The Damsel Whose Distress Kept Growing: Part 1

This is an extremely difficult (and long) story to tell.  Most of my recent posts have dealt with past trauma, and the benefit of time has allowed me to frame them in a positive light.  This is not that kind of post, but it does begin and end with a story. 


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Once upon a time, a recently divorced and rather distressed damsel met a very handsome man, who we’ll call Glenn.  Glenn, who had always wanted to rescue a damsel in distress, promised her the world.  Not surprisingly, the two fell in love, and Glenn liked to speak of marriage.

Glenn engaged his damsel in planning a life together, and as part of that process, he spoke warmly of his new love to his parents.  Unfortunately, in his excitement, Glenn divulged some information that might have been better left unsaid until the damsel could explain things herself.

“My love,” he told his doting parents, “is practically perfect in every way, and I would like to marry her.  She has just this one frailty, though it doesn’t matter to me.  She has Bipolar Disorder, Type II. (And Anxiety Disorder, and Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder.)  I’m not worried– I know she is an exceptional woman who will not let these demons conquer her spirit.”

“But son,” exclaimed his gossipy mother, “Are you forgetting about second cousin George’s neighbor’s best friend from college?  Don’t you remember?  She has Bipolar Disorder, and she tried to microwave her baby!  You cannot marry this woman– your children will be in mortal peril, and you’ll have to get rid of your microwave!”  

At first, Glenn dismissed his mother’s over-reaching concerns, for he knew his damsel was rational, and he knew she loved his children already and posed no danger.  But doubt crept in that night when he microwaved some leftover soup. Could he really and truly trust his damsel to be around his precious children? 

Slowly, a hypothetical nightmare began to swarm over Glenn’s brain, suffocating the love he felt for his poor, misaligned damsel.  He began to pull back from the relationship slowly, in hopes that she wouldn’t notice and murder him in a fit of rage.

After months of such shameful behavior, their relationship ended and eventually their friendship also was irrevocably destroyed.  But Glenn’s children were safe, and his microwave could stay.  Satisfied that he had done the right thing, Glenn went on his merry way, in search of a younger, saner damsel to rescue.


Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the damsel’s heart cracked–slowly at first, and after the dam burst, all at once.  She had never felt so rejected, humiliated, and insulted in her life.

Not being the kind of flaky damsel who faints on command, she confrimagesonted her man with logic and evidence of her sanity as well as her fitness to be a wife and stepmother, and thus found herself in the odd position of trying to prove that she was sane enough to be worth loving.

No one should ever have to prove that she deserves to be loved.

Tragically, our damsel failed in her quest, and a little seed of doubt was planted in her formerly strong heart.  Was she too crazy for any good man to love?  Would she ever have the family she so desperately desired?

She was no longer sure, budownloadt decided that this particular man was an idiot anyway, and so our brave damsel reluctantly moved on with her life, despite feeling ever more distressed.


Coming up for our damsel: Recent heartbreak takes her down memory lane, which is full of ugly weeds and tricky potholes.  We’ll bring her back out as quickly as possible, I promise.  Stay tuned!

An Old Chair and an Unanswered Prayer

The mental replay of a conversation with a struggling friend pulled me out of my bed tonight and settled me beneath the stars. I found myself with no choice but to count them, along with my greatest blessings.

I shifted my weight awkwardly; a person was only meant to kneel for so long, especially on cheap, rough carpeting. As if to compensate for the rug burn on my knees and legs, I buried my head in the worn velvet of my favorite chair and pictured its elegant curves in my mind as I spit my most precious desires into the accomodating embrace of the aging cushion.

“Father,” I pleaded, “tell me what to do. I feel as though I have tried it all, and everything I do is wrong. He won’t budge. I see the love he once had for me draining from his eyes as he wipes out the sleep before trudging to work. I feel the weight he carries on his shoulders as they cover my own, the desperation of his body pressed against mine. I know that he is trying to feel something, anything, to replace the numbness that has invaded our life together…” 

Here I paused to blow my sorrows into a tissue and wipe the hope draining from my eyes. I had been praying for hours, ever since he left for work, pouring out my angst and wishes, alternately railing and begging. “Please, Father. Soften his heart towards me. Help him to see that I’m trying my very best. I know that it’s not good enough, but it’s all I can do. Please lend me peace and help me to save my marriage.”

