Counter-Dependency

Whoa! Just found a new word. THIS:
counter dependency

Finding this was so timely and germane, it’s a little freaky. That happens, too.

Yay! Okay. Awareness is the first step in mastery.

I have the recent success of relying on others – albeit against my will – and being embraced and befriended by them. It took about a day, but then I braved asking for continued help, for supplies, for companionship. We had fun! I’m so grateful to them.

That puts me in great stead facing this fear when it creeps up again. And it will. I’d long-since identified it, just didn’t know it had a name. I don’t know why a word should make such a difference, except, well, I love words.

It seems more concrete, universal, and surmountable with a name. Somehow, it’s comforting to know that it comes from someplace. It’s just part of the process of healing from cPTSD. I can do that. I’m a boss.

Just ask. If the answer is no, you still win. Asking for and accepting help is success.

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Summer’s Winding Down

It got away from me. I’m glad I recorded my feelings on Cricket’s first anniversary. That was too big to miss.

I went back to the burn life, with mixed results. E11 – Utah’s regional burn – was amazing. I finally walked through the barrier of social anxiety that kept me from volunteering my time on a build crew. (It’s hard to show up with a desire to help and no skills. I feel like I’m taking time away from people on a deadline… to learn how to not break their equipment.)

I’m so glad I did it! It was like going to rehearsal for Jazzy’s hoop memorial in January. I felt inferior. I was met with love, and welcomed.

I learned a new word today: Atelophobia is the fear of imperfection, of never being good enough. Yep.

I’m enough. I’m worthy.

The title of this blog hints that I’ve felt quite the opposite in my life. It’s still my knee-jerk reaction to project flawlessness, but this year I’ve made big strides showing up, flawed.

temple

Temple To The Moon / Element 11 2019

I went to Burning Man on the crew of the Frog Prince. The sculptor is an acquaintance through long-time friends. I camped with him at E11. I used heavy machinery and logged countless hours to earn my place on his crew at Burning Man. It felt good to gain confidence at a new skill and work toward a common goal.

4th

Park City Fourth of July 2019

I was also aggressively harassed. For two months.

I used my words. I was direct. “NO.”

“I’m not interested in an affair with you,” I told him, right away. “Is this discount a gift,” I asked later, “or am I paying in other ways? I feel like I’m being asked to pay with my body. I won’t,” I went on. “Ever. I’m paying with work on our camp and the art car.”

“I’m not now, nor will I ever be available for a sexual relationship with you.”

“No means no, not keep asking,” I said finally. “This is sexual harassment.” A week before Burning Man, I offered to sell my ticket back to him. “I don’t want to go like this.”

He still wanted me to go. He persuaded me that he understood at last, that he would respect and observe my boundaries.

I’m equal parts ashamed and frightened that he fooled me. Actions speak louder than words and each time he promised to back off, he violated me again in new ways.

I should have taken him at his behavior, not his word, but he’s simply the most cunning person I’ve ever met. I was convinced, every time, that he would stop. To know that someone can so effectively trick me is alarming. It scares me, still.

I got to Burning Man a few days after the guys, and the full-press intrusion began, unlike anything before. It was so calculated and malicious. Pouting, tantrums, puppy eyes, outbursts, begging, insults. He’s a toddler! Arrested in infancy, plus hormones.

He knew exactly what he was doing: Say anything it takes to get her there, then force her into so uncomfortable a situation, she just gives in. I’m certain he’s done it before.

The night I arrived, Zafod, my attacker, and Larry, our campmate, were getting stoned and wasted. I busied myself setting up camp. I wanted to arrange my storage tent, so that when the sun came up I wouldn’t have to spend more time than necessary in an oven trying to find things. My main-use items would go with me in the camper.

Zafod smothered me, groping, offering drinks, coaxing drinks, demanding I drink.

“I need to set up before I can party. Let me get myself together.”

“Can I help?”

“I got it. If I need help, I’ll ask. Thank you.” This made him angry, and I began immediately to pay for rejecting him somehow.

He grew more and more irate as the night wore on. I tuned him out. Until…

They got onto the subject of criminal justice. He became more vocal, and menacing.

When Larry asked some clarifying questions, Zafod furiously shushed him. Til then, I was doing my best to ignore them, but his desperation to hide whatever it was Larry asked about alerted me to now pay attention.

I listened to the end of the conversation in horror. In my mind I asked Zafod, as if I were speaking, “Holy shit, are you registered sex offender?!”

I started to shake and felt faint. Not only had I been duped, this guy was dangerous.

I had no recourse. This was my camp. All of my resources were here. Radical Self Reliance. You provide for yourself and once in Black Rock City, you survive. No one could save me. I had to get through it.

I slept on the couch. That had been my plan, communicated before we left. He offered to share his bed, but I declined. This angered him more.

Two nights later, I had a dream that Zafod spit in my face and kicked me in the gut. It was real-time and followed logic; We were at Burning Man. I woke up sick with the relevance and feeling of it. I sat quietly reminding myself that it was just a dream. Though it accurately reflected what I was going through, it hadn’t actually happened. “Let it go,” I coached myself. “Don’t allow this energy to start your day.”

A voice, as though separate from myself, stopped me. “What is he actually capable of?”

“Am I really in danger here?” I asked out loud. For a split second, I thought of rape.

