Ink in Your Pores Is a Perfect Way to Say I Am Alive. Fucking Ayy: I’m Still Alive. And I Love You, My Dragonfly.
I’m really digging my new tattoo.
Dragonflies, with their graceful beauty and gossamer wings, have long been a favorite of mine. When I was a kid? I’ll be honest: Butterflies scared the shit out of me. Their insanely glorious flight patterns terrified me: here there everywhere in random insanity.
But Dragonflies? Oh, so perfect. They would fly just out of reach, but watchful. As if they were interested in where I was going and what I was doing. And when they got bored, away they would go. A smooth zip away. Graceful. Beautiful. Smart and idyllic, those dual layered wings would carry them off, in search of other interesting pieces of life.
Later, I came to love the crazy movement patterns of butterflies, and to fear for the tender fragility of their dusty wings. Even now, I can’t stand to shoo too hard the moths that fly to the light when I’m outside of a summer evening. I fear I might inadvertently damage the fragile wings that carry them here there everywhere with beautiful abandon.
I’d been wanting new ink for a while. I got my last in October; a few weeks out of the psych ward, I had the words of wisdom of my then-lover imprinted on the top of my foot: LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL PCS.
P really did teach me that; I had survived the awfulness of a major depressive episode and my desire to die. He showed me and told me again and again:
Heather! Life is beautiful! Live it up. Enjoy it. Be grateful for it!
And so last fall, the leaves on the trees were ablaze with color in my New England town, and I felt hopeful for the first time in so long, that it almost felt like a dream. After my discharge from the hospital, I attended an intensive outpatient program (IOP). One perfect day after program, when I felt like I was finally getting better, I stopped on a whim to have P’s words inked on the bony arch of my foot.
The placement was deliberate: I wanted to be able to look down and remind myself that indeed: LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL.
And I wanted — I NEEDED — to have his initials on my body, forever. Because even if we didn’t survive — and we didn’t — that moment in time was beautiful and significant and meaningful. I would (WILL) always want to remember the lesson that P taught me; that to love and be loved is the most important thing in this one life.
To know it and feel it and live love, the overwhelming feeling of soft and hard and understood, is the manna of life. And worth it.
Recently, I began to notice the Dragonflies around me. It seemed like every time I went outside, Dragonflies would hover about, watching me, following me. Not in a creepy, weird way, but in a Hey you, So glad you’re still here! kind of way.
My daughter, L, and I and D, her Dad, had gone through some very difficult, hard stuff this spring. She mentioned at one point that I had a lot of tattoos (5) but none with her represented. I wanted that; to have the initials of my life’s loves imprinted on my body. And she, and D, are my life’s loves, along with my late brother Scott, and my late mother, Elizabeth.
And then the most remarkable thing happened this summer. My husband learned he had a sister. It’s not my story to tell, but it is a beautiful one. Her name? Elizabeth.
Coincidence? Meh. Maybe. Or maybe the people you meet in this life are meant to be in your life.
D and I were separated but living together.
The winter here was easy; little snow, a few cold snaps. But I’d stumbled. After a protracted parting with P, I was sliding back into the yawning hole of black.
Anniversaries of deaths and an actual death had caught my ankles and tightened the grip of darkness. It was easy, at that point of recovering, to slide back to to the Familiar Darkness.
And yet, something inside me fought back. Told me in no uncertain terms Do Not Go Gently Into That Dark Night.
I clung; tethered to the edge of the Rabbithole by my fingers, my toes digging into the wanting waiting soil of depression. I tried to keep my eyes up, towards the light. To remember: mindfulness. Emotional regulation. I practiced telling myself: Be here now. In the present. In the moment. Not yesterday not tomorrow not next year not 32 years ago BE HERE NOW.
Increasing my therapy helped. Dr. D. has been in my life for 8 years; I doubled our weekly sessions and worked through it. Yes. Medication of course.
Then I met S.
Sweet, kind, brilliant, lovely S. He and D knew each other from a league they play in together. D asked me not to date anyone in the league, so I will confess here: it was very selfish of me. But the attraction — the man is brilliant and quite dashing — was strong. I ignored the request. D was (quite understandably) furious with me. I ignored his protests because he was dating. A lot. A lot of other women. And by dating I mean yes: there was the occasional Netflix and Chill.
