……Old Ghosts, New Year…… (or “Burials, Resurrections, Resolutions and How to Survive Them”)

So …

It’s been a while. I’m not sure I remember how to do this…. but here goes.

According to my log-in, my last post was nearly two years ago, which means this is long overdue and I have a lot of back-story to fill in. Of course, this isn’t the place for novellas or mini-therapy-short-stories, so I’ll have to try and give you the ‘nutshell’ version:

The past 24 months have seen my life transformed into a roller coaster of trials, emotional tests and tribulations, financial challenges, and physical frustrations. I have struggled through the loss of my dear Grandma, who had been my pal and my close friend as much as she was my grandmother. I have severed my marital relationship with my husband of 27 years and filed for divorce on the grounds of emotional abuse and irreconcilable differences after a terrifyingly violent event that threatened not only my safety but that of my family. I have moved in with my parents and I now have recurring back pain from a work injury which may soon prevent me from being able to keep my current job.

That’s my sad story.

The End.

Now, on to the next month… and the month after that, and the one after that…

I don’t intend to spend the days looking back. As the saying goes, “Don’t keep staring in the rear view mirror… you’re not going that way.” Yes, the last year has been a struggle, it was dark and depressing most of the time, and I had days that I thought I would never feel happy again or have hope or believe in myself again. But I did… I do… and I’m going to focus on NOW… because it’s the ‘NOW’ that’s important. It’s the NOW that matters.

My Grandma would have been 100 years old on April 4th, 2018. The day she died, I was in another province, house-sitting for my brother while he and my sister-in-law took a needed holiday south. The last morning that I saw her, I’d kissed her and said, “I’ll see you in a couple weeks.” It was November 2017. I never saw her again. I was angry with her for not waiting for me to come home before she died. I wasn’t there for her. It made me think of all the days I didn’t spend with her, the evenings I didn’t visit, the afternoons I could’ve come over for tea, all the times I wished I’d given more time to just be with her. It was too late, she was gone. I was grieving, I felt angry, guilty and haunted by regret. At her memorial, I made her a promise to cherish my time with my family and never take another day for granted. Dad turned 80 last month, my Mom turned 78 the month before. Neither is in the greatest of health, but thankfully they are both still ‘well’ and independent and generally healthy enough to not require care or tending. Today, living under the same roof with them, I am grateful that I can spend time every evening sharing meals with them, talking about the news, community goings-on, watching tv together, and just being there to hear them tell me about times they ‘remember when’. I watch the soaps with Mom every weekday and partner with Dad for crib on Thursday night for card night at the local Legion hall. We all laugh at the fact that the cats do NOT think the robo-style vacuum I bought them for Christmas is a ‘fun ride-on toy’. Whether it’s sharing funny videos over Facebook with Mom while we’re sitting in the same room together and then laughing about it, or critiquing Mickleson’s putting with Dad during a Sunday afternoon watching golf, I treasure ordinary moments whenever they come. And even though Grandma isn’t here with us anymore, her loving presence is felt. I’m 53 years old, I live with my parents, and I’m grateful that I do… because I can enjoy them while I still have them here to enjoy.

Moving in with my parents has allowed me to open my house to a young couple who moved into our community last year for work. They’ve been looking to buy a home in the area, but haven’t been able to find anything in their price range yet. We agreed they would help me with mortgage and utility payments in exchange for the use of the property. I make no ‘profit’ from them, but I don’t care.. because I have no worries about my home: it’s being kept warm, clean, and occupied by a reliable, responsible couple who are quiet, kind, considerate, and help me with any maintenance, while I don’t have to stress about whether I’ll be able to make the mortgage payment on my limited income.

