Conditions must be ideal for me to sit down and put words on paper and, regrettably, that is rarely the case. It is never quiet or easy to concentrate. The dogs will distract me with their wild carrying on. This winter has been longer than usual and they, like their humans, have cabin fever. They jump, growl and chew on each other, always at my feet, in what I am sure is part of a concerted effort to drive me mad. My three-year-old granddaughter brings me much joy but she is at my house for the better part of the week and she has a lot to talk about. There is no time for my brain to refresh after she falls asleep at night and when she goes home, I will sit for hours in the quiet, trying to get my thoughts together until eventually I will fall crash, exhausted in mind and body.
I made a desk of the dining room table and here I sit for hours, staring out the window at the road and the house in the field beyond it, as if it were my muse. In a snowstorm, their cedar shake cabin looks like ‘Little House on the Prairie’, smoke billowing out the chimney, simple and cozy. If I go to the living room in the morning- to the couch and the morning news, I will be sucked in and will spend my day rocking to and fro, right there for a good part of the day, if not until bedtime. If I get up and sit at the table, if my playlist reads my mood, if the weather is nice enough for the dogs to go outside and if I have minimal distractions, I can sit at that table typing all day and into the night. Unfortunately, trying to create the correct atmosphere is enough to send me to the couch. This is a new routine for me and I am trying. I am putting effort into trying and that is more than can be said for the previous 13 years. In my defense, I thought I was trying all those years but the bar is set remarkably low for people like me, which is stigmatizing in its own way. I am also trying to train my family into this new routine, that part is harder. I don’t think it is possible for them to know what this means to me, this writing. It looks like sitting and listening to music to them but to me it is my life, my future and my well-being. This is everything to me. I think my husband’s hope is that this will keep me busy for a while and help me in some obtuse way and he is down for that but, as always, my family expects me to be ready at their beck and call. ‘Do I have clean socks? What’s for supper? I need a ride. Can so and so come over? I want to have a LAN party, we’re having a Marvel marathon-do we have food? Why is it so cold? Are you going to light the wood stove? Do I have to make the trek, from the basement up the hill to the lean-to behind the garage, with that crappy yard wagon and its falling off wheels, to get wood? Can somebody else PLEASE wash a damn dish? Why do we have a dishwasher? Can ANYONE ELSE load it? Turn on the washer? Are my appliances so complicated that no-one else can run them? No-one can crinkle up some paper or strike a match? The dogs are on a schedule- why am I the only one who knows it? The vacuum is not that hard to operate. What do you mean WE are going to spring clean this weekend? No. Is it spring? Can’t we wait till it is? PLEASE!!! What about what I am doing? That thought doesn’t ever seem to enter anyone’s mind but mine. To them, I am always available, all that is required is my presence.
What happened this week is that I slept. I went to bed early and I slept late. Later than I wanted to on more than one day. Earlier than I wanted to on more than one evening. I don’t do this. I don’t like to sleep. My biggest sleep goal is to get the 8 recommended hours. Not 15…My husband is thrilled! Encouraging me to sleep more…” That’s great, baby, you need to get some rest.” I feel like saying- “Screw you-this is how you get rid of me- if I sleep all day and night, you don’t have to deal with me and if I could get a moment’s peace around here, I wouldn’t be exhausted but nobody gives a shit as long as I do EVERYTHING for you people.”
That’s not true. They do care. They care because they have seen me at my worst and they don’t want to see it again for whatever reasons they have. Their reasons are probably different than mine, but just as real. The fact is, I don’t like to sleep. I don’t like to sleep until 2 in the afternoon and I don’t like to go to bed at 8. I feel like my day is wasted, that there are opportunities missed. I get angry. I get angry at myself and take it out on others. That is exactly what happened this week. I tend to get upset when others take advantage of my time even when I am not in some cycle or another. I was already mad at myself for sleeping too much.
I waited in the parking lot an extra 45 minutes at the school for my son on Tuesday because they decided to start their SAT testing a half hour late but told students they couldn’t use their phones to let their parents know. I do not even agree with SAT or any other ‘assessment’ testing. Wednesday mornings they usually start school an hour later than the rest of the week, but because of the amount of snow days we’ve had this year they have been using that hour as make up time. This week they decided not to take advantage of that but AGAIN, they decided not to tell parents, we found out when the bus did not come at its usual time. I raged at our country store Tuesday, (which I have personally boycotted for years at a time) because, once again, I walked in and there was a line but no clerk in sight. It didn’t help that the nosiest bitch in town was in front of me in line and it didn’t help when she asked me what was wrong, like she cared, and I turned to her, spitting, ‘Don’t f@%$^&^ talk to me.’, to which she responded, “What is going on?”, again pretending to care, so she could spread it around. Then I responded. She got exactly what she wanted. Venom. Word spreads fast in a town of 3,000. I am sure my husband and his family have heard the version she is spreading and they will take her side, because I am just ‘crazy’. That store is boycotted again.