He heard my voice and came into the camper. Apparently, he’d been waiting for me to wake up… to evict me.

I looked him in the eye. “I’ve been truthful since we met,” I said calmly, repeating everything I’ve said to him. I don’t want an affair; Sex is not my commerce or my worth, and I’m not paying you with it; THIS IS SEXUAL HARASSMENT.

“I was direct,” I continued. “I was straightforward. I was honest with you, and you deceived me. I want to know that I know, you lied to me.”

For the first time in months, he was silent. At every previous objection, he was armed with more “reasons” than anyone I’ve dealt with. Now, he simply nodded.

“I’m gonna handle this,” I went on, “because I’m capable, and that’s what I do. But I see you,” I said pointedly. “It is unacceptable that you jeopardize my safety in the middle of the desert because you can’t bully me into bed.”

He just nodded.

In the end, I was grateful he kicked me out. I would have put my nose down and endured an abusive, miserable situation. I was. It’s the Taurus in me, and the do-it-yourself ethos of the burn. We bring our own supplies, not extras to make up for other’s inadequate planning. Space is at a premium and we value self-sufficiency.

I was ashamed to be in this situation. I was so embarrassed. I don’t like needing help. I was a problem. I was a burden. I was panicked. Duped. Defeated. Hurt. Scared. Angry. Traumatized. Robbed. He took my money and weeks of labor, and did this to me.

Instead, miraculously, I was able to carve out two good days on the playa. Two of eleven is hardly enough to feel worth it, but it’s better than nothing, which is what I was on track for. If I were to do it again, I wouldn’t. Except…

What I felt and saw in myself was so powerful and … badass!

It was a strange situation of feeling totally empowered and totally alone. I RULED that situation. I kept my cool. I spoke the truth with conviction, without apology. I called him out, then I cleaned up the mess he left me with.

He failed. He met the woman who would not be coerced. He calculated that the harsh environment and my investment in shared provisions would leave me without any option but to stay with him, where he could finally force himself on me. I think, being a coward, he counted on a similar lack of courage to make me dependent on him. He couldn’t imagine the fearlessness he met in me.

I knew I was tough, but never had I applied my strength in such a mighty way!

And the words came! The perfect words, at the right time. Precise, concise, incisive. I cut like a knife! No venom, just righteous truth, motherfucker. He could not argue. So often that ability fails and we’re haunted by what we should have said. I’m good with words, I am. I’m quick. I have the experience often of enjoying that keen response. But in cases of terror, we lose everything but the ability to survive. I kept my words! The right ones. The best ones. It’s so satisfying after the crime to feel totally satisfied that I could do no more and no better. I’m so grateful for… age and practice, hard work in therapy and real effort in life.. and some inquantifiable guidance. I do now feel that I was protected.

Then, I felt alone, and terrified. I feel alienated still, but I also experienced generosity, and myself accepting it! It was humbling, in the best way. I’m proud. I feel strong.

day before

The day before Zafod kicked me out of the camp I help build and pay for, because I wouldn’t consent to a sexual relationship with him. I hate the change he made to The Frog Prince’s paint job, but I’m still really proud of all my work on that regal amphibian! (*matchy, matchy* NOT PLANNED – unless the creeper saw my outfit and chose his accordingly, haha!)

cooler water

Draining cooler water for a “whore’s bath,” we laughingly call it. I built our camp shower out there, an entire day laboring in the hot sun under real risk of heatstroke and sunburn. Zafod took it all away, because I wouldn’t obey the demands of my gender and give him my body.

****

I said nothing at the burn about my suspicions of his history with the law. Perhaps another day, I’ll write of my disappointment in an old friend, the founder of our village, who made it clear that I was to remain hush hush about what happened to me. (I haven’t. When you keep quiet, you’re complicit. I wrote to burningman.org and another member of village management. I know now. I have a duty to keep others safe.)

However, I was not about to disseminate potentially false information based on the tail end of a conversation I overheard. Upon arriving home, the first thing I did – before even bringing my gear in from the front porch at 3am – was look Zafod up online. Well, I looked up sex crimes in his rural Park City suburb. He has an alias, after all.

He’s it. In a town of 150, there’s one registered sex offender.

Zafod's mugshot

Richard Wayne Schmidt, aka Zafod Beatlebrox, was convicted in 2011 of sex abuse of a minor.

Utah Sex Offender Registry

I feel betrayed by friends who didn’t warn me. Hearing what happened, nobody seemed surprised or upset for me. “Oh, yeah,” they shrugged it off. “I wondered what you were doing with him,” another said. “Everyone knows he’s a horndog.”

I didn’t!

First, there’s a marked difference between a womanizer and a predator, but why didn’t they care enough to tell me even that much? How could they leave it unsaid?

I’m sick to death of people who turn a blind eye and disregard problems that don’t affect them directly. It’s the definition of privilege, and it makes me question my friendships altogether. We can’t solve every crisis, but we can look out for each other. I would never leave someone I love vulnerable to a risk I was aware of. I’m disappointed. I feel different. I feel distant now from people I trusted and held dear.

