It is dark and warm. The cool water shimmers and swirls in front of me, calling me to fall into it. I close my eyes and imagine my body breaking the surface and sinking like a rock, cutting through with no resistance. The soft, surging liquid would swallow me, and I’d be gone. Just a rock with no choice in which way to fall.
There’s a slight breeze, but it doesn’t quite push off the way it feels as though the air is actually touching me. It’s the perfect kind of warm; it is the kind of warm a girl who grew up in the country can appreciate. The kind of warm that used to waft through my screened windows and call me out onto the front porch to stare at the moon and dream with my eyes open.
I’m sitting on the back deck at my parents’ house. It is not the house I grew up in. That is about 2 miles from here. It sits, full of memories and cobwebs. It sits empty, dark, and somber.
I have not driven past it on this visit home. I haven’t driven by and seen the room off the front porch where I would sit and wait for him. The place he would often come to for me. Where I would sometimes sit alone, disappointed.
I did drive past a road I used to turn right on almost every day, literally for years. That road took me to his home and his family, of which I was made to feel a part, so many times. It took me sometimes alone, and sometimes with him. It took me.
Like he had.
Every ounce of my heart was siphoned away, every piece of my soul seemed to have been drawn out. I would say it was painless, because, after all, I wanted it that way. But it would be more truthful just to say I must have enjoyed the pain. Or at least, that I endured it because I knew the prize was worth it.
I wanted it to be.
I’m sitting out here with a chorus of crickets and other nighttime crawlies singing me the sweet song of the country on a soft, close summer night. I feel comfortable here. I can stretch out my legs and breathe in the scent of flowers growing nearby. In this moment, no one needs me. I’m at peace. Just myself, in the dark, alone. Comfortable.
Over and over again I had put all of myself into him, willing him to be more and to somehow make me whole, as such. I piled upon him expectations and needs. I was not perfect. He was not perfect. We were not perfect. We were just us and us was foolish.
He-I lost me-him and we were both abandoned by the ending we thought was in store for us. I wanted promises, he needed freedom and choices. I needed validation and hope, he demanded space and what ifs. I was incapable of giving him what he needed while still finding my own answer. I was incapable of just letting go and being me – instead I wanted to draw myself from him, control him, manipulate his choices.
If I lay my head back and stare up into the sky, I see a black canvas for miles, dotted with brilliant, shiny specks of electricity and power from so far away. They gleam and sparkle; a new one seems to pop into the tapestry after every few beats of my heart. If I just stare this way for awhile, what I think I see and know changes over and over again.
I expect it to look a certain way, but I can’t control what unfolds before me. I have ideas about what is out there in my view, but it is flowing and changing constantly, right in front of me, and there is nothing I can do about it. Some of the changes are noticeable, some are imperceptible to me. I sense that.
It would be foolish of me to try to force the stars to stand out in the sky in a specific order. They would call me mad and lock me in padded rooms.
I’ll never really know if it was right to part ways. I think of him from time to time and I wonder who he is now. Is he still that same person who was my best friend, or is the man he has become someone different entirely? I don’t regret those years, or the ones that have followed. I’m not sure if life has turned out exactly how I’d hoped it would after I kissed him that last time and he turned away. What I do hope now, however, is that he is happy. Because I love him in some way still, and that’s been true since the day I walked away. I hope he is happy with the way the sky looks when he lays his head back.
I can close my eyes and the reams of paper that the story of my life stands starkly on flow through my mind. I can slow it down and inspect this and that. I can speed it up to avoid things. I can ponder over the way the ink fell and what the story might be like if it had been different. I can even look at the pages that lie ahead, waiting for the stab of the pen, with concern. I guess I can worry about those pages. I guess I can be afraid. I could try to control the pen that wants to flow on its own with fancy strokes and flourishes.
It would be silly.
The way the stars in the sky arrange themselves in a predictable and yet uncontrollable fashion is a beautiful thing. Every night they show up just the way they are supposed to, and they don’t need me to worry about it, or wonder if they are doing it right.
They end up where their paths intend them to, and that is that.
Like a stone falling into cool, deep waters, effortlessly.
I’ve always felt a little bit crazy.
When I was a kid, I thought I was “crazy” because I liked things that it seemed the majority of other kids around me didn’t like. I enjoyed reading, while they seemed to think it was a chore. I barely gave a thought to what my hair looked like. If it was clean? I was okay. I was more interested in climbing trees and building forts than making sure my hair smelled like Pantene. I didn’t always know what was “cool.” I didn’t always really care. I had a shirt that said, “Dare to be different.” I embraced that message. There was a tree branch on that shirt, and 4 owls perched from it. One was hanging upside down, and smiling. That was me.
In grade school, my friends told me I was “crazy” because I liked to act silly and question standards openly. If something funny occurred to me, I wanted to share it. I suppose it was already obvious back then that my “filter” had bigger holes than people thought it should. And my penchant for crass humor was already making itself known. Can’t imagine where I got that from. *shifts eyes to father* I cannot deny being called “the loud one.” Or even, “the annoying one.” Or maybe, “the OMG AVOID HER AT ALL COSTS one.”
