An Echo Off a Mountainside

mountains-2011776_1280
Image via pixabay

It feels like an avalanche. That’s what I told my best friend last night. It’s like an avalanche and when it happens, it buries me.

When it happens, it feels as if there beneath a pile of snow, a piece of myself dies. That there’s no getting out from under it all. I give up beneath the weight and whatever finally emerges is a colorless ghost of what remains below.

I’m trying not to think in those terms anymore. I told her I really want to try to instead imagine that as soon as the avalanche runs its course, I begin scraping away. And maybe my fingers leave streaks of blood across the white of the snow and ice. But I emerge, whole, ready to keep trudging along and fight my way to the top. Holding tight to all the things that make me who I am, no matter how far away the top always seems.

I’d never described shame in these terms before.

Mainly because it isn’t something I ever talk about. With her or anyone else. Even in therapy.

My therapist knows it is something I struggle with. But I’ve never shared details about the things that invite that avalanche. The desires and emotions that feel like screams against a snowy, fragile mountainside.

I don’t know how it got to this point. I only know that radical acceptance feels like the only answer.

I support you. I want you to have that. That sounds wonderful for you.

I told my husband once that those are the only words I want to hear. When I share some part of myself with someone, those are the only words I want to hear in return. Anything less, anything different, and I’m awash. I’m rolling backwards down that mountainside.

Buried once again.

I’m the girl in a corner somewhere being screamed at, spittle flying because the many ways I’m a disappointment, and a failure, and a slut, and a cunt, can’t even be described in any manner that’s calm. They have to be shouted with a vitriol that’s physical and dripping with disgust.

Those words, that screaming, never happen in any way in my life now. Nobody treats me that way now.

Except myself.

I climb halfway up a slippery, frozen mountainside just to admit something I desire. Something that isn’t what society may say is normal.

I finally voice it. Not in shouts, but in whispers.

I support you. I want you to have that. That sounds wonderful for you.

If that isn’t the echo that answers my whisper, if those words aren’t on the wind that rolls back in reply, it begins.

An avalanche of shame that buries me anew.

I’m trying to imagine that as soon as the avalanche runs its course, I begin scraping away. And maybe my fingers leave streaks of blood across the white of the snow and ice. But I emerge, whole, ready to keep trudging along and fight my way to the top.

Holding tight to all the things that make me who I am, no matter how far away the top always seems.

I’m trying to keep whispering. No matter what rolls back down the mountainside.

I’m trying.

Advertisements

baby bird

Image via pixabay

 

You’re here, he says. You keep coming back. Let’s acknowledge the bravery in that.

I nod. Silent.

How does it feel for you to hear that?

I’m not brave enough to answer.

————

A friend mentioned fearlessness to me today and it hit me. That word doesn’t even exist in my vocabulary.

Fearless. Brave.

Those adjectives are fake storefronts propped up in an effort to convince anyone approaching that there isn’t a paper shack hidden behind, ready to blow over in a breeze. The truth is I keep going back to therapy out of desperation.

I keep going back for my kids.

I keep going back because I’m afraid of the alternative.

I keep going back because I don’t have insurance and they accept sliding scale fees.

Because so long as I feel as if I’m doing something, anything, to get better, I’ll hopefully keep putting one foot in front of another.

Because I don’t feel like I have a choice.

—————

That word fearlessness especially worries me. Maybe because my anxiety tends to translate into feelings of fear for me. So I would never ever use that word to describe myself.

I think I have sporadic moments of bravery and I think I can be tenacious. Calling for my first appointment took six months of working up the nerve after a two and a half year depression that rendered me barely able to answer a text, let alone ask for help.

Moments of bravery.

I’m determined to see this through until there’s a moment where I feel like I’ve done it. Like I’ve made sense of most of what I’m struggling with. I know there is never a finite end to working on all this stuff.

Well, except for death.

But I am hopeful there will come a time where I feel as if I’ve got enough tools in the toolbox, so to speak, that I can move forward without therapy.

