You’ll be glad (or dismayed) to know that I am not dead.
While the freezer door did make an attempt upon my life, I am still upright and breathing. But after the gas leak from a dead pilot light the week before, I’m now warily watching the washer/dryer unit to see when, in fact, it will make its play to kill me. I can only surmise that it is plotting against me, but without real proof, I cannot be sure. So rather than being productive, I instead watch it with the phone book open to the number of the local hospital, as a warning of sorts, that if it does, in fact, try to kill me, I have backup motherfucker. And not Life Alert, although that may be a wise investment.
In that time, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about the lies we tell ourselves:“Tomorrow, I’ll feel better.” “It was the right decision.” “I can totally fit into those pants.” “I like being a morning person.” “John C. Mayer isn’t ALL bad.” “If only X happens, things will work out.”
I wonder, sometimes, if we tell ourselves these lies simply to avoid the truth: that the moment we’re in is hard; that the end is nowhere in sight; that we do really jam out to John C. Mayer when no one is looking; that becoming a morning person means that we are now able to be smugly superior to the rest of those crazy “late sleepers.”
I don’t know the answer.
And I don’t know if the lies we tell ourselves in order to believe that somehow Our Happy is just around that corner, ready to spring out and beat The Happy into our brains is a healthy way to cope. I don’t know if dwelling on the past, mulling over the mistakes we’ve made and the things we’ve done that have hurt others is a better solution.
I’d surmise that the answer lies somewhere in the middle – we tell ourselves the things that allow us to feel briefly better, like it was all meant something, that someday, the meaning of the tunnel of shit we’re wading through had a far greater purpose: without X, Y wouldn’t have happened. I like to believe that sentiment – normally I find that the tunnel of shit does bring about, in time, diamonds, and not rocks.
Take for example, my daughter, who was born with a previously undiagnosed neural tube defect called an “encephalocele,” which is a fancy way of saying that her skull got lazy, didn’t close, and brain matter developed outside of her head. While normally diagnosed prenatally during a routine ultrasound, someone somehow somewhere fucked up and managed to NOT see the hole in her skull. In normal conversation, I tell people that “it’s better that I didn’t know she had an encephalocele ahead of time,” because it would’ve “made the pregnancy that much more stressful.”
I don’t know if that’s true – if it’s another lie I tell myself to make myself feel better – there’s nothing like dangling in the labor room, listening to the NICU whirr and click and clack and whisper about your baby while you’re stuck there, delivering the placenta and getting your girl bits stitched up while your daughter, mere minutes old, is in the midst of getting an examination that will seal her fate as one of two things:
1) Innocuous, unsightly cyst
B) Something really, REALLY bad.
Any of you who’ve read my blog know what happened: she now has a handy skull graft and that pesky brain tissue exploding out of the back of her head, well, it’s been long-since removed. The scar is still there, growing along with her, as she whirls and twirls and plays and giggles. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome for a situation so very dire.
While the situation was, to put it in the most mild way possible, terrible, some good has sprung of it.
When I first confessed my shame at having post-traumatic stress disorder (this post) it spurned an idea that had been rattling around my own brain for a long time – putting together a group blog for people to share their stories of darkness and light, and pair these stories with resources about a particular subject. I recall scouring the Internet for information about encephaloceles after Amelia was born only to find that the information was scattered; not put together in any real order. I wanted to change that.
I formed Band Back Together in 2010 to do just that: allow people a safe moderated environment to pull their skeletons from the closet and make them dance the tango, in the hopes that by telling our truth, we’d be able to grow, learn, and begin to heal. One of the most powerful things in the world is to realize that we are not alone in this world; that others have felt the way that we have.
That’s the reason the wonderful volunteers at Band Back Together (if you’re into volunteering with us, email firstname.lastname@example.org) continues to post stories – your stories – and create readable and informative resources. It’s also why I continue to write out my life for anyone to read, despite thoughts of, after eleventy-nine years, simply calling it done and walking away from my blog. I haven’t. Not because I haven’t wanted to, but because if one person out there can read the words I’ve written – some good, some great, most bad – then I have done something with my life.
And despite my shortcomings and failures; the lies I tell myself to get one foot in front of the other, that means something.
Scene 1 – My new kitchen, middle of the work day on Thursday:
Me (humming the Flight of the Bumblebees and wondering how THAT became my theme song): “Man, I am THIRSTY. I should grab a nice, tasty beverage from my fridge.”
My Fridge: “You need to eat something.”
Me: “Says you – I’m not hungry.”
My Fridge: “All you use me for is to stow diet Coke and the occasional food for The Littles.”
Me: “One word: Divorce Diet.”
My Fridge: “That was two words.”
Me: “Yeah, well *sputters* SO?”
My Fridge: “If you’d EATEN something you’d have known that statement was, in fact, two words.”
Me: “Yeah, well, have YOU been through a divorce?”
My Fridge: “Nope. Still with the oven – we’ve been together since 1956.”
Me: “Well balls to you then, Mister.”
My Fridge: “No need to get hostile. If you ate something, you’d be less hostile.”
Me: “No, I’d be less hostile if you were the actual size and shape of a REAL fridge. You’re like the Napoleon of fridges – short man syndrome and all that.”
My Fridge: “It’s called “compact,” which you’d know if you’d EATEN anything in the last week or two.”
Me: “Shut your whore mouth. I just want a diet Coke. Can you let up for one fucking second about the “you need to eat” shit? It’s getting old.”
My Fridge: “You know you’re probably embalmed already by the amount of diet Coke you drink.”
Me: “So? Makes the mortician’s job easier.”
My Fridge: “That’s a dreary thought.”
Me: “YOU brought it up.”
My Fridge: “Touche.”
Me: “So are we done with this lecture yet? It’s been enlightening and all, but I gotta get back to work.”
