Whoa! When did that happen?!

How did I let two months slip away from me?  Is anyone even reading this thing still?

Yesterday, November 18th, marked one year since I moved out of the apartment I shared with my then-husband, so I was feeling a burst of nostalgia and that urge to look back and see what’s changed, what I’ve accomplished in the last year.  It’s not an anniversary I ever thought I wanted to commemorate, but it’s one that I’m glad that I have.  Because when I look back on the past year, I see…a lot of joy, a lot of growing, a lot of learning.  I hadn’t lived by myself or with roommates other than David since 2009, and that’s quite a long time.  But I learned that I am still financially independent, I’m doing well, and even though I still don’t sleep alone as well as I did when there was someone else there, I sleep just fine.  I have no regrets about my conduct or my behavior in the past year.  I think I’ve done all right for myself, for the most part.

So what’s happening in the life of me?

School: I have 75.25 pages completed in a rough draft of my senior thesis.  I originally had hope that it would be completed by Christmas, but I see now that this was a ridiculous goal.  Although I technically am ahead of schedule (with two and a half completed chapters of four), my professor does not think that the editing process will be complete before the spring.  There are two pieces of good news that came along with this.  The first being, I don’t have to defend my thesis (which is AMAZING), and the second being that Dr. LW promised me that, if I complete all four chapters by December 20th, she won’t give me any work to do over Christmas vacation.  Which means FOUR glorious weeks off.  I can’t even imagine.  I may just be inebriated for most of it.
Dating: Well, I’ve gone on a couple of dates.  None of them really panned out.  That’s okay.  I’m awfully freakin’ busy.  The right guy will come along eventually.  Right now I’m not trying to push anything.
Writing: Would you believe that, on top of my already crazy thesis writing, I’ve undertaken the task of writing fiction?  I have!  My friend Jess and I pulled out the notes we had on a series we’d thought of writing back in 2007, dusted them off, and rebooted the whole thing.  And would you believe that the rough drafts of the first TWO books are finished?  There will eventually be five, but I’m really surprised (and psyched) that they’ve been coming along as well as they have!  I’m also doing NaNoWriMo (because I am completely, utterly insane) and I’m already at over 43,000 words with over two weeks to go.  I’m a writing machine, guys.
Holidays: I am so, so psyched for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.  Last year’s holidays were rough at best, between the separation still being fresh and the question of divorce still up in the air.  This year, there’s nothing standing in the way of me and a wonderful holiday.  I couldn’t be more excited.  Plans are underway to decorate the apartment; Sam inherited a fake tree from one of her friends and I have to get my ornaments and creche from David’s basement.  I even managed to find Advent candles, so now I just need to pull together a wreath.  As for Christmas shopping?  I’ve barely started.  Not even thinking about it right now, guys.  Not even a blip on the radar.  I just paid my credit card bill (almost in full — the rest will come on Friday) and then I can use it for holiday shopping or emergencies if need be.   The only person who is “set” (as in, I know what I’m getting for him and just haven’t bought it yet) is my father.  Everyone else?  Well, it’ll come in time.  Always does.
I leave you with this hilarious photo from Halloween.  That’s me and Drea in the foreground.  Can you spot Jess?
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Now I know I was built to last

(This is going to be image-heavy)Friday afternoon, around 4 PM, Drea and I left for New Hampshire.  It was a four hour drive that turned into something like five and a half hours because of Friday afternoon traffic.  We had fun on the drive up, as much fun as two people can have who are stuck in traffic and tired, and at least one of whom is terribly anxious.  The whole time, the climb was in the back of my mind, and I kept thinking, what if I can’t do this?  What if I get hurt?  What will happen?

We got to the hotel around 9:20, and guys…the proprietor was a dick.  He reminded me SO MUCH of our old landlord, Derrick, who used to just barge into our apartment for one reason or another (and who, Drea was convinced, was a sex offender).  He yelled at me when he found out we had two extra people in our room, and insisted I pay an extra $40.  I didn’t say anything because I was just so tired.  But when we finally got INTO our room, I burst into tears.  Drea had to sit down and hug me and tell me, yeah, it’s going to be okay.  You are GOING to climb that mountain tomorrow.

I don’t know why I was psyching myself out so early.  I usually take the Crazy Bruce approach to things like this.  “What’s the worst that can happen if you fall short?”  Is anyone going to die?  No.  (Well…funny enough, when Drea and I were getting water at base camp, the boys saw a list of fatalities, which included some 20-year olds, recently, on the trail we were taking.  Scary).  I had used this approach when Drea had been worrying about falling short on Katahdin.  But I couldn’t do it for me.

After she calmed me down, and we called Jess, Drea and I went to the gas station to get some provisions and batteries for the air mattress pump.  And when we got there, we beheld the glory that is New Hampshire gas stations:

Beer, cider, and wine in the gas station.  WHY DON’T WE HAVE THIS IN CONNECTICUT?!

