Another Bit of the Heart of the Matter

I had lunch with C & M yesterday and told them everything. But as I was telling it, I had a realization about another aspect of why this whole situation bugs me.

My life is great. I have a job I love. I have friends I love. I’m having weird-ass unbelievable experiences that, even though they happen, still seem impossible. I have a working level of luck and whimsy and magic in my life that, in general, makes my life incredibly fun for me to live.

And I’m a slut about it. I’ll share it with anyone who shows even the tiniest bit of interest in it. I’ll haul anyone along on any adventure. What weird thing can we make happen? Okay, let’s try it.

Because it’s awesome.

But you can’t fuck it up. If you’re going to join me in this cool weird thing, you have to be open to it and gentle with it.

And my parents can’t/won’t do that. They would rather be miserable. They would rather understand me as miserable and unfulfilled than to be open and vulnerable to delight. To share in delight with me.

And that pisses me off and makes me feel rejected. I have worked so hard to have this amazing life and you’d rather shit on it than share it.

That sucks.

Crying, But Different

I left my parents and the Butcher before dinner. Everything was fine, I guess. I just wasn’t hungry and I wanted to be home. And then I cried all the way home.

I spent some time trying to name it, in complicated ways. Do I feel guilty? Do I feel inadequate? Do I feel like a coward?

And the truth is that those are all too complex. I feel sad. And I feel this longing for the good man my dad often is. And then I feel sad again that I’m losing my dad and I’m losing any hope that some day things will be different.

My mom says he’s a bully. And that I just have to stand up to him. Be mean right back to him.

But holy fuck do I not want to do that. I don’t want to hurt him.

And I don’t want to let him win by becoming the bitch he thinks I am.

And I don’t want to be mean, period. I don’t want to be the kind of person who is mean to her father, regardless of who her father is.

If I have to become that person in order to spend time with them… I mean, that’s the thing. I’d rather not spend time with them.

If that’s the ask–that I not only tolerate this, but that I lean into it and let it transform me in ways I don’t like (or different ways I don’t like)–then fuck that. It’s too much.

It’s all so fucked up.

At the Bottom

My parents are back, on their way home. The Butcher wants them to move in with him. They don’t want to move to Arizona.

I feel completely burned out about it. Like I know I should be having all sorts of feelings about this, but I’ve just for the moment felt all I can feel in regards to them.

I’m here

I’m here. I’m doing okay.

Found a dead dog in a garbage bag this morning. Felt like whatever an omen is, but for when it’s just telling you how things are right now.

Finished a bunch of stuff:

And now I’m working on some flowers for my flower afghan. I’m super, super proud of my magnolia blossom.

Love

I woke up this morning feeling this kind of bone-deep anger and jealousy at… I don’t even know. And I wasn’t quite awake, either, because I had this notion that this feeling made me shut down when really, if I want to be remade, I have to lean into it.

If the point is transformation, then I have to let my old self be broken apart.

I have to stop hiding from it.

And I need to love myself the way I love others.

And then I was wide awake, because whether that vision/dream/directive came from someone/something outside me or if it came from my subconscious trying to kick me in the ass, it rang true and I felt very seen.

Which also was uncomfortable, but I’m trying to be open to it, anyway.

Pleasant Solstice Hangover

Yesterday I went to a solstice gathering. We walked around a cemetery. We had wine and snacks. There was a bit of eat this, drink that, Alice-in-Wonderland style. Then we read tarot cards and talked about mystical things. Then we ate Indian food.

I only knew the host, but I think everyone else was at least fond acquaintances of each other.

It was so lovely to hang out with a bunch of women who admire and love the shit out of each other. The vibe was just so nice and cool and open and supportive.

And everyone liked the shit out of me, too. Just unabashedly, with no hidden agendas or anyone being uncareful.

It felt so good. Like, if this is what being a witch is–having a group of women you can talk about deep things with and who all love each other and don’t feel in competition with each other and who will be open to each other–fuck, no wonder that’s still so threatening.

Day 3

Mom said Dad’s been a whole new person since they’ve been down here–nicer, more willing to take it easy, less grouchy. Jesus Christ. That’s all I have to say about that. Jesus Christ.

She thinks they will move and that they’ll move here, because he trusts my judgement. I appreciate that it must be terrifying to have the most faith in the child you in some ways like the least.

It’s just going to be hard. I think that’s what I’m trying to learn how to accept. From here on out, until he’s dead, there will be no decision that’s not hard and won’t leave me feeling like we’ve made the wrong one.

