sixty-four: departure

this makes me think of lots of things.

the first thing i thought about was when i was leaving for travel and a volunteer position overseas, in my early 20s. a few days before i left we had a huge going-away party at my house, all sorts of people from my past, families of kids i had nannied and their parents, current boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, high school friends, childhood friends. and it was fun but it was also really weird, because loads of people got really emotional and it surprised me (in my naive, youthful state) coz i kept thinking, um, i’m coming back, people! but what i didn’t know, and what some of them did, was that when i returned, i’d be an entirely different person. and they’re right, i was.

i don’t remember any tears that night of the party (very very close, though, when my ex hugged me before leaving and then started to cry in my arms…and i mean, really cry. hard.) and i’m not sure i even did when a cavalcade of people escorted me to the airport the morning i left, i was so anxious, so nervous, so scared about the assorted details of flights and luggage and would i be over the limit, etc.. it was only after i got through security, boarded the plane, took off into the air, and actually watched my hometown get smaller beneath me that it all came crashing down. the fact that i was leaving them, all of them, for an indefinite period of time. all my babies, my friends, my family…i cried the entire 2.5 hr connecting flight (which was unheard of then…more like my current version of me, although shit, 2.5 hrs is still impressive), with a sweet old couple next to me who passed me tissues and werther’s originals, alternatingly, while the tears continued to fall. once every 30 mins or so, i could feel one or the other of them, looking at me, and then they’d reach and pat my hand.

*

last week, i was pretty convinced that my departure from this earth would be a beneficial thing. one less burden for the people i loved, one less mess of a human being passing on her mess to others. i didn’t have a plan, not really, but i realized how much internal real estate these sorts of thoughts had been taking up, and i got terrified. angry and ashamed and terrified. i tried all sorts of things to keep everyone far away, i said awful things, i pushed them away as far as i could, i pitched my best case, but no one listened. they just sat with me, and passed me the equivalent of tissues and werther’s originals. wouldn’t let me leave. told me they loved me and would not be okay with a world without me in it. i fought it. but their love was stronger, it kept me here, again.

*

like so many survivors, i’m really scared about being abandoned. i’m pretty convinced that everyone will go, that i’ll wear them out entirely and they’ll have to. and then i’ll be alone, just as they always said i would be. the little one inside spins, even though she has always done it alone, why is it different? (i’ll tell you: because today’s me knows the sweet taste of presence, and it’s addictive. it’s like crack for trauma survivors). and somewhere in the eye of the storm, i realize that i don’t want to die. i just want it to stop. i want there to be quiet and days that are free from shame.

i want a departure from the usual order, please.

so, i’m still kicking. thank you for reading along. for responding. for patting my hand every once in awhile, to remind me you’re still here.

sixty-one: orange

i love the colour orange. deep burnt orange, bright vibrant orange, the mellow, melancholy orange of the sunset in pocketbrit’s post, the gentle flame of candlelight or firelight, all of it. i enjoy wearing orange, and our house has splashes of orange throughout. it feels safe and comforting and alive, to me.

i like putting sweet orange essential oil in my diffuser, coz it’s lovely and clean and welcoming. also, sweet orange reminds me of my therapist, who always smells faintly of it when she hugs me.

i also think of playing soccer when i was little, one of the only girls on a team full of boys, and how at half-time, someone’s mom would bring out that old-school square tupperware container full of quartered, tangy oranges. we’d all grab handfuls at a time, biting them off the peel, juice running down our chins onto our jerseys, hands sticky, bits left behind in our gap-toothed smiles. the arcs of fine, citrusy spray that shot out as our nails pierced the pebbly skin.

i love the smell and the crunch of golden orange leaves in the fall. how something that is dying can still be so beautiful.

and orange always reminds me of india, where the most shades of orange exist in the world, i think. clothing and scarves and buildings and henna’d hair and hands and feet and the sun in hazy polluted skies and marigolds adorning statues and temples and the flesh of mangoes and musk melon. jalebi and sadhus and spices.

fifty-six: water

i have a bunch of unrelated thoughts. i’ll just write them here.

