Saturday, November 15, 2008

Everybody Loves the Sound of a Train in the Distance

I read Cecily all to infrequently anymore, but got caught up lately in some of her brilliant election stuff, and her Phillies euphoria (woot!). So I flitted by the other day and she had up what for her I'm assuming was a rather innocuous post on living in chaos.

Cecily spoke of how even in her decade-plus state of sobriety she still creates and craves the chaos that used to mark her addicted life: she described making herself late for things, and driving maniacally; and how her home and carpeting had disintigrated into a war zone (though not quite approaching Katrina people, so lighten up). And how she's going to work on fixing this situation stat because she simply can't live like this anymore, especially with her daughter.

And my internal air raid siren went off, and I stared slack-jawed at my screen.

I realized, I too, live in a state of chaos, mostly of my own making. Here's how it goes:

I live in two week increments.

I don't plan anything further out than two weeks, and if something goes on the calendar further out than that, I just turn the page back quickly, with a heavy sigh, knowing full well I'm going to have to move something around once I get there. 99 times out of 100, the thing that far in advance has to do with Bella.

I don't think about anything more than two weeks in my future. I don't fantasize, dream, wish, plan. If it's something that's going to have to happen more than two weeks out, I usually just stop thinking about it, or drop it altogether. (See: dentist appointment.)

Ergo, I live in a fire-drill. I wake up, and run pell-mell through my day, with my only goal being to make it to bedtime. Phew. And then I crash, wake up, and do it all over again. I'm insanely busy -- and things always interrupt my plans, and fuck up my daily schedules -- something happens with the kitchen which slams my morning, and my afternoon is already full so shopping moves to tomorrow, dinner plans get dialed back, and on.

This all started, I believe, last fall with the foot issue. I was so intent and focussed on losing the pregnancy weight, that when my schedule became consumed with physical therapy, podiatry, and orthopedic appointments, I refused to schedule anything else lest it interfere with my recovery. Any other doctor's appointment or event might just stand in the way of the shedding of 15 pounds, and hell if I'm letting that happen. So I just filled up two weeks at a time with appointments, declared my schedule full, and plowed through.

It continues to this day, even though I no longer have those appointments, and my weight shedding schedule is limited to an early morning gym trip or forest path run.

This is not to say I don't enjoy myself, but it's last minute -- Mr. ABF will ask me on Wednesday if we should call a babysitter for Saturday night, and I hem and haw, and fret that if I feel like I do now, I'll fall asleep before she arrives, and we end up going out and having a delightful time and I say something like "We should make this a standing date!" But we don't.

My house is tidy, I arrive to appointments in a timely fashion. I shower most days, and keep on top of laundry and meals and bills and house stuff. But I don't plan.

I never have those falling-asleep fantasies anymore about holidays or vacations or what my family will look like in 5-10 years, or visualizations about where Bella might go to school next year, or full-throated wonderments about renting a house in Italy for some distant December. A month or so ago, Mr. ABF and I began discussing an end-of-February vacation (we decided it's a nice bit of rope to gently pull us through the ugliness), we hopped online for a few days, and then the bottom came out of the stock market. Oddly, I wasn't that upset, but nor did I search for less expensive outings. I just folded up the mental manilla folder and filed it away, thankful to have that space in my day to do something else.

Of course, this behavior is begging the obvious: I'm also unable, totally, completely, to think about a child-bearing future. I've been told to try and visualize my future, "try a few scenarios on for size," and believe me I try. I lie in bed, nicely sated by the crossword, and consciously wonder about a sibling for Bella -- or not. A child of our making. An AIDS orphan from Africa. A tidy, efficient family of three with an enormous rambling house where everyone gets their own office.

But I can't. I try and project what it would feel like to have another set of feet in the house, but my consciousness gets stuck on that 7-letter word for 8-across. And then I realize the blinking light in my peripheral vision is a phone message. Which reminds me I never called someone back, need to do that tomorrow. Along with the application I've now put off for three days. And Cinnamon! Must remember to put that on the grocery list. Do I have stuff in the dryer? Will I have time for a load of laundry tomorrow? No, I can't call the RE. Maybe when the kitchen's done. I just don't have the time.

