Monday, September 26, 2011

Bubble Island

Insomnia is an old friend that comes and goes and I've long made peace with it since I was a child. When I was very small, I used to sleepwalk and while I have no memory of it, my family remembers with equal parts of horror and nostalgia. Finding a four-year-old in a white granny nightgown standing in the middle of the street at 4AM is not on the top ten lists of any parents' ideas of fun things to do in the middle of the night, but eventually they put the locks higher up near the top of the door and I was pretty safe from my late night wanderings and they too got a lot more sleep.

Now, as an adult, I find myself in the throes of insomnia again, but this time I know it's induced by depression over a broken marriage and the belief that although I did all I could, I wasn't really worth it enough to someone to even try to fix it. So now I wander, again, only this time on I-84, back and forth, back and forth, between visits from my former beautiful village which I no longer have any love for, and my dad's house, my brother's room, where there is no room for my things, most of which I left behind anyway. So, until that gets sorted out, I play Bubble Island.

I like it because it's not really competitive, I don't need to draft friends and acquaintances to be neighbors to fertilize crops or milk any cows and I don't have to have a co-op or commercial venture to move ahead. It's just me and the bubbles to knock out of formation at my leisure, and only in competition with myself to see how far I can get before I run out of lives (hearts) or patience and I've been stuck on the same level, same stage for some time now. It requires maneuvering around clear glass balls and having to get on top of them to knock them out of the way and I can't count the times my dad, sitting in the living room watching Monday Night Football screaming the same obscenities at Michael Vick that I'm screaming at the bubbles, tells me to quiet down. When I'm not crying out of overwhelming grief over my situation, it makes me laugh.

My dad is at a loss at what to do with me. I can't and won't eat so he can't feed me and I wander, like the little sleepwalker, back and forth like a ghost, in and out of the house, asking if he needs anything from the store, maybe something from Dunkin Donuts or Burger King or if I go out with a friend, I bring him the dinner I didn't eat and he picks at it just to be nice. He asks me if I want to go for a drive, he'll drive, let's go for a drive, Elaine, but sometimes I'm crying so hard, I get sick and I can't hear him and he wrings his hands and curses my ex. He won't be going to the house with me to retrieve my things with me when I'm ready. I don't think close proximity to something he hates with a passion now will do anyone any good.

There is nothing like the love of family and friends who reach out to you when they don't know what to say but they try anyway. I'm too tired and distraught to reach out myself. I can't relate or have any tolerance for their broken nails and bad hair days (and now ruefully remember my own petty complaints) when I don't know what my future will be a month, six months, a year, two years from now will be. It all depends on......well....a lot, much of which is out of my hands, and also at $125 an hour for attorney, rather expensive, so while I refuse to become a jammie wearing couch potato as Spooky Oats fears, when overwhelmed, I do retreat to my brother's room to play my little pointless bubble game.

I wonder why I keep playing this level over and over again and remember that a few days ago, I played another level over and over again and learned a couple of new bubble game skills. I kind of toughened up for the next level and got more hearts in the process. If I run out of hearts, I can spend some of my gold coins to buy another heart, or I can start over the next time I have more hearts, but I worry that I might lose the levels I was on before a flag which signifies that I don't have to go back that way again. I ponder this while my grandmother tells me she won't go to bed until I smile and hands me a mug of cherry jello and demands I eat it and I think it's all about love.

I feel alone much of the time, although I know I'm not. My dad and gran have been hovering so much sometimes I need my bubble time more than ever, and I also have a rich online life, a household routine, some writing too, not to mention the friends who make an effort to see me. Some people from my long ago past have even offered to lend a hand and I know I can count on them but the reaching out part is tricky and ironic considering that's part of the great advice I know how to give, but never seem to gracefully take, but yes, I know I'm loved, and thoroughly.

As one friend put it, I don't think you really really realize how much you ARE loved, and that's probably true because of the blinding numbness of grief. I count on everyone to reach through the fog, as I try to myself and I got an email from a woman who I used to babysit when she was a small child. I remember the little girl when she had gangly knock-knees and she's grown in a beautiful woman and her mom, also a friend, either must have told her what was going on with me or it's just so glaringly evident on my FB wall that anyone in a similar situation would know and now in retrospect, a few friends did say they knew something was much for discretion, never one of my strengths.

