Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tantrum In My Head

Here's something you might have guessed: some days, I am very angry. Pissed off, perturbed beyond all reason, beyond annoyed with absolutely every one and every thing. Inside my head, I am a three year-old in full blown tantrum mode and I want to scream and hurl myself to the floor and kick things. I want to say out loud all the angry, hurtful, hateful things I am thinking and smash things into a million little pieces.

Of course, I don't do any of those things. I get snappy and snippy and start fights with Dave over what's for dinner or the current temperature of the air indoors as opposed the air outside. I mow the grass at a breakneck speed in the face of an approaching storm and ponder, abstractly, the odds of being struck by lightning. I do laundry until there isn't a single thing left in the house that needs washing. Then I wash things that aren't dirty. And I cry. A lot. Because it has to come out somehow and that full blown tantrum isn't going to cut it.

People will forgive a lot, I know. But there are lines that really cannot be crossed, words you cannot say because you can never unsay them, things you cannot put together after they've been broken; and so there are times, and places in my head, where I'll always be alone. And that is just one more thing that pisses me off.

On a cheerier note, here's a picture of Re-bar Chicken. I bought him at a roadside junk store about a dozen years ago. I saw him and just had to have him. Britt was the only person who ever understood the attraction. I miss how she really got me.


Lisa said...

Ah honey, the head tantrums. You know, in a perfect new agey world I'd love to say Oh but you've got to let all that dark energy OUT, but really? That probably doesn't work in most real world interfaces and they probably do need to mostly live inside. I don't know what you do with them, though. Chop them into the smallest pieces you can, I guess, one day at a time.

I hope that doesn't sound as trite to you as it does to me on rereading. I'm not as articulate tonight as I would like.

Debi said...

Nope, not trite at all. Mostly what I do is work hard; out of breath and sweaty and ready to collapse hard. And, I talk to Mojo...because dogs are a) the best listeners and b) are very discreet.

If he ever learns to talk I'm going to have to move far away and change my name.

Jesse Wiedinmyer said...

Beyond reason? I'm not so sure about that. Sometimes being upset seems a perfectly reasonable thing.

Though I'm guessing that that's not quite what you're getting at.

I can't tell you how many times I cleaned my house in the year or two after my father died. In Mystic River, there's one of those toss-off lines where a detective is one of the other characters, talking about how you can tell that he's grieving by the way he holds his gut. The prison time is held in the shoulders and the back. Grief is held in the gut. Something like that. I've spent nights hugging a toilet trying to work around that feeling.

What do you do? I dunno. I spent an assload of time cleaning. Even more time reading. And tons of time replaying conversations in my head (it's amazing how you still don't get to win arguments with people, even 5 years after the fact when it's being replayed in your head.) Drinking. Remembering.

I think one of the main things I'd taken from the experience is a profound appreciation of this song. It seems to me, that however much we might choose to believe otherwise (and most people will go to pretty stunning lengths to believe otherwise), this life can be a motherfucker.

That's kind of the thing, though. I'm almost 33 at this point... My brother's been dead about as long as he was alive. There's still not a single day that I don't think about him in some way. And as far as I can tell, it'll pretty much stay that way.

There's a Russian saying that Vollmann uses as an intro to one of his chapters that goes something like this -

A new bride cries until sunrise, sister cries until she gets a golden ring, and mother cries until the end of her life.

As far as I can tell, there's not much I can do to change any of this. And pretending that it's any different doesn't really do much good (if you don't

But there's a lot about how I want to live my life that I've found out from the experiences. Honesty, compassion (it's still rather stunning to me how many people refuse (and yes, I mean refuse in a strongly active sense) to think about such things. As if pretending that it doesn't happen changes anything at all.

I bled myself to sleep too many times as a child to think that denial works out all that well.

In some really fucked up sense, though, this is love. That you open yourself to this (what's the line from Ecclesiastes? Stern as Death is Love.) And it's a bitch.

But by the same token, pretending that these things aren't happening, or that they don't hurt, or that by force of will we can hold them away (How many people told me that it was rude of me to expect my "friends" to want to think about something like this happening to them? What does one say to that? Obviously they're right, it was rather inconsiderate of me to have someone in my family die. Please forgive me, I won't let it happen again.)

Yet that's pretty much the root of compassion. Opening oneself to the feeling of others. Regardless of whether it's comfortable or not.

The quote the other day was from James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues", which is probably, bar none, my favorite short story ever. In Ron Hansen's (an old-school R'villian) You've Got to Read This: Contemporary American Writers Introduce Stories that Held Them in Awe, the author that introduces "Sonny's Blues" says that it saved his life.

I can believe that. It's that kind of story.

(Though you might also want to read Vonnegut's "Thomas Edison's Shaggy Dog". According to Vonnegut, the dogs can speak, they're just not saying (which reminds me of the bit of Arab folklore that there are 99 names of god that are known, and one more that only the camel knows).

As for any questions (following blog post), I guess that the only one is still pretty much the same one as always. How are you?

Debi said...

Jesse, I remember being stunned when we first talked about your experiences after your brother's death. I could barely wrap my head around that kind of absence of compassion. (What's the word for that? "Absence of compassion"? I know there is one, but it is lost to me at this moment.) These days, I know it all to well. It still stuns me (there go those high expectations again) but it no longer surprises me. Thanks for those links; I will read and listen both.

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