The Stoic Approach To Broken

“And then I felt sad because I realized that once people are broken in certain ways, they can’t ever be fixed, and this is something nobody ever tells you when you are young and it never fails to surprise you as you grow older as you see the people in your life break one by one. You wonder when your turn is going to be, or if it’s already happened. “–Douglas Coupland

Everyone has a pivotal moment, a retrospective stand-still, in which growing becomes hard; innocence lost.  It’s like being punched for the first time, doubled-over in perplexing pain, trying to catch your breath.  After that–the first time–it becomes easier to take a beating.  Maybe you self-protect or maybe you’re scared or maybe you’re stronger, but you’re never where you were before.  Moments of truth awaken reflexes within you that were either conditioned or innate, but either way the reaction defines you.

Everyone also has an ostensibly innocuous moment, a seemingly irrelevant event, in which a choice or decision is entered into the dynamic mindstream of another; karma.   Sending and banishing another into Samsara–cyclic suffering–until noble virtue, noble concentration, noble discernment, and noble release is understood.  Sounds like a disproportionate amount of spirit work for one versus the other, right?  Not really, it’s all in the give and take.

One midday Saturday in the early 80’s, I watched out the screen door as a trio of teenagers walked down our mostly desolate road in Divide Community.  No rock was left unturned by my family in our Podunk community and it was the first and perhaps only time strangers afoot passed through.  The details between my curiosity as a screen lurker and why those orphans or hippies or serial killers were devouring the Hamburger Helper at our dinner table may have been misplaced.  Nevertheless, the youngest of the ambiguous sibling tribe became a squatter in our hamlet.  Squatters get all the benefits of home without the responsibility, and by their very nature live in survival mode so everything is a threat.  He was the first broken person I knew, and a catalyst for the demise of  my family unit.

Several months after my parent’s divorce, we were in the grocery store when a familiar but faceless lady mentioned seeing my father buying beer.  This information would have been a fairly normal adult activity, however my father spent my whole life up to that point judging and preaching about the sins of the sinner.

“You must have meant my Uncle Donnie,” I interjected.  “People think they’re twins, but they aren’t. MY dad doesn’t drink.  Drinking beer is a sin.”

Ironically, I will never forget her expression.  She quickly withdrew her tongue from idle talk and looked down.

“Oh.”  She glanced at my mom and then back to me.  “Maybe you’re right.”

I placed my hands on my hips and curtly replied, “I am.”

I was afraid of what it meant; my father drinking.   Was this how stoic people did things?

I didn’t have a penchant for bad things during my teenage years like my friends did during their era of rebellion.  I coughed and  complained too much for my friends to truly get me addicted to cigarettes (like most of them eventually did).  Not a smoker.  It wasn’t an easy feat, either, to get me drinking alcohol.  I hated the taste of liquor, wine, and beer.  One particularly weighty morning, I snatched a beer from my stepfather’s refrigerated stash and took it with me to school.  I got in my car and pushed in the single cassette tape of TLC’s “Waterfalls” and drove toward school–beer between legs and sobbing.

(WAIVER:  I DO NOT CONDONE DRINKING & DRIVING, NOR DO I CONDONE DRINKING LOW-POINT BEER.) 

7:30am, football field parking lot, sobbing and gagging as I forced down my first beer, alone.  After all, this is how stoic people do it.

Love, take it to the mattresses.

There’s a subtle shift that occurs after two people realize they’re standing in the moment of finality. It’s as if the world whispers, “Don’t blink or you’ll lose the last moment where you know who is standing in front of you.” The moment of truth, arrived, and this is what it’s like to not know each other anymore.

She slept on mattress on the floor—the same mattress I had purchased after the heartbreak before her—when I passed by the hallway packing the last of my things. I thought, “She has a place to rest her head even if she sleeps near the ground for now, but she’ll get a frame to lift it back up.” It was that same line of thinking I had after the initial shock of the I’m-going-to-leave-my-marriage realization; I’m doing the right thing for both of us in the long run even if the short run scorches our feet.

I’m sleeping on an air mattress tonight in my renovated shoebox in Alphabet City. It’s been quite some time—5 months to be exact—since I’ve been comfortable in my own space. Despite the obvious disarray from the move, I’m free to be free. Although, if I’m truly being honest, here, that uncomforted space issue started one year and five months ago. While I’m being honest, let’s face it, freedom is never free.

Shopping for mattresses is a lot like soul work; you have to know yourself well enough to know what you like, how much you’re willing to invest in your comfort, and not rush it. I was upsold on the first overpriced mattress, a firm with a pillow top, like many other things during that period in my life. Later, I was also talked into tossing it for a terribly old, piss stained, non-pillow top mattress, by a girlfriend attached to most everything except me. After she hurt me in the most despicable way possible, I was sans mattress, not that one fit into my inherited vagabond lifestyle in the first place; couch surfing required less capital and emotional investment.

