Catastrofia and the Unhappy (with a happy ending)
I can tell you about this now.
I can tell you about this now because, you could say, the storm broke last night. Sadly, the weather did not think to join in the party and yet again it is another You Know It Will Dump The Second You Go Out overcast Berlin day. Getting warmer though, there is that.
Right. What I’m offering to tell you about now. Now that the non-weather related storm has broken.
Allow me to constantly digress. This week wordpress sent me a little notification. Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com
One year ago I had a clear journey laid out before me. I was exploring my artistic passions and desires. Challenging myself to see if I could not only handle myself in a creative space with people, I naturally assumed, all far more talented and worthy than I. You know what happened. If you don’t well you can just click clickety click your way back through the daily slogs and panics and triumphs and literally gravity shifting creations. It was pretty good. For the first time in a long time I began to feel solid validation of my skills both artistic and social and, far more important, I began to feel power in my ability to negotiate the moments when that validation was not there. Whether the moment was legitimate or false didn’t seem to matter. I was learning to breathe, I was learning that I didn’t really know how to breathe but that at least I knew now and I had tasted the breath I searched for.
So now, one year later. It’s been harder to find a through line to focus my free writing here. I’m just traveling to see friends and check things out. I really didn’t plan much of anything at all. Assumed I’d figure it out when I arrived. Figured I’d rely on the kindness of friends to guide me. Now I smell the remnants of deep fear and anxiety rearing their ugly heads thwarting my better self’s attempts to do what she wants, what she knows to be the most fun the most adventurous. I am not adventurous. Not by habit. Maybe I am at heart I just gotta get those nasty insidious worms that infiltrate the psyche out of the way. Nasty insidious worms.
I met my first unhappy in Dublin. She’s not really, she’s just had a real tough go of it as some old timer, or my mom, might say. Too much loss and dramatic genealogical revelations and familial struggles with military PTSD not too mention marital commitments leading to continental relocation and a Dirty Thirty all within maybe three years. This one’s is a spit fire dynamo; I’d been calling her a kewpie doll but I just looked up some images of them and I don’t think that’s what I meant… Anyway, she is her own self. Big beautiful eyes that twinkle with artistic madness, a cackle and a genuine earnest heart-on for life. Her husband is the fella that provides balances and she in her wild way provides a balance for him. Thing is, all these Big Things, they happened so quickly that she is only now starting to take stock. She is only now able to start to step back from the methods she employed to cope to manage to just get through the @%&%$@ day. Dublin is some angry and anger is not fun, anger can hurt your soul but I as I see it, if she can get on top of it she can steer it all the way to whatever anger becomes when it is useful.
One night I said to her, listen, I said, this is how I see your life. I see a funky tiny My First Apartment as a Married Couple home at the end of the lane above the kitchen of a restaurant called the Unicorn. I see a wonderfully mutually supportive relationship based on love and admiration. I see an eclectic and international collection of friends and artistic peers in a city that, while dealing with the frustrations and bureaucracies apparently endemic to all large international hubs, is overflowing with potential…
Hmm, I don’t think I actually said that much. I think it was more along the lines of: as a guest in your home for two weeks it looks to me like you have more great things in your life than you’re giving yourself credit for having. I hear you on the shit things, I do, I just want you to hear what I see. Just so you can remember it’s there as you wade out of the muck. Which you are doing. It just takes time.
Yeah, that’s more than I said too but, well, I guess this is what I say in the reconstructed semi-fictional narrative I’m constructing here.
I worry that, when talking to my unhappys, that I am preaching. That I am playing the annoying all-knowing, crises resolved in my life so shall I resolve them in yours, here would you share of my pink pills and all will be bland – whoops, I mean great – I have walked where you walk but now … gross, shut up
Thing is, though, as the storm was breaking last night, the Berlin unhappy made me realise something I had desperately been trying to avoid acknowledging. Because it’s frightening to lose your crutch, your blanket, your script, your excuse. Something I had been trying to destroy by allowing the anxiety and the paranoia to take over and bury back down under the muck. You are in a good place right now, she said.
This thing was, is, this: I am in a good place right now.
I may have been overwhelmed arriving in Berlin; overwhelmed by its size, by the language barrier, by the lack of proper map, house key… But I am here and I am not just allowing the worms to roll over me in waves. I have my butter knife out and I’m slicing the little slimy jerks in half every chance I get.
(I like this image. In my head I picture myself in a smocked pinafore maybe five or six years old in the back yard after a rain cutting the worms in half and watching them wriggle away. Weird?)
Berlin unhappy is similar to Dublin, similar to me. I want to say that I am different because I have a diagnosis, I have brain worms, but that’s irrelevant, no, not irrelevant just besides the point. When we speak, we speak the same unhappy. We speak the unhappy of women hitting a new stage of their lives, alone or in partnerships, but all struggling to resolve the next inevitable stage.
It’s the beginning of the time we all start to experience loss as something of a more regular activity, if that was not already an accepted form of saying goodbye, we all start to feel our bodies change – again – moving past their prime imperative towards hagdom. Hah, we will make awesome hags, myself Dublin and Berlin, and we’ll take up weaving and then you’ll all be in trouble as we knot and twist and design on our loom of magic.
Forget that, we speak the unhappy of young people in this world finally and truly saying goodbye to childhood assumptions and tools that are simply no longer helpful, no longer reflective of our dreams goals and desires.
Uh. Not where I was going with this post but it’s where I’ve ended up!
So, the storm. The storm was several days in the making. We were caught in a transit fare evasion sting and removed from a tram with numerous others, ticketed and ordered to appear down at the BVG within five days to pay our fine. Thing was, we had been in the process of counting coins to pay when they shut down the machines on the tram in order to follow through on the sting. Long blog a little shorter the story jumps to Berlin losing her cool down at the ticket bureau and the next couple days operating under dark heavy thunder clouds. Literal ones too.
At first I am mortified at her behaviour in a public place. If that had been my toddler that kid woulda heard about it. Then I clock that these types of actions generally reflect much deeper truer hurts. Then I forget about all this as my own anxiety and paranoia takes over. I assume it’s me. I am the straw breaking her back. I am too needy. I am too reliant on her. I am not proactive enough about getting out by myself. I I I I I – I feel her tension as I cook dinner, take a big breath and ask, Are you happy here?
We talked for a long time. It wasn’t about me. Never is (almost). She quoted something to me about the ego of paranoia. Not in reference to me. Just as something she heard that struck her. The storm broke and we both felt a cool breeze flow through the room and lighten the mood once again.
Berlin and Dublin, like me, have been stuck in the muck. When you’re in the muck you can’t see for the dirt in your eyes, you can’t hear for the worms in your ears, you forget that you have hands that can wipe away dirt, that can pull worms, hands that, if nothing else, can start to scrabble their way to the surface. That you can do even if you can’t yet see and can’t yet hear.
I feel like I’ve been writing self help type crap recently. I guess it’s what I’m working through on this trip. I’ve pushed myself to a point where I am out of the muck and now working to adjust my eyes to the light and my ears to the sound. (What is this metaphor?!) I worry that I am not talking enough art. That I am not writing more but I am and more important I am removing and exploring the obstacles that provide me with excuses.
Had enough? Still reading? You’re a peach.
I guess the key is, I am happy here, and by here I mean with me and, frankly I just made myself tear up a little.
So there. Us unhappys we’ll sink in the muck, we’ll rail out to hide the real pain, but when we pull it together a little, you better watch out. Better yet, you better join in.
p.s. Yesterday I went out all on my own and found a park with a fountain surrounded by the statues of fairy tale characters. Who’s a happy Berlin explorer!