I need to write this all down, down baby, down by the roller coaster. Sweet, sweet baby, I’ll never let you go! Well, that just happened. Those words shot straight out of my fingers without any consideration on my part. If any of that means anything to you, please come hang out with me and let’s cut off the fingers to our lace gloves. And then sing every hit by Tears for Fears until someone calls the cops and the cops join us for the last verse of “Everyody Wants to Rule the World.”
“Sayyyyyyyyy that you’ll never never never never need it!”
So. As couples are wont to do, my partner/man-friend/Cowboy and I were settling into our bedroom for an intense talk about all of life when suddenly we heard a knock at the door downstairs. What is all of life, you ask? Have you ever been through a divorce? Have you ever blended families? Have you ever worked on a book for two years and then a month after it’s released into the world you suddenly realize, “Holy shit. Two years of work. POOF!” ?? Have you ever been on tour for the book, had the alarm go off and think, “Where am I? Portland? Denver? Toronto? Saturn? Am I in a different country? Is Saturn in Canada?”
Saturn, it turns out, is in Canada.
Has the person who is on tour with you had to endure hours and hours and hours AND HOURS AND HOURS of the same story again and again and again? About your depression? About your suicidal depression? Yes? Then let’s party. Can we please commiserate about the host of that local show in that one city on the West Coast who tried to pretend that he wasn’t totally freaked out but was totally freaked out that I had done this treatment and in my heels I stood a solid foot taller than he did. If I can survive ten flatlines, imagine how badly I could fuck up his shit.
TANGENT AND I DIDN’T EVEN WARN YOU: I call it flatlining because they took my brain activity into a “burst suppression state” and as per a medical explanation: “Burst suppression is an electroencephalography (EEG) pattern that is characterized by periods of high-voltage electrical activity alternating with periods of no activity in the brain.”
Please note the “no activity” portion of the program.
They had me down there (DOWN. THERE.) for 15 minutes at a time. I was trying to communicate the severity of the risk I was willing to take, and if you want to argue with me about the terminology or semantics of what I experienced for over three weeks, come for me. I will gladly and kindly introduce you to the people at the clinic who saved my life, who volunteered their time to save the life of a mom of two girls, and you will bow at their feet and praise them as if they are a god you traveled across the world to see. And you would nod and cry and sob because your mouth would not be able to speak words.
Have you ever said the wrong thing at the EXACT wrong time only to realize two days later, oh shit. That was not nice of me! I deserve to have my head dunked into a toilet repeatedly! This still happens when you are fully an adult. Sorry, kids! Even when we think we are wise we sometimes fail to read the room, once or twice or all the time. (If you’re the last of those, dude, I hope you have good friends or at least some good meds.)
I was alone for so, so long that certain parts of my personality didn’t have to come into play until I was In The Relationship I Want To Remain In Forever. And so! SO. Here I am confronting parts of who I am that remained dormant for over eight years. And I am not happy about it. Not one bit. Shut that motherfucker down. My mother, for the first time in EVER asked me to stop saying FUCK two nights ago. Two nights. Ago. Less than 48 hours ago. For the first time. Do you know how often fuck comes out of my mouth? It’s fucking every fucking word, like, fucking really? 48 FUCKING HOURS AGO?
FUCKING FINE. FUCKING, MOM. (Sorry!)
The night before I had confronted a part of my personality that had been tucked inside for decades, probably (actually, most definitely) since childhood, and suddenly it came pouring out of me because Marlo was with a friend on one side of a barricade at a festival and I was on the other. Officials would not let children out or other people in because a child had gone missing and I thought I was going to go out of my mind. I was screaming and she was starting to cry and it felt very, very wrong, like a montage in a movie about the FBI or CIA or the KGB or the MTC or the Run DMC, and out of nowhere she was going to be whisked away from me and, because of security clearances, be secretly subjected to a program the government is engineering for extraterrestrial research. She would have had a blast.
Anyway, this is getting too long and the original story is going to have to wait.
I’ve had relationships since my marriage ended almost eight years ago. But they were long distance (HI! I write about this in my book!) and long distance relationships do not help you solve your day-to-day crisis after crisis after crisis. And dating in Utah… dear lord almighty. My favorite line in the whole book involves the absolute ridiculousness of it. If you have read it you will know what line I am talking about.
Relationships in the day-to-day-to-day-to-day are about work. And kids. And groceries. And JESUS CHRIST there is a wad of (insert whatever horrible adjective here, just imagine, use your imagination, everything, all of it, yes, THAT AND IT IS WORSE THAN THAT) underwear in the corner of the bathroom because kids are slow to learn to BURN IT, WHAT THE FUUUUUUCCCKKK) instead of curling it into a wad and stashing it in the corner of the bathroom, and utilities and healthcare and why did no one let the dog out? Why? Why, when you all love that dog, you adore her, why WHY am I still the only one who knows to fill her water bowl and let her out every morning to do her duty. Ok, fine. I will give an inch. Sometimes you guys feed her, but that’s the fun part! I want the fun part!
ONE GIANT EXCEPTION. Important to note: partner/man-friend/Cowboy puts Coco to bed in her kennel every night. He is lovely to do so. And he worships that dog.
And… stay with me… I left the house two nights ago because I needed a moment, several moments, many moments alone. And I called my mother to get her perspective on a few things and she said, “Heather, please stop using the f-word. It hurts me.”
I want to apologize to my mother for using that language. She doesn’t deserve to hear those words or even the late-night phone calls where I am in the middle of an existential crisis. Hi, Leta! For every crisis I call my mother about, you get to badger me with a crisis when the nuclear blast of your arrival home from school knocks over furniture, crushes glass, and blows the windows out of their frames and cuts holes into walls two blocks from here. We’re even.
(Teenage daughters oh my god)
I am sorry, Mom. I have put you through four lifetimes of grief. I love you. You do not deserve to hear the unresolved pain in these parts of me that I have not seen for decades.
And I have to put a part of myself to rest. It needs to die. Not me. Not my human self. A part of me, inside of me. It needs to die. This one very hurt and bruised and torn up part of me needs to heal, die off, and either form a black hole or a scar. I’d take either.
I realized all of this two nights ago after I had left to be alone for a bit. As usual, partner/man-friend/Cowboy tried to put Coco to bed while I was gone. Yesterday Coco was sitting upright ten feet from the front door, just staring at it. Staring. At it. I found her there when I went to water plants throughout the house. Just… sitting there. Staring.
Staring. At the door.
I took a photo, sent it to partner/man-friend/Cowboy and said, “She’s freaking me out.”
He responded, “You should have seen how upset she was last night.”
Him: “I put her in the kennel and she would turn around and march right back out the door and into your office and look at the basement door. I did that three times.”
I cried. There has been a lot of crying. So much crying. I know. Dumb. But the connection we have with our dogs is sort of magnificent.
That dog. She has lost so much in her short time on earth. She has lost so much.
She lost Chuck, too.
And she will not lose me or this blended family that she loves as much as she loves to fetch and roll in poop. I won’t let that unearthed part of me do that to her. She is as much a part of this family as my own children and I will always love her that way.
The knock on the door downstairs? That story involves a dog, too.