I could no longer continue. The sobs stormed my vocal chords: speech wouldn’t come; only keening sounds escaped my beseiged throat. My shoulders heaved under the force of this release, my heart straining to push the heartache through my bloodstream until it engulfed my entire body in anxious heaviness.

I fell asleep that night on my knees, my head buried in the forgiving cushion, my hands embracing the cool wooden curves carved so long ago. When I called my feet to action the next morning, I found them dead. My legs were as weak as my battered soul. I was emotionally and physically drained, but I had faith that my prayers would be answered.

They weren’t.

Instead, years passed and life got worse, and I felt powerless– stuck in my own stubborn web. My parents, you see, had divorced when I was young, and my eight year-old self had firmly promised never to follow that path, come what may. My terrible marriage was nonetheless mine, and I gripped it as fiercely as a football: cradled tight against my ribcage, one arm ready to strike at anyone who tried to force it away.

That someone, it turned out, was my teammate– the very subject of my pleas. To this day, I’m not sure he realizes that he was the answer to what had become my nightly ritual of desperate chair prayers. He left me when I was broken, at the lowest point in my life, and then he filed for divorce… and it was the kindest thing he could have done.

Once we had separated, when I realized that I had indeed done my best and had therefore completed my prerequisites, the peace I’d begged for finally arrived. I saw, for what felt like the first time, a life that was mine to shape. I could go anywhere, do anything, sculpt myself into anyone.

Most importantly, I could breathe by myself again. I’ve lived since that moment, instead of merely existing. I’ve made my own mistakes, instead of paying for his. I’ve fully celebrated my own triumphs, no matter how insignificant, knowing that no one would roll eyes and diminish my worth. I’ve stretched out in bed each night, grateful that I can finally take up as much space as I need: I can finally expand to my potential, even alone.

Tonight, I tried to sleep, but instead, after a trip outside to visit my starry friends, I found myself in an oddly familiar place. My faithful chair and I have trekked wearily across the country, but the aged cushion still cradles my head just right as I spill my soul into its stuffing.

“Thank you, Father, for giving me back my life. Thank you for knowing me and loving me well enough to provide just what I never knew I always needed. Thank you for not answering that prayer. Or maybe, thank you for answering instead the prayer I hadn’t yet thought to pray.”

Dog Food: Mission Accomplished

Preface: I swear to you, dear readers who may or may not know me personally: I am an intelligent, sentient being. I am capable of reasoning, of multitasking, of implementing creative solutions to difficult problems. I strive to learn something new every day, I read constantly, and I am educated. It’s important that you keep this all in mind while you read the following, because there are days when I astound even myself.

Background: My senior year of high school, during a group project in my AP U.S. Government class, Mr. Bunck delegated Kelley M. and I to design a functioning government for Iraq (post 9/11, pre unjustified U.S. invasion). We studied the history, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic structure, and current events of the country. We learned all about the gut-level divisions between the Sunnis and the Shias.

Iraq

We applied our considerable combined brain-power… and then we sat and stared at each other, open-mouthed, while we realized that we had absolutely no clue. It was an unsolvable problem. As previously mentioned, I’m a pretty smart cookie, and so is Kelley M. This was the first time in my academic career, and possibly my life, where I was completely stumped. The feeling of powerlessness was overwhelming, and I have never forgotten that moment. We simply could not solve that problem. Fourteen years later, it’s clear that we weren’t the only ones.

A Tragic Play, in Two Pathetic Acts: 

8 a.m. in my apartment: The dog asks to be fed. (The nerve!) This is nothing new– he likes to eat twice a day, at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. sharp, please and thank you. We have our routine. He gets two scoops, twice a day, and he waits until I tell him “okay” before digging in. This isn’t a new routine; he’s five, and he’s been eating habitually since day one. But today, when he asks to be fed, I am stymied. He has just presented me with a problem that I can not solve. 

