Narrator: There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.
— The Twilight Zone, 1959, Season One
My narrator: Meet Roxanne, a divorced mother of five who sometimes forgets to eat, or chooses to save a simple breakfast bar for her children rather than “waste” it on herself. It’s an ordinary day for Roxanne, who had left home for her only true indulgence — getting her morning coffee. She didn’t know that when she returned into her neighborhood, she would cross into . . . The Twilight Zone.
Over the weekend we had some icy snow in my part of the world. I was out running errands (in other words: getting coffee). On the way home I was wondering whether I could get my children to shovel the sidewalks for me, doubted that they would before going to visit their father and worried about whether doing it myself would throw my back out again. My Aching Back A neighbor offered to pay my daughter to do hers. I wished that daughter or any of the children would do ours also, without back talk, threats or rewards — and before they had to go. It probably wouldn’t happen. I got my coffee, and while there I picked up my daughter’s favorite breakfast sandwich as a treat, plus I wanted her to get something warm in her belly before going out to shovel the neighbor’s walkway. As is often the case, I didn’t get a sandwich for myself, saving a couple of bucks, not wanting to spend the money on — me. As I turned into my neighborhood, I had my daily thoughts of “I really hate this neighborhood, I don’t like living here.” Followed by, “I wonder if I can figure out a way to move again but keep the kids in the same schools.” And rounding out the trilogy, “Don’t be ridiculous, there’s no reason to move except that you don’t like it here and that’s just not a good enough reason.”
Given all these thoughts rushing through my head it was rather amazing that I happened to spot a woman on the side of the road. She had plastic grocery store bags spread in front of her in the snow, was shaking and clenching her hands and seemed to be trying to figure out a way to pick them up again. Clearly she was struggling to carry her groceries home in the snow.
I stopped, backed up, asked if she wanted a ride. She only gave pause for a moment and eyed me to make sure I didn’t look like a crazy. (Sometimes I can appear quite normal . . . but I digress). It was bitter cold outside. She accepted the ride, put her bags in the back seat and sat up front next to me, thanking me. She explained that she rushed out so quickly to get some things from the store that she had forgotten her gloves. It wasn’t that the bags were heavy, she said, it was that her hands were frozen and she couldn’t hold them anymore. “My hands hurt so bad,” she said.
It didn’t really matter to me why she was in her predicament, I just wanted to get her home. It was too damn cold and icy to walk, especially with groceries, no cart and no gloves. She went on to explain that her brother couldn’t shovel the car out because of his eye. His eye. Huh. I pondered this. Why would his eye keep him from shoveling . . . maybe he’d had surgery? I drifted off to my own little world, thoughts racing for first place in my head.
Then my passenger said, “I’m Roxanne.”
Skid marks on the brain. Thoughts stopped on a dime.
“Get OUT!!!” I responded, perhaps a little too energetically, reminiscent of Elaine from Seinfeld.
“What?” she responded, looking concerned. It was an unfortunate choice of words for my exclamation — I mean, saying “Get Out!” to a passenger in my car! Smooth, Roxanne.
“MY name is Roxanne,” I quickly explained.
“Yes. Really. Wow, that’s wild.” It’s a fairly uncommon name. It was surreal.
Roxanne said that I could drop her at a nearby intersection but I told her, no, I would take her all the way home. During the ride I discovered that we had gone to the same high school, and though I had assumed she was older than me, it turned out but she was too young for me even to have known her from school. She appeared worn beyond her years. I didn’t recall ever having seen her in the neighborhood or around town. It was odd.
So what of my surprise passenger, Roxanne? A woman who shared my name, who was walking alone in the snow-covered street, who failed to think of her own needs while rushing to meet the needs of others. The consequences of her neglect of self was finding herself standing in the snow with frozen fingers, groceries at her feet and blocks from home. For whatever reason– her family was not there to help her and she had to accept a ride from a stranger.
