Survival

Some days are spent, in their entirety, holding my breath. Keeping things in.

I want to scream.

I want to run away.

I want to cry and sob.

I’m so tired.

Some days I just want to let go. I want someone else to take the wheel and drive this car.

I want to ask for help.

I want to not have to ask.

I want to rest.

I’m so tired.

These years have been the greatest of my life. They have been filled with endless joy and happiness. But those things did not come easily or free of pain along the way. They came with days and nights full of fear too. Living on edge afraid of losing my babies, my self. Many torturous lessons in staying in the moment, and letting go of control.

Today I am far better at both of those things. I’ve learned I absolutely have no power over anything outside of myself. And I have learned that if I am constantly worrying about tomorrow I miss the joy of today. I could see and hear those sayings all of my life, but I would have never learned what they truly meant if I hadn’t lived what I’ve lived.

I’ve perfected nothing. I am still in the trenches learning as I go. Today I am reminded that with joy can also exist pain, simultaneously. I know for me, it has given me a deeper appreciation for the ups in life, and a peaceful knowledge that the downs don’t last forever.

True, these years have been survival years. Truer still, these years will soon enough be a distant memory. So, for now, I choose to be present for all of this. The pain, the joy and everything in-between.

Denial & Isolation

I’m in a heavy place.

I don’t particularly like the grief cycle as it is known. They say this thing has no rhyme or rhythm to it. It goes from phase to phase as it pleases with no warning.

I’m far too linear for this.

Wouldn’t it just be better for everyone if we could go through this is an orderly fashion? Come on?! Single file please!

I’m not sure that I have the capacity to go back through any of this again. I don’t want reminders, and I don’t want pain. My tub will overflow if there are any additional sobbing fits on the floor of the shower. I mean, that is so 10 months ago! It’s my feeling that I have had enough.

Guess not though, right? It would appear there is still more to learn. Some lesson left on the table.

I thought some wounds had scabbed over, but they hadn’t. This new-normal is so uncomfortable, and so goddamned lonely that I dropped some boundaries in order to numb it out. Problem is, my head isn’t healed enough to allow that, and my heart is still sliced right down the middle.

Luckily, I was reminded vividly why I am where I am, and was able to do an a·bout-face and go back to picking up the pieces.

You know what, on second thought, I don’t want those pieces. Why the hell am I breaking my back to pick up these dusty, broken shards and trying to put them back together? They will never fit the way they once had. Not even a little.

This empty space hurts worse than all of the combined pain from the first 33 years of my life along with any nightmare I could summon to my imagination. I’d sure love to stuff the hole closed with anything I can find and move on.

Although it may take a little longer to fill the void, I think I’m going to go ahead and build all new pieces.

Clean ones.

This go around, I’m going to take my time. No rushing. Carefully crafting and positioning them. A foundation built with my own two hands, that I can be proud of, that I know will last.

Actually

So, I write quite a bit about not exactly knowing who I am. But during a stranger that normal week, and with plenty of time to think, the thought has occurred to me that perhaps I do know.

Maybe I know exactly who I am.

The thought continues on to suggest that possibly it’s more that I’ve been too fearful to let her out. Afraid to show myself. Not just to you, or the rest of the world. But I’m kind of terrified of my own inner self.

I’ve spent an exorbitant about of time hiding who I am from everyone else, and even longer stuffing it all down, deep down. Not allowing myself to feel the things I knew damn well where there. Thinking I owed a piece of my soul to everyone and everything on the outside. Never taking into account the toll it was taking on my insides.

I feel free today. Maybe not entirely, but definitely more so than I have in quite a long time. Today, I owe to no one but myself. And what I am owed is liberation. From boxes, and cages and self deprecation.

Self

I wake up with a spiked paddle in my hand.

From the moment I get up off my knees I silently beat myself with that thing all day.

Yes, I know better. Doesn’t matter. The damn weapon has been attached to me for almost as long as I can remember.

Some days I am distracted long enough to whereas I forget to beat my own self down for a few hours. I can assure you I will pay for it at night, in the dark.

Not sure if there is much difference between this self flagellation and my many former vices.

I’ve put in some work over the last several months to allow myself to lesson the beatings, but they still come.

