I see it when I talk to people, when I'm snippy or panicky or even nice. I feel like I am just barely on this side of sanity.
I went the annual school picnic at Pallas and Ezra's school. 10 minutes before we left I sat on my bed, hands shaking, gulping big pockets of air. The tears came quickly and with them the release.
"I will be fine. It will be nice to see friends." I believe me. Then I gather my courage which grabs its own bag called "I don't have to talk to anyone I don't want to."
Crowds do that to me, meeting new people does that to me. I feel dread, alarm, and anxiety. And when I am finally in that crowd, it's as if I'm in this odd dream, with cotton in my ears and wrapped in gauze. I know what to say, how to act, how to answer the "How are you?" (accompanied with a gentle touch on the arm and giant cow eyes)
I know I answered. I have my own patented lines.
"We are doing alright."
"It's hard and it's liberating...I get order whatever I want on my pizza."
"It's weird to be a single mother, completely on my own."
"I can do so much on my own that I didn't think I could do."
"How are the kids?" they ask. Patented answers don't vary much:
"They're doing ok."
"Ezra is realizinng that Art is not coming back. He's a bit clingy. The other two seem fine."
"They are managing. Kids experience grief differently from adults."
And I know I said those things. I remember laughing. I remember smiling. I remember hiding from people I didn't want to talk to.
I remember it because it's like watching someone else's movie. I was the driver in this woman's head. I am not attached by emotion. It is my job to drive the bus, so I do. I do it expertly navigating the awkward moments, the silences, the stuck smiles.
When I get home, I am not sure I was even really there. It felt so distant all those grins, those hugs, those how are yous. What I do know is that I'm home now and safe in an environment that I can manage most of the time, even if things need to be just so in order for me to function, in order for me to hold it all together.
These walls, the familiar routines, the way the chair squeaks, the ring of the phone, even the people that show up at my door regulary all bring me comfort. Here I can walk away from the knife's edge. Out there, for now, I can't.