“Got a pebble. Got a pebble in my hand and I toss it out into the middle of the Rio Grande. But the river keeps comin’. Don’t even know that I’m around. I could throw in a million more and not slow it down.”
Life is like a river. Sounds cliché, I know, but it’s the truth. Maybe that’s why it’s a cliché – because it’s so true that millions can identify with that statement. Rivers never stop moving. There is always a current. It bends this way and that and it carries things all over the world. It washes away banks and can demolish towns – homes – families. It can feed a family, provide valuable water, and the joy of a lazy canoe trip on a hot summer’s day. Just as quickly as it can devastate, or confuse, or rip around – it can be peaceful, serene, and breathtakingly beautiful. One thing is sure: it’s a river, and it’s gonna do what it wants to do.
Life is like a river in all those ways. Breathtakingly beautiful in one moment and devastating the next. It’s unpredictable, out of our control, and frustrating as hell. But – this is the life we get – and we would be smart to see it for what it is.
I know I haven’t written anything substantial for a month or so, and here I am finally writing and I am writing about a river. There have been many times over the past month that I wanted – desperately – to write. I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t even sit down and open my computer. I found any excuse to not write. Binge-watch TV (I watched six seasons of Private Practice in four weeks) or read or sleep… anything except write.
The few times that I did sit down to write, I stared at a blank Microsoft Word page with my hands clasped in my lap.
I eventually noticed this was what I was doing, and naturally went into denial. All the while slipping farther into a deep sadness.
And now, as I sit down to write, I don’t know where to go from that statement or what to say. I don’t come here to report that the deep sadness has, in fact, lifted and that things are peachy. Things are definitely not peachy. One thing has improved – though – I am actually trying to do something about it. That helps. My wonderfully supportive Dave gave me a proper talking to and kind of snapped me out of it.
That’s actually a great story. We had a “come to Jesus” talk. This is what I call talks like that. I suppose I grew up with the term, or perhaps heard my mother toss it around once or twice, but to me it is a phrase that could also be called an intervention or a wake-up call. It’s the kind of conversation wherein someone who loves you tells it like it is. They almost never go well. People are apt to get defensive in those kinds of situations. I was no different when Dave and I had that talk. Sure, he was restrained and quiet and kind. But his words were real words, and they were annoyingly true and I didn’t want to hear it. I found some way to turn it around in my head and find a way to be angry with him. We were still talking when he took out his phone and started writing something a few minutes later. I didn’t know what he was writing, only that it gave me more reason to be annoyed.
After a few minutes, he handed me the notebook without saying a word. To my great surprise, he had written the following quotes from my blog post Pride and Parents:
I am proud of ability to stay on task and dedicate myself to something, and pure talent.
“Honey, if you were going to come home, you would be here already.”
I can push myself harder than I ever thought possible. I am completely in control of my mind, body, and spirit.
I’m brave and compassionate and a good person – I can be damn proud of that.
I stood, tears filling my eyes, and whispered those are my words. He nodded and started to say something else – like how he believed every word of them – but I couldn’t hear him. I was too consumed by two conflicting emotions: extreme irritation at effectively losing my argument because he had used my positive words against me, and overwhelming love and affection for this man for finding a way to ground me in the sweetest way possible.
I guess the truth is that sometimes, when the deep sadness comes round, we fight it at first. We want to think we can accomplish greater things than the blues. One day bleeds into another and our will to fight weakens. We start to think that there’s no way we can do, and that makes us sadder. After that, we just kill time from the moment we wake to the next moment of rest. We withdrawal from our friends and families – and especially our loved ones. We don’t really think there’s a point to any of it anyway, but we are content to just settle for whatever is.
Apathy is a dangerous thing to live and an even more frustrating thing for a partner to see. In my case, there were a million solutions that felt just out of my reach. The only thing I could do – and can do – is do something. Anything. Anything for the sake of doing it, even if I don’t want to.
So, ever since our talk, I’ve tried to wake up and shake off the nightmares rather than succumb to how they make me feel. I found a support group for women, and I am attending this coming Wednesday. I’m rather nervous, but I think it will help me. I interviewed for a volunteer position at the local crisis center. Once my forty hours of training is complete, I will be trained to counsel abuse victims on their options, attend court with them as an advocate, respond to emergency calls from the hospital for rape victims, assist in education and outreach, and beyond. I am so excited – for something amazing to come from this horrible thing that happened to me.
