Why is this a steady process of waking up? Why am I on this bullet train of processing and realizing and understanding? Why am I the last person to see what has happened? Every week I think, “Wow! what a week!”. I feel so much and learn so much and discuss so much and get stuck so much and someone frees me so often and then I start all over again. From a new place, peeling back the layers to find…to find what? What is under there? What am I looking for? What I am getting at? What am I trying to get to?
I have taken to making lists. I am coming to understand that all that has happened is insane. It’s an insane amount of tragedy and grief and heartache. I have thought to myself how self indulgent I am. Coming back here night after night to write down every intircacy of my experience that I can catch hold of. I have thought of people reading this or those who have stopped reading this, imagining them thinking to themselves “Get on with it already.” I stopped going to therapy when we broke up. I just started again, once again thinking, it’s self-indulgent, it’s too expensive, it’s not really necessary. I berate myself for talking to my friends about my anxieties and fears and anger and grief because they have heard it before, they have their own lives that feel heavy and hard and so rarely do I inquire about their situations and challenges and needs. But then all of the sudden this week I realized I have had too much. Too much has happened to me in too short a period of time. Just one of these many things is enough, is too much. A dead baby, for example. That is too much. People die over that, people stop living, people can’t get out of bed anymore. And that is only the beginning for me. That was the just the first thing. Nothing has been worse, by a landside. Nothing is worse than losing Harvey, so suddenly and swiftly and surely. These very fingers that type, these palms that rest on the keyboard, these wrists that move the hand across the keys, these arms that travel up to these shoulders, these very same appendages held the weight of my baby who was alive, they held that weight as he took his last labored breath, they held the limp, lifeless body after he was gone. That is enough. These arms, this body, held life, created it, provided a space for it to grow and develop and then did all of that in reverse. Felt all of that slip through these very fingers. That is just the beginning. That is where my story starts.
And it keeps on going in excrutiating waves. Pummeling me so hard and so frequently that I got used to it.That a divorce after a 13 year relationship doesn’t seem so bad in comparison. But people lose a relationship like I did, folded with years and layers of lies, of half truths and double lives, and they find that it is the worst thing that ever happened to them. That is was the hardest, most stressful time in their lives. That years and years on, they still tend to the wounds, still feel the tightness of the scar tissue, still hold onto to how they felt they very day they found their marriage crumbled at their feet.
Infertility. I have sat with many women who struggle with infertility. Have heard how it tortures them, every bleeding month a painful reminder. How it has sent them into the darkest depressions of their lives. How they feel hatred and jealousy to seemingly everyone around them, easily and often getting pregnant and having babies.
Two surgeries in just over a year. Anesthia and morphine and dilaudid and so many other drugs I don’t even know their names or what substance went into my body. My abdomen pierced, my c-section scar opened again to save my life, and then the same piercing near the same holes on either side of my belly and at my belly button. The bleeding, the bruising, the pain. Also enough. Just that one thing, just those two things in short period of time.
Each one on their own, is enough, is too much. My husband has a girlfriend. My daughter comes home talking about her and I begin to endure that. Little presents she gives her, games they play, outings they take, time they have just the two of them together. It wears on me: the smile I give her, how nice I tell her it is that she is so fun, the questions I ask her so that it seems normal to me, just another person in her lif I wonder about. But she’s like my stunt double, like a younger and fertile (I assume) version of me, taken my place in our family. She is a character to me, and I often think she must be so to him too in some ways, except that she is all too real. Filling in the space that was my space. Stepping into my family like it’s hers. And if she sticks around, it will be. My husband agrees to not get a sitter every Saturday, not because I think it’s best that she spend more time with him but, in part because now that they have been introduced, the 3 of them can spend time together. She and I will have an inevitable meeting. She and I will attend Vesta’s events together, see each other at drop-offs, be the two people meeting to take Vesta someday. My friend said to me last night, “People shoot each other over shit like that.” Just that. Not the relationship length infidelity on top of that, not the stepping out while I laid in the hospital on top of that, not the subsequent and pathological deception of incredible frequency and duration on top of that. It’s too much. Just that.
People tell me how strong I am, how brave, how inspiring. My friends wonder at how I can be kind to him, try to understand where he is coming from, consider what he thinks and feels in the decisions I make about our daughter and our divorce. And I think “what the fuck are they talking about? I am a mess. And how else could I behave around him?” But I am coming to understand. I’m beginning to stand outside of myself and absolutely marvel. And now I have started to make lists.
There is the list of each of the times over 13 years when I knew something was astray and looked the other way, gave the benefit of the doubt, allowed my heart and mind to be convinced despite the screaming from my gut. Love and denial are powerful forces that too frequently go hand in hand.
There is the list of the things I will do to take care of myself: eat three meals a day, go to sleep before ten, remember to take my supplements, stop drinking, stop smoking, get to the end of the day having had at least one glass of water. I need to write that shit down. That’s where I’m at 21 months later, reminding myself to eat and sleep and drink water. Me: little Ms. Health Guru.
