my own chautauqua (Page 6)

We crashed down into bed and I was grateful it was her nap time. I needed to hide under the covers and do nothing. She nursed throughout, so my sleep was tussled. But we snuggled in bed for over three hours. I needed that.
When she woke up, I asked her father to take her. I moved from the girls’ room to “the big bedroom” and crawled back under the covers. This room is dark, the curtains and shades almost always drawn. I wasn’t tired, exactly, but I was exhausted. Rolling in and out of sleep, mostly lying curled in a ball of stillness with my eyes closed, my mind drifted. Save the time of breakfast/getting my older daughter to school around 7 and the long nap with the baby, I’d been awake and thinking since before four this morning. Lying still. Not wanting to move. Eyes closed, but not really sleeping. Just like I was now, at noon on a weekday. Still with my eyes closed.
And then I woke up sobbing. Not just tears in my eyes, but really hard crying. This has never happened to me before, and I didn’t know it was possible. This is what I dreamed:
I was in a hospital room with only the dim florescent light at the head of the bed. The curtains were drawn around the section of the room holding the patient slightly sitting, mostly laying back, still. I was in a plastic and metal chair at the side of the bed. I may have been holding her hand, I may have been just sitting close, though I could tell the hand was already cold. The circulation in her body had slowed. She looked at me, almost still inside. She was crying. She asked me, through telepathy, through our minds, will you do it now? I said quietly, calmly, through our minds, I already have.
Did you cut the wires?
I did. The power is cut.
Did you turn off the medicine?
I did. Nothing is coming through.
She looked at me. She was almost vacant. She didn’t cry, she didn’t smile, she didn’t squeeze my hand to let me know it was going to be okay. I didn’t smile, or cry, or squeeze her hand in reassurance either.
And then she died. She was gone and empty. She became a shell of a body.
And I woke up crying.

“Tell me this, Heather. Do you not like being around people?” my friend asked recently. And I had to tell her, yes, it’s true. At my core, I mostly don’t like being around people. This is entirely unrelated to my opinions of or feelings for people. It’s not you, it’s me.
The conversation started when my friend noted that I share intimate information with my online friends but moan and groan when talking about offline relationships. What is it that draws me into the world of online friendships? Oh, the beauty of it! Always on my timeline, at my convenience, at my whim, only when I’m in the mood. When I have the energy. That’s for starters.
No small talk. There’s no need for the lingering entry and lingering exits that are so important to most people in offline life. In the last few months I tried an experiment and stopped pretending. I pretty much stopped participating in what I consider a pointless exercise: the small talk and the lengthy greetings and farewells. In my opinion these are social conventions based on “because that’s what we do,” rather than activities that serve legitimate functions. It’s a bit like how I described to my daughter why she ought to wear something over her tights. “It’s not that tights are underwear, it’s just that people see them and think of them as something you wear under things so they’d feel like they were seeing your underwear. It’s silly, it doesn’t make sense, they’re just like leggings, but still, it’s how it is.”
Trouble is, my opinion isn’t typical. In this experiment I know I’ve been alienating people. Whether I’m puzzling them or offending them, I’m not sure. Though with one friend in particular I haven’t just tried to avoid the usual pleasantries, I’ve been downright crabby and rude because I want to be left alone. That’s a different matter.
For those people where I’ve just either launched right into “what we’re here to talk about,” or dropped off my child to the class and not hung around chatting about the…what do we chat about? the weather? yes… groaaaaan. Again, I’m not sure what they are thinking about my atypical experience. I do know I get vibes from some who clearly think I’m being rude or weird. Anti-social, perhaps. And, that’s me! I am against social!
But why, you may wonder? What is so wrong about enjoying some light banter about the weather, or about how great our children are, or what project you’ve been working on lately? There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. And, when I’m willing to play that game, I’m good at it. Sometimes a bit awkward, though those around me seem to think I’m no where near as awkward as I perceive myself. I’ve got decent social skills when I choose to use them.
Here’s the problem. It is exhausting. Talking to anyone, especially on any surface level, wipes me out. Some people go running for miles and think they feel tired. Put me in a group of people all talking about even interesting topics and it’s like I’m running a marathon but I’m already at the point where my nipples are bleeding from the friction against my shirt.