This is who we are. These are the tools and skills we have. It’s too late to change. So, it’s these broken, fucked up people who don’t understand how to be good to each other trying at long last to figure it out and it’s too late for a good solution to come.

You go to war with the army you have, as they say. You try to figure out how to make it work. Sometimes you lose.

Day Two

It was better, but still weird and hard. We talked a lot about where they might move and why and whether they just wanted to stay where they are. I don’t know how that’s going to resolve.

But it’s hard to be mad at them and then have all these very reasonable discussions about what needs to happen when Dad declines. What the finances for Mom look like once he’s gone.

I’m this tangle of grief and anger. He’s getting frail. He knows it. He’s got some big heart check-up thing next month and that’s going to be, I guess, the impetus for them to make some decisions.

I just feel insane–sad and angry and grateful for the time we have to spend together, but also absolutely ready for them either to get the fuck on to Georgia or for the Butcher to get here so that it’s not just me and them. I feel weird about knowing these are the only moments we get together and I don’t want them if they’re just going to make me feel like shit.

I want a way to be kind to them and to provide for them the best care and I want for that not to cost me my sanity or my well-being.

Day One

My parents arrived. My dad thinks I should find an old minister with health problems and marry him so that I can take care of him, so I can be “of use.”

I cried on the phone to the Professor after dinner.

Then I went to bed.

I was trying to explain to the Professor that one of the most insidious, but unexamined religious beliefs in my Protestant family is that happiness is evil, that life is hard and we all should be suffering in order to alleviate the suffering of others, but if that suffering alleviation ever crosses over into happiness, that’s a sign of evil.

I also think she’s right that a lot of people want to drag you into their misery so that you will both confirm for them that the misery they’ve chosen is the right thing (hence the pressure to get married from people in miserable marriages, etc.) and provide them a buffer between them and their misery.

But all that means is that there’s just this enormous gulf between me and my parents because my happiness is scary to them.

But being happy–at least more happy than sad–is the only way I’m going to survive this life.

Busting My Hump

Y’all, this is 3/5 of the blanket. This pattern must have been to carpet a whole room at the Overlook.

I’m going to see the person I’m giving it to on Christmas Eve, but I’m also entertaining family, so I’m not sure if I’ll finish it. Which is frustrating because I’m so close.

A Break in the Gloom?

On Saturday I went to a party I didn’t feel like going to precisely because i didn’t feel like going to it. I hoped it would jar me in good ways.

I think it did. Knock on wood.

I got fairly far on finishing The Shining afghan, but I was out and about so much that I didn’t get as much done as I thought I would. I still feel good about it.

Remember the artist who needed my red yarn? I bought a piece from her yesterday.

I am in love.

And I got asked to serve on the board of a preservation group! I said yes, but I also laughed and laughed.

I feel so fancy! Ooo, now I serve on a board. Good thing I have my grandmas’ pearls.

Ha ha ha. Lord. I just… well, whatever. I said yes.

And my parents seem to have accepted the fact that I’m not going to Georgia for Christmas. So? I don’t know? Maybe I can shelter a tiny ember of happiness and see if it will keep me warm.

Hollyhocks

I made a couple of hollyhocks for my blanket! Hopefully the petals will be a little less curly once the afghan is washed, but even if not, I still love them.

I think the purple coneflower is still my favorite, though.

As nice as the flowers from patterns are, I’m really enjoying just looking at flowers and trying to figure out how to make them.

Flower Blanket

Argh! I wrote a big long post yesterday about this cool afghan I’ve started working on in spite of not being done with everything else I’m working on.

But y’all! Look.

Some of these I have patterns for. Some I’m just making up. The blanket flower in the far back I made up (ha ha. A blanket flower on a blanket.) and the purple coneflower up front here I just made up.

But I can’t help but see a lot of nipples in here. Georgia O’Keeffe tried to prepare us for how much flower sex organs look like human sex organs, but I was not ready!

I want to make a hollyhock bloom, too, if I can.

In Minor Family Traumas

I told my parents I’m not going to Georgia for Christmas. It was not well met. They weren’t mad or anything. They just didn’t believe me. The Butcher says I’ll go.

Which, lord, is so fucked up. I mean, first of all, I highly doubt the Butcher told them I would go. I would bet all my money that the Butcher said I could ride with them if I was going.

But the part I love, the part that just gets me right in the chest, is this idea that there’s anyone else on this planet who knows me and what I’ll do better than I do and so whatever I say about my life can be overridden by that other person.

