Thursday, June 01, 2006

Without the sorrows of life, the joys would not exist

Yesterday I was sitting here in tears, feeling completely lost, typing, “The first 5 months of this year should have been filled with all the best things to celebrate… but it’s been just about the worst 5 months I’ve had in a long time...”

And oddly enough, this is where I’ll insert one of those blog quizzes. You’ll see why in a minute.

What your face says about you

What Your Face Says

At first glance, people see you as warm and well-balanced.

Overall, your true self is reserved and logical.

With friends, you seem dramatic, lively, and quick to react.

In love, you seem like a huge flirt.

In stressful situations, you seem like you're oblivious to the stress.

Forget everything else: In stressful situations you seem like you’re oblivious to the stress.

When I did this test a few days ago and read that, I thought, “Bullshit. Me? I wear my heart on my sleeve. Speak before I think. Lash out. Fly off the handle, regret it later…” But when I thought about the reason for this post, I realized that part of the assessment wasn’t as far off as I’d originally thought.

The truth is, in a real crisis, I usually tend to hold things together, make everything look like it’s fine, and then, when disaster has been averted, the threat is over, I collapse.

Yesterday’s post generated some fascinating discussion in the comments, and one of the things I referenced was the history of mental illness in my mother’s family. Her father died at a mental institution. When I was 17, I dealt with my mother after one of her many suicide attempts. I woke up in the middle of the night and just knew something was wrong. Couldn’t put my finger on it right away. The house was cloaked in the black of night and the absence of sound that so often goes with it. Then I heard something, and things always sound louder cutting through silence. I remember I was moving before I really thought, running downstairs, to my office. My mother was screaming and furniture was being knocked around – she was screaming, “Get away,” amongst other things.

I thought she was being attacked. When I grabbed the door handle, it was locked. I was banging on the door, screaming, “Let me in” and she was inside screaming, “Let me out.” When she finally got the lock off the door, I looked at the window, expecting it to be broken or open with evidence of someone fleeing the scene.

It wasn’t.

Didn’t take long to put it all together. She’d overdosed, and not on any conventional pills but on some nasty shit. It was a 20 minute drive to the hospital and by then the delusions were so bad she fought off the attendants who tried to take her inside.

Four days in intensive care before they could stabilize her heart. And then it was off to the mental institution for the required psychiatric assessment after a suicide attempt. Same institution her dad died in.

As many of you know, 8.5 years after walking out of my life, my mother reappeared a few months ago. She met my husband for the first time, met two of her grandchildren for the first time.

And one of the things I told her right out was that we expected her to be getting care for her condition in order to be part of our lives. Because, as I told her, with Kevin’s brother having shot himself, there was no way I was putting him – or anyone else – through the rollercoaster of wondering when the next time was coming, when someone would call.

I’m not trying to pick on my mother. Truth is, things have been going fine, much better than I would have thought in many respects. Still, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t stressful. But it’s stressful largely because of me. My fears. Things I begin to realize that I still haven’t really worked through, although I thought I had.

I persuaded myself a long time ago that being open about things meant there were no secrets people could wield over you like a weapon, use to hurt you. I’ve since learned that theory is absolute shit. People just find other ways to hurt you.

I’ve been hurt by a lot of people this year, and I’ve blogged about it months back, so I won’t bore anyone with a recap. I’ve also been through the family situation, and I won’t bore you with more of that either. Plus, there’s been death, not to mention the fucking energy company that we’re now in legal wrangling with over them stealing our mineral rights, but again, that’s another story. And there are other things I haven’t even gone on record here about.

It’s just all built up into a lot of stress. I hadn’t really realized how bad it had gotten until the past few weeks, when I started feeling like I was coming unglued. I was crying when people sent me emails, for crying out loud. I forgot our engagement anniversary, which is the one we usually celebrate because our wedding anniversary falls on Wordfest. Last year, we went away for a weekend… This year, I didn’t even know what day it was. It’s pretty fucking bad when your husband’s showing you up with remembering all the important dates and you’re looking like an imbecile.

And now, just as I was starting to sort through some of this, I’ve realized that I failed somebody I considered a good friend.

I’m one of those people who can talk tough sometimes, and then I’ll go to my room and cry. I know a few weeks back, after an email from someone in that writer’s group I used to be in, I posted a remark about people who wanted to jump to conclusions without finding out the facts first could go fuck themselves.

If only it was so simple and I really didn’t give a shit. But I do. And there are days I absolutely hate that I care.

