That Circled Red Date

How do you celebrate days that hurt?  We are told holidays are supposed to be joyous and time for celebration.  We are given days on a calendar that we are supposed to circle with a red marker and automatically be happy and look forward to.  We look at each other and say, “Happy (insert holiday here.”  The magical Happy Memory Fairy sprinkles their glittery shit around and everyone giggles and happy dances and good moments are made.  That’s what happens…right?

Except, this is the real world and not some Rom-Com.  In the real world, real people see that red marker and around those holidays and feel pain and anxiety.  The memories aren’t always good.  They remember the loss that came around that holiday and the people who won’t be there to celebrate it or maybe the ones who weren’t ever there. Every “Happy ________” comes with a fake smile and some suppressed tears as the knife in the heart twists one more time.

Mother’s Day…Hell, the whole fucking month of May is shitty in my eyes.  I hate it.  I hate every damn day of May.  It doesn’t matter how hard I try to find good things, I have an overwhelming depression that just takes over.  I don’t even realize it is happening.  Spring was my favorite season…once upon a time.  Once upon a time before I knew how much my heart could hurt.  Spring always signified newness.  The Earth was being reborn.  Flowers were growing.  The buds on the trees showed me we once again could come alive after being dormant after what seemed like forever.  Yet, now without my knowledge it is almost like the darkest storms of Spring take over my heart with no promise of the tomorrow it truly offers.

When I was little and you would ask me what I wanted to be, my answer would always be “a mom.”  I wanted to be a mom.  More than anything I wanted babies.  I wanted 4.  A big brother, two girls and a little brother.  I wanted to be the best mom in the world.  I would love those babies more than anything.  Even though I was the most “developed” of my friends (and sisters) I got my period after them.  Then it was weird.  I found out I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and it was going to be hard to have kids but I didn’t care.  I was having them.  Lots and Lots of babies!  I had my son MJ when I was 20.  He was a miracle birth to say the least and left me highly damaged but the second I saw him.  I knew I was right.  I was born to be a mom.  From that moment on, my life became about being a just his mom.  Until this very breath, he is my heart and soul.

We were told kids after MJ weren’t likely but I wasn’t giving up.  One year turned into two years turned into three and my hopes started to diminish.  By the time MJ was five I was resolved that he was going to be an only child from us but we had talked greatly about adoption.  I had been sick for sometime only to find out I was pregnant.  Nothing could describe my surprise or my elation.  I went back to the if you want something bad enough…in time, you’ll get it.  My pregnancy was horrible.  My whole pregnancy with Elizabeth, I felt overprotective of her.  My heart knew I would never bring her home from the hospital.  My heart knew her big brother would never kiss her face.  My heart knew she was never really mine.  Yet, I loved her fiercely and deeply.

May 25th, 2005, I woke up in the morning after the worst sleep.  I have never experienced pain like I was.  My heart and soul knew this was the day.  I had been bleeding for weeks and even though the doctor’s said it was okay, I knew it wasn’t.  I sat on my living room floor crying.  I begged God not to take my baby.  I begged please let me keep her.  MJ sat in my lap, I will never forget him asking me, “Mama, why can’t we keep my sister?  Am I a bad brother?”  I drove my husband and myself to the hospital (I have control problems.)  I was in surgery right away.  My placenta had ruptured.  There was no way to save my sweet girl.  It was too late.  I was never able to hold my girl.  Never able hold her hands, kiss her cheeks or tell her I love her.  Saving me was more important to the doctors.  I don’t know if they know in that they are slowly killing me.

So Mother’s Day hurts my soul.  12 years ago, I was the happiest Mother on Earth with a beautiful son carrying my daughter just waiting to love her Earthbound body.  This Mother’s Day.  I grieve.  I grieve for my son who wants nothing more than to be a big brother.  I grieve for the tears I keep hidden until everyone sleeps.  I grieve for the toxic mother I have walked away from.  I grieve for the empty arms I have.  I grieve for the mothers who have lost, who can’t, who long…This Mother’s Day…I grieve for the red marker.

