This week has been an up and down sort of week. Shawn’s father (Shawn is 1phatgeek of the 2phatgeeks writing nuts here at the blog) was re-admitted to the hospital on Monday with breathing issues. During the week his health grew progressively worse due to this and experienced kidney issues.
Last night, Shawn’s Pop was moved from a normal hospital room to Cardiac Intensive care due to growing fluid around the lungs, heart, and growing loss of kidney function. Today, the doctors have chosen intubation (a tube placed down the throat hooked up to a machine to breathe properly for him) and sedated to ensure the tube doesn’t cause issues. His breathing and color looks much better and we’re hoping that this will help with the other issues.
While we were speaking to the nurse and doctors during his intubation, they mentioned that most likely he will still be able to hear people speaking to him and semi-aware of some things going on. I would very much like to help Mark heal–and his wife (Shawn’s, my husband’s mother)–something to smile about when she visits. I figure having a pile of get-well wishes and little notes for her to read to him and him to listen to, would help.
If you wouldn’t mind please, dropping by the Holmes website and writing a little message for Mark? Anything at all, a get-well, a hello and we’d love to be able to read them to him.
I slept in on Thursday. Like, slept in a lot. Every once in a while I get hit with the sleepy bug, especially when Shawn is home. I just…sleep better. A lot better. Lots and lots better. Sometimes it borders on it being a coma.
Imagine my surprise however, when I woke up to plug in my phone and noticed that when I did it didn’t make the normal noises my phone should make. Oh no. No, see–my phone emitted my husbands voice. My phone went, in Shawn’s voice, “boopBeep!” In my stunned silence as I stared at my phone my husband began chortling like a twelve year old boy proud of hiding the frogs in my desk. Going through my phone I had to give it to him, he was really, really thorough. All of the sounds were replaced.
So I thought I would take this one step further.
Here are all of the sounds Shawn made, for you to listen to. And to download to your phone if you wish. Just right click and save as. So you can always have a little piece of 2phatgeeks inside you. A piece of us. Alwayssss. Inside youuuuu.
[box type=”download”] The Shawn Alarm: Shawn reminds me to do something: shalarm[/box]
[box type=”download”]The Shawn Beep. Far superior to your regular beeps. Good for a notification or button press. shbeep[/box]
[box type=”download”]The Shawn Reminder: If your name is Mel, this event reminder sound if PERFECT for you! shreminder[/box]
[box type=”download”]You’re not hip, trendy, or classy until you have the Shawn Ring Tone. shring[/box]
[box type=”download”]Shawn lets you know you have a text. With this text notification by Shawn, you’ll never miss another test again. Ever. For the rest of your life. FOREVERRRRRRRR.shtext[/box]
The room is half in shadow; the plain white walls look more grey than bright. There are no windows. There are no doors. There is no texture anywhere and no color. You are pale and white and your clothing too–but in this room, everything seems washed out. Colorless.
On the walls of the room like an old projector flicker the scenes of your life. Your memories are played there and you are forced to watch them like some washed out critic. There is no where to go in this room. There is you and this room, and that’s it. Forever.
In this room is a voice. It tells you that you are small and worthless. It tells you that you are an ugly thing, inside and out. This voice, which you do not recognize at first, whispers day and night about every failure you’ve ever had. On the walls the room plays every part of your life where you had fallen, tripped, said angry things, every thing you had never finished, every tear you ever caused, every miss step that you made in vivid detail. It brings them all up, over and over again going through each one with a painstaking energy that should have gone into doing anything else. You can’t find the strength to look away. You can’t find the will power to not watch and re-live these moments day after day, night after night. You wring your hands and feel the anguish and the shame grow inside of you.
The voice whispering in your head never stops. It tears you down and tears you apart. If you smile, the voice says something to remind you that you have no reason to smile. If you laugh, the voice reminds you of sadness. If you feel confident, the voice will whisper that it’s all a lie. That you are fat and disgusting and no amount of diet or food change or walking or effort will ever change that. If you are happy with something you have made, the voice will rise up and begin to pick it apart–until all you see are mistakes and things to be ashamed of, not triumphs.