Something I should have done a few weeks ago, at least, was go on the record and tell you guys that if I’m not always commenting or responding as quick as usual, it isn’t personal. I’m still blog surfing but commenting less at the moment, out of sheer time pressures, although I’m much better with blogs than some other things. I’m still averaging close to 200 emails per day and although I’m staying on top of most of them quickly, the ones that require more time and attention seem to be suffering delays sometimes.

And it’s only going to get worse for the next bit. I’ve condensed the notes from my 10.5 hour critiquing session last week down to 23 pages of things to look at in one manuscript. Plus, my editor has promised goodies for me next week.

Which means work.

So, if you don’t see me, it isn’t that I don’t care. It isn’t even that I’m wrapped up in my own self-absorbed bubble and can’t be arsed to think about anyone else. It isn’t even that I’m not reading.

Truthfully, part of the reason this year has been really good and that I still can see a lot of positives in it is because I’ve had some friends who’ve stood behind me through thick and thin and been there when I’ve needed them.

I hope they know who they are.

The new Spinetingler should be up soon and you’ll get to read my conversation with Cornelia Read if you want to. One of the things she talks about is writing thank-you cards and wanting to show appreciation for those who’ve helped her.

And yet, we both lamented over how insane our schedules have become in the past few months, and how it’s getting harder and harder to do all the things we want to do… Truth is, there have been a lot of great things happen this year, and I'm still pretty excited. I don't want anyone to think I'm not grateful. I just feel as though my head's about to explode some days, but it's getting better.

Or so I keep telling myself.

One of the sucky things about my ms is that I have to weed out my musical references to Bruce Cockburn because I’ve been told he’s not well known in the US. But one of his songs rings true for me for how I’ve been feeling lately, and so I will share this here:

Sunset is an angel weeping
Holding out a bloody sword
No matter how I squint I cannot
Make out what it's pointing toward
Sometimes you feel like you live too long
Days drip slowly on the page
You catch yourself
Pacing the cage

- Bruce Cockburn

I’m going to try to deal with my personal stresses better, and hopefully not let anybody else down. As much as I know I have a lot of work to do this next month, the good news is, it’s my work and I can control my schedule.

Hopefully, when the dust settles, some of you will still be talking to me too. And even if I don’t seem to be around, don’t be shy. I want to hear from everyone. And help out however I can, if I can.

In light of yesterday’s post and stimulating conversation, I bring you this pearl of wisdom:

And, in very good news, polygamy has been legally recognized in Canada.

I hope Kevin can find a second wife that likes to cook and clean so I don’t have to.


S. W. Vaughn said...


I'll still be here, Sandra. While you're going through this, don't forget to take care of you, too.

JT Ellison said...

Me too. You are an huge asset to this community in so many ways. Hugs, kisses and an RX for bath and kitty therapy.

Patti Abbott said...

Sandra_ I'll be thinking about you and hoping things improve. Patti

angie said...

I feel fairly certain that your hubby doesn't think you're an imbecile. As for a potential sister/wife, my hubby swears that one woman is all he can manage. I think you're safe there.

And good grief! Don't go all apologetic for having to take care of yourself & your business. It HAS been a challenging year for you - even the good stuff can be stressful (novel approaching publication, mom reappearing in your life, etc.). You're doing just fine & ya gotta know there are plenty of folks who are happy to give whatever support you're willing to ask for. That includes moi!

JamesO said...

200 emails a day! I'd have a heart attack if I had to deal with that many a month.

In my occasional forays into blogdom, I've seen how you read everything and put so much effort into commenting - it's probably the main reason your blog gets so many hits; you work damned hard at it Sandra. So you've every right to blow off occasionally. I'll still be here when you get back.

And I was going to send you an email, but I'll not block up your inbox any more than necessary. Just to say have a happy birthday:)#

Trace said...

I have an idea of what you're feeling, Sandra. Since last fall my life has been insane. So much crappy shit going on, but good stuff as well. I don't even know how I've made it from Dec now but I've found a way, with lots of crying my eyes out.

The rest of the year, when things settle down, has GOT to be better because this was one of the worst fucking years of my life, and one of the best. Very strange shit.

Sandra Ruttan said...

ALL OF YOU, thanks. Really. I appreciate the support. SW, thanks for the hugs. Patti, thanks for helping out this month with Spinetingler. JT, yeah, a bath sounds nice...

Angie, I'm all for the sister wife IF she does the cleaning. Besides, polygamy can work both ways, right?

