At this point it's nothing but Artist Way's entries.

Wednesday 5:06 a.m.
April 1, 1998

Just woke up from the soundest sleep I've had in months -- right on the dot of 5 a.m. Usually I start waking up around 3 a.m. or 3:30 and doze off and on until it's time to get up. But this morning my eyes popped open and BOOM -- time to crawl out of bed and do my pages. Give me a few minutes to fully shake off the cobwebs, here ...

I don't even remember what I was dreaming, except that I was trying to get some people to give me a ride somewhere ... nothing much to go on ...

Tonight -- finally -- is my first writing class at the college ... last week's little "false alarm" notwithstanding. It's too early in the morning to feel one way or the other about it, frankly ... and besides, I've decided not to be nervous or worried about it unless it's absolutely necessary ... same with getting "excited." But maybe as the day progresses, I'll start to heat up a little. (One thing I'm sure of, though: I am not going to allow Tim to suck me into any ridiculous arguments, fifteen minutes before class starts!! This time I really am going to land on that campus feeling as calm and pulled-together as possible.)

I watched an hour of TV last night with Tim -- "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which of course is not exactly the most thought-provoking, creativity-recovery-enhancing fare in the universe -- but that was only after I'd spent some quiet time alone, here on the 'puter. And besides, I was "good" about the media deprivation stuff all day. No morning TV while getting ready for work -- I listened to the radio instead. At lunch I read my AW book instead of a novel or a magazine. And I went to bed as soon as "Buffy" was over. Basically, I really want this whole media deprivation week to be OVER with. Re-reading Chapter 4 yesterday, I better understand why we're doing this -- the premise is that eventually we'll run out of routine, domestic stuff to do to fill the time, and will be forced to do something creative. But I have most of my creative impulses on hold this week, anyway -- waiting for class to start -- so instead this whole thing is just sorta making me nuts! Maybe I'll have more to do and more to think about after tonight.

David stopped by to see me at work yesterday. [No, not *that* David. A different online friend.]  We hadn't seen each other since December 15, 1996  ...  the weekend he drove up to Seattle for my birthday. At first I didn't even recognize him! But then he smiled that loopy, familiar smile, and I knew it was him. It was so good to see him. We have a lot of history. We talked for just a few minutes -- he knew that Tim was on the way to pick me up, and he didn't want me to get into any "trouble" -- memories of the A.H., still clear in his mind -- but it was a sweet interlude and it left me feeling pleasantly buzzed for the rest of the afternoon.

Then ... I came home and ran into my old pal Mike (LWalker) online. We i.m.'d for fifteen minutes or so, and it was just like old times. He has always been one of my biggest "fans" -- someone who has always supported and encouraged me in my writing endeavors -- so it was especially energizing to run into him last night, just before my class begins.

I think it's surprising and lovely that so many of the friendships I've made online not only endure ... but continue to be absolutely fundamental. Edmund, Feef, George, Robbin, David, Michael ... a handful of others ... these people long ago ceased being mere words on a computer monitor. They are flesh and blood friends ... and an integral part of my "recovery."

I'm saving a little bit of writing room below, in case I want to scribble something after my class.




 

 

Thursday 5:06 a.m.
April 2, 1998

Well ... I did it. I am now officially a "student," once again ... and I couldn't be more delighted!

By 5:30 yesterday afternoon I had worked myself into a thorough panic. "I can't doooo this," the little voice in my head was moaning. I seriously considered getting into Tim's truck, kissing him goodbye ... and then going to the movies. Or to the library. Or anywhere else for a couple of hours, just to make it look like I went to class. I would get a refund for my tuition, send the money back to Feef, and Tim would never know that I weaseled out at the last minute. Of course, this meant that I would have to keep up the charade for the next ten or twelve Wednesday nights ... but I figured I could probably pull it off. Anything to avoid that horrifying moment of walking into a classroom.

Fortunately, I came to my senses at the last minute. "Do the thing you're most afraid of," one of my new mantras, playing over and over again in my head, helped me pull together the nerve I needed. I had another bad moment, once I got to the campus and couldn't find my classroom ... I felt like an idiot, wandering down the hallway peering into room after room, while a group of eighteen year old math students stood there watching m ... once again I found myself thinking, "Oh my god ... I am too OLD for this" ... maybe I should just duck out of the nearest exit and sit in the WOODS until it's time for Tim to pick me up ...

... but I finally found my classroom (with the help of a very cute, very young security guard), and the instant I walked through the door, all of my hesitation fell away. It was a moment of pure synchronicity. The room was filled with ...

... grown-ups! People just like me. Working people, a couple of guys in suits, several grandmotherly (or grandfatherly) types, maybe two or three people who looked like they might be under thirty, but that was it. And even more than a chronological comfort, I felt a sameness of purpose there, from the very first minute. "Everyone in this room loves the same thing I do," I thought to myself in amazement. And the feeling continued throughout the evening.

We listened to Craig Lesley, our instructor, talk about his goals and ideas for the class. We read three poems, and had two writing exercises -- writing about a "dangerous relative" and about an animal, "not a dog or a cat." I'd come to class with a tiny hip-pocket notebook and a pen that stubbornly refused to cooperate, so I couldn't do the exercises as completely as I wanted to -- I would scribble a thought or two, and then the pen would give out -- but rather than feel frustrated or embarrassed, I merely resolved to bring better materials next week.

Here is what I managed to scratch out on paper though: "The summer I was eight years old, my cousin Gillie came to stay with us. I had planned not to like her, but by the end of the first week I was acting as her lookout while she stole dollar bills from Grandma's underwear drawer."

"On a bumpy stretch of Caribbean road, the doctor and I ran over one hundred and eleven island geckos. I know the precise body count, because each time the Samurai hit another one, the doctor did his Al Pacino. 'Wooooo-HAAH!' he would shout in glee. 'Forty-seven! We're really thinning out the gene pool now!' "

OK ... kinda silly. But I'm pleased with my baby efforts. Homework for this week is to develop one or both of these themes. I should have some fun with that.

All in all, I am very glad that I'm doing this. It's just as big and scary as anything else I've ever done ... from having children, to going to BCTI, to moving to Oregon ... at first, I always find myself contemplating the nearest exit ... but once I'm there I find I like it just fine.

Some affirmations today:

  • I have something unique and marvelous to contribute to this class.
  • I am on the RIGHT TRACK.
  • Every day I feel a bit more reconnected to my Artist.



 



 

Friday 5 a.m.
April 3, 1998

Morning, pages. :)

Better catch up on some of the stuff that's going on around here ... some of it good, some of it not-so-good ...

Tim's son flies up from San Diego tomorrow, and he'll be staying with us until the following weekend. While he's here, I'll be doing my morning pages out in the living room -- no early morning computer -- since he'll be sleeping here in the spare room. I guess this is a good thing. It will force me to pay strict attention to writing, rather than checking my e-mail. Besides. Tim is totally thrilled about seeing his kid. Only a real killjoy would make noise about a week of minor inconvenience.

On Sunday we'll be driving up to TicTac to install the new/old computer for the Tots. We'll be leaving here very early that morning; it's conceivable that I may wind up trying to scribble my morning pages from the back seat of the Jimmy. Or I might not get a chance to do them until we get home that night. We'll just have to see what happens.

I don't have a CLUE what's happening with my job. I went into the office yesterday, halfway expecting it to be my last day ... and instead it turned out to be one of my rare, "briskly efficient" days, where I get a ton of things done and everyone remarks on what a good job I'm doing. I don't get it. Am I part of the team? Or out the door? I never know from day to day, and it's making me nuts. Tim thinks I should just go ahead and pursue a county job -- where I could, conceivably, make one to four dollars a more an hour than I'm making here at Benchmade -- and I suppose I have to agree with him. No, let me amend that wishy-washy statement: I DO agree with him. I want more money. I want to be able to pay my bills and help Ray and the kids and still have something left each payday ... enough to get a computer, or a car, or just some new clothes and dinner out once in awhile. I've endured this hand-to-mouth stuff for twenty years, and I'm sick of it. I want to earn what I'm worth, for a change. And until I write that million-seller ...

Tim's surgery looms ever closer -- and now he's registered for school. Classes start April 21, I think -- four nights a week, Monday through Thursday. I can't help myself: I am positively THRILLED by the prospect of having a few nights alone each week. Computer time!! Writing time!! Listening to *my* music time!! It's almost as though I'm going to get a little bit of my life back. Not the destructive, two-bottles-of-wine-every-night, running-around-cyberland-destroying-marriages kind of "life" -- those days are gone forever -- but some nice, quality "me time." Sigh. Bliss.

What else do I want to tell you?

Sorta annoyed with Edmund right now. He has been distant and distracted, and this morning (judging from his e-mail) he would rather talk about YungEnuff's sex life than my job problems. Hmmph. Perhaps AOL should be included in Media Deprivation Week.

Speaking of which. I haven't so much as glanced at a newspaper or magazine all week -- even though the new Willamette Week was on the stands yesterday when Tim and I went shopping at Fred Meyer -- after after I finished my library book on Monday, I haven't started another. Evening TV with Tim, however, seems pretty much unavoidable, especially when we're eating dinner or laying in bed. And I know that if I make a big "thing" about it, it'll either hurt his feelings or make me look like an idiot ... or both. And right now our relationship is at such a tenuous place -- both of us worried sick about our employment and financial problems, yet excited about some of the changes we're putting into place -- that I really don't want to tip the balance right now. (Wow. How's THAT for an excuse to watch "Friends" ... ?!?)

I haven't done any of my assignments for class yet, but I hope to have some computer time tomorrow, while Tim goes to the airport to pick up Dwayne. Or maybe I can try to at least scribble something today at work, since 1.) I basically have nothing else to do ... catalogs are "on hold" and I'm all caught up on everything else, and 2.) I know damn well that if I have time to do anything tomorrow, it'll be e-mail and surfing.

Oh well. I could sit here and write silly disjointed stuff all day ... but I won't. Another uncertain day at the office looms ahead ... as well as a very busy weekend. Better take some BIG, internal "cleansing breaths" and try to gear myself up for it. Calm, composed, focused, serene ... secure in my abilities, knowing that anything that happens is happening for a REASON ... I move forward into this day ...