And eventually you realize that the voice you did not recognize in the beginning, you do now. Because it is now your voice. You find yourself speaking along with it at the same time it whispers. You are one in the same. So long you have listened to that voice and lived in that room of grey memories that you have given up fighting it. You believe the things you once did not: you are worthless, you are ugly, you are gross, you are talent-less, you are nothing, less than nothing, and should be ashamed of everything.
And you believe.
There is no escape from this room because this room is your mind. There’s no running from your own brain.
This is what it was like for me, every single day of my life inside my head. Day or night, my mind was a room that did not let me out. Loops of things played over and over. Self-doubts and hate generated from within in tides. Some days were better than others. You wouldn’t guess how much I hated myself today, because I could smile and laugh and make jokes and be ALL CAPS SILLY and entertain myself until I forgot. But night always comes after the day and in the dark, whenever I tried to lay down and close my eyes–my mind was a room without windows or doors again. Most days were pretty bad. I was always waging a silent war with myself. Telling myself it WILL be better tomorrow and I AM over reacting and OF COURSE I just need to hang on and get through it and I have NOTHING to be sad about! It’s just me being over emotional and hormonal. 😀
That worked ten years ago.
These last few years when I’ve done my best to remind myself of these things it seemed a limping thing. Tired and over used and ready for sleep. I didn’t believe the things I said. But like the self-hate in my head, I’d been saying them for so long that I said them without thought. Without care. One day that voice in my head that had turned into my own said, “well you might as well be dead then.”
And that is when everything in my head stopped.
Like frightened deer scenting the air.
Like children sneaking out of bedrooms fearing they heard their parents.
I felt afraid. I hadn’t thought anything of the like, so clearly and so rationally in my head ever. It scared me to the core. It made me stop everything I was doing at the time and sit myself down and think. Reallly, really, think. I thought about my head and the room and how long I had been in it. I realized that I could not pin point a time it began. I understood that, yes, my mother had just passed and that I was grieving on top of everything else…But that it wasn’t grief that had spoken so sharply in my mind that I should just be dead.
I understood, then, that I had been living in that room so long that my feet had grown into the floor. That I had stopped looking for windows or doors or ways out. I had given up.
I needed help.
I told Shawn everything.
I wrote about it here. I made myself type it and stare at the words.
And then I told a doctor.
I have been on Citalopram, or Celexa since the 19th of march, and the first five days was rough going from the nausea and a few other side effects I’d rather not TMI into.
But something happened between then–such a short time period–and now.
There weren’t any whispers.
Not a single one. Not a single ‘worthless’ has echoed in my head for several months.
The room in my head is just a room, one of many now with windows and doors and memories that come and go–but never on repeat. There are colors now; cold or sad blues or happy warm yellows, pinks and some grey too–but never the same ones over and over again. I am not talented enough to capture the sort of strange joy that is inside my head these days. I am not groggy or underwater. I cry if I am sad and laugh if I am happy, but nothing whispers to me that I do not deserve any of these emotions. I drop a fork to the floor and my brain does not instantly remind me that by doing so, I have obviously proven that I am a worthless human being that cannot do anything right.
My feet carry me freely from room to room in a gait that is natural and not forced. My mind at night picks things like stories and books–sometimes memories, but never the same ones over and over again until they become torturous–to replay. There are other health issues in my life I need to take care of. The low or high blood pressure. The blood sugars and diabetes. Cutting out as much unneeded sugar and starch as possible–but all of them seem so much easier when I can flit from room to room in my head. When my thoughts aren’t ashamed of themselves.
I am alive in a way I haven’t been in so long I don’t even remember the last time I’ve been in this sort of head space.
