I was being a responsible little worker until "Strawberry Fields" came on the radio and my mind snapped into that third place, that dreamy place that makes me want to write.
Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to
Nothing is real
And nothing to get hung about
Strawberry fields forever
I've heard that "Strawberry Fields" is about drugs, but I don't know. Maybe it's about strawberries. I know The Beatles did drugs, but surely they ate fruit as well. Sometimes I feel like nothing is real and I'm not on hallucinogens. I'm just in serious denial.
For example, four summers ago there was a problem with my washing machine while I was potty training Christopher. He had to be potty trained by the fall to get into pre-K. For two weeks we were without a washing machine so I washed clothes by hand. He went through pants and underwear ALL DAY LONG. I distinctly remember hosing off his soiled pants in the backyard when he tottered up to me and told me that he'd had another accident in the pants and underwear I'd just put him in. First I was tempted to squirt the hose in his face. Perhaps that would potty train him, the ole' blast-them-in-the-face-with-the-hose-when-they-poop-on-themselves technique. But I knew I couldn't do that. So I downshifted into denial. "This isn't happening," I thought. Instant hallucinogen! Strawberry fields! Nothing is real! And nothing to hose off of pants! Sing it with me! "Pot-ty trained children forever." I think I ended up letting him run around the backyard naked for the next two weeks.
Anyway, I go into denial about people too. I was just discussing that with a recovery friend this morning. A friend who (in the spirit of anonymity) I'll call George Harrison. I thought about calling him "Peaches" but that would only make me hungry. I told him about how I like to tell people good things about themselves, even when those things aren't true, so that they'll feel good about themselves. This may sound nice, but it doesn't work very well. One man I fell in love with told me in the beginning that he didn't think he was good enough to deserve me. I assured him this wasn't true, and I thought by saying that I could really make him believe that he deserved goodness in his life. But he didn't and he followed through on that belief and mistreated people he loved. That didn't really help either of us. I loved a girl too who told me repeatedly "I'm such an asshole." I'd say, "No you're not. Don't say that about yourself. You're wonderful." And then I was surprised when she'd act like an asshole. I don't think I was wrong that these people had good in them. But both of them told me things they believed about themselves and then I was surprised each time when they acted accordingly. George Harrison agrees that it is more likely to find people who are able to return love if they believe that they can, and not just because I tell them to. But oh how I do love to believe that I can.
Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see
It’s getting hard to be someone, but it all works out
It doesn’t matter much to me
Who do I tell people that I am? Up until now I think I've told people that I'm worthless. I don't think I say that to myself or anyone else anymore. You know what's going to be really hard? The next time someone tells me, "I'm such an asshole," and I shrug and say, "Ok. What are you going to do about it?" It goes against every cell in my brain. What I want to say is, "No, no! Don't say that about yourself! You're a great guy! You're a liar and a rapist and a tax dodger but I love the good in you!" There is good in everybody, but at least I know that it's not my job to force people to see it AND embrace it, no matter how much I want them to. And believe me, I want it to be my job REALLY bad.
So this is probably what it'll look like the next time an emotionally unhealthy person comes looking for me:
I'll be at a coffee shop sipping a medium roast. Cream and a dash of sugar. A big dash of sugar. A dude will come up to me, smelling like whiskey and wearing a hat that says, "I am a prick."
"Give me a compliment," he'll say.
"I don't know you," I'll tell him. "I only know what you're showing me."
A woman with too much makeup who smells like heroin will step beside him. She's wearing a T-shirt that says, "I am a difficult person and I had an abusive mother who I will think of when I look at you." She'll tell me, "But aren't you that girl who makes people feel better?"
"I'm retired," I'll say.
"You can't do that to us," Prick Hat will say.
I'll stand up. I am wearing a T-shirt that says, "Single mother of 3 in a 12 step program with an identity crisis going on - Awesomeness under construction." I'll tell them, "I'm not sure you want to take my advice."
Then I will squirt them with a hose.