Or at least without so much of it.

All of that, for me, comes from a place of fear. The fear that if I fall into a deep depression again I won’t make it out. Ever. Or alive.

—————

Another friend and I discussed self-acceptance.

Radical self-acceptance.

Refusing to compromise one’s identity.

That, to me, is where fearlessness and bravery take flight.

My wings are not yet feathered.

The Roar Only I Can Hear 

Image courtesy of 
Efes Kitap

Pay attention to your body and what it tells you.

But that isn’t always easy, especially at times when your body is rebelling. When it’s doing things that don’t feel good. That you feel you have no control over.

I’m in a dark room right now. Everything hurts. I want to sit at my computer to type this out, but I can’t physically bring myself to do so and emotionally . . . the small screen of my phone feels safer somehow. 

I want to pay attention though. I want to fight this. Anxiety is wearing me down. I can’t manage it anymore. Control of it slips further and further away, like a feral animal through a gate in the night.

So this is what my anxiety feels like. This is me paying attention and putting it to words. This is my experience. It may not be someone else’s. But keep it in mind the next time someone says they have anxiety and you think they look fine.

I start pretty okay. I had a meeting to attend this evening and I expected it to be pretty low key. I felt a low level of nervousness, just in regards to getting the kids where they all needed to be, making sure everyone would have dinner, and then getting myself out the door in time.

At the meeting, shit went sideways. Nothing awful. The outcome of the meeting was not affected at all. But dismissive language was used. 

My eyes welled up. My breathing felt tight.

All because I knew I was going to speak. There was no way I would sit there and not speak up.

I used a break in the meeting to step outside. I sat in my car in silence. And I wrote out a two minute speech. 

The meeting resumed and I gave my speech. 

By the time I got back to my seat, I felt lightheaded. As soon as the meeting was over, I left. Quietly, but immediately. Halfway to my car I felt tears on my cheeks.

I wasn’t upset.

The speech went really well and I was proud of what I’d said.

Tears are just how all of the pent up anxiety finally starts to release. Everything I didn’t allow anyone else to see. Like a pressure cooker finally releasing some of its steam.

There isn’t anywhere else for it to go. It finds its way into two tear drops that drag themselves from my soul, their hind legs paralyzed, in a bid for relief.

By the time I get home, just ten minutes later, my head is aching. My shoulders are in pain.

By the time I get in bed, two hours later, I have a full blown migraine. The back of my neck is sore from the pain radiating out of shoulders. My lower back feels like I’ve spent the day moving into a new home.

And I’m silent. 

I don’t make it known. I may mention I have a migraine as I pop ibuprofen. Other than that, I try not to make a big deal of it. As if ignoring it might make it go away.

Tomorrow I’ll be exhausted. Physically wrung out from the emotional turmoil.

Which always perplexes me. I spend the day in awe of my body and its reaction. 

How can I experience so much physical fallout from something nobody else can see?

A roar only I can hear.

At Sea

 

at sea
Photo Courtesy of Michal Jarmoluk
I’m trying to stay afloat.
Huge waves toss me because I’m nothing. They’re not enough to drown me, but enough to remind me I’m small in the face of it.
I flounder and kick, trying to right myself. To fling myself out straight onto my back, where I can bob atop the turmoil.
Get lost in the stars.
“I feel as if it’s behind me, but I can’t get away from it,” I whisper in therapy. “It’s this looming, grim reaper-type figure that’s always there. Always casting a shadow only I can see.”
So I seek the stars, knowing it isn’t there I’ll find relief. I just need something bright that’s all my own.
Something that will burn beneath my skin upon capture.
A guide to light my way.
The waves still and I remain silent. Prone.
The struggle ends, for the moment.
But the silence is where it’s hardest to breathe. Where my breath becomes shallow and caught in the small space between the top of my lungs and the base of my throat.
Caught there with my voice and all the words I cannot say and everything that longs to break open on shore.

