They Are Meant To Be Broken

eggshells

Most of us have heard, and probably used, the term “walking on eggshells.” We use it to describe a delicate situation or a precarious one, usually when we’re dealing with someone with a short temper or a thin skin. Or a mental illness. I have used it frequently, here, to describe what it was like being married to Tony. Every day was an obstacle course as I tried not to crush the fragile eggshells of his ego and self- esteem beneath my too-loud voice, my too-emotional emotions, or whatever ‘too’ he felt was the culprit on a given day.

The thing is, it wasn’t just walking. It was talking too. Talking on eggshells sounds a little strange, but I don’t know how else to describe the feeling that every word that comes out of your mouth is a potential grenade. I got very good at it. I rarely said, flat-out, what I meant. I could do an elaborate verbal tap dance that would rival anything Ann Miller or Savion Glover could produce with their feet.

What I didn’t grasp, until recently, is that I am still doing it. I am still fighting it. I am still inclined to dance, even though I don’t have to any more. I realized it, finally, because I was upset with someone I really care about. I thought I had raised a particular issue very clearly, more than once, and he just wasn’t getting it. That’s what I thought.  But then, I took a minute and thought back on our conversations.  I went back and read what I had written to him, which I thought was SO CLEAR, and admitted to myself that it… wasn’t. I was tap dancing. I said a lot of words – I am wordy – but none of them were the precise, true problem I was having. I was dancing around it, shuffling, step-ball-changing all over the place, but I never actually hit my mark. I never actually said, “This is the problem, and this is what I think we can do about it.”

The realization hit me like a sucker punch. I AM A WORD PERSON. How could I have been so wrong about what I had written? Then it occurred to me. I was talking on eggshells. Talking around the problem but afraid to step directly on it for fear of breaking something. So afraid.

Here’s the thing about eggshells. They are MEANT to be broken, are they not? How else would the baby chicks get out? How else would we make a birthday cake, or breakfast in bed? HOW ELSE WOULD WE FERTILIZE THE DAMN ROSES? So what I did was, I walked up and crushed those eggshells. I stomped all over them, verbally speaking. I sent a message saying EXACTLY what I meant, because really, it’s not fair to expect anybody to read my mind. Half the time I don’t even know what the heck is going on in there! How could I expect this man, who hasn’t known me very long, to do that without an Aimee-to-English dictionary, a headlamp, and a month’s supply of food? Good grief.

You know what? It was terrifying. It was terrifying. It took every single ounce of courage I had to send that message, because I was so afraid that stating my needs, my wants, would anger him or cause him to reject me.

Reader. It didn’t. He heard me. He did what I asked him to do. I am stronger, and WE are stronger, because of it.

The moral: speak your truth. Stomp all over those freaking eggshells, because they are HOLDING YOU BACK. They were always meant to be broken. For women, especially, I think this is difficult. The newsflash for me is that directness does not equal selfishness, or rudeness or any other –ness. If someone doesn’t like it, THEY ARE NOT FOR YOU. YOU ARE NOT FOR THEM. You are a mighty, eggshell-crushing force of nature. You want someone who will get in there and stomp some damn eggshells with you. And then share the cake.

The Unexpected Seance: A Skype Nightmare

Seance

I bought a new computer this past Sunday. The old one had been overheating to the point where I had actually burned myself touching the side of it, as had my sister Stephanie when she borrowed it one day. The new one’s pretty slick, it weighs about half of what the old one did. I was a little annoyed at having to spend the money, but admiring of the new machine’s sleek silver look.

I sat on my bed, plugged it in, logged in with my MSN address when prompted, and started to go through all of the things you need to do with a new computer. Register it with the manufacturer. Install Anti-virus software. Update Anti-virus software. Install programs. And finally, I went to Skype, to log in so it would be on when I needed it.

I have a Skype account. It’s linked to my MSN account and it’s the one and only Skype account I’ve ever had. All of my contacts are in there. For some reason, the arbitrary computer gods decided that instead of linking to my existent Skype account, I needed a new account linked to the same MSN address. Since none of my usual contacts were there, it pulled some names from MSN Messenger, which I haven’t used in probably five years. Tony and I used to use it.

You may guess what happened next, but in case you haven’t, here it is: my new, unwanted Skype account opened up, with Tony’s picture front and center. I sat for a minute, shocked and unsure what to do. I looked at the Skype ID and realized this was not the Skype account I’d been using. I tried to log out, but when I did it told me I’d need to log on to my computer under a different MSN address, which of course, I don’t have. I started crying. To make matters worse, this was also a newer version of Skype than the one I’ve been used to, with significantly fewer menu options. I tried clicking on Tony’s picture, thinking maybe I could just make it go away. “Connect with Tony?” came the helpful reply.

Connect with Tony. There’s no connection to be made with Tony, not any more. I couldn’t delete Tony from my memory, not even if I tried, but I did actually want his name and picture to disappear from Skype. I was getting more and more hysterical as I tried different options and none of them worked. I went to the Skype website and logged in under my old account. I tried to log in under the new one, but since I never set it up I didn’t actually have a password. After nearly an hour of complete panic, I finally realized that the password was the same as the one for my MSN email and once I got that figured out, I saw that there was an option to merge the two accounts.

This is, in its way, a perfect metaphor for grief. I am trying so hard to move on. I am arranging my new apartment, opening up my heart again, writing and creating and learning who I am without Tony. I am rediscovering my voice, my actual voice (cackly laugh and all) and my creative voice. As hard as I strive, I cannot undo the ten years that I spent with Tony. I can only merge that time with my present and my future. Grief is like that. It will have its way with you, when you least expect it. You will be skipping along, thinking you’re fine, and suddenly you’re flat on your face and crying and begging the universe to please, just stop. Just stop. I could barely connect with Tony while he was alive, especially toward the end. I don’t believe in séances or things of that nature, but if I did, the temptation to at least ask the one big question, WHY?, would be strong.

Some part of me felt – still feels – guilty that I was so eager to get his picture off my screen. Why, though? Why should I feel guilt? I tried my best to connect with him when he was here, I gave everything I had – more than I had, sometimes – to making our marriage work, to keeping his head above water, to keeping him HERE. It didn’t work, because he didn’t want to be here. He made that decision, there’s nothing I can do about it. That being the case, though, it felt intrusive to have him on my Skype page. I set up this account after he died, it never had anything to do with him. It had to do with me connecting with my family and my friends, both old and new. Yet still, I cried as I have not cried in a long time. I cried myself dry and merged the accounts and saw the people who are still in my life fill in the contact list. I blessed each one of those names as they appeared. Those names are the ones that link me to my new life. I reached out to one of them and shared what had happened, and had a moment of communion that made the last of the tears vanish.

Merge successful. At least for now.