My one regret is only this: that I listened to those whispers for so long. That I believed that as long as I carried these burdens by myself and told no one–I would be stronger for it. That I lived in a room made by my depression for so long, that I’d rather remain there and that the fear of the effort of truth and change kept me there for years.
I am living.
One pill, one step, one room at a time.
Originally written on April 2nd, 2012. Shared here on 2phatgeeks in hopes to reach out and touch anyone else dealing with, or living with depression.
On October 19th, starting at 5PM EST/EDT, I will begin my first ever Blog-a-thon to raise funds to a) finish and acquire a tattoo of a humming bird on my right arm, to accompany my mother’s signature I have tattooed on my arm already and b) raise funds for my Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes.
For some of you who may not know, on December 11th, 2012, I lost my mother to the horrible consequences that rampant diabetes (that does NOT respond to proper diet or treatment) does to a body. She was only 52 and had lived with the disease for over 20 years.
On October 19th, 5PM, for every hour after and for 24 hours there on out, I will be live blogging and free-writung any and all memories of my mother that come to mind. During this time, every blog entry will feature a link to both my paypal, my Wepay, and a link to my Step Out: Walk to End Diabetes goal site in hopes to earn money for the memorial tattoo, and in hopes of earning the money to not only meet my goal for Step Out: Walk to End Diabetes, but hopefully exceed it.
If you cannot donate, do not feel bad or guilty. Times are tough, we all know it. But you can still help huge heaps and bunches by sharing this information. Share the blog posts if you like what I end up writing. Post it to your Google+, your facebook, your twitter, your plurk, your digg, your reddit, your WordPress blogs, your Tumblrs, paste the link onto the RDI, share it on your favorite forums, hand it around to your AOL RP buddies of old and pass it along via email. Each time you share it is a chance that–not just a donation–but that someone out there will read my words and they will be touched. And out there in this great big wide world, a stranger who she had never met will remember my mother. Remember her or find solace in my remembering, and a piece of her and a piece of me will continue on–for as long as memory allows it; making us both immortal for a time.
I look forward to embarrassing myself with horrible typos and stories that embarrass me even more than I embarrass myself.
My mother and father always smoked. Players light cigarettes were their favorites for a long, long time. When times and money got tough, they’d buy pouches or cans of tobacco and self-rolling machine to make their own. Always a fun time. You never knew if you packed the cig too tight and thus, end up looking like you’re sucking on a mc donald’s milk shake straw, or too loose and end up burning yourself in a shower of tobacco sparks. And then have the cigarette gone in two drags.
My parents met in a time when the hazards of smoking were pretty much still being questioned, and spent many years there on in being smokers.
When my mother was diagnosed with diabetes early on, they tried to tell her she should quit. My mother was well and truly addicted. This was a woman who would find a way to get her cigarette fix if it meant crawling over your dead body. My mother wasn’t a horrible woman. She was addicted.
During the last years of her life when things were getting grim, she made the decision to quit. But her heart wasn’t really in it. By that time, the doctors had made some pretty finalized statements, her kidneys were gone, and she was moving toward having dialysis.
She quit, but my father knew she was dying, slowly, and he did not want to be the one to tell her no. And while he had also quit with her, he still smoked his phillies chocolate cigars.
When I visited them several years ago to get my US Citizenship paperwork in gear, I had never smelled those cigars before. They were light, heady, the smoke did not smell like any cigar or cigarette I’d ever smelled. I asked him what they were–they clung to his clothing, his hair, the inside of his truck and smelled like some sort of incense.My mother did not like them, but my father offered me one–and I adored it. It was the smoothest, best tasting cigar I’ve had. My mother had stopped smoking cigarettes and was trying to cut down with cigarellos–Bullseye brand. The bullseye brand came in cherry, grape, raspberry, chocolate and so on and were good too. But my fathers cigars. It was such a distinctive taste. During that whole time I was up there with mom and dad it was part of my clothing, my hair and my skin. It wasn’t that gross smoke smell at all (being an ex smoker myself and knowing what that disgusting old cigarette smoke smells like on clothes, carpets, everywhere).
