Tag Archives: children

Wasted

broken heart

 

There are few things that can bring the past back to me quite as viscerally as music can. Memories I might grasp for another time come sliding back to me, unexpected, with the right (or wrong) song playing in the background.

When you have the kind of past I have, it can be painful, sometimes- even the happy memories. Today, we were listening to the Dixie Chicks, a CD that once had permanent residence in my old Camry’s stereo. Cowboy, Take me Away came on, and I remember driving around, with the song turned up loud, the windows down, the sunlight streaming in- and this little tiny dark headed girl in her car seat in the back, singing along with me.

She’s all grown up now. Our lives were such a mess back then- well, my life was, and hers, by association. Any happy memories I can find, I cling to, because there just aren’t that many of them. It was a dark time for me, and I was very, very deep in my addiction. I didn’t know how to be a mother, or what it meant, or what, exactly, I was robbing her of. Oh, if only I had known. You know, my heart will very probably never heal from that. I know, I know- we are supposed to learn to forgive ourselves, to leave the past in the past…but I think there is a part of me that honestly doesn’t feel like I ought to forgive myself.  Like maybe punishing myself for the rest of my life is my penance for robbing my daughters childhood of the joy that was hers by right. I don’t know, but I do know this: However it is I feel, I won’t be talked out of it. Trust me, it’s been tried.

Heartbreak Town. I remember listening to that on our way to Reno, where I ran off to, to escape myself. There she was again, that little person in the back seat…always in the back seat. If you are curious, I didn’t fool myself into being someone different just because I crossed state lines. I was still me, still sick, still not a mother anyone should have had. Sometimes I try to imagine what it must have been like for her, but when I do, it hurts too much.

It is only recently- maybe just since she has been sort of a “grown-up”, or maybe it is because I am raising another daughter now, in such a completely different way- that I have started to sincerely wish there were some way I could go back, and do things differently. I know that kind of thinking is useless and foolish. I know I would be better off trying to make my amends to her now, by being the best mom I can NOW, and I do that, I do…but still. If I could just go back, just for one measly little day, and be tender with her. Give her my undivided attention. Just hold her, and love her, and do all the mommy stuff I have learned to do now…I would just really like to do that, that’s all.

This is a lot of stuff to carry around inside of one small heart. The memories, and the worry about what you may have inflicted upon another small heart, one that you created. To look back and see all of the time, and the chances, and the love you wasted. It doesn’t feel very good. I’m glad to say I don’t sit in this shit every single day, but when I do, I don’t even try to deny myself the opportunity to cry about it anymore. It’s a sad and terrible way that I chose, and if it didn’t make me cry, I guess that would mean I haven’t changed much, wouldn’t it? But I have. So at least there is that.

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Directions for a Better Day

better day
photo credit: thethingswesay.com

Wake up before anyone else. This will give you the time you need to center yourself, to set the tone for the kind of day you want to have. Do whatever it is you need to do to get the ball rolling- rub your eyes, start your coffee, let your dogs outside to pee.

Feed yourself, spiritually. Read your Daily Word, your Just for Today, your 365 days of whatever…say your prayers. Ask God to hold your hand, today, if that is what you need. Ask him to keep a special eye on your kids, and remember the people you promised to pray for. Always pray for the ones you said you would. Really bad manners not to do that. When you pray, why not do it right? I get on my knees, I get SERIOUS. I want God to know I am not messing around, that I mean it. “I need your help today, God. I am impatient, and snappy, and capable of terrible meanness- can you help me with this? Let me be kind, and sweet, and soft, and loving. I am all of these things, too, but I need your help to keep that stuff in the front. Thank you. Thank you for ALL of this. I know I am so blessed, God, but there is always work to do. Amen” Give yourself ten or fifteen minutes more to sit in silence, to just be. Get calm. Get centered.

Wake your children up sweetly. Let the first thing they see be your smiling face, the first thing they feel, your love. Be ready to help them- If they are little, it is your job, also, to know where their shoes are, to know where their jacket is. Get them ready with as much patience and love as you can. You are setting the tone for their day, too.

Give yourself enough time to get to school, and to get to work, without getting angry. And if you don’t give yourself that time, remember- it is not the rest of the worlds fault that you are running late. They don’t even KNOW you are running late. Don’t let your anger get the best of you. Keep your best self at the wheel of your life. Be AWARE of yourself, and be responsible for your actions. Don’t honk your horn, take a deep breath. Don’t tailgate, just slow down. When you want to flip someone off, you shrug and smile instead. We all make mistakes. Treat others the way you want them to treat you. The Golden rule applies at all times.

When you get to work, be grateful for this job. It puts food on your table, and it keeps you out of trouble for the next eight hours. Do the best you can while you are there. Try to remember that it makes you feel good about you to do your best, even if no one else knows or cares. Be a decent human being. It pays off in the end.