Let It Work

I went outside and laid in my back yard for a half an hour or so, in the dark, just staring up at the mostly light polluted sky, waiting, occasionally, for a star to wink at me or an airplane to fly over.

It’s hard to think about anything when you’re flat on your back on the ground, so I didn’t. I just cried a little bit and then I watched the black tree branches against the dark gray sky. And then I just laid there until I felt better.

I came back in the house and every time I started to feel anxious or sad, I just repeated to myself, “let it work.” Let the calm from laying on the ground looking at the dull sky do what it will do to me.

Eventually I went to bed. In the middle of the night, I woke up to this revelation. It may not be a revelation to those of you following along at home, but it was not something I had realized.

Every time something good happens to me, my family finds a way to ruin it, to knock me back down a peg or two. I don’t know if they do it consciously or not, but I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Hell Thanksgiving followed on the heels of my Best of Nashville stuff.

I’m afraid that, if they move here, they will ruin all my good stuff.

I think I would rather tank my whole life–ruin it myself before they can–than let them take this from me. And I had some pretty spectacular ideas about how to tank my life, ones that would have been deeply unfair to my coworkers. But things that would have taken me and this place off the table in terms of places they could go.

But, if they go to Georgia, they will suffer and they will have worse care than they would if they lived near me. I’m not trying to be a dick about my brother, but that’s just true. He won’t provide the level of care I’d provide.

Even if that level of care destroyed me emotionally.

Everyone knows it. My parents know it. My aunts and uncles know it. If you take my well-being out of the equation and you’re just looking at what’s best for my parents, obviously they should come here.

I’m not sure I’d survive that. Not mentally, anyway.

But the idea that I would encourage them to go where I know they’d get poorer care, where I know they would suffer some neglect, just because I want my good life? It feels so fucking selfish that I can’t stand it. It feels like my soul is being torn in two to even admit that out loud.

There’s a difference between making a lifeboat, putting the Butcher in it, and rowing with him away from the sinking ship and kicking your parents into the ocean so that you can stay in your lifeboat unbothered.

And when I try to weigh the right thing to do here, when I try to figure out what it is, exactly, I want to do, the thing I run straight into is that there are some very fundamental parts of myself that I don’t have good access to.

I have been trained since birth to be… I don’t even quite know how to put it into words… some kind of courtesan (?). It has been my job to be charming and cooperative and capable (but not so capable it makes men feel bad) and to make people like me. I’m witty. I’m fun to talk to. I know a lot of interesting things and can tell you about them in fun ways. I can keep a crowd occupied and delighted.

I find comfort in being able to do those things well. It feels familiar and I can just do it without having to think too hard about it. And I know if a lot of people like me, then I have a level of safety. And, I think, too, that I enjoy feeling like I have a huge web of people I can access if I need anything.

But do I like any of those things? Being in crowds that find me delightful? Charming people who otherwise would disregard me? Etc. Etc. Etc.

I don’t know.

In some ways, I suspect that I don’t. I mean, if you look at how I’ve arranged my life when I’m not thinking about it, it doesn’t look like it. I don’t like to have people over. I don’t seek out crowds. I prefer to spend a lot of time alone, because when I’m alone, I don’t have to be any way.

But my point is that all my training, the way I live my life around others, is to provide others comfort and delight. It makes me feel satisfied to be able to do that. I know it’s a skill and I take pride in being good at it.

But I don’t think I would have chosen for myself to have those skills. Or maybe I would have. I don’t know. You can’t run two versions of your life simultaneously to try to get a better feel for what’s some core you and what’s training. Nature vs. nurture. If science hasn’t figured it out, I’m not going to, you know?

But I suspect I would not have.

I am this way, at least in part, because my parents trained me to be, because my being like this was useful to them.

This feels like a lot of threads to try to pull together here at the end.

But, if my way of being with others was instilled in me by my parents because it was useful to them, then, obviously, some amount of distress I feel about not wanting to care for them even though I could and I would be the best choice, is distress they wanted me to feel in times like this.

I am supposed to put the family’s well-being ahead of my own. In fact, me being too well (or having too much well-being) is taken as proof that I am not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. If I’ve got this great life, it’s because I’m not spending the emotional capital I should on them. My great life is evidence of me cheating at my chores, so to speak.

But what if I am running both simulations? What if my good life here is one way my life could go and how I feel when I’m with them is another way my life could go? In both simulations, I do not want to give them any more access to the parts of myself I like–even if those parts are dramatically different sizes in either options.

