Monday, May 15, 2017

My Judas



I haven’t wanted to talk about it for awhile, truthfully, but it’s not done with me. It’s there, swirling, whirling, screaming. Repeating in my head, threatening to drive me to madness unless I express it quickly, and then I might be able to sleep. After all, as my elementary teachers would write on my report card amidst my dismal grades “Jane expresses herself well in writing.”

Having a ridiculously good memory about certain things can be a curse. Naturally, my memory hasn’t benefited me in any aspect that would be remotely helpful. Rather than cling to the educational experiences I wish it would, it likes to recall moments. Faces, places, experiences, emotions, intricacies, scents. The way the fog and film generated from these useless moments clog up my mind-space makes me long to Windex my brain.

But there he is. We are in the cottage I rented, and we are lying in bed in as the evening fades. The light glides into the bedroom as the sun sets, and creates rainbows from the stained glass that is installed above the bed. The rainbowed shadow hues illuminate his skin as he sleeps. I watch him breathing, his long, dark lashes splayed upon his cheeks, and think I have never seen a more beautiful male my entire existence. How fragile he looks at that moment, yet the strength that emanates from him is contradictory in a way that is both fascinating, and captivating. He sleeps deeply, he breathes easily. My fingers gently caress his check, my touch intentionally light as a butterfly’s wing, so not to disturb him.  At the touch he frowns a little, still sleeping. He shifts his entire body to the opposite side of the bed. I watch as he curls himself into an almost fetal position, and looks close to falling off the edge of the bed. Yet there he remains, tucked into that tiny space, almost as if he was protecting himself from someone hurting him…. because someone had. I slid closer to him, even though his back was to me, and continued my watch; as if my presence could battle what nested deep inside his mind, as if my love could negate any and all pain that imprisoned him.

I’ve only really been in love twice in my life. Although I give love very easily and have had many loves, there have been two types of love that were wholly reciprocal. The clich├ęd types of love that can move mountains, or destroy entire lives. If you don’t know the power of love can be quite destructive, then I insist you have never been loved. Or maybe I just keep rolling the dice and losing each and every time, so that’s the only type of love I recognize.

The next day, we walked around one of my favorite spots in the foothills, a group of religious mosaic grottos and rock sculptures clustered together in an outdoor environment that was serene in a way that I found healing. I hoped it would have the same effect upon him. We held hands as we viewed the sculptures. On my left hand, I wore a charm bracelet he had brought me. He had filled the locket portion of the bracelet with tiny little charms that were symbolic of me, of us. I took him to my favorite grotto, the one with the heart cut into the altar. I kneeled on the cold stone on prayed for him-for us. It’s funny how desperation can inspire the need for God more than anything. When I finally stood up, he gently took my arm, and slipped the charm bracelet off my wrist. He opened the locket, and fished out a tiny heart he had chosen for me, no bigger than a corn kernel. He snapped the locket back shut, and inserted the tiny heart in between the tiff rocks that created the mosaic part of the grotto. He said it would last forever, just as we would. He tilted my chin up, and sealed it with a kiss. I’m pretty sure the angel sculptures even wanted to barf at the syrup of the moment…but it was mine…and it was his…and we were each other’s.

We always had an innate connection, from the day we met in our high school algebra class. From the first moment of eye contact, when I caught him smiling at my fidgety fifteen-year old self, I had the strangest feeling of both being elated, and somehow transparent. We dated, it was a typical cutesy Romeo and Juliet story…bad boy, good girl. Star Valley crossed lovers, if you will. We had our puppy love/romance. But somehow it went deeper, and I think we both knew it. He ran. He ran far from me, and broke my disgustingly pure, innocent heart. He was really running from himself, and trying to find a remedy from pain that ran deeper than any teenager should have to experience. In my wholesome, stable nuclear family, naturally I could not relate to his world at all. He was light years ahead of me. I appropriately remained a child, as he became a man too soon.