There are a number of reasons for this way of living:

I'm scared to death. I'm positively frozen about what terrible horrible things my future might hold. Bella might die in her teens, my husband might divorce me. We could lose our house to fire, our city could come to resemble the dystopia in "Robocop." A very typical conversation goes like this:

Me: I need a haircut.
Mr. ABF: When are you going to schedule your mammogram?
Me: (Bursts into tears, runs from room.)

But these terrible, horrible, no good very bad things will never happen in the next two weeks! Why, if I only think two weeks in advance, nothing bad will ever happen! And of course you may have a toke from my hookah eminating the florescent cartoon flowers and the sweet aromatic smell of denial!

Diminishing returns. If I only plan things two weeks in advance, and they don't happen, I don't feel so badly. Hell, if I say on Friday that I want to do something Sunday, and suddenly wake up Monday morning realizing I totally spaced out on that thing on Sunday? Eh. Oh well. Because we all know the less time we have to grow attached to an idea, the less it will hurt if it doesn't come to fruition. Right? What? Pass the bong again? Here ya go.

Time of year. This happened last fall, and I'm just noticing it in full force again now. Wonder why? Hmm. Lessee: on my horizon, starting about 7 weeks from now and going forward: Christmas. New Years. February. My 40th birthday. Now who the fuck wants to plan around that shit? I don't want to do any of it. I don't want any of it to even arrive. I want to crawl in a cave and have someone wake me up next April with a two week schedule that involves baking and travel.

My reproductive state. I'm supposed to be thinking about this. I'm supposed to be doing something before I hit the big 4-0 and my eggs mutate and my ovaries rust over. And I can't think about it, because thinking about it involves envisioning a future -- a possible pregnancy, a child of someone's creation, and concomitantly, a tragedy, and a death. If I never start, I'll never have to push out my horizon. And it's comfortable here, where nothing bad ever happens.

So what to do.

I'd actually like to change this. I'm tired of being stuck in the now. I realize I'm exhausted from functioning, from existing, but I'm not really living.

It's more than just getting brave, picking up the pen, flipping the calendar to the end of January and writing something down be it an event, an appointment, or simply a date with my husband.

It's somehow changing my mindset to once again accept the possibility of a future. And the idea that good, fun, entertaining stuff might happen there -- along with the inevitable calamity and tragedy. That my expectations will undoubtedly be dashed again, but that happens, and occasionally, something will in all probability occur as it should. That dreaming is simply that -- dreaming. No more, no less. And it's a fun exercise (or it used to be) regardless of whether I ever take action and start looking at Tuscan real estate sites. People will let me down, like clockwork, at the holidays when I'm especially low. So maybe I need to reach out there a bit, and plan an alternative activity -- buy tickets to something for the family? -- something that will cheer my husband and daughter when a relative doesn't show with presents and comfort. When relatives fail to remember why it is that we're so miserable.

I've written in many many comments that my life lacks a horizon. And I've only recently come to see how completely debilitating and depressing this is. The big question now is how do I paint one back in?


Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distance
Everybody thinks it’s true
What is the point of this story
What information pertains
The thought that life could be better
Is woven indelibly
Into our hearts
And our brains

--- Paul Simon


Aunt Becky said...

Tash, I hate to leave these kind of comments, mainly because I'm no armchair psychologist, nor am I anyone to talk about this. But it sounds like you might have a touch of PTSD. Again, go ahead and tell me to piss off if you think I'm out of line, I can take it.

Tash said...

A touch?


Not out of line, I frequently think the same thing, especially when combined with the short-term memory loss. Question is, what mind games to play in order to correct or make it better? I'm not wholly interested in drugs just to be able to plan a weekend away.

The Turtle and the Monkey said...

I also live life without a horizon. I'm not sure my brain can handle it. If I don't think about it, maybe the bad stuff just won't happen.

I think you (and even me) will find your way in your own time. You will know what is right for you and your family.

You are in my thoughts...

k@lakly said...

