When he asked, “Is this bottom?” in the middle of yet another crisis that took me from work, writing and my daughter, I said, “I hope so.”
The bottom was ten times after I thought he had already face-planted into his depths. Eventually, I had to stop trying to guess how much deeper he would dig before hitting the bottom.
As I realised, bottom can be bottomless. I know now and for decades I dug in the wrong direction too.
I, who had been afraid of silence and emotion, found the numbing distraction of being useful and helping other sloppy souls to avoid my empty-mess—those were my nasty habits, not butts, needles and bottles.
My “using” was less apparent than boozing, shooting up or gambling but no less damaging. My hangovers were less obvious. But I too looked for colors to bleed life into me, to dye the deadening numbness and pretty up what was too hard to face, feel or sit still with.
I passed as productive super-helper and well-intentioned do-gooder, but I was the same as the junkie on the street. True, I flossed, got my oil changed and paid my bills before lights were shut off, but my harried exhaustion was self-loathing, self-neglect and avoidance. It just looked more like trying hard, being selfless and bailing someone out.
I tricked others and—for some time—myself.
I’m an addict too.
What I ran towards was different but I was also running from my own vast center.
He ran to a booze fix and I ran to be a human fixer-upper instead of nurturing my own dreams which I left crumple at my ankles like coins from pockets with holes.
So many times pain said, “Come on in” but I had to go.
“I’m just about to bloom,” the flower whispered, but I was busy with my to-do list and racing to get it done before sunset to smell that sweet fragrance.
“I will hold and rock you,” the wave promised, but I was climbing into the arms of another.
“Roll on,” I told the sea, “because I’ve got a boy waiting.” How many times did I keep my eyes cast down on dry land hunting glitter gems in sand rather than diving into the shimmering sunlit water that made herself available to me?
How many times did I miss the gifts of grief, fear and worry, trying to shake them off rather than let them rinse through me?
I didn’t trust love or beauty to catch up to me if I slowed and stilled. I told myself I’m far too busy just to make myself feel in control.
The pain, I was at war with, was not my enemy.
I didn’t know.
I didn’t see how beautiful a tentative image on paper could be. I couldn’t appreciate the shapes and lines exploring space on paper. I wanted wet paint to cover and conceal all scuff marks, black lines and pencil shades on my soul.
“Here,” the world said, opening her arms but I couldn’t close my eyes and take the fall. I didn’t believe it would catch me. I worried it would drop me and leave me with my head cracked on cement. I wouldn’t try such foolishness or idiocy.
I’m trying to forgive myself and others.
We are the souls who chase the headlights of others when our path is too dark to see. We are the ones who love music and keep guitars on floors or stands and out of hand. We are the ones who bite our tongues even though we love language.
I am them. They are me.
We are the seekers too exhausted to stay awake for the stunning moon—a song we crave, ache and need. The lonely souls going to parties alone, waking up with strangers and wondering why we don’t feel at home in our own skin.
I’m tired of being drawn to the drama of others.
Can I bear hug the feelings at the core? The feelings which motor the engine of feeling needed?
I’m not talking about loving freely—I’m talking about fixing, rescuing and enabling. I’m not talking about hugging, listening and bearing witness—I’m talking about abandoning responsibilities to ourselves and our children to serve the needs of grown-ass men.
I’m tired of running towards them and away from my own soft center and maternal priorities.
I let myself be used and needed. I use their neediness as my excuse.
How many times has my heart needed paddles just to start beating for itself again?
The world is not better when I keep myself neglected and empty. There’s no return on time wasted.
I’m sorry for the days I wished away, for the moments I missed resisting the actual and factual rather than the wished-for.
I’m sorry I pushed back packages wrapped in ribbons I didn’t know how to untangle or open.
I’m sorry for the people I walked by or sat with or next to, but didn’t feel or let then know me because I didn’t know how to feel, be or stay inside my own self.
I’m sorry for the times my daughter said, “Look,” or “Listen,” and I said “Hang on,” or ‘Wait a minute,” tending to some dude. I wince to write or admit this even to myself, but it’s true. My friend Kathy says I should let it serve as motivation for “self-love as activism for excellent mothering.”
I’m sorry for the self I didn’t know how to comfort, soothe and be with. I’m sorry for the me that couldn’t offer my presence and completeness—to my daughter especially.
“Is this bottom?” he asked.
Yes, actually, it was. Mine, not his.
Cracked on the cement pavement and crumpled in pieces with bruises and road rash burned into my skin, bleeding. A twisted ankle kept me low to the ground. The sunlight shone on me and the world and no one died when I was forced down and stopped moving. I bled and cried with skinned hands, knees and heart but he sun kept blanketing my being. The earth grounded me.
“You can stop being a speed bump for others” the ocean said, “and surrender without being run down, run over or having others leave tread mark tattoos.”
My awareness is new and tender. I’m still shaky. All I know is that my desire to fix a life other than my own is a dangerous warning sign, a cup I can’t drink from and stay calm at the same time.
All arrows must point in the direction of my daughter and myself—I can love and pray for others but if I use my water can to moisten their soil nothing will grow on mine. I don’t want to drain myself for others anymore.
I’m tired of putting my hands in sinks full of dreams and dishes. I’m tired of scrubbing off pots with dried food I didn’t buy, prepare or eat, when mine is at home, unused and rotting in vegetable bins.
Some cups must remain empty until they figure out what to fill themselves with. It’s not my place or job to fill them.
My hands need to dip into ink and words.
The ones my love needs to touch are already in my home.
The only one my writing needs to save is me. And so it does.
Author: Christine “Cissy” White
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Mitya Ku on Flickr