When I went home, I never forgot the smell. It forever became associated with mom and dad then.
When mom got sicker toward the end, Dad refused to deny her anything. She grew a taste for camels and corona. He tells me all the time she would grab a beer from the fridge and if in the summer, stand on the front porch, have a smoke and a beer–or go out to the garage in winter and have a smoke and a beer. And it was one of the few things that just made her happy.
When she passed away, thanks to the generous donations of friends and family, I was able to fly to Alberta to help my father get some of her things together. The house smelled like it did when I left it years ago–the faint smell of her, the spicy scent of my fathers cigars which I had always thought of the both of them with. Her blanket was still draped over the back of her chair; a sweater too. Slippers near by.
Her bedroom was waiting for me, and even there I thought I could smell it faintly.
Months later after her death and I am here, home in Florida, my father sends me a few of her things and mine to keep.
When I open the box, all I can smell is my father’s cigars, I think of the silent house I went back to. I think of a chair with no one rocking in it anymore. A blanket without legs behind it, a sweater with no arms. A bed with no one sleeping in it.
And I think of my mother. This spicey, earthen smell is in my nose and mouth as I hold onto her things–and I think of the years ago woman I know. I think of the good things and not the bad, and I think she may be smiling somewhere. At least, that’s what I would like to think. What all the romantic theories tell me.
My father says he’ll send me some cigars. I will have them and I will taste the things that I do not want to forget. I will smell my mother and think of my father. I will dream of things brighter, of my mother laughing and my heart, full.
I am a difficult woman to understand. For the longest time in my life I was nothing more than a ball of smothering love and sulfurous self-hate, mingling together until neither side could determine who would win and one moment I was loving the world and the next minute I was sobbing over broken incense burners.
How do you love someone like that? How do you dedicate—willingly—your life and spending it with someone who’s apparently emotional maturity is that of a confused and angry seven year old?
I don’t know.
For the longest time, I couldn’t imagine loving myself, let alone anyone else.
And yet, there is Shawn.
Shawn has seen all sides of me. All the sides. ALL THE SIDES. The sides which people don’t get to see. The angry, the jaded, the hurt, the insulted, the temperamental. He saw me at my worst—when everything in my life seemed like an argument waiting to happen. When I was so lost within myself I was sure everyone and everything was out to get me. When I was angry for no reason. When I was depressed. When I got so depressed that I was actually blind to my own depression.
I cannot say that I have been a good wife these last ten years (officially married and not officially married.) I forgot to iron his clothes. Sometimes I forget to wash them. There are dishes in the sink and crumbs on the floor. Some days I roll out of bed in a pair of pajamas and shuck them to put on another pair and my idea of primping myself up is making sure I am clean and my pony tail isn’t too messy.
I have never heard him tell me he was giving up.
At the worst of me, he never left. He never, ever, gave up.
There were times in the beginning where he had to simply get up and go for a walk—but he never gave up. He always came back. He always tried. He has always tried to understand, to be supportive the best way he can be, and he has always, always been in my life.
For the last decade I have never truly been alone even when I have convinced myself to think I am. If I fall, he laughs at me for being a goof and picks me up. If I yell at him for no reason he yells back to inform me I’m yelling at him for no reason. If I cry, he wraps me up in his arms and holds me. And if he finds out I cried without him he chides me for crying alone and reminds me that he loves me and I can cry whenever I need to.
I don’t know what I did to deserve a man like this who has been patient in the storm that I am. Who sighs and picks up the socks I promised to pick up two days ago but I forget because I am busy trying to get to level 50 in SWTOR. My house and my life and my insides might be a mess—but that never mattered to him. All that mattered was whether or not I was happy.
It took a long time to get to that point. But I am. I hope he knows it—I am happy.
I can’t imagine loving me like he has through all of this.
But he does.
And for that, there are no words eloquent enough, pretty enough, or poetic enough to say: thank you.
I love you, too.
