It’s been close to a month, and I continue to feel like I am going nowhere, a hamster on a wheel made of pages.
Before the Flood, I was lying in a riverbed in my mind, laid flat out on my back and then on my stomach. Something maybe happened to me in this position, and I was beginning to explore it.
But then the channel changed inside, and I’ve been unable to get back to my story.
Wherever I was seems to have been washed away by the Flood.
Blanket tried to help. In late March he conducted a Period of Review where he declared us a city, Sandbox City, and tried to analyze and make sense of our many hundreds of pages. But when we approached the Flood for analysis, we turned away.
For a week or two, Monkey and I tried to merge; we became SM. I think I wanted us to become one so that E would love me just as much as she loves him. That’s the theory anyway.
A week or so after the Flood, I woke and wrote erotica to Eileen. It was shameful and desperate, but I felt that if I was going to be authentic, I needed to be so all the way. We were on a beach, alone together, naked. I was giving her everything she ever wanted, and as I do, I can feel her body, just like the sea bird in front of us, begin to take flight.
How she loves birds, and how I wanted to give her this gift.
I choose you, I tell her. With all my might. With all my words.
But she never directly acknowledges this writing, and I am left to wonder what it all means. I do not think I will ever have enough courage to ask.
Most days are not good. I question how I got from the pain of my original obsession long ago to this moment now and why I am not better or clearer — why I am, perhaps, worse.
It all began when I started hearing voices five months ago. What was curious and scary back then, these voices have now become an accepted routine, part of my day –– Parts found, Parts consolidated, and Parts that speak with ease. But it’s the pain inside, the words in my brain demanding to be put into pages, that feels as aimless as it does effortless. I ache deep down, grief and depression, but it’s not well understood. I have flickers of memory pricking at me, but nothing registers succinctly.
I begin to consider the loss of my mom to me, our non-relationship — not because it feels organic or at all remembered but because I feel that I’m supposed to — that this is the right thing to do, the logical course my therapy should take versus focusing on the illogical but insistent pain of the Flood.
Thankfully, Eileen, still seems to like reading my Sandbox. She sent me a quote the other day, which I now read over and over again, about how some people are able to become “better than better” in the wake of a personal crisis. It’s about approaching suffering in a particular way that eventually leads to spiritual and psychological transformation. I think she believes this applies to me and my Sandbox, and it gives me strength and hope to carry on with my work.
Eileen seeks council regularly now with a specialist whom Monkey calls Dr. Dissociation. I plead each week for Eileen to not punt me to another therapist, which I feel she might do. I cry, and I beg. Please do not make us go somewhere else.
Presently I am heading to eleven hundred pages in this Sandbox with no end in sight. And just like I cannot muster the strength to volunteer at the animal shelter because I am grieving the loss of my own dog’s mobility, I cannot muster the energy to do much about this Sandbox other than to admit inside of it how incredibly sad and lost I am.
I am now trying therapy twice a week, and it is not agreeing with me. I feel like a failed science experiment where the scientist gets to go home each night, but here I sit, a petri dish, growing ugly, uncomfortable things inside me.
I finally had a few really good days with Pete and with my art. Pete and I snuggle all week long, and a restaurant wants to sell the pigs that I make out of clay. Sweet relief from what feels like nonstop depression.
But the moment I walk into therapy last night, there is no pause, no room for any of it. Eileen immediately begins to focus on my mother, on how alike she and my mother are. How they both love my writing. How Mother’s Day is approaching, and is that hard for me? Is there a portion of the Sandbox I could, perhaps, send to my mother?
I feel the grief I was able to step away from, briefly, seeping right back into my gut, and I ask Eileen to stop. Stop dunking my head in the same sad toilet bowl again and again. I try to swallow the truth that I did not have much of a relationship with my mother. And while I cannot grasp the specifics of where everything went with her, and why it hurts so badly, I am clear that I want relief from this gnawing, nonstop psychic pain.
So I tell Eileen to stop — stop playing the mother card, stop depressing me. I want to feel clear and alive and happy. Why, oh why, can’t I have just a few good days? Stop it, I say. Stop right there.
And as I speak, as these words come out of my mouth and into the room, it’s as if they serve to paint it a new color and render Eileen suddenly speechless. I have sliced off the conductor’s hands.
I have stumbled upon something — a weapon, a knife.
And I pick it up and start slicing.
You’re depressed, I say. You suffer from depression. And you want me to sit depressed with you, forever stuck and never moving forward. I tell her she could not put on a party hat if she tried and that I finally know her diagnosis, can smell it from across the room.