Matt and Paul got to the hotel around 12 AM, Sam arrived close to 2:30 AM.  As I guess you can probably imagine, I didn’t sleep.  I was way too jumpy, too scared.  When the alarm went off at 6:45 AM, I was relieved.  One way or another, it would be over with by the end of the day.

We hit a Dunks before getting to Pinkham Notch, and then…we began.

Sam was there, too, but I took a terrible picture of him and Drea at base camp so I didn’t post it here.

We took the Tuckerman Ravine trail, which I’ve taken twice previously, so I knew exactly what it entailed.  The first two miles are nothing but straight walking, on boulders, which can get tiring, but it’s nothing compared to the latter half of the trail.  By about halfway, it was evident that Drea and Paul were in the best shape, and me, Matt, and Sam were lagging badly.  I think Sam was mainly lagging because of me, not because he needed to…but I was glad he did (more on that later).

We finally got to Tuckerman’s Ravine, which is just…beautiful.

(Yes, Paul’s in a utilikilt)

Hard to believe, but that bowl of the ravine?  We climbed that.  Seriously.

Climbing the Ravine was the worst for me.  I was seriously hurting by the end of it.  Every time I had to lift my left leg above my hip, it just burned.  I started crying a little at that point.  Sam held back and kept saying “You can do this, you know you can.  I know it hurts but you can do it.  It’s less than 2 miles, you’re already halfway, you can do this.”  But it was a nasty, nasty leg of the climb.

Finally we hit tree-line and got to sit for about 20 minutes and just breathe.

You can’t tell, but that hill behind Drea?  That’s the top.  A lot further away than it looks.

There was still .80 of a mile left.  And I could not have believed that it could be worse than the Ravine.  It wasn’t, but at that point, I was so tired and sore that everything was pretty terrible.  At this point, the hike becomes a boulder scramble.  You have a lot of points where you need to use your hands to scrabble.

Drea is optimistic.  I, on the other hand…am not.

We started the boulder scramble.  Paul and Drea pulled far ahead, and the three of us who remained, lagged.  At this point, I was almost exclusively crying.  I had to stop to rest over and over again, and I felt terrible.  On multiple counts.  My pelvic bones ached, I was embarrassed to be crying, and I thought other hikers looking at me were thinking things like “God, what a baby, it’s not that bad of a hike, get over it.”  What I didn’t know at the time was that Drea had gone up ahead, and was telling almost everyone who talked to her that her friend who had broken her pelvis was climbing behind her.  One person said to her “She is the biggest badass on this mountain.”  When I found that out later, that felt pretty great.

I need to insert here, because it’s important, I guess: I had seriously underestimated the gravity of that fact.  Like I did when my aunt told me back in ’05 that I was ‘lucky to be alive’, I had just brushed it aside.  I knew that it would hurt, I KNEW it wouldn’t be easy.  But I never thought that my pelvis would be the thing that stopped me on the mountain.  I thought it would be me.  I never thought “You know, you might just be physically incapable of doing this.”  Until I got to the boulder scramble.  There were a bad few minutes where I told Sam “I don’t think I can do it.  It’s not endurance, I just don’t think I can physically finish this climb.”  Of course, when you get past Tuckerman’s Ravine…you really have one of two options.  Get to the top, and take the bus down.  Or go back down on your own, which hurts probably more.  But I wasn’t really thinking that in the moment.

We finally got to the point where I could see the top.  We could see the orange weather poles.  I knew from experience that you see those poles, and then as you get closer, they fall out of sight again over the ridge…and then you see them when you hit the top.  So I knew we were getting close.

And then the worst thing happened.  I put my foot down on a loose rock, and I wrenched my ankle.

That was the worst.  I burst into tears and I just kept saying “No, no, I am so close, I can see it, it’s right there, no, this isn’t happening.”  Sam, the perfect Boy Scout, whipped out a couple of handkerchiefs from his pack and set my ankle, binding it up.  He said “You’re right, we’re damn close and you’re going to do this.  I know you are.”  He immobilized it perfectly, and I was able to keep going.  Turns out, in the end, it was just a wrench, not a sprain (thank GOD), and I was able to keep going.

But the last leg was bad.  I was sore, I was tired, I was hurting, I couldn’t stop crying.  Also, the wind speed was 50 MPH near the summit, so that was working against us too.  I almost felt like God was saying “You want this, but do you want it badly enough?  You gotta work for it.”  Hikers kept passing us, and saying “You are so close, you can do it.”  A man in his sixties patted me on the arm and said “I’m a Giants fan, Patriots, and I’m pulling for you.  You can do this.”  Drea and Paul appeared with a sign they had made with one of the gift shop bags, that said “Go Meg!  6,288 feet!  30 got nothing on you!”  But I was just…I couldn’t do it.  I could see the top.  But it still felt so far away.

