“They look like white elephants,” she said.
“I’ve never seen one,” the man drank his beer.
“No, you wouldn’t have.”
“I might have,” the man said. “Just because you say I wouldn’t have doesn’t prove anything.”
- Hills Like White Elephants, Ernest Hemingway
It starts with the nightmares.
Night after night, I’m stranded in airports I’ve never visited – some exotic, some rural – malls I’ve never seen, always looking for someone who, in a dream-like way, I know is looking for me, too. A particular someone – someone who I’ve never met, but someone who, I chase night after night. I have a feeling I’d know him if I saw him, but really, that could be a lie.
It feels silly, to admit that I spend my dream time, not eating Marshmallow Fluff, but looking for a particular person. I’d much rather be saving the world while I sleep than sorting through the faceless masses at fictional airports.
Once the dreams begin, sleeping becomes fitful, if not impossible.
I’ve not won any sleeping awards since I got my thyroid regulated (I HAVE A GLANDULAR PROBLEM), but during these patches, it becomes nearly impossible. When I sleep, I run, I chase, I wake myself weeping into my pillow or moaning in sadness. By 9AM, all hope of rest gone, I slog my soggy ass out of bed and pretend that I remember what it’s like to sleep.
I’m functional for a few weeks like this, groggy, with slowed reflexes, but, with my rate of unintentional self-injury, no one notices.
It’s only after a few weeks, months, I don’t know how long, that I start to crack. The anxiety becomes too much. Things I would’ve normally found hilarious – my neighbors tree, for example, which looks like it’s growing a full set of knockers – don’t even elicit the barest of smiles.
I want so desperately to reach out, to connect with someone; anyone, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I can’t bring myself to admit that it’s okay to be weak – that I’m allowed to not understand my feelings. It’s then that the voices of those who I have once loved echo through my head and I begin to doubt. Everything. Myself. My ability to function in every day society.
The echos of things once-said flit through my mind. “I can’t handle your problems right now,” my ghost-husband says. “You’re a liar,” my ghost-brother says. “Take down that story about the rape or I’ll take action,” my ghost ex threatens.
My world becomes smaller, ever smaller, as the PTSD rears it’s head. And this time, like the others, it leaves me gasping for air, for straws, for any reason as to why there’s a 9,827 pound white elephant on my chest when the rest of the world seems to be breathing air like it’s no big deal.
I wonder what is so fundamentally fucked inside my head that I can’t manage to beat this PTSD: my daughter lived. I have countless friends who’d gnaw off a couple of legs to say the same thing. So why am I so fucked? Why does rubbing my hand along the plastic implant inside her skull make me break out in a cold sweat? She squeals and laughs runs and plays and kicks her brothers with wild abandon, while I am trapped on the couch, my windpipe unable to properly move air into my lungs.
And those words, those words like white elephants, trapped in my lungs, they remain unspoken.
Normally, when I announce to all four cats, my children, The Daver, and/or The Guy On My Couch that “I’m taking the weekend off,” I mean this:
“I’m not actually going to work online – but I’ll be digging trenches, planting trees, mulching weeding, planting, seeding, watering, cleaning out the garage, making 47 trips to Goodwill, obsessing about painting my kitchen cabinets white, whine about my formerly white – now dingy grey – carpets, fantasize about buying attachments for my Dyson, sorting kid’s clothes, throwing away dead frogs, helping color pictures before realizing I have the artistic ability of a squirrel with five thumbs, then dropping into an exhausted heap on my couch to watch shitty television until it’s time to wake up and do it all again. But I mean I’m going to do that WITHOUT obsessively Tweeting. Or checking email.
I don’t “take time off” like normal people. Or maybe that IS how normal people “take time off,” I don’t know; I write a blog on the Internet where I call myself “Aunt Becky.” I’m not the Poster Child for normal.
But, upon dragging ass outta bed Saturday morning to “not take time off,” I realized that I was kinda…reeling around. Like the drunken spins, except I haven’t had an ACTUAL drink in for-fucking-ever.
