Tuesday, August 20, 2013

the dogs are talking again...


... it means I'm going mental. It's a process- slowly drawn out. The children see shades of its end result- the nasty snapping, the switch that's flipped. The docile doe turns into the howling werewolf poised for a kill.  Its cause is summer. And having children. Who are home for the whole summer. And caring for those children so much that I am spending more time on volunteer work for their school than I would on a full time job. And struggling to find time to do what I love to do. And trying to remember what it is I love to do.

The Mr. asked me the other day- what would make me happy. He was being kind, truly thoughtful. He thought he might find a way to bend the course of things in my favor- just a touch. He was hopeful that I would tell him happiness lies in a night out with him. Or finding work outside of the house and putting Violet in daycare full time. Or getting to go away some place I've always wanted to visit. Or riding horses. Indulging in some small pleasure- just for myself.

The truth is I want to kick everyone out (talking dogs can stay) and enjoy an absence that is not even afforded by the return of my darlings to school. I need 24 hours. At least. They are free to enjoy cotton candy eating, twirl- a- whirling, vomit inducing fun at an amusement park- their holy land. I want to clean my house. Scrub away the dust and scum until I'm choking on disinfectant and wearing the perfume of Murphy's Oil Soap.  And I want to enjoy object permanence- nothing shifts or gets added to the tableau- nothing spills. I want to revel in the noises that come from our 100 year old house. And the dogs. And my own squishy soul. Then I want to sit at my desk and finish an idea. I would make it a good one.

But truly, I just need that time to miss the people that I never get a chance to miss because how can you miss someone or something when it is never ever out of your sight?


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

the truth is


For months there was radio silence-a feeling that I was losing him- watching my 13 year old, H, disappear into a fog of depression.

Then one day, the switch was flipped. After dinner, I noticed he was still in his seat when normally he would have retreated to his bedroom.

Do you need something?’ I asked. He shook his head.  ‘No. I just wanted to sit here a little longer.’

‘Can I sit with you?’ I asked.  He nodded.

‘How are you?’

‘Better.’

He seemed better. I hoped it was the truth.


There was a period of time with the three older children- between the ages of 3-10 years old- that I was fooled into believing I had parenting down. We sailed effortlessly through a small, flat world.  I knew their little souls like my own breath and heartbeat. We had a rhythm- predictable, comfortable.

I believed that my children would be open books with stories I would always have a hand in writing. I believed they would always spill their darling thoughts at bedtime. One day when I’m a grown up I want to be like you, they whispered hopefully. It was our truth.


As they entered the tween years, I was pummeled with a whopping dose of who are these people and what the f@#$ am I doing? They  began to artfully untangle themselves from our coupling. Out of my league, I became an actor in their play-fumbling in the mire for answers to questions only they held the solution to. Still, I pretended I knew best when advising them or issuing commands they were quick to question. Because I’m older and I know more and because I said so and that’s how it goes. Whether or not I believed it, it became our truth.


Then they started lying for sport about stupid things like brushing their teeth, cleaning their rooms and feeding the dog. Truth was easier to dodge because they no longer fit snuggly under my thumb. They lied about turning in homework; about skipping Art class; and about revisiting the tantalizing www.dicks.com when they claimed they were searching for the sporting goods chain of the same name.

When my oldest entered the later teen years- the dangerous stuff he did in earlier days came out in unsolicited hindsight confessions- smoking weed at a sleepover, hitchhiking on a country road when staying at friend’s cabin. He taught me that I’ll never really know the lengths of their deviousness unless I have them under 24 hour surveillance. And, even then, I’ll never truly know what they are thinking.

The serpentine truth that is bound and gagged somewhere in the fathomless cavern of their humanness is the one that is most troublesome. It’s the one that is covered with the thin mantle called ‘There’s nothing wrong.’ H  had gone through a spell over the winter. He became withdrawn, abstaining from conversation; losing weight; struggling with sleep; with articulation. He looked ill. His grades dropped and his apathy spread. At home, he stayed in his room, lying on his bed staring at the ceiling, obsessing about some vague issue he had with the universe that he could not change because it was humanly impossible to change it. 

Let me help you became my plea. I’m okay was the reply.   Mere words- not enough to satisfy the gut twisting perception that this child was in trouble.  I’m okay. You want it to be the truth so badly.

I yanked the covers off of him each morning. Twenty questions became twenty thousand. Neither one of us would budge. I sought the help of a counselor who invoiced us each week to let H sit there for an hour and not answer questions.

I ached for the ugly truth because I wanted to fix it, reshape it. I’m older and I know more and because I said so and that’s how it goes no longer overrides what has become their truth.

‘ I can’t leave you alone because I love you.’

I will be ok. You have to trust me. I am depressed but I don’t want to die. This isn’t about my sexuality.  Or religion. I’m not taking drugs. I haven’t committed any crimes. No one is bullying me. I can handle this. I know you love me. I’m sorry, but you’ll never know what I’m thinking. You just have to trust that I will be ok.’

But that’s what I’m supposed to say. Trust me, it will all be ok.