After that, still Tuesday, I got into a huge blowout with my son because I was watching my grand-daughter so he and his significant other could go to work. She has a habit of NOT working. I saw a post on Facebook that she was tagged in, about how for 4 years in a row she went to eat at Fat Boy’s, a seasonal drive-in, on this day. After I picked up her baby at 7 that morning so she could get ready and go to work. She made it 3 days that I know of at this job. It is her average. I love my grand-baby. I credit her for bringing me joy. I truly believe she is the biggest gift in my life. She makes me laugh. I love watching her learn about the world around her and I love teaching her about it. I love her snuggles and cuddles. I love watching her for my own benefit, never mind hers or her parents. She has all she wants here and we would gladly give her anything she asked for. Everything she does makes me happy. Even when she’s bad. I laugh. She loves me unconditionally and this has been an unintended lifesaver. She has reminded me that the world can be pure. That there is joy everywhere, in things little and big.
This is NOT the first time her mother has done this to me or my son but it is the LAST time she will do it to me. We should have heeded her own mothers warning, the first day we met, that she was a user and would use him and me and anyone she can. I just thought she was her own ‘crazy’. Clearly, she was frustrated in her own way. There is a lot of winter in this state, and it does its own thing to everyone. I drove to their house after finding out she was gallivanting instead of working, ready to tell her exactly what a piece of shit I thought she was. All the way there all I could think was that she was NOT using me again, and I intended to make that clear. In the loudest, nastiest way possible. Something came over me as I turned onto the road leading to their driveway and I pulled over to the side of the road and tried to take a few deep breaths. I don’t know if you have tried this, but it is practically impossible to take deep, slow breaths when you are insane with anger. I was a volcano and the lava was already spewing. I prayed,” Please God, help me to use the right words because I can’t do this right without you.” That is all I could pray. Anger was driving me forward. I pulled up the next few feet until I was at the end of their driveway. She wasn’t HOME!! I got the message, laughed to myself and said, “Ok, God, I get it…” I drove down the block to my sister’s house, visited for an hour or so, and then left to go home. I did drive back by my son’s house but the driveway remained empty. Meant to be…
I’m still angry but I became more resolute. Put on my big girl panties, so to speak. I had to turn my mind. This is difficult. She was not the original source of my frustration so I must become resolute not only in my dealings with her but with my family. My heart is closed for now. I have done this only a few times during my life. It is not easy to close myself off from people but I must for my own protection. My husband claims it is a visible change, that he can see it in my face. Must be all that disassociating I practiced so well… My son says she needs help and I agree, but if she has ‘issues’ and her own diagnosis, I can’t help her. She needs to want that. Nobody else can do it for her. This frustrates me because I wonder if his patience with her is patience that he learned dealing with me. I don’t want him to need to have that much patience with her. I would rather he cut his losses and try for some peace and happiness in his life. I don’t WANT him in a relationship with someone like me his entire adult life. I don’t want this for any of my children. Is that bad? Is that stigma? The stigma of one mentally ill person against another? Well, if anyone knows about it, I do. At least I am not an uneducated, insufferable fool acting like I know. I know I should be the LAST person judging her, but maybe I see it better…That is not an excuse, I’m trying to reason it out for myself. I have no patience with ignored mental illness. Ignored by the afflicted or those near them. Undiagnosed is one thing. If you are trying your best and you are struggling, great. I’m here for you, I will do everything in my power. Will I watch the ones I love around you suffer because you refuse to get help and all the SHIT gets dumped at my doorstep? NO. For now, though, I will do my best to kill her with kindness, like my Momma keeps saying. I will rally my thinking around those Alabama and North Carolina years in my past and I will smile and say,” Bless your heart…”, with a big smile.
The fact is, all this BULLSHIT will fill my mind until it turns foggy. Until I can’t think or DO anything. Most of this happened on Tuesday but ruined my week. A week I can’t get back. I become so worn out that even when I am awake, I am sleeping. Then, suddenly, an entire week or month or year is missing from my life and I can’t get it back… I don’t have enough time left in my life for that at this point. Words screamed and feelings run amok, are things that can’t be put back in the can. Time wasted now, doesn’t return later. Sometimes my biggest desire is just to run. Run far and away. I want to get in the car and keep driving until I am somewhere new and all anyone sees in me is just another friendly face. No bi-polar, no PTSD, no checkered past…clean…fresh.
None of this addresses the issue of time that I wish I had. Closing my heart is only necessary when having it open will continue hurting me. I must start saying no. I should say it even when I want to say yes. If you are poisoning me, I need going to tell you that I am aware of it. I can’t let it keep happening. I need my time alone and the quiet. I need to find a balance between the housework and the rest of my life. Between my family and my mind. Between life outside these four walls and the life within. I somehow must create, out of whole cloth, a world in which I can practice self-care while caring for my family. I need to create a family that knows that, even though I am here and present, I am doing something for myself right now and could you please try to understand that this is something that will hopefully benefit all of us in the long run. I’m trying. Please leave me alone and let me try.