In Which I am Not Enough

Contrary to how that title sounds, this is not a disheartening post. It’s diet disheartening. One of the second biggest adjustments I’ve been making following my step-father’s death is filling in that emptiness for my mom. I think the most common thing I hear when people speak to me, whether it be family members or church members, is, “Take care of your mom.” To which my mind automatically responds, “No pressure, right?”  Being a daughter trying to decrease the gaping hole of a husband is difficult and, quite frankly, damn near impossible.  I can occupy a room in the house, which eliminates a fraction of the silence.  I can govern the bill payments, which eradicates a minimum amount of responsibility. But in the end, I’m not a husband so I’ll never be enough of what my mom has lost.

Now, I know I said that this wouldn’t be an overly disheartening post so let me get to the less “heart-achy” part. Accepting that I’m not going to be able to fill certain roles is liberating.  When I try to do and be everything, I only end up questioning myself and my efforts.  When my mom has her moments of acute grief, in which I can read the loss in the expressions of her face or the busyness of her hands, I start pondering, “Okay, what can I do? What can I say?” And most often the answer is, “nothing that helps.” At times, I can only be there. I have to allow her to heal the way she heals, and only step into that moment when she grants me permission.  I can’t be everything and everyone that she needs. If she needs counseling, I’m not the person for it. I took one Death and Dying class like 6 years ago, and very few psychology classes so there’s only so much I can say or do. If she needs a listening ear, I’m not going to be the person she goes to as a default. She’ll want someone closer in age and who can better relate to the loss, such as our church member whose husband passed last year from cancer. If she wants someone to pray with, she may choose me out of convenience, but chances are she’s going to go to someone who is more spiritually mature than I am. And I hold nothing against her or myself for any of these things. I also know that she does not hold anything against me. She understands that I am not enough. And you know what? That’s okay.

I was having a conversation with my mom just last week about my sister and her spouse. She’ll never see this post so she’ll forgive me for telling her business. Her and her husband only knew each other three months prior to marriage and forewent pre-marital counseling. I would advise you all to do NEITHER of those. Marriages work best when there is pre-marital class attendance (spiritual or other) and if you know someone at least 25 months prior to the hitch. Well, now they are experiencing some turmoil, especially since they just had a baby. Everything came to a head when last week I get a call from my sister saying that her and the children are coming to stay at the house for the weekend. This call signals to me that there has been a marital disagreement. Welp, thirty minutes into them being at the house she knocks on my bedroom door with the newborn in her arms, tears streaming down her face, asking me can I keep the baby while she gets her things out of the driveway. Her husband has gotten so beside himself that he basically decides to kick her out of the house, newborn baby and all, and has dumped every one of her belongings in the driveway. My mom comes home to this new revelation of the crisis, and she’s trying to figure out what to do to remedy the situation. She’s calling the husband, comforting my sister, and cleaning the spare room, almost all at once. After looking at her rip and run for an hour I finally pulled her to the side and said, “Ma. You are not a marriage counselor. You can only do so much as a mother and a wife. And even still, you are transitioning into widowhood. You are NOT a marriage counselor.” I said these things because we all struggle to fill roles that are over and above our pay-grades and our heads. As a result, if things don’t work out, we fault ourselves. Sometimes, we have to let things go and hand them over to people better suited for the job.  While my sister and her family are important to me, my mother is more important so I don’t want to see her feel overwhelmed. Thus, I warned her to know her limitations and work within those lines. If they need counseling, they need a counselor. Debra ain’t one.

On a positive note, my sister and her husband patched things up, packed things up, and moved all her things back out by Sunday night. Oddly enough, following that debacle, I wondered if perhaps my mom needed more than me around to be satisfied, to heal better. And I really began to down myself because I thought, and still think, that she did. And I’ve come to a place where I understand that this is not my problem. I can only stretch myself so wide and spread myself so thin before I’m doing more than I can handle.  We all have to look at things in a manner of, “What can I do before this begins to become unhealthy?” There’s nothing wrong with that. We are not super heroes. We are daughters, sons, mothers, husbands, siblings, teachers, mentors, etc. We are all something and yet, we are all not something, if that makes sense.  At some point we’ll find that we are not enough. And this does not mean that we are crappy people. It means that we are human. Anyone who criticizes you for falling short in an area that isn’t your expertise is just being unfair to you.  Whatever you are enough in, refine and fine-tune until you are the best you can be at it. I’m enough as a daughter. And I’m going to be the best daughter I can possibly be. Soon enough, I’ll be a career woman and a provider so I’ll transition to being a provider for my mom. And I’ll be enough of that as well. And whatever I’m not enough in? I’ll do my best and accept when it is time to hand it off to someone better suited.

