As night check drew to a close we headed down the hill amidst gale force winds and subzero temps to check the smaller barn. As usual the doors were frozen shut. This has been an ongoing problem with the severe cold. the ground heaves and all the doors on the property have been sticking. Some to the point that they are completely unmovable. The doors tonight were in that category. I’m so tired and fed up I didn’t even foresee my reaction. I was soon kicking and beating on these doors as if my life depended on it. When that didn’t work I ripped off my coat hat and gloves in time with the stream of obscenities that left my mouth. My partner just stood there staring at me. Yeah I know I was acting like a lunatic. In my defense I slept little last night and it was back to that fitful uneven dreaming sleep. I don’t know why it is back again. I just know that I’m pretty tired and my temper is rather easy to unleash. My thoughts have been dark and unrelenting. There is so little up there that is challenging this fuck it mind-set. Really nothing. I know the weather isn’t helping. All of these bitter cold days just push us, the horses and the property to the edge. We have never in all our years encountered a winter like this. We are on the last pieces of firewood to heat the house. The horses are going through hay like it is water and the taxes loom unpaid again. I guess I would have to be completely nuts to be okay under these conditions. I know that. I just wish I was a little more able to see a path going forward.
and yet another night where sleep is elusive. I’d like to write but I find I haven’t much to say. There are no words of wisdom. nothing.
“…all that was left was a house covered in fingerprint dust…” Buried. Kate Watterson
Seems benign enough right?
My day was filled with stress and I retreated to the tub after my run. It is a normal routine. The books vary, usually something dropped off by my mom. This book was no different. A typical murder mystery/police procedural type thriller. Detectives chasing a cop killer. So as I flipped the page and explored the beginnings of a new chapter I came across that line. I did not even have time to understand the importance.
In a blink I was standing in a small second story apartment. My apartment circa 1996. The slightly dingy off white trim was coated in a gun-metal grey dust. The stairway, the door frames, the counters. The phone. I stood there looking in the stillness. My mind was taking in the aftermath of the evening prior. there was no one emotion that stood out, they all descended fast and hard. I can’t say without warning since returning to the scene I knew would be difficult. I do not recall anyone with me. Just me and the steps leading up. Tracing wispy trails of memory from the attack. The vivid feeling of terror and relief combined as I pictured him stumbling down away from me. My hand outstretched ready to push him away down the stairs were he to turn back. The cool wood of the door as I rested my forehead against it once I had flipped the deadbolt. I didn’t cry. I just stood leaning in the door. It was as if the pause button was hit and my world suddenly stopped turning. If not for my racing heart and cold sweat one might be lulled into thinking nothing had happened at all. I don’t know how long I rested against the door. Though it was a while. Shock does strange things to a person. You don’t think straight. You can’t make decisions. but most of all there is this strange stillness. As if ceasing to move might somehow make everything okay again. I did not wish to revisit the past while enjoying a book in the tub. I can’t say I ever truly flash back to that time period. I do not do that, so it came a quite the surprise. Instead of recoiling and running I left myself there in my mind. I wandered thru the rooms. One by one. I saw where the finger print dust marred the cheap paint job. I remembered standing in that small apartment surrounded by far too many people. Too much noise. I wanted to be left alone but they just kept asking questions. “What did he touch?” over and over. “The phone..” and on and on. All the while the stifling heat of a New York summer finally spawning a nasty storm. The lightning and thunder interrupting their questions as the power failed. Now we all stood in the pitch dark with only the lightning illuminating the space. I remember so clearly the long shadows climbing the white walls as the patrol cops flipped on their mag lights. It was a strange scene. All the while I had been wishing they’d just leave yet when they finished I was terrified of the prospect of being alone in the blackness. The last of the lightning and thunder was pulling away as I ran through the rain to my car. They pulled out and I watched the patrol cars start their sweep on the street. Just as I had rested my head on that door I found myself doing the same in my truck. I left my head on the steering wheel. I couldn’t think. I didn’t know what to do. The racing panic and fear was gone leaving behind a hole. Nothing. I could feel nothing at all. Everything felt alien and strange. The familiar grooves of the dash and the warm sticky leather under my thighs barely registered. It was blankness. In that lost place I left myself. I never revisited it until the other night. I have no idea why. Why now? after all these years this is what came back to me. In such crisp detail. I’m not even sure how to explain it. Sure I can replay the sensations and memories of him and his rough hands. I can revisit the frigid police station where they spent forever taking my statement. I can forcibly send my mind back in time at will. That I can do if asked. It isn’t the other way around. Those memories and sensations don’t hijack a perfectly good relaxing moment. Not for so long. I thought I had left them behind. Like so much in my life nothing is what it seems. It is never done. Nor is it ever truly behind us. I had been lulled into a sense of complacency after 100’s of episodes of Law and Order SVU, and thousands of rape scenes. Countless movies, books and shows. Never a flicker on the radar. Guess my job of burying it all was pretty good. Am I finally less guarded and defended as Beatrice suggested? Was this just a random episode? Though I did not find it frightening I still sense a bit of gun-shyness at the prospect of another out of the blue transport into the long-buried past.I can’t account for the time lost while wandering back in that apartment. I couldn’t tell you if it was 5 minutes or 50. I think my fear is based in the lack of control not the confronting of painful memories. I have so many of those they have become friends not foes at this point. Like so much else it appears I’ll need to process this as well. Therapy will continue forever it seems. The timing is awful. I have so much going on already I really didn’t need my past to come and pitch a tent. Though I think it came back for a reason. I’m hesitant to just ignore it or bury it again. I do not know the reason it returned though it might be important. Can I juggle all that is weighing on my mind and explore this? I have so many more questions than answers right now.
