Middle Ground

I’m in a bad place. I don’t know why this is.

I find that frustrating. I find myself cycling through longing, shame and hopelessness without actually knowing the reason. Mornings are hard, but not normally quite this hard.

I went downtown yesterday to once again visit the cathedral. I had in my mind consciously, while I was there, this is Ksymcia’s church. I’m here because I am coming to terms with her in some way, or trying to.

I felt very emotional, tried to calm down, and then the security guard started talking to me. He had quite a lot to say. It was surprising. There have been days when I seem to appear to be more open and random people do talk to me, but I think it’s somewhat rare. It is LA, and I am not friendly.

I lost my sense of grounding after that, and didn’t really return to a place where I felt centered again or in touch with what I had come there to work through. Next time, I guess.

I went for a coffee after that. I had fallen asleep on the train on my way there, and naps in the daytime always leave me in a strange place. Coffee helps with that. So I found a Starbucks I remembered as being fairly quiet and having a decent space for seating. There are a thousand places for coffee around there, but hardly anywhere is actually set up for people to sit. You are expected to grab your stuff and go. There was a new place I hadn’t seen before–new since I used to live there–and I wondered about that. Lots of young people in there–it’s a college area–and I thought their coffee is probably shit.

Anyway, I got my coffee and wrote in my journal for a while. A group of teenagers came in wearing bow ties and amazing dresses–Quincenera party? I don’t know. I wanted to take their picture and felt it was too weird to ask. It made for a change.

Then I went on to a second-hand shop because I have this hope of actually getting a job, but I have only one blazer I can really wear. I dropped it off on Saturday for cleaning–there’s something on it, like I brushed off a crumb with dusty hands. It made me think it creates a crisis if something happens to that one particular blazer. It seems wise to pick up one or two more. So I did that. I bought one almost identical to the one I have, and another one that’s more stylish (I think), but I can’t imagine how to make a shirt with a collar work under that. I don’t know what you’re really supposed to wear with it. Still, it was $6.95. I’ll work it out.

There was a dress on the new items rack and I thought that looked interesting–just for fun. One of the staff members came up to me to talk about the dress: she liked it. She said I had good taste.

So that was a second stranger to just randomly strike up conversation with me that day.

That was yesterday. I woke up early to a student messaging me. “How are you?” “Still sleepy.” “Ok sleep maam.” But C’s father was online and I said something to him. He said he was at the cremation grounds: normally, men need to stand watch over the body until the body can be burned or the dogs will eat the corpse. Everyone will go to the grounds and view it, I suppose–I’m not sure, people have always told me not to go places like that. I’ll fall sick. They excuse me. Anyway, someone had died.

I asked him what happened, and felt a surge of terror for his kids. He has a new baby. I guess the baby must be six months old now.

After a while, he said his cousin died and we chatted about that for a while. His cousin was 34. I think he might be 32 himself now, maybe still 31.

He said he felt he didn’t know what to do, and I could remember that feeling. The sense of confusion about it. I remember it specifically about not understanding physical aspects of horrifying, traumatic deaths, but it’s more generally about being unable to take in or process the cessation of life that’s completely unexpected. It was startling to recognize my own experience in his and to know that they actually connect, despite the differences in circumstances.

It reminded me too of C’s response to my leaving–when I used to live there and would visit her at school. The times she didn’t walk me out, she would get tears in her eyes and then seem to fiddle with things.

It seemed the same kind of thing: abandonment felt just as shocking. Not my leaving, obviously, but the core, early abandonment. The break in attunement must have felt just as shocking as a death for her.

I ended up in the kitchen this morning at the same time as my friend. I was unloading the dishwasher and she was making a cup of tea, having just woke up. I cast about for topics to talk about. Not my job situation–she’ll just get anxious, and that will make it harder on me. Not the dad’s cousin death–she can’t seem to handle death.

I don’t think I mentioned that: one of my colleagues committed suicide. This was three years ago, but I hadn’t known, and the assumption was it was related to workplace bullying from the principal. I told my friend about it, because I felt rather shaken by it. Her response was puzzling to me, but most closely seemed to resemble disgust. Distress and then disgust, like she needed to quickly get the discomfort away from her.

So she can’t handle death.

Finally, I talked to her about her son’s suit–she had mentioned this to me yesterday.

It really struck me how I couldn’t bring up something related to myself, because I felt too vulnerable and I couldn’t bring up anything which seems to me to be actual life, because she can’t handle the strong emotions that goes with it, and that kind of left her and lite. Such emotional impoverishment. I wanted so badly to have someone enter into my emotional world with me, and it’s so much harder because most of the time, I am just dealing with trauma, but even other things I did not want to connect over, because she is randomly critical and I have too much going on already to want to invite that.

And then I thought about my own struggles, how intense the longing is, how it cycles through guilt and shame. I thought how it feels so overwhelming I don’t know that I always think about how it affects other people to be around that.

I thought of it recently in the context of my friend’s cat. It was acting strangely, sort of limping, sort of just wobbling. It was unclear if she had an injured leg or if she was just confused. My friend took her into the vet, but in the process, I could feel my friend’s terror about the whole thing. It was hard for me to cope with later, after she left. She didn’t do anything overtly expressive, but I could feel it. I know she felt that.

Anyway, I thought I am struggling with these feelings. I can’t even identify what’s setting them off, but I miss C, and she is sleeping or studying and the last thing she really needs is to have her own separation distress activated.

These are difficult feelings. They are difficult for me and they are also difficult for other people. I don’t know what I might take away from that, but just that they can feel so loud and so overwhelming and yet the rest of the world is still there, still needing various things from me, which might include keeping it together.


2 thoughts on “Middle Ground

  1. desilef August 14, 2017 / 8:03 am

    It always strikes me how students from Country X want to stay in contact with you. You created real connection with many people there, not just C.

    • Ashana M August 14, 2017 / 9:27 am

      It strike me sometimes too, because the students who reach out to me the most are not always the ones I taught. A few of them are. But there are three students who were in 8th grade when I was in Y-town the first year I came there who send me a message every so often. I didn’t have memorable interactions with them when I was there. One of them remembers me visiting C, and has a feeling about me because of that. It seems to have mattered to some of them just that I was there.

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