I'm interested in drugs to enjoy a weekend get away...mwahahah, I kid. If it is the PTSD beast rearing her ugly head the other therapy, you know the one without pharmaceuticals, is good old fashioned talk it out. Maybe it's time to call the head shrinker and let the crapola that's been brewing, boil over. Lord knows I am a card carrying member of the bury it deep in the crevices of my brain and never really deal with it club, but I also know at some point I'm gonna have to pay the piper cuz I'm running out of space to store all the shit.
At least you're at a point where you feel like you want to be done with this mental state of being. That all by itself should lend itself to being 'fixed' more successfully.
You deserve a future you can dream about without fear, you really do. But I can sure as hell understand why you can't see it. I guess the opposite of rose colored glasses are black out glasses, right?
How do mine look?

CLC said...

I don't have any advice. Just that I get it. I don't make plans anymore either, and I used to be the biggest planner. What's the point when anything can happen in the meantime? I wish I had something magical to say and make you feel better. Kalakly might be right. Maybe you need to just talk it out with a professional.

janis said...

I live in 24-hour increments. Yes, I put thinks down on the calendar further than 24hrs ahead, but I always pretend, or assume, it is not going to happen. I think I am going to die in a car accident, or someone is going to murder me brutally. No more guarantees, no more insurance.

Tash, this post, so honest, is full of pain and agony. You never whine, moan or groan in your writing, but the grief and sadness is so palpable, it just breaks me to pieces.

Holding you in my heart, Tash. xo

MsPrufrock said...

Thanks to my pesky anxiety, I don't like to think happy thoughts about the future. I think that if I am too optimistic, that will some how bring tragedy upon me and I'll spend the rest of my life cursing myself for ever thinking things could be good. Ah, it's good in this world, ain't it?

Randomly, I think of you every time I hear "Be OK" on XPN. I sing along and imagine you sing along whenever you hear it too. I mean that in a bonding way, not in the creepy ass stalking way that it sounds.

Aunt Becky said...

I did a little digging, and I'd be happy to do more digging if you'd like, but here's a link to a site that wasn't strictly pushing drugs alone:

luna said...

pass the bong this way, my friend. lalala...

really interesting and insightful post, tash.

funny in some ways with every day activities, I am the same way. but in other ways with select things I'm so the opposite, needing to plan something so far out that it provides that horizon, even though it's completely artificial. somehow planning that vacation helps ground me and gives something to look fwd to, when today pretty much sucks and there's no possibility of becoming pregnant, it's all we have...

c. said...

There just used to be so much to look forward to, so many things to accomplish, so many dreams to be had...until I learned you don't get what you want simply because you want it. And I'm still trying to accept this fact. I'm still trying to wake up everyday, do what I need to do and really accept that this is the shit I've been dealt - suck it up already. I've spent a year sucking this one thing up, this dream, this life, this heartache. I cannot fathom the idea of having to suck up anything else - big or small, important or not.

I used to dream a future because I felt I could create it. I've learned I don't have that control. So, if you can figure out how to go about painting that horizon back in without the bong, let me know. XO.

Julia said...

I noticed that I don't do future anymore sometime this past winter/spring. I mean things go on the calendar, things like husband's business trips, Monkey's classmates' birthday parties, even our friends' birthday parties. Work meetings, woot. But then I am always surprised by these things creeping up, and happening oh shit... now!

Though it seems I have a very different reaction to this state of things than you do-- I think I like it. To me it's kinda freeing. It lets me fully appreciate the small joys I find in my days, even the days that are very crappy on the whole.

I also feel that determination is more functional/useful than dreaming and hoping. That requires knowing where you would like to end up, sure, but I find that it does not require, nor even work better with, imagining what that where would look or feel like.

sweetsalty kate said...

My brain has run away to cancun and left me with this empty head, but I can't leave without saying how much I can relate to this. This is some kind of masterpiece of some kind of universal babylost truth.

As to how to find a way out, I don't know. I can only answer with the words of G.I. Joe and say that knowing is half the battle.

charmedgirl said...

holy shit, lady. i know, right? one side of my brain is screaming, "live in the now! be present!" while the other, knowingly, "you can't think about the future because you're a scardey coward." not exactly what the dalai had in mind about presence, i imagine.

it's all mind games. it's all bullshit. this is the life i couldn't wait to *grow up* to when i was a kid- always running away from the magic to jesus christ.

Melissia said...

