Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Questioning the Object of My Cognition

You are beautiful.  Kant, you—
satisfy, categorically speaking,
prove your faith,
utilize/rule/enlighten,
satisfy, imperatively speaking,
what I really mean is,
Kant you synthesize
                                me.(?)
Theoretically speaking, Kant,
you love me. Why?
Why, Kant? You love me.
Why Kant you love me?

Monday, January 28, 2013

This is all I've got

All except for the philosophical conundrum, (which isn't really a problem on Tuesdays, Thursdays, or over the weekend) I laid it all out for my husband last night. I said it gently, but I said it. We had a constructive conversation about finances; the first in our entire marriage. It ended and I still felt like a grown-up. But I don't know that anything has changed in my heart. I don't know if he thinks anything is different, and I'm going through the motions of "wife" as expected. I'm doing the best I can.

A friend in my ward listened yesterday as I tactfully expressed my struggles. She told me, "Wake up each morning and tell the Lord, 'I will do this day, and I will do it the only way I can. Help me in that.'"

So here goes doing this day.

I feel guilty for not wanting more than I do, for not feeling more than I do, for not wanting to try harder than I can.

Help me, Lord. Help me in that.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Marriage in Iambic Pentameter

He vacuums when I won’t respond to words
that say no more than that he’s always right.
The martyr cleans to stack the odds against
my claims that nothing ever changes. Here
in rooms in need of cleaning arguments
are made, and Christmas disappears along
with dust that’s gathered on the shelf and left
an outline where the condoms used to be.
We will not speak until he’s done, and I
have offered my regrets for being wrong again.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Across the Desert: Dreams, in Devotion to My People

At Emerald House I feed my Grandmother peaches.


“I always did love me them peaches,” she says as I cut the canned slices into bite-sized pieces with the edge of the spoon before lifting it to her lips. They are drawn tight and narrowed as though ever prepared to receive her coffee cup, probably from long years of smoking, and still very much as I have stored them in memory. Except that now, instead of lipstick, she has had them defiantly tattooed eternally pink as a girl’s to match her lively inked eyebrows that dance immortally above her glassy green eyes.


“Peaches are my favorite fruit,” she goes on. “They remind me of summer. Maybe in the summer you can bring your kids and we can go to the park, and they can swim in the river, and we can pack us some sandwiches and some peaches.”


“That would be nice,” I say. “We should do that, in the summer.”


I lift another bite to her lips and then ask if she wouldn’t mind trying some of the cornbread they are serving tonight in the kitchen. Grandmother opens both mouth and eyes wide, bird-like, and I am careful not to put the slice in too far so that she can take a bite she is capable of chewing. As she chews I gently wipe the crumbs from her lips.


She swallows the bite. “That is some good cornbread! I never did like cornbread, but that is good.”


I help her take some more.


“Do any of your boys look like your dad?” she asks after her palette is cleared.


“Yes,” I say. “My oldest son does. He has my dad’s chin and nose and cheekbones. He’s a handsome boy.”


“I would like to meet him,” she says. “Or at least see a picture of your boy, especially if he looks like Merlin.”


“I’ll see what I can do,” I say and offer another spoonful of peaches.


“That is my greatest joy in this life. That people say what a kind, good person Merlin was. That they speak so highly of him. And he’s my son,” she beats the palm of her hand to her sunken breast to emphasize each word. “I’ve been an ornery old cuss. They’s been a lot of people who thinks I’ve been too mean. It’s been so’s that’s how you have to be to live through a day. They was a while there when I really had a time of living. It doesn’t matter whether they’s 20 or if they’s 50. Your dad was 49, almost fifty when I put him in the ground. It doesn’t matter how old they is, if you lose a child, if you are their mother, that loss is deep.”


Her eyes mist over a little, and I take the gnarled fingers of her right hand in mine and feel the softness of her aged skin. The portraits of her three sons, including my father, her first-born, in his handsome Green Beret uniform, and two daughters hang on the wall behind her recliner. Though it has been years since I have seen any of them, I know the faces well. I see parts of my own in each of them.


 “Did you see what I done with them? How I laid them all out together? I figured it was the most I could do to keep them all next to each other.”


I know she is speaking of the Grove City burial plot, where one after another, beginning in 1968 she began laying her family in the ground. Her youngest son, Sheldon, a Marine killed in action in Viet Nam, and who was later awarded the Silver Star. Her husband, Dale, in 1970 following a self-inflicted gunshot wound. My father, Merlin, in 1994 after a long battle with astrocytoma introduced by the cancerous agent the U.S. government called “Orange.” And her daughter, Cheryl, Sheldon’s twin sister who died of sepsis following a botched routine medical procedure just three months after my father passed.


“I’ve seen it,” I say. “I didn’t realize that they were all together, so when I found Dad’s grave it was a pleasant surprise to find them there together. You done good, Grandmother.”


She sighs as if in surrender. “I’m glad you seen it. I did what I could.”


I offer more cornbread. For a woman who has never had a taste for the stuff, Grandmother seems an easy convert. I wipe her mouth before giving her more peaches.


“They tells me I just about left this place last week. I don’t know. I was just talking to my Jesus. I love my Jesus. People think I’ve been hard and mean, but it’s just my tough skin. I’m really just a softy underneath, and I always did love my Jesus.