*

i don’t usually have baths, usually only if i’m feeling little and triggered and i need to calm down i do. and when i do, i make it so so hot, put in baby soap or essential oils, and, as i cry (which i often do) i let my head sink under the water so my ears are covered, and i close my eyes, and just listen to my ragged breathing and my heartbeat until they both slow. sometimes i add more hot water. then i lie there some more. until the tears are done, or, more often, until someone bangs on the door with an urgent need to pee in this particular toilet or until someone pokes her head in to check if i’m alive in there.

*

i also thought about ani difranco’s song everest, and about one my favourite lines: that the moon was so beautiful, the ocean held up a mirror. i love that. water as a reflection of the sky, as a mirror of what’s above.

*

i am from a province where there are many beautiful lakes and rivers, but not near the sea. my wife has the atlantic ocean in her blood, and for her, coming home means being near the sea. it is so interesting that i have come to love it with the passion that i do, given my origins and my roots. but i just find i can breathe there. that it soothes me. that the sound of it, the smell of it, the coming and going of the tide, its movement and constant life, also feels like home to me.

*

we got married by the water. and, water poured from the sky as we exchanged vows…our original plans of being outdoors foiled. we had a backup plan though, we didn’t even care, we were the furthest thing apart from bridezillas you could imagine. and the sunset that night, and then the meteor shower later on? more than made up for it.

*

this blog is also about water; about the sea, the place where pocketbrit and i meet. ages ago i asked what her sea looked like, and it gave me chills, because it was so similar to mine. more recently, i asked her what her cottage looked like, and there were more variations there, but the basics were the same: the pounding surf outside the windows. warmth. coziness. a fireplace. room to stretch out or curl up into a ball, depending. blankets. each other, as close or as far as feels tolerable, given the day. love.

*

did you know that our bodies are up to 60% water? that’s wild. also wild: the amount of tears i shed earlier today, while i sat on my bathroom floor, on the phone to pocketbrit, as i panicked. i was so young. she was so gentle. and then, part deux, tonight with my wife, as i confessed how so very not okay i have been, how i’ve been hiding it from everyone (i’m sorry), how lately, i just keep thinking how much better things would be for everyone if i weren’t here. i couldn’t see anything, for hours, for the water; the struggle continues as i try to finish these words.

*

i recently watched a video of me bathing our newborn daughter in the NICU, the second bath of her life (the first given by a gruff nurse as she screamed bloody murder) (our baby, not the nurse) and i was struck by how very…purposeful i was. i was gentle, but i was confident, i knew what i was doing, was not remotely swayed by her tiny slippery body or her (numerous) indignant protests or her newness or the fact that this was the first bath i was giving our baby, the one i’d waited for my whole life, the one i thought would never come, especially after five rounds of fertility treatment and a huge bleed early in the pregnancy. no, in this video, i had a job to do. she had sticky molasses-like poop up her back and down her legs, and i was tasked with getting it off.

but then, by the end, when she was really yelling, her fists waving, her legs kicking, i gathered her up onto my chest, and i rocked her, and i swayed, and i apologized as i pressed my cheek onto her wet hair, and she quieted. and the video kept playing for a number of seconds with me doing that, and watching those last few seconds the other night (over and over again), it all got very watery then, too.

forty-five: earth(ly)

sorry friends, it’s another musical association.

one of my favourite sarah harmer songs is uniform grey, and in one of the verses it mentions her being in an airplane, “high above [her] earthly pain”…and that’s stuck with me. in fact i think of that line every time i fly, wondering if this is the trip i’ll be able to leave it all behind.

but then, as i wrote that, i thought about earth, like the rich black earth in which we plant things. i thought of its smell and about both of my grandparents, who had huge vegetable and flower gardens and spent every year from april to october on their knees, digging, planting, weeding, tending, harvesting. in particular i remember my grandmother’s hands, earth under her nails, in the kitchen. her apron smelling of dirt and of dill and onions. of love.

forty-four: honour

i opted to go with a sweeter association to this word (i did have a few other not-sweet associations) because it was my first thought when i read today’s word, and i’ve been singing the song in my head for a bunch of the day.

it’s a girl guide/girl scout song, and i picture not only the earnest little faces of my daughter and her troupe as they sang it recently, but also, the shadowy, firelight-speckled faces of girls of all ages and sizes, from years ago, when i worked at a summer camp. this was often one of our last songs of the evening, when only the glowing embers were left, and usually a couple of us would sing a descant along with the melody of the song, and it was so, so pretty and pure and lovely.