Roughly three years ago I trekked back to Canada in order to get my immigration and paperwork for marrying Shawn, settled. When I was there my mother brought out a little leather bound jewelry box that had seen the years.
When she opened it, two delicate bands were within–one a wedding band with chains, and one an engagement ring with matching chains. She told me that they were the original rings my father proposed to her with and that she wanted me to have them.
They were too small for my fingers then. So my father brought them to a friend who was a jeweler to have them made larger and the bands made wider (because I told my parents of my fear of breaking them.) The jeweler accidentally fused the two rings together–but the mistake worked out well in the end; as I thought having the two of them melded together would mean less chances of me losing them and them being stronger.
Earlier last year, while my mother was alive–I knocked my hand against my own desk. Hard. Part of the piece of gold chain supporting my mother’s diamond broke off, forever lost, while the other cracked. I was devastated but my father and mother told me not to worry and send the ring back. They’d fix it, they said, and send it back to me. So with great faith in the postal system–and great trepidation–I did just that. Luckily it arrived safe and sound in Canada.
Today it arrived back to me.
Having the ring in my hands is…It reflects well, I think, of myself. Of my mother. My father, my family. Something that is a little broken and repaired–something that is cherished anyway and loved, despite the uneven parts or whether it is dull or shines.
I look at it and I see her instead. I wonder if she knew back then, that was the last time I would see her in person and so I wonder if she’ll understand how clearly the memory of her handing it over to me will remain.
She had her chair in front of a bright window. One of those over-stuffed, comfortable lazy boys with a blue, pink and white flannel blanket at hand to cover her legs should she ever need to nap. She’d curled her hair in the morning and put on mascara (though why she insisted on putting mascara on with me visiting, despite the years I’ve seen her without I’ll never know.) She had one leg tucked under the other and a foot–whose toes were covered in her favorite plain, white socks–was pushing the chair to rock every once in a while. She stopped rocking to lean to the side and pick something up and then to lean forward and hand me a little brown leather box trimmed with thin lines of gold.
In the box was this ring glimmering faintly against a bed of crushed red velvet. There was dust on the box and dust inside. Thick and grey, the sort that settled on objects that have been kept or untouched for a very long time.
My mother watched me with a small smile as I opened it, but her eyes were sharp and blue as august afternoons as they slit with pleasure. I often wonder if she saw the same reaction on my face–the delight and wonder at such a pretty thing–that she may have saw when my father first gave it to her.
It’s mine now.
But I can’t help but think she was more so and I would trade a thousand heirloom rings just to see her one more time and say I love you.
Specifically, I love that as I am on my own I can celebrate the holidays–within budget–how I see fit. I can’t understand how celebrating in your own way, where it harms none, becomes a point of grumbling to some.
Yesterday I begged Shawn to take me to the Dollar store to see if we could afford a few more decorations for Halloween/Samhain/All Hallow’s Eve. We spent less than $10 and I was able to walk out with 2 head stones, orange pumpkin garland, spider webbing, creepy cloth, a jack o’ lantern lamp and two black ravens. Add those to the orange lights with the mickey mouse light in the front window with the cut-out I printed from the ‘net, plus the dark purple lights in the bed room with the glow-in-the-dark skeleton, I think that’s a good start.
I spent the better part of an hour or two putting everything up but I dream bigger. I dream of big front yards I can festoon with witches silhouettes, homes that have a place for me to plug things in outside–dozens of carved pumpkins lining the walkway to the steps. I want flashing creepy lights and ghostly presences in my windows, bats on my front porch and cawing ravens with hissing cats and scary music weaving from the window. I want a pointy black hat and play into the stereotypes and eskewed traditions because it doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s just about leaning over and crying, “Boo!” or scaring yourself and laughing hysterically about it afterward. Especially when you realize how fake it looks and it was just a plastic prop anyway.
