Sunday, January 31, 2010

By land, by sea, by dirigible

The summer after I left the Ex, I slept like a crazy person. Literally. Like a crazy person. In medical school, when I had to do admit psych patients to the state hospital, I always asked how they were sleeping. I clearly remember the way they would sometimes look at me with wild, bloodshot eyes and say, “Not so good…not so good.” I was once scolded by my attending for not asking them to tell me more about that. I didn’t ask, because I didn’t need to. When they said, Not good, I would nod knowingly, thinking, Been there, done that.

During one of the hotter summers on record, in a third story apartment without air, in a building that smelled like smoke and fish sticks, I spent months of fitful nights. And by that, I mean, my nights were full of fit. I had bad dreams so vivid I still have to remind myself some of those things didn’t actually happen to me. Every footstep in the hallway, whistling pipe, and wind whipped branch left me sitting straight up in bed, wide eyed and shaky, fully expecting to find him standing over me.

Somehow though, through all those nights of terror, an amazing dream occasionally crept in. It’s an early Summer or maybe a Fall morning in New York. A Sunday. It’s not hot, just warm enough. I’m walking from an apartment in the Village to a neighborhood coffee shop. Walking beside me is a little girl, 5 or 6 years old. She is talking a mile a minute, looking up at me every few seconds, prodding me a bit to hold up my end of the conversation. I am smiling, occasionally throwing out a, “Is that so?” As I look down at her, I am struck by two things: First, I can’t understand how anything so incredible as she is could be my life. Second, I can’t believe she’s a morning person.

We walk on. She chatters. I nod at her observations, laughing at moments when she is funny without meaning to be. Suddenly, I look up and see him walking in our direction.

He walks hand in hand with a little boy who looks just like him. On his other side is a woman, his wife. She pushes baby a stroller. They look just like normal Midwestern tourists in New York. He looks amazing. It is as if a normal, content man has somehow grown inside of his skin. And here I am, walking towards him, completely unafraid because he is so clearly just…fine. He is happy and healthy and fine. The terrifying psychotic nut job I was married to in what feels like a hundred years ago simply is not here. He has been replaced by a content, middle-aged man with the wife and kids he always wanted. In that dream, in that moment, I got a taste of what it is to feel ok. It felt like everything was just suddenly ok.

A while back, my friend John posted a story about seeing someone he was once married to years later. He said that he felt beyond. He told the story, in part, for me…as a reminder, or a hope, or a wish that I would one day feel beyond.

Recently, I found myself thinking about that story, thinking that I might never get there. I didn’t realize until I moved away just how much I still lived like I was afraid of the Ex. “Preoccupied,” Blake said. “Not that I blame you, but you’ve clearly been preoccupied with it.”

Blake was right. I didn’t realize until I physically moved away from the imminent danger just how much of it I had internalized and carried with me all the time, everywhere. It didn’t consume me or keep me up at night. It didn’t rob me of joy or even of contentment. But it was there, like a sore muscle about which I constantly, quietly told myself, “Keep moving…it’ll loosen up.”

Last week, I reconnected with an old friend on Facebook. She said, “You know, I’ve searched for you a few times on here but couldn’t find you. You must have some wicked privacy settings.” I got to thinking maybe I could lighten up those settings a skoch. I decided to search for the Ex on Facebook first. If I didn’t find him, I figured maybe that meant he was one of the four people on the planet who hasn’t yet succumb to the lameness of social networking. If so, maybe I would feel a little better about being a bit more Facebook public.

And that is how I learned that the ex just got remarried. He got married, and in the photo he posted online, he looks ok.

I cannot describe how I felt in that moment, except to say that it is probably something akin to the way you feel when someone asks you how you are and you honestly answer, “Fine.”

I was overwhelmed with fine.

I danced (don’t picture this part, it’s not pretty) around my apartment to The Decemberists’ Sons and Daughters which happened to be playing on my iPod at the time. Days later, during unseasonably warm weather, in a torrential downpour, I had an amazing run through my neighborhood fueled by the same song.

I’m putting some space between myself and preoccupied...and for the first time, I can see beyond in the distance.


.j.william. said...

I'm so happy for you!

Sometimes these things move on quietly without you noticing; sometimes they smack you a little in the face and say, "hey--notice!"

(side coincidence: my ex recently de-friended me from facebook. It was probably time for that. Onward and upwards, for everyone involved.)

MmeBenaut said...

Oh hooray, hooray little one. This is wonderful news.

amusings_bnl said...

i like that.
and i love sons & daughters. what an amazing song. by land by sea by dirigible!

Susanlee said...

This post is amazing. Like wow...I'm speechless.

Eric said...

Good for you, T. I've been feeling a little beyond myself the last couple of months. Still have the occasional relapse, but knowing that there is a beyond is really, really nice.

Amanda said...

oh my gosh. I loved this post!

Maria said...

Dreams like that make me believe in Freud.

I usually dream that I am naked in supermarkets.