Lessons From The Road

I feel like there’s a lot you learn about yourself while driving in the middle of the night. As the lines in the road speed by and your headlights wash across exit signs, the road strips away the ignorance and pride from your plane of knowledge and reveals to you the truth.

The things you’ve just assumed and hoped were always true start to unravel and in those moments of dead air between the songs and the station identification breaks,  you can see where the cracks have always been. The reflection you catch in the windows is your own, but it shows you as you truly are.

You’re a mess. You’re scared. You’re out of your element and you really wish you had someone there with you. You can still see your crown, so you know you’re still capable, but you’ve noticed it’s slipped. You’re unsure. Most of all, you’re feeling less than you.

The road tells you these things. The destination not so much.

 

The Crown Slips

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Such was the case for me one night at the of the beginning of this month. After a day of being sick, my husband was taken by ambulance to the emergency room. Let me just state, one more time for the Universe to hear, diabetes fucking sucks. He has Type 1 and for some reason, his body decided to flip out and slip into diabetic ketoacidosis. As we have three children at home and are in the middle of flu season, I was stuck. I couldn’t go with him in the ambulance. I couldn’t follow behind with the kids in tow. On our previous trip to the local ER a year previously, I had learned that when the security guard says no one with children is allowed back to where the patients are, he really means it. And no amount of yelling and crying will convince him otherwise.

So I had to sit at home and wait for childcare to come before I could go and catch up. When I finally was able to join him, I was a wreck. I do not handle not knowing things well. Knowing that he was ill, possibly even gravely ill, and there was nothing I could do, drove me crazy. It was in that interim that I felt the crown start slipping.

 

I was at the mercy of those who I had asked for help. From the EMTs that transported him to the hospital to the ER workers who were working on him to the family members I called in tears, I was indebted to all of them. I had bent my knees before them and asked of them their service. I felt helpless. I felt powerless. I felt needy. I felt like a bother. And to their credit, the hospital workers and nurses, the EMTs and staff never once made me feel this way on purpose. They were just doing their job. They were pleasant and kind and gave me so many words of encouragement.

When I finally arrived at our local ER, I found out the process to transfer him from our local emergency room to the closest regional Veteran’s hospital had not only already begun but had been approved. After an hour or so, he was placed back in the ambulance and taken off to a waiting bed in the MICU at the VA hospital that was an hour south of us.

I said my goodbyes while he was being loaded into back of the ambulance and walked myself to my vehicle. If I had ridden with him, I would have been stuck away from not just my kids and my dog, but my home and all my other responsibilities. Just because my world hiccupped doesn’t mean that it stopped spinning around me. So driving myself down would allow me to drive myself home when I needed to.

So I did what I had to do. I got in the truck and I cried. I cried and cried and cried. And then I stopped, pulled up Google directions, and drove off into the night.

 

The Road To ReCoronation

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There’s a pair of owls that live on my street. I’ve seen them cuddling each other while sitting on the tree behind my house. Sometimes, I hear them calling to each other during the evening from different trees in different yards. Sometimes, the crazy birds hoot during the day, when I just assume they should be sleeping. No matter where they are, no matter what they are hooting about, they make me smile. They make me feel like I’m at home. They make me happy.

But honestly, I as much as I love them, I am not one of them. I am so not a night owl. So my drive to the hospital was extra complicated. It was well after midnight when I left the ER in my city and the place I was going was, according to Google, an hour and six minutes away. Maybe it was my worry. Maybe it was my fear. But at some point, being awake well past my normal prime didn’t seem to matter. I’m usually going to sleep with the chickens. On that night, while taking the back roads that lead me to the Interstate, I was one with the owls.

It was this time alone that allowed me to think about everything that was going on. It gave me room to evaluate what was going on in my life and how I should handle it. The wheels and the road were just rhythmic enough to zone me out to a state of thinking where I was able to assess what was and what was yet to be. I was also able to face the reality of the shallowness of the pool of physical, local support my family and I had our feet in. These revelations were neither positive or negative at that time. Like the shadows my headlights created on the trees that lined the roads, they just were. The emotions from them would come later, when more time could be assigned to them.

I’m not going to incriminate myself and talk about my speeding on the way down there. But for the most part, the stretch of Interstate I was on was pretty empty. And I was lucky enough that none of South Carolina’s finest were working that area that night. I made it all the way into the single digit exits for the city and found where I needed to go. With it being the early morning hours, I was able to find parking and somehow found my way into the back emergency entrance of the VA hospital.

It was then, when I crossed that threshold, that I felt the crown straighten. The kind lady at the desk helped me direct me to the elevators and soon I found my way to the floor and then the room where my husband was.

I’d like to say it was a joyous reunion and that the night was one of those magical nights where the love of the couple overwhelmed whatever sickness was happening.  It was not a Disney movie type night. It was a night in an intensive care unit with someone who very ill and his significate other who was very worried. Nurses were in and out taking blood and doing glucose checks. There was vomiting and pain. There were machines beeping and malfunctions. And needles. So many needles.  And when there was sleep, it was fitful and separated by tubes and bed rails. For me, it was in a hardbacked chair with a pillow and a blanket kindly brought by a nurse who might have actually been more than just a human.

But we were together. I was there when he needed me. And even when he didn’t know I was there, I was there. And slowly, the crown righted it’s self on my head. I was fragile and unsure, but I knew what to do. I wasn’t helpless. I was able to step outside my fear and do my best for the ones I love. Even if that act was nothing more than holding a hand, rubbing a leg, or getting more ice chips.

