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The bitch is back

June 8, 2012

It has been nearly three years since I signed my divorce papers. Three years is a considerable amount of time, and I have come a long way since that dreadful summer. For starters, I am no longer quite as chickenshit as I was. (I was afraid of stupid things, it turns out–things which are neither difficult nor scary, things like calling the plumber, paying the bills, filing the taxes. I can’t really feel smug about mastering them, even, because they’re such straw men–but I do remember being terrified, and I am quite thankful not to be paralyzed like that any more.) I don’t smoke cigarettes any more. I used to drink way too much, and now, for about a year, I haven’t drunk at all. I worried all the time back then, about everything, and now I worry less. And I’m not as angry as I used to be. In fact, I’m downright calm.

Oh, wait. That part is a huge lie. I am wretchedly, miserably, violently angry–more furious than I have ever been in my life.  I walk around seething with rage. I have heartburn–me, who carried two enormous babies to term with nary a digestive rumble! My formerly cast-iron stomach roils in protest every morning, before I’ve even finished dumping several cups of coffee straight down my gullet. (Normal! Coffee on an empty stomach is, for me, completely normal! The subsequent indigestion is not.) I yell at the children, bang pots and pans, fight the urge to weep–during which my throat closes up and aches, lava-like tears well and burn in my eyes, and my chest tightens so that I can hardly breathe–repeatedly during the course of the day.

First the estimate to fix the floors came in, and the less said about that the better. Then, the contractor didn’t show up. This was after a month or so–I’m a little hazy on the details, so bear with me–of having the ceiling in the living room gone, which meant that the floor above was also gone, which meant that roughly half of the house was moved into the other half, and chaos reigned. The children, who can never find anything anyway, were rendered even more incompetent at locating their baseball gloves/chemistry textbooks/cleats/pants/permission slips/piano music/other socks. “MOM! MOM! MOM!” was bellowed, desperately, as the school bus lurched away from the bus stop, several mornings in a row. I lost the car keys many times a day. I lost my cell phone. I lost the ability to communicate in complete sentences, and then I lost my mind.

I began to look forward to bedtime with unhealthy eagerness. My bedroom was a mess–several closets worth of hand-me-downs I was ostensibly sorting through carpeted the floor, as did stacks of books and papers and plastic bins and extra chairs and lamps and extension cords (on whose plugs I invariably stepped) and curtains still attached to their rods and rugs and houseplants. (But hey, at least it had a ceiling.) I’d climb into bed, pushing the laundry I hadn’t gotten around to folding over to the passenger side, pop a melatonin, and watch episode after episode of Breaking Bad. Then I’d fall asleep and dream that (for example) the children and I were escaping some terrible place on a bicycle, when suddenly we came across a school bus that had crashed, and as we slowed to help the dozens of injured children begging us to stop, I realized the injured children were actually zombies, the whole thing was a trap, and I’d better pedal a whole lot faster if I valued our lives. There were also the requisite plane-crashing, car-not-responding, teeth-falling-out dreams, with extra vivid LSD-style visuals. At least I haven’t had to betray my friends and family by moonlighting as a meth dealer, I’d think, wide awake in the dark, rubbing whichever toe I’d stubbed on the way back from the bathroom. Yet.

My sense of humor–all I had left, really–vanished completely the week after the contractor and workmen had promised (and failed) to appear. I yelled at the cat, who tried to placate me by bringing live chipmunks, a series of field mice, a titmouse, a house finch, and a robin through the cat door and into the dining room. The dining room, crammed as it was with furniture from the living room, was not an easy place in which to locate and rescue a small, wounded, terrified creature. Still, I managed it more than once, crawling around over the sofa and armchairs, reaching behind the computer–itself boxed in by three end-tables upside down on the dining room table–to try to flush some poor little thing out of the corner and into view, so I could clap a wicker basket over it, praying, as I alternated between noises meant to scare and noises meant to encourage, that it would not sink its tiny teeth into my well-meaning flesh.

I yelled at my mother, who advised taking a Tough Stance with the workmen, and then I yelled at the realtor, and then I hung up and stared angrily at the floor. The workmen showed up, and all was sweetness and light for a few hours. The following day, they failed to show. I called consoling-windows friend and yelled at her for a while, after which I attacked the overgrown forsythia bushes in front of the house with a pair of enormous loppers. Violent gardening is an excellent rage-killer, or at least it always has been. I hacked and hacked and cursed and swore and got sticks in my hair and bugs down my shirt. I kneeled in what turned out to be the cat’s secret shitting ground. I cut three fruit-laden branches of our lone blueberry bush before I realized my mistake–hundreds of fat green blueberries, god damn it, murdered in their infancy. Finally, I pissed off a pair of nesting wrens, who divebombed me until I backed out, stood up, and surveyed the damage.

Which turned out to be considerable. As I stood there, panting and sweating, the forsythia bushes cowered abjectly, hugging their few remaining branches close and avoiding eye contact. Behind me rose two piles of debris bigger than my porch. Whoops. I stomped inside and called my trusty lawn guy, who said he’d send a chipper and a truck out straightaway. And then, of course, he didn’t.

