Touch

I’m currently in physical therapy.  An old back injury has reared its ugly head, and I am seeking help.  And slowly, my back is healing.  But something else is happening…I am re-discovering the healing power of touch.

 

I miss it, I realize.  The sensation of touch.  The feel of another’s hands on my skin.  I miss it all the time; but I wasn’t aware of how much, or how valuable it truly is.  I’m not talking about romantic or sexual touch, though that can be healing as well.  Just simple, direct, healing touch.

 

The massaging of my abdomen (to break up the underlying scar tissue).  The hands on my lower thighs while tractioning my spine.  The fingers applying pressure to my hamstrings to release the tension.  The moments when my legs are cradled by someone else’s arm with the statement of “I’ve got you, you can let go.”  Gentle movements; soft-spoken encouragement.  For no other purpose than to heal my body.  

 

The result is healing not only my back, but also my spirit.  By being cared for.  Feeling connected; supported.  Knowing that for 40 minutes twice a week, the sole focus is to heal and help only me.  Retraining connections long broken.  Restoring my faith in my own body.

 

I can heal; I will be whole.  In so many more ways than just one.

5 Hours To Go

There was pain.  My back strain, rearing its head all week, was taking a toll.  I had gone through as many sit for 5 minutes; stand for 10 minutes; sit again cycles as I could stand.  I considered leaving early to go home and rest it.

There was concern.  My daughter had not yet checked in from school; she should have been home by now.  I called; no answer.  I texted; no answer.  I tracked her phone location; near the school, not moving.  Is she walking?  Is she safe?  I left work early without a second thought.

There was traffic.  Gridlock, to be precise.  Of all days I needed to get home quickly (15 miles from work), no one was moving.  I avoided the freeway, but the back roads were just as packed.  I inched towards home, repeatedly calling her, hoping all was okay.

There was relief.  I finally heard from her; a huge accident on the freeway was the cause of all the congestion.  So much so that the school buses were delayed, and stuck as well.  She texted me a picture from the bus; she was bored, but safe.

There was discomfort.  Driving with my back was still hard.  1+ hours in the car on the way home didn’t help.  No position was good.  I redirected my attention as best as I could; the radio only does so much.

There was anger.  How had the school not bothered to inform the parents about the bus issue?!?  No texts, no calls.  Unacceptable.  I resolved to call them first thing in the morning.

There was fatigue.  Home, finally.  All I wanted was to lie down and rest my back; no bending, no working.  Just resting.

There was annoyance.  My little bit of a dog had relieved herself in the foyer, twice.  I carefully stepped over it and put both dogs outside until I could contain the mess.  Not her fault, exactly, we were home much later than she probably expected us.  Finally clean; bending was hard.

There was contentment.  My daughter walked in the door, and immediately came over and hugged me tight, saying she was so glad to see me, and be off that bus.  And boy, did she need to use the bathroom.

There was bellowing.  Her bathroom smelled like sewer.  She had apparently clogged the toilet just before leaving this morning, and all the water had finally drained out and let some of the gas back through.  I pulled out the rubber gloves and plunger, and luckily it cleared quickly.  More bending, though.

There was hunger.  For both of us.  I started dinner on the stove and asked her to watch it while she did her project for school.

There was laundry.  We found a single flea on one dog that morning; I had already applied flea medicine, and started laundering the bedding.  Only 4 loads to go before bed; grief.  Lots of carrying to and fro.

There was water.  Washing both dogs to ensure flea-free before bedtime.  They both hate the water; after the baths, I kind of did too.  Unfortunately, there was also lots of bending.

There was fuzz.  Purple fuzz; tons of it.  Apparently I had washed the new purple luxe blanket with the dog towels, and it shed.  Everywhere.  There was now fuzz on the dogs, on me, on the floor, in the tub.  More to clean; more bending.

There was burning.  Or at least the smell of it.  She had become so engrossed in her project that she forgot about the stove.  Fortunately only a little caramelized burning, but the rest of the food was spared.  Finally we ate; it was delicious.

There were dishes.  Out with the clean, in with the dirty.  More bending; how much more bending?

There was trash.  Trash night, to be exact.  Out to the cans, cans to the street.  Gratefully, she helped with this one.

There was pride.  Her project was finished, and was fantastic.  I continue to be amazed by her creative mind and abilities.

There was anxiety.  Any fleas on people?  The need to take a last minute shower to make sure she was clear.  We were now edging past bedtime.  She was tired, and so was I.

