Please Come Back

​Six years later and I still have anxiety whenever someone I love leaves me for anywhere, for any amount of time.  Please be safe, I whisper.  Please don’t go.  

Six years later and I still have to practice breathing again whenever I hear an ambulance siren.  Whenever I drive by a crash.  Whenever I hear of a horror.  If my daughter, 700 miles away does not immediately respond to our group texts with me and my other children, I have a creeping panic until she writes, “Omg, Mom.  I’m in class.”  Even when I know for sure she’s in class.

Six years later and I hate winter.  I hate its lifelessness, its starkness, its death and especially its darkness.  I’m frightened of the dark now.  Of the panic attacks and the memories and the embers of the shattered dreams that glow in the darkness.

Six years later and I love to excess, smothering excess.  Six years later and I am cold as fuck.  The same heart that burns like wildfire is walled in ice, ferociously protective of those already inside, dispassionately protective of itself.  Six years later and still I’m terrified of what’s to come and who’s to go and where we will all be in the next six years.  

My oldest daughter suffers many of the same anxieties.  She faces them.  I hide from them.   I hide behind my keyboard.  I hide in destructive relationships where screaming is the norm because screaming at least allows me to feel something.  I hide in denial from myself.  My daughter accused me a month or so ago of transferring all my anxiety to my house as I, room by room, made excessive changes.  Ripping out carpets, redoing floors.  Buying new furniture and new throw rugs and lamps and a new washer and dryer and a car.  Repairing unused patios and lights and tossing memories out in the dumpster.  

 You’re going crazy, she told me.  You aren’t happy.  I argued with her then.  I told her I was so very happy.  Look at me!  I’m so happy!  I’m finally concentrating on something else besides just caring for Damon; I’m making my surroundings beautiful and colorful and bright.  What gives you the right to tell me I’m not happy?  

Concentrate on yourself, she answered quietly.  You are concentrating on everything but you.

You need to care for yourself like you care for Damon.

I laughed at her. I rolled my eyes at the ridiculousness of what she was saying.  But I began to question. I questioned more a few days later when someone, a total stranger, said he saw a deep sadness in me, making him want to make me happy. I smiled sweetly. I took his offered arm and used it to push him away. 

By the time my daughter left to go back to her apartment, I knew she was right.  

Six years later and I work up the courage to look in the mirror. Six years of too much sadness and too many deaths pounding on a psyche already injured from years of emotional abuse has left me broken.

I know I need to make changes.  I know I am stagnating.  I must face the fact that I am not immortal, and can’t merely keep putting one foot in front of the other to only survive each day. I will need to take an active role in my own life.  

As I gaze at my reflection I realize I don’t just miss that girl who disappeared six years ago, but the one who disappeared many, many years before that.  The girl who had no story.  The girl who was able to twirl, unhinged, like a ballerina and throw caution to the wind.  And live.  

I need to bring her back, whatever it takes.  I need to bring her back. 

Six years later and I must now endure another crash, but this one inside my head and my heart. A complete demolition.  I know I have to break down before I build up. I need to rip apart that diseased part of my mind that is too frightened to move on. I know I need to tell the whole story.  I know I must face truths that are uncomfortable. I know I will leave some destruction in my path, and as a tornado doesn’t wait around to clean up its mess, I will not hang around to clean up the toxicity I toss out of my life.  

I know the people who love me will continue to love me and I know my inner circle is all I really need.  I know my Facebook friends are like ghosts I can put my hand through; they do not really even exist.  It doesn’t matter what they think any more. I write for me.

Six years later and I now know I need to care for two people going forward, not just one. I may never rid myself of my acquired anxieties, but I need to take care of them, not hide from them, with the same compassion and gentle understanding, love, and patience I use to take care of Damon. 

For six years I have been on my own form of life support, but the equipment has been flawed, and I have been barely breathing.  I know I must breathe again totally on my own…deep, deep breaths that fill up my lungs and make me giddy with too much oxygen.  I know I must grasp tightly onto offered fleeting moments of happiness, of truths, of passion, of goodness because without them my soul will completely wither away.  

Six years later and I know I somehow have to make this journey.

Stay safe, I whisper to myself.  Please come back.

