Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Doing the right thing, losing it, and keeping it together (and nose piercings)

Another week, another celebrity says she had a miscarriage.  Pink opened up on the Ellen Degeneres show, confirming her pregnancy, and sharing about a previous miscarriage.  Seriously, is it just me, or are miscarriages absolutely everywhere?

As for me, I'm doing all right.  I had a breakdown on Sunday when we were going to see some friends of J's in San Jose.  On the way from Sacramento we stopped at Sonic (their pumpkin hot chocolate is on the list of things I'm absolutely sure I like) and J was sharing stories of the trouble he and these friends used to get up to in college.  Particularly things like raves and ecstasy and other assorted illegal substances.  This set me off because:

These friends of his have babies.
These friends of his partook of lots of illegal drugs.
I can count the times I have inhaled pot on my right hand.  That is the only illegal drug I have ever consumed.
I have no baby.

In my grief-stricken, hormonal world, this seemed grossly unfair, setting off a crying marathon the likes of which I doubt that Sonic has seen before.

Yesterday my awesome friend Meredith reminded me that just as I was not punished by losing Baby Teysko, these girls were not rewarded with their babies.  Sh*t happens sometimes.  Sometimes girls who did ecstasy get babies, and sometimes girls who smoked pot four times lose babies.  It's just how it goes.  

But here's the thing.  At the end of your life, you don't get a medal for playing by the rules.  Nobody cares.  Seriously.  Nobody really cares.  You can care, and if that's important to you, that's great.  I'm not talking about the harming-others-and-society kinds of rules here - obviously people care about those - people in uniforms with badges, for one.  But the little stuff.  Like whether you go through the express lane with more than 15 items.  Whether you litter when you're on back roads and nobody sees.  Whether you make a habit of speeding, or tailgating, or generally driving like an asshole.  Whether you take ecstasy tablets when you're in college.  

I noticed that when this first happened, I said that I really wanted to do a drug to put me to sleep and take all the pain away, but I was too smart and would try to grieve like a healthy person.  That's a phrase I've used before.  

My parents' divorce when I was a teenager was very messy.  Like, alcohol and firearms messy.  In a classic child-becomes-parent scenario, one night when the house was empty, I went through all of my dad's things, taking all of the aforementioned alcohol and firearms, and hiding them in my room up in the attic.  I wouldn't tell him where they were, but at least a few times I remember taking them all out and placing them around me - the bottles of alcohol and the gun cases- and thinking how it would be really easy, fast, and relatively painless to make the hurt go away.  

But you know what stopped me?  I remember thinking that I was too smart for that.  Plus, I recognized that it was the height of teenage-girl-drama to do something so stupid.  I knew that my parents pretty much sucked right then, but that I would be able to leave home soon enough, go away and live my own life away from them, and create my own family.  But if I indulged in the alcohol/firearm way out, I wouldn't have that opportunity.  And I'd really be cutting off my nose to spite my face. 

So I continued to do well in school so I could go away.  When I was 17 I smoked a Camel Special Light in the parking lot of kmart after a Spin Doctor's concert.  That was the height of my teenage rebellion.  Oh, and I wore doc martens.

I moved to Knoxville.  Then I moved to LA.  Then I moved to London.  Then I moved to New York.  Then I moved to Nashville.  Then I moved to LA again.  In the space of 11 years I had 15 different zip codes.  Then I got married and bought a house with a mortgage I could afford, and got cats, and got pregnant, and it seemed to be working out.

But here I am again, wanting to do something destructive, and not doing it because I'm too smart.  

A few weeks ago I went with J to one of the open AA meetings, and I found myself incredibly uncomfortable.  I hated all of those people.  Really hated them.  And I hated being there.  I didn't belong there, with those loser alcoholics, I thought.  When I shared my experience with J, he suggested that maybe I hated them all so much because I'm jealous of them: they did something I have always wanted to do, but never did - that is to say, they all completely lost it/ went crazy/ hit rock bottom/ checked out/ broke down / etc.  And they had people to pick them up, and they're all recovering now.  Maybe I hate them so much because I want to do that but never felt like I could.

I've danced at the brink of losing it - I've come close enough to peer over the edge and kind of make out shapes in the darkness down there (1995, for example, was a bad year which involved too much irresponsible credit card usage and bad internet relationships) - but I've always been able to stay on level ground, either through my own ingenuity and brains, through good luck, through the help of my parents (they weren't always crazy) or someone else who mentored me out of the muck (I'm looking at you, the teachers and counselors at PVHS), or a combination of all of those things.