There was embarrassment.  The one place I had not checked was my email.  The school had sent notification; two, in fact.  Accident on the freeway.  Buses delayed.  Sharing with parents so they knew.  Next time I’ll remember to check there.

There was stalling.  Shower done, but not teeth, not clothes for tomorrow.  Dragging her feet, extending the day.  Finally she got into bed.

There was irritation.  You made my bed wrong!  I had made it to help expedite the night, but forgotten that the sheet has to be even on both sides.  OCD tendencies rear their head, once again.  She re-made the bed, then apologized for being grumpy.  I understood; I was pretty grumpy by then, myself.

There was panic.  What if the flea comes back?  What if the flea was on her?  What if it went in her nose?  What if it bit her while she slept?  Inspecting and re-inspecting the bed, pillows, stuffed bunny, no fleas.  Are you SURE???  Yes; no fleas.  Bug anxieties are hard to overcome, once they find their way into your head.  We checked once more just to be certain.

There was love.  Every night, hugs and kisses with my girl before bed.  No matter the day, the irritations, the trials or celebrations, there is love.  She drifted off feeling secure and cared for.

There was quiet.  Finally, quiet; and rest.  No more chaos.  And tomorrow, we get to do it all again.  Hopefully without all the bending.

Oh, My Girl

Girl Heart

Oh, my sweet, sweet girl.  I’m lying in bed at 5:28 pretending to still be asleep, though I was awakened by the beeping of her alarm clock at 5AM sharp.

It’s been a rough tween-attitude-filled few weeks at our house. Yesterday we had a heart to heart about humans, our limits, and how to help.  More specifically, Mama’s limits (both physically and emotionally) and how she could help more. How as a family, we don’t expect one person to manage everything alone. We help. We share the responsibilities. We love.

During our chat, Mama broke down a little. I used to think this was unforgivable, to show my child my limits. But some time ago I realized that by (carefully and safely) showing her and talking to her about the fact that I am not super-human, that I have bad days too, that I also need help, I am teaching her something valuable. I am letting her know that SHE doesn’t have to be perfect either. That it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to break every once in a while. Carrying the world and keeping it all inside is a damaging habit to fall into.

And I think, for at least a small moment, she heard me. Because sometime last night, completely un-prompted,  she set her own alarm for 5AM. This amazing girl who plays hard all day and sleeps like the dead, who I have to pry out of bed every morning and cajole and badger to get out of the house (usually late). I can hear her in the other rooms getting dressed, brushing hair and teeth, getting her lunch packed, starting breakfast (mine, I believe). Some time yesterday, she made the choice to help. To be present. To give of herself and her own precious time.

At 11-yrs-old, this is not a small thing. For a kiddo with behavior challenges, it’s kind of a game-changer. It’s huge. Almost as huge as her beautiful heart.  Oh, my lovely amazing girl.

Quiet

QuietQuiet.  It is a new experience, here in this small little house.  Quiet.  No singing, no chatter, no laughter or complaints or “mom!” from across the hall.  Just quiet.

These last three weeks are the longest we’ve ever been apart.  Coming up on 11 years, and I’ve been present for almost every single day.  And now, quiet.

Divorce is hard.  It’s messy, draining, humbling, shameful, liberating, and upending all at once.  We’ve done the hard work; striving for amicability.  Dividing pennies, possessions, and plans.  Laying out a road map for where we are hoping to get in the future, though we now have so much less clarity on how to get there.

Dismantling a life is difficult enough; but how do you share a being?  Parse out the moments you cling to while calendaring your time together and apart?  Watching the days spread into weeks, into months.  Knowing you should be savoring the uniqueness of space, but unable to fill the empty shadow with anything but the memory of a shimmering sound.

It’s consistently baffling.  I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.

The quiet.

Absent

I have been absent.

From the page.  From myself.  From my need to express, unload, release, and expound.  It is difficult, raising a child with behavior issues.  I know, those of you who can relate, already know this.  I also know it is helpful to get the words and feelings and fears OUT of my head and heart.  And yet, I have not.

I have been absent.

My body and brain are starting to revolt.  Lack of expression (i.e. repressing the frustrating moments) is making me irritable more often.  Lack of exercise (repressing the stress and not releasing it physically) is making my body weak and toxic.  I know this.  But at the end of long, exhausting days, I find I just want to cocoon.  It is not the best choice.

I have been absent.