here are the four verses that i know best…i know there are more, and it’s entirely possible there are regional differences in the tune and how it’s sung, too, but i learned it this way.

on my honour i will try / there’s a duty to be done, and i say ‘aye’                                      there’s a reason here, for a reason above / my honour is to try, and my duty is to love

people don’t need to know my name / if i hurt someone, then i’m to blame                                if i help someone, then i’ve helped me / and that’s the way that it should be

repeat 1st verse

i’ve tucked away a song or two / if you’re feeling low, there’s one for you                                  if you need a friend, then i will come / there’s plenty more when i come from

repeat 1st verse

friendship is the strangest thing / if you keep it to yourself, no reward will it bring               but you gave it away, and you gave it to me / and from now on great friends we’ll be

repeat 1st verse

this is pretty close to the one i learned…slightly bigger scale than at my summer camp, though. 😉

thirty-eight: windy

free association time again…

  • the nickname of one of my good friends
  • a long, pebbly path up a mountain (as in, winding…wind-y)
  • how when there’s a lot of wind, i kind of love it…
    • the way the trees rustle and creak
    • the white caps on lakes/oceans, and the sound of the crashing of the water as it gets pushed to shore
    • how quickly clouds can rush across the sky
    • how a hot hot day can be transformed into a tolerable one, and a cold one into a blustery, bone-chilling one
    • the comfort of turbulence on airplanes (yes, really…it makes me sleepy)
    • how the leaves from the huge magnolia in our front yard can end up two blocks away
    • how your skin feels on a scorching summer’s day, after a refreshing splash in the lake, when a warm wind dries the beads of water on your skin, and then finger-combs your hair
  • a memory from last year, captured on video, of our daughter on her scooter, being carried down the street by strong, dusty gusts of wind…i could hardly open my eyes to take the video, for all the grit and sand and leaves lifting into my face
  • the same line to which pocketbrit refers in her post…such a beautiful stanza in that poem of a book
  • this song. yeah, yeah, they’ve got bad hair. but listen with your eyes closed…and hear the lyrics

Loud

Today I went for a smear test. I’m in my twenties, I’ve never had one before, and like any person, I don’t like the sound of it. I didn’t talk it through with anybody, didn’t even tell anyone. Not my therapist when I saw her last night, not pocketcanadian when I was telling her about what was going on in my life.

I booked the appointment when I happened to be at the doctors (a rare thing) last week for an infected finger. I was thinking that I could push through, be normal for once. I thought, naively, that if I didn’t tell anyone and didn’t talk about it, and forced myself to go, that I’d be okay. That I’d be able to do it. Be normal for once.

Instead I woke up anxious, after an anxious and otherwise a bit unsettled sleep. I layed there, thinking maybe I should just not go. And then I put it aside, those doubts, locked it up, and showered, and left. I got there, I walked in, I sat in the waiting room, and the nurse called me.

And she was so loud. She spoke to me so loudly that I knew the old man outside would surely be able to hear. And that was it really. That was all it took, her loud loud voice, that made me scared, brought my little one right to the surface, and made me immediately ashamed and closed off and scared, and brought tears to my eyes.

There’s something so harsh about someone being that loud. It isn’t gentle or understanding, it isn’t soft. It’s scary. Loud voices unsettle me.

Anyway, I held it together. I listened to her, answered her questions. I got undressed, exposed myself, layed on that table, her loud voice talking about what she’ll be inserting into my vagina, my brain trying to block her out and keep my shit together. And I am…

…and then that loud voice asks me to open my legs. Tells me I need to open them more, that she can’t insert it, that she needs me to open my legs really wide.

And I am done. Freaking out, tears running down my face, jumping off the table, apologising. Memories playing behind my eyes.

And don’t get me started on the embarrassment of leaving through the waiting rooms that followed.

There’s something about loud voices that I don’t like. That scares me and induces a trauma response. I tighten up go into higher alert, don’t trust and am wary. It’s not gentle and doesn’t feel safe. Basically, I don’t fucking like it.