Saturday morning 6:06 a.m.
April 4, 1998

Who would have ever thought we'd see the day when 6 a.m. felt like "sleeping in" ... ? It seems odd to be sitting here writing my pages in the actual light of morning, rather than in the dark disoriented gloom of 5 a.m. I don't feel any more rested -- certainly no more insightful -- but an extra hour of sleep is an extra hour of sleep.

Tim is pressuring me to go to the airport with him today to pick up Dwayne. He says that it's "odd" that I wouldn't want to go. How do I explain to him that airports are pretty much the last place on earth I care to set foot these days ... ? That I associate them with the best and the worst moments of my life? And that the very idea of standing in a terminal watching people embrace (in joy as they reunite, in tears as they part) fills me with such dread and sadness, I can hardly breathe ... ?

I told him, "I want you and Dwayne to have that special moment together. He doesn't want to get off a plane and see some strange woman standing next to his dad." But Tim insists that Dwayne isn't like that. "He's a kid," Tim says, as if this explains everything. But OK, maybe Dwayne is wired differently. That isn't even the point, since the real reason I don't want to go is because it will remind me too much of Dr. Asshole ...

(One of the drawbacks of getting up an hour later than usual? Tim keeps wandering in here, doing stuff ... bringing me coffee, pulling a bill from the bulletin board ... I'm not really alone and relaxed. I won't have much alone time at all, the next week or so. I'm extremely not happy about that ... but then I remind myself that in a couple of weeks he's going to be starting school and I'll have four incredible, beautiful evenings a week, all to myself. I guess I can hang on till then.

I wish my desk would get here. It's been how many weeks since we ordered it? Two? Three? (I would go back and check this journal for the exact date, but we're still not "allowed" to read our old stuff. Shit!) I look at the empty wall behind me, where my desk is going to sit, and I long to fill up that space with my stuff ... the watercolor that Feef sent me last year ("For a long time she only danced when she thought no one was watching") ... the framed artwork and photos of the Tots ... maybe the new Johnny Cash poster Edmund sent me last week ... maybe a new bulletin board, with absolutely NO BILLS neatly pinned to it. A little shelf for my toy collection. A place for my books. Space for a boombox and my CD's and tapes. And -- God willing, someday SOON please -- my own computer. All of this seems so very far away right now. I feel as though I've been sitting here, using Tim's desk (Tim's chair/Tim's pen/Tim's computer) for a lifetime. I want my own stuff. I need my own space.

I hope it happens while I'm still young enough to enjoy it. :(

Plans for this day -- aside from avoiding the airport? -- I guess I need to straighten up my bathroom so I can turn it over to Dwayne for the week. (Yet another wildly inconvenient personal sacrifice I'm trying not to make a big fuss about because it would make me look petty. But geez. Tim and I sharing a bathroom for the next eight days?? He gets huffy if he finds a stray hair in his sink ... or if I so much as leave a bottle of hairspray on the counter. This is going to be a very looooong week I'm afraid.) I would also love to go to the library and load up on books for the coming week, since "Media Deprivation" week will finally, blessedly be over ... but I don't know if I'll get a chance to, once Dwayne is here.

Oh. One work-related anecdote, and then I'm outta here. The atmosphere around the office was EXTREMELY weird yesterday -- lots of people tiptoeing around and whispering, furtive glances around corners, impromptu "meetings" behind closed doors ... and, as usual, the paranoid in my soul decided that it was all about me. (As in, they're about to lay me off.) Figuring that I would like to leave with my dignity -- and my personal possessions -- intact, I quietly began taking my knickknacks off my desk, packing up my personal papers, gathering my extra sweater and my coffee mugs and my notebooks. Then I sat there and waited for the ax to fall ...

... and of course when it fell it was pointed at someone else -- a guy in the shop, who apparently was in trouble with the law. My job was in no danger, after all. At least, not yet.

Time to go. I wonder if I'll wind up going to the airport with Tim? (And if I do, I wonder whose idea it will really be?)

Heading off into that loooong week.



 




April 5, 1998
Sunday 5:30 p.m. and beyond

My "morning pages" today are actually "evening pages" ... no way to avoid it unfortunately ... I was up and out the door at the crack of dawn, just got home awhile ago.

This day was sad and disappointing on so many levels, I don't even know where to begin. Shit.

Suffice it to say that installing the computer for the kids did not exactly go like clockwork today. There were glitches upon glitches ... Tim and I took our fatigue and frustration out on each other ... it was just a MESS. The kids still don't have a working computer. Once again -- in spite of the world's best intentions -- things blew up on me. I let everybody down, I unfairly blamed Tim for my own failure, and right now I just feel like a weary, useless sack of shit. I want to crawl into bed and pull the blankets up over my head and sleep for weeks and weeks ... and when I wake up, find that everything is calm again, and that no one is mad at me, and that my head no longer feels like it wants to simply roll off my shoulders ...

The older I get, the more I come to realize that nothing ever really gets "fixed." Life is a series of starts and stops and starts. Things get broken and they get fixed and they get broken again ... and that's just the way it is.

I really wanted to give the kids this computer. I wanted to burst through the door this morning triumphantly and say "Here it is! Just plug it in!" and have everything work perfectly the very first time. I wanted them to be amazed by my resourcefulness, grateful for my generosity, touched by this expensive sign of my love for them. I wanted the computer to atone for my sins ... to make up for my not being there the past eight months. I wanted to prove to Tim that sitting around and waiting for the perfect time and opportunity to do something isn't always the best idea. I wanted to show Ray that I can provide the occasional special "extra" for the kids. And I guess -- more than anything else -- I wanted to prove to myself that I am still a fully engaged mother.

So when it all went to hell on me -- first the keyboard and the mouse wouldn't cooperate, then it turned out that the monitor they have won't work with the "new" computer -- I felt sabotaged and stupid (for believing it would go so smoothly in the first place) and totally pissed-off that there wasn't anything I could do to "fix" things.

I don't want to write about it anymore. I'm still disappointed, but I've had some time to calm down. Tim let me drive part of the way home from Seattle -- scary at first, but then quite soothing. I'm merely recording the emotions I felt earlier today.

I keep expecting to have a Plug & Play life. By now I ought to know better. My life is always, always going to require that second (and third, and fourth) trip down the hill for extra parts.

Tim and I are being cautiously solicitous toward each other right now. We exchanged some fairly heated words on the way home -- in the rest stop parking lot, so his son(sitting in the car) wouldn't hear us. The gist of it was that he doesn't think I love him, and that he believes I'm disappointed in him, specifically, when the computer wouldn't work. Which may or may not be true. My period is due to start any second, so I'm chalking a lot of this up to hormones. (I know what a cop-out that sounds like, but it's true. Ever since the abortion last year my periods have been hitting me harder than at any time in my life. Physically I am miserable, and emotionally I am totally out of control.)

I don't know what else to write about. I think I just want to baby myself for the rest of the evening ... read, eat some pizza, go to bed early. Start another week tomorrow, fresh and new. Maybe I can figure out some way to get the kids a monitor. (God, are you listening? Could you please help me with this one? It's not an important request, and I don't particularly deserve it, after my behavior today ... but it would mean a lot.)

Off I go ... to rest and recuperate. And maybe redeem. Or be redeemed.


 


WEEK FIVE:
RECOVERING A SENSE OF POSSIBILITY


Monday 5:18 a.m.
April 6, 1998

Feeling slightly less sorry for myself. I'm still sad that we couldn't get the computer running for the kids, but I know that somehow we'll come up with a monitor for them. I wrote an e-mail to my mom before bed last night, explaining the situation and asking for her help. Maybe between the two of us, we can find a solution.

As usual, I am bone-tired. It's a little worse than usual, due to this weekend's time change. My body says it's only 4:20 a.m., so what the fuck am I doing huddled on the sofa, drinking bad instant coffee and writing in my journal at this ungodly hour?? I might as well get used to it, though -- writing out here in the living room, I mean -- Dwayne is here for the entire week, and the "computer room" is off-limits. Sigh.

He's a nice kid, though. Different from my son, as I figured he would be: a little less sophisticated, a lot more active (he likes to "disappear" outside and play on the playground for long stretches of time). But I like him more than I expected to. We are cordial toward each other, and give each other lots of space, which is pretty much all I require in this peculiar situation. And Tim is clearly thrilled to pieces to have him here, and the funny thing is that I love to see Tim happy. When he's happy and excited about something, it's a lot easier to love him. So having Dwayne here is adding an interesting new dynamic to the arrangement, even if it's only temporary.

I hope that Tim doesn't sink into another one of his "malignant depressions" (to borrow a phrase from Dr. A) when Dwayne goes home, though. A little worried about that.

Still haven't done any of my assignments for the writing class. I'm supposed to write 2-3 typewritten pages on "the most dangerous relative" theme, but I haven't gotten very far ... just a couple of clumsy sentences and a partial outline. I suppose I'm waiting until the very last minute, as usual. I've always done my best work under pressure. As for the reading assignments -- a chapter from the "Dreamers and Desperadoes" text and a Robert Frost poem called "After Apple Picking" ... haven't done that yet, either. Guess I should figure out some way to buy the required book(s) for the class ... and maybe I can find the Robert Frost poem on the Internet tonight.

I was going to do Week Four of the program over again -- even the Media Deprivation! -- because I felt I'd really flubbed the whole thing, assignment-wise. But I've changed my mind. I'm going to forge ahead with Week Five ("Recovering a Sense of Possibility") -- and simply recommit myself to getting as much of it done as possible. I read the chapter yesterday in the car, as we were driving to Seattle. All of this stuff about depending on God to help in my creative recovery is very hard for me to accept. I'm finding it very difficult to ask Him for anything, let alone trust that He's going to provide. I can't seem to get past the feeling that all of the terrible things I've done in my life -- especially the past couple of years -- make me unworthy of His consideration. Even the way that I am a born-again Christian from wayy back doesn't make me feel any better about approaching Him. I'm afraid that if I ask Him for something, anything related to this recovery -- inspiration, money, a computer of my own, time to myself -- He's going to laugh at me. Or else He's going to say, "Yeah, OK ... but first you've got to go back and fix everything you've screwed up since 1995 or so." And the very idea of being laughed at by an ironic God -- or of being asked to atone -- scares me silly. In fact, the more that I write about this, the more I realize that this is one of those HUGE internal blocks inside of me, impeding my recovery ... the whole issue of feeling uncomfortable and guilty around God. No wonder there are certain parts of Julia Cameron's book that make me squirm in my seat. I'm really going to have to think about this one. Am I entitled to anything God has to offer? Would it be out of line for me to ask for His help in my recovery? What exactly will be required of me, if I do? How do I learn to trust Him again? How does He learn to trust me again?

If I were to ask Him for anything, right at this moment -- given the assumption that everything is cool between us, that He welcomes my request and wants to help -- what would I ask for? The obvious: an answer to the kids' monitor problem. Today. Or sooner. (See? See how I am?? I want that Plug & Play Life. "Give me what I need, Oh Lord ... and could I have it by 10 a.m. PDT?") Or else I would ask Him to give me a great idea for my writing class assignment ... maybe even just one great opening sentence.

Dear Lord ... I ask you to help me provide my kids with a monitor for their computer today ... and to touch the area of my brain that stores words & ideas, freeing some of those words & ideas and making them available to me for my writing assignment. I ask this humbly and with the expectation that you love me unconditionally and want to help me in my recovery, and that all I have to do is ask and You will provide. For this, I thank You.

Earth to God ...
come in, God ...




 




Tuesday morning 5:10 a.m.
April 7, 1998

My new desk is here!!  Wonder of wonders. Sears called, over the weekend, to say it was ready for pick-up, but then we had to wait until yesterday (with Dwayne arriving/the trip to TicTac) to actually go get it. Tim picked it up and put it together for me while I was at work, and he did a beautiful job. It's a great desk. I'm disappointed that I don't have a chair for it yet -- the one I was going to buy on sale at Fred Meyer turned out to be a piece of junk -- but once again I just need to be patient, apparently, and wait for all of the pieces to fall into place (instead of ALWAYS expecting them to happen all at once). In the meantime, I spent some time last night assimilating some of my most beloved things into my new workspace. My toy collection ... my favorite CDs and tapes ... some of my notebooks and writing stuff. I can tell that once I get it all set up, especially once I get a computer, that it's going to be a place where I spend a LOT of time.

Of course, it sort of bugs me that the very first morning my desk is here, I'm sitting out in the LIVING ROOM writing my pages (because Dwayne is asleep on the floor next to the desk) ... but that's just one of the many ironies of my life. I'll live. Next week will be great.

And Tim is already making his little constipated noises about certain things. "You have a LOT of stuff," he said as he watched me arranging toys on the top shelf. (Translation: 'What's the matter with a nice, neat, empty desktop?') And he all but forebade me to mount my usual collage of jumbled-together photos and stuff to the wall. "You'll take the paint off," he said. Then he suggested mounting cork board to the back of the desk, so I can "pin" a few things to that. Fine. Whatever. I'll go along with him on this one, just to keep the peace ... but I can already tell that there will be many wars in the days ahead. (God help me if I ever spill anything on my own desktop ... )

I could tell that he was shocked by how messy and dirty the TicTac house was on Sunday. (At one point I opened the bottom desk drawer in the laundry room, looking for computer cables, and found a crusty cereal bowl instead. "Nice," he observed primly.) I tried to warn him about it in advance -- "It's probably really gone downhill around there since I left," I said -- but even I was shocked by how bad it was. This house, which I used to love more than anything except my children, -- the house I lavished with time and obsessive attention to detail, fussing over every basket hanging on the wall, every nook and cranny -- now seems dark and closed-in and smelly and foreign to me. I couldn't wait to get out of there. (It reminded me of the house I used to live in with my dad, when I was a teenager.) Was it like this before I left last summer?? The awful thing is ... YES, I believe it was. I was so disconnected from day-to-day reality, in those final weeks and months, that housework was completely beyond me. I didn't notice and I didn't care. And then when things got to be too much -- when the chaos in my soul and the chaos around me collided -- I simply vanished. Exit, stage left. I ran off and left this horrible mess for the kids to deal with. God ... how are they EVER going to forgive me for that?

How am I ever going to forgive myself?

Maybe that's one reason why this computer was so important. It was going to help make up for my leaving. (I have a feeling that a LOT of the things I do, for the rest of my life, will be an attempt to "help make up for my leaving.")

Anyway -- now Tim knows exactly where I came from, and how different he and I truly are. I'm sure that his neat, tidy little soul was utterly flabbergasted. From now on he'll undoubtedly be watching me very closely ... looking for signs that I'm going to let my Inner Slob come out and play ...

I think it's too bad that I never had the chance to live alone. I believe that I would be very comfortable and happy living in my own place ... free to decorate and clean (or not clean) as I choose ... free to tape stuff to the walls ... free to turn the music up and leave the dishes in the sink sometimes ... too bad that it's not likely to ever be a reality. I can't afford it. And I've already proven, time and again, that I need help managing even the simplest day-to-day details. (Bills ... taxes ... car stuff ... all the things I don't have a clue about.) I am fated forever to having roommates. Or guards.

My period just started, btw ... about three paragraphs ago ... so I was right yesterday: a lot of my present melancholy mood is hormonal. I'm going to go to work and throw myself into the catalog database and stay busy, busy, busy. God doesn't seem to be paying much attention to me right now.





 

Wednesday
5something a.m.
April 8, 1998

Right before I woke up this morning I had an incredibly vivid dream: I dreamed that I was sitting right where I am now -- at the far end of the sofa, next to the lamp -- writing in a small leather-bound diary and languidly smoking a cigarette. It was early morning, still dark outside, and Tim was asleep. I was checking to see how many pages I'd written in the diary, and I was pleased to see I'd logged one full month of continuous writing. I took a deep drag on the cigarette, wondering if Tim would be able to smell the cigarette from the bedroom. "Oh well," I thought, "I only smoke two cigarettes a day, and it's only when I'm writing in my diary ... I'm just going to enjoy it." And I continued to savor this forbidden pleasure.

I was reading the AW book yesterday during my lunch break and I was suddenly flooded by a wave of doubt. If this program is working ... how come I haven't written a single creative word? And how come I still have no clear idea where I want this to lead? The exercises are confusing me. "List Five Things You Would Do If They Weren't Crazy." "List Five Classes That Would Be Fun To Take." "List Five Reasons Why You Shouldn't Put Your Head in an Oven." I mean ... c'mon. What am I accomplishing here, really? Every "list" I make is more disjointed and stupid than the last. I can't get close to God ... my god, Julia Cameron's god, anyone's god. I don't feel noticeably different. No screaming epiphanies in the middle of the night. I'm beginning to believe that this is all a huge waste of time, and what does it matter, anyway? -- in the blink of an eye my life is going to be over & I'm never really going to be a published author because I don't seem to want it badly enough. So who the fuck cares about "Five Things You Would Do For Yourself If They Didn't Cost More Than You Make In A Year," anyhow ... ??

Last fall, right after I'd moved here to Oregon, I had the sense that my mind and body were "draining" ... that I was letting go of everything inside of me, all of the things I used to be passionate about ... and becoming an "empty vessel." Like a pop bottle overturned on the beach, its contents dribbling noiselessly into the sand. I still feel that way. I still feel this emptying process going on inside of me ... as though I need to let everything dribble into the sand, until there's nothing left inside. My kids. My past. My obsession with cyber. My unformed dreams for the future. Sex. Romance. Worries about money. Worries about my health and my appearance. Old friendships. Memories. Hobbies. Music. Habits, good and bad. Beliefs. All of these things, dribbling away. It hurts to see them go. Will I ever be passionate about anything, ever again? Or will I just feel numb and empty from now on?

My writing class is tonight, and I didn't do my writing assignment. That magic moment of inspiration I prayed for never happened. I sat down in front of the computer a couple of times, trying to put a few words onto the screen .... but then I invariably found myself farting around on AOL, or rearranging files, or doing something els -- ANYTHING else. I simply cannot seem to get the process in gear.

WHY??

WHY is it so goddamn difficult for me to write four paragraphs???

What the hell is the MATTER with me?!?

I'll keep a pad and paper next to me at work today, and maybe I'll catch an idea or two. Otherwise I'm just going to have to have a talk with Craig at school and try to explain to him this process that I'm going through, and that it might take me a little while to jump-start my brain.

In other news: I'm beginning the process of breaking from Benchmade. Yesterday the new business cards were delivered ... and mine weren't among them. (The ones Kim ordered for me, before she was fired.) Instead, the new "front desk cards" are ... blank. ("That's so you can write in anybody's name!" Jill chirped.) For me, that was a pivotal moment. It says, 'You have no future with this company.' It's time to decide whether I would rather be comfy ... or challenged. So I quietly faxed a letter to the county personnel office, asking them to reactivate my application ... and that's that.

Sigh. Just when I get settled somewhere ... it's time to move on again.

And speaking of time ... I've got to get ready for work. I've got horrendous cramps, and I feel really thick and slow and blurry today. Fortunately today is the end of my work week -- tomorrow is Tim's surgery and I have the day off, plus Friday if I want it.

Later.





 



Thursday 5:16 a.m.
April 9, 1998

My regular morning routine is altered somewhat today, due to Tim's surgery. I can write for a few minutes, but then I'll probably have to catch up on the rest of it later. (Actually, my "routine" will be altered a LOT for the next few days, as I will be required to act as chief chauffeur, nurse, babysitter, housekeeper and cook, while Tim recovers.)

Class last night was disappointing ... but not for any reasons that could have been prevented. I had my assignment done, after all -- three clever, neatly-written paragraphs I managed to squeeze out at work. And I found the Frost poem on the Internet. So I was marginally prepared. When called on in class ("What are you tired of reading or writing about? What do you consider is worth writing about?"), I answered with poise and humor ("I've sorta o.d.'d on Self-Help books"). What was disappointing was that I had to leave class early. Last week the class ended at 9 p.m., so that's the time I told Tim to pick me up this week. When Craig was still lecturing at 9:05 ... my heart sank. I knew that I was going to have to make a huge spectacle of myself, interrupting him in mid-sentence and asking to be "excused" and getting up and leaving in front of the entire class. And this is precisely what happened. I wasn't embarrassed so much as annoyed and frustrated. I really didn't want to leave. But I knew that Tim was waiting out in the parking lot, probably getting increasingly upset. And somehow missing the last half hour of class seemed a small price to pay to keep him from spinning off into one of his righteously indignant 'You fucked up and once again I am paying for it' moods ...

Oh well. Yeah, he was pissed that I was "late," but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. We had our regular, once-a-week "functional sex" -- sans kissing, hugging or verbal endearments ("Feel better?" is what he said, immediately after), as usual -- and drifted off to sleep. I don't know if I dreamed. Most of my dreams these days are either about Ray and the kids, the Asshole Doctor (altho only in overt, symbolic ways: he never makes an actual "appearance"), or work.

Speaking of work ... I feel a little funny, knowing I'm not going to be there today (and possibly tomorrow). God knows what sort of stuff will go on in my absence. I'll probably come back on Monday only to discover that they've moved me out to Maintenance ... hope I don't obsess about my job all weekend long, but I probably will ...

We had to make some lists last night in class ... (oh boy! MORE LISTS!! olo) ... Things That Are Worth Writing About, Things That You Are Tired of Writing/Reading About, and Things That Are Taboo For Me Personally To Write About. I don't have my notebook in front of me, but I know I listed some of the following as "worthy" topics:

  • Childhood experiences
  • Relationships, especially between men/women and children/parents
  • The cyber world, and the ways in which it impacts the "real" world (I spoke about this a little bit in class)
  • Dreams
  • Music

I listed "failed marriage (mine)" as being something I'm tired of writing about, altho the truth is that I rarely address the subject except in an occasional e-mail to Mom or Feef or Robbin. And the only "taboo" topic I listed was "things I know nothing about or have no interest in." In other words ... I'm not going to be doing much writing about sports, politics, automotives, or Australian sheepherding ...

Gotta go wake Tim up and get ready for Surgery Day. More later, if I can manage it.





 



Friday 7:39 a.m.
April 10, 1998

Restless, difficult night. I wasn't sure if I would take today off from work, but Tim's surgery was more grueling and invasive than anyone expected; basically he is bedridden. We slept in two- and three-hour snatches, punctuated by noisy neighbors, weird dreams, and frequent trips to the bathroom, or to the kitchen for more pain pills. I can't imagine leaving here alone all day: merely shifting position in bed is a major undertaking for him. I'll call the office in half an hour or so and give them the bad news. (Then I'll probably spend the rest of the weekend worrying about my job ... but I don't see that I have a lot of choice here.)

It was fun doing the driving yesterday -- bringing Tim home from the hospital, taking Dwayne to McDonald's for breakfast, going out and getting dinner for "the boys." Sometimes I forget how much I love driving ... especially when I'm forced, by circumstance, to go for a long time without a car of my own. Then when I do get back behind the wheel -- and after I've had a few minutes to shake that scary feeling of being out of practice -- I'm always amazed and delighted by how much fun it is. How "free" it makes me feel. Cruising up Molalla Avenue in Oregon sunshine, singing along with the Indigo Girls ("Closer to Free") at the top of my lungs ... bliss. I don't know if I'll ever be able to afford a car of my own again -- maybe I will, maybe I won't -- but even borrowing someone else's vehicle for a few minutes is a ton of fun.

It's cloudy and rainy today ... Dwayne will be stuck here in the apartment with Tim and I, unless it miraculously clears up later. He has spent most of his free time this week running around in the woods behind the apartments, playing on the playground with the other kids, exploring the creek, etc. Or else he stays close to his dad, watching TV and whispering. A real low-maintenance kid. I tried talking to him a little bit when we were in the car yesterday, on our way to breakfast, but he clearly wasn't taken by my Bohemian Mom routine, the way my kids and their friends were. So instead I cranked up the radio (Marcy Playground) and we both sang along. Bonding Through Music, I guess you could say.

Having him here makes me long for my own kids ... especially (because of the boy-connection) Kyle. (Who, incidentally, comes home today from a week at Camp Waskowitz.) I miss the way his whole face lights up when he's talking about something that excites him. And I miss the feeling of his hands on my shoulders ... the way he used to come up behind me, when I was sitting at the computer, and give me an impromptu neck massage. God, I miss him. Sniff.

(You know, it's been nine months since I left TicTac ... and in some ways I feel like I'm still deciding whether or not I want to be here.)

Long list of "shoulds" today. I should:

  • Do my laundry
  • Clean the apartment
  • Go to the store and get groceries
  • Entertain Dwayne
  • Call Clackamas County about reinstating my app
  • "Play nurse" for Tim

And of course Tim has already "reminded" me about half the things on the list, even though it's only 8:30 a.m. ("We need #4 coffee filters ... are you going to call the County? ... if you do your laundry, Dwayne has some things that need to be done ... Dwayne needs some help today, looking up Egypt on the Internet ... ") Fighting back a twinge of irritation. I will take care of as many "shoulds" on the list as possible -- and probably a bunch more that Tim hasn't even thought of yet -- but at some point today, there WILL be time to a few "me" things, dammit. Like working on my new webpage. Or talking to Edmund online. Or simply sitting and reading a book for a few minutes without interruption.

("Hey Honey-Bunny? Is it cereal and drugs time yet?")

I've gotta go. My Master calls. Grrrrr.

Lord ... give me strength.

(Oh wait -- that's right. God isn't listening to me these days, is He?)





 


Saturday 8:46 a.m.
April 11, 1998

As predicted, I have zero time to myself this weekend. (I'm writing this as Tim sit next to me on the sofa, drinking his coffee and yacking at me.) So I'm just going to have to try and work my program around my life ... maybe getting a few of the Chapter 5 exercises done this afternoon, scribbling my Morning Pages whenever and wherever I get a chance ...

Kacie called me last night -- in a panic, as usual -- to tell me that they bought a new monitor for the computer .... but it doesn't work. Sigh. This is sooooo fucking frustrating, not being able to help her. She kept saying, "It's OK, Mom!" ... but it's not OK. All I wanted to do was give them a decent computer and get them back online ... but I keep hitting glitch after goddamned glitch. Now Tim is speculating that there might be something wrong with the video card, since it sounds like the monitor they bought should be working fine. (The video card. Oh GREATim Like they're gonna know how to fix THATim)

Later:

One of the biggest "issues" I'm dealing with right now -- especially the past few days -- is selfishness vs. selflessness. Specifically: is it selfish of me to be devoting all of this time and energy to something like "creative recovery?"

The most selfish thing I've ever done, I think, was leaving Ray and the kids last year in search of ... what? Happiness? Sex? Intimacy? A new start? Self-preservation? One day I just got up and left -- just like that, without any warning to anybody. I've described it as "either the bravest or the stupidest thing I've ever done." (I still haven't decided which.) One thing is for certain, though ... it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. I'm not talking about being separated from my kids. I KNEW that was going to be difficult. But I had no idea how hard everything else would be. Weaning myself from alcohol and chemicals, for one thing. (And from cyber addiction, which had an even stronger hold on me than alcohol or drugs ever did.) Overnight I went from firmly hooked to enforced cold turkey.

(While I'm trying to write: "Hey honey? Wanna see something silly? It's 'Attack of the Killer Timatoes.' ")

And there was also the whole idea of waking up and finding myself living in a strange new town, in a strange new state ... out of work and out of money ... and living with a person I barely knew. The holidays. Giving up all my personal possessions. A complete change of lifestyle. NONE of it has been easy. But it was still a phenomenally selfish thing to do, when I consider all of the lives I've disrupted. I'm not completely convinced I would do it again ... or, at least, not in exactly the same way.

None of this really has a point, I guess. I'm just sort of worrying about becoming too self-absorbed - ALWAYS a danger, w/me - and the whole AW program seems to be one big "Me Me Me" celebration. It's hard to develop a sense of integrity when all you're thinking about is indulging your "Inner Artist Child." Tim needs me to be rubbing some circulation back into his feet .... and instead, I'm sitting here at my (new) desk, scribbling in my journal. The office needs me to be stuffing catalogs ... and instead I'm surreptitiously working on a piece for my writing class. That $6.99 in my purse would best be spent on Extra Strength Tylenol ... and instead I spring for that fancy new fountain pen I've been coveting.

(My kids need an engaged, hands-on mother ... and I bail.)

(I'm angry that I can't write an entire paragraph in this journal without Tim interrupting me!!! It's driving me insane. Is that selfish??)

Right now I feel so ... tightly wound, and hostile. Tim came into the room and took away the chair, so he could go online for a while ... I am literally on my knees now in front of my desk, writing this ... I feel like I'm going to EXPLODE.)

 
I WANT TO BE ALONE SOMETIMES!!!
I WANT MY OWN FUCKING COMPUTER!!!
I WANT TO BE IN CHARGE OF MY OWN LIFE!!!
I WANT TO WRITE ... !!!

How come NONE of this stuff is happening?? How come I don't feel like I'm making any progress here?? Why am I so filled with rage and frustration and irritation and fear and self-loathing???

(Tim: "Hiya, Honey Bunny. How would you like to crawl over here and give me a big fat smackerooni?")

ARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH ....





 



Sunday morning 7:28 a.m.
Easter
April 12, 1998

I am so sorry about yesterday's pathetic journal entry. I realize that apologizing is most likely not an accepted part of the AW program ... but I'm apologizing anyway. My routine has been so disrupted this past week, and my journal entries, as a result, have been a mess. I'm going to have to work very hard for the next few days to regain my voice.

(Actually, the challenge here is not so much regaining my "voice" as it is reminding Tim how important this is to me ... and getting him to respect what I'm doing. Not interrupting me, or calling me from the other room when I'm trying to focus ("Honey Bunny?"), or making derisive comments ("Unless you'd rather be WRITING"). Starting tomorrow morning, it's back to getting up at 5 a.m. and sitting in the other bedroom. (Dwayne goes home today, so I'll actually be able to do my morning pages at my own new desk, for the first time EVER!) That will give me the space and the privacy and the opportunity to focus that has been missing the last few days.)

I'm reading a book called "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg. It's about unblocking creatively, much like The Artist's Way, and the first couple of chapters have been very enlightening. Generally, I've been trying to avoid other self-help books while I'm on the AW program -- especially books about writing. I checked out a bunch of them from the library but wound up returning most of them unread. I think I sensed that they might "dilute" the AW experience. But the Goldberg book, so far anyway, is moke like a companion piece to the AW. The one thing I've gotten from it that has proven most helpful is the idea that journal-writing isn't meant to be great literature ... that a lot of it is page after page of whining, self-indulgent, redundant garbage, sometimes for years on end. (My 25+ years' worth of ratty spiral notebooks will surely attest to this fact.) And that's the point. It is the process that matters, not so much the end result. This is something I've always known was true -- or hoped was true, anyway -- but it's nice to have someone verify it. I'm going to try and relax a little more about the whole journal-writing process. Not worry so much about what might happen if Tim or one of the kids or who-knows-who-else reads the things I write ... even if it's something "dangerous" (me griping about my relationship w/Tim) ... or something "bad" (I still long for the Asshole Doctor occasionally, in spite of all the crap he pulled). I've already gone through the experience of having my journal read without permission and having the person who read it react badly to it. Actually, that's happened to me TWICE in the past year or so: when Ray read my Caribbean journal, detailing my affair, and then again last fall when Tim stumbled across my computer diary. It was a violation, of course, but I guess I survived it both times. I can't let it turn me off journal-writing as a whole ... nor can I let it interfere with the things that I write, or with the process of unloading the garbage in my head so I can write OTHER stuff. Anyone who reads these journals -- the ones I'll be writing from this point in my life onward -- I guess I could call them "The Oregon Diaries" -- should probably keep in mind that I'm indulging less in chronicalling daily events (like I did when I was a teenager and a young mom) than in clearing out the cobwebs. A lot of junk is going to wind up, splattered across these pages. I'm going to try not to care. Emphasis on the word "try."

Issues To Explore:

My pay-off for remaining blocked is: that smug, lovely feeling of telling the Universe "I told you so." (As in, "I told you I don't have the talent/determination/equipment/support system/time/faith/imagination/luck/balls to succeed ...")

The person I blame for being blocked is: sitting right next to me on the sofa as I write this, holding the remote control in one hand and absentmindedly scratching his crotch with the other. At least, he's the person I'm blaming today. In previous lives I have blamed my husband, my kids, my parents, my grandmother, non-supportive friends, too-supportive friends, my teachers, the mailman ... my job, my LACK of a job, my schedule, my health, my drinking, my heartbreaks, my healing processes ... Tim is merely the latest in a long series of targets. We all know that the only person to blame for me being blocked is ... me.

Or maybe that's not fair. Maybe that's contrary to what I'm trying to learn here through the AW program. Maybe I'm not supposed to "BLAME" anyone, especially myself. I'm blocked because of a series of life events and circumstances, and not one specific thing or person. Right? But it IS true that the responsibility for unblocking me belongs to me.

Out of time and out of space.






 

WEEK SIX:
RECOVERING A SENSE OF ABUNDANCE

This is where it all starts to change  ...  again.

Monday morning 5 a.m.
April 13, 1998

Arrrgghh. 5 a.m. is still obscenely early, even if I am sitting at a beautiful new desk ...

I'm going to have to scribble like mad this morning. I only have half an hour to write, instead of my usual hour, because I've got to take Tim to his doctor's appointment in Tualatin before work. I totally spaced this one out, though -- Tim told me about it last week but I forgot, so I never had a chance to mention it to my boss. I've already left a message on the office voicemail, explaining why I may be half an hour late, but that's doing little to quell the uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I've been away from the office for four days already. God knows what sort of ominous changes have taken place in my absence ...

Yesterday was an intensely interesting and emotional day, for a lot of reasons. We took Dwayne to the airport, early in the afternoon, so he could catch his flight home to San Diego. I began to weep the moment we entered the terminal. I knew it was going to be painful ... but apparently I had no idea HOW painful.

"Why are you crying?" Tim asked me, and I said "Because I hate airports." That answer wasn't enough for him, apparently, and he persisted, until finally I said, "To me, airports are very sad places. They're filled with people saying goodbye." When he still continued to press the issue, I finally said "This is the first time I've been in an airport since that horrible night I came home from Pittsburgh, a year ago. It brings back some very sad memories." And that, finally, was the truth, and he knew it, and nothing much else was said.

Tim was very broken up about Dwayne leaving. For a minute or two he just sat there in his airport wheelchair, with his crutches on his lap, watching the plane roll away, and I could see his shoulders heaving up and down as though he was sobbing his heart out. Frankly -- the sooner we both got out of that fricking airport, the better.

I got an e-mail from my mom yesterday, before we left for the airport. She was writing to wish me a happy Easter, and to tell me about Kacie's Rainbows installation on Saturday. Apparently the whole family -- except of course for me, the M.I.A. Mom -- was there for Kacie's big day. I felt sad and left-out for the rest of the morning and afternoon after I read the e-mail. Called TicTac twice, just to establish some "heart connection." Kacie was her usual sweet, buoyant self, always acting so happy to hear from me ... God, I love her. Jaymi was hilariously droll: when I mentioned that I'd heard the Rainbows installation was wonderful she said "They ... LIED. It was the most B O R I N G thing I've ever been to in my life." Only Kyle seemed sort of distant and disconnected on the phone, but that could have been due to anything -- I was probably interrupting a good TV show or something. I didn't take it personally.

When we got home from the airport, Tim was exhausted and in pain (physically and emotionally). I settled him on the sofa with a beer and a bunch of pillows, threw dinner into the oven, and came back to the computer to read my e-mail. I'd only been online for a minute or two -- using my "SecraT" screen name, a name tha not a lot of people online know about -- when suddenly I received a disturbing i.m. from a stranger ... someone named "StarGyder."

SG: Sorry. I thought you were someone I used to know.
Me: Ditto.
SG: Who did you think I was?
Me: I thought you were someone who used to sing to me.
SG: Funny ... I thought you were someone I used to sing to.

Journal ... it was the doc. I'd swear on my life that it was. We "talked" for a few more minutes -- very obliquely, never revealing personal info -- but there were enough clues for me to know. The writing style, the syntax, are as familiar to me as his actual voice. It was him ... contacting me surreptitiously, for whatever reason. Maybe he got the "Barges" clipping I sent to his office. Maybe he's feeling guilty. (Or -- more likely -- maybe he believes he's giving ME a chance to apologize! I'm sure that in his mind, he was the one who was wronged. That's pretty much how he's wired.) At any rate, it was a startling encounter. It left me weirdly elated. I'm going to do nothing to encourage further conversation, but it'll be interesting to see if he pursues this at all.

In the meantime ... it's time to get ready for work. This is going to be a grueling week -- I feel it in my bones. Gotta try and keep my focus on The Big Picture ... achieving the goals I am setting for myself. (A better job, a more intimate relationship with Tim, creative liberation.) Stuff is just ... stuff. I can do anything I need to do. Do the thing that scares you. I am, I am, I am. Etc. :)






 

 

Tuesday 5:10 a.m.
April 14, 1998

Ohhhh god ... it's early. And dark. And cold. And I'm exhausted ... didn't sleep worth a crap, and then Tim got up an hour ago to noisily crash and scrape around the kitchen, looking for Tylenol, and I've been awake ever since ... the coffee had better hurry up or I'm going to lay my head down, right here on my desk, and slip back into a coma ...

The fact that I (stupidly) drank four beers last night isn't helping much. Of course that's nothing compared to the two-bottles-of-wine-every-night habit from a year ago -- but it's still about two drinks above my current limit. My tolerance has dropped wayyyy down since I moved to Oregon: one beer, and I'm sort of mellow. Two, and I have a little buzz. Any more than that, and I'm a useless puddle of goo. I certainly can't write anything worthwhile in that condition. I can carry on a giddy, disjointed online conversation maybe (like the one I had with Edmund last night), but that's about it. The reason this is important for me to be thinking about -- besides the fact that drinking is obviously bad for my health, my energy level, my waistline and my wallet -- is that Tim's classes start one week from tonight, and I've got to start thinking about how I want to be using those precious, fabulous free evenings. Getting loaded and juggling i.m. conversations? Or getting some actual stuff done? (Writing, reading, creating, working on the web page, etc.) I suppose I'll probably indulge a bit in the former before settling down into the latter ... it'll just be too tempting to relax with a couple of beers and some mindless chit-chat ... but I am DETERMINED that I'm not going to slip back into my old, destructive, drink-on-top-of-the-hangover and-the-hangover-goes-away behavior. I just can't afford it ... in ANY sense of the word.

I'm having doubts about whether that really was the doc talking to me online on Sunday night. I keep reviewing th conversation in my head, and I find reasons to believe it was him ... but then I find other reasons to believe that I'm a delusional idiot and it was just some nice, perfectly harmless stranger who i.m.'d me by accident. Naturally it was on my mind all day yesterday. In a moment of weakness, I dragged out the box of Doctor A Memorabilia last night and looked at his photos. Sometimes I forget what he actually looked like. I mean, I close my eyes and I can't see his face anymore, at least not

 

-- NEVER MIND --
-- INTERRUPTED --
 

He just i.m.'d me again, as I was writing the above ... and there is no doubt anymore. It's him.  It's definitely the doc. Oh god ... I don't even know how to feel about this ...

We talked for almost half an hour, and now all of my morning writing time is used up. I'll try and reconnect with you, Journal, when I get home from work. Spinning.

8:20 a.m.

Sitting at work. Guess I'm going to have to start bringing my journal with me everywhere I go, from now on. Sigh.

Journal ... he still loves me. He says he's "never stopped." I am so incredibly happy ... and so incredibly confused, and pissed, and hopeful, and sad, all at the same time. He was -- and is -- the one true love of my life. I feel as though my heart has finally started beating again.

7:03 p.m.

I've had all day to think about it ... and it's clear to me that the doc's sudden reappearance in my life is going to pose the most serious threat so far to my creative recovery -- and to my commitment to the AW program. All of a sudden, all of my motivation is gone: all I can think about is the fact that he never stopped loving me.

Help.






 


Wednesday 5:07 a.m.
April 15, 1998

Look at the question (or statement, or whatever it is) at the bottom of this page:

"The question is 'Are you self-destructive,' not 'Do you appear self-destructive?' "

I don't remember reading that in the AW book so I'm not sure of the exact context, but it's definitely something to think about, isn't it? A year ago, anyone looking at me -- sitting at my computer chugging wine and puffing away at cigarettes, typing until 1 a.m. every night and then crawling to work the next morning, a bleary hungover mess -- would have said, "Yep, that's one extremely self-destructive lady, alright." Today, on the other hand -- in the spring of '98 -- I give the outward appearance having it much more together, probably. Doing my job, mailing my child support every two weeks, going to my writing class, living a modest, quiet existence with my nice boyfriend. And yet, below the surface, I am every bit as self-destructive as ever. The fact that I am so ready to jump right back into the nightmare -- with the doc -- is ample proof of that.

He's online right now ... no doubt waiting to talk to me. I want to ask him, what prompted his sudden reappearance? Was it me sending him the song lyrics? If so, then I am the engineer of my own doom.

SG: You have mail ... and I have a patient in.
Me: Thanks. And OK.
SG: I'll be back in a bit.
Me: I'm here for another forty minutes or so.

(The sum total of our "conversation" just now ... )

I'm already making up new rules and strategies and plans in my head. No apologizing for any of the decisions I made last year (especially the abortion and coming to Oregon). No slamming Tim. No sneaking around in the middle of the night, juggling surreptitious phone calls and i.m. conversations. (Uh huh. Look at me sitting here at 5:22 a.m., waiting for him to finish seeing his patient so we can talk online.) I'm going to be slightly aloof. I'm going to be 100% honest about everything, and if he doesn't like it, tough. I'll be back in his arms at least once more before I die. Etc. etc. etc.

And I am already despising myself for ALL of this. Two rooms away, a perfectly sweet, lovely man lies in "our" bed, quieting loving me ... and here I sit, typing to a man who ... who ... who what? Almost destroyed my life -- twice? A man who has more power over me than God and alcohol put together? Who plays me with the finesse and passion of a maestro -- but only when it's 'convenient' for him to do so?

I am such an idiot. "Self destructive"? Yep, that's me. Look it up in the dictionary and there will be my picture. Terri P. -- the poster child for self-destruction.

5:46 a.m.

Well, we had our conversation. In the short space of ten minutes he managed to make me apologize twice (for my choice of the words "problematic" and "inconvenient"), make me feel guilty (for needing some time to sort things out) and make me bare my soul about why I mailed the song to his office ("Because -- for me -- it never ended"). I think it's definitely time to take a step back here and figure out what the hell I'm doing. I'd like to just NOT SIGN ON tomorrow morning, just so he doesn't come to expect it every day ... but would I have the willpower to resist? I don't know. Thank god I have class tonight, at least. That will keep me away from the computer.

It's not even that I'm so desperately in love with him ... it's just that I have lived this past year wondering what awful thing I said or did to cause him to quit loving me all of a sudden, and now I find out that he never did stop. It vindicates me. It restores a little of the self-esteem I lost. It gives me back some of my power.

Now I must be very, VERY careful not to hand that power right back to him.

Gotta get moving. Suddenly my life has become very complex again. In some ways, it's sort of interesting. In other ways, it sucks.





 

Thursday 5:15 a.m.
Feb. 16, 1998

I almost blew off my writing class last night -- citing "extreme tiredness," altho the real reason would have been "extreme mixed-upedness" -- that's how disrupted I feel by this whole Reappearing Doc business. I can't think about anything else.

He wrote me one of his typically overwrought, demanding e-mails yesterday -- I'd forgotten how much his letters used to rattle me. In it (he just signed on) he asked me to let him know my mind, "inside and out" ... do I want him contacting me? Is he making me uncomfortable? Is he "conjuring up ill feelings?" He also (somewhat obliquely) asks about my relationship with Tim ... am I "happy?" Is our relationship "sustainable"? Should he (the doc) "graciously bow out?" I printed the e-mail out and carried it around with me all day, reading it over and over again, trying to formulate a reply. But what can I say?





 

Friday 5:06 a.m.
April 17, 1998

Well, it's official ... I'm back on the rollercoaster. I might as well just forget about the rest of the AW program -- not to mention my nice, tidy new life here in Oregon -- because that stuff is OVER, folks. Or at least it's been seriously compromised.

We spoke on the phone yesterday, twice -- always my favorite (long-distance) communication, infinitely preferable to terse i.m.'s and easily-misinterpreted e-mail -- and I heard him say, in that softly-modulated, lilting voice I know so well -- that he loves me still. That's all it took. I'm hooked all over again.

I love him. He is the one great love of my life. Nothing can change that.

I also love Tim. Isn't it ironic that it's taken the doc's sudden reappearance for me to realize that? I love Tim in a safe, sweet, steady way. Or maybe I love our life together, here in our little apartment, where our greatest *crisis* is whether or not I threw my teabags into the kitchen sink. I honestly don't know what to do.

The doc wants me to go away with him for a weekend -- to meet him in Chicago next month for a few days. All he said at first were two words: "Meet me." That was enough to completely set me on fire. "Make the arrangements," I replied. Somehow, some way ... I'll be there. I don't know how. It's going to require enormous amounts of planning and cool and cunning and money. I'm not going to tell ANYONE about it -- not even Feef or Robbin or Mom. (No one but you, Journal.) And of course I'm going to try like hell to keep my actual destination a secret from Tim, because when the weekend is over -- until the doc is ready and willing to commit to me 100% -- then I want my peaceful little life in Oregon to go on.

Yes, I know I'm a horrible person. What was that crapola I was writing the other day, about being too "selfish"? That's me, with a capital SELF.

But I can't seem to help myself here. The thought of getting onto an airplane and flying to another far-off city ... another ecstatic airport reunion, no doubt the most intensely emotional of them all, so far ... his arms around me, his mouth on me, his voice in my ears, his smell, his EVERYTHING ... is too wonderful to resist. One week ago I was still weeping whenever I saw airplanes in the sky. Now, all of a sudden, I've been given another chance.

Obviously it's been very difficult to focus on anything else this week -- Tim's recovery from surgery, ongoing problems at the office, Ray bugging me for more money. All of that other stuff just sort of fades into the woodwork, and my committment to the A.W. program has taken a very serious "hit," as you can tell. (The only reason I've gotten this much written today is because it's 5:30 a.m. and he still hasn't signed on. When he does, I'll probably bail immediately.) On the one hand, I suddenly want to write pages and pages. I feel inspired and hopeful and giddy and filled with words again, all about this past year spent in hell, and how it feels now to have survived it, and






 

Saturday 7:40 a.m.
April 18, 1998

Sitting at my new desk, drinking coffee and trying to decide what music to listen to. (Maybe a little Murray Head as JUDAS?) It's a beautiful, sunny Oregon morning ... the birds are chirping, flowers are in bloom. From the patio door next to my desk, I can see nothing but a wall of lush green forest, with an occasional flash of blue as a jay sails from tree to tree.

(Two weeks from right now, I'll be waking up in a hotel room in Chicago ...)

I slept well, and I woke up feeling rested and refreshed. Tim and I had cautious sex -- being careful not to bump the stitches on his knee -- and then we got up and he made coffee.

(Two weeks from right now, the doc and I will be wrapped in each others' arms ...)

We have no real plans for this day ... or for the weekend in general. I don't have much money

(That's because I spent $369 yesterday on an airline ticket)

so we'll probably have to keep things low-key: a haircut for Tim, the library for me, maybe some lunch (us). I would love to squeeze in some writing time, somewhere along the line

(Huge voluminous e-mails to the doc, professing undying love and lust)

but I don't know if that'll happen. Tim sort of expects us to spend every moment of our weekends together, I think. I'm just going to have to quit fighting it.

(Gotta be very careful not to "blow my cover" ...)

I'm going to go take my shower now

(thinking about the doc)

and get my day moving

(thinking about the doc)

and I'll try to write some more, later in the day.

(He is all I will ever want or need)





 

Sunday, almost 7 a.m.
April 19, 1998

Tired, headachey, hungry, a touch hungover ... four lemon beers and two rental movies last night, and I still couldn't get him out of my mind ...

I just can't get over the fact that he loves me -- that he never stopped loving me, all through this terrible dark year. All this time I believed that I'd become an afterthought to him ... that he was getting on with his life, as I was, and that if he thought of me at all it was with shame or anger or regret that he'd ever met me. And now it turns out that he has carried me around in his heart and his thoughts, all this time. It makes me feel ... hopeful again. Almost willing to believe that true love really could happen in my life. I'd forced myself to stop believing -- not only to stop believing that I could be loved, but that *I* could love anyone that way. Now I'm not so sure anymore. I keep poking at this feeling in my heart with a psychic finger, trying to figure out what it is ... this sweet, hot, pulsing, steady, tender glow of emotion, every time I think of him ... and I could swear that it's the real deal, Journal. It feels like love to me.

And the thing is -- that would probably be enough for me, right now -- just knowing that I'm NOT crazy ... that I WASN'T imagining things ... that I'm NOT the biggest idiot in the world ... that what we had together last year WAS "the real deal." I could probably quite contentedly manage to love him long distance for awhile, until we're both at a place in our lives where we can commit to each other 100%. But we've jumped right into this trip to Chicago -- I made my flight arrangements on Friday, and yesterday he e-mailed with his -- and that's pretty much that. I know what's going to happen, too. Being together physically is going to set off a chain reaction of longing and loneliness and hunger in both of us afterwards, making a "quiet long distance" romance a complete nightmare. (Unless, of course, a miracle occurs and he decides to make that quantum leap and commit now. Which I COMPLETELY wish he would do ... but know he won't, and if I press the issue or hand over ultimatums I'll lose him again.)

There are other problems with this 'trip,' of course. It's costing me an arm and a leg, for one thing: money I really can't afford to be spending. Here it is, two days after payday and essentially I'm broke already. (At least I was able to pay my child support and the phone bill, though, and yesterday I bought groceries for Tim and I.) The next few weeks are going to be a delicate juggling act, moneywise. And then there's the whole issue of Tim. Will he buy my alibi, whatever it turns out to be? Will he sense what's happened? Will he take one look at me when I get home that Sunday night and know that I've "been" with someone? If he finds out -- will he be able to forgive me? Will our sweet quiet life here in Oregon go on?

Beyond the logistics of deceit, there are also moral and ethical issues that I'm trying very hard not to dwell on. Here is how I'm justifying it: no one but me knows what a dark time I have just lived through, nor how much this all feels like redemption ... and renewal. Another chance to be happy the way I've always wanted to be. A chance to be with the one true love of my life ... even if it's only for one final weekend. My life is ticking away. Time is running out. If I don't take this chance now -- if I don't "do the thing that scares me," while the opportunity is here in front of me -- I'm going to regret it forever.

As far as how all of this fits into the AW program ... I can't say. I didn't get around to doing the writing exercises or anything, and (as usual) there was no time for Artists Dates. Simply writing in my morning pages was enough of a challenge -- as evidenced by all of the blank pages and interrupted entries. But I'm really trying to stay with it. I still feel that it's important. All of a sudden I find myself living through one of the more interesting periods of my life ... and the fact that I just happened to be keeping a "real" journal when all of the interesting stuff hit seems to be to be incredibly serendipitous ...

I feel sometimes that I am living my own novel ... and even *I* don't know what's going to happen in the next chapter.







 

Week Seven:
Recovering a Sense of Connection


Monday 4:56 a.m.
April 20, 1998

I am beginning to have some serious misgivings about this whole crazy Chicago idea. I'm worried sick about the money I've spent, for one thing -- all of it nonrefundabl, I might add. I'm afraid that something's going to go wrong at the last minute -- that I won't make it to the airport in time, or something will go wrong with the plane, or that I'll get stuck in St. Louis. I'm worried that when I get off the plane in Chicago, the doc won't be there .... that this was all an elaborate hoax, designed to re-break my heart and make me look like an idiot. (Or else Pammi discovered his travel plans at the last minute and chained him to the bumper of the mini-van.) I'm worried that he might take one look at me and say "Hold it. This isn't the woman I remember. This isn't the woman I fell in love with."









Tuesday 5:03 a.m.
April 21, 1998

Feeling horrible. Tim had his college orientation last night for a few hours, and of course while he was gone I "indulged" in "a couple of beers" (four) and some mindless cyber-cruising. This morning my stomach is paying for the beer, and my conscience is paying for the cyber.

Is it my imagination -- or my own guilty conscience -- or does Tim know something? Am I giving off "clues"? Is he picking up on nuances of behavior? Subtle clues I'm not even aware of? (Am I going overboard on the computer? Am I leaving evidence behind?) He seems weirdly distant and formal, lately. He's never been a demonstrative man, but lately his kisses and touches have been even more perfunctory and mechanical than ever before. He hasn't told me that he loves me in weeks. We haven't had sex in a loooooong time, altho that has as much to do with his knee surgery as anything, I suppose. I don't know, Journal ... it's nothing I can put my finger on ... but I think that I'm going to have to be very, VERY careful here.

(Now I'm at work.)

It is just such pure pleasure to be back in touch with the doc again .... someone so unabashedly in love with me, so encouraging of my writing efforts ("I just love reading YOU," he said to me this morning) ... someone with whom I share the most intimate and precious memories .... sigh. I have missed him so much. I can't WAIT for that moment when I fall into his arms again ... ten days from now ... it's all I can think about, basically.

Time to "work." I wonder if maybe I should think about keeping my journal here at the office?

Lunch

Yeah, I think I might have to leave my journal here at work. Carrying it back and forth to the office everyday looks suspicious ... or at least in my paranoid frame of mind, I think it does. And I'm terrified that I'm accidentally going to leave it laying around the apartment for him to read. Yes, I realize that this means I am formally abandoning the AW program. Yes, I feel bad about that: I would have liked to have finished what I started, for a change. I still don't know if it was doing me any good ... maybe if I'd stuck around for the last half of it, I'd know for sure ... but if nothing else, at least it got me started writing in a journal again on a regular basis. Even if I AM forced now to keep the fucking thing hidden.

I guess what I've decided to do, as far as the Chicago trip is concerned, is to try and maintain the status quo as much as possible, right up until the day I leave. I'll do NOTHING to make Tim (or anyone at the office) suspicious about where I'm really going. Then the instant my plane takes off, that Friday morning ... I'll turn myself over to Fate. Enjoy the hell out of being with my true love for a couple of days ... and then return "home" to whatever awaits me. If Tim figures it out, I'll probably have to move. I don't have a clue where I'll go or how I'll survive .... but I'll figure something out. If he doesn't find out and I actually pull this one off ... I promise that I'll give some very serious thought to doing the right thing and coming clean with him. I owe him that.







 

Wednesday 5:07 a.m.
April 22, 1998

Tim's class schedule has been "revised" -- now he'll only be going to school two nights a week, Tuesday and Thursday. I'm disappointed, of course -- I'm a horrible person, remember? -- but I guess that two nights of solitude and opportunity are better than none. Last night was sooo nice. I walked home from the office, in the beautiful Oregon sunshine, and spent the rest of my evening writing to the doc ... and later, having a prolonged, lively i.m. conversation with him. We reminisced about the trips we've taken, talked about expectations and fantasies, reassured each other that we're NOT crazy, we're just in love ...

I signed off around 9:30, absolutely BONE tired, and Tim was home just a few minutes later. I think I was cool -- I ate dinner with him, watched "48 Hrs." w/him for a few minutes, listened to him expound on one of his newest theories, capital punishment for children ("Fry 'em!" he said). By 10:00, I was so exhausted I could barely keep my eyes open, so I crawled into bed and drifted off. For some reason, something about the sight of me sleeping always seems to set him off. I've begged him, over and over again, not to wake me up if he sees that I'm sleeping, but he does it anyway. At 11 p.m. he clambered noisily into bed, jabbering at me about something, rearranging pillows and blankets, etc. That was pretty much "it" for me for sleep, the rest of the night. Eventually his snoring droev me out to the living room sofa, where I layed and listened to our idiot teenaged upstairs neighbors ... ANYWAY, point is that I'm tired this morning, as usual.

Later

Obviously I brought the journal home w/me anyway. I don't know what to do here: I have come to love the release of writing again. I love the satisfying way that the written pages are adding up in this book. And obviously I'm right in the middle of some pretty damn good "journal stuff" ... after years of writing about groceries and children and toothaches. It would be a shame to quit now. But still ... I do worry about transporting it back and forth every day. I've even started hiding it while I'm in the SHOWER, forcryingoutloud ... just in case.

Oh well. Gonna go fiddle around online for a few minutes and get ready for work. Sometimes I feel like my head is gonna EXPLODE, Journal.









Thursday 5:08 a.m.
April 23, 1998

I have decided to actively look for a different job, Journal. I continue to see Jill given new job responsibilities on a daily basis -- while I sit there with nothing to do but answer phones and address envelopes -- and I'm sick of it. Yesterday was the last straw, when I discovered that the company is planning to hire someone part-time, to do the filing and (get this) the catalogs. I mean, that's great -- that will take care of some of the shit-jobs that no one else wants -- but when I expressed some private concerns to Jill, that it might leave me without enough to do -- I'm almost reduced to thumb-twiddling now, as it is -- her response was that the company feels that if I have too much to do, it will "distract" me from answering phones. In other words: I am the receptionist. Period. Any illusions I may have had that they could view me as anything else are just that ... illusions. (Then Jill said something about how she would be able to keep me busy ... doing all of HER fucking shit-jobs, no doubt. NO THANK YOU.) Bottom line is ... I'm going to be a receptionist and nothing more, for as long as I stay at Benchmade. Nine bucks an hour. Tethered to the phone. And that's just plain not going to be good enough, I'm afraid ...

... especially if it turns out that I'm living on my own anytime soon, which could very well be the case if Tim finds out about Chicago. (Or if I simply decide to do the honest thing and end the relationship.) No one will be supporting me. I know the doc loves me more than anything, but I also know that he is never going to commit. If and when I strike out on my own, I will be completely on my own ... and as close to destitute as I've ever been in my life. So having a decent job is going to be absolutely critical.

I talked to the county yesterday -- actually, they called me, which was another one of those serendipitous occurrences my life seems filled with lately -- and they're reactivating my application. In addition, I'm supposed to send them an updated app since it's been six months since I filled out the last one. (GAWD. I've been at Benchmade for almost six months now?!) I suppose that getting out of the office and interviewing is going to be tricky -- ESPECIALLY since I'm taking next Friday off (gulp) -- but I'll find a way. I always do.

No doc online this a.m. He wrote me a lovely long e-mail yyesterday, filled with details of his day, lots of doctor stuff, and of course some tender reaffirmation of his love for me at the end. ("I'll be calling you in about five minutes now ... I'm here typing on my smart little laptop, knowing full well that in a few minutes I'll be talking to the woman I simply love more completely than I've ever thought possible.") He calls me at work at least once a day. (The other day he didn't even say 'hello' -- he simply began crooning in my ear, over the phone, Gordon Lightfoot, "If You Could Read My Mind.") I infinitely prefer his phone voice to his computer voice -- I derive more comfort and connection from the one than I do the other. Online it's too easy to misinterpret typed words and unavoidable pauses. (He just blinked online ...)









Friday morning 8:20 a.m.

Tim drove me to work a few minutes ago. When we turned onto Beavercreek Road, we ended up right behind the Tri-Met #33 ... the very bus I'll be taking to the airport, one wek from today. I peered through the windows of the bus, trying to imagine where I'll be sitting and what I'll be thinking that morning ...

The doc and I are having some ups and downs this week ... mostly just trying to thrash through painful (but unavoidable) issues. Like why he left me, and why I didn't "wait" for him, and where do we go from here? ... things like that. I don't really have the time to write about it now, but I'll try to get some thoughts written during my breaks today.

Time to get busy at work.



 

NOTE: The Artists Way Journal ends here ...






Saturday morning 6:30 a.m.
April 25, 1998

Well ... as you can see, I did it: I've made the official "break" from the Morning Pages notebook. It was simply causing me too much anxiety, lugging it back and forth between the apartment and the office ... constantly fearful that "someone" (Tim) was going to get his hands on it and uncover me ...

It's Saturday morning, and I am sitting at my new desk in my red nightgown. It is a dark wet Oregon morning: the sun is trying to decide whether it wants to cooperate or not, apparently. New-agey acoustic something-or-other (borrowed from the library -- one of my musical "experiments") on the boombox in front of me. Guitars mostly. My coffee has grown cold in the mug ... in a minute I'll walk out to the kitchen for a refill. Behind me, Tim sits at his desk -- his desk faces east, mine faces west -- and plucks at his keyboard. I think he's cruising the Internet, looking for job leads. We are each engrossed in our own tasks at hand ... me, scribbling in my notebook, he laboriously typing in search criteria. There is a companionable silence in the room.

I sit here and look at my new desk: I've only had it for a couple of weeks. It doesn't seem at all "familiar" or "mine" yet. I wonder if it ever will, under the circumstances. I am afraid to love it too much: I might lose it. Better not to get too attached to the smooth wood and the neat lines and angles of the shelves. Don't fall in love with the way my toy collection looks, arranged on the top shelf ... don't get too comfy with the hanging files ("Misc. Writing" ... "School" ... "Jaymi" ... "Kacie" ... "Kyle" ... "Liner Notes.") This desk was a gift of love, given to me by someone I will shortly betray. I don't deserve it. It isn't really mine to appreciate. I can borrow it for a little while ... but when my life blows up on me in a couple of weeks, I can kiss it goodbye. So it's better not to try and turn it into anything sacred, because that would make the 'goodbye' a thousand times more painful.

How can I be so incredibly happy -- and so incredibly miserable? -- at the same time? It doesn't seem physiologically possible. One week from right now I will be in Chicago in the embrace of the man I love more than life itself ... a resurrection of love I thought was gone forever. This fills me with joy. And yet -- at the same time -- I am awash in misery. How can I be feeling two such extremes of emotion? At the SAME TIME, forcryingoutloud? It's like being hot and cold ... awake and asleep ... alive and dead.

Tim keeps coming over here occasionally -- to scratch my back, to look out the patio door for squirrels or birds, to peer over my shoulder at what I'm writing. He talks about what he wants to do today -- go to Fred Meyer and pick up some new reading glasses ... rent a movie ... pick up some taco and guacamole fixings for tonight's dinner. He's worried about money. We both are, for wildly different reasons. And he stands behind my chair, absently gazing off into the distance, speculating on when he'll get the rest of his disability check. "Rent's due in a week," he says flatly. Then he heads off for the shower, looking at me expectantly.

I am torn: more than anything in the UNIVERSE I want to fly across the room to the computer and check to see if there is e-mail from my love. But I know that if I don't report for "shower duty," I will be suspect: the Saturday morning shower is as much a part of the established weekend routine as coffee and "Talk Soup" and laundry. I doubt that it will lead to sex -- it rarely did before his surgery, and these days (post-op) he acts like such a tired old man -- but the very intimacy of the act, showering together, now fills me with ... dread. And sorrow. And guilt. I am betraying EVERYBODY here: Tim, the doc, myself. No matter what I do. I am locked into an impossible situation. I want to scream ...

... but instead I resignedly pull off the red nightgown and walk to the bathroom.

I was right: it turns out to be a "strictly business" shower. He doesn't even offer to wash my back ... or try to coax me into washing his. We shampoo, rinse, repeat. Silent. Sharing water and space and nothing else. I feel at once invisible and grotesquely present: a huge, pimpled, sexless blob. I spit out a mouthful of soap, with a grimace, and he laughs at me. "What's so amusing?" I ask, and he says "You're making goofy faces." I take the back brush and lather it with soap and scrub my back, then turn toward the water and rinse. He carefully steps to one side in order to allow me access to the water flow: we do not touch. A few minutes later I get out and dry myself off and get dressed. The ordeal is over.

While he showers for another moment or two, I tiptoe back into the office bedroom. Maybe now I can sneak online and see if my love has written to me. Just as I'm reaching for the keyboard -- almost as though I've tripped some sort of silent alarm -- I hear the shower shut off. I back away from the computer and go brush my teeth. Blameless. Innocent.

He puts on underwear and socks and then stretches himself across the bed. Picks up the remote and flips on the bedroom TV ... something on C-Span, more of the political stuff he's so fond of. I sit beside him on the bed. Is he going to expect me to ... take care of him sexually now? If so -- I would just as soon get it over with. I lay a tentative hand on his stomach, watching for signs of what I'm supposed to do here ... but he is utterly engrossed in Matt Drudge. His eyes never leave the TV. He wields the remote like a weapon ... listening to the telephone callers on the show. "Sounds like a liberal," he snorts derisively. Nearly dizzy with relief -- half-mad with longing for my love -- I walk out of the bedroom, feigning a casualness I do NOT really feel, and walk slowly and deliberately to the computer. Now is my chance.

While Tim lays on the bed, half-dressed and fully absorbed in his show, I sign on using the special screen name. The modem makes its screechy accusatory noises. I stand in the bedroom doorway and pretend to fiddle with my wet hair while the sign-on process continues: this way I can keep one eye on Tim and one eye on the computer. I have mail. I have four e-mails, in fact: three of them written last night, apparently, and one this morning. He sounds hurt and lonely and worried because I haven't been online, even though I told him that this weekend would be impossible. My heart aches for him. I long to type him a quick reassuring note -- something, anything, just to let him know that he is not as alone as he feels -- but already I can hear stirring from the next room. I quickly delete all of my mail and sign off. My heart is heavy.





 




Sunday afternoon
April 26, 1998

Anyone looking at me from the outside this weekend would probably say, "There is a woman who has her life in order." Grocery shopping. Folding laundry. Reading the paper. Searching the library for collections of modern poetry. Holding hands with her nice boyfriend. Yes indeed ...





 



Monday 5:06 a.m.
April 27, 1998

Waiting for my "instant swill" to finish nuking in the microwave. I've gotten slightly out of the habit of getting up this early -- I "slept in" until the decadent hour of 6:30 a.m. yesterday! -- so this feels a little bit like torture. But it's important to me that I do not lose the precious motivation I'd managed to develop during my weeks of doing the AW program ... even if I didn't finish it ... (Guilt Moment)

(I figure that maybe someday, if/when my life settles back down again, I'll take another run through AW. Maybe even two or three times. At least it got me started writing in a journal again.)

This was such an incredibly difficult weekend ... knowing that he was sitting at home by the computer, longing for word from me, and me being too fettered and hounded to get online and talk to him except in sneaky bits and pieces. I felt his presence just as keenly as if he was sitting in the next room, listening to everything I was doing and saying. Once in a while I was able to sign on and check for mail -- once we even had a little bit of a conversation, altho I had to bring that to an abrupt halt when Tim walked into the room (just in time to keep him from seeing the doc write about wanting to be "ball-deep" inside of me ... sheesh). But it was an extremely unsatisfying connection this week.

I think I'm just as frustrated by my lack of freedom as I am by our lack of connection. More and more these days I find myself wishing that I had more control over my own life. I can't change a lot of the big stuff -- my history, my family, my obligations -- but dammit, I should be able to get onto a computer and talk to my friends whenever I want to. I should be able to spend as much time at the fucking library as I please -- a whole Saturday, if I feel like it -- without someone standing at the end of the American Literature aisle whinily asking me "You ready to go yet?" I should be able to rent the movies I like once in a while. I should be able to buy an occasional goddamn can of Spaghetti-O's. I should be free to do the things *I* enjoy ... instead of constantly compromising. But that's a whole 'nother journal entry, I guess.

It's 5:49 a.m. and he hasn't been online at all this morning. I gathered up all of his e-mail from the past couple of days and threw it onto a floppy ... wrote him a brief "Hi how are you?" letter ... now I guess I'll think about taking a shower and getting my day going. This is going to be one of the more interesting weeks of my life ... and I plan to bring this notebook along for the ride. Better buckle up, Journal.

8:23 a.m.

Tim had an early morning doctor's appointment this morning. While he was gone, I jumped online and sent off a couple of feverish e-mails to the doc. Still no sight of him online -- damn. Hope he calls me today. I need the shivery reassurance of his voice in my ear.






 



Tuesday 8:15 a.m.
April 28, 1998

Irritated as hell at Tim. It's only 8:10 a.m. -- I just got to work a few minutes ago, but already TWICE this morning he's managed to make me feel small and stupid. (The sprinklers starting up, outside our apartment, and my innocent question about whether or not they're "automatic" ... and then just now in the car while he was driving me to work -- his caustic "Oh, so breaking it is OK.")

I suppose I don't have any right to gripe, all things considered ... but he just irritates the SHIT out of me sometimes. I hate the fact that I can be feeling absolutely wonderful one instant, and then with a single word or facial expression he can make me feel ... so worthless. Like my opinions don't matter, my values are skewed, my logic is flawed ... and my feelings are inconsequential.

He seems to be buying my story about going up to Seattle to see the kids this weekend. (In fact, he seems downright UNCONCERNED about it. Pleased, almost, to be rid of me.) I have to be careful not to provide too many "details" or make the story any more complicated than it absolutely needs to be, though: if there's one thing the guy isn't, it's stupid.




 



Wednesday 8:10 a.m.
April 29, 1998

Things between Tim and I continue to deteriorate. No touching, no tenderness, no connection. I cannot feel sorry about this -- my heart lives somewhere else, anyway -- but I can worry about it. Is it something I'm doing? Or not doing? Does he know that I'm not really going to TicTac this weekend? Is that why he's being so distant and rigid?

Here I am worrying to pieces about "hurting" him ... when it's clear he doesn't love me anyway.

He came home from his class an hour early last night, saying something about his teacher "quitting" at the last minute. I had spent most of my evening online, enjoying a silly, spontaneous, wildly romantic conversation with the love of my life ... I was still feeling the "buzz" from that when Tim came in. We talked for a little while -- or rather, he talked while I pretended to listen, which is how it is most of the time -- and then I said I was going to bed. (Alone, as usual.) It was past 10 p.m. and I was exhausted. I had just slipped into bed when I suddenly heard a horrific crash from the kitchen, followed by a torrent of low-level muttering. Uh-oh. I'd forgotten to empty the dishwasher. I flew out to the kitchen in my nightgown -- he was furiously scrubbing the (already spotless) counter, with "that" look on his face ... that look that says I do everything around here.

"OK," I said tiredly. "What grievous error have I committed now?" But he just kept scrubbing, refusing to answer, and finally I just went back to the bedroom and slammed the door and went to sleep. He slept on the sofa for most of the night.

A bad dream woke me in the middle of the night. I dreamed that I was trying to escape from someone, or someplace -- jail, maybe, or a tormentor of some sort -- but the only way I could get away was to roll across the ground, the way they taught us to "stop, drop and roll" if our clothes caught on fire. Obviously it wasn't long until my "tormentor" (why do I get the impression that it was female?) caught up with me. I layed there on the ground, waiting for ... bullets, I think. Waiting to be shot and killed. But instead, to my complete surprise -- she dumped a big bucket of warm water on me. That was it. End of dream. I was so rattled when I woke up -- I think it was about 2 a.m. -- that I stumbled out to the living room and sat down on the edge of the sofa, where Tim was sleeping soundly, and just sat there for a few minutes watching him. He never woke up. I don't think he even knew I was there. I don't know what I was seeking, either ... maybe just confirmation that I wasn't alone in that apartment. A few minutes later I tiptoed back to bed and slept the rest of the night more or less undisturbed.

 

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