A close friendship has migrated from inner sanctum to arm’s length. She’s still in there, but one rung out at least. She and her new husband, an friend of ten years that I introduced her to, rode The Frog Prince later in the week. If the tables were turned, I would never! Anyone who treated my friend like he did me would get nothing from me but total disregard or contempt, and they hung out with him. This goes beyond hurt and betrayal. It’s that, too, but I’m disgusted. I lost a lot of respect for my friends that day.

(They got married at Burning Man. I was Best Bitch. I continue to cherish the memory of their sunrise wedding. It was beautiful, thankfully before my burn went sour.)

My friend  mentioned their ride, to gossip about Zafod’s behavior. He gets others to drive, so he can get wasted and molest women who climb onboard. It’s a mobile perp wagon. He relies on intoxicated, scantily-clad women to laugh it off when he grabs and sucks on their bodies, which he did. When my friends witnessed him violating women, they left – or so she reported – but why hadn’t it mattered when he violated me? I’m pissed.

Sadly, if it came down to any kind of query from Burning Man LLC, that’s her story, not mine, and she’s one of those who thinks silence is the high road. Whistle-blowers are “drama.” (To them, feelings are drama. In other words, shut up. We don’t care.) She wouldn’t report what she witnessed, and my retelling of it is hearsay.

*sigh*

It’s done. I’m left with a wound that’s far less debilitating than it would have been historically. It’s encouraging to know that I’ll recover quickly. This is his crime, not mine. I forgive myself for being tricked. Going forward, I’ll take behavior as truth, and never question it again. Three strikes, you’re out. Maybe just two, I don’t know. We’ll see. I’m creating my future as we speak. I have every reason to believe that this pattern is in my past. I’m making progress in real time. I’m learning.

I’m comfortable with betrayal bonds. Perhaps that’s why I haven’t noticed until it was an emergency. In the past, I attracted and blindly recreated relationships that resemble the dynamic I grew up with. More recently, I’ve made allowances for it, over and over.

I’m ready for better. I’m better. I’m ready for my life to reflect that.

I feel gratitude, satisfaction, and hope.

I so thankful for acquaintances who stepped up me for me. Above all, I feel proud of how I handled a punishing situation. I’m getting stronger every day.

Honest Review

A critical one, I’m afraid, but the writer walked away from the night enjoying himself, nonetheless, and praising the gusto and heart of our little community production. I chuckled at what could be a stretch to find something nice to say about us, but it really did warm my heart: “The company’s exuberance and commitment filled the space with energy,” he wrote, and he’s right. “I couldn’t find anyone doing it halfway.” In other words, Wellll, they tried really hard, and good on ’em. (Thank you.)

I appreciated the author, too, because he was very thorough and thoughtful, and because his findings are precisely how I feel about our show’s weaknesses. For whatever reason, they chose to do these cheesy-ass projections behind us on set. I finally watched them Saturday before the show, and they’re worse than I could have imagined. Awful! So distracting, awkward, and embarrassing.

(Oh, and the face I complained about weeks ago is up there larger than life. Not even one smiling shot of Adelaide to introduce her. Just that bitter, angry mug of aged disappointment, haha! That was so dumb on the part of production. “Angrier!” the photographer commanded, with no sense of character and variety. Production told him “Angry,” so he got one look locked in his brain. He wouldn’t even take the shot unless I exemplified something akin to rage. So ugly and out of character. Duh.)

I’ve also been sincerely annoyed by our choreographer, bless him. While I do appreciate his demand that we Level Up, he has to choreograph to the group’s ability as a whole. It’s so disjointed and glaring. Some are dancers, and some are not. You blend. That’s your job. But his ego required this frenetic, intricate stuff that some simply can’t do, and it looks out of balance and amateur. I can, but barely. (I’m OoooooLD, and man! My feet are starting to scream.)

(I get to wear my beloved patent-leather red stilettos for 5 minutes in the closing scene. I will pay for this.)

Finally, the performances. He liked us, though we don’t “overflow with triple threats.” (Ouch!) He said that my choices “told a million tales in subtext,” which I appreciated so much! I always wanted to play Adelaide’s sincerity. She’s a caricature; that’s why she’s great. But she’s a real girl with a broken heart and massive, hilarious anxiety. I love her.

I love our amateur production. I love my castmates. I’m glad I have time left to appreciate and enjoy our show and my new friends. Hell Week is hell. I try always to keep that in perspective, but ours, as I mentioned, was the worst I’ve ever experienced. I was pissed.

I was also moving, having a nervous breakdown, and being terrorized in a tag-team assault by my ex-boyfriend and his new bride (whom he dated for 5 weeks). I was stuck in the home with them, when they didn’t need to move in before my apartment became available 3 weeks later (and hadn’t planned to before they decided to torture me in their first act as family). The man with whom I was trying to have a baby just months before, who had chosen my move-out date himself, was now mercilessly harassing, abusing, and mocking me, and I couldn’t get free.

Oh, and motherhood passed me by. The plot is known at last, at 44. I’m no one’s mom. Ever.

I forgive myself for losing perspective.

It’s back now. I’m looking forward with some hope and joy.

Ladies Night, Family-Style

My family made up a group of 11 for my show Saturday night! I was surprised by tears that threatened to fall when the curtain rose. The Overture was well on its way, but that curtain lifted and I was ready to cry! It meant so much to have them there. (They boycotted me and saw none of my shows in 1993, when I hit my mother back for the first and only time after a lifetime of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse, so it’s a really charged, emotional issue.)