As the time flew by, we moved through our collective spaces and tasted the bitter and sweet life had to offer in separate states, different worlds. Still, we stayed in touch. Around the ten-year mark of when we had last seen each other, he called me. We spoke on the phone happily, his Wife #1 was expecting their first child. Hearing his voice, it was as if no time had passed. Although the phone call was incredibly platonic, it was still meaningful.  Throughout the years I was always loyal to my partners, but somehow I knew in the back of my mind that he was there, in an untouchable part that no one else was allowed access to.  When his first marriage with Wife #1 failed a couple years after mine, I was genuinely sad for him. I had wanted a fairy tale story for him, since he had survived a number of horrific things., I felt it was almost owed to him. Despite all this, that portion in the back of my mind where he lived piped up that of course the marriage had failed. She wasn’t me. I reminded myself that this concept was ridiculous. We lived states away. It was an impossibility.

More time passed, and about four years ago, he was on his second marriage. I was between relationships, and we were talking on instant messenger. He confessed his second marriage wasn’t going well, and I wasn’t surprised. What little I had seen of Wife #2 had been discouraging. She didn’t look good as a human being… and she didn’t look good for him. They lost a child together, and he married her partially out of grief. I expressed my sympathy to him.  All at once, something washed over me. I’m a pretty dubious person. I question every damn thing I think or feel, and the world around me. But all at once, I knew something to my core. It was as obvious as air for breath, sunlight for photosynthesis, water for life. My fingers flew across the keyboard, interrupting the flow of our conversation. “There’s something I need to tell you. We’re not done yet, you and I. I don’t know when, I don’t know how. It makes no sense. But we aren’t done yet.” After I hit send, I stared in surprise at my own words-at my own certainty. What in the hell was I talking about? 

We started talking again last summer, this time on the phone. His second marriage officially had went belly up. Wife #2 was an atrocity – at a bare minimum she had borderline personality disorder, and had literally done her best to kill him. He and I spoke for hours about anything and everything, as we always had. We would converse late at night, when all the kids were tucked in, and both of us were off work. Eight hours into the phone conversation, I would notice the sun coming up, and knew I had to go to work with zero sleep. But I didn’t care. The whole situation was entirely illogical, and unreasonable. But I was happier than I had been in years. The night he told me he loved me…the first time in 18 years since the first time he uttered the words to me, I knew I was finally where I belonged, and this time we were toe to toe, both adults and ready.

And there we were in September. He had come to me in my state, and I had a plane ticket to his state the next month. It was a strange time, but a magical time. To have my past, present, and future finally woven together was incredible to me. The week we were together flew by too fast, in that cruel way happy times do.  The complications in his life added a weight to the situation that was less than ideal, but I couldn’t have cared less. Any time he and I locked eyes, I knew everything was going to be okay. How could it not? Fate had re-intertwined us, and how could it be so harsh as to separate us again?

I was looking for a house for us to buy locally. We weren’t sure of the specifics of the plan beyond a certain amount of time, but the initial one was for him to join me in my state for about a year, and then for us to relocate to his. I never thought I would have the courage to tackle buying a house on my own, but his faith in me was all the motivation I needed. Each night I would visit houses for sale, send him pictures and videos, and we’d discuss the possibilities. I had trepidation, but I believed in him. I believed in us. We both deserved this, and everything was going to be okay.

Until it wasn’t. I’ll never understand what happened. I have my theories, but they’re unimportant now. I live in a reality where I could theorize until I was blue in the face, but it would not change what was. What is. For weeks after he both gently and abrasively let me go, I clung to a stuffed animal from a dead friend (my brother Jason) when I tried to sleep at night. I figured maybe the dead friend could possibly intercede for me through the stuffed monkey. I told the stuffed primate in my arms everything. I was so consumed with grief that I didn’t give a damn that I was spilling my soul to an inanimate object. The pain was exquisitely excruciating.  I used to find inspiration in pain. This time, I felt nothing. There was nothing but the certainty that I would die alone. I felt like I was already on my way to dying, anyways.

I knew this wasn’t an option. I had a father who survived so many things, it would let him down if I gave up. I had a mother whom I had promised that I would never harm myself. I had a brother and sister in law who loved me. Most of all, I had a daughter who needed me. Death would have to come calling later. I’d have to find a way to live, even though I wasn’t thrilled with the prospect. I decided to move forward with buying a house. I had to have a reason to keep plowing through. I needed to have something to focus on.

