We

Have you ever been alone in a crowded room? Have you ever been alone in a relationship? Have you ever been alone while in bed with your spouse?

Until recently, in the historic perspective of my life, I was alone. I heard the word “we” often. We better get to work. We have to do something about his behavior. We need to pick up more detergent.

In all of these cases, and many more, the We really meant you – You better get to work because the team is going to miss the due date and it’ll be blamed on you. You have to come up with and implement a strategy that will get the little man back on track. You need to remember to pick up detergent at the market.

Then my Boy came into my life. He has said we from the very beginning. I’m sure of it, though I did not hear it until very recently. He and I were talking about one of my persistently fluctuating health issues. He said, and I will never forget this, which is saying something if you know anything about my memory, he said “We still don’t know what it is.”

He meant that we. He meant it as it is defined in the OED. He meant the two of us. He meant we will do this together, no matter what it takes. He meant I am by your side. He meant we are partners, facing whatever life brings.

I still hear the echos of that we. The we that was so very different from any we before. I hear it when I lay in the dark. I hear it when I obsess about all the things in life that are beyond my control. I heard it today when the little man asked how I was and I told him honestly. He replied “Maybe you should go to the doctor.” I thought, There’s that you, again. Then I heard we and was reminded of all the promise held by those two letters.

Faith in Humanity

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I don’t do Black Friday. Ever. For any reason. Friday is my normal grocery shopping day but on Thanksgiving week, I make sure I stock extra provisions to hold the family over, lest I should have to venture out into the insanity of the holiday shoppers.

This year, I noticed an item that the family had been wanting/hemming/hawing over for a couple of years. It was absurdly cheap and so I found myself getting up this morning at the ridiculous hour of 6:30am to drive to a store nearly an hour away, with all of the other asylum residents.

On my way home, I was famished. The cereal I had consumed, three plus hours before, may as well have been eaten last week sometime, for all the energy it was providing. I was registering mild to moderate on the crabby scale because I got a bit lost on the way home.

I decided a breakfast sandwich would be just the thing … until I saw the drive-thru line … then I wasn’t so sure. Maybe a granola bar at home would work. Nope, fuck that. I’m doing something for me. I cranked up the stereo and sat in line.

While waiting, I contemplated if I had the funds to pay-it-forward. During the holidays, when people are so wrapped up in consumerism they forget to be kind, I will, when finances allow, pay for the car behind me in the drive-thru lane. I decided that since I wasn’t going out this weekend, that I would go ahead with it.

I pulled out the appropriate bill and got my pen ready, as it is my habit to write “Pay it Forward” on the receipt to be given to the customer with their paid for order. I looked in the rear-view mirror at the folks behind me. It was a young couple in an older car. I hoped it would make a difference in their day.

I pull up to the window, my schpeal at the ready, prepared for the cashier to be completely perplexed and for her to give me the why-would-you-pay-for-someone-you-don’t-know face that I have become accustomed to. She hands me my order and, with a huge grin, informs me that my order was paid for by the person in front of me.

I was immediately choked up. In all of the years I’ve been doing this for others, no one has ever done it for me. With my crabbiness obliterated and with tears in my eyes, I told her I would pay for the people behind me. She handed me my change, told me I was blessed, and sent me on my way.

Five bucks. That’s all it takes to make someone’s day.

Epiphany

Since the birth of her child she had felt alone. Her husband returned to work as if nothing had happened and largely absented himself from the home when he was not on the clock. When the diagnosis was handed down, her friends fell away and alone was no longer a feeling, but a reality.

Aloneness became a continuous theme. Alone for feedings. Alone for firsts. Alone juggling the budget. Alone managing the house. Alone administering therapies. Alone, alone, alone. While she was capable, while she did not need anyone to help her in these things, support beyond “I trust you. Do whatever you think is best.” would have been welcome.

