My poor dog. Everytime the last few days I’ve taken her out for a walk or let her out back, she’d had to effectively try to learn to ice skate or swim. The remaining snow here — which is of course, everywhere, since no one in Seattle owns a shovel — is so hard, and she weighs so little that when she walks on it, she either slides right over, or her little feet fall in an inch or so, leaving her stuck. Her other option is to try and swim in the huge pools of melting snow which are the other half of the landscape right now.
She also did not get our annual ritual of an early yule morning walk, something we both (well, I can only assume) have enjoyed in the past here. Ballard is total Goyville, so pretty much everyone else is in their homes celebrating Christmas, which leaves our usually bustling neighborhood beautifully silent and empty. But it decided to rain here much of yesterday, so all she got was a round of toy-wrestling in the living room followed by the daily ear-cleaning she despises.
I’ve been fairly lazy here the last few days, only working half-days, and spending the rest of my day in the tub, reading, cleaning the closet, writing for myself, and starting to go through some photos.
When I was at my mother’s earlier this month, we sat with a big box of some of my childhood art and schoolwork, some of which is completely hilarious, so I have a bunch of those shots to edit. I also left home with a handful of photos, mostly from childhood, and some slides (most of what we have from my childhood is on slides, because that’s the age I am). I say some of which because looking at things like an earnest will written at the age of 12, not long before my first suicide attempt, is not hilarious. Suffice it to say, things like that are not going to be making it into the archives.
When I was looking at those photos, there was a whole lot of bittersweet that started happening, and then some outright meltdown, some of which has continued since. Most of what that comes down to is that I actually had a pretty good childhood, despite a lot of tumult (some of which I didn’t really know about until later in my life), and when I see photos of myself as a kid, I’m looking at a kid I really like. But I’m also looking at a kid whose childhood came to a crashing halt due to a confluence of events — my mother’s second marriage and the nightmare of a man she married, my pre-teen assaults, some other things. Seeing, for instance, a photo of me at 11 the other day, seeing what a baby I was with my shirt covered in rainbows, barrettes in my hair, I realized I was looking at what some vile man in his 40’s decided was ripe for the picking and it just left me floored and furious. I cut my hair after that primarily to try and cut him out of it. So, while in some sense, I love seeing me and aspects of the childhood I cherished — and honestly, thank the powers that be I had, otherwise things that happened later may well have left me a vegetable — in another, I find myself feeling angry at the world-at-large for taking that kid away so fast and so suddenly, and, in some sense, robbing me of enough of her left over.
I’m not going to get too into it, because so much of it feels so private, but my visit with my mother this last time was exceptionally healing for me. I got the chance to tell her something I have simply needed to for some time. That was that while there are things from my late childhood and adolescence I just don’t think I can ever forgive, and certainly cannot forget — some of which she was part of or very much enabled — the older I get, the more I understand not just the greater context of her life, but the lives of so many women like her, and can see the bigger picture of what landed her and us there and fed so many of the dynamics at play. I was able to tell her that the more I understand, the more I accept, the less I blame, and that no matter what, she’s my mother and I love and accept her.
Being able to say that was a huge deal, and also had an unexpected impact on her: it seemed to make her feel safe enough to finally ask — just outright ask — about some of what had happened to me in the last handful of years before I left home at 15. She was able to be honest enough to say that she didn’t think she could handle hearing all of it — an honesty I really appreciate, particularly since it reminds me that that’s some of why there was so much denial about what was going on with me then. And we were able to talk about some of it, and she was able to really listen, to hold what I was telling her, to take responsibility for some of the things I have very much needed to. Mind, I found out some things which were in some sense a relief, and also in some sense had already known or strongly suspected, but which were also tough for me to hear: for instance, finding out that it truly was only me who was the object of my stepfather’s malice made me glad that my mother and sister were not done any real harm. It also validated how totally alone in everything I felt then, how singled out and victimized. But at the same time… well, it wasn’t a pleasant truth.
That process also invoked her to tell me some things about her life I hadn’t known, particularly in my early childhood, when my mother, at only around 21, wound up the head of a household that included 2-year-old me, my Dad (who stayed at home with me while my mother worked), and my fathers two teenage brothers who survived the accident that killed the rest of his family. Unbeknownst to me, my mother even had to be the one to identify the bodies — my Dad just couldn’t deal — and this image of my so-freaking-young Mom with too much already on her plate having to literally look at bloody heads in bags just gutted me. (Not to mention that both of us having to deal with bloody heads and dead bodies at a point in both of our young lives was just eerie.)