In Response to Another Heartbroken Mother


Photo credit

No it’s not fair. It’s not what you wanted. It’s not how your life should be. You ache all the time. Physically and emotionally. And the pain never goes away. People are there for you at first, but they go on with their own lives because of course they can, and that’s ok, but it hurts when they forget you and it hurts worse when they judge you later…your decisions and your choices…. from their pedestal of normalcy.

No matter how close they once were to you, even family members, they will never fathom your life and how affected you are by the day to day to day, and they will never see that your smile has dimmed and your heart always hurts. They will judge you as though you are the same you, the you you once were, or judge you as if they were in your shoes – which they are not because they cannot even imagine the horror and the hope, and God willing, never will. They convince themselves that you are the same, but you are changed and they are not.   How dare they judge the you who you are now?  The you who is crumbing inside. How dare they question your behavior in a life for which nobody is ever equipped to handle?

You smile and say I’m fine because you don’t want to burden them with the burden you live.  And they accept that you are fine because you say so and they don’t question your fineness because then they may have to deal with it, so they think of you as fine.  And by thinking of you as fine they feel the right to judge you as if you were fine, so they make no provisions for the you who is not at all fine.  They give you no leeway, instead they walk away and talk away and stop calling because you are no longer fun or interesting or the life of the party.

And you hurt more and feel more and think more.  You see hate and unkindness and it affects you more deeply because you live day to day with the reminder of the fragility of life. Their actions stab you in a heart that’s already broken.  A heart that’s already bitter.  Their stabs, although pinpricks compared to the original slashing, renew your pain and remind you all over again that your life is so different and not at all what you expected it to be.

But you will meet others.  You meet others who feel, who didn’t know you then and can accept you now. You now being the only you they’ll ever know.  So many will lift you up and make you laugh and will truly want to know the you behind the mask of “I’m fine”.  You will see the good of humanity as in the time the small white guy and the large black guy took it completely upon themselves, not knowing you or each other, and stopped the flow of mob traffic leaving the concert, so your child could exit in his wheelchair, the littler guy ahead tapping shoulders to move out of the way, the bigger one clearing the path right in front of you, making you feel like a running back with the best blockers in the business.  You will feel the smiles of humanity when someone takes the time to stop you and ask for your story, not afraid to hear the truth, and then hugs you because no words are ever enough.  You will feel the good as you’ve never know it to exist. And this is what you need to concentrate on.  What you need to believe in.

The goodness. The light.  The hope.  And the love.  Especially the love.  It still exists in your new world, but to see it you need to feel it, you need to open yourself up to it and try to dilute the bitterness of how you feel, of what you feel.  You need to let go of that other life, hard as it is, because that other life is nothing more than a memory and no longer can exist for you.  You need to let go of the people who let go of you and let go of the old dreams and the old plans for a future that has drastically changed.  You need to somehow accept.  To somehow move on.  To somehow move forward and create new dreams and a new life and look at a new future.  You need to make the new future sweet and beautiful and, although different, not any less.

You need to believe that you can still be happy in your new sadness.  You can find laughter while in pain and you can find love within the heartbreak.  Take one small step today toward something, anything, that makes you feel better.  It will take you many steps and many days and many months and maybe years to reach a new happy, but if you look for it, and walk toward it, it will be there.

No.  It’s not fair that you need to reconstruct and recreate your dreams.  But it’s possible.  And that’s what matters.

You’ll be fine.

Inspiration Fail


Sitting on my son’s lift recliner the other day, a heating pad on my lower back because I had pulled or twisted something doing nothing I could remember; wrapped in a hospital blanket, the thin sheet kind that is not too heavy but weirdly comforting maybe just for me because I had spent so many nights wrapped in them in the hospital rooms on different cots while the professionals took care of both me and my son, and unearthly responsibilities had not quite yet settled on my bare shoulders; cotton in my right ear because of some strange infection that I keep meaning to have checked out tomorrow, except tomorrow never gets here; my hair mussed; my clothes a splattered work of art from whatever I had served or cleaned, both human and K9, earlier that day; a box of tissues within reach;  extra-large dropping white socks covering my feet, when the doorbell rang.

Really? My friend said to me after just one glance.  Really?  I feel like I’m visiting my grandmother in a nursing home.

Not sure whether to laugh or cry, I did both.  I don’t feel well, I said.  I’m so tired.  My voice came out much whinier than intended, which made me laugh and cry even harder.

