I was having fun coloring dragons with fluorescent pencils when Greg came into the room. He looked stressed.
– My sister is disputing my mom’s will, – there was bitterness in his voice
– What are you gonna do?
– I will give her what she wants and will never talk to her again.
– Talk to your lawyer
– No, Vixen.
– Really? – I put the pencils aside and raised my head from the coloring book.
– I am not going to court, hon.
– Court is not be necessary, there are ways out. You may settle it through mediation. Have your lawyer deal with it.
– I said, NO.
– And you are ready to cut ties with your only sibling without even trying to negotiate?
– Absolutely, – Greg was mercilessly rigid. Talking to him felt like talking to a wall.
– I will fix you dinner, – his attitude caught me off guard. My motivation to proceed with coloring was gone.
I went into the kitchen and stood frozen in front of the refrigerator trying to gather my thoughts and figure out ingredients for potato salad.
Clearly, we all act weird, we make irrational decisions, and run away trying to escape problems.
We are just people who do everything possible and impossible to save the pride at any cost.
Criticized at work? – Quitting
Caught your partner with someone else? – Permanent separation or divorce
Struggles at school? – Immediate withdrawal
Facing own problems with the bitter understanding that we are powerless to fix them is sometimes harder than surviving a hurricane. The pain from the hurt ego is thousand times worse than passing kidney stones. Those who decide to fight own demons lose themselves in the endless battle with personal fears, phobias, and traumas.
You can rarely see someone that quietly accepts this life without hysterical fight or flight attempts. Someone who does nothing about life kicks, allowing chaos to settle and conflicts to resolve. Someone who turns the mind off and floats through the reality curiously observing emerging and disappearing events, people, and problems.
Most people think that going with a flow is passive and lazy. They would rather fear or suffer than let things take care of themselves. People are used to acting, resisting, and escaping. People are used to perceiving life as the never-ending struggle with pain, winners, and victims. Living in the permanent hysteria of moving, searching, and burning bridges is the only way for most of us to exist. Common sense is not that common.
I suddenly felt Greg was standing behind me and turned around.
– Don’t bother, luv. I’ve ordered Chinese food and talked to my attorney. He will contact my sister on Monday about the will.
I gave him a smile. I felt relieved from cooking and cleaning and ready to resume coloring my dragons.
I never liked the way he looked, he talked, he acted. His smiles were fake, his demeanor was offensive. I simply tolerated his condescending attitude and lack of compassion since the physical aspect was awesome.
– Don’t you like anything about me at all? – I felt irritation in his voice when he confronted me with this question and did not respond. Sex with him was magical, he was hot and cold, strong and weak, passionate and negligently cruel all at the same time. Outside the bedroom there was no connection, no mutual interests, nothing. He seemed to hate everything about me. I was too skinny, too hysterical, too talkative, too worldly, too emotional.
– Why are you with me? – I was really curious what kept him near me; he had no answer.
I made the decision to stop the relationship and texted him “bye now” and immediately received “You are trash, you do not deserve me”. He seemed to be pissed, I was tired and ready to go to bed.
My withdrawal started a week after. The desire to be close grew from strong to mind-blowing. The pain was very real and very physical. Our relations were purely sexual. I allowed him to crawl into my body, to germinate, to root. Breaking the connection felt worse than extracting wisdom teeth without anesthesia.
Three weeks after he gave me a call and asked to meet.
I entered a cheap Asian diner and saw him immediately; cold eyes, expensive suit, and pragmatic mercilessness. Our eyes met, the wave of pain and desire literally blinded me for a moment.
He gestured to sit down and moved to me his bowl of rice. – You are too thin. You gotta eat.
I smiled reaching out for chopsticks. I felt hungry and slightly dizzy. – How are you?
– I am good, luv. I worry about you.
– Ok, – the rice was yummy
– I can’t be with you.
– I can’t. You know who I am, right? – He held a senior executive position in an oil and gas company, worked almost 24 hours a day and drove a luxury vehicle.
– Yes, I know who you are
– Honey, my friends, family, my business partners, everyone will make fun of me if we are together.
– Can you order more rice, please? – I had not eaten for days, after we broke up depression hit me really hard.
– Please, look in the mirror. You are drab and mousy. Did you see women I dated before?
– Yes, – I finally looked up, tired of talking to the rice bowl and the dirty table.
– They are classy, well-maintained. It would take time and money to turn you into someone I could officially take out to dinner. Boob job, Botox, professional stylist, hear-dresser, everything. It makes sense to find someone ready-made than to invest in you. You do not know how to behave, you are too short, and you are so … so anorexic.
– I want more rice
– I want you
– I know, buy me more rice – I was hungry and happy to see him again
– Yes, yes, sure, – he hurried to the self-serve kiosk to place another order. Athletic, perfectly-ironed, smelling like money, almost an alien in that crappy place. He returned with a platter of veggies and water. – I really hate this place, hon.
– Why did you choose it?
– Close to my office, plus none of my work team or friends come here
– Why did you want to meet?
– To tell you it is over
– It was over 3 weeks ago, – I was calm and curious. I knew my pain would hit me later. Days felt ok; neediness and cravings usually returned in the evening. – Bye
We met the next day, and the next day, and the next day. I loved his place, top-grade, water view, Zen style. It was absurd and stupid. We had nothing in common, we were entire strangers. I knew I needed to block his phone number and move on, but I could not. Sex was the only thing that seemed to connect us, but that connection was too tight, too strong, too painful to break. I finally gave up thinking and started laughing every time he texted the usual “how was your day luv? I will be waiting for you in that crappy diner”.
