The Tower XVI

June 27th, 2024

The Tower

While in Iceland, for several nights at 3:30 in the morning, I woke to a cold sheering thought. “Why did we all walk so close to the edge of those cliffs?” Let me be clear. I love heights. I love jumping off high things and feeling the free fall. I love skyscrapers and the tops of mountains and looking out the window of an airplane. I love to rock scramble to the top of the waterfall, lay belly down, push a pebble off and watch it fall all the way to the shagged rocks. I even listen for that sound of crashing and am in awe when I am so high up that I can’t hear it land. I love that feeling of being on the edge…but only in the daytime. At night, when the adrenaline rush catches up with me, it is like whiplash; I am jerked awake with a “What was I thinking?” This especially happens when I am with my kids.

Almost every day while hiking in Iceland, we ended up on the edge of something, and I loved it. My kids, right beside me, also venture right to the edge. My husband Scott is not into heights and respectfully keeps his distance, a gentle reminder of how close death is and what could happen with one slip. His training as a trauma surgeon only made him more cautious. He has put people back together but he has also been there when you can’t. In our marriage, Scott keeps a safe distance, watching as I take flying leaps off or into things. I think there is always one in a marriage. The one that does not need to leap. The one that anchors.

But what if one of us fell? People fall. I think about it every time I look over a ledge. What if? There is power in that, but also hell. Tragedy befalls. The car hydroplanes off the road. The betrayal leaks out of an unsuspecting friend. The FBI shows up at your house. Someone drinks too much, pisses all over your white couch, and then almost chokes to death in their vomit. The ambulance is called. The noose is carefully pulled off the neck, gasping for air. The cancer is back. You fail out. You put down the needle. Your company is bought out and you are replaced with a computer. You fall, your back is never the same. The operation does not work. There is no cure. You hold your dead eight year old boy cursing God for years. You flush your third miscarriage, feeling numb. These things all happened to people I desperately love. Their towers fell. They somehow rose up.

This is the card you don’t want. This is the end of the road; the gig is up, your hands are tied, and the rug has been pulled out from under you. This is “I had no choice.” This is me or you. This is the time to tell the truth. This is the moment you get it, but it feels too late. This is collateral damage. This is the house burned down and you were the one to set the fire. This is the car out of control and you saying, “Jesus take the wheel.”

Let me be clear. No one wants this card, but we all get it. We all have to get this card to get the hell out. This is the “Hell NO!” and then the hell just keeps coming and coming card. This is “I can’t catch a break.” It is the feeling of “NOOOOOOOO!” It is sometimes the feeling of “Fuck it, burn it to the ground.” It is also “I can’t do this anymore. Not one more day, not one more minute, not one more second. Take it all. I don’t fucking want any of it.”

My tower came down at 21. I found a love letter in the back pocket of my boyfriend’s blue jeans. The girl’s curly letters and heart fucking shaped dotted i’s plotted how he could sneak away in the night to be with her instead of me. (I still can’t stomach heart-shaped dotted i’s.) While reading this love letter, an invisible knife started from the top of my head and splayed me open from head to toe. My heart fell out of my body, trying desperately not to feel and slithered away. There I was, left in the dark, with no heart, no hope and pieces of myself all over the room. At that time, I was wearing a rose quartz crystal around my neck. My teacher who taught me The Tarot, gave it for me to wear just weeks before. I did not know why at the time but now I know….he must have pulled the tower. I held that pink heart stone in my hand and cried and cried till it shattered into dust. He knew. Everyone knew. It was not sustainable. A relationship where you catch your boyfriend in your bra and underwear is not sustainable. A relationship where you cry almost every other night, because you make him mad and moody, is not sustainable. A relationship where you are not allowed any friends is not sustainable. A relationship where your boyfriend hangs out with a creepy priest is not sustainable. The signs where there. This was not the man nor the way to start a life. The rocks I used to build a life with him were made of sand and lies. No number of tears could make sand clay, nor make a solid rock. This guy took me down, and with it, everything came down. After that, I was sick of people; after that, I saw through all sorts of bullshit. After that, I put a lot of space between me and my family. I learned to say NO. After that, I knew I could not save you or you or hell not you! So I plopped my ass down in Alanon and therapy. I stared at the embers and the ashes and dug down to find what I wanted to keep. What was left?

And that is the tower. I could not go on until I got to the bottom of it. Why did I find that man so addictively attractive? What was it all about? One day, while walking with a friend, we ducked into a tarot card shop in Georgetown. I held out my palm wanting to know about my career. I said “Don’t tell me about my relationship. I love this guy too much.” She laughed and looked down, her thumb rubbing my heart line, and said, “Oh honey, that is not love.. that is something else.” I pulled my hand from her and ran out of the store. 5 weeks later I found the love letter. She knew. She knew this guy was going to lite the match to my tower but she also knew that I was the one who loaded it with kindling. And while he took me to the knees in the burning ashes of codependency, I landed at the altar of the truth of who I was. I deserved more than crazy. I deserved the, respect, honesty, and love. But first, I had to find it in myself. First, I had to stop feeding off the fields of others.

Four years later, on a cold January night in 1993, I found myself on my second date with Scott. Halfway through this date, we got into a fight right on the edge of Central Park. Basically, he was in his 3rd year of medical school and was doing a psych rotation that was very one-dimensional and a bit too clinical for me. On the other hand, I was studying with a Lakota Shaman, who could shapeshift into a crow and with whom I Astro traveled at night when the moon was right. I mentioned that schizophrenia was partly a spiritual imbalance and that hearing voices didn’t always mean you were crazy. Scott said, “If you are saying you hear voices, I could have you committed.” Then I got mad and said, “I don’t have time to pretend I am not who I am or convince you. If you can’t listen to me now with an open mind, this won’t work, and I should just go home.” I didn’t know at the time, but Scott’s tower had already come down too. He shot back. “I’ll listen but I don’t have to believe you. I will trust you till I can’t. You have one chance at trust with me, lie or cheat and I am done.” We made a deal. We both had to listen, even if we did not understand or agree. We both had to tell the truth, and we both had to take care of our shit. Looking back, it is amazing how intense and important that conversation was for a second date. How, foundationally, we both immediately put down what we required to start with the best we could offer. These are still our cornerstones, the foundation on which we built everything. Tell the truth, listen, respect and own your shit. This is why the house has not collapsed after 30-plus years, even through big storms. To this day, Scott tethers me with the honest truth and keeps me from slipping into the abyss or flying off with a 1/2 man, 1/2 crow under the full moon. On the other hand, I give him permission to keep building, to trust we can keep going, to allow for love and more love and to believe that no matter what, the world we have built is built on the truth and will not collapse. It will hold. and will not slip out from under us, because right from the beginning it began on hard won solid ground..

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