My marriage is over. My friendship with my spouse… well, that will last probably until the day I die, because you don’t necessarily stop loving someone completely when you’ve spent more than half your life together, even though the last few years were difficult and strained. But my marriage is finally over. Although we had a lot of happy days, sweet memories that remain in my heart, time and circumstance have shown that we aren’t the same people who fell in love 27 years ago, and that we are no longer compatible as partners in marriage. I wish I had been strong enough to have made this break five.. ten years ago, before the atmosphere between us had grown so toxic, but I wasn’t ‘this’ person…. the person I needed to be.. the one who was angry enough, fed up enough, tired enough, desperate enough, to snap that last straw in two and push the red button. And I did. I pushed the red button. Things blew up. Things blew up so much more than I ever thought possible. But it was a revelation: a waking up, a shaking up, a surfacing from a dark pool into the cold glaring light of reality. My heart hurt in ways I never thought it could. I was terrified and relieved at the same time. Blessed that my friends and family were constant in their loving support. The strange part of it all is, in understanding who my husband is, and what makes him the way he is (not making excuses for him, just stating facts) and why he does the things he does, and despite all that has gone under our bridge, I know he has always loved me more than life, always will, that he knows me better than any other person on this planet outside of my family, and that he would still do anything for me if I needed him…. and I would for him too… because you can still love someone even after they hurt you, you can forgive, you can accept repentance and apologies when they are heartfelt, and you can move on with your life… but you don’t need to take them back, you don’t need to stay in that relationship when it’s broken. You can love a person and accept that your love isn’t enough to make a marriage work. Two people who have grown in different directions over the years need to find their own way; they can still have love for each other… it may not be the same love that they started with, but it’s still love. I know that I’m going to be alright and someday, maybe, we’ll both find new love and new relationships with someone else, but until then, I’m getting to know the new me … the ‘me’ who speaks up for herself, does the things ‘she’ wants to do for ‘her’ and not for someone else, the ‘me’ who is strong and independent, happy and confident being single. She’s a bit of a firecracker… and I really like her.

2018 brought me a new outlet of creativity through painting that has become wonderfully therapeutic for me, and this summer it will result in a small supplemental income. It was a very busy season for work last year, and I found myself feeling stress more than expected and needing some creative distraction to help me chill out after a hot sweaty day. But after working hard this past season, I also learned that this old body needs a lot more care than I ever realized. Used to be that migraines and ulcers were my worst recurring bullies… now I have a new one: scoliosis with sciatica. I sustained a back strain injury in the late summer while lifting a heavy tray at work (I work in a busy coffee shop/bakery/deli) and, despite several sessions of massage therapy, I continue to be plagued by recurring nerve pain spasms at random times. I hate feeling like an invalid and being restricted in movement, forced to hobble when I’m trying to be active. At the onset, I consoled myself with the idea that I would use those times of immobility to write.. to write poetry and revise previous drafts of novel work, or create new outlines for other novel ideas I’ve had tumbling around in my cavernous brain boxes. Unfortunately, when the spasms struck, the aches that accompanied would render me grumpier than expected and as such my muse was promptly scared off, leaving me playing online jigsaw puzzles and hidden-object games in endless ennui. The bright moments only come when I finally get bored enough of talking to myself in my head about how much I hate being idle and force myself to shuffle into the loft to create… something… anything. And then magic happens: the stiff joints begin to limber, the aches slowly begin to be ignorable (not gone, but faded to a point where I am able to ignore them) and hours later I find myself in the middle of a tarp-covered, paint-splattered, glorious mess, proudly surveying several small, dripping canvas frames, paint in my hair, on my glasses, my slippers, and my good pair of leggings that I should have changed out of before I started but who cares because omg look how gorgeous that second 8×10 turned out!… I feel exhilarated and happy and even though the aches and pains are still there just as much as they were (sometimes more so) as when I started, I don’t care because I pushed them aside and did what my heart and soul had been craving. This is what I hold on to for those days when I know this body is going to ache and this brain is going to turn in on itself and I’m going to feel like giving up. This moment reminds me why it’s important that I push against the temptation to give up, give in to depression and sloth, and stay on the couch moping because I ache. I have to remember how this feels. I’ve been trying to do this as much as I can. I remind myself how much fun it is creating art. Choosing and mixing the paints. Pouring each swirled flow of paint onto the board. Watching how colours move across the surface of the canvas. Seeing the beauty of the final result. When I look at my work station, clean and ready to be made a beautiful mess again, I remind myself how I know I’ll feel, and I push myself to get up off the couch and go make something pretty. And I never once regret it, no matter how little sleep I get that night because I ache, or how stiff I am the next day.. I don’t complain, because I see the results of my efforts and my heart is content.