But not where my child is concerned.  Not where her future and schooling and medical intervention and aftercare is concerned.  I have labored over every detail, every choice, every future plan trying to make sure that we’re on the right path.  Worrying that I may make a mis-step, where she is concerned.  Being brave enough to let her fly, but always waiting to catch her when the bottom falls out.  I have NOT been absent from her.  But the strain of being on-point 24/7 for her and all that entails has been catching up with me lately.  And I am starting to realize that it’s because it’s unrealistic to be everything for her, and to her, and about her, and be everything else I’m supposed to be, simultaneously.  And doing all of that, while being absent from myself, makes me a worse version of me, and a less effective mother.

I have been absent.  I will try to be less so.

LIVE

9-11-14It’s the 13th eve of the 14th year. Pictures, comments and remembrances have already started, as to be expected. But this one caught my eye. And in my head, a resounding reply. “NO.”

My brain, my heart, my soul cried out “No more silence!”.  Not because I don’t honor them – all the beautiful souls lost and affected that day – but because I am tired of silence.  I am tired of solemnity.  And I think they would be tired of it too.

Don’t stop the world in their memory.  Don’t turn down your eyes in sorrow.  Don’t remember them only in that small window of time where there is no sound.

Live.  If you really want to honor them, honor their memory, share the legacy, then God damn it, LIVE.

Laugh out loud with your head thrown back.  Hug someone with all your might until you both tumble over.  Go outdoors and breathe the sun-warmed air of a late summer afternoon.  Sit and quietly watch the wind blow softly through the trees.  Read.  Talk.  SHARE.  Feel the music in your bones.  Eat and drink with your tribes until the last story is told and the embers grow dim.  Dance.  Sing.  Cry.  Run.  Explore.  And love.  Love.  LOVE.

But DON’T go silent.  Not anymore.  If you really want to remember them, it’s not about just one day.  Remember them EVERY day.

LIVE.

The Flow of Joy

water1

It’s been a bit of a rough road, all this moving business.  New town, new house, new school, new friends.  All the “newness” has taken a toll on my daughter lately; it can be a drag being the odd-man-out when you’re nine, you know?

To combat the strain of the unfamiliar – and maybe even to foster a bit of nostalgia – we’ve been trying to find places in our new town that are similar to our old haunts. Tonight we stumbled onto a really cool fountain that, on a 90 degree evening, just begged to be run through. We had a great fountain in our old town, and my girl was so excited to find a new one here to check out.

She wasted no time getting the lay of the wet-land.  I had settled on an outskirt bench with the bag/towel/flip-flops.  The sun was at that pinnacle where it shimmers extra brightly, knowing it only has about an hour or so before it will lazily sink down for the night.  The water bounced off the beams of light in the magical way that rivulets do when they move in time with the glimmer and glow.  And as I looked over at my girl, running and jumping through the liquid, I was moved in the most interesting way…

I quickly felt pulled inward toward the action.  I simply had to move closer.  Not because I couldn’t view her from my original perch (as I could, easily), but because I needed to be close enough to see her joy, up close.  To watch her weave in between the water spouts and see the gape of her mouth as she laughed.  To hear her squeal as she soaked herself in the lazy creek bed.  To be near enough for her to attack me with a drive-by sopping hug and spray me with her long winding wet hair.  To witness her exuberance at catching the last little waterfall before the water shut off for the night.

How much I would have missed by staying at the edge of the action, with my nose in a book.  How grateful I am to have lifted my head up, instead, and moved close enough to be in the moment with her.  To not only see her joy, but to feel it.  And just watch it flow.

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.

Yom HaShoah

‘A moment of silence’.  We’ve all observed them, have we not?  That’s what I initially thought of when clicking the link to the video of the observance of Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust memorial day in Israel.  (Please click here to watch it.)

But this is nothing like what you may have observed before.  It’s certainly nothing I’ve seen before.  This is entirely different.  What this is, is true OBSERVANCE.

They literally stop.  Everything. Stops.  Not only do they stop, they get out.  They stand.  They are silent (with the exception of the siren that, itself, harkens an air raid siren in an eerie shadowing of war time).  They do not move.  They have completely and fully given themselves and this moment to the memory of the 6+ million souls that this observance is for.  It is one of the most amazing and honorable acts I have ever seen.

In the video, suddenly, on the left-hand side, you can see a white bird fly upward.  Clearly it’s too far away to identify, but  for just a moment I imagined it was a dove, come to remind us of peace, and love.  This is what true observance should be.  The memories of those people deserve no less, from ALL of us; not just those observing Yom HaShoah in Israel.

#NeverAgain