Wednesday, May 23, 2012

mothering and the importance of hearing, friends, and the odd cupcake

The good news, my friend's son who went missing for 5 days after consuming 1beer the day after he came home from rehab was found. Was found unresponsive, barely breathing in a dangerous part Chicago after what would appear to be a heroin binge. This is good news, because he is found, and he is not dead. He is not well either. There is damage to several organs, pneumonia and serious cognizant defects. He remembers coming home from rehab, going to a movie with his girlfriend, and then he woke up in the hospital. He does remember drinking the beer, the conflict with his parents, where he's been, who's he's been with, or what he's been doing. Five days of his life are gone. He is going through heroin withdrawal and doesn't have the capacity to understand why or how this could have happened to him.

His mom and I talked on the phone, rather she talked and I mostly listened. What else do you do then provide a safe place for someone to voice the fears and sadness that they cannot openly share? Sometimes simply to be heard without judgement is the greatest gift you can give another person; to say I hear you, I understand, I am here for you.

 “But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one's deepest as well as one's most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort - the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person - having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”

We are mothers of chronically ill children, and yet we cannot openly ask for comfort (for my full rant on this see my "what? no lasagna?" blog). We could be judged, seen as bad mothers, because where else do addicts come from? There are no cards for children in Rehab, no balloons, no catchy ribbon shaped magnetic bumper stickers, no one shaving their heads for addiction awareness, I could go on, obviously.

Society has judged us as bad mothers. This judgement comes from fear, fear for themselves, their own children and the ability for them to escape suffering.

The irony is, we mothers are the ones who carry our children, our families through these difficult times. We bear the brunt of the anger, hurt, and pain our children suffer.

We also carry, and are carried by each other.

We have our meeting tonight, and I feel extra useless, so I will bring food, because that's what I do when someone is hurting and I can't think what else to do, I feed people. Perhaps it's the act of feeding people that give me a tangible feeling that I am helping, whether it's at the homeless shelter kitchen, or a bag of cookies for a friend. They say you shouldn't use food as a coping mechanism, and I agree, somewhat, but I remember the person who brought me cookies and books when my son was in residential rehab, and how loved that made me feel. I remember the tea with milk someone brought to me as I was sitting up all night with my hospitalized child. So tonight I bring cupcakes, chocolate and vanilla bean (Trader Joe's, I was a little rushed, and to be honest they make better cupcakes than I do). People were thrilled, it felt nice.

It's amazing how sharing a little bit of cake and icing can bring smiles to tired faces, can provide a conversational starter when no one knows how to start talking.

We also listen to each other, or, more accurately, we hear each other. Tonight it's all mothers, which is usually the case. Men can be physically stronger which can be handy for moving furniture and tree branches, but it's women, mothers in this case, who are stronger, for their family, their children, and for each other. After a night full of worry, of drama and of little sleep, mothers get up and do again what is necessary to feed and care for the children. I don't mean to belittle fathers, but in my experience, it's mothers that do what needs to be done. It's mothers that hold families together, manage doctors, therapists, meetings, teachers, social workers and wait up for their children to arrive home safely. Mothers who wait up even when their children don't return home, mothers who are the ones to lock the door and leave a backpack, pillow and blanket out for an intoxicated child, and mothers who stand firm for the sake of their child outside and their children inside. Mothers who go to hospitals after phone calls from the police.

This gets heavy, we carry on, very often forgetting to take care of ourselves.

That's where we need each other. I once, in a moment of less than Zen like parenting told my, at the time, belligerent son that I was the one who held our family together, and that my mental health was in all of our best interests, and that he might consider giving me just the tiniest bit of a break. Like I said, it was not my best parenting, but it was true. He did give me a break, slightly bigger than tiny, and it's in these moments where my son and I actually hear each other, that give me hope.

A little hope, a little help from my friends, and the odd cupcake just might see us though this, at least for today.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Source: via Maureen on Pinterest

I needed to hear this today.

Not that I know exactly who myself is, and not because I'm not afraid - I am terrified. I am terrified of actually being myself. I have no idea what that will look like. I do know I've made steps, that I sometimes like myself when I actually get a tiny glimpse.

Still, I hold most of my real self back.

I spent a childhood being told who I was, was not okay, an adolescence being angry and hating myself, an young adulthood desperately pretending that I was okay and doing what I wanted, and now I'm breaking that down and wondering who I actually am.

Perhaps I need to fall and cry and have gobs of snot run down my face to know.

For now I turn to my dear friend poetry to remind me where I want to go.