 

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In Which Life Stopped but Didn’t

Somewhere, hidden deeply on this blog of rambles and rants is a wise quote. A quote so wise that I’m pretty sure I didn’t say it and that I just paraphrased it. And I’m going to paraphrase it again because I literally cannot remember what I originally wrote.

“when a person doth die, it feeleth as though thine world should cease. Alas, it doth not.”

Moral of that story is that I couldn’t hang with Shakespeare on my best day.  A greater moral is that life truly does move right along with someone dies, and this truth is disturbing to say the least.

After finals wrapped up and I finally conquered Chemistry with a passing grade this summer, I thought that life was on it’s way up hill. Things were looking better and brighter. I felt like I was a young David and my stone had just pierced the delicate flesh on Goliath’s forehead.  Yes, I was victorious that Friday. And then Saturday rolled around. It was hot, of course, and sunny. I mean, it’s Mississippi. It’s hotter than….hot things….My stepdad came in the house, smelling like wildlife and magnolia trees, and told me that he was taking the neighbors fishing.  He’d already been fishing that morning, but was really excited about finally going to this secret fishing spot way out in the woods that our young neighbor knew about. I love to fish, but in that heat I let him have it all to himself. I figured I’d catch a fishing trip with him in the brief weeks between that weekend and the start of the fall semester. So we shared a good laugh, and I joked about him having to drive back to the house to get his phone that he left on the charger. As I watched him through the peep hole of the door, to ensure that he would not be knocking at the door for anything else he had forgotten, I didn’t quite realize that our jovial exchange would be our last.

Earlier that week I’d been having an odd feeling. I kept asking myself what I would do if David (my stepdad) died out of the blue. It was sort of the feeling I got right before my Grandfather passed away, but he had been sick for over a year so death was looming over all of our heads like a storm cloud waiting to erupt. I chalked the feeling up me just being paranoid. When you have anxiety, you’ll ALWAYS think, “well, what if the worst thing that could happen actually happens.” Never fails. It’s the unfortunate part of anxiety.  Well, Ma and I were customizing a pizza order for dinner when the neighbor’s mom came knocking at our door, looking agitated and pained.  As her and ma conversed, I thought that perhaps she was just wondering when David would be delivering her son home, as it was getting dark and the rain, which suddenly began pouring down minutes before, was not letting up.  But my anxiety started escalating as I heard them talking, and I knew something was wrong. And when I heard Ma say the words, “heart attack,” my heart sank. I rushed into the living room to stand beside her as she talked on the phone with the neighbor who had gone fishing with David.  From what I could understand, something had happened and they were thinking it was a heart attack.  Of course, I’m mulling this over like, “A heart attack? Okay, we’re going to go to the hospital and he’s going to have emergency surgery and everything is going to be okay.” Wrong. What Ma failed to tell me is that the coroner was already on their way to the fishing pool. That the neighbor had done CPR for 20 straight minutes to no avail. And that David was already gone.

