Honing My Hero

In writing, “evergreen topics” are yearly or ever-present themes. Holidays, commemorations, historical events, etc., as well as overarching topics like love, career, or lifestyle, for example. Creators are always trying to “up the ante” – to find some new or distinct angle to cover.

You have to be a self-starter or find someone to kick you in the pants to get going.

I’m in the latter category and have struggled because of that. It is my evergreen experience.

Are we all born with character traits that are challenging to overcome? Probably. We are also born into places, families, and circumstances that we did not choose (unless you believe that our essence before this existence picked out our circumstances prior to being born). Sorry, I would never have chosen the circumstances I was born into. Not in an entire realm of possibilities of existence. Nope, wouldn’t have happened. If there is some guiding or directing being or essence, then I was forced into circumstances by a malevolent deity. Or it was bad luck, or just plain random chance. Of all of the possibilities, chance is the least fucked up.

I definitely have a personality type, and damaged neural pathways that I have made inroads on altering, but it has taken me a lifetime of work to do so.

There are so many medications that help alter or by-pass neural misfiring or trauma influenced wiring, but of the over twenty-four (so far) drugs I have tried, none of them have helped, and several made my condition worse.

There is evidence that psilocybin from mushrooms, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and other psychedelic, or mind-altering substances can bypass poor neural wiring and open up pathways for higher functioning brains and life experience. It is exciting research, and I hope to be accepted in a trial. If I am accepted, I could get a placebo, of course, but if I did get the actual substance, I don’t know what happens when the trial ends.

Will I just be taken off of a substance that might greatly help me? Does some big pharma company then control the distribution and price-setting? I don’t know what happens to participants in a trial that ends once the researchers have completed their studies.

For someone like me, it would come at a high price. Unless the substance is one that permanently alters your brain’s wiring after using it for however long it would take to achieve that happy day.

And what if the opposite were to happen? What if my wiring was made worse? I had two rounds of transcranial magnetic stimulation about a year apart, and it did not help my depression or change my neural pathways as others had experienced. It was not a ‘cure’, and it dulled my thinking somewhat.

It’s hard to be a test subject, but I will take the risk because the possibility of a better functioning brain is too attractive to not keep trying.

A friend once said to me that she would not want to do something that would get her unstuck because then she would be too remorseful of all the wasted time behind her.

I understand that, but I already live that, and it seems like she does too, to some extent. Guilt and shame are some side effects of trauma, but there is nothing we can do about the past except to do our best to practice self-compassion.

I did try to change. I am sure I did, in fact, change! I am sure that every person that chooses (or is forced in some way) to confront whatever holds them back or diminishes them or others in their life does change to some degree.

I could not have lived without changing. I nearly killed myself several times, and it remains on the table for me. It represents a twisted form of hope, and power.

Raising my son was a challenge I met. I may not have met it as well as some, and certainly not even to my own inner standards, but I did far better than was done for me. My son will never understand that. He did not grow up in extreme domestic violence and neglect. I had to have help to continue living. My siblings seemingly did not have to have the therapy, educational and recovery groups, and other work to function in their lives. I was also surrounded by people who had had similar lives, and sadly much worse, and we limped through those years together.

My son will never know the times I cried through making dinner because I was so mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted that it took all that I had to cobble together something healthy – and I did not have money to do differently. Even opening a can of soup would have been a challenge – and I would have paid with even more guilt and shame.

Oddly, overcoming those obstacles did not change my life as it did for others in all those success stories I consumed, trying to change my life with positive thinking and affirmations. The fact that I was still alive and functioning at all was an affirmation. I held out unjustified hope that I could change, that I could rise above my situation. It was moments of triumph for me, not permanent change.

I won’t be writing a book, giving a Ted Talk, or otherwise speaking at some puffed-up event about how I overcame my circumstances, and so can you.

All I know is that every once in a while, I rallied to the moment. I gave my son good food. We had plenty of crap food, trust me, but I did my best to have a majority of healthy meals. I also stayed as present as I could, and I did persevere. There was laughter, fun, adventure, creativity, affection, comfort, and deep love – right along with the difficulties. I read to my son every night until he grew older and didn’t want me to anymore. Those times were nearly the best part of every day. It was sanctuary – for both of us.

