Today is one of those barely getting by kinda days, the days when little kindnesses go such a long way, when you’re grasping at straws when you really need either a hand to help pull you up or for someone to sit with you on the floor and pass you Kleenex while you cry or listen while you rage.
For 3 years, we have lived 3,000 miles apart. Every day, California calls me or I call him, and the distance shucks off like the green that blankets an ear of corn. For a couple of years, I lived for that shucking, lived for the moments when the miles fell away and I was no longer just an East coast girl. I was his girl, his princess, the lady of his heart. More than that, I was bare as one of those ears of corn, exposed and vulnerable, ready to be eaten or devoured. Here I am, I felt like saying, when what I really said was a simple hello. Through words and letters, we wove our dreams together, pretending we wove our lives. Twice he flew out to see me, and for a few short days my life was all puffy clouds and daydreams only I wasn't dreaming. I'd pinch myself after he kissed me, leaving little crescents from my fingernails in the fleshy part of my arm. Now it has been two years since we've made love, two years since anyone has kissed me the way he kissed me, his hands cupping my face, his whole mouth drinking me in. I don't dare say we're growing apart, but when he shucks me now, the green no longer all falls off. California, my California, you've never seemed so far away.
You are poetry-- your words distilled, your personality fiery with a fierceness that I both love and fear. Elusive, I find you in the briefest moment between sunset and full dark when the sky's inky violet. Far off down my one lane country road, a pair of headlights comes careening. I step off to the side step into the rows of corn and hide until the lights flash by me, standing in the high corn until my eyes readjust and I hear the car backfire as it rides the bend. I'm halfway to the dairy farm a mile down the road. The sycamores are white as bone. Above and between them, bats slash the summer air with their chaotic flight, diving and twirling dark shadows that dip too close about my head. It is summer and you, you are oil to my water, rising--always rising above.
I'm splintering, fracturing. The monster inside me is winning the war. The room tilts, everything is bright, a sterile white, the shadows only spots that swim lazily across my eyelids when I close my eyes. I close my eyes too often now. The light is blinding, the absence of shapes confuses me. The couch, the walls, the Christmas tree still up in July. All blend into the brightness that pulses. This is not a drunken poem. I am not an alcoholic. I don't sit alone by my phone waiting for texts that never come. I am not a broken woman. This is not a shattered heart.
I'm lost again, rambling sideways and down, always half a step from the edge. It would take a stiff wind or a stiff drink to make me fall. I'd go down and down seeing the latter's rungs flash by me as I fell. Reaching out, my fingertips would tap tap tap taptaptap faster on the latter's rungs as I sped up on my way toward the rocky bottom. But I am not falling. I'm weaving, holding onto my altitude, recklessly, stupidly in love.
I have spent too much time doing what’s good and necessary, too much time shaping myself into what other people want me to be and too little time being the strong and independent, zany and liberal woman that I am on the inside. Why do I try so hard to fit into a mold? Why do I fight against who I am? Why am I always so afraid of standing up for myself?
It’s this sick and twisted fact of my life that I try so hard to please everyone that I once said “yes” to a marriage proposal and spent 18 months engaged to someone I didn’t want to be engaged to simply because I didn’t want to turn him down when he asked me to marry him (after 6 weeks of dating) on Valentine’s Day. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but what about my feelings? What about me? When do I stop putting other people first and put myself first?
I know I should be in therapy to deal with all of these issues. There’s not just the engagement. There’s also the next man who came along, to whom I got married when I was pregnant because, god forbid, my family would be upset that I was pregnant and not married. I mean, seriously, what is wrong with me?
I need to make myself a manifesto, a credo to live by. I need to make a promise to myself that I will stop living for everyone else and start living for me. Other people do it. Other people stand up for themselves. It may be scary, but it’s possible. I know it must be possible. Terribly scary and difficult, but possible. And really…is there any alternative? I’ve pushed myself to the limit. I’ve gotten married for my family. I’ve stayed married for my children. I’ve given up on my education for my husband. I’ve dropped all my dreams, my wishes and my hopes for the people in my life who say they support me but manage to cut me down any chance they get.
What’s left to give up? I’ve become a shadow of myself, a wraith, a soulless woman without any hope for the future. If I am to get my hope back, if I am to dream again, I must start by being true to myself. I must start by standing up for myself. I must start by taking one little step at a time, toward escaping, toward freedom, toward love.
I’ve never been particularly good at pretending to be someone I’m not. I’ve always had this streak of honesty that can be, I’ll admit it, embarrassing at times. It’s made me careful who I surround myself with and also very protective of the personal details of my life.
There are only a few people who know that I’m unhappy in my marriage. There are only a few people who know that I plan on leaving. It’s this glaring omission to me. It makes me feel like a liar, even though I feel like I’m doing what’s right for me right now.
I’m in therapy, where I talk about leaving, among other things. I wish I didn’t feel so alone in this. I feel like I’ll be hurting so many people by leaving. I feel like I’ll hurt my kids. I know I will. And my H will be devastated. I feel like my family will be disappointed in me too. I feel so alone.