I don’t think I can save myself from them and save them from themselves.

And I think I’m on the verge of betraying my whole upbringing and my aunts and uncles who want what’s best for my parents. And my parents. My family.

I think I’m on the verge of putting them in harm’s way to save myself.

And I feel like an obscenity, like a monster. Like what kind of person would do this?

Probably me. I think me.

Too Old to Self-Destruct

The doctor said this is the normal, sane reaction to the kind of Thanksgiving I had and that I shouldn’t expect to just bounce back. I have to allow time to process it.

I was on Xanax all week, but it made me weepy and, I think, gave me a weird headache, though maybe that was the weepies, so I stopped taking it. I’ve been sleeping weird since then. I tried to tire myself out completely on Friday by moving huge boxes of books around all afternoon, but I only lasted a couple of hours and I still stayed up kind of aimlessly just not feeling like going to bed.

Today I tried to get out of the house to improve my mood, but I just did all my errands feeling so super pissed. I wanted to get drunk or something, but then I didn’t want to spend all tomorrow feeling like shit.

So, here I am. Out of sorts. Trying to feel my way back without chemical help.

I Do Feel Like I’m Losing My Mind

I’m going to the doctor this morning. I’m going to try to get some of this shit settled out. I mean, my family is… well… them. But I’m not bouncing back. I’m sleeping weird. I’m in a raging jealousy that my coworker has a social life, for no good reason, when in real life I like him and I want him to be happy here. And I don’t want to hang out with him myself, because it seems like all he does is drink and stay up all night and I like to not drink and sleep a lot.

Maybe I’m jealous in part because he got a date just by walking into a place and being responsive to someone while a hungover grouchy mess and I have walked into many places in Nashville being vaguely responsive to someone while a grouchy mess and no one has ever asked me out in those circumstances.

The complicating thing is that I really like my life. But a question that sits on the back burner in my mind is “If I’m so great, why doesn’t anyone love me?”

The answers are that my family is right and that I’m not so great. I’m a sad sack of shit to be pitied. Or that I am so great and I have a hard time recognizing love that doesn’t hurt me, which…. god… is depressing.

But also, I like this life, how it is right now. And I want to feel good (even great) in it without needing the validation of someone loving me in order to feel it.

And I am loved, deeply loved, by my friends and intellectually I know it. I’ve never been any more lonely than I’ve wanted to be. I’m also very loved by my community, which is another amazing blessing. Not everyone gets public validation of how much people like them. I get it pretty regularly.

I’m so lucky. And yet I can’t bring my whole self along to believe it.

One Last Thing

I also deeply resent how much their behavior means I then spend all this time thinking about them–beforehand to try to steel myself to deal with them and then after where I try to process what the fuck just happened.

Last night I took another Xanax and tried to go to bed. After a while, I just started crying. But the really nice thing about it was that, because the Xanax had kicked in, I couldn’t really concentrate on what I was crying about.

Like, I was just sad. I didn’t/couldn’t think about it hard enough to decide if it was because I did truly suck or if it was because these people are so shitty to me and yet I still love them and want what’s best for them and still hope that we will spend good times together or whatever.

I was just sad.

And that felt like a relief.

Also, I just can’t see the stitches in this The Shining afghan to work on it at night. Either I need to get a much brighter light to work by or I just have to resign myself to working on it during the day.

So, instead, I started this shawl with the copper yarn I’ve been spinning. Granted, it doesn’t look very coppery yet. But it will.

A Pile of Flowers

I want to make an afghan that is a pile of flowers. Like this, but an actual afghan.

My idea is to put all the flowers on little hexagons. The hexagons would all be the same size, but that would make some larger than the flowers that sit on them and some smaller. So, when the hexagons are all put together, the flowers should all pile over them.

But I can’t find anyone who has already done this. And the thing about crocheting is that it’s very unlikely that you’re the first person to try something.

So, if no one has done it successfully, I worry it’s because it can’t be done successfully.

But as soon as I finish up The Shining afghan, I’m fixing to try it.

Pitiful Me

I think the thing that annoys me the most is that they seem to have this new weapon in their emotional arsenal–pity. Oh, poor Betsy, doesn’t have any kids. Lives so far away all alone. Isn’t it a wonder that she can even show up here looking like a person?

I mean, if you’re going to pity me, pity my fucked up anxiety brain.

But this idea that all this–my cool weird life–is something small and sad?

It makes me feel nuts, but it also makes me very angry. Even if my life was small and sad, it’s mine. Don’t look down on me.