She was sick. Most of her time was spent on seeming normal. She played tennis and attended cocktail parties. Her friends came over to hang out. They enjoyed the way she cooked pastas and cheesecakes. She saw her in-laws on weekends and attended bible study classes every Wednesday night. She socialized outside the household and was attentive and polite within the family. The house was clean, the children did good at school, her husband was recently promoted. He attributed his success of getting the operations director position to her. “I would never have done it without you. You are everything to me, you are my angel. ” He worshipped her, she was his inspiration, his pixy.
But she was sick. No one had any idea what it took her every morning to get out of bed and function as if she were ok. Her inner world was the ongoing manic-depressive roller-coaster, and she never knew if her mind would take her on the ride of elevated mood and high self-esteem; or she would end up hand-wringing, unable to control purposelessly repetitive body movements.
Sometimes she spent nights pacing in the bathroom hyper and panicky, unable to sleep. Sometimes fatigue hit her so hard that she struggled lifting her head off the pillow. Her self-worth could elevate and drop within days or even hours resulting in tremendous energy loss and the feelings of emptiness and despair.
Hiding her sickness and faking happiness 24/7 was the worst. No one in her family was aware of what was going on, she was too scared, too proud, and too ashamed to be verbal about her condition. Her days were infused with the fear to be revealed and labelled cuckoo. She masked her panic behind the façade of smiling politeness and pleasant demeanor. Her husband finally started making six figures a year, she got accepted by his parents and became president of a local book club. She was scared to mess everything up and kept pretending and going through the emotional nightmare day and night.
It happened on Tuesday. Her husband took her out to dinner. She put on a blue cocktail dress and a perfect smile prior leaving the bathroom, the only safe place where she could be herself restlessly pulling the hair and biting the nails.
The restaurant was almost empty. Her husband had to answer the work phone and hurried outside when a middle-aged waitress approached the table.
– Are you ready to order?
– Of course, – her smile faded when she raised the head from the menu. The waitress was looking straight into her as if digging deep into her soul.
– You are strong, everything will fall into place.
– I am ready to order, – She had the feeling that the lady got her, the lady saw her true messed-up self. And she felt relieved when her husband finally came back.
One her way home she kept thinking about the words of the waitress. The waitress was weird, disrespectful, and crazy, but what she said made sense. Faking health and happiness, when dealing with mania, depression, and panic attacks clearly required lots of inner power.
The next morning started with the loss of energy; her previously elevated self-esteem broke against another depressive episode. She forced herself to open the eyes and look at the clock. It was the time to get her kids and her husband ready for the new day. They wanted potatoes and eggs, he wanted cappuccino and a cream-cheese sandwich.
“I am strong, I will get through this, I can’t feel low all the time, the mood will end up go up anyways” started her recovery. She knew she needed to learn about her mind to be able to foresee upcoming mania and subsequent falling into hopelessness. She started looking for help. She started asking for help. Gradually, she started living.
It is over. I will never see him again. I went through the night hiding under the blanket, shaking with cold, struck with emptiness. The morning started just fine. 20 boy push-ups and lots of water kept my mind away for a little while.
Jim called asking if he can stop by. I confirmed and went into the kitchen to fix an apple pie. Slicing apples and blending egg whites with flour and honey got me busy. I was functioning, I felt almost normal.
Jim brought roses, I cut each stem and placed the flowers into a vase.
– Now what? – he was cold and practical. He kept trying to get me back and hated wasting his time and money with no certainty.
– I do not know.
– Tell me what you want, and I will do it for you.
– You can’t fix my pain, I gotta go through this by myself.
– Nice cake.
– You can take it home.
– Be my mistress.
– You are using me all the time, it is mean and rude.
– I do not care.
– I am ready to give you what you want, just tell me.
– I want freedom from pain.
He left with the pie, I went shopping. The pain subsided as I was focusing on a birthday present for my girlfriend. The pain almost disappeared when I stopped by to give her a hug and a potted flower. Her house smelled like joy and pizza. There were many people and many presents. I drank water and conversed politely. As we went out to watch the sunset over the water, I started panicking, I knew I would have to leave soon and be by myself again facing the pain through the night. – “Are you sure you gonna be ok?” – my girlfriend looked concerned as I kept zipping and unzipping pockets in my handbag trying to find the car key. She wanted to help, and she could not, no one could. It was my pain, my cross, my burden.
I watched TV that night and fell asleep. The muscles were sore from too many pushups, the body felt empty.
The text from Jim woke me up – “You live in a crappy area, I can move you into a safer neighborhood, get over your breakup and come back”.
I smiled and stretched in bed. I wished I would get away and stay away from the area where everything reminded me of the past where I was happy and miserable. But I knew the pain would follow me no matter where I go. I knew I gotta deal with my emotions rather than running away from them.
I took one day at a time. The ties that connected me with him kept breaking causing pain sharp, and fierce, and nearly unbearable. My body was withdrawing going through convulsions as days went by.
The realization came later as I was focusing on the needle point excited and entirely involved in cross stitching. The realization that pain has nothing to do with love and feelings. The pain came from the hurt pride, from the failing attempts to control the life of another person, from the merciless possessiveness and the urge to dominate and sponge the person for attention, affection, and endless romance and intimacy.
I put the embroidery aside and closed the eyes. The love was there, it felt wonderful. I pictured him with another woman and smiled. I wanted him happy, he gave me the most wonderful time in my life. He deserved happiness and joy. I went outside and turned my face to the evening chilliness. The ego broke into million teeny-tiny pieces, I was vanishing with the drowning in the water sun. I let go of myself, my wants, my desires, my needs. There was no sense in carrying the burden of my pride and self-esteem any longer. The freedom was there. It has always been there. I have always been free. Everything felt simple and natural. I felt relieved and light; as light as a feather returning to my needle point.