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I Forgot. I Can be a Good Thing.

March 22, 2013

It was something he said. I don’t remember the exact words. Something about being touched. The importance of being touched. “It’s amazing how much you can miss being touched,” he said something like that. He said it as I was caressing him. We weren’t in love. We were friends, being intimate. A disaster waiting to happen, of course. But in that moment it was far from disastrous. It was beautiful and joyous. I didn’t think much about what he said at the time. It was later. I was thinking about him, about his solitary lifestyle, about his odd personality. It occurred to me as I was riding my bike to work. This is a good thing for him. I’m a good thing for him, in his life. Right now.

“I can be a good thing to someone. I can be something good in somebody’s life. I can bring something good to another person’s life,” I thought to myself.  This seemingly obvious revelation hit me with more force than it should have. I forgot that. I forgot that feeling.

I was married for a long time. You might think being in a loving, mostly happy, long-term marriage would give one a sense of purpose and belonging. A feeling of being needed and loved. And it did. But there were other things, too. Especially towards the end.

“You’re nothing but a burden to me,” he had told me. He said that to me. How could he say that to me? I had given up a high paying job and a life so he could pursue his dreams. I wasn’t packing fast enough. I couldn’t find a job quickly enough. He didn’t like that I was painting. He wanted to live in the apartment close to the company. He wanted the apartment decorated more “normally.” Each accommodation, each compromise, each little sacrifice and effort was met with indifference and disdain. I couldn’t do enough. It took me a long time to realize that nothing was ever going to be enough. I had to give up trying. I was never going to succeed. I was never going to get him to feel for me what I hoped he would. He was never going to respect me. He was never going to value me.

When I remember this, I get angry. Really angry. How could he treat me like that? I’ve surrounded myself with people who like me, who care about me. We laugh and dance. We enjoy life and support each other. They value me. Why didn’t he? I want to have him in front of me and scream at him. I want to charge him with his crimes. I want to blame him. But of course I know there would be no point such a confrontation. It would accomplish nothing.

Then I get angry at myself. I believed it. I bought it. Me and my monster, Depression believed his lies. I allowed someone else to define my value. Why did I stay in that toxic environment? Why did I put off the life I’m living now? How could I be so stupid?

I know the answers to those questions. Because I was married. He was my husband. I loved him. I took marriage seriously and I wanted to work it out. I wanted to be patient and supportive. I had hope. I wanted to do the right thing.

For as long as I live I will always remember the moment that I said, “I have to hang up now,” after he spewed some venomous blame and accusation over the phone. He laid the last straw on the camel’s back. I was crying hysterically but my brain was working out the practicalities. Suitcase. Clothes. Shoes. Coat. Computer. Money. Look behind you, there’s the line. GO!

I contrast that now with new memories. Falling on the floor in hysterics at the Blue Moon. Dancing with Pickle. Sam picking me up by the waist and placing me on the bench. Talking to Lapin over coffee. Kissing Leo on the porch. Looking at No. 5 with a surprised expression after he kissed me. Looking at him in my apartment and saying, “So, you want to keep doing this until it goes wrong?”

“Yes.” he said. What a simple answer. Here’s something good in front of you. You want it? Yes! I can be a good thing and I can appreciate the good thing being offered.

~~~~~~~~~~~

I walked through the museum on my way to my office. I walked past the wall hangings and the information panels I designed with the macro photography I took of the artifacts. I thought about the upcoming exhibit. It’s not going to be everything I hoped it would be. Not my opus magnum. But it is the result of my research and writing. It wouldn’t exist without my work. I had another little revelation. I might not be successful. I don’t make enough money. But I have left my mark on all the places I’ve worked. I made displays for cabinet hardware at the building supply store I worked at in the 90s. I created an exhibit on the Apollo 8 mission. I reorganized the international section of the music department at Barnes and Noble when I was a cashier there. I redesigned the masthead of the weekly paper. I spoke up for my co-workers who were being mistreated and got an editor fired at the daily paper. I wrote a city’s history and rebranded its entire image from the website to the forms and business cards. Things are better at these places because I was there. I leave my mark. I was a good thing to those places.

~~~~~~~~~~~

My daughter has a blog. I read every new post. She wrote this the other day:

……It’s kind of like… when you work out, and you’re weak, and you fall a lot and then as you get better, one day you realize you can lift things you couldn’t before, you can balance like you couldn’t before. You don’t know when exactly you became more capable, but now you are and you can do things you couldn’t before. That’s how I feel. I can do things now I just physically couldn’t when I was younger…..

She was writing about her recovery from a knee injury but to me, her words speak to so much more. That’s my daughter who wrote that. She’s an artist because of me. She is who she is because of how I raised her. I did that. I had her at 18 and she’s an amazing, bad-ass little woman.

….That was a lesson my mom taught me when she came here. Goals are great, striving for success is great, but if you don’t take a break and just relax every now and then something will give…..

I am a force of good in my children’s lives.

~~~~~~~~~~~

I was in the car with Pickle the other night. No. 5 was coming over later. I had asked him to after Pickle had pushed me to talk to him. She’s been so amazing to me this past year in ways I can hardly express. “I have a confession to make,” I told her. “Since Christmas I’ve been trying to come up with a gift for you to repay you for all that you’ve done for me. And I just can’t think of anything because nothing is enough.”

“Being able to hang with you is the repayment,” she answered.

Damn. She spends time with me because she likes me. She thinks I’m funny and smart. She wants to be around me. I bring something good to her life. I can be something good in somebody’s life.

~~~~~~~~~~~

The reason I have to write this is because I forgot. Because he taught me not to value myself. He told me I was not good in his life. I was a burden. He was the most important person in my life. I loved him for 25 years. And he shit on me. So, I have to think about it consciously. I have to write it and affirm it. In doing so, I reclaim it and re-know it. I remember what my parents and siblings and friends and children taught me when I was listening. I’m a good thing.

I don’t have it all figured out. I’m a mess. I don’t have a plan. I don’t know how I’m going to make it. I’m 43, single with no career. But remembering who I am and what I’m worth is a damned good start.

I forgot. I’m not going to forget again.

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From → Rantings

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