“I crossed the street to walk in the sunshine.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
This one is for Lee, whom if ever I was going to call someone to come get me off the bathroom floor - it would be you. Because you're You.
It was Lee who came up with the idea that the three of us would each take a section of Elizabeth Gilbert's book Eat, Pray, Love. Cynthia had already gotten Pray & that left a toss up between the 2 of us for the remaining sections.
I attempted to pass the buck by graciously offering Lee the chance to pick first so that I'd take whatever section was left over.
She "graciously" declined to pick for me. What a pal! Only a Bestie will catch the ball & pass it right back at you when you're too chicken to take the shot & slam dunk it.
(I'll admit right now, when I claimed Eat as my section, I'd forgotten that EAT came before PRAY & LOVE. That means that I have to go first. First means Now before the other sections can be done & posted. )
In re-reading EPL (thank you Goodwill for my fifty cent copy!) I had been banking on EAT being something that I knew something about. I know how to eat. Everyone alive knows how to eat. Basically you see food, you stick that food in your mouth, chew & swallow. Some of us have to liquefy our food & drink it but the basics are still the same.
So what could possibly be hard about writing about Eat?
But the EAT part of book isn't so much about what Elizabeth was eating during her travels in Italy. It was about what was eating at her, how that whatever it was - was also eating away at her. Devouring her sense of self & being with the voraciousness hunger of the possessed.
Reading about the EAT section has been tough for me. I've been there. I've done that. I've buried & moved on. For me, I've already crossed to the other side of the street. Her pain is something I can relate to. I know what it is to feel so desolate & crazy & disconnected & all the other things that she said.
“Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope”
And it was deep grieving for me. Deep moving swirling cacophony of grief. Deep whirlpools of sucking grief.
To understand the kind of grief I'm talking about let me give the context for which all of this occurred.
In the space of one year I had changed jobs, changed lovers, gotten pregnant, gotten married, moved in & out & back into my childhood family home, went back to former lover, filed for a TRO & a divorce, changed my mind, negotiated the sale of my family home, had my sister & her family move, had my 2 younger sisters also get pregnant & then dealt with my own high risk pregnancy & delivery & then my father became very ill & had to taken to Hawaii for treatment.
Our family left to Hawaii to be with my dad during his final days. I had a house to pack up & people to move & things to take care of. I also had to find a new home for my family as we had been staying at Castle Medical Center while my dad was there.
My husband at the time tried the best he could to be there for me while dealing with his own trauma of being married & a father to his infant son & instant son who were not with him. After finding nearly $3000.00 missing from our joint bank account - we had a huge argument with the gist of it being I was his wife & although that $$$ was mine - it was his because he was my husband, my family should figure this mess out on their own (this was a repetitive whine) & that I need to bring myself & the children home now.
So I booked a flight home w/ our baby because what else was I supposed to do? I said goodbye to my father for the last time in this life. He gave me his blessings, he blessed my son. We said our goodbyes & I left for Samoa enraged that my husband couldn't just behave during this stressful time.
When I got back to Samoa, my husband picked me & our infant son up at the airport. He made love to me tenderly & passionately & dare I say it - gratefully that night. I remember clearly thinking, this is new, this is different. It would be the last time ever in our marriage that he would ever love me.
The next day, I got into my parents car & I went home. Home to the only man that was ever home for me. This is scary to say out loud. I don't really know that I'm ready to see what that means. He opened the door to me & saw my grief & wrapped me in his strong arms & let me listen to the clickclickclick of his heart while I cried.
I can't tell you the rest. It still cuts deep at me. A thousand million bazillion sorries doesn't erase it. It just is what it is. We all move forward.
By then I had lost my sense of direction, I lost my true north on the compass in my soul. I lost my mind, myself, my love. I lost my girlhood & the womanhood that threatened to eat me alive with every breath I inhaled terrified me.
I wanted to leave my husband. I wanted out. I was still desperately in love with someone else.
I had lost my best friend, my confidant, the man who's eyes I borrowed to see myself.
My whole world was crumbling to crumby pieces. I needed him like I needed air. God! Even all these years later - just thinking about that time stirs up deep things in me. My father was dying, would be dead before I saw him again. He was all I could cling to in the dangerous waters of grief. So many things had changed so fast. He was still the same for me. Always always always the same.
My dad died while I was in Samoa sorting out & settling our house & my marriage. We flew back for the funeral. My dad resides at Laie Cemetery. A little bit after the funeral, I returned to Samoa with my baby. My husband had told me don't bother to come back. I went back anyway. Guilt.
