Thursday, December 06, 2012

A Tale of Two Bears

So I was in Target, tonight. If you want to know the truth, I was there buying supplies for, well, my period. I tell you that because it's kind of relevant, if I want to make this all fit in together in a nice, neat way: I'm on my period, and it's more intense than usual, because USUALLY I am on birth control, and I am not know, nor have I been for the last several months.

I have not been on birth control for the last several months because, well, because I want to have a baby. That does not mean I am planning on getting pregnant now. What it means is that my body keeps insisting on it, and that makes it way harder than you'd think to take a pill that will prevent it. You wouldn't expect that to be the truth, but if you think about it, if you're going to get up, find a pill, take it out of the package, and then swallow it...well, all of those things require your body. Your body has to be in on it. If your body doesn't agree, then it's not getting done without some serious help.
So a few months ago, when this was in super high gear, my body was just out-and-out refusing to take a pill. Then there was a bit of a pregnancy scare, so I decided not to take the pill till that was over, which of course, was my last period. Then there were some logistical problems, so I decided to wait until after my next period to start again. And this is that. So...wish me luck that my body consents to start it up again, after this is done.
This is all to say: I was in Target.
I noticed this display that said if you bought three coke products, you get this free, stuffed polar bear. I like coke products, and my brother-in-law collects coke paraphernalia, and I had not finished my shopping for him yet. So I decided to buy the coke products and claim the polar bear.
This was difficult. I did not have a cart. I had only come in to buy supplies for my period. So now I'm holding a basket full of period supplies and trying to wrangle three coke products and a stuffed polar bear on top of that. Then, as I'm leaving, I walk by the pet supplies. I remember that I have to buy a present for the dog at the office where I freelance, because I plan on delivering my office Christmas presents soon. Then I realize, I should pick up a toy for my dog.
So now, I'm wrangling a basket full of supplies for my period, three coke products, a polar bear, and two dog toys.
I get home. It's late, I've been out all day. Everyone here-- my parents-- are already asleep. My dog is not.
When you come home with shopping bags, my dog wants to know what's for him. I start to give him his toy, and I realize it squeaks. I realize everyone is asleep. I give him a treat instead, but he still seems agitated, so I put him out.
Then I look at the polar bear. I like it a great deal: it's cuter than I thought it would be, and I feel slightly tempted to keep it. But I don't need it: as fate would have it, I already own a stuffed polar bear.
No, this isn't a thing. I'm not one of those adult women with a ton of stuffed toys. I just...I have this other polar bear. I got it at Kohl's one day with Zack, back in San Diego. I'd been having a bad day; it was going to be something of a bad night, too. I picked it up to comfort me, the polar bear, and I always associate it with that night.
So, this new polar bear? No room for it. I'm not starting some...stuffed polar bear collection.
I put away some other stuff. I bring the dog in. I get distracted, I go downstairs, I multitask. I'm preparing to put all my gifts for my sister and her husband in a package that's being sent down to them when I realize the polar bear is missing.
Long story short (too late), it turns out, the dog has taken it upon himself to claim the new polar bear as his own, having known that there was something in the bag intended for him that he never received. This shouldn't have surprised me. He did the same thing with the polar bear I brought home last year, at this time.
So I pick it up off the floor and assess the damage. Dog spit has matted the fur in a few places, but that can be cleaned off. The damn thing is still as cute as ever...but, no, the tail has been ripped quite obviously, and there's some kind of small, mysterious stain in the fur on it's butt. It's no longer in gift condition.
So now I have two stuffed polar bears.
The thing about the stain is, I don't know if the dog caused that. It's small, and subtle. The polar bear from last year had one, too. A pink spot above the eye. I noticed it, and thought at first to put the bear down. Then I thought "No one will buy this one if I don't, because it's stained." So I kept it-- I wanted it to have a good home, I wanted to keep it safe, and care for it. The cashier pointed out the stain and asked me if I'd like to exchange it, and I refused. 
I called that polar bear "Pink Eye."
I held clung to Pink Eye as we left the store. A year ago. I was upset, I had been all night, but I couldn't place why.
Clinging to this stuffed toy, a year ago, looking at it's adorable face, it hit me all at once as we left the store. I went over, and sat on a bench near the front of the store. Zack followed me. I was quiet for a minute.
Then, "I've decided I want to start trying to have a baby."

