When your memory is attached to another person and that person isn’t speaking to you; either he’s dead, or in Guam, or thinks you’re the she-devil incarnate, it’s hard to determine which parts of your memories are true and which are convenient supplements to foggy recollections. So I don’t know if it was spring or fall. I know it was still rainy, so we weren’t in the six weeks of sun that Pacific Northwesterners know as summer. I know we drove, on a Friday night after he got off work, to Port Townsend. It was raining off and on. We stayed with his co-worker Carlos, and his longtime girlfriend, in their trailer on a plot of land. His coworker grilled steaks, we drank, and smoked. Carlos’ girlfriend’s daughter had recently had a baby so she was excited to bring out her grand baby’s equipment to help me put our son down to bed for the night. After I did, I joined the men around the bon-fire and got lit. Carlos’ girlfriend wouldn’t come outside. She didn’t like being out doors. Why did she live in such a rural area? She was inside, cleaning and getting drunk. They had the same couch as us, from Costco. It was my husband’s couch. It still is, though he wasn’t yet my husband at the time and he isn’t yet my ex-husband now. Continue reading
Can’t get blood from a turnip. Promising to write every day for an hour at the end of it. It’s like trying to lie down on a bed of nails and not knowing how.
There are so many emotions in each day. It can feel like an invisible but magnificent success to have gotten through another day of mothering two babies alone. In each formerly mundane day I am faced with processing emotions like guilt for being on edge, grief for having no warm body inviting me to rest on, envy of the “in tact” nuclear families I see, regret at having not known sooner to demand better treatment… oh gawd, how it goes on.
Through out each day intense sentences, memories or paragraphs come to me. I’m driving, or engaging my two year old, or nursing my infant and this thought, these perfectly aligned words come and go. I want to save them and write them down, but I can’t. There isn’t time. I want to make sure I get to the keyboard later to recreate the scenery, but I fall asleep when putting the boy down to bed instead, or nod off while rocking the girl and wake up an hour later with a kink in my neck, a baby in my arms and a void that I fill with Life cereal instead of pre-heated paragraphs. No one wants to read my gripes. But we all feel this. These days of exhaustion are universal. And they will pass and I will be stronger.
I have an amazing cat. This is not a situation in which I am blinded by bias. My cat’s awesomeness is universally agreed upon. She possesses all the best qualities of a cat and then some pretty cool unique qualities usually reserved for dogs. She seems to love me with a steadfastness and it sometimes buoys me. Her name is Billie. I named her both for a favorite jazz singer of mine and for my uncle, who passed half a year before I got her. My then girlfriend talked me into going to get a cat because I talked about it so much. I was afraid I’d get a cat who’d be a dud – a hide under the bed, bites-your-ankles-and-hisses-as-you-walk-by cat. I wanted cat that was out of its totally insane kitten phase, but was still close enough to it to be silly and cute and cuddly.
Billie was small and as soon as I saw her face I had to hold her. And as soon as I had her out of the cage and saw how chill she was I knew she was my kitty. She has the sweetest doll face and her nose is exactly half dark and half light pink. I just loved that. She is wacky all colors calico, mostly grey, black and white but in some areas she has orange too. She is extra fluffy and never weighs more than nine pounds. I got her from the Chicago Humane Society for $55. A week after I brought her home she got an upper respiratory infection and stopped eating so she had to go back for 2 weeks before I could have her again. When she finally came home for good I had to give her both pills and liquid medicine twice a day for 14 days. I had to lock us both in the bathroom and basically sit on her to get her to take that stuff. She had the sniffles for a long time after that.
She used to sit at our back door around 6 PM every night and yowl with volume shocking for something so tiny. She has sharp, pointed yowls – more like yelps. Like she’s saying, “Hey! Seriously! Over here!” Very staccato. I figured she must have been an indoor/outdoor cat with her previous owners. She was so sweet she had to have been house broken before me and her routine, I imagined, was to be in all day and go out when the owner got home. I assumed she got lost and picked up, which led to me getting her. I felt bad having her cooped up and joked to my roommate that I was going to get her some crickets to hunt, so she could exercise properly.
I lived in that apartment for one year. That year I began taking internet dating seriously. I was unemployed for longer than a month. I fell in love with an unresponsive girl and was dumped by her. I moved into the apartment’s “pantry” so we could get a third room mate and save money.
When I moved out of that place and into my own studio apartment I learned that Billie could be left to her own devices outside and be trusted to come back. I was really upset the first time she got loose. I blamed myself, but really it was because I was moving, semi-drunk and she wanted out.
When I was driving to Washington I had Billie in a larger carrier with my other cat, Willow. Something happened on that drive that caused Willow and Billie to become enemies. Billie liked Washington. She had five acres of undeveloped land to roam. She had a cat door. She did as she pleased.
Every day I used to take a walk with Salamander and the two dogs. Billie came with. She even occasionally enticed Willow to come too. I’d be walking down our rural one lane neighborhood road with two good dogs, a stroller and beautiful son, and behind me on the road would be Billie. Sometimes she trotted right along beside me, other times she was a few yards, or even a couple hundred feet, behind us. The neighbors and passers-by were enchanted by her behavior. I felt happy to know she was mine.
When I was driving back to Illinois Billie was on her own again. Willow disappeared about a year ago after a nasty fight with something that nearly took his eye. He stuck around and convalesced and then he took off, preferring more to be wild than have a nightly roof to call his own. Or maybe the coyotes got him.
