This is a post about my pain, my grievances against myself and others. No one has to read such a saga, but if you do, thanks in advance. Apologies to anyone I may have hurt in my impulse to publish the first draft, & many thanks to the true friends who reached out to me across years, time, distance.
Today the brilliant dilettante David Ignatius’ headline graced Page One of the WaPo, in response to Bob Woodward’s much vaunted, sold-out Fear, which launched on 9-ll not by accident: that headline read, “What a Baby!”
He wasn’t talking about Bob.
I suppose it is fair to say that despite everyone’s best efforts, that we have a president who is the prick of the world affects our individual efforts to be loving, patient and empathetic people.
In large measure on account of this ape, this pig, with apologies to the animals I resort to incorporating into my rant, I am these days more often than I can bear, a miserable and negative person. I am filled with rage. I would like to throttle this man with piano wire, to dig the flesh out of his fat cheeks with my fingernails.
I could easily blame this on the existence of the biggest liar and only traitor of record to be not exactly elected to the presidency. But isn’t he boring, isn’t the constant parsing of every tweet and dissection of his disgusting personhood and his criminality, aren’t these pursuits boring as bloody hell? Hats off to Anonymous, by the way, he or she who tried to reassure the country that there are a few adults constraining the Primate in Chief from his worst savagery of norms and national security.
But isn’t there a sense in which our continual dissection of Donald J. Trump as a man, traitor among traitors, perpetrator among perpetrators, King Baby, permits us to minimize if not evade altogether the practice of self-examination and honest self-disclosure?
Such things have held me in general good stead over the years and I learned them during the time in which I thought Alcoholics Anonymous was my answer. Since then, since leaving the program nine years ago, my view of AA has continued to devolve into mistrust of any group of similarly fucked up people who proclaim they have had a “spiritual awakening” and now possess a hot line to God, who decry the concept of self-empowerment, so necessary for women of my generation, who make a mockery of our very necessary and inevitable human will–that infallible survival tool without which we would long ago have been rendered extinct. Raised “High Church,” by two Episcopalians, charter member of the Anglican Communion, lover of liturgy, pomp and circumstance in spite of myself, I was a believer and then my belief in subordinating my “life and will” to something “greater than myself” ran through my psyche like water through a ruptured radiator. In my view we need ourselves more than we need God.
If you read on and are, forgive me, a programmed person who has drunk the Kool-Aid pap of the Big Book, you will indubitably judge me as revealing a great need if not for AA than something very like it. But in addition to belief in the value of selfhood, I wasn’t treated very well by people in the program; I was dissed and gossiped about and judged to a fare thee well. Like the Church with its rampant hypocricies, who the fuck needs all of that?
Self-love and self-respect are indeed an “inside job”; they grow from making moral and loving choices. I make moral and loving choices only some of the time; my growth seems to me like that of mountains extending their reach and height over eons.
For despite my “better angels, “ I harbor hatred, resentment, rage quick to ignite and slow to leave me. A short fuse. PTSD and chronic fear. To “become whole,” I need to confess who and what I am. I am a poet, a wife, a lover, a champion of the underdog, someone who instinctively reaches out to those who suffer.
But I am also an often violent, abusive woman. I’ve also made my peace, an uneasy truce, with the chemical management of my chronic pain; I work with a doctor.
But I am not always honest with her, or anyone, and hence, this missive into the void.
In my household I intimidate my own husband into being mute and compliant. My own dogs watch me and listen like traumatized children for the inflection in my voice that tells them that if they can’t run and hide they should put their heads down on their paws.
I am enraged at the degree of rejection I have endured from the church, from doctors, veterinarians, when I have dared to speak my mind or try to hold anyone else accountable.
I have recently withdrawn my books from two presses—one, after I got galleys to proof riddled with extra spaces from broken equipment. I sent a scathing letter to the Editor, calling her out for imposing such a mess on her writers. I half-heartedly tried to repair this, but she by then was in the stance of the victim.
I recently told an international press to take a hike after three years of negotiation with my book on the boards for next spring. I did so after I encountered a discussion on Facebook the publisher had started with Trump-bashing, putting all of us in the U.S. into one basket and posting that a third of Americans don’t believe in the Holocaust. She herself was born a U.S. citizen.
What I see in the rearview mirror is that I blow things I don’t like up until they seem huge, and then I react, thereby sabotaging my happiness.
My husband is a good man, a retired teacher and excellent writer of fiction. He seems to love me and be devoted to me. I go to the wailing wall when we fight; he, on the other hand, seems to bounce back, snarl at me but recover. He gets insulting and angry but he recovers, forgiving me, reaching for my hand. Why?
Don’t get me wrong. We have our tender times, our snuggling times, our hand-holding times, our redeeming love-making times, all when he says, “Let’s feel better about things.” This is his mantra, and I go along with it. It is only deep remorse that redeems me in my own eyes; I tend to take all the blame and I have the hardest time forgiving myself.
I come from a family whose head was a harpie from hell, who couldn’t let anyone make mistakes, who was happiest in her cups berating us all. But how long can you fairly blame your own mother?
The mind, a mind as frazzled and fed up as mine, takes a toll on its house, its body. I am in constant pain and distress and fear as I look at being two months out from seventy. I leave our house, braces on both legs, both knees blown, once a month to go to the doctor. Something is wrong with my joints; they are getting loose and rubbing on each other. I won’t let myself go out of doors on the deck for five minutes to see the Colorado sunset. I live a life antithetical to my own brother’s, who is a fishing guide and painter, whose kingdom is the Collegiate Peaks outside Buena Vista.
We of the short fuse should perhaps form a secret society where, AA style, we may confess to each other, practice self-forgiveness and the making of amends. It doesn’t take a belief in God to have a conscience, to want to outgrow one’s shortcomings. But how weary I am of trying, like a barn swallow behind a window pane, of looking for an opening to freedom.
If Jack dies, before me, I will be all alone. Quite thoroughly and deeply, without a soul who cares about me. Don’t give me any more happy horseshit about the Church or AA—I did my time there and I walked away. Don’t talk to me about Jesus, Lord of Infinite Jest; I threw away my crucifixes with this profane thought: “I didn’t nail you up there. Maybe it is you who saw what a shithole you created here and let yourself be strung up to atone for fucking humankind…not to mention the animal kingdom wherein the white tiger cubs of Nepal starve to death and Emperor Penguins freeze where they stand, trying to keep their embryonic chicks alive.
Something in me wants to love, to come out into the sun, to keep the faith in something. But over these past five years I’ve sunk to the bottom of the aquarium with the other bottom feeders, who live on other fishes’ waste. I’ve eaten a ton of shit and flung it back, dirtying the waters. At least I am mistress of the extended metaphor…but truly, as I write this, it is about having been in relentless pain for some time and needing to tap in Morse on the wall of my cell an S.O.S. …—… .
Now, those of you who might run across this litany, you know the worst of it. I dare you to give a shit about me. Maybe some of you if you got honest, would tell a similar story. Maybe you aren’t easy to love or trust either, or it’s not easy for you to trust or love and like me you are one slip-knot shy of pulling a Bourdain, the ripcord on your life. Maybe it helps to know that you aren’t the only miscreant on Planet Earth.
Maybe, like me, your saving grace is that when all is said and done you have a conscience and true anguish when you hurt someone or something. Does that mean it’s o.k. to be as imperfect as I? You tell me. …..