 

Ever After

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Now because all of that happened, the rest of the first weekend of February was pretty much a shitshow. There were trips back home, trips to get the kids, frustrations about feeling like I was not getting what I help thought I should be getting. It was hard you guys. Being separated from where I felt I needed to be and expected to keep just pounding along like life was normal was excruciating.

But what could I do? There’s no option for curling up and crying until the hard parts are over. Slowly, the minutes turned to hours, the hours to days and after more worrying that I’ve done about anything worth worrying about, we got the notification. After recovering enough to be moved to a normal room and having his levels be normal for 12 or so hours, it was time for him to come home. So that evening, it was just a process of loading up the kids and making the drive down.

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It was a lot different this time. I was a lot different this time too.

The road didn’t hold the same amount of self-reflection in the daylight. Even though the sun had managed to slip out of the sky while we were driving, the car was filled with too much excitement, relief, and still nervousness for there to be any meditative feeling. It is a known fact that when you are traveling with children in the vehicle, any drive becomes less ‘Oprah Super Soul Sunday’ and more ‘Mad Max Fury Road’.

After getting turned around in traffic and entering through a non-entering way, we finally were reunited. And with him entering the car, it was over. The lessons we learned were not.

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While his health is paramount here, there is a whole stream of things from this I learned about myself. I learned about the holes in my circle and the need to fill them. I learned that I need to believe in myself and my abilities more. I am responsible for so many people, wallowing in my doubt is just not an option.

Sometimes shit is going to go down and I’m going to be the one who is going to be one to hold it together. Whether I want to be the one or not. It’s just what it is.

I can’t rely on the road to remind me of that.

I have to wear the crown and all its weight in it’s full glory.
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Writing, Depression, and That Damn Blinking Cursor.

The longer I sit looking at the blinking cursor, the more it starts looking like an enemy. So if it’s going to taunt me with it’s blinking nothingness, I’m going to fill it with a whole bunch of uncomfortable realness.

When I decided to get serious about this whole writing thing, it was a lot easier for me to pump out content. I had a good stretch where I was writing what I felt was some really good stuff. Not just for the blog here, but for the few other sites that would occasionally pick up my pieces too. I was finally giving breath to the part of me that had always longed to breathe. And I was writing a lot. It felt like my fingers were trying out ideas as fast as my head could thinking them up. I was balancing all my life stressors pretty well, spinning the domestic plates with one hand and assaulting the keyboard with the other.

And it felt right. I felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. I was being a mom, a wife, a friend, and I was writing. I was checking off all the boxes of the things I had to be and the thing I wanted to be. For the first time, in a long time, I felt like more than just a homemaker. I was who I was called to be. I even got a poem published in a book. It really seemed that 2018 was going to be my year.

The hounds of depression nipped at my heels constantly though, even louder and closer than before.

I spent more time dragging my feet just to get through the day. Illness cost my husband his job and granted me the role of caregiver. His days became filled with doctor’s visits and physical therapy. And forms. So many forms to fill out. School became a challenge for my youngest son as he adapted to kindergarten. I had not foreseen it a struggle for him. I was wrong.  I addressed a personal health issue of my own and even began medication for depression. The nation took a huge leap into The Twilight Zone and each day brought a new headline of insanity. And slowly and almost silently, my ability to write as much as I wanted when I wanted, started drying up.

Sometimes things change without you noticing. Just little things here and there, that you are too busy to see. By the time you catch it and rush to fix it, it’s usually too late. That’s how this feels. It feels like maybe I’m pulling on the last fraying string of a sweater that’s already come mostly undone. (Weezer may have inspired this last sentence.) I know I talked about this in It’s Been A While, but I honestly thought by now things would be different. I thought I would have shaken whatever this was and I’d be back to my old self. That just doesn’t seem to be the case.

I have been writing. I was gifted this wonderful Complete the Story journal from Piccadilly by my sis in law and her SO for my birthday. Each page has a story prompt and the rest of the page is blank. I’ve been hand scribbling my stories in there when I get the moments. I even took one of those stories from the page to the computer and submitted it to an online magazine after sharing it with my best friend. I was so stoked about what I had created! I had thought that it had such potential. It was the first real bit of fiction I had pulled out in a good while that felt honest and real and more importantly, good. It felt like a real story with some real potential.

It was promptly rejected.

Honestly, It’s just frustrating. Being a writer is something I’ve always wanted to be. When I dreamed of it as a kid, being a blogger wasn’t included in the dream because blogs weren’t a thing then. (Someone fact check that for me. Were blogs a thing in the 90s?) But writing in a blog is as legitimate as being any other type of writer. I know I will probably never be an official, proper, make money out of it writer. I’m not the next Stephen King. My blog is enough. And now I feel like I’m not even doing that.

I’m not sinking, guys, I’m just momentarily stuck. I’m not out of hope. I have buckets of it, it’s just a little bit out of reach. I do want things to be better. I want to do better. It’s not like I’m just rolling over and letting life get the pin on me. I do intend to kick out.  Don’t try to count me out just yet, I totally mean to continue this writing, living, existing journey. I have no plans for an existential break. I have ideas and plans for the future. I’m just feeling a little low and a little unsure of myself.

