The Code

I was born with two first names and one last, and this always confused me. Mandy was a child’s name, and my mother explained to me that one day…I could call myself Amanda. I never thought I would call myself Amanda.

My birth right was settled long before I came to bare it.  A destiny set forth by people I would barely know and some I would love long after they left me.  So it is with genes…the ones we inherit, the ones we spend a lifetime trying to squeeze out of.  Mandy came with a personality produced of steel.  I was made of energy, a vision of fire and ice; I could only be touched for a moment.

Except I was born for staying.  Just another girl in a long line of women who would love…be lied to…and stay.  Unknowingly, I spent my days wearing that badge proudly. I spent my nights screaming at him for it. My therapist says being stuck is usually about one of two things…love or loyalty. I am what happens when you love the wrong thing and are loyal to the pain.

I suppose my rhythm has a code to it. A code both predetermined and set in place each day of my life. There were certain rules that were not to be broken. So it is with life, each day we reinforce in ourselves that which we never chose in the first place.

Except I find myself now, with two first names and no last.  And I can’t help but remember the moment, just seconds before my wedding, when sheer panic filled my body at the thought of changing my last name.  I was a Hill…and too much like my father to know better. My new last name came with a family who hated me before they met me. I wasn’t ready to give up the only name that ever felt like home. It felt like me…Mandy, Amanda…it made no difference. 

My divorce was final in July, and I’m now left with a name that never really felt right. I belong to people who never cared to know me. And my old last name belongs to people who knew me and left. And so I have two first names and no last.  I spend my life trying to find words to describe how that feels. And I know that by doing that, I’m half living and half dying. Because life is lived forwards and understood backwards. I’m caught trying to do both and am barely moving.

Renaming the past means you leave something out…a forgotten detail, a lie that becomes the truth. A story retold is but fragments of what really happened. Of what was really felt. Its laughter without the pain it covers.  Mandy was good at laughing, and too many people made me pay for it.

Renaming the present means changing the code. It means I squirm inside each time you describe me with the old script. Please forgive me for changing. Amanda is good at crying and too many people make me pay for it.

So for now, I guess I have two first names and no last.

Wild Things

Today, I’ve been stuck on the absence of things. Emptiness, I suppose, is the realization that things are no longer as they once were. Space unfilled, seems like a void, except it is not.  Funny I’m back to thinking about opposites, and amazed to discover that the opposite of empty… is not full.

What lies deep inside my loneliness, is my ability to heal.  Like a winter perennial quietly waiting for spring, when things are removed, they are not always gone. Amanda Carrier BlogInstead, they lie deep inside me…searching quietly for nourishment.  Weeds feeding on next to nothing, my roots are spreading beneath and inside me all at once.  Extending who I am…reaching out and connecting me to the earth, and to you.

For years, I had six acres of my own land covered in creeping Charlies.  I spent hours pulling them each week. My hands tired and pained from the gripping, and of course from the ripping.  One day, I came home to my husband spraying them with weed killer. Armed with a pump and a hose, he casually sprayed my nemesis and explained that this would be the only way they wouldn’t come back.

Except that I wanted them to come back.  This was my chapel, my ritual, and I tugged and pulled at those creeping, crawling monsters and marveled at their ability to always beat me.  To me, this is not a weed.I marveled more at how confusing it was to pull and rip at a weed who produced delicate purple flowers.

It always took me two hours to remove all the purple and all the green from front yard.  And when I was done, I always knew I would be back.  For down below they were already growing, spreading and reaching.  Making the connections that would sustain their life.  If there is a cycle to this, it always turns on hope, even when we can’t feel it.  It feeds on a smile from a stranger, a door held open by the loss that proceeded it, an idea of a promise, the foundation of a second chance.

Until then, I’m trying to respect the silence, even if it is my enemy.  In my darkest hour, vacant and alone, I am still sifting through the absence of sound. I want to be inside it, to dance amidst the vibrations that remain, even as you no longer speak to me.  I was yours before you loved me, and when you walked away, I am still yours forever more.