trying hard to keep some faith. Trying hard to find some hope. It isn’t happening. Today our only employee gave notice. It was just one more thing to add to the list of shit going wrong. broken tractor, truck needing major repair, massive tax amounts owed, bill collectors calling, book work needing doing. snow to our rafters and a rapidly spiraling mood state. I had made it thru the day. Managed a fast run in the pouring rain. I thought I was feeling better. I should know better by now. There is no “better”, there are just moments when I can delude myself for a period of time. If only I could be like my partner. Somehow she can keep her composure. She can continue to function while I search for the nearest escape hatch. We are so different. This evening my mind is lost in the usual panicked place. We are facing such extreme challenges at this point. Maybe Beatrice is right. I need a different escape plan one that doesn’t involve ending my life. One that doesn’t involve the doomsday prophecies my mind creates with such skill they leave my heart racing in fear. I don’t think we will survive. I don’t envision success, only failure. It makes this never-ending nightmare worse. If only I could find some glimmer of hope.
After a week of interrupted and disturbed sleep my mood finally exited stage left. I knew it would though I kept counting the days and thinking I might just be okay. as the snow fell today I felt that deep anxious unrest. The true overwhelm that exists only on a spiritual level when depressed. It isn’t the normal life is too much this week kind of reaction this is much closer to thinking life’s stress is just too much all together. With each breath the battle not to panic. The endless attempt to convince myself if I can just get through today it might get better all the while my brain telling me it won’t ever get better. EVER. And so it goes. minute after minute. The anxiety started innocuously with the storm. And it gradually transitioned to fear of the indoor remaining structurally sound under this additional snow load. The more I stressed the more my partner dismissed me. I spoke to people I trusted. Contractors. People who actually understood structural soundness. They said to get the snow off. well where does one begin. This isn’t a DIY project considering the buildings roof starts 20′ from ground level. It continues at a pitch for 45′ until it reaches the peak cupolas then falling 45′ on the opposite side till it ends at the gutter 20 ‘ off the ground. Oh, and I need to add the building is 210’ long. Not a small project and not one that can be safely tackled by an individual. I started calling companies that specialize in snow removal from commercial roofs. nada, not even a call back. As night fell and the thought of that indoor looming large in my head I finally snapped. I could not tolerate my partner’s indifference. Instead of just remaining quiet like I usually would I just lost it. After a few long minutes of ranting at my quite speechless other half I walked out into the cold snow draped landscape. I looked at the truck. Should I just walk away? drive away? but I could not bring myself to do that. It was striking in that moment, the stillness. the night sky. I knew in that moment that I would not just leave her, or here. If I leave it will be forever. not just for a breather, or even a new life. I guess I am willing to sacrifice myself for this place. My brain lit up. It always does. It offers up suggestions and ways to fix this problem. But sadly I know myself too well. I know what my mind has to offer. I understand myself fairly well. It looks tempting. It seems easy. I know though that there is a greater issue here. My mind only offers up self destructive thoughts when I am depressed. I mean when I pay attention to them. I thought I had gotten away from the depression in december. I thought we had put it behind me. I was wrong. I’m staring it right in the eye again. I’m overwhelmed and sad at the thought of it. Here amidst all the problems and issues facing this farm I am yet again trying to keep my head together. Am I just part of the problem? Am I even in a place to keep this farm running? And so it goes again. around and around. The same thoughts ad nauseam. I’m even sick of myself at this point. Only thing I am more sick of is snow. I am physically worn down from these long days of clearing snow. It wears us to the bone. After 5 hours on the tractor yesterday I was fighting the urge to throw up from the awful headache. The noise and cold was impossible. I knew I had many more hours so resorted to packets of domino sugar. The headache abated amidst the sugar high. I managed. crawling off the tractor after dark. My partner wasn’t much better, actually worse. She is pretty much cripple with a back injury. Am I the only one that sees the writing on this wall?? It was fine with 4-5 employees. It worked. This does not. In no way. I guess we are just lost in the turmoil. Unable to see the reality of a life that isn’t working. Maybe it isn’t bipolar that is my problem. It is the conflict and fear of losing control and not being able to figure out a way out. Or maybe I am just exhausted. I am not sure. My brain isn’t sure either. I am just trying to put one day in front of another. Right now I can’t see beyond the next 5 minutes never mind the future. I do not want to be depressed. I don’t.