I’ve never had such a large crowd rooting for me all at once. Mom really came through for me. I asked her to bring “all the girls.” 2 aunts came with 1 uncle, my GRANDMA, all 4 nieces, my sis, sister-in-law, and mom. ❤

My aunt made fun of me for not acting at all. “I’m uniquely qualified to play a neurotic showgirl,” I agreed. (One reviewer wrote, “The real standout is Adelaide.” She doesn’t need to know it’s not an act.)

Tech week was officially the worst of them all. They kept us after midnight every night before opening! One night I got home after 2am! I was livid. The next day, 2 hot box dancers fainted onstage. I was one of them. When they advised me to take care of myself, I nearly walked off. Let me SLEEP! And when am I supposed to be feeding myself (or shopping for groceries) if you keep me for 7 hours after I work 8?

I’m still annoyed.

I’ve never rehearsed for 7 hours when I wasn’t getting paid. This is community theatre. You have no right to ask more than 3-4 hours after work, and whatever you like on Saturdays. Or you start sooner. I wondered from the beginning how they thought they were putting on such a big show in less than 2 months. I was furious to be proven right, and then completely dismissed and mildly chastised.

“You have to take care of yourself.”

You better take care, right now!

Then we opened, and it all went away. (I was surprised. I was pissed.) I felt united, excited, and full of togetherness and nerves.

I was terrified. I’ve never felt less ready to open, but we just needed our audience. There’s nothing like that symbiotic energy. It’s magic!

I love this part. “Guys & Dolls” is just great, classic American musical theatre, and Adelaide is my love song. You know what else? I’m good in this role. I don’t know why. I’m not the best dancer, singer, actor, anything, but I have heart.

I guess that’s it. I feel it. I’m not faking. You can feel me all the way to the rafters. I hold nothing back, and theatre seems to be the only place that’s appreciated.

Also, I’m hilarious. I got props in the review for comedic timing. In any case, I crack myself up. (A friend described me in 1995. “The thing I love about Christie,” he said. “is she laughs harder than anyone at her own jokes.”) There’s one other guy whose ad libs are funnier than mine, and we’ve been competing all rehearsal long.

More than anyone, my Nathan has become a dear friend and confidante. I love him. I love that he’s on the planet. I love that he’s raising children. He’s been so kind to me. He’s a good, kind person who humbles and inspires me. I’m so glad he’s my Nathan.
DSC_7319

Theatre has been so generous since my return at 40. I hoped to be a dancing secretary in the ensemble of “How To Succeed,” and I got Hedy Larue! That was far beyond what I expected. I just wanted to play, to feel that particular expression of creativity again. Meeting Maurie, my director, is forever one of the greatest gifts.
hedy 2

I did “9 to 5” for Maurie 2 years later, upon request, just because I love her.
mr and mrs franklin hart jr

“Avenue Q,” at a community theatre in UTAH? Come on! Bad Idea Bear? Best part!
bad idea bears

And now Adelaide, who’s all I ever wanted. Everything else has been a surprise and a freebie along the way. I’m so fortunate. I’m proud. I enjoy my talent, finally, and I feel honored by the generosity of those who chose me and worked with me.
DSC_6571

I don’t know when I’ll do another show. I’m satisfied.

In 2018, I’m looking forward to centering and simplifying. I want to sing for old folks again. I’m excited for yoga, belly dance, Afro-Brazilian/Samba (easier on the body than full-on African), drumming on Saturdays, guitar (songwriting will fall out of me if I just commit to getting those callouses and chords), and mastering the didgeridoo after 10 years of knowing Marko. It’s all right there, and I just sat on it.

I’m not sitting anymore.

It’s Over

I’m back at work – and online – for the first time since the move on Sunday.

Saturday was the culmination of all their efforts to make me pay. Officers had advised me to film them whenever they attacked me, but I didn’t know when that would be. Mostly, it was just mockery, gloating, and name-calling as I passed from room to room, if I left mine. I didn’t want to aggravate them further by recording every time I walked out, so I did my best not to, which was always their goal, to impede my ability to move freely and to make this as stressful and agonizing for me as possible.

I had given Jax my rehearsal schedule. He knew I only had Fridays and Sundays to pack. So there they were. Every weekend.

I packed the house after rehearsals and Fridays before they came “home” after the workweek, and worked in my room weekends. They spent both nights only once – that wasted weekend of late summer lightning, trashing my dishes, and box theft (#4f) – but they were there Fridays ’til late, all day and overnight Saturday, and throughout Sunday.

Every weekend.

Only twice did they “prep the house.” They were there to eat, drink, and dry hump during movies. On the couch, in front of me. Once, when I passed them to use the restroom, Jax whispered loudly to Carrie, “You’re making me hard!” Ew! (The kid was there, too!!!)

For their honeymoon, they chose to spend 3 weeks sharing a house with his ex.

?????????????

GO HOME!!!!!

The final hateful push was a campaign nearly as brutal as the first, and I fucked up. That woman literally blocked my movement in and out of the kitchen WITH HER BODY, twice, the night before my movers arrive and I have no choice but to get this done; I cannot hide in my room tonight. That makes 3 times she’s hindered me in some part of the home. Admittedly, it was far more egregious when she had me pinned against a table, captive in my bedroom – unwell, triggered, terrified, BEGGING – with her hand jabbing in my face and her husband blocking my exit behind her, but here she was again, obstructing unfettered movement through the home I legally occupy!

