piecesofpeace1

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Beauty from suffering

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There was a time when I actually wondered how my kids would have depth if they didn’t suffer like I did as a child. I never, ever, ever, ever wanted them to have to experience the things I did, but I did want them to have depth. I now know that suffering comes in all shapes and sizes, and no one escapes without it. And it’s beautiful. If we let go. A doctor once told me, “Parents need to stand far enough away so that when the child crashes, the parent isn’t injured from the shrapnel, but close enough to help them manage the wounds after the crash.”

My oldest daughter turned 18 today.  I’m not the mom who cries over these milestones; I delight in them. I have never felt sad about my kids growing out of their newborn clothing, starting to walk, beginning school, getting on the bus, or learning to drive. I watched with amazement as they navigated each phase with all the falls and bruises that come with growing up. I felt like a pretty good mom most of the time. Not perfect, but pretty good.

It wasn’t until this first born began high school that the anxiety began. For both of us.  We hit a wall. For all of the angst that starting high school can bring – add a few significant deaths,  a mom who had a tragic adolescence, and you have a recipe for anxiety. I watched my daughter suffer, and my own suffering got in the way of helping her.  It was gut wrenching.

It was also beautiful.

We hunkered down; we stuck to it, and we struggled through.  That’s the thing – you can’t escape this – you must go through. We learned so much about perseverance, and pain, and letting go. I remember seeing it in her face, feeling it in the energy she threw off right before the anxiety and panic hit. I too would feel the tingling of the skin, the racing heart, and the hot flash of panic.  I would catastrophize: she’ll never graduate, she’ll never drive, she’ll never leave home. The worst though –  it was all somehow connected to: “What will people think of me? Ive failed as a mother!” This then led me into guilt about having it be about ME!

I can still get caught up in the sounds of others’ voices about my parenting.  The most difficult thing for a parent to do is LET GO.  Most parents can’t do it.  I didn’t want to do it. It was so uncomfortable most times. Not letting go sometimes makes parents feel better (by clinging to control we somehow ease our own anxiety),  but it teaches the child very little.

It teaches them fear mostly. Fear of making their own decisions. Fear of not pleasing their parent. Fear of something terrible happening if they make a bad decision.  Letting go allows them to work through these things while we are still close enough to bail them out if they fail.  We are close enough for them to see we love them even when we disagree with their choices.

When my child is suffering, mostly I need to let go.  When my firstborn couldn’t stop agonizing and the anxiety gripped her so tight, I had to let go.  I needed      to     create     space.  It wasn’t until I stopped feeling her feelings for her that she could work through them herself (with the help of professionals).  She got a job, was incredibly successful in school (of course that depends on how you define success), became a writer, and she drives better than I do.

She’s turned 18, and it’s beautiful.

Recently my daughter found a motto for herself: “I love you. Keep Going.” For HERSELF! She is contemplating (not rushing into) getting it tattooed on her foot in her grandmothers mother tongue – Polish. (I don’t like tattoos, but I love my daughter, and it’s not my body). She wants to get dreadlocks before heading to college in the fall, and she hopes to continue writing.  She and I both feel it is the darkness that often propels us to write. Sometimes I feel bad for the other folks reading my writing, but truthfully writing gets it out.  It’s way better than drinking, or drugs, or sex, or consumerism.  Writing grounds us in the present – by the time you read this – it is gone for me. The pain, the joy, the beauty is now here for you, but gone for me.

I’m glad I realized this because my child’s writing was indeed very dark at times.  I realized it was all in a context of her present, and by the time I read it, it was now past for her.  The beauty she found in her darkness was magnificent.  It also allowed us to find more beauty in the joy and light.  Experiencing darkness allows us  to experience the  light a bit brighter.

Below is one of my favorite poems. It was written by my daughter after experiencing one of the 4 significant deaths that happened during her adolescence. Enjoy.

Peace.

Dancing With a Limp

(Title inspired by a quote from Anne Lammott)

For months, we would

lay awake,

listening for your cry.

We could not keep you warm.

 

As mortality grew with age,

you mourned.

Your sorrow became malignant

as you watched two of your children die.

 

So many funerals.

 

Too tired to wake up,

not exhausted enough to accept

another death.

My uncle choked on my mother’s

tears,

screaming in his sleep

as days

dwindled overhead,

threatening to be haunted by

phantom limbs of a

broken family.

 

My house transformed

from hospital to hospice,

from hospice to graveyard,

from graveyard to funeral home.

And we were unqualified

for all of it.

 

Your pictures – our new wallpaper;

our gardens – overgrown.

I do not recognize this as my home.

 

My father woke me

and told me you were dead.

I lulled back to sleep

and I never said goodbye.

 

You had fallen to your

knees,

praying in the night,

a plea to go home.

“I’m afraid,” you said.

 

I blessed your forehead

with Holy Water and a whisper (“I love you”),

but I have every reason to believe

that Holy Water remained

an old pill bottle of tears.

 

I sank into your cold, worn couch,

I watched you suffer

for weeks –

your breasts hung lifeless

above your ribs,

your clothes falling off,

two sizes too big

once you stopped eating.

You lapped morphine on your tongue

while we tried to ease your fears

with our sorrows.

We suffocated,

inhaled your dying breath.

 

We tried to believe in your prayers –

the muffled tongues,

the plastic rosary.

But you let go of my hand.

You forgot me.

 

And most days,

I forget you, too.

Unless my sister’s cry wakes me in the night,

both of us then

remembering that you finally

exhaled,

“Amen.”

 

We stare at the dark sky,

blaspheming the goddamn God that

stole your life,

then stole the stars.

Overcast, the clouds are wilting –

a stained, leaky roof.

 

We are waiting for your

wrinkles to ooze through the cracks

and hold back the weather.

But you have shriveled,

now ash,

you pollute the rain that falls.

And I yell to the clouds

a drowned out goodbye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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