Drea and Paul and Matt and Sam hung behind me and kept talking.  Drea said “You’re going to do this.  For yourself, for all those people who doubted you.  Everyone who said you couldn’t do it.”  And I gave it one more surge, one more push, and stumbled over the step into the parking lot.

And I burst into tears.

I stumbled around in a circle for a minute, gasping, crying, staring all around me, and then I sat down on that rock and just sobbed.  Drea sat next to me on one side, Sam on the other, and it was one of the best moments of my life.  I did it.  It was painful, it was horrible, but they were all right.  Once I was there, it all went away.  It was perfect.  Drea asked before she took that picture, and I felt kind of like “Well, I’m bawling my eyes out, do I want to remember this?”  But I did.  Paul said, when he saw it “there never was a more genuine moment”, and that’s pretty accurate.  I had nothing left to give.  But I was there.  And it was perfect.

And then, we summitted.  Because the summit is actually further away than just the top.  But the last leg was easy.  I did it with all of them.  Yeah, I limped my way up.  But I made it up.  Which is more than many people ever do, as Drea and Sam kept pointing out.

They let me summit first.  Even though by rights I should have gotten there last…they let me summit first.  I have, without a doubt, the best friends in the world.

This is the picture I sent my parents.  Who had no idea that I climbed the mountain until it was over.  I wrote “This is what I did today!”

Three times.  In 1994 (age 10), 2002 (age 19), and 2013 (age 29).  And guys, three times will be it.  Three is enough.  I knew when I reached the top, and I knew the next day when my pelvic bones were on fire…this will be it.  I will never summit Mt. Washington again.  But it doesn’t matter.  I did the climb.  I did it when it mattered to me.  I had to know if I could do it.  And I did.  I summitted Mt. Washington for a third time on a pelvis that had been broken in three places.

I couldn’t have done it without these guys.  They pushed me, every step of the way.  Because this was never just another climb to me, and they knew it.  This was something I had to do.  I had to.  I knew in my heart, if I didn’t do it this year, I’d never do it again.  I had to do the climb.  And I did it.

My parents were shocked.  My dad was jealous!  He said I should be proud of myself.  He couldn’t believe I did it.  A lot of people, I guess, couldn’t believe I did it.  I’m okay with that.  Like I said…I didn’t realize what a big fucking deal breaking my pelvis would be on my ability to climb.  When I summitted at age 10, it was nothing.  No pain.  At 19, sure, some pain, but I could handle it.  At 29…everything hurt.  I really would not have finished the climb without these guys pushing me.  This is the last time.

But I did it.

That is something that nobody can take away from me.  No matter what happens to me the rest of my life, I did this.

I’ve been beat up and broken down,
and I’ve been there a thousand times.
I may have walked through the worst in hell, my friend,
and we’ve all got our reasons why.
I’d give my life for the things I had,
and it all flies by so fast.
I may have walked through the worst in hell, my friend.
Now I know I was built to last.
– Redlight Kings, “Built to Last”

Chase the wind and touch the sky

It’s over.

I will not be writing out a blow-by-blow account of my divorce experience.  I know me, and I know I will go back and read it over later and I do not want to remember every detail of the four hours I spent in court (90% of it spent sitting there waiting).  I don’t want to remember that.  I am hoping that, with time, the finer details will eventually fade and fuzz and I won’t remember them clearly.  I have, to be honest, already forgotten what the judge actually said.  He spoke the words so quickly.

What I will write down, and what I do want to remember, is how, an hour after leaving court, when the numbness wore off (yes, I did cry, but not until the decision was pronounced and we were leaving), I finally felt the weight of the world shift from my shoulders, to be replaced with…lightness.

And then the tears flowed again, but they were tears of relief, tears of happiness, tears of realization that finally, after twenty-two months, there were no more “what-ifs’ there was no more hope of reconciliation, there was no more push for me to fix what I had known for months in my heart could not be fixed any longer.  There was no court date hanging over my head, there was nothing left to tear down and set on fire.

Freedom.

 

Please don’t take this to mean that I am happy that my marriage ended, or that I’m thrilled to be divorced.  The best way I can put it into words (and this is after almost 48 hours of thinking about it) is this:

I’m not happy that I’m divorced.  I’m sad that our marriage ended.  But I am so happy, so relieved, so thrilled, that there is nothing left to burn.

