Hoping for forward momentum (Image credit)

I’m fine; everything is fine. He’s reading ESPN highlights on his phone.  I sit up and look over his shoulder.  Sergio and Tiger are embroiled in a controversy, and Sergio is pissed at Tiger.  Stand in line, Sergio, I think to myself.

I decide not to tell him.  He doesn’t need to know.

Shit. Those five words in that order mean one thing: I better open my mouth and start talking.  Even though I’d rather just make fun of golf tournaments or one of our kids and go to sleep.

“So. . . ” I say.

He’s still scrolling through the Sergio-Tiger article.

I clear my throat. Go!Go!Go! I scream at myself.  I roll onto my back and let it unfurl. “I did something stupid that I feel ashamed about, but I learned my lesson and won’t do it again.”

Now I have his attention.

He rolls towards me and waits for the story between the shame caveats that bookend most of the shit that comes out of my mouth at bedtime.  He’s waiting.

“It didn’t cost any money,” I say, telling both the truth and a joke.  “Yet .” I add, trying too hard to be funny.   I know I am going to end up crying.

He’s waiting– laughing– but waiting.

We both are.

So I tell him.  I divulge all the details that I’ll never tell anyone else.  I explain how I had a good idea that rotted in my palm, but I refused to give it up.  “Naturally, I pressed ahead and then waited in anguish for the inevitable results.  I deserved exactly what I got, but still.  The rejection felt like a sucker punch,” I say, unable to meet his eyes.

I want him to respond to me in paragraphs.  If there was a menu, I’d order a pep talk entrée with a side of (fried) insightful discoveries about my self-destructive ways.  I want him to do work that I don’t want to do myself.

“I feel sad that you do this to yourself,” he said.

Now I am crying.  I want him to keep talking but he doesn’t.  He knows I need space. Silence.  Room to flail.

I search for the words to explain my thinking.  Not just the rote mechanics of this latest gambit– I want to explain the big why.  “My mind is like fucking Fox News with a never-ending crawl at the bottom of the screen.  My crawl never ever stops. Never. It’s a constant commentary.  Who’s better, me or her? Is she smarter than I am? Is she skinnier? Is he more successful? Am I the better mother/sister/wife/runner/writer/friend/patient? Who’s better? WHO IS BETTER?” 

How can I explain that those questions drove the latest shenanigans? “I was trying to keep my footing; I was trying to be the answer to my question who is better. But I need a new question.  This who’s better is killing me,” I say, staring at the shadow on the ceiling.

“What if you didn’t ask a question at all?” He suggests. “Then, you won’t have to answer it and you won’t have to work so hard to be the best.”

His brain is not like mine.  He doesn’t have a crawl.

“Impossible.” I’m crying harder. 

What if I could be free of it?  A me who is more creative, joyful, vulnerable and connected flashes through my mind. I want to meet her.

In the dark I believe she’s out there waiting for me.

I want to run to her, but all I can do is crawl.


63 thoughts on “Crawl

  1. That girl flashes through my mind too…and I am crawling toward her as well. And the story, a glimpse at the heart of you, as protagonist, in an agonizing moment. Painful to read but brilliant writing. Completely freaking brilliant.

  2. So-so, my ass. This gave me goose-bumps. The title and the end are so right on I can’t handle it. Every hair on my never-shaven thighs is standing at full attention. You are amazing, and GD it, you are a better version of the already wonderful Christie Tate I love this post.

    • Thanks– I really just felt lazy and was like– hey, I’ll write about the thing w/ me and jeff on saturday. It was a toss up between that and talking about how hard it is to have sex when MIL is up in the house.

      Thank you. Really.

  3. I had almost this exact beginning of a conversation with Amanda yesterday at dinner. She’d been home about an hour, we had been talking about other things the whole time, and suddenly I was all, “I did something today that I knew better than to do and now I’m upset about it and it’s my own stupid fault.” I read an article about the publishing business. I decided everything I was doing was for nothing. I failed before I even tried. It’s good to have a confessor, someone who patiently listens and makes it, at least a little bit, better.

  4. Once again, Christie, you amaze me! I can so totally, completely relate. This is my mind too. I saw a therapist for my “crawl” for a few months and she kept touting the wonders of mindfulness, saying that if I embraced it, my mind would be calmer as it is “impossible for the mind to fully concentrate on more than one thing at a time.” I fully disagree. It’s entirely possible to be working on something and have the static, the crawl constantly running in the background, especially if you are a mother of 2 little ones. I didn’t have the guts to argue with her years of expertise, and mindfulness still eludes me 🙂

    • Our therapists must have gone to school together. I’m all for mindfulness, but either I am not doing it right or my mind is broken because I don’t know how to get the crawl off my screen! If you figure out the secret call me. Collect.

  5. Beautiful post. And all this time I thought I was the only one with the constant comparison crawl in my head. Sorry to hear I have company. Now you know why I drink so much wine . . . 🙂

  6. Ooohhh…I felt this deep in my core. I think of it as the hamster wheel because I’m not as smart as you to think of a news ticker. I live that you are brave enough to share it with your spouse. Maybe I can crawl to that notion.

  7. Oh, boy do I subscribe to that channel. My crawl is currently comparing me to the other woman, my work supervisor (I applied for the job and didn’t get it two years ago and she sucks at it), all of the women selected to LTYM, anyone who gets published anywhere, and my own self. I think my crawl looks more like the stock ticker because the issues are so familiar and over thought that they are only abbreviations in my mind anymore.