It gave me pause.
I’m that Roxanne, too, coming home with a sandwich for a child so that she could shovel another family’s walk but bringing no food for myself.
I almost said to the other Roxanne, “How could you leave home without gloves? You’ve got to take care of yourself. You’re no good to anybody if you get sick or frostbite.” But what stopped me, other than that being creepy coming from a stranger, is that other people have been saying that to me lately. My therapeutic goals are largely based upon meeting my basic self-care needs without guilt.
“Roxanne, have you been eating and sleeping? You can’t take care of your family if you don’t take care yourself.” I’ve heard often. Too often.
Did the universe send me that other Roxanne to remind me that I need to help myself? I mean, I know that when I get sick, the whole system fails. I know this, yet I still need reminders that protecting myself from the elements, eating, sleeping and yes even doing something just for my sheer enjoyment of it is as important as, well — anything. Somehow, that reminder got in my car that day, and her name was Roxanne.
I dropped Roxanne off feeling good about having helped her, since it was so very cold outside, but I knew that both of us need to take care of ourselves. I need to take care of me.
Maybe picking up a reflection of myself — what I could become, what I have been . . . was meant to be that day.
My Narrator: Roxanne, a functioning, yet melancholy divorced mother who often puts her basic needs well behind those in her care, stops in the snow to assist an eerily familiar woman in distress, a woman who perhaps shares more than just her name in . . . The Twilight Zone.
Just Me With . . . an over-active imagination?
P.S. I told my therapist about it. She queried whether the woman was real.
I’m not even going there.
See the Sequel: The Twilight Zone — Again? Seriously?
I am angry. That is how my depression manifests itself these days. I’m off the floor. I don’t cry. But I have no patience for anyone and I’m pushing people away. That’s my M.O. I’m blinded by rage and can’t see anything but thankless obligation. Suppressing myself for the common good. That is what I do, that is what mothers must do. Therein lies my rage. It’s not pretty. It’s not good. Since I can’t let it out, it gets turned inward. And it waits. Customer service people and drivers beware.
No, I don’t bash my Ex in front of my kids, yes, I show support for his choices. Because I have no choice. blah blah blah And, I count my blessings for having healthy kids, living parents, a roof over my head, and an Ex who pays court-ordered child support. Yes, I know the drill. Those will tell me to put on my big girl panties, pray, etc. Yes, I know the drill. I’m not an idiot. I’m not a Stepford Ex-Wife either — though I play one in real life during every waking hour. I don’t drink. I never utter a profanity in front of my kids. I’m a good girl.
But just under the surface, is my rage, this is where my poor choices, failed career, and misspent youth doing the right things fester, while I watch, drive, stand in the rain, in support of everyone else or dry the tears and say the “right” things when someone comes to me crying because of something someone else did, or accept being ignored when it is not “my day.” I listen to crap to keep the peace and I bite my tongue while people pity me for not meeting my or their expectations. I say thank you when my mothering gets praised when I’ve never felt so alone. Yet I know that children are fickle creatures and will gravitate toward those who fulfill their needs and cling to those who fail them. I’m honored to have certain people in my life, yet curse myself for having needed them so badly. And I know that there are people suffering horribly from unspeakable disease, trauma and disaster, so how dare I be angry about anything? Yes, yes, I know, I know the drill. So again, thou shall not have feelings . . .
So I’m angry. And the perfect empowered, pump wearing, summer house, happily c0-parenting with one child, dinner party, career-minded, alumni event and conference attending, people can shake their heads and waggle their tongues, all because I have feelings and dare to get pissed. And, that’s why I’m pissed. I have feelings. I do the “right” things for my family — my broken home, but it is not and never has been enough for me and . . . I’m . . . pissed. I’m doing for my children, and I hope they do well and I hope to assist them to gain the tools necessary to do whatever they want to do — live their life, achieve what they want . . . happiness. But this —- this, is my life now and it . . . makes . . . me . . . mad. And I do not like it.
