I just finished the most recent installment in the Hollows series by Kim Harrison. It was fabulous, as always! I’m not going to say too much about it because I don’t want to give spoilers. But if you enjoy paranormal romance, and you haven’t read the series yet, then you should absolutely head to your nearest bookstore and remedy that situation as soon as humanly possible.
I don’t understand the youth of today,
How were they raised?
With this sense of entitlement.
To be what they want.
Made up things,
Gay, Bi, Transgender
Upending social norms, expectations
Not bowing, not bending
What is gender fluid anyway
What does that even mean
Befuddled, confounded, confused.
Why can’t they just
Act like you?
I look and I see that it’s true.
I don’t understand the youth of today
How were they raised?
With this sense of entitlement?
But not like you say.
They are entitled I tell you.
Entitled to their own lives,
Their truth, their beauty
Freedom from you.
From expectations, condemnations
Judgments and scorn.
By their own values they are bound,
Not by yours.
Yes, I ask as I watch in amazement
How were they raised?
How were they raised to survive
Through the pain,
To dance in the rain.
To be who they are?
I admire from afar.
I wish I had come of age
With that strength,
With that fire.
With that courage
To be who you are.
Stillness. Quiet. Nothing stirs.
This is a memory, sublime;
struggle to see it clearly,
through the swirling mists of time.
Standing over a boiling pot
of water, in a trance, caught,
steam rising, water roiling,
with what danger is the past fraught?
Gazing back in time and space
In the water you can scry.
Into many other worlds
You now can happily spy.
Stuck, standing still, falling in,
crossing the veil, with the sight.
Struggling to understand,
Remember with all your might.
What we really are, and why
In a flash, through a rip in time,
you finally catch it, see it
the epiphany you find.
Creation makes perfect sense
Your soul begins to rise up,
but in an instant, instead,
you fall, the loss is abrupt.
For a split second you saw,
you understood everything.
Then in a flash it was gone,
A memory of nothing.
You can’t forget it, ever
But you’ll never have it back.
You know that you once knew it,
You will always feel its lack.
So this morning I woke up to my 12 year old telling me there was a copperhead in the duck barn and we were already down three ducklings! Ya’ll I’ve never killed a snake in my life! So here I go, it may be 100 degrees but I put on blue jeans and tall boots and I go out there with a long stick, an axe and a shovel. Now my son tried to tell me the way daddy does it, put the shovel behind it’s head and push down. But no, I think I’m a badass with the axe. I’m sure I can take it’s head off in one whack. So I pull the axe back and WHACK! I’m so freaking proud of myself but why is it moving like that? Oh, I took off it’s TAIL, so now it’s really fucking pissed off! Ok, Ok, hold on, I whack at it again and hit it in the middle, but not a clean hit, I’ve just wounded it again, now it’s trying to hide from me and the next two whacks took out the duck feeder. Well, ok, maybe I should use that damn shovel after all, before it bites me. It’s biting at the ducks, the shovel and itself. I actually feel bad at this point, I don’t want it to suffer, I just want it to die! I finally use the shovel exactly as my 12 year old told me and killed the damn thing. Now it’s in three pieces and the damn thing is still moving around and biting at everything. Jesus Christ, this is going to give me nightmares, no wonder people have snake phobias, this thing is like a freaking vampire and it WILL NOT DIE!! The dogs won’t even go near the body! So we bury the head and damned if the body isn’t STILL moving around! Hell no, ya’ll, hell no! Nobody prepared me for this shit. I am shaking from the adrenaline rush, and covered in sweat. I go inside, take a shower, watch some TV with the kids. Later, while I’m making dinner, guess what? There’s a grass snake in the duck barn. ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME???? Well at least it’s not poisonous. But guess what? IT”S MUCH FASTER! I had this thing pinned down with the shovel and it just slithered right out from under the shovel! I had to really fight that thing, it was slippery and fast and BIG, and really, it was an epic battle, I could not get the shovel to separate it’s head from it’s body but I finally got it pinned down where it couldn’t move and Todd smashes it’s head with a brick. SHUDDER. I go back in, go back to cooking dinner. Ten minutes later he comes in to tell me he just killed ANOTHER grass snake in the duck barn!!!! (seriously, we’ve had snakes before, but three in one day seems excessive!) At that point, we just brought the remaining three ducklings inside, they are in the witness protection program now! I am TRAUMATIZED I tell you! I may have PTSD. Seriously, I’m a lover not a fighter. Why, God, why?????