Depression is real folks. And it doesn’t always look like what you think it does. It’s not all dark clouds full of doom and gloom. Sometimes it’s drying cement around your feet.  Sometimes it’s a new coat of paint covering what you once considered your reachable dreams. Sometimes it’s just the quiet whisper of “I told you so” from yesteryears’ ghost. Sometimes it’s trying to pour from an empty cup so long, all you have left at the end of the day is dust.

So, as the cursor continues to blink at me and I try to think of further ways to combat it, I ask this of you Dear Reader.

  • Keep reading. Not just my blog, but the blogs and works of yet to be bestseller writers everywhere. I don’t think there has ever been a time when it has been so easy to access the writings of so many people the world over.
  • Listen to your friends when they are excited to share with you their latest creations. Support the passions your friends have. Support what pours from their souls. Because one day they are going to feel like they are horrible at the thing they love to do. And it’s going to hurt them. It might make them want to pack all their creativity up and hide it away. For the love of all that is good, don’t let them.
  • While you’re at it, check in on those friends who have gone quiet. Check in on those who are always checking in on you. Check in on those who have their hands full and sometimes maybe press when they say they are “ok, just tired.” Because believe me, it is so much easier to say that you’re tired than to have to find a name for the way you’re actually feeling.

As for me, I’m here and I’m dedicated to making sure that 2019 is more than this treading water feeling. I’m not going to spend the year watching the paint dry over what I wanted to achieve. I want to get back to my status quo of creation again. Or at least, to a level that I feel comfortable with. I just want to be proud of myself again. And not taunted by that damn blinking cursor.


It’s been a while…

I really hate that so much time has passed between postings here Dear Readers. I’m sorry for the unintended break. 

As Fall has slipped deliciously into Winter, it seems the Holiday season has hit full force and covered my everyday activities with the stickiness of maple syrup.

With the official end of The Husband’s employment and all the ensuing doctors appointments and paperwork that followed falling right before Halloween/Samhain, then my birthday and Veteran’s Day being followed by Thanksgiving, it really has been hard just to find time to have a normal day. Especially when our normal days aren’t even that normal. It feels like everything is overlapping and requiring so much of my attention that after I try to attend to it all, I’m left with nothing but cold sticky oatmeal for brains.

That’s left me with the capacity for nothing much but mindless Facebook and Instagram scrolling. I haven’t even been posting or interacting there much, just scrolling by, slightly amazed at the colors as they bleed down my phone or monitor screen. I have contributed to a friend’s Facebook-based newspaper, The Chronicle Star.  Each Friday I drop a short column there. (If you don’t mind crude and often offensive humor like Iron Shiek impersonations and horoscopes that are knowingly wrong, you should totally give it a follow) But even that has become something I have to force myself to write. The ability I had a few months ago to make words just fall from my fingertips like a leaky faucet feels long gone.

It’s not that I think the well has run dry. I’m 34 now. I know my ebb and flow. I burn hot on things for a while and then I cool off. Part of me feels it could be that. But a larger part of me doesn’t really buy it. This doesn’t quite feel like I’ve lost interest in writing. I have pieces I make up in my head that I really do want to peak out at the keyboard. Sometimes it’s just the act of getting to said keyboard and having the mental energy to make myself function. Even using an app on my phone sometimes is too consuming. It’s so much easier to be lazy and just gawk at already created content than to make my own.

I’ve seen my dear friends who struggle with disabilities and illness talk about the Spoon Theory. The Spoon Theory says that each day you x number of spoons to use, and each activity you do in that day requires energy (physical, mental, or emotional) costs a certain amount of spoons. You may have 10 spoons on a good day, but washing your hair takes away 2 of them. But on a bad day, when your illness or disability is really kicking, you only have 5 spoons. The same activity from your good day could still cost you 2 spoons but it would be a greater hit to your energy supply on your bad day. So somedays you are able to achieve all your usual activities with ease. But some days you hit empty long before you reach the finish line.

This theory intrigues me because it makes so much sense. While I do not consider myself in the same world as my friends who suffer from chronic illnesses and disabilities, I do struggle. I’m a caregiver to three children. I struggle with migraines and depression. And I am married to someone who has an autoimmune disorder and all that goes with that. There are times when I am the battery that powers the family machine. (And I don’t say that to boast. I’ve been around too many people who put stock in being the “matriarch” of their family. It ain’t like that here.)

We are a machine that works together. Sometimes though, it’s not an equal 50/50 slip and some parts work more than others. In our case, it’s not because someone is lazy or neglectful, it’s because that’s how the cards fall. There are things that are just outside our control. So when someone needs to step up and wear the crown and control the kingdom, sometimes it has to be me. But while that sounds glamorous, in reality, it’s not. It’s cleaning the litter box and meeting with school officials. It’s checking to make sure bills are paid and phone calls are returned. It’s making sure everyone has clean clothes and has eaten and taken their medicine. So maybe my troubles in getting things created come from my percentage being greater than my spoons can handle? Maybe I’ve used up out too many spoons so now I have none left in my “create cool things” reserve? It’s an interesting concept that I think has some truth to it. 

One of the contributing factors to this piece getting written right now is that I’ve been forced to take it easy for a few days and relax. I hurt my knee while taking the dog out the other morning and have orders from The Husband to stay off of it as much as possible. So instead of my factory setting of “Chicken Little”, I’ve been set to “Couch Potato” or “Propped In Front of the Computer”. There is a nagging voice in the back of my head that keeps saying this is a painful reminder from the Universe to slow my ass down and focus on myself for a little bit. I have a feeling that it’s right. Maybe by allowing myself to write this up, I am acknowledging that voice and honoring it with the reclamation of a few more spoons.