The Tiny Green Pig I Keep Giving Away

8603999856_8930354694_bPhoto Credit: Thomas van de Vosse Flickr via Compfight cc

“We knew something was wrong when he asked for Mommy. He never asks for you.”

I’d just arrived to pick up my three year old from daycare and that’s what his teacher tells me. I laugh, and she apologizes, but it’s fine because I know what she meant.

He’s my tough guy. I held him the first time and couldn’t get over this sense thatsomething was wrong. A week after his birth I couldn’t shake it and told my mom.

“He just doesn’t seem as hearty as his older brother always seemed.”

We agreed it was just because his brother was born a mini linebacker and so the 1.5 pound difference was throwing me for a loop.

Over the next three years he was chronically sick. Thankfully nothing life threatening. But by the age of three he’d already had two surgeries and anitbiotics were becoming a concern. He’d had so many of them, so frequently, that we were worried about him building an immunity to them.

All of which solidified for me the trust I feel for my intuition when it comes to my kids. The connection I feel to them.

He’d been relatively well though the previous six months. “He doesn’t have a fever,” his teacher said, “And it was almost time for you to arrive anyway, so we didn’t call.”

He was lying on a cot, all mushy and tired. I scooped him up and, together with his older brother, we made our way home.

Once there, he seemed fine. A bit tired. He was resting on the couch but laughed and played with his brother. I was getting ready to cook when I heard it.

“Ow. OwowowowowOWOWOWOWOWOWOW!”

I ran into the living room in time to see him leap up from the couch clutching his right lower back.

Within two minutes we were in the car and I was on the phone with my husband telling him we were headed to the hospital.

My gut reaction was that it was his appendix. The whole ride to the hospital I only half watched the road. My eyes pulled to the rearview mirror that I’d aimed at his car seat in the back. I hated that I really had no idea where the appendix was in the human body at that moment. What kind of mother am I? It’s in the general lower back area, right?

That voice returned. Loud. Something is wrong with him. Relentless, the entire ride there. The entire time we waited to be seen. Even as he perked up in the waiting room and started horsing around with his brother. Climbing up the plastic burnt orange chairs and leaping off to land in a squat on two feet.

When we were called into triage the nurse gave me side eye. “His appendix, you say,” she said with a smirk. Then she asked him to stand on the table and she held his little hands. He was never afraid of people. Of anything really. He took her hands without hesitation and she asked him to jump in place. He obliged, with his grin that lit up any room that tried to hold it.

The nurse looked back at me as he hopped like a kangaroo while holding her hands. “Typically the first sign of an appendix problem is that when they jump, they scream in pain.”

I gave her a wan smile. He didn’t have a fever. He didn’t have any pain. Right now. Yes, he’s got quite a bit of energy for a sick kid. But I repeated what happened, from the daycare pickup to the living room.

“Always trust your gut, Mom,” she said. “We’ll call him back soon.”

Once called back he was given a gown and we waited. My husband arrived and I told him to go home and eat with our older son because I was sure we’d be waiting. And I was half sure we’d be sent home with a diagnosis of neurotic mom.

A doctor examined him and at this point he’d started to run a bit of a fever. They drew some blood and gave him some tylenol.

A family arrived in the next bed. A grandmother who’d fallen ill, with her daughter, son-in-law, and grown granddaughter. We exchanged smiles whenever our eyes met. All of us waiting for test results or more tests ordered. They thought the grandmother may have had a stroke. They couldn’t get my son’s fever down. His blood tests came back normal. Hers came back inconclusive.

The doctor returned to tell me they wanted a CAT scan. Despite thinking it wasn’t his appendix, they wanted to be sure. He would have to drink half a bottle of oral contrast. A thick, white, chalky drink that I kept trying to convince him was a milkshake.

He knew I was straight up lying to his face after the first sip.

With every sip he looked at me like I was nuts. “It will help the doctor figure out how to make you feel better,” I told him. The moments between sips started lasting longer. It became harder and harder to convince him to take just a few more.