Driving that long ass forty-five minute drive to the middle of Edwards, MS was like an out-of-body experience. The whole time I just kept thinking this isn’t happening. This isn’t real. This isn’t really happening to us. When we finally made it to the scene, the police standing at the road immediately took off their hats and began with the apologies. But Ma was a woman on a mission. Through their explanation of what happened Ma stopped the sheriff and asked, “Okay, where is he?” They pointed us up a long, gravel drive way and allowed us to walk up to where David was laying. Even as we saw him on the porch of the pond owner’s home covered in a black tarp the reality of the situation did not set in. Ma was praying and went bent over David, moving his head so that he faced her. Saying his name and patting him, praying that he could be that Saturday’s Lazarus. But it was not to be. And when they had to move him to a body-bag to prevent the ants from attacking, I just knew deep down inside, where faith and denial intertwine, that he was going to move. That a miracle was going to happen and he was going to bust the zipper on the bag or cry that he couldn’t breath in there. But it didn’t happen. Ma walked around, dazed and calling David’s friend for the name of a funeral home. I was dazed as I saw them lay him on the back of the firetruck and drive him to the front of the driveway to await the funeral home. And we were eerily calm. I’m sure the police officers out there were puzzled as they asked us if we were okay, and we said in even tones, “Yes. We’re fine.” And the wait. THE WAIT. The funeral home did not arrive until 10:00 PM.  So we had to drive home in complete darkness. And if I thought the drive there was bad, the drive home was worse. First off, we got lost, SUPER lost. My phone battery had died and Ma’s was dying, but thank God, we arrived in a church parking lot that was clear enough for us to pick up an internet signal. After Ma’s phone directed us to our designated street which would lead us to the interstate, it died as well. On a night that can make you question the inner workings of God, it also affirms that God was looking out for us. But we silently drove home. No music. No talking. No prayer. Just silence. And this thick cloud of disbelief. He was just fifty-five. It was a beautiful day. He never showed any signs. He is no longer here.

Shock is the most powerful stage of grief I have ever experienced. When my grandfather died, I wasn’t at all shocked. I was expectant. And I was shamefully glad. He had been suffering for months with no relief. His kidneys were failing. He was in pain every second of the day that he was awake. He’d lost more than fifty pounds. I was happy that he no longer had to be in pain in an Earthly vessel which no longer functioned in a manner conducive to living. And when my biological father died I was only five years old. I understood that he was no longer coming back even though I didn’t understand death (and Ma didn’t tell me either), but with the support of our family who assisted us financially and emotionally I adapted to the loss. But when David died all I could think about was how he laughed on his way out of the door. How we were just planning to call him to see what he wanted for dinner right before the fateful knock at the door.  And to make matters oh so worse, we got up Sunday morning and the sun was shining. Cars were driving to wherever their destinations were. And life went right along. Monday came and we searched frantically for life insurance information and life moved on. Tuesday, my brother and Ma had to finalize a funeral home and life moved on. Wednesday, the stress took a toll on my brother and we had to take him to the emergency room. Shortly after getting him back home to rest, Ma and I rushed to a meeting at the cemetery. And life fucking moved on and in my mind I thought this is the most messed up thing. I felt like the whole world should have stopped. I wondered how we could live on, move on. What I needed to do about school. What ma needed to do about the house. Did we need to move back to our hometown? Did we need to sell everything? Panic consumed me and I just wanted everything to cease for just a minute so that I could catch up with the chaos that had unfolded. But it didn’t. It never does.

And then Friday, the day before the funeral, my sister gave birth to a six pound, nineteen inch healthy little girl and I realized that I needed to accept that life does not stop when a life stops. As the newborn baby squirmed in her bassinet, trying to warm up under the heater, the epitome of continuance sank in. Probably for Ma more so than me.  As crazy as it is, we have to move on, and it even sounds heartless to say. We have to move on. Our bodies are still functioning. Our lungs still filling up with air. Our hearts still beating. And we are still living even when we don’t know how.

Every time a person would ask me am I okay I smile and say yes. I joke. I laugh. Not because my stepdad meant nothing to me. Not because I’m made of stone. But because I can cry anytime alone. Anytime. All hours of the day and night. But I’d rather laugh and smile with others, enjoy that moment in life when I have it because once it’s gone it’s gone. Time will not pause for me to grieve. This isn’t to say that everyone should just stop crying and accept death. We each move at our own pace and mourn in our own ways. It’s perfectly healthy and normal to cry or to not cry. So don’t let anyone tell you how you should grieve. And I was fortunate and blessed enough to have enjoyed a moment of banter. To have seen his smile and heard his laugh. And when I think of him I see his happiness. His mischief. His annoying habit of busting into the room while I’m taking a quiz, talking on speakerphone with one of his fishing buddies. Or how he always ended a text or a phone call with, “10-4 good buddy.”  I’m glad I got experience having a dad, even if it was for a brief time. And I’m especially glad Ma got to spend a decade with someone who loved her and cared for her. To think that the day that would have been their 12th anniversary was the day she placed a rose on the casket before they lowered it into the ground is gut wrenching. But we’re still here. And we have each other. Plus, all of our family came to town and it was good for us all to be together again. It was like a signal that we needed to do it more often and on more joyous occasions. But we’ll have that chance because, once again, life remains. It hasn’t stopped at all.

