Surprise! It’s me again. If you’re wondering to yourself, “Is this bitch crazy?” I chuckle softly in response. “Yes,” I reassure you. “Quite.” As I finished my third letter to you in less than 12 hours, stretched, scratched what itched and relieved what needed relieving, I thought of at least, oh I don’t know, 30 or 40 more things I wanted to tell you. This is no exaggeration and not intended to scare you but is my coming to terms with exactly how much information processing has been going on in my mind while I’ve deconstructed, inspected and analyzed the small portion of my broken reality that I’ve managed to accomplish so far. My therapist did warn me that I would find myself, at some point, with a need to redirect all of the brain juice I once used to script, cast, stage, direct and be the lead the dramatic performance of “The Good Me” every waking second of every day of my life. I mean dayam…I’m starting to understand why despite my self-shaming for it, I’ve allowed myself to zone out into the black hole that is Amazon Prime video for the past week. Having reached a fever pitch level of all this fucking self-awareness and having all of the thoughts and memories and ideas and “Oh shit!” realizations that comes along with that, I was feeling completely overwhelmed by my own damn self last week (or I think it was last week…I have a bit of a blank spot for a few days of it that I haven’t quite managed to piece back together yet).
But whatever it is that I did for the past several days to keep all of these thoughts from driving me down a whole different kind of rabbit hole, I’m no longer self-shaming myself for watching both seasons of Fleabag (loved it, highly recommend it if you have time to watch it) and at least 4 movies, that I can’t even remember the first thing about, in one day because I can see now that it was a much needed escape to the land of numb. Having disconnected once again from my streaming subscriptions and turned off my social media, I can feel the “write or die” pressure building and I’m glad I have this outlet or I would most certainly be lying on my couch right now; absently playing with a rogue chin hair and feeling disgusted with my aging body and increasingly hairy face while watching yet another season of Downton Abbey Abbey (another good one, I love the way Brits do film, don’t you? I recommend the first two or three seasons but after that I think it starts to feel very much like they fired all their Brit writers and replaced them with American soap writers so you end up with these elaborate sets, costuming and camera shots with storylines that leave you shouting “Oh for fuck’s sake!” about every 15 minutes and mourning the sudden unexpected death of the only character you’ve decided makes the series worth watching, leaving you desperately seeking another character for whom you might develop affection in order to justify spending yet another hour in your enactment of the video enamored, and perhaps somewhat smelly, human sloth). That run-on sentence was obviously an admission of my own habits because while my mind is a well conditioned and limber machine of constant action and precision performance, my meat coated skeleton is more of a bone-in rump roast. But meh. Priorities, my friend. Priorities. Because in having to choose between a well conditioned meat sack with a deadened mind or a rump roast body with a full-on-dancefest-raging-while-composing-a-novel-and-painting-a-masterpiece-mind, I will continue to choose the latter every single time.
So, here I am, two paragraphs and entirely too many topic changes into this letter, having not even reached the topic about which I started writing this letter in the first place! smh So getting on with it, I wanted to tell you about my walks on the beach, the seashells I’ve collected and the lessons these shells have taught me as I’ve found them and loved them. My condo is right across the road from the best strip of the beach and it’s a quick walk to the water’s edge. My first few trips over after arriving here, I wandered to a general area, sometimes walked just a short distance and then stood or sat while the sun on the horizon. This was the fullest extent of my expectations for visiting the beach while here – to watch the sunsets, as they have always held a very special meaning for me in helping me survive “one day at a time” through the darkest of days. My sunsets in the earliest days of this very long journey out of the rabbit whole (it’s been almost 10 years since the car accident!) were watched over the Missouri River and I developed a taste for seeing the sun reflect off the water in front of me and, on the best days, the clouds above me. (No surprise, I’ve written about sunsets in the past also and if you’ve interested, you can read it here.) Having vacationed with a couple of my girlfriends to this area this past summer, I knew these sunsets were particularly spectacular and in deciding a place to go for this soul session and writing sabbatical, I immediately knew this was the place to go. Should I be blessed to see another winter, I hope to return again next year because this place, with it’s natural beauty, silence and seclusion in the absence of tourists during the off season and breathtaking sun kissed horizons is and will always be medicine to my soul needs as long as I am still breathing.
This is my shell collection that I’ve built and I’m honestly tickled by each one of the for it’s unique beauty. The large one is as big as my hand and I found it in the waves one morning following a storm. I felt as if I had found a diamond and I still kinda think I did.