“I always did love my Heavenly Father, always was religious. Deep religious, even from when I was just a little thing. They’s a time when I was a little girl, oh how I wanted to go to church! ‘Cept  I had no shoes. I was out on my horse, herding my cows, just a little thing, and I was a prayin’ to my Heavenly Father, to my Jesus, “Please bring me a pair of shoes so’s I can go to church!” And sure enough that night I had me a pair of Sundy shoes.”


“Do you know where they came from?” I ask.


“Well, sure I do,” she says with a sideways glance. “I’d seen them in the store, but who bought them for me I never found out. But I prayed to my Heavenly Father and He’s always been there for me. And I prayed and I prayed, all last week. And oh, how I love my Jesus! I knows I’ve done bad things. I know people thinks I’ve been mean. And I prayed to my Jesus for forgiveness, and He carries me through. He is my friend, and He gets me through.


“I remember when I was five and I had the pneumonia something terrible, and Mama sent me to stay with Grandma Wright and Grandma Casper. I was so took with the fever, they laid me between them all night to bring off the chills. And I asked them to bring me a Bible. When they brung it I had them lay it on my chest and quick as that I knew I was gonna get better, because my Jesus. He knows me. He knows my soft inside, even though so many says I been mean.”


Before my Grandmother’s stroke I hadn’t seen her in nearly twenty years. The last time was outside the Sunlight Mission on a clear December day in Santa Monica, 1993. The final operation to remove the invading tumor from my father’s brain was complete, he was stabilizing, and Grandmother was headed back to Idaho to use her newly acquired power of attorney to reroute all of his Social Security checks and shift his life insurance policies so that she was the sole beneficiary; a fact that I hadn’t understood at the time. All I knew was that my father lay in the Veteran’s hospital in North Ridge, only a day past the scalpel, and I was not ready to leave his side. The homeless shelter was the only option for long-term housing, and Grandmother was fine with that. She prepared me as she thought best, with a fresh carton of Camel Lights and a twenty-dollar bill she pressed into my hand. She told me to be good and then drove away in her Bronco. I was just shy of my nineteenth birthday and for all my rebelliousness as an adolescent I was completely unprepared for what would be my immersion in the pool below the bottom rung of life.


I lived in that shelter for three weeks, and in that time came to understand not only desperation, but why so many turn to Jesus in all His many images and embodiments. The greatest of those lessons came on the Wednesday before Christmas when I caught the bus from Santa Monica to Northridge.


My father was asleep when I arrived at his hospital room. His head was bandaged and he was connected to tubes to remove excess fluid from his brain and urine from his penis. His gown lay open exposing his torso and genitals, and I stood paralyzed in the doorway, helpless to do anything. Here was my father—the great tyrant of my childhood, authoritarian, wielder of gospel and priesthood, and deliverer of so much evil—reduced to a mere mortal by his own brain cells gone rouge. Here he lay, weak and exposed. And I couldn’t muster the strength to move a bit of cloth to give him his dignity.


Instead, I sat in a chair and gave to watching him for a long time. Memory doesn’t serve to tell me exact length, but long enough that I felt my years of anger and dismay melt into a softness that some might call compassion, maybe even forgiveness. When the nurse came in to administer his medications, she covered him and woke him to say that I was there.


“Bonnie,” he called to me. “What day is it?”


“It’s Wednesday, Dad.” It was the same question he hadn’t been able to answer a week before when the notary public came to evaluate whether he was of sound mind to transfer power of attorney to my Grandmother. He hadn’t been able to recall the name of the president either. I pulled my chair close to his hospital bed.


“It’s Wednesday,” he repeated. “Is your Grandmother here?”


“No, she went back to Idaho.” He seemed confused by this information, so I continued.  “But I’m here. I’m going to look after you.”


“You’ve already done that,” he said.


“I mean until you’re better, Dad. You’re doing well, but there’s still a long way to go.”


“I’m alright. I’ll be fine,” he insisted. “You’ve looked after me, now I want you to go home.”


“I’m staying in Santa Monica,” I told him. “It’s not that far away. I can take the bus and come and visit you whenever you need me.”


“No, you need to go home. You took good care of me, now you need to take care of your education.”


“Dad, I want to stay here with you,” I protested.


“I want you to go home and go to school,” he said and then began to drift. “I’m tired. I want to sleep.”


I watched him slip back into sleep for another endless expanse lost in terms of length in my memory of space and time. I don’t remember leaving the hospital that night or riding the bus back to the shelter, but I would like to think that before I did I kissed his sleeping head. It was the last time I saw my father alive.


Miracles collide with every life, some unreasonably simple and barely ample, others unexplainably complex and satisfying. Somewhere in between there is my return from Santa Monica to Salt Lake City that Christmas Eve, sent home with an errand to see to my education.


By June of that following year my mother and step-father had assisted me in taking the GED, the ACT, and applying to Utah State University. On July 1, 1994 my father passed away. I am not stranger to the tension that existed between my mother and my father’s family. Though times have come and gone that I don’t want to understand why my mother didn’t permit me to go to my father’s funeral, I was there during the years of my father and mother’s marriage, and it would be wrong to pass judgment on her, especially if I was able to sit in that hospital chair in Northridge and find compassion for the man whose violence patchworked the fabric of my youth.


“I always did like me them peaches,” Grandmother says as she chews another bite. “We should pack a picnic in the summer and go down to the river so’s the kids can swim. That would be good.”


