Friday, August 5, 2011

Family Ties & Other Pies

My wife is in the hospital.

I'm trying desperately to sort through my feelings, regarding her absence. Even when she is physically here, I feel an emotional void. The voids travels and writhes within my guts. I eat, vomit, and shit the emptiness. I am filled with a vacuum of time, space, and pollution.

I am still somewhat haunted by R. Today I experienced a strange urge to call her, to be held by her. The worst part about the demise of our relationship, was that it deconstructed my sense of safety in the world. The week after she terminated our relationship, I lay balled up in the bed, gripping my legs tightly to my chest. I feared that my legs might fall off, or rather I knew that they had already fallen away from me. There was nothing to hold me in psychological orbit. I could feel myself drifting farther and farther from earth.

I often try and compare Kellie's death to R's departure within my mind. Kellie's death- though agonizing- was straightforward. The rules were clear. No contact, no possible resolution, the unanswered questions would remain unanswered...but things were different with R. My relationship with R was like a child that had been born healthy who eventually lost her sight, and later her sense of touch. The relationship revived my feelings, only to push them off a cliff...and no matter how many times I fell, I did not have the good luck to die.

After R left, I changed. I became cynical and embittered. I often tell myself, even now, that I hate the world and that I hate people. I look at my life and I feel cheated. Robbed of biological ties, cheated out of identity, forced to assimilate. Forced to pretend affinity for people who seem alien to me. I am nothing like my adopted family. They run an empty household. Cousins come over, people exchange pleasantries, but no one really knows anyone else. For them, it's important to appear strong. Even now, my mother ( whom I love) refuses to refer to my wife as her daughter-in-law. We live far in the back of my mother's closet, tangled up in shoes from Sears and the occasional Nordstrom sweater, and she wants to keep us there- silent and invisible.

I really struggled with my family ties. I am very close to my mother's family, but the rest is kind of a crap-shoot. It might not be anyone's fault. I'm not like them. While my cousins joked around poking fun at my grandmother, I just felt like we were all wasting time. Why spend time with people if you really aren't going to connect with them? Why not get to really know each other? Why not build relationships that could result in support, maybe even in love? Board games just weren't enough for me. These people seemed not only to enjoy denial- but they seem to prefer it over genuine connection. After a while, the superficiality of our interactions grated on my nerves. I enjoyed deep glasses of vodka before they came over. I looked for any and every excuse to leave the house during their visits. I even begged my parents to stop inviting them. They were the infestation that knew no remedy. After a while, they started to get to me....

I fiercely began to hate them because of forced interaction. It seemed to me as though everyone were trying to force a square peg into my circular eye. As I said before, the interactions grated on my nerves. I just wanted one holiday without these loud obnoxious people and their mindless conversation. I perceived my grandmother to be the ringleader of this circus. After years of this, I think it drove me slightly crazy. I started doing loud impersonations of her during comedy routines. I told people that her voice sounded like a fog-horn.

She used to pinch my nose when I was little, saying " I don't want a flat-nosed grandchild" and I have spent my adult life asserting, " No Grandma, I don't want you. I don't want you in any way, shape or form, you bigot."

I feel guilty about this because she's my dad's mother and he loves her. I feel bad about the fact that I can't love her too. But I can't. I don't. It just isn't in me. After a lifetime of dry turkey and goddamned mothballs, and after being forced to eat on silverware at her house caked with dry bits of old food ( she didn't understand that dishes require soap), I feel the same way as when I whispered to my mother as a toddler " I hate grandma."

When Kellie died, I learned that my parents were good people. Even though we don't get along a lot, my parents got me through that ordeal. When I couldn't dress myself, my mother went to Macys and bought me two black outfits- one for the viewing, the other for the funeral. When I couldn't eat, she tiptoed into my room with an oreo-cookie mikshake. And when I couldn't stop crying, couldn't stand up, they tucked me away in their bed. This is when I really learned to love and appreciate my parents. I could not have gotten through Kellie's death without them.

With age, I've come to the realization that one cannot overcome biology totally. My mom is a neat freak, I'm not. My mom likes daily showers, I don't. She likes toilets, I like compost piles. She likes coconuts, I'm allergic. We're so different. I'm so different from all of them. I think that as a chid, this made me profoundly sad. I couldn't look around and find anyone in my family that was like me. Nobody else seemed to want to cry at the drop of the hat, and I was and have always been highly emotional. They didn't even seem to be able to comprehend WHY I was such an emotional person, let alone know how to comfort and care for me. I think I just got a double ( or triple) dose of emotionality genes.