In visiting over the summer and planning my return for these winter months, I never once considered hunting for seashells as something that would be enjoyable or in the least bit fulfilling. I’ve recently sold my home and all of my home furnishings; making the hard decisions in letting go of things I never thought I would release as I’ve completed four iterations of halving personal belongings with the goal of eventually being able to fit everything I own in my car. I’ve down to about three carloads now and the idea of collecting seashells after having given away my grandmother’s china and thrown away letters, pictures and yearbooks is simply outrageous, right? Yet here I am happy as a clam (ha ha) with the morbid collection of dead mollusks exoskeletons sitting decoratively on my rented kitchen counter. And either I’ve gone so far down the rabbit hole that I’ve fallen out the other side and things are starting to make sense because I’m wholly and finally delusional or I’ve climbed out, dusted off and found the old world I’ve reentered much easier to decipher having spent so much time in the hole – but either way I’m delighted.
You see, from the first shell I found, I’ve found a meaning in these colorful little deserted “bone” homes. Whether through a product of my long-standing struggle with fatalistic hypochondria or through an accurate sense of my own approaching expiration, I find comfort in these creatures having lived and then died; leaving behind something beautiful from which others can find pleasure, joy and maybe even a diamond here or there. It seems like, as more people succumb to the darkness that is the world today and lose their fundamental belief in a meaningful existence, the outcome ends up being one of two extremes: actively seeking out death or living in a paralyzing fear of it. At this point in my journey, with having had no real true sense of being real in this life that I can remember since I was so young, I feel like a sojourner in this world; a spiritual me, here to reconcile the manifestation of the physical presence of me in this world in a way that is good. With “good,” as you know, carrying a meaning that encompasses much and travels deeply.
Like I shared with you in one of our previous chats, my only sadness in the thought of leaving this life behind me is the knowledge in know that it will bring my children sadness and cause them to mourn my absence from them. I don’t say this with any kind intended arrogance or inflated sense of importance but with what I know now is a genuine reflection of the meaningful, vulnerable, authentic and deeply loving relation I have with them. My mental illness forged the fires that shaped their childhoods and gave them some of their deepest emotional wounds, but that same brokenness gave me a vulnerability that allowed me to connect with them even in the darkest of times in a way that carried us through with a fundamental trust in our unconditional fierce love for each other. My journey of healing has allowed me the opportunity to mend the cracks I gave them with gold spun from the purest place within me; a space within my psyche that was left untouched by the normal callouses of aging into adulthood. A “me” who, as she becomes integrated with the whole of us, has been able supplement my fierce mother’s love with her love and connect with my babies with the openness, trust and joy as that of a 5 year old child; bringing to the healing process a vulnerability I’m certain I could not otherwise contribute. Amy – if this is not a story of finding the brightest of lights hidden in the darkest of corners, then such a story cannot possibly exist.
Just like my many shells of many colors, I have lived in many houses in the many incarnations of me and my children experienced many disruptive moves throughout their childhoods; forced to follow me as I jumped from one “set” to another in my desperate attempt to find what couldn’t be found. While my son caught a reprieve from my madness when I was forced to stop the madness of moving around and stay put for a while at the beginning of his freshman year in high school. My daughter, my oldest, spent her entire childhood being yanked into and out of my created realities, stepfamilies, homes, communities and schools. I don’t want to count to give you a picture but I am certain she changed high schools at least three times; once moving to another state and being left behind to finish her only semester there when that particularly short-lived existence fell through. Can you imagine? I am often in awe of her incredible capacity for forgiveness and loving and accepting me the way she does today. And so very thankful.
Last week, during a long wonderful phone conversation, my daughter told me that she had spent some time online, looking up all of her old homes and peeking into real estate and rental listings to revisit them and spend some time with the memories that she has within each of them. My immediate reaction was a stab of guilt for having given her the fucked up childhood of being moved around so such and for not having any real memories of “my” own to share with her as she reminisced. For a moment, without the shared memories, my sojourner spiritual self felt like a fraud and the old instincts to flee started to kick in but my newfound grooviness swooped in and reminded me to breathe and listen; taking in her memories and asking the others within me to listen along with me. And, while I’m still very new at talking to my alters (because quite honestly, rather than feeling like an exercise in becoming mentally healthy if feels like I’m not just drinking the Kool-Aid, but I’m swimming in it) I’m starting to find that it actually works in helping me pull memories from the parts of myself that were otherwise kept hidden and distributing them throughout; nudging that much closer to the goal of full integration.