My son jumped poverty, and counselors and friends in my life have said it is because I gave him a good foundation to do so. There is no “control son” that my contributions can be measured, and I tend to feel that his personality traits would have helped him overcome whatever hell he might have been subjected to.

Some people do rise regardless of their circumstances. Those are the stories people love to read or hear. The successful heroes journey.

Will psychedelics help hone the hero in me?

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

There Was A Wedding

My son and his lovely partner got married on October 1, 2022.

We do not have many rituals from childhood into adulthood in our collective culture in the United States of America. The Jewish religious tradition has bat and bar mitzvahs when their children reach age 13. A religious and ceremonial rite of passage relieves parents of responsibility for their child’s actions, which is transferred to those adolescents. Aboriginal males have, or had, a ritual of going into the wilderness on their own during their adolescence to transition from childhood into adulthood, to name two examples built into ones’ culture. The closest we have in the United States is getting a driver’s license – and then being able to go to war at age 18. Being legally able to drink alcohol is another dubious distinction of entering adulthood between age 18 to 21, depending on what state you live in.

But marriage seems like a larger ritual because the betrothed enters into an agreement of commitment to another person. The divorce rate belies the seriousness of that commitment, but the institution of marriage is still a serious one that you have to legally separate from if that time comes.

I remember hearing that marriage is for the other person in the relationship, not for yourself. It took me a while to understand what that meant, but now I see that if you’re not fully in it for your partner’s well-being, why are you getting married?

An unexpected passage happened to me. I have been aware of my entrance into older adulthood, but their marriage somehow cemented my position as “elder”. I know I already have been, but I don’t feel “old”. I feel like I’m still in my 20’s or 30’s most of the time, but this is different. This seems like a spiritual journey rather than physical. I have entered a new phase, just as they have. While they welcomed it, and rejoiced, it’s going to take more settling into this aspect for me. Maybe if I had a ritual for myself it would be easier to take?

My son and his partner did a handfasting ritual which was beautiful to see, and did this Wiccan’s heart proud.

I wished them enough of all that they need and want throughout their journey together, and I look forward to becoming a “Glamma” in the near future (a mom can dream).

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

“I look back on my life like a good day’s work; it was done and I feel satisfied with it. I was happy and contented. I knew nothing better and made the best out of what life offered. And life is what we make it, always has been – always will be.”
Anna Mary Robertson (Grandma Moses) 1860 – 1961

Time, Time, Time

I hear Tom Waits singing the refrain: “Oh it’s time, time, time…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAB4uGGquX4

It’s more the song’s tone rather than the lyrics that make me think about our time-based life.

The garden so green, so colorful – so heavy with tomatoes, beans, corn, squash, and flowers just a few weeks ago is emptier – strewn with scraggly vines and stalks – the last ripening food and flowers know the end is near. The tomatoes will continue to ripen until the frost comes, but they are the last stalwarts of the garden.

I reluctantly pulled out my fall clothes suitcase today after seeing the forecast of cooling temperatures this week, with colder nights.

I folded up my shorts and tank tops, my flip-flops will overwinter in the closet.

Autumn is a beautiful season. I have always liked it, but I see it differently now. I have grown and changed. My perspective has expanded, but also contracted.

Summer used to seem longer. It used to be full with friends and parties and nightlife and doings. It’s not that it couldn’t be again, it’s that I’m not that person anymore. I do go out to events at times, but it is not like being in your twenties. I don’t have the energy I had back then. I was biologically as well as psychologically different – and that is okay. I’m not railing against that. I’m just noticing.

Of course there is sorrow – there’s grief in every season, every change. I am grateful that I am aware of the subtle changes now. I have appreciation for so much more than I used to, but I was always appreciative of nature and the earth’s beauty and bounty.

It’s easy to look back and be an “armchair quarterback” about my life – but that’s not fair or accurate because I didn’t have the information that I do now – and I likely wasn’t supposed to.

I wasted so much of this precious commodity called time. I knew it even when I was younger, but I wasn’t able to act differently then. I am more able now, but not by much. I have found strategies that help me, but they’re not foolproof. Platitudes are easy. Life is not, or it hasn’t been for me.

I can be joyful in the struggle. I can be miserable too… I’m more often just moving through my day, working on or completing tasks.