Love After Love
The time will come, when with elation,
 you will greet yourself arriving
 at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome
and say, sit here.  Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
 Give wine.  Give bread.  Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you.
all your life, whom you have ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
 peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit.  Feast on your life.
                                                                                      Dereck Walcott

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope,
for hope would be hope for the wrong thing.
And wait without love.  For love would be love,
of the wrong thing. 
Yet there is faith.
But the faith and the hope and the love, are all in the waiting.
And the darkness shall be the light
and the stillness the dancing. 
                                             T.S. Elliot

If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving,
 and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence
 might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything seems to be dead in winter and later proves to be alive.  Now I'll count to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go.
                                                                                          Pablo Neruda

"It may be when we no
 longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work,
 and that when we no longer know which way to go,
 we have begun our real journey."

                                                 Wendell Berry

Sweet Darkness
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds except
the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the
sweet confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
                                    David Whyte

Thursday, May 17, 2012

It rubs the lotion on it's skin, or else it gets the hose again.

Okay, creepy reference. If you got it, I'm sorry, if you didn't, just as well.

I'm in a mood.

I'm feeling uncomfortable in my own skin today, can't put my finger on exactly where, but I'm restless; I'm irritable; I'm discontent. I can't maintain a cohesive train of thought.

I have to make a decision. 

I don't want to. I really, really don't want to. I want to take my toys and go play somewhere else. I want to stamp my feet, I want to punch someone - really.

In case you haven't noticed, I'm not the Dali Lama today.

I resent - I resent a LOT - the selfish individuals that have put me in this impossible place. I am truly surprised at their thoughtlessness, cruelty and self-centered behaviour. I want to write them a nasty letter, call them and tell them off properly, I want to do all sorts of immature, ultimately sabotaging activities.

but I won't.

I have to take the f@#%ing high road - again - because they won't. They will always play dirty, it's what works for them.

I will put my injured ego aside, and try to make a good enough decision. Good enough, there is no difficult-but-right decision, no-clever-compromise solution, no way to do this where someone doesn't feel hurt, conflicted and/or betrayed. Most likely that someone will be me, and I'm a little bit tired of "sucking it up", "taking one for team", "being the adult in the room". 

Did I mention I resented the Hell out of being put in this position?

Seriously, why can't people behave decently? 

There, that was the sound of the last straw breaking. 

After this I'm done. 

No more trying to find compassionate middle ground, no more compromises to accommodate aging infantile egos. There is nothing I can do that would have them see me as a human being, as a person, a mother, as someone capable of being deeply hurt by their actions. To them I am the convenient villain, the place to project their own fears on.

And now, I'm suppose to detach with love.
(rude sound)

There is no best solution for my kids, for me, even for their dad. They are truly master manipulators, I suppose over 50years of practicing makes you pretty good.

That's it. 

Now I have to do what one of my favourite teachers, Pema Chodron says:

“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look."

She also says many more wise compassion things.

Time to put on my Big Girl panties and deal with the way things are, instead of wasting energy on they way I think they should be.

Still, one should never underestimate the power of a good and proper Hissy Fit.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

my child's an addict and all I got was this lousy t-shirt

Another night, another parent group.

I sit and listen, while three mothers talk about their sons, all who are using heroin, all who are in various stages of living on the street. One is missing completely, three days after his mom picked him up from rehab, three days after he was coming home hopeful. One day after a misguided friend offered him a beer and he dropped straight down in active addiction and likely heroin use within 6 hours. Now he is missing, one of the last thing he said to his mom was that he wanted to kill himself. Here she sits, still trying to do the right thing. Still wondering if she could have done better. A common concern. No, an almost required concern. Was it the divorce? The move? Should I have home schooled? Round and round we go.

The stories this week are bad. I sit quietly. Eventually they ask me, and I have to say my son, for today (and the last week) has done well. He goes to meetings, he has not relapsed. He still lives in my home, still has a bedroom, we have had reasonable talks. I had a wonderful Mother's Day. I feel guilty, like I don't meet membership requirements.

Then, because I'm already talking, I tell them about my mother.

You cannot talk about my mother without a large dose of humour, otherwise it would be sad and tragic and tonight we don't need any more of that. So I tell them about my mother, my evil step-father, my alcoholic father (dead), my alcoholic brother (alive) and my alcoholic self. I give them a glimpse into the alcoholic mind, mine mostly, in the only way I know how, to laugh about it. About the hamster wheel section of my brain that I've surrounded in Police yellow caution tape, the section of my brain where I can generate absolutely crazy thinking with only the tiniest bit of initial effort, the section I am not allowed to go to by myself.

Then something crazy happens. We are all laughing. Moms with lives that would send the uninitiated running screaming from the room, fingers jammed in their ears, chanting "la la la la I can't HEAR you". These moms are laughing, and it feels, good. It feels good to get a break from holding our worlds up, from juggling other people's lives, from putting on the fucking brave face when we are in "public" when we would really like just to sit on the floor pound fists and scream - wait, I think that last bit is just me, but you never know....

