Left to my own devices, I don’t often find it hard to write. My head is always full of STUFF—some of it important, plenty not—and the STUFF gets tangled up with pesky FEELINGS and then there is something about the act of extracting those things from my skull and committing them to letters and punctuation and letting other people see it that helps me make sense of things. It helps me to make sense of ME.
That’s inherently selfish, and I know it. Then again, a lot of things are. I’m not convinced the way I’m compelled to write is any worse than anything else, but I know this about it. I do pay a lot of attention to how I involve others—my family, my friends, random people—when I write, and I am all-too-often aware that the human penchant for personalization means there is no avoiding pissing people off. That, too, is part of the territory. Most of the time I don’t mind; I am careful, and if you read something I didn’t actually write (or construct something I didn’t intend), that’s on you, not me.
During the last however many months of feeling like life would never, could never, be normal again, my normally crunchy exterior shattered and left me exposed to pretty much everything right when I most wished to be impervious to others. It would probably be a good time to shut up.
The problem, of course, is that I have never been very good at shutting up.
For every drive-by ZOMG YOU ARE A TERRIBLE PERSON AND A HORRIBLE MOTHER AND HOW DARE YOU there are countless people who have shown my family love and support during an awful ordeal, and dozens of folks who reached out to quietly say “We thought we were the only ones.” For me, that’s enough to know that I can’t succumb to fear of judgment. I’m already being judged. My child is already being judged. Random people on the Internet do not bother me. The connections I’ve found (or who’ve found me) are worth the risk.
What does bother me is people who are not random, not theoretical, who have walked away from us because Oh, gosh, it’s just so… icky. Complicated. They thought maybe we wanted some space. They didn’t know what to say. They figured it would all blow over. Who knows. I have grappled for months with the reality that when the going gets tough, a lot of people get going as far away as fast as they can get away. I don’t have a huge circle; I never have, and it’s never bothered me. Quality over quantity and all that. But when you start out with not very many troops and so many of them desert, it’s hard not to feel the sting of that.
What bothers me is when twice in the last month two people who… oh, let’s say one of them used to be a key player in my life and the other should be… when THOSE people, those people who have not been here, those people who have turned away for whatever reasons they convinced themselves were justified, those people resurface just long enough to tell me I’m doing it wrong.
I should be able to laugh that off as easily as I laugh off Random Internet Crayzee, and yet I can’t. The gall of someone who SHOULD care, who should KNOW what’s happening here—not blog-know, you understand, but talk-to-us-and-really-know kind of know—coming around only long enough to find fault is… staggering. It sends me reeling. It pokes me in all my tender quivery no-matter-what-I-do-it’s-never-right kinds of places, the places I thought had healed over years (perhaps decades) ago.
Because I forgive the absent, after a fashion. I get that. It is weird/hard/uncomfortable. You don’t know what to say. You forget that while your life is going along as it always does that ours is in a holding pattern bounded by fear on one side and exhaustion on the other. You’ve never had a [fill in the blank with one or more of the following: kid, sick kid, mentally ill kid, family crisis, whatever] and you find it hard to relate. Or the last time you talked to me I was tired and overwrought and maybe I snapped or didn’t say exactly the right thing and so you convinced yourself that probably I didn’t even want you to let me know you still gave a shit about my child. I hate it but I get it.
But to abandon us and only return long enough to say I HAVE JUDGED AND FOUND YOU WANTING doesn’t so much poke at my baggage as it unzips it and unpacks it by simply dumping it all over the floor. And although it’s my baggage making the mess, I still have trouble understanding how anyone would feel okay about doing that to someone. I can only conclude that they lack understanding of how badly it hurts, because I just cannot grok people I loved doing that on purpose. Still. Knowing it’s unintentional, knowing people don’t mean to let you down or wound you on purpose… that helps, I guess, but it doesn’t stop it from sucking, particularly when everything aches.
Point here being: Did I think, do I always, every day, at least once, think to myself, “Just stop. Don’t say anything, don’t write anything, that way no one can ever say YOU DID IT WRONG.”? Sure. There are days when it feels like I just can’t bear even one more thing, however small. There are PLENTY of days when I don’t need anyone to help me feel like I’ve failed, fuckyouverymuch.
But there are a lot more days when it feels like writing in general, and writing here, in specific, kept me sane through some unimaginable times. Plus I believe in the power of words to remind us that we can handle more than we ever thought we could, because look—remember back then, when it seemed so awful, and see how now we know it turned out okay? (I am looking forward to the “now we know it turned out okay” portion of this particular program, but I’ve felt it happen before. I have to believe it will again.)
The story I want to tell you is that Chickadee got sick and then she got better and we all lived happily ever after. THE END! That it was hard and I hated it and then it was okay.
The story I ended up telling you was that Chickadee got sick and then she got better and then she got sick and then she got better and then she got sick and I fought with the hospital and the insurance and the government and I drove fifty gazillion tampons to the hospital (thank you) while driving back and forth and back and forth going to therapy and hassling her doctors and bringing her books and taking her out for ice cream and she’s still not better, but something has to change.
The story I want to tell you now doesn’t even matter so much, in the details. It can be summed up like this: I have held on tight for fourteen and a half years, and something had to change. So I let go. And here I am talking about it, THE NERVE OF ME, because otherwise it might eat me up from the inside out.
When Chickie begged me on the phone to tell her what to do, this weekend, tell her which one to pick, WHY WON’T YOU TELL ME WHAT’S BEST FOR ME, I’M ONLY A KID, YOU ARE BEING A TERRIBLE MOTHER, I stood my ground. I told her, and I believe, that her healing starts with taking back control of her own life. She told me through tears that she never believed I would actually let her go, and I told her again that it’s her choice to make and I hope that she’ll look back on making it as the beginning of when things got better.
I didn’t tell her that life will always bring you someone who finds fault with your choices, and sometimes that hurts a lot. I didn’t tell her how I feel, because it has to be about how she feels. The rest of us are collateral damage. There’s a lot of stuff I’ll never tell her, probably, about this time. I suspect she knows a lot of it deep down, anyway.
I told her that I love her, that that will never change, and that I hope this is the first of many decisions towards rebuilding her life instead of just reacting to it. Because I do, it won’t, and I hope that’s what it is.
Please remind me of all of this as she comes up on leaving the hospital, because she’s decided she wants to try living with her dad, and I’m going to let her.