I had grander visions for my life – high aspirations. I think it gave me goals to work toward. I think I have done pretty well with what was handed to me.

Time’s drumbeat throbs more loudly now, but it may be what I need to finish up my work, and do all I can to have who and what is important in my life, and let go of the rest.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

I Miss My Mom

I was going to write about how rock and roll aging is, but my mother zoomed into my awareness and I dearly miss her. She was fucked up. She trashed her body with alcohol and guilt and shame. Sounds familiar.

Regardless of anything else, I was close to her. She was my mom. She was important to me. She was the person I went to when things sucked – even if we didn’t talk about it. We’d have a crappy cup of coffee, and I just got to be in her presence. She made me. There is no other person on this earth – this heaven – this hell – that can say that.

I have dear, dear friends – and I would be deeply angry if they leave this world before me, especially Dimitra who has been here for me since I was 10 and she was 11. We are soul mates. If there was any type of organization before zooming into this world, we made a plan to stick together no matter how far apart we got. It’s just how it is.

I love my family – deservedly or not. That does not mean I accept terrible treatment, and they are on notice now in a way they never were before. I have self-love and self-respect that I did not have a good handle on for most of my life, so I was often treated less well than I deserved, or at least as I felt I should be treated. Now, however, I think my siblings know that this life is fleeting, and possibly only love remains. Only connection can be accessed beyond this plane of existence. At least, that’s how it seems to me.

I refuse the stupid reward/punishment paradigm. It sucks being on earth – for so many reasons. It’s also astounding to be on earth for so many reasons. I am reveling in how beautiful and varied this world is. I weep for what humanity has done when we had information and choices and ignored both.

As someone once said: humans are the only species that knowingly shits where it eats. That stands for pollution, over population, and all poor stewardship of our planet.

But, today, on my birthday eve, my mom is here. I am glad she is, even if it means I miss her human companionship. I want to talk to her. There are so many things I want to ask her – things that I cannot know without her input, and that is now lost forever. If I were psychic – or super psychic – I would be able to chit chat, and maybe get information that I want, but I can’t see her. I can’t hug her. I can’t be in her presence like I could before. Warranted or not, I felt comforted around my mom. I felt belonging. My oldest brother said that we’re orphans now, the day after my mother’s death.

I feel orphaned because all of the relatives that I loved and felt loved by are gone. My aunts and uncles are all gone, and me & my cousins’ generations are next on life’s conveyor belt. My mother was the youngest of eleven, but several of her siblings were still having children when she was too.

I am choosing to believe that my mom is surrounding me with love, wishing me a happy day tomorrow.

I miss and love you Mom.

One Year To Live

I heard about taking a year to live as if it’s my last, and I’ve decided to do it. Maybe it really will be, who knows!

My son is getting married in October, and I kind of feel nothing. I guess I’m just neutral? I’ll probably feel more interested or invested at the wedding.

I suppose I could tell my son I am doing this ‘last year to live’ experiment and ask for some time with him, because if it actually were my diagnosis, that is what I would want to have happen.

What do you do with a year to live?

I have made plans to do the things I have always wanted to do – that I can do – and I have started clearing out old files and noticing what continues to have importance to me that someone will have to just dump when I kick it.

When I look back on my life I have so much regret. I did not manage to do the things I said were important to me. Some would say that they couldn’t have been that important or I would have pursued them, but that is not a fair assessment. That is someone looking in from the outside and not chained in a mind like mine.

I understand it’s my own fault in some measure, but I’m also a trauma survivor for whom being able to function has been an achievement of sorts.

We all experience trauma. There is no escaping it. It is what we are able to do in spite of trauma that is our triumph.

Some people who didn’t experience trauma in infancy and continuing through to adulthood might not be as limited by the experience, or maybe they carried on well even if they had intense challenges from the get-go.

That cannot be a measure for everyone else, however. “I did it so you can too,” is one of the most fucked-up things a person can say to another. Tell me how you minimize without telling me how you minimize is what anyone should get from that.

You don’t know me. You don’t know what I’ve lived through, or tried, or continue to work at.

My star was in my ability to laugh and to love.

I did my best to be kind even though I know I’ve been an asshole plenty in my life. I hope that the balance will show more kindness and caring than the opposite.

It is okay to not have reached my goals – at least I had them.

