Angst, anger, anarchy

I Can See Clearly Now

Posted by on Sep 27, 2009 in Angst, anger, anarchy | 0 comments

I was awakened first by the music in my head, a dance song, and there across the floor a man with his hand reaching out to me, his body already swaying to the beat. In my dream I rise from my chair like a angel, and matching his rhythm, I glide across the floor into his open arms.

In reality my feet hit the carpet by the side of my bed, my head full of cobwebs, my eyes fighting against the faint light of dawn. The smoky beat and the man are both gone. Morpheus too has deserted me for the moment as I stumble around the bed and find my robe. The black silk is comforting lying against my skin for only a second before my hand goes automatically to scratch the itchy plague on my ass, the one with a name that sounds like a biology project gone awry, lichen planus.

The condition is illusive, more like a punishment from God than the auto immune disease it is purported to be. No one can tell me how I got it, what will cure it, how long it will last, or even how to relieve the symptoms. The do reassure me that it is not contagious, a small comfort.

My little Chinese doctor (who does not have the disease) shows me a spot on her stomach where she had itching. “See, all gone.” I smile and agree, but her methods are doing nothing to relieve me. I let her put the needles into my flesh, I use the herbal wash she provided, and I faithfully drank the tea that looks like something cleaned out of an aquarium. None the less, I am worse. The only thing that has relieved the symptoms for even a little while are the steroids my western doctor gave me. Of course they also caused me to gain 20 pounds even though I was racing through my life like a hamster on a wheel.

I cannot separate the frustration with this condition from the tension of my life Indeed I am told I should not because the two go hand in hand. Work has been unbelievably frustrating for the last few months. Friends that I loved and worked happily with have been let go suddenly with the most flimsy of reasons. It is all about money and power and politics, subjects that I do not consider significant enough to warrant my time. That is why I suppose I will remain in middle management rather than rise to the top with the big ones. What I care about does not matter in the business world but I am suffered because of my talent. I am naïve enough to think that I have no enemies, that if I continue to produce no one will stab me in the back. I know it’s a lie of course as I watch the firestorm pass over the cubes consuming good and bad alike.

My laptop says Fri. 6:06 AM, my one day off in two weeks. Still groggy from only 4 hours sleep I heat up some more of the wicked Chinese brew and take my cup to the sofa. The words on the screen soon blur. The cat comes and nestles in the crook of my arm as I stretch out on the sofa. I do not remember falling asleep.

My husband stands in front of the auditorium using sign language. He seems to be quite good at it because everyone is attentive to him. I sit in the silent audience without a clue as to what he is saying. A mumbled voice catches my attention and then a ringing phone.

I am awake and upright again trying to decide if it is the house line or one of the cells. By the time I get to the phone there is no one there. I check the ID and see that the window man has called and most likely my husband has talked to him in his sleep. I realize he may know nothing about it when he wakes but most likely it means our windows have arrived and will be replaced this weekend. I go back to my laptop. The time reads Fri. 8:31 AM, still my day off, but only from the office. I want to write. I always want to write. Sometimes I deny myself even this pleasure, this release. I keep the words and the anger all bottled up inside of me. If I have enemies they are surely kinder to me than I am to myself.

It is now Fri. 12:08, still my day off, but I have curtains to remove along with furniture that sits in front of windows. It means dust and laundry that must be done too. It is the last thing I want to do today, but do it I will. Although they do not know the exact cause of my condition the doctors all agree that it is stress related. I know that if I wanted to be better I would just get into my car today and drive somewhere warm with sand and salt water and the freedom of seabirds flying over my head.

Perhaps tonight I will dream of seagulls…

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Rear View Mirror

Posted by on Oct 3, 2006 in Angst, anger, anarchy, Dad, Mother, Reckless youth | 0 comments

I wish everyone could have a childhood like I imagined mine to have been. I find with time I have blurred the sharp angles of real memories with a heavy snowfall of fantasy gathered from books, movies and television. In short, I have Disneyized my own biography until everyone comes out looking like characters from a 50’s sitcom. I have to admit that I am a second generation enabler, although I’m becoming less so as each day progresses. Sometimes I wonder if anyone actually ever had a truly happy childhood. I read lots of stories to that effect, but then, I also write stories like that too. I am not denying there were joyful moments, laughter, true affection, and shared adversity that made us all strong, but a lot of the time we were no better than any other addicts, desperate, lying awake, wishing for it all to end, and terrified that wishing might make it come true.

I have become bogged down of late with writing true, and then finding I do not have the nerve to put those words out for everyone to read. The Disney version is so much more palatable, which is why I cover so many early memories with a warm blanket of nostalgia. I suppose my childhood was average overall, producing neither an ax murderer nor a saint, but like the majority of people, I grew up in a dysfunctional family. If you could squint your eyes just a bit though, the out of focus picture looked almost perfect, like the undertow in the ocean, invisible but deadly. When it was time for me to create my own family, I was determined not to use the pattern already cut for me. While feeling smug that I was wise enough to learn from their mistakes, I was at first oblivious to the fact that what I created was merely dysfunctional in different ways. It takes a lot of energy to keep up a fantasy family, making sure that everyone looks good all time to everyone outside. My mother processed that energy in abundance, and I seem to have inherited her skills, strength of will, and propensity to delude myself.

