February 27, 2019

spring street

"I'm sorry that I left you
With your questions, all alone,
But I was too happy driving
And too angry to drive home.
I was thinking about the easy courage
Of my distant friends;
They said I could let this bridge wash out
And never make amends."

-Dar Williams, "Spring Street"

It's a lot harder than it sounds.

It's much harder than it sounds.

I've counseled others - have looked them in the eye and given them validation, pointed out the toxic relationship they have with their mother, advocated cutting her off and freeing themselves from the influx of poison.  It sounded easy.  It seemed obvious.

It's so much harder than it sounds.

"It's not like you haven't given yourself the time and space to think about it," Therapist Gumby pointed out.  "Yeah," I said, lost inside myself.  "I blogged about it a year ago.  I've been blogging about it.  Due process and all that."

"And it hasn't gone away," he said quietly.

"You've had clients who have done this over the years.  What happened?  What was it like for them?"

He took a moment to think.  "Relief and guilt, just what you would expect," he finally said.  "The question is whether feeling like a shithead for going through with it is better or worse than that guilt.  Which is the less bad of two bad things?"

This is the crux.  I can deal with shithead-ness.  I've done things to push people away, people who will never speak to me again, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unwittingly.  Hurting someone else, anyone else, is anathema to me, but there have been times when it was necessary for self-preservation, and there have been times when I've recognized that I can live with it, the schism that becomes a dull ache, eventually pushed to the back of a shelf.

Yes, I can be a shithead.

"I'll push myself up through the dirt
And shake my petals free
I'm resolved to being born
And so resigned to bravery ...."

I chose last night to be a shithead.

I copied the carefully composed paragraph from Word and pasted it into the new e-mail window.  I fixed the font.  I read it once more, to be sure.  And I surprised myself when I didn't hesitate.  I let my gut drive, and I clicked on Send.

Google sent it.

I stared unfeeling at the word "Undo" and waited for it to disappear, in the neutral way I watch the timer on a microwave.  I waited thirty seconds.  The microwave beeped.  It was done.

Then I blocked her e-mail address in all of my accounts and blocked her phone number on the Verizon site.

("It will be like a hit-and-run," I told Therapist Gumby.  "Guerilla warfare.  She won't be able to fire back at me.  I wouldn't be able to withstand it if she did.  So it's the coward's way for me.  And I'm okay with that, because I can run away and hide.  I can be safe.")

I told P.J. what I had just done.  She came downstairs and hugged me.

Then I waited for the guilt to wash over me, but in these last hours, there has simply been the knowledge that Somebody Out There disapproves of me.  That Somebody is my mother, but I'm not sure that carries weight.  It could easily be someone I cut off in traffic.  It's telling that the disapproval isn't nearly enough to make me want to self-injure.

And then there is the sweet relief that tastes like liberty, that makes me float a little.  "Freedom Isn't Free," say the decals on cars.  No, it isn't.  War is a concept that is always on the horizon and sometimes comes true.  I will pay with some guilt and abstract condemnation, thoughts in my head.  None of the people I've encouraged to do this have gone through with it.  They chose the other path.  That, too, is its own form of condemnation.

But I'm free.  I will not dread her e-mail appearing in my inbox and I will not take three days to work up the courage to read it.  I will not cull trite things to write back, practicing the art of being someone else.  I will not quietly despise the passive-aggressive overtures made by the queen of half-assed gestures.  I will not feel so violated that I come near to retching when I read her words ... "I was reading back over some of your e-mails" ... I will not give her any more of myself.  I am mine, god damn it.  I am not hers.

I am free.  I am leaving.

"... The one who leaves this
Also grieves this ....
And that's to say that I'm leaving ....
It's spring everywhere."


  1. A pustulant wound hurts and is dangerous, it needs to be lanced and cleaned, which also hurts. It then becomes a different type of pain but it's clean and eventually heals. You are you and I love who you are.

    1. Remind me of this, when you see its weight hanging around my neck soon. Remind me.

  2. What a huge and scary step! Congratulations, sort of. You deserve the free air. <3

    1. The whole last verse has always reminded me of Missouri, actually:
      "And the one who leaves this also grieves this
      Too much rain on the prairie flood plain
      Houses flooding, love is like that,
      We built by the river
      And that's to say that I'm leaving
      But I don't have to go there
      I don't have to go to Spring Street
      It's spring everywhere."