Be aware of your thoughts. Are they useful, productive, kind thoughts? The more you are aware of what is going on in your head, the better off you are going to be. Are you judging others? Stop it. You don’t know anything about their life or their situation. Your only job is to be kind, whether it be a smile, or simply sending good vibes. Your judgement serves no one, unless you are being paid to do just that. Try to love the humanness in every person you come across. We all need that so badly. Are you thinking unkind things about yourself? Stop it. You must talk to yourself the way your best friend, your grandmother, the person who loves you most in the world, talks to you. Talk to yourself with the devotion and love and belief you have in your own children. Be your own champion. Be gentler with yourself. Forgive yourself. You are doing the best you can. And, as my sponsor says to me “You are so much better than you can see, but I see it.” Be tender with your beautiful self. You are working so hard.

Be aware of what you put in your mouth. You are going to feel so much better if you eat good stuff. It’s okay to pig out sometimes, but lets make today a better day…eat food that will nourish you. Drink water. Be aware of what your body is telling you. If you are on your feet all day, sit down for a little bit. If you are on your butt all day, take a walk. Get some air. Get some sunlight on your face. Stretch.

When you are done with work for the day, before you see your kids again, ready yourself. If you need to do something for yourself before you can do anything for them, do it. Go to a meeting, if you can. If you can’t do that, or you don’t do that, take a quick walk. Meditate for five minutes in the car outside of the daycare. Go get a pedicure. Park by the beach, or something scenic, and sort your thoughts. When you pick up your kids, they are going to be so excited to see you. You want to be excited to see them, too. Be present. Listen. Interact with them.

When you are home, set aside time for your family and time for your chores. Ask for help. Make time for other things that enrich your life- friends, hobbies, fun. But whatever you are doing, do that. Put your phone away. Look people in the eye. Listen. Be interested. Be interesting. Model the kind of life for your children that you want for them- don’t expect them to know any other way, because they won’t . If you want them to be kind, be kind to them. If you want them to have manners, you must have manners, too. If you want them to be loving, be loving to them. Develop good habits. Have a routine, but don’t fall apart when things happen…because things ALWAYS happen.

Spend at least five minutes every night lavishing love on your babies, while they will let you. Be grateful for them, and tell them how grateful for them that you are. Hold them in your arms, and kiss their faces, nuzzle their little necks. And every night, before you go to sleep, pray again. Thank God for this beautiful day, and for all of his help. Forgive yourself for the parts that didn’t go so well. Let yourself be okay with it. Go to sleep.

Repeat in the morning.

(This was really for me, but maybe you can get some use out of it, too.)

Are You Going To Have Faith, Or Not?

faith

For the past month or so, my life has really been sweet. My recovery is good and strong, my life full of all the things I want and need- meetings, and new friendships, movies and walks and books and laughter. My spiritual life felt robust and I felt connected to my God in a way that I hadn’t in such a long time. Meditation was really getting easy and enjoyable for me, and I felt my days slipping by with the kind of grace and ease that I had longed for forever.

Then, last Tuesday, two days before pay day, I found myself completely on empty, driving to my therapists office, with not a single dollar in my pocket. I was flat-ass broke, and I had to figure out how to navigate life for the next two days with no gas and no money. Now, let me remind you all- I am a drug addict! We are some of the most resourceful, crafty people in the world, when it comes to getting what we want, would you agree? And yet, in that moment, on my way to my therapist, and then my favorite NA meeting in the world, I had more than just a moment of panic, more than just worry. I was in full on assassin mode.

What I mean by this is, I was, internally, berating myself for my stupidity. It wasn’t just that I had run out of money two days before payday…it was “How could you be so STUPID? What kind of forty year old person doesn’t have a savings account? Why are you so messed up that you don’t even have a credit card? How can you be trusted to raise children when you can’t even afford to drive?” Yeah, it was bad. And just like that, all that good stuff I had been feeling, all that positivity, that connection I had been feeling…it faded out, like a dark cloud over my world. I was really down.

Now, what you need to keep in mind is- all of this happened in the space of one fifteen minute drive. I can do a lot of damage in a short time, trust me. But then, what happened was, just as I was turning the corner to my destination, this other voice popped up in my head, and it said “Courtney! Are you going to have faith or not? Because you either do or you don’t.” And, because this voice ALSO belonged to me, I knew what I meant- that I had lived through much worse times than this, and that, no matter how many times I had been down, no matter how far down I had been- I had always, every time, without fail, been okay again. Was I really going to let a matter of a few dollars reduce me, and my opinion of myself, to this?