Guilt is awful. I'd rather be pissed off any day that be eaten alive by guilt. But I had to try to make it right.
I cried. A lot. I screamed. A lot. I ate food to fill my body. A lot. I remember getting on a scale at the Dr's office at LBJ Tropical Medical Center. It said 308 pounds. I couldn't believe it. Neither could the nurse. The scale might as well have said 508 pounds the way her eyes were threatening to pop out of her skeletal blotchy face.
I wanted out of my marriage. I did not promise to marry him until death do him part - what I said was until I can divorce you. There is a slight difference. I also refused to promise to be faithful till death do us part. What I said was I promise to honor you. Its a slight technicality but one that I like since he's thrown that in my face many times.This mess of a marriage wasn't what I signed on for.
I married him because he wanted me. He kept me safe because he was strong enough to pick up all the pieces of me that someone else shattered. He wanted me - that's what made the difference & because the man I had wanted more than breathing did not want me badly enough to keep me. In all fairness, he also never truly believed I would ever get the strength to leave him.
Surprise. Surprise.Surprise. I not only left him - I thrived without him.
“When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person's body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”
I was desperately crazy in love with someone who wasn't my husband. Have you ever been desperately crazy in love with someone before? It's like being on drugs - hooked on a feeling - hostage to an emotion that slips & slides precariously.
Let me just tell you, death will happen for me before I'll ever EVER ever go that way again.
I wasn't happy. I just wanted out & away. He clung to our marriage like the last life boat leaving the Titanic.
I was in the midst of grieving my lost love, my father, my home, my child who moved away from me, my career ambitions & I thought that if I lost my marriage, my life would come back into focus clearly again.
That was not to happen.
After yet another late afternoon holed up in that dungeon of an office ~ I was tired of finding myself on the bathroom floor of my boss's office crying & sobbing & wishing I could drink a bottle of Clorox. True Story. I am ashamed & relieved to be able to say that out loud. Ashamed because I know what people think about people like me who are so far out in the dark lands that death is a welcome reprieve. Ashamed because I'm one of the strong ones & if I can be brought down so low that drinking a Clorox cocktail is a good thing - what does that mean for everyone else?
“I’m here. I love you. I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay with you. There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me.”
I hated that I was not doing what made me truly happy. I hated that I was watching my husbands star rise on the backbreaking sweat of my work - that in order for him to succeed in our profession he had to do it piggybacking on my trail. His star was rising at the expense of mine & my star was dimming to the point of being extinguished.
I hated that I couldn't even at that point answer a simple question of What Makes You Happy? Even seeing the words Happy on Happy Birthday made me want to vomit & spew chunks of hatefulness at all the bitches who I was sure were plotting deviously behind my back while smiling at my face.
(I'm not paranoid. Time has revealed who my true friends are & who the haters are. Better than all of that, God has worked His miracle on me & showed me to myself. Who knew I could be so beautiful & powerful & delicious? What a gift it was! I no longer need his eyes to see myself.)
Unlike Gilbert's experience in the EAT section where she heard what she could only assume was God talking to her while sobbing on the bathroom floor as her husband slept in the other room, I didn't hear God.
There was no voice of God speaking at me but rather God Himself moved me away from the toilet where I admit I'd contemplated sticking my head in, hitting the ultimate flush button & drowning myself. I would have except for that I was sure the EMT on the scene would be some bitch my then husband had banged who would only be just too happy to see me in such a sad state of being.
Those were dark difficult days. Knowing for certain that if I didn't leave that place & the people & even my husband - that I would surely be dead- worked its magic on me. I had to get out or die. This is literal not figurative speaking. I would be leaving 2 very small children alone in this world with only their ambitious capricious father left to care for them. That's a lie - what their father would do is make one of his girlfriends take care of our children.
I don't mind telling you that I will never ever ever in my breathing life ever allow any one of his girlfriends or flings to ever think about raising my boys. Ever. If they are reading this - know that as I live & breathe you will never ever ever ever x's a bazillion evers raise my boys if anything happens to me.
Getting ready to leave, telling him I'm leaving, pregnant with our youngest child & desperately bitterly ANGRY that not only was my then husband stealing my creative endeavors but also that he felt entitled to it. He expressed himself many times that my intelligence, my thoughts & the writing pieces it produced were his to exploit & disseminate.
I chose him. As default for the love I could not have at the time. I was angry at myself for not choosing wisely. So I ate to quell the angry raging monster in me. And wow! was it an angry raging unforgiving taskmaster that slashed at me if I wasn't diligently attentive to it! If I tried - back in those days - to forgive myself for the mistakes I made, it doubled up on me with more & more crap that I couldn't escape.