I described it as “playing that game.” I realize it’s not a game. I do understand that for what seems like most people, it’s part of the pleasure of communication. Most people, it appears, enjoy ramping up for a while before getting to the deep down and direct content. Or, they never really want to get there anyway. Being pleasant together pleases them. I like those people. I like nice people, and that behavior is nice. I get that. I see how my “I don’t like being with people” can come across as rude, insulting, perhaps even mentally unhealthy. But it’s not any of those things.
My brain works in concert with my gut/soul/spirit/heart/whateveryouwanttocallit. Everything is loosey goosey and flowing. My internal experience is like oil paints or acrylic paints or oil pastels. Mushy and smushy and blending all around. For me, the polite conversations considered normal and healthy are like a manual typewriter. Don’t get me wrong, I love those things, but I can’t use them effectively, ever. Each. Key. Must. Be. Hit. At. The. Right. Time. Or. The. Details. Will. Not. Come. Together. To. Make. The. Larger. Picture.
It’s as if there are shooting stars all around that I’m supposed to try and catch like a dog leaping for a treat, but the stars are shooting too fast and all at once like fireworks sparkles. I need something to contain them.
This quality of mine has its upsides. In a group, I’ll be the first typically to say, “Sounds like we all agree on xyz, shall we do that?” Or, “Sounds like no one’s really sure what to do, why don’t we get in touch with each other later?” Anything. Anything to end the PECK. STAB. JAB. of the group wanderings and ponderings. Problem is, lately, I don’t wait long enough for the assumed correct level of polite conversation to happen. That is, I jump into the decision before the people who process things differently have had a chance to do their thing. This comes across, I know, as abrupt, and definitely sometimes rude.
Honestly, even writing about being with people makes me tired. The juggling. The consideration of my body language, their body language, their facial expressions in relation to their words, all of it. Everything is like a bad acid trip (I’ve never had a bad one, but the good ones were seriously freaky and I’m sure a bad one would be quite a bit like my experience of being sociable.) With too much stimulation and too many senses working at once and the whole sensorial experience causes me to wish the earth would open in a great chasm and just suck us all down and put us out of our misery. But, really, it’s only my misery. Most people, it seems, are either unaffected or positively affected by communicating with others.
Unfortunately, this exhaustion-from-people even holds true for having one-on-one conversations with good and close friends. I love one-on-one conversations. Those times I get myself to actually keep a coffee date with a friend, I’m always glad I did. Talking with my offline friends is an enriching experience. Connecting with these people enhances my life. Knowing what’s going on with them, how they are, how what we are going through is interconnected. All those things are good. I need those things.
But, please, not very often. Because, you see, even spending time with my friends who I love, I get wiped out. Tired. Overstimulated. I want to hole up in a quiet room, alone, with my computer to write or with a book if I’ve got time to fall asleep.
Getting along in this world I realized just this week will require my reaching out to people a bit more than I have been. I’m going to have to suck it up and put on my game face for pickups and drop offs as our children have their school and other activities. Making myself available for pleasant conversations is a requirement if I want to help my daughters learn to have healthy and happy social lives. So be it. As I mentioned, it’s not that I don’t like these folks. It’s just that I’ve got the unpopular quality of simply not liking to be around other people. I’ll go back to hiding that fact a bit better than I have been for the sake of the family. But as soon as the social hours are over, as soon as I’ll hurt no one’s feelings and can get away, you’ll find me alone. Writing, futzing around online, making art, cooking, reading, and resting. Breathing freely again. Alone.

What I want to discuss now is something I can’t discuss with you. It’s not possible for me to explain what I have to say or what I’m thinking about. Everything I’m going to share, I won’t.
At the beginning we set certain patterns. I did this, you did that. We paved those paths from our past. That’s a lot of alliteration. Paved paths past. P-fooey.
We were who we wanted to be and became who we are while we lost ourselves.
If we started with a + b = c and ended with a + b = zed, what do we do? Will replacing a or b bring back c? Do we need c? Certainly zed is out of the question. For me zedzeronothingnone, I will not tolerate zed. Will you?
How childish and spoiled. Me. Without proper attention I wander and find paths and forests and dark caves with dripping stalactites and waiting stalagmites.