With all of the added silence that comes with this new isolation, I am finding myself having to constantly put the paddle down. Instead I reach for the phone, or a book, or busy myself with endless cleaning.

I try to remind myself to treat my own self kindly, to use positive words when I talk to and about myself. Sometimes this works, and other times I just tell myself to shut up.

Can we please open the world back up now?

22

Twenty Two.

That is how many drafts I have sitting in a folder that I can’t finish, can’t publish, can’t get quite right.

I want to write something joyful. I want these words to not always read so dark and deep. Sometimes I wish my mind, or heart, were lighter. There is no doubt I am grateful for my life, my children and the many blessings I have. Those are the things I think of first. That’s how I start my day, grateful.

But today, being back at work during this time, is strange to say the least. The office is empty compared to normal, and there is no-one to talk to, and if there were we still wouldn’t due to social distancing protocols. The café we normally use is half operational at best. There is sanitizer EVERYWHERE. Everyone is walking away from you instead of toward you. At first it was good to catch my breath, have some adult time. I needed to have time to sit in peace and quiet to actually get things done.

I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to getting back to work today. Two weeks felt like two months without my routine. And while today I feel more grounded than I have in weeks, I wish I could sit here and tell you what an amazing day it’s been.

That I am feeling great, things are great, life is great.

But I don’t want to lie.

I needed to run errands on lunch since I haven’t been able to get out to the stores being that I have at least one of the boys with me at all times. The thing is, I don’t know when it happened, but at some point over the last several years I developed a fear or going out alone. I have mentioned it before, but today it was worse than it has been in a while. I have been on lockdown for two weeks. Maybe it only took that long to go back to being the scared little girl I started out as this summer? I don’t believe that, no. That can’t be.

I’m thinking more likely that the anxiety over current events has my regular fears heightened, escalated. It amazes me how real they feel. A quick trip to Home Depot and the Grocery Store had me lightheaded and clutching my chest to breathe by the time I pulled back into my parking spot at work. If it wasn’t absolutely essential that I get what I needed from the grocery store I would have put the car in drive and high tailed it out of there. Instead I put my head down, clutched my keys in my hands and quickly walked in and out.

I don’t always know when it’s going to hit. I freaking love the hardware store! Go figure! I know in certain environments where there are a lot of men and a lot of eyes, I will ultimately be more uncomfortable. But the thing is, I haven’t been out in the world alone in a very long time. It is so easy to forget that my ex and I did everything together. I barely left the house without the crutch of her being there. Then I could be comfortable. Then I could be in our little world and never even notice anything or anyone around me.

I hadn’t noticed the people around me for nearly a decade. And now it’s like someone walked into my head, took off the blinders, and turned the volume all the way up past ten. I can’t stop seeing people. I can’t stop hearing words I don’t want to hear. I can’t push away the uncomfortability no matter how hard I try today.

Not for long anyhow.

It always seeps back in as if it were just waiting for me to step outside of my bubble.

Not Enough

Amidst everything going on right now with current events life as many of us know it has changed drastically. The costs are immeasurable in some ways, but I am taking a shot at trying to put into words how this is feeling.

A paramount part of my mental health has depended on my routine. My world was upended nine months ago and at that time I had to deploy every known resource at my disposal to right the ship. I have had to develop new patterns and relationships that I depend on to be able to keep moving through the day without getting too lost in the gravity of my mind.

In one week those things have been obliterated.

Today I wake up trying to remember what day we are even on. It has become harder again to complete the basic tasks of living. I didn’t see it happening at first, but quickly enough I forgot lunches and showers and connection.

There are indicators for me, for my mental health and well being. Food, showers and sleep are the top three, with isolation coming in a very tight fourth.

First my energy is diverted to the critical: caring for my children. In a typical week this is on auto pilot. It isn’t easy, but it doesn’t typically drain the cup because I am able to fill it simultaneously throughout the day. In these past seven, only seven, days there are more holes in the cup and less resources to patch and fill it.

Next, I have to focus on my job. From home I get the kids settled with breakfast and turn on the computer. I read my emails and make a list of priorities for the day. Then before you know it I’ve spent three hours checking off boxes all while filling sippy cups and snack dishes, finding costumes, breaking up fights and soothing tantrums.

