Saturday, July 6, 2013

Looking at the abyss from the other side

"Where is the lion in you to defy him when you're this weak and this spacey?"

A week. Poof.


It was just a week ago that I sat here and talked about my anxiety and the abyss. I was going to talk more about the abyss. I had a week after all. A week between dropping Neil at the airport last Saturday and picking him up yesterday.

The first day was a little weird because it seems when I am alone I play out the scenario in my mind, what if this was my life? What if there was no one coming home?

Stupid, I know. Don't borrow tomorrow's trouble. Stay present. Don't ruin today, now, by conjuring up grim future scenarios.

All is bright, all's right with the world. Keep calm and and carry on and shut those negative thoughts the fuck up.

Last week I got to look at the abyss from the other side. From the solid ground across the chasm.

I did go finally out last Saturday and spent my Ulta coupon and killed some time browsing and people-watching in Old Navy. When I went home there was a message on the machine from the friend I'd emailed earlier, inviting me over on Sunday to swim in her pool and grill burgers.

I go back to college with this friend. We weren't exactly friends then but I had some classes with her and she's hard not to notice as she stands six foot tall. We didn't hang out in exactly the same circles but she was friendly with some of the same people I was friendly with. It wasn't until we both moved to Houston that we became personal friends.

She married another college alum and sadly it was a match made in hell. One that lasted longer than my own. There's a small group of my college classmates living here, but we've always been spread out from Katy to Kingwood and now to me in Sugar Land. But we got together a few times a year and our kids grew up knowing each other.

I was already divorced for four years and dating Neil when M's marriage blew wide open. It had long, no always, been a troubled relationship but it might have continued in codependent perpetuity as far as M was concerned. She made no secret of the last straw, which was the clear evidence of not only unfaithfulness, but unsafe unfaithfulness and its natural consequences.

So she threw him out and she cried a lot and then her father died and it seemed as though she would never get to the end of her sadness. I know how that feels and I want to talk about it, but some other day. This is about M.

In every failed relationship, both parties bear some culpability, one's behavior perhaps more egregious than then other's, but it's a soul in denial who won't examine the roots of the issues and the part they played.

Some of the part M played in her broken marriage was due to her history of dysfunctional past relationships and her own conviction that she was so unlovable that she had to grab what she could get, and of course you get what you settle for. I know something about that frame of reference too, but at some point I reached my limit and said no more, we both deserve to be happy, we both deserve to love and be loved, and it ain't happening here so maybe we need to move on.

M only reached that point when her back was to the wall, and even then I suspect she would have taken him back. It's all to the good that once he had his walking papers he kept walking. And while M grieved, our kids grew up and went off to college and started to get married. M met her current ex-boyfriend in the course of planning her daughter's wedding in the summer of 2010.

They dated for 2 and a half years and about 6 months in, M told me, I think we're in it for the long haul. And she spoke of how he treated her better than any man had ever treated her. It was odd that I never met him, none of her friends met him. He didn't want to meet us, a bunch of college grads. He was rougher around the edges, thrice previously divorced, but as far as I knew he was good to M and she was happy and that's what was important.

Until it all spilled out last Sunday and for the first time I heard about the alcoholic rages, the verbal abuse, the bipolar shifts in personality. I heard about things that would have been plenty for me to walk away from, the first time they happened, that had been going on for at least the last two years. And then a few weeks ago he broke things off in a cruel and final way and now all her tears and sadness are back.

It's easy to say, why would you want to be with someone who doesn't want to be with you, except for the fact that I once felt this way about a man, that I'd rather be unhappy with him than happy without him, knowing full well how stupid unhealthy that feeling was. But you feel the way you feel.

It sucks to be alone, the more so at this stage of the game, I'll give you that. But M has much going for her, she looks good, she's a lovely person, a wonderful friend, she has raised two very good kids, she has a lovely home, she's competent and capable and has so many friends. And there she was, saying in one breath that men don't like her, saying that she wished she was like one of her friends whose husband will never leave her because she pays for everything, saying that she'd pretty much compromise on anything just to have a man.

And I sat there, with my toehold on the other side of the abyss, the one where there are flowers and sunlight and music and butterflies, and hurt for my friend who thinks so little of herself that she accepts unkindness and I asked her why she stayed with a man who did these terrible things, who told her to leave on more than one occasion. Who was physically mean to her beloved dog. Who called her a cunt and worse.

Do you know what she said? She said, I love him.

If freedom's just another word for nothing left to loose, in this case "I love you" is just another way of saying, "I don't want to be alone."

One thing I learned between my divorce in 1998 and meeting Neil in 2002. Being alone is better than being in a bad relationship. Because there is hope. You are free should an appropriate, emotionally available man happen to walk across your life path.

I've know M for almost 40 years, we've been friends for the past 30 some years. I asked her if I could be completely honest with her. More accurately, what I said was, it's OK if I speak honestly to you, isn't it. And it was more of a statement than a question.

M drinks. Red wine mostly and being a tall woman she can drink quite a lot. The day I was over, she was sticking to Perrier and white wine spritzers and pacing herself. She knows she has a problem. I don't think she knows how much damage she is doing to her psychic health with the booze. It seems to lubricate her emotionalism and tears.

And I understand it as only one who has been there can. It starts out with grief for the lost relationship, the lost person at their best, the lost romantic dream. But soon the sorrow expands, until you are grieving for every lost relationship, every hurt, every rejection, every loss you ever suffered. And that's a heavy burden.

I told M that I believe she drinks to self-medicate her depression. She has taken Prozac for years for OCD and because it controls her OCD she thinks it is working. But it's not controlling her depression and I told her that she needs to have proper med management and that she doesn't have to feel so sad. I think that if she could start feeling better, she would start to feel better about herself. She might feel like a different person. She might even attract a different sort of man.

I'm just a friend, not a therapist, but I spoke from my heart. But I've never been exactly where she's been. I've had more good and less bad experiences with relationships. I've never had her love affair with the bottle. Hell, I've never been six feet tall and considered men to be intimidated by my size.

But I have been hurt, and I have grieved more deeply and longer than I might have done if my neurotransmitters hadn't been so deficient. And I have visited the abyss and I have crawled back out of the muck and I have crossed back over the line from illness to wellness.

So I said what I said and I hope that she heard me. All I can do now is check on her and let her know I care and be a broken record. The one that says, things can and do get better. Where there's life, there's hope.

I'm the poster child for this. There is always hope.

"Up in a sterilized room
Where they let you be lazy
Knowing your attitude's all wrong
And you got to change
And that's not easy
Dragon shining with all values known
Dazzling you-keeping you from your own
Where is the lion in you to defy him
When you're this weak
And this spacey

So why does it come as such a shock
To know you really have no one
Only a river of changing faces
Looking for an ocean
They trickle through your leaky plans
Another dream over the dam
And you're lying in some room
Feeling like your right to be human
Is going over too

Well some are going to knock you
And some'll try to clock you
You know it's really hard
To talk sense to you
Trouble child
Breaking like the waves at Malibu."

(Joni Mitchell, Trouble Child from Court and Spark)

1 comment:

labweorc said...

I came looking for beads, and I found what I needed for my heart. I allowed myself to be abused and didn't want to leave because being hurt seemed much better than being alone. My new-born son and my eventual rejection of his lies and lifestyle have given me freedom, but I still struggle with the fear that I, while not worthless, am not worth a good man. Thank you for returning to your first love!

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