Crazy Real

the official blog of author and poet Jennifer Wilson

Category: Uncategorized (page 2 of 3)

Rodeo

My brain doesn’t

think

it leaps
out of the gate
bucking furiously
over normality’s head

racing

from one extreme to the other:

adoration
repulsion

elation
despair

bravado
terror

scattering rationality
with its horns
as it hurtles
back and forth
across the arena

and I

can only stand and watch
clown-clothed and
equipped with a
butterfly net
when a lasso
is what I need

diving
into barrels
to escape

its rampage.

Award

Oh wow, for me?

It’s for me? Really? I’m overwhelmed, I’m startled, I’m completely amazed!”

*stands up, smooths dress, strides to the stage*

Yes; yes, of course I’ll accept it!”

*takes award, smiles, waves*

Oh my, I can’t believe this. Let me just catch my breath here for a moment, I never imagined this moment would come for me.”

*breathes deeply, waits for applause to die down*

Thank you, Father Time and Mother Nature, for awarding me this enormous milestone. Without your continual persistence and steadfastness, I wouldn’t be here today. FIFTY. Wow. It never occurred to me that I might actually make it!

I’d like to take this opportunity, if you would indulge me, to thank some people who have given me incredible gifts throughout the years. Their contributions to my life can hardly be fathomed. 

First, the Sun, for the hours of pleasure beneath your rays, for the vitamin D, and the great tans. Also for the crepe-y skin, wrinkles, and abundant freckles. Hey man, you’ve been more than generous. Maybe enough is enough now, though? Haha, yeah. No, seriously.

Next, Aunt Flo. Girl, we’ve known each other for, what? Thirty-seven years? And you’ve been such a consistent companion, always showing up at the exact wrong moment. You’re amazing. You and your partner, Hormones, always kept it interesting. I know you’re planning to leave me alone completely in the next year or so, and can I just say one thing? Don’t let the door hit you. Thanks for the parting gifts, too: hot flashes and hair loss. Nice.

To my Muse, hello! Hello? Muse? Where is she? I’d like to thank her for being a flighty bitch, but I see she didn’t bother to show up tonight. Typical.

Also, I don’t want to forget Medication. I see you there, don’t blush! Don’t know what I’d do without you. Thanks for being there. We won’t mention the side effects now, it’s not the time.

But seriously, folks. I have, surrounding me, some of the best companions on this journey a girl could ever have. They pick me up when I stumble, they encourage me forward, and they bandage my bloodied knees when I hit the ground. For instance:

My parents. You taught me how to work, how to live, and how to laugh. Without you I wouldn’t be here (literally). I love you and am grateful for the opportunity you gave me to walk this earth.

My friends. You who have stuck close beside me through the good times and the bad. You who have prayed for me, wept with me, and laughed at my razor-sharp wit. Yes, you. You know who you are.

My sister Pam. She has demonstrated a determination to reach for the stars and never quit, a bull-dog like ferocity to achieve her dreams, and she has shown me there is no shame in doing so. She would drop everything to help someone out, even when she herself is hurting. She loves me unconditionally, keeps my secrets, and forgives my lapses. Thank you, dear sissy.

My brother, Matt. Steadfast friend. Selfless hero. Generous giver. Faithful encourager. I have no doubt this man would strap me to his back and carry me if he had to, just to get me to safety. He has given me gifts I will never be able to repay, shared with me his abundant talent and creativity in more ways than I can count, and I miss him desperately every moment he is not near me. Thank you, Machu.

My brother, Paul. Your wisdom and compassion, paired with your inimitable style and confidence, have buoyed me along throughout the years. The music you create inspired (and continues to inspire) me to find my own voice amidst the hubbub of life and the chaos in my own soul. Yours is a singularly calming influence, and I am forever grateful to have you in my life. Thank you, Pauly.

My brother, Chris. When you came along, you instantly brightened my life, and you continue to do so every day. Your sense of humor, your love for humanity, your relentless courage, and your determination to follow your own path teach me lessons I never could have learned otherwise. You love so big, and we would all do well to follow your example. Thank you, TTFer.

And lastly, the brightest star in my sky, my husband, Jim.