And as I turned that corner and pulled into the parking lot, the answer was no, I was not. All of my hard work wasn’t for nothing, and my connection to the Universe was still so good, and I was still really proud of myself, and my life was still good…it was just that I needed a few bucks until payday. And I was going to have faith that everything would work out, just like it always does. And it did.

Since that day last week, I have come back to that thought- “Are you going to have faith, or not?” Again and again and again. Today, in just a few minutes, I am going to wake up my beautiful four year old for her first day of school ever. And I am terrified. Excited and thrilled, of course, but mostly, I am terrified. It is my job, as her mother, not to show this fear to her, so I will pull my shit together, pray, and I will choose faith this morning. Faith that God pays special attention to precious children and their crazy mothers, and faith that many other parents are feeling just like me this morning, and they are getting through it, somehow.

So the question for you today, my friends, is this- are you going to have faith, or not? Because you either do, or you don’t. I hope you do. We all need it. Have a wonderful day, and send some good thoughts over to this crazy mom, please.  🙂

Beautiful Human Machines

IMG_4083

I had intended to title this post “Stupid Human Bodies”, to be honest with you. I woke up this morning with only half of one nostril cooperating in my breathing effort. I have the kind of congestion that can be neither blown out, nor, uh…breathed in? I suppose the proper description would be “hocked up”, but that sounds so yucky, doesn’t it? Either way, if you are reading this, then you probably are saddled with one of these disease prone, periodically snot-addled, human contraptions we call “bodies” yourself, so I am sure you understand. The throbbing headache caused by sinuses that are malfunctioning- or is it hyperfunctioning? I am really unsure. The achy skin inflicted with fever. The goopy eyes, runny noses, dry, cracked lips. And this is only when we are dealing with the common fucking cold!

Don’t even get me started on the rest of the insulting things we must suffer through- the flaw in our design that put so many nerve endings in the places where we are most likely to ram them into things (think little pinky toes, my friend), the acne as teenagers (and adults), the metabolism that runs like a dream for so many years, only to leave us high and dry when our terrible eating habits are firmly ingrained in us…leaving us looking, bewildered, at the cellulite on our thighs and the rolls of blubber encircling our middles. Uncomfortably warm, permanent (seems like), hugs from the fat fairy. Yeah, life inside these bone and skin tents can be trying.

I was feeling all kinds of sorry for myself this morning, hobbling around with my achy, common-cold bones, hindered by my fat hug and the insurmountable mucus battle raging in my head…I was feeling whiny and bitchy and all kinds of pathetic. And then my daughter woke up. As you can see from the picture above, whatever is wrong with me is WAY less important than whatever the hell is going on with her. Yesterday, I thought she had a bug bite near her eye causing that swelling. Today, I am leaning more towards some type of cellulitis, perhaps conjunctivitis with a little something extra…I don’t know.

But it’s amazing, isn’t it, how quickly ones perspective can change? First of all, when I got out of “poor me” mode, and jumped into the impenetrable armor I call “Mommy Deluxe” (motto: don’t fuck with my kids, you hear?), my cold symptoms seemed to just float away. But, more importantly, I became acutely grateful for this wonderful machine that house our souls from day one through day…whatever you make it to. Because if this fancy contraption was not SO smart that it could send up distress signals you would need to blind to miss (ie: this eye is swollen even WORSE today, lady, so the Benadryl ain’t working! Help! Help!), how would I have known that something was seriously up with my kid? Answer: I wouldn’t have. I would not have known.

Our bodies are such precise and miraculous little systems. They are so complex, there are things even the most highly trained doctors, the most insanely educated scientists, are still mystified by. They protect us, they wage wars we often know nothing about, they suffer such abuses at our hands, and they still do their job, to the best of their ability, every single second of our lives. How cool is that? They find ways to communicate with us that we can understand, each body learning the language we will hear so that it can tell us how to help. And what do we do? We complain and whine, and get upset when things go wrong…Yet, how often are we grateful for all the many, many things that go right?

Today, I am going to stop whining, and appreciate this marvelous (if a little chubbier and snottier than I feel is totally necessary) temple that has been with me since the moment…no, since BEFORE the moment, even…I was born. Also, I am going to call the doctor for Cammy. That eye does not look good.

Have a beautiful day!