All you need to know about his response is that it was underwhelming. I carried around the disappointment with me for a few hours, talked about it with a friend, and then, eventually, we unpacked everything. I told him that I'd been having trouble taking my birth control lately-- remember, this is a year ago, not three months ago. I told him that I felt like it was the right time. That I'd done everything I'd hoped to do before we started trying to conceive. That I was worried about how long it might take, and thought we should start trying sooner than later. That we'd been together long enough. I told him, my body feels ready now.
And he unpacked his reasons for his underwhelming response: that he was worried about the future. The future of his job, which was as yet-- and is as yet-- undecided. The future of where we would be living. The future, well, of us.
Our relationship had always been rocky. He wanted it not to be, before we started trying. It was a valid concern. Really, it was. But we'd been together 8 years already, by then. I guess I felt like, if we weren't committed by now, would we ever be? How much longer would I have to wait?

There are a lot of reasons I left. A lot of them have been outlined or referred to in other posts. A lot of you who will bother reading this know a lot more. But the thing is, the timing here can't be ignored. Zack and I were having troubles, sure. But I'd dealt with a lot of troubles for a lot of years. Nothing that was happening when I left would have been enough for me to leave...but for the fundamental difference in the way I was starting to feel about my life.
I wanted a baby.
I want a baby now, and I can't have one. But the wait is a lot shorter with the man I'm with now than it would have been with Zack, if Zack and I were to wait until the future felt certain. If Zack and I were going to wait until we both felt positive we were going to stay together forever.
The bullshit irony of it is, if I'd had a baby with Zack, I never would have left him. I would have fought tooth and nail to keep our family together, no matter what, and so would he. I think about it a lot: how different my life would have been if he'd just said, "yes."
I might be pregnant right now, if he had. I might even be holding a child. I'd be halfway across the world, and I'd be with him, and I'd be holding our baby.

I mourned that baby. That baby that never lived. When I realized, that baby-- the one that was his, the one that was ours-- would never be conceived, would never be born, I mourned. I use to lay in bed sometimes and talk to him about our future, then I'd hold the warm, imaginary body with with two hands tucked under her armpits, thumbs on her chest, and I'd bounce her a few times, and them I'd hand her to him. He'd balk a little, but soon enough, with a little chiding from me, he'd put his hands in that position, and he'd bounce our child.
Our child that never was. I can't even hold my hands in that position anymore.
I mourn that baby.

So I brought the new bear downstairs, and I looked up at Pink Eye. Now I have two bears, and no baby. I wondered, when, exactly, all of this happened. I thought to myself, it must have been almost exactly a year ago. So I looked it up, I looked up the conversation I had with my friend-- with Dan-- the night that it happened, that I told Zack I wanted a baby, and I got a bear.
A year and a day. December fourth last year, December fifth this year. A year and a day ago, I bought a bear. I bought another bear tonight. But tonight, my life is the polar opposite of what it was.
I lived in San Diego in an apartment with my husband, and my life was all about him, and my life was all about keeping us together. And I wanted a baby.
Now I live in Maine, in my parent's basement, and I spend most of my nights alone, with my boyfriend away at college. And I'm trying to make mt life more about me, than about him; than about either of them. And I'm alone, and sad, a lot of the time. And I want a baby.

It's hard waiting. It's hard, waiting to have a job that I might not ever get, and the money I might not ever earn. It's hard waiting for the young man, who wants to give me what I want, to get older, while I get older. It's hard believing it's gonna come true, this time.
Maybe sometimes, he has a hard time understanding why I can't wait. Maybe he doesn't understand what the fear is to me: that the child I feel, so real inside me when he holds me from behind and places his hand low on my belly, that that child that is real and clear to me in my mind will slip away, as suddenly and completely as the other child that I loved slipped away. That she will vanish, our little girl, consumed by uncaring circumstance and leaving nary a trace behind her. That there will be nothing for me to cling to as grieve for her, nothing to give my pain substance and a sense of reality. That there will be nothing to remember, nothing that ever was, except my love for everything she was supposed to be, again. That I will be left, forever a mourner, and never a mother.
I can't even hold my hands in that position, anymore.

On with it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

To Him

It wouldn't surprise you, baby, to know that I've been having trouble sleeping lately. Always did, always will. But it's as bad as it's ever been. Can't even blame it on your snoring, anymore.

I don't wear the necklace with our wedding ring on it anymore. I flew out to see you, the week before last, and I found out then something I didn't expect: I don't really want our life back. Not the way I used to. Being there, I remember how it felt, sometimes. You get so angry, so often, and I don't react to that well. My new life, well, that's not a part of it.

It was refreshing at first. To feel like I made all the right choices. To feel like I was starting to get past it all. To think, maybe, you and I are on our way to whatever you and I are going to be, when we're not married anymore. When it's part of our past. Maybe, I'm on my way to being someone who can be completely with the person I'm with, without reservation, without regret.