I’ve found her soft underbelly, and I stab — more than once, more than twice. She is silent, uncomfortable, her legs crossing and uncrossing. I have, without knowing or understanding it completely, undressed her in this room.
And, oh, Not Gods, I regret it.
But, oh, Not Gods, how I long to get to a land called Better Now, to become better than better. And stabbing at her seems like the only way to clear a path.
After all that Eileen has done for me … how could I behave this way? I am ashamed and scared.
I write to her first thing this morning. I tell her how sorry I am, how my endless grief and reeling are not her doing. I assert my appreciation for her relentless patience with me, my process, my intensity, for staying with me in the Sandbox.
I’ve yet to burn the house down, and when I look at myself, I wonder how I’ve not managed to. And I believe the answer really is her.
She writes back to tell me how much she appreciates me — my honesty and creativity.
I had stopped uploading the Sandbox to her for a few days, but I begin to upload again. And with much relief and gratitude.
I wanted to give you news of Leon, the stuffy that S and Pete finally purchased for me. He is the softest, cutest lion that is a stuffy ever.
We hope you enjoy this photo, that you are well and that you have a day filled with bright yellow bananas.
Sincerely and your friend always,
Mother’s Day, 2014
A letter I will never send.
When we spoke earlier today, you had asked if I had been writing. And I responded yes, a lot. Stories and poems? Yes, both.
But I wanted to say more.
I wanted to say that I think you would be happy to know that through my writing and meditation these days, I have discovered what we shared long ago: a sense of story, imagination, crazy adventure. I remember our tales about Geneveva Genavosko and her little brother, Earl Genavosko. I found Angelina Angelosko and her little sister, Mary Angelosko. And, in that shack on the other side of the tracks? I can see Gloria Glorovosko, one eyebrow shaven and a pack of mangy dogs, all together eating candy bars.
I also remember Ronnie’s Miracle, a story you wrote, and I believe loved, but that seemed to haunt you with rejection. I remember an ice storm and eating out at a diner with you when I was five. I faced down a huge meatball, perplexed with how I would get so much food into my stomach.
I found a few memories of Grandpa when he came back from Florida to live with us; he was so skinny and frail, and he stayed with us briefly.
I should probably say that I found a few other very disturbing memories, too.
You ask about the writing. And I think, Mom, I have finally found my voice. It is something I call my Sandbox where I have written over one thousand pages and where, ultimately and miraculously, I begin to find … me.
I have decided you will never see my Sandbox because the pain of seeing it might hurt you beyond all measure. But I think it’s important to let you know that I hurt more than you could ever imagine for what happened to me growing up. I have begun to feel and remember a little more. And even things lost to me, they still come in little stabs here and there while I’m running or swimming or dreaming. In the scent of a blood-red rose, the smell of sunscreen, the dim sunlight leaking through dust-coated windows in a garage, these things act like memory for me, helping me to move both backward and forward in time and in my life.
I am in the long process of coming to terms with who I am today and grieving who I could have been had things been different for me growing up — had I not been violated, taken by the neck, my story in so many ways so profoundly hijacked.
I have done a great deal of thinking about terms — if and how one comes to them. I still am unsure if there are any.
There is so much here, Mom, so much to me, that you will never know. As I write these days, I feel myself to be more vessel than writer, someone who has been chosen to speak — chosen to save not only my own self but perhaps others who are in a great deal of pain.
I decided, not that one necessarily has a choice, to run from home, from you, to build a safe place for myself, to work and become independent. Unconsciously, I ran to survive. But I will always miss what we had, albeit briefly.
I will always miss and wonder, perplexed, what exactly a mother-daughter relationship is about, what it would be like to sit down comfortably in front of a big plate of French toast on Mother’s Day … just me … and my mom.
When Stella became paralyzed, her surgeon told me, right before she operated, that Stella could feel her feet and that deep pain was the best indicator of a good prognosis. I wonder if this enormous grief I have begun to be able to feel around you — around us — is perhaps a sign that someday I, too, will be able to heal.
And while I know that you will never see this Sandbox, that you will never be able to see your daughter’s gifts take flight, I want to thank you, Mom, for giving me life. And for an imagination and ability to paint a world in words that I hope someday will allow me to run, once again.
Happy Mother’s Day.
I see today we are heading toward the six-month anniversary of the Sandbox. I checked the page count.
It is 1,104.
