Hard times, low times.
Days of just falling down elevator shafts and landing at the bottom in broken angles and with heavy thuds.
For the past couple weeks, I’ve been trying to get sober by going cold turkey. Feels like I’m bleeding to death from papercuts. Everything hurts. The anxiety gets bossier. The dreams get nightmarier. I lie on the couch at night, sweating the need out of me, worrying about the sharp expanding pains in my gut.
And sadly, I know this feeling. I have been here before. I have walked on these new uncertain sober legs like an hours old foal many times before. Drying out, only to realize nothing gets better. I’m alone. I’m scared. Only now I feel it. And then I dive right back into that bottle.
Clink, splash, glug.
Still, I try. I’ve got to. I’ve got only so many more exits before the toll. I’ve got kids that need me. Function, you drunk motherfucker…function! And I try. Hard. If something happens to me, someone has got to tell my kids I tried. It won’t matter…but I don’t want them to think their mother didn’t fucking care enough to try for them.
This weekend, Mike went out of town with Ian so I had the kids by myself. Not much different than usual, really…but I just desperately did not want to be alone. I asked my friend, Kevvie, if she wanted to do something with the kids & me, but she was not feeling well. I knew K & R were probably at camp, as they usually retreat on long weekends. I realized I had no one else to call to spend time with us, besides my mom. And so, I even did that. She said she wasn’t able to. Then, she made a comment about going to get my nieces to spend time with them, because my sister never asks her for anything or for help with her kids. I do? I don’t ask for anything. Something about even that slight rejection from her landed like hard, bony knuckles on my chest. I got in the shower and let myself cry for 2 minutes where the kids couldn’t hear me. I just don’t want to be alone all the fucking time. I want people to want us (my kids and me) to be in their life. And, as I sat there crying, I realized that my mom must have felt this isolatory loneliness all the time when we were growing up. Stuck in that decrepit, raze-worthy farmhouse in the middle of nowhere with four kids… husband never home…no job to escape to…no friends…no family…just us kids. Our relationship is broken glass and mousetraps—but sometimes I have odd flashes of sympathy for her. I don’t think I ever realized how hard it had to have been for her when we were growing up.
After my moment, I zipped my chest back up…put on my makeup and decided to take the kids to a sunflower farm. Because I can’t think of another place where one feels closer to a real & present God than staring at a gigantic field carpeted with magnificent yellow flowers boldly imitating the sun, an object they love so much that they can’t look away….I took picture after picture of the kids, exasperating them with my need to record the day. By the end, their patience is frayed with being captured through my lens. You can see it in Rowan’s grimace as he kneels at one point, staring at my camera…in Bridget’s self-conscious look-away pose. I am clutching at straws, with fingers of desperation.
Still it was a good day…meandering through the brashly golden lined paths, skin soothed under the sun by a gentle breeze…we sang and talked. I pointed out the wildflower, Queen Anne’s Lace. Using a story my mother told me, I told them about Queen Anne pricking her finger while making lace, a droplet of red dropping onto the lace. I pointed out the bead of red in the center of the otherwise pure white, lacy flower. Later, I taught them about chicory, morning glories….explained that they possess a kind of fragile beauty that does not allow us to enjoy them anywhere but where they grow. Once picked, they wilt almost immediately. I guess the lesson is sometimes you just have to leave things alone, no matter how much you love them or want to keep them…sometimes they’re better off without our interference. Sometimes we have to love from afar. After exploring the field, we went in a corn maze. Bridget led the way, her keen sense of direction making all the right choices as Rowan and I just followed her to the outer edge of the maze and then out. My sailor girl, my tracker, my beautiful compass.
As we were walking out of the corn maze, the wagon ride passed by us. Bridget broke down, thinking she had missed out on riding it. I told her it was ok, that we’d figure it out—see if they were going to do one more run. But she wailed, carried on…I heard my dad in my head, how he used to tell us to “quit that caterwauling” when we cried as little kids. I fucking hated when he said that to us because, guess what, dad? Sometimes life fucking hurts and you’re allowed to cry. I gave her a minute to get it out, but she was just ratcheting up the intensity. Finally, I told her to stop acting out. She angrily spat at me, “If you hadn’t made us go in that stupid maze, we would have been able to ride the wagon ride, mom. You ruin everything.” Once again, she has made me the barrier to her happiness…a common theme between us. I know it’s not true-but it is one of the things I fear most. So, sadly, I know she is picking that up from me & using it against me. I know in this moment it is necessary to stonewall this child…but don’t know how to rearrange my features to untouched, to unscathed. So, I turn and walk away from her and Rowan up the path. They follow me, soundlessly. Like puppies.
I feel the sunflowers watching…even though there is no element of sunlight filtering through the moment.
Even though I know I shouldn’t give into Bridget’s puppetmastering, I go up to the stand and ask if they are doing anymore wagon rides. She tells me he will probably do one more. I give her my money to secure our spot. When the wagon pulls up & we climb on, Bridget brightens. I take the opportunity to snap a picture of us. It turns out to be a nice picture and that makes me happy for a while. It takes so much of so little to make me happy.
Later, the kids and I curl up on the couch and watch Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone all together. They have never seen it before and it is clear from the outset that Bridget is in love with the magic. Her pointy-chinned face turned to the light thrown off by the tv….something akin to heliotropism. In the glow, I can see the stardust of freckles on her nose, her lopsided grin. Rowan, plays on his tablet next to me, his little finger flicking at various things moving across his screen.. Every so often, he snuggles closer into my side, sighing contentedly, with baby breath that still smells faintly and sweetly of milk… It takes so much of so little.
Bring me the plant that leads
where blond transparencies rise
where life dissolves like essence;
bring me the sunflower crazed with light.”-Eugenio Montale