“I remember you taking me to the river when I was a kid,” I tell her. I can see her mind working for the memory, but it doesn’t come. “We went down with poles and went fishing.”


“Did I make sandwiches?” she asks. “I always likes to make sandwiches if we’re going to the river. It’s good for the kids.”


“You did. And you showed me how to carve pennywhistles from willows.”


I can see in her eyes that she still hasn’t recalled the outing. Just as well. She’d spent most of it drinking beers with her girlfriend whittling away at that stupid willow branch that never actually whistled. All the while we kids had free reign of the embankment overlooking the Snake, the same river featured in stories my father told me from his own childhood. After nights and nights of practicing paddling in bed, he had told me my Grandmother threw him into the current to teach him how to swim. In retrospect it doesn’t seem the kind of behavior too far removed from leaving a squirrely grandchild on the steps of a homeless shelter in Santa Monica. And perhaps that is how in terms of inheritance my people best learn.


Grandmother started having babies at sixteen. She’d been through two husbands, and outlived two long-term boyfriends. She worked most of her life as a hairdresser and a barkeep, drinking as much on the side as she served. Perhaps in terms of survival that’s what my people do.


“I’ve been doing research on Great Grand-dad, Grandmother,” I say, and her eyes brighten. “I’ve been looking for his biological family, the Adams. I’ve found his mother, Josie Vincent Adams, but for the life of me I can’t find his father.”


Grandmother begins shaking her head. Her face twists in displeasure.


“I’ve been through the papers from the orphanage where his mother gave him up with his brothers and sister. She listed him under three different names, all with the surname Adams, and said that he was deceased. I’ve searched and searched, but I can’t find anything more about him. Can you tell me anything?”


Grandmother hasn’t stopped shaking her head.


“No, he didn’t die. He was bad. A bad, bad man. He didn’t want to take care of them. He left. He was bad.” She will speak no more of him.


“The papers said she gave the children up because of poverty,” I say. “Four of them, and Grand-dad was only two-years-old.”


She nods. “He left. Grandmother Adams couldn’t take care of them, and she had to give her babies up. And that’s when Grandmother and Grand-dad Wright came and took Daddy and another boy home. They was only three or four by then, and Grand-dad died just a few months later. Grandmother Wright took care of them boys alone until she remarried.”


“I didn’t know she had,” I say.


“Isaac Earl, was his name. He was a no good too. Grandmother Wright was pregnant by him when the boys was just little, and Earl beat her so bad that she lost the baby.”


“Did she leave him?” I ask.


“Oh no. She stayed with him. And when we was little he tried to molest all us girls. I remember he tried to do it to me when I was just twelve, but I jabbed him so hard in the belly, just as hard as I could. And I done got away and told Daddy,” Grandmother’s eyes are foggy again and she pauses. “I never did understand why Daddy didn’t do nothin’ to him. I guess that’s how things was done back then. Daddy and Earl had a talkin’ to and that was it. They done talked it over and that was all that happened.”


I regard my frail Grandmother, wondering about the strength of a twelve-year-old girl against a grown man. The fog clears and she smiles at me.


“We sure know how to pick them, don’t we?” I say. “Why do you think that is?”


“Because womenfolk is just better than men, naturally,” she answers.


The cornbread is finished and the peaches are almost gone. I’ve begun cutting the slices into smaller and smaller bites.


“Anyway, I wanted to tell you that I’ve tracked down Josie, Grandmother Adams,” I say. “All the way to Grays Harbor, Washington where she is buried. She remarried a man by the name of Lewis shortly after giving Grand-dad to the orphanage. She wrote letters trying to find the children. I think she wanted them back, but all of the correspondence from the orphanage claims that they aren’t able to locate and of the children after they had been placed. She went on to have three or four more children after that.”


Grandmother snorts with amusement. “I’d a thunk once she’d given up them babies she’d a closed up shop.”


“You’d think,” I say. “But maybe she was trying to fill the loss for the babies she’d been forced to let go.”


There is silence between us. I offer Grandmother another small bite of peaches and she chews with an expression of deep consternation for much longer than the peach should last.


“So Grandmother Adams and Grandmother Lewis is the same person?”


“Yes, I suppose they are.”


“You know what I’d like?” she asks me. “I’d like to see me a picture of Grandmother Lewis. You know she was an Indian? She was from an Indian tribe in Wisconsin. Daddy always told me the Indian blood in her made her a big woman. I’d like to see a picture of her. I thought I seen one once, where they was all sitting out in front of this house on a big porch, her and the kids, and Daddy was in it too.”


“I think I may have a copy of that,” I say. “The last time I was here I was looking through your albums and I remember that one. I took a picture of it. I could find it for you.”


“I wasn’t awake when you came before. They told me you was here, but I don’t remember it.”


I pat Grandmother’s hand sadly. My last visit had been our reunion; the first time I had seen her since that December day in Santa Monica, the first reconnection with my father’s people in nineteen years. I want to remind her how hard I had worked to find her; searching records, calling people who might know her, and how finally, just a week following her stroke I had found her in the Bingham Memorial Hospital. I want to tell her that during that visit we were together for three hours that we had hugged and cried, how she had told me story after story about my father as a child, and that she had insisted that I was the one lost, not her. Instead, I nod. These memories are for my benefit alone, so that I will treasure the reclamation of my origins for what they are: my own.