Before long, the young girl from the family in the next bed area joined us. Her mother soon after. The three of us laughing and cajoling my son into drinking the heinous substance. Performing like circus monkeys.

My stomach turned watching him struggle to work up the fortitude to bring the bottle to his mouth once more. The mother would sneak off to go check on her elderly mother in the next bed. She’d tell her mother, in Spanish, about the little boy and how cute he was, even though the old woman never responded. The young girl would translate for me.

It felt like days, but I’m sure was just 20 – 30 minutes or so, before a nurse came by to say he had to drink just a little bit more. At this point he was lying back on the bed, his cheeks flushed. Despite the tylenol doses they had repeated, his fever kept rising. They needed him to consume enough contrast to get into the CAT scan as soon as possible.

The young girl leaned in and told my son about her tiny green pig.

She held up her key chain so that it dangled before him.

There, among the keys and a few other random keychains, hung a squat, almost circular, see through plastic pig the color of emeralds. It was a thick acrylic, solid, but only about one inch in size.

She told my son that it was her favorite thing in the world and that it had always been there for her, ever since she was a little girl. But if he drank just a bit more, he could have it.

As long as he promised to one day give it to someone else who needed it more.

So he did. He promised and he gulped down more of his drink. She handed him the pig and she and her parents celebrated, clapping and gushing over what a brave, big boy he was being.

Minutes later we were wheeled in for the CAT scan. They shot dye through his IV and the very second it hit his arm he started screaming. My boy who hadn’t uttered a peep through the blood tests and drinking that awful shit they made him drink and getting an IV and taking tylenol, was now screaming blue bloody murder.

By the time we were wheeled back to our bed area, he was spent. Flushed, exhausted, whimpering, and with a fever they couldn’t bring down. The nurses took the blanket off him, pushed his gown down past his shoulders, and brought him ice pops he had no interest in. He sat and shivered, silent fat tears rolling down his bright red cheeks.

The family from next door cooed over him and frowned. He clutched the green pig in his burning hand, but didn’t have any smiles left to offer them when they tried to make him laugh.

A few minutes later the grandmother was wheeled away. We all wished each other luck, and the young girl told my son she knew he would be fine. “Take care of the pig,” she said. “But give it away when he’s needed.”

The doctor returned with the CAT scan results.

“It isn’t his appendix,” he said, “But we did find something.”

Only a split second between that statement and the next. Between the vague we found something and the reality of that something. Between my life as I knew it and what could possibly come next. Between my son, the beat of my heart, andsomething.

“The scan ended up picking up the very, very bottom of his right lung and it’s filled with fluid. He has pneumonia.”


He stayed in the hospital for three days, as a precaution they said. Over and over again, nurses told me what a tough guy he must be for him to have pneumonia like that and not complain. That’s just how he was. Brave and stoic. Through all the illnesses he had up to that point. The two surgeries. All the medicine, some of it vile, that he’d taken in his short three years.

He held the pig the entire time he was in the hospital.

After getting back home, when the newness of the pig wore off and I frequently found it laying around, I took the pig from him. We kept it on a shelf in his room and often he’d ask to hear the story of the pig. Of the young girl who gave up her “prized possession” and what it meant. How she thought of him even while she was worried for her grandmother. How she trusted him to give the pig away when he decided someone needed it.

In the years since, the pig was lost. I admit to being upset when I first discovered it was missing. But I’ve never, ever forgotten about that pig. We still tell the story of the pig. And I know now the pig itself doesn’t need to be in our hands. We don’t need to give it away.

We just need to never forget it. What it meant for her to give it away and for us to receive it.

I give that pig away every chance I get.

Until writing this, I’d never thought before of googling “green acrylic pig keychain” just to see if actually popped up. Google never disappoints. Same pig, minus the lettering.

My Mechanic’s Broken Thing 

Photo by Allison Bedford

He patched and painted the ceiling in the dining room after I took a step in the attic without the knowlege that one must only step on the beams.