I had been carrying this horrible burden since September of 2011, this push, this drive, to fix this marriage, to make it work.  Even knowing as I did that David gave up on us back in 2011, even if he didn’t admit it until almost a year later, I still felt obligated to fix what I could.  Which was ludicrous in hind sight, because from Day One, it was on David.  He was the one who was unhappy, he was the one who didn’t want to be married, he was the one who decided, on that day in September 2011 that I will never forget, not if I live to be 100 years old, that he was ready to tell me that he didn’t want to be married to me anymore.

If anyone says, “Divorce is not an option, you MUST fix your marriage“…well, that’s all well and good, and it’s a noble thought.  But for a marriage to work, both individuals need to want it to.  Both need to strive with every fiber of their being, every single day, to make it work.  You have to wake up every morning, determined to keep your marriage strong, whether consciously or unconsciously.  If even one of the two people in a couple is not on board…it isn’t going to work.  It took me a very long time to figure that out.  And even after I had realized it, I still kept hoping, against every hope, that David would change his mind.  Even knowing as I did, that it would never work.  My trust had been broken far too many times.  There was no realm of being where I could have ever trusted him again.  Without trust, you cannot have a healthy marriage.  (I sort of laugh when I think about how often I said that before we were married.)

 

But once the divorce was final, there was nothing left.  There were no more expectations, no more hopes, no more fears.  What was done, was done.  The worst had truly happened…and I had lived through it after all.

Months ago, acknowledging finally that my castle in the air was long since abandoned by its other inhabitant, who had no interest in coming back, I made the decision to burn it metaphorically to the ground.  All of it, burn everything.  I knew that if I held on to even one scrap of those dreams, if I looked back for even one moment, I would be trapped in a dying dream forever, like Miss Havisham in Great Expectations.  I didn’t want that.  Only when everything was ashes could I step out and rebuild.

As of July 8th, everything, every last piece, of that lovely mad dream, is ashes.

My heart has never been more full and open.  And I’m shaking the ashes off my feet, and walking forward, never looking back, to build myself a bright, beautiful new future.

 

There’s one thing I want to say, so I’ll be brave
You were what I wanted
I gave what I gave
I’m not sorry I met you
I’m not sorry it’s over
I’m not sorry there’s nothing to save

I’m not sorry there’s nothing to save…

– Stars, “Your Ex-Lover is Dead”

Confessions of a Neophyte Historian

I am more excited about the prospect of working towards my Ph.D. than I am about doing research for the M.A. that I still haven’t obtained.

This might be a problem.

My life, summed up in two things.  My adorable “perpetual kitten” Tabitha (Tabby), and my thesis prospectus (submission two of three, there were still edits remaining after this).

It is so hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that today marks the 150th anniversary of Pickett’s Charge.  I am so sad that I wasn’t able to financially or physically swing attendance at the 150th anniversary re-enactment down in Pennsylvania.  I imagine that it must have been a sight to behold.  I toy with the idea of making it down there for the 175th anniversary, but holy shit, I will be 54 years old then.  Damn.

Apparently there was even a rainbow there this week.  How beautiful.

Photo courtesy of mike-generallyspeaking on Tumblr

History is just so raw, crippling, stark, and yet magnificently beautiful , all at once.  This is our heritage. 

If you think it has nothing to do with you, because you were born almost 150 years later, you could not be more wrong.

Strength

We are coming up on the end of this journey.  Within the month, D will be my ex-husband.  Except…only on paper, because he’s been my ex-husband since November 18th, 2012, when I moved out.  I keep reminding myself that we’ve been divorced, physically, mentally, and emotionally, for seven months now, and that the court date is only a mere formality.

So why I am so afraid of it?

I couldn’t tell you that.  Maybe because, to me, it’s too ceremonial, it reminds me so much of a mockery of our marriage.  Something we so lovingly cared for and crafted and planned out, dreamed of, rehearsed, and found such joy in…eradicated in ’30 seconds’ (which is what the court clerk assured me yesterday).  Four and a half years with someone…burned away to nothingness?

Yes.  All of that.

You’d think I’d be excited.  You’d think I’d be happy.  The things that he’s said and done in the last eighteen months were heinous.  He has not treated me the way you would even expect someone to treat a casual acquaintance.  To quote one of my friends “there is a difference between murdering someone and torturing them to death”, and when it came to how our divorce was handled, he definitely chose the latter path.  His reasons for doing so, I will never know.  I’d like to think it was all misguided fear of hurting me.  He didn’t want me to know.  He didn’t want me to be hurt.

Or I could choose the more likely scenario — he was protecting himself.  His ego, his reputation.  He didn’t want the world to know what we were, who he was, what he really thought of me, what really went on behind closed doors.

I feel so old beside him these days.  And it’s not even because he’s 28 and I’m going to be 30 in just three months.  I just feel so much older than him.  I remember when we first started dating, how weirded out I was by the fact that he was a mere four months older than my younger sister.  Over time, I stopped sensing the almost-two year age gap between us; it didn’t seem relevant.  And in the last two years…it’s there like a massive rift between us.  It’s not even that I’m so much older than he is (I’m not), it’s just that I want so many different things than he does.  I was ready.  He was not.  And it fell apart.