When I was done everything Shawn came out and stood before it with a quiet sort of look; the sort of careful scrutiny a man gives his wife’s handiwork when he isn’t sure if he should run screaming or kiss her on the cheek. He settled instead to shake his head slowly then tip up one corner of his mouth in a grin he couldn’t help.
I knew then like I have many times before, it didn’t matter what ridiculous dream I had or wanted–he’d find some way to make it come true and to smile about it.
Once upon a time there was a little girl. She was much like other little girls in the late era of leg warmers, spandex, temperature changing tie-dye clothing and cell phones the size of and weight of a brick. She lived in a far away place where snow fell nearly half the year (or so it seemed) and summer was haze sunflower yellow sun, laughter and magical pony tails.
She had blond hair like her mother and blue eyes like both her mother and father, a single dimple which her father, the King, often said she was given to her by her father’s father–a distant Lord whose demons had long since caught up to him before the little girl had a chance to remember his smile. She dreamed strange as well as wonderful things, sang to the birds, danced and talked to a man in the moon she insisted was there. She told stories to anyone who would listen, cried deeply over the smallest things but laughed just as quickly after. She was given everything she could need or want and never saw the patches in her father’s coat or her mother’s struggle to make sure food was on the table and the princess had all she needed for her tutoring as well as lessons.
When winter came, she was warm. She smiled to see the brilliant hand of winter stretch sparkling-white-blue strong; endless places slumbering under the coat of white. She made men out of it on the castle grounds, shrieked after friends in games of toss-the-snow as well as tag and knew no sadness. She bruised her knees in the grass during summer, ran through fountains in the afternoon and ate frozen things that tasted sweet, sharing them with her friends.
She knew love, this little girl. The love of a father, of a mother, of an aunt and grandmother. She was happy.
And then one day the little girl was not so little anymore.
Winter became less about snow-men or throwing it and more about grades. Summer became a relief in between lessons. And then one day the little girl was a young woman and she realized the cruelty fellow young men and women her age held in their hearts. At first, she seemed heartbroken. Then as time wore on she began to reshape herself in the image of those cruel children. She no longer laughed or played winter or summer but slouched in shadows, was sneered at for being different and sneered at those different from her.
She remembered as a little girl the stories she told. One day the young woman found a musty old place filled with books. Tales written about fantastic places that might have never existed, or perhaps they did and the world–like dreaming dragons on their gold–had forgotten about it. She took as many of these as she could get a hold of and filled her head again with these words. Tales about men in shining armor, dragons and witches, fair folk, elves, and most of all–stories of love. Love between two people that was as beautiful; no one screamed at one another or hurt each other…Or if they did, they always came back together more adoring than before. Stories of great triumph over sorrow, stories that filled the little-girl-grown-odd-young-woman with hope.
Then, she noticed boys.
Then, a boy noticed her.
The young woman drew further and further away from her parents and from the real world. Her head, as they (whomever those stuffy, gray suited ‘they’ people are) say, was in the clouds. The boy and the girl did not find a happily-ever-after, abruptly it turned into what the young-woman thought to be an aching hole. Her parents watched with great sadness their sweet little girl turn into a hungry-for-attention, hollow reflection of what once-was. They ached to tell her to come home and to realize everything would be alright. But she didn’t listen.
She always had her stories, however. She drifted far from her friends and her tutors. She left the kingdom of her father and mother coldly. She dreamed of better things, turning a blind eye to all the paths open to her and sought to fill the strange, open wound in her middle with anything that the road would hand to her. A dangerous thing, for outside of the kingdom were dark things. Dark men and women who used her instead of helped her, who took instead of gave and eventually left her–empty handed and confused in the dust of the road behind them.
The young woman grew into a full grown woman, bitter and chipped obsidian jaded. She did many things to drown the voices of the sweet little girl, the hopeful young woman. She took many paths that were twisted, confusing and wrong. She lead herself down them, let herself be led down them, or unwittingly followed the sweet talk of wolves to find herself down them.
