Yesterday, I went into the kitchen to start my breakfast, and the shut-in roommate that I never see or talk to came out of his room. He’s got a big shaggy beard, thinning pale hair, and thin, pale skin.
“Hey there!” he said.
“Hi,” I said. I was washing my dishes.
“Haven’t seen ya in a while!” he said to my back.
I can’t remember if I answered, or if i said, “Yeah.”
“So do you know if we’re getting a new roommate?”
“I…I don’t know.” I was filling up water from the faucet for my oatmeal.
He was at the table in the dining room, looking at the mail. And then he left for his driving around.
I don’t think I had spoken to him since February, when I had told him about the piece of shit roommate who harassed me and had finally left in July–the one that the shut-in had enabled.
I knew eventually, one day, our paths would cross again, and that I would be mad and hurt about the betrayal.
It wasn’t true that he hadn’t seen me in a while. It was a couple of weeks or more that he was sitting in the living room, talking loudly about the medications he was taking for some clinical trial for something.
I didn’t talk to him, but he blared through the earplugs I still had from sleeping the night before.
That loud conversation was informative–although it wasn’t the first time he had been talking loudly on the phone about his medications and illnesses. Still, I was reminded me that although I saw him as a traitor, I don’t know if it really could have been helped. I’m not sure if that’s an ableist way to look at it, though.
Yet it didn’t really help, and it really hasn’t helped, the feelings I had and still have…the feelings I would rather forget, like a bad trip I had taken, like a disgusting meal I was forced to eat.
I lived in the same house for over a year with a man who didn’t do and still doesn’t do much with keeping this house clean. It’s been up to me. It’s been up to me to make sure that this place is habitable and hospitable. And I’ve really only done it for my safety and comfort, although he gets the benefits.
The shut-in never cleans. A former roommate complained about how it seemed like he had never cleaned up after himself before. And last month, he didn’t take out the trash for whatever lazy reason he came up with. That was actually a first.
I knew I would see him again and be forced to talk to him as if everything was OK. I have never really been one for pleasantries, although I used to have a rule about acknowledging the existence of everyone, friend or foe.
After many foes and not many friends, I had to change the rules, rules that seemed to be about being the bigger and better person.
Being the bigger and better person now is about making sure that I’m OK, that I’m taken care of, that I’m safe.
So by being cold and withdrawn, I was OK with showing, albeit passively, that our warm and amiable relationship had frozen over into cold, forced cordiality.
I wasn’t really ready to face that, that I had one less ally in this place. I wasn’t really ready to also look at my relationship to this place. It’s become more and more like a prison–albeit thankfully less and less like a psych ward…
There’s been a room in my heart that I can only peek into. I open it a crack and I’m blasted with warm, moist air and the taste of my own tears. It reminds me of that test that Paul Atreides from the sci-fi novel, Dune, had to undergo with his mother and another Bene Gesserit woman.
He had to put his hand inside of a box, a box that contained pain. If he withdrew it too early, he would die. So he put his hand inside, feeling like his flesh was being burned and flayed…and then when he was allowed to remove his hand, his hand was just fine.
That room in my heart is like that box of pain, and I need to go inside. And I’m afraid that I will be burned and flayed. I’m afraid that I won’t survive it.
It’s not even going to be as dramatic as Paul and his box of pain. I know what’s in my room that I continue to avoid.
There have been some miserable failures this summer. But I decided after this sad and bizarre separation I had with someone over a week ago, that it was time to at least tend to my wounds–not just this summer’s, but as many as I can.
I needed to deal with my whole self–nurture it as it hasn’t really been nurtured by me before; nurture it as my parents should have but didn’t; nurture it as if no one else ever will; nurture it as if my life depended on it, because it does.
Part of that nurturing has been taking this 10-day course about returning to myself. And that has been restorative and healing–but not dramatically. It’s been more of the intention I’ve set: to not put so many other people’s feelings and needs before mine.
Part of that nurturing has been letting things really hurt. And it hasn’t been me sobbing on the floor. It’s literally sitting with feelings, the feelings that aren’t so clear-cut or line-bright.
Most of those feelings are grief over things that never got to be or have yet to be–the me that doesn’t live in Florida anymore; the me that got to be with that person; the me who hasn’t had to grind and scrape just to make it month-to-month; the me who actually did have supportive parents.
That last one floats in and out, because I don’t know how to grieve something that I never had. I can only imagine how it could be, to have parents be there for me unselfishly, to not have narcissistic parents. I could base on other people’s experiences, or base on fictional portrayals. I have a feeling that may become more profound and real when I have my own family, or when my parents pass–or maybe both.
The personal losses this summer…the confusing grief has batted me around, flipped me back and forth like I was some rag doll.
How could this be? Is this really happening?
This is happening. This is really happening.
Usually with loss, I never feel so ambivalent. I am quite resolute. With cold, surgical precision, I can amputate people, places, and things from my life and never look back.
It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when I do it. It just means that I don’t attempt to reattach. I’ve only done in twice in my life.
The first was with my first love–but he dumped me. The second was a few years ago with a woman I had known since we were teenagers. We just drifted apart and I noticed she had unfriended me from Facebook. She responded that basically she was too busy but that she had thought about me often.
This time, I can finally understand why it takes people so long to get over people, at the very least. It took me years to get over how long it took me to get through college–years longer than most people wanted to know or hear about.
But I knew I deserved the time to grieve a formative time in my life, especially since the people who had wanted me to move on had never gone through what I had gone through.
I needed the time.
But that’s the thing with grief. Grief takes as long as it takes. Grief, especially when it comes to death, is an ever-morphing companion that you will never shake. Some days, it’s a whisper of a ghost. Other times, it’s a monster that will violently shake you over something you don’t even think is a big deal.