I called again. No one called back. Again the following day. No response. I called my trusty tree guy, and explained my problem to his answering machine. Meanwhile, trusty lawn guy called back and said he’d come right out, he was sorry not to have shown. Moments later (were they in cahoots?) tree guy called, and I thanked him for getting back to me, said lawn guy was on his way, apologized for taking his time, and dismissed him. You see where this is going, right? Right on schedule, lawn guy didn’t show.

I twitched a bit, then called tree guy again, revising my previous dismissal. He didn’t call back. Neither did lawn guy. So it went for about two weeks, and a delighfully relaxing two weeks they were, while the madcap workmen appeared and vanished according to their particular whim, saying things like “See you tomorrow morning!” when what they meant was “Afternoon, if you’re lucky” and I gnawed my ragged fingernails to the bone.

As the grass underneath the piles of debris yellowed and died, my psyche went septic. I stalked around like a vengeful fury, leaving scorched earth in my wake. I killed fifty dollars worth of lovely little plants by overfertilizing the windowboxes; a tire went flat; I broke a glass pitcher I actually liked by dropping it on my foot.  My boyfriend came down for the weekend and tiptoed around fixing meals and painting trim and re-caulking various seams, all the better to stay out of my way, though he did intervene as I attacked the hedges in the back yard. “Uh, that’s poison ivy, just so you know,” he said, pointing to where I stood and gently prising the shears from my clenched fist. But I was, apparently, more toxic even than poison ivy. (He got it, poor guy, all over his legs and shoulder and chest. I did not.)

I went for several rage-fueled runs, ignoring my aching foot. I swam laps in the town pool until I nearly drowned. Nothing worked.

This morning I woke up livid, stomach churning, as I do every morning these days. I left a witheringly sarcastic message for the lawn guy, threw my  phone across the bed, then chewed the inside of my cheek until it bled.  And then I called my ex-husband.

I was mad at him, too, of course. He’d been in Mexico for a week, learning to scuba dive, while I called yard men and tree men and waited for contractors not to show up. The Mexico part didn’t bother me; I would much rather have him in Mexico than nearby, and knowing he is completely out of the picture always makes it easier to cope. But suddenly a light went on in my head, and I remembered several things: One, that his contribution so far to getting the house ready has consisted of NOTHING, and two, that I’d come home the day he got back from Mexico–having run around all day buying paint and replacement windowbox plants and taking my younger son to piano lessons and picking up food for supper–to find him sitting comfortably on my porch, in my house, shooting the shit with our older son. “Oh, hi,” he said, not getting up, when I walked in with my arms full of groceries. “I wanted to see the kids, so I came over.”

So I called. I never call. I told him I had fucking had it with this bullshit, and that it was now his job to cope with the huge pile of sticks and debris, however he saw fit. I gave him the numbers of the tree guy and the yard guy. And–to my great surprise–he calmly agreed to take over.

This, I told myself, is my just reward for never crying wolf. It is, anyway, the very least he can do. (Well, not the VERY least, but close.)  “I’ve unleashed my personal asshole on the yard guys,” I told consoling-windows friend, who sighed and said, “Everyone needs a personal asshole.” But truth be told, he wasn’t an asshole to me, not this time. “Don’t worry about it, I’ll handle it,” he said, quite reasonably, and I thanked him and hung up.

And I feel a little tiny bit better. Who knew asking for help from the person who usually enrages you the most could make you feel better? The pile of sticks will still be there tomorrow, mark my words. But now, I know just whom to scream at when I wake up and discover nothing’s changed.

(Edited to add: woke this morning miserable again, the whole damned future spooling out ahead.)


21 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2012 12:39 pm

    Would it make you feel better to be told that you’re a fucking hilarious enraged person? Or just make you want to throw sticks at me?

  2. June 8, 2012 2:38 pm

    I am always mystified by the non-responsiveness of contractors and yard people. In this economy, to be jerking customers around! Unbelievable.

    Hope the rage subsides. Hope the sticks go away and the ceiling reappears. Hope the silly house sells and you don’t have to deal with any of it anymore.

  3. Celeste permalink
    June 8, 2012 3:06 pm

    The rage has a life of its own, doesn’t it? I have hated to ride its rollercoaster. It seems like I don’t get so rage-y now that I’m 50. It actually frees up a lot of time, not that I make use of it. I can’t really remember my last big one. I hope yours is at low tide, though. It’s good reading, but I’m ready for you to have some fun now.

  4. June 8, 2012 4:22 pm

    Oy. So sorry. I know the feeling, on a more micro level.

  5. June 8, 2012 5:28 pm

    Priceless and horrifying. Glad you found someone to take it over!

  6. Margaret permalink
    June 9, 2012 10:55 am

    I feel so sorry for your children, especially your older son. It sounds like you do not like him at all. As a mother, I cannot imagine thinking, much less writing, all of those unkind things about him. One day he will finish growing up and leave, and you will miss him.