I like to think that David is celebrating in Heaven. That he hates he left early and suddenly, but that he knows that where he is now is paradise. I’m still nervous about the future and what it holds for Ma and our family, but I plan to make the best of it. I’m still enrolled in school, and I know that David would want me to finish (he was more excited than me when I returned). And Ma has so many people looking out for her. Trust me, we got mobbed at church yesterday and our family has been texting nonstop.  So while life going on is pretty crazy, it’s also kinda beautiful in a way. But definitely more crazy.

 

Dream on, Kid

Fantasies of being someone else

is not really about the belief

the hope

that it is possible

this truth now fails to evade me

and I have made a sensible amount of peace with it

You see,

it actually boils down to that hour

that minute

those few seconds where I escape the madness of being myself

therein lies the cause of craving

In Which I Shouldn’t Drink Coffee

You know how people are mushy drunks??? I’m a mushy coffee drinker. As soon as caffeine hits my system I’m an emotional wreck. If ever anyone has been fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it) to receive an “I love you!” or “I’m so proud of you!” text from me trust I just finished a mug of coffee…..Welp, could be worse! Or could it….

My friend in Alabama sent me a message last night with the link to her home health website for me to take a gander at.  She’s been working on the idea for a while, but never really started putting it into action because while she was in Mississippi, work ate most of her time and also did not allot her any disposable income to put her plans into motion.  After receiving a better paying job offer in Alabama, she loaded up her truck, tossed her two sons in the back seat, and hit the dusty trail.  But she even with her more comfortable living arrangement and higher rank job, she still had the itch to start her own business.  Well it took a while, but she’s been getting her business license paperwork, designing her business card, and completing the website.  Even though she sent me the message last night, I fell asleep before I could open it (it had been raining all day here and as you know, rain is perfect reading and sleeping weather) so I didn’t open it until I was sitting at the kitchen table reading “Rappaccini’s Daughter” and drinking my morning coffee. And I just had to tell her that I was incredibly proud of her. And I am. I probably would have told her that regardless of my choice of beverage, but still, it intensified the need to tell her. Coffee. It’ll make you do things. It won’t help you be productive, but…it’ll make you do other things…..

I’m a bit of a weirdo when it comes to such things.  My friend Bianca used to tell me all of the time, “Amber, you know why you’re cool? Because you have friends, but you act like you don’t need them. That’s cool.” And in my mind I was thinking, “that probably means your standards of cool are pretty low…..and also that I’m apparently a bit of an asshole….” But as I’ve said before, I’m very defensive of myself. I may act like I don’t need someone for the simple fact that I know that it’ll hurt less if that person ever decides that my companionship is not needed.  At the same time, I habitually ask my friends what their life dreams and goals are. Some don’t have any dreams or goals other than to survive in this crazed world, and others have very specific goals. If they tell me a goal they have in mind I’ll let them know I believe that they can do it or be it, whatever the “it” may be. Because, for one, that’s what friends do. I suck at being a friend, but I’m pretty good in that area if I say so myself.  And also because life has a funny, not funny, way of kicking you in the shin and going, “NOT TODAY!” whenever you start inching closer and closer towards your dreams.  Some times your family may tell you that what you’re hoping for is not realistic. Maybe an article pops up on your timeline that says, “Top Useless Degrees” and right there on the list is your degree. Or maybe you’re still in the progress stage and you feel like you’re going to be stuck there forever. And all you really want and need is for your slightly asshole-ish friend to randomly say, “I believe in you.”