I hate when people say “well, you kind of rushed into marriage.”  We were dating for two and a half years before we got married…I don’t really call that “rushing.”  And you can’t really put a time limit on something like this.  My parents were engaged after only six weeks and they’re going to celebrate their 33rd anniversary in October.  It’s not a “one size fits all” sort of scenario.  And I think that’s been the most difficult thing about it.  There’s no rhyme or reason, nothing I could have done.  Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.  The end.

 

All I want now, is strength.

Strength to get through the court date — July 8th — with my head held high, and no tears.

Strength to know in my heart that I am making the right decision; the only decision.

Strength to look beyond July 8th, and see that the world isn’t ending.  This world, maybe.  But the new one is coming, and it’s brighter and more complete and fulfilling than this world was.  Even if I can’t see where the path leads right now.

Strength to hold my anger, my pain, and whatever bitterness I feel inside, because releasing those thoughts, those words, out into the world, solves nothing…but it may destroy something.

Strength to be classy.  I never wanted to be trashy, I always feared loud confrontation and drama and theatrics.  Please, when this is over, let me have the strength to have carried myself in such a way that nobody will be able to say anything about me except that, through it all, I redefined “class”.

And above all…

Strength to never reproach myself for what has occurred, for any of the choices I have made.  They may not have been the easiest decisions, but they were the right ones, no matter how I felt at the time.  I may not be happy with them now, or with the direction that my life has taken.

But oh, I believe, I believe with my heart and soul, I am not done yet.

There is beauty left in the beyond.

 

Scar Memory

“You know, nobody even notices them, except for you.”

“If I didn’t know where to look, I’d never even see them.”

“I don’t notice them anymore.”

My scars.  The perfect example of the fine, fine line between love and hate.  The last tangible reminders of the day that will remain etched in my memory until I take my last breath.  The lynchpin moment of my entire existence, a seemingly normal, beautiful late summer afternoon, when a split second decision forever altered the course of my life.  And my face.

Nearly eight years and one surgical procedure later, they are all but invisible.  I coat my face with moisturizer and sunscreen year-round, in order to maintain my pale skin — not out of vanity that would put a Southern belle to shame, but because the slightest tan brings to life those long-forgotten weals, making them stand out a stark white contrast on my right cheekbone.

Gone are the days when I would catch my mother tipping her head sideways to examine them, her eyes sad, “I can’t believe I did that to you.”  My unspoken response, “It wasn’t your fault.  You didn’t see the other car.  I don’t care.  I don’t care.”  Trying so hard to relieve that guilt, but unable to do so, because it was my face.  It has been years since I wore my hair deliberately long, hanging over my face, so that coworkers didn’t ask about my “road burn” or try to reach out and touch them.  I didn’t want anybody touching them.  They were mine.

Like a tattoo you once noticed every single day, but now forget you have, the scars have faded from the forefront of my mind.  When I do my makeup in the morning, my primary concerns are correcting uneven skin tone and covering any pimples, not the delicate pattern on my upper right cheekbone, close to my eye.  Most of the time, it never crosses my mind.

But driving home late at night, turning up the volume on the stereo in order to drown out the thundering of the rain outside on my windshield, I am distracted by a faint itch. I reach up and scratch it, absently, and then, like a wall of water that suddenly washes over me and threatens to drown me in its depths, the memories return.  I can feel them under my fingers like the tiny white bumps, the traces in my flesh.  They’re there.  Eight years and one surgical procedure can’t eradicate them.  Nothing ever will.  They may not be visible, and nobody notices them anymore…but they’re still there.  The scars, and the memories.   Under my skin.

Even if the sky is falling down

I am…not in a good place today.  And I couldn’t tell you why.  I got home yesterday feeling low, and it hasn’t improve one bit since then.  If anything, it’s gotten worse.

I mentioned in my last entry that, while I was at Wildfire, my hair caught fire when I was doing a trick with my fire staff.  I brushed it off as “no  big deal” and at the time, it really wasn’t.  One of my friends said “I don’t understand how setting yourself on fire is ‘no big deal’.”  But I really wasn’t trying to be cavalier.  It just…didn’t upset me as badly as I had thought.  Well, karma had it in for me, because on Saturday night, I really did catch on fire, and it was not good.