What do you say about a man who would step in front of a bullet for you? He has saved my life, both literally and figuratively, more than once. I would not be here if not for his love. He never once has given me cause to doubt his desire for me, which, for a person with as many deep-rooted insecurities as yours truly, cannot be overstated. He sees every tear that I cry and always tries his best to stay tender towards me in spite of my own harshness at times. This award is as much for him as it is for myself. Thank you, darling man. I love you eternally.

Thank you again, Father Time and Mother Nature, for the chance to achieve this, the big 5-0, and may I persevere to reach the next milestones set for me in life. May I ever endeavor to improve with each passing day, and never forget to give thanks for the many blessings that envelop me.”

*lifts award overhead and shakes it for emphasis before proceeding to fall down the stage steps*

Chapter one of something new

It had been fifteen years since they said I do, and sometimes, just when Geena thought everything was going well and that they were going to make it, really make it, something would happen that would cause her to doubt. Mostly, though, she thought they were doing all right—paying bills and grocery shopping and going to work and putting kids to bed as life made its slow march across their faces, leaving faint lines of crow’s feet around their eyes and worry lines between their brows.

The day her marriage ended was not particularly ominous. The sun rose, bright and hot, and traversed the summer sky methodically, as it had every day before, baking the pavement and sending waves of heat up from the Alabama asphalt. The boys were out of school and spent their days bickering and playing games and wrestling like bear cubs from sunup to sundown. She loved having them home, but sometimes, it was difficult.

Like on this day, when she told her husband that they needed to talk. The boys were complaining of the heat, but as soon as they jumped in the pool the arguing commenced, causing her to step outside the back door innumerable times to tell them to hush, that the whole neighborhood didn’t need to hear them.

On this day, of all days, she and Max needed privacy. So she ordered the kids out of the pool, left them in charge of a babysitter, and went to a nearby restaurant to talk things out. She had a vague notion that if they were among strangers, they might be able to control the seething piles of emotion that lay just under the surface of their words.

It wasn’t true, of course. The emotions spilled over the tops of their words and came tumbling out of their eyes until they were sitting in the car, sobbing and trying to make sense of everything. It wasn’t that either one of them wanted to get divorced, it was just that nothing seemed to be working. Even therapy couldn’t provide them with the healing words that they needed. It only served to highlight their differences and dichotomies until neither one could look at them anymore without feeling deep despair.

It was there, then, in the car on that hot summer’s day, that Max and Geena decided to throw in the towel.

When Max was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer just four weeks later, however, the process of divorcing came to a stop even before it could even get started. Everything changed, and the next six months were an agony of watching the man she thought she’d grow old with slowly crumble apart and die.

“You’re beautiful to me,” he breathed faintly one day toward the end, as she sat by his bedside and gave him sips of ice water. The morphine pump chugged nearby, its steady release of medication alleviating but never completely resolving his pain. He was thin then, a mere shadow of the hearty man he had been before, and his body beneath the sheet moved spasmodically. “I just want you to know that.”

“Okay, Max,” she said in what she hoped was a reassuring tone. “I hear you.”

“No,” he said, turning his head to fix her with his bright green eyes. “I mean it. I love you. I’m sorry we couldn’t make it work.”

“But we have, haven’t we?” she said in consternation. “I mean, here we are.”

“Are we, though?” he sighed and closed his eyes and the conversation was over. Geena bent her head to her chest and wept. Though they were here, occupying the spaces around one another, they were not together. And they hadn’t been for a long time.

#10

 
I awoke
from a dream of you
to reality
and the noise
of fighting
children
and thus
the day began
Yet you followed me
the scent of you
clean
like
cut grass
and
your voice
like rumbling
thunder
low
in my ear
telling me
all will
be well
and so
I continue to dream
though I am
awake.

I Wish You Summer

Summer is upon us. Summer. Oh, what a glorious word! Even though I am an old woman of 46, I can still well remember the bliss that was waking up the first day of summer vacation and the enormous sense of relief when the thought bloomed: I have no homework. None. Zip. Nada. For like, ever.

Or it might as well have been forever. Because, come on? That fateful day in late August when the larnin’ all begins again? A million miles away. At least a million. Maybe more. Who can tell? The calendar no longer holds any meaning. Days of the week blur together in a wash of sun-drenched hues.

What do I wish for you, oh children of summertime? It’s pretty simple, really.