She told me her story, which was eerily parallel to mine and then she said, Elaine, I know what you're thinking but don't give up on love. I hadn't said anything to her or her mother but had been thinking it, surely. I've said here and everywhere that my heart is a wide open road but this blow has been nearly fatal and although my husband left me in spirit a long long time ago, the walking away, the finality has come down on me like a ton of bricks and I did say, Oh God...never again. And yet those stupid bubbles kept bothering me as if there was some lesson in them.

If we learn anything from our mistakes, then they aren't mistakes but learning experiences and while there's the chance I can continue over and over again-why, the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, so when I sat on the bed and logged on my computer and opened up another window for some YouTube music, I approached those bubbles in a different way and after a few tries made it to the next level.

Each new level took some time, and often a new outlook, but looking back, I realized that the things I found the hardest to do, I'd become quite adept at and was prepared to face even more challenges, much harder than the ones before and I think back to my friend's email and knew I could never give up on love. Yes, It can be very hard and sometimes seemingly impossible but right or wrong, I'm a fighter--why else would I keep at this level 40 times if I didn't have hope I could finally make it, and why did I fight so hard to repair a ten year marriage--because I'm not a quitter until there's no chance, so I won't give up on it.

Right now, I can't imagine THAT. Well, I can, but only in a 'one day YES but not now' sort or way. When my attorney told me now that I was legally separated I could date, I burst into tears. I know she meant well, but I'm going to need a lot of time with that and I don't do casual anything so there won't be any 'the best way to get over someone is to get under someone' either as two other friends have suggested.

I'm not in any shape to be anything other than me and remain true to myself, so I'm working on healing and accomplishing real life goals as well as moving up in the ranks of Bubble Island and maybe earning another heart for the next level. The best things in life are worth waiting for, fighting for and persevering and even when I've felt totally defeated, I've always known it and thanks to those who love me, are reminded of it everyday.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Value of a Diamond

Although I felt that I was in real danger, I figured I wasn't ready to leave an abusive relationship until I got all my ducks in a row. It was very difficult living the last few months quietly without tipping off any kind of alarms and it took a toll on my health, physically and emotionally. Until today I was unable to eat and was dropping weight so fast my family and close friends were worried I would end up in the hospital. I cried (and still do) at the drop of a hat and just recently I stopped looking over my shoulder with a feeling of dread and hopelessness. Ten years is a long time in today's modern world and I gave it my best shot. In return, I walked out with as many bags of clothing as I could fit in my bag, a few momentos I could quickly and unobstrucively tuck in my pockets, my Wonton, and my jewelry.

It's a funny thing, my relationship with jewelry. With the exception of pearls which are a personal symbol, I don't ever feel like I have to have it. My mother used to love to window shop in jewelry stores and knew all the sales personnel on a first name basis, and I was content just to tag along. On occasion, I would purchase something that struck my fancy; a gold cigar band ring that actually fit me without re-sizing, a pair of dainty pearl earrings with gold puffed heart diamond accents, and another ring that many years later, the style the style of which would be admired and copied everywhere, but I had it first and loved its simplicity. Other pieces I bought and later gave away when I lost interest in them or someone admired them. It didn't matter to me if they were precious metal and genuine stones; if I felt its time with me was done it was as if I had moved along and so they did too.

I have had a real passion for earrings since my ears were pierced when I was 5. A neighbor who had no little girls of his own asked my parents if he could take me and a chaperone (my godmother) to a jewelry store where he would be honored to buy my first pair of earrings and so we went. They were tiny gold fluted hoops and if I look hard enough, I'm pretty sure I still have them. Some jewelry is quite symbolic and I am a sentimental romantic soul and always will be, so those pieces stay with me.

But sometimes things change. I bought a pair of earrings from a friend who makes such lovely pieces that every single thing on her Etsy page looks like a piece of candy to my feasting eyes. It arrived after I left my husband and not having spoken with him since I left, I had no real idea what had become of any of my things and won't until I feel ready to return to retrieve them, but more than anything I'd been expecting in the mail, I wanted those lovely earrings, made with chandelier crystals, silk and Swarovski pearls.

