Wednesday, October 14, 2020

A Sad So Big- ROW80 - Preptober


iz gonna haz a boo kwissmus wifowt U

I woke up Monday morning before dawn after less than seven hours of sleep and in spite of having taken a double dose of the Trazadone as I lay down hoping for a solid 9 or 10 hours to make up for the short, erratic sleep all weekend, I was still awake thirty minutes later and the tears were already flowing again as they had been doing all weekend every time I woke enough to remember all over again.  

With Mom now sleeping inches away I could not let the silent weeping devolve into the shuddering gasping sobs and the only thing I knew that could nip it in the budding stage was to find a distraction.  So I sat up in the dark and pulled out my DVD player which was already loaded with the third disc of Game of Thrones season one.  Just as the opening titles finished there was a load explosive CLAP that seemed to surround the room or even suffuse the room.  My ears felt as they do when a July 4th celebrant sets off an M80 yards away.

My first thought was it was the story but I immediately realized there were no explosive devices in Game of Thrones.  I paused the player and pulled out the earbud just in time to hear the loud follow-up rumble of thunder and the sky opening up.  I got up and went to the front room to watch the rain fall and was reminded of this LOLcat I created as the first Christmas apart from Ed approached in 2013.  I had set such store in the hope of being home for Christmas that year and again every year that followed.  And though he had returned to Longview in 2016 we still had not resumed living together.  Sleepovers in his apartment did not count in my mind and heart as 'coming home for Christmas'.

Now it will never be.

I knew this in June when I made the choice to break up to protect my self.  I knew this season was going to be rough as between his birthday in September all the way through the anniversary of our last sleepover in mid March just before Covid shelter-in-place rules took effect there are few weeks without a holiday, birthday, anniversary or strong memory attached.  I knew it with my head anyway.  And I had just made it through the week of his birthday with barely a blip in mood change and was congratulating myself on that in the four days before the phone call that shattered my world all over again.

Have still not begun to write in either my journal or other files.  This seems to be the only place I can make the words flow.  I think it is because in order to 'speak' to an audience I must stand back from the rawness of my emotions put on at least a pretense of objective reportage.  Also I've put up fences around certain topics that still feel taboo (inappropriate sharing) for blogging and it is exactly in those areas where the emotions are the rawest and the tears most ready.  I can see how that contributes to the post editor feeling like a safer place than my journal.

I was mystified all weekend as to why my emotional state had devolved so drastically from the initial days which I had thought at the time were really bad.  The last five days has been exponentially worse.   I came to realize in the last day or so that what changed was the infusion of anger into the grief.  

Unconscious anger until yesterday.

There are layers to this dynamic for me.  There is the fairly typical grieving process anger that's to be expected according to the stages-of-grief literature.  But as complex as that is it is greatly exasperated by the habitual suppression of anger that was ingrained in my psyche from toddlerhood on.  This too was at least two-fold because both of my parents family of origin were quite stoic and did not condone any expression of strong emotions from exuberance to exasperation.  

But anger was in a separate category all its own.  According to Scripture, we were told, God equates anger with murder.  There is a verse (I'm too tired to look it up right now so I'm paraphrasing) that claims that being angry with your brother is the same as wishing him dead and he who holds anger in his heart is as guilty of murder as the one who sheds blood.

Contrary to the Scriptural teachings of my childhood, psychological principles declare anger a natural, normal and even healthy response to the violation of ones boundaries. As much as I loved Ed, (love him still) there was a great deal in our relationship dynamic that was a trigger for anger. Not all of it could be blamed on the alcohol.   But I was not allowed to express such a response either outwardly or inwardly.  I could not most of the time even allow myself to be aware of it.

It wasn't Ed that forbid expression of anger it was my training and I was a very good enforcer of the rule in spite of the fact that he and his entire family were loud and rowdy with what seemed to me unfettered emotions running the entire gamut from glee to rage.  Sometimes just being around strong emotion even if it wasn't directed at me was enough to trigger my goto reactions.  First anxiety revving up from mild to panic attack level unless I was able to suppress or release the emotional charge.  

Guess how I did that?  


No matter what the strong emotion that was the only safe way for me to express it.  Safe for my psyche that is.  It's not like I got any positive feedback from anybody subjected to my tears from at least age five on. Not even in my family whose rules and attitudes set the framework up for my particular coping method .And I did get plenty of negative feedback.  Just not enough to override the 'rules' against expressing strong emotion.  

Complicating all of that is two more layers related to being female.  There is the western cultural zeitgeist that considers anger unfeminine and that would be plenty all by itself to flummox a woman from blushing bride to grieving widow.  Add to that the doctrinal demand that I was raised under that a wife must submit to her husband in all things.  A wife could no more say 'No' to her husband than a daughter could say 'No' to her father.

Now consider all of that in the light of the fact that I had consciously felt and acknowledged my anger last May when Ed froze me out again.  Two weeks in I not only acknowledged it I used it to fuel my determination to draw a line, to say 'This I will not accept!' 

I used my anger to name his withdrawal as abuse. 

