When I broke my neck in May of 2009, I decided to start writing a blog. Initially, my only goal was to pour out some of what was in my head. I was 47 years old. A mother of two daughters, six and seven years old, and I was broken, physically broken. Writing helped me to normalize the chaos in my brain. Writing helped me to clarify the who, what, where, when, how, and whys of parenting, mothering, suffering, loving and living in my body at this time. Here I am, 7 years later, with over 1000 blog postings over different forums, still pounding out the words. 2017 is a pivotal year for me, you, them, all of us. My writing will be a reflection of my life as I try to make a change and demonstrate to my teenaged daughters why I believe what I believe and how one voice can be the difference. Here is where I will begin, or rather continue, the journey. This is my place.
I am suffering from insomnia. A brutal pattern has developed where I sleep for 30-40 minutes of each hour. I will literally wake up, see the clock, notice the hour, say 1:10am, and wake again at 1:50. Then the 2 o’clock hour is similar and on and on. The alarm goes off at 4:45am every morning. That’s when my husband gets up. I turn off the alarm.
I have taken to waking again at 7am to see my daughter before she leaves for school and then my assistant shows up at 7:45 so I should get out of bed then. Sometimes she lets me sleep until 8:30. It’s an unspoken awareness that I probably need to sleep.
Insomnia robs you of more than just restful sleep. It is physically harmful. Since my home burned down 2 years ago and my daughter went away to college this past August, my sleep pattern has been getting progressively worse. It doesn’t help that our dog died 5 weeks ago and I sold my business 2 months ago. I don’t have much to occupy my days anymore. Recently college applications have taken some time and ordering kitchen and bar ware has taken some attention; but for the most part I am home, alone, worrying about the state of my home, my family, my marriage, my husband’s health and his enormous business. I think the worry has contributed to the insomnia.
My nightly ritual : they say this could help relieve the insomnia; involves me saying goodnight to my husband 3-4 hours before I am planning to go to bed. My daughter washing her face usually signals my brain to begin to wind down. Of course I am watching TV so depending on the show, the wind down can be delayed. I walk back to my bedroom, after taking my pills and drinking my tea, brush my teeth, and climb into bed.
I take 3-4 deep cleansing breaths. If it triggers a coughing fit (asthma), I get up and use the inhaler. Then I start doing my bed situps/crunches. I do 100 crunches. 50 upper abs, 50 lower abs. At this point I start my prayers. I say The Act of Contrition, Hail Mary, and an Our Father. Occasionally I do crunches as I say these 3 prayers. My prayer list is long and done by rote. I have added people to the list but the “regulars” are pretty set.
Ann and Jessa. Plus (Joshua/Jacob. I’m not sure of the brother’s name but I’m sure God knows so I say both names)
Vali and Zack. (plus the two sisters. I do not know their names at all. I say “the twin and the younger sister”. Again, God knows.
Kim and Ted, Samantha and Maddie.
Liz, Dan and Olivia
Renee, Paige, Connor and George.
Here is where I add the new prayer list people:
Mary Asher, Melissa Gayle Coon Herst, Margie Goshe, Claire Passanisi.
Grace and Lea Stockham (yes, I say their last names)
Declan and Corinne.
Justine and PJ.
Brandon and Sarah.
Ande and Syd, Shani, Anthony and Lee.
Moana and Hannah.
Dani and Boyd. I pray for myself in third person.
A few days ago I added Becky Dillard to my list because she just had a knee replacement.
Now it’s time for sleep. But sleep won’t come. I try some more crunches. No, I do not have a six pack but under the layer of tummy fat, I think there is firm core strength.
And so it goes night after night. Dark circles for days. Nerve pain and RA pain. Rest is critical when you have an auto-immune disease but unless I nap during the day, which I have plenty of time to do but never seem to actually do, I am operating on 3-5 hours of interrupted sleep. IT IS NOT NEARLY ENOUGH. I have no solution. I should just sleep during the day. It’s not like I’m needed anywhere. I might become one of those people who have “non-24”. You know, like blind people? Day is night and night is day. I don’t know. I have read all of my books. There are 2 new ones I just received so I guess I’ll start them. Last night I went into the bed at 10:35. My husband woke up to ask me why I was there? Then I did my crunches and my prayers and the coughing started. I got up at 11:45, went to the kitchen to try and “cough it out” but I ended up using the inhaler and finishing my book, reading until 2:00am. I woke to the 4:45 so that was cool. Almost 3 straight hours. I woke again at 7 and took a picture of my daughter before she left for Starbuck’s and school. Then I slept until 8:25. My assistant arrived at 8:25 and my dog barked. It’s 10:52 right now. I’m still in pajamas. I just had a doozie of a fight with my husband