There is the list of the things I need to do. Today, tomorrow, in a month, at some point. Everyone’s lists like this one are long and winding and impossible to achieve. But mine include get divorced and figure out a way to mark Harvey’s second birthday/anniversary coupled with the normal things like go grocery shopping, clean the cat’s litter, do your taxes. This list, like the others, leave me feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed and like I am failing. Who can’t get themselves to the grocery store, especially when they have a kid? Me, that’s who.
And then this list. The final list. Only in my head so far, and here, I guess, since I continue to reiterate, but now I just repeat them to myself: Baby dies, hospital stay, surgery, infidelity, infidelity again, marriage ends, surgery again. It’s like a mantra because I’m starting to wrap my mind around it. I’m beginning to understand that all of these things happened and they happened to me and in under two years, thirteen months plus a few more for the second surgery. To this day, I have moments where I forget. Where I expect Harvey to be someone I need to make doctors appointments for, pack a bag for, find someone to watch him. And then I remember again. Still? Really? I ask myself. Yes, apparently. I have not had to take care of his physical needs one day of my life and yet I find myself caught in some alternative reality as if he was here and I did those things for a while and now he’s gone and I can’t break the habit. I finish my work, close up the spa and think about my family at home waiting for me to return, to come to dinner, to do bedtime and then head to bed to watch tv together and talk about tomorrow’s plans and make some decisions. Oh yeah, they aren’t home. Oh yeah, my marriage ended. Oh, yeah. Right. Still.
My therpaist tells me I’m still in shock. My body and mind have not been able to integrate all of this and so they send me to these places where things are as we planned them. This what was supposed to happen, what is supposed to be happening and the brain itself hasn’t integrated yet that none of it is true, despite not ever living it, despite 8 months or more of physical evidence of my husband’s absence from our home. I’m still in shock. I can parent and grow a business and go out with my friends and meet new people and laugh and joke and be grateful on top of all of this because my brain and body don’t believe it yet. Becasue shock allows us (if we allow it) to slowly integrate. It provides us with the ability to function on a daily basis, overhwlemed or not, but keeping the whole truth from us. how about that? How about my own anatomy and physiology keeping shit from me, creating it’s own world that no one else lives in, appeasing me so I’ll keep my other kid alive and not crumple into shaking ball on the kitchen floor.
And what of that? What do I make of my ability to function? You know how I explain that, I type as I laugh out loud, a miracle healing. A literal miracle healing, whereas I walked in to a shamanic ceremony suicidal and enraged and hours later felt like myself again over the course of a few minutes. Healed up that heart in an instant, one instant. Now that is crazy. That is too much. That I was on the brink and whoever is out there saw me about to jump and threw my soul back into my body, stitched up my heart so that the grief that was drowning me would all the sudden become something I could live with? That as surely as I came back to myself, there was no doubt that I was ending my relationship and that there was not an ounce of heartbreak or sadness or doubt anymore. Just pure, unadulterated (pardon the pun!) clarity. Ease and confidence and joy and sensation back in my body and exhileration. That is what explains my still being alive and my narrow escape from a mental institution. Crazy. Too much.
But it all happened. All of it. Life and death. Love and betrayal. Blood and stitches. Miracle and trauma. Each time I almost died last year (read that sentence again!!), I was saved: my son left my body in such a way that the bleeding from the uterian artery was compressed and ceased, the surgeons opened me up 6 months later and found the bleed in time for me to live and not even need to use the blood they had prepared in moments to transfuse me, my soul was retrieved, literally. My soul was retrieved.
I have to make these lists. I have to keep writing these things again and again. I have to start believing and understanding that they happened. I have to start telling the whole truth. I have to start saying out loud even the things deep inside of me that I have yet been able to say. I have to be more vulnerable. I have to break wide open, even more widely open. I have to risk relationships, risk more loss, risk further hardships. I keep thinking I’ve come to the edge of my expansion, I can’t be more honest, I can’t be more authentic, more real but I always can. There is always more to lay out there. I can’t carry this all on my own. I can’t see it if it’s only inside of me. I have to put it on the outside of me, write it down and send it off. It is one side to a story and this story is a prism. It is my side of the story with all of the assumptions I have unknowingly made, with all of the things I remember incorrectly but which shape me anyway, with all of the miscommunications that have led to the parts of this that are not true. But what are we if not our stories? What are if not meaning makers? Putting things into a context so that we might understand them or at least endure them. Some of us make up completely imaginary stories, weave our lives into a dream that only we can see, and live from a fiction. Or maybe we all do. Maybe it’s all just one long dream, one story asking to be written, revised, edited, rewritten again.
My story has become too long, too confused, too many details that don’t fit in anywhere. So, for now, I make lists. I bullet point past and future events so that I can see them more clearly, so there is a starkness, so that the prose doesn’t drown out the main points. The part of my mind not in shock, not dreaming, not making meaning, is trying to convince the rest of me to catch up. To start living in the truth as I know it. Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts. So that each breath, each putting of one foot in front of the other is it’s own bullet point, it’s own list of the present moment. That’s where I find the endurance. In the moment to moment rhthym of breath and step. In the simplifying and slowing down that overwhelm forces upon us, forces upon me. One step, one breath, one list at a time.