Just when you thought that maybe I wasn't so long-winded after all

I was going back over some old writing yesterday, and I found a little something-or-other (essay? rant? written vomit?) that intrigued me. I love it when I write something and then it sits unread in my files for so long that I can't even remember writing it.

I thought I'd share some little tidbits of this one, along with some thoughts now. It was written during a time in San Francisco when Chinua and my relationship was a little bumpy, partly because of my intense post-partum depression with Kenya and partly because our living situation was a little intense. We spent a lot of time taking night walks through the streets of Cole Valley, talking and being alone.

(Somehow I am only able to really see it (my depression after Kenya's birth) now that I'm out of it. I was reading through my journals from that point and everything was really, really sad. The way I feel with the Leaf baby is similar to the others, but a little different as well. I am on the surface right now, and down below there is a lot of sadness, but I know how to take myself for a walk, how to sit and listen to God for awhile, rather than my own battle-axe mind, and how to smile and be happy for the kids. It is my gift to them. We will have peaceful and happy days together.)

A lot of the following is about disappointment, and the place in marriage where you find that you are no longer hidden, you can no longer even pretend perfection. It's funny, after reading this again I find that I am changed. My marriage has changed me. I've learned a bit, some of the lessons that I was seeking to learn when I wrote this. I share it because I think it is common in marriage, (although maybe not everyone is as melodramatic about it as I am) and that losing their carefully crafted images of yourself is one of the reasons that people shrink back from marriage or even closeness with anyone, at times.


How can I describe how frustrating it is to communicate with the love of your life sometimes? It is like trying to walk in deep snow, or run in loose sand, or walk through deep, sea- weedy water. It is all of these things and more, because no matter how hard you try, you can never be quite as objective as necessary. There is no way to float on the top of this water, it is personal all the way to the depths and even more personal than you have ever known personal to be. There is no way to sit and talk with each other, listening to the concerns, without that giant, Fear, sitting and snickering on your shoulders, the fear that what the other is really saying, deep down, is that he doesn't love you after all, that all those quirks that they admired in the beginning have turned out to be just plain annoying, that he has found the real you, the one that you have tried your whole life to hide, the one you hid so well. Now, after all that hiding, you are exposed, and he doesn't like what he sees. So in fact, this deepest fear is about to be realized, that if anyone actually saw the real you, he would turn tail and run in the opposite direction, as though he had opened the cupboard door in the kitchen and found rotten meat and maggots instead of the chocolate chip cookies that he had been expecting.

And then there is all the "you said," "no I didn't," back-and-forth crap that becomes crazy, that threatens to make you insane, when all you really wanted was to hang out for a little while with someone who just might validate your existence, what you have been looking for, validation. Validation in a big can that says "Validated," no, actually, "VALIDATED" in capitals, because you have felt invalidated for so long that you need it shouted from the rooftops, you need someone to come along beside you and lift you up with the strength of their love for you, to hold you above their shoulders as high as they possibly can, so that you will finally be above it all. You will be able to see all the things that you previously never understood, all the things that you thought were your fault, but really weren't. So why does it usually feel like we are tearing each other down? We have invested so much in each other, it has been one long investment, capable of such warmth, such purpose, but we often end up rolling on the floor howling, as far from each other as possible, grieving on opposite ends of the house.

It used to be that a walk would calm my grief, the grief of non-communication with the one person in the world who I really need to communicate with, who it might even be possible to communicate with. It used to be that I would take one step after another, breathing with steps, step, breathe, step, breathe, until I turned around running to find you, to find you and bring it all back to where it belongs, in love. Now I walk farther and farther, and it never quite goes away, this grief, it is sort of lodged in my throat like one of the pills that you can never quite swallow, it is in my own little grief throat pocket at the back of my throat. I have apologized too many times, you have heard it all so often that there is no need to run all the way back, it is no consolation to you anymore. Instead I scuff my shoes along on the cement and berate myself, and sometimes you, all the way home.

It is as though we have handed in the tentative story we wrote, and it came back from our English teacher marked over with red pen, words crossed out, circled everywhere, marked and graffitied beyond recognition. We feel as though someone in the hospital tattooed our baby before we even brought her home. We are so paralyzed with the criticism that we cannot find the way to rewrite the story, but if we could only revise, rewrite it, on new paper; it would be beautiful again, because at its heart it really really shines. Or, the image I get is of a child's sky, a painting by a four-year-old. The beautiful fresh sky, rendered so lovingly with strokes of the palest blue, until the child's two-year-old brother finds a black marker and writes all over it with thick black scribbles. It is the grief of the four-year-old artist.

Perhaps there are just too many things to say, and the important ones somehow all get left out in the sink to rot in the dirty dishwater, and I have never found the words to say what I really need to say to you. Maybe you have just found the darkest, slimiest parts of me, and now that I have opened my mouth and spoken them out, I can't close it, and I spiral down, down, pulled down by greasy sea weed beneath dark waters. Maybe I am finally slightly honest with myself and I see how I set myself up for failure over and over again, until the word is burned into my ears, failure, and I can't hear a word you say without hearing the devil's failure mantra sung along with my name. Maybe I am desperate not to disappoint you, and so of course, inevitably, I do. Disappointment. I fear it more than any monster, any terrible plunder. Just the word makes me shiver with dread, I sense black holes yawning before me in my unlit path. If I am not who you thought I was, I just don't want to be. I have the image, the sense of thousands of people looming over me, shaking their heads sadly while I lie curled on the floor. You have disappointed us so much.

I will always remember the day that I was sitting in Denny's with my very dear friend, Trey, and some other friends that are like sunlight and sweet streams in my life. We were sitting, very late at night, and Trey, as usual, was drawing a diagram of the advice that he was giving us on a Denny's napkin. We were in San Diego, amongst the salty wet air in Pacific Beach, confused and hopeful about our mission in this city far away from our home so far north, in Canada. Laura was probably jocular and beautiful, Dori was probably confused and bored, trying her best to follow along, but getting hopelessly lost, Carrien was probably thoughtful and intelligent, Heidi there hanging out with us, but longing for a cigarette, and I was probably following right along trying to be the best friend, the best student, nodding at all the right times. I remember the conversation as being about trying to extricate ourselves as a unit from the desires of the people around us. I spoke up, feeling very wise and saying, "well, of course you are right, Trey, but I think that we need to find a way to extricate ourselves without disappointing anybody." I will never forget the way Trey looked at me then, and said, "Rachel, sometimes you just have to disappoint people." And I'll never forget how I looked at him for a minute, and then crumpled, turned to the wall and curled up and cried like a baby. And I cried because he had just torn down my one defense in life, that if I just did what I was told and worked hard and was understanding and agreeable, no one would ever be disappointed, and I would be okay.

I've always been rather good with my defense, and that's why I can't understand why it isn't that simple with you. Why can I not keep hiding, why do all the disappointing and sick parts of me keep pouring out, almost gleefully, spitefully. Why has my last defense crumbled so badly? Why is what Trey said so true, and why never more true than now, with you, the one person who I desperately need to have this fortification intact for? You are, in fact, the only one who really matters. You are the dawn I wake up with every day. And so, sickly, you are the one who has pulled this wall down, and here I am unable to cover my naked self. My naked, disappointing self. And perhaps this has been planned all along, as though God needed to find a way to bulldoze that castle. You have leapt across the moat, skipped over those whining black holes, and found me. And I will disappoint you. You will not leave. This is what I don't understand. To me, disappointment is the antithesis of true love, but to God, it is the test. And slowly, He is aligning me with Him, and my fortress is being built, crooked brick by crooked brick, on the love that can be tested, can be flung around, blown by winds, but stays nonetheless. It sticks.