That's what they told us when we went through Retrouvaille. When we broke our marriage so bad that we had to go to a retreat for the nearly-divorced to learn how to be human beings who could live in the same house. We had to talk in these really specific scripts. I feel... I feel like... I feel that... always me, never you. Like sixth grade conflict management. And none of that sneaky "you made me feel" stuff. Rules, rules.
Owning, only. Feeling, only. Just being.
Hard to do, though. Hard to think about feelings as being completely my own and not inspired by events in my day, a misunderstanding, someone else. Tough to accept: the fact that my feelings are random. And uncontrollable. And not good or bad.
Man, that shit is still hard four years later. Not just with E, really. Just in the being a human being who doesn't go around looking for a fight or a way to get hurt sense.
I want my feelings to have meaning! And to be controlled! And I want them to be good, only good!
"I think you're blowing this thesis thing out of proportion."
That's what E said to me last night, as we lay on our bed--an island of quilts in the middle of our house that was so messy we've had to call the housekeeper twice to ask her not to come. Because we couldn't even find the time to pick up so she could come scrub anything. Dishes crusted with spinach were piled up to the ceiling (I already can't take my own advice--please, have a laugh), our bathroom counter looked like there had been a coup of teenage girls, and based on the amount of clothing on the floor throughout the house, it would've made a nice nest for a giant rat.
The issue wasn't the housekeeper, who will come next week, I'm sure. And even having her come is an indulgent luxury I'm reticent to even mention because it makes me look like a selfish asshole. But that's where we are. I need help. I told E as much. Not just hers, but his. At least for two more months, until this thesis is off my plate.
Our house is out of balance, which means I feel out of balance. It doesn't take much.
When I was still teaching ballet, I found breaking down a pirouette to be complicated. There's a center of balance that runs like a plumb line through a ballet dancer's body from the top of her head through the ball of her foot to the floor. But since her body isn't symmetrically balanced in the turn--one leg is up or out while she stands on the other--the tiniest shift can send her falling out of the turn rather than spinning. A shoulder, lifted. A head, not spotting quickly enough. A hip, tilted. Disaster. Barely anything out of line, and boom. Pirouettes are balanced by feel, not by science. You can't show a student exactly how to turn, only give her tools to learn how to align and support her muscles, then allow her to find her center for herself. Even once she's learned a turn, the tiniest shift in posture can throw her out of it.
Right now I feel as though I'm trying every turn with my back arched and my hip lifted. Every day is a struggle--not just to make it around to the start, to the next new day--but to try to fight my way back to center and the routine that I know makes things work for us in the house. I'm falling and fighting to right myself in the turn.
I went to the cabin last weekend and made a plan for writing but I didn't make a plan for living. So what's happened in the little over a week since I've been back is that I've been a writing champ--I've gotten up every day at 4:45 or 5:00 and I've written for at least an hour before I had to go teach. That's a god-awful time to do anything, but I know if I get it done first then it will be done. The house is remarkably quiet at 5:00 AM, and at that hour it doesn't matter that I don't have an office. It's getting done. But getting up so early means going to bed early. Means not doing things I normally do. Means not cooking/ cleaning/ shopping/ organizing/ running the house like usual. Means people are not taken care of. Means I am feeling too tired to do an adequate job, plus also feeling bad about the not doing.
Means we are all blinking out from beneath piles of laundry going, what now?
I am right on thesis schedule but I am struggling to keep up with my life, which continues to happen around me.
"I think you're blowing this thesis thing out of proportion," he said, and I caught myself just before I spoke back.
I wanted to make him understand why this matters so much to me. Why writing my thesis has to equate (at least marginally, or perhaps on a stress level, or maybe on a family support level, or on a making-me-want-to-cry level, or perhaps just on a requiring-more-junk-food-than-normal level) with what the Bar Exam was for him. (He will say he did not cry.) Why having 185 pages in a word document isn't the same as having a rough draft that's done and ready to turn in on October 15. Why I feel so much pressure to let other things go so this can be my best work. Why so far I haven't been successful at doing any less work at work, despite all my best intentions to do so in order to focus on graduating with my MFA in December.
I wanted to fight.
I'm pretty sure make you understand ______________ is in the realm of unsuccessful statements and sentiments, just like you made me feel _________. Both are certain to inspire an argument. Or at least, that's what I decided in the moment.
For what it is worth, I could not call up a single time in my memory where "make you understand something" was a strategy that ended successfully for me. Even though I know it's been a go-to. It's hard for me when I feel like someone misunderstands or has the wrong impression. But last night I abandoned it. Peace by surrender, on Monday night 9/23/13. In H & E world, getting up to a fight and then not having it is something. And I'll take it.
And today, I managed this:
I cleaned the kitchen, I took a bath, I shaved my legs, I changed my sheets. So life got a little easier. I haven't figured anything out yet, but with shaved legs and clean sheets I feel like I have a better shot at it.