The tiny, rehabbed 1920’s house became mine almost two months after he had left the state. The Christy Jo Lane house became a sanctuary to me, because I had found it shortly before he and I had ended. There had been no videos sent to him of this house, no pictures for his consideration. It was solely mine in every concept, in every plan. When the closing was finalized, I felt one brief moment of joy as I danced through the empty house one time to celebrate my first ownership of something substantial…and I had done it alone. I set forward to try and heal myself. I painted walls with Kleenex in one hand, a paint brush in the other, tears streaming down my face. I sanded cabinets with fury, as if I could light them afire and that would negate every moment, every look, every kiss. All the years, all the memories. I wanted it all to go.

But it didn’t, so I tried to wallow in it. I allowed myself tears, anger, sorrow, longing. Voices crept into my consciousness, the ones that are self-loathing, the ones that know how to play on my weakness. They hissed their words in unexpected moments. Finally, I had enough. I was removing cabinet handles, and out of nowhere, the flat tones began. “You are hideous, Jabba. You are unlovable. There is something wrong with you, and he came to his senses. You aren’t good at anything, and he finally saw it, just as they all eventually do. Why would you think this would be the exception, fat ass? Why did you think this was different? Did you really think he wanted a life with something like you? They never stay. They never do. You are the common denominator. Wanna know why? You are vile. You are vile. YOU ARE VILE.” I shook my head furiously, screamed in anger, screamed in emotional agony. I dropped my screwdriver, and picked up a nearby hammer. Gripping the handle with both hands trembling, I began to beat a 2x4. I screeched obscenities as I smacked the board with everything I did and didn’t have. I did not stop until I somehow cut myself on the back claw of the hammer. It wasn’t a deep wound at all, rather superficial despite the blood, yet I collapsed onto the floor as if I had been hit with a wrecking ball.  The tears came again, after all, crying was what I had become good at. I laid there and cried for a good while. Then I got back up and continued the cabinet handles.

I guess this is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that the house healed me. This is the part where the next door neighbor ends up being a single male, who swept me off my feet and made me forget everything about him. I am whole, and life is good. And then the credits roll. But it doesn’t quite work that way. You see, I’m broken. I say this without self-pity. I say this without trying to garner sympathy. I say this casually, almost as if I’m not even surprised by it. I was always so resilient before. Play a few Beyonce songs, drink a bottle of wine, move on, sister. There are plenty of jerks in the sea. But not this time. I have lost my other half, and this time it is forever. I’m just an empty body, carrying around a soul that has nothing left to give. 

“I’ve learned love is like a brick you can….build a house or sink a dead body.” -Lady Gaga, Judas

“But see that you get on. That's your job in this hard world, to keep your love alive and see that you get on, no matter what. Pull your act together and just go on.”
― Stephen KingThe Shining



  

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Things Better Left Unsent II: Then and Now


You know when you stop learning lessons? When you’re dead.

You know when you stop repeating the same mistakes? I don’t know.

I’m asking because I really want to know.

In the year of our lord 2007, I was in the midst of divorce and pregnant for that extra fun layer to add all kinds of complications to an already complicated situation. Suffice it to say, I was not doing so hot mentally. My depression and desperation escalated to the point where I was encouraged to seek out therapy.

Her name was Judy, and she was tall, blonde and beautiful. As in, the type how can I say this delicately…more alternative girls like myself tend to hate on sight. Judy was probably in her forties, and had the hair of Lady Godiva. She wore a sleeveless black dress and looked like she was more ready for a New York fashion show than to counsel the pregnant girl in front of her wearing maternity jeans and crocs.

My story came tumbling out, and Judy listened attentively. After I was done, she crossed her legs and leaned forward. Resting her hand upon her chin with her elbow on her knee, she said, “He’s not going to change.”

Apparently I had not told her everything she needed to know to understand him like I did. I continued, “But he’s just really temporarily terrified of becoming a father, I think, because of the abuse history in his own family. That’s why he’s behaving this way.”

She shook her head.

“And it’s partially my fault. I caused insecure feelings when I admitted to him that I was becoming close to a male coworker.”

She continued shaking her head.