*****

What I really want to do right is put my good headphones on my head, and put some music on loud enough to drown out my brain and body, so that I can hopefully sleep. I might just do that. That seems like a good loud.

thirty-two: night

i like the night too, always have, for the reasons pocketbrit mentioned and others. like her, it makes me feel safe. part of earthly things, but also part of other things. i used to read late into the night when i was younger…and then, when i got older, i would fairly often study late into the night, sometimes until it got light.

one of my favourite series of night memories, and i just thought of it now, was when i was 19 and 20, and my then-boyfriend worked at a urban golf course watering the greens. his shifts started at 10 or 11 at night, and involved driving all over the course in a golf cart, turning on sprinklers in shifts. sometimes i invited my friends, and we’d race our carts all over the place, but the best was when it was just the two of us, driving together in the blackness, then lying together on a worn floral couch in the maintenance house, listening to the radio all night. i can remember the smell of the grass and the into the cool patches of fog we’d drive through, interrupting the thick warmth of the summer nights.

i don’t always feel so reverently when i am awake all night for other reasons (e.g., work, where i was last night, or insomnia, or a sick kid) but in general, i do love it…the quiet. the feeling that i am part of some sort of lovely, safe secret. the cozy glow of lamps, the twinkling of stars, the way the rustle of trees sound louder, the familiarity of the face of the moon up in the clouds.

(note: i am having another more invasive series of thoughts about night but i really, really don’t want to engage with them right now, because i am tired, and i am warm, and i am enjoying the sleepy memories i mentioned above.)

 

 

thirty-one: young

today, like so many days before it, i woke up feeling young.

i felt abandoned and wrong in my body and needy and alone. i was sad and hopeless and hurt and i just wanted to stay curled up and small in my bed, with my worn soft plush pup under my cheek.

being young rarely feels joyous, or excited, or energetic to me. it feels scared and little, diminutive, empty. not freeing. the opposite of, in fact.

i hated being young.

*

i also used to hate her, the young one inside of me, for being so difficult and disruptive and inconvenient. i used to treat her just like they did – dismissively, impatiently, angrily. i didn’t want to hear what she had to say. didn’t have time for her. wouldn’t make room because i didn’t want to feel the things she made me feel, or see the things she wanted to show me. i didn’t want to know. i didn’t want to know.

so, like any child, she upped the ante. got louder. more persistent. more creative, more stubborn. until i couldn’t ignore it anymore, until i got blown wide open, until our feelings got so huge they engulfed me and choked me and nearly put a stop to me entirely.

*

they say (‘they’ being all the experts out there on repressed childhood sexual abuse) that when our own children are the age we were when the abuse happened, something shifts, becomes undammed. as much as my original, unique little fucking snowflake-y self hates to admit it, i was a textbook case. i started remembering things when my daughter was three.

three, folks.

how does a toddler understand grown men touching her body and making her touch theirs? how does she process it? what does she tell herself? where does she put it?

(i’ll tell you where: down. way, way, way down, so deep it doesn’t get found for nearly four decades. that’s where.)

*

so yeah, feeling young feels bad. unsafe and unsettled. and the needing…oh god, it’s huge. i don’t know what it is, except it’s everything. desperate for being held and being hugged and being close but then not so close and then not hugged and not held. it’s angry and panicky and scared and sad and ashamed. it’s all and none of it, just spinning and spinning and spinning…

*

i hate feeling young now for different reasons than i used to. i don’t hate her anymore, for one. do you know, she is so smart, so industrious, so strong. she got us here, kept us safe. experienced it all firsthand, felt all of it, in her little beating heart and with her tiny hands and her open, trusting face. her serious brown eyes held back so many tears, her shoulders bore so much hurt. all those tummy aches, all those sick feelings, all the worries and guilt and humiliation. i am awestruck at her adaptations and her resolve to stay standing. she is amazing.

no, i hate feeling young because the grief of what she experienced, the ache of it, the hurt, seems an infinitesimal chasm in my gut. because i look at pictures of her and feel as though i might die of the sadness of it. for what she knew, for what what she carried alone. i look at her sweet little face and it is so so hard because now, i see her, i see all of it.