In the wake of my mother’s words this house did indeed become unsettled. It is as if her wish just caused it to be so. I know that isn’t the case, but it sure does feel that way. It is frustrations that have simmered slowly. Tucked away on a back burner and forgotten. With time and stress they eventually escape their containment and tumble into my life. In the past year I have tried so hard to rectify the books and keep the ship afloat. It is a thankless task that brings me such anxiety I shake while working the numbers. They terrify me. It is like looking at the map, lost in a foreign land, and being unable to read it. I work hard to control my fear and I do them anyway. The bills have always been done by her, usually online. There were years that I could not help and did nothing with the paperwork or bills. Just opening a bill was enough to reduce me to tears, or triggered so much anxiety it took days for me to recover. This past year was better. I owned it. I did the unpleasant tasks and spent hours before spreadsheets scratching my head. Lost, and befuddled. The online bills were still her domain. It started back with the health insurance going unpaid. It was a grievous error. It cost us so much. We tried to recover. There were other issues between. This past week the barn phone was shut off. I asked her. “I paid it yesterday”. Another day went by with no phone. My anger teetered at the red line. In my head it is just another example of her not doing the job. It is mixed with anxiety since the whole fire system works through the phone. I know I am well off my norm this week. I tried to handle my anger. I told her I didn’t want to fight over it. She got defensive. “So it is my fucking fault”. I am not talking about fault I told her, though the little voice in my head wanted to berate her and yell and curse. “Ok, I’ll fucking pay the bills”. this a few moment later after she lied a few times.- there was no money when the bill came in, or I was outside all morning. Why lie when you know I know the truth. “Is this too much? do you not want this?” I asked
“What the fuck are you talking about? of course I do. I’ll pay the bills right now”
I walked away. I ran. Miserable and unhappy. It did little for my head. I left for polo feeling a bit better. Polo was hard-hitting and almost verging on violent. I spent the evening playing against a guy twice my size and a much better player than me. He doesn’t mind getting hit, and he dishes about as much if not more in return. It was what I needed. I had to get some of the anger and aggression out. I drove home in an adrenaline fueled haze. My head crackling like a live wire. I felt edgy but better. That changed the moment I walked in the barn and the alarm keypad was going off. The barn phone was still off. The one fucking thing she was going to take care of. The one she promised me when I told her I didn’t want to fight. That one. All the edgy adrenaline afterburn turned to rage. I put the polo horses away and went over and over in my head what I should say, or shouldn’t say. Everything was so charged. I though about calming down. It didn’t hold. I thought about yelling. It didn’t hold either. In the end I told her to get away from me. Literally. I wasn’t sure what might happen if she started arguing. That rage was burning white hot in the adrenaline bath. I am not a violent person, but in that state of mind I really wasn’t sure I could control myself.
“You don’t want to be anywhere near me”. Said with a tone to back up anyone in their right mind.
“Why? what the fuck?”
“Walk away. NOW. I’m serious”
“What the fuck if wrong with you??”
“I am so frustrated with you I could scream. Just walk away. AWAY”
“What in fucks name is your problem?”
“Why is the phone still off????”
“They close at 7. I’ll call in the morning”
My mind was going fast. It wanted to tear into her about why she didn’t call before 7. I knew if I went down that road I was going to go after her. It wasn’t a good plan. Before I even realized it these words left my lips.
“I am about to walk out that door and not come back”. Said hard and with icy nasty intentions. It wasn’t a resigned, I give up. It was a I’m done with you and your shit. She walked away talking “yeah, you do that…”. I continued scooping grain so I could not hear what she said. I finished the night check without saying another word. Nothing.
I don’t know where this leaves us. Have I lost sight of everything? Is my thinking distorted? Could I walk away? I know with the rage and anger I feel right now I could. I honestly do not know what is keeping me here anymore. I’m ready to give up and walk away. I think I have reached my breaking point. I am looking out the window at the truck and figuring on where I should flee to. It is millimeters away. It is all-consuming in its pull. Just walk away.