When she made her final escape to a place where there is no need for delusion, I began to see more clearly. I have a stack of poems written in that era that attest to my loss, but also to my release. After a time though, I stopped hearing a lot of the voices she had set inside my head. By the time my father left to join her, I knew the voices I could still hear were being propped up by my own inner struggle alone, and I was finally able to stop their destructive power. No one gets a clean slate to write on however. I bear the scars of every word spoken, every blow landed. I wish it were myself alone standing bowed, but defiant, from life’s repeated jabs, but to my great dismay, it is too late to erase the pain that I have passed on to my progeny. Life repeats, laughing at our slow wittedness, and I come at last to the punch line to discover I have heard the joke before, and should have known.

So what to do with this too late revelation? For my own part I will embrace the reality, but try to refrain from the telling of needless hurtful truths. The kindness of loving lies is a difficult tightrope, but one that must still be walked at times. The one person I will never knowingly lie to again is myself. I have found the price for those comfortable and easy falsehoods too high to pay.

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Picture Taken at an Awkward Age

Posted by on Feb 4, 2005 in Angst, anger, anarchy | 0 comments

Becoming fifty-nine is something I never thought about when I was depressed about being twenty-nine. Now twenty-nine seems like a dream I had. I think it was a pleasant dream, but it comes to me in snapshots, all separate, and some a bit blurry. I puzzle over them in my brain. Who is that standing beside me on the boat? What was I thinking when I wore that dress? I long to call the people from the pictures, but some are dead, and some are lost, and some have changed too much to recognize. I doubt that many would recognize me now. If they did, I would hate that moment of strangeness on their face, then alarm, then, finding me beneath the gray and sagging visage, shock.

It seems a day for hiding from that shock, beyond depression, and looking to a future that never seemed so uncertain. I can’t say I didn’t think about what kind of old person I wanted to be when I was young. I often thought about my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, and later, my in and out laws. I knew what I didn’t want to be, but always when I saw myself old, it was another snapshot. Me, with only smile lines on my face, surrounded by people, and we were all laughing, a table before me with beautiful food, children’s voices in the next room sounding gleeful. It was Thanksgiving every day in my vision of old age, and I didn’t have to do the dishes. I never saw myself driving home from a mediocre job on a grim, dark, rainy, night, desperately trying to deny that my night vision was compromised.

In my youth I fled my home because I had difficult and controlling parents, so I was determined not to be that kind of parent. I can’t say I was never difficult or controlling with my children, but I admitted to them when I was wrong. The thing I am most proud of in my life are my children. I encouraged them to be mostly fierce and independent, so instead of fleeing my home in pain, they go with freedom and eagerness, to fulfill themselves in distant places. The end result is the same for a good parent or a bad parent—you work yourself out of a job.

I think I remember myself at twenty-nine thinking that life was somewhat black and white. When you do something well, you enjoy the rewards of your labor. When you make mistakes, you pay a price. The truth is neither; life often seems to happen randomly. Evil people have rewards they don’t deserve and good people just keep trying to push that rock uphill. I’m not even sure what the lesson is supposed to be. Should I go biblical and say the rain falls on the just and the unjust? Maybe life is more like a Russian novel where individual struggle and sacrifice ends up getting swallowed by the larger societal forces. Should I analyze life or just live it? Do I have a choice?

Looking back, I realize I am wiser now than I was at 29, but certainly not in the ways I imagined I would be. I try to think what actually made me wiser. Once again, instead of remembering that ninety percent of the time I was sleeping, cleaning, shopping etc., I see the snapshots. Maybe they’re more like video clips; a crisp autumn morning in New York, wearing my suede jacket, my waist length hair swinging as I walk. I bite into a crisp apple and think about the baby I just learned is growing inside me. I am so alive, so aware of the moment, so happy. Did I learn anything at that moment? I once thought we only learned from pain, but I have to say that I have learned much from the joys of my life. Perhaps my memory edits out the chaff and leaves me only the seed. Perhaps that video seems so vivid and joyful because of the pain that followed; the end of my marriage, the struggle to support myself and my baby, the indifference of the man I once worshiped.

A new man came into my life, some thirty odd years ago. He adopted that other man’s child and stood by my side as our other two were born. He says I too often remember life by the bad times instead of the good. Perhaps he’s right, but lately he’s been having more trouble remembering both the good and bad things. Old age I think, but it’s hard to tell. Life is kind in its own way. As we become more wrinkled and grey, our eyesight kindly fails, so we don’t notice. I have an aunt who lost her only grandson, the brightest spot of her life. It was too much for anyone to bear, so she forgot. In fact, she doesn’t know anyone now, a blessing really. I’m sure my youngest brilliant child could site studies, but I really don’t know what the connection is between the physical and mental realities of aging. Do the chemicals in our brains change over time? Do synapse fire differently as we age? I think I’m smarter now than I was at 29, but I can’t stand outside myself to tell, even though it seems like I do in those snapshots. I wish I could believe that we’ll understand it all someday, like I was taught when I was a child. I still keep my secret hopes for life beyond death with the idols under the bed, but I have grown too logical for blind faith.

I can’t seem to end this. I want to have some conclusion, but I’m fearful that there isn’t going to be one. Just as in life, we come into the middle and we leave while the show’s still going on. How can anyone ever figure out what the play is about?

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