“It’s alright, Grandmother.”


“So I must have it here?” she asks me, confused again.


“That was before you were moved to Emerald House. I’m not sure where the original is now, but I’ll look for my copy and bring it to you next time. So you can see Grandmother Lewis.”


“Did you know that Daddy used to ride his horse across the desert to court Mama?”


“By the desert, you mean from west of Blackfoot into town?”


Grandmother shoots me a look like I must be daft not to know which desert she means. “Oh no, the desert from Blackfoot to Idaho Falls.”


“All that way? On horse?”


“All that way,” she says. My great-grandparents married when Grand-dad was sixteen and Granny was seventeen. I deduce my great-grandfather began his thirty mile treks at no older than fifteen, probably navigating by the Snake River as it cuts through the lava and sagebrush of the East Idaho desert, all to win the hand of my great-grandmother. Seventy two years later they had brought ten children into the world, worked and played side-by- side before passing away within a year of one another. In a great genealogical web of abusive, broken homes, multiple remarriages, and long-standing instability, Grand-dad and Granny trail blazed the road to devotion. My people know devotion.


“You should ask him to tell you the story the next time you see him. Daddy is so much better at telling it than I am. Be sure to ask him to tell you before he goes.”


I’ve been told that in the final weeks prior to birth, a developing fetus spends much of its time asleep, including periods of rapid eye movement we known as REM sleep. It is during REM state that the brain dreams. I have wondered about this transition from one concrete paradigm to another. Somewhere deep within the cortex of our awareness is there a deeper understanding, a preparatory mechanism that stimulates the brain for what is to come, like some deep repository of universal understanding that quickens and blooms just before we press through the end of one cycle into whatever is next? Do those dreams shimmer with memories and faces of what has preceded, like an hour glass shaken so that beginning and end become confused and all that is left are the grains of some from a great desert and the slithering rivers of time that devour head and tail in the endless flow of the eternal? Is that how it is now for this woman before me?


I want to reach through her gaze and touch them. I want to feel the hands of my great-grandparents, my adoptive great-great-grandmother Wright, my biological great-great-grandmother Josie. I want to take the hands of my father in my own. But rather, I take my Grandmother’s face in my hands before I leave. I hold it as I hold the faces of my children, and I look into her eyes so that she knows I have nothing to hide from her.


“I will come back. Before it is summer or warm enough to take the kids to the river for sandwiches and swimming. I will come back and I will bring peaches,” I tell her. I kiss her cheeks, her forehead, her tattooed lips and tell her that I love her, though the words do not match the power of the waves crashing on the sand of my soul.


Sometimes I imagine myself as the first brave creature to try out its fins as legs and to give up the sea in its lungs to experience the air.  What am I then? To whom did I belong? The tug-of-war between land and sea has long raged in my blood. While I have no data to support the claim I would surmise that many children raised in abusive homes struggle with this same quest for reconciliation with their identity. Some come away whole. Others live their lives as wreckage, at odds with both the shore and the waves. I think my father understood, and in his final words to me he set me on the path to reclamation.


To know ourselves we must learn all we can, about ourselves and the world around us. We must lay bare every detail, even the most painful parts of ourselves, and lay naked for the next generation to look at all of our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Then we must send our children in search of themselves, for we are not complete until all our generations have finished themselves, been reconciled, and come away whole.


And when those who have come before us never find that peace of naked self-awareness, we must let them look into our eyes and plead with us, saying, “My Jesus knows me and has never left me. My Jesus understands the softness beneath my mean.” Then we must travel the desert, on horseback if necessary, thirty miles by way of the winding river, to learn the devotion of healing. We must meet our people when they can come no farther.


Go home and see to your education, my father told me. And then he rested.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Right here in River City

So I'm randomly walking the Liberal Arts hallway en route to the library (which I love), completely lost in my phone (I think it was Facebook or an email or something), minding my own (in fact, believing I am the only one in the hallway), when I am called back into the non-digital world by a cheerful, "Hey there!" 

I'd left his class 20 minutes prior, taking my time to move from one end of campus to the other, calling M— for our daily after-school chat. I was thinking homework and only homework...

That he said hello when I was oblivious to his presence unsettled me. Aren't professors supposed to be oblivious to students in a class of 188?

I snap into the present and said hello back.

"How you doing?" he asked.

"Good."

It was standard. It was courteousness and nothing more. Over thinking displays the fact that even though I act like I'm not thinking about it, I'm thinking about it.

This does not help me. No, it does not.

I hereby commit to be good.
I'm not certain of the variables that define that state, but I'm all in. 
For the most part.

The smart me would be even more scarce. 
Especially when the coincidental is involved.
And even though they're delightful to write, 
the journal entries ought to be arid.
Desert-baked bone dry.

And maybe rapt isn't part of good, even when grades depend on it.
Maybe I should be absent again, without involvement of alcohol toxicity.

Damn.

Damn.
Damn.

My husband wants my attention. I should give it. I wish I wanted to.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Two Men Discussing the Care of a Tree

I was gifted this oak, said the man standing at the foot of the great tree. 
But lovely as it is, it ticks.

The wise old gardener embraced the tree and placed his ear to the trunk
to measure the whir and cadence of tooth and strike lever.
She is ready to send out a new branch, he said.

She has branches enough, said the man. 
And I haven’t the patience for more ticking.
How do you make a tree silent?

