freckles visible. Not as the world sees me, but how I truly am. I'm appalled that I have an unspoken file. I believe so strongly in honesty with love and truth with integrity....and I have been mute.
The gurgle of brewing coffee draws me downstairs, ruffling my eldest's hair as I pass. I will tell him that the point of the lecture--of every lecture--is just that I love him. I will write my best friend and confess how much I miss her. My mother, that I want to be closer. I will whisper into my husband's ear that petty arguments are never worth missing a single night of the bliss I find in his arms. Cherish my neighbors, appreciate more...confront.
Spring has come to my yard. I crave it. The rattle of barren branches in the large trees behind us begins to soften as tender buds blur the stark lines. I mourn a little in the fall as the leaves that shroud my private world drop to expose my kitchen window to curious eyes. Daily the slow creep of green blots out more and more of the sky, hides the neighbor's fences, the red doghouse within. Thank goodness for this blessing as with the increase of temperature, so the decrease in layers of my clothing. Come the humid heat of July and in this ancient assemblage of rafters and lathe that boasts of no artificial cooling--I shall near be naked. Such is summer.
I love the windows here. Huge. They usher in the golden light of morning with arms outstretched, coax the rain-scented breeze to enter, frame the stars like brilliant works of art. Decrepit, they are. Older than my children and likely me, they haven't sealed tight in a decade and clatter a bit when the wind is particularly determined. The wavy glass would make most replace them....I rather like the muted kaleidoscope of color they contain.
I have sheers on all but the front ones. Heavy drapes seem to drag at me, I've never been able to bear them. I need the light, to see the world I'm in. I know that means that in the dark of night with illumination inside, I may be seen. Ah well, the price I pay for sunshine draped across the walls. Sometimes I drive past our old apartment, the first floor of a monumental victorian home, complete with glass sunroom (my previous studio) and eight foot tall cherry pillars that encase a fireplace I believed to only exist in magazines. The crushing thing is now, whatever current tenant abides there, they've chosen to brick in the lovely windows with blinds twisted tight, walling off sun and air. Sealing away the glory of the magnolia tree just outside the kitchen, the azaleas across the way. Every single window is like some clouded cataract of a blind eye. Staring and seeing nothing. Even the sunroom is cloaked in silent opaque panels. How do you breathe in rooms devoid of sky and earth?
The everlasting quest for privacy. Yet here you and I are, sharing deeper things than mere windows reveal.
It's funny as we track our celebrities, investigate our politicians, we've come to accept some invasions of privacy. The recent cellphone hacking has left the bitter tang of blood in our mouths; while in the same moment I cannot help amazement at the mass of tweeted daily minutia, revealing so much about private worlds. Who had lunch with who, where...and damn, I even know what salad dressing they like. We seem to publish ourselves quite boldly here in the virtual world. I wonder how much of this is true disclosure versus distraction. Or worse, delusion. As if 200 people knowing what you had for lunch means you're not about to lose your job...the house...the marriage.
I wonder if privacy helps with pain. Or compounds it. I am very reserved about discussing things that hurt me. Most of the time simply because I love the hurter. Despite all. Isn't that the case most often? The ones we love the deepest, they wield the sharpest knives. Spouses berating each other, children railing at parents, coworker rants, how do they not consider that these previously private matters in our society--privacy which allowed for healing and moving on--once made public....are like acid? They eat away at the very fabric of life, the sustaining parts. While it may feel grand to have eighty 'likes' and "attaboys"....when the storm has passed, you're still there. Your school chum three states away is just buying laundry soap and eggs and has utterly forgotten your situation.
But your partner hasn't.
And yet.....as the tears silently slip down my cheeks, the darkness the only witness...is this better? We're supposed to be wiser with age, more together. I'm not sure I believe that anymore.
Spring is here. I'm so glad the honeysuckle is stealing up the tree outside the dining room. Wrapping tendrils of ivy love about the trunk, spilling delicious blooms into the corner of my world. Soon I won't be able to see the porch next door. And they not me. If I want to sip whiskey and weep till dawn, I can.
It's funny how a casual conversation can lead down roads one completely does not anticipate. Theoretically this can be thrilling....sometimes horrifying, and often in my case, linger for days like a kettle of soup on the back burner of an old dingy stove. It sits there, simmering. The bubble and splatter a hiss behind my thoughts, dripping through my consciousness, marring the ordered harmony I'm striving for.
Thus a recent afternoon and a discussion of roles. Ah now, I can nearly feel you pull back from the screen, such treacherous ground I broach. Responsibilities and chores and territory and earning potential. Parents, children, lovers and loners...who does what and when but perhaps most importantly, why.
