Held together by bailing wire and chewing gum
After smiling the day before, I hoped yesterday would be filled with smiles as well. Not so much. The day started out well. We were invited to dear friends for breakfast and then planned to go to our 12-Step meeting. Somewhere in that lovely plan, things went awry.
When we think about our future, some of the planning is fun, up to a certain point. Then one of the many roadblocks comes into view and everything quickly seems dismal. Given the large amount of unknowns regarding where we are in the process with our insurance company, what our final options may be, or even where we want to be, nothingis certain. And, due to the instability and upheaval of the last month, it is relatively easy to come unhinged. Yesterday David said, “We are held together right now by bailing wire and chewing gum”.
On initial viewing, we may seem ok, but if you come closer and peer into our souls you will see the roiling lava. Push us a little too far in either direction, and things blow apart. Things blew apart yesterday. Unfortunately, it was a dear friend that lit the match that led to me losing my shit. Too much input, too many ideas being floated coupled with some of my friends concern for both us as well as stress he has been dealing with personally. My heart thumping in my chest, I wanted to run – and I wanted to avoid making a scene. For the moment, I was successful but unfortunately, the angst needed an outlet and the recipient of that was my beloved husband. David had also been triggered in the conversation, mostly by me, so he was not exactly a clear space ready to receive my agro energy. And, this is an old pattern for us – a well-trod couple “dance” where we both do our part and end up stomping all over each others toes.
My dance moves look like extreme upset over something that triggers my not so frequently seen dismally dark pit of despair. In attempting to express this level of deep anguish, I become angry and often throw lightning bolts around. They aren’t necessarily directed at David but some graze him as they fly by. I am a whirling dervish being swallowed up by a sea of sorrow. I feel myself going off the edge and am desperately seeking connection at this moment. His dance moves look like: crazy lady approaching, duck for cover. Aware that he feels triggered by me, which is confirmation of my utter isolation, I become more triggered. The verdict in the moment: no one can or will stand here with me. No one can or will help me. This is verification of the horrible knowing that no help is evercoming. I retreat further into my lunacy; the silent scream building in my psyche.
We have talked about my infrequent explosions and I have fully admitted my culpability. I have likened my pattern to a ferocious hurricane – and I have asked him, if at all possible when these moments emerge, to put on the foul weather gear and stand in the storm with me. Often he can do that, and of course, sometimes he can’t. Given how tapped out we both are, it is no surprise that he was unable to stand in the storm with me yesterday. Unfortunately, rational understanding eludes me in these moments.
The desperation I feel in these times reminds me of teenage torment when hormones are raging and the world doesn’t make sense. As a teenager, of course I was attracted to an even more volatile boyfriend. We stopped short of a true domestic violence scene but the drama was intense often leading to me jumping out of moving cars. After one exceptional brouhaha, the argument exploded while I was driving and I crashed into a telephone pole, totaling my car. Thankfully we both escaped without serious injury, however the psychological trauma was extreme. He thought I tried to kill him. I only remember snapping when the tension grew to great. Concerns for safety were absent from my mind, the screaming thought was “get out now” or “run!” We were both insane during these years; both beginning our perilous descent into addiction. To escape that relationship, I ran away and never looked back. Fortunately, I then got sober in 1989. I don’t think he ever did.
Thank God for my tools. Thank God for my training. Thank God for my ability to stop in the moment and to have some semblance of sanity even in the midst of my insanity. Violent thoughts do fill my mind and fortunately I don’t act on most of them. Occasionally I break things. Once last year, I cleared a shelf in my bedroom with the sweep of my arm sending pictures and books crashing across the room and breaking glass, terrifying my poor dogs and seriously pissing off my husband.
No external aggression occurred yesterday but the deep rage and grief surfaced in a hysterical wail. I dropped David at our meeting and tried to disappear into nothingness by driving off into the sunset. Only the sun wasn’t setting and I knew I needed to meet him again at 1pm. But drive, I did. Picking another burned out forest as my destination, I followed a dirt road through acres of blackened toothpicks that once were trees juxtaposed against the red soil and deep blue sky. Twelve years later and still a moonscape. Not much hope here. The road narrowed and I watched the fuel light come on. Stubbornly I kept going, seeking something at the end of my journey to bring some peace. The road passed along a river and I hoped to cool my heels in the ice-cold water. All private land and I decided not to add trespassing to my list of sins for the day. I finally turned around realizing I didn’t want to be late to pick up my husband.
What is my rage? These occurrences are blessedly rare but when they occur I am swallowed whole. In these moments, I understand the horrible things humans do. I get a glimpse into the insanity that precedes acts of horrible violence directed either externally or internally. It is a good thing I have been sober for so long and have the tools that I do. Many cliffs have beckoned me as I drive by; singing their siren song; calling me home. I don’t act on these thoughts but entertain them for a brief moment. Wouldn’t it be easier to plummet through the air, free for those brief seconds, before crashing to my death? Of course, each time I choose life and in choosing I am aware that it is alljust a choice.
Clearly it’s difficult to be around this level of intensity in another. We all have our shadow side whether it surfaces regularly or not. It is there. So many people stuff it down deep and it comes out in addiction, overeating, overspending, work-a-holism, sex addiction, domestic violence, or whatever your own personal brand of poison might be.
I certainly don’t enjoy the feeling of being out of control. Often I hear the small voice in my head whispering to me, saying “drop it” or “let go”. Angrily, I push by this voice aside to find the source of my rage. If I just find the source, maybe I can have mastery over it. It seems evasive – and eternal. It is Edward Munch’s the Scream, a face twisted in anguish, a body swirling into nothingness. It is the grasping for safety in an unsafe world. It is the desperate seeking of groundedness as we float through the universe suspended only by gravity. There is no ground, it does not exist. There is no certainty. There are no guarantees. And, just because something terrible happens, we are not protected from more horrific events. One wise friend admonished, “no one is entitled to a perfect life.” She should know. Her two children died as the car driven by a babysitter, stalled out on a railroad track. Then a short time later her husband died of cancer.
This is the existential angst that philosophers have discussed for eons. Life is delicate. There are no guarantees. No one is entitled to a perfect life. There are gifts that come from destruction but they often come wrapped in barbed wire. We don’t know they are a gift at the time – and the truth is, they are only a gift if we are willing to see. If we are willing to shift our perspective enough. May people don’t and they end up bitter to the end always feeling cheated by the world and it’s people.
Of course I will see the gifts from this recent course correction. In the meantime my raging banshee may emerge again and David may duck for cover. David’s boiling anger may emerge and I will respond the best way I can too. Life may throw more curve balls and we will walk through them all. I will not drive off a cliff. I will not jump out of a moving vehicle. I will not aim my lightening bolts in your direction. But I may wail like the banshee that burns in my soul.