Every time I gave up and railed about life, I got back up.

I lived. I experienced a full range of emotion. I have been a life-long learner. Hell, I’ve been studying Spanish for four years now and I still suck at it – but I haven’t given up. I also tend a garden. I love seeing plants grow – and I love fostering their growth. I adore beauty. Hiking and being in nature fills me with such reverence and joy.

I am with a partner who deeply loves me, and I love him. That was a near miss for me. I had a broken picker for so long when it came to romance that I happily gave it up. Maybe that allowed a space for someone good to come into my life, or maybe I just got lucky.

Sitting outside drinking my coffee on a summer morning with the sun warming me is about as close to paradise as I could imagine.

I will continue to work for peace in this time I have left, and to speak out against injustice.

I’m a bit worried about what’s after this life, if there is anything. I’m not afraid of some terrible god, I’m afraid of being bored. It would probably be good if there is just nothing after this.

If I could report back, I would.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

The Years Teach Much

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “The years teach much which the days never know,” and as time goes on I feel that much deeper.

I carry a weighty sadness for not being able to get out of my own way through the years, and I don’t know whether I was just lazy, or didn’t really want what I said I wanted, or what I said mattered, or if it truly was that most of the time getting through my day was a laudable accomplishment.

I have so many questions if this is not a random universe and my being is not an astounding stroke of luck in such a universe.

I don’t know what the difference is between someone who attains their goals and lives a fulfilled life and someone who doesn’t – even when they sincerely try – or believe they sincerely try.

It’s not like nothing happened. A whole life was lived and managed – for better or worse.

I grew up, procreated, and am coming into my declining years – kicking and screaming.

I am a writer. I am writing. I have been an actor, and I have been a singer – in a band even!

Those were the goals I had. The famous part eluded me. Maybe that’s a good thing.

I was a hurt, vulnerable person in a sick and suffering world, and likely would have been prey as I had been anyway – but maybe not. There is no control me to know for sure.

Maybe I would have had protection from the predators – or lots of dumb luck.

Or I could have died in a back alley somewhere, or become what was done to me.

I did none of that.

I did want to end me – sometimes still do – but it’s far less than it was (most of the time.)

Worries about facing consequences in a spiritual realm kept me from offing myself – that and my son.

I rose as much as I fell though. I battled my way back after every down turn. The problem is the cycle never ended. It was exhausting. It is exhausting.

I couldn’t find a medication that worked, or that I could tolerate. I know several people who have said that they would likely not be alive if they had not found the right medication. Why am I such an anomaly?

That’s rhetorical. I just am, is the answer. It’s not personal. It just sucks.

If I did choose this, why can’t I un-choose it? If karma is real, what the hell did I do (or what hell did I do)? Why don’t we remember how we screwed up before so we can avoid repeating it?

I look around at the world and it seems to be on a perpetual rinse and repeat doom cycle everywhere.

If there is a harmonious, functioning, peaceful society who won’t tolerate predators, they have hidden themselves well away from the rest of us. If there’s a secret handshake, or phrase, or code – I want to find it out and join them.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

The Story So Far – A Pirate’s Tale

Did I ever tell you that I grew up on a pirate vessel?

There were eight total – a small pirate crew – nine if you counted the dog.

Yes, it is unusual to have a dog on a pirate ship.

She was a good dog though. The best.

She knew when storms were brewing, and the crew knew to heed her ears down and tail lowered.

The captain was like most pirate captains you read about – abusive, demanding, unpredictable.

The captain’s wife was part of the crew. Again – super unusual.

I would not have wanted to be first mate on this ship.

First mate is a misnomer, by the way, or at least it was on this ship.

The captain trusted no one to run the ship, but demanded more than was possible from the first mate – and second – and the whole crew. As you imagine, the crew was bone weary before the ship was very far out to sea.

But out to sea she went, that shitty old vessel.

The crew was constantly plugging leaks, and even though they did their best job (and also never signed up to be pirates), they were met with the captain’s insane demands for more and better.

The youngest of the crew had the misfortune to be incorrigible. Because he was so different, and the captain’s wife promised to keep him out of sight and doing the only thing he was good at, which was taking things apart (whether they needed to be or not), he was left mostly alone.

