On Monday something in my Reader caught my attention. It was the opening line of a post entitled “Life Rafts,” by Tamara (pronounced Tam-ah-rah) on her blog Mainely Sane. Tamara started out, “Everyone has something that they don’t talk about.” And she had me hooked already. Spoiler alert: The thing Tamara doesn’t like to talk about is her mom. “My mother is crazy,” she confided. And keeping the secret of her mother’s bipolar disorder for the last thirty years has left Tamara feeling “wrung out, like a twisted up dishrag.”
I was honored to have stumbled upon this beautiful moment in Tamara’s life. Although I had never met or spoken with her, I was proud of her bravery. I have (sometimes severe) anxiety and depression. My husband also has bipolar disorder. My sister had a schizophrenic episode almost eight years ago, followed by a harsh, prolonged period of deep depression that I had never witnessed the likes of before. We are all appropriately medicated and in therapy. But (in her follow-up post, “Mama Drama”) when Tamara confessed that during moments of great stress she’s afraid she’ll lose it just like her mom, I nodded my head with empathy. When she admitted that she fears damaging her children, I wanted to tell her that I feel that way sometimes, too.
The thing about me, though, is that I cannot hold this stuff in. I spill my goriest life experiences, talk about inappropriate things, I tell my darkest secrets every day–the way normal people talk about the weather. Sometimes I wonder if I have Tourette’s Syndrome. I live in the Midwest so people around here are conservative. Even if they’re liberal, they’re probably a lot less like Louis C.K. than I am. I have plenty of friends on Facebook, but Mark Zuckerberg is actually developing a “Crickets Chirping” button to replace the “Like” button on the bar at the bottom of my status updates. Sometimes I have wondered why, in thirty years, I haven’t learned to censor myself.
The truth is, I get so many rewards out of being myself and living and speaking in a way that amuses me. When my mom died last December, I kept having this vision of myself standing at the top of a very high ladder. I was propped a few feet in front of a curtain of white paper that stretched on infinitely in front of me. There was a small, dog-eared tear in the paper, just high enough that I had to stretch on my tiptoes to reach it. As I caught the paper with my fingers, I slipped off of the ladder and fell, tearing a large triangle in the paper. I kept falling and falling with the paper clenched in my fist, and the triangle grew bigger and bigger. As it tore, hearts began falling out from behind the paper, like the paper had been containing this huge pile of them—not hearts like Valentines… bloody human hearts that “squelch-squerched” as they spilled out into a big pile beneath me, absorbing the impact when I finally hit the ground.
I haven’t had this vision in a few months and I haven’t really thought about it, either. Until last week, when I was pondering my blog and the enormous emotional release it has provided me. I feel like blogging was invented to get me through this really difficult time in my life. I feel like spilling my heart out may have saved my life or kept me from “losing it.”
As I told Jessica Slavin yesterday during her Wednesday Poetry Club discussion, sometimes when I blog I picture myself with a big cock, coming all over everyone’s faces. In the context of the poem we were discussing, “Noiseless, Patient Spider,” by Walt Whitman, this metaphor seemed completely appropriate to me, believe it or not. There is a line in the poem about the spider, “It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself; Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them,” which totally made me think about male ejaculation. And a cool thing happened when I was willing to share that dirty thought with the club. Another participator in the discussion, El Santo, who seemed shocked at first, commented later, “Whitman does use the imagery of sex quite often and frequently, so I’d say your interpretation of the scene? It might actually be super valid and more than likely you are 100% right about the ‘filaments’ thing.” Oh hey, well maybe I’m not such a freak after all. Or, better yet, I am a freak, but I’m in damn good company. As for my kids? I think they’re pretty lucky to have a mom who is brave enough to be herself on the daily—even if I have told them one too many times that their lost toys are probably up their butt and around the corner.
After my mom died, I had a period of crippling insecurity. It was like all the work I’d done on my self esteem since I was an anxious, black sheep of a teenager had vanished and I didn’t recognize the person in the mirror anymore. But it wouldn’t be in my nature to lay down and die. My mom taught me how to fight, even though her fight was much different than mine. So I stood back up slowly. I created my blog and I launch’d forth my filament, filament, filament. I did what I needed to do to learn to love myself again. These days I feel the strongest I’ve felt in my whole life.
And by the way, you may want to grab a tissue. You’ve got something dripping down your face.
Spiderwoman art via www.art.com