Friday, February 28, 2014

Head in the clouds.

"For a second I was almost jealous of the clouds. Why was he looking to them for an escape when I was right here beside him?" ~ Kamila Shamsie, Kartography

My mom loved clouds. Whenever I look at the sky, I think of her, whether there are tons of clouds, or just one, or none at all. She was always taking pictures of clouds wherever she went. Usually at sunset, frequently with palm trees in the foreground, almost always with a pink blur in one of the corners - her finger.

Yesterday I was on a plane for the first time since losing her. I was in a window seat, which is rare, but fitting, because as I looked out the window while we soared into the sky, through one layer and then the next of cloud after cloud, I suddenly thought, "I wonder if this is how she felt when she left?"

Until then, I'd been mostly terrified every time I thought of that moment when she finally let go. I always think how scary it must feel to exhale for the last time and silently slip away, knowing what you're leaving behind. Knowing what you'll never see or feel or touch again. And not knowing where you'll go.

But then the thought creeps in that maybe at that last minute, that last breath, somehow you do know exactly where you're going, and it's amazing, and that's what helps you release your grip on this world, and turn toward whatever awaits you in the next.

So when I looked out the window and saw all white, and realized I was completely within a cloud, I wondered about her. I wondered if at her last moment she inhaled deeply and smiled and said "Finally!", outstretching her arms, tipping her head back, and letting go as her spirit found it's buoyancy again and she soared, leaving behind the frustration and the pain and the cage that her body had become.

A friend of mine sent me a card and inside she put a poem. It describes the departing soul as a ship with beautiful white sails, gliding towards the horizon. And as she sails, everyone who watches her slip further and further away says quietly, "There she goes." And those beyond the horizon wait expectantly, and when they see her coming over to their side, they cry out in jubilation, "Here she comes!"

I keep that card with me in my purse, and I read it from time to time. I'm comforted by the reminder that she is not alone. It helps me step outside of my pain and realize that in order for her pain to end, she had to go towards the horizon, towards the unknown. And that the second she let go of this world, as I crumbled, she became whole. She took hold of my sister's hand for the first time in eleven years. The joy she must have felt to be reunited with her first girl lifts my broken heart up, and while it doesn't heal it, it gives me a soft place to land when I stumble and fall.

When I returned from my quick trip, Nine, Eleven, and the traveling husband all welcomed me with bright faces and open arms. I breathed them in and looked up at the sky knowing that as my Mom has become the clouds, I have become her. I want her with me like my girls want me with them. And while I can't have what I want, I can give them what they need, and I know that my Mom is watching, smiling, finally, from a place of peace.

We are both home now.

We are both home.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lost and found.

It’s been almost exactly one year since I last wrote here. And in that year, my life has changed a whole lot. Some for the good and some for the not-so-good. I’ve learned some very hard lessons during the last year, a couple of which I could have happily done without.

I decided not to write anymore. And then, months later, I decided I needed to write, but could no longer find my voice.

Over time, the fog has begun to clear, and I think I am starting to hear my voice again, so I’ll begin here.

It will be my group therapy, except that I’m not paying for it, it’s by no means private, and I can’t see anyone else sitting in the circle with me, nodding their heads as I tell my side of the story.

But I know you’re there. I can feel you. Okay, I can’t feel you, but the site tracks visitors, so I’m pretty sure you’re out there somewhere.

Here’s some of what I’ve lost, and what I’ve found, over the last 365 days:

I found that moving your family to Southern California during a 7-week bout of walking pneumonia is hard work.
I found that kids are as resilient as people tell you they are, but that doesn’t make starting over at a new school easy. It’s like putting a puzzle together in the dark, every day, for months on end. Every so often there’s a bright spot, but it’s more like being at the eye doctor than it is dancing under a disco ball.

I lost my Mom. It is the very reason the axis my world spins on has tilted forevermore, and why possibly my voice has changed like a warbley teenager’s. Everything has just gone deep. Many a post will come on and around this very sad subject.

I lost myself on the way to losing my Mom. I knew I was getting lost, I could feel that I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t recognize myself, and I wasn’t genuinely connecting with some very important people in my life. I was there but I was not present. But I couldn’t stop it from happening and I couldn’t find my way back until Chicago gently helped me see that not only was I losing my Mom, and not only was I losing my way, but that those very important people around me were losing too. They too were losing my Mom and they were losing me. They were losing times two. And that realization is what helped me fight my way back home.

I found out how liberating it feels to cut ties with someone who has proven herself unworthy of holding the other end of my heartstrings.

I found that I could save a young life with my bare hands.

I lost a few pounds. Just kidding. I gained a few. More than a few. I blame the comfort foods and the sadness. It’s hard to burn carbs when you have to remind yourself to breathe.

I found that friends who love you and know your heart instinctively do the right thing when they hear/feel/see it breaking. The right thing looks like texts, emails, calls and cards. It looks like your favorite flowers showing up unexpectedly. It looks like local friends who innately know that I will say no to lunch and a visit, so they don’t ask if it’s okay, they just show up with chopped salads and gentle smiles. And it turns out the right thing looks like a hand-written letter and a pair of leopard print wedge heels. Who knew?

I found that in a sincere (if highly misguided) effort to Be Super Mom While Sitting At The Bedside Of My Own Dying Mother, ordering one hundred poinsettia stamps does not in fact ensure the mailing of Christmas cards. Secondarily, I found that sticking said poinsettia stamps on bills in February is sort of depressing.

I found that the puppy still wants a walk even when it’s the last thing I want to do, and that taking him is good for us both because it forces me to inhale and outhale at a time when holding my breath and clenching my jaw seem to be more the norm.

I found that Nine and Eleven are hungry, and have homework, and want to laugh with me, and that the traveling husband needs me in more ways than one, and that cooking, helping, giggling and connecting are all better than worrying and crying and staring off into the distance.

It’s not a short list, and it’s not a complete list, but there it is. It’s a start. A step forward, which for me at this point is a pretty big deal.

I’ll be back, as there is a lot more to write. After all, it’s not every day that free therapy lands in your lap. And when you’ve spent the better part of a year getting lost and you realize you’re finally somewhat found again, you should probably take advantage of any therapy you can get.

I think I can feel you nodding your collective head.

See you soon.