I was spinning fire staff at a friend’s house.  My safety was my friend Drea.  The treeline at my friends’ apartment is low, and I didn’t properly “spin off” the excess fuel on my staff before beginning.  During a trick, I accidentally brushed the wick of my staff against my shirt.  And my shirt went up in flames.  Drea, who hadn’t been safetying long, saw the flames and froze.  I tried to brush them off but I only succeeded in making a bad situation worse.  With nothing left to do, I threw the staff aside in order to “stop, drop, and roll”, like we’re taught when we’re little kids.  Until age 29, last Saturday night, I’ve never once had to do that.  But it was instinctive, and it worked — sort of.  There were still a couple of live flames on my shirt when I hit the ground, and those were quickly beat out by a couple of my friends.

Unbelievably, I wasn’t burned.  My left side was slightly singed, but the pain stopped after a couple of hours.  I’m very fortunate.

I have been feeling off ever since this happened.  There are so many stupid, ridiculous, painful feelings right now.  Something that usually makes me feel so powerful, so happy, so free, is frightening to me.  That primary rule “respect the flames” — I feel like I only thought that I did, but I wasn’t taking it seriously enough.  How could I have been, to have screwed up so badly?  I’m lucky I wasn’t severely hurt.  I’m embarrassed that I screwed up, and so badly, in front of my friends, most of whom are much more experienced than I am.  It’s also two times I’ve set myself on fire in two weeks.  The first time was no big deal — a lot of people screw up tricks and hit themselves with their wicks, especially when learning.  The second was a stupid, stupid mistake — an incomplete spin-off that left an excess of fuel on my staff, which transferred to my body and set me alight — that could have easily been avoided.

I don’t know why it is hitting me so hard lately, but I feel like an overwhelming failure.  Which is a complete 180 from where I was a couple of weeks ago.  Back then I was feeling powerful, strong, smart, talented.  Now I feel…empty.  Useless.  Weak.  A failure.

There aren’t too many lower points that I’ve hit, than lying on the ground, crying from fear and pain while my soon-to-be-ex husband frantically beats the flames out of my shirt.

 

 

In any case.  I’m fine.  Everyone’s fine.  I’m just…not where I was a couple of weeks ago.  The path my life has taken in the last eighteen months has been very “two steps forward, one step back”, and sometimes…I’m just not in a good place.  Like right now.  I hate that, but it is what it is.

The good thing about the low points is knowing that — like the high points — they’re not forever.  Life is a series of ups and downs.  I am out of the horrible darkness I was in a year ago.  I am not quite where I want to be, but I’m in a better place than I was.

 

And when the darkness begins to lift once more…I will spin again.

Rather than what I’ve lost

One of the perks of having a roommate who works in the university registrar’s office is getting to find out what you got for grades the moment they’re handed in.  The deadline was last night at midnight, and Sam was able to check my grades today.

A and A.

4.0 a second time in a row.

As soon as I saw it on the computer screen, I became the total loser who was crying at work.

I kind of knew I had it in the bag.  I mean, Dr. S gave me perfect scores on every paper that he gave back to me.  Granted, the three that I didn’t get back (because it was the end of the semester) were all the biggest, most important papers…but I had a feeling I wouldn’t completely bomb them, which is what I would have had to do to not get the A.

But it never gets old, it really doesn’t.  I can’t wait until I actually see the grade on the website, see what my new cumulative GPA is, and can actually go public about it.

 

 

Timing is everything.  And timing might be very fitting, really.  Sometimes, having a good memory can be difficult.  I had a historian’s brain long before I set out to be a historian.  Dates, to me, are very important.  “It’s just another day” doesn’t register.  No, it isn’t just another day.  It is the only day of its kind, it will never pass this way again.  I remembered, Friday night, that Saturday, May 18th, 2013, would have been my five year dating anniversary with David.

On my way to the bar Friday night, for Samantha’s graduation party, I drove alone, and I listened to music, and I thought.  Usually when I’m in the car and listening to music, I think about loss.  I think about the things that aren’t, the things that should have been, and what can never be now.  I don’t usually drive, and think “Yeah, I’m good.”  Except last night, I did.

Part of it was due to a well-timed text from my close friend Kim, telling me how “fucking proud” she was of me for getting that 4.0.  Part of it was because I was thinking about how I had rocked my C25K run the day before.  These are things I didn’t do before.  This is not the person I was going to be, when I was married to David.

Don’t get me wrong.  The years I spent with David, from May 2008 to September 2011, were the best of my life, hands down, at least thus far.  They filled me up in a way nothing had before.  I was deliriously happy with him.  Because he made me happy.  Not because I made myself happy.  And then September happened, and the year and a half of indecision…and then the decision came, and I had to make myself happy.

I found myself.  I found things that made me happy, instead of him making me happy.  I went back to school.  I might have gone back anyway, if I’d been with David, but probably not, because he was never that concerned about it.  If I had told him I wanted to go back, he would have backed me to the hilt, but I don’t think he would have pressured me to do so, and I probably would not have.  Running?  Hell no.  I was good enough the way I was, right?  Overweight, out of shape, I was fine, right?