Thank you for sticking around, even thought the sporadic postings. This blog is a project that I very much love and want to continue. I really want this to succeed. And by that , I guess I mean, I want myself to succeed in keeping it up to date and alive with content, thought, and connection. It seems that the biggest hurdles I face are always the ones I put up myself. 

I hope the Holidays and all their madness have found you well and continue to treat you well Dear Readers. 

Palimpsest

noun
a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain.
something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.

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The same heaviness that would later make a home in the foot that controls the gas pedal in every car I’ve ever driven was born in my right hand. In those ancient days of being forced to learn cursive handwriting and taking notes in class, heavy was the hand that held the pencil.

I’d press my pencil into the paper so hard the lead would break so much, teachers would insist I’d keep multiple sharpened pencils at my desk. I’d erase just as hard as I’d write, my anger at my mistakes sometimes even causing the paper to give up the ghost.

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No matter how delicate I tried to be, the weight of my hand, my thoughts, the actions of my creation left a mark. No matter how well the bar of rubber was made, it could not erase the imprint of what I had committed to the page just minutes before. No matter how bad I wanted to erase it from existence, the imprint of its history remained there.

My personal journals, cheap spiral notebooks of poems and short stories unsent letters and emotional catharsis, where all imprinted pages deep with words and their associated scribbles. They looked like football plays you’d see in movies, drawn on blackboards all Xs and Os. The last pages could be grave rubbings of my emotional breakdowns and breakthroughs. A clear indication of what and where I was but not yet who or where I would be.

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I think somewhere on this blog, I’ve quoted Heraclitus’ “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” And if I did, it was probably rather poorly. The meaning behind the statement stands. We do not stay the same person throughout the entirety of our lives. Each challenge, each event, each change (large or small) both add and take away from who we are. If we, the human machine, are functioning correctly, we are changing and growing.

That doesn’t mean that each change morphs us into a complete tabula rasa. We are not one of those magnetic drawing pads kids have where you can just slide a wand and erase everything that ever was. Despite our growth, we keep the scars of the wounds that made us. Sometimes, it’s not scars that we keep. Sometimes, it’s the wounds. The bleeding, raw, unhealed wounds.

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I’ve talked about why this time of the year is hard on me. But this week has been exceptionally stressful.
As I write this is the 7th anniversary of my eldest son’s death. I have been functional today, more than years past for sure, but still hemorrhaging internally from shrapnel buried deep inside.

In the seven years since the morning we had to walk away from the hospital without him, I’ve grown. I’ve changed. I’ve become a new person through necessity but also though will and determination.

For a while, I was not the best version of myself. It was if the person I was had been erased.

I was like that paper I used to write on in elementary school. Who I was had been erased. It would take more than a few years for me to figure out that the nuclear bomb that changed my world on the day my beautiful son died wasn’t much different than those cheap hard plastic erasers I hated that topped the cheap pencils I used as a kid.

While they changed things, erased things, removed things, and sometimes even ripped the paper, they didn’t do shit to change the parts that are rooted down into the pages beyond the top page. They didn’t do shit to the things that were entrenched in my soul.

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My love for him was not taken from me. My love for my husband was not taken from me. The love for my remaining child and the two that would come after was not taken. And after many years of trial and error, and after a lot of skin shedding and toxicity removing, when I held myself just right and let the light shine in just the right ways, love for myself and the person I was wasn’t totally taken from me. My identity as a person wasn’t taken from me.

Those are the lines I am struggling to retrace now. And I feel that I will continue to follow their near transparent lines for many years to come. No matter what has changed, what life events have moved me past what has happened, it’s all there. Not all of it is worth reliving or repeating. I can not expect to be the same woman I was before the tragedy. I have learned, and lost, too much to try to go back. I don’t want that. What I do want it is to slowly try to obtain the little parts of myself that I have lost to grief since. It’s been seven years. I’m okay with it taking a lifetime more. My love for him will be eternal. My missing him will be eternal as well.

Grief is the ultimate life-changing event. It’s a starving fire. It will literally consume everything it touches if you leave it unattended for any amount of time. My belief is that part of grief’s power comes from it being an act of love. And we all know how powerful acts of love are. So if I can sneak some things back from its grasp, if I can look beyond the current writing and see what was there before, I’m going to keep trying.

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Better Living Through Chemistry

Yesterday I did something pretty amazing. It was amazing in that it was completely normal. For most people, it would even be bordering on the mundane. But for me, it was a pretty big deal.

I went to the doctor.

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Why is that such a big deal, you ask?

 

Because Dear Readers, I have a LOT of baggage that I’m starting to unpack when it comes to medical professionals.

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From my writings in the past, you know that my relationship with my mother was dysfunctional. One of the things I don’t think I’ve ever touched on is that I suspect my mother had some degree of Munchausen syndrome.

Munchausen syndrome according to Wikipedia is the “a factitious disorder wherein those affected feign disease, illness, or psychological trauma to draw attention, sympathy, or reassurance to themselves.” I am not a mental health professional and other than a Psych 102 class I took in college, I’ve had no training or education in any of the fields of psychology. That being said, there’s only so many checkmarks you can place on a page before a conclusion shows itself. I’m not saying she had it for sure but as a layman, I’d say it was a huge likelihood.

