I’m the bad guy. Again. The one who holds the world at bay behind my arms, and the weight of all of it on my back, yet I’m still the bad guy.
Today the world was iced with white; the blackberries, bent and shivering with lashed ridges of frost scarring their backs, and a smokey breath rising from the depths of the sound to dance and shimmer across its glassy surface. Ducks flashed low in the sky, just reaching the evergreen tips of furry cedar and pine that made up the horizon while gulls flocked in groggy companionship, circling the bay like a dust-devil full of cottony puffs. To the east the sun doggedly climbed the sky, ever so slowly, powerless and weak in the face of this arctic chill. I sat alone at the waters edge amongst sugared sandy dunes frozen into yesterdays tracks. In the bay two seals cut the surface, their sleek faces golden in the morning sun; effortless and graceful. They peek at me through the steamy mist that is still rising in praise of the sun, and I find myself lost in whimsey, wanting to curl into the sea with them and vanish silently beneath those silky waves. I imagine their world isn’t as idyllic as it seems. Below the surface lurk large, wolflike predators hungry for the taste of their flesh, and innumerable obstacles and threats that keep them on their toes. …… Yet still, what I wouldn’t trade for a few serene moments of gliding on the surface rather than being constantly dragged along this muddy bottom.
My daughter, the child I carried within me, protected and safe, has decided I’ve betrayed her. I have not. She sees the world with young impressionable eyes that have yet to master the skill of focusing beyond her own reach. To her eyes, the conversation I had with a school counselor regarding the many weeks absences that have pockmarked her attendance throughout this high school experience were the betrayal. Having explained to him the finer points of depression and bi-polar wasn’t a task I cherished. But I am the one sent before the executioner, the do-er of evil deeds and the cleaner-upper of all things ugly and mortal. There is no one else who will fight for her; I am the only advocate. But in being this person I have become the enemy. The one who won’t let her give in to the howling in her head when it would be so much easier to simply allow her to give herself over to the darkness. In protecting her from herself I am the limiter. The bondsman. The dark overlord. Gone is the facade of mother, nurturer, caregiver and protector. I am stripped of my own fragile humanity and stuffed in the stocks to accept the criticism and bad moods of those who pass by. I am ignored. Unforgiven and cast out….. yet I can’t walk away, even when I would love to do nothing more.
Somewhere along the way I’ve slipped below the surface of visibility. I feel hunted, butchered, and run out. My very heart has been eviscerated more times than I can count, and I’ve had to live with the shreds of it that are left in this hollow chest of mine. This chill in the air is freezing the last stringy remnants of what was once a bold and courageous heart. I no longer want the weight of responsibility; a soul void of its value is no more than an empty vault, bereft of oxygen and sunlight.
I have kept trying, but the energy behind me is waning; I’ve nowhere and no one by which means I can recharge this thing called “Jane”. Yet still the sun climbs for the sky, and still the clouds move in to cover her ascent, making the effort of her rise inconsequential. Her warmth won’t be felt today; her face and efforts will remain unseen.
I watch as the seals slip away, turning from this frozen surface to find warmer depths in darker fathoms. The ripples they wore across the surface fade and run out, leaving nothing to remember them by. Time skips by across the frozen and darkening sky above me. I make no move to catch it and bask in the moment; I rise and walk from the waters edge, crunching and reshaping the dunes before me. I leave nothing but footprints; sandy ripples that topple and cave into shapeless pits behind me. No one will know I spent the morning here beside myself. Other minds won’t recall the things I’ve seen, as they are mine alone. Without my memory of them the moments on the beach this morning will never exist, and I have to wonder if I’m enough to preserve them.
I return to my home; empty, chilly, and isolated as it sits in the shadows. The dogs shiver and whine as I walk through the front door, begging me to turn up the heat. I wish I could…. I simply can’t afford it. So today I’ll play like the sun and hide behind grey covers to sleep away the day. Later I’ll rise and return to the school where I dropped my daughter off this morning. No doubt I’ll be receiving the silent treatment, yet still I’ll continue to go; picking her up, dropping her off, and enduring her moody endeavors to make me feel the cad. … I focus my eyes on a horizon I cannot see, yet I know must surely be there. For now, the possibility of its existence is all I have to warm this frozen heart of mine, and that will have to suffice. Once I make it through to tomorrow perhaps there will be a thaw, and I can take a deep breath before plunging into the fathoms of my own life. …… some days …. I would rather be a seal than a mother.