One day she found herself bedraggled beyond help standing at a great cliff. A divide that split down the great kingdom she had traveled in for so long, there was nowhere else to go but down. To the rocks below it or worse. There was no where left to turn. The choices she had made in her life had lead her here. She had made so many mistakes that behind her, even the darkest of paths closed to her. She began to feel herself despair. Until she noticed a tired man on the cliff with her.
He had kind blue eyes and dark, dark brown hair in waves. He too, looked tired but when he smiled at her, just a tiny smile, such a little smile– she felt something lurch inside of her.
“Do you like stories?” he asked her wearily, the sound of his voice startling her.
“I–” she blinked. “Yes. I do. Do you know any good ones?” She hesitantly asked. He nodded, then found a place to sit down. Slowly, she crept near him then sat down too as he began to tell her stories. Great tales about men in shining armor, men in dusty robes with wrinkled smiles, stories about love and hope. Beautiful things that moved her from inside. She begged him to tell her more stories, until his throat was raw and his smile was easier. Then she told him stories. Stories about dragons gleaming in sunsets, proud elves, magic that wove amazing things between people. Stories she had long forgotten but always knew. She told them to him until her voice was hoarse and she could no longer speak.
They had forgotten about the great cliff. All they could see was each other. They fell in love.
But their story didn’t have dragons in it, it had cats. The man didn’t wear a suit of armor from metal, but business attire during work days as per the dress code. She was not a princess even though she had a tiara and the only time she wore a dress was at a wedding of a friend’s a long, long time ago. The magic wasn’t the kind that felled great mountains or protected whole nations–it was the the sort of magic that makes the heart sing when his hand sought her cheek or shoulder in the dead of night. The sort of magic that starts no bigger than a spark and grows into a copper-penny sun warming the middle of your chest a decade later when they looked at one another and realized it had been forever together and neither could imagine life without the other.
Their battles were small, fierce, quiet–often silly–but fought bravely. Their laughter was true. Their lives woven irrevocably together.
He had saved her from that cliff, so long ago. When she looked down at the rocks and though that is all there is left. When she thought there was nowhere else to go. And at night sometimes she hopes that she had saved him from it, too.
Together they wrote new stories in a note book with wrinkled, yellow paper stained with coffee, smelling faintly like her cotton candy perfume and littered with cat hair.
Together, they proved to the world and themselves that when you write them yourself, fairy tales and happy endings do come true.
My first home happens to be a one bedroom apartment. For Shawn and I, we who have children that are feathered and furred instead of human–this fits us perfectly. For the longest time, with our bad financial decisions when we first got together + the way the economy was going, I dreaded that we would become one of those couples. Stuck forever living in a room within his parents house feeling ridiculously uncomfortable for living in a home where two people should not be having to live with their son and his wife at this age and please put some pants on, Mel, next time. The neighbors have been writing us letters. Angry letters.
Now that we have our own place, I can wear no pants and no one will be frightened.
Except maybe Shawn, but he doesn’t count because I married him.
My kitchen is small. There’s enough room on the faded hip pressed board covered in hard plastic 80’s white counter top with faux beige marbling to roll out a loaf of bread. A batch of cookies, chop up veggies and fixin’s for supper. My stove is off-white, my cabinets are pressed wood and water damaged. Sometimes bits of them fall apart but they open and close. My kitchen floor is swept daily but there’ll always be a piece of dry cat food hiding somewhere because a cat can never eat very lady like no matter how many times I tell her not to crunch with her mouth full. Whomever lived here before dinged up the floor in one spot near the stove, too. I imagine it must have been the stove itself being pulled out or maybe even delivered.
The carpet in the living room? I vacuum it every other day now. I have five birds and birds are even messier eaters than cats. Pieces of pellets as well as brightly colored pellet dust fling everywhere. Carefully placed blankets to collect bird pewp and to protect said carpet don’t always work. You can’t always predict where a bird will hike tail and let it fly, y’know? So a spritz bottle of vinegar and a cloth rag handy helps. But there’ll always be a piece of whatever here or there–the millet I use to train them with is light as air and tinier than lady bugs. It’s always all over my desk and around my chair.