Looking back now with adult eyes, I can also see how some of her behaviors spread to me and my health care. There was a period of time when I was a little kid that I went to the doctor a lot. It wasn’t just for the routine childcare type of reasons, but for just random things that became huge ordeals. Tonsils, yeah that’s normal. But from second grade to 9th grade I had a medical issue pretty much every year. Some of them even overlapped. At one point, I had two surgeries for two different things within a six week time period. Twice I was “homebound” and had teachers come to my house because I couldn’t go to school because of medical issues.

Throughout all of this, she became exalted by her role as this super caregiver mother savior figure. She relished the concerned smiles and the pitiful nods. As I got older I started noticing the perverse pleasure she got when one of us was in poor health. Even when I couldn’t place a name to the actions, they were uncomfortable neighbors. When I was old enough to extract some control over myself, I stopped telling her about my ailments. And I made a promise to myself never ever to be like her.

That made me totally and completely gun shy of doctors for most of my adult life. I did receive the necessary maternal care when I was pregnant. But as far as other healthcare? I nope’d the fuck out of it. For years and years, I’ve OTC’d myself. For the few serious infections  I couldn’t beat into submission, I allowed myself to be dragged to a doctor. But mostly, I healed myself the best I could. And what I couldn’t heal, I just dealt with.

That was until I couldn’t deal with it anymore.

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For years I’ve seen struggling with headaches that I could not overcome. I’ve tried everything to counteract them. While some efforts brought temporary relief, nothing stuck. Seeing as they were mostly connected to my period, I cycled through different birth control options. That ended with my tubal ligation (you can read about it here). So when they still circling me like buzzards in the months since then, I decided to throw in the white towel.

I began to look for a primary care physician.

It took some calling around but I was able to get an appointment with a doctor I had seen maybe five years ago. Once the day came and I sat there on the crinkly paper of the exam table, I decided to make another brave move. Not only was I going to tell this doctor about the headaches that I’ve nursed for years, but I was also going to tell him about my depression too.

Part of me felt like a failure. Part of me felt like I was slipping dangerously close into my mother’s shoes. It probably also didn’t help that there was another voice in my head, one that belonged to someone I had once held in high regard, repeating that if I went to a doctor about depression, the doctor would report me to CPS and my children would be taken away.

Here’s the thing. I knew then, just like I know now that statement was a bunch of bullshit. But sometimes when you’re struggling, you go against your intuition. You follow the leader because it’s easier. Look, when you’re struggling just to keep your head above water, you don’t give a damn what direction you’re being towed. And that’s exactly what people who make such comments want. I know a lot about the type of people who corner you into submission for their own gain. They want you weak and powerless.

I am many things, but weak and powerless I am not. And that is what made me stand up for myself and speak my truth to the doctor.

I just told him. I told him about my struggles with headaches and with not feeling worthy. I told him about not being able to sit in brightly lit rooms when my brain decided to turn on me. I told him about my anxiety. I explained how when the pain was bad everything changed to technicolor that blurred like the lights in a 1980s recorded sporting event. I told him how the pain started in my neck then went behind my eye and lodged there like a metal spike.

And he believed me. He didn’t judge me. He didn’t think I was fishing for prescriptions.  He didn’t call CPS and try to take away my kids.

He knew what I was experiencing was real and it was a malfunction of my body and called it by its name. He said it could be treated.

He gave me a diagnosis. In fact, he gave me a few.

And some prescriptions.

And I wasn’t afraid.

I’m not my mother. I’m not held by her standard. I’m not even held by that really bad advice from someone else. I’m my own person. And right now, I need some help. And it just so happens, that help is of the chemistry kind.

The medicines were called in at the pharmacy closest to my house and ready for pick up by the time I got back in town. I started them this morning.

I don’t know if today has been weird because of the introduction of new substances to my body. Or from the weight of unpacking so much of this bullshit. Or from the impending storm (Yes! Another one!!) but it hasn’t been bad. It’s been okay. And I think I’m going to be having more okay days than I have before.

And I’m happy about that.

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Autumn Complications

It’s hard to believe if you’re living in the Carolinas like me, but it’s officially Fall.

As of today, it is October. And for all of us who relish the spookiness of autumn and winter, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

There are skeletons and pumpkins, Halloween decorations and costumes galore. rawpixel-973117-unsplash Starbucks brought back the Pumpkin Spice Latte, Aaron Mankee is releasing weekly episodes of Lore this month, and all those great cheesy horror/comedy movies we grew up watching start airing on repeat. (Heads up, Freeform has 31 days of Halloween. You should check it out if you’re looking for something to do.)

The veil is thinning! For those of us who practice a Craft, now is like our time of the year. Mabon has just passed and Samhain is quickly on its way. If ever there was a time when we are the most grounded and closest to our beliefs, it’s this period of the year. 

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On a personal front, I’ve finally found the strength to say “Bye Felica” to my anxiety induced self-sabotage. I have actual plans to sign up for some classes at the closest witch emporium. I’m reading some kick-ass empowering books. I’m giving myself the time and space to write which in turn makes the content I’m creating better. I’m branching out and trying some new ideas which I hope will be fruitful.

Overall I think this is the prime time of 2018. I feel that’s there so much about to happen and so many things about to come into themselves.

But why am I not excited about all this?

What’s keeping me from being a witch in a crystal shop, exploding at the seams with excitement, happiness, and a sense of belonging? What name is this weight tied to my ankle, holding me back?