One Awesome Mutha’

mutha

This is where I write the obligatory Mother’s Day Blog. Only I don’t want to write something perfunctory and average, that is never my goal. If my heart isn’t in it, I just don’t want to do it. So I thought and thought all day long, and this is what I can tell you from my heart:

1.) You may think you know how much your mom loves you, but, until you are a mom yourself, or a dad, I suppose, although I have no idea if it works the same way- until the day that you become a parent, you have no clue. I hate to break this to you, but the kind of love you have for your children sort of makes every other kind of love look sort of…not as important. I mean, God, some of you people are going to get all butt-puckered over this (predictably), and defend the kind of love you have for your dog, or your girl, or whoever. I know, I know. I am not trying to say that certain kinds of love are better. All love is important. But the love I learned about when I held my first child in my arms (okay, after, like, a few days- she kind of freaked me out at first) was so much more vast, and pure, and unconditional. It kinda blew my socks off. So trust me when I say: Your mom, as annoying and nosy and cringe-worthy as she may be? That woman would jump in front of a truck for your grown ass without even hesitating. Take your love for her and multiply it by about a thousand, and you might be in the ball park.

2.) Having said that, not all moms are created equal- not by a long shot. I have friends who changed their lives completely the minute they gave birth, and took to mothering like a duck to water ( I am assuming they do this immediately, right? Ducks? If not, please replace that last remark with something that means, like, right away, and naturally. I am on a roll and cannot be bothered to go google what baby fucking ducks do). I have friends (me) who do okay. I have a maternal instinct ( I am not kidding you, I almost just wrote “maternal extinct”. Er…Freudian slip?) but it seems to have a short. It can work just peachy for a while, and then all of the sudden, it starts throwing sparks, and I turn into Joan Collins, only less classy. Like just now, for example, when my four year old asked for food, and I got mad at her for being hungry while I am busy writing. How DARE she? But I try. I try REALLY hard, most of the time. It just doesn’t come totally easily to me. Then, I know people who are about as attached to their kids as cats are to their kittens- they do great for a few months, but then it’s “see ya! It’s been real, thanks for the stretch marks!” and off they go. These types, I do not understand at all. You would need a crow bar, a tranquilizer gun, and several strong men to keep me apart from my babies. Apart from this anomalous few, I promise you, we do the best we can. Again, until you have walked a mile in our shoes, please do not judge or condemn us. Trust that our love is as real and true as any other- we are all doing the best we can.

Having gotten that out of the way, I have some special Thanks to dole out, here.

* My mom- What can I say, mom? I love you with all of my heart. You sure got screwed in the kid department. If it weren’t for my fantastic self, you would only have had Casey to love, and, well…need I say more (you had that coming, Casey. I am totally moms favorite, she tells me that all the time. hahaha). For real, though, mom. I have a lot of respect for the life you have carved out for yourself, even more so now that I am a mom, myself. This is not the easiest of jobs for us wild, gypsy types. Thank you for never giving up on me. I love you.

* Single moms- you are the bravest of the brave, doing the work of two people with aplomb. Please do not be hard on yourself for falling short. Repeat after me: “I am one person, doing the job of two. I fucking rock this shit every single day. I am Superwoman.” Make this your mantra. Single moms can carry in all of the groceries in one trip, unlock the front door while carrying a carseat full of infant, talk the people at PG&E into one more day for three months, and make a life of lemons into the best lemonade you ever tasted- and just might share it with you if you are worthy. Single moms do not have time to fuck around. We are serious, and our love for our children is the fiercest of all. It has to be. They are OUR babies, no one else’s. If you know a single mom (and of course you fucking do) you want to tell her how much you admire her for holding it down. Those words mean a lot.

* Married or otherwise Partnered Moms- I know what you are thinking…these ones have it easy, though! Right? Well, clearly you have forgotten how hard it is to raise kids in the confines of a relationship. All the compromise, all the extra BS, all the disagreements about right ways and wrong ways. Yes, there are benefits to having an extra set of arms and ears and eyes- as long as those parts are working in harmony with yours. When they aren’t, well…lets not pretend we haven’t all wished for a little time alone with the kids to whip them into shape. Daddies rule, but they can also be a big pain in the butt. The kids usually like them more, because, you know, chocolate for breakfast. You feel like the household villain. And, unlike the single mom, you find yourself having to work on your marriage (or whatever kind of thing it is) on top of everything else. Really, all you want to work on is a nap. It’s no walk in the park, and you rule, married mom.

So, I guess what I am trying to say is, if you are out there, in the motherhood trenches, doing the deal- you deserve a day of honor. If you work, if you stay at home, if you don’t vaccinate your kids (although I think you are kind of an idiot) or you do, if you are organic mom, or McDonald’s mom, whatever kind of mom you are- Thank you. Thank you for pouring your heart and your soul into the little people in your life. Thank you for doing the very best you know how, at least 75% of the time. This is the hardest job any of us will ever do, and we all, somehow, seem to do it just fine. Against all odds, they turn out pretty great in the end.  Good job, moms.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Beautiful

It’s a beautiful morning here on the peninsula- still, the way only Sunday mornings ever really are, gray, misty, quiet. The only sound I could hear, as I sat out on my front porch with my mug of hot, strong coffee, was the clang of what I believe to be buoy bells- I could be wrong about that, but in my head, that is what those clangs are.