The captain drank – a lot – as many captains are rumored to do – and the more he drank, the more onerous his instructions and demands. Even the captain’s wife began imbibing as much as the captain, and their fighting became more and more ferocious until finally the captain challenged his wife to a duel.

Ok, there wasn’t actually a challenge, but the captain did tell his wife to walk the plank because he wanted to see how quickly the sharks would get her.

She did walk the plank with the captain’s musket trained on her – and she plunged into the murky depths.

The rest of the crew did not know what to do. And only three of them were on deck when the captain challenged her thus, and they got themselves below decks as fast as possible and started pushing barrels and crates, and all manner of objects to thwart the captain’s attempts at finding new targets.

Turns out, the captain’s wife jumped straight into a pod of humpback whales on their way to their breeding grounds, and they took pity on the strange creature they seemed to know was not of the sea (the lack of gills or fins was probably a giveaway).

The whales surrounded and buoyed her up to the stern where she was able to climb onboard unnoticed by the captain.

But the whales weren’t done.

The captain’s wife edged her way toward the ladder to reach the crew below decks and assess any damage in her absence while the captain screamed obscenities from the bow into the night air.

The captain was so enraged that he walked onto the plank, challenging Poseidon himself to a duel.

The whales took that very moment to ram the ship’s side, and the captain fell open-mouthed into the drink.

The first mate climbed up to the deck to see what had bashed into the ship, and he saw the captain flailing about in the sea.

He turned away and set a new course to the first harbor without a backward glance.

Most of the crew came back on deck to assess the damage for themselves, surprised and delighted to see a group of whales breaching nearby, spouting and gamboling through the deep.

Several crew mates watched as the whales surrounded the flailing captain before dragging him down to Davey Jones’ locker.

The captain’s wife, unaccustomed to freedom, decided to finish the barrel of rum left in the hold and was no good to anyone for the rest of the trip.

The crew managed the best they could until they found the nearest land.

The youngest crew member did not come above board after the captain was relieved of his command because he had been terrified by the captain’s screaming, and the whale’s blows against the ship, and convinced himself that rival pirates were about to come aboard and kill the whole crew.

He locked himself in the hold and ran in circles until he finally knocked himself out when he ran into a beam he mistook for a group of marauding pirates.

After the crew docked at Satan’s Den, the nearest harbor the first mate found, the crew disembarked, carrying the unconscious youngest crew member with them.

They found shelter above the village tavern.

The two oldest crew mates sold the pirate vessel for a more seaworthy ship, replenished their stores, and told the crew that they were setting out for the new world. The captain’s wife was sad to see them go, but she chose to stay ashore and kept the four other crew members with her.

Later, in relief at being liberated from the terrible captain, the captain’s wife went down to the tavern where there was laughter and drink, and she stayed all night.

The rest of the weary crew went up to their quarters and slept.

The next morning, the captain’s wife was nowhere to be found, so the four crew members talked about what they should do. They decided to set out from Satan’s Den to find a life away from the sea.

The youngest crew members missed the captain’s wife, and after tearful goodbyes with the next two oldest crew members, they turned back to Satan’s Den to wait for her return.

The captain’s wife did return several days later when the youngest crew members were about to give up hope, but she seemed annoyed at seeing them waiting for her.

She told them that a group of landlubbers she met at the tavern told her about a life she could never have imagined existed, and they wanted her to come with them. She reluctantly said the youngest two crew members could come with her.

They looked at each other, each deciding that their best chance at survival was following the captain’s wife.

Unfortunately, the youngest crew member only knew how to function out at sea, and even though the next oldest tried to help him learn the ways of being on land, he told her that dragons were surrounding them and wanted to burn them and eat them.

Even though the older crew member could not see the dragons, the youngest insisted they were there.

She didn’t know what to do, and the captain’s wife had started out without them.

The youngest was too afraid to live on the land or at sea, and even though she tried and tried, she could not help him.

She gave him all she knew how to give, and told him where she would be if he ever needed her.

And that’s the story so far.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

Go Tell It On The Mountain

James Baldwin’s book: Go Tell It On The Mountain is a masterful work.

Set in three sections, the narrative weaves the struggle of a family and its individual components through their church lives, and their salvation or resistance to their salvation.

What happens around them and throughout their experience as black people, whether in the south or in the north, elevates the characters’ deep existence in God’s world. Their religious belief and expression is their answer to enduring senseless violence and unwarranted hatred threaded throughout their lives.