Again, not going to get into too many details here, especially since a lot of it is about someone’s life that isn’t mine. But I think this may have been the first visit I have ever had with my mother that left me feeling even remotely like this: it was intensely liberating, very healing for the both of us. We’ve even made tentative plans to, for the first time ever, try and take a vacation together somewhere in the next two years, something which, before this month, would have been a daunting, rather than pleasant, prospect for me.
* * *
On the home front, Mark is back in Ohio visiting family after getting waylaid in Philly on Christmas Eve. While I usually enjoy the time to myself when he goes home for the holidays, having him leave this time was a bit sad, because it drew our all-night conversations we have been having on the couch every single night since I got back from Chicago to an end. He was just saying the other night that he has never felt closer to me than he has in these last couple weeks, and indeed, while I didn’t think we needed a turning point in our relationship, we seem to have landed at one, and it’s so, so good. I feel like we wound up going to this totally new place that’s really exceeded where we thought we could go, where we thought we would go, which is seriously huge since I already have thought we’ve got something really damn good.
Next week, we both have dates: Mark has one out where he is, and Blue is coming to see me for a couple of days. In our heart of hearts, we were hoping for a magical harmonic convergence during which we could both be in those things at the very same moment, but alas, it didn’t quite work out that way.
All of this moving into a much more tangible and physical reality is all the things one’d likely expect: exciting, nervewracking, anxious, exhilarating and more with the anxious. Obviously, it’s a bit like a moment of truth is coming, where we’re going to find out if everything that seems like it feels so right to all of us involved really is. I keep having these small moments where I second-guess what we are are saying and feeling, how harmonious it all seems to feel so far for everyone, and then I second-guess (or is that third-guess?) my dismissal of those moments, worried it is coming from a selfish place because exactly what I want appears to be something I can have that is also in alignment with everyone else’s wants, even though we all seem to have such different sets of needs. When I voice this to either, the both of them effectively sigh and suggest I start trusting all of us — and myself — more, which is apt advice.
Having such history with both of the people involved on my part vacillates from being a total comfort to being completely daunting. But I just got off the phone with Mark (clearly, we both want to continue our couch-conversations, even without a shared couch), and one thing we noted that seems to make this such an unusual scenario — and which I actually think makes it an easier adjustment for all — is that the person who is my domestic partner is also the newer person in all of this. In other words, he’s already well used to Blue being in my heart and being a part of who I am: when he walked into my life, that existed before he and I, and he obviously has coexisted with it just fine. I can’t figure out if I envy Mark that, for now, anyone he’ll see is likely to be very new to him, or if I wish he were in my position on his end. I do envy him some for having the ability to just ring Blue up and talk together, and I can’t say it wouldn’t be nice to have the same opportunity, but hey, maybe I will at some point.
This is one of those times where I wish I knew a bit less than I do, particularly about sex and love and relationships. I was sitting last night in a stack of books from the shelves which addressed open relationships, and feeling very much like it was all so 101, and of such very little use to me. I wanted the AP versions — even though I don’t think we really need them — and they don’t seem to exist. I sat scrolling through my head with my own history with things like this, save that I don’t really have anything like this in my history. Anything remotely close has felt like splitting before, or sharing, and it doesn’t feel like that, perhaps because both of these people have been in my heart already: no one is taking up any new real estate here.
I’ve also gotten to the point in my life where I know I am big enough, wide enough, AM enough for this. Oddly, I think working at the clinic has been part of that: keeping a lot of distance is so typical in anything remotely medical that my being very open to clients, really kind of letting them in has occasionally worried my co-workers. And yet, the way the clients have been with me, the way they want to disclose so much and have me hold so much while they’re in with me stands counter to that. I’ve heard more than once that I “just can’t” be as open to them as I have when it comes to kind of holding their truths and their feelings and really being in it with them for that brief period of time and possibly deal with it…and yet, I know full well that I certainly can, and that it’s one of my gifts as a person. It’s not one-sided, either: it doesn’t just benefit others, but it also deeply enriches and expands me, too.
* * *
And I suppose that’s my rather random set of bleats for the day. A Scarleteen once-user, since-volunteer and someone who feels very much like family to me is moving into the neighborhood next week, and will also be housesitting for me with her kid while I’m staying downtown. They’re coming over the evening before for some hangout and dinner, and our place is so far from toddler-proofed, it just isn’t funny.
Thankfully, this week of the year is always exceptionally slow at Scarleteen, so it’s one of the few times where I feel able — without guilt or worry — to take some time for myself and work a short shift. So, I was able to spend some time just talking more to Mark and Blue, and can now go spend some time housecleaning (which needed to happen anyway: bless houseguests for making you have to hop to it), maybe going through some more of those photos, doing some languid yoga, writing a bit more just for myself about everything going on with me, taking another bath and setting up a new computer that needs setting up.