It’s hard to algebra-out the pieces of emotional equations.
You’d think that two decades of therapy would make it easier to parse out your feelings or that enough Concerta to wire a station wagon would help keep you from revising history to cast yourself as the bad guy in every memory.
What part was my fault? How could I have done it differently? Did I have the tools and instructions I needed to succeed? Did I poison the water? How angry do I get to be that I couldn’t fix it? Was it the team’s win and the coach’s loss?
Because I need the answers to all of these questions so that I can be sure that the composition of the tornado (well, let’s call it a hurricane because this Sjögren’s girl’s tear ducts are working on overtime) is made up of so many different parts, from hurt to angry to disappointed to scared to fucking furious to sad to hopeless to introspective to shame to self righteous to embarrassed to regretful to relieved to maybe-this-is-a-good-thing-because-something-had-to-give.
And I need to know those measures to convince myself that when I’m done being sad and angry and scared and more sad, I will still be surrounded by people I love, have dogs who jiggle with joy at seeing my face, a job that I (actually might could truly) do well and celebrate every silly moment I can with theme socks, extra glitter and confidence mascara.
It’s not like I’m confused, though. I actually might just could see that stopping a toxic cycle of sadness, frustration, anger, resentment and disappointment by any means necessary is a very smart move. Just because I wasn’t the one to move my bishop doesn’t make it less right.
And maybe if we’d missed a few of the triggers we were so very good at stumbling into, maybe somehow the planets would align and we’d each end up in an O. Henry story, hairless and unable to tell time, but happy, staring down the long road of happier, and maybe we’d end up being the people we wanted to be, the people we wanted each other to be, and they lived happily ever after.
I mean, I can’t rule it out. The moon might be made of cheese, the squirrels might be insulting Sammy’s mother, science might not actually be magic, I might one day like what I see in the mirror, the world might be saved if we can achieve the perfect pie crust – I’m too hopelessly optimistic to tear that bandaid, sever the neck quickly, hurl the plate at the wall.
I’d love to have the confidence in that kind of conviction, to be able to make that decision. I’ve done it before – made a smart, shitty, sad decision that left another feeling desperate, scared and pained – but I don’t know that I could do it again, at least not without having been pushed by forces of money, geography, law enforcement.
So I will probably always be a storm-weatherer, without the capacity to be certain of my decisions, and wait too long through the storms that never end.
You learn things, weathering storms. You learn a lot of things you can now file in your back pocket for I-know-what-to-do-when-this-happens! moments. And you can talk about them, when your talking function works. You can think many conscious thoughts and feel many inconvenient feelings. You can be the very best communicator you know how to be, and you can still trip over every block.
I can’t say I don’t want to turn back the clock and try again. I do. I have no idea if I could do it better. I mean, could I physically have made different decisions in retrospect that would have made anything better, rather than prolong an already-too-long (was it? I want it to be, but also I want it back?) struggle of attrition? Yes. I could have said no when I said yes, I could have done this instead of trying that. But could I have fixed it?
No. In my head, in my heart, I know I couldn’t have fixed it, because I wasn’t the only one playing along at home. Two to tango, and all. But I do grieve for the opportunity. I grieve for the future that won’t be; I grieve for the children that might’ve been; I grieve for the hopes that could’ve been really happy.
When I’m done being sad, I’ll rejoice in knowing that I’m a better person, a better friend and a better lover than I was on the other side, and, as a good little girl scout, I think I left the campsite better than it was when I arrived. I just hope the semantics catch up with reality, because each “at our house,” “oh, he’ll know how…” and “we’re-” anything is a punch to the gut.
When I woke up in a friend’s guest room this morning, I didn’t know where I was right away and thought I’d had a terrible dream. The rude awakening rent my heart, obliterating whatever control I thought I’d had over the muscles in my chin, my always-dry (that’s something no one saw coming) eyes and terrible attempts at poise.
But once I was able to breathe again, I saw that I was in the guest bedroom of a wonderful person whose care for me and my heart is as fierce as it is warm, playing with a pup who was happy to see me and able to walk – literally and figuratively – on my own two feet.
And that was pretty great, too.