That weight is called Grief. And let me tell you, Dear Readers, it weighs a fucking ton.


 

November 3rd is three days after Halloween and a week before my birthday. And it’s the anniversary of the day my son died.

It was 2011 and we were still eating on the candy from trick or treating a few days before. He had been a ninja, I made his sword out of cardboard and hot glue. He had a cold. We all kind of did. He had started kindergarten and had brought home so many new germs.  It was cold that year and the leaves and been piling up for a while. Beside the small noses and straight hair, I had passed down my tree and dust allergies too.

But it wasn’t allergies. It wasn’t even really a cold. We didn’t even know what it was when we had to take him to the ER in the early morning hours.  All we knew is that he was sick. And then, a few hours later, all we knew was that he wasn’t coming home.

We wouldn’t find out it was Streptococcal Pneumonia for sure until the autopsy came back.

Those are two words that you never should have to associate together in your head. No one here should have to ever hold their child’s autopsy in their hands. It burns it’s reflection onto your eyes and deep, deep into your soul. Every parent who’s ever seen one can attest to the fact that it is not a document you every erase from your memory.


Obviously, this is a very condensed version of our personal tragedy. Every written account of it will be a condensed version.  There are words and emotions that don’t have names. And I’m not good enough of a writer to create them.

Reliving this event isn’t centralized to just November. It doesn’t just cast its shade on my birthday and Thanksgiving. The whole three month period of October, November, and December is darkened.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

October is the month of anxiety. It settles in my shoulders without my noticing. Each day that passes is a tightening of hands around my neck. I feel that it is what’s keeping me from being able to click my heels with happiness about the rolling of the seasons.

November is the month of nightmares. Each night is a drive-in theater that shows nothing but the worst day of my life. Sometimes, especially around my actual birthday day, there’s a double feature. The other movie that plays is always “A Face A Mother Wouldn’t Even Love”. It’s a biopic about a woman who does everything “right” but gets everything so wrong. My name is always the biggest in its title scene.

December is the ghost of what can never be again. It’s strained conversations over meals with a plate no one eats from. It’s choking on the well wishes and Christmas lights and trying not to cry while watching the parade in the cold.


I want to be excited and take part in the celebrations that come with this season. I want to be excited and carry on with my creepy friends.

And now, seven years later, I think I am doing better. Like I said in the opening, I’m breaking up with my anxiety. I’m exploring things I have been hesitant to before. Will I ever be the happiest pumpkin in the pumpkin patch? No, I won’t.

In the beginning of Mike Shinoda’s music video for “Ghosts,” the screen is black. You can hear him talking before you can see him. He’s sitting in front of a laptop that’s in front of a keyboard. In a rather intimate shot, his voice cracks a bit as he says, “I’ve had enough hard days. It’s like if I wake up and feel good, I shouldn’t feel guilty about having fun, ya know?”

And I feel that. I feel that in my bones. That’s how I think about the fall.

I know I won’t be able to escape this weight on my leg. I won’t be able to shake the leaves off and feel okay standing stripped down like the trees around me. Just like the eventually changing of the seasons, I won’t be able to escape it.

And I don’t want to.

I just want to feel excitement for the end of the year.

Bumping Your Nose Against the Glass: Thoughts on Caregiving, Being Strong, and Self Care

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Don’t those words sound pretty?

They sound pretty in that behind the glass at a jewelry store type of way.

You see them sparkle. They draw you in close. But before you know it, you’re bumping your face on an invisible barrier that keeps you from reaching them. Over and over you try to break through. If only you could touch one, hold one for a moment, you know you’ll feel worlds better. But you can’t. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t reach. The only thing you can feel is that enlarging hole in your self worth and a busted, bloody face.

That’s the major struggle of being a caregiver.

For many caregivers, they have one job and one job only. It’s an all consuming position that has little to no time for that pretty concept called self-care. Their one job is being strong.
I grew up in the late 80s and early 90s when Strong Man competitions were popular on TV. Early morning or late at night, on one of the seemingly endless ESPNs, there would be big muscle dudes pulling or picking up big heavy things. And wrestling. Oh my word, there was so much wrestling in the late 80s and 90s that my little eyes couldn’t look away. Those sports helped me to develop an idea of what being strong meant.

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To young sports entertainment fan I was, being strong was being able to do things with your body. Being “strong” was being able to work through the pain to make changes. Even if the changes were moving a giant tire or body slamming a giant man. Being strong was a purely physical thing.

After years as a caregiver,

I’ve learned just how wrong that thought was.

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Being strong is watching your loved one become sick, and knowing there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

Being strong is knowing that no matter how much you accomplish, there will always be something else that needs to be done.

Being strong is waking up at all hours, making serious decisions on an unholy lack of sleep.

Being strong is bathing someone who can not bathe themselves.

Being strong is watching the words and phrasing you use to keep your loved from one feeling like they are worthless. It’s remembering they are more than an illness. It’s dressing their emotional wounds along with their physical ones.

Being strong is offering a shoulder to cry on and an arm to lean on, physically and emotionally. It’s being a sponge for the emotions someone won’t or can’t handle.

Being strong is balancing appointments and medications, checkbooks and utilities. It’s knowing what food you can make a meal out of and what type of soap to buy.

Being strong is standing during the storms of emotions and the tidal waves of unhealthy words because sometimes your loved one has been reduced so low that they are not who they once were.