Oh, girl I wish I had some words of wisdom for you. I haven't written about it at all but when my son was in Iraq I couldn't leave my other son home alone for fear that 2 Army types would show up at the house. Totally irrational, but I spent most of the day checking websites and military databases for updates as his unit had the highest mortality rate in the war. It was actually a relief when he was injured(and survived) and disabled out of the service, but that fear chest crunching fear has not gone away, so I off to therapy I will be going.
It is amazing that we resonate so much with each other,and your being able to write about it is a very big step. I have no doubt that you are now headed in the right direction for you, even if you cannot yet clearly see the path.

Gal aka SuperMommy said...

I have moments where I envy those people who can hope and dream and imagine good things ahead. They are the ones who haven't lost their dreams, haven't had them shifted so drastically. Then I realize that none of us - even those of us who still have our idealism intact - have any clue what's ahead. Any sense that we do is an illusion. Right now I'm not sure I want to go back to that illusory place where I thought I had any control at all over any of it. But the place where I find myself instead is uncomfortable too... I've been spending time online lately too, looking at houses to rent in Mexico for a distant spring vacation. Then I get sad, thinking that I was pregnant last time I was in Mexico almost 2 years ago, and that just after I lost that baby at 10 weeks. And there has been another baby lost since then... That's when I close up all the vacation websites and come visit my friends in babylost land. I'm with you, Tash.

Sue said...

I have no reason to believe that anything will work out the way I would like them to. That there can be something good without something really bad happening, too. It's kind of like the "even-steven" Sei.nfeld episode: even if something goes sort of okay, there is something lurking around the corner, my heart about to break. Again. Always.

We've recently gotten some good news, but I'm holding my breath for the bad, worrying. And this is me, medicated.

I mentioned to my therapist how I used to joke or imagine I had ptsd, and she looked at me and said, you didn't imagine anything.

I'm so sorry, Tash. I don't know how to make it better. But I'll sit with you. And I have lots of extra tissues.

niobe said...

This post makes me suddenly realize that, well, I never, ever, ever plan anything anymore. I don't even need a calendar any more, because every day is blank.

G$ said...

Puff, puff, give... don't eff up the rotation.

Sometimes I wonder what my life will be like when I plan farther out from my two week escapades. Anti-climatic? Who knows.

spoiledonlychild said...

This is so interesting. I'm striving for just the opposite, trying to be more in the present, instead of thinking about how my life would be better if ... I'm so full of thoughts about that master's degree I should earn or that trip I want to take or that new career I really should figure out, that I'm unable to enjoy the place where I am now. If it's not one thing it's another in this life.

Antigone said...

I'm planning one year to five years out. Completely living in the future. It's the next week, the next month that I can't seem to plan or follow through.

Anonymous said...

Don't really have anything too profound to say, except I totally feel you with this post. I always thought I had a pretty good idea what my future held for me. Now? I have absolutely no idea. And it scares the shit out of me.


Coggy said...

I still have more than a touch of PTSD then. I don't do thinking ahead. I don't write things on my planner. Whatever, I think eventually it'll change. I'm not a big believer in forcing yourself to do something just because you think it's the 'normal' thing to do.
I think our minds are probably just finding ways to cope still. Maybe we'll start planning, maybe we'll continue to learn to live in the present.

Anyway who says the planners aren't the ones that are kidding themselves? Maybe we're the ones who have our heads screwed on. Certainly I think Buddhist teachings might agree with us. I say stick with the Bong ;o)

Hope's Mama said...

Hi Tash
I'm new to your blog and new to blogging in general, no thanks to the recent fullterm stillbirth of my first child, a little girl, in August. I wanted to stop by to say firstly how much I *enjoy* your blog, as much as one can enjoy a blog about losing a child and that I'm also very sorry for the loss of Maddy, even if it is a tad belated!
But I'm sure it helps to hear those two words, "I'm sorry", even after all this time, even from a stranger on the other side of the world. I come to learn though, we are not strangers through this experience. We walk together. Thanks for shining the light on the path ahead for me.

Alice said...

I tried to post a comment on your new post but it wouldn't let me. I wonder why not. I do think about futures. But having said that my son wants a hamster and I don't want him to have one - because I'm worried about when the hamster dies. That's not great is it? I don't know what to recommend. Alice