And, you know, it did happen to me. That’s the tricky thing about abuse victims – they want to say that part of it was their fault. Here’s the truth about abuse: it’s NEVER your fault. Never. It doesn’t matter that there were warning signs in the years leading up to the “bad stuff”. Want to know why? Because it’s all bad. From day one moving onward – it’s bad and it just gets worse. Who can deserve that four months into a relationship? And how? Why? It wasn’t my fault.
I probably could have left, or maybe been more honest with myself, but who am I kidding? I was a lost and struggling nineteen year old girl, far away from her parents and lonely. Desperately lonely. In pain from whatever life had already served up. The idea of breaking up was ideal sometimes, but something as simple as the hassle of separating our cell phone bills would keep me in the relationship. How asinine is that? A cell phone contract. I would have been better off in a ditch, let alone with a cell phone.
So, then, knowing some of that then, isn’t it my fault? Well, I don’t think so. After all, is the punishment for loneliness a broken spirit?
I make the biggest mistake I have ever made in my entire life and marry the guy. Don’t know what I was thinking. If I could, I would take it all back. I used to be “reasonable” and say that I learned something from it. But, the reality is, I deeply regret it. The benefit simply does not outweigh the cost.
I had to sacrifice the only “first wedding” I will ever have for him. I spent four long years dealing with him. By choice, yes, but I didn’t deserve what he gave me. Even though I chose to stay, that doesn’t make it my fault. It makes it a terribly sad story. Truly heartbreaking. He snuffed the light out, and I’m in a dark room and I just want to find a match. Just a little light, that’s all I need.
What did I learn that is worth all of that? How to be a wife? Well, I have a feeling I would have been an even better one with a better man. Maybe not, but I’ll never know. He could have been a better man, if he tried. He didn’t even try. That makes the story even more tragic. A sociopath would have been better than a man who just couldn’t bring himself to love someone who loved him unconditionally.
So yeah, I didn’t deserve it. I may have been moody on my period, or lied once or twice, or a bitch when he just couldn’t leave well enough alone, but I’d really like to know what I did to him to deserve that. What can anyone really do that deserves that kind of response?
So, sure, I’ve got a deep sadness. I’ve got a broken spirit and a broken sense of self-worth. No light some days. This is how I feel on my worst days. About as negative as you can get. That moment when – sitting in a bar with an old friend – you start to cry. It’s been wave after wave of disturbing realizations and sadness. I tried, at first, to manage it. Then I just felt overwhelmed. Soon I felt that I was standing still and life was moving around me at warp speed. Dave noticed, and after about a week, told me to know it off (in much nicer words, naturally). I realized that he represents a great source of good in my life. I couldn’t let what happened to me to ruin something so beautiful. He got the wedding, the sham of a marriage, the wife, the sex, the patience, the kindness, and the everything else – but he couldn’t have Dave.
So, I’ve been taking it one day at a time. First I met with the crisis center, I applied for some more jobs, picked up some shifts at work, started classes, and decided to make a visit back home in June. I found the support group and have been trying to actively think more positively. Sure, I still binge-watch TV sometimes, but I try to find a reason to feel better every day. The sadness is waiting in the wings, but I am trying to keep it at bay. Hopefully, soon, it will get bored and wander off.
I tell all these things because I know I can’t be the only one feeling terribly stuck. Feeling lost and confused and frustrated about all of it because you know better. This is what I have done. This is how I have felt and I am trying to move away from it. Although I always realized that this was a temporary sadness, I was at the end of my rope. I felt I had no tools to make this work. I forgot the part where I had to just keep pushing. You have to just keep pushing until you break free.
I don’t care if it hurts or that you don’t think you’re strong enough. You are. You have to be. You have no other options at the end of the rope. Once you get to the end, you don’t just drop off the face of the earth. You go back the way you came. Or, you swing on the rope until you gain enough momentum to reach the platform. You call for help, you use magic to make more rope. You fashion a damn hammock out of the rope (mid-air, yes) to lay in and think for a while. But no matter what – you try. You always have to try.
I say you, but you must know that I am mostly talking to myself. Perhaps I just like to preach, because I always phrase messages for the reader, but this is my message to myself. To promise myself that I’ll just keep trying. I can be a lot of things in life, but I can’t stand a quitter. Besides, there’s no room for quitters on a river.