Yes, wild things grow on less than a little.

The Road

It’s gray outside, and I’ve spent the day watching the sun struggling to give its final adieu to 2010.  Like an old friend you don’t want to watch leave, the sun keeps peeking through the clouds, even as it sets.

This year, unlike any before it, has been a complete story.  A beginning that hinted at its end.  With each passing day, I could no longer ignore the signs that my life, whether I liked it or not, was changing.  I couldn’t tilt the earth off its axis, make him love me as I needed, or say goodbye without the lingering feeling that I just might love him forever.

But 2010 taught me something else as well. The life you save, may be your own.  It was the first week in January that I admitted to my therapist I had but one fear.  What if, while I work to save my marriage, I end up discovering that it isn’t worth saving.  Nodding, he replied with 2 sentences:

1.  First you figure out where you are going.

2. Then you figure out who with.

Each passing month predicted the same outcome.  I was going to leave, and he was going to make me.  Once I made my final decision, he was going to stand in opposition for the first time in months.  Living life in reverse…it is easier to beg forgiveness than it is to ask permission.

But by that time, 7 months after I began paving the road I would some day walk upon, I knew it wouldn’t be his hand I held on my journey.  He had taught me to walk alone, taught me to love myself more than him, taught me to trust my instincts.  With each brick I laid at my feet, it became more and more possible that I wasn’t going to love him forever. And perhaps, if I must really tell the truth…it had been many moons since I had really loved him at all. We teach people how to treat us. And he had taught me that loving him was like mixing a unique batch of poison inside of yourself.  The mixture would both mesmerize and intoxicate you.  If you loved too long, it would kill you.

2011 is here in just a few hours, and I am not dead.  I’m busy picking up all those broken tiny pieces and seeing what I can create from them.  A new me? An old me? A little of both?  This time, I don’t think I will use so much glue.  I think maybe I’ll simply keep them stashed away in a transparent vase filled with water.  Where they can move and dance, swirl and dip with each bump in the road.  I’m still laying bricks…but I have a new hand to hold.  And for the first time it is leading me down the road I’ve already paved.

A Certain Kind of Mind

“To a certain kind of mind, what is hidden away ceases to exist.”

My mind is not like this. It is a vault, a well, a story.  It lives in my memories, in my heartbreak, my happiness, and in you.  It surrounds my body and is my body.  My mind is my hands and my eyes.  Mostly my mind is my ears, but I am changing that.

Lately its been thinking about seasons.  In a month, the leaves will fall, the wind will quicken, plans will change.  Most people mourn the death that welcomes fall.  I’m waiting for what it reveals. When the foliage falls and bitterness comes, I can see forever.  Out my back deck, stands tree after tree after tree. Home to the birds, the owls and squirrels, it’s a beautiful homage to fullness.

I can see forever.But I don’t feel full anymore.

Soon, the yard will stand vacant, and I will see the horizon.  When the temperatures fall, my body will work harder to keep me warm. I will shiver away the cold.  I will see forever.

My mind is the one who knows this, my hands listen and I refuse to water my plants. I want to hurry the pace of winter.

Some people think you cannot mourn that which you never had. I have had it all and I have had nothing all together at once.

My mind mourns them both.

Foundations Made of Sand

Everyone keeps telling me this is all about time.  But it feels more like space.  And I think there is a subtle distance between the two.  Time feels like an eternity and space more like air.

In the space I occupy, I am eternally present. This was always my goal of course. But remaining here is a constant struggle. My mind trips me with lies and tells me I am weak, I am used.  Except I am neither.

My mind wants to punish my heart, for making stupid decisions, for trusting.

I said my brain would lead me through this and I promised to not listen to the longing in my chest, because my heart would always go back.  I lived in reverse.  Accepted the wrong apologies, denied the voices, believed the touch.

Now I think I had even this backwards, for it is my heart, shallowly beating that is leading me now.  Wounded, but not broken, I can eradicate what is left and build a lifetime upon it.

