The Last Train Out
De facto – adverb, adjective. actually existing, especially when without lawful authority
I am this; the de facto expert that I never wanted to be.
Last week, three women sought my help. I’m not really sure why. I don’t know if they just recognize it in me. Or if the news of my writing and eventual documentary have begun to circulate. But, I do know that each and every one of them has that wide-eyed look that I have too often seen in the mirror. It is as if they have just witnessed the death of a loved one when what has actually died is their sense of safety in this world and their belief that ‘it’ would never happen to them.
I spent the weekend revisiting the City that I tried to make my 2nd Home. This time I visited it alone.
Yes, my flip flops were in the corner of his apartment on Dorchester in Brooklyn, and my satin robe with the pink trim was on the back of his door. There were tampons in the bathroom, nail polish on the dresser and art that I created adorned every room along with pictures of us together. And his key was on my keychain so that I was always welcome.
I visited often. But it never became the nest we both intended it would for me.
Moving about in this giant City was difficult for an empath. Too many people’s everything screamed like screeching brakes. It went right through me as if I were opaque and leaving metal shards. For five and one half years I tried hard to love it as much as he did; because he did.
Too Ugly to Heal
Two weeks ago something terrible happened in my life. Two things in fact. On the same day. That’s all you really need to know.
What I want to write about is why those things happened and what I have since done about it.
For my entire life I have stashed my emotions into containers unfit to hold them for long periods of time and placed them in chambers on makeshift shelves with the lids askew. I did this, in part, because I thought they were bigger than me and would consume me if I gave them space. And, in part, because my unyielding life did not afford me the time and emotional energy to deal with them as they arrived. But in doing so I allowed them to ferment untended taking on shapes and meaning and power that they never should have had. Blue tinctures; wild, fiery tonics resembling Jack Daniels but with a bigger bite; black sludge in gallon containers set upon narrow oak planks too meager for their girth; clear liquid in vessels with hand etched notes reading “Flammable. Do Not Drink.” Some that smoldered. Poison.
After posting a series of stories about Domestic Violence survivors last year, I was approached by several people to compile them into a book. I was hesitant because my personal experience is that we, as survivors, don’t really matter. That we aren’t important enough to others to read it.
But, some of these people were friends who had never admitted to anyone that they, themselves, had been abused and my writing touched them. Others were doctors who felt it would be a tool to reach women who had no voice.
So, I began.
"Send my hero my love"
Last evening I fell asleep in an Adirondack chair listening to the sounds of Sixth Lake. It’s a frigid early Fall already here but that was of little consequence. I was happy to shiver, a small price for this kind of peace. Perch jumping. Creaking pontoon bumpers against the dock where I rested. Canoe paddles dipping as sunset approached. Nearby ducks slapping their tired wings against the water as they labored to take flight while the loons warmed up their vocals ~ the changing of the guard. The distant sound of tired little boys who had one cannonball too many. Haunting wind chimes grumbling as they were jostled to a wakefulness but even their distress was no match for the angry wind itself.
Like most everything else thrown her way my daughter, Mackenzie, has handled the news of Ed’s death with wisdom and acceptance beyond her young years. While she misses him terribly she also knows that this happened with purpose and benefit we do not yet understand. This is the very same wisdom that brought Ed into our lives in the first place.
Mack had a catastrophic stroke in the lunchroom at school when she was 14 years old. Face drooping, arm and leg hanging, speech impaired, head throbbing, life-changing stroke. I will never get over the sight of her broken body and her last audible words that day, “Please make it stop, Momma.”
For a lifetime people have asked me how I do “it”. I wasn’t really sure what “it” is. But, I think they mean keep going and not be overcome by fear or frustration. Sometimes even doing the “impossible”.
It’s pretty simple. I lean in.
I used to refer to this as doing the counterintuitive but recently found the term ‘leaning in’ in the book Fearless at Work by Michael Carroll. I like it better. Short, sweet, no bullshit. Like me.