I. Resurfacing with Two Home Depot Anecdotes Illustrative of How My Life Was Going When You Weren’t Hearing From Me plus a Redemptive Story Concerning a Real Estate Agent
I’ve been away. I suppose you noticed, say, three-and-a-half years ago when I dropped my last blog which, upon a quick re-read, more or less laid out the conditions of a marriage that would never work though it could improve. But, no one meant for it to stay better, so it didn’t. We parted ways awkwardly and in a baffling grand finale in October 2018 that sent me into the darkest fifteen months of my life next to the last eight months of my drinking and the first seven months of my sobriety.
Pointless. Worthless. Scared shitless. This was my third time trying to survive a divorce including my parents’. How many families can one person lose before they go insane? How long can one person sustain performative normality while their fight-flight-and-freeze survival instincts have been on already for twenty-five years? Would I be able to stop myself from driving off the Howard Frankland bridge or would I crack and sail overboard one day, my flight instinct finally overriding my system?
During this time, I almost got in a fist fight with some dude in the Home Depot parking lot because I laid on the horn when he almost backed into me. In hindsight, I believe we were both fed up with the whole of life and were thrilled with the opportunity to take it out on someone. I confess that I decided for the one and hopefully only time in my life, as he was trying to run me off the road on Tyrone Boulevard while screaming ‘fuck you, fuck you, fuck you’, that I would kill him if it came to a face-to-face confrontation. I reached this decision calmly, which is how I also knew that I’d reached a level of self-awareness that would prohibit me from ever engaging with another inappropriate person in a terrible relationship.
During this time, I also got $40 for the pair of socks on my feet–also in the Home Depot parking lot. FORTY DOLLARS.
FOR THE SOCKS ON MY FEET.
Look, beloveds–I can’t explain to you how off-the-rails this time period was except to tell you that a perfectly normal-looking woman approached me as I was walking to my car with paint samples and Hambone. “I have to ask you something that sounds weird. Will you sell me your socks for $40?,” she says. No one was filming us from behind a car. No one was bum rushing me with a cue ball in a tube sock to brain me then steal my purse and dog. It was just a woman. I’d bought these socks five years prior at Play It Again Sports. They were yellow softball socks. Nothing special. I pulled my right foot out of my muck boot to show her the giant hole put there by Hambone. She made a phone call. “We’ll still take them,” she said.
I thought, well, hell’s bells, what do I have left to lose here? I’m either the asshole who sells her socks to a stranger in the Home Depot parking lot or I’m the asshole who doesn’t. And I was broke as hell then trying to sell a house with a mortgage on it while paying on the mortgage for my new house–a purchase that explains why I was always at Home Depot. Forty bucks is forty bucks. I took off my boots, pulled off my socks, handed them over, got $40 cash, and went home.
In the car, I said, “God, what the fuck is exactly going on here?” Then I laughed hysterically clutching two folded twenties because I couldn’t have made up a scene that weird for television. *And also, if she’s buying them for $40 … what is she selling them for? And to whom?*
During this time, I shouldered the grief of a child. That’s what was happening to me, after all. I’d staked my entire claim on one last shot at a happy family, and when it fell out from under my feet, I had to face the pain of all the other losses. I have a small couch in my office. There was a stretch of months where I would just wake up on it during the workday, my grief forcing me down down until it put me to sleep without my permission. From January t0 March 2019, I don’t remember much. Literally long stretches of time I don’t remember. I know I watched the entire series The Americans somewhere in there. I kept everybody fed. I didn’t take any time off work. I didn’t miss any deadlines. I showed up to rehearsals and performed in cabaret shows.
Outside of my mom, the people I thought should or would be there for me weren’t. I got a lot of radio silence from friends and family. I also got a lot of
I’m so sorry to hear about the divorce. But would you mind critiquing my poem? Writing this TV show for me? Listening to me talk about my awful partner/boss/coworker/life situation because I need some support?
Oh, I just went through a break-up, too!
People laughing about it. Which was the strangest of all the reactions, like folks expected me to turn it into an impromptu stand-up routine: “He was like, no you get out! Then I was like No, YOU get out!” [pause for laughter] “I’ll be here all week, folks.”
Most of the packing and move I did alone or with the help of my one girlfriend with a pick up truck. I sold the marriage house alone. I packed it up by myself, cleaned it, staged it, and hauled out everything left in the yards. I bought my new house alone. The cosmetic rehabbing of the new house I did alone. I pulled up carpet. I rolled up cat-pee-stained carpet pads and hauled them to the curb. I learned that you *can* get years of cat-pee-and-possibly-human-pee stained subfloor clean using multiple applications of Nature’s Miracle. Try it–you won’t be disappointed.