I wish you a summer like I had when I was a kid.

I wish you long days full of heat and cicadas and fireflies and sun and stars. Long draughts of root beer with vanilla ice cream floating in the midst of it.

I wish you watermelon, cut into slices that you hold by the rind in your hand over the green lawn, letting the juice drip down your chin and all the way to your elbows, taking turns seeing who can spit the seeds the farthest.

I wish you chases and games of tag and skinned knees so you can pick the scabs later when you are bored and your mom is too busy to drive you to the mall.

I wish you trips to the library, air redolent with ink-saturated pages, hundreds and thousands of worlds to visit with the turn of one page; vibrant covers that entice and draw you in to places far beyond your small experiences, stories that enrich and light fires within your breasts. I wish you flashlight-reading under the covers of your bed, in tents out on the grass, and at sleepovers when everyone else has succumbed to the sandman already but you…you’ve got to read just one. more. page.

I wish you swimming. I wish you jumping for the first time off the high dive, dizzying heights and staggering limits, freefalling into the sparkling blue water and making the biggest splash possible with your small body. I wish you the clean exhaustion that comes from being out in the sun and in the chlorine-scented water, the feeling of satisfaction from pushing your body and your courage to its limits.

I wish you bike rides and tennis matches, roller-skating forays and hopscotch battles drawn with chalk lines over the uneven surface of the sidewalk.

I wish you boredom, and the challenge that it brings your numbed imaginations to come up with something new yet again to do. I wish for your parents to not feel the need to fill your every waking second with activity, so that you are forced to stare into empty space for just a while and fathom something deeper than yourselves.

I wish you fishing. I wish you worms on hooks and thrashing trout and sunfish and crappie on the end of your line. I wish you someone to help you get them off in case you are squeamish. I wish you the feel of cold scales in your hand and the joy of releasing them back into the water you drew them from. Or, if you prefer, the taste of fresh fish you caught yourself fried in a pan with butter and breadcrumbs.

I wish you freedom, just a hair more than you were given last summer. After all, you are one year older. I wish you shenanigans. I wish you just a small amount of trouble that never gets found out, that remains the secret between you and your very best friends forever and ever.

I wish you movies with lines that wrap around the block in anticipation. I wish you darkened theaters and popcorn and previews and gasps of surprise and jumps of alarm and giggles of excitement and all the things that the torn ticket represents.

I wish you relatives, plenty of relatives to visit and to come visiting. I wish you grandparents and aunts and uncles that put you on your best behavior and then relieve you with a wink. I wish you trips in the car with the steady thump-thump of the highway below you as you play the alphabet game and license plate bingo. I wish you lots of time at the kids’ table with cousins that make you laugh until milk comes out your nose.

I wish you siblings, and friends. I wish you people to fight with and hang out with and imagine with and dream with and laugh with and cry with.

I wish you memories. So many memories. I wish you plenty of time in the long, sun drenched days to come to make your own.

 

Sober October

October is a month set aside for Infant and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance. Many people will mark the passing of children who left too early, and writing is therapeutic to some.

Like me.

I have had ten miscarriages, a number that will seem, to many, as ludicrous as the number of our living children. Ten? That’s just crazy. Am I in some sort of sick competition? Am I a glutton for punishment? A miscarriage masochist?

None of the above.

With the first (if you are very blessed) you get a modicum of sympathy and understanding. People step forward to tell you about their own experiences; there is a shared community of suffering. As you have more, however, people step back. I don’t know why. Most likely they just run out of things to say.

My own mother fell into this camp. A devout Catholic woman, she was fully vested in our decision to give our reproductive processes up to a higher power, but with each successive bodily betrayal, she grew frustrated, and that frustration was directed at me. I sat drinking my third beer as my body expelled the baby it didn’t want*, and she fussed at me over the phone.

“Well, at least you should be used to it now,” she finally sighed.

Used to it? Used to bleeding into the toilet the life I thought would develop into a breathing soul? Used to the feelings of abandonment, the certainty that I was being punished? Used to the bitter loneliness as I faced the moments in the bathroom alone, struggling to make sense of it all?

These aren’t things you get used to.

