phoenix

April 24 was the day I left my marriage. April 22 was the day I told my husband I would leave him, but I stayed to pack a bag and attend one final counseling session to hash out the nuts and bolts of a separation. That’s what I called it a separation. Not because I thought I might ever come back, but to soften the blow a little, to ease him into it. As an intended kindness, I suppose, though maybe it would have been better to let the wave hit all at once.

April 24 was the last day of the most painful period of my life thus far, and the first day of my scrabble back to myself. It’s the day I remembered what it felt like to be my own person, and nearly the day I started to forget again. Within a few months of leaving, I tried to tangle myself up inside another person, began changing my plans to give them what they need, making the same concessions that had caused me so much grief in my marriage. I decided to give myself a year to be single before I entered into another relationship; a year on my own. And so I marked a year in my calendar. On April 24, 2013, I’d be ready to be with someone again: Game on.

It was arbitrary, sure, and it didn’t exactly work out that way. To be honest, the anniversary might have passed me by as nothing more than a bad patch, if not for the note in my calendar. I might have thought that the bouts of anxiety, mysterious tears, and sadness had to do with the changing seasons, or the travel I’d been doing, or were just a part of me. I might have forgotten about this final milestone, forgotten that I was — am — marking the anniversary of my “before” life going up in flames.

But I’d left myself a reminder, and it’s clear that the symptoms will linger beyond a day. Because it wasn’t just the walking out on April 24; I’d been on fire for a solid month before I admitted that I couldn’t stand any longer and pretend everything was fine. I watched everything turn to ash around me, watched the person I thought I was go white hot around the edges and lose her features.

My body stores memories just as much as my psyche; I feel the tension I carried in my shoulders and across my back. I feel the pressing on my chest, recognize the shallow breathing. I need more sleep, I crave more food, my hands and feet refuse to stay warm. I brace myself to fight at the slightest whisper of confrontation. My muscles remember the motions required to keep my spirit alive.

My body remembers the fire.

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Thumper

So, that line in the sand. I came home from vacation to be effectively dumped by the friend I was steadfastly “not dating.” I was spending a whole lot of time with him, doing those things you do with people you date, but we. Were. Not. Dating.

It’s true, we were friends. Are friends. But any way you slice it, rejection sucks, and there I was fresh off a lovely vacation, kind of gnawing my arm off in anticipation of a reunion, ahem, and bam. He’d met a girl who he liked and who wanted what he wanted. (And which I, emphatically, did not want. Do not want.)

We’d been hanging out for about three months, which is the same amount of time I’d been with my ex when he tried to break up with me at the beginning of our relationship. To keep the story manageable, we’ll just say I didn’t let him leave me. I couldn’t handle the thought of being alone with the bitter taste of rejection in my mouth, so when none of my friends were around to help me pick up my pieces, I called him back and told him I was coming over.

In hindsight, well. Maybe not the best idea. But it’s done.

This time, when I was rejected after three months, I sucked it up and handled my shit. And by “handled my shit” I mean “went home alone and cried myself to sleep,” but hey. I’d been up for nearly twenty-two hours at that point most of them in a car or on an airplane, and I was feeling a little fragile. I woke up early the next morning and dragged myself out for a run before rounding up a friend to go to the farmer’s market.

I handled my shit. All by myself. I made peace with being alone for the foreseeable future.; I made lists, set plans, started making stuff and exercising again. I realized that I had no idea when or even if I’d fall in love again, and that was okay. It was no longer something I wanted, or needed.

The next week, which was last week, I met a boy.

I think maybe it might happen sooner than I thought, possibly.

climbing the wall (part 1)

(As much as I’d like to get all this down in one post, it’s too much. Instead I’ll break it up into more digestible/writable pieces. Yeah.)

A year ago I caught myself stepping out into traffic and subsequently returned to therapy. I’d been unhappy for a while, and sure, my mind occasionally wandered through the bus scenario, but imagining something is a lot different than actually facing off against a bus. The day I came to (the best way I know how to describe it) with one foot off the curb and MUNI bearing down was the day I finally called and scheduled an appointment.

I thought I knew where I needed help. My life had undergone a huge number of changes in a very short time: I’d bought a house, lost my fitness and identity as a bike racer, had (minor, noninvasive) heart surgery. I needed to figure out who I was without the routine I’d developed over the last eleven years, and where I was going. Within a few sessions it became clear that much of what frightened me and made me depressed centered on my relationship. If I can’t ride my bike, I wondered, would my husband still love me? Would he want to be with me?

The short answer is no, he wouldn’t, at least not until he realized he was losing me. Maybe he never really did. Either way, it was too late.

Mending a broken heart

(Cross-posted on Cowbird; sharing here to allow for comments.)

Last year my heart broke. Twice.

Doctors poked holes in my thighs and snaked tubes through my body and into my heart. The tubes carried a tiny camera and a miniature blowtorch to break the circuits that were misfiring, causing my heart to beat like hummingbird wings. (That’s not just pretty language; when your heart beats three hundred times in a minute it feels like a bird is fluttering in your chest, desperate to get out.) The first procedure didn’t work. The second procedure did, and also changed the rhythm of my heart, though that’s a different story.

Before they wheeled me away that first time, I cried and told a few people I loved them, just in case. The operating room was uncomfortably cold. A strong nurse moved me from gurney to table, leaving my blankets behind. As I shivered under my thin cotton hospital town, she told me it would be better in just another minute. Two long plastic cylinders inflated with hot air and pressed up against my skin, one on each side. I stopped shivering. A bear hug, she said. I laughed. Much better.

A different nurse attached metal rails to the table next to me. The doctor might need to bring me in and out of sedation, she explained. Some people try to sit when they wake up; she had “reminders” to help keep me on my back. She held up a pair of soft leather handcuffs that looked awfully risqué for a hospital. I giggled. She winked as she strapped me down.

The anesthesiologist looked through his collection of vials. Let’s start with a nice chardonnay. My head swam. Now, how about a martini? The room melted away. Mid-procedure they brought me back out from under (the reminders were the only thing that kept me from bolting upright), and everyone in the room was a mind reader, everyone knew the content of my dreams. Magic.

(It wasn’t magic; I dreamed of the things they talked about as they worked. I wish they hadn’t told me.)

Sedation doesn’t linger in your senses like general anesthesia, and I am not a patient person. I was ready to go home well before they were willing to release me. I did not want to wait until the nurse brought me a dry turkey sandwich and watched me eat it. I did not want to wait for a bedpan when I had to pee. (I did not want to use a bedpan at all.)

I did want to walk out of the hospital by myself, but I couldn’t talk my way out of the wheelchair ride from my hospital bed to my car, lest I fall and sue. In hindsight I’m glad they stood firm; they had taken more out of me than my pride would admit.

The holes in my legs had to be watched for a few days, so my veins didn’t open back up and bleed me out. They looked like fang marks, which I hoped made me look tougher than I felt. Before they scabbed over, I could see yellow fat just under the skin. My insides looked like raw chicken.