Jax had really been working me, every time I walked through any room, with every tedious little thing, like, “Did you take the garbage can?”

“I bought it when I moved in, stored the lid in the garage to keep it clean.”

“Did you take the tray with the ‘H’ on it?”

“It had been donated and was never mine to give you.”

“Just taking back another gift,” he snarked.

“I’ve given it back to the charity from whom I had no right to take it.” (I left a beautiful  mirrored tray – same size – in its place. He was getting rid of it when I moved in. I cleaned it up and loved it, but I want nothing from that house.)

*giggle giggle, She’s pathetic, darling, giggle giggle*

At one point, Talking Heads were playing when Carrie loudly crowed, “Darling, this is my faaaavorite love song, ever,” just in time to sing along. “Home… is where I want to be…”

*giggle giggle, slurpy slurpy, giggle giggle*

Just the most bizarre woman I’ve ever, heard. I do have to say, though, I enjoyed that paltry display of blissful glee, because it showed me something lacking. Girl can’t belly laugh. That guffaw was forced and creepy. Hey, not everyone laughs with their whole body. That’s fine. But she so desperately needs me to see her in this happy, exultant light, and her boisterous attempt was just… fake.

The other thing she did that amused me… I’m not kidding when I tell you, she’s nothing but an eye-roll to me. Like, why do you need me so badly? She is desperate for my attention and envy, puffs herself up whenever I’m near. It’s weird. Who cares? You will never see or hear from this stranger again. And I’m “pitiful,” remember? “Irrational.” What does my opinion matter? Why do you need the admiration of a pathetic woman?

Jax was bottling beer in the kitchen. She was oohing and ahh-ing over this craft and that. “Oh, darling! I love this one.”

“It has a note of cherry.”

“I can taste it, darling,” I’m hearing as I’m in-and-out from my bedroom to the growing pile of boxes in the front half of the living area, outside my door.

Conversation shifted, however, the moment it became clear to her that my attention was fixed for a time within earshot. Her volume increased and out of the blue, she says to her new husband, who’s enjoying a hobby, an avocation, a pursuit of pleasure, “Maybe you could come to my work and see what I do.”

There had been no related discussion of employment or anything having to do with earning a living. Jax was showing her son how to sterilize bottle caps, and Carrie was sitting at the table, “darling” and drinking.

Apropos of nothing, “Maybe you could come to my work and see what I do.”

“Oh,” he asked excitedly. “Do they have an observation area?”

“No,” she admitted. (Then, one may wonder, why would you invite him to watch what he can’t see?) “But,” she continued. “I have to suit up to be in a 60 degree operatory…”

I went about my business and … rolled my eyes. I know you have a solid skill. I respected you once as a woman starting her life over after tragedy. Then I got to know you. Now all I see is desperation and hate, and fake fake fake fake fake.

So back to her blocking me.

At one point, Carrie was climbing the kitchen entryway. You know, just playing and larking about, but I approached and she didn’t come down. I don’t make eye-contact with her, ever. I don’t say a word. But I waited, and she remained there, suspended.

Whatever. I ducked beneath her, changed my laundry, ducked back, and walked on.

About an hour later, same thing, only this time, she’s sitting in the archway, legs up. I approached and asked neutrally, “May I?”

“Oh!” she paused, feigning surprise. “Yeah,” she answered poisonously.

She bent her knees, lowering her feet 3 inches max, forcing me to climb over her and drop into a sunken kitchen. I waited. Those feet weren’t moving further.

Grow the fuck up! What is wrong with these people!?

It’s non-stop degradation, sarcasm, and show-boating every time I pass, and now this? Again? I mean, I know it’s not the same as imprisoning me in my bedroom while you thrust your finger in my face and yell at me to get out of your house, and I am closer to stable on my meds, but it’s just so disrespectful. They’re RUDE!

I don’t understand how they’re not embarrassed to accuse me of everything they’re guilty of. Unnecessarily, to boot! At the end of the day, what are you doing here? You have an apartment. I live here until October 1st, because YOU designated my move-out date, and I found a home accordingly. I cannot believe they think I’m in the wrong, when just showing up every weekend has proven my point.

So I rolled my eyes, plunked over her, and muttered under my breath, “Fuck you.”

Oh, fuck. Oh, Christie. Oh fuck!

I avoided it all month. It’s what they were gunning for, and I walked into the shootout. They were ON ME. Stupidly, I proceeded to the laundry room, which is just a tiny utility closet off the kitchen, when Jax roared, “Whoa, whoa, whoa!”

I about-faced and booked it past him to my room. Carrie was up immediately and, just like the first weekend, chasing me. “FUCK YOU!”

“Fuck you, you bitch!” I yelled back and locked the door. Oh, Christie! Goddammit!

I stayed put for as long as I could, then figured, well, hell, I’ve done it now. I have to finish this. The only way to stay safe is to leave the room with the video recording, so I did. They followed me to the laundry room, where I got something that could be counted as evidence – although what it proves to me is just how very calculated this has all really been. I knew it, but, wow. The difference in their behavior was marked, when they knew it could be used against them.