But that is not the kind of beautiful I want to talk about right now. I had an interesting conversation with my mom, yesterday. It probably wasn’t very interesting to her, but it stood out to me. It went like this- we were talking about my youngest daughter, Camryn, and how she is just getting cuter every day. I said something to the effect of, yes, she is just lovely, but it’s her personality that really takes it over the top for me, and my mom says “No, I think she is just beautiful, just a pretty girl.” To which I replied “Yeah, she reminds me more of Aisley (my older daughter) all the time.”  Then my mom says, and this is what got me thinking- “Now, don’t take this the wrong way, but I see a lot of me in her.”

This is Camryn, who looks just like my mom at this age
This is Camryn, who looks just like my mom at this age

Now, why would I take that the wrong way? I was confused, and told her as much- I was honestly not connecting the dots. “Well, ” she said, “I don’t want you to think that I am saying I am beautiful…” And the conversation went on, and then I was in the store, so I had to go, but her words stayed with me.

At first, I was baffled, but then, after a while, I was sad. My mother, one of the most beautiful women out of all of the mother’s I have ever met, doesn’t want me to think that she would be foolish enough to call herself beautiful. More pointedly, my mother doesn’t think that she is beautiful. Now, I struggle with this all the time, and I understand, but when your own mother, who happens to be so pretty that people are constantly commenting on it, says something like this- it really strikes a chord. And I have something to say about it.

This is my mom and I on my last birthday- she is gorgeous
This is my mom and I on my last birthday- she is gorgeous

Listen, ladies, lots of you may know this on a certain level- that there is more to beauty than a flat stomach, and a pleasing face- but when it comes down to it, I think we have a tough time internalizing and believing this truth, as it applies to us. But you know what? Fuck that. You are beautiful.

You look in the mirror, and maybe you see ten or twenty extra pounds, but your mother looks at you, at this person she loves, and she sees you vibrant and healthy, and everything you have ever been, and all of the things you are going to be. She sees you, and you are beautiful.

This is what you see.
This is what you see.
and this is what you are.
and this is what you are.

You see a picture of yourself, and you see gray hairs coming in, or crows feet, or maybe a face you don’t even recognize as your face anymore. But your children look at you, and they see the person they love more than anyone else in the world. They know your soft, cool hands that would soothe away nightmares, and the safety of your embrace, and the way you know what they really need when no one else does, and you are stunning. Nothing in the world could mar that kind of beauty.

we love you exactly as you are.
we love you exactly as you are.

You maybe don’t even bother with the mirror anymore. You long ago lost the idea that anything about you could be appealing or pretty. But let me tell you, your grandchildren? There is no place in the world they would rather be than in your lap, snuggled into your arms. There is no better place they can think of than your presence. You are the most beautiful person in the world.

This is beauty you can't mess with.
This is beauty you can’t mess with.

You may not fit the format that has been laid out before us- maybe you are too skinny, or not skinny enough, not quite there yet, or past your prime, maybe you hate your thighs or suck your stomach in, think your legs are too short or your boobs are too small. Maybe you spend a lot of time wishing things were how they used to be, or just different than they are now. Well, stop it. Because someone, the most important ones, look at you, look into you, and they see all of the things you ARE. Your great laugh, and your sharp wit, your kind heart, your willingness to be there, the ease with which you give.

Gorgeous laughter
Gorgeous laughter

Whoever you are, wherever you are at in your journey through life, you are beautiful. Way more than just a pretty face, my friend. And that includes you, my beautiful, gorgeous, wonderful, funny, strong, mom. I love you. I would be proud to have daughters just as radiant as you are.

My beautiful mother. And me. I'm not so bad, either.
My beautiful mother. And me. I’m not so bad, either.

What Can We Do?

change

The pain, for me at least, has not really gotten better. Judging from the conversations I have had out in the world, and the things I see on Facebook, the things I am seeing here on WordPress,  it is not getting better for anyone. If anything, the shock has worn off and it hurts even worse.  The pictures of all of those beautiful babies smiling, just another arrow through our collective heart. The whole world is walking around, wounded and heart sick. What can we do? There is nothing that can be done…I keep hearing myself say these words, that awful, helpless feeling welling up in me. We cannot go back in time, we cannot give these children and their teachers their lives back, we cannot even truly ease the pain of the people left behind, longing and mourning for them.