Intermission: I swear, I’m not exaggerating. There’s this little-known phenomenon that goes along with depression and anxiety where your brain simply lays off all non-essential employees. “Sorry, lads. There’s just not enough happening here to justify all your salaries. We’re going to have to cut back.”

My brain has recently gone through its fourth or fifth round of cuts (the guy in charge of keeping track is long gone), so I am basically, at this point, down to a skeleton staff. All of my remaining brainsters (that’s brain + teamsters; apparently the guy in charge of bad puns snuck through) are working hard to keep me breathing and standing upright, so this morning, when my dog stood beside his bowl and turned those enormous brown eyes on me, I felt terrible, because I didn’t know what to do. The dog was hungry, and I had no idea how to solve this problem. It was Iraq all over again.

To fully comprehend the gravity of the situation, please note the following:

  • The 40 lb. bag of dog food in my pantry is still 3/4 full.
  • The scoop is not lost. Neither is the dish. Nor did the pantry door handle fall off. The food is there and easily accessible.
  • My dog has not suffered a recent illness or accident that would leave me questioning his nutritional needs.
  • I did not recently switch time zones.
  • I did not recently lose my fine motor skills. All of the body parts required to dish out the food remain intact.
  • My dog did not recently change his eating habits.
  • I did not recently rearrange the furniture or relocate his bowl.

None of these was the issue. I simply couldn’t wrap my head around so many steps:

  1. Walk to bowl.
  2. Lift up bowl.
  3. Carry bowl to pantry.
  4. Load bowl with two scoops of food and allergy pills.
  5. Deposit bowl back on top of doggie station.
  6. Tell the dog it’s okay to eat.
  7. Wipe the dog’s mouth when he finishes to avoid coating the kitchen in slobber.dog food

Act Two: It is all just too much. I literally have to talk myself through the process, like I used to do as a toddler learning to dress myself. “First, I’ll walk to the kitchen, then I’ll pick up the bowl…”

Five eternal minutes later, it is finished. The dog will live to eat another day, and I feel like I’ve just accomplished a task of overwhelming difficulty and skill. I sink gratefully into my favorite chair, emptied of any superfluous thought or ambition. I have just successfully fed my dog. Mission accomplished.

mission accomplished

Fin.

In all seriousness, it may be time to rehire some of my brainsters. I am trying so hard not to let depression win. I know it lies. I know all the evils of which it is capable. This may, however, be the first time it has attacked so boldly on my home turf that it has actually murdered brain cells. Before I’m left with a permanent hole in my intellect, I’m going to have to figure out a way to restructure. Will somebody please call Kelley M.?

The One in Which I Get My Voice Back

I’ve been Ebaying; I just bid on this:

Little Mermaid statue

And as soon as she arrives, I’m going to break her into several pieces so that I can superglue her back together.

Please don’t worry; I have not suffered a stroke. I simply need a daily object lesson.

You see, when I was around five years old, my family went to Disney World. Around that time (and ever since), I was obsessed with Ariel. So when my parents gave me the opportunity to pick a souvenir, the choice was obvious. I will save the debate on the wisdom of buying a kindergartner a ceramic figurine for another time, but I’m sure you can figure out what happened over the next decade or so.

Poor Ariel had to be superglued together so many times that she started to resemble a frankenmermaid. A few of her fingers were lost forever, the seams in her fin were very visible, and she was slightly misaligned from a hasty glue job, but she had a place of pride on my shelf for over twenty years.

Scarred as she became, she was still my Ariel–the princess in her own right who has always reminded me to be my own glorious self.  So I kept her.  She came with me every time I moved, all the way to Yuma, where she mysteriously disappeared. I was sad at the time, but I haven’t thought about her for quite awhile… until tonight.

Tonight, I decided it was time to write again. And I just finished writing a long story about why I’ve been absent for so long. It was all about my own personal Prince Charming and how my fairy tale ended with me in pieces.