The themes of sin and redemption, or striving for redemption, of rage, and of being saved – yet still a sinner – is felt in each page, in each individual’s journey.

As the novel opens with the eldest son, John, recalling his family’s church rituals and ‘the sinners’ the family passes on their way to Sunday services, the reader peeks at the family’s life in Harlem through John’s eyes. John expresses embarrassment by the demeanor and characters of the ‘sinners’ they pass as the family walks the four blocks to their storefront church, where their father is a deacon. John’s brother Roy expresses amusement at the ‘sinners’ behavior he witnesses as they walk past, and he expresses an attraction to that life.

Snatches of gospel song and verse propel the narrative forward through the several main characters’ thoughts and experiences, while the women elders and other sisters of the church, hover in the background, or come forward in prayer for the characters’ collective and individual souls throughout.

Instances of the family’s reality in a white world are shown through several scenes, but do not overpower the narrative of these characters’ lives. The reader experiences the world of the various characters and their choices, but are left to make of it what they will as they are propelled through the pages in a sometimes raw and dreadful torment.

The narrative compels the reader to bear witness – to understand the requirements of God to these characters – a forsaken people and their cries into the wilderness. The reader is kept rooted in each character’s living reality outside of the church, while unfurling a deep sense of these lives, and in the lives of their community through their spiritual connections and disconnections, and knowledge that their nearness to God is their only succor inside or outside of the human world.

Retreat And Reset

A dear friend and I were talking about this dark time of year, and how she, like me, experiences the desire to go away right before Thanksgiving and not return until after the new year.

Maybe it is the expectation of the holiday season and all that pressure to be glad and giving and grateful.

It’s not that I’m ungrateful, and while I can’t speak for my friend, I’m close to 100 percent sure that that is true for her also.

It’s just my dark time. I don’t have to try to be different anymore, and it has taken me decades to understand that.

We’re told, directly and indirectly, not to be a “downer”. But it’s not down, really. It’s more like the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone.

Demeter, the goddess of grain and the growing season, was angered and grieved when Hades abducted her daughter, Persephone, and brought her into the Underworld. Zeus had to strike a bargain with Hades and Demeter to let Persephone come back to the living world for part of the year so that Demeter would let crops grow again, or so the myth goes.

Perhaps ceasing growth in the living world was Demeter’s only bargaining chip for her daughter’s return, but Demeter’s powers may have been sapped in her grief and distress – she may have had nothing left to give. She may have needed that time to recover her abilities, and Zeus needed her powers to keep humanity going, so an understanding and remedy was had.

Persephone’s return, bringing back her bond, connection, and belonging with Demeter, revived creativity and growth into the observable world.

Time to refill our reserves is essential. Going deep into my Underworld is necessary, and some of us need more time than others to replenish ourselves.

My work now is to find a retreat that my friend and I can go to each year to disconnect just enough to come back refreshed and ready for what’s next.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current

December’s Message

An unease came over me in December’s first days. What was it? I couldn’t understand why, but I kept ticking off the days:

December first, December second, December third – each day feeling more ominous.

December fourth – fifth – sixth (What is going on? What am I feeling? It feels like something big happened.

I did not remember all that had unfolded until December ninth. My mind only let me remember in the rear view mirror.

On December 5, 2019, I had gone with my partner, a system’s administrator, along with several of his work mates, to a computer technology conference, which was attended by hundreds of others in their field.

It was held at a casino a few hours away from where we live – a big draw being a weekend of free food, booze, and casino chips, with chances to win more during the break out sessions.

I drank for the first time in three years the night we got there. I had no defense – and my partner was understandably upset with me.

What I couldn’t know is that I was somewhat paralleling my mother’s experience – only, I later learned, she was drinking that night to not care about terrible pain she was trying to manage with ibuprofen and booze. I had zero excuse. I did not know that she had started drinking again after a decade of sobriety, and that she had been drinking fairly heavily since that Thanksgiving.

I am filled with anxiety and deep sadness writing this, but it needs out.

It needs telling less because of what happened, and more because of the deep family dysfunction it revealed.

When I drank after three years of sobriety, I knew I was screwing up. I was chasing relief from my depression and anxiety – but that relief is temporary at best, and I had one of the worst nights in a very long time.

