Anne and I: A Month On

By alison June 10, 2019 14 Comments 8 Min Read

And so a month has gone by. A month that began with arms full of hope and ended with the horror of the man I love hurting himself in the dead of night.

(I need you to read between the lines here. To read it but not speak of it, nor question its specifics.)

“Anne, I don’t want to live. . . . Now listen, life is lovely, but I Can’t Live It. I can’t even explain. I know how silly it sounds . . . but if you knew how it Felt. To be alive, yes, alive, but not be able to live it. Ay that’s the rub. I am like a stone that lives . . . locked outside of all that’s real. . . . Anne, do you know of such things, can you hear???? I wish, or think I wish, that I were dying of something for then I could be brave, but to be not dying, and yet . . . and yet to [be] behind a wall, watching everyone fit in where I can’t, to talk behind a gray foggy wall, to live but to not reach or to reach wrong . . . to do it all wrong . . .

Anne Sexton

In fright I became tired and broken and scared and angry and there seemed to be little I could do to counteract this flood of emotion beyond wait it out and to do as I have always done. Ask the women I care about to wrap their arms around me while I retreated. For retreat is the only way I know to repair myself. And it is me who needs repair, him somewhat cleansed and calmed by his actions and me left, as Anne Sexton once said, aching to fly out of my head, though that, as she so bluntly stated, that, is out of the question.

“I feel unspeakably lonely. And I feel – drained. It is a blank state of mind and soul I cannot describe to you as I think it would not make any difference. Also it is a very private feeling I have – that of melting into a perpetual nervous breakdown. I am often questioning myself what I further want to do, who I further wish to be; which parts of me, exactly, are still functioning properly. No answers, darling. At all.”

Anne Sexton.

I think I have given myself away and there now exists in me a kind of fierce rage to claw what is left of me back. Though anger probably doesn’t make sense in the circumstances it is indeed what I feel and pretending not to feel a thing is a special kind of madness I am no longer willing to dance a polka with.

“It is June. I am tired of being brave.” 

Anne Sexton

What then does clawing myself back look like? How does one begin? For me it begins once again with work. Words are my therapy and no amount of introspective navel-gazing in front of another counsellor will work its restorative magic in quite the same way as opening my laptop and letting the feelings I struggle to articulate verbally tap their way out into truth.

“Writers are such phonies: they sometimes have wise insights but they don’t live by them at all. That’s what writers are like…you think they know something, but usually they are just messes.” 

Anne Sexton

Work is the answer. Work the solution to prevent the car being repossessed and orders to leave this house being delivered. While I have long stated that I do not work well when I do not feel safe, there comes a point when one has to put the cart before the horse and work regardless, setting aside the finniky pride I usually allow to dictate whatever I release here at BrocanteHome, and squashing my inner perfectionist down with a sharp slap to her insolent cheek, so that we can eat.

“I’m lost. And it’s my own fault. It’s about time I figured out that I can’t ask people to keep me found.” 

Anne Sexton

Clawing myself back also has to start with facing up to what I already know to be true. I cannot write to the self-imposed schedules I so frequently set and share with you at BrocanteHome. I have never done well with deadlines, and now that life is hanging by a thread I am managing them less well than even before. Work a catastrophe of flurries and silences. A rush at what has to be done and then a kind of horror at what has actually been produced that I truly do not expect anyone to understand, though cannot actually apologise enough for.

“Watch out for intellect,
because it knows so much it knows nothing
and leaves you hanging upside down,
mouthing knowledge as your heart
falls out of your mouth.” 

Anne Sexton

Shame at my efforts rendering me immobilised and having me so frequently turning my attention to that which is purely creative, no deadlines contained within: endless nights spent creating something lovely that none of you have asked for simply because it made me calm again, reminded me who I was and what fills me up.

“I seem to be a ship that is sailing out of my own life.” 

Anne Sexton

A Brocante Playbook filled with little pieces of nothing, stories, thoughts about housekeeping, heartstoppingly pretty images, quotes, planner pages and more. Something I had neither rhyme nor reason for creating but which has kept me sane on the nights when I have felt despair so very close. Something I will share with you very soon as I make sense of what my WORK will have to mean to me and to you, my loyal readers, going forward.