Billie has been coming and going as she pleases off and on since I got her. She disappeared once, for almost two full days. We had a beautiful reunion just across the road from a back lot and alley way. I cried I was so happy she’d come back to me.
On the road back to Illinois we experimented with how to care for Billie. We drove eight hours a day and stayed in Best Westerns every night. I was the only driver because my mom doesn’t know how to drive stick shift. Eventually the simplest route was the one that worked most. We made one long stop every day to burn energy and stretch and eat lunch. All the other stops were quicker, in and out, affairs. At this long stop, I parked somewhere apart from any other crowds, took Billie out of the car, carried her to the area I had scoped out for her and dropped her off. She’d take care of her business and come back to me. She still wants to be going on walks with us every day, but we don’t go as often. It’s harder in the frigid air of Illinois. I’m looking forward to Spring.
When we were on the road I had known Billie wouldn’t use a leash or a harness. We bought her one any way. She wriggled out of it and took off across a parking lot. I waited and called for her in that special way she knows. “Billie chick-a-pow” or “Billie chickie-pea” She’s going to stick with me. She is, sometimes, a reminder that I know things. She is a gentle reminder to myself, to be good to me.
I arrived at the doctor’s office fifteen minutes early as some kind of masochistic penance for missing my previous appointment. After cruising Instagram, posting photos, cruising Facebook, “liking” stuff, after changing the waiting room television channel from Court TV smut to HGTV, after doing side stretches and neck stretches and chair poses and squats and swinging the 40+ pound baby car seat with whimpering baby I finally met the doctor. He was beefy looking and I didn’t get a chance to use one of my snarky opening lines on him when he came in. Damn doctors, always taking control of the situation.
I had settled on some kind of getting-to-know me speech in which I told him that I am more informed and interested in my personal well being than the average bear and that I realized that there are extenuating circumstances causing me more stress than my system will silently bear. In no short order I was saying something like, “In November 2009 I moved to Washington with him. In December 2010 I gave birth to our son. In November 2011 we got married. In November 2012 I left him because he had been abusing me and in December 2012 I gave birth to our daughter.”
No shit, right? Dr. Beefy’s eyes were wide for a second. Whatever he said next might as well have been, “no shit?” In these moments I am humbled. If it weren’t for the unstoppable magic of my two kids I would say that I really, seriously, fucked up when I dove into it with my ES. In these moments when I’ve just summarized the story of why I’m here right now I find myself listening to it and thinking: Jeezus I am an idiot. I mean, really, I returned to the guy who had me submit to a lie detector test two weeks after we signed documents marrying us? I mean, really, I went back to him and stayed there for another year? Who was that girl?
I understand more now than I did. I am proud that I am a survivor. I am breathlessly thankful that I am a survivor. I am not kidding when I say that, really what I am is a thriver. I want you to join with me as I learn my lessons, speak my truths and unstoppably rise up. I want your lessons to guide me and I want your experiences to strengthen me when I need them (I’m looking at you single parenting). I want us all to do that thing that Oprah seems to have trademarked, I want us to Aha! together.
After I get the “no shit?” stare I tend to review, if there’s time, what happened to get me there. Here’s the first paragraph of that.
When I met my ES (estranged husband) I was 28 and was “at the tail end of a time in my life when sex felt more like theater, when I thought living meant merely saying yes to everything. I didn’t know anything about power or intimacy or trust, even though I played with these concepts continuously, recklessly, in private homes and sex clubs, with strangers I met online, and old friendships I needlessly complicated. Fear was something I thought I could talk myself out of, if only I had the right words. I knew so many words at that time, but I didn’t know what any of them really meant.” (Anna Pulley, Dominatrix for a Day) I wanted power, intimacy and trust, all those things I knew nothing about. I wanted to be part of something after going it alone in the world for a decade. I thought I would grow into those states over time. With him. After I said yes. I thought that was how long term relationships worked. I intended on this being the longest term relationship I would ever have. I always said I would never get divorced, it would be too heartbreaking.
I feel like I finally have a topic. My life, the lessons and magic I cull from it, has always been my topic, but I wasn’t able to ever able to specifically point out who I thought my audience was… until now. If I wanted to slap some labels on me they would read: divorcee, thirty-something, Gen Y, single mom, lives with parents, stay at home mom, unemployed, penniless, abuse victim, survivor, attachment parent, indigo child, writer, design junkie, fresh foodie, tumble dry on low.
I am not the only one who has been mentally abused by a partner. To be attacked and then told it was the other way around. To have the aggressor play the victim. And to live with that constantly shaping your behavior and motivations. That takes some undoing. I am not lucky. I am brave. I am brave and because of it I have three years of mental fuckery to unpack, not 13 or 30. I feel lucky though. I am not the only one faced with the task of raising two kids sans partner. I am not the only one who has had to move back in to her parents’ home and make a life there as an adult (and parent).
I am not the only so on and so forth. I plan to sew up the world, with all its geographical miles, to make it smaller and more supportive in astonishing ethereal ways.
Some things she had always known to be true and she could recall the age at which she could put words to them. At six she knew she was the same as the trees and the grass, as the birds and the swing set. At seven she knew she was a writer. What she disliked was that she had been making excuse after excuse and mistake after misstep for the 23 years since she had named herself what she was. She set about to change what she disliked one hour at a time.