Even with this one-month odyssey that I was on…there are times that I question whether it’s really over. And then there are other times that I’m glad it’s over. And then, there are other times that I want to go back, even if there are only ashes and embers left.
It’s weird to go through things that you feel like you should have gone through half a lifetime ago. But now, having gone through these things…I feel a lot more human now. The empathy that’s grown inside of me has stretched me open. I can almost say I’m grateful for the experience, because there’s this whole other part of life that I can’t process through my brain.
I can see how irrational love and grief is now.
Yesterday, I knew the shut-in was probably waiting to talk to me. When I left my room, his door, which is right across from mine in a tiny hallway, was cracked with a seam of light shining through–and this usually meant that he was going to leave soon.
I dreaded seeing him, but our meeting was better than I thought it would be…initially. I thought I had held up pretty well, considering.
Seeing him and talking to him reminded me of what I went through, by myself. And I was tired of going back in the past. And his cheery little performative bullshit was an insult.
Could someone be that far removed from reality, really?
I knew that was true because of how my mom handled my father when he was mentally ill. I didn’t really get as much protection as I deserved. She was lost in her religion and her god to pay attention to how living under someone who was abusive and neglectful was doing to her and to her children.
So yeah, I’ve been here before. And I thought because it was over, I was over it all.
But then afterward, I felt like someone shoved me in this dark, small room of despair. I felt like I was physically starting to slow down. I just wanted to sleep.
I had some existential fears leap out:
Would I ever get out of this gotdamn house? Would I be stuck here forever? Do I really have people on my side? Will I ever be successful again? Am I always going to have an almost life?
I was really concerned that I was becoming depressed. I was sleeping more during the day, but it was also because I had some major insomnia (thanks, full moon). I still have a bit of a sleep deficit.
I did a lot of talking and praying with my guides and angels…
And even typing this, about guides and angels…somehow it’s a little embarrassing, like I’m one of those, one of those weirdo woo-woo women…
Then today, I was back to my normal self.
So maybe yesterday, I had a brief moment in that room of grief that I keep avoiding. It was a little scary, but I made it through.
And before this, last week I was really angry, angry that life had been so disappointing for so long. I was and am so fed up. And that anger can be a catalyst for change.
What’s really interesting about all this is how these feelings of sadness and grief are on the heels of things getting better for my business now.
Shameless plug for another business – I do tarot and astrological consultations!
It’s like when you’re about to hit the finish line, after having run a long race, and you have the freedom to slow down.
I don’t have to be tough anymore. I don’t have to gut it through. I don’t have to have it all together. I don’t have to be “right.”
I can be hurt, disappointed, and angry that a fellow human being whom I live with didn’t stick up for me while I was being abused.
I can want to have someone back in my life that I’m not entirely sure is good for me.
I can mourn all the fabulous selves I didn’t get to be because I have narcissistic parents.
I can let all of it really hurt as it should, and then move on.
But it doesn’t have to be all sad.
I can choose to nurture myself instead of waiting for someone else to do it.
I can get lost in novels like I used to do when I was younger.
I can continue to explore what brings me pleasure even if I feel like that’s a short list right now.
I can check in on myself much more than I check in on others…because people will be just fine without my care.
I can continue on the journey of not letting my circumstances define me.
I can also be thankful for what I have.
My ungratefulness is what prevents me from opening the door to my grief.
By being grateful, I feel like I have to give up my fight for justice for myself, for making things right. It’s like letting everyone off the hook–even myself.
But to really be grateful, I really do have to reckon with my losses, all of them. Yet I’m not sure what that looks like practically, besides being more intentional about caring for myself.
How can gratitude and the comfort of justice intersect? Or will they always run parallel?
I know that to live the full, joyous life that I want–beyond what circumstances come my way–I have to accept this invitation to gratitude.
I feel impermeable to this kind of all-encompassing gratitude. All I want to do is to have yet another internal temper tantrum. I don’t feel holy or wise enough to do this. I feel petty, bitter, and small.
But that’s at least a place to start–with some honesty about where I am and where I want to be.
When I took a little vacation from my normal life by meeting new people who didn’t know me or my life story, including the one that I can’t easily forget, it was great to be seen for who I was, outside of all I had been through. So I can live that life where I’m not all the things I didn’t get to be, but all the things I already am and will be.
So this isn’t some fantasy. This can be my new reality.
I just have to stop acting like some indestructible robot and let it hurt so I can feel better. Let myself be confused so I can find better answers. Let myself really rage with anger so I can find the peace and calm within.
Let myself be so I can emerge into a more authentic self.
I can’t really solve the puzzle of being grateful for all the bad things I’ve gone through just this summer: of being called racial slurs in my own home, of having a terrible landlady, of not being able to move yet, of losing a biz opportunity because of things outside of my control, of getting so close to finding my person and seeing that chance being thrown into an abyss…
I’m just too human and short-sighted to see the good in any of this right now.
It’s so tough to override my humanness right now. When things are bad, we focus on them so we can fix them. But when we can’t fix them, we suffer. If we decide not to focus on them, then it seems like we’re abdicating our duties of being good people.
And I’ve said all this before. But the struggle remains to create meaning and good from seemingly meaningless, terrible things.
All I can do right now is to be at least grateful for the good, in a way that isn’t performative or hollow. Maybe that can create space for the impossible–being grateful for all of it.
At least I can say that I am grateful that I am still here, that I have survived the unbearable, the unfair, the bizarre, the disgusting, the absurd. And that as long as I’m still breathing, the life that I want and deserve is still within reach.
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