Futons, the minimalist way of resting your head, was the way to Zen. Mattresses were heavy and laborious constructs of luxury that I didn’t need. No, out with the old and in with the new. I acquired a different, vibrant, soul enriching, school of thought, and the only way to happiness was through the suffering–and, let me just say this about suffering; there were some painstakingly difficult nights of sleep where my back was concerned. Futon people don’t have significant romantic relationships. They just can’t, really, because a futon person is in a transitory state of living that no one wants to catch.

With the first indication of love interest, I tossed that sucker and bought a new mattress, firm, for her back problems. Solving her problems, giving her comfort, and making certain she never woke up in pain, was how I spent the next four-or-so years. Sleeping on that firm mattress, built to sustain the strength of the spine, it occurred to me that this firm mattress was not mine. I purchased it, yes, but this was not where I was supposed to rest my head.

I left her the firm mattress, which was now on the floor with her. I had my freedom, so I marched into Macy’s listening to the divorce theme song “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence + the Machine and I plopped down on that plush Euro bed mattress.

“Can I help you?”

I smiled, big. “Yes, I’m in the market for a new mattress.”

“Feel like testing out the others?”

I closed my eyes, briefly, and despite being internally sold on the one I was on I shook my head yes.

She led me to different makes and styles of mattresses, and I obliged because I had never taken my time before, until we made a full round and stood in front of the first choice; the queen plush Euro bed. “Do you know the comfort level you want?” She asked.

“I do,” I replied. “I want to sleep in a cloud.”

“So this one seems like the perfect fit.” She pointed.

“Yes.”

We made small talk as I spent an extravagant amount of money on my mattress–MY mattress.

“What’s the reason for the purchase today?” She looked up from entering my credit card information.

“I was married for four years and the trade-off was the firm mattress.” I paused and felt a tremendous amount of fulfillment. “Now that I’m teetering on the brink of divorce, I want to rest my head in the clouds.”

The cloud-like mattress arrives on Thursday, so for now I’m making do with the air mattress. I’d rather be like one with air than two on an old piss stained non-pillowtop, firm, break-my-back-for-love type of mattress. So, while we may be strangers and prefer different mattresses, I know one thing to be true about myself–I prefer plush.

 

NEWSFLASH: Toilet Paper in bulk, the leading cause of divorce.

If I haven’t written in a month or so, forgive me.  There are bigger mind-numbing issues at hand like say my pending divorce; the untangling of my life from another.  Between school, work, house selling, divorce dissonance, and the splitting of hairs, I’ve not had much sanity to sit with myself and pound feelings out onto a screen–not that sanity has ever been a writing device.  Alas, here I am attempting to tap into the irreverent confessional known as this blog.  I’ll spare you the shit show.

There’s really a lot to learn from  marrying someone and then divorcing them, and even more to learn about the person they loved and married and subsequently grew to despise during divorce.  Take for example the status progression of orange juice:

MARRY ME—

‘No pulp’ for me, please.

Oh, you like ‘lots of pulp’?

No problem, let’s get married and we’ll buy ‘some pulp.’

I WANT A DIVORCE—

Open fridge, stare at ‘lots of pulp’ orange juice.

Shut fridge, go to brunch with friends for fresh squeezed.

There’s also a Costco effect that happens within any single person struck with the realization that they must walk away from someone they no longer love.  In Eat Pray Love, she had this moment of epiphany in her bathroom–crying, kneeling, begging God for answers.  In Personal Velocity, Greta is at the kitchen table and its her husband’s cheap shoes.  For me, it was standing in the wholesale warehouse of Costco looking at a mountainous shelf of toilet paper in bulk.  The concrete below my feet felt of ice because it was December, and floor insulation is rendered an unnecessary overhead cost since it doesn’t generated any sort of significant revenue per-square-foot for a place that uses such a discount strategy as Costco.  There is a distinct moment of panic–kind of like a hot flash–that occurs when a simple and underwhelming task of buying toilet paper suddenly overwhelms you and becomes not so simple, and thus defines your life.   In a snap, you’re back but not the same person that wandered down aisle six in search for the 600-count roll of industrial strength toilet paper.  No, you left that person–whoever she was–in the frozen food section sampling the mini pigs-in-a-blanket.  This person, standing in front of a ridiculous barrier of paper products just wants a single roll of toilet paper from a Bodega in Manhattan.  This person has no reason to buy in bulk, and truth be told, never thought of herself as a buyer of bulk, a drinker of ‘lots of pulp,’ a homeowner in dirty Jersey, or a pigs-in-a-blanket eater.

This person is going to leave her marriage.

Musical Memory Meme #4: Dad

The Bullshit of Growth, grab your boots.

Part of me thought the term ‘growing pains’ was bullshit – good TV show though.  Part of being an adult is being able to suspend your thinking and change your mind, and I have changed mine.

It all started around the age of eight or nine when my calf muscles ached something fierce at nighttime, and my Granny Ben would rub Absorbine Jr. on it.  I was in the 40% of children that physically felt their growing pains.  In my bodily defense, I took full advantage of my physical superiority probably more so than most little girls that played with Barbies all day.  Not me, I climbed trees with my boy cousins, ran faster than them, and rode my bike faster than the wind.  Too bad my parents bought me a girlie bike with a banana seat because what I really wanted was a rugged BMX with pegs.

