SURVIVING THE RISE

Me, 1968

Me, 1968

I don’t want to die without any scars.
— Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Only after disaster can we be resurrected. It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything. Nothing is static, everything is evolving, everything is falling apart.
— Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Nobody can hurt me without my permission.
— Mahatma Gandhi
There’s a moment in fighting when strength of muscle ain’t everything because enemy has already given you enough energy to gain the victory.
— Toba Beta
It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.
— Vince Lombardi
You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.
— Margaret Thatcher
We shall heal our wounds, collect our dead and continue fighting.
— Mao Tse-Tung

Yesterday, it was unseasonably warm and bright here.  It tried to offer me hope, but it need not have worried so much.  Thank you, Yesterday, but I am my grandmother’s child.  I cannot help myself.

It would be much easier if I were made of something else, something more sensible and human.  Most of the time, I do not enjoy being here.  There is too much pain and carelessness and self-indulgence and all of it cuts and beats and blocks the sun too often.  But then again, once is too much, isn’t it?  Yes, self pity would be the obvious go-to for my experiences and living.  Did I deserve that childhood?  That abusive husband?  A family who needed for me to be the black sheep?  A child who couldn’t love me?  Poverty/single parenthood?  The loss of a career?

I refuse to answer that question.  Doing so would mean that I would be omnipotent in my judgment.  Maybe so . . . maybe not . . . maybe sometimes . . . maybe never.  This post is not about my suffering.  Others have suffered much more than I could ever know and I am no fool when it comes to grief competition.  No one ever wins.  No, this post is about a horrible flaw/curse/blessing that resides inside of me and will not let me be.  This post is about rising.

When I was in my teens and living on the street, I fought for money.  Sometimes girls, sometimes boys.  I lost only once–not because I was stronger or faster or a Jedi knight, but because of my horrible inability to just stay down.  (I lost to a very large woman who sat on me.  I still say that’s cheating.) I’ve had my jaw broken, my ribs shattered, my lip busted clean through and my dumb ass still grapples for the dirt and pushes back up for more.  I would never be able to scream if someone were actually killing me because I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of knowing my horror.  I have had a few pets like this who just will not die until there is literally no explanation for the simple fact that they are still breathing.  And yet, they will howl against it and try to stand again just to get in my lap.  It’s truly an excruciating thing to watch. (It happened again just a few days ago.  For that, I spent the last of my money on a cremation.  Bless his fierce love.)   That must be how the people in my life feel from time to time, and for that, I am truly sorry.

I remember losing my dad suddenly in his early fifties two days before the end of the semester (grad school).  Dr. X sent a message that I did not, after all, have to show up and present my research with the rest of the class due to my grief.  I did, snot and all, because that’s what I do.  My daughter was in a fierce car wreck during finals.  I wrote the essay at the hospital.  (Not my best work, but there you go.)  I lost my baby girl in the middle of a semester while teaching an eight a.m. English course.  The next day, I sobbed my way through “Why We Write” and kept two office hours with blood soaking my pad.  I stood last year and shook hands with the “official” that tried to take my dignity away whilst breaking my family’s financial security and smiled (and threw up in the bathroom, but still).  Incapable.  I just cannot stay down.

Once, many years ago, I was raped by two men while going for milk in the middle of the night for my sons.  As the first one unzipped his pants, I made a snap decision: I lifted my head and slammed it into the concrete curb of that back alley and knocked myself clean the hell out.  They raped me, hurt me, and I stayed in the hospital for days: but I have no memory of the event.

In my estimation, I won.  We told everyone that I had pneumonia.  And that was that.

I know.  It sounds as if I have no feelings.  You would be stone cold wrong about that.

There’s this “thing” inside of me that will not stay down.  It makes things rough, not easy.  So many smooth roads in my memory to which I’ve thrown up my middle finger.  If I have loved you, you have been told–even as you walk out the door.  If I have found you to be dishonorable, I have railed against it in spite of threats and loss of friendship.  Now, this doesn’t make me more noble than anyone else.  It’s just that “thing” in me that will not stay down.

And I hate it.  So, there’s your moment.  Now, how noble is that?

There have been times, very dark ones, in which I have wished that I had married for money, taught high school, kept my mouth shut and my head down.  Wished it in retrospect, because in the moment: I cannot help it.  There was this beautiful man named James Foley who once said:  “There’s physical courage, but that’s nothing compared to moral courage.”  I’m sure that he did not intend to die for his cause.  Some of us just don’t weigh things the same as others.  It’s a curse.

I had hoped that as I grew older this “thing” would get calmer, but alas: it has almost outgrown my frame.  When it is big enough to crack my skin, my bones will finally just stay down.  Hopefully, the rest of me will still rise.

I know that I am exhausting to anyone who loves me.  RB once told me: “We are not like you.  You cannot expect the rest of us to be like you.”  It taught me to be more patient.  But it did nothing to quell my illogically unconquerable spirit.  I wish it had.  This thing in me is not my personality.  It is not my appearance.  It is not my desire.  I have begun to think that it is a soul.

And I cannot save myself from it.

For those of you who have wondered what happened to that law suit: I can only legally state (according to my attorney) that:  “It was satisfied.”  I cannot answer other questions without bringing my home into jeopardy.  Please understand this.  And remember what I did on that curb that day?  And how I felt after?  Like that.  So be it:  it is done.

I can state, though, that I always get back up.

I know that I haven’t used my SFW voice yet.  Shall I?

I was four when I slipped and busted my lip on that sidewalk.  I don’t have memory of why, only the sting and salt and copper taste of it and the way I wanted to hit it back.  She stood over me and told me to “get on up, now. That sidewalk don’t care if yor mad.  Stand up!”  And I did.  And I never stopped doing it.  And I reckon that sidewalk never got its druthers.

And it never will.

Next time I blog, let’s talk about gardening.  

Blessed Be,
Seba

Seba O'KileyComment