Fragile Things

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At some point everything becomes clear. That doesn’t necessarily mean a good clear, but fact is preferred over fiction when you’re locked up in a mental ward. Again. And it’s snowing out–and worse–it’s New Year’s Eve and you’re thirtieth birthday is coming and you’re little girl must be looking for you. It’s all you can do to decipher the shell-shocked woman looking back at you in the tin mirror bolted to the wall above your sink. Here you get your own sink because this time, this trip into the bin, they knew it was much more serious than they had originally thought, and your “security” is upgraded. You have a thought you would usually have–that the upgrade only makes you feel more nuts–but at this point, you don’t feel nuts. You are nuts. I say to myself ‘I’m clinically insane’ and for a moment I believe it’s something to smile about. When the leading psychiatrist told me on New Year’s Day morning that I was clinically psychotic and suffering from complex PTSD, I thought about my mind–clearly–for a second, and I imagined a blue and orange brain-scan image showing clouds of lesions.  Then I slipped back into the room , in and out of dissociating, and the yellow walls were much too close and I could Read More

Two Writing Prompts

Writing prompts/Writer’s Challenge from the online lit mag The Write Place at the Write Time

Prompt 1: An anniversary can be a time of celebrations or a time of solemn reflection.  Write a story in no more than five hundred words that describes your protagonist‘s feelings about the event being remembered and how it affected their life.  Use words “flashback”, anniversary, “recognition”, and “future”.

Prompt 2: Summer is always a special time, and is often characterized as a period of transition in a young person’s life.  Imagine a powerful coming-of-age experience for your protagonist, and in five hundred words or less, describe how this particular summer changed their life forever–for better or for worse.

  (Writing Prompt 2) “The Swimlot” for Mike

They’re almost there, pedaling as fast as they can into an unknown idea.  July is ending and the small town         buzzes with campers, RVs, coolers, boats.  The highway is the shortest way, they cut across in a flash of chrome and into the woods behind Frankie’s Pizza.

“I know its down here, Amos, I know it’s here somewhere,” Mike shouts back.  They’re eleven without permission.  This is about to be the peak of their childhood, knowing too well that it was time to grow up.  But there was something special between these two–the love of adventure.  They’d spent the summer climbing the city’s crumbling ore dock, fishing, biking to the lake to jump into the waves during storms, exploring ravines in the rain, and at night they’d draw and dream and watch The Goonies, thinking about how they could chase tornadoes together.

Up ahead they see the trees thin and then suddenly it’s just water.  The field immediately stops, held back by a four foot high cement wall that runs the expanse of the woods.  At the bottom of the wall there is a thin, wooden ledge to stand on, the water lapping it in the silence.

They don’t have to say anything.  They’re sure they discovered this.  This was it.  This is what they’d been searching for–a wild place to call their own.  They look at each other, reflecting back the same glint in their eyes, the explosive joy heaving their chests.  They say nothing, but give a knowing nod to each other.

“Let’s hold hands, on the count of three!”  Mike says. They don’t bother taking off their chucks or clothes, there’s no time.  It must happen now.

The water is a cold aqua, with sun beams striking through into the deep.

She holds her best friend’s hand.

He counts “one….two….THREE!”

That second, that split second in mid-air, before their futures were riddled with scars both inside and out,  they were free.  Untouchable.  Beautiful.

Hey

When I used to watch her sleep, I’d tear up, so overwhelmingly grateful for her presence in my life.  Her freckles, her dimples, her tiny voice, her hushed lips and sleeping eyes, sweeping red lashes.  The furnace would kick in as the snow would fall and the wood floor would creak beneath me, watching the moon shine onto her blankets.  My how things have changed.  Now I fear I’m going to miss out on so much of her life.  I fear I’m going to die young.  I guess that’s a part of PTSD–sure you’re not going to make it.  I surrender who I’ve been and I bloom into a new woman because of her.  I’m not just a mama now, I’m alive and yet so sensitive.  The complications…I hear a little girl crying all the time.  I used to run for Emma when this happened, sure she was hurt, sure she needed me.  After awhile I learned these were hallucinations.  I was hallucinating now.  Does it end?  The girl crying is me somewhere inside, or at least a little girl I was.  I’ve split up.  And the guilt I feel for trying to be a good mom when I’m so ill, I think she deserves so much better.  What can I offer her when I am such a mess?  I want to give her the world.  Before i was sick I was giving her the world.  She is my everything, but I’ve come to depend to much on her life than mine, because I want to abandon mine.  I’m afraid of mine.

I think everything that happened happened because she was coming, she was my purpose, I had to work hard and feel the pain and ache and loss in order to truly appreciate that little heart and mind inside this child.  I waited for so long for her and I didn’t even know it.  I’d wait forever for her.  I’m surprised that she’s mine.  And I’m so terrified I’ll lose her.  She calls me “Mama” in her tiny voice.  Just Mama.  Unless she’s sarcastic.  Then it’s Amy.  She likes to get a rise outa me.

Now when I watch her sleep my thoughts are troubled.  I’m hyper-vigilent.  My mind doesn’t stop.  I worry about our future.  I worry about things all mothers worry about I suppose.  But I’m swirling in the fact that I can’t see a new psychotherapist because in this small town they’re not taking on any new patients and the next closest is an hour and a half away.  I’m also in the process of applying for disability.  And my ex-fiance is already engage after dating a girl long-distance for six months.  It took him seven years to propose to me.  And I worry, if her soon to be new stepmom is mentally healthy, will my girl like her more than me?  It sounds so stupid but I think it all the time.  And then I’m so angry when I feel this way.  And I’m angry at my real dad for drinking himself into the grave, doubting I was his.  I was never worth it to anyone, yet I know I’m worthy.  I do know that.  I have always felt I was and was smartly pissed at those that left me, worthless.  Yet maybe deep down I do feel worthless.  I assume my girl will like and need someone other than me because I’m …not enough.  I’ve always had trouble feeling that I’m enough.