It’s funny how time can bring about a change, because back in the dizzle I would be the last person to express anything of the like.  Well, when I was kid I would because I was born to be a delicate little muffin. I remember when I was about five or six, I told my granny, “Granny. I love you. Even after I die and go to heaven, I’ll still love you in heaven.” That’s just the kind of person I was. All kids are kind of like that: hopeful, gentle, optimistic. Then puberty drop kicks you in the neck and well….it was nice while it lasted. After that, being kind is an uphill battle. Specifically, once I hit high-school I lost my gentle edge for a while.  Mostly because during this period you’re trying to find your place in the world. So I was mostly struggling with just being myself, and it bothered me if I did something that my friends liked so they would do it too. It legitimately bothered me. Because I figured if they did it, especially since they were more popular, they’d get the most attention for it. Yea yea yea, I know. Sad *Donald Trump voice* Even when I dyed my hair freshman year of college, both of my closest friends dyed theirs afterwards and I hated it. HATED IT. *Big Sean voice* Poor self image and envy are a terrible mix. *shakes my head* The thought of someone doing better didn’t sit well with me because it made me realize just how NOT better I was doing. But now I know that’s really a sucky mindset and poor heart condition to have.  If someone is doing well then you should rejoice, unless they’re a criminal….And if someone isn’t doing too great then you should empathize because we’re all human and none of us like to suffer. If you extend kindness to someone they will return it to you in your time of need (hopefully. We all know that doesn’t always work out). If you practice being a hater, then you’ll receive hate in return.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can make it through life alone. And when you act maliciously then you increase your chances of spending your life by yourself, with no one to celebrate your success or lift you from your own despair. That’s a tough life to live.

I’ve also internalized the truth of the matter: If God can and will do it for someone else, he can and will do it for me.  Of course, I struggle with this from time to time. At some point later I’ll have a post about God NOT doing it for me because emotions…they’re fickle things….BUT I also know that if my heart is not in the right place, then he can’t give me anything or do anything for me, at least not to the extent he desires to.  So now when I see someone else being blessed, I thank God for it. Not solely because I know that he can do the same for me, but because I’m grateful that each of us has a great purpose for living.  We may struggle to get there, but it’s still there. “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you, not to harm you…” Yes. Yes I did use profanity and quote a bible verse in the same post. Forgive me, Lawd. I especially think of the people who swam through the swamp, and still ended up on the peak of the mountain. You never know what people went through to get where they are. It amazing to hear individuals’ stories about their backgrounds and compare that to their accomplishments. Truly amazing. Let that be encouraging, not envy inducing.  And believe that God has things in store for you as well. Now, it may not come in the same package as someone else’s and it definitely won’t come when you think it will, but it’s coming.

So in my caffeine chronicles I’m here to say that I’m proud of everyone here. Even if you don’t think you’re where you need to be or should be. I’m still proud and I still believe in you. *cue the national anthem playing in the background, and an Eagle perching on my shoulder….And my head on Barack Obama’s body….but with his smile….* Too much detail…..

In Which the Wave Ends

I knew the wave of mania would end at some point. It stuck around for a good while, which was fortunate. But I’ve been expecting it for days, and the end finally arrived today, riding in with a cloud of rain as opposed to the cloud of fire that accompanied Moses and the Israelites. During these times I tend to have a lot to say and absolutely no words to say them with.  It’s when you’re restless, but you’re struggling with idleness. Your hands search for anything and everything as a means of occupation. You clean the bathroom. You sweep the hall, the kitchen, the laundry-room. You wash the dishes three times. Four times. You wipe the stove top and the counter down. You open the window, close the window, open the window again.  You pick at the strings on your guitar, but your fingers and your mind are too disconnected at the moment. It’s not music. It’s noise. And you finally force yourself to sit down and accept that you don’t really know what to do anymore.  You’re itching for some sign of life. A roll of thunder. A burst of laughter. Something. Anything. But the weight of silence, which first came crashing down, seeps into your skin and you slowly accept that there’s nothing. Nothing but the sound of the fan whirring on medium and your shallow breathing to fill the void. It’s these times that I take a deep breath and tell myself, “all you’ve got to do is survive. Just keep surviving. It doesn’t matter if you don’t do anything productive at all. Eat cookies, drink water, watch television, read, don’t read, daydream, toss, turn, settle down or don’t.  Just don’t give in.”