Do nothing, the gardener replied sadly.
Eventually the count wheel will dissolve
into the heartwood and you will not notice
the ticking branch bearing its invisible nest
of dumb red-breasts. You will smell spring’s blind blossoms,
hear only the absent creak of swinging rope
in summer that will not bear up your grandchildren,
and the tinny autumn rustle of iron pyrite leaves
that never tarnished on the branch will no longer haunt you.

The man breathed a sigh of relief.
What shall I do with her then? he asked.

The only thing you can, said the gardener.
Cut her down and polish her into a mast fit for
a fine warship that will carry you away
on silent waters that do not teem with life
to lands with empty rooms
where you will not sleep
for the absence of crying babes in the night.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A wife's confession

Nobody talks about this, unless they're apostate...

I'm married to my husband for eternity. Sealed. I'm no longer crazy about this fact. And, truth be told, I'm not looking forward to it. He's a nice enough guy if things are going his way, but enough has not gone his way that the part of him that isn't so nice has more or less killed off that deep love I once had for him. 

I'm here because I chose this, because I'm done dragging my kids through one marriage and mayhem to the next, and it's all fine and good to wash his clothes and make his meals and stand by him in the case that he actually shows any kind of serious gumption toward making all those dreams come true—you know, the ones that trump any of my dreams—and I sometimes even tolerate having him around just as a friend. But yeah... The romance and the yearning to be with him till the celestial cows come home no longer registers as a high point on my eternal to-do list. Which is actually helpful since sex once a month is enough for him. I'm a year and a half in, enduring to the end.

He used to talk about the possibility of me remarrying once he dies, and I'd protest, and it would upset me.  Not so much, anymore. Sad thing is, what if whomever comes along next IS someone who I want for eons and eons?

I don't know. Just thoughts. I think my belief in a lot of this stuff has been shaken beyond repair in the last year and a half. And so I'm guessing that if God really does care about any of this, and if he actually didn't want me to return to my husband (even though the bishop made it quite obvious that my ability to receive personal revelation was seriously in question, and that I should just go home and make the marriage "happy" because the doctrine doesn't matter, which is why I'm back) it was because it would kill my desire to live and believe any of this anymore.

I'm more than floundering.

You're the only one who knows.

I'm stuck. And feigning happiness and fulfillment. And just tolerating where I'm at until I'm no longer here.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Anxiously, angrily, attracted

Over the last two days, without anticipating their existence, I've hit icy patches of anxiety that have left me reeling for at least an hour to try and afix my feet to the world again. The first was in Poetry, yesterday, as we discussed "Poems in the negative"; a technique which aims at revealing an object or idea through the concrete description of everything around it that it is not. It's a tricky tool and one I'm excited about. But something in the professor's exposition of the style I got caught up in why I'm in her class, why I'm writing poetry, why I'm back in college trying to be so busy that nothing else can fit in.
 
Behind all of that is not the desire. Instead, I was just slammed with loss and grief. I could barely catch my breath for the remainder of the lecture. And when we discussed the employment of metaphor and the professor went around the room hearing our chosen animal in the assigned phrase: "My education is a ______ because _______." I gave my answer in a voice hardly more than the whisper of ether.
 
"My education is a ram in the thicket, because God asked me to sacrifice my child."
 
Today as I stood at the mirror getting ready to leave for my day of astrobiology and Ethics, the panic welled back up. My mother texted and asked how I was handling school.

"Well!" I answered back. "As long as I don't get snagged by anxiety I'm doing great. It's almost good enough that I don't feel the disappointment that it wasn't Plan A."
 
I go for my ativan which I hardly ever use--telling myself I'll just take a half tablet before class--except that it is gone. I text my husband, "My ativan is gone. I don't know where it is and I really need some. Have you seen it?"
 
Two minutes pass and nothing. I call.
 
"Did you take my ativan?"
 
"Why?"
 
"Where is it? I need it. Did you do something with it?"
 
"Yes. Calm down. The night you got drunk I hid it. Why?"
 
"Because I need it, obviously. I am an adult. I only use it when I need it. You have no right to take or keep my medications from me. Where is it?"
 
He tells me where it is. I wouldn't have been nearly so terse if I weren't in the midst of the anxiety, which only grew worse because I was unable to locate the medication. I thank him, tell him I love him, and hang up to take the dose.
 
A half hour later I finally felt the calm fall over me.
 
But I was angry for the next hour. Angry for the panic and anxiety caused by patterns in my upbringing which invalidated my ability to make choices and take care of myself with any level of self-confidence. Angry at my husband who still treats me as if I were a child, even so far as to tell me that I need to soften and be more "little girlish" because that's much more sexy and attractive to him. Angry that he assumes that I can't handle being alone, even when I tell him otherwise, even when the seven weeks I was without him were liberating, if not a badly needed respite from being married to a neglectful man. Angry that he is trying so hard no to do everything right and that I feel responsible to do everything right back when I'm not certain my love is going to return to where it needs to be to have the kind of marraige my bishop told me marriage could be. Angry that I'm married at all. Angry that I sometimes feel, even with the improvements, that I wasted this choice on the first thing that came along that was remotely available (which isn't true, but I was angry) and that now I have options that are tempting and intoxicating to me (even though I'll never act on any of it) and that I think would better suit my mental health than my present situation.
 
Which brings me to philosophy.
 
