Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blood Red Life

This was written just over a year ago but never published. I was afraid to publish back then. I read it now and just shake my head.

I'm chopping vegetables to roast and the end of a carrot rolls onto the floor and under the stove and my first thought is that I have to stop and find it, before I forget it, before he comes home and finds it.

Our kitchen is clean and uncluttered because he likes it that way, likes all things that way. He doesn't cook, I cook.  I put the utensils in the drawer near the stove and he moves them elsewhere, rearranges them. I line the spices up on the counter and he puts them in the cabinet so that they are out of sight.

When he gets anxious he cleans, slamming cabinet doors and shoving school papers into the trash bin. Nothing calms him like the open expanse of an empty countertop, vacuum lines in the carpet, bits of things soaking in bleach.

He grew up in a home that was unsafe and unpredictable, where accusations echoed down long hallways and fists pounded furniture,or perhaps flesh. His address changed every few months. This is how I explain it to myself. It's about gaining a sense of control. But it still frustrates me to no end. I've forgotten what it is to relax in my own home.

We've talked about this in counseling of course. Or have we? I can hardly keep track anymore. There is so much ground to cover. Eight years of resentments and slights and truncated arguments. There is love under there, too, and sometimes we touch upon it.

Tip-toeing through a marriage, holding my breath.

I cut the heads off the beets, one by one, and their juices flow onto the cutting board and stain my fingers. I find this satisfying. As I slice off the rough skin to reveal the deep red heart of the fruit I feel a slight thrill. The juices run off the cutting board and I think that I should sponge it up, quickly, but I don't. Instead I watch it pool on the counter. I hold up my hands and look at them and think: I love this color and I want to paint it all over my body.

My thoughts trace the edges of reluctant promises -- some kept, some broken, some never given voice. Years of quiet soul death.

In that moment I feel the unbearable constriction of all that is, of the spice jars put back just so and the lawn cut to 1 3/4” and the layers of unspoken truths and row after row after fucking row of identical houses in identical subdivisions in identical towns in nowhere Kansas. I cannot live this life on a shelf, this wife on a shelf. I feel my heart pumping inside my chest, thrumming like a caged animal. I want to shout, “This is not who I am! This is not who I am! Can't you see this is not who I am?!”

I am standing in the kitchen, but I am gone.

My mind breaks open and spins back in time, back before time, and I feel my life lived anew in stunning shades of red. I am transported across oceans and years and so many lifetimes of quiet hope, across fields of gold fire and mountains and farmland until I breathe the scent of red earth and my soul expands and relaxes. Layer upon layer of lost dreams split open and fall away. I feel the heat of the afternoon sun, a close sense of familiarity, a yearning, a strength, a fire. I know, I know, that my blood red life awaits.

I want to stop here and freeze this moment, this sense of arriving at a destination. I don't want to come back to this room, this present. But I do.

I do.

I look down at my hands a moment. I sigh. I transfer the sliced beets onto the pan. I put the pan in the oven, wipe off the chopping board and the counter, and wash my hands. A faint tint of red remains. I walk outside and sit on the porch step. I feel the sun on my face. I close my eyes and cry. I cry hard.

I remember the piece of carrot by the stove, interrupting the polished lines of the floorboards -- my accomplice, a silent witness to a sea change.


  1. beautiful post. so glad it saw the light of day.

    i'd just like to know...have you painted your body beet red yet? i'm sure that could be an entirely new post in itself.


    PS isn't it refreshing to let go of those fears we had? some might still remain, but i'm finding it easier to breathe each day.

  2. @ JTW - Thanks, and I did, that's what the pic above is (though added in shadow so it's hard to see the color)!

    And yes, letting go of old fears is like a slow unwinding when you didn't even realize you were twisted up inside. It is a relief. x

  3. This piece. Oh. How did you get into my marriage?

    How did you give me those words? How?

    Thank you. I just got back from a night at my mother's. I needed to relax. To wake up in a house where no one was sighing or shoving or slamming and yelling at me.