I may have had slight alcohol poisoning, I don’t know, but I had no sleep that night. I felt deep dread, and I kept seeing shadow figures in our room all night, along with feeling deep shame for blowing the gift of sobriety I had been given three years prior. I suppose an upside was my constant prayer that night.

The next day, the last day of the conference, my partner wanted to talk with a man who had several others vying for an audience with him during breakfast, and on the first break, and my partner did not get to talk to him then. We planned on leaving as soon as he got a chance to speak with him.

I got a phone call that I ignored during breakfast, and I looked at it an hour later.

It was my mother who sounded like hell, asking me to please come get her and take her to the hospital because she thought she had a flu, and was very sick.

I tried to call her back, but there was no answer. Normally, I am a twenty minute drive from her – fifteen minutes without any traffic (and driving as fast as I dare go over winding country roads), but now I was two hours away and my anxiety kicked in.

I asked my partner if we could leave because I was sensing that my mother was in serious trouble, but his whole purpose of being there was to speak with that in-demand dude – and this was his conference, after all.

I thought about hitch-hiking home, calling a taxi or driving service, or a bus. Nothing would be fast enough though, and I did not have the money anyway.

I called the Wendell police, but no one answered. It’s a small town with a small budget, and I had to leave a message. I was nearly outside of myself in panic now, and I dialed 911. My emergency, I told dispatch, was my mother a state away, who might be dying.

“You’ll have to call your state police, ma’am,” I think I heard – or something close to that. Or maybe she had me hold and patched me through to the state police, who patched me through to the Massachusetts state police – I was fairly greyed out by then and I only remember bits and pieces.

Close to an hour had gone by, and there was still no answer at my mother’s house. Was she dead?

The state police asked why I hadn’t called her local police. (You’re fucking wasting time, I thought). “No one is answering, and no one has called me back,” I told him.

“Okay, we’ll try to get someone out there.” Please do more than try, I thought.

A call a half-hour later from dispatch told me that the state police cannot find her trailer. “It’s hidden from the road, but there’s a path, and her trailer is about a half a football field down it?”

Finally, at lunch, my partner gets to talk to that guy.

I was so upset with him at this point. He said something about my mother saying she felt sick, not that she thought she was dying. I couldn’t explain how I knew this was an emergency, and I nearly begged him to please let’s go!

He did cut his discussion short because I’m crying now. I was also worried that I was wrong, and it would all be fine, and it is just sensitive, disaster-minded me, after all.

Finally on the road, it began to snow. (Are you fucking kidding me with this shit?)

It was really snowing – slowing us down to a crawl at one point – and then it started to lighten up, but the highway had not been plowed.

I get a call from the state police, who I now want to marry, that my mother is at the hospital. I thank the caller – did I tell them that I love them? Was it finally the Wendell police? I have no memory of who it was, or of the rest of the drive.

We’re at the hospital. I get into the emergency room where my mother is on the bed behind a curtain, and a nurse and ER doc are attending my mother.

The doc says, almost accusingly it seemed, “Your mother has severe liver disease. She is bleeding out, and we do not know from where. We’re going to run tests – maybe transported out if we cannot find where…” His words were mostly a blur after the first sentence.

My mother is awake. Her first words: “Well, I guess I am not going to live as long as I thought I would.”

Blood is matted in her hair and still on the side of her face. The nurse said she wiped up as much as she could. I asked the nurse if she could get me a warm wet washcloth.

I tell my mom I love her, and they are going to help her. I have no idea what words I said, but I do know I told her at least that.

I wiped up all the blood I could with the washcloth the nurse brought me. I held my mother’s hand, and I kissed her forehead, and told her she’s in good hands now.

Then a worker came to take her for the tests, and said it would be a while – at least an hour.

I told my partner we could go home, which was fifteen or so minutes away, and I would take my car back to the hospital if she wasn’t transported elsewhere.

By then, my oldest sister called me to say she was on the way to the hospital.

A nurse later told me my mother had high blood pressure in her esophagus, rupturing it, as a result of taking ibuprofen and booze together, and her liver couldn’t process any of it. The bleeding had stopped, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I heard nothing else, even though I tried to take it in.