They tell me I should do stand up - and maybe I will. If I can make a mom who's son is missing laugh, how hard could people with 'normal' lives be? Scratch that. I don't know anyone with a 'normal' life, and if they seem normal, it's just because we don't know each other well. I think I can make people laugh because I pull up what is crazy in my life, what I wouldn't talk about in 'polite company' and give it a good poke. I would fall apart, I think, if I couldn't laugh at this life of mine.

So there it is - I could not get through this life without poking at things and laughing. I may be irreverent, and I'm certain my mother would be appalled, but it beats crying and feeling sorry for myself, because when I really do take a look at myself, I am blessed in ways I would have missed if my life were 'normal'. "Normal", over-rated if you ask me.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Love note from my children

I woke to this note from my kids on top of my sketchbook and art supplies.  They such sentimental fools.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

the myth of exceptional parenting

I was an exceptional parent.

More precisely, I was an exceptional parent before I had to actually parent children.

I knew that with the correct combination of breastmilk, cloth diapers, organic homemade baby food, no TV, reading and countless parenting courses that I would produce exceptional children. This is essentially how my children were raised, although the third had disposable diapers and jarred, but still organic,baby food. And yet....

And yet, last night I told my almost 17year old son that he could drop out of high school, that I honestly thought that would be his best option, that he should quit school and get a full time job and eventually work towards a GED. My almost 17year old recovering addict son, who smokes - just cigarettes now, who is in the process of failing his third year of high-school, who says he doesn't care or see the point of learning about Walt Whitman or mathematics, who has anger management problems, aggressive behaviour (towards me) tendencies, and impulse control issues.

This was once my beautiful baby boy. Once my beautiful kind, bright, and loving boy, the one who picked me dandelion bouquets, my ticklish boy who would burst into giggles at the mere threat of wiggling fingers near his belly, my trusting and loving boy who walked out into the world with his heart wide open, and made home made mother's day gifts out of coloured paper, glue and crayons. This was my boy. I still have his cards, his messy writing and beautiful pictures carefully tucked away, but the open hearted, trusting boy has gone away. I catch glimpses of him, occasionally, and also glimpses of the man he could still be, but they happen rarely now, and when they do appear I try not to cling because I know they do not last and soon enough I will have my angry, defiant, hurting boy, who does not see a place for himself in the world, who thinks he does not deserve happiness, or even peace. And I try to parent that boy the best that I can.

My best. My best does not always meet my former standards for being a good parent. My best doesn't even approach how I saw myself in the role of exceptional parent. Sometimes my best is after an angry exchange that makes me want to run away from my child and never speak to him again, is me walking away, remembering the loving boy that is still in there somewhere, and walking back, apologizing and starting over. Sometimes my best is letting my son see my tears, my hurt, my anger and, my love, through the ugly and hurtful moments in our struggles.

I've been told no one gets a free ride, that everyone struggles and I try to remember this when I see other people's children thriving and apparently happy. I try to remember that recovering from addiction can be a great gift, and that wonderful, compassionate people come out of these struggles. I try, but I don't always believe these things.

A few weeks ago my beloved greyhound Fezzik, who has the kindest heart and the most loving disposition was attacked by a friend's part Pit Bull dog. I immediately flung myself between them, only to be violently flung back on my ass. The fight  look terrifying and I was scared to death as I watched this dog lunge at Fezzik's throat. I jumped up again and flung myself towards them, this time with some help and an improved position we got the dogs apart. Fezzik was hurt, he required an expensive vet visit and couldn't walk for two days, or run - which he loves to do in our yard, for almost two weeks. He is fully recovered and his normal joyous self now, and I am very happy no permanent harm was done.

I don't think parenting is throwing your self in with all your heart only to get tossed out again.

I think parenting is when you get up and throw yourself back in, open hearted again, and again and again. Parenting, even after you've been flung on your ass over and over. Parenting is when you're too tired, when you feel so discouraged you want to run away, parenting is when it's ugly, dirty, and terrifying, parenting is when it's the very last thing you want to be doing. Parenting is the willingness to get up, again, and keep your heart open, again, and to fight for your child.

Excellent parents are mythological, right along with the happily ever after lives in faery tales. Real life is messy, mundane, heart and back breaking. It is also jammed full of miracles, wonder, laughter and love. Generally, you don't find these things where you expect, at least I don't.

I let go of my personal myth of being an exceptional parent, it was a tough battle, but getting knocked on my ass a few hundred times eventually wore me down. I work on being a good enough parent, and hope that will be enough.

to be continued

see updated version - up there   ^

a little editing was required...