I painted the rooms by myself except for one afternoon when a friend came over to roll while I cut. I painted art on the walls. I moved furniture alone. I painted the garage door, the shutters, the fascia under the entryway. I most likely sacrificed 4-7 years of my life inhaling Lime Away to clean all the bathroom grout. My girlfriend with the pick up truck showed up one weekend to help me demolish the roof from the collapsed gazebo in the backyard and cut and haul out about 300 pounds of jasmine vine. I rented a dumpster and filled it with the crap the previous owners left in the backyard including two partially full five-gallon buckets of liquified cow manure–which I discovered by accident in 85-degree heat.
Then I had some very unexpected people show up in meaningful ways. Like my real estate agent. He’d been around to help us buy the marriage house, so when I called him to help me sell it, I could see in his eyes that he felt the hurt I was in. He didn’t pity me, but his compassion for my situation was real. I was fucked up, and he knew it. He took it on himself to find me a house that would make me happy. That meant a lot; I’ll tell you that. In the end, he hooked me up with the house I’m in now–10 minutes from the beach, a rental that definitely needed lots of TLC but nothing major, and he had my back when it came time to get the good floors installed. He arrived weeks after closing, toolbox in hand, to fix the leaks at the washer/dryer hookups. He fixed the broken microwave fan. He stopped by for a visit with a pack of elaborate recessed lightbulbs for the kitchen and installed my ceiling spider light while he was at it.
Now, when I’m telling you I was fucked up–I was call-the-hotline fucked up. And I really needed my real estate agent showing up and installing the ceiling spider light for no other reason than he wanted me to have one less thing to do because somehow that proved that somebody physically present in my life cared about what happened to me. Those little gestures go a long way for somebody who was fucked up like I was fucked up in pretty much all of 2019.
II. The Recurring Nightmare about Being Lost on a Subway and the Introduction of a New Nightmare Involving Houses Made Partially of Blood
So I mentioned in a previous blog about the dream I had my junior year in college where The Cross appeared (I am Southern; the cross appears to us often) with the words STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF; THIS IS YOUR TEST. It was my dream, so I feel certain the semicolon happened. I woke knowing this message was the point of my life. Believing myself to be independent with a gross disproportion of above average intelligence, such a simple task–be true to yourself–seemed like a cinch. Watch me crush this.
However, twenty-five years after receiving the telegraph, I’m here to tell you I have failed stupendously almost every time I’ve been given the choice between doing what I knew to be right for myself or doing what I thought would be appropriate in the eyes and rule of others. Three times I passed with flying colors: 1) moving to D.C. after college 2) moving to Florida in 2011 and 3) maybe there were only the two times because now I can’t remember what number three was.
Anyway, it turns out this shit really is my test.
After D.C., whenever my life’s journey took me into a shadowy place, I’d dream of being somewhere–maybe China, maybe New York City, maybe an overseas airport–lost on the subway system, unable to understand the map, sometimes unable to speak the language, revolving through turnstiles, shouted at for doing something wrong, stepping on a train out of desperation only to discover I’d chosen the one headed where I didn’t want to go. This dream picked up steam in my first marriage, sank into the mud of my subconscious for several years, then roared back into my dream life when I was getting sober in 2007. I bought my first house on my own shortly thereafter–again, at the suggestion of others and against my deep desire to never be a homeowner again–which is when I started to have the Nightmare House dream.
In this dream, I’d either be looking at houses to buy or I’d be living in the house with Husband One. Everything’d be fine then suddenly I’d feel the presence of unspeakable evil lurking in the bones of the house. I mean pure, unadulterated malice. This presence traveled inside the wall, following me from room to room. Sometimes I would turn to tell my husband we had to run, to sell, to live anywhere else only to discover he’d left the house to go to work. Knowing I was alone, the presence would start to take a physical form; I could feel it becoming whole in the attic–I was usually at the bottom of the stairs at this point–and I knew I only had a matter of seconds before this thing appeared at the top of the stairs. You know how this goes. Just at this moment, I lose the ability to move. Every step is like slogging through a tar pit. All I know is that I have to get out of the house before I look upon the thing’s face. If I see it–and it sees me–then Evil and I would know each other’s names. At that point, it could claim me. As of this writing, I have always made it out the front door in the nick of time.
After this second divorce–which, mind you, was not a “break up” but the detonation of the last infant hope I held that I would ever experience the safety found in a family of my very own–and after I was tucked away in my new special house by my awesome real estate agent, I started having the Lost on the Subway dream again, this time accompanied many nights by a new dream: the Blood House dream.
In this dream, I was always looking at houses to buy. I would find a great house, usually a funky old number in an established neighborhood. I’d tour the rooms realizing hey, this might be the one then I’d look up to notice the walls were made of blood. Sometimes the blood ran down the walls like the water feature in a membership spa waiting room. Other times, blood–not wood and drywall–made the wall itself. Literally a blood wall. Taken aback, I’d peek in the next room: blood walls there, too. By the time I turned to leave, whole sections of the house would be made of blood. And not solid blood, but coursing blood.
For those of you who know me, you know when I’m working something out I’m on it like dog on a bone which goes for my subconscious, too. I was having this dream almost every night for months on end. What was I trying to tell myself?