    • June 12, 2012 9:11 pm

      Margaret, I’m not going to say what I’m really thinking because I know the author of this blog says she can shake your comment off and I’m taking her at her word, but you’ve really gotten my hackles up. I’ve never read a single word on this blog or elsewhere about either of her children that struck me as unkind. If you interpreted something that way, you were incorrect in your understanding and should probably read another blog.

  7. June 9, 2012 3:25 pm

    Yes! Write – and THINK – only happy things, especially about your children! In fact, why be authentic and open and expressive about anything? It will surely come to no good.

  8. EmmyL permalink
    June 9, 2012 4:37 pm

    This is the first time I’ve ever left a message on a blog but I felt I had to write in to support you. I just don’t understand Margaret’s comments above. I reread the post to see what she was referring to but I still don’t get it! Has she not read any of your blog? Your love for them just shines through and I think you sound like a fantastic mum. Keep up the good work, I love your writing, it’s so honest.

  9. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    June 9, 2012 5:49 pm

    Thanks guys–it’s okay. I appreciate the kind words from longtime readers–I think the person above must’ve read the Oedipus entry and missed the humor and the point. Or maybe she thought my older son was a yard guy? Anyway, sticks and stones and all that, but thank you, nonetheless.

  10. June 9, 2012 10:21 pm

    Ack! I know exactly how it feels. I wish I knew you, lived close by or something … to help you. I love your style of writing! Keep the funny stories a-coming!

  11. telechick permalink
    June 11, 2012 12:04 pm

    It totally sucks when everything that is (currently) important is out of your control and those with the control don’t seem to care. To say it’s infuriating is an understatement. Couple that with the stress of the unknown future (which always makes me so grumpy/angry), and it’s almost unbearable.

    Good luck with everything. I’m pretty sure that I don’t live too far away from you, but unfortunately I don’t have any good recs on reliable contractors, so I’m not of much help. Maybe you can think of that old chestnut: “Everything works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end” – which often makes me want to punch someone, but I guess is true.

  12. youngest wren of nine permalink
    June 12, 2012 4:48 am

    I agree with Korinthia — why does *everyone* have stories like this?! I knew a woman who developed a mystifying case of voice-loss — completely baffled her ENT doctor until it was finally chalked up to refusal to deal with the workmen supposedly renovating her house. (“Monsters! Monsters from the Id!”)

    Hope things will work out for you, eventually — but what a pain!

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      June 13, 2012 9:31 am

      “Monsters from the Id!” is my new rallying cry…

  13. Sydney Katie permalink
    June 12, 2012 6:08 am

    Please ignore Margaret’s comment. I so know how you feel. I told my ex the other day he could take over custody of my beautiful, long fought for 9 year old autistic son. And I meant it. But only for five minutes. We take it and we take it and we take it and then….all of a sudden…we break. And no wonder why when even when our kids are with them we still have the headspace responsibility for everything. We are only human and our kids can see what goes on and see who does all the work and nighttime cuddles, teachers meetings, midnight terror hugs, tedious OT and speech therapy. Mums do…because we love our babies. But occasionally, we can’t cope either. And there is nothing wrong with admitting to the rage and seeking help.

  14. June 12, 2012 4:57 pm

    For what you are currently dealing with; many blessing will land on you and happiness will become a constant…… After all dealing with all this mess and chaos surely makes you entitled to a happier future!
    Very much appreciate your writing, now and in the past. Hope you continue to vent and share here!
    (margaret left her comment from a different blog…cause it doesn’t relate to yours. this is computer crazy creationing.)

  15. Was Living Down Under permalink
    June 13, 2012 10:15 am

    You are a very funny enraged person.

    Though it’s probably the rage that helps hilarity flow.

    I’ve been enraged lately too. Except I don’t have any of the reasons you have. I’m still trying to figure out what the hell my problem is 🙂

    I hope you get yours sorted out soon. It isn’t just the pain of having to get the house done, the shit sorted, etc. but probably also the knowledge that this is all leading to you leaving this house. Whether the change is welcome or not or whether it comes soon enough or not, there are always feelings to sort through that sometimes add to rage. If that makes any sense.

    Hope he got it sorted.

  16. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    June 13, 2012 11:23 am

    The yard guy came the next day, I don’t think it had anything to do with my ex-husband, but I will give him the credit anyway. Yard guy was apparently stung by a bee while removing some of the debris…Bees don’t like it when you’re two weeks late.

  17. June 13, 2012 2:09 pm

    I so totally feel for you!! We’re in a middle of buying a house (dont know about US but it takes forever in UK and nothing is granted untill the very last day – regardless of the time and money you’ve spent in the process) which is in a much poorer condition than we’ve anticipated. We only just started talking to contractors but I’m already stressed out! Its just so.. overwhelming. I’m a bit of a control freak and dealing with builders is the opposite of being ‘in control’. Oh well. Here’s my moan of the day!

    I hope everything works out well for you and your house. I love your writing.

  18. June 29, 2012 6:37 pm

    Boy am I glad that you don’t have my phone number.

  19. Pam Esquea permalink
    October 30, 2012 12:42 am

    I always have some aching feet and i would usually massage it to gain some sort of relief. ”

    Remember to pay a visit to our very own blog

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