But look at me now.  Look what I’ve done.  I don’t say this to brag, I’m not trying to be immodest.  But for so long I have been thinking about everything I lost, everything I wouldn’t have.  A husband, security, a family, a house.  And that’s not true.  It will happen.  Just not right now.  Someday, with the right person.  But not right now, because the time isn’t right.

It doesn’t even matter.  Look at me now.  Look at all the things I had convinced myself I couldn’t do, that I am doing now.

Five years ago, I was happy with C’s.  I was just trying to keep my head afloat at school.  Straight A’s?  4.0?  HA.  But I did it.  Not once, but twice.  Two semesters in a row.  I could never even conceive of that when I was 24 years old.  Not even on the radar.  But I did it!  Twice!  And at a time in my life when everything was caving in, everything felt like it was falling apart.  As Jess said earlier, “It was a crap situation but you adjusted and totally BAMFed it.”

Running.  I was never a runner.  And now I go to the gym three times a week and I run my little heart out.  Even though Dr. L told my parents, back in 2005, that I should never do any high impact sports anymore, even though he said my body was prematurely aging because of the trauma of the accident.  I listened way too long, to those voices of doubt, that told me that I was too beat up and broken to do physical activity.  I’m done with that.  I’m going to finish training, I’m going to get to the point where I can run 5Ks, and I’m going to go further.  I’m going to listen to the words my father said to me, when he heard the doctor’s words: “Don’t let anyone limit you.”  

Because there are no limits.

I have looked, way too long, at what I have lost.  It’s really easy to do, in the dark of the night, going to bed by myself, or driving down a long stretch of highway when a familiar song comes on the radio.

But what I have lost is equal to, if not less than, what I have gained.  What I have.  What I am going to be.

And I drove, and I cried, and I thought about everything I have done, everything I have accomplished, since I left David in November of last year.  Look at what I have done.  Look at what else I’m going to do.  I don’t know if anyone understands how much these things mean to me — getting straight A’s, running a 5K, climbing Mt. Washington a third time, graduating with my Master’s.  I look at pictures on FB of my friends who were graduating this weekend, and I thought to myself, that’s going to be me within the year.

It is. I believe it.

Look what I’ve done.  Look what I’ve gained.  Look how beautiful this all is.

woman-standing-mountain-top-16240141

You have to set yourself on fire

The last few weeks have been a roller-coaster, and of course, the ride isn’t over yet.  I am putting the finishing touches to the edits on my prospectus…and it’s a nightmare.  The fear of not being good enough is all-consuming.  Worse, there’s a depression that’s hung over me since the move.  It’s not the apartment (I love it), it’s not my roommate (she’s wonderful).  It’s just that I put way too much pressure on the move, too much emphasis on thinking that once I moved, I wouldn’t hurt anymore.  Surprise!  Not the case.  If anything, I think I may have felt worse, because the move, with the due date for three major papers just behind it, combined with the choice timing of some douchebaggery from David, spiraled me into a very bad place over the weekend, and I’m still struggling to crawl out of that, and get back to where I was before.

Depression, stress, anxiety, and way too many tears, combined with work pressures (I’ve had to go into work on a weekend two weeks in a row) and some overwhelmingly bad nightmares, and the result most days is…this:

Sometimes, I just want to give up.  My life took an abrupt turn for the worst on September 26, 2011.  It has been twenty months since then.  And twenty months is a fucking LONG-ASS time to be sad a majority of the time.  Sometimes I get so damn frustrated with myself.  Why are you not over this yet?  Why is this divorce still bothering you?  Why can’t you move the fuck on and stop living in the past?  Why do these things still make you sad?

It has the combined effect of making me irrationally angry.  At myself.

But you know, I looked back in my blog a few months, to the entry dated January 29th, 2013, entitled “Death of All Dreams.”  And I read back to those words that I wrote, pre-filing, pre-moving, pre-…everything I’ve done since January:

There before me, on a funeral pyre, are all the dreams I had for myself, all the unfulfilled promise that we had when we met, aged 23 and 24, so ridiculously in love, ready to embark on this great journey of life.  We were going to be different.  I know that nobody goes into a marriage planning on divorcing.  From day one, we said that divorce was not an option.  And then…it was.

They lie there, on this mythological pyre, so many memories and dreams and plans.  I turn them over in my hands before putting them back down…

And although he has stripped the memories, the dreams, the hopes, even the love, bare, and laid them on the pyre, I haven’t been able to set the pile alight.  Because you see, he won’t.  He won’t do it.  Only I can do it.  Because he never will.

He left them there and walked away, he thinks I can never bring myself to end what I never wanted to end.  To light all of those dreams on fire, watch them melt and run together and evaporate into thin air.