Eleven o’clock comes and I know it’s time to gather up lunch and get the kids settled to eat. I use this moment of time to throw in a load of laundry or sanitize the essentials for the 100th time. I sweep up the cereal or blueberry I just crushed under my toes and try to breathe. I put the dishes in the sink telling myself I’ll get to them later.

By noon I’m trying to get the kids down for a nap so I can get more work done or just a moment to breathe. I try not to fall asleep because I am trying not to fall into depression, but more often than not this week I’ve succumbed to exhaustion.

Some little voice will wake me, or the ring of the phone and it takes me a moment to get my bearings again. Now it’s time for a craft, a game or some other activity. A few times I’ve remembered to put on the music, turn it full blast and dance like a five year old while I can. This adds some to my cup even if just for a few moments.

Before I know it, it’s time for dinner and tubbies and stories and bed. I lay there with my son while my mind is racing and he puts his hand over my chest or neck and this reminds me to breathe. While I’d love nothing more than to succumb to sleep just then and there I am reminded that there is a war zone downstairs that needs to be tended to and there is no one else here to do it.

I swing my legs softly off the bed as not to wake my sleeping babies, and with another deep breath I open the door back to reality.

More laundry, those dishes, maybe something to eat, and I’m spent. I sit down, turn on the tv only not to have enough focus to watch it. I start to drift and somehow find the energy to get up to my room. It’s empty, its quiet and it’s dark. I lay there playing the day over and worrying that I am not living up to the ideals I have set for myself.

I am not enough, but I will have to be, because tomorrow will be another day and there is nobody else to do this.

PLEASER

If a situation brings me to shaking tears in a matter of moments chances are I’m missing a boundary somewhere in there.

Fact: I am going through a ton of stuff right now.

Our whole lives are changing. Good, Bad, and indifferent. But Change is hard no matter what the motives. And change with children is exponentially more difficult.

Fact: I have a lot of fabulous, healthy support.

For others to believe I am “enough”, just as is, it’s out of this world. These people are helping me in ways I wouldn’t have believed I deserved. They guide, but do not make decisions for me. They don’t tell me mine are wrong either. The thing is, I think they believe in me. I’m not just some F*** up to them.

Fact: I have a terrible habit of people pleasing.

If you tell me I’m doing something wrong, my first instinct is to believe you. And next, my head spins with hatred of myself for not seeing something, for missing a “T” or an “I” on the list. It never crosses my mind until too late, that you could be wrong.

Fog

I look forward to this day all week.

It is set aside as this special time when I can finally breathe. Feel moderately comfortable. Completely and fully exhale.

This time it was different.

There is something dark and heavy in the air. I could tell myself I’m just imagining it. I know how to do that. But I’ve done that for too long.

I’ve ignored this exact feeling many times over, and eventually it comes back to haunt me. It rears it’s nasty two pronged head another day while I’m kicking myself, wishing I’d have headed the warning.

This fog is coming from one of two places. The traditional answer is that it’s emanating from within me. And only me. That’s the script that I’ve been trained to read. It says I messed up or missed something. I can correct it and clear the air.

The other, less palpable answer, is that it isn’t just me. I won’t be able to fix it. I can’t flip a switch and vanquish this darkness. It’s not mine to eradicate. This is the narrative I despise. In this version of the story I have to rely on faith.

Faith that somehow, some way, something else can mend this brokenness.

Hands in the air, no driving with my knees. Just allowing something else to take the wheel.

Time

Time is reminiscent of water.

An ever rolling and flowing river.

Rapid, rough and risky on one hand, and yet slow, steady and smooth on the other.

We can’t easily hold it in our hands. Maybe for a short while, but inevitably it begins to gradually seep through our fingers, drop by drop, trickling down our wrists to our elbows until finally falling back to the earth. There is little-to-nothing we can do to stop it.

It can gently wash over our wounds and soften the edges of our pain, until we are ready to let go of it. This current simultaneously carries away the sting of the venom left behind by our predators. Much in the way we skip those impossibly polished stones from the shore with all our might to see how far away we can banish them.

Just like this fickle stream, time if spent wisely, can be the lifeblood of our souls. Conversely, if squandered for too long in dank darkness, can carry with it a soul sickness the likes of which nothing short of total surrender will scrub clean.

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