Need. Want. Need. Need. Need. The edge.
The storm smashes everything without touching me or you or us. We dissolve slowly. Crawling and begging and scraping my knees, searching.
Lay that stone there, and that stone there. They’ll lock tight, like the arch’s keystone. We have that. That. We promised and we have that. Family.
The moss is growing on the fallen tree and underneath that moist rotting wood turns to soil. Rich. The smell of cool, the smell of coolness and water and life. I love to grab a handful of the crumbling soil earth wood, let the bugs scatter, then pulverize it to powder. Moist and shallow, only specks left on my fingers. Dust.
I can’t go on like this.
Of course I can. Go on like this. I do. I will. Am. Are. Will. Willing.
Impatience was a word I chose in “choose four words to describe yourself.” Impatient. Passionate. Loving. Strong. Me, in four words.
Starring on the main stage, all lights are on me. Suddenly it’s dark. Silent.
Recently I read some writing by a crazy person. Perhaps his voice has seeped in. When I read people too long I start sounding like them. I sounded like a different him over there, and sometimes I sound like that him over here. Do I sound like her? Do I take on her voice? Sometimes. Those voices are not so distinct, so catching or fetching or compelling. Perhaps another reading of The Yellow Wallpaper has come due.
What I want to say, I can not say. I’ve said it again and again. Over and again. The words come out over here and over there and sometimes I hear them but usually I don’t. I’m saying them but I don’t want to hear. I’m not avoiding properly sufficiently the verb “to be,” though that was one of the greatest writing advice bits I’ve ever received. To be is a killer. Stories and thoughts and language all suffer when to be smatters it all like bird shit on the windshield.
But I believe we can have everything. It all. We can have it all. Can. Can. Can.
And the cost? Getting it all giving it all means losing it all.
No.
When he stops shining that light on me and the darkness strands me with the truth and there’s nothing I can do to hide, that’s when Something Else Happens.
Inside the girl is crying, why did you leave me? Why did you go? How could you be here and be here and be here and lavish me with all this attention and then disappear and pull away and leave me leave me leave me?
Of course, the girl is wrong. Wrong or right makes no difference to the girl. The girl only wants you back.
You aren’t gone, you haven’t left. He did. He left. He left and no one cared and no one helped and all I wanted was to feel so special again.
And that’s why therapists have couches.

It’s dark and wet. Full of steam and tears and desperation. Sometimes my fingers lose all sensation as I fumble for the keg tap. I’m fourteen, fifteen. I’m sixteen, seventeen. I’m on a field, in someone’s basement, in an old mansion with the parents away, or in the woods of someone’s farm. I’m staring off into another room, knowing he is watching me.
There is a simple science to being beautiful and young. Attracting one only requires convincing him he doesn’t exist to me. Inside, I am a hummingbird of awareness. All he sees is my face, my body, my smile, and my slow strong confidence. I know I’m lovely. I know I’m good at it. I am all powerful.
What strange paths of dark memory. Keeping my feet grounded in the now where authentic confidence and love connect and support all things. I’m out of practice. Visiting those places from before, I haven’t done this more than ten years. The raging pain, loneliness, confusion, and trauma are all mixed in together with normal teen angst and anxiety. Today, I begin clearing out the clutter. Sort through the typical and file it away. Uncover the damage, clean the wounds that still fester, hold tight to the now where all is safe.
Who are these people now? What do they remember?
Only scraps of the most humiliating, flagrant, and rank behaviors of mine are resurfacing. Were there good times? Were there any real connections?
Hovering over the well, staring full force down in to the darkness, knowing it goes to the center of the earth. I’m diving in. I’m falling down. I am immersing myself to reclaim and know. I will scrape away the lingering filth.
What will be left when this is over? I have all I need, now. There are no visions of retribution. There is no blame.
I begin recalling smells, sights, sensations. Pick up a can. Check for carbonation, be sure there are no ashes. Good enough to drink? The haze and tunnel vision, the crowd as a blur, hearing voices, knowing they are talking, but I’m not able to move. Smiling to show I don’t care. Oh, how not caring was the ultimate goal. I see it in young kids these days. I don’t care. You don’t affect me. I am going to show you so clearly that I am unimpressed by you. Perhaps, and likely, I was just as transparent.