HOWEVER

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Being strong is also saying enough is enough.

Being strong is not feeding into someone’s negativity

Being strong is providing recommendations instead of solutions to someone’s problems.

Being strong sometimes is saying “No.”

Being strong is taking action to patch your own sails when the winds of another have left them battered.

Being strong is practicing the dirty parts of self care. Self care is as ugly as it is brutal. But there’s strength in that pain. There’s a beauty in breaking what you think is yourself to clear the path for a better you.

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I have been strong.

But at the same time, I have not been strong.

I have often taken on the weight of the world when I should not have accepted it.

I have willingly placed myself in pain to help others feel less. I have not been able to tell someone when their actions have hurt me. I have not been able to take a step back, even when it was vital.

I tell you all this not as a pat on the back. I am not saying I’ve done these things to make myself a martyr. I do not need recognition for my actions. So many women in my life have worn a crown made of bitterness and passive aggression and asked to be praised for it. I do not want that weight on my head. I do not want heads bowed at my feet.

What I want is to be accountable for my actions. The ones that are good for others and the ones that are good for me. I want to be strong enough to do both. I want to breathe without having to make sure there is room. I want to put roots down and have a bit of the sun too.

I don’t have a plan.

I have a desire. A necessity.

I’ve read about it, I’ve written about it. The stars as my guide, dammit, it’s now time to live it.

All I’ve been doing is window shopping lately.

And I’m tired of bumping my nose against this glass.

 

 

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

How Plants Grow

I have a question for you, Dear Reader.

Do you know how a plant grows?

A seed, cast off and discarded from its dead and barren home, falls to the earth and is slowly covered with dirt. Layer after layer of dark, damp weight fall upon the seed until it is forgotten by the outside world.

The weighted darkness presses down on the seed, surrounding it on all sides. The pressure building in the damp womb of the Earth squeezes it from above and below. The small hole the seed occupies is both a bed and a prison,  everything and nothing. From there, the change happens.

Slowly the pressure forces the seed to change inside. Something inside unlocks and it begins to entwine upon itself. Cells divide and multiply, forming a newness out of the remains of what once was. Gently, the new appendage lengthens and widens. It unfurls until it’s pushed against the shell of its former self.

Then it penetrates the skin of the remains, the shell of the life that was,  and cracks an opening. Instead of growing up, towards the sun it once loved so well, it grows down. With no fear and only purpose, it plunges into the unknown.

It anchors itself to the nothingness and uses it as leverage. In the absence of other life, nutrients are plentiful. The seed feeds off the darkness. And in doing so, thick sturdy roots form.

Their growth is an acquisition. The roots split and divide, small branches spreading the existence of the then seed now seedling. Their sole purpose, their only desire is to strip their surrounding and use it all for their own good. And they do.

Then the seedling starts to stand, its newly formed spine still shiny and pure. It’s new form is greeted not with applause but with silent darkness. The same darkness that allowed it’s metamorphosis now stands in creation’s way.  To reach the goal, to bask in the sun, this then seed-now seedling has to fight and climb, dirt sticking to it’s delicates. It has to contort itself into a new form, finding a balance between protecting itself and allowing expansion to happen.

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Finally, after the struggle and challenge of refashioning, this cosmic modification breaks into the sky. It is that moment that the seedling becomes what it was proposed for. It fulfils the prophecy that was written in its cells before it was fully formed. It becomes a plant.

The Sun, the god the plant loves without a name, welcomes it into the land of the free. Closer the plant strains to get closer to this holy fire. Drawing up all of the spirits from the roots, now doubled in thickness and width, every cycle of the bright deity the plant grows closer.

Eventually, the inevitable happens. The plant that did nothing more than worship in the bosom of the Sun dies. Everything it was and everything it could be has been erased from existence. Death spreads along the plant, leaving lip prints in strategical locations. The plant dies slowly or all at once. The timing of the cycle song is different for each one.

After Death has sung it’s song and had its way, the only remnants left are the seeds the plant created almost absentmindedly during its pursuit of the Sun.

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That is how plants grow, Dear Reader.

And I’ll let you in on a little secret.

It’s not much different than how people grow.

It’s not that much different at all.

 

Disconnected

I don’t have pretty words to dress it up. I don’t have metaphors to make it relatable.

I’m drained. I’m empty. I’m disconnected.

This year started in the red. My husband had a scary hospitalization that has since lead to months of dealings with the VA and his jobs HR department. And if you have ever dealt with the VA you understand what a headache that is. More than just the administrative frustrations, I’ve been worried. I’m a worrier by nature so his inclement health has heightened my natural protocols to be a worry wart. Forms, phone calls, driving downstate to the regional clusterfuck of a medical facility, it’s all a perfect storm of frustration and low key fear.  But like I wrote about here, I pulled on that heavy crown and dealt with it

But added to the weight of reigning, is the weight of plebeian life. Kids, schools, pets, and domestic adventures weigh a thousand fucking pounds on a good day. But when you’re running on almost empty, they weigh even more. Balancing doctors visits and IEP meetings, with grocery trips, homework and family dinners requires more patience that I have left in the tank. The chaos of normal life glows neon under the light of stress. And guys, that annoying fucking glow is starting to hurt my eyes.

There are so many things I’m carrying that don’t belong to me. I think sometimes my compassion gets ahead of me and takes the friendship into therapist territory. I often have soft boundaries and am just so thrilled that someone trusts me enough to bring their problems to me I don’t know when to excuse myself. For me, and I think other empaths, emotions are viral. The feelings and energies of others act like a contagion and take over the host. More times that I should have allowed, that host was me.