I'm crushing. I think I've said as much. It's bad enough today that I decided an extra 1/2 tablet of lithium and that 1/2 ativan would be wise.
 
It's the intelligence factor. I'm rarely attracted to anything else. And for the last two or three days it's been about all I can think about. So I don't answer questions. I try to act as normal as any student, take notes, head out quickly after, don't engage in conversation like the other girls after lecture. And if I've gone a bit batty in writing the journals that are due every other day, I'm doing my best to sound loony bat crazy even if I am witty and esoteric and feeling genius everytime I sit to write the next one. If he just wouldn't look at me the way he does while he's lecturing. Yeah. Danger danger.
 
I've been married and gone through extra-marital crushes before. They never last too long.
 
Maybe if I felt like a strong, capable, sexy woman when I'm not acting like a little girl this wouldn't be an issue. Maybe I just need to keep taking that extra lithium and ativan.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Child

Imagining Your Curious Life as a Spermatozoa


I’ve seen you in crowded streets,
watched you travel choked corridors
determinably bossomed and gleefully bounding
up and down with the stream of traffic.

You seem quite merry enough
so that I recall your face.

And I’ve noticed your unlikely habit
of taking sudden diagonal darts
around your unsuspecting queue mates

jovial all the while

or even comedically wheeling against the
current, for no apparent reason, just long enough
to confuse the rest of us into believing
we might be heading in the wrong direction.

I’m guessing it has to do with your short legs 
and seeming lack of anything resembling the Olympic.
There’s certainly no other explanation as to why
you are always first to reach our destination.

Poetry about that

I have to type up two poems. For workshop. 

Okay, only one really. But since I'm working on line breaks for the one due tomorrow, why not commit the one I jotted down during Lit by Women while I'm at it? 

And why does any of that seem like such a chore at the moment? 

(I'm crushing on philosophy. It is proving somewhat problematic.)

I want my husband to come home. I want him to get over his lingering hacking-o-the-lung. I want to kiss him full on, without need for a facial condom. I want more than that, but for the effects of his reliance on Nyquil...

I realize the other day—and this is blatant TMI—that in my life's sexual experience I am missing reference for a partner older than 28 and younger than 48. That's twenty years of male drive for which I have no clue. It's like jumping from an Old World map to a satellite image and being expected to understand the development of everything in between.

LDS women aren't supposed to think like this, are they?

I suck at dough and cookie-cutters. 

I read a fabulous poem by Mark Strand today, Dream Testicles, Vanished Vaginas. If you haven't read it, you should. (And the whole book of prose poetry while you're at it.) If you won't, I'll just say that you're missing out. And I am truly sad for you.

Rank

This is why, when sitting amongst the rising milk of Humility, I pine for the clotted cream of Choice.

Is it better to reach, or to be the standard to be reached for?

Even gods fall.

And when they are found, swimming in their respective bottles, remember that stars gelatinize like everything else upon the luge of the body, waiting to be expelled as congealed orange juice or sour curd.

I hover, mid-way to the lip of the pitcher. I dare go no higher.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A room and its wallpaper

I have lots of thoughts. I actually had to write these down. I wish I had time to jot the rest.

This is my third reading of Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. It is interesting how as a woman my interpretation changes each time I visit the work based on my expanding repertoire of experience. Details that I glossed over at first and second glance now cause question.
The most pressing query for the reader seems to be: At what point does the speaker “lose” her grasp on reality and could it have been averted? I would argue from this reading that Gilman shows us a woman who was never in control, by nature of the fact that she was Victorian, and thereby had been robbed grasp of anything, let alone her wits, long before she begins speaking.
As her husband moves her into a room that she fancies was once a nursery (though there is never any conclusive proof of this and is likely due to  unresolved childhood issues of abandonment and a present dissatisfaction with motherhood in general,) we are presented with his desparate attempt to continue to wage control over her waning lucidity, which most likely hinges on her lack of say in anything from her leisure activities to when she eats and sleeps. He has taken away her friends and familiar surroundings, tells her that she must not write, gives the care of her child to another. In essence, she is completely stripped of personal fulfillment and enjoyment, and also societal purpose. She is labelled hysterical, as troublesome women of the time often were, and taken into seclusion to “get over it.” It being her despondance, anger and aggitation at disatisfaction with her allotment in life.
Her relationship with the wallpaper is interesting. She relates it to her childhood, to her husband’s control of her life, to all women she sees, until it comprises her existence.
It is true that there are ideas dropped throughout the story to suggest that she is close to breaking, but I think her earliest description of the wallpaper is telltale of her relationship with it:
“One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin.
It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide—plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions.”
I surmise the speaker is revealing in this passage the state of her own thoughts under the strain of constant control and correction by sexist social normative and male subjugation.
In relating this to Ms. Woolf’s essay, and also to Ms. Woolf’s own fragile state of mind throughout her life, I believe that the first frontier that Gilman was suggesting must be claimed was that of the female mind. Until a woman’s thoughts are her own, until she is able to make decisions for herself and self-determine the day-to-day activities of her life, until those thoughts and choices for action are validated, she is nothing more than a decorative object—or a wallpaper—in the history of herstory.
Once she has control of this vital “room of one’s own” she may finally enter and own reality. 

3 item poem ~ assignment two for ENGL 3440

Our grand tabby, 
all buttery shackles and skulking pads,

wades the leap-frog pools of four o'clock light
between her salon atop Grandmother's upright

and her dish of tender vittles. Only the plastic 
wolverine posed in the doorway impedes.