In my mind, she was going to be okay. The bleeding stopped. She would need special care – stay hydrated, which was vitally important – get B vitamins in her, and some nutrition.

She stayed with me until our family holiday gathering a few weeks later.

I was diligent about getting her what she needed, probably annoying the hell out of her, but, oh well.

My mother was to stay at my other sister’s, who is a nurse, after our family holiday gathering. The presumption was that she was best suited to help my mother heal.

My partner and I went to my sister’s on Christmas day and had dinner with her, and our mother, and my sister’s friends who are her upstairs tenants.

I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with my mother because of all the activity, but she was in good spirits, and eating, and drinking lots of water.

My sister called to tell me that our mother wasn’t feeling good the next evening, and it was probably all the food and excitement of the holiday, and that she had slept most of the day.

That night I was overcome with foreboding. I could feel my mother’s energy, or spirit – something. I tried to visualize healing energy over her body, but all I felt was heaviness. Everything felt stuck in her, but it was like a prayer, and I continued to try to send healing energy.

I called my sister and told her I thought she should take our mother to the hospital to be checked out the next day. My sister said she was watching her, and that she was getting up to use the bathroom, and take sips of water.

Sips of water? Our mother needed cups of water. She needed to stay hydrated, but I didn’t say that. My sister and my relationship was not very good. She had been prickly, and snippy, and unkind toward me for the last several years, and I avoided conflict.

I texted her the next day, and called my sister’s upstairs neighbor to ask her to please check in on my mom. My sister said our mother was just sleeping a lot, and she planned to take her to the hospital on New Year’s day if she wasn’t better by then.

New Year’s day? That was two more days! I couldn’t tell her that, either, though. I did not want to cause a scene, or be berated. And what did I know? I’m not a nurse and I wasn’t there – so I had to trust my sister.

I am deeply ashamed that I did not follow what I knew to be true, that our mother needed help beyond my sister’s capacity to do so at her house.

New Year’s day dawned and my sister called to tell me that mom was unresponsive, and they were in the hospital.

A wail came out of me that I did not know was possible. I was outside of myself.

My partner drove us the two hours to the hospital. I held my mother’s hand and I patted her hair. I sang a bit of “The Rose,” one of my mother’s favorite songs. My sister said she couldn’t feel anything, or hear anything, so it was pointless to do that. I kept doing it anyway.

Our mother died early the next morning, even though the doctors thought she might be alright – or maybe that’s what they say in that situation. Hope is positive.

Mostly, I do believe it was all for the best. I would have had my mother in the hospital, hooked up to machines, and not passing away relatively peacefully at my sister’s house.

The bigger issue is that I tried to tell my sister three times that I believed our mother needed more help, and to please, please, bring her to the hospital, and she ignored me.

What I failed to do was show up. I failed to call 911 and say my sister was unintentionally being negligent and my mother needed more help. Because I felt it, and I knew it in my being every day, from the day after Christmas until she died.

But was I just feeling my mother in her dying process? I felt like she was asking me for help. I am deeply sorry if that is true. I want to have just been in tune with what was happening.

My sister’s friend and tenant upstairs had a sweet relationship with my mother. She told me that on New Year’s day – before she had heard the news of my mother’s passing – that she had been woken up by her cat. Her cat that never did that before, she told me.

She said she got an insistent feeling to go look out her window. She told me she fought with that feeling because it was early and she wanted to sleep, but the feeling would not let her be, and neither would the cat.

She went to the window and looked out. She told me that the sky was full of color – so full of color that it was indescribable, and she was seeing colors that she had never seen before – and she heard my mother say: “I am at peace.”

I am so grateful for that. It does not take the trauma and shame away from my experience, but it does make me feel glad for my mom, out of her suffering.

My mother’s death brought my deep dysfunction with my family out in the open.

I was so bewildered with grief that I screamed at both of my sisters, howled all that I had held for years and years – grief about losing them too, grief that had never been expressed. Grief that nearly led me to suicide on several occasions.

It does not change what has passed in our lives, or who we have become by choice, or by circumstance. I can, and I am, trying to forge new relationships with them. I have also chosen to not have anyone in my life who disrespects me, or treats me badly anymore.

I have learned to love myself more than I fear losing others.

That is probably the best gift my mother could have given me.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh), Making A Way Blog, 2010 – current