Friday, July 22, 2011

"Let it ring."

I'm going to share something, that I find pretty embarrassing.  Actually, it's downright humiliating, and leads to even further awkward situations down the road. 

My telephone freaks me out.

Not in a "boogie man" sort of way, but in a "jeezus, that fucking thing is ringing again, and the thought of picking it up and actually talking to the person on the other end, is making my heart sink into my stomach," way. 
I'm not sure, exactly, what freaks me out about it.  Maybe I'm afraid I'll hear bad news.  Maybe I'm afraid the person wants something from me that I don't have to give.  Maybe I'm worried that I'll get "stuck" on the phone with them for an extended period of time, and won't have an excuse to hang up. 

When my mother still called, it was impossible to get her off the line.  She literally chattered on for up to three hours sometimes, about nothing but herself.  My least favorite subject.  And nothing shut her up.  "Oh, look, one of the kids is on fire...gotta go," would still leave me on the phone with her for another half hour, while she explained in great detail why she hated fire. 
Ok, maybe it's not that extreme.  But that's how it felt
That is, when we weren't screaming incoherently at one another.  Which was often. 

My father has been calling for weeks, and every time he does, a knot swells inside my throat.  "He's either shit-his-pants drunk and wants to ramble on for an hour about aliens, or he's sober, and won't have anything to say to me at all."  Both are equally unnerving.  His messages fill me with panic and guilt, and remind me what an asshole I am for not answering my phone when he calls. 

My friends call, and my husband looks at me as if I've done something terrible when I say, "let it ring." 
"But, why don't you want to talk to them?" 
The short answer is, I don't know.


In high school, most of my hours were spent on the phone.  With a boyfriend.  With a best friend.  With wrong numbers, even.  Several times, I literally spent the entire night on the phone, only to be surprised by my 6am alarm.  I would wander thru the day exhausted, nap after school, and wake in time for dinner and phone.  The thought of that now makes my insides twist. 

Talking on the phone with my husband is not particularly a problem.  I think I could talk to him all day, and feel comfortable.   I can even handle making "professional" phone calls, to deal with our personal business, because I have an agenda, I can say my peace, and I can hang up when it's over. 

But the thought of an unsolicited phone call from a friend, relative, or otherwise, leaves me feeling a weird, anxious and embarrassing feeling.

I feel as if I'm well-spoken, thoughtful, and thought-full in text.  I can read an email, take a few minutes to think on it, compose a response, re-read the response, and delete or reword what doesn't come across the way I wish.  I can double-check myself for anything that I might wish to take back.  I can triple-check for anything that seems insensitive.  I can be sure.  Very, very sure.  And then, send. 
There is no "undo" over the phone.  Once I say it, I can't un-say it.  It's out there in the universe, and I can't take it back.  It's done. 

More than once, this has lead to friends feeling alienated.  Ignored.  Left behind.  It has led to an angry father, frustrated loved-ones, and a very confused, and embarrassed me. 
I'm happy that they want to talk to me.  I'm happy that someone loves me enough that they want to hear my voice over the phone.  And I feel ridiculous that I can't (or don't) reciprocate.  I'm anxious when they do call, and scared to death that one day, they won't.  My fear is that one day, the phone will finally fall silent, and no one will bother with me anymore. 

Friday, July 15, 2011


Heart falling out of ass. 
It's the only way I know how to describe the feeling I get when something unpleasant takes me completely by surprise.  One second I'm fine, and the next second, my heart has plummeted from my chest, and threatens to fall right out of my ass. 

If you read regularly, you'll know that my husband and I are estranged from our mothers.  With good reason.  So I don't need to go over that again. 

Last weekend a phone call, at nearly midnight, led us to think someone must be dead, and so rather than ignoring it as usual, my husband answered it.  His mother claimed her phone was blinking his name, as if he had called.  (An obvious lie, since our flip-closed cellphones are physically incapable of "butt dialing.") 
She talked as if nothing had happened between us.  As if she hadn't been banished to Shitty-Mother Island, and as if she hadn't been told to "never darken our doorway again", after the disgusting things she said to my husband...
She asked about coming up to visit, "if I stay in a hotel," and my husband told her that we would just have to see how things go, since his schedule is weird.  

I shrugged it off, hoping that it was a way for him to blow her off, hoping he would ignore any further communication from her, and hoping that neither I, our children, or my precious husband would have to endure the black cloud she always carries with her...the chaos and darkness she will inevitably spread thru our house with her bitter comments, her racism, homophobia, and her general nasty disposition...
And sort of knowing that my husband is torn. 

Then, nothing.  No more calls, no emails or letters, just the ever-present nagging sense of her presence, somewhere deep in my brain. 

And today, in a "heart-falling-out-of-ass" moment, we receive this email:

"(Your grandmother) and I are going to come up to see the kids and you guys sometime before they go back to school.  When do they start back?"

The fuck?  Did she just invite herself back into our home?  Did she just tell me that they are arriving, and ignore the fact that she's forbidden to show her face on our property?  Talk about balls.  She definitely has a pair of big fat hairy ones. 

My immediate reaction is to call my husband, and say something along the lines of "guess who's coming to dinner," and hope he freaks out as badly as I do, so we can agree as a unit not to allow her back.  But I don't.  I stare at the message, instead, and panic. 
If my husband wants to see her, I won't stop him. 
I don't want to see her.  Ever, at all.   She's wretched.  She's miserable, and only finds happiness in making others miserable, too.  And the bitch was hateful to my children.  That alone is grounds for immediate and permanent dismissal. 