Cat regards toy—sniffs for life or threat,
food or foe—a shrewd diva 

evaluating the magazine rack-girls 
before purchasing her chocolate bar.


*My three randomly assigned items were the color yellow, a cat, and a Schleich wolverine.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Oh say...

A friend of mine just flashed this link across Facebook. I think it is answer to prayer. I just don't know what answer it is, yet...


Tanka ~ assignment one for ENGL 3440

Ten girls stand framed
in the studio mirror.
Twenty arms ripple—
in delicate unison
the fat one dances in back.




*Personally, I believe the best thing about tanka form isn't it's brevity, or what it says, but how it makes you think long after you are done reading. Trust me, the above isn't meant to be derogatory in any way. The fact that I feel I must clarify this so as not to tick off someone who doesn't get it frustrates me to no end about our culture. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Relapse

I'm writing this post out of necessary accountability. 

My real name is not Gudridur, but I am an alcoholic. My last drink was about 40 hours ago. Prior to that I was sober seven years and three months. In terms of addiction, I have relapsed. I drank a fifth of 80 proof Cointreau in an hour.

My husband and I have been back together for a week. It is far from easy, and even "difficult" wouldn't adequately describe the situation. He is not entirely at fault for that hardship. No more, at least, than I am. It is a marriage after all. I summed up our predicament this morning as: "Two unhappy, conflicted people trying to make a life together."

We have a long way to go to create a functional, healthy relationship. Neither of us seems presently capable of dealing with conflict in constructive ways. I include the follow only so I can look back and remind myself that the bottle will never be the answer for me. If you're sensitive to any sort of abuse topics, alcoholism, suicidal triggers, etc., consider yourself warned. I'm emotionally unwell. My husband is emotionally unwell. It's been an ugly, potentially fatal two days. I'm lucky to be alive.

Gudri
9:15 a.m. - I tell you everything I need, and you just continue to deny me.
9:18 a.m. - So when you say "let's try" I'm assuming that means you're not an option for getting my needs met.
9:20 a.m. - Not certain what good trying does at that point. Try to what? Deal with lack of fulfillment and validation and acceptance and emotional safety in my marriage?
9:21 a.m. - Why?
9:23 a.m. - I feel emotionally abandoned and rejected. And so I can hear "I love you" but it doesn't feel like love.
9:27 a.m. - Is that what I'm expected to try to deal with?
9:28 a.m. - You're not going to answer are you?
9:32 a.m. - Forget it. I really really needed you and your love and acceptance this morning. You couldn't even say you liked me. And the insistence that you love me? And now I'm just sitting here alone. Huge hole in my heart. Total abandonment.

Husband
9:37 a.m. - My phone was on silence and I didn't see your texts until I got here and pulled it out. I tried to call. 
(Serious problem #1. Gudri feels safe texting. Husband doesn't. Husband feels safe talking on the phone. Gudri doesn't.)
1:24 p.m. - Hope your day is going ok. Catching up with you between meetings. I do like you. Tons. I love you too. :)

Gudri
1:59 p.m. - As long as your hopes and dreams for the future take precedent over mine. I really don't believe you.
(No communication until 8 p.m. Husband leaves to take son to Church basketball game. Tells Gudri he is leaving. No speaking otherwise.)
8:24 p.m. - Staying for it too?
8:26 p.m. - Hello?
8:35 p.m. - I've been available all night. Remember that when you eventually decide you want some time with me and I'm asleep.
8:44 p.m. - But as it's more likely that you won't, remind me why I'm supposed to be happy about this marriage. I'm trying to remember why I came home.
8:48 p.m. - Oh, I forget you don't communicate anymore. Silly me.
8:54 p.m. - At least not with your wife. Everyone else gets that honor. You're not obligated to speak to her unless you feel like it. Chattel gots to learn her place. Dream when you're told to dream. Speak only when it's wanted. Want affection only when it's offered. Plastic girl like Barbie who would be most convenient if she didn't come equipped with her own agency and certainly not a womb. Get a job and support your husband's dreams. That's your purpose.

Husband
9 p.m. - Bc of events of this morning/today I hadn't anticipated much by way of communication esp both of us going on less than 3hrs of sleep. If communication is going to consist of sarcasm and unkindness I don't have the energy or disposition to do it. And certainly not by text. Plz get some sleep. I love you.