(stop gaping at me like that. You’re going to attract flies that LAND IN YOUR OPEN MOUTH AND MAKE FLY BABIES)
Be honest, Pranksters: Drinking at 31 < Drinking at 21
The spins kinda suck, just like making out with that random hot bartender, then vomiting all over the back of a cab is kinda shameful. Now. Then? It was hi-fucking-larious.
“…remember that time Becky barfed on the back of a yellow cab in downtown Chicago while that hot bartender rubbed her back, then made out with her? Bwahahahahaha!”
(See also: why would that hot bartender want to make out with a barfy chick?)
Anyway, I had the spins. I blamed Dawn, who was passing a kidney stone that we’re sharing custody of, for sympathetic dizziness. I’ve never been dizzy, aside from being drunk, but I will note this: I walked into less walls while dizzy than while sober.
That being here nor there, Dawn decided to come over and join Ben (The Guy On My Couch) and I, who were sitting on opposite ends of the couch, playing on our respective phones.
And, because I am used to going! going! going! during weekends, I decided that I wasn’t actually dizzy – just….having issues with equilibrium – and that the only cure for a fucked-up equilibrium was not, in fact, more cowbell, but more mulch.
I pried my dizzy ass off the couch, and off we went to the hardware store. Hey, I needed my fucking mulch.
We were fine, the whole way there.
The problem started when the doors to Lowes, bless their hearts, opened. Suddenly, I felt like the world had been tipped on its side. I grabbed Ben and Dawn to steady me as we made our way to the back of the store for a non-bullshit neck massager.
(awkward segue: of COURSE I mean “neck massager.” I write a sex column. If I wanted another sex toy, I’m pretty sure SOMEONE would give me one.)
We made it all the way back to dishwashers before I began to sweat, the gorge of vom rising in my throat, as the world continued, uncannily, to spin. Ben and Dawn steered me to a set of chairs, where I sat, trying to figure out how to exit the store without:
a) Falling over
2) Alerting the store personnel that I was, in fact, in need of medical attention. The very LAST thing I wanted was to have to tell the world that I was in an ambulance because “I was dizzy.” If I had to be in an ambulance at all, I wanted to be
- delivering a baby
- delivering a basket of kittens I’d saved from a burning house.
Since I was “simply dizzy,” I tried to look as non-stupid as one can while flanked by two people who are steering you toward the exit while your eyes are closed.
Yeah, I could feel the stares, even WITH my eyes closed. It didn’t help that I’d chosen, in a moment of personal irony, to wear my Genetics shirt from the Museum of Science and Industry, which proudly asks, “Why Am I So Beautiful?” (the back says, GENETICS).
After what seemed like 82,747 hours, I hit the yawning doors, holding onto Dawn and The Guy On My Couch like we were the last people on the RMS Titanic (the real one, not the one with Leonardo DiCaprio), I’d figured I was done with the humiliation of it all.
That is, until Dawn screamed, “Don’t judge our love!” at some couple gaping at us. I’d have grabbed both of their asses for effect, but I’d probably have toppled over only to be run over by a frantic couple from Delaware, desperately looking for some refuse bags.
Upside? I’d get cross two items off my (non-existent) bucket list.
1) Meet someone from Delaware
B) Get hit by a car.
I’d have probably been dead. Dying over refuse bag purchases is just…pathetic.
Whenever I see my GP and am all, “Woah, my neck hurts,” he examines my neck and then jumps away, all unprofessional-like, swearing under his breath, “oh holy fuck. How are you even walking around?” I’d like to boast about giving “good spasms” but it seems a little counter-intuitive. Mostly because having chronic neck pain blows.
Unless you’re a fluffer, which I am, sadly, not.
I’ve tried everything from massage, which gives me the screaming heebie-jeebies, to chiropractic “adjustments” which made me feel like he was trying to snap my neck like a very sassy chicken bone, to physical therapy. I’ve done the tens unit (which I actually plan on buying), dry heat, moist heat, cold packs, more heat. Nothing lasts very long.
Mostly because that’s where I hold my stress. Turns out three kids + plus running two group blogs + plus freelancing + one cat that pees in the vents + no monkey butler + my fake dead cat, Mr Sprinkles (who gets up to the most amazing hijinks) = Why Mommy Drinks.