Still, the desperate best in us has come to the forefront again, the way it always does when a tragedy of this magnitude unleashes itself upon us. There are petitions to sign, tributes made, candle light vigils held across the world. Our compassionate, beautiful sides, too tender, we think, to reveal all the time, are the faces of most of us right now. Yet I wake up in the morning afraid and tired, still feeling like my hands are tied, that none of this really HELPS at all. I know this is not really true, on a certain level, and that any kindness and compassion we pour forth now is a gift that the world desperately needs- the truth is, this world has become a place too dark, too individualized, too alienated from it’s own humanity. If that weren’t true, it wouldn’t take a tragedy so horrific to bring us back to earth again, finally able, for the briefest moments, to remember the gift of right now, right here, what we can see, smell, touch, taste, hold close.

There is beauty everywhere, too. We forget so easily. How many times have you been face to face with a beautiful sunset, purple and pink and orange and yellow, and barely registered its existence, so worried about traffic or hell bent on getting back to your empty house to get the dishes done before dinner can be started? How many times have you run out to grab something from your car, and the full moon shone down, but you were too tired to let it take your breath away? I live mere blocks from the beach, and sometimes days pass before I can even be coaxed into looking up, taking it in. Last night, I sat on the couch, absorbed in a book, and I looked up to find my two year old staring at me solemnly with her enormous green eyes, just looking and looking. My heart lurched in my chest because I could see that her eyes were telling me the story of her longing to be near me while I sat there, a thousand miles away. I picked her up and held her in my arms, kissed her cheeks and buried my face in her golden brown curls, and thought about all of the parents in Newtown who would give their own lives, without a backward glance, to have the chance I had nearly passed up. We are a peculiar animal, humans. Great with big concepts, while failing miserably to see what is right in front of us.

This morning it occurred to me that perhaps there is something I can do. There is something all of us can do. We start at home. We take full responsibility for our lives and how we conduct them, agreeing that the example we provide is as important as the advice that we give. For me, this means being present, not being afraid of my teenager when she acts up because I am afraid of all of the discord. It means putting my foot down, not accepting unacceptable behavior. It means following through with predetermined consequences, no matter how much better things seem, or how much work it is for me.

I can make the world better by being a better mother and raising better children. I can make the world better by taking better care of myself, trying not to die of lung cancer or emphysema due to my inability to reign in my own addictive behavior. Killing myself is not going to help my kids at all. This sounds stupid, but if you really think about it, it’s a great example of what I mean- thinking of the ripple effect, the things we do that are not really just to ourselves, but effect everyone around us. It is high time we take responsibility for ourselves and for each other.

The first step is ourselves. The next is our families. Then we need to learn to widen the net, to put down our phones, shut off our TV’s and laptops, and begin to know the people around us. This means our neighbors, our children’s friends, their friends parent’s, the people at church, at the grocery store, at work, at the gym. We need to keep our eyes open and see what is happening in the world around us- so that maybe, when one of us is very, very ill, next time, we can see it. Next time, maybe someone will see what another could not.  I think it could be the difference between life and death. These little changes, the difference between existing and living.

Please, let me know what your thoughts on any of this are. I would really love to know what your mind has been whispering to you about what has happened and who we are or have become, as people.

Thanks.

I Don’t Know How To Write This…

candles120As a writer, the thing I know how to do when the chips are down, when something strikes me or inspires me, when something saddens me- is write. But this…this I don’t know how to write about.

I’m sure that my mind is much like your mind is, a  swirling mess of emotions, vacillating between disbelief, horror, grief, anger, shock and heartbreak. I find myself imagining what it must have been like, in that school, yesterday, then I am glad that I cannot. It’s that bad, that unthinkable, that I can’t even imagine what it must have been like. My mind has no capacity for this kind of thing. It is literally unimaginable.

What we know so far is this: A twenty year old young man killed his mother yesterday. Then, he traveled to the school where she worked and opened fire in two classrooms, killing six adults and TWENTY small children. He then killed himself. I can’t help but to say this- if only, if only, if only he had simply turned the gun on himself first…then none of this would be so, so bad. There is a very small, human part of me that registers, even in the face of all of this, that even one life lost is too many, even a very sick, very dangerous life such as his. But still, why could it not have been just him? I think we all want to know why- why ANY of this happened, what caused it, what happened to trip his switch, WHY didn’t we somehow know, see the signs? And I think that is a really important line of questions that we do need to discover answers to if we want to keep this type of tragedy from happening again. I think it is incredibly human to want to know what happened, to know why, because we need it to make some sort of sense so that we can cope. But I don’t think this will ever make sense.

