When The Strong Break

My whole life I’ve been made of something other people aren’t. I know this.  I remember my Aunt Polly telling me that God made me different, that He put something inside of me that not every little girl gets. And I know that my Aunt Polly was unbelievably biased,  but as I grew older, I begin to believe that she was right. I remember going to McDonald’s for Diet Cokes to mix with our whiskey with the sister of the boyfriend I just buried, and I looked at her and said, “How are you doing this?” And she said,  “That’s funny,  but we were wondering the same thing about you.”  And then she said,  “But we decided if there’s anybody out there that can get through this, anybody that’ll be ok, it’s Candi.” I heard her words in my head so many times over the years, thinking: “I didn’t  get through this, I’m not okay….”

But I know what she meant. She meant my spirit. She meant my soul. And she was right.

I don’t know how many times throughout my twenties I heard how “strong” I was. I hated that. Strong isn’t an option. When life hits you hard, what choice do you have?  Roll over and play dead? I tried that. Nobody bought it. Life knew I was playing possum and just dumped some more shit on me. You just have to keep breathing — period.  Even if you’re not productive;  even if you’re not you;  even if you make bad choices;  even if you attempt to fill that hole in your soul with whatever foreign substance you can find;   even if, from the outside looking in, everybody sees a failure, everyone wonders what
happened to you, at the end of the day — you’re still breathing. That’s what counts.

Everything I’ve done was to just keep me breathing. Everything I did, every choice I made — wrong or right — was to just get me through to the next day. Just to live, just to survive, one more day.No matter how much I was beat down, no matter who verbally abused me, no matter what that boyfriend did — I’m here.  I’m sober.  I survived.

So that sister was right — you can’t break my spirit.

Until today.

I broke.

In spite of it all, I’m still whole enough to recognize that my Aunt Polly was, in fact, right. The Lord did make me with something inside. Something that just can’t not. I just can’t not.

I can hear my Uncle Chunky say: “Always do the right thing, Abner.” That even if man isn’t looking, God is. What God sees you do in secret,  He will reward in the light. You take care of that kid that you see that needs taken care of, no matter whose it is.  You find $20 on the ground, you turn it in — because it’s not yours (that was my grandfather too). And God is watching.  If you’re the only one in the position to take care of your grandmother when she gets old, you do it. Because it’s the right thing. You may not be rewarded in this life, but you will be one day. That’s what my Uncle Chunky would say.

So I do.

But today…

Today I sat at Dunkin Donuts and I was just broken.

I go back and forth between thinking I should hurl myself off a bridge and deciding that I’m about two espresso shots away from being psycho enough to set something on fire.

I’ve always heard that it’s a good thing writers write,  because if they  don’t make stories out of the stuff in their heads, they could get scary. When you look at James Patterson and Stephen King, 
you have to admit that’s probably true.  So when I got done crying so hard I threw up and calling my Aunt while ranting hysterically, I ran. 

Years of diet pill amphetamines and starving myself has my heart so weak I can’t run much, so man, I powerwalked the shit out of it.

Up the hill,  down the hill. Down the road to Lonesome, back up,  and down Highway 96. Daring those S-words to get in my way today. I dared them.

I realized I was broken. I don’t have anything left. I have given the last five years of my life, probably,  but definitely the last two or three to caring for somebody who has apparently lost their damn mind. And it’s so hard. And when I got done running, I sat down at Lonesome and cried. I cried for Pat Summitt. I cried for Aunt Betty.  I cried for all the caregivers out there trying to get through watching someone that you love slip away. I cried for Nuna. I cried for that little girl in me that will miss my Uncle Chunky just like it’s 1997 every single day. I cried for the Syrian refugees. I cried for the hatred and anger and animosity that’s building in this nation. I cried for myself. I cried for Obama leaving office. Then I cried for my Memaw. Because I miss my real Memaw.

Today, she picks the side of a “hourly employee” who is abusive,  psychotic,  and can’t even read so he attempts to abuse and manipulate others to make up for things he doesn’t know.  And I know she doesn’t know what she’s doing. She poured uncooked pinto beans in a bowl the other day and tried to eat them because she thought they were oatmeal. So I know that my grandmother isn’t in her right mind — at 91-year-old she doesn’t know what she’s doing — but she has broken me. She’s always been the one person on this Earth since my Uncle Chunky died that has never yelled at me, that’s always been happy to see me, that’s always loved me enough to always laugh at me. And  that’s gone. I know anybody out there that’s cared for elderly people can relate, but it’s just… it’s devastating, y’all.

The more hurt I got,  the angrier I got.

Not at her.  At the son of a bitch she pays to do odd jobs who started the fight today. The entire time I was running down the road, I just kept thinking that 5 gallons of kerosene and a match will take care of him. Got enough money in my pocket from a yard sale to make it Mexico, by the time they figured out it was me,  I’d be so deep in the desert they’d have to find me to extradite me. My Spanish is beautiful when written and I can understand the spoken language more than enough to get by. And let’s be honest, if there’s any country in the world I could camouflage myself into, it’s the place where they’re little and brown.

The more I thought about some idiot that uses the n-word like I do the f-one, swearing at me, the more I was convinced that if I actually turned my anger into writing, instead of giving up on every story I start,  I would have came out with Gone Girl before somebody else did. Because I had an almost-identical idea, and my head is a truly sick place.

Really? Who thinks sick stuff like this while they’re out running? If I committed as many crimes as I think about committing in my head, I’d never again see the light of day.

This is why we write,  writers. This is why we blog, bloggers. This is why we run, runners. And this is why we eat, eaters. And as Jimmy Buffett said, “If we weren’t all crazy, we would go insane.”

And I realized what happens when the strong breaks. They get right back up and start putting themselves together again.

After cleaning up two-day old dishes at my Memaw s house, sweeping,  mopping the den and the kitchen, dusting the tables in the den, I come back to  find  somebody had left dishes and Coke cans out in the den on my clean tables where they couldn’t even throw them away, and I contemplated arson  again. Instead, I just took them and threw them right in the middle of the bed for my aunt to clean up.  I sat down on the floor and cried, then picked them up and took them to the kitchen to wash them like a good girl.

Which I did.

Yes, that’s what happens when the strong breaks. We just get up, start glueing ourselves together again. Because somebody, somewhere, is counting on us being solid enough to take their shit.

And we know God is watching.

Maybe he can see that I’m broken tonight, Lord. It’s fine. I know weeping only endures for a night. And I’m going to enjoy the hell out of that joy when it cometh in the morning.


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