18 February, 2010


Like when Alexander had his '… no good, horrible, very bad day …', when my children were young, a stubbed toe, a metal toy shovel that accidentally on purpose made a real hole in a plaster wall, or a dead worm named ‘Sami’ like the fifteen others in the toilet-paper-ed, grass-filled leftover container, all constituted enough emergency to stop, sit and regroup.  There might have been crying and holding or crying and fighting or crying and laughing or crying and reading about Alexander, but any which way, there was release, relief and a fresh start somehow.

This day, today, seems different. First of all it’s me that’s in the muck of a mired down, un-moored, disoriented, unglued, lost and wet on a visually sunny kind of very bad day. Second of all that particular uckiness that glows phosphorescently (so it’s completely noticeable by everyone) when someone is wallowing in the abyss of self-pity, has me oozing about like the slugs I used to pick up to feed our pet Turtle.  I should add that this was before I accidentally froze him to death in the cast iron tub I put out in the back yard one winter after I got too stressed trying to contain the Fruit-fly colony breeding over the compost I’d put in with him when I was trying to demonstrate perpetual motion. I’d had this idea that we’d put the tub in the living room to mix up what I perceived to be a societally imposed sense of rightful placing of objects. Since we had a usable shower still in the bathroom, I filled the tub with dirt. The weeds I didn’t want in the garden (and didn’t want to kill because surely modeling disrespect for the earth isn’t good parenting practice) were put in the tub to grow as something perhaps misplaced, displaced, but still potentially beautiful and certainly useful. The compost from the kitchen fed the worms I bought in a brown paper bag that also went into the tub. These worms fed Mr. Turtle and my family had a living science experiment. Except the mess of it all got to me so I displaced the whole kit and kaboodle to the yard (where much of it came from anyway). The tub could have housed a tacky Virgin Mary but we loved Mr. Turtle and who’s to say? He could have been immaculate. A guy I tried to date around that time was pretty impressed by my refusal to gasp at the ooze of the slugs and there was no question that the way Mr. Turtle opened his mouth to eat was amazing because, unlike humans (which of course I didn’t miss the opportunity to point out to anyone who’d listen), his jaws worked like hinges and raised the entire top of his face when he welcomed his dinner.

So I’m oozing today. Multiple involvement of orifices. Tears. Excess sweat in disenfranchised places. It all started when I woke up in the post-menopausal hormone swamp. It isn’t even so much about the moisture (puddles sometimes if I’m being honest). It’s the brain fog that goes with the territory.  And an incessant round of thinking that if my fingers weren’t also out of whack, I could maybe catch in a series of rapidly escalating, non-redundant scales of profound thoughts. Unfortunately, even my typing seems slanted.  I do marvel though that despite having PTSD for over 30 years, this surprises me every time it hits.

I’ll be fifty-five years old this Sunday. It’s a nice number I never thought I’d live to see. I’m not having an issue with the getting older piece, at least not right this minute, but I am pretty resentful that it means having to get my license renewed. In principle this shouldn’t be so bad. You just go, sit in a chair until they call your number, try to pretend you’re not royally pissed off at the unbelievable incompetence all around you, pay the money, take the thing and leave. But that’s not how this particular day’s script went. I was so disoriented that although I’ve driven to the Registry in Roslindale, MA on numerous occasions, I got lost on my way to the local DMV. It might have been fun years ago, hanging out with several stoned friends, to have no idea where we were and then … wonder of wonders … surprise!! We’d be right where we wanted to end up. Back then it seemed like some cosmic rightness in the world. Today, feeling lost going less than three miles from my house has me questioning my right to foot space on the planet.

Given that I arrived exactly four minutes after the place opened, I thought everything might turn out okay. Until I walked around the corner and after mentally discounting the possibility that Obama was visiting (I did see Michelle’s face on some screen yesterday), that there’d been a random fantastical alien space-ship sighting, that a hero had been in exactly the right place at exactly the right moment and saved a grandmother fainting when she learned she’d won the lottery and could finally buy a house for her daughter who’s a single mom of three, realized that this huge line wending its way towards Roslindale Center was, at the front end, waiting to get into the registry. I didn’t cry while I clenched my coat, sipped my tea from my pink travel mug and tried to ignore the eavesdropping I couldn’t help. The thing that really stunk about all the waiting, aside from the permanent five year grimace on my new license, is that I had several hours worth of minutes in which to think.

I tried to distract myself with my knitting. The problem is I’m a very bad knitter. Just learning really. And it frustrates me terribly because I’ve known how to do it at other times in my life. So I sat, elbow to elbow with two people I don’t know, casting and recasting the stitches and thinking about how excited I’ve been by my recent writing. I was thinking I’d finally found a way to talk about some of the things that I think constitute our cultural ‘Elephant’ in our societal living room. Writing about denial is a way out and through. Talking about trauma helps traumatized people back into the arena. Writing about rape allows for a healing for everyone.

But the same things are true that have always been true. Most people don’t want to. Don’t want to talk about these things. Don’t want to read about these things. Don’t want to think about these things. And at least today, how I’m thinking is that most people don’t want anything to do with anyone who, just by being, impels them to look at these things that are so not pretty to see.  And as I sat, unraveling knots that wouldn’t exist if I wasn’t so fucking dissociative that learned skills sometimes disappear and then reappear in maddening random ways, I was thinking that of course people don’t want to talk about rape. Who would? Unless they were wearing the mantle imposed on them by random events that most people want to scapegoat away into some arena that makes dealing with them unnecessary? But what else is there to do? So many people are carrying loss. All of us if we’re honest. From years of experience I know that mucking in the muck is the way to not carry it. And yet, I’m sure it gets boring. And old. And evokes helplessness. And don’t we wish someone else would be the one to bear witness? We’re too busy.

So, on occasion, I fall in to feeling sad for the me that is me. I probably looked like a Rheumy oldster sitting on that green chair. My eyes kept tearing. I wanted to think of something funny. Truly I did. And I was afraid the clerk, if I lived long enough to get to him, was going to wish me Happy Birthday and that instead of smiling with grace, the cracks of my teeth would open and a whimper would escape. Luckily, he didn’t even see me enough to smile, never mind realize that I wouldn’t have been there if I wasn’t aging so fast. So at least that one worry was wasted.  But even the thought that if only I’d been a tiny more addled I might have forgotten to put on my shoes – and then the fact that I quick checked to make sure my boots were boots and not slippers – didn’t make me smile.

So I thought about that wonderful ‘Alexander and his bad day’ book I used to read to my kids and wished for a mother to normalize it all away for me.  Except knowing me - today anyway - that would probably make me sad too.

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