I just keep thinking about the families. I keep thinking about the presents under Christmas trees for kids that are GONE. I keep thinking that, right now, some mother in Connecticut finally dozed off for five minutes and had to wake up and remember that this is REAL. That her son or daughter, her BABY, is dead. I keep having moments of unbearable sadness, crushing grief, wild despair because I imagine myself in her place. And I am so incredibly grateful that it is not me, that it is not my daughter, gone. That I can, right now, stop typing, run into the other room, and touch my daughter’s warm, sweet, sleeping face. My heart is just broken by the knowledge of all that was lost, yesterday. The lives of far more than twenty children and seven adults lost- just the tip of the iceberg, really. I don’t know how to say what I mean, but I think, if you have children or nephews and nieces, or little brothers and sisters, you know. The destruction of lives radiates out into the mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, big and little brothers and sister, grandmothers, grandfathers, neighbors, best friends.

All bets are off, now. In a few days, we will start to go on with our lives, we will begin to heal the way our resilient selves do- we are not in the midst of it, and we are so blessed. But it has marked you, somewhere, I promise. You will pay attention for a long, long time to how you say goodbye, I love you, goodnight. You will look at the people around you, the ones you love best, in real time, seeing them not just as fixtures in your life, but as they are- beautiful, precious, prized parts of your heart. It is too bad it takes something beyond comprehension to bring the truth into sharp focus- that everything we strive for and grab at and prioritize is NOTHING compared to the love we give and the love we get in return. Nothing else means anything.

God help us all.

The Heart of a Mommy

courtesy of Gail Nogle Photography

I would like to dedicate this post to all the moms I know, but especially to Amanda Davis, and her one month old baby girl, Maxine. I love you with all my heart.

The day that each of us got the news, either from a doctor, or, more commonly, from the stick we just peed on that had the nerve to turn pink, our lives began to change. I cannot speak for everyone, but I know for me, the first few months were a mixture of fear (is everything alright in there? What the hell will I do with a baby!?), excitement, and that weird, buoyant radiance that feels different from any other thing apart from pregnancy. We become so in tune with our bodies, and every day we wake up with a new sense of purpose- to carry this life within us carefully, safely, to it’s fruition. Not everyone of us gets to do this perfectly- I have friends who have lost babies, friends whose babies were born so, so early that they spent months in the hospital keeping vigil at their tiny infants bedside. For many of us, as mothers, this is the first time our lives are every truly hard or scary- it’s like everything before this pain is NOTHING in comparison.

From the time we feel their movement inside of us for the very first time, like a butterfly’s wings fluttering or a flurry of tiny bubbles brushing against us, to the alien rolls and elbow jabs of late pregnancy, we begin to develop a relationship with this little person. Then the moment arrives when they are ready to come out into the world, and time stands still the first time you see this marvelous, beautiful human being for the first time, or hear their tiny, gorgeous voice. There is nothing in the world like this.

You have expectations. What you think they will look like, what you think they will be like. Then, here they are, so different than you imagined- and yet perfect, better in every way than you could ever dream up on your own. A lot of times, we are so busy and caught up in them, these little miracles we get to claim as our own, that we don’t see what is becoming of us. The  biggest miracle of all, for me, was what happened to my heart the day that I began to love my first daughter.

Before she came along, I was very, very self- possessed ( I”m not saying I’m so damned perfect now, I’m just saying you should have seen me before!) and it was incredibly hard for me to be empathetic for others. But the love that came to me with her was so profound, so incredibly pure and perfect, there was no way I could accept that love and not be fundamentally changed. My heart was just laid open, and it changed who I was. It was really the best day of my life.

I was very, very young, and messed up countless times with that child. I will go so far as to admit that she got a bad deal with me. I wish I could go back and change it all, I really do, but you know how useless that is.  But I will tell you this- because of my love for her, I had the good sense to feel guilty about the way I was living, and the desire to change grew from that. Because of my oldest girl, and my love for her, I found my way out of the mess I was living in, and became someone better.

My second daughter knocked out every barrier I had left, allowing light in all of the places I had hidden away for myself. There was no place left in me now that was safe from emotion. My second daughters birth obliterated me with that love, and I was so ready and receptive to it. My heart expanded, making room for both of my girls and so, so much more. You think you know about love before you have kids, and I hope I don’t offend you when I say, with all sincerity, you don’t. You can’t, it’s not possible, it’s different, it’s rare and perfect and amazing. I know you love your dog, you love your parents, you love your husband. But this love, while absolutely worthwhile and good and necessary, is not the wrecking ball love you get with your babies. It destroys you and resurrects you into someone so much better than you were before- softer and stronger, deeper and…just better.

As our children grow, and the time flies by, there comes a moment when you realize that there is a distance growing between you. Then you come to understand that this was always the purpose of all of these years- to raise them and to let them go. It happens so fast. So, so much faster than you would have believed fifteen or so years ago…it breaks your heart. No matter how rotten and selfish and foul mouthed they have become, they are the same big-eyed, sweet smelling, little miracles who latched onto your heart with their sticky hands and kissed you with their runny noses underneath all that teenage loathing, and it hurts to let them go. But that is all you can do.