I got heated and emotional when Jax accused me of pushing his bride that first weekend. She had me pinned in a backbend over a table in a room with no exit, and a husband filling the door frame behind her! All I remember is ducking under his armpit and running for my life. He intentionally filled that space, hands shoulder-height on the door frame, for maximum effect. Carrie not only followed me down the sidewalk, but took a left turn to continue the chase down a dead-end alley!

To this day, I consider it a miracle that my phone was right there. I don’t even remember grabbing it. And still I didn’t call the police! Still, I tried not to make trouble! I called my mother. “HANG UP AND CALL THE POLICE.”

Only when I heard her voice did I perceive the urgency. I was blind with panic, simply reacting and begging for relief.

On video, Carrie called me evil and vindictive, repeatedly, and expressed pity. Every time Jax started up, she “soothed him” quick! She could keep herself from screaming and swearing on record, but not him. And she knew it. That woman is all an act.

She criticized my negative energy, told me I was hateful, repeatedly, and I got snide. “This? is not loving, dear.” (Christie, just don’t.) In truth, I’m pleased with how well I ignored them. I responded to very little over the last 4 weeks. (But she’s just so dumb!)

“You don’t know me!” she shot back, “But I’ve seen your behavior!” With not one thought to her own. I stood there mostly silent, recording her refusal to leave her worldview long enough to see herself yelling and pointing at a woman pinned in a closet.

“We’re both guilty,” I confessed, “but you fail to see the mirror. And that just amazes me.” That ended her, and she retreated to their room.

She did tell me to “grow some balls” as she walked away, still yelling back at me and “not dealing with it anymore.” (You never had to deal with it. You brought it. Go home.)

First, no self-respecting modern woman says such a stupid, sexist thing anymore. (Trust me when I tell you that 90% of her show has been full-on 1950s Stepford.)

Second, why would I need balls if you’re not attacking me? Is that a confession?

Finally, you have no idea the courage the last month, summer, and year have required of me. You have no idea who I am, or the power, daring, and strength in my wheelhouse. I’ve seen your behavior, too, and I’m strong enough to take responsibility for my part, get better, and never get here again.

Since meeting that woman, I’ve had to dig deeper than ever before in my life. It’s done.
I survived.

****

The next morning, Jax was up with me – at 6:30am – to govern and meddle. My colleagues arrived at 7:00. I thought he’d be civil for show, as he has been whenever a potential witness was present, but I suppose now that I had the footage of the previous night, it made no difference if there was an audience. ???

My co-worker had pulled up on the park strip in our work truck. Sure enough, Jax starts sniping about it. Then Joe comes out of the cab, recognizes Jax – he’d helped move me in 2 years ago, knows nothing of the drama – and, friendly man that he is, reaches out a hand and a Good-Morning-Hey!-How are you?

“Don’t bother,” I warned him. “He’s upset you’re on the lawn.”

Joe began to apologize.

“Don’t worry about it,” I cut him short. “Let’s just get it done. Don’t talk to him. He’s not a friend. Just, let’s go!”

I had no expectation that Jax would start in on my movers, and I was nervous now.

When I rushed into the house, Jax asked my colleague if I had instructed him to pull up on the lawn. Give me an ever-loving break!

Later, he followed me out to the truck again, needling me about contact info for the upcoming utility bills. “Oh, Jax.” (Come on.) “You know my email address.”

Ridiculous, these people! Tiresome, unnecessary, punitive, juvenile, MEAN, and not the tiniest bit aware. Just cruel and petty. How are they not embarrassed?

And what do I care now?

With 3 men and me darting in, out and about like a blur, we had my kit-and-caboodle packed in no time, and on the road! I was close to tears several times, feeling their love and support. I’ve been so alone in this experience. Their kindness and generosity gave me courage when I lacked it, and faith in the world and my ability to reintegrate into a decent population of everyday folk just going about their lives. Soon!

I’m so grateful. Those good men saved me Sunday. (In honor of Carrie’s advice to grow balls, I bought nut sacks to feed my crew… and water and granola bars.)

When we finished unloading at the new place, I asked my boss to come back with me to collect the kitties. I knew it would be an ordeal to gather Penny, who is wily and hard to catch. And under their bed, I knew it. I was terrified to be alone.

Mark took my hand, put his arm around me and squeezed me tight. “Of course I will. Whatever you need.”

I guess I needed to cry then, because they rolled, those tears.

I’m blessed.

****

So… about the bills. I do have a question for the blogosphere. Mostly, I’m just free-writing here – especially now, to survive this month – for the purpose of workshopping my experience aloud, as it were. Helps me to sort through emotions, plans, patterns. But I really don’t know what to do with this idea.

I know Jax is planning to scan and email the bills. At this point, I think I should also scan and email my bill for at least one crisis visit to the ER. We got me there together. I think it’s right to deduct half of that from whatever I’ll owe on utilities. It never occurred to me until this last push, but… yeah. I didn’t do it alone.

There was another visit to the ER, but it was for pain. Turns out, I was having a panic attack and all I could think to do was drink water. I was pissing clear, as they say, but I legitimately felt parched, and as the pain increased, I believed that water would flush my system and help me somehow. When I got to the ER, they pushed 2 liters of saline, telling me my sodium was “impressively low.” The doctor told me, too, that I had almost no potassium in my blood, and low electrolytes generally. He literally prescribed olives and bananas for the next week(s), and ordered me to drink Gatorade.

