The Wall

I. Am. Exhausted. Truly, I should have put a lid on this day hours ago and just gone to bed.  But instead I sit here staring at the glowing screen, writing, hoping to claw whatever I can out of my brain so the thoughts – no, feelings – will subside.  Then, perhaps, I can sleep.  Because after today, I need to get some of this OUT.  Today, of all days, I need to let. it. go.

Today, I hit the wall.  The proverbial parental W-A-L-L.  We all know it; the one you hit when you’ve given your last warning; taken your last deep breath.  The one you hit when you’ve counted your last “ten”, and lost your last nerve.  The one you played chicken with all week long because it’s been that kind of week and you’ve been doing everything in your power to be the “good Mom” who doesn’t lose her cool by pulling every coping trick you have out of your little magic bag.  Yeah, THAT wall.  I hit it. Hard.  Not only did I hit it, I sailed clean over it.  I pole vaulted the damn thing.

Sarcasm is funny; true.  But today, it was nothing near.  It was ugly.  Flat out scary.  All filters gone, full-blown anger.  All the lessons I’ve learned and re-learned in the last ten years of self-improvement, making myself a better mother, all gone completely out the window.  WALL; face-first.  The only redeeming moment was the one when I recognized that I’d actually done it, and I stopped.  I happened to be near a mirror at the time, and I stood there staring.  The eyes looking back at me were haunted and so pained.  I had become the worst possible version of myself in that moment; and at the same time, I felt, the worst possible mother.

So I took some long ago advice from a trusted mentor; I reached out.  I called someone I loved and trusted, and shared what happened.  It was awful; I was embarrassed and so very ashamed, but I forced myself to speak the words.  I . Had. Failed.  I screwed up.  I was wrong.  And what I was met with was not judgment; but love.  Acknowledgment that we all break under pressure sometimes.  It doesn’t make it okay, but it does make us human.  I heard a reminder that I’m not actually a horrible mother, but a strong one who sometimes carries too much.  One who needs to learn to lay some of the weight down sooner, so it doesn’t break her next time.  I received kindness, and understanding.

My ability to speak the truth out loud to her and be loved allowed me the courage to do it a second time to the person it really mattered to; my child.  I apologized.  I owned up.  I explained that just because I was mad, didn’t make it okay.  I stated that I was wrong, and I would try to do better.  It was hard. Really hard.  But it was important.  Because it’s what I try to teach her; we admit our wrong-doings.  We say them out loud.  So that’s what I did for her.

Afterwards, however, I did something else I’ve been advised in the past.  I took some time, and some space.  I left the house for the rest of the day to be on my own.  I was spun out enough to know I was not much good at mothering, and just needed to be elsewhere.  So I got lost in the crowd of a mall (easy to do).  I stood in a bookstore staring blankly at the titles while wanting to carve my heart clean out of my chest.  I drove along a quiet stretch of road and just looked at the sky.  I sat alone in a dark movie theater and silently wept for a while.  It took a lot of thinking and working through the events of today to come to terms with it; but I faced it.  Head on.  And then, I decided to forgive myself for today, and try to do better tomorrow.

Because I am not perfect.  I am, in fact, markedly flawed.  I am the mother of an amazing child who happens to have some behavioral challenges, and I often do not have all the answers.  Some days (or weeks, or months) are much harder than others.  And I am learning the best path for her as I go along.  So I have to forgive myself; because if I wallow in self-hatred, then I won’t have the strength to keep pushing forward.  For her, or for me.

For all the other parents out there who have hit their Wall today…you’re not alone.  You are not perfect, either.  You are human.  You are learning as you go.  Take a break; take a breath.  Take a minute to forgive yourselves, and learn from this, too.  And try to do better tomorrow.

You Can’t Go Home Again

I almost missed it completely.  It looked so different, so foreign.  The whole block did, really; smaller in scale, stilted.  Hard to put a finger on the reason; maybe it was the 8-10 years since I’d been back.  But it seemed more than that; a heavier difference.  Like a storm cloud blocking the sun.

The house, in particular, was hard to recognize.  I had to look several times – squint, even – to really make sure it was ours.  The street and number were the same, but so little resembled our old house it was challenging to connect the memory.  I sat in front of it in my car for a good several minutes; taking it in, still stunned.  I was urged to move on and keep driving, for fear that someone would be concerned about the strange woman staring at their home; though I did circle back two more times to view it.  My mother had asked me to take a picture for her, but I couldn’t bring myself to photograph the building that now stood.  “I won’t show them this,” I thought.  They didn’t need to view the shell of the house that we once knew.

They didn’t need to see, for instance, that the color – once a bright and cheerful yellow – is now a faded and untended blue.  That the tree from the front yard that shaded us all those hot summer days with its giant limbs and wafting leaves is now just a stump with a tin bucket covering the remnants; our very own Giving Tree come to pass.  That the Japanese maple on the corner, which my father loved so much he’s planted a Doppelgänger in every house he’s lived in since (as has his daughter), no longer exists either.  That the garage windows have been boarded up; callously shouting at passers-by to keep their distance.  That the bushes aside the house that were once used for secret forts are so overgrown and unruly, they practically reach the edge of the street.  That the original fence – the strong guardian of the back yard that kept out the unwanted while supporting the weight of cats and squirrels and wild-eyed teens climbing over to seek summer freedom – still stands, but is now dilapidated and riddled with jagged boards too easy to breach.  It does not look loved, nor cared for, nor lived in.  It looks lost and forlorn; fallen victim to a harsher time.

Odd though, how much easier the vast difference in appearance makes it, for me.  The memories of my house, as I knew it, now remain pristine.  They won’t be marred by small comparisons of years of changes gone by.  I don’t have to see my beloved home slowly slip away; it’s simply vanished into my memory and been preserved there indefinitely.  I can just close my eyes and go home whenever I like; nary a storm cloud in sight.