My living room walls were pop corned by some genius who decided that cheap texture would be fabulous to hide crooked and uneven walls. On them are the tapestries of Rohan and Gondor, a red dragon mirror, a map of middle earth and photographs I’ve taken of our cats, cards given to me by my online friends, a street sign my husband stole with his friends in college hangs proudly over our door. Flounder, it shines dimly at night by my computer desk’s light.
On the counter that divides the kitchen and the living room a tiny rock water fountain burbles. My bed is a california king memory foam and lately I get up and I make it everyday.
At 32 my life has finally become my life. My home is finally my home. It isn’t a room in my mother-in-law’s house that makes me feel awful because we can’t give them any privacy and it is hard for them to give it to us. My house is cluttered in the way lived in things should be cluttered. There are notes on the fridge, there are magnets with pithy sayings. My desk has pieces of paper with love and sayings scribbled on them. This is a home, it is everything that reflects who I am and who he is–who we are together.
It’s flawed, perfectly.
And yet in the back of my mind sits a woman I don’t rarely like speaking to. She is dour and squatting amidst the chaos, frowning the entire time. She reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s despair, except she isn’t naked–she is clothed in the best, neatest clothing without any cooking stains or bird dander or cat fur and doesn’t cut herself with a ring. She cuts herself with words instead. Words like: Not good enough, and, what a mess you are, and, it’s not clean enough, as well as, it’s not a perfect house. And she laughs in a manner I can only say cruel, showing me pictures of mansions and little new york apartments with summer-bright color schemes and oh-muh-gawd to die for decor. She points at them and says, see? These are clean. These are perfect. You will never have this.
My apartment isn’t the only place she shows up. She’s there when I write. She is there when I draw. She is there when I pass by my reflection in a mirror, when I do my make up; mocking and whispering, pointing out everything that’s wrong. She is there with every single thing I do, trying to hammer home that it isn’t perfect. And if it isn’t perfect than there’s no point in even doing it anymore.
Sometime in my life this woman moved into my head when I wasn’t paying too close attention. Was it when I was just sixteen and realizing boys weren’t gross? When I looked in the mirror and instead of not caring what I saw–I started comparing myself to magazines and girls on television? Was it when I was younger and something was said to me? Did she move in then, when as a child I was too busy day dreaming and, like a starving spider, grew year after year, fat and bitter on the suger-spun dreams of a little girl who thought the whole world would bend to her?
I don’t know. I don’t think the when is so much as important as to the how to get rid of her.
When did perfection in my life mean so much? Especially since I am a creature made of so many flaws? How could I ever start listening to her and expect such an unobtainable goal? How could I let her take away my pride and my joy in all of the beautiful things I already have in my life?
As I sit here writing this, I look around me. My flawed kitchen is lit by the blue and white glow of LED icicle lights, flickering merrily. My husband, a man who I would literally fall apart and cease to be without him sleeps soundly not a room away. My children, who happen to have feathers sleep covered in cages while the furred ones sleep sprawled out on the floor in various cat-yoga sleep shapes. I am alive. I am writing this. I am still creating art. Come Febuary, I will have my very first short story ever published along with several other talented writers in a collection. I was literally exploding into glitter and small puppies when I learned this. I am here, and I have so much more than I ever dreamed I ever could.
I cannot be that woman. I cannot be a creature that seeks perfection at every corner. In it, lies my true heart break. The search for perfection has brought me my blackest depressions and has made me hurt myself far more deeply than anyone ever could have. I cannot be the Martha Stewart of organization. There will never be labels on all the drawers in my head or my life. I will lose my keys. I will forget where we parked the car. I will occasionally throw my pants on the floor before going to bed and leave them there until tomorrow. Or maybe the next day.
I have to let go of perfection.
I have to let go of perfection to let go of all of my imperfections.