I realize I may get negative nastiness from this. Get in line, and take a number — Bash Me in Aisle Two, Use Me in Aisle One. These are, apparently, what I am here for, my true calling.
And this, my friend, is the voice of depression.
Just Me With . . . rage
I’ve gone to group therapy before to deal with my depression. You know, in a room of complete strangers baring my soul and my business. I’m not sure why it works, but it can be effective. I’ve never had any problem with drugs or alcohol but after having been to group I now understand why recovering addicts continue to go to meetings well after they are off the bottle, pipe or pill. Non-addiction related group therapy works kind of the same, Hello I’m [fill in the blank] and I’m here for [ depression, OCD, anxiety, etc].
In group, sometimes strangers can be so supportive in a way that friends and family cannot. These similarly flawed people served as a mirror to my own self and offered help to find a solution to my blues. The last time I went to group, there was a theme for how to deal with my major episodic clinical depression, a chronic condition triggered by the end of my marriage.
The guys said:
“Just say yes.”
It was a common theme. The guys said I need to go out — with men. In other words, I need to date. Quite antithetical to my historically feminist sensibilities.
“I don’t need a man to help me get over my problems,” replied the feminist voice inside me.
The process of separating myself from my ex-husband had been difficult enough and I certainly wasn’t looking for a replacement.
“I’m fine alone, thank you,” said my strong, invincible, feminist self.
But the group therapy guys, insisted: “You need to go out.”
Dude, is it that obvious?
It’s not like I haven’t had male companionship since my marriage fell apart, but aside from the Transitional Man, the other men were guys I’d already known from throughout the years. You know, kind of comfortable guys. What I hadn’t done is open myself up for new men, random men, being approached by men and actually being approachable — just dating.
During the time I was going to group, I was perfectly content with not seeing anyone. Not because I was afraid of being hurt again. I believed, and still do, that no one could hurt me as much as my Ex had, just given the sheer number of years I’d put in with him. (Kind of like having cramps after having experienced labor, what once would have crippled me in pain turns into a mere annoyance). And, no, I don’t hate men, either. I just didn’t really see the need, other than enjoying the occasional physical release they can provide. My fear, if I cop to one, is really that I might actually find a man. I was and am sure that another marriage is not the goal, nor do I have room in my little house — let alone my life — for another person. Plus, with so many kids, well, there are the practical considerations of finding the time, etc . . . I could go on and on BUT . . .
Apparently none of that mattered — to the guys.
The guys suggested, strongly suggested, that I go out on dates and “Let somebody treat you right,” they said. They weren’t saying I should go on the hunt for husband number two or even a boyfriend, or that I needed to get laid, just that I casually date. “You need to let somebody spoil you,” they said. “Guys would eat you up.” (double entendre accidental — I think) . Really?
They were so sweet that way. Some of these guys were in for anger issues, had been victims of and/or committed abuse — these were tough dudes. The fact that these guys were suggesting flowers and dinner was a real eye opener. In fact, they were telling me to open up.
It was food for thought. “No, I don’t need to find a man,” I told my feminist self, but could I benefit from seeing my value reflected in a man’s eyes over a meal or coffee? Perhaps. And, wouldn’t it be nice knowing I have the option of walking away if I’m not having fun? Absolutely. No lawyers, no visitations, not even any mutual friends — just “Buh Bye”?
Yes. Can I get an Amen?
So should I say yes? Should I let a man “woo” me even though I have no desire to be “won.”
Seems so simple. But it’s the one thing I haven’t truly embraced in my not-so-new state of singlehood.
Notably, the women in group were supportive, too. They talked about being thankful for the kids, and that what I’m doing for them now will pay off later.
But the guys? They weren’t talking about mothering.
Out of the mouths of babes . . . oops, I mean . . . the mouths of guys . . .
Just Me With . . . thoughts of just saying yes.