So… does all of this have a point, other than just droning on about my life situation these days? Well yes, I hope it does…
The point is, the past years have, in a sense, been like going through hell, a trial of fire, a ‘Nightmare on My Street’. I can’t count the number of times I thought I’d never survive it, never get through, never be able to stand on my own, be able to cope. I was so lost in sorrow, grief, depression and distress, I felt like I was drowning with no hope of rescue. Until I finally realized that I was trying to move forward while I was still looking back at what had happened to me. Once I accepted that the events of the past were just that.. past, over, done, finished, behind me.. I was able to concentrate my strength on simply putting my feet in a forward direction and I planned only one day at a time, because that’s all we have guaranteed. Today. Now. We can only do what we can with our ‘now’ because that’s were we are. There’s no point in worrying about any other time. Leave the past behind you, you’re not going back there. Don’t stress about tomorrow, you’re not there yet. Do what you can do today, for you, for the people you love, and for now.

Live today.

 

“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called Yesterday and the other is called Tomorrow. Today is the right day to Love, Believe, Do and mostly Live.”

― Dalai Lama XIV

 

P.S. … I haven’t stopped writing poetry… I’ll be adding some of my short poems from the past year to this site soon. In the meantime, here’s some of my artwork 😀

 

 

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Back to the Happy

Hear the recorded version of this poem on Soundcloud at this link: Back to the Happy

Verse 1:
Come away, come away with me love
let’s go back to the day when we first met:
magic in the air
a night we won’t forget.

Looking back, looking back is easy
everything wears a shiny rosy hue
life had just begun
there was only me and you.

Bridge:

But time can fly
the years go by
and life gets a little crazy;
We let the doubt
push us about
now look where it’s left us, baby

Chorus:

I wanna go back to the Happy
to the days when the sun shone through the rain
I wanna go back to the Carefree
to the nights when the stars spelled out our name
Can we try, can we try, can we pretend
find our way to that old fairy tale end
and let me go back to the Happy

Verse 2:

Come away, come away with me love
let’s go back to that place we called ‘our home’
built on solid ground
roots in earth and stone.

Looking back, looking back it’s so clear
that there’s more to this house than these four walls
somewhere there’s still faith
haunting these old halls.

(Repeat Bridge and Chorus)

But time can fly
the years go by
and life gets a little crazy;
We let the doubt
push us about
now look where it’s left us, baby.

I wanna go back to the Happy
to the days when the sun shone through the rain
I wanna go back to the Carefree
to the nights when the stars spelled out our name
Can we try, can we try, can we pretend
find our way to that old fairy tale end
and let me go back to the Happy

Can we try, can we try, can we pretend
find our way to the old fairy tale end
and let me go back to the Happy

I wanna go back to the Happy

Let me go back to my Happy

 

In The Dark

When the dark days come, those are the times when I least feel like writing. I don’t feel like doing anything, actually. Not writing, not reading, not speaking, not listening, not eating, not drinking, not breathing… but especially not like writing.. especially not like writing about why I feel the way I feel.

And yet, today, sitting thinking about being miserable that I haven’t written here in so long because the time hasn’t come that I’ve “felt like it”, I realize that these are the very days when I should be writing about how I feel… writing about how the weight of depression gets so heavy that I can’t lift my fingers over the keys to type, that I can’t make the words come out of my brain and move down my arms, that I can’t make my eyes focus on the screen, that everything looks wrong and nothing looks legible or sensible or rational. Well, of course it’s not rational.. this state of mind isn’t rational. And I should be writing about it.

So, here I am.. trying to sort out some of the words that are hiding in my head, that want to get out but are stuck in there, stuck in the dark, stuck in the muck and mired in the shadowy goo.

I hear, a lot of times, the words, “How can you stay in bed all day?” and “How can you be so tired when all you do is sleep all the time?” Let me ask you this: if you were to have to go through your day at work balancing a brick on your head, wearing a lead vest, and weighted exercise cuffs on your wrists and ankles, would you be tired at the end of the day? Then you have an idea of what “wearing” depression feels like. When a person suffering from depression is forced to go out into the public world at large, whether it’s to work or run errands or whatever reason they must interact with people, they usually have to force themselves to “put on” an outward appearance of normality in order to get through the event. This is by no means a conscious effort to deceive or impress, it’s simply a survival technique. It’s how we survive the anxiety of being among “normal” people when we feel like we’re going to either  implode or spontaneously combust from all the horrible feelings built up inside us. Putting on that outer shell, that front, that mask, takes a lot of energy, it’s stressful, it makes for tense muscles and rapidly firing synapses, leaving you feeling like you’re on a crazy twister ride. And by the time we get back home to our safe haven, carrying all the weight of that persona, holding everything in and keeping that face on for the outside world has drained every last ounce of strength and stamina we have left. Now, imagine doing that every day, sometimes 7 days a week.