Foundations made of sand, it turns out, are not always washed away–but float separately in a sea of memory.

What might have been becomes an abstraction, a piece of me yes, all of me no.  I ignore the whispers because even cast aside, I lie here alive. I feel the weight, but still breathe.

This is not my story yet.

The Valley

And here I thought I was choosing.

One person or the other. The old me or the new me. But now, as I rest cautiously in the valley between, I see that neither side really works.

If you met me years ago, you’d think I had this already figured out. I took daring steps, threw my head back and laughed at it all. But inside, it was always a lie.  Inside, I despised the game that I couldn’t stop playing. I was a puppet and puppeteer all at once.

If you met me a month ago, you’d think I always told the truth. Comfortable in my own skin, even as I spoke of how much I hurt.  You’d think I had this already figured out.  I took cautious steps, lied my head down and cried. But inside, it was always a lie.  Inside, I despised the game that I couldn’t stop playing. I was a puppet and puppeteer all at once.

And now I rest between, forced into this place by loneliness. I try to stop thinking and simply feel. There is a calm in not knowing if this is all going to work out, yet knowing I don’t want to go back. I want neither ridge, neither me.  I want something different.

Is it possible to truthfully tell what lies inside, without destroying myself in the process? Would it be possible to ever trust someone with what’s inside?

The old me tried, and was left angry and alone. 

The new me tried, and was left confused and alone.

But in the valley, I am still creating.  The what ifs seem more possible, yet further away, everyday.

Butterflies

The butterflies are back, and I’m beginning to understand why.  I used to think they were my nerves.  Sharp darting sensations that fill my body when my brain is lost in translations.  But I was wrong. These butterflies dance through my body, whisking away the loneliness.  Their wings flap swiftly, dusting away everything that hurts. If I give them enough time, they’ll sweep away it all, my brain will take back over and I’ll be fine.

But for now if I stare into the distance long enough,while letting those butterflies dance, I find the irony. It’s in the words of course. The ones people keep saying and seldom mean. It’s a place of opposites…trust me really means good-bye.  The words and the actions are always tied together, and directly oppose each other.  My thoughts trip on the moments between.  Is it me? Or is it possible it has nothing to do with me. Aren’t these really the same thing anyway?

In a world where I love you and I’m sorry are constantly tied together, what is left? I can’t find my breath. But I’ve been here before. I can follow the path I created for myself. Move on. Pretend I’m not dying inside. Be strong. Smile…

Or I can let those butterflies dance, let the tears come, be alone…and remember that if I tell myself the truth long enough, someone else will too. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll choose me.

The Space Between

Moving forward has never been easy for me. It isn’t that I have an aversion to change–at least not admittedly–it is my obsession with the WHY that traps me. All available questions can be answered with truth, but if the WHY doesn’t fit, I am stuck. I’ve always believed that life is lived forwards and understood backwards. It is how far back I must travel to understand that sickens me. If the answer to the WHY exists 2 months ago, a year, 5 years ago–than what is to be said for the moments in between? What is suspended there? Each look, each touch–what thoughts accompanied them?

Most of us do not act on impulse. Actions are a million tiny thoughts created in ourselves over and over and over. At what point those thoughts become actions is painfully difficult to determine. To answer that question we must dig deep. An impossible journey, the answer may be so imbedded in who we are, the lies we tell, that we may never know. Later those actions are repeated over and over until a habit forms. Those habits become the foundation our character lies upon. But it is this process by which we become who we are that entraps me.

When was the first time he thought of her? What was the trigger? An old song, the smell of summer lingering in the air, too many beers? Was it wonderment or perhaps longing? Was it a desire or a need? Perhaps both entangled together? Where was I–seated next to him, telling him about my day–or sharing a comfortable silence with him, while he shared the moment with her? I imagine him physically shaking his head trying to remover her from the life he was supposed to love. From the life that was supposed to be enough. Maybe a few days went by before her shadow crossed his memory again. Maybe a noisy house, childish laughter, and sex with The Wife, locked her out for awhile. But memory is a powerful thing. It is audacious and cares little about right and wrong.