Her abilities to juggle and manage and problem solve became her husband’s freedom from worry. Freedom from everything. Problem ‘A’ + Wife = No problem. While she appreciated the vote of confidence in the beginning, eventually it became a burden. Because he never worried about anything, she worried about all of her concerns plus his.

As her child grew, the concerns connected to the child gained gravitas. The minor worries of vomiting every time a textured food was introduced, grew into epic level worries that the child would never have the wherewithal to hold a job. The epic worries gave birth to a host of other worries. Still, she was alone. Alone with “Whatever you think is best. I trust your judgement.”

Then she wasn’t. She met a man who changed her life. Such a simple phrase – “changed her life”. Three words with untold dimension and depth. This man, over a relatively short period of time, became irreplaceable. He became the center of her universe. He offered friendship, assistance, advice, genuine concern, support and … she loved him. Love in its purest form. Love with an intensity she would not have believed possible.

This man was a pragmatist. Matter of fact statements about finding someone else if she were “hit by a bus tomorrow” occurred with some frequency. She often raised the bus scenario to see if the answer would change, wanting to believe she meant as much to him and he did to her. The answer never did change, each time reenforcing her belief that she was not good enough, nothing special, disposable. This inserted itself into the litany of her worries. One false move and I’m out the door. She saw this as fait accompli. Not an if, but a when. Eventually, he would be done.

The pressure of this particular worry threatened to crush her on a daily basis. She would wake in the morning and think of him, wondering if today would be the day. Is today the day her world would come crashing down? Is today the day it ends? Once, when the universe called into being enormous levels of stress in her life simultaneously, she woke thinking that something had to give. She could not maintain sanity under such pressure. Of the three arenas in her life, only one could she let go.

This arena also happened to be the one that often brought her the only happiness she experienced on a given day. Being who she was, she decided, again, as she so often had since becoming a mother, that her happiness was not only unimportant, but undesirable. She had seen, time and again, that when she put her needs first, terrible things happened, ingraining the belief that she was not allowed to be happy. For whatever reason, perhaps for something she had done in a past life, karma had decided that in this life, she did not deserve to be happy for any extended length of time.

When she woke under the stress and worry of life’s obstacles, multiple issues weighed her down, making getting out of bed nearly impossible. That same morning, when she had not been speaking to him for very long, several negative thoughts were expressed. OK she thought I’m being selfish sharing my worry and stress with this man. I’m creating problems in his life. I’m draining him. I’m toxic. If we cannot both be happy, then he should be. He deserves joy. It will be harder now that I know what it is to have this but I can return to who I used to be. He deserves everything I cannot give him. He’s told me he can find another. I will leave him to it. She tried to be firm, matter of fact, about it. With raw pain infusing her voice, she stated the reasons she should not be in his life. She hinted around the edges of saying goodbye for quite some time. She couldn’t form the words. Ultimately selfish, she could not say goodbye.

Several days later, he said a thing. He often said things, offhandedly, seemingly unaware of the impact. Again, with his pragmatic way, he spoke in facts, as if they were all equal in weight and value. He told her, more fully, differently than he ever had, exactly, simply, how he felt about her. He said this as plainly and unaffected as if he were stating the color of her eyes. This statement was spoken in conjunction with other thoughts and ideas. Those that came after, she did not hear.

With the gift of his words, color flooded into her world, suddenly, in the impossibly vibrant way witnessed by Dorothy. My god, she thought, holding her breath, I had no idea. Yes, I knew he loved me. I didn’t know he loved me, loved me. I am not replaceable. I am not a place holder. I am not disposable. I am significant, important, meaningful, to this man who is my world. I’m not alone in the depth of my emotion. Maybe, just maybe, I am good enough, worthy, deserving. Maybe, she thought, feeling as though she were tempting the fates of the universe, maybe, I am allowed to be happy.

Because they really mean as much as everyone says they do.