The Dirty Laundry Is Talking…

“You are the strongest woman I have ever met!”  I don’t know how you do it!”  “I could never handle all of that!”  These are things I have heard many times.  I don’t say this in ANY sort of bragging manner.  Often times when I hear things like this my insides cringe.  I want to scream back something like, “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!?!?” People see how you handle things from the outside and their perception is skewed…at best.  I will give people that.  On the outside, I can make it look like I have my shit together.  The whole house could be burning down and I will make sure your eggs aren’t over poached before I save all the valuables, call the fire department, get the kids out, grab Great Grandma’s afghan, reapply my favorite MAC lipstick and put the dogs on their leashes and head out of the door all while not breaking a sweat.  Inside, my head is swirling and I am a shit show every minute of everyday.

Shit Show.png

Currently, it is 3:17 am.  I can’t sleep so I got up to do some laundry.  As I was getting putting my dirty laundry in I was replaying some of the conversations I have been having lately (if you have any form of anxiety…you know that’s what you do.) All the sudden, my dirty laundry spoke to me…seriously, it was funky.  Mostly because it was my 17 year old son’s.  No really. My dirty laundry aired my dirty laundry.  I have been saying the same things to people lately.  “I’m sorry you met me right now.”  “I’m sorry you (re)came into my life right now.”  “This isn’t the person I normally am.”

I was talking to my cousin about this and he said, “What like a person who has been beat to shit by life for the last several years and needs some support?”  Those words rang deep to me.  I DON’T KNOW HOW TO ASK OR ACCEPT HELP.  I don’t know how to show my fear on the outside.  I’ve realized suddenly, my inner chaos that I deal with on the inside, people are seeing and I am embarrassed.  People are seeing what I see.  They are seeing that girl I have been ashamed of all of my life.  I’ve needed to say outloud that I am scared.  I am scared that I might need someone to help me carry all the burdens.  I may not be able to quite the chaos this time by myself.  Typing these words are making me cry.  My fingers are hardly able to move.  This might be the most terrifying thing I have ever written.

Not letting anyone see what I am feeling on the inside has become a HUGE coping mechanism for me.  When nobody can see the chaos they are less likely to leave the mess.  Everybody leaves when they think I’m Superwoman…who is going to stay  when they see what the inside looks like?

Chaos

A Trail of Hearts

Once upon a time there was a little girl.  She loved with all of her heart. For her heart was big.  People would come and they would tell her she was sweet or she was funny.  Sometimes, they would tell her she was cute.  So she would break of a piece of that giant heart for she knew hers was extra big and made for sharing.  The people would gladly take the pieces.  Yet, the people would always leave…sometimes very slowly and sometimes they would scuttle off in a jif.  In return, they would leave a piece of their pain for the little girl to absorb where she had given her heart.  As the girl aged, she came to expect nothing more than the pain in return for that is what she had been conditioned to.  However, she had heard whispers of a great healer called “Forgiveness”and it is on a search for the great healer she went on a journey.

My life has been a scattered array of people in and out.  People telling me they would never leave and certainly never hurt me yet it often seems that I end up with a lump in my throat asking where everyone is.  I’ve come to a place where I have learned to shelter myself from letting anyone really get to close as a matter of self preservation.  I can’t let my heart scar if you can’t get to it with a knife.  However, I’m questioning if I am really able to experience any kind of life at all that way.  Instead, I am trying to teach myself to learn how to forgive.

Forgiveness isn’t easy.  People think forgiveness and forgetting have to coincide in one bundle.  I’ve found so rarely that they do.  What I am finding is the the hardest part to forgiveness is allowing myself to feel the emotions that hurt me in the first place and actually dealing with the moments instead of just leaving them lay dead.  I can’t forgive someone if I don’t deal with the shit that’s there.  Fear, pain, rejection…things I don’t deal with well.  Usually, when I need to forgive someone, they have inflicted one of things on me.  That means I need to deal with it.  I can’t ignore it anymore.  Those emotions and pains are going to come out.  It is going to be real and it is going to be raw.

The more I age, I try not to put myself in any situation where those things are going to happen.  Almost all of my life I have dealt with rejection.  I’ve known I was never really wanted.  That being said, I try to never put myself in a position where that is the case.  I try to only be in positions where I have the upper hand so letting myself be vulnerable is one of the most scary things I can do.  I choose not to let my guard down that way I can’t get hurt…Is that the best way to life my life though?  Closed off and not allowing myself to feel?  What am I missing in the meantime?