“Then a psychiatrist put him on two different kinds of medication, and I think that really changed him.”

Judy stared at me kindly. “It’s not because of the medication that he’s acting this way. This is who he is. There are certain things you need to understand about him, about men, about life in general. You’re young, you’re pretty, you’re smart. You are going to become a mother. It’s time to consider yourself, and what’s ahead for you instead of what’s behind with him. Since you like to read, let me tell you about a book.”

Judy then recommended a self-help book to me, and I read it diligently. It was what I needed to know, and suddenly, I understood.  I understood the mistakes I had made previously in not only this relationship, but others. I learned the art of putting myself first.

For the last almost decade, I’ve been coasting along. Sure, I’ve had my share of relationship ups and downs, but nothing as painful and gutting as the divorce. At least, nothing until now.

I could go on with rehashing the eighteen year on and off love affair, but I won’t. It would just remind me of the loss. Instead, I’ll quote my mother. “I have never liked you with anyone but him. You two belong together, and go together just so naturally; not only when you were kids, but now.”

She was right. When you know, you know. That’s why I fought so hard to keep him. That’s why this hurts so much. After my last email to him that was also my last blog, I felt better for the first time in weeks. It seems candy-coating my words or trying to look aloof to him, or not showing my pain publicly on the level I felt was crippling. Once I said what I wanted to, I started to somehow heal by myself.

I didn’t expect to hear from him, I had specifically asked him not to comment. Surprisingly, he did. In the midst of the storm last night, a text message popped up on my phone. It essentially said, “I read your email. I understand you’re going through pain, and so am I. The fact that I hurt you weighs heavily on me, I never wanted to do that. I think of you at times, and I have no excuses or comments to help you understand all of this. I’m processing a lot, and it’s a slow process. I’m sorry. I’ll email you back when I can.”

Damn it! I immediately burst into tears. I had asked him not to respond to me for this very reason. He “thinks of me at times”?! This man-not even a month ago-thought of me constantly (by his own admission). He discussed proposing to me, and we were talking children. He’d email me back when he could?! For two months we talked through messages all day, every day. We then would talk for hours each night on the phone. I didn’t understand any of this. Again. Was it because…of…..had I done this? What was he thinking, right now? Did he feel sorry for me? I did not want his damn pity! Was our love even real? He was talking to me like I was some kind of stranger. Why? Is this a part of his therapy? What if…?

And then. Enough.

Earlier yesterday, when I went to Jennifer Weiner’s book reading, she discussed a particularly painful breakup that inspired her first novel. She said for months she obsessed over every nuance of their relationship, and would do drive-bys past his house. This was especially pathetic, she said, because he lived two hours away. Then one day, “Something inside of me rose up and said, clearly and firmly, Enough.” 

I was there. Enough.

Hands trembling, I texted him back.

“No. No need for a return email. If you ever loved me, do not try to contact me again.”

I hit send, and began to ponder the ramifications of what I had just done.

My phone went off. “MESSAGE SENDING FAILED. TRY AGAIN?”

Was this the hand of God? Was I supposed to reconsider the stance I was taking? Was it fate?

“No,” I said out loud. “It’s reception during a frigging thunderstorm, Jane.” I hit resend. This time, the message sent. 

He does love me; I do know this. So he will not contact me again. If not permanently, it will take a long time before he does. But I cannot even think about any of that. He has become poison to me. As long as there was a window with a crack of an opening, I would pry it open and keep coming back.

I knew I’d have to pretend the person I loved is dead. In a way, he is. When I speak to him, it is like speaking to someone else, even in writing. The reassuring man who was ready to make mountains move to be with me is gone. I don’t understand this new one, or what happened. But it’s no longer for me to try and understand and torture myself in the process. Thanks to the self-help book I read ten years ago, I learned how to put myself first, and I’m not looking back. Not any more.

Today, I’m okay. I’ve got something big on the horizon, and that’s been demanding my attention. I’m thankful for that. I cannot decide if it’s better to know this kind of love and lose it, or to not have it at all. I do know that when it’s not so excruciating to recall, I have memories with him to hold that are nothing short of magical. 

We were in love.

But as Meatloaf says, “Baby, sometimes love just ain’t enough.”