Circa 1988ish – the pinnacle of divorce –  I was struck with the emotional growing pains of…you guessed it…divorce.  I sure wish they made an Absorbine Jr. for that!  Those growing pains were brutal.

When the nineties hit it yet another type of growing pain – physiological ones.  It was an awkward time that I prefer not to delve into again because it fits in like a pair of MC Hammer pants.

College was a time for experimenting of all genres and with this expanded my pant size.  The ego expanded and deflated as appropriate.  Often times reckless abandon for organized anything was merely a gateway to debauchery, and throwing caution to the wind defied everything we learned from our parents.  Didn’t you want them to be so dead wrong (your parents)?  I know I did and this rebellion was a growing pain that was the hardest to realize, but thankfully I eventually did, fixed my credit, and had enough failures to write a book.

Career growth, what can I say about that?  Sometimes you work for ten years to get what the intern that ‘knows’ the president of the company gets in less than a year going from intern to Director, but she hasn’t yet learned what you did in college (not to fall victim to compromising positions).  I’m just saying…she didn’t get there from paying her dues… like you, but then again maybe you’ll wise up and realize you’re now in debt with your soul.  Sometimes you soar, but most of the times what you dream of doing isn’t what pays the bills and growing to be okay with that is a big miserable lesson to learn.  This usually makes you fall victim to lottery tickets and a reintroduction to your college friend, alcohol. I’d take the muscle aches of growing pains any day over this because at least you’re inflicted and unaffected.  If you’re not a pessimist by this point of growth in life you will be, and if you aren’t we’ll who the hell do you think you are (steer clear of the rest of us)?!

I struggled greatly to break away from what was hammered into my head called religion in spirituality’s clothing, and I formed my own private spirituality to which contributes to my happiness.  I’ve learned not to talk about it with my mother, and since she’s my superfan on this  I will skip this too (along with the political section).  Love you mom.

Learning to not argue at impasses was a hard growing pain to get through, but it sure does make life less acrimonious.

Growing pains happen at every beat until your very last one, so you might as well grab the boots and wade through the bullshit.

Navigating through space.

There is this place.  I don’t know what it this space is called, but it’s a place.  Trust me on that.  It’s a space between two equally but different concepts like creativity and stress.  I’m more of a person that creates to ease stress, so it’s a little like being plugged up – stuck.  While my custody is tossed around – stress or creative – I’m in the middle of this divorce without identity but completely partial to creativity. 

My costly therapeutic tools taken out of the toolbox once the culprit is identified.   

“Here’s your problem, ma’am.”  Holding up a manuscript and a time card.

“I have to work during the day.  I am married.  I have two codependent dogs and a curmudgeon of a kitten.  My new house needs work, and I need a promotion to get ahead of it all.  I commute.  There’s never enough money.  Letters never come, but bills never stop coming.  The house is a mess, we need groceries, and I can’t figure something very important out in my 200 page story.”

“Well, ma’am.”  Laying the time card on top of the manuscript. “Better consult your spiritual navigator and begin training now for when the two connect.”

Nancy Grace served Jon Gosselin his balls!!!

This is the best thing I think I have ever seen!!

Electronic Breakfast Table

Breakfast was a symbol of  something pure that products of divorce, such as myself, used as a compass to happiness; a happy family.  While my own family ate wherever they lingered in their solitude and typically only ate together at one table on holidays, there was this ever-present dream of a wholesome family meal; untainted and a ‘what if’ attainability.

The few times we wrestled with sitting down at the table for a family breakfast or dinner, the only thing served was silence or resentment; not much of a variety of tastes.  Instead, we could watch Leave It To Beaver reruns at dinner time and watch the Cleavers, loving and virtuous, communicating and eating a full bird.  I didn’t get to eat a full bird until recently and if you’ve ever seen a full bird during preparation it’s enough to make you wonder if even June Cleaver, America’s most perfect mother, was a deviant.  Looking back, her obsession with kitchen activities and ability to do exceptional card tricks may have just been OCD and a gambling problem.  I guess even the All-American family has their imperfections, but it didn’t keep us from looking up to them and wanting a little slice of Cleaver pie.

We watched the Jetsons and heard the media projections on the future, but it came and went without flying cars and watch computers.  We didn’t experience the Apocalypse in 2000, and I’m pretty sure the one in 2012 is just a ploy to sell more batteries and water.  However, I can’t deny the digital age in front of me and the lack of simplicity all around me.  Why would children ride bikes when there’s an app for that?  What will become of imagination and pretend when it comes from a device?  What will double entendre become but acronyms and symbols like OMG PIG : p  (Oh My God Pretty Intelligent Girl–sticking tongue out) .  I failed in college at learning another language and luckily Ebonics didn’t stick, but I may have to noodle on text language.

I’ve got to finish this blog posting soon though because my iPhone is blowing up, but the point is that the NY Times came out with an article about electronic breakfast tables (my term, not theirs).  It’s a sad reality that my wholesome symbol of family will be as extinct as playing house in a real tree house and not on SIMS.

555

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: