October 19, 2000
Continuous Bruising


I'm doing the black-suit-black-shoes-black-nylons thing at work today.

Not because I'm in mourning, although technically I am ... or because it's A Good Look for me, although it is ... or because it gets The Other 50% of the Population all hot & bothered when I slide out of the Subaru in the morning and the little black skirt rides halfway up my thigh. 

(Although it does, and he does.)

Mainly I'm wearing black nylons again today to camouflage the latest bruise on my leg. This is not just your run-of-the-mill playground boo-boo. We are talking major league, excruciatingly-painful-to-the-touch, "Is that a baseball bat in your hand (or are you just gonna steal my ice skates)?," hemorrhage-under-the-skin CONTUSION time. Located approximately an inch and half north of my right knee, in the vulnerable mound of flesh just above the kneecap, this bruise is the approximate size and shape of an Oreo cookie.

Or -- more accurately -- the approximate size and shape of an open desk drawer.

At least five times an hour I leap out of my chair, here at the Totem Pole Company, and ram my knee directly into the sharp metal corner of this stoopid goddamn drawer. Another five times an hour, I run into the same open drawer as I'm returning to my desk. So it catches me coming and going. The result is that the bruise never really completely heals, because I keep adding fresh new injury onto old.

Nobody even comes running any more when they hear me screaming.

The obvious solution, of course, is to simply shut my desk drawer. (Or to get a better job. Or to wear knee pads.) But "obvious solutions" have never exactly been my forté. Why fill up the gas tank, when you can coast downhill until payday? Why bother to simply and honestly break a date, when you can have Dad tell the boy that you've suddenly moved to France? Why call a dentist, when the molar seems to be falling out just fine all by itself?

Why keep the desk drawer shut, when you look so damn fine in black?

After The Doc and I broke up for the first time (or was it the third time? or the fifth? it all seems like ancient history to me now, frankly), I had huge problems dealing with basic, day-to-day stuff.

EVERYTHING seemed to break my heart for a while.

Smells, for instance.  There were certain scents I had to completely avoid because they pushed me perilously close to the brink of not-wanting-to-breathe-anymore. Neutrogena products. Eternity for Men. General Tsao's Chicken. Dial Soap. Salt water. Vagistat. 

And there were other triggers: the sound of airplanes taking off and landing at the airport, ten blocks away. Tom Hanks movies. Couples holding hands in the mall. Vapor trails in the sky.

Enya was permanently ruined for me.

But my biggest problem, without question, was elevators.

Specifically: the elevator in my brand-new office building. I started my job at The Doomed Newspaper the day after we broke up, that first time. My first morning at the new job  --  feeling sick and shaky and devastated  -- I hopped onto the elevator for my ride to the fourth floor ...

... and realized, to my horror, that I was standing in a duplicate of the elevator from our Mardi Gras hotel, two months earlier. I am talking about an exact replica (at least in *my* head) of the Fairmont Hotel elevator ... right down to the mirrored walls and ceilings, the tacky red carpeting, the gold brocade trim. (And no, I have no idea why an office building in suburban TicTac would want to replicate a New Orleans hotel replicating a European bordello. Nor do I recall why I didn't notice the elevator when I interviewed for the job, a week earlier. In retrospect I find it all very strange ... but such was the dysfunctional nature of my brain at that time.)

I barely made it off the elevator and down the hall to the ladies' room before vomiting up breakfast all over my new white pumps.

For the next couple of days I continued to reluctantly ride that elevator. Four flights of stairs are four flights of stairs, after all, especially in high heels. But I tried to make sure I always rode the elevator alone. If someone else boarded, I pretended that I'd "forgotten something in my car" and I pushed my way back through the doors before they closed. I didn't want anybody to witness me wiping Maybelline off my chin -- or vomit off my shoes -- between the lobby and the fourth floor.

By the end of my first week I was a nervous wreck. I hated that elevator almost as much as I hated The Doc.

The solution came, as they say, from the mouths of babes.  Or, in this case, from the mouth of my then-eleven-year-old son.