He also recommended I permit a social worker to talk to me about anxiety. I may have written about this already, but I can’t believe it took me ’til 44 to realize that I get rolling panic attacks! I mean, I try to take responsibility for myself and I think I have a modicum of self-awareness, but I had no idea! Shocking, to be so… yeah, unaware.

I declined the “crisis visit” designation, because I just wanted to go home at that point. It had been hours. I was out of pain, but cold and exhausted. So I couldn’t sue Jax for his half of that, although it was definitely a result of the choice we made together to go off my medication.

I’ve talked to my nurse practitioner. As soon as I close my show, we’re adding another smidge of pharma to get a better handle on yet more tiny pieces flying loose from my psyche. Til then, I can’t risk not knowing what another psychotropic drug will do to my ability to memorize. Or balance.

So here’s the question. Do I pay him, or not? Part of me wants to ignore it. I owe him nothing. That is my belief. They terrorized me, and you can’t put a price tag on that. Except you can. I figure, worst case scenario is they’ll sue me in small claims. They’ll have me served at work, and I can counter-sue for the cost of my medical bills – and full punitive under the law, $2000. I feel like that would be fair compensation for what they did to me. I see them as people who tried to help kill a suicidal woman.

I pleaded for my life that first day. I was humiliated to reveal such vulnerable truths to a woman with no care for me, for the access to cruelty it might give her down the line – and just the stigma, in general – but I was terrified as she chased me down the street. I reminded her of her own connection to mental illness, her personal knowledge of its deadliness. “You are scaring me,” I begged that day. “PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE!”

And they kept at it for a month, delighted with themselves and their power to persecute. I think they’re murderers. “Grow some balls”? Woman, you have no idea how strong I am. Had I killed myself this September, the note would have had your new name on it.

On the other hand, blowing off bills will be seen as confirmation, the slap-in-the-face they crave to abdicate shared guilt. I don’t care what they think of me, but it would drag out our disgusting alliance.

I could simply sever the connection, pay, and put them on the road behind me. But I think what they did was deadly, damn-near-criminal, and I am PAID IN FULL.

What would you do?

Four For Four

I had really hoped – and moderately anticipated – that, knowing I’m leaving Sunday, they’d leave me alone-ish this weekend. Instead, Jax’s behavior is second in brutality only to the 1st weekend, when this long assault began. He’s relentless.

This morning, I had a friend coming over to pick up and store some large items I hope to sell, or move to a roomier place in the future. Jax decided I had done property damage to a cheap door with an even cheaper coat of paint. I damaged a chair, too, which belongs to him, he yelled, and I’m “not to remove any property from the premises.”

“You wanted to donate that chair when I moved in, and I gave you $20 for it.”

I don’t have a receipt. It never happened. Fine, keep your chair. Fewer reminders.

But he wasn’t done screaming. I should have just paid him when he offered a “deal” on future utility bills, because now the heat is going to be ridiculous. “You leave it running at [blanking] 80 degrees when you’re not even home!”

“I had the heat below 70 all night and turned it to 76,” I answered calmly, “so it would stay on during my shower and get a jump on the house temp.”

He knows how low I run it overnight, even in winter. I had gone for 5 minutes to get coffee for my friend and me, and forgotten to turn it down. He was home when I got back, and he’d found something “real” to fault.

I took the bait. I lost it. I told him to go ahead and sue me for the utilities. I’d counter-sue for half my medical costs when I was sick, and full civil punitive for pain and suffering. I screamed at him all over again for intentionally inflicting mental duress. I don’t know that I’ve ever screamed like that. I wish I hadn’t, but I just lost it!

LEAVE ME ALONE.

He knew how sick I was. The look in his eyes at every confrontation over the last 4 weekends haunts me. He loves it!

The thing is, he knew I was suicidal, wrestled a pill bottle out of my hands this spring. It’s much worse, in my heart, than kicking a woman when she’s down. It’s getting her down, and then dealing the death blow while she’s down there. That’s how this has felt to me. And he just keeps doing it, weekend after weekend.

He knew his behavior could kill me. He could see, that first attack, that I was more frantic and terrified than I’d ever been before, even more than when I started swallowing a handful of pills that day in April and went to the hospital.

And he keeps at it. Every weekend. Cursing, mocking, utter hatred. Delight.

He loves it! His face, the sadistic delight. I can’t unsee it. And I just lost it.

I screamed today. I don’t remember yelling like that, ever. Even in my violent childhood.

He laughed and laughed. I’ve been in my room bawling. I haven’t eaten all day.

I tried so hard to stay above this. I cannot believe what a sick, cruel, petty man he is.

Jax spent the rest of a beautiful late season day to… stick around and keep me stuck in my room? Every time I walk out, he starts again. Last year, this was his busiest time.

I threw some things in my car and drove to work to donate them, just to get out of the house. I thought about grabbing fast food, but it’s making me sick again. I was excited on my day off to make a yummy, healthy dish – and hoping he’d have gone home to his loving family by the time I returned. Instead, she had joined him here. With the kid.

I’m starving, and terrified that they’re going to spend the night tonight AND tomorrow, just to stick it to me as hard as they can before I go.