That’s when breakdowns happen… when “every day” just becomes too much and we need a “time out” to reset. Physically, as well as emotionally and mentally, we’re so depleted and exhausted that we can’t function anymore. Most people can’t understand how just being depressed can be physically exhausting, you’re not exercising, lifting barbells, doing lunges.. so how can we be tired? Because when the body is stressed mentally, the muscles react physically, tightening and straining in different ways, resulting in a tired body to go with the tired mind. This also can lead to health problems such as stomach issues, bowel and urinary problems, heart and lung troubles, etc. The mind is extremely powerful.

Going back to the whole “staying in bed all day” thing.. this is what comes of dark days. When you feel so crappy, so horrible, so stressed and tired and run down and worn out that you don’t have the energy, the strength, to lift your head off the pillow, you don’t have the desire to see the light of day, you don’t have the need to feed your body.. this is what happens on dark days when depression is at it’s worst. And those are the days when you want to bury yourself into the middle of the mattress and disappear forever… because no matter how hard you try, no matter how long you stay there, no matter how cozy it may be in your room, your bed, your house, you don’t actually get much sleep. You just lie there.. and your mind tries to destroy you slowly.

You lie there until you get thirsty, but you dare not get up to get a drink because you know that if you do, then you’ll soon have to go to the bathroom and that means you’ll have to walk past the mirror and then you’ll see them.. that person that you can’t stand, the one that triggers the dark one in your head to come out and start saying those horrid things you hate to hear. “Oh God.. look at that face! Children would run away screaming in terror! How could anyone think that was even remotely attractive?!” So you stay there lying in bed until the thirst goes away.

You lie there until you get hungry, but you dare not get up to get something to eat because you know that if you do it will draw that voice back again. “That’s right, Porky. Keep stuffing your face and you’ll never loose the weight. You’re always going to be fat and flabby. Forget about that brand new lovely bathing suit again this year. Another summer of long sleeves and no swimming.” So you stay lying there until the hunger goes away.

After a day or two you start to feel gross and you know you need to shower, you hair is greasy and your scalp is itchy, but you’re so tired, your arms feel like they’re tied to 50lb weights, your head feels like a harvest fair prize pumpkin, just breathing makes your chest hurt and the very thought of struggling to get out of bed brings tears to your eyes. Then the voice shows up. “You useless blob! How are you ever going to get back into the real world if you don’t get your lazy arse out of that bed? Look at you! Rats could be living in your hair! You smell! You’re disgusting!” And then you feel so much more miserable that you curl up into an ever shrinking ball and burrow deeper into the covers to try and hide from the darkness that claws at your mind.

It’s a ruthless and vicious beast, living in the back of your brain and feasting on your weaknesses of self-loathing, insecurity, anxiety, and angst. It hides and lies in wait for every little opportunity to leap out and take a chomp out of you. It drools and slavers and gurgles in delight at every chance it gets to chew you up and spit you out. And when depression grips you and drags you into the pit where it lives, you can’t get away from it. It’s on a long leash and it’s hard to shorten it when you’re laying in the middle of its lair.

Now, I see a wonderful therapist, I’m on an effective regimen of anti-depressant medications, I have amazing friends and a loving supportive family… but I still have depression and I still fall into the dark days on occasion for no reason that can be explained.  Sometimes they last a day or two, other times they hang on with their sharp talons for weeks. This time it’s been a week already and I haven’t begun to feel the hope of freedom yet… but I know it will come. I know I’ll break out eventually. Because I always do. That’s what therapy has helped me learn: the dark days come.. and the dark days go. I will always have to fight them at times, but I will always survive and they will always end.

The hardest part is remembering that… that they will end. Because right now.. it’s very dark in here… and I really hate that damn voice.