This spring, my health allowing, I’m planning to spend two months in Los Angeles in a little studio apartment just a few miles away from my son’s place. Having just sold my hilltop peace sanctuary (single wide trailer) in the Ozarks, I am going to literally be a hillbilly in (North) Hollywood. And with this experience, I will be adding yet another home to my long list of homes I’ve built and abandoned but I no longer carry these homes with me; having adopted a minimalist lifestyle and developed an increasingly keen sense of smell for good deals on the VRBO app. My son is ecstatically happy in his home and no longer carries the broken homes from our dysfunctional past with him and my daughter, following our conversation last week, seems to be approaching a place of reconciliation with the stack of ghost homes she has carried. A few years ago she and her husband of five years purchased their first house in one of the retro-hottest communities in the Kansas City area. Through some extensive remodeling and some impressive decorating and style choices, she has built for herself what I was never able to give her – a beautiful house to call her home with all the senses of comfort, ease and belonging without a fear of having it yanked away at any moment.
So, as I see I’ve rambled on so long in my stream of consciousness in telling you this story, I see these little vacant “houses” sitting on my counter and they don’t weigh me down, because I can give some away as gifts to friends who will appreciate having one and the rest I can deposit back onto the beach; giving someone else a chance to find them and recycling the happiness they have brought to me. I’m glad my children and I have learned to leave our old homes behind as well because, while it really was a hard path in getting here, between the three of us, we’re currently residing in a beachside condo with a view of the gulf coast sunset, a spacious Hollywood apartment with a beautiful view of the sparkling hills at night from the private balcony and a two story three bedroom tudor brick house with a garden and a warm fireplace and space for all of us to come together right smack in the center of us all. While it isn’t the material nature of these homes that brings me joy, their perfection in each redeeming for us (as individuals and as a family) a history so maligned with broken and abandoned homes is just more sparkle in the glitter confetti that has become the only “prop” needed for this part of my journey.
I’m sure I’ll repeat myself on this point over and over but it is a thought that goes through my own thoughts so frequently it’s bound to pop up randomly and frequently in anything that reflects my stream of consciousness. But if nothing else other than the the purpose of reminding myself should I ever forget, I’ll share this message and share it again: as devastating as my fractured existence has been and even with the years of shame, anguish, self-loathing, anger and confusion that has come along with it, I would not change a thing if given a chance. Because over and over, as I’ve navigated my way through to the other side, I can see how everything I hold dear now has been harvested from all that broke me in the past, how if even the smallest of details had been changed my life would be changed in a way that I could not and would not ever want today; knowing what I know now.
And while I can’t go back in time and tell myself to hold on and keep believing that there truly is a reciprocal redemptive light for every wretched darkness, I feel an urgency to shout it out to the world while I still have a voice that can be heard. There simply are not enough voices in this world sharing a message of light. And sadly, many of those in this world who claim to be sharing a message of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” are actually just shitting hate out of the fucking mouths (excuse my language, my thoughts have stirred the more colorful speakers within me), chasing their personal wealth and comfort above and beyond anything and anyone else and supporting abhorrent political and social agendas that completely undermine everything they supposedly stand for…it sickens me and brings out the Stabby One if I dwell too much on or around these people.
Without me having to be too specific, I’m sure you know exactly those of whom I speak. I must work to transform the hate I feel for these people into something more aligned with the light I want to shine because if I’m not careful, the reaction they stir within me threatens to transform me into the same kind of seething hateful creatures they have become and that, my friend, is exactly what the darkness want to do to anyone and everyone who has found or retained their glow in scary time of existence. So I am going to leave my thoughts on these people and their repulsive corruption here as “noted” for now and maybe bring it up in a future letter when I’m feeling less sleep deprived, more gracious and a lot less stabby.
Since I don’t want to succumb to delusions of grandeur in shouting the message I feel boiling up within me, invalidate my personal redemptive experience by tainting it with some weird savior complex resembling evangelical “christianity” or unleash the stabbiness upon those who are spreading the darkness, I will stay cooped up here in my cute little condo; remaining ever so grateful that you are allowing me to find my outlet by “shouting out” to you through (what is becoming obviously clear) a manic outpouring of my stream of consciousness in these online letters. Thank you again.