The Unravelling (Or Phoenix Rising)
In the midst of the unravelling, on a relatively good day. Smiling was hard.
I wrote this piece for my Telling True Stories Course and it was pretty freaking hard. Once I convinced myself that I was just writing it for me, and nobody but the teacher and the other students in the class would see it, the writing came easier. After I was done, and despite being completely terrified at the thought of someone else reading this, I knew I had to share it. After all, that's why I'm taking this course...to practice being vulnerable and authentic, 'brave and afraid', because I've reached a point in my life where I just can't tolerate being anything else.
When I asked my husband if he minded that I share this with you, as always, he was supportive, even though this is as much about him as it is about me. This piece reflects a period in my life when I honestly never thought I'd feel alive again. Turns out, I was wrong......
She remembers standing in the entrance way, feeling like she was about to burst into flame and melt into the floor. He was getting their baby daughter dressed, of course. Because he was always the fucking hero. The complete collapse of his world, only seemed to make him stronger. It seemed to give him more resolve, more patience, and more courage.
She was just the one who bared witness to it all. The really bad things never actually happened ‘to’ her, they happened in her sphere, which everyone knows, is not the same thing.
She wasn’t the one who was brutally attacked in the parking lot, after stopping for an innocent drink on the way home from the birthday party. Yes she was there, and she tried with all her might to stop it from happening, but her face still looked the same. Once her bruises healed, she didn’t have to step out into the world bearing the physical scars of what had happened. She faced them every day, but at least not in the mirror. That was his burden to carry. So naturally, it should have been him who couldn’t cope.
She wasn’t the one who delivered the eulogy at his 53 year old mother’s funeral, with unhealed scars and half a nose. She was just there, holding his hand and loving his family.
She wasn’t the one whose dear friend had hit a rock cut and died, only a few months prior. She just sat next to him, as he grieved in the church and at home.
She wasn’t the one who endured endless surgeries and treatments to reconstruct her face. She just rested for 6 weeks in the hospital before their son could be brought safely into the world, they hoped.
She wasn’t the one who walked out of the bush with a 6 inch gaping wound in her leg, carrying her son to his mother. No, she wasn’t the one, gushing blood, who insisted on driving herself to the rural hospital. She just waited with the babies, for someone to call her and tell her how he was.
She wasn’t the one who ended up back in the hospital with a life threatening infection, two weeks after their daughter was born. She just stayed home, and tended to the children by herself.
So, what right did she have to be feeling this way? What right did she have to be the one to fall apart?
Sure, she kept moving and smiling and caring for babies in the womb and in the world, attempting to maintain some semblance of normalcy, as the bombs dropped one by one. She kept standing, and cleaning the house, and talking to friends, and going to work, and comforting him, even as she simultaneously witnessed her own family of origin, slowly rotting from the inside out, a result of self-inflicted wounds.
Because really, what else could she do? None of this was happening directly to her, so how fucking dare she have the gall to be the one to come undone?
At least, she had the decency to wait a while. She made sure he was really o.k., before she allowed the unravelling to happen. But once it started, she couldn’t reel it in. She had never had the experience of being completely powerless over her body and mind before. It was terrifying.
She never meant for it to turn into yet another ordeal. That was the last thing they needed - another goddamn ordeal. She never meant to be off work for a year, unable to even look after their children like a proper mother. She never meant to have to rely on him, or on anyone else, to look after her, or hold her together. She never meant to have one unbearable situation, turn into another. She honestly never meant it.
But when a dam bursts, there isn’t much you can do, until all the water runs out.
The unravelling, left her in a formless heap. She lay in waiting, for someone to come and shape her into whatever she was to become. She hoped it would resemble something human. The ones who came, or hung around during the process, didn’t really know how to help when it was over. They did their best, but when a person has never truly come unravelled before, how can they possibly know what it takes, to fix it?
In the end, she realized that if, and what she became, was up to her alone. So she decided to be a phoenix, and set about the arduous business of re-shaping herself.