One year, our Christmas tree just would not stay up. Until he screwed the stand to the floor. Right through the carpet.

I’ve watched him open up computers, fiddle around, button them back up and suddenly they work again. But once they’re loaded up, he’s got no use for them.

He has six children. Six times (Daddy, fix this times the number of toys each child has owned and/or touched and/or played with) plus (the number of friends who have visited our house times all the toys they’ve broken while here or brought because the toy was broken and they wanted him to fix it) equals roughly a metric fuck-ton of broken. 

No child has ever walked away without a working toy and a hug.

Ever.

He’s fixed tons of motorcycles, including that one I wanted to try. That little Sportster a woman rode. So I said, “Hey I bet I could ride that! Let me walk it into the garage!”

He stood back. I hopped on, kicked up the kickstand, took one step forward and then just keeled over to the side, unable to hold up the weight of the bike.

He fixed that, too.

Cars. Appliances. Skinned knees. Bruised egos.

He’s fixed all that.

The one thing I love the most, I can’t fix.

He’s said that to me a lot over the last three years. With a sigh and a sense of regret so thick I sometimes can’t breathe in the same room with it.

It’s not your job to.

That’s always my response. With a sigh and a sense of shame so thick I feel my throat closing.

Only I can fix me. We both know that.

But I’m no mechanic.

I flounder, searching for things that will work. Things I can manage. Things that will stick. 

Therapy and vitamins. BDSM and yoga. Old friends and new. Reading and writing. 

Changing how I view myself and the world around me. Changing how I confront the things that make me uncomfortable. Changing my life and how I want to live it.

That’s a lot of change to try and understand, let alone embrace.

He can’t fix me.

But every time he hugs me and tells me he’s proud . . . 

Every time he sits with his discomfort while I flit about in the breeze . . . 

Every time he lands a kiss on my forehead and a good girl in my ear . . . 

Every time he supports and encourages . . . 

He helps put a piece back in place.

He’s a mechanic who loves nothing more than when things are fixed. 

Except me. Even if I’m broken.

The Improbable, Possible Things I Seek

512px-xmas_lights_dc

By Jonathan McIntosh (Own work) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

As a child I curled up under the Christmas tree to read. Every year I received books as gifts, in addition to some toys. While the shine and glitz of a new toy tended to wear off quickly, the books were forever.

The stories never ended.

I’d hide under the lowest branches of the fake tree my family put up year after year. My grandmother had crocheted a large tree skirt that wrapped around the base and splayed out in a circle on the floor beneath. I’d lay upon it, my book in hand, and read my way to someplace else.

Somewhere quiet and less chaotic than the world I inhabited.

There were moments though when I’d look up, through the branches twinkling with light and adorned with tiny whimsical figures and shiny, gleaming globes, and I’d stare.

Up through those branches I found silence. It waited for me in every tiny nook. I’d hear nothing but the sound of my own breathing and the faint whisper of a magic that only exists in timeless moments. In moments where the real world falls away and one can believe with absolute certainty that something fantastic can happen.

I stared up through the galaxy of stars that blinked through the branches andfelt them upon me. Shifting shades of red and green and blue and gold. Nothing else existed for me then except the lights that danced across my skin and a tree that breathed with possibility.

I curled up, small and silent, with stories dancing through my head and it was a tiny thing, that moment. A young girl in the corner of a silent living room in a small house that stood in a small town on a tiny plot of the earth.

But it was big enough for me. Big enough to transport me. Enormous enough for me to believe that maybe something existed in that tree that I couldn’t see. It felt so magical, like a place where fairies could be found fluttering or tiny mice in clothes bustling about their errands.

There was silence enough beneath the Christmas tree that it became sacred.

Now I wonder if that’s what I’m seeking. Moments, where I believe in something. Something outside of myself and my experience.

A silence. A connection to something that feels big to me.

A something that leaves me believing in the magic of how improbable, yet possible, everything is in this world.

If someone lets go of all else, and believes.