And James, I love getting emails. Love love love. And I know that you're ahead of those of us living over here in the colonies, but it isn't quite my birthday yet!

Aw, crap, there's something else I need to do. Make a birthday list. I have a feeling I'm forgetting everyone.

And I don't want anyone being afraid to ask me for anything. If it's within me to do it, it'll be done, and I don't mind. Really. I'm going to manage my time better so I can get more done.

And Trace, yeah, if there's one person who's had a real topsy-turvy year, it's you. My word, we seem to be twins! I hope you're doing a good job taking care of yourself, too.

Flood said...

Yay! I am so with you on the second wife business.

JT Ellison said...

I forgot to tell you, my face is the same as yours. Finally, a blatant triplet moment!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Hi Flood - yeah, it's all about spin. I'm fine with two husbands as long as they both support me financially and get someone else to iron their shirts.

JT, if Brett comes up with that, it'll be a really freaky moment!

Anonymous said...

I hope the next 5 months are a 180 degree turn around. :)

M. G. Tarquini said...

What support you need from me, you got.

Brett Battles said...

Sandra, I'm absolutely always here for you (remember I have your old couch.) And don't worry about momentarily falling out of touch, YOU'RE WORKING! That's a good thing. got the same face as you and JT....weird...

(By the way, sometimes it sucks being on the west coast. i think I'm responding early, but there are already a dozen other posts...I'm not slow, just Pacfic Standard Time constrained.)

Sandra Ruttan said...

Thanks Jason and Mindy. Mindy, I'll send you an address to forward those support cheques...

Brett, OMG! We are triplets!!! Even if I have blue eyes.

And I'm on Mountain Standard Time, so I'm only one hour ahead of you! So we're challenged together. But that means I get older later than James and everyone else. So, it isn't all bad.

Dana Y. T. Lin said...

That's it, we're moving to Canada - about time hubs got another womb to do the childbearing.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

I tried to come up with something snarky and witty to say, but I'm all out.

Best to you. Stress is an asskicker. Take care of yourself and be well.

JamesO said...

I know it's not today, but I was trying to be economical - blog comment and birthday wishes all in one. You sounded like you needed cheering up;}#

So here's another song lyric that's probably apposite:

Green grass grows around the back yard shithouse
And that is where the sweetest flowers bloom
We are flowers growing in God's garden
And that is why he spreads the shit around

- David Byrne

And yeah, I am calling you a flower. Want to make something of it?

Sandra Ruttan said...

Dana, LOL! Yeah, give those stretch marks to someone else.

Stephen, you entertain me on a regular basis. Hmmm, no way to take that wrong, is there? But thanks.

James, what a lovely song. Splendid. Not sure if I qualify as a proper flower, though. Maybe a dandelion. Is a dandelion a weed? I know more about shit than flowers.

Christa M. Miller said...

I'm with everyone else. No need to apologize. I've been lurking too because of time issues, and the family stuff... well, you know. (((HUGS))) and good thoughts to you. I think the people who care the most are the ones who get hurt the most... because they risk the most for others' sakes. You're one of those people, and I look up to you. Take care sweetie, and remember I'm here anytime.

anne frasier said...

hugs, sandra!

and i think the bruce cockburn business is total bullshit. that's one thing i'd be tempted to leave in.

i have a mentally unstable mother we haven't heard from in almost 30 years, so i can relate to that aspect of your life. i have no idea what i'd do if she suddenly showed up. probably run like hell, then stop and vomit.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Thanks Christa - I certainly know you've been busy! One of these days, we'll catch up properly!

Anne, cool re: Bruce Cockburn! I love Bruce Cockburn.

30 years? Wow, that would be a real shock if she did show up. Your anticipated reaction sounds familiar, though!

corneliaread said...

My sweetie, I'm running off to the airport, will write when I return... HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!! YOU FUCKING ROCK!!!!!!

Love, C

Boy Kim said...

Ride on, Blabberwoman.

Andrea at Lochthyme said...

Sandra! Please don't forget to take time for yourself. Stop and smell the roses and get some kitten hugging time in. :0 I hope things slow down for you and all great things come your way from now on!! Smiles & hugs to you.

Amra Pajalic said...

Sounds like a mo-fo of a year. I had one like it in 2004. The hardest year of my life. The good news is-once you move on from all the stuff giving you grief-you will never sink this low again.

Be kind to yourself. Sometimes you have to let some things go to save your sanity. So pick your priorities and drop a few balls. And trust in the fact that the people supporting you will be there no matter what.

I was reading Anne Bishop and there was this beautiful image that kept popping up about everyone having their season. Their time. This is yours. Try to enjoy it. And remember, we'll all be here for you. Your blog is an addiction, not a choice.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Hey C, wish it had worked out for me to be on a plane too. Well, September then. With cheese. Instead of Seattle with Lee, sigh.

Andrea, thx. You do so much to lighten my load, you're fantastic. (Andrea pretty much runs the Spinetingler review site, guys.)

Amra, an addiction! That's excellent. Soon the whole world will be filled with Sandraslaves who can't give up their habit. My evil plan is working!

Brett Battles said...

Look at all the wonderful friends you have. Most who you haven't even met in person.

That's really cool, Sandra. And all of them are here because of you.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Maybe if they'd met me they wouldn't be here!

Lisa Hunter said...

Sounds like you have the material for a kick-ass memoir if you ever tire of fiction.

Evil Kev said...


This is the beginning of the most exciting chapter of your life. I can only imagine where you will be in a year from now.

Here is the chorus of my favourite Cyndi Lauper song:

"if you're lost you can look--and you will find me
time after time
if you fall I will catch you--I'll be waiting
time after time "

Happy Birthday Baby!


I am so glad to hear you see the upside of polygamy. It will make Monday so much easier.

For The Trees said...

Sandra, my apologies to you for not being in a place where I can tell you good stuff about bipolar disorder and getting rid of stress. I read your post and think of all the times I've been up against the wall, and how the stress always caused the worst depressions...I'm hoping you don't have the same syndrome.

You've got to take some pressure off. Yeah, yeah, I know you care too much, you have an open heart to all this stuff that's wrong with the world, like your post on the crazy children and the failures of parents. Well, that's good, in that you care. That sucks, in that you get all swept up in it and can't get your head outta your ass long enough to be balanced about it all.

And it's beautiful how you talk about the things you care about. But you gotta get rid of some of that stress. Start by getting your head straight about your mother. That's a biggie, one from the past you can't change. The only thing you can change about that mess is your own perception and attitude toward it. And changing that attitude and perception won't make it go away, it will only get you more trials, because you're dealing with SOMEONE ELSE. Who you can't control. So you gotta set your limits and let go of them past that limit.

I feel like such an ineffective asshole here, I can't think of anything to say that will help. And then I remember how I felt when I was in the throes of a stress-filled dilemma, and how all the best advice in the world wouldn't have helped, I had to go through it on my own.

So I'll stop with the advice. I'll offer you a shoulder, I'll tell you to write it out on your blog posts, I'll tell you to turn to Kev for support and succor, and I'll pray for you, too. Actually the prayers look like incense sticks burning with $100 bills tacked up to soak up the smoke.

It might help to just step out for a bit. I'm being yanked out of my own hellhole by my buddy Jim, who has wrestled me to the ground several times this past week until I gave in and decided to go outta town for a day this weekend. He and Don and I are gonna go do an art show. So I'm going to be forced out of my pocket. I know it'll do me good - the space will give me room to think about my situation. You might try that. If Kev can't go, get a motel room somewhere far enough away to preclude just getting up and coming home, and rest. Even for a day is separation from the stress.

I'm here, I'm reading your blog like you've been reading mine, and I'll support you all the way, even though you're gonna have a birthday and I don't have anything to send you as a gift.

Wish I were there to sit and listen, it always seemed to be the best thing to happen to me when I was down.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I can tell you that you will get through it and be better for it, but right now it probably doesn't feel that way.

Hang on tho your sweet little kitties for solice and i try to find some other cat pix to cheer you up!

Bill, the Wildcat said...

Sandra, I hope things start to look better for you. I know how nasty things can get and how lousy a person can feel when things just keep getting worse and you're asking yourself, "When the hell do I get to hit bottom so I can finally climb out of this damn hole?" I've had my share of moments like that over the years, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone, not even someone I hate.

Daniel Hatadi said...

Stress can build up, bit by bit, maybe so you don't even notice it, and then, BOOM, it all comes out. Better to have a good cry and let it come out that way. I hope the dust settles.

200 emails a day, and lord knows how many blogs. I feel very chuffed to be counted among one of the blogs you read and take the time to put such thoughtful comments on.

Take all the time you need and don't ever feel you have to justify not commenting or blogging when you are doing the most important work a writer can do: writing.

And hey, Kevin's not the only male that's capable of remembering all the special dates. My 'missus' lets me and my immense brain take care of those particular duties.

Bloody useless Virgo she is.