Girlfriend on a bender
Was that the night I attempted to crash the dive bar? Where they kicked me out? Twice? In the spring, Martha, Joan, and I, drunk in a silly and giddy fashion, danced on the bar at that place. I was alone the night the guy at the door refused me admittance (no ID he said, though that hadn’t been a problem before). I was there with no connections, drunk and belligerent, a half-empty bottle of booze in my hand. Perhaps it was best that they refused to let me in.
The day after the pictured picnic, I was on the early shift at the restaurant. I vacuumed the carpet around and under the tables (off to the bathroom to puke); I took orders (off to the bathroom to puke); I delivered Tidewater sandwiches and baskets of warmed French bread with ramekins of whipped butter (off to the bathroom to puke). Maybe I’m conflating memories, but I think the staff meal that day, served at the end of the shift, was chicken liver cannelloni. I ate it with gusto, the alcohol having completed its poisonous circuit through the body. I needed protein and comfort. The chef was a damn good one, spent two months in France every year “researching” and, anyway, I ate those kinds of things back then, from rumaki to filet mignon to veal sweetbreads.
It was the summer of J, the summer of dumped D, the summer with a transition at the end, my move from Chestertown to Washington, DC. By my August move, Martha and I were not talking and I’d alienated J, though we were still together. By the following spring, Joan would become a frequent visitor to my odd Brookland group house of two. Martha didn’t come around until later, till the reunion over wine and white Russians (!) at dc space. So went life as a slightly fucked-up young adult, with friendships deepened by alcohol and overlapping dysfunction.
Seeing the picture brought me back in the way a nightmare returns you to a layer of panic you’d forgotten existed, the kind where you realize you haven’t gone to class all semester, or that you’ve been revealed for the fraud you really are, where you have to decide how to dispose of the body parts you’ve stashed in heavy-duty trash bags. I wouldn’t want to go back to that time, though I’m grateful (mostly) for the experience. Still, I miss the unguarded quality of those years, how I used to be more open with emotion. Generally, of course, caution is a good thing, at least in appropriate doses at appropriate moments. And the hysteria that was the main feature of my relationships back then is well under wraps. These days there is so much distance, so much static, between what goes on in my head and what comes out of my mouth. Perhaps this is inevitable, the battered nature of living past 35, with experiences that teach one to hold one’s tongue, the stodgy, rational nod to absolute self-control. Mostly, however, I don’t like feeling pent up. But sometimes I still don’t know where the middle ground lies between visceral conversations where I spill my own blood and polite presentations of filtered worries.
The psychiatrist who prescribes my medications passed on an app that tracks moods, Optimism. Every day, I fill in the amount of sleep I got, how well I ate, what my moods were like, how I coped with triggers, and so on, in order to chart my moods and their patterns, hopefully determining both what might lead to a bad day and keep track of how I’ve coped effectively. I highly recommend the app, not only because it helps establish patterns, but it offers reminders of our internal reserves, how we have it in ourselves to make choices that can (but not always) have positive effects on moods. For example, eating well, getting exercise, and socializing can all help with mood, as can getting a good night’s sleep (something that has eluded me since the arrival of Abilify). I have a choice in how I handle the moods, at least much of the time.
One way to cope, which isn’t mentioned or measured in the app, is not to “over-ruminate,” not to go back and focus on the bad stuff, to over-analyze what went before and what goes on now. Apparently women are champs at this sort of thing. This blog was forged on this sort of thing. It doesn’t do us any good, ladies. But the memories and my reactions of today are real. Let me offer an antidote to the sadness of the time: my friendships were rich then and the friendships I have now, in adulthood, are all the richer. I still know Joan and Martha, though we are no longer close. I can thank them in part for my connections to others today. I will always love them, too, and be grateful for their presence in my life.
Yesterday, I struggled mightily. Being one-on-one with the boy for a few days was taxing for both the boy and me; waiting for my understandably distracted husband to reappear and relieve me had its difficulties as well. The boy and I pulled through; my anger and fear dissipated when I finally got to talk to my husband after the bedtime routine. And I woke up this morning feeling better, ready to ready myself for school, which starts tomorrow morning with a 9:10 class on addictions. I’m looking forward to it. I’m nervous about the semester, with four classes in my course load. Still, I know more now about how to cope than I did a month ago. I know that I require connection, friendship, and deep conversation and that I can actively seek these things out. Sounds obvious, perhaps, but it’s easy to miss the obvious in all the internal noise, in the echoes of musty shame and unworthiness that still sometimes reverberate in my mind.
Edited slightly. Must stop prematurely posting!
Top image: Me, Joan, Martha, and Kimberly.
Bottom: The boy being silly in a dressing room at CrossRoads Trading Company.