What did it matter? We were separated but living together because of our financial restrictions, right? I looked at apartments and dreamt of getting out.
Until and then.
I did not do website dating, i.e. Match, JDate, eHarmony, Craigslist (LOMFL). While I love to write, that seems impersonal to me. I need to know if I vibe with someone from the get-go: be it friends or lovers. D did, and he met a woman in our hometown. I was not happy.
Oh my godless! I don’t want to run into her at Stop&Shop. Her kids go to school with our kid. What the hell? Please don’t shit where you eat!
D reminded me: You’re dating someone I know. Someone I see every week. You are dating someone I SPECIFICALLY asked you not to date. So no. You don’t actually get to have an opinion on this.
Of COURSE he was right. I didn’t.
Except: I Still craved him. Still dreamed of him. Still wanted him with every bit of my heart.
I’m not a Butterfly except maybe I am. They may be a wee loony and unpredictable, but they know where they want to go. They just take their own path getting there. Their fragile wings aren’t so fragile that they crash and burn; the soft vulnerability is still strong enough to carry them where they need to go. They just take a less-certain path in getting there.
Some people love butterflies, with their wild abandon and feckless beauty. Others are afraid of the uncertainty.
Dragonflies: those beautiful creatures? Their wings, too, are translucent and subject to being destroyed with the swat of a hand by the scared.
They watch and follow and pay attention, Dragonflies do. They are strong and solid in body, if tender and vulnerable in the wings that get them there.
I had no right. No right at all, to do what I did. But there we were: Getting closer. And one night, sitting on the deck, taking in the sunset and heat, listening to music on his phone. I picked it up and pretended to look at the music station. Instead, I accessed his messages. And I saw it: from her. “I loved waking up to the smell of you on my pillow.” Him, to her, “-Hey beautiful! How is your day?”
And. I. Lost. My. Shit
Wine tossed from a glass goes far. I can attest that Cabernet tears will streak a wall.
And glass. Glass breaks. Like a fragile heart it shatters and spreads itself across the floor, waiting for you to step on it and puncture the soft fleshy bottom of your foot, taking a hit for your heart.
I know these things because that is what I did, when I saw those messages.
I lost my shit.
I realized that I would not have cared, would not have felt that strongly, if I did not still love this man. The father of my child. The man who has been there for me for 17 years. Held my hand when my brother died. Kissed my face when I arrived home on October 11, 1999, a mere hour after leaving her side, to learn that my mother had passed. The man who came home to attach me to a liquid nutrition bag after my stomach perforated and I could not eat for months. The man who cared for our daughter every single day while I was at work and/or sick. The man who accepts tumult with grace and kindness.
He is no angel. He had an affair for some months that broke me for many years.
I am no angel. I am a person living with mental illness: depression/PTSD/anxiety. I am most definitely NOT easy to live with. I am smart but also moody and sometimes erratic and sad. And most people could not deal with that. But D? He is not ‘most people.’
I came to know.
He is my steady. The Dragonfly to my Butterfly. The one who observes from afar and loves the slightly crazy and fragile Butterfly, no matter how erratic her path. The shimmering, gossamer-winged beauty who tacks and tracks and keeps an eye on the slightly mad but beautiful winged creature.
I am the luckiest person in the world, to have found and lost and kept him. My Dragonfly.
He will always be my dragonfly. The one who keeps his steady eye on the loony monarch. I will alway be his kooky orange and black whisperer. The one who pokes his tender and keeps him honest
But at the end of this day?
We are toxic for each other. DDT in the glowing fields is what makes the fields glow and so. And so. AND SO:
I am fine and and you are not. I am gone and you are naught. My handsome, beautiful, tender, Dragonfly.
Let us both soar to new places Let us both roar to new faces
Let us both adore
The other. While we still can.
I love you, DMC. Always have, always will.
I accept your kind grace and you.
And you? You will?
Loving You Eternally, Heather