If you’ve glanced into Carl Jung’s dream interpretations, then you knew back when I was recounting the Nightmare House dream that I had trouble in my soul. Jung determined the house symbolized a person’s spiritual condition. Throw the manifestation of malice into physical form happening in your soul’s attic, and that’s probably something you should take a look at. Then, I’m in strange places–lost and trying to find my way. Finally, bloody walls when I’m emotionally and psychologically blown to smithereens and circling the drain around old and new family trauma?
I believe many if not most of us go through periods of life where so much of everything you didn’t want to have happen to you does–and there you are, all alone, wondering if you mean anything at all. I was at such a point, friends, and I’ve been at this crossroads before–enough times to know all my roads would always lead me here if I didn’t stab straight through the thing in me that made me get married again even though I knew I didn’t want to, knew it wasn’t best for me, and knew I could never stop myself from the mysterious allure of jobless boy men living off their parents and chasing fantasies of exceptionalism. Why could I not say no?
Because, at the end of the day, it was my house with the trouble inside. It was my living blood–my blood family–revealed as the walls of my soul.
Beloveds, I returned to the message: stay true to yourself; this is your test.
I sat. I got quiet. I started building stuff. I quit the cabaret. I dropped every relationship that held the soft stink of codependency, even ones I enjoyed. I taught myself to repair plumbing. I went back to AA. I started writing for myself again. I built my physical strength. I re-centered my life around the Wild One who loves me, who wants me; She is the only one I understand.
This work was necessary because I had to come to terms with the evil in the bones of the house. I needed a little prep time to remember who I was. I had to do the thing I avoided at the moment of impact: I had to take my heart in my hands and go back in my memory to the events surrounding the fallout and aftermath of my first family detonating. I had to stand at the portraits of our nuclear shadows–my mom, my dad, my brothers, and me–and say out loud in that abandoned space: “I got really hurt here. This hurt me. I have been carrying this hurt because I didn’t know what else to do with it. This pain helped me become almost indestructible. But it also prevented me from doing the things I needed to do to learn how to love and care for myself in the world.” There, I said it. I let myself feel humiliated at the depth of my feelings and just accepted that I feel a lot of shame about the fact that other people could hurt me. I let the monster in the attic get a long, hard look at me, then I left that place.
III. I Find Love Again
A funny thing happened in the midst of this icky emotional reckoning, around the time I was ending relationships and busy turning my heart into stone.
A neighbor sent a text message asking me if I had any friends who could re-home a rabbit. Her grown niece had gotten it for her daughters, but they were teens now and didn’t want to take care of it. Did I know anyone?
“Do you have a pic?” I texted back. As soon as I hit send, a little voice in me said you’re adopting this rabbit. I thought, no way. I have three cats, a dog, and a snake. I know nothing about rabbits. I don’t want a rabbit. I’ve never wanted a rabbit. What do you even do with a rabbit?
The pic came back. I posted it to Facebook asking for a home. No interest.
“Can I go look at him,” I texted my neighbor. Her niece lives three doors down from me. That Thursday night, I stood in their living room with my dog Hambone looking at a tiny, brown fuzzball with lop ears and perfectly round eyes. This is your rabbit, the voice said. Well, okay, then. “I’ll be back to get him on Saturday at noon,” I said.
“Well, fuck, Hambone,” I said as we waked back home. “I guess we’re getting a rabbit.”
I watched a lot of videos, read a lot of articles, and that Saturday Geoffrey Bunson came to live at my house for good. Let me just tell you that I did not know I needed a rabbit. But the Wild One who loves me did. That adorable, furry little fucker stood on his hind legs right in front of me and started stroking and nibbling his long, saggy ears like a cartoon. He hopped around. He made chirpy happy noises when I gave him a raisin. My heart exploded, transforming me instantly into a crazy bunny lady (just scroll my feeds). I built him a huge open-air hutch for the living room that is probably half the size of my freshman dorm room. I would take a bullet for this rabbit. If terrorists abducted him, I would hunt them down to the ends of the earth and make them bleed after securing Geoffrey in a warm, cozy shelter full of banana chips. I don’t even recognize myself anymore I am so in love with this bun bun.
But, as they say, love arrives when you least expect it. And lots of times it doesn’t look at all like you anticipated.
IV. Conclusion; or, Lessons Learned
I can’t say I enjoyed the personal, spiritual crucible that was 2013-2019. I can’t say that at all. But I can say I am relieved to be here, right now, with you, concluding it in writing. All’s well that end’s well, I suppose.
I do hope this long confessional inspires me to return to blogging about more hilarious episodes involving the miracles that happen when I stay true to myself. I penned this epistle to etch the lesson onto the tablet of my heart: STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF; THIS IS YOUR TEST.
If you stayed with me until the end, I thank you. If you gave up in the dream section and skipped ahead and are just reading this part, I thank you for that, too.
night, night beloveds. I hope you stay true to yourselves, too.