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Purgatory - Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019
Tuesday, Sept. 06, 2016 @ 9:05 pm
Sunshine, islands, dry grasses. The ocean reflecting a million diamonds, the sun, crisp white sails on boats.
We walk along a narrow path, soft with dry soil and matted grasses. An apple tree, full of tiny apples. I reach up and twist one off, push it against my teeth. The floral juices flood my mouth, the flesh tender crisp. The soils and water of the island, the energy of the sun, filling my body with light and warmth.
I sit on the grassy bluff with Daniel. We are approaching our 11th anniversary.
A bittersweet 11 years.
It all falls apart, over and over. Yet we continue to pick up the pieces, to repair our broken hearts, to work on ourselves, our emotions, the challenge of maintaining intimacy over so many years. So many years of misunderstanding.
Kayaking with Chris?
The tides pushing in, pulling out. Seal pups hauled out on the granite ledges of Indian Arm. Clinging to each others' kayaks, resting against the buffeting wind, me limp and exhausted, him handing me a bag of trail mix, my brimmed paddling hat hanging down my back the strings around my neck like a child. I cook dinner for him and his friends, the salmon that spent the day thawing in the bottom of my kayak. Waterfalls, bald eagles, and my yellow boat skimming the surface of the misty green waters. Cedar limbs dipping to the water along the shore.
When we return to dry land, his friends depart. Chris and I wander to the village, and he buys me ice cream. We stand there taking in the chaos of a Saturday in Deep Cove, the bakeries and cafes overflowing, children screaming on the shore, the sidewalks dusted with drifts of sand. I eat my ice cream and stand there with him, so utterly grateful for his friendship. I feel relaxed for the first time in months.
Days later, Daniel sends me an odd text. I ignore it and continue with my day. When I return home at the end of the day, the house is dim and silent, but I can tell that he is home. I do my thing for a bit, putting my work things away, rinsing my lunch containers into the dishwasher. Suddenly I realize that he hasn't come down yet. I resist the urge to yell up the stairs. Instead I walk up the stairs to see what's going on.
I approach the bedroom, and the air is still and overheated. Something is terribly wrong.
He is in bed, a lump facing away from me. Something terrible has happened.
What happened, Daniel? I ask.
"I read your diary. Your online one."
My heart races, my knees buckle. I slide down the wall, my rear meeting with the floor, my hands meeting with my face, my lungs uselessly sucking in the thin air.
The next few days pass like a nightmare. Me explaining how my diary is a bit of a fantasy, that nothing has happened with Chris except in my head. That it's easier to think about spending time with him than to write about fixing our relationship. That it's natural to think about other more simple relationships when your current relationship is complicated. That I do love Chris in a way, how can I not, don't you love your friends? That my diary is an outlet, that it's where I go to release my crazy thoughts.
"But you wrote it all, and it's mostly true."
Yes. Yes, I guess it is all mostly true. So how do you like me now?
I lay in bed alone, in disbelief at what is happening. History repeating itself. Remember Chris? He was my second longest relationship before Daniel. Back in 2001 when I was at UBC. Our relationship fell apart when he read my diary. I had a paper diary back then.
We bring all of this to counselling. She flips it all around on us, and tells us it's an opportunity to really move forward together. That everything's laid out now. That all of the things that I feel about Chris are the things that I need to tell Daniel that I need from him. She says that what's happened is not surprising, that my behaviour and feelings are totally within the realm of normal when a couple is going through a hard time. Daniel sits there listening to this, his face not concealing his distrust of this concept.
We attempt to move forward.
We travel together as planned to Dawson Creek to visit with friends. Hiking together in Tumbler Ridge, amongst fireweed and fossils. Standing in the wide and wild Peace River Valley, on the lands that are to be flooded for the new hydro dam. Standing beneath the massive gleaming wind towers that dot the ridges of the region.
We go on our backpacking trip together in the Rockies. Cooking breakfast together in the thin morning light in meadows of paintbrush and lupines, next to a gleaming cerulean alpine lake. Boulder fields beyond. Fresh snow on the peaks around us after a night in a rainy tent. Pushing myself over mountain passes, sad and happy, struggling forever with myself and him, our relationship. The greatest moments remind me of why I'm doing this all, of what I saw in him at the start, of how well we work together, of how together we can accomplish amazing things.
I see a specialist doctor. She sends me for cortisol testing. I carry a jug around with me for a day, collecting my urine. The most embarrassing thing in the world. I can't believe that I'm doing this. I stash the jug in the work fridge, camouflaged in a kayaking dry bag. The results come back: my cortisol is over 300. The normal upper limit is 100.
There is no way that I'll have a menstrual cycle with my body pushing all of its resources into cortisol production.
I see another doctor. I tell her about my anxiety. She sits there while I fill out a questionnaire. It's from the DSM-IV. She tells me that I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and hands me a prescription for medication. I stare at the paper and tell her that I'd rather have her write me a note for time off work. She says that she doesn't recommend that.
I fill the prescription. I stare at the bottle of pills. A million thoughts go through my head. I'm afraid to take the pills. I don't need these pills. I'm stronger than this. I'm not crazy. This is not me. She doesn't understand.
I still haven't taken the pills.
Another doctor sends me for a chest x-ray. I don't know why. Her admin assistant just called and told me to go.
"Is there any chance that you're pregnant?"
"Why are you here?"
I don't know.
"But why are you here?"
I haven't had my period in 7 months?
"Oh, so you've missed your period. Is there any chance that you're pregnant?"
"Why are you here? Any coughing?"
No. I don't know why I'm here.
"But you missed your period and there's NO chance that you're pregnant?"
No, there's no chance that I'm pregnant.
"But you've missed your period?"
It goes on like this for a while longer. He eventually gives up and just takes the x-rays.
I locked this diary for a while, afraid of him reading anymore, but I can't go on without this outlet.
I'm not giving up on our relationship. I'm not giving up. I have to work through this, to learn how to assert myself, to learn how to stay vulnerable, to learn how to tell him my needs.
This is the greatest challenge of my life.