My advice to you, just starting out, is to relish every minute of it. Every time you start to feel fussier than the baby making you climb the walls, look down into that tiny face, and memorize it, because in five minutes they will be someone else. It goes by in a heartbeat. You cannot love too much, listen too much, be too affectionate, be too present …when they are small. But you can  do and be too little of all of these things, and you will carry that pain with you for the rest of your life-so do yourself a favor, and be the kind of parent you can be proud to be. You will not regret it. Welcome to the mommy club. May the force be with you.

Memory Lane in a BAD Neighborhood

Well, hello, strangers. I haven’t had a lot of time (or the inclination) to write much lately- life has been busy, and filled with a lot of stuff I don’t feel qualified to handle. Unfortunately, there IS no one else, so I don’t have a lot of choice. Work has been insanely busy and I’ve been trying to put in as much overtime as I can (as it turns out, that’s not a whole lot in my case), the little daughter has made it her mission in life to see how many times per day she can come perilously close to killing herself via a multitude of dangerous activities. The big daughter is also trying to get herself killed, only she, it is obvious, wants the old “suicide-by-mom” thing. She is the winner, this week, of the crazy making award. And also, my car is in the shop for a repair that is exorbitantly expensive for a thing that isn’t even freaking broken (timing belt). So I have been reliant on others to taxi me about since Tuesday. In other words, I’ve left my house ONCE.  So, because I’ve been sticking close to home and trying not to kill my children, I’ve had time to dive into the piles of crap I have squirreled away in boxes and bags in every nook and cranny of my home. I went through a small crate and large drawer that were crammed full of notebooks-everything I had written from 1993 forward.  I put my notebooks in chronological order, reading through each one, something I had never done before. What emerged, when taken altogether like that, was a really sad, really clear life story of a troubled, unhappy, desperate girl who has TERRIBLE taste in men. But there was some really great, hopeful stuff in there, too. That’s where I found what I’m posting today, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did when I stumbled across it the other day. It’s the story of how I felt when I finally got clean and got my life back. (written three years later around the time I relapsed…again…I must have been trying to remind myself of the truth). I am transcribing it word for word, so bear with the structure and the jumping of tenses-I never dreamed it would ever be seen by anyone but me.

10/2008

Today, it dawned on me that this mental beating I give myself every time I make this choice, it is exactly how I felt almost constantly for the 11 solid years I sacrificed to my addiction. Now, I say “almost constantly” because I do clearly recall having SOME fun, albeit bizarre, times in there. But I knew, I knew, I KNEW, as surely as I knew my own face, that I was doing myself a terrible disservice. The way that I kept on and kept on and kept on living that way, until finally it had been YEARS- I knew I was cheating myself, my mom, and my daughter. Just about every one who loved me, or who got sucked into the abyss that was my life, got the short end of the stick.

At some point, you realize you are using now JUST to stay two steps ahead of your own terrible reality sinking in. When you are already so weakened, so compromised, so ghostly, it is terrifying to entertain the thought of actually turning around & seeing the path of destruction you left in your wake. It’s just too, too much.

What I didn’t know then that I do know now, is that continuing to claw your way blindly and frantically ahead is not the answer. It is familiar, and how you do it, and strangely comfortable despite how it looks from the outside. When you are in the middle of  addiction, and it is YOUR horrible, bleak life, you are totally in your element. You know many other creatures just like you, in varying degrees, you have a language, a culture, a kind of code all your own, and you have lived in the shadows for so long that venturing outside of your tiny world causes you extreme discomfort. You no longer know how to interact properly with normal folks, you are too loud or too silent, too nervous, too shifty, too angry, too flippant, too self-involved to even notice how out of sync you are half the time. You get irrationally angry and immediately defensive when the slightest threat is even perceived. This is how you keep folks at bay, being short fused. People don’t press when they are afraid of what might set you off. You are moody and unhappy and you hate every single thing that there is, especially yourself. Except for your daughter. When you look at her, you hate yourself more than you even thought possible, but you love her in the deepest, most tender way. That love is like a weight on your back, only you can’t tell if it is making everything even harder, or if it is the sole thing keeping you planted on earth, or both. Maybe it’s both. But you look at that girl and your throat closes, and your eyes burn, and you can no longer escape the cloak of your despair.

Oh, I am so sorry, but I have to start work right now! There is more, and I will just make it a separate post later today. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed this so far…it truly is that way when you are strung out for so long. It’s a nightmare, and you can’t even figure out what is wrong with you while it is happening to you. In case you ever wondered why “those people” are the way they are and do what they do. It’ s very sad. But it CAN get better, and if you check me out later, you can read the rest.