Recently, I had to deal with death of one of the people who was sexually agressive to me as a child.  It was sort of a numbing experience.  A friend of mine told me it was really okay for me to hate him and I responded that I didn’t hate him.  I had no good feelings toward him and no good memories when he was in my life but not hate.  I felt really sorry for him.  I know of others that he sexually assaulted.  I feel sad for them.  I wish I could have protected them.  Although I was a child, I feel like I was responsible.  I pray it didn’t continue.  I love his family and I feel sad for them because they knew he was sick too.  I haven’t been able to forgive him or myself.  Yet, I don’t hate him.  I’m relieved he isn’t here though to hurt anyone else.  I wish for no one else to deal with these memories.

Is there a way to forgive without dealing with the memories and the pain or is that like painting with a brush?  Sometimes, the journey is so long and exhausting I wonder if it is even worth it but I can’t just keep breaking off pieces of my heart for everyone who comes along…there isn’t too much left.

 

The World Is Our Museum

Art.  Why can we all walk into a museum and look at the same piece of art and feel different things about it and that is okay yet society tells us we are to look at a body and there is only one (type) that is okay to be qualified as beautiful.  There are only certain physical attributes that are deemed acceptable in the world we live in.  Why are the bodies that we live in so different from living breathing artwork?

Growing up, I was always the “chunky girl.”  It isn’t social acceptable to call someone the fat girl and in the 80’s “plus size” wasn’t really yet a term.  So, I was chunky.  I was always the girl who liked to play football with the boys and ride my bike.  I had shaggy hair and just wanted to have fun.  When I asked for a bikini to run through the sprinkler, I was told no…my belly would show.  Ummmm…okay.  What was the matter with that?  No one wants to see a “chunky” tummy.  By the way, boys don’t really like “chunky girls.”  Really?  I’m hanging out with them all the time.  They all like me.  But those words started to burn into my brain.

As I started to get a little bit older, I wondered if Donny Wahlberg wouldn’t like me because I was a “chunky girl.”  I was sure when I went to the New Kids On The Block concert, he was going to spot me and fall madly in love.  (By the way…it hasn’t happened yet but I’m going again in July.)  I started to cover up more and more.  My thin strapped tanks became tshirts and my shorts became capris became jeans.  I grew these enormous boobs way before everyone else.  At that point, I was told the only reason boys were talking to me was because I had a great rack.  Boys don’t like “chunky girls.”  Boys like boobs.  It wasn’t that I was smart or funny and fun to be around…damn it, I couldn’t be pretty because I was “chunky.”  I had big boobs.

I noticed all the other girls around me as I aged.  They would say things like “Ugh, I’m so fat” or “I wish I had (insert body part here)” or “I need to have (blank fixed.) Which leads me to believe we are just conditioned to believe we are not good enough.  Even when we are the “ideal” of what society tells us to be; we are striving to be something more attainable.  I personally have struggled with my weight issue my entire life.  I look at pictures of myself in my late teens right before college when I was literally starving myself everyday.  I had a BEAUTIFUL curvy figure.  One that people are paying for right now. Yet it was the era of Kate Moss and heroine chic so I felt fat and ugly.  At one point, I was 327 lbs.  I never recognized it.  I didn’t know I was heavier until I lost weight and looked back at pictures…because I felt good about myself and was in a healthy state.

I bought myself those bikinis last summer.  Those bikinis I was told I couldn’t wear because no one wants to see a “chunky tummy.”  I bought them because I wanted to.  I want to wear them because I like the suits.  I like how the sun feels on my body (with sunscreen of course.)  I wore them (although terrified at first) with pride at the public pool.  I wore them in front of teenage girls who seemed appalled at first then curious as to my confidence.  I pray they will someday know they too can wear whatever they want as long as they feel good.  I let the sun glow on the silver lines I carry.  Silver lines that remind me of growth.  Growth from babies carried and babies lost.  Growth from growing up.  Growth from late lights drinking wine and laughing with friends.