In high school, I was always searching for something to make me feel right. All of a sudden, the “crazy” was more than just an oddity or a quirk. Something was missing. I asked myself often what it could possibly be. “Is it fun? Maybe I should not read so much anymore. Maybe I should do some smoking, some drinking, some partying. Maybe I should skip classes and flirt. Maybe it’s a boy that’s missing. I should get one of those, or two, or maybe three.” It all made me happy. Momentarily. But then none of it made me happy.
I pushed on into college and grad school. A young adult now, I was “crazy” silly to my friends, “crazy” ridiculous when I was drunk, and “crazy” bitchy and controlling to my boyfriend. Add in “crazy” anti-social during those times when I just wanted to be alone in my apartment. Which was often. I have always really enjoyed being alone. I think, maybe, because there is no pressure to hide exactly how one feels when alone.
No one is there to see how crazy you really are.
Over and over I’d have these periods when I felt that the “something” that would make me happy was always just a few steps ahead of me. And I kept chasing it, doing the things I thought I was supposed to do, following the plans that I was supposed to make and follow through with.
Every day, going through the motions. Hiding the anger I had at people as much as I could, pushing it down most of the time. Hiding the tears, hiding the sadness. Pushing on. Past the crazy.
My outward “crazy” was manageable. When the anger seeped, it was mostly rants that had a humorous edge. If they stung a little more sometimes than others, I could usually cover with follow-up humor. I never started fights, never hurt anyone physically. But the anger was always there. The sadness was always lingering just below the surface, too. Humor is often a cover for so many things, did you know?
“Just be funny. Just be ‘crazy.’ Then they won’t know you’re… well, crazy.”
Taking just a few more steps. To try to catch The Happy. And a few more, and a few more.
I put all my hopes into the things I thought would make me happy… my jobs, my studies, my boyfriend.
That was unfair of me.
No one can carry such a burdon for someone else.
That was unfair to me.
Because when you put all of your hopes for happiness into something else, or someone else, and then they fail you…
[And they WILL fail you because nothing can make you happy, and no-one is your perfect answer.]
… all you have left is the crazy. And you might try to get away from that, too, in the only way you know how.
Funny thing is, if you survive that, you might somehow still push it down and keep on taking a few more steps. Thinking that you can still chase down that happiness all by yourself.
I’ve denied to myself that I need help. I’ve told myself that I don’t really feel crazy. Not really.
I’ve kept telling myself that “The Happiness” is just. around. the. next. corner.
“I just need to take a few more steps!”
But for the first time in my life, now that I’ve been a mother for almost two years, I do feel like I’m actually crazy sometimes.
People: there’s this little person who’s running around in my house and he needs me all the time.
Even when I need to be alone with my crazy, he needs me. When I’m feeling distant, when I’m feeling weak… He’s there. And he needs me.
And he needs me to not be crazy. But he’s not giving me time to take a few. more. steps!
Somehow, that is making the crazy that wasn’t Really Crazy, you know, the one that I could just push down and ignore? It’s making that crazy grow. The angry crazy is leaking out when he needs me, and when he doesn’t, the quiet, sad crazy is taking over.
For myself, I’m afraid of the latter.
For him, I’m afraid of the former.
Why? Because every moment I need to myself, he is there. Every toy has to be slammed into my face. Abruptly, he will run up and scream right in my ear. For No Reason. He dances around because he has to pee, but when I put him on the toilet, he looks down at his penis, grins, and then shakes his head, “No-No-No-No.”
30 seconds later, he is peeing on my coffee table.
Some days, I am amused. This is what being a mother is about, right? This is what kids are supposed to do!
I know this. And some days, I cope with it all brilliantly. Some days.
But other days, I honest to goodness have to fight the urge to slam my fist through a window, fling dishes into the wall, or God Forbid, throw my son out the door or scream in his face.
And I’m not speaking in silly exaggerations. I am not trying to color my words so they will be interesting. I am not trying to spice up the page. I literally fight the Real Life Urge to ACTUALLY do those things.
So far, I’m winning, but it would only take one weak moment for me to lose something I may never get back. That frightens me in a way I don’t know how to express.
I cannot stress to you how much I would never, never, never want to hurt my son. I love him abundantly. I give all of myself to keep him safe and happy, every day. And still, I feel that I fail him repeatedly, because I have raged at him in my mind so many times. In my mind, I am a monster.
And sure, sometimes I raise my voice, even yell, and I’ve thrown a toy down or walked out of the room when I couldn’t take it anymore. Will those things hurt my son? It doesn’t seem like it, if you take any one of those instances by itself. But a lifetime of memories filled with those instances, for my son? I don’t want that.
I want him to remember me as the owl who hung upside down. Not the one who came screeching at his face with its claws out, or hid behind its tree and cried all the time.
It’s time for me to admit that I need more than prayers, extra sleep, or a place to write about my feelings. It’s time for me to admit that I need help, and seek it out.
I can’t keep chasing after a happiness that eludes me, always a few steps ahead of where I am. I cannot keep trying to hold inside an anger that makes my chest tight and often seeps and leaks out, hurting others. I cannot keep denying that I am exactly who I am, and that’s okay. It’s okay if I’m crazy. It’s okay if I need help.
I don’t know exactly what kind of help I need, but I’m hoping the doctor I make an appointment with will have some idea. I’m hoping I don’t just get dismissed again, like I have in the past. I’m hoping that with all my heart.
Do you think it just might work out?
I’m almost afraid to believe that.
It makes me feel a little bit crazy.