It’s a balancing act and I’m the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This wavering existence and the darkness it brings has made it hard for me to be me. It’s severed me from the things that I’ve really loved. As more things pile on to my haphazard load, the more I pull away from myself. The things I’ve enjoyed have become harder and harder for me to accomplish.

How do you reconnect? That’s the big question. Thankfully, the internet is full of advice. Self Care is a hot topic. You can find hints and tips from Facebook to Pinterest and back. Hell, I even wrote about it here. That part isn’t hard. The hard part is making yourself commit and implement those strategies into your life. The struggle is not in finding information, it’s in using it.

I don’t have answers. I could sit here and preach to you like the Southern Baptists that pepper my genetic background. I could bombard you with recommended things to try that would guarantee you some connectivity to your life. I could easily just copy and paste some list from some other blog. But honestly, I’m not a good liar. I can’t bullshit well. That’s why I keep my ass away from the poker tables. (That and my horrible math skills.)

So I’m just going to admit that I have a lot to work on. I will acknowledge my part in my own struggle. I will tell you that this is a public declaration that I need to step up my self-care game. I’m going to find the fray in the wires between where I am and who I want to be and stitch them back together. I’m going to grab the receiver and complete the call.

pavan-trikutam-1660-unsplash.jpgPhoto by Pavan Trikutam on Unsplash

 

 

 

Featured Image Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

C’mon Get Happy…Or Else

In the Seventies, musical sitcoms were a thing. Singing, dancing, canned laughter, and tissue-thin plot lines, as corny as it sounds to us, it was a total hit. It seemed that at any given point, there were a handful of shows featuring singing families on TV. I can only take one musical episode a season at best. I don’t know how people in the 70s dealt with it.

There was one such musical sitcom that featured the story of a family who becomes a band and traveled around the country spreading music, bell bottoms, shitty haircuts and happiness. It was called The Partridge Family. (Get it, because partridges are birds and birds sing? *cue the canned laughter*)

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I personally never watched this show. My childhood was about 20 years too late to be into that mess. But the theme song for that show would become one of those sickly sweet diddies that refuse to die in obscurity. It’s been used in a commercial sense since the damn series ended. You’ve heard, you know it, now everybody sing along!

 

“Hello world, here’s a song that we’re singin’

Come on, get happy

A whole lotta lovin’ is what we’ll be bringin’

We’ll make you happy”

 

Doesn’t that feel a little insistent? Like “Hey, your life might be shit and all but C’MON BE HAPPY!! WE ARE GOING TO MAKE YOU HAPPY!” The goal is happiness and The Partridge Family doesn’t care if you don’t want it or how much it hurts to get there. They’re going to make you happy, goddamnit.

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Photo by Levi Guzman on Unsplash

 

And that’s where we are in society currently. “Happiness’ is the ultimate goal. Optimism is the only vehicle to get us there. Why did I put quotes around happiness? Because our quest is not one for true happiness. The thing we long for, lust for, and wear ourselves to the bone for is for the illusion of happiness. We want others to think we are happy. We want them to think we’ve made it, that we have all our shit in together. These illusions of perfection and enjoyment have replaced our internal need for positivity. The validation from likes and shares has replaced the feeling we get when we generally enjoy something.

Our lives have become little more than pay per minute striptease for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Why would it matter if we are crumbling apart on a spiritual level if our selfies look fly? If those friend request from people we wouldn’t speak to in passing don’t keep rolling in, are we even valuable? If you can’t describe it with a hashtagged word, did it even happen?

Somewhere along the way, we’ve stopped chronicling our adventures in life for our own memories and started curating them based on others.

 

No thumbs up on the pictures of you and grandpa before he died? DELETE!

No one liked the poem you shared that you ripped out from your soul? DELETE!

That tagged picture that showed your real smile, double chin and all? DELETE!

 

Before long we’re augmenting not only our memories but the presentation of ourselves. Our ultimate internet form ends up being one of enduring optimism, polished success, and eternal happiness. And it’s as fake as it is beautiful.

That fakeness is what we are expected to obtain. The real part of us, the part that we are still stitching together, is not welcome. No one wants to see that struggle. There is no celebration of our going through hardships. We are not rewarded for the unflattering things that make us individuals. The gritty nasty parts of us remind others too much of the gritty nasty parts of them. Adding our lives to the collective consciousness of online profiles, special groups, and social coteries often means we enter this unspoken popularity contest. Before we can mentally put together what we’ve gotten ourselves into, it’s too late. Like the frog who doesn’t realize the water is getting warmer until it starts to boil, we waste away until we become one with the system. And then we yell the same rally cry as the people around us, but we do it louder and prouder because we are happier than them, after all:

“C’mon get happy!!”

Happiness and optimism are not feelings you can strongarm someone into experiencing. Forcing them to pretend that life is the emotional equivalent of a teen idol number one song isn’t only foolish, it’s dangerous. It betrays the concept of valid feelings and cheapens the power of the true experience. We need strife, we need struggle, we need unhappiness and pessimism to complete the cycle of life. So while the rest of the world might taking advice from a singing 70s sitcom family, I prefer to take guidance from a 90s-00s band out of L.A. who never wore bell bottoms or tried to spread happiness :

 

“Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!

Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!

Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!”

 

 

featured image:Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash