It’s not readily apparent to most people that 2013 was a bad year for me. Some days it’s not even apparent to me that I’ve had a bad year. I took lots of great-looking pictures and did some pretty cool things and a lot of very good things happened to me. I was talking to a friend the other day about the Bad stuff that I’d written in Part II and she asked “was your year really that bad?” Many others have expressed similar surprise that I struggled so much last year.
I get it. I don’t seem particularly depressed or unhappy. I don’t even feel particularly unhappy. I even write posts where I am thankful and grateful. Most days, even in bizarro work world, I am oddly upbeat, routinely practicing my pirouettes in the back office. My life seems to be marching along quite swimmingly. On the outside at least. On the inside, I’m a wreck — a girl fractured into disparate parts.
I took a beating last year (and the year before that as well). My confidence, my pride; even my faith were shaken. I am worn. And weary. And just done with most things. I’d like to say that all of these things made me stronger and better. But that’s not true. The purpose of this post is not to catalog all the bad things that happened to me. It’s just a bread crumb trail that shows how I got to this point. You see, The Ugly part of last year is who I became in the process.
The Ugly started long before 2013 and though I can’t pinpoint the exact date, I’d estimate mid-Summer 2012. It started with a death.
My job was difficult (we’d just completed a strenuous 7-month deployment)– but still manageable. My boss was impossible (to please and otherwise)– but we were counting down the months till his turnover, I was soon-to-be friendless as J9 was going on deployment and my divine appointment with Hawaii BFF hadn’t yet arrived. I didn’t feel stressed though. This high-level crazy was normal and all balls must keep moving. So I kept juggling away. Until the day one Sailor dove overboard and killed himself.
I stood on the boat deck a long time after we brought him back up, watching his lips turn blue and his body remain lifeless though we tried and tried to get air into his lungs. It seemed over an hour before Doc finally called his death. And still, all balls must keep moving. I wrote the requisite messages, called the necessary people, did everything necessary to keep those balls airborne. We pulled into Pearl Harbor at midnight, silent as thieves, heavy with heartbreak. I stood in the shadows of the focsle as we passed the mooring lines ashore staring at the large number of people waiting on the pier to come aboard. I was sudden-struck by the thought that my juggling was in jeopardy. This newly added ball was unwieldy and unmanageable, too heavy to juggle with all the other balls. How could I keeps all balls moving if I couldn’t even lift this one. I cast about for somewhere suitable to place this ball and I lifted the hinge of a compartment (that I didn’t even know existed) and gently placed the ball on the compartment floor. I dropped the hinge and scrawled things too heavy to deal with now on the hatch and I walked away from it.
Finding that compartment was such a relief . It was like taking a puff of my inhaler and being able to breathe normally without lumbering through a constricted chest. I could even pick up my juggling again, ensuring that all balls kept moving. I never really visited that compartment again — I just got better with my filing system. No more nows in the title. No requirement to come back and deal with the things that I tucked neatly away into their own little compartments -because there were now more than one. Compartments named this isn’t really happening, that’s weird, and I don’t know what to do with that among others. Compartments that didn’t touch each other and that couldn’t touch me.
5 months later, another Sailor. Another suicide. A sunny Thanksgiving morning and there was again death to contend with.There was no compartment for this one — nowhere to hide from the brutality of it. The pain broke through the compartments. I could barely keep those balls airborne. But there was no other alternative. I couldn’t put those balls down. So I started to stack the compartments higher, creating a nice wall around my heart. Around my core. The compartments gave me a safe distance from the maelsttrom around me. It kept me far from the madding crowd.
Things only got worse with my new job. I created two additional, super-sized compartments called absolute batshittery and why is this happening and just threw all of the craziness into one of those bins and let Outside Jada handle it. Outside Jada handles most things at work. She’s tough and stands up for herself because no one else is going to do it. Inside Jada is withdrawn and isolated and wants nothing to do with any of this. And then there’s self-serving, self-soothing (4s) Jada whose sole purpose in life is to make Jada feel better –other people be damned. 4s Jada does not care about your problems or care to help you with anything unless it suits her. She exists in her own compartment called self-soothing where nothing good lives.
Up until about six months ago you wouldn’t have been able to tell any of this from looking at me or talking to me. Outside Jada understands that the juggling and pretending of life is non-negotiable. All balls must keep moving. And so she keeps the show and the jazz hands going, she keeps strangers entertained and engaged and at a good stiff-armed distance away from the rest of us. While Inside Jada– all of the different versions that manage the different compartments– keeps folding things neatly into the little squares of waffle where I’ve divided all of the dirty, difficult, demanding things of my life.
Except the compartments are full, 4S Jada is no longer content with her compartment and is wreaking general havoc and destruction while the other Jadas spend all of their time playing whack-a-mole to keep the compartments from overflowing. All of those long-ignored emotions and feelings are rising to the surface. All of that brokenness and pain will have to be fixed.
At church this past week, the pastor said: sometimes you have to understand how bad it really is before you can fix it…You don’t fully comprehend the good news until you understand how bad the bad news is. It’s taken me over a month to write this post and much longer than that to understand how bad – how ugly –it is. And this is how I’ll close out 2013 with this reckoning — this account of things done and received.