I’m tired. I mean what they call bone tired. I can feel the depletion in every cell in my body. I’m just tired.
I’ve been so tired for so long that I started to think it was permanent. I thought well this is it, old age is here! My mother told me this would happen, that I wouldn’t always have the boundless energy of youth. I didn’t believe her. I don’t know why I didn’t believe her, she has never lied to me and I know I’m not immortal but ah, the hubris of youth! I believed I was invincible. Turns out, I’m not.
My oldest son was in a horrible car wreck on October 3, 2015. As I sit here writing this, it is January 10, 2017. That’s 15 months, well over a year. Doesn’t seem like I should still be recovering from that. I don’t know why, he is. But I wasn’t physically hurt. Just emotionally.
Then I finally realized that his accident wasn’t just a thing that happened then it was over. The repercussions go on and on like ripples in the water when you send a stone skipping out. His wreck happened and life as we both knew it just stopped. Everything that came before is part of a different life. We live this one now.
First there were the months in the hospital and rehab. I would leave the hospital around nine or ten at night, make the hour drive home to spend a few minutes with my other children, dropped exhausted into bed only to jerk away long before I had gotten eight hours in. Unable to return to sleep, I would just get up and head back to the hospital, long before my other children were out of bed.
At one point, my youngest child, four at the time, handed me a drawing she made, pointed to the scribbles under the picture and said, “That means I miss you.” I know to her it seemed I had disappeared from her life.
I wasn’t eating. I lost ten pounds in two months. No matter how hungry I was on the drive there, once inside the hospital, I had no appetite at all. None of that touches the emotional toil it takes to watch your child suffer and be helpless to do anything about it. Dealing with his emotions on top of everything else wasn’t easy either. He was devastated, of course. What 24 year old wants to hear that they will never walk again? In those first few weeks, we didn’t even know if he’d ever be able to even sit up, much less stand or walk.
Then he was discharged and went home with his father and grandmother and I thought I would catch up on some sleep. Wrong. Back to work after two months, I was way underwater, completely swamped. Then there was the driving. He was four hours away from me, almost six during the time he spent at a second phase of rehab in Houston. I would often make that round trip in a day so I could attend doctors appointments and therapy sessions, to see his progress and evaluate needs for myself and help make decisions.
Then he came to spend the summer here. I continued to work 40 hours a week while getting him to physical therapy three times a week as well as mental health counseling. I had help; I’m not saying no one else ever pitched in. But I did most of it. He also had to make the trip all the way back to Bryan to finish his assessments with the neuropsychologist. Who even knew that was a thing before all this?
The physical toil it took wasn’t even the worst part. The emotional one was. We have had a contentious relationship since about the time he hit puberty. I kept thinking it was a phase and waiting for it to pass. The brain injury did nothing to improve the hostility and anger. Situational depression on top of a brain injury that is known to cause anger outburst on top of the issues that were already there. It was hard.
He went back to stay with his grandmother in September and on October 5, 2016, two days after the anniversary of his wreck, his father passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. I went down for the funeral. I grieved. It doesn’t matter that he was my ex. The point is, he was also my husband once and we shared much of my young adult life together, and a child. But my grief is nothing compared to his mothers or his brothers or his son. Our son.
All of these hits just kept coming and in October I got the worse case of bronchitis I have ever had in my life. It started before Halloween. I had to get treatment for it, the second time, just before Christmas. It’s now after New Years and I still have the lingering cough. I never stopped working a full time job, I never stopped doing activities with the younger kids. The doctor assured me that I wasn’t contagious so there was no reason to take time off or stop going to activities. Even though the worst symptom was a deep, awful fatigue that I could not overcome, I went on. During the middle of this, I planned, shopped for and cooked Thanksgiving dinner for our entire extended family.
I’m not saying any of this for sympathy or to complain but because, shockingly, I had to sit and type all this out before I realized why I’ve been so tired. During my protracted illness, my brain was so fuzzy, I really couldn’t figure out why I was tired all the time. I have just now realized that the last 15 months have just been one thing cascading into another in a never ending flood.
After my son had to move back in with his grandmother, I spent months drowning in guilt and self doubt. Beating myself up emotionally for not being able to help him, for not being able to fix everything for him. Is it really any wonder I succumbed to a physical illness? I was beat down, physically and emotionally.