“Philip Seymour Hoffman did not die from an overdose of heroin — he died from heroin. We should stop implying that if he’d just taken the proper amount then everything would have been fine.
He didn’t die because he was partying too hard or because he was depressed — he died because he was an addict on a day of the week with a ‘y’ in it.”
– Aaron Sorkin (Photo- Paola Kudacki)
Days have passed and I have been unable to reach my mother. I know she is just refusing to pick up the phone. Last week she arrived out of the blue. Many weeks had passed between visits. I have become accustomed to this pattern. I don’t know what to do anymore. My partner won’t go there and my mother is feeling slighted and won’t come here. The invite to go over on sunday was an informal one. no serious plans were made. As Sunday rolled around I went to polo. It was a long day. We became busy splitting wood and friends came over. I lost track of time. I called. She didn’t pick up. I was wrong. I know that.
I don’t know why I’m losing my family in pieces. My father fading into the abyss. My mother toying with all of us. shifting back and forth either extending or withholding herself. It is endless. I was calling not to apologize for Sunday, but to remind her of d’s birthday. Today my brother answered the phone. She had no choice. and so it began. I didn’t need her icy tone, and her injured self. There was no way I could have gotten d over there, even had I tried. I was set up to fail, I guess. I should have made it clear when the passing invite was mentioned. I held my tongue. I should have known better. But she continued to tell me how angry she was for days. That I had not called until 5:30 Sunday evening. I know that is untrue, as it was much earlier. Her words hurled like spears. I got angry. She’s too good not to notice even a subtle change in tone, or in a pregnant pause held to long. she knows me too well.
“You’re angry”. I did not want to go down that path as I was quite unsure what might leave my lips. There is only so much frustration I can hold onto. Instead I shifted the focus. d’s birthday.
” I was calling to remind you”.
“I have a card.”
I bit my lip. I knew I would regret what I might say. To chastise her for not calling, to tell her a card days later is not what I was hoping she might do. She is still angry with D. It is obvious from all her actions, and her words. This invite Sunday was just a pawn in this end game of hers. To get everyone angry. To once again bring disharmony to this home. I was not willing to fight with D over going to mom’s. I just agreed when d invited the neighbors, all the while knowing we had somewhere to be. I was not willing to push. As my mother brushed my anger aside and switched to talk of mundane things I felt my world pitch just a bit. I had been doing so well. I had found a way to tolerate her moods and her whims. As I hung up the phone I felt an all too familiar sadness. Borne of years of this type of behavior. She would demolish me with her dismissal. I would come unmoored. In those moments feeling as empty and helpless as ever.
I thought I had put her power behind me. I though her abandonment was no longer a weapon. But it is. Today I walked away wounded. Not mortally as I once might have been, but enough to collapse inward on myself. to struggle and cry looking to blame myself. but I am not the one who should shoulder that blame. It is not my fault. Yes, I should have communicated more clearly. Yes, I could have picked up the phone the day before and told her we would not be over. But that does not remotely give her the right to behave as she did. Her actions are out of proportion to the reality. I have to focus on that. Try to shift my mind and not beat myself up and create havoc in my head. I know this is a tough week for me. It was evident in session yesterday. The darkness is so close in the background now. I have to be careful and mindful. I need to take care of myself. the last thing I need is my mother in my head. The sadness and pain are here now, and I cannot avoid that. I guess it is how I chose to navigate through it that is important. It can devastate me if I am not careful, though to throttle it back and make it small is only a marginal escape because it will find its way back. I will sit with it for now, and it will settle. If there is one thing I have learned it is you cannot out run pain and sorrow. Pointless to try. There is much in my life that is sad and painful. that includes the relationship with my mother. It is okay to be upset about this interaction with her. It is in fact a microcosm of our life together. Our relationship is fucked up. It has been since the beginning. But it is what I chose to shoulder that is at hand. I do not have to take the blame, and wrestle the guilt, fear and subsequent abandonment. It is not my fault. It is her choice, her play to run and to harm. The more I can focus on that the less likely it is that I fall victim to my own dark thoughts and harrowing emptiness that I am cast adrift in when she withdraws. She is running. Not me. I am the one caught in the wake of her extreme shifts. For most of my life I blamed myself. Every time she ran I lost it. I beat on myself. I wasn’t good enough. I did not say the right thing, or act the correct way. I never knew how wrong I was. I know that in my head now, but sadly my heart still takes a beating when she does this. Today I wasn’t strong enough and was caught off guard. There is still working to be done. It is days like this that I catch a glimmer of my old self and realize how awful it was. I see what life was like when she held me hostage to her whims. I will find my way out of this sadness. I will make it through this week. Tomorrow is a new day. This is just another week in my life. It will be okay. It will be okay. It will be okay…