In the before time, she saw many posts about the power of “good girl”. Each viewpoint she read earned a scornful smirk. Oh come on now? Are there really this many grown women who need their hands held? Who need external validation? What a load of mass hysterical hooey this is. Though she never gave them voice, she had these thoughts in the before, when she could not begin to understand. The thoughts were born of ignorance. She is not proud of this.

In the before time, she could not know how impossibly difficult this life would be. She could not know that one person could become the focus of everything she is. She could not have known the crushing devastation of disappointing Him. She could not have known the brilliant internal illumination set aflame when being introduced as His girl. She knew none of this.

In the now, when she hears the incantation good girl she understands the power. There is a strength of emotion invoked that is belied by the simplicity of the words. For this reason she knows they are magical. They must be. There is no other explanation.

It is not always easy to hear. When she has failed, when she has disappointed, when she has been chastised, the words burn. When she needs to hear them most, they stab. They wound. They rend. She shakes her head in denial, at odds with them being spoken when she feels they cannot be true, while knowing He would not speak them if they were not accurate, authentic, sincere. She wants to be left alone to punish herself for whatever error she has made. Festering in failure, she wants to cover her ears, to tell Him to stop, to tell Him it hurts, to tell Him she is anything but good.

She has never been able to separate failure, the act, from failure, the person. She firmly believes if she fails in a behavior or task then she, the person, is proven once again to be a failure. As if the thing she could not, or did not, correctly do defines her. It is a brutal way to live, to go from one failure to the next, always knowing there will be a next. Each one a tick on the balance sheet of what a horrible person she is, knowing no matter how she tries, no matter how much good she does, it is not something she will ever, can ever, overcome.

And still, with all of this, given the countless times and the innumerable ways she has failed Him, He still says You are a good girl. He makes her say it, each word chipping away at the definition she has for herself, I’m a good girl, Sir.

You are my good girl.
Yes, Sir.
You are my good girl. Say it.
I am Your good girl, Sir.

And every once in a while she believes it.

.

 

Waiting

She spends her days waiting. Waiting for the washing machine. Waiting for the phone to ring. Waiting for them to come home. Waiting for dinner to cook. Waiting for her brain to shut up. Waiting to fall asleep. Waiting for the anger. Waiting for the frustration. Waiting for the next train. Waiting for a passing grade. Waiting for praise. Waiting to be good enough. Waiting. Everything between serves only to pass the time.

She remembers when it was not this way. She remembers a time when people waited for her. She remembers going out and being and doing every day. Now she waits for those things, too.

Her days are bookended by ritual. Each a reminder of who she is, who she has become. A reminder to give thanks for, and to, the One who revealed who she is and taught her how to be this person.

He said to her that if something happened to Him, that she must promise, as best she could, to continue to be this girl. To continue to be happy, to live. He said this when she was mid-activity. He said this and she became still, shoulders hunched against the idea, a fist clutched to her chest, eyes closed in concentration, willing her heart to stay whole. The agony caused by the mere speculation of being without Him, paralyzed her, stole her breath. He continued speaking of this maybe-thing, on the other end of the phone, not able to see her pain, not realizing she had fallen silent.

What do I tell Him? she thought, This man who is my soul. How do I tell Him that He is the center of my universe? How do I tell Him if His gravitational pull disappears, that I will surely go spinning off into the darkness? How do I tell Him that if He no longer exists, neither do I? How do I tell Him that He is my purpose, my reason, the embodiment of my joy? How do I begin to explain any of that? How does anyone say these words to another human being and not have the person collapse under the weight of a love that intense, that spiritual, that all encompassing?

While she was lost in thought, the conversation moved on to other things, as it often does with them. She never had to answer, to promise that impossible thing, to do more than sit with the horrible imagining of it.

The request of the promise haunts her. She knows that if anything happens to Him, He will take her heart with Him. The waiting she does now will be child’s play. She will have to go on living for those who count on her. Her days will be empty, meaningless, hollow spaces to be moved through.

If anything happens to Him, she will spend the rest of her days waiting. Waiting to follow Him into the dark.