    How do I stay? How do I retain my happiness inside this desperate love? When does rationalization become denial?

    Thank you.

  4. Please write your book, but not until I have written mine, lol. hugs
    Been here, done this.

  5. Suzy, my bff and I used to question, we were brave for staying, or silly? We still have no answers, but both are still married. The rages have subsided, and although they still show up, we know we can cope. No one ever said marriage was going to be easy, but my thoughts go out to you all. hugs

  6. @ Suzy - if you want to know what happened in my marriage, look at the tab "From Violence to Healing". It all imploded shortly after I wrote this. Divorce proceedings, assault, now he's under investigation for child pornography. That is why I shake my head. Good luck to you, love. xx

    @ Anon - Oh, I know. I have to live the ending first I suppose. xo

  7. As harrowing as it must have been to a) sit and write this in the first place and b) to relive it all now that you've hit the publish button...thank you. For the brilliant writing, and the bravery to put it out there...

  8. Your writing is amazing and so evocative.
    I am so glad you did paint yourself beet red, and gave in to the you-ness that was so oppressed.
    Marriage is about partnership, not obediance to another's whims.
    *hugs* You are such a brave woman.

  9. That's beautiful, K. As I was reading I realised that you were describing my marriage too. There must be so many commonalities in these men. The same backgrounds, the same behaviours.

    As you know I only started blogging as my marriage began falling apart. I never wrote about the during. I wonder what my journals would say about where my head was at.

    Thank you for this.

  10. @Glen - as are you, my friend.

    @Amy - after I published this I felt a surge of wonderful energy, like a release. Even all this time later. x

  11. @ Esse - Thank you for your lovely comment. It was actually liberating to both publish this (as I mentioned above) and paint myself (something I've always wanted to do). The picture is not so great, but the best I could do with my limited skills and patience.

    @ Dorothy - I agree Dorothy, about the commonalities. The need to control is a big part of the abusive personality. The child porn thing, however, I don't understand. That's a whole 'nother animal.

  12. As before, when I read your words, I wonder how many of us have lived, or rather endured, a marriage like this? How many have had to tip-toe through a relationship, living in fear in doing something wrong, or inciting the shouting, the put-downs, the violence? And how many of us have suffered in slence?
    The sad thing is that right now many women are still suffering.
    But when you write like this and share your story, you give a voice to all of us.
    Thank you. xo

  13. Wow. I have no words. Your writing is overwhelmingly brilliant K x

  14. I wish my writing was this good.

    Another wonderful post. I hope that everything comes to a close for you in the most positive way possible so you can move on with your life with freedom.

  15. You write the shit out of words my dear friend. Loved it xxx

  16. Kristin, your words. Your beautiful words. Take my breath away every single time. Thank you.xxx

  17. @ Bronnie - Too many. Way too many. It makes me angry and sad. It makes me feel like I never want to shut up about it.

    @ Holly, Woog, Brenda - xx love xx

    @ Mindes - Thank you so much. That is my wish every day. x

  18. wow! Kristin those words are amazing
    In the end i hope everything really works out for you hun (hugs)

    I am so glad i never married (my ex)
    as he was so like that movie ~ sleeping with the enemy! That was scary in itself for me .

  19. Every now and then you write something that fills up the entire inside of my head.
    I find myself constantly thinking of you, trapped in the tight confines of your marriage, and how you're growing and expanding now.
    I love that you painted yourself red. You're an amazing woman.

  20. I've just stumbled onto this blog and read a few of your posts. More power to you.

    Your words are powerful, confronting and hopeful.

    Love & stuff
    Mrs M

  21. WOW...powerful words there.

    I am glad that your life is improving and hope you achieve your dream of coming to Aus sooner rather than later.

  22. Great post!

    As a man I sometimes shake my head in dispair at those guys like this. I want to kick them out of the club.

