Monday, June 14, 2010

If You Lived Here, You'd Be Dead Now

The babies lay sprawled on the ottoman as I go back and forth between them, kissing their bellies, trying to elicit laughter. Bronwyn's buying what I'm selling but Brody is having none of it. Big, liquid eyes full of confusion gaze up at me. "What the fuck are you doing, ma?" I can almost hear the words coming out of his mouth. I have no idea.

Todd comes in from his cigarette with a goofy smile. "Haaaappyyyy Birthday" he sing-songs and I'm a little thrown. Holy shit, it's my birthday and I didn't remember. I mean, I knew it was coming for days because people saw fit to remind me of it by way of Starbucks gift cards, wine, and sweet, sweet cold hard cash. But it's like I don't care at all about it. I'm 35. I am a year older than my big sister. I've got diapers to change, mouths to feed, wash to fold, and a dress rehearsal to attend where I will witness my daughter perform a rousing tap dance to the tune of "Hounddog". I'm going through the motions of my life, the way I have for the past 35 years. Trust me when I tell you that merely participating in my life is not the same thing as joyfully living it.

Lately, I've been doing strange things to my fingernails and toenails. I'm not biting or grooming my nails, I'm like attacking them systematically. It started out as nervous picking at the base and has now graduated to active and purposeful infliction of injury. This is my fucking spare time project. I even have tools for this activity. My thumbs in particular are raw and bleeding. And my toes are so bad that it's painful to walk.

I have a familiar feeling bubbling up again: revulsion. The desire to crawl out of my own skin. I am a snake shedding an old, scaly coat. A skinned rabbit hanging from a tree.

Am I unhappy? Decidedly not. I've said on this blog quite sincerely that my mind is amazingly empty of negative, depressive or suicidal thoughts. But that's just it - my mind is amazingly empty. There is a vapid numbness to my thought processes. I'm devoid of humor - even that dark and vicious humor that sustained me all those years in that virtual hell of my own making. The absence of sadness is not the same thing as being happy. It's like the way you're so grateful for the numbness that novacaine brings to avoid unspeakable agony, but when that numbness lingers and lingers and lingers - well that...that's just a different kind of pain.

Last year at this time, I was sinking into quicksands of madness and despair. When insanity knocked, I answered the door. I invited him in for coffee. And then I hit him over the head with a vase and stole his identity. It's easier to say, "I'm crazy" than to take responsibility for my failures as a human being, to admit that my 35 years have been a series of mistakes and wrong turns and, mostly, of standing still. When you look in the mirror and still don't know who you are looking at and you haven't the foggiest idea of what you believe in, throwing on a cloak of crazy can be pretty appealing. The problem is that once you do that, once you try that thing on and like how it fits you have to really commit. It's a cause you have to be willing to die for.

I'm not saying it's always a choice. But to a certain extent, for people like me, it is. Once I have the tools to combat irrational thoughts and ridiculous feelings, I can choose to use those tools or I can put them away and pretend that they don't exist. I can wallow in the perpetual grief I experience for the loss of my sister. I can feel sorry for myself that I had to sacrifice my breasts for a life I'm not even sure that I want to live. I can be angry for losing my childhood and young adulthood to a cult, a belief system that tortured and controlled me. Or I can try to feel...something else. Maybe it's merely a delusion that there are other options for someone like me, a person so very paralyzed by fear and possibility that I build a wall all around me and then despair that I am lonely.

I think back to last year and I realize that my desire to die was very real. I reached a crossroads and pretended to make a choice. I said, "Gwen, either you will go into that wall at full speed or you will embrace life." What better way to embrace life then to have a baby? But put in that perspective those choices became one and the same. For me, I think that having a baby was just a very clever way to die. What is more life murdering than this - this thing that I am doing here? All day long, a zombie performing rote tasks in the service of others. Two babies and a toddler- a perfect excuse for getting out of doing anything real at all. I am a ghost of a person, a skinned corpse hanging on a meat hook in an industrial freezer. It's sad, really, because I know that something living once hummed inside of me, this huddled wraith who doesn't even bother to crouch in dark corners. But that little heartbeat is gone now, a distant thud. There is only the shell, a person all hollowed out and sleep deprived. I love my children with all my heart - blue eyed, smile faced cherubs - but they have killed me., I did that. That's the thing with suicide. You have to do it yourself.