Last week, on our Friday night pilgrimage to The Target, I noted they had one of those weird massaging chairs on clearance. Those things remind me of waiting at the pharmacy AND those weird car seat rests with the little wooden balls – that ALWAYS pulled your hair when you moved – so I’ve never been a huge fan. I let it go in favor of some Twinkies.
This week, the chair massager was still there, and I was all, EYE OF THE MOTHERFUCKING TIGER as I bought it. I figured I’d give it to The Daver or The Guy On My Couch if it sucked (which it probably would) but that it was worth a try. So what if I don’t have “back pain?” MAYBE THIS WOULD FIX MY NECK.
Plus, it was on sale, and sales give me good spasms (high five for full-circle!).
Home I trotted, the chair massager neatly nestled among my “groceries*” all ready to try this shit out.
Now here is where I point out that not one, but two males, both close enough in age to me to be trusted, both of whom have watched me walk into walls after yelling, “The Internet Is Broken!” when our Comcast goes out, watched me WITHOUT STOPPING ME unpack the massager.
As I pulled the chair thingy, (which, unrelated, looks remarkably like a chair from an airplane – I think it even has a seat belt! I can PLAY AIRPLANE NOW!) out of its bag, and ripped off the tags, both Daver and The Guy on my Couch simply watched me set it up. They watched me plug it in. They even watched me sit on it and make weird faces.
Eventually, we settled down to watch some Sister Wives on Netflix, nestled up on the couch in my airplane chair. I turned the thing on and noted that it was massaging exactly one area of my back (incidentally not the area that hurt), and, if on the right setting, made a horrifying noise – sorta like I was being punched.
I assumed this was normal – maybe I bought a punching massage chair – and continued to use the airplane chair until I went to bed. Not even the knowledge that I’d had to turn up Sister Wives to ear-splitting polygamist volumes made me – or anyone else, for that matter – assume, hey, maybe (Aunt) Becky DID IT WRONG.
The following morning, I woke up, rolled over and moaned. The area of my back that the punching airplane chair had been working on was bruised. Like actually bruised, not just me trying to exaggerate for effect. I hobbled downstairs, glared in the general direction of the punching airplane chair and poured myself a cup of coffee. Daver and the kids had crossed the Cheese Curtain and ventured into the land of Wisconsin, leaving The Guy on the Couch and I to finish some “yard work”**.
Later that night, after a spectacularly exciting day spent on the couch, drooling, Daver returned with the kids. When they were firmly ensconced in their wee beds, Daver came back downstairs to shoot the shit.
“I love that massage chair,” he said to me.
“GOOD. I was going to take that asshole chair back – that thing is bullshit. My back is SUPER bruised…but I DO like pretending I’m on an airplane,” I replied.
“It works a lot better with that screw out,” he responded, like I had any fucking idea what he was talking about.
I stared, dumbly at him.
“You know, on the back, where there’s a gigantic sign that says, “REMOVE THIS SCREW BEFORE USE?” he prodded.
I stared back.
“It works a lot better without that screw,” he continued, starting to laugh.
I stared. He and The Guy on my Couch began giggling.
“Why the shitballs did you and Ben BOTH allow me to set that up? I can’t work the television remote.”
They began chortling.
“You guys are assholes,” I responded.
“Why didn’t you ASK FOR HELP?” they sputtered out, between giggles.
“Because you NORMALLY just DO it for me. Or you STOP me from doing that shit before I burn the house down. Remember that time I burned my bed with a heating pad? Yeah. THAT’S why I assume if things are complicated, someone else will do them for me.”
Tears of laughter now coursing down their cheeks, I stormed (shuffled) out of the room with as much dignity as I could muster.
I turned back to tell them to piss off, and promptly walked into the wall.
I’ll let you know when I find my dignity again.
*bacon and Marshmallow Fluff don’t exactly constitute “groceries.”
**Watch more Sister Wives and wonder how that guy gets so many chicks. Gotta admit, he’s got nice hair.
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