He doesn’t realize that once they are burned, once they are gone forever, once I give them up…I can start dreaming again.  I can hope again.

I just have to find a way to strike the match.

Lord, help me find a way to strike the match.

 

And sometimes it seems like I haven’t come so far.  But when I look back on there…I did find my way.  I filed.  I moved.  I struck the match and burned it to the ground.  The only way that I could move on was by burning the past, and I did it.  I did it.  I burned it.  It’s still burning.  There’s no sense staring back and trying to reach in to salvage the pieces as they catch and burn.  I’ll only hurt myself.  Even if I pull them from the wreckage…they’re still charred, they’re still gone.  No sense in looking back.  Burn it.  Burn it all.

And then, when it’s over…it’s over.  And you can begin again.

When there’s nothing left to burn…you have to set yourself on fire.

Smile into the fear and let it play

I hesitate to write this, but as I’ve said, this is my journal and this is what I need to talk about.  I haven’t discussed it with anyone in “real life” yet.  I don’t even know if I want to.  I probably should talk to Crazy Bruce about it when I see him tomorrow, but…I don’t know.

My memories of the car accident from 2005 are starting to come back.  I’ve always been very fortunate in that my memory “shut off” for the first ten minutes after impact.  My last cognitive memory (until recently) was of the grill of the SUV that hit us bearing down, too close.  After that, my brain went into shock and just shut down.  I was conscious the whole time, according to my mother and the paramedics at the scene, but I don’t remember about 10 minutes of time, during which the accident occurred, the paramedics and fire were called, etc.  I just didn’t remember anything until the EMTs were already there and in the car with me.

A few years ago, when I was working at Best Buy, someone hit me in my right hip (the point of impact) with a TV set that was on a cart.  When that happened, I experienced my first real flashback, and I’ve never had one quite so real or vivid of the accident ever since.  My vision blanked out and was replaced by a tree line, swaying over my head.  I couldn’t hear anything, I couldn’t see anything but that treeline.  It took me a minute to realize that my supervisor was yelling my name, that the woman who hit me with the cart was apologizing, that I was at Best Buy and not in the car.

There have been other moments when things have come back.  My face will itch on the side of my face where the scars are, and I’ll reach up to rub it absently, and then I’ll get flashes of memories back.  When I first was in the hospital, the doctors told me that memory is a delicate thing; that my brain had “chosen” to shut off in order to shield me from those worst moments, but that it might not be permanent, and I might very well get those memories back some day.  After nearly eight years, I thought I was in the clear.  On August 27th, it will be eight years since the accident.  I thought, really, that I had lost those ten minutes of my life forever, and truth be told, I was fine with that.  There are some memories you just don’t need to have, you know?

But in the last week, that memory, of the car grill, is becoming more vivid.  And there’s more to the memory than just the grill.  I can remember the point of impact now.  I can remember the car slamming into the passenger side door.  And then my brain shuts off again.  I don’t want to remember this.  I don’t know why, after eight years, those memories are suddenly available to me.

I’ve been reading about repressed memories and post-traumatic memory loss, and it’s weird, because even though I’ve been doing extensive reading on PTSD ever since I was diagnosed back in 2008, I always skipped over those sections, because I felt they didn’t apply to me.  After all this time, why should they?  But something I read made a lot of sense to me:

“a traumatic memory will not surface until that person has developed sufficiently to manage the intensity of that information and to have capacity to process it and build a resolve so that the traumatic memories can be put on a shelf along with all the other memories of a lifetime.” 

In other words…I couldn’t remember these things until my brain and body decided that I was mentally ready to handle them.  Which is a comforting thought, really, when you think about it.  It’s like my body has finally decided that I’m strong enough to handle the intensity.  And where my first inclination is to run away, hide, get as far away from those memories as possible…it’s somewhat comforting to feel that my body and brain think that I am capable of it, that even though I wasn’t in the past seven and a half years, I am now.

DS asked me yesterday how long it’s been since I started seeing Crazy Bruce.  It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years…I started seeing him in early 2010, when I was still living in Bristol.  Three years we’ve been together, chipping away at the demons inside of me, trying to make me into the best person I can possibly be.  Sometimes it feels like a Sisyphan effort, like I’m working so hard on self-improvement but it never gets anywhere.  But when I look back at what I was, and what I could have been, and compare it to now…compare the way I would have handled myself five years ago, pre-medication, pre-Crazy Bruce…then I can see the results.  I can see how it has all been worth it.

I’m a work in progress, but the outline is starting to make sense, you can see where this is going.  It’s like trying to look at a Monet painting up close.  You can’t see the delicate outlines, the way the colors compliment each other perfectly.  You only see the blobs, the shapeless flowers, the way everything runs together like a mess.  It’s only when you stand back far enough, that you can see that it really does all make sense.