Then I plunged headlong into the holidays. I’m not kidding, I asked for time off in December back in October. Yes, I had to plan and schedule my down time to try and recover from the worst physical ailment I’ve had in years and I had to schedule it two months out. Not because my supervisor wouldn’t have been understanding and given the time off, she would have. But because I have obligations and responsibilities that I didn’t feel like I could just set down.
From Christmas day through New Year’s Day I did literally nothing. I didn’t leave the house; we cancelled play dates and field trips. I didn’t read to the kids, I didn’t go to the grocery store or run a single errand and I didn’t do work during my off time (much).
Yeah, ok, I worked a little. But I have a care giving type of job. My clients depend on me; their lives don’t stop just because I’m off work. Caregiver burn out? You’d think so. But I feel like what I’ve been through with my son has given me a deeper understanding of what the families I work with are going through. What it really feels like to be a special needs parent. What it feels like to grieve the loss of the life you thought your child would have.
His dreams of becoming a firefighter are over.
And I am by no means comparing my struggles to his. I’m not the one in a wheelchair. I’m not the one having to come to terms with living with a spinal cord injury.
But still, I’m tired.
“In my dreams, I walk.” He tells me.
The simple, raw grief in that statement shatters my heart.
It is several weeks after the accident; I am in my bed drifting off to sleep. In that twilight world halfway between sleep and wakefulness I can hear the sound of the tires of the road, I can feel the rhythmic, swaying movement of a car. My eyes close against my will, sleep heavy and demanding. I’m so tired, so very, very tired. The part of my brain that is telling me I have to stay awake is no match for the part that knows how badly I need rest. No match for that comforting, rhythmic rocking of a moving vehicle. Just for a moment, it’s ok, I tell myself. Sleep pulls me under deeper and deeper.
Suddenly there is a loud crash, my entire world spins as I’m rudely jerked from sleep by the terrifying sensation of the car rolling over and over.
I sit upright in my bed, heart pounding in my chest and tears rolling down my face as I realize I have come as close as possible to experiencing what my son endured, without actually falling asleep at the wheel and wrecking.
Happiness comes from within. Sounds so cliche, right? But it’s true. Look at a child. Their joy for life is really simple. I’m telling you that happiness is a choice. You don’t need new years resolutions, you need a shift in focus.
What you focus on, is what you increase. This is common knowledge in the field of child development. We tell parents all the time that you must focus on the behavior you want to increase, not the one you want to decrease. As long as it’s safe to do so (they are not going to harm themselves, others or property) ignore the bad behavior and focus on the good. Praise the positive. “I love the way you just shared with your friend!” You will get more of the behaviors that you praise.
It’s the same in our own lives. Focus on the negative and that is all you’ll see. We all have negatives and positives. It’s what you focus on that determines if you feel satisfied or not. For example, I could focus on not making as much money as I feel I should be at this point in my career, the things I don’t have and be miserable all the time because compared to my wealthier friends and family, my life is sad. I could see it that way.
Or I could choose to focus on the fact that I do a job that I love, that I have ample time with my family. That I have a husband and children that I love. I could feel good that I make an adequate amount of money to provide my children what they need and a lot of what they want. If I need a comparison, I could find many people much worse off than I. If I look at life this way, I am indeed blessed and I see it and I feel it.
When my focus is on the positives, those are what I invest in, think about and put effort into, therefor making those things even better. When my focus is on the negative, I become a negative person. You all know them. The ones who never have a positive word to say about anything. And nothing is ever their fault. The world is against them, other people are evil and nothing ever works right. It’s a very rare person who truly has no positives to look at. But if you only look at the negatives and complain all the time, you can drive the positives away. People feel drained by those who only complain and tend to avoid them.
Now, I am not saying that you shouldn’t reach out when you need help or that you shouldn’t let others know when things are rough with you. But when you see every day through the lens of “poor me” it affects your mood and how those around you perceive you. Indeed, those people who will listen and help you are your support system, your tribe and you should feel grateful and appreciative to have them!
What I am saying is that you should count your blessings daily! Even if you feel like things are bleak and you have few blessings. Count those few and make a plan on how to begin to improve the rest. Life will still knock you down, but you get back up and keep finding the positives! I could not live any other way. And trust me, I’ve been knocked down again and again. But if I did not have the outlook I have, I would have given up long ago. I’m so very glad that I didn’t!
A positive mental attitude isn’t just a pop culture catch phrase. It’s a necessity!
I could not agree more!