I’m sorry you missed it, really. It was clever, and kind of a tearjerker. But halfway through, I decided I needed to take back the narrative. I’m tired of thinking about how broken I’ve been. Shattered, really, into more pieces than I could ever pick up. I believe some parts of the original me have ground into dust and will never be reassembled.

It was sad, really. It was over a year’s worth of sad. But I’m done. Not with sadness, I’m sure, but with allowing myself to be ruined. That’s why God invented superglue. And Ariel–who, despite her countless superglue surgeries, remained her beautiful self.

I’ve been slowly trying to glue myself back together. It hasn’t been easy. Right now it’s downright hellish. Ursula the sea-witch has nothing on my own personal demons, I swear.

I’ll never be the same; I will always be scarred and slightly misaligned– but I will be whole again, someday. Get your dinglehoppers ready, world, because Ariel is on her way back to me, and she and I are making a comeback. It will be slow. It will be sticky. It may involve copious amounts of glue. But it will happen.

Numbering the Stars: My Overprotective Protector

Each night, while my dog Ozzie and I walk, we like to count the stars. Each star represents a blessing, and I like to share them here. 

I live alone. I have great neighbors and a safe neighborhood, but still, I live alone.

Back in Ohio, when my ex and I moved so far out into the country that no one would have heard my screams, he worked the night shift, so I was all alone at night. That was the catalyst behind my search for a very big dog with a very scary bark, and when I found Ozzie, I hit the jackpot.

Puppy mug shot
Puppy Protector

He’s a Great Pyrenees mix, so he’s bred to guard and protect, and that’s exactly what he does. All. the. time. He protects me, his cat, the truck, the patio, the tree in front of the patio, the apartment complex in general… you get the idea.

Guarding the camera
Guarding the camera

Mostly, he protects the apartment from anyone who might be thinking of looking at it for too long, and lately, from my water glass. I can’t take a drink and set down my glass without the resulting clink setting off a chain of barks… and I’m getting dehydrated!

Guarding the boyfriend
Guarding the boyfriend

 

Still, I’m grateful to have such a good protector. I’m grateful to have such a good protector. I’m grateful to have such a good protector. (I may have to repeat that a few more times, because I just had the audacity to fill a glass with ice water. Either that, or don some earplugs.) 

My Two Dads

Every little girl needs a good daddy, and I’ve been especially lucky, because I have two. I’ve been thinking about both of them a lot this Father’s Day, and trying to narrow down my remembrances, because I could bore you for hours with stories about the special soap Dad had to use to scrub his hands after work, or Grampa’s gleeful chorus of “You’re playing the WRONG note!” whenever I practiced piano, but to really understand the impact these two men have had on me, you only need to know two things: the constancy of the newspapers, and the trick to singing alto, because they tell the same tale of two fathers’ gentle, unspoken guidance.

The alto part seemed lacking in church today, so I filled in for a bit. I normally sing soprano, but once upon a time, a wonderful man taught me, in the most lasting way, how to sing alto.

You see, when I was a teenager, I wanted to learn to read the alto part, but sometimes I would struggle to pick it out, especially in Sacrament meeting. Hearing my attempts, my Grandfather would switch over and sing the alto line in his octave to help me out. Then, when I was on track, he’d go back to tenor or bass or whatever he was singing that day. If he noticed me faltering, he would emphasize my note in his own part, and give the tiniest nod of his head when I got it right.

We never spoke about it; he never even made eye contact with me while he was doing it, but I always felt loved and supported, and even today, when I sing alto, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to my wonderful grandfather, who saw my need and stepped in to guide me gently and without any hesitation. I miss him. I love you more than a hog loves slop, Grampa. 

(I’m the baldish one)

Then there’s my dad– a hardworking, no-frills kind of guy. He wasn’t always around when I was young, and our relationship has not always been smooth, but he was there for me in the best way on the hardest day of my life, and his presence made more of a difference than I think I will ever be able to express.