“All I wanted was a little piece of life, to be married, to have children. I was trying my damnedest to lead a conventional life, for that was how I was brought up, and it was what my husband wanted of me. But one can’t build little white picket fences to keep the nightmares out.”

Anne Sexton

There is much within my experience in the past few weeks I cannot yet articulate. Feelings I cannot yet put labels on. I am I suppose still in the kind of shock a person has to negotiate before she can decipher, or explain. For it is true that my rage has astonished me as much as it has the next person for she is a new friend who has arrived all guns blazing, all intolerance and disappointment and snarky comment and fierce unexpected, do not dare to leave me like this hugs.

“Depression is boring, I think
and I would do better to make
some soup and light up the cave.” 

Anne Sexton

I have found enormous solace in this book (oh read it, read it, read it again). I have torn magazines up and made from them art/vision/tomorrow. I have cried over Emmerdale. And sobbed, preposterously, during Gavin and Stacey. I have filled an entire book with words: a list of sorts. I have left clothes hanging on the washing line overnight and forgot about the soup in the slow-cooker. I have sat with a seventy-four year old man in the gardens of Bluecoat Chambers: a man so wise I wanted to reach out and touch his head as he taught Ste the soothing practise of belly-breathing under the trees. A South African man who had me whispering “Was that God?” as we walked away from him. I have taken to sleeping like a baby. Sleep that is a hug, sleep that once evaded me now enticing me with the promise of wild dreams and a body ready to throw itself out of bed at first light. I have bled continually for three weeks with no knowledge of how to make it stop.

“Surely all who are locked in boxes of different sizes should have their hands held.” 

Anne Sexton

Some nights I have slept alone because I have been angry and some days I have rushed home panicked when Ste didn’t answer the phone. Relief when I find him attending to the laundry or mowing the lawn. Him retreating into the ordinary. Me finding the complexity of rage and overwhelming, probably unnecessary fear, utterly exhausting. I have been rational and hysterical in turn. In need of other people but worn out by their normality: afraid of being observed too closely. Afraid of the kind of envy I feel of their security; the very certainty of their lives. It is hard. The aftermath of trauma like this not what you imagine. You come undone not with the fact of the act itself, but in the company of those who will likely never have to experience it.

“Oh, all right, I say,
I’ll save myself.” 

Anne Sexton

Today then, more work on my Playbook, less on the feeding of my hysteria. Leftover casserole to be added to and turned into another meal. A bath to ease the period pain that will not let me be. A deliberate effort to turn down the noise of our lives: the frightening bills and the demands of those who ask for help but cannot find a thank-you. The endless examination of what we are; who we are. And more focus on the real stuff of life – food that raises a satisfied smile, the chuckle of a fifteen year old boy, holding one another tight, the madness of the tall daisies in the garden, poetry, the pigeon nesting in the bush again this year.

“I want to calm down, to rest, to outlive this nonsense.” 

Anne Sexton,

I want to fly out of my head, but it is, of course, out of the question.

Other Things To Do At BrocanteHome

14 Comments

  1. Tiffani says:

    Oh Alison, thanks for sharing your truth. It hurts to read that you are going through something so difficult… I offer continued support and an ear if you ever need it. I’m also praying for continued recovery for you and yours. Sending my love from across the pond.x

  2. Gena says:

    I am so sorry darling, I wish I had some wise words for you, but right now I just want to give you a big hug, you know where I am xxx

  3. Laura_Elsewhere says:

    Oh my dear Alison, my dearest, darling girl… there are few words that would mean anything, so I shall just repeat: you are very much loved, whether you are here or offline, writing or silent… we think of you, and we love you.
    xxx <3

  4. Jo Menees says:

    Dear One, I am so sorry for all the different pains you are having. It is remarkable, the words you find to describe it all. I hope you don’t mind my being presumptuous by asking, have asked your doctor (if not already) about
    endometriosis? My prayers are for you and your family, with much love from across the pond.

    1. Oh, Alison. My heart aches for you. I only have the slightest inkling of what you are dealing with but 8 weeks ago today we took our adult son to the E.R. and he was sent E.O.D. to a mental health facility. We are all so very fortunate. Medication, excellent counseling and determined effort on his part have effected a positive change beyond our expectations. There may very well be more challenges ahead but for now…peace and gratefulness. I pray Ste finds the same. I’m sending you love, light and virtual hugs.

  5. Barbara Schmidt says:

    Alison, my prayers for all of you. Sometimes our strength comes directly from God – there is no other explanation that makes as much sense. You continue to inspire strength in all of us with your dreams and with your honesty. I think I can relate to your unwanted feelings of anger – for 37 years, I wanted to prove to my husband that he is/was loved and lovable. But he never believed me completely. Why couldn’t the man just listen to my words, my reasoning?? I got angry, he got angry and still he didn’t get it! Ultimately I learned nobody could MAKE him FEEL loved. Feelings belong to oneself. So I began just loving for love’s sake. When he accepted my love (in words, actions), it was wonderful, but I loved him all the time anyway and- I prayed for God to bless him with a whole heart.
    May God bless you, Alison, and May you feel the strength of thousands of hugs holding you up. Thank you for sharing yourself with us.

  6. Gayla says:

    So… one of my favorite things on the world, words… they simply don’t do their job in times like these. Sending you love, strength, joy, and wisdom… xx. Gayla

  7. Gail says:

    I hurt for you and your family. I, too, have been through terrible pain in my life and have come to the conclusioin that life includes pain. Every hard thing I’ve been through has pressed me in to God. My trials have taught me things about Him that no one can take away from me. I pray this for you and yours. I encourage you to visit an Al-Anon meeting. Even if your love is not addicted, the principles of the program can help greatly with how to let go and let God . The 12 step approach has been a life-saver for me in dealing with other people’s problems. Thank you for your honesty and openness.

  8. Deborah Newbound says:

    Oh Alison! I am so sorry that you are needing to deal with all this. Thank you so much for sharing with us. I am holding you and yours in prayer. Bless you xx

  9. Linda Concoby says:

    Alison, you are so typically brave to share. I hold you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. I read you are putting one foot in front of the other, breathing, and enjoying the simple things, using some of the best healing tools. I have been blessed by your work, and look forward to all the good that’s next for you and yours. May you feel God holding you close.

  10. koma says:

    Oh, sweet Alison, I have no words to add to the beautiful ones the lovely ladies here have shared…it is heart-wrenching to know you are facing such difficulty, such fear, such upsetting turmoil. I, as they, all hold you in our heart, tightly. We adore you, and will always be here for you, ready to help in any way we can. Know, this too shall pass…Much love.

  11. Janette says:

    Please know that perimenopause is a bitch. The blood and the hormones. I was exhausted, and either in tears or raging uncontrollably for years. Get thee to a good doctor. Tell him/her everything – every little symptom – it feels good to reel them off, from minor to major… S/he will reassure you that this is perfectly natural, and that it will pass. Get a full blood test. Mine turned out to have almost zero vitamin D, among other things. I was offered hormones, but didn’t take them. The relief of learning that this is something we have to go through, and that it does end eventually, was the medicine I needed. You have been pregnant, and given birth. Do you remember all that hormonal crap? Even in a perfect world it would be appalling. When you have troubles on top, it feels unbearable. You are quite sane, and capable of living through this. Just know that your body is messing with you.
    Demand back the love and attention you have been giving to Ste, while you are going through this. Explain to him it is a biological process, and you need his nursing, just as you would if you had a major operation. He might feel he doesn’t have it in him right now, but nor did you, and you pulled it out of somewhere. It will do him good to get out of himself and focus on you for a while.
    This WILL pass.

    1. Janette says:

      Oh and I forgot to mention the perimenopausal brainfog. Words WILL abandon you. You WILL forget so much. But that passes also. Just try not to make any major decisions while fogged…

      1. Jennifer says:

        Janette, thank you for your wise words. They were not meant for me, but I take comfort in them, all the same.

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