But I also know how many times I have given my own disgusting mother a "second chance."  Lots.  Of course she's a sociopathic lunatic,  and she blows it every single time, without fail.  So I am familiar with the cycle of forgiveness and heartbreak.  He is not.  After a lifetime of abuse, his first and only confrontation with his mother resulted in two years of not speaking to her. 

My fear is that this will drive a wedge between us.  That she will drive a wedge between us.  She has before.  Even going so far as to tell my husband "next time, you'd better marry for looks!"  I want her to go away, take her miserable cloud with her, and stay away. 

And now, she's just declared that she will come.  "You have no say in the matter, and I will be there.  Kindly go fuck yourself in preparation for my descent." 

I want to move.  I want to hide.  I want to run away.  I want to escape the chaos she brings, simply by being.  I want to tell her that if she shows up at our door, I'll meet her with swear words and a fist to the teeth.  I want to shove her in a box with my own mother, and ship them off to Abu Dhabi, Garfield style. 

I want to be supportive of the needs and wishes of my husband.  And I'm sorely afraid that this will be an instance where I come out looking like a huge dickhead. 


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me...

We watched one of those TV news specials tonight.  Not a particularly noteworthy event, however the content of this particular program left me feeling incredibly...

I'm not sure what was supposed to be the main focus of the program.  It seemed to jump around a lot, or maybe I was just so lost in my own thoughts that I didn't catch on.  But basically, it was focused toward religion, and faith. 

Unquestioning faith.  Unrelenting faith.  Just plain old blind faith, that never wavered or weakened. 

They all looked a little nuts to begin with.  Hands open to the sky, tears flowing freely.  Hundreds of people who climbed mountains, or waited in lines for hours, hoping for just a glimpse of someone claiming to be a healer.  Collapsing into hysteria or unconsciousness when touched by such a person. 
People claiming visions of, and even conversations with the Virgin Mary

All of them so sure of their faith.  So unmoved by how they appeared to the "outside" world. 

And I felt sad. 
I felt left out. 
I felt sorrow in my own lack of faith. 

What is it that they have, that I don't?  It isn't that I haven't tried.  I went to church as a little kid.  My mother tucked four quarters into my little palm every Sunday, and sent me off to Sunday school to get my Jesus on.  I got up early on Sundays to attend services as a teenager, and even sang in the church choir for a number of years.  Even in my adult years, I've sat thru sermons, sometimes even arriving an hour early to sit in the sanctuary, and hope for something "holy" to fill me up. 
I prayed. 
I talked right out loud to whatever deity would listen. 
I let my seven hundred year-old preacher dip me in the magic water. 
I even dove nose first into a bible a time or two.  Or twelve.  Or more. 

I wanted to have faith.  I wanted to feel what it seemed the church-goers around me were feeling. 

I didn't.  Even a little. 
Oh, sure.  I felt good singing hallelujah songs, and being "joyful" near those people who were more righteous than I.  I liked the company, and the happy feeling I got when my adorable and feeble preacher put his hand on my shoulder at the end of every sermon, and told me how special I was to him, and how happy he was to see young people like me in church every Sunday. 
But as far as being hardcore, dead sure about anything "godly," there was nothing. 

I questioned the bible.  I questioned it's authenticity, and it's authors, and it's messages that I found to be, at times, entirely contradictory.  I questioned the sincerity of people I encountered who preached love, while using it to justify hate.  I questioned my own sanity and morals, wondering why my naughtiest thoughts took place in church.  I questioned why, if all of this was "real", was I allowed to feel such doubt.  And why nothing I did was enough to "make" me a believer. 

Not that I'm not a believer.  It's just that I'm not sure what I believe.  I don't know the answers, and I find myself feeling a sense of longing when I run into those who seem so sure. 

I ran away when I was seventeen.  With a man.  I stayed gone for somewhere near a week, calling once or twice to let my family know that I was ok.  It was a weird time.  I returned to a lot of very angry people, naturally.  It was hard to articulate what I'd been thinking, and I know I must have been asked that question at least a hundred times. 

One evening after church choir practice, I found myself sitting on the steps outside with our song leader, smoking together, and talking about my brief ordeal.  He listened intently, and with great empathy.  He advised me, he hugged me, and he warned me, gently, about the potential folly of my path.  He finished with "men can be real bastards sometimes." 
I didn't know he was allowed to say that.  He was religious, after all.  And they don't say words like "bastards."  Do they?  They're not real people, are they?  Not flawed and messy, like me... 

From there, I began to wonder if perhaps that isn't the "real" god.  Maybe he was, in that moment, some kind of "god" in a sense.  A real person, with real compassion, and real concern, reaching out where he knew he could help.  What if it's truly that simple? 

And if it's not, then what is so wrong with me, that I can't just accept all of these things on faith, without questioning the logic of it all?  Without noticing the contradictions?  Without being constantly bombarded with my own inner voice, saying, "something about this doesn't jive..." 

Do "good" believers feel this uncertainty?  How do they settle within themselves the seemingly endless list of questions that I have asked for so long?  How do they just believe it all, without question?  Part of me is glad that I have the capability of independent and logical thought, and have not been swooped up with the religious "crazies," climbing some foreign mountain to touch someone claiming to talk to angels.  And another part of me is a little sad that I can't be filled in such a way.  That I can't just "know" what they seem to know.  That I can't feel sure, the way they feel sure.


Our song leader died a few months later.  And while I missed him so terribly, I felt such a sense of great gratitude for having been able to share such an altering and important moment with him on the steps of our church.  I think of him often, and wonder where he is now.  If he is now.  I wonder if he is with his deity, or if he's currently a fourteen year-old sheep herder in New Zealand.  I wonder if he's just ceased to be, infinitely, and secretly hope like hell that's not the case. 

And that's all.