Memoir Snippet: Earliest Memory

Nobody

An empty space.  Empty peace because I didn’t understand life’s big emotions yet and consequences; empty space is what I feel in my first memory—me a snot-nosed, white-blond, dirty four year old hiding in the alcove of lilacs at the corner of the farmhouse.  The damage had already begun, only I didn’t know it was damage.  There is just space, space inside me.  I am no one.  I feel nothing, I only wonder at the smells around me, lilacs, tractor oil, honeysuckle and grass.  I feel like a nobody.  I’m neither happy nor sad.  I am nothing.  I inhale the earth around me and I feel how it swells in me.  There was always the earth in all it’s beauty that never stopped captivating.  Even now, past thirty and still the space, I am a little girl in love with the world in my teeth when I’m around floating flower petals.

I remember the sound of the tractor, how I used to sit on it, my arms spanning the steering wheel’s skinny diameter, feet dangling.  It probably wasn’t the best place for young girls.  There were a few alcoholic pedophiles mozying around the dirt drive, kicking beer tabs Read More

The Memoir Begins

Small Parts (rough draft/excerpt Difficult Degrees)

I trick myself into a stutter every time I think I’m going to begin writing this. It’s easy to do, because after all, how can I write a memoir when my memories are clusters and boils and sighs. There are the body memories from the post-traumatic stress, there are visual flashes, elegant lights, dark corners where I whimper, peaks on which I soar, voices in my head from the psychosis, and the enchanting scents of lilacs and motor oil on rusty tractors. There’s my mother in the eighties, vacuuming the patchwork carpet she made herself in our hazy, smoke-filled low-income house where I had my favorite purple striped dress and an Oscar the Grouch pillow case. There was the opening and closing of the front door where my drunk father stood in warm light, me watching him from the old yellow couch that had green swirls in it, wrapped in my mother’s brown and orange afghan. Pinesol. Bread, The Guess Who, Cat Stevens and Carly Simon. And then the hidden tracks that my mind seems to so desperately seek these days–the long droning songs of my stepfather molesting me. I don’t know what he did. But my body does. I see snapshots and clips of his jeans, the dreaded belt, the sound of the belt, and a video of his own children in child pornography, and I can’t tell if I’m actually there with them on that tire swing somewhere by a lake, being told to touch, or if I’m being forced to watch the video he made of it, him behind me, talking softly, guiding me. I was five. Late at night, when I missed my real daddy, I organized all my stuffed animals over and over and kissed them each exactly the same, and if I showed one too much affection, I had to start over and I’d cry. Then I’d sneak into the bathroom, roll up washcloths, and try to penetrate myself with them. That was how I could fall asleep.
I was the middle child, curious and I think a little wild, and I had to be brave. I wanted the tough role. I wanted to be held like a baby. I wanted to be saved. I wanted to be super and save myself. I know these things because I still want them–an opening into some unscarred part of my heart still wants them. To be weak–he taught me what weakness was. So did my mother. I interpreted weakness as backing away from danger, holding myself, crying, and shying away from instinct and fear. Fear was my instinct, it is now more than ever, but then, being just a girl, just a statistic, just a warm body, when someone takes away from you your core, your selfhood, you find it much easier to empty yourself again and again, to be rid of yourself, to destroy what’s left, for as long as you can, until grace steps in and you break.

Fragile Things

At some point everything becomes clear. That doesn’t necessarily mean a good clear, but fact is preferred over fiction when you’re locked up in a mental ward. Again. And it’s snowing out–and worse–it’s New Year’s Eve and you’re thirtieth birthday is coming and you’re little girl must be looking for you. It’s all you can do to decipher the shell-shocked woman-child looking back at you in the tin mirror bolted to the wall above your sink. Here you get your own sink because this time, this trip into the bin, they knew it was much more serious than they had originally thought, and your “security” was upgraded. You have a thought you would usually have–that the upgrade only makes you feel more nuts–but at this point, you don’t feel nuts. You are nuts. I say to myself ‘I’m clinically insane’ and for a moment I believe it’s something to smile about. When the leading psychiatrist told me on New Year’s Day morning that I was clinically psychotic and suffering from complex PTSD, I thought about my mind–clearly–for a second, and I imagined a blue and orange brain-scan image showing clouds of sick. Then I slipped back into the room , in and out of dissociating, and the yellow walls were much too close and I could taste rubber in my mouth and then the Read More

Journal: Beautiful

The last few years of my life have been, well, like nothing I’d have ever expected or believed for that matter–in both good and bad ways. The seven or so years before this my life was quite productive and filling up with things like love, the obsession of staying busy or occupied (in my mind) so as not to journey too far into unknown territory–I was breaking down then but very very slowly which allowed me more time to work on me and see where I wanted my life to go. I met White Buffalo Woman who read my Animal Totems, I minored in Sociology (in love with the way people work, like you could actually map it–it thrilled me), I explored Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity a little, the Beat Generation, Alan Watts, meditation, looking at the world through wide open, fearless eyes, testing and sometimes criticizing, trying to see where I fit. For awhile I went through this phase (Emma was a baby then) that I had to move to India, or some kind of place away from materialism and media down my throat–I had to raise her where life was about living and being and using your hands. It drove me nuts.

In those seven somewhat healthy years, I went to college, I began to write and write (which turned into a pitched fever as a spelled out the past and I began to decline, in my late twenties), I made the Dean’s List, worked full-time, and had a baby girl, and all the while I had no idea who I was or what I had been (or what I was going to become).

Read More