Gudri
9:02 p.m. - i.e.: shut the hell up you worthless bag of female. Thanks.
9:06 p.m. - i.e.: I have all the reason I need not to give you any level of importance today, you stupid wench. Go to bed and get out of my hair.
9:14 p.m. - i.e.: Stupid hoe-bag bitch isn't wanted. Can't she get a clue? *** I'm going to lock the door and get drunk. If this is really what God wants for me eternally my faith is dead.  I have no value unless I'm told by a man. My feelings are only valid if some priesthood holder tells me they are. I'm just a the Barbie doll of convenience. Be good little doll. Go to bed. Don't trouble me with your complaints. Be happy with what you're told to do. Find joy in submission and subservience. Don't get out of line or you're not charitable. Gah! I hate myself. I hate me life.
9:53 p.m. - One more shot and I'mma pass out. G'nite.
9:58 p.m. - Oh great noncommunicative one. Great uncaring m.aster. Oz boy and his curtain of trivks.
10 p.m. - Divorce me. I'm drunk. I know u wnat to. Now thees good reason. Jdt put yer bitvh away quietly. Fore she opens her
10:02 p.m. - Hell i cold drink the whole bottle and maybe we/nd have a fricken funwral!!! Wouldn't that be grand?
10:02 p.m. - Another shot. Lets see if we cN di it.
10:04 p.m. - Poor boy provly has his phone off cuz sh/ns such a hagatha. He doesn't have a lue tht she's drinkin i nto oblivion. Lol!
10:08 p.m. - Now validity for ms. Janey soo. Oly exosts if he gives her permission. God says this. God says that. God doesnt care that she's stuck as chattel. Or that she's drunk off her ass. God laughs at her desires to create temples. Wretched temple builder! You must be orthy of a man's approval. Curse your loins girl! Curse your love for your man. He doesn't want your twmples.
10:13 p.m. - Man who yells. Man who berates and cuits you don for brushing teeth ands for destroying you children. You got what you want good and fair. Nno respect. Your father all over. Wish he'd slap about alittle for fun. For ol times. That bit of a shake wasn't nearly rattling enough.
10:13 p.m. - Bottom of the botle insite.
10:15 p.m. - Poison poison tKe me out. Take my life with nary a shoutt.
10:19 p.m. - You'll let me die. You won't even care.
10:22 p.m. - Two more shots. It doesn't ebem mind the tste no more.
10:24 p.m. - Shall I add ativan: Are you even oaying any attention: Do you even give a shit oberut yer wife?
10:25 p.m. - Epitaph: he had a wonderful mind and a wonderful womb. But he woykldn't let her womb safe her.
10:26 p.m. - He's stuck w/[ex-wife"s name] wh really is doing her best. I they can forgie ea h othr,,, there"s a god and his queen.
10:28 p.m. - I'm no good fo more than secondary angel. With a rotted womb. It?ll be cut ou and I won't have to worry bout no temples no more.
10:28 p.m. - Two more shots. I dont want t wake up n mre
10:29 p.m. - Yer not listening. I get it.
10:32 p.m. - I'm so drunk. Cone f*** me my lover. Take yir Barbie body and fulfill yer wildest drams. She woin't remmber in the morning, and it will b e the best you're eve r hasd.

What happened after this last text is very foggy, if not altogether blank for me. My husband came home and brought M-- in to deal with me while he went to bed. When she couldn't deal with it any more, because I was saying that I wanted to die and that I was certain I was about to black out, my husband finally got involved. I began vomiting at 1 p.m. I continued to vomit for the next 12 hours, interspersed with varying levels of consciousness. I somehow posted once to Facebook during the ordeal.



When I couldn't stop vomiting the next day my husband, who'd decided to come home from work mid-morning to take care of me, took me to the emergency room.

Discharge notes from Happy Valley Regional Medical Center 1/11/2013:
(Following two litres of hydration with an IV drip, Zofran to stop nausea and excessive vomiting, and some prescription injection of a painkiller to alleviate extreme headache.)

Acute Alcohol Intoxication: Your evaluation revealed very high levels of alcohol. You can die from drinking a large amount of alcohol rapidly! Further, there's the risk of falls, traffic accidents, and fights. A high portion (about 50 percent) of the serious injuries seen in hospital emergency rooms are caused by alcohol.

Alcohol overdosage is usually due to an underlying emotional or psychiatric problem. You may benefit from counseling.

If "binge" drinking is an ongoing problem for you, or if you drink ANY amount of alcohol EVERY day, you most likely have a tendency to alcoholism. You should avoid alcohol totally. We can reger you for treatment. Persons with alcohol problems are often also prone to other addictions -- you should discuss any use of medications or drugs with the doctor.

You should be watched at home for the next several hours by someone who has not been drinking. Drink extra fluids for the next 24 hours. Call your doctor if there is repeated vomiting, increasing headache, decreasing level of alertness, or any other worsening.

I'm sick. I don't know if there's such thing as maternal psychosis, but if there is, I'm there. God eases the burden, but only in slight measure, and never with a "no", never with removal of the desire. I know so many women uninterested in reproduction. I don't know why I can't be one of them. 

This is the hardest thing I've ever gone through.

For right now, I need to just focus on flushing my body, which is still experiencing toxicity, and getting back to sober.

I'm sorry.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Who is this Prince Charming and what has he done to my ogre?

I'm getting the feeling my husband is actually figuring all of this out. I'm going to pretend I'm not stunned, even though I'm feeling a tad giddy.

This morning could have been ugly, and I thought it was heading that way during a round of questioning about the current price of eggs, but he self-evaluated, calmed his approach, became compassionate and soothing, and fixed what I was certain was a recap of life eight weeks in rewind.

This evening I came home from class to the table already set. I hadn't even asked him to do it. And not only was it done, he had taken great attention to detail rather than how he'd done it the evening before—man-style. I admit, I'd gone behind him and straightened everything, because it's been ingrained in me that tables are set just so and I'm a little freakishly anal that way. My Relief Society president, who is also president of Ladies' Knife Club, is making three meals a week for me, so all I had to do for dinner was put the food into serving dishes. 

After dinner he helped put everything away and rinsed dishes. 

I'm slightly breathless at the change. He's a dream come true.

I should tell him.