    I am in no means a perfect husband. There are a lot of issues in my marriage as well but I've had more than a carrot head fall on the floor and spice jars out of order.

    Would I love a perfectly clean house when I get home from work? Sure. Would I prefer a happy wife instead. Sure would!

    Hurry up and come back!


  23. Just gorgeous. Paint yourself, and the town red. But let's make that town Sydney, OK?

  24. @ Danielle - thank you, love. I'm glad you didn't marry him either. The legal untangling is painful.

    @ Toni - I love your comments. And I love that little box you made me. I opened it up again the other day and looked through everything. Read through all the words again. You're such a generous soul. xx

    @ Mrs M - Thank you, I hope to see you again.

  25. @ Rhonda - xx

    @ Queensland Girl - You and me both! x

    @ Jack - I wasn't a perfect wife either. None of us are. But we need to give our partners room to breathe and grow and...just be.

    @ Glowless - I want to paint myself red in the Australian desert. Seriously. One day I will. And one day I will come to Perth, too. x

  26. You're lucky you wrote this 12 months ago - and then didn't hit delete.
    Sometimes it's hard to remember the details of where we have been and how far we have travelled.

    (ps - fantastic set of beetroot knockers!)

  27. I think the rage-fueled cleaning frenzies are the reason I get physically ill when I think about straightening the apartment now. Not that I let it go to slobbery instead ... it just takes an abnormal amount of time to prepare myself to go on a cleaning spree.

    I'm so glad you posted this. And that you painted yourself red. Lots of respect here.

  28. @ Freefalling - I'm glad I kept writing, too. It's amazing to think I was surprised by what eventually happened.

    @ inkpuddle - how weird that so many women are relating to this. The angry cleaning frenzy. Ugh. xx

  29. Beautiful piece of writing - thank you so much for sharing. I love how written words help us express so much more.

    And the photo is both beautiful and somehow terrifying at the same time. Again, thank you for sharing.


  30. Wow. Just wow.
    Your words, your history, your spirit & strength. Blow me away.

    Thank you for sharing x

  31. That you can make one feel full on your beautiful words, albeit words illustrating such pain and deep intensity, while in your place of stifled darkness.... it's just astounding. How can I say this imagery is beautiful? But it is. You've made something so ugly so beautiful. A true gift, your ability to reach in and pluck it out, my friend.xxx

  32. The heart of this country that you love so much is known as the " Red Centre ", the heart of our country !

    Harsh yet Beautiful, Barron yet full of Life, Extreme yet Comforting, Unique, Rare and Special to all that have had the pleasure of meeting her.

    I can see why you have such a spiritual connection with her, you are one in the same !

  33. Kristin, this is so beautiful. Wow indeed. xo

  34. Life is full of signifiers, isn't it? It's just that sometime we are not ready for them... but it's OK. They wait for us.

  35. Just...wow. That doesn't even begin to explain it.
    Fantastic post. And ROCKIN' body.

  36. Your writing takes my breath away. The imagery, the emotion conveyed is stunning. Thank you for sharing your story, it takes guts to write a story like this and more to press publish. How amazing that you painted yourself red. Love it. Hugs.

  37. Powerful . . . that is the word that immediately comes to mind after reading this post. The writing the powerful, the feelings behind the post are powerful and the you that has emerged from the wreckage is powerful. The photograph is also powerful and beautiful!

  38. "I breathe the scent of red earth" - see, even back then, you knew you needed to be in Australia!

    Incredible writing, just awesome.

  39. @ Oz - Hmmm...right now my life is beautiful and terrifying, so that's appropriate I guess.

    @ Fi - xx love xx

    @ Being Me - I think there is beauty in everything, as long as were present in it and fully alive. xx

    @ Andrew - She gave birth to me thousands of years ago. I know that makes no sense. But it's my story.

  40. @ Eden - xx thank you xx

    @ Steve - That's true, isn't it. They wait and wait and wait. Lifetimes if necessary.