She didn’t mean anything by it. She just didn’t know what to say. Having successfully carried five children of her own with relative ease, she is uninitiated into the darker side of pregnancy.

The thing about miscarriage is that you don’t get better at it the more you have. In fact, the pain and sorrow become increasingly horrific. The guilt and confusion multiply, they don’t divide.

With one of our later miscarriages, I birthed into my hands a sac five inches long. A space capsule enclosing the body of its voyager, I could not see the contents and didn’t want to probe the silent depths, but I was certain it was a girl. I wrapped the entire thing in maxi pads and carried it breathlessly to my husband. He suggested we have a burial service at my childhood home.

A month later, we did so. My parents were the only ones aware of the loss besides my husband and me, and they left us to hold our small service in private. My husband held my hands and we prayed over the pathetic remains beneath their flagpole. I named her Zoe, which means Life. It is a special, healing memory, and I strongly encourage anyone who has suffered a pregnancy loss to hold a service of some kind, even if the pain is decades old.

It’s amazing how raw and fresh that old pain can feel, and how simple the things are that can administer relief. An acknowledgement of the loss, or a moment of shared silence while you hold someone’s hand…these are the things that a month of remembrance hopes to encourage.

It is a sad and bereft place, the infant and pregnancy loss camp. It’s not a place anyone chooses willingly.  For those who occupy its halls, a kind word goes a long way.

*this is NOT recommended, by the way. Elevated alcohol levels lead to increased chance of hemorrhage, something I cared very little about at the time.

A fable of sorts

Once upon a time, a man strode across his acreage with single-minded purpose.

He had things upon his mind, this man did. He was busy, with many distractions. His job as an executive in an oil corporation kept him consumed from morning until night with responsibilities and duties; he was, after all, expected to find oil, above and beyond all else, in the unrelenting earth that surrounded him and those who occupied the world at large.

If he did not find it, then his existence was in jeopardy, or at least his subsistence, which to his mind was almost the same thing.

He strode upon the earth that was his: the earth that he had won–hard won, mind you–in an auction where other voices had matched his tone for tone and caliber for caliber (urgent and wanting) and yet he had prevailed above all others and now it was done. The ground was his, the dirt was his, the hard-packed Oklahoma clay that yielded little and yet would (perhaps) give to him what he wanted, awaited his touch, only his touch, to bend to his will and give up its secrets. Perhaps even now it was germinating the same idea that he had–that of provision and affluence.

Or perhaps not. Perhaps it designed to keep from him all that he knew it could yield. One factor–the amount of sunshine, or the quantity of rain, the chemicals in the soil, or the infinitesimal creatures that inhabited its granular substance, could interfere with prosperity and happiness, and all his work would be for naught. No matter how many times he circled on his Massey Ferguson tractor, no matter how fluffy he yielded the hard packed soil, there were no guarantees…and yet…he would try…for the desire was less a desire and more an obsession.

Alongside his obsession, there were small people who complicated matters.

He told himself that all of this was for them–all the endless circling, all the churning and strife–but he knew that, ultimately, it was only for himself that he did it, for he loved the solitude that the tractor afforded him, and as the setting sun cast its golden rays upon the sculpted field, he knew his suspicions were correct and the urges were for him alone. Then, falsely rested all the arguments upon his mind, and restlessly did he sleep.

He had a small daughter, he did.

She looked upon him with adoration and fear and nothing less, that much was true. It frightened him, the awareness of her adoration, and so he buried it, as he buried so many things, deep within his psyche where there rested a million unresolved feelings and expectations and desires, and he told himself that it didn’t matter, not really. Not really.

But it did.

Because that small girl, she looked to him for comfort and solace, and found instead a vast chasm of nothingness to greet her questing heart.

And one day, as they strode upon the red clay, her small legs churning to keep apace with his strong, adult limbs, that she noticed the seething storm that gathered on the eastern horizon, the darkening billows that built ever larger upon the skyline, and she panted as she sought to keep up:

Daddy, what if lightening comes?

And her fear was answered by his strong, sure voice,

Why, then we will be with Jesus, in Heaven, and we’ll be all right

And for that, no matter how much error was in him, no matter how fraught with terror his presence was, no matter even if he himself believed the words he spoke, he had gifted her with the feeling of reassurance, and the thought that things might be–just might be–better in the great hereafter, and so she trusted that they would be.

