I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree

I can tell it has become winter when everything makes me cry. Today I cried because this might be the last time Strudel trick-or-treats and she looked really cute in her costume. I cried about a TV show where it was basically the trolley problem except everyone dies, and THEN, the next scene was comedic. That was either a bad directorial choice or I was taking a show for boys too seriously and don’t I know that sometimes a whole plane full of people have to die for man show tough choices reasons? Then I tried to sleep and I listened to LeVar Burton read a Nisi Shawl story where a cat got mutilated and a dog could speak but was still misunderstood and lonely and is there anything else worse than the thought of dog loneliness? And I knew I took the story wrong also because everyone was clapping at the end instead of running out and collapsing on the stinky lobby carpet in weeping heaps.

Even Alexa (Gryffindor) is out to get me because I told her to play “Misty” for me and I was ready to do some fancy twirling and arm modeling a la Janice during the Showcase Showdown while feeding the animals breakfast and that bitch chose the JOHNNY MATHIS (Hufflepuff) version. That is the saddest one!

(Jesus, get a grip, SJ.)

Crying is also how I can tell it’s summer.

This is my fat divorce. The first time I just stopped eating for most of the day, and then would come home (worst) and think that I should consume at least one nutritional unit. Then I would stay up until two a.m. looking at the walls with my eyes swinging back and forth like one of those creepy cat clocks. I bought cropped jackets and made out with a doctoral candidate who was teaching my class and kept going, “Oh no I can’t possibly this is unethical” which I took as foreplay at first but then realized he was just tedious and a little bitch.

Do you feel your second marriage the same way you do your first? I remember coming to terms with this a few years ago talking to a superintendent I liked, even though one time he saw me with channel locks and asked me if I wanted to twist some guy’s dick off with it. I acted offended but really I was impressed he could see into my heart.

“What’s your husband like, is he cool?” he asked.

“He’s ok.”

“Just ok?”

“You know, this is your second marriage too.”

“Oh. Yeah,” he said.

“Back through the revolving door.”

I made the mistake of being too near my foreman during this exchange, who was still on his first marriage and looked at us as if we were monsters (correct).

This divorce I was derelict a lot, avoiding what had to be done, telling myself I was gathering strength. I was mental with PTSD after remembering (again) that I’d been baby raped until my uterus tried to jump out of my body and run away. I was hiding in my car eating cheeseburgers. I tried to limit it to once a week, because I got sick every time, like a dog cruelly left alone with a stick of Oleo. For a long while after Franny left I was thin from stress, steeling myself like I was in the last leg of my marathon. I did that thing where you tell yourself you’re magic now and cannot actually gain weight, in part because I thought I had several years of unhungry misery left.

If one cheeseburger was good, two would be better. I would responsibly eat before CAD class so I wouldn’t be hungry, and then I would eat after class anyway, because I couldn’t think of any place better to go and I didn’t want to talk to or look at anyone.

Fifteen pounds: just enough to be moderately uncomfortable in some of your pants. Just enough so that your bras go from practical breast-cuppers to comically small cartoon legs you draw on a pig. Except instead of cavorting across the page distractingly, half the pig winds up in your armpit. And not enough weight for your friends to ask if you’re finally on antidepressants.

“Jesus Christ I cannot wait to get out of these pants! They’re too tight!” Strudel follows me. Right now she alternates between scolding me for not being woke enough and being a mess about the politics of her own friendships.

“Mom, I wish you knew that you look great right now,” she says, thudding down the stairs after me.

“I don’t care how I look, I just wish I didn’t feel like an overstuffed sausage all the time. What am I going to do when I go back to work? If only I could wave a wand and make all my pants a size bigger.”

“Oh. I thought you were doing negative self-talk.”


I am making noise and it’s nice, like Johnny Mathis in the kitchen at 6 a.m. I am having full conversations with the dog. I used to talk to him briefly, mostly using words he knows, or baby talk. Now instead of “NUM NUMS” I say, “You ready for some breakfast MOTHERFUCKER?” He gets my meaning. I think I am still dumbing it down for his dog, the dick biter, though.

When I had a family and too much purpose I was known to be the quietest walker. “Haha, I got screamed at if my feet made any noise when I was a kid.” They loved hearing these little tableaus from my childhood. Now I am trying to walk louder. I would always make my hair pink, and accessorize like I was giving Cruella de Vil (Slytherin) a run for her money, but then I went around like I was on wheels. Maybe now I will go the other way.

Anyway, I am still a mess like I always was, but for much shorter periods of time now, like minutes. What has changed is also how I talk to myself. I still mostly have the feeling of existential dread lifted off my chest now that I know what was wrong with me this whole time. If I am stressed about money, I ask myself what I can do. I ask myself if worrying about it all day will make more unemployment accumulate in my account. I tell myself that things will probably work out, and if they don’t, I will probably figure something else out, because I always have.

I tell myself that if I’m crying about a story where a cat gets tortured it’s probably because I needed to cry, and also animal abuse is sad. It doesn’t mean anything and I am not losing my mind. If it happens every day, I will rethink it. It’s true, what they say. Caring about stupid things less is giving me room to care about important stuff more.

My first divorce was crawling on broken glass every day for a year and a half. When I moved out, I lost things, I forgot things. This one is much easier. I was unfocused, spinning out all the time, looking over my shoulder, Golluming over burgers that would give me stomach cramps, hives, headaches. Now I feel like my edge is sharpened. I don’t want to do every chore, but I get through my errands and my house is clean. Things are not being broken, knocked about, stained, inadvertently hidden. I am not finding trash and food scraps around my house and my bug problem has vanished. The animals are calmer with not being kicked or stomped at.

It feels easier to undo the same mistake the second time. My hands remember how to untie the knots.

2 thoughts on “I’m as helpless as a kitten up a tree

  1. Just one down for me, so far. I remember all the things you said, the house, the money. No burgers here, just cheap wine from TJ’s. Bleh but it did the trick. You’re right though, you never forget it. It changes you and it lingers even in marriage number two. It’s that memory, that change that says, I don’t want to, but I could survive this if I had to. Done it before and this time I know the score.

    My hands are attached in a heart shaped non-emoji for you. Self-care, self-cars, self-care…fake until you make it and all that ‘ish.


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