I dream that I am a child, sequestered away from the others, as I am relegated to rolling up miles of crepe paper, impossible miles, impossible crepe paper. I am drowning in frustration, and then a group of little kids shows up. I see that I am one of them. But that also, I am not.
And I grasp how caught up I am in some sort of time-space warp.
I also dream that someone tells me my Sandbox is too long, that no one can read something this long, that somehow it’s just all a waste. And while I know that I should bask in the fertility of my mind, versus huddle in the shame of its flow, I still wonder: so many pages and what for?
It is Monday, I recognize. And Monday tends to bring fatigue, depression and sometimes anger, too.
I don’t have anyone in my life I can share with. And even if I chose something to share, I cannot even think about what I would share because it’s so huge now. If I share, I just feel like a burden. A one-thousand-one-hundred-and-four-page fucking mess.
I feel incredible loneliness.
I look up, to the sky, to my mantra, to something, to help ease this pain.
And of all things, I find Kris, the first woman I was involved with.
When I met her, Kris was a cancer survivor, recently re-diagnosed with a malignant tumor in her carotid artery; this tumor would come to haunt our relationship every day for four years. I was unable to commit because I was unable to watch her die. She screamed at me for my fears and accused me of discriminating against her because of her scars, her age, her diagnosis. We broke up and came back together like waves for the entire length of our relationship.
Eventually we moved on from one another and found ourselves back together as friends.
I was present in her dying process. And since she was spiritual and I am not, she promised to be blatant in her messaging after she died.
I forgot about this until three years later when on the morning of my 35th birthday, I was woken by a voice outside of myself; it was Kris who had come to say hello.
I began crying. I said that I missed her so much, and she said, don’t you see –– you’ve been given the best birthday gift. Ever.
I never heard from her again. But I realize now … she was right. That this would be and remain the best birthday gift ever.
It’s been a rough go lately, but Authenticity, still, I thank you. You feel like home to me, you feel like my religion, my faith, like wisdom without pretense or judgment. You tell me to listen to my voices in November, to write them down, to find my Parts and to trust in them. This morning you have me seek out Kris, and you remind me of her life, and her death, and the sprigs of my spirituality that spring up around her. You tell me that what I do is important, my words worthy, the effort every morning worth it, when I write your name before each entry.
Authenticity, you subtract sleep but add so much more than you take away. You are the walk in the hills I need, the courage I requested, the instinct that was always there.
This morning, in this very moment, you allow me to imagine sending my Sandbox to a friend far, far away who says she wants to see … everything. And it is in this imagining that I begin to feel it can be done. That I can finally perhaps share what is truly mine without shame.
And how will it feel to send everything if you do?
Oh. Relief. Sweet Relief. But wait — Authenticity?? You speak?
Relief. This makes sense. And thank you, S, for the props this morning.
Authenticity, thank you for coming out into the Parts! How exciting to see you.
My pleasure, S. How fun to meet you in the type this way!
Wow. I am kind of star struck. Does this make sense?
Of course. How alive I feel! To breathe, finally, the air that a Part breathes! Oh, thank you!
Wow. So … you’re a woman?
You are my …
Yes! I am your religion. I am your spirituality!
Wow. I want to know what you’re wearing.
Ah, S, how authentic of you! Would you like for me to be naked?
I am here for you, just like all your Parts, in whatever way you need.
Wow. I am so happy — so happy to meet you.
I can hike in the hills if you would like. How we love our meditations with our dog, Stella. How we look for small improvements in her gait.
A, how fucking cool. I mean eleven hundred pages, and I finally get to meet you. I have so many questions, so many walks I want to take with you.
I am flattered, S. And thank YOU for having me for so long, so consistently as your mantra. You are loyal, and your loyalty will be rewarded.
Thanks, A. I can’t wait to introduce you to everyone!
And I … I can’t wait to be introduced.
I spend my time this morning going back. For whatever reason, it is possible now in this moment to do so. I have had shame in the beginnings of my Sandbox. But I see it is loud and messy … just like birth. And there is a level of acceptance that feels … different.
I am not sure why, but it feels true. And good.
And I wonder … have I found my own religion, inside myself?
Or maybe more than maybe.
I see that faith and spirituality come with time and with shoveling. And faith and spirit are like lava, always, always erupting from within. My spirituality and faith cannot be found externally in the stained glass of a church. Or in chanting under the moon with a string of turquoise wrapped around my neck. My faith and spirituality are found each morning when I look inside and breathe and call out for … Authenticity.
And I am here, I am here, I am here.