(Life did this to me. He did this to me. Its all someone else's fault. I'm not good enough. I don't love enough. I deserve this shit. This is what happens.)
Instead of not eating as Gilbert did during her dark days, I ate everything to satiate the anger in me at the consequences of my choices.
I ate to bury the violence I wanted to do to myself without then recognizing that what I was doing was even more violent to my sense of being. It would've been much kinder to myself to have shouted my anger instead of eat it. It would've been much wiser to realize that I had no one to be more mad at, more angry at, more violent towards than myself.
I recognize fully now that - that's what it was. The consequences of my choices. Life didn't screw me over. God didn't screw me over. I screwed myself up, over & over again until I was just sick & damned tired of being screwed.
I chose this misery. And the moment I learned that I could freely UN-CHOOSE it - I took that moment and ran with my children all the way to Hawaii where the great Pacific Ocean and an International border gave me space from the chaos that threatened to eat me until I was all dead.
“They flank me-Depression on my left, loneliness on my right. They don't need to show their badges. I know these guys very well.
...then they frisk me. They empty my pockets of any joy I had been carrying there. Depression even confiscates my identity;but he always does that.
When I got to Hawaii ( my version of Gilbert's Italy) I began to set aside the things that had been chasing me. I cut off friends who only delivered gossip & bad news to me. I stopped calling people who fed the insanity monster by telling me I could always come back to what I'd left behind. I deleted msgs from everyone outside of my circle of safety.
I had moved from the chaos but somehow its brother Crazy found me & hounded me here. During those first days in the chaos free life - I spent many hours smoking Black Durum's (clove cigarettes) on the back porch of our home in Hauula. I'd put the baby to bed, tuck in my toddler & then make sure my oldest one was asleep. I'd light one up & stare at the stars, talking to God & thinking about corned beef from a can sandwiches mixed with mayonnaise ( only Best Foods will do!) & a bag of Cheetos.
So I ate & fed my anger so that it would shut up. Sometimes it yelled for chocolate ice cream with whipped cream & double fudge brownie crumbled on top with walnuts. Sometimes it begged for Sour Dough Jacks & bacon potato cheddar wedges. I am not ashamed to say I had many midnight runs to drive thru's only to eat my purchases greedily in a dark Safeway parking lot.
I gained 60+ pounds during this time. I was really pissed off to find myself separated with three small children on welfare while my estranged husband was busy fucking his way through my former friends & current enemies. This was not the way I had envisioned my script running.
This was also the time that I started turning into a clingyneedywhineybabybitch who spoke the words of reconciliation with the husband I'd abandoned but made no concrete effort to follow thru. I would call him many times a day & tell him I loved him so that I could feel human. He told me he hated me.
I told him I would move home with the children many times until one day, he decided he was tired of hearing my lies. He stopped taking my calls & I stopped calling him. In retrospect, I don't know how he could stand me during those yo yo years. It's true.
I've learned now that not everything is his fault. A good portion - most likely half - of all the mess is mine.
Whatever. It happens. And while its happening to you, the only thing you can focus on is eat it away, eat it calm, eat it to forget it.
Moving to Hawaii was only geography. As I learned over the span of the next 3 years - the anger I'd eaten myself numb from had yet to be dragged out into the light of day & seen for what it was... regret, grief, disappointment all based on false assumptions & mostly just a lot of anger.It took he & I five years to get to the point of getting divorced. It then took another year or two to actually process paperwork to be divorced. He filed on me to get his freedom from me because he was tired of living alone. (The truth would be he was tired of telling people he wasn't married when legally he was) He wanted to start his life over with someone else who wasn't me. The night he called to tell me he was ready to make a break from me was a tough one. We spent 2 long hours talking & surprisingly - laughing about the bad times that had gone on before. It was good & it was time for me to let it go.
Ironically enough our divorce was finalized 8 years to the day that we got married: Valentines Day. Could it have been any better than that?
“Tis' better to live your own life imperfectly than to imitate someone else's perfectly.”
No one else had or has the right to my life. I have the right to my life. It is mine until the moment God calls me back home. Until that moment - no one has the right to make me live my life for them, through them, about them.
And then the light went on in my head. I make my life what it is. If I want it different - I'm the only one who can make it different for me. I can learn to see myself - the absolute best of myself- without having to borrow his eyes to see me. I can - like Gilbert says she learned in Italy cross the street to the other side.
When I got to the other side of the street - I inhaled the sweet sunshine in to my soul & smiled. This goodness? This is only the beginning & it just keeps on keeping on getting better!
With love & deliciousness sun on this side of the street~