I used it to stiffen my spine.  

I used it to dry up my tears.  

I used it to feel strong.  

I used it to give him a tongue lashing in the middle of his apartment complex parking lot.

I used it to accuse him of abandoning his disabled wife and dying mother.

I used it to amplify my outdoor voice on a summer day with an array of open apartment doors and windows, putting his and my shame on display.

I used it to stay resolute all summer.

Then I got the call.

The anger fled and grief took over for a time.

But now the anger is back but it is no longer making me feel strong.

Only wrong.

Tho I was not thinking about it at the time I knew that shame was his most potent drinking trigger. All I was thinking about was getting away, breaking the spell he had me under. I got back in the car, slammed the door and rode my anger across the river, leaving him with nowhere to hide from the public shaming except inside his apartment gripping an aluminum can.

It is almost as if some supernatural storyteller just wrote Joy's story to prove the truth of the 'biblical principle' that anger is the equivalent of murder.

What am I to do with this?


As for my goals below? The first six are satisfactory.  The rest--zip.

Backstory highlights and high and low notes:

The writing challenge that
 knows you have a life

NaNoWriMo 2020

2020 Round 4 ROW80 and NaNo goals:

  • Sleep 7.5 hours Daily Minimum --  This used to be a major challenge for me but I've got it managed since mid March.  Or at least I had until this past week.  Grief has taken a toll.
  • Move/Breathe/Meditate 15 min Daily minimum  -- proven to provide a high yield return on investment as whenever I've practiced any of them it stimulates creativity, memory, and insight; lowers anxiety, and increases energy, stamina and a positive mood.
  • Storydreaming with note-taking tools at hand. 15 min Daily MInimum -- This is a technique I learned from Robert Olen Butler in the book From Where You Dream.
  • Read Fiction 30 min Daily Average
  • Read/Study Craft 15 min Daily Average 
  • Social network activities 30 min Daily Minimum (writing Joystory posts doesn't count only social reaching out like reading/commenting on other blogs, guest posts and posting to fb, twitter, pinterest etc) -- something I've a strong resistance to.  The autism diagnosis helps explain this but doesn't let me off the hook.  If anything it makes it more important.  Plus this is preparing the ground for future promotion once I'm ready to publish
  • 30 min Daily minimum engagement with a scavenger hunt though all my creative writing files including Joystory looking for better than shitty first draft scenes, sections, stories, poems and essays and edit, organize and make hard copies. --  It's been years since I've made clean copies of manuscripts in my portfolios and for most of the noveling writing challenges I've never printed hardcopy.  That is a lot of words to mine as between 2004 and 2015 I participated in more than one such challenge per year-- Nanowrimo, Junowrimo, Camp Nano, ROW80 and Sweating for Sven.among them.  That is a lot of novella length WIP just gathering electron dust.  A conservative estimate is over 20.  I've been wondering for sometime now if the neglect of these stories after the challenges were over is at least partly responsible for the storyworld's elusiveness over the last several years.  I'm hoping that this exercise in honoring their existence will cure my character's recent shyness.
  • To prep for self-pub: Gather all my poems into a single Scrivener file. Minimum one poem per day until all accounted for.  Adding new ones encouraged.  This will take most of the Round as there are over 80. See Poems by Joy Renee Portal.  Another exercise in honoring old work to encourage new work.
  • Via the above mentioned Scavenger hunt: Collect everything resembling personal essay into a Scrivener file.  Either this will be added to the self-pup poetry ebook or will become the second ebook.  Or a combo of those options.
  • Personal Journaling 20 min or 500 words whichever comes first Daily Minimum -- This is the heart of the writing challenge.  The preceding provides the structure and the nutrients that nurtures and honors the work which I've learned over time must exist to ensure that this becomes more than just dabbling.
  • NaNo Novel 1666 words per day on average. Am going to rebel a bit and bring back a previous NaNo WIP and rework it.  It is fitting because it's premise was rooted in the dynamics of my own marriage. I'm hoping this can be an exercise in grief processing. It's title is The Storyteller's Spouse and it was an exercise in 'unreliable narrator'.  The wife in my story is a YA novelist and the husband is a life-of-the-party natural born storyteller aka raconteur aka tall-tale-teller. I think the reason I got discouraged with the effort after that NaNo ended was because I had tried to lay all the unreliableness at the feet of the husband not realizing how much the wife's denial about the extent to which his storytelling was not confined to social gatherings put her squarely in the same camp. Older and wiser now.
       Am tweaking this goal to combine Storytellers Spouse with another story.  I had forgotten that I've made it a tradition since 2008 to write my election year NaNo in the same storyworld as Mobile Hopes which is set in a mobile home park called Hope Estates.  Each of the novels is set during its election year and the families in the park are living the issues that dominate the campaigns: health, jobs, housing, immigration, women's rights, law and order, climate change, race relations and so on.  Alll I have to do is have the characters move into Hope Estates and share the novel with several other families and I don't have a reworking of an old NaNo but a new story in the Hope Estates series. 
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