"Why don't you just take your shoes off and carry them up the stairs?" he said. "And then put them back on when you get to the top."

Oh. Hey. There's a thought.

So for the next three months -- until the day I moved to Oregon on my lunch hour  -- I stood at the bottom of the stairwell every morning at 8 a.m., slipped out of my pumps, and walked the four flights of concrete stairs upstairs to my office. That probably doesn't sound like a lot, but for someone as out-of-shape and depressed (and hungover, usually) as I was in those days, it was a fairly remarkable achievement. I would arrive on the fourth floor completely exhausted, sweaty and gasping for breath ... but jubilant. I'd made it to work on time, and I didn't have to take the fudking elevator to get there.

The solution was obvious.

Obvious solutions, of course, are not always as easy (or as "obvious") as they should be.

There are a handful of situations in my life lately that see me heaping psychic bruise upon psychic bruise. The injuries never completely heal because I don't give them a chance to heal: I keep running into the fudking desk drawer, over and over again.

Problematic friendships are a good example. If I am always afraid to open your e-mail because I know damn well that it's going to be you saying something that hurts my feelings/pisses me off/sucks all of the *joy molecules* right out of me  ... that doesn't say much about our "friendship," does it? And the obvious solution, of course, is to spend more time nurturing the relationships that DON'T make me feel lousy, and to let go of the ones that DO.


Why, then, is that so much easier said than done? Why do I open your fudking e-mail anyway ... and then spend the rest of the day hating you, and hating me for hating you, and generally feeling lousy about the both of us?

Then there's my job. This is clearly another situation where I'm running into the desk drawer ... figuratively AND literally. The question here isn't so much Why do I stay at a job I despise? -- one look at this month's long-distance phone bill pretty effectively answers that one  -- as it is How do I keep from letting a job I despise poison all the other good stuff in my life? (And how do I keep from going bull-fudking-goose loony between now and the time I find a job I don't despise?) 

And the solution to that one, obviously, is to start drinking at work again.

(Well ... OK. That's not really the solution. The truth is that I don't know what the solution is. This one is obviously too *clear* for me to see. Might have to call my son in on this one, too.)

I heap a new bruise onto an old bruise every time I compare my writing to another Internet journaler's writing and decide that I fall short.

I heap a new bruise onto an old bruise every time I mourn the sixteen years of my life I spent married to someone I didn't love.

I heap a new bruise onto an old bruise every time I look in the mirror and see nothing but breasts and bags and little wiry black hairs sprouting out of the middle of my neck.

And I heap a new bruise onto an old bruise every time I tell myself that if I'd stayed in TicTac ... if I hadn't run away ... if I'd stuck it out another couple of years or so, just until the kids were safely into their teens (or their twenties, or their forties) ... then none of this stuff would have happened with Jaymi, the past couple of months. There would have been no Schmidty tossing suitcases off a balcony. There would have been no death threats against kittens in the middle of the night. There would have been no sad ending to pregnancy ... because there wouldn't have been a pregnancy in the first place. (Or dating without a CHAPERONE, for that matter.)  In fact, none of my children would have experienced a single moment of dysfunction or despair in the past three years. Jaymi would be in college right now. Kacie wouldn't even know what a "rave" is ... and the only "ecstacy" in her vocabulary would be the ecstacy she feels, singing in the church choir.

And Kyle, of course, would be the only ninth-grade Cub Scout in TicTac.

I'm working on healing some of these old bruises ... a little bit at a time. It's hard work, though. I have to constantly remind myself of all the progress I've made the past couple of years: the sobriety, the career advancements, the writing achievements, the attempts at karmic restitution. I have to remember that I have a partner now who totally loves and supports me. I have to think about how really, really bad things used to be, and the sort of "example" I was setting for my children three years ago, compared to the person I am/the example I'm setting for them today. At least I'm not throwing up in elevators anymore.

And -- of course -- I'll have to remember to keep the fudking desk drawer shut.

throw a rock