I'd had my eye on them for some time but doubted the wisdom of a purchase especially in light of so many changes in my life and considered it my last little splurge and today, they appeared, with other mail, in a large unmarked box, just as cold and impersonal as the sender himself. I took the envelope to my room and opened it and sighed. They were even more lovely than depicted. I was happy but I burst into tears. They were no longer symbolic of my last treat before I flew the coop. They represented a new life and good things to come.  Even though I still don't think the worst is over, I still can look forward to a brighter more joyful day.

It does, however bring me back to another piece which has meant a great deal to me for well over a decade. I think of my mother and sister's jewelry most of which may not have a great deal of monetarily value, but still know that they who loved jewelry far more than me, would urge me to sell much of it to start a new life and that I will, but this one special piece I purchased for myself and know they would discourage me from doing this.

When I started to model for a designer friend, he helped make a dream come true for me, and the first time I appeared in public, it actually made the local paper with a nice write-up. Not long after that, my mother wanted to go jewelry shopping again and dragged me along and something caught my eye. It was a diamond tennis bracelet and an absolutely decadent splurge and I nearly rejected the impulse to buy it but had a premonition that the man I would soon meet and marry would never buy me a piece of jewelry so I decided then and there to purchase it because I was worth those diamonds and so I did. It is the one thing I wear and never ever take off except to occasionally clean. I wouldn't even consider leaving it to be repaired but would go to a shop that had on-the-spot repairs so I wouldn't be parted from it for long, so attached was I to it.

Sure enough I did meet that man and true to the premonition, he didn't buy me one diamond. I pretended that it never bothered me, even though he, and later, we could certainly afford it but it did. It had become very symbolic of what I meant to him, at least in my eyes, and in time, also proved true. I knew that whatever I asked him for, I was guaranteed not to get for whatever reasons I no longer wish to analyze because I look to the future and not to the past. I never look back.

I have plans next year to travel with Spooky Oats and it's going to be a great adventure. We've been talking about it for a long time now and unless the Universe has something else planned, it's a done deal. All we need is for him to earn the money for his part and to cross an ocean and we'll go anywhere within driving distance our hearts desire. Or not. Maybe we'll just do a lot of hanging out, but something has changed and that's my ability to pay for my share of the road trip so I've been giving it a lot of thought and even a few tears.

One day I looked at the diamonds glittering on my left wrist and realized that the symbolism of the bracelet had changed. It wasn't about me being worth the diamonds anymore. It was about me being worth more than diamonds. Being worth more than a trophy wife. Being worth more than a bird slowly dying in a gold and lonely gilded cage and it wasn't even a decision, really.

Oh no, I wouldn't sell one diamond to pay for legal funds to get rid of a man who never saw fit to buy me one. I'll figure out some other way to pay off my attorney, but I could sell it to fund an adventure with a true friend and confidant, for myself as a reward, and also for him who's doing everything he can to make it happen too. This wealth is on my wrist; his wealth is in things that are of more lasting value and that's how he'll earn his way.

Who knows what will happen. Anything can happen in a year. I have a lot of healing and regrouping to do, and lots of goals. Some are small like a tiny pair of indulgent earrings, and some are huge like a diamond tennis bracelet, but I will accomplish each with with as much grace as I can muster,and failing that, humor.

 When (fingers crossed) Spooky and I do make that trip, my wrist will be bare, but I'll have exchanged what was on it for freedom and a new life and that's the kind of symbolism I like the best.

I'd forgotten that my value is worth far far more than I ever gave myself credit for, and I will never forget that again.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Butterfly and Pearls

When I stood at the altar, the man I loved was standing on one side of me, and my best friend Lizzy was standing on the other side as my maid-of-honor. She'd done far more than the usual call of duty because my mother was dying and it was apparent to everyone that this would be her last event so Lizzy  made it her personal responsibility to make this wedding as beautiful as possible in the three months given, rather than the originally planned year.

She recruited family members to make my gown, organize, make favors for and serve at my bridal shower, and professionally photograph the wedding and during this entire time, she consoled me because I was grieving for a mother who was slipping away by the day, while trying to encourage me to enjoy the upcoming festivities.

