Succumbing to the Greater Madness

Well folks, this is it. Poor J succumbed to what we’ve always called The Greater Madness. We do crazy little things during the winter months to keep it at bay; we indulge our vices, our darkness. We invite our demons to come out of the closet for a litte while to dance and whoop it up. We take risks with real consequences in the hopes that danger stays at a remove. I always feel mad during the winter. February is a particularly difficult month for me. I suspect it is for many people.

I have so many feelings about J and what happened. Many of my feelings have already been articulated beautifully and cleverly by others (Samayam, FLC, Frosteee, Gypsy_Ritsa, Elaine on the phone). I have more to say, though, I expect it will be rather scattered: I have to have this conversation with my demons. I have to let them speak.

J wasn’t even 30 yet. I don’t know how old she was, but I know she’s at least 4 or 5 years younger than me. She didn’t know that it all gets better after 30.

I have many pictures in my mind of her as a girl, cowering thinly, trying to vanish or at least not be seen. I remember how she spoke to me: with deference and some fawning. It made me mad. I remember how her voice cracked and shook when she did use it, and I remember it was often too loud for the circumstances, for the space we were in. I can see her with friends. She always seemed ill at ease. Her unfathomable Self didn’t fit in her skin, it sort of hovered nearby. She shook. She flounced. She smoked.

I remember wondering where she came from and why she was around. I was too self-absorbed to care much, though. I was in college. She was dating somebody. Maybe several somebodies. I hardly remember now. The truth is, I never invested much of myself into her. She was around and we did some of the same things together in a larger group. Did we once tell her she wasn’t ready for initiation yet?

I only had one conversation with one of her parents. In a crisis when people were hurt, he said, “How is my car?” Not, “Is my daughter all right?” It was a scary time and I remember that was the first moment my heart really went out to J. What kind of parent asks about the condition of his car before the well-being his daughter?

When K and A split up, I had a lot of feelings about it. I remember being angry and trying hard to understand. Eventually I came to understand. I remember J immediately moved into the empty place beside K. It wasn’t long before she and K were an item. I shook my head and wondered what good could come of that. But who am I to know who should be together and who should not? I am only an expert in my relationship, not in anyone else’s.

I went to K and J’s wedding with some happiness and some worry in my heart. I questioned whether she was strong enough for him and whether he was gentle enough for her. I fervently hoped and prayed that they would adapt to each other and buoy each other up out of their individual pains. That spring day, in a beautiful mansion near the river, I saw a different J. She was triumphant! I saw a young woman who had conquered her rivals, had won her prince, had become a queen. She wore a crown and everything. She looked powerful to me for the first time. It was encouraging and I felt happy for them both. Those of us at the wedding were asked, as is customary, to support their union. I said, “We do,” along with the rest of the wedding guests. This was and always is a commitment I take very seriously.

At some point there was a falling out. Angry words were spoken. I felt shut out and deliberately alienated. I was told to choose between supporting one marriage and another. I was insulted and degraded, my character and judgment were attacked. It hurt and I cried a lot. I chose to support the couple who didn’t ask me to choose.

I didn’t see K and J much after that. I avoided them. It seemed that they were isolating themselves from their friends, systematically carving away painful associations. It suited me just fine. When I did see them, I felt awkward and uncomfortable. When I did occasionally see J, she didn’t seem triumphant, but acted a little bit more sure of herself. K seemed calmer, less angry, safer, but I didn’t trust it.

At some time, perhaps shortly after I had Lucas, I heard that J was pregnant. I was extremely lonely in my new motherhood, yet I couldn’t invite her into my thoughts and experiences. I just couldn’t invite her kind of crazy in. I wondered what she would be like as a mother. I hoped that she would be tough enough. I hoped that K would be an interested and gentle dad. J had a baby girl when Lucas was still a baby. For the first time in my life, I was a little jealous of her. (I thought I would have a girl baby—someone I would easily understand. I was struggling to wrap my mind around what it would mean to raise a boy. At the time, having a girl child seemed easier.) Even though we finally had something major in common—motherhood—I still didn’t want to let her in.

So, until a couple days after she died, I didn’t even think about J. She was basically out of my life. I had heard she had given birth to another baby. Nobody knew whether that baby was a boy or a girl (the baby is another girl). I didn’t ask or call her. I assumed she had other people taking care of her.

I’ve cried for J. I’ve imagined how K must feel, how impossibly hard this is. I can easily imagine their children. I know what Lucas was like at 2.5- and 3-years-old. I know what questions he used to ask: “Where are you going?” “When will you come back?” “Where’s my mommy?” “Will you always come for me?” I used to tell him every day that I left him with another caregiver, “Mommy always comes back.”

How on earth do you tell a child that mommy is never, ever coming back? How does a small child feel about that?

J’s children won’t even remember her before long. The older girl will likely remember feeling sad, lost, alone, scared, and perhaps even abandoned. The baby won’t consciously remember a thing (perhaps her body or spirit will). But they won’t cognitively remember J. When they’re older, they will try to picture their mother and they will only see in their minds what J looked like in photographs.

Mostly, I’ve cried for those girls that I don’t even know. That’s what breaks my heart.

J, I am so sorry for your pain. I am so sorry you were fragile and weak, and I’m angry if your meds made you even more so throughout your short life. I am so sorry you opted out of your life, and even angry that you did so. But others are and always will be even more sorry.

I could try to look at this in a spiritual way. Perhaps I will someday. For now, the best I can do is say “welcome” to the Lesser Madness to keep the Greater far away.

3 Responses to “Succumbing to the Greater Madness”

  • childofeos
    March 7, 2006 at 11:48 pm

    *quietly hugs you*


  • frosteee
    March 7, 2006 at 11:53 pm

    My mother suffered from depression and shortly after my parents separated she died of a drug overdose when I was about 8 months old. I’ve never really forgiven her, yet I still love her and have to admit that not a day goes by where I don’t think about her. I’m horrified that one of my friends (whom before our personal fall out due to different opinions and demands of “choosing sides”) of over 10 years has just RECREATED this whole scene all over again… and now her daughters get to grow up in my shoes. I’m crying for them and hoping that they grow up stronger than I did, as even as an adult I’m still not over it.

    This whole thing is really hitting me pretty hard.


  • sarabellae
    March 9, 2006 at 12:18 am

    I can see why, darling.


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    Thanks for visiting! I’m Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

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