Relentless, knowing I needed to laugh more than cry, my friend kept firing at me. Old lady jokes, the ludicrousness of what I looked like, the difference between me now and me then, offering soft foods, lotions and Jean Nate, until my tears stopped and the laughter hurt.

And my gratitude for having that one person in my life who doesn’t tell me how inspiring I am; who doesn’t view me as super woman; who knows that miracle dust and angels do not actually dance above my shoulders and hearts of love and laughter do not float like bubbles throughout my house;  who knows how often I fail and continually picks me up from ground level so I can fight the next battle; who can see me at my worst and not judge but just point out the absurdity of the situation; who lets me feel sorry for myself, but only to a point; who, at the last moment, steps in front of me to block my nose dive into oblivion by kicking me in the ass to keep going….my gratitude is beyond measure.

I do not ever feel like the inspiration I hear so often that I am, and it is nice to have someone recognize that I am often struggling, unsure, exhausted.  That I am merely surviving.

“You’re such an inspiration” takes everything I do, every moment I suffer, I cry or I laugh and wraps it all up in pretty paper with a silk bow.  And makes it less ugly.  Less real.  Even though it places me on a pedestal of sorts, a pedestal of words, I actually feel I am condensed, marginalized, defined by my role.  And I feel as if I don’t rise every day, I am failing.

Most days, I’d prefer my heating pad and my hospital blanket to being someone else’s inspiration.  I’d prefer to be made fun of for failing than feel weighted down and stressed out by the added responsibility of pretending to be supermom.  It’s just so much easier to cope that way.

I wonder if I could get a senior discount.


Tunnel of Trauma


It’s three years.  Three years.  We’re not through the tunnel, but the tunnel has side lights, it has lights wired in, it’s not total darkness all the time anymore; although the bright light at the end is still so far away, still so very dim.

As we journey past those side lights, life’s amazing windows in that tunnel, we see two beautiful sisters flourishing in spite of what life has handed them.  One highly achieving in school, in sports, becoming the most loving sister to her big brother, planning now her own future, based pretty much on his experiences.  I don’t know many adults that could have endured what she did throughout these last three years, and handled it with such grace and such strength.  Many can’t and won’t ever understand her part in this journey and may always continue to judge it, but they never, I am certain, could have filled her shoes, or walked her path.    We see the other sister redefining what she thought her life path would be; finding her inner peace, a journey on its own; helping others find their inner peace; opening her own yoga studio so close to home, so far from what and where she thought she’d be today, prior to that day, three years ago.

We forget, until we look back, the hidden toll this journey must have taken on both of them.  We forget until we look at the happy, before pictures:  a grinning brother lifting his sisters up in bear hugs, driving them in his Jeep, taking care of them both; a brother who appears stronger than life.  We don’t realize the extent of their loss until we compare it to the after pictures: sisters spoon-feeding that same brother, holding him up because he can’t sit on his own, pushing him in his chair.   We never see in any of the pictures what the past three years have emotionally cost these sisters, their inner turmoil, their demons, their struggle to accept.  What we only see is their beauty, not their strength; their smiles, not their pain.  We never see that both of them had to grow up way too fast, way too much on their own.  We don’t see their heart aching, their silent comparison of the brother that was to the brother that is.  We don’t see that they each face their loss anew every day, a fresh sorrow, as they walk down the stairs each morning, toward his bed.

The darkness still sometimes overcomes much of the light, as we move through our days.  Emotions constantly collide as grief slams into joy, anguish meets up with gratitude.  We lost the boy we had, there is no way around that, and we grieve for him, for us, and for his lost dreams and ours as well. On the other hand, our gratitude that he is still with us and our unconditional love for him is beyond measure….but it’s a teeter totter inside our minds, happy and sad, up and down, day by day, minute by minute.  We’re ok for a while, and then we’re not, and then we are.  Up and down. Up and down. The new norm.  Ever changing emotions, never finding their level ground.  The train speeds through the tunnel, speeds by the side lights, toward the light at the end, still so far away….scaring me sometimes that I am wishing away the ride so I can just get to the bright light.  I’m terrified to think what if after all endured, after all this time chasing the bright light, we never get there or it is not so bright.  What if it is forever dim?

Three years is forever.  Three years is a blink of the eye.  It just depends which side of the teeter totter you’re on that day, or which part of the tunnel you’re driving through at that precise moment.