Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Long Rambling Christmas Card To Myself (and in praise of people who make me feel like I suck less: thank you)

I’ve completely forgotten about Christmas this year, which has been magically wonderful. The only times I’m reminded of it are when I see other peoples’ Christmas trees through their windows, or when a student says something about the holiday. My very caring twin offered to let me chip in on the gifts she and her husband are buying for our family this year, so I didn’t even need to go Christmas shopping. I’m skipping Christmas with my family to help my friend NU (who is as much as family member to me as any of them, anyway) move to New England, which happens to be the cutest and most Christamasy place on earth. But it will be ok if I’m with her. I just can’t deal with any “special” moments around a Christmas tree as everyone reminisces about the last year. Last year at this time I was a newlywed, in love, very happy most of the time. This year is different. My heart is broken. Every thing is wrong. I look at my family and feel so far away from them. I love them but I can’t be around them. My brother just got married too. I can’t be around that because I just got married. I just got married. I’m still a newlywed, only soon I won’t be married anymore. Sometimes I just want to disappear into whatever ether has sucked up Mr. C. It’s like he doesn’t exist anymore. Poof. No more husband. Poof. No more shrew. Not kill myself. Just go away for a while. Come back when my skin has grown back. I am currently skinless, though it’s growing back in very sore patches.

It will help a great deal to send NU off into her new adventure. To be around a different family. And then go off to the state I’ll live in soon, too. The next few months are going to suck here without her. But I’m going to use the time to figure out what I need to do in order to be ready to leave. Thinking about the life and the new start that awaits me excites me terribly. My new life as a divorced person. I never thought I would be that person, but I guess no one does. And I never thought I’d want to date a divorced person, but now I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to date someone who WASN’T divorced. How to explain all of that crap to someone who hasn’t been through it. Not that I’ll be ready to date any time soon. But I’m looking forward to DATING, to trying out different kinds of people. No immediate boyfriends ever again.

It is weird not to buy gifts for Mr. C this year (yeah, he’s a choad but I still love him—arrggh, it’s so frustrating). You can’t just turn it off…five months ago I was still allowed to care about him as I had done for the last four years. Everyday there are things I want to tell him, show him, discuss with him. So I guess I need extra gifts for myself this year. I’m totally broke, so I’m just going to give myself the gift of being nice to myself (and maybe a few things from Anthropologie which I can charge). If I feel like having a breakdown, I’m just going to let myself. If I need to be alone, I’m going to do that. One of the many wonderful things about NU is that she accepts me for who I am. I know that sounds cheesy, but it is such a rare quality. I think I’ve said that about people before, but it’s hard to really mean it. With her, I really mean it. I know I can go off alone when I’m with her, and she won’t be hurt or take it personally or any of the other responses that my family often has. When I’m with her I can be bitchy or nice or whatever and she’s just like, Yep, that’s shrew. She never tells me how to feel, she just lets me feel. I can’t tell you what a gift this has been, especially after living with someone who did the opposite.

Several days after Mr. C left, when I hadn’t eaten or slept in that amount of time, when I spent my hours staring at my computer screen with a pounding heart and tears in my eyes, I went with NU to get some food (which I probably didn’t eat). I remember babbling to her about something at the salad bar, and to whatever her kind and patient response was, I said “I wish you were my boyfriend,” and I truly meant it. I guess what my relationship with her and with other good friends has taught me is that I am actually capable of having loving relationships. I haven’t had one yet with someone with whom I’m romantic, but I no longer think it’s impossible. Being around NU makes me feel like I don’t suck completely. Everyone should try to fill their lives with as many people like this as possible. Or at least one or two, in addition to the people you kiss if you have a kisser in your life. I think this trip with her is probably the best gift I could give myself. And even though she’s leaving, like a lot of people I care about have, she’ll still be there. She won’t go into the ether and I won’t have to either.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Intermission 5: The Little Thing Janet Jackson Called "Control"

Sometimes when I think of Mr. C (codename for Mr. Choad, which is codename for the dildo who left me with rent I can’t afford and a car that’s insanely expensive to keep up and who has forced me to hire a lawyer who charges me $30 to read a six word email so that he could, for the millionth time in his life, avoid responsibility) I get this song in my head. I wonder why. Hmmm, could it be that this fucking moron had and probably continues to have serious control issues? It wasn’t enough that he had to punish himself daily with panic attacks and robot-like adherence to a strict goal-oriented schedule, as well as a monk’s diet of yogurt, bananas, no alcohol, no meat, no anything even slightly vice-related (including sex that rated beyond PG), he also had to inflict his self-denying code on me, a life-loving and hedonistic member of the human race. Because I’ve spent my whole adult life believing everything that my addict and/or control freak boyfriends/husbands have told me, I’ve pretty much believed for the last ten years that I 1) Am crazy, or at best have serious emotional problems 2) Have an addiction problem and 3) Am weak or wrong for doing the things I like in moderation (drinking, eating, smoking), emoting, or trying to find emotional support outside of the relationship (through friends, not lovers). Basically, what I’ve begun to learn in the last four months is that: Oh My God, I’m a Human Being. Humans have desires and even occasionally act on them. Yes, even female humans. And sometimes humans, even the ones with the ovaries, aren’t perfect.

Mr. C pretty much started out in control of our splitting up. In fact, he was in total control of that situation, as I was not in favor of calling the marriage off before we even talked about anything. He moved out, took $1000 out of our savings account without telling me, told me we were getting divorced, started fucking his teacher as he had dreamed of doing all summer, moved all of his shit out of our house including about 20 Criterion Collection DVDs I had come to think of as mine, and then asked me for his stupid bread recipe and our shower head (he got the recipe). During these proceedings, I stood in the middle of various rooms with my mouth hanging open. When I came to about 3 weeks later, he was all hurt that I didn’t want to be friendly to him. He didn’t seem to understand why I wanted to kill him with my bare hands. When I was finally stabilized enough to hire my lawyer, I decided fairly quickly that I wanted to be the one to file for divorce. I felt so out of control, it was the one tiny thing I could take out of his hands, since there was nothing left I could take from him, give him, or ask of him. I thought he’d be happy since then he wouldn’t have to pay the $150 filing fee. Of course, since I don’t communicate with him, I have no idea about how he feels about anything. But in order to file for divorce, I needed a home address for him so the papers could be served. He finally sent me a P.O. Box # which I knew wouldn’t work, so I broke down and asked my lawyer to contact him for his address, knowing full well that this tiny transaction could easily cost me $100. But he wouldn’t give it to her either. He gave her his MOM’S address. At first I thought that this was because he thinks I’m crazy and would show up at his house and rape him or something (as someone who currently has an unlisted number and address due to an ACTUAL abusive ex, I assure you that I really can cause no physical harm to anyone—believe me, I’ve tried). Then I thought that he probably just wanted his mommy to deal with his divorce, as she deals with everything else for him. But now I just see this as his last ditch effort to get one last chance to control me—I take a tiny bit of control by filing for divorce, and so he has to try to control this tiny thing. His stupid address. When I really don’t give a fuck where he lives. And he’s already tried to control everything else I do—I wish he’d just go fucking concentrate on controlling his new girlfriend now. Which I guess he probably is.

The other day at work we got our student directories. I opened one up to his name, and there was the address. I thought, ok, what does this make me want to do, this sacred address which was so carefully hidden from me, to the tune of about $150 dollars? Nothing. It makes me want to do nothing. Did I want to run over there immediately and stare longingly at his windows? No. Did I want to go over hoping to run into his crazy-person girlfriend (she must be crazy to be dating someone who is going through a breakdown and divorce) and rip her eyes out or just throw coffee on her or something? No. All I wanted to do was go down to the vending machine in the basement, get some peanut M&Ms, come back up to my office, and read blogs for a few minutes before catching up on some emails. That’s all I wanted to do. Oh, and not trust him about anything concerning the divorce anymore. Because he obviously doesn’t trust me, though I’ve done nothing I can think of to earn this lack of trust, except exist. He hasn’t given me a chance to do anything. I did leave him one, ONE, angry voicemail. Just one, in which I mentioned that I regretted ever meeting him. But for Chrissakes, he left me with no warning for another woman. Or maybe it’s because I didn’t give him the shower head.

Anyway, if anyone wants this fuckwad’s address, I have it. The only address that really matters to me right now is the one that leads me the place where my stuff is, some of which I’ve had since before Mr. C was even born. The place where my precious little girl dog waits for me, loving me simply because I exist. The place where I can eat, drink, pray, and live without hesitation or fear, without him.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Shrew's Spleen Corner

Dear Readers,

I want to live in a city! I want to live in a city! I want to live in a city!

For happiness, I currently require:

Real artists, not undergrads. Real museums.
Real "ethnic" food. Not the slop served on one street in this town which stays mediocre forever because there's no competition and everyone just accepts it
People over 30
People over 30 who are not parents
People over 30 who are not grad students
The ability to walk down the street in state of peace and harmony (not terrified that I will have to run into exes and their pathetic associates)
Readings, bookstores, and other writers not affiliated with a university
Many coffee shops in which I know no one
Many bars in which I know no one
Many city streets in which I no one
Dog parks
Dog parks with cute dog-owners, maybe around 38 years old, professional but in some kind of field like entomology, definitely not an "artist" in any way, someone who thinks that it's cool that I'm a poet and doesn't want me to be bubbly or cute and doesn't make me feel guilty for not going on the pill and doesn't act weird when I ask for his sexual history. For laid-back dating purposes only.
The ocean
My sister

(This isn't very spleen-y, I guess, though in an early version I referred to the ex as "Mr. Choad," which I may use another time in an angrier post)


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Dead Crush #9

Oh James Wright:

What I keep wondering when I read your poems is if your existence in death is everything you’d hoped it would be. I don’t necessarily get the impression from your work that you want to die, but that somehow your questions about the world would have clearer answers if you didn’t have a human body. So I hope whatever vehicle carts your soul around these days is more appropriate for you. Or that you have done away with bodies altogether, and you have other things to think about besides the world.

Your poems have an otherworldly feeling, as though they are somewhere between this world and the next. The people that populate these poems also teeter on this edge—they border on no longer being human; they are turning into something else. The poem “Evening” takes place on earth, but with a character who straddles earth and another world. The speaker watches a boy turn from human to some kind of walking representation of nature (is this a figure from mythology? I can’t remember): “I saw his hair turn leaf/ His dancing toes divide/ To hooves on either side/ One hand become a bird.” The boy is part animal, part tree—he embodies all that the speaker (you) wish to understand but cannot. Fear overtakes you, but when this new creature dissolves back into a human, he understands “Fairy and ghost—but less/ Our human loneliness.” How much easier it would be to live in the world in this way—without knowledge of loneliness. In this way, your writing reminds me so much of Rilke, who often looks to nature to try to understand how to live. I’m thinking of the Eighth Elegy:

With all its eyes the natural world looks out
into the Open. Only our eyes are turned
backward, and surround plant, animal, child
like traps, as they emerge in their freedom.
We know what is really out there only from
the animal’s gaze; for we take the very young
child and force it around, so that it sees
objects—not the Open, which is so
deep in animals’ faces. Free from death.
We, only, can see death; the free animal
has its decline in back of it, forever,
and God in front, and when it moves, it moves
already in eternity, like a fountain.

“Natural” beings don’t understand death, which is why they can live in freedom. Loneliness, for you, seems like a branch of death—without knowledge of death, there wouldn’t be loneliness, because without knowledge of death, we wouldn’t need to surround ourselves with the others who also know that they're going to die. To lose one’s body, to not be human, is the only way to know more about the world of ghosts than the human world of loneliness. But to lose your body, you have to die. Your poems seem to want to figure out how to lose your body without dying, and maybe this is why there are so many ghosts in your poems—they are both part of the living and part of the dead.

Another way to not be human and yet still experience the nature and the world in which it exists is to be an animal. As Rilke writes, animals have death behind them, and so can live naturally in the world. I see the same kind of existence of animals in your work. In “By a Lake in Minnesota,” the world feels full of animals—the twilight is a whale, beavers walk silently from their calm waters, and the moon itself hunts for dolphins. There seems to be no room for humans in this kind of world—and these animal figures certainly don’t need us in order to keep doing what they do. This world was made for them. The only human in the poem, you, stands and watches this, and all you can do is wait for dark in a world that functions so well without you.

The horses in “A Blessing” also exist quite easily without you. I guess the question is, can you exist without them? The horses here have been “alone” all day, though they had each other—it is hard to see them existing without our vision—do things exist without our interpreting them? In this moment it seems that you understand these animals as you haven’t before—instead of the distant watching you do in “By a Lake in Minnesota,” you have somehow, for a moment, entered their world, become one of them, because you see them as lonely. Or perhaps it is they who have entered your world. It is now that you realize that without a body, you would “break into blossom”—finally become a part of nature, as the boy did in “Evening.”

In “A Dream of Burial,” you dream of dying. You are only a foot and a shoulder. You can still hear what is going on in the earth above you. And now you are waiting for nature to take you—your body is finally disappearing. And when it goes, maybe you will join the ranks of the animals at last, those beings that get to live in the world and not interpret it—or take you to a place where there is no death, no loneliness. It is fitting that the angel who waits for you is a horse—that he’s the one that can take you where you want to go.

(Happy Birthday, my dad of poetry...I'm sorry it was all so hard)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Intermission 4: Replaced by a Bible verse

Apparently, one wedding picture of shrew and the late (ok, estranged) Mr. shrew is equivalent to 1 Corinthians 13:13. Or so thinks my mom, who replaced said wedding picture with this verse, which was printed on fake parchment paper in a tasteful font (something close to Garamond). The original picture was one in a triptych of three black and white photos of the weddings of my brother, my sister, and me. Conveniently, my wedding photo was in the center of the triptych, so it was easily replaced with the verse without destroying any balance or sense of continuity. (For those of you who didn’t have this particular verse rammed down your throat a zillion times in Sunday School, here it is: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Yes, this was the verse read at my wedding. My mom probably doesn’t remember that.) The change is so subtle that it’s difficult to even see a difference in the arrangement of nearly 20 framed wedding photos that adorn an entire wall in my parents’ house. It’s almost as if I was never married. Hell, it’s almost as if I never existed. But you know, why exist if you’re not married.

The Wedding Wall was created after my sister got married in 2000. The Wedding Wall proves once and for all that the shrew family children are not in fact complete defects, contrary to the opinions of many WL Jr./Sr. High School jocks and bullies. They are not totally worthless because look: someone wanted to marry them. Someone can actually stand being in the same room with these losers. They got married, and can now contribute to society in the way that God intended. Look, there they are in white dresses and tuxes. Never mind the drinking, the Manic Panic, the bad grades, the useless degrees of the past. These former weirdos are FINALLY NORMAL. And, thankfully, straight. Whew!

When I got married at the ripe old age of 30, my mother sighed many audible sighs of relief, and my pictures went up onto the Wedding Wall. She could now close the door on the past embarrassment of having 3 nerdy unloved children, and move into a new future where these safely married humans would hopefully begin to spawn, saving her from further embarrassment. But what happens when one of these former losers proves that she actually never transcended loser status by getting a divorce? She becomes a Bible verse.

While I feel frustrated at being tastefully edited out of the Wedding Wall, I realize that these comments are mean. I need to say also that my mom has been really great through this hellish process. For example: number of times I’ve screamed the f-word on the phone to my mom (not in anger toward her, just in anger over the nightmare that is my life) in the last three months: 4. Number of times I’ve said the f-word ever in my life to my mom previously: 0. She doesn’t even flinch when I say it, nor when I say I never should have gotten married, never wanted to get married, etc. etc. She’s listened to me rehash the whole boring story on daily basis. She lets me say that I’m ugly, I’m horrible, I’m abusive—then tells me that I am none of these things, and she should know because she’s known me since I wore a diaper. She bought me a chartreuse love seat. She is wonderful. But she cares about what the neighbors think. And she wants everything to look pretty and perfect to prove that it must be pretty and perfect. This is the kind of thing you do if you were raised by an alcoholic.

Ok, I think the Wedding Wall shouldn’t even be there because: who cares. Yeah, we got married. Who cares. All three of us have done other things that make us happy, things no one bothers to capture on professional film. But it is there, and my wedding pictures clearly can’t be there anymore, so of course she has to take them down. And she has this really expensive frame, and she really really wants to use it, so something else needs to be in the little slot that previously held a picture of me and some guy kissing, some guy who won’t even tell me where he lives. So here are my suggestions for replacements:

1. Picture of me giving the finger.
2. Picture of me finding out that there's a John Hughes marathon on AMC. A 24-HOUR marathon.
3. The James Tate poem “Goodtime Jesus.”
4. Picture of me and my wonderful female friends kissing each other. In wedding dresses.
5. Picture of me marrying my dachshund. In wedding dresses.
6. A Cornellesque shadow box containing three marbles and a nudie picture.
7. Picture of me curled up in bed reading. Alone. Where I am happiest.

(Oh my God! I should have known that the marriage was doomed. I mean, Corinthians 13:13? It has the mark of the devil all over it.)