*

so, being young…is imbued with such soreness, such tenderness, such sadness. because all of the feelings she tucked away, way down deep, are bubbling up now, and she needs my help. needs my presence, my support, my guidance, to hold her, so that she’s not alone with it, like she was then.

and when i think i can’t do it anymore, when i feel desperate and spinning and alone and afraid, i remember that she already did. one little foot trudging ahead of the other, chin set, shoulders straight.

so yeah, i can do this. she did, and we will continue to.

twenty-four: time

i have always been petrified by the passage of time; that i would forget sweet and wonderful and delicious and beautiful things, never to be recovered. like grains of sand swept out to sea, rendered unrecognizable when they are returned to the shore with the tide, i feared losing all traces of them.

even as a little girl, i can recall lying awake and feeling panicky, as i imagined not remembering all sorts of things in my life: moments, tastes, smells, feelings, people, names, faces, experiences. i have always been so so scared that as time went on, i would forget, i would lose sight, and lose track, and lose…i don’t know what. become lost, in general?

as i grew older, i compensated for this terror by capturing moments, in a near-obsessive fashion via writing, photographs, music, and sometimes, keepsakes. i hold on to them, to help transport me back to the things i won’t remember.

so you can understand the irony of that anxious little girl becoming a woman whose world has been rocked by memories that i purposely forgot, as a way to survive my childhood. memories that i didn’t want to remember, or revisit, or be transported towards.

*

right now, there are lumps in various places in my wife’s body. we don’t know their nature, or their intentions, but they have cast new lines in her face and shadows under her eyes. they make her wince, interrupt her sleep, make wearing certain types of clothing uncomfortable, and have inflamed her lymph system. they are showing themselves on ultrasound, they are physically palpable, and they are getting louder and more threatening.

tomorrow, we find out who they are. or hopefully, who they are not.

and all i keep thinking is, as the hot stupid babyish tears flood my eyes, seventeen years is not enough. please, please, please let us have more time. 

*

a couple of my favourite songs have the word time in the title. this ani difranco song. this version of time after time. and, for days, through the seemingly-permanent lump in my windpipe, i’ve found myself humming this verse (from this version of sting’s beautiful, musical poem – so much love and thanks to pocketbrit for reminding me of it):

i never made promises lightly/and there have been some that i’ve broken/but i swear in the days still left we’ll walk in fields of gold/we will walk in fields of gold

*

every once in awhile, i get lost in my google drive, looking at photos and videos. me, her, our daughter…faces fuller or thinner, hair all shades and lengths, baby turning chubby toddler turning sassy willowy girl-child. sunsets, holidays, ordinary days, snow, sun, fog, rain. friends past and present, family past and present.

the times before we knew, and the times after. we don’t look much different, but everything is different, all of it changed.

i’ve said it before, even here, some point in the past twenty-three days, that i’m not sure i have enough life left, enough time, to actually sort through all the mess of what i forgot. and lately, there is so much fucking grief; it’s everywhere, and it’s sticking to all my old throbbing wounds and my new scary ones about ticking clocks and draining hourglasses and please, goddess or god or universe or whoever is in charge, i just need more time.

*

in the midst of this terror of loss, though, are flashes of memories, of smells, of sights, of sounds…tethers to the past i did not purposefully garner: the huge furry head of my beloved first pet, giggling as his wet warm doggy breath in my ears sent shivers down my spine…the lusty wail of our wee girl, shock of dark wet hair, as she first emerged from my body…the warm doughy smell of my grandmother’s apron against my cheek, as i pressed myself into the refuge of her lap…slipping a silver band smoothly over her finger on our wedding day, her joints yet-unravished by disease…the tickly whiskers of a now-aged cat against the curve of my calves…the upside-down views of the world from my dangling perch on the monkeybars in our front yard…the acrid smell of incense competing with cloying frangipani blooms in the heavy, damp monsoon evenings of mumbai…

i didn’t take pictures of any of these moments, have no visual or audible recordings or keepsakes. i’ve no proof that they happened at all. and yet…tonight, they arise, unbidden, flushing me with comfort and warmth and reassurance. as maybe, the timestamps of my life will reveal themselves, and fade, as they are meant to. maybe there are thousands of days left, maybe there are endless fields of gold. maybe it will be okay. maybe it will be okay.