That night at the dinner table, he confessed that he had abruptly stopped taking the migraine medicine (also used to temper anxiety) he had been on for over a year. It had worked so well for the migraines. He had only subtly complained about not feeling like himself, not having energy. He didn’t know how to articulate that he was feeling dead inside. He was desperate to feel something real again. 

But, of course, despite my warnings early on, he didn’t understand that going cold turkey causes withdrawal symptoms.  In my late 20’s, my doctor advised me to abruptly discontinue the anti-anxiety medication I had been on for 3 years. This was years before SSRI discontinuation syndrome was considered a legitimate issue.  As the brain is severed from the medicine’s suspended state of animation, each cell becomes acutely aware of the shift, ravaged in an excruciatingly painful battle to find a baseline. The gut feels like it’s filled with poison; food is averted. There are feelings of electrical zaps throughout the extremities; hallucinations; endless chills; uncontrollable twitching; a disconnection from one’s self and loved ones.  It all made sense now- how he had arrived at such a dark place.

He wanted to reclaim his body on his own. He wanted to be strong enough to handle this decision without us so that when he came out on the other side, he could prove to us that he was getting older- able to make weightier choices about his health and well being.  But, those all-knowing teenagers don’t realize that there is still a path and a process to follow. My heart sank. I could have been with him, helping him so he would not have suffered like I did. I would not have been pretending- I would have known what to do.

We talked for a long time- about all things- eventually landing on the word universe. A word I often use in place of God as a governing power. I told him that I find the word comforting, enveloping.

‘Really?’ He looked surprised. ‘Universe is a word that keeps me up at night. It is so vast and lonely. It bothers me that there is so much of it that I will never figure out or touch. It overwhelms me. It makes me feel like I am at the edge of a cliff and there is no where to go. Or I’ll just disappear into it all.’

His sentiments were a mirror reflecting my feelings about motherhood. There is still so much to learn- so much I will never figure out or touch. My constellation has four souls with a rhythm, breath and heartbeat like my own. Each one holding its own mystery. Each one holding its own verity. If I am lucky, once in a while they will open up, glowing a little brighter- illuminating the answers I have long searched for.  A universe no longer vast and lonely. A realization that we share the same truths.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

When I was a grown up


Violet’s little voice is always transmitting a story or a half-made up song that permeates the airwaves. She has this thing lately that sounds like daydreams spoken aloud about the things she will do when she grows up. Or maybe they are things that happened in a former life as they are reported in the past tense.

When I was a grown up, I climbed a crane to the top of a building and jumped off into the sky.

I had my work blinders on, trying my best to let her constant hum stay in the periphery- but the little tune she was singing to The Dog kept snagging in my head.

Twinkle twinkle do svidanyia. How I wonder how you do svidanyia

‘What did you just say?’

‘Do svidanyia.’

‘Do you know what it means?’

‘It means good- bye.’

Shit- where was I when she was  learning Russian?

I had been preoccupied and overwhelmed with trying to find freelance projects to help contribute to our financial pot. As the kids have gotten older the well has gotten deeper. Swallowed in it is my patience, confidence and sense of fun- not that my kids will ever say that I had any to begin with. The truth is I don’t want to play and I just don’t know how to- with heavy boughs threatening to break over our heads.

When I was a grown up, I drove my car to the beach and I played all day and collected dead fish.

Her father and brother were away over a rainy weekend. I wanted to take her to her first movie at the theatre with Princess Commando. But she had been so nasty all morning. At the pet store where I was trying to find a no bark solution for our schnauzer, a sickening shift of a migraine started to pinch a nerve in my jaw.  I wished they had no bark solutions for kids especially after I asked her nicely to stop jumping on the dog food and she yelled clearly, for the benefit of the elderly spectator beside us, ‘I don’t like you! I want to strangle you.’

When I was a grown up, I ran away and never came back because I was mad at you.

It was an excruciatingly long day. When it was close to bed time but not quite there, I let her enjoy the novelty of a ‘kid shower’ bringing the shower head to her level where she pirouetted in suds.

When I was a grown up, I took showers with my whole family every night.

Afterward, she dried off in her room under the costume of her hooded butterfly towel by dancing to top 40 music on the only station that works on the broken CD/ Radio/ Nature Sounds player. She spun in the spinning room. Nerves shot hellfire into my brain. I laid on her bed trying to focus on her perfectly matched rhythm and musicality. It was impressive- the effortless playfulness of it all- her little bright moon flashing me with every turn. I envied her ability to let go of crabby-day grudges, her abandonment of petulance for dance in a blink- her carefree movement through each day, trusting that  everything would be okay.

She bowed at the end of her last song.

‘Oh, Mommy, I really do love you,’ her little voice filled with sympathy for her laid out mama.  ‘I’ll be your mommy. You’ll be my baby.’ She tilted her head to the side with empathetic eyebrows.

When I was a grown up, I took care of you when you were sick.



Sometimes the universe gives you a break in disguise. She punches you with pain and there is nothing you can do but ride it out. Just be in the present. Just play along.

Violet ran her tiny fingernails down my arm, sending tingles and a surprising sense of comfort under my skin. There was nothing else I could do but receive her warming touch. She was the mama and I was her Baby Dear.


When I was an old lady and my little girl was a grown up, she made sure I was clothed, fed and bathed. And I knew everything would be okay.