My Fridge: “As you wish.”
I reach down to grab a diet Coke from the bottom shelf and, upon standing back up, thwump the back of my head on the door to the freezer, which was made well before anyone thought about safety or end user error. Rather than standing up and shaking it off, instead, I fall backward, prized diet Coke in hand, and adding insult to injury, bash my head against the chipped Formica floor and am knocked unconscious.
Scene 2: I wake up in a pool of my own blood and a throbbing headache.
Me: “That wasn’t very nice.”
My Fridge: “Neither was implying I had “short man syndrome.” That was UN-nice, which you’d know if…”
Me: “…I’d eaten? Sorry Fridge, but eating doesn’t exactly cure all that ails you.”
My Fridge: “Still, it was a mean comment.”
Me (growls): “You wanna see mean? WHY DON’T YOU LOOK AT YOUR FUG COLOR IN THE MIRROR? I LIKE TO CALL YOUR COLOR “DOG PEE ON PLASTERBOARD.”
My Fridge: “I don’t have legs.”
Me: “SO not my problem.”
My Fridge: “Go clean yourself off – you’re dripping blood everywhere. It’s unsightly.”
Me: “So’s your FACE.”
My Fridge: “Now that was just stupid.”
Me (wobbling off to the shower): “Yeah, well.”
My Fridge (calling after me): “Don’t you think you should call someone about your head?”
Me: “I have a therapist.”
My Fridge (trails off as I get into the shower): “That’s not what I meant – you’re woozy and look like you have a concussion.”
Me: “Oh NOW you feel concern – this IS your fault, y’know.”
Refrigerator goes silent, for once, as I sit in the shower, washing off the blood.
Me (mutters): “Fucking appliances… always out to get me.
The Shower Faucet: “Have you eaten yet?”
I’ve been asked by my pregnant friends what labor feels like, and each time, I’m stuck wondering how to respond. In the end, I always answer with something semi-true like, “strongest motherfucking period on the planet,” which is semi-true. It’s also completely wrong. Labor feels like, well, labor, and nothing else. Even after popping three kids outta my delicate lady bits, I’m not sure how else to describe it, beyond saying something completely unhelpful like, “It feels like labor,” alternately, “it feels like a thousand angry chipmunks gnawing your uterus.”
When the divorce talk came a-knockin’, my previously divorced friends offered me similar sentiments about what I could expect; excepting, of course, that none mentioned my uterus, which was thankful. That organ has seen enough. I was warned that, “it would be hard,” and that, “the first year would be the worst.” Of course, much like my labor speech, it was simultaneously unhelpful and the truth.
I sat the back of the U-Haul three weeks ago tomorrow, watching Dave and The Guy Formerly On My Couch moving, the weather unseasonably hot for a day in late September, working on my tan and watching my kids frolic in the yard I’d dearly loved. It was then that I truly realized that this marked the end of the life I’d had. I shed a few tears before lugging the rest of my belongings into the truck, wondering what the next chapter of my life would look like. I contemplated asking my aforementioned friends, but realized that they knew as much about what comes next as the squirrel who’d been intently staring at me while I tailgated on the U-Haul.
(hindsight being 20/20, I should’ve thrown a good-bye tailgating party and grilled out right there in front of The House Formerly Known As Mine – there are too few occasions that one can set up a grill in the street and roast encased meats)
We drove off, each car packed to the brims – some sent by my wonderful Pranksters, for which I am forever thankful, having those lifelines means the world to me – handily closing that chapter of my life. I didn’t cry. Not then.
At my new home, I pretended I was a pack animal, an alpaca, which probably doesn’t, in fact, lug things around on it’s back, but it helped get me into the moving mindset from, “I’m sweating (proverbial) balls and I think I just flashed my neighbors by accident,” to “I wonder if alpacas actually lug shit on their backs, because now I want one. I don’t know what they look like, but I think I need one as a pet. I bet they’re fucking adorable. I mean, even their name is awesome.” Soon, the boxes were all inside, ready for me to give their contents a home.
I spent the next two weeks unpacking, hanging pictures, decorating (badly), wishing I had more art for my walls because Pinterest had made me all, OMFG I NEED BEAUTIFUL THINGS MADE OUT OF THREE EASY KITCHEN INGREDIENTS (sidebar: Fuck you Pinterest for making me feel super NOT crafty), and slowly turning the empty apartment into a place I could call home. “Wow,” my mother said as she dropped by a few days after I’d moved. “You’re unpacking like it’s your job.”
I laughed, “I just want the kids to feel like my house is a home, too. It’s a big change for us all.”
Keeping busy was my salvation, even though there was a warning bell chim-chiming somewhere, a foreboding, “when you’re done with The Busy, it’s going to suck,” clanging.
Apparently, my brain knows me well, because once it was all over but the shouting (er, decorating), the truth sunk in: this wasn’t some white-carpeted (WHITE!) hotel suite. This wasn’t a vacation. I wasn’t going back to my old life. No, this was my new life.
And while it’s a hard thing to wrap my three remaining neurons around, it’s been… okay. Sure, there have been tears and fears (but not Tears FOR Fears because I am NOT an 80’s band) and doubts, but there’s been a lot of freedom, too.
For the first time ever, I’m living life on my terms. I’ve been given the opportunity to take the old, examine it, and toss out the bits of it that don’t work for me any longer and lovingly polish the parts that do. While it’s not an easy process, it’s an opportunity to turn something that’s shattered me into a life that is my own. The ability to take stock of what I stand for and what I don’t.
To put the pieces back together into a bigger, better whole.
While I know the process is going to be long and (at times) hard, I know that I can and will.
I’ve begun tossing the things pieces that no longer fit.
Starting with my hair:
Pranksters, I’d like you to meet Becky, As Herself.