On February 26, 2004, I came home from class and got a phone call from my mom. Not even a minute after she called, my dad, who lived a couple of hours away from USU, knocked at the door. I laughed at the coincidence, until my mother told me the reason why he was there: my grandfather, the alto tutor, had died earlier that day. I turned my head and wept into my dad’s shoulder, feeling as though the grief would tear me apart. And he held me as I talked to my mom, and waited patiently while I packed a bag to go home. It took awhile, and we were driving in the wee small hours of the morning.

We didn’t talk much on the drive down to Salt Lake; I was in shock, and I don’t think he quite knew what to say. I wasn’t paying much attention to where we were going, until we stopped in downtown Salt Lake in front of the Tribune building. The surprise must have registered on my face, because my dad just said, “Come look,” and led me to the plate-glass window in the front of the building, where we could watch the next day’s edition being printed and assembled.

I was a journalism major at the time, so this was right up my alley, and I was fascinated. It was pretty impressive to be able to watch the construction of a newspaper from beginning to end. But the real blessing came from watching the cogs and belts of these huge machines spit out news sheet after news sheet. My entire world had just imploded, but that didn’t stop the presses. The machines kept clicking and clacking, not missing a beat, in a rhythm that seemed to pay tribute to the steady, constant nature of the huge heart the world had lost that day.

Hypnotized in those moments, I forgot my grief. I forgot everything, actually. I don’t remember the rest of the trip home to Ohio. I don’t remember anything until the day of the funeral. My dad, without saying more than a few words, gave me peace. He distracted me, yes, but more importantly, he showed me how steadily the world turns, even in the face of great loss. He knew just how to remind me that the stars would still shine and the news would still print, and that lesson has never left me. I can still smell the warm ink, hear the cogs turning, and see the printed sheets stacking up. I can still feel the bite of the air on my face, the smoothness of the glass under my hands, and the unconditional love of both my fathers. Thanks, Dad.

(Dad– or, since I know how that household works, Natalie– you need to send me copies of some old pictures. I have none.)

I hope you had a wonderful Father’s Day, dear reader, and that the next time you hear an alto or read a newspaper, you’ll smile and think of your own dad. I know I will.

Numbering the Stars: Seesters

Each night, as we walk under the starry sky, my dog Ozzie and I like to count off one blessing for every star we find. Sometimes, I share those newly named stars here.

There’s something pretty neat that happens when you welcome someone new into your life: you get to introduce all of your old someones. I had the privilege of e-sharing my family today, and I might just be feeling a little homesick after yammering for hours about how awesome they are. So seesters, in case you were wondering, this is how I depict you to those who have not yet been blessed to make your collective acquaintance.

all sistersI start with this lovely group shot, explained thusly: I’m the pale ghost in pink, Kelsey is the one who never changed out of track clothes (ever), Allison is the one with the necklace that never died, Bethany is the one with the fashion sense, and Emily is the one who needed a bobby pin. (And I’m sitting on that couch as we speak… crazy, no?)

In order to give the correct sense of life with my girls, I absolutely MUST mention:

  • Em’s and Bethie’s particular brand of torture for any testosterone-possessing visitors to our house (it’s a wonder poor Andy kept coming back):

andy

  • Alli’s antics (this one just happened to take place in a parade, but more often than not, those same antics were displayed in the living room, bathroom, front lawn, you name it.)

alli

  • And Kelsey’s inability to ever have a piece of furniture to herself, even in sleep: kels readingme and kels

kels and piggy

But I also can’t refrain from sharing pictures and stories of my beautiful, intelligent, adult seesters and friends (and the angel-baby, who really needs to come visit her favorite aunt in Arizona…)

  • Ems

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  • Bethbethany
  • Allialli pink
  • Kels, and K babe

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Tap, tap, girlies. I miss you.

PS– in case you haven’t clicked the link and watched the Strongbad video in the fifty or so opportunities I’ve given you so far… let me make it easy. Click this: http://www.homestarrunner.com/sbemail35.html