A lot of the feelings I think I'm dealing with now are holdovers from being a teenager, when I wanted to collapse and completely lose it, but I couldn't because I was an only child who was desperate to get away from home, and was forward-thinking enough to know that in order to get away, I had to keep it together.  The circumstances are different now, but the feelings of wanting to just give up and let someone else deal with life for me for a while are the same.

For example, I forgot to pay the homeowners insurance bill that was due at the end of October.  Now I can't find it.  How am I supposed to deal with f*cking homeowners insurance when I'm dealing with mortuaries and death certificates?  I'll call them and sort it out, but it really pisses me off.  There should be some kind of service.  Like a "we'll handle life for you while you relax, and listen to peter cetera and blink 182 (can there be a weirder combination??  I'm not questioning it, I'm just going with it) and play with crayons, and read silly books, and sleep in, and drink hot chocolate for a few months" kind of service.  Does something like that exist?  Can somebody do that?  Maybe I should.  Maybe it should be a non-profit.  Hospitals could offer it to grieving people.

When I told J about my wanting to fall apart feelings, and shared the whole "I'm too smart for my own good" thing, I asked him what he thought.  He said that obviously as my husband, he didn't think I should fall apart.  But as an alcoholic, he thought for sure I should fall apart because I'm a mid-life-crisis waiting to happen.  That's how he put it.  Like eventually there's going to be something that will make me snap, and I will seriously lose it on a grand scale, making up for however many years of keeping it together.  I'll take off and move to Italy and wear designer sunglasses and chiffon scarves everywhere (I don't know where I came up with that).

So this is the stuff that I'm talking about in therapy, and trying to figure out.  Why, for example, do I so strongly hate people in AA so much when I'm in their meetings?  On a purely intellectual level, I really have no desire to fall apart.  I am blessed to have a good job that I enjoy, and I like going out into the world, and I even like talking to people sometimes.  I like my espresso machine, and I like being outside on our big deck.  I don't really want to completely fall apart.

But on an emotional level, it's very tempting.  And that takes me back to the beginning.  My first response to the temptation of falling apart is "you can't do everything you want to do all the time, like fall apart.  You have responsibilities."  And I sound exactly like my dad.  Who, incidentally, fell apart.  That aside, he's German, so he believes in following rules and fulfilling responsibilities and duty to family and job and country and everything like that.

My dad doesn't so much hate people who don't follow rules, as much as he just finds it incomprehensible.  "How can they be passing you when you're going 70 and the speed limit is 65," he asks, on the freeway.  "How can people have meth labs in their house?  It's illegal," is his response when I tell him they did a meth raid.  He just doesn't get it.  I've taken that incomprehension and moved it up a notch to disgust and hatred.  Unlike my dad, I understand that people don't all care about rules.  And I hate those people.

Which brings me back to the breakdown at Sonic.  People who have babies after breaking so many rules seriously piss me off.  Like, seriously.  I'm sure the emotional response I have to it will subside, but right now I already want to hit almost every pregnant woman I see, so, well, it caught me on a bad day when I have little patience...

Maybe my problem isn't so much all the people around me breaking rules, but the fact that I'm standing on the sidelines going, "you can't do that," when they so clearly can, and are, doing that, and they don't even hear me trying to referee, nor do they much care.  Maybe I should learn something from them.  Maybe I'm too far one way, and maybe there are people who are too far the other way, and maybe a good way would be to ride the center line.  Maybe, rather than going out and purposefully breaking rules, I just need to not care about the rules so much.  Because as I said in the beginning, they don't give you a medal for abiding by rules, and nobody really cares.

And that is why I am seriously considering getting my nose pierced next week.  And I would actually be saying I'm definitely getting it pierced, except I'm a real wimp when it comes to needles, and I'm afraid I might pass out.  But I'm really playing around with it.  Which, in and of itself, is a big deal.  I'm all worried about how that will affect me professionally.  Will it hurt me to walk into a meeting with a tiny stud in my nostril?  Will people not take me seriously?  Will it be something I regret?  To which I say, screw it.  I'm sick of worrying about whether I'll regret something.

Maybe some nose-piercing will keep the midlife crisis at bay until I can figure all this stuff out.


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