And most days, since then, it's been pretty much like that. I had a great time out there with you, but it didn't feel like home anymore, and I was glad to come home.


Except, I've barely heard your voice since then. I've barely made the effort to hear it. I've grown complacent in this new world of mine-- or not complacent, but when I break down from missing someone, it's not you, most of the time.

It is, tonight.

I was laying in bed, not thinking of you, not thinking of us. And then it hit me, all at once, that I wasn't. It hit me, all at once, how little time I've spent lately, remembering the life we've had, remember that you're our there somewhere, without me, and that that's by my choice, and that that would have seemed unspeakable to me, a year ago.

I imagine, sometimes, it hits you that you're alone now. You probably can avoid thinking of it way better than I can, when I am alone, which isn't as often as you are. But when it hits you, it probably hits you hard. I can't stand that. My whole adult life, all I ever knew how to do was to give myself to you so you'd feel less pain. It's all I want to do now, when I imagine you realizing how far away I am. When I imagine you realizing that I decided to leave.

I don't know how to describe the discomfort I feel when I write that-- "I decided to leave." How hard it is to keep that reality firm in my mind sometimes. The best way I can say it, really, is that it's sort of like graft versus host. I've had part of me removed-- part of me that was sick, that was starting to make the rest of me sick-- and replaced it with something new, something that can work. But sometimes, my whole body rejects it. Me, getting over you, making the choice to sleep apart from you? That's...that's not me. That's not how I remember myself.

It's so disorienting. To remember that I've made a decision that I can't go back on, and I'm not yours anymore. It makes me dizzy and lonely and homesick, because, honestly, it's the only thing I know how to be.

Most days, now, or for most hours of the day, I can want what's best for all of us: for you, for me, for him. I can want you to get the job that will make your life easier, even if it keeps you far away. I can want for me to love him forever, for him to give me children, for my life to stabilize and grow happier. Most days, now, most hours of the day, I can want you to find just enough help that you can get better, that you can be in a place where you can love someone again, and for that to last.

But some days, some hours of most days, I look around at my life, and I feel so confused. Why did I make this decision? Why did I give up on absolutely everything my life was made of? From the walls I was living between to the man I was sleeping next to. I went from one coast to the other in every way that a person can. And I spend so many hours alone now, and I spend so many hours awake.

I know that I can't go back. Because I had all the right reasons for going forward. Because I'm here, and I've started to try to build a life, and because I've told him I'll be his forever, and I can't break that promise twice. I know that I can't go back.

But I also can't keep going this way, where I forget, most days, most hours, to grieve in earnest for everything that we lost. Where I tell myself, I don't need to wear that necklace anymore, the one with our wedding ring on it. Where I tell myself, that ring has already been replaced, if only in spirit, for now.

I can't keep doing that. I have to remind myself that it's okay to look back on everything we had, because so much of it was beautiful. I have to remind myself, it's okay to miss you as deeply as I miss you right now-- it's okay that, right now, I'd give anything in the world to hear your voice, to hold you. I'd give anything in the world if you could be crying with me, like we did in the hotel that night, just before I left. I'd give anything in the world if you could be here to tell me, you loved what we had, too, just as much as I did, and you remember it, and you'll always remember it, and it's okay that it hurts this much.

I wish you would do that, sometimes. Feel the pain, for me, and be there with me, in it. I need to grieve this loss, the loss of our growing old together, the loss of children, the loss of our home and the happiness that we never quite caught up with.

Some days, you took such good care of me: the last day of my visit, I was sick, and you packed for me, and you were so good to me. No one ever made me feel so safe and at home as you, when you took care of me. It'll be a while before anyone ever does.

I wish you were here. I wish we could talk about how badly it hurts, together. You haven't died, and neither have I, but we grieve alone, like we're at each other's graves. It feels like that. Like I'm talking out loud, to a ghost. But you haven't died. You're out there somewhere, right now. Snoring.

I just want to be able to talk about the pain with you. I know that's hard for you-- to hear me out and not feel attacked, to feel my pain and resist the urge to numb yourself. But I wish we could do it, sometimes. Because I need to know that we both grieve.

It was beautiful, you know? Our life together. It was tumultuous and painful and gritty and frustrating, but it was beautiful, it was so beautiful. We stayed much longer than so many could have, under those circumstances. Because you opened me up to depths of love I'd never thought I would know how to feel. And that's something I benefit from, every day.

I don't regret it. I don't regret it at all. Just, tell me that you don't. Tell me that you never will. And hold me. And cry with me. I don't want to do it alone, anymore. I have so much grieving left to do.

And so little sleeping.

On with it.