I was having a conversation with a friend about the potential relationship status with a woman he clearly has a connection to and the comment “she’s broken and crazy, much like the rest of us” was said when asked why they weren’t together.
That comment stopped me. I was instantly protective and defensive of this stranger. I hadn’t considered that my friend has different connotations to those words that aren’t negative. I was also assuming these things aren’t true and he was being unkind.
My mother in law was sitting on the couch and said quietly “I know what people say about me. I’m crazy. I’m not, though.” The pain filled our living room like air. I breathed it in, not understanding. “I know.” I told her, attempting to comfort, to escape. She turned and looked at me. Her eyes burned into me. We both knew her time was almost up and I would have done anything to make the sad finality of her eyes go away. “No. You don’t. But you will.”
We’d had hundreds of conversations and most of them have faded from my mind. That one stayed.
Eventually people started to call me crazy. They said it behind my back, to my husband, to each other. I had a lover once say to me “You’re my kind of crazy”. I didn’t take it as a compliment.
When people started to tell me to my face that I was crazy, I’d scratch the surface of myself, trying to see what they see. It must be true. Everyone tells me to be myself with one breath and with the next that I’m crazy. I’d get small. Stop talking. Don’t be loud. Don’t snort when you laugh. Don’t cry for stupid reasons. Accept these things…. until I didn’t recognize myself and my socks matched. But I was so tired.
I figured out a few things trying to find myself. I’m not crazy. Not even a little bit.
You know what I am? Fucking tired. I’m tired of being fed a pile of shit, and told to smile while I eat it. I’m tired of being still.
Men tell women they are crazy as a way to invalidate the woman’s emotions and experiences. Women doubt themselves and feed into it. Looking back, everyone that’s been called crazy is a woman in my life.
My father has not once to my knowledge been called crazy. I once watched him pick my mother up and throw her across the living room. I watched him stack a brownie and chips into a ham sandwich and eat it all together. He took me outside and placed me on the trampoline in the dark and walked away to “cure” me of my fear of the dark. He’s a perfectly sane man. I’ve been told I’m crazy in the following three instances: I panic when I watch violent movies, I don’t eat the orange M&Ms, and I can’t be alone in the dark. Which of us is crazy?
Men get to have a midlife crisis. Women get called crazy. How is that fair?
Broken is different. I get to be broken, I’ll take that one. But there is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.
I was broken. I wasn’t crazy.
As for my friend that was the catalyst for this blog, I may be unfair to him. I may be unfair to his lover. I don’t know. She may be crazy and lost, broken and self sabotaging. It isn’t for me to say. She may be standing in a storm while the world rains down on her. But she’s still here. That’s enough.
What saved him is “like the rest of us” and his fondness for Alice quotes. He includes himself in the category of crazy and broken. But he stops at being in a relationship with someone crazy and broken? I don’t know all of his reasons. And it’s not my business.
I keep thinking of my mother in law, in my living room. She was at the end of her life and said into the quiet room, a declaration of permanence.
“I’m not crazy. ”
I know now.