So the child clung to that reassurance and tried to make her way in the world, for no matter how improbably it played out, she could not, would not forget those words, nor the assurance that accompanied them. She could not forget the feelings of joy that had flooded her small frame at their utterance, nor the peace that they had given her heart. For that, she would always love him, for all his horror and hideousness. For that, she would always crave his approval, for all his flaws and foibles.

For that, and for that alone, perhaps, would she cling to faith.

Matt. 7:11

 

 

 

In Which I Speak of Myself in Third Person

She had not planned to be depressed. As a child, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, ‘morbidly despondent’ never factored into her answer. Yet here she was, standing apart and marveling that her friends could dance to the discordant music of the universe with such abandon.

When had the darkness moved in? She couldn’t say. It was a slowly creeping cancer, stealing the light ever so stealthily from the room and engulfing her before she noticed. People looked at her sideways when she mentioned she was on antidepressants; they became suddenly wary, as though she was an elephant carcass and they the poachers, approaching carefully lest she rise up suddenly and rend them with her tusks.

She was also diagnosed as bipolar, which was terribly trendy but not nearly as exciting as Hollywood made it seem. Bipolar meant that sometimes the darkness took her to new levels of emptiness that she had previously not thought possible. Or, contrariwise, to levels of hysteria that propelled her to dangerous and damaging pursuits.

It would be great to write The Great American Novel in a weekend, she thought. Or a symphony. Or a masterpiece in oils. Like those other bipolar folks. The ones who do it right. The Poes and Hemingways and Mozarts and Van Goghs and Munchs. Nevermind that they came to violent ends. That was part and parcel with the disease; the uneasy bedfellow to genius was madness, it would seem.

Even at being crazy, she felt like a failure. Not quite mad enough to be brilliant, but too unbalanced to focus on living life successfully. The small white pill she took every night seemed only to confirm her suspicions that she would never vault to the heights required for immortality, and it mocked her with its soothing promises of peace. How would she ever know where the mania could take her if she didn’t give it a chance? The encroaching darkness threatened ominously enough to keep her swallowing them, however; into the pit was not a place she wanted to venture again, and so she felt like a coward as well as a failure, and walked through the days cloaked in a veil of multiplying sorrows.

 

 

 

Wounds

The injury is dull and crusty, peeling up at the edges, blood dried hard by the passage of time. The recollection of it is sharp and vivid, bright with pain and horror.

When the damage occurred the plasma flowed freely and unbound for but an instant before coagulation began, collagen sending out the distress signal, fibrin threads catching platelets in a web of criss-crossing proteins, cells springing into action without any thought or due process required on the part of brain or nervous system.

The response was immediate and unqualified, the action of preservation. Whatever the distress on the part of the larger being, the internal machinations were no less measured and precise. Damage control was the aim, and such was attained, the scab now evidence of nature’s precision.

It is a magnificent scab, too–hard and impenetrable, keeping out pathogens and other debris, allowing the new skin to grow beneath its protective shelter. Cells knit together and form a tender covering over the damaged dermis, slowly growing and thickening to replace what was lost. Time is all that is needed for healing to come. If nothing disturbs the clot, all will be well enough.

But how can such a thing be resisted? Pluck the edges ever so slightly and it lifts, pulling at the epidermis, nerve endings twanging ever so slightly in alarm. Let it be the brain urges, ineffectively.

Maybe this time it will be different. Maybe this time it will not bleed again. Maybe this time it’s ready to come off in one piece, revealing only the beauty of the healing process behind. Maybe it won’t hurt. Maybe it’s ready.

It’s not ready.

Once more the cells spring into action: collagen, fibrin, platelets, etc. Once more they do their work and the bleeding is staunched.

Again the scab grows.

 

Unfortunately

Serpentine
the thoughts uncoil
like ribbons of smoke
from dark nostrils

alcohol numbs
uncoils the knot
in my stomach
calms
whispers peace
be still
let go

and so I do
in that moment
when the sharp heat spreads
across my chest
and I grimace

the pills in white bottles
sit
on my shelf
I take them daily
my last link to sanity
but it is alcohol
the constant friend
who puts his arm around my shoulders
and whispers ribald jokes
in my ear.

 

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