Vulnerability isn’t something most people find comforting. It’s almost always conflated with some form of weakness – the whole, “Life is hard, so deal with it” mentality.
Not until I started therapy did I realize the importance of being vulnerable. To be vulnerable is to be authentic – my full, honest self.
What I’m still getting used to is the fallout from being authentic; sometimes, I’ll get hurt. And that’s okay, as long as I’m authentic. Bruised feelings are indeed part of life. But as long as I let the sting of a botched conversation, a misplaced phrase, an awkward moment subside – laugh it off, remind myself that it’s okay to fuck up – it won’t morph into something unbearable.
This year hasn’t been easy. Starting over is hard. Divorce is harder.
I’ve had to do a lot of thinking, and deep dives into myself. I’ve purposefully stayed away from people because I just can’t handle a lot right now. But I’m gradually opening myself back up – not because I feel guilty, but because it’s time.
Divorce has made me question a lot about myself – where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, and how I’ve become the person I am right now.
So I mapped out some of the most painful parts of my journey, mostly because I had to get them out, turn them into a collective literary punching bag that I can acknowledge – from which I can move on.
I’m a small-town Alabama kid
Because I dropped my accent years ago
To be taken seriously,
To be learned;
Forcing myself into a new, clipped
To subvert all the things that made me
In voice and expression,
Because of listening to puppets chanting
“You don’t belong here,”
“You’re not worth the time” –
That “you’ve fallen through the cracks” –
And that no one is sorry,
Because now, every time someone says,
“You don’t sound like you’re from there,”
A part of me crumbles.
The pain takes me back to
Elementary school where I sit out of PE
To go to Speech Therapy,
Where I learn about Sally and the Seashore
And all the damn shells
That I can’t pronounce
Without making my therapist
And sigh –
So she makes me do it all over again
While handing me worksheets of cows with hard “C”’s
And snakes with slimy “S”’s,
Expecting that I can “just get by”
If I really try.
So I’m an impostor in my own skin,
My own mouth,
My own mind; nothing is really real.
And so I drift
Believing that I’m not smart enough
That I can’t understand
That I’m lazy and inactive
And that’s why I’m not growing –
So I eat and eat and eat Boost bars
In the hopes that my height will change,
My voice will deepen;
I’ll no longer be all the names the other kids call me.
And then I walk into the house one day
And find Mom-Mau, my friend, my confidant
Handprints smeared across the wall,
A pool of blood by her head,
And the slightest moan –
Me screaming to Dad
And the ambulance sirens
And the quiet stillness of being alone with the blood,
The metallic odor crippling me
As I push our skittering dog away from the bathroom door to
Close myself in with it –
To rinse and wipe and absorb the moments of impact from the tile,
To feel her pain –
And watch, weeks later, her become a shell
Talking about people who aren’t there –
The lizards running around the floor,
Her eyes glazing, taking her somewhere else;
Watching her in the final hours reaching toward the ceiling
And saying, “I love you” in a moment of lucidity
Before disappearing forever –
And I go home and wind her music box,
Sobbing as the music chimes
Somewhere…over the rainbow.
I’m never the same –
Knowing the truth and doing everything to deny it, and
Cutting deep when the mental maelstrom becomes too much
Or purging and binging and not eating –
And sitting down with a chilled bottle of vodka
Vials of anti-depressants,
And reaching for them both, the weight of the finality
Bearing my hands down – pushing the concoctions away, locking them in a cabinet,
As I, defeated, sigh, “Not today.”
Working out to fit into a mold that doesn’t want me,
And finally whispering the truth to myself in a dark apartment
Echoing through my mind like a bullet through my brain –
And telling my family
All gathered around the long dining room table
Staring hard into the wood, hoping this self-truth will
Make itself known without me saying it,
But speaking it nonetheless
And dealing with the silence,
It ends a life, and starts a new one.
Drunk at a party in college,
I flirt with unconsciousness
When a foreign hand goes down my pants
And men mutter in the hazy background
About what I got,
The coldness and thoroughness of the search
And my dazed attempts to stop it,
That it’s not funny anymore
That my body doesn’t feel like my own.
Creating a chosen family,
And fighting together
Meeting a man when I thought I never would,
And setting out on an amazing journey,
Taking us both away from so much of what we’ve known as
But where we’re told we’re less than – to a place
Where we say, “I do,” always and forever,
Not knowing forever’s boundaries.
And bonding and loving and building a life
And arguing like all couples,
Until we can’t do it anymore
And our ride together ends –
But what a ride it’s been.
Picking up the pieces
In a different place –
A strange time in life
To be on my own again
Watching each day unfold
And appreciating the little things
That make a day worth enjoying,
Worth waking up for