I’ll never be the same. I know I’ll be alright. The biggest improvement will come on Sunday, just getting away from the fear of “What/When/How bad/How long…?” The rest will be continued healing, but I’ll never be the same. I’m changed.

Something broke this time, deep inside. I’m not the same.

I never thought I could feel regret like this again. After each relationship – good or bad – I’ve been able to appreciate and enjoy them, able to remember the love or the learning. Except one, who nearly killed me when I was 22. 22 years later, I’m leaving Jax, who has proven much worse than the man half my life ago. 2 men. At 22, and 22 years later.

When I realized it, I cried and cried. I begged the angels, “Please don’t take my beloved 222! Please, I can’t! Don’t poison my 222. I love my 222! I need my 222.”

Near-suicide after both. The scary difference is that suicide is sad when a person is young. She had so much promise, potential, intelligence, beauty, talent. If only she’d held on to learn that it gets better. When a middle-aged woman dies of mental illness, hey, I tried. I found out. I have an illness that kills people.

Why is it okay when a person dies of diabetes or cancer, but not mental illness? We all get or have something. With my disease, I might decide someday when I’m done, and it’s still just an illness. We all die.

Not today, but I don’t have delusions about the danger. Neither do I believe anymore that my condition improves over time. I’m worse now than I was 22 years ago, with no hope, fewer options, less money, faded beauty, and now serious, chronic physical pain.

I joke that I’m far too spiteful to kill myself. “I’ll die before suicide kills me!”

It’s probably still true. I am a Taurus, and there simply isn’t stubbornness like that in another sign. “I’ll be damned if…” is a very Taurean motivation. Little can threaten my determination to get through it, by god, but I don’t know the future. I don’t want to kill myself. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want this pain.

It took time but I was able, at last, to put my spin on that devastating perversion of my beloved 222. Now, I see it a wake up call to appreciate my vulnerability, and understand that I must always take care. It’s not enough to coast along in moderate health, or delude myself that I’m fine because “I’m not a tortured kid anymore.”

I have an illness that requires maintenance and vigilance, all my life. Okay is no longer good enough. The Universal Smackdown came to tell me: The time is now to choose optimum, and do the work to achieve it.

First, I have to get out of here.

I really believe the angels are telling me that it’s now or never. For years, I’ve been feeling the shift, the urgency of the work. DO IT, CHRISTIE. That’s what I started this blog for. What I’ve done instead is catalog years of me repeating the dynamic of my childhood in nearly every relationship and experience I have. It isn’t up to me what happened in my youth. It’s only up to me what happens now.

I must figure out how to flip that switch, and stop attracting and creating such ugliness.

I’m in so much pain.

I just can’t believe what Jax can do and say to a woman whose health is so precarious, when he shares 50/50 responsibility for risking that health, and 100% responsibility for abandoning her when she got sick.

Worse, he brutalized me before my meds could take full effect, knowing exactly where I was on that timeline. We were still “friends.” I thought he cared about my recovery. He helped me fall; It followed logic and love to lean on him.

Jax has known all along that his behavior had more power to do damage, precisely because of where I am mentally and emotionally. Further, he knows the layers of family trauma that coat every nerve he’s pounced on.

He knows what he’s doing. My meds might have kicked in by now, if not for constant abuse. He knows I’ve been having panic attacks, and crying for months. He enjoys it.

I just don’t understand.

Four For Four … 444 … 44  … Sturdy and built-to-last, solid, strong … 2×22 … 2222222222222222 … The first angelic hello I heard. “We’ve got you.”

Oh fucking kay.

Anxiety Ramping Up

I’m starting to fear the emotions of change. For so long, I’ve been gripping through the trauma and fear of “What will they do next?” that I’ve been able to avoid the heartache and loss of this home I’ve loved so much for 2 years.

And the relationship that turned so very ugly, painful, and dangerous.

I loved him. He was my best friend. All of my girls had gone. He was my whole social life, my whole private life. We were happy in that house, for a long time.

I was. It’s embarrassing to realize in hindsight how much distance he was creating all that time. I wish I’d seen that he was yet another man lacking the courage to be truthful. I asked! Of course I was aware the connection was eroding. So he’s not strong enough to offer difficult honesty. Why hide it when approached with it?

Feelings are coming. Tears are returning.

My new apartment is fine. I’ll adjust. But it’s terribly dark, and it makes me sad for my cats. More than my plants, even, it makes me sad for my cats. My sunroom was such a joy to us. I couldn’t ever get a good shot of it, but it was so colorful and joyful, a place where a new, unexpected talent presented itself. It was a magic space, until that woman cornered me there, leaning me backwards over a table, and gave me the low-down on how it’s going down now that she owns this house. “Meaning no harm,” of course, with her finger in my face.

Since then, I’ve fairly completely forgotten feelings of pain. It was all panic.

Now it’s anxiety of a real and changing kind.

And I feel so much guilt and anxiety about my show. We open in 2 and 1/2 weeks and I’m not even memorized! I don’t know my dances! IT’S AWFUL.

What was I thinking, offering myself to a show I had no time or right to claim availability for? My character is spot on, but I don’t know my part!

I’m trying to memorize, but I still can’t keep my mind on the task at hand.

I’m freaking out.