2008 has not been a banner year for this couple of Lady Gays. We’ve been lazy, which is part of the problem, but I’m also blaming it on the probable consumption of gluten which had made Janie tired, sad, bored, grumpy, hungry, thirsty, hot, cold, aloof, indifferent, indecisive, pushy, unable to concentrate, forgetful and, once, incapable of beating me at Uno.
I know that she’s entitled to emotions and that there is nothing particularly “bad” about any of what I’ve mentioned. It’s mostly rather confusing because I’m usually the one with all the feelings. That’s why I cry during bank commercials.
Now knowing that my wife has Celiac Disease is like having directions for a large maze after 10 years, and the only real obstacle is walking from start to finish without the worry of running into the inevitable dead end. We both know, now, that when her emotions overwhelm her so considerably it’s likely I’ve been poisoning her by putting breadcrumbs in her hummus or, you know, maybe she’s overdone it on the Starbucks hot chocolates SO STOP DRINKING THEM ALREADY. We know that we already have the answer and it’s up to us, up to Janie, to get her shit together.
I don’t have Celiac Disease, but I still have a lot of feelings which manifest into weird physical symptoms like an eyelid that twitches throughout the day, heart palpitations, shortness of breath and the constant fear that I’m going to die soon. It’s when I panic about death that I really start to understand that I’m teetering on the edge of sanity and it’s likely that I’ll be losing my shit soon. It’s not always apparent before this, because sometimes I’m pretty sure things are going well and I’m having a reasonably decent day, week, or month. While I might have convinced myself I’m fine, on the inside somewhere I’m starting to unravel like the cats are tugging at the ends of my strings and pulling them in all different directions until I’m a useless pile on the kitchen floor, sobbing and wondering what got me here, to this place on the cold, hard tile and why are there green beans and a popsicle stick smashed between the stove and counter top?
In the past, it has been about this time where I’ve made myself an appointment to go back to therapy. I haven’t always had my faculties together enough to weave through my insanity to a brighter tomorrow. I have and probably will from time to time need some stranger who I pay hundreds of dollars to tell me: maybe you’re just retarded. Sometimes it’s easier for other people to see the writing on the wall.
After a good many years of therapy, I’ve learned a lot about how I tick. When I start to feel overwhelmed, when I start to lose my shit, I need to sit back and take stock of what I’ve got going in my life. Is my family driving me off the edge? check. Is Janie refusing to admit that I asked her to put the wash into the dryer three days ago? check. Are the upstairs neighbors doing their best to drive me insane with that God damn stomping? check. Is Carson peeing on my pillow RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME? check. These days it seems like my biggest stress is that I’m just unhappy with how I’m living my life and how I’m reacting to other people and situations. I’m not practicing loving-kindness.
I’m reading Start Where You Are by Pema Chödrön, an American Buddhist nun, and it is reminding me how compassion works. I’m beginning to remember that in order for me to have happiness and joy, I need to understand pain, which allows me to understand humanity and my connection to it. Last week there was a woman on 2nd Avenue downtown who was threatening to jump from her apartment building ledge and for the first time in many months I felt someone else’s pain instead of worrying about my own. I started to wake up to the idea that I’m just one of many people in this world and I have a responsibility to love other people, even when they talk crazy on the bus or call me a fat whore. After four hours they talked the woman down from the ledge and brought her to the hospital. After four hours I felt a renewed sense of compassion and the drive to open my heart to other people’s pain.
Remembering what it is to really hurt, and knowing that I’ve yet to encounter something so painful in my life that I’ve thought about throwing myself from a 4th story ledge, my unraveling seems a little unimportant. Sometimes the only thing I need to hear is that tiny voice in the back of my head that says: lighten up. Because just letting go of the frustration and pain is so much easier than losing your shit and trying to explain to your wife why the only place you feel safe is under the kitchen table surrounded by your yarn animals.