On that day, my parents' house was bustling with activity and there were three women in the guest room helping me get dressed while my mother slipped quietly into the master bedroom to dress herself, don her makeup and put on a wig. I had shaved her head a week before on Mother's Day because it had fallen out from chemo. It was such a struggle for her and she was a trooper and came out of the room looking stunning. In her hand she had a gold necklace, with stations of pearls, and slipping it into Lizzy's hand, asked her if she'd like to wear it. Lizzy was honored because my mother had been cool and distant and there was a feeling that she didn't approve of her, although she never voiced it. I think there was some 'not good enough' but I felt Lizzy was 'better than' so nothing was ever said to that end.

My sister, a bridesmaid, walked in and demanded to wear the necklace. She threw a tantrum especially since she was possessive of me and didn't want to share me with any female friend. In her mind, there was room for only one 'sister' and she often referred to Lizzy as 'that cow' whereas Lizzy, one of 12 children, knew there was more than enough love in my heart for many sisters and regarded Lisa as an annoying mosquito which only enraged Lisa, and amused me.

Lisa was born into my love, but Lizzy had more than earned it and my loyalty would not be swayed but this day, I was too distracted to intervene, and my mother was too ill, so Lizzy graciously demurred and said as Elaine's sister, Lisa should wear the necklace. My mother observed quietly and found the simulated duplicate in her jewelry box, which Lizzy wore with pride and my heart was full of love for both people most important in my life that day.

A few harrowing months later, my mother died, and I sat in frozen grief and an overwhelming feeling of being so lost and having lost my direction, my husband, nowhere to be found, when Lizzy arrived bearing food and staying with me and my family, watching me, fussing and feeding and making me feel loved even through that black cloud of emptiness. At one point, I sat down with her on my parents' bed and remembering my mother's wishes, slipped the genuine pearl necklace into her hand. Lizzy knew it was symbolic, that my mother had found her 'better than' and more than acceptable. In the end, my mother loved Lizzy as I did.

Over the years, we were sporadically in touch, always trying to make time, but time having a mind of its own, slipping through our fingers...we didn't see each other as often as we would like. She would always check up on me on the phone and we often missed each other. My love for her was steadfast though, and I referred to her as my 'butterfly best friend.' because she was always in flight, tending to so many in her vast extended family.

One day she called me and heard something different in my voice and insisted I tell her. I burst into tears and told her about problems in my marriage so she began to call me more often and left messages on my voice mail and Facebook, little things only we would understand, but meant she was looking out for me, even when in my pain, I couldn't reach out to her.

Recently, I walked away from that man who I stood beside and I felt more alone than I ever had in my life even though he'd been emotionally absent for many years. No matter who loved or supported me, I had lost myself and was a shadow of the effervescent person I once was and didn't know if I'd ever find her again but my friends, some of whom I hadn't heard from in 20 years began to gather and appear as if sent and then finally, Lizzy.

She demanded to know what had happened and I begged to see her, just to be with her would be healing and she talked to me all night trying to make me laugh and finally when I did, she said, 'THAT'S what I've been waiting to hear for FOUR HOURS!' and made plans to see and also help me move. She knew I'd have emotional support but I needed real action, real physical help and while a few wonderful friends offered and I knew they'd be true to their word, I knew it would be Lizzy who'd take charge of the troops. My spirit was broken but Lizzy said she'd personally see to it that Lainey would be back and because it came from her, who'd been there from the beginning, the little heartbeat of hope that my other best friends restarted, began to strengthen.

Last night, the phone rang while I was sleeping. My cell was in its charger in the kitchen and I didn't hear it, but when I got up in the morning to get dressed to see Catherine, my other true sister/friend, who was driving up to see me and make sure I ate, I checked the phone. There was only a number, no message, and it was Lizzy, and I called her to ask if all was well.

There was so much static on the line, I barely heard her but she assured me she could hear me well and I told her I was just walking out the door and she said,' I wanted to tell you what happened, really quick.'

She said, 'I lost your mom's necklace a while ago and couldn't find it anywhere. My niece, Jillian, just found it last night and held it up to me and said, 'She needs you.'. I said, 'What did you say?' Jillian, who doesn't know me, nor do I know her, said again, 'She needs you.'

My mother who has reached out from the grave, more times than I can count, went to the one person who knew would hear her and listen and it was then that I knew everything would be okay.