    @ Pink - Heart, heart, heart. xx

  41. @ Tracy - thank you, xx I want to do it again with a deeper red!

    @ Jenn - I felt a surge of power after I published it, even a full year later. Emotion has a lot of energy. It felt good to express it. xx

    @ Doodah - I think I've known it all my life. Thank you. x

  42. Excellent post and picture! The writing was on the wall already...

    Nobody should live like that!

  43. Beautiful! No one should ever live like that. I'm surprised that you were able to stand it.

    That being said, I just found you on blogcatalog. When your twitter said you were in Kansas - I had to come check you out.

    I'm from california, and got dumped in kansas because of the military and I've been trying to claw my way out ever since.

  44. @ Becky - xx

    @ MomAgain - no kidding, blantant writing!

    @ K Syrah - I'm from CA too!

  45. Hi, I came to visit after stopping by Suzy's blog today. This is amazing writing and sheer horror to live in.

    I can't imagine this setting. It sounds like the movie, Sleeping With The Enemy.

    I want to read more and see how you have come so far. I'm glad you found your voice.

  46. I have sent you an email, for what I want to say is personal, I hope you get the chance to read it.

  47. Kristin-Are you writing up your proposal? Are you sending this out. Nonfiction books in the USA only need proposals...you have enough for one. Get it down on paper, hire a freelance editor if need be and send it out! I'm serious. So many are benefitting from pieces like these in your blog and so many more, who aren't on the internet, would benefit from reading your words via book, e-book, kindle, etc. Just START ^_^! And if you need any ideas, drop me an e-mail!

  48. OMG Kristin, this is such a powerful post. I am just speechless at how much it has touched my heart. xxx

  49. Some posts a better posted later. This one. Lovely and heartfelt.

  50. "Tip-toeing through a marriage"
    Yep, done that.
    So glad you wrote this.

  51. You are just an amazing writer. That piece? So good. Really I'm with Katherine...get that proposal done. I'd read your book.

  52. So glad you've ended that chapter of your life. :)

  53. What an amazing post. so much of what you wrote I saw myself doing a few years back.
    @"Tip-toeing through a marriage, holding my breath."
    That was exactly how I felt for such a long time in my marriage. It took a potentially fatal illness to make me realize this was a dress rehearsal, to stand up and be part of an equal partnership.

    I'm also passing the rules for accepting this award:

    * Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to their site in your original post.
    * Tell us seven things about yourself.
    * Pass along the award to fifteen newly discovered bloggers.
    * Contact these bloggers and let them know they got this award.

  54. @ Pastor Sharon - I'm glad you found your way here. Nice to see a new face.

    @ Belinda - Have written you back. Big, big, big hugs. xoxo

    @ Katherine - you know, I am now! Thanks for the kick in the butt. I can always count on you for that, when it comes to publishing. I forget that with nonfiction I don't need that much. xx

    @ Watershedd - So true.

  55. @ River - scary how many women have related to that one line. Ugh.

    @ Kelly - aw, thanks! xxx

    @ Wombat - me and you both! I don't know how I lasted, really.

    @ Caring Cleaner - I'm so glad you found your strength, though it sounds like a harrowing journey. Hope you are well now. Thank you for the award.

  56. After 17 years of living in the same house I distinctly remember my first night alone in my new house. Alone on the front step. Boxes strewn everywhere and nothing in this world felt better. Such utter relief. The weight that I had carried for so long on my shoulders was gone. I honestly felt like I could fly. No more egg shells to walk on. Just solid ground. Thanks for sharing, Wendy

  57. Beautifully written.

  58. Really well written and moving. So pleased you are now in a happier place. xx

  59. I know this is 4 years old, but I haven't read it before. And wow, I am speechless yet again from reading your words. I'm so glad you're far from this now. It's been a HUGE 4 years.

    1. Hasn't it though? So much crazy but ultimately a good outcome. Thanks for your lovely compliment. x


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