    I try to tell myself that it is not foolish to take a chance. That eventually one foolhardy attempt will be enough. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. But I know the only way I’ll ever crawl out of second place is to get myself out there farther and farther from my comfort zone…

    • Oh my LTYM crawl was brutal this month. Gah. Next year let’s both do it. And I can only imagine how that “other woman” crawl feels. I would crawl out of my skin. And I can’t talk about publication without getting the rickets. So, I’ll shut up now.

      On Tue, May 14, 2013 at 10:00 AM, Outlaw Mama

  8. My mom calls it the washing machine, instead of the ticker, since my thoughts tend to go around and around, rather than in a straight, ticker-type line. Like Jeff, David doesn’t have a washing machine. He is a forward thinking problem solver, and rarely fixates on one thing, particularly things he can’t do anything about. I’m both in awe and baffled by it.

    • Totally. Maybe that’s why they have the ability to build a deck or enjoy Home Depot, whereas I do not. Maybe it’s related.

      On Tue, May 14, 2013 at 10:19 AM, Outlaw Mama

  9. beautiful. touching. heartbreaking. i’m so sad that you seem unable to be ‘good enough’ for yourself, especially when you’re so so good, and you know it. i know you do. accept it. you’re amazing.

  10. Oh, the bedtime anxiety is the worst. I used to get it really bad, even in high school. I remember on my UA Senior retreat (remember those??), I told Father Deeves about it. We were supposed to go to confession, or we could discuss a problem with the priest, instead. Since I was deathly afraid/loathsome of confession, I decided to tell him about my bedtime worrying. That poor man looked at me like I had three heads! I don’t think he knew what to do with me. But I do remember him being very kind and nice about it. But still looking at me like I was a little cuckoo. And I probably was. And still am. Beautiful post.

    • Thanks! Speaking of Father Deeves, I once told him that my friends smoked pot and it made me feel uncomfortable. He told me to stop being so judgmental. For some reason I just love that he said that. I thought he’d be all “get new friends.” Instead he told me to get a life. I loved him.

      And ooohhh eeeee, bedtime anxiety sucks. My poor hubs.

      • OK, that is hysterical. What a kick-ass man. So sorry that he is no longer on this earth.

  11. Tremendous, moving post. I so understand the crawl – although mine may read different words, it’s always there. What a great way you found to create something beautiful out of rejection.

  12. I want to grab you, give you a giant hug and tell you that you are so fucking awesome and have you believe me – like *really* believe me. Because it’s true.

    Now, having said that, the funk you may or may not have noticed I’ve been in, it’s because of something like this. The comparison game. So I get where you’re coming from. I don’t know how to make myself believe that I am just as good as anyone else any more than I know how to make you believe it. Wish I did, for both of us.

    Hugs. Be kind to yourself, please.

  13. This post made me cry. The writing is very honest and vulnerable. I’m impressed by the way you told the story without giving all of the details. I like how emotions take center stage instead of actions. Nice work.

  14. Wonderful post, Christie. Publishing isn’t all that great — although it’s super-great for about five minutes. You’re turning out fabulous stuff here, and you have people waiting to read it, and you’re becoming a better writer with each post. Pretty fine, if you ask me.

    • I totally appreciate this. You’re right– during the day I can think about and be in touch with my joy and connection, then at night these ghosts and boogeymen stalk me. It’s quite self centered and unpleasant. But comments like this remind me it’s worth working through because there’s a lot of love right before my eyes.

  15. Oh girl. I have that crawl, too – totally get it. Don’t you hate it when people ask totally reasonable questions like what if you just didn’t torture yourself? Sigh. You’re the best, and I love love love this post. Awesome!

  16. Well done. Your story clearly resonates with not only me, but so many others. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Its amazing how many people feel the impostor and have that girl lurking in the background. THis is so well written. thanks.

  18. From a crawl, to baby steps, to a cautious walk and at last a stride. You’ll get there. I so understand. xxx

  19. It’s terrible when we get into our heads like this. I did this the other day with something that happened with my son. My head came up with this worse case scenario and then for a full day, I felt guilty/sadness for something that my mind conjured up and it NEVER happened.

    Some days its hard to shut that stuff in our heads off. Glad you got a chance to talk it out with Jeff.

  20. Oh man, the constant crawl. I think I have a ticker at the TOP and the BOTTOM of the screen. And then a sidebar where I keep EVERYTHING I NEED TO DO FOR MY FAMILY. I’m signed up for freaking adult taekwondo to try to tame this monkey mind of mine. So that is costing money, if it makes you feel any better. Loads of it 🙂

  21. By the way, if it’s writing awesome blog posts? I can most certainly assure you: You are winning.

  22. Brilliant, brilliant post! I feel your pain and I’ve been there (heck, I may still be there). I know the “who is better” question feels impossible to let go of, but you’re off to a great start. Not to mention the ability to recognize it and, more importantly, write about it so well?

    If it helps you on your quest, I’m reading a book right now called “Radical Acceptance” by Tara Brach. She’s got this concept called the trance of unworthiness that holds us back — if we can break the trance, we can free ourselves from the pain and judgement that’s there. It’s definitely radical, but very cool.

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