My six week old baby was on the floor in his car seat sleeping and I was with my best friend falling apart. This was the night Dean left me, left our children. It was late, really late, and I was on borrowed time – my baby would wake up soon, and this was going to be a sleepless night. I was post-partum lumpy, sleep deprived, rejected, terrified and left. I had a bubble of panic in my belly, and three little humans that needed me to get my shit together and fast. Kate sat with me that night while my baby slept and I consumed the reality of what was. Dean and I never fought, his leaving blindsided me and I never saw it coming, but it was done. I was a black hole of sadness, a super nova of despair. I was scared, a breath away from a fetal position. But this happened. Maybe it was sleep deprivation, maybe it was just self-preservation. We started laughing, not a giggle, not a chuckle, those deep belly laughs that bring tears to your eyes and make you pee a little. Kate was talking about how I could date again, and that was just hilarious. We made love poems. Dirty love poems, and that deep down laughter at the absurd saved me that night. I’ll give you a for instance.
Roses are red,
and sometimes white,
I’ve had three babies,
but I’m still tight.
It went red light from there, finding out that nothing really rhymes with vagina. I was staring at an abyss, and as Nietzsche says, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” That bad, bad night was a turning point, and the laughter, the map. I wasn’t consumed by the abyss, I was able to tread water. I’ve asked a couple people I love this week to rate their happiness on a scale of 1 to 10, and the answers surprised me, and made me think of this night. Let’s talk about happiness. Let’s talk about unhappiness. And then let’s make some dirty poems.
I have two friends struggling right now, they are hurting and happiness seems a long way down the road. I’ll tell you some about it, and I will tell you what happens with it. Whit came to see me this weekend. Whit handles more daily than I can fathom. She gets it done, but it’s inconceivably hard. We’ve talked about Whit before, she has a special needs child who is chronologically 11, but forever 3. Her heart is heavy and her reserves depleted, she came to talk and to recharge. Viking always says he’s been robbed of nothing, a bold statement of gratitude. As Whit cried and we talked, I kept coming back to “I have been robbed of nothing”, and how perspective is absolute. Listening to Whit, I know my problems are tiny, gentle ripples on a glass water surface to her tidal wave.
It’s hard to write this, but a part of me said a silent thank you that my children are healthy. I listened to my sweet friend unburden herself of her fears, challenges, grief, and I instantly became more grateful for all I have. What’s the Helen Keller quote – I had no shoes and complained until I met a man who had no feet. Whit and I talked and drank for a long time, not finding any answers to questions that have none, but filling Whit up with love and support for a hard road ahead. But here’s the thing, even when she’s down, tired and uncertain, she’s grateful, and even just a little bit of that can save you.
I have another friend whose marriage is in the final death rattle, and in the final gasps, there is only venom. We will call them Sansa and Ramsey. Sansa has tried to be reasonable, amicable in the painful process of ending a long marriage and Ramsey has worked to draw as much blood as possible before the end. The only words Ramsey has spoken out loud to her are “Fuck you”, for a month now, he saves the real vileness for texts. The thing about the end of love is the other person knows you intimately and best and knows how to elicit the most pain with words, knows where to cut. Sansa has been able to withstand many of the insults, the name calling, the meanness. She took the hits, cried a little, carried on.
A couple of weeks ago, Ramsey sent “Fat ass” via text and this hateful thing hit the mark he was hoping. The barrage of words had worn her down, she was so sad, so hurt, but that one cut deep. She retreated within herself, she cried, she broke, and then something happened – she got deep down, ass red, fuck you forever mad. No more. She blocked her husband, Ramsey can choke on his vile words, she’s done. Anger is an engine, a powerful force and it gets shit done. She is empowered right now and that too, can save you.
When sadness was an ocean, you taught me how to swim. This makes me think of Kate that night and many nights after that. Don’t look at the abyss too long, find what will save you and do that, do that a lot. Learn how to swim – or tread water, or even just float. Laughter. Gratitude. Empowerment. If happiness is a pie – I hate fractions – eat the whole fucking thing.
Roses are red.
A knife is a cleaver,
I shaved my beaver.
-from that night.
*Kate wanted something empowering for the end poem here, but all I came up with is more dirty. But y’all know – go get ‘em.
Go forth and conquer.