Vows mean nothing when your mind just can’t erase a memory.

So his life goes on, fights happen, silence follows–and in his quiet she emerges again–without notice or invitation.

Eventually her shadows grow darker, more apparent until he imagines he can reach out, he can touch her–feel her again. She can answer all of his questions that swim in regret and fear. So he grows closer…he can smell her now–hear her voice…he remembers what it was like. It was easy, laughable, fun even. He forgets what made him leave. She smells good to him, he longs to taste what tempts his nose.

So he calls and willingly changes his entire life. He doesn’t use his head, he asks no questions of himself. “I don’t know” satisfies him because the truth is incomprehensible. Who would throw his entire life away for one taste? That answer is easy.

He would.

But WHY?

I need details. They may lead to a certain insanity but insanity is better than stupidity. So I ask over and over and over. A thirst I desperately need quenched. What do those moments hanging in the balance say about me? Can it be…it isn’t about me? That the love he carries for me is separate, exists in a different realm than she presides in? If it is true…should this make me feel better?

I think not.

To grasp the truth is a delicate, awkward gesture. It is not tangible, but a moveable–perhaps permeable entity. We each spend countless moments creating our own truth. We build it strongly upon the relationships and people close enough to destroy us. Imagine spending a lifetime resting upon a security that suddenly is destroyed. It must change who you are–alter your truth, change it slightly. So the work begins again. Now we must practice the words of comfort we will tell ourselves over and over again–until we believe them, and that foundation becomes our truth. So what if he lies to himself? Practices the lies instead of the truth over and over until he is convinced, utterly, that it is here where he wants to be. Which truth do I grasp? What he says repeatedly–or what he said that night as his fingers dialed her number while his brain denied the world he had built–the world he thought would be his foundation. And what of his heart? Which truth did his heart long to touch that night? I imagine it slowly starting to race, beating more and more rapidly as the clocked ticked and the phone rang…once…twice…closer still to hearing her voice. I wonder…when was the need quenched? When did his heart start to slow, the beating calmed? Instantly? After hearing her voice? After she said little? After she said too much? When was a sense of normalcy reached? And what happened the moment after? So much truth resides in these moments–the ones we push away, the ones we ignore. We measure who we are by the large ones, a babies first cry, the moment we first said “I love you.” But the damage, the destruction resides in the places we squeeze out of consciousness. The moments we cannot bare–the moments we cannot NOT know.

What happened when he came up for air? The moment AFTER. Like a dirty fantasy fulfilled, did he disgust himself? The moments tick by…I can handle this. Did he ask himself WHY? Did he care? He must have started to practice–saying over and over the feelings he was supposed to feel until he could wear them…until he was feeling them.

But the truth has a presence about it–it wills to be known. And when confronted–he makes another choice–LIES

And the truth sinks deeper.

–ALC 2005

Just the Words

I heard the words ripple around me, slowly at first, settling only when the placidity of the moment deadened the place I visit when I close my eyes tightly. The place of comfort, usually warm, but uncomfortable when it gets too hot. Actions are supposed to speak louder than these words, except that words seldom exist alone.

There are some moments, some words that I cannot erase from my recollection. They visit me in the strangest moments as if they must remind me of a part of myself that still exists despite my conviction to forget. They work together with my conscious and at times are so vivid that not only do I remember them, but I hear them. I hear the tones, the pitch, the slightest breath that was taken three moments before the words changed my life forever. I wonder what my father was thinking during the three moments that he visited his conscious. Was he wondering if he really wanted to say it? Or perhaps that he so badly wanted to. So badly wanted to see the look of sheer terror drive across my mother’s face. I wonder most if he would have said it had he known I was listening.

I missed the actions that preceded these words. I missed the subtle looks, the harsh annoyances; I missed the whole event. But these words, I could not miss them. It is almost humorous to me how much I missed in this world. I hear now, I see now, I feel now. Mostly, I wonder when that happened. I wonder when I began to see the looks of pain that were so almost hidden. I wonder when I figured out the places on the body that can’t hide the pain, that can’t cover up the wounds of so many years of isolation. It is not in the eyes. Those can grow dead. It is not in the lips, they are the most deceiving of all. The pain lies in the hands and how people use them, and also in the forehead– the places most of us miss. I find it now, as I watch a hand nervously trying to cover the lips–a fools errand–hesitation slipping on truth. A forehead contemplating too much–a canvas for pain to write its story. Oh, these places I can’t stop staring at when I speak to a person.

I can’t stop myself from trying to figure them out, from trying to know them through their hands and their foreheads. I want to hear their story and then I want to tell them mine. It is not because I want them to understand. In fact, I really don’t care because it is always about me. It is about me getting rid of these words, me not wanting to hear them anymore. The more I tell the story the more it changes. I add a different word more harsh than the truth, more shocking. It is easier to believe lies than the truth. Every time the story changes it becomes less real, more far away from me. Then, the person I am speaking with must hear my words over and over in their head. When I am lucky, after I tell my story, I forget the details, usually a little more each time I say them again. Each time I speak it, it becomes someone else’s story. I become the girl they new once who…

I like being that girl.

I heard once that life is lived forwards and understood backwards. I often wonder how far back I must go to understand. I used to want to understand how he could leave all of us, but now, I just want to understand how he could have said what he said. Why did he pick those words, why did he way them with such certainty and conviction. Was he so sure of his words at that moment? Had he rehearsed them, had he chosen the perfect fit to get the perfect reaction? I will never know that part of him; I want to forget that part of me.

Everything is perfect now. Two loving parents who sleep in the same bed. The fact that he left should still irritate me, it should make me scared of what my own marriage someday will bring. But none of that matter to me, not at all. Yet the words, the phrase, the feeling, the conviction, those I still hear. I am oddly connected to these words as though it is a love affair. I often think about who I would be had I never heard them spoken. How can one sentence, one thought, build such a unique and frightening relationship? Who would I be?

I think I would be different. I wouldn’t have found out until six months later that my dad was going to leave. I would have eaten at the kitchen table and honestly believed that the random stories of installing an air conditioner for a friend meant something. Words are powerful weapons that evoke powerful emotions. But not all words. Some are futile objects selectively spoken to fill the spaces in silence that are uncomfortable. I hear so many useless words, so many useless stories. In fact, I speak even more vacant words than most. How can I tell the difference anymore? The difference between the words I cannot forget and those I so easily speak. Where does the difference lie? Is it in the message, or in the emotion of the person selecting the words? Or could it be in the intent?

Perhaps the difference lies in the face of my father when he spoke them. Or his hands, or his forehead. But I did not see his face. I only heard the words. I don’t need you and I don’t need these goddamn kids anymore. Oh how they rolled off his tongue. It was as though they knew their destination.

The oddest thing is that I have no idea what my mother said back to him. Did she have words prepared for that moment? Was she ready with a retort so perfectly refined that she knew exactly how his face would react after she said it? Was she looking at his face? At his hands, his forehead. Perhaps she had no words at all. Perhaps all I heard from her was the slightest gasp, so controlled. Yet, so scared. Or perhaps my father’s words overpowered hers. Maybe his words engulfed hers to the point where her words were no longer audible to my ears. I wonder if they were still audible to her own?

I wonder even more if these words have left her head. I wonder if they visit her in the middle of the night as they do me. I wonder if she has spoken them as many times as I have. I wonder if she has ever spoken them at all. I know she has forgiven his actions and I know she has forgiven the day he left. But I do not know if she has forgiven his words. They were just words and they were softly spoken. It was supposed to be his actions that hurt…But it was the words.

Just the words

ALC 2000