It was a long talk. Hours that meandered the way true friendship does, through tears and laughter, swearing that would shock the non-present children. Sighs. The world isn't as neat as it used to be, it seems. I fear this may have more to do with my age than anything else, but it unsettles me. We covered marriage and lack of sleep and sisters. Easter fiascos, financial pressure....and I became suddenly aware that the word "should" was inhabiting nearly every sentence.
"I know, I should do it because..." "I shouldn't get angry...." "Maybe I should..."
And I paused. Who wrote the shoulds? Don't get me wrong, within the should lies the foundational difference between the mature and the idiot. Somewhere in the process of "you should brush your teeth" you begin to want to, right? (the benefits of such action are appreciated by yourself as well as the people around you) And though going to work is a choice--you should. Well, if you want to eat, that is. But rather than a should, I think that is more just one of life's equations, the reality that is. (one plus one does indeed equal two)
But what of the shoulds that haunt us. I should want to hug her. I should be happy with this. I shouldn't be upset about that. Where the hell did these shoulds come from? Is it my conscience? The voice of my mother perhaps? Society? (you shouldn't make eye contact with the attractive man checking you out, you're married) The neighbors? (you should mow your lawn) Co-workers? (you shouldn't say that) The old lady at the bank? (you should wear a bra when you're depositing checks) I feel as if this mountain of shoulds is towering over us, its shadow a dark thing.
Could this be why anti-depressants are now the third most commonly prescribed drug? Are we twisting ourselves into knots of flesh and sadness, attempting to accommodate the shoulds? I've listened to so many people in the last five years or so, who feel broken. Disappointed. Frustrated. They somehow aren't living up to everyone's expectations, even their own.
It's time we stood our ground, grappled with the shoulds. Instead of "you shouldn't be mad over that," how about, "well, dammit. I am." So deal with the mad. Admit the mad. Bring it out in the light and parade it around the room. Cramming it under the blanket of should, squashing it deep inside, is battering our souls. Are we loving like many go to church? Because they should? What happened to wanting? If you no longer want to....perhaps you need to face why rather than just continuing to do what you should. Wanting isn't everything, but it is a crucial ingredient in true joy.
How strange in this modern era filled with gender-neutral fashion, stay-at-home dads, and the cracking of the glass ceiling...we still cannot seem to manage the shoulds. They scrape our minds and cling to our backs. Do you recognize the shoulds that chase you? I am going to challenge mine. I've had enough of them.
I have absolutely no intention of ever wearing a bra unless I want to.
Recently I've read several blogs--hmmmmm....perhaps I should qualify that as "blog-operas," that have left some interesting questions floating about. The topic at hand? Reality.
Tangible, tasteable, pungent reality.
Scene One: The Offense. Random musings, memories or opinions that apparently clash with another's such stuff.
Scene Two: The Comment. Sarcasm and contempt; snarkiness penned and then keyed and sent through the virtual mist.
Scene Three: DRAMA. So the comment is commented upon and then the favor is returned and there is deletion and right on cue, enter another post guised as a ravishing rant spouting fountains about truth and reality...
Truth? Reality? Exactly how do we define such concepts in this vague and anonymous dimension? Glowing text on a blackened screen stares blankly at me. No face, no warmth, no pulse. Who's there....on the other side of this electric box that keeps me company in the night?
How do I know you're real? That your children are more than figments of a detailed imagination? That the attractive face on your profile isn't a download from freepix.com? And the poetry you post really isn't stolen from the journal of an ancient Aunt, long passed from this life? How do I know?
It's strange...this intangible world of words. One might assume it to be harmless, yet it evidences not. You need only to read the pained and angry sentiments glaring on the screen to catch the fragrance of raw human emotion. How does a total stranger hurt us with their unattached perspective on our lives? How do we open ourselves--at times with intimacy so deep and bloody, the gelatinous marrow of our souls pasted up for complete strangers to stumble upon and dissect.
What drives the dissected....what drives the dissector? Loneliness? Power? The need to be heard? Do we seek virtual relationships that are decidedly two dimensional, to escape the messy 3-D ones that leave endless cracker crumbs in our beds? Our lives....our minds?
This is so clean.
Or is it?
The iron tang of betrayal is found on some screens, generous support and warmth on others. Outrage and justification, hope and hilarity. Loquacious dialog, patronizing prose...romance and treachery, beauty and lust. If you could distill a human soul, remove it from the body with no physical manifestation at all, perhaps we'd find ourselves here, with a blinking cursor and a blank screen.
If our lives were nothing more than a compilation of our writing--comments and questions and stories; memories, dreams....fears. What would your novel be titled? Would your neighbors recognize it? Your spouse...your children?
Those that know the "real" you.
Blogland is amazing. It's taught me much about myself. Honesty about why I write....what I discover in these connections, how I've come to quite literally care about people that I'm not certain even exist.
I think I've found it has more to do with me....than you.