As a little child, I wanted to be as emotionally controlled as my parents were. I even forced myself to watch scary movies because I wanted to be tough. I didn't stop after the films gave me terrible nightmares LOL. My father's lifelong quest to toughen me up has failed miserably. I'm just a sensitive, imaginative, intuitive person. I was born this way.

It's hard to have strong emotions. I'm adopted and I have feelings about that. My feelings regarding rejection and familial loss are complex and sometimes agonizing. I feel like a permanent visitor. No matter what I do, I can never be a full member of their club. That hurts me.

Maybe deep down, I wish I was one of them; We could all be dumb and happy together.

I almost wish that I could be this person my mother keeps trying to coerce me into being.

When I think about all the awful dinners, the countless times I had to pretend...I literally feel as though I should have been paid to have to do it. My childhood was so tiring, someone should have cut me a check...because it really was just one long performance.

This is why I've stopped acting.

I've moved into being myself.

I don't want to suck up to shitty casting directors or spend my life inflating people's egos just to get by. I've already done that and it tired me out. If someone is yelling at me ( as directors sometimes do), I'm going to tell them to stick it. If someone treats me like a second class citizen, I'm going to tell them exactly what I think of them...and I won't apologize for it.

It took me 27 years to learn that I'm not a second-class citizen and that I don't have to swallow dry turkey to try and make others happy. At this point in my life, I don't eat anything I don't like.

I got sick of people trying to shove things down my throat- their superiority, their religions, their culture...


Anissa is learning to understand this about me.

My Ness is very kind. She thinks of others and has an incredible sense of humor. My wife has beautiful flowing brown hair, and sincere albeit guarded eyes. My wife is trusting, soft, and warm. She supports my sense of adventure. My wife holds to the best in people with an iron claw, even when I encourage her to let go.

This morning, the stress of her hospitalization and illness started to get to me. I usually go and visit each day from 5:30 until around 8, but today I literally had to force myself to do it. I asked each of my friends for advice. " Should I go?" The answers I received were mixed. I thought of how she might feel if I didn't show up and I decided that I wanted to spare her those feelings of abandonment and rejection. I did not want to cause her that kind of pain...so groaning and griping, I pulled myself out of bed and made the 2 hour trek to the hospital. When she saw me, she seemed to be so happy and relieved. I was someone that would show up no matter what.

I love my wife. I hate to say this, but I love her almost dispassionately when compared to some of my other love-affairs. True, I did pursue Ness... but it was easy for me because she wanted me just as much as I wanted her. Even still, it's hard for me to trust something obtained so easily. My wife didn't come kicking and screaming, and a part of me wonders why. I didn't have to write her long love-letters. I didn't have to write her songs. I didn't shed a single tear over her before our wedding.
All of this made me distrust our relationship. It made me question my love for her.

Is it really love without any sign of adversity? Isn't love something you have to win? Doesn't love have to be dramatic and involve some kind of misery?

My upbringing made me think that love wasn't real unless it hurt...unless it ripped you to shreds.

We've had our ups and downs, but her love is something I've never had to beg her for. She gives her love easily, and sometimes I punish her for it. I don't want the cheap stuff...I want the stuff that she's been saving, hiding on the back shelves...the one so precious that she'd be fearful of giving it away. I want the fermented love! I want the love she's been guarding since her mother broke her heart. I want the love that is dark and deep... the love I have to seduce out of her.

The love she gave me just came so damned easily. I felt as if I had walked into her house on the first date and made off with her soul. I wanted her to put up a fight, but she only smiled softly. There was no reason on G-D's green earth for her to have trusted me, but she did. In my mind, this either made her my soulmate or some fool who didn't have enough sense to guard her emotions.

Ness is the best person I know. Even if she thinks you're a wack-job ( like X from our meditation group) she'll be polite; she'll try. Even if she thinks you are wacked out of your mind, she'll try her best to do right by you...and if she sees you hurting ( no matter how strange you may be), she'll hurt with you. Both of us hate to see people in pain.

Ness is hilarious. She is one of the funniest people I've ever known. She loves animals. She cares about the environment. She is so funny that she really could manage a very successful career in stand-up.

She is learning. She is a work in progress ( as we all are).

I really like the way Ness looks. I love it when she smiles at me, but when I look into her eyes for an extended period of time she becomes fearful. I wish she wouldn't.

Sometimes, when I look at Ness from behind I can see all the suffering- the years of hard work- the slumping from shame and guilt in her body. This is the one thing that never fails to remind me to be kind to her because she has been through a lot.

Ness has gone from being shy and timid, into a person who enjoys sex.

No matter how many times I tell her, she doesn't believe that she is beautiful.

She is my family now.... and we fit.

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