Our bodies are works of art.  Each piece is different.  We carry different lines and spots.  We come in beautiful arrays of colors and sizes.  Today, you will see art everywhere you look.  Our world is a museum on display.  Don’t be afraid to walk up to a piece of art and tell it how beautiful it is.  It may be that crook in the nose that scares that person that you find beautiful.  Telling them that may change their perspective and in that…It could change their life.

Painting Her Shoulders With Gold

 

My friends all joke that I am the most random person they know.  I have a friend, Jack, who says my ADHD isn’t really that…He claims I have ADAD…Attention Deficit Accessory Disorder.  I can be in a heartfelt conversation about the death of a loved one and stop the conversation with “OH MY GAWWWD!!!  Did you see those shoes?”  So randomness envelops everything that I am.  That being said, I don’t know why it seemed to be such a wild answer when I was asked what my favorite body part was of mine and I responded with “my shoulders.”  I received the most quizzical look.  I was further questioned on why my shoulders were my favorite.

My shoulders…they are broad and strong.  They are covered with freckles which I were told were kisses from angels that protect me.  I have scars on my right shoulder that remind me of surgery from a lie I told in High School that resulted in a terrible accident.  They remind me to stay honest.  My shoulders have carried the weight of the world yet they remain soft and somehow feminine.

My shoulders have barred the pain of so many others.  I have willingly taken the crosses of others so they didn’t need to carry them.  My shoulders are clothed by the tears of others who have trusted me to hold their shame and sorrows.  When asked who then holds carries my weight for me?  I can look at the scars that remind me to be honest and say “I do.”  My shoulders bear my own burden as I have learned, I am the only person I can truly depend on.  I am the one who won’t hurt me or walk away.  My shoulders may rock but they will never break.

I have been told I am a broken person.  I am a broken person who fixes everyone around them but doesn’t take the time to fix herself.  I am broken.  I look at myself like the art of Japanese pottery Kintsugi.  The Japanese don’t throw out the broken pieces they heal them with lines of gold.  I am scarred…physically, mentally, emotionally…spiritually.  I am learning how to paint over my scars with gold and see the beauty in my brokenness.

We are all broken.  Somewhere in us…on us…around us there is a brokenness that needs to be healed.  I use humor, music, water…all of them heal me.  They help block out the painful things.  Learning to accept them however…learning to accept that they happened.  Learning to talk about them.  Learning to not be ashamed of them.  Learning that they a PART of who we are and not who we are or what defines us…THAT is our paint brush.  Start painting those beautiful gold strokes.  We may be broken but that doesn’t mean we are not beautiful.

When The Memories Won’t Fade

When you ask someone their first memory, they usually tell you something about playing with a toy or school or they will describe playing with a new sibling.  My first memory is laying on a couch.  I was laying on a couch, while a man with a reddish orange beard had his hands between my legs and said it was okay because it would tickle and I could be a big girl like my Mom.  That’s what he did to her and she always did.  I remember the color of his jeans and that’s probably why I hate when men wear that color now.  

We are stuck in this paradox of life telling everyone to plan for the future but live for the moment.  Yet there is so many of us us who have a hard time breaking out of our memories because they flood us over and over everyday, washing us away in the tides of the past.  It doesn’t matter how much I therapy I do or how many times I tell myself I am okay and know how to protect myself, men with beards still scare me.  A man with light colored jeans will all but stop me in my tracks.  When someone experiences trauma, it is something they can never just move past.  It becomes a part of who we are.  Which leads me to question, which trauma am I?  Am I just trauma?

Sure, there have been tremendous moments of happiness and laughter in my life.  Moments crashing back into the waves, singing while speeding down highways and shouting “I WIN!” at the top of my lungs…somehow, in this moment of my life they seem egregiously muted as I am searching for sunlight.  I started my day today with a word I thought I would never hear again.  Lymphoma.  Three years ago, I slayed this beast.  Three weeks ago…I found a lump in my neck.  Although, I had been experiencing some symptoms, they could have been caused by a myriad of things.  My husband experienced a brain injury 5 weeks ago so I am super stressed!  I haven’t been sleeping so I am exhausted.  I’m clumsy so the bruises could be explained.  I already am caregiving for a son with Traumatic Brain Injury…I mean really…I have a lot on my plate.  Symptoms could have come from anywhere.  Then there was a lump.

The lump.  It was there and I didn’t feel good.  Everybody had the shit that was going around so it was just a swollen lymph node and my immune system sucks.  Week one it grew.  Week two it grew.  Week three.  Fuck.  It is still here.  I don’t want to tell anyone.  There is so much bad going on in my life.  I am so scared of what it could be.  I know what it could be.  I’ve played this game before.  Last time there weren’t visible masses.  I finally let my husband feel it.  “What the fuck is that?!”  “I don’t know.”  “You better get it looked at.”  I called the doctor and he was out of appointments!  WOOOOOHOOOO!  

 

Guess who got a call back?  With your history, he wants to see you first thing in the morning.  “I don’t really like the placement or that it’s sitting under the muscle wall.”  I’m going to set your ultrasound and schedule you to see the surgeon.”  “However, it could be a lot bigger so we have that working in your favor.”  “Thanks Butch.”  In that moment, every hospitalization for my son and my treatments came rushing back to me.  I was alone and scared.  I don’t do scared.  There are emotions I don’t allow myself.  Scared I have found is one of them.  

 

I don’t know what scares me though.  Last time I was sick, my son had just been diagnosed with a horrible brain disease.  I never let him know I was sick.  I sat through every brain surgery.  Scheduled my chemos and appointments for days he was allowed out of the hospital.  He never knew Mama was sick.  At that time, Daddy was 100%.  Right now we are looking down a double barrel shot gun.  I am back at work.  My sweet baby (17) is looking at going back to see very specialized doctors for a special kind of brain cancer.  Daddy is not at 100% and probably never will be again.  As for me…it is the fear of the unknown and all of the memories that crash upon the shore of my brain.  The smells of Oncology wing.  The words Lymphocyte and Monocyte and fact that I even fucking know those words and meanings.  The fact that it is April and I march for Sexual Assault Awareness while funding is being cut.  The fact that I have slept a whole night through the entire year of 2017 without a nightmare.  The fact that the memories that never fade are not the beautiful ones.

When The Threads Start To Pull

When you are 37 years old and you have dealt with a life that you have considered normal spattered with bits of trauma intertwined, you learn to compartmentalize what are important details.  You give out details and people tell you how they can’t believe you went through such horrific things.  You respond in kind with, ‘it wasn’t so bad because…” or “well, if that didn’t happen then…” and a little piece starts to unravel.  Then one day you have something in your life happen that triggers what you FINALLY consider a major panic attack because all those other ones, those were just little things.  They were just minor disruptions in your day.  They were nothing you couldn’t deal with.  You have dealt with so much more.  Yet, those copious amounts of tears, that inability to catch your breath while driving 80 on the freeway, THAT was the moment that made you realize, you needed to talk to someone.  You didn’t need to talk to someone about all the details.  You needed to talk about the incident.  The incident that caused THAT panic attack.  If you deal with that.  Everything else can stay stacked in its box where you have neatly put it away so you never need see it or hear it or talk about it. That way it won’t have an effect on you or your life…except for every waking minute of your life.

But let’s be honest, when you start to tell someone a piece of your story…they ask questions.  Every question unearths a new one.  It tugs on that thread of your tapestry and you start to unravel.  Every question pulls a piece of you as you give a piece of your story, your thread to someone else.  It is someone else once again asking you to trust them; promising you that they will never hurt you like everyone else.  Once again, it is up to you to decide if you should take a leap of faith and throw yourself onto the fire ready to watch yourself burn if this person becomes another flame instead of the water you are so desperately seeking.

 

So here I sit, staring at a blank screen with loose threads hanging from me, fires everywhere I look and not a drop of water anywhere in site.  Every ounce of fear and self-preservation tells me to shut down yet there is a tiny whisper of hope that instructs me to tell my story.  Inside of me lays a moment of courage that propels me forward and says that the Beast won’t get me.  From every word forward, I tell my story and stitch together my tapestry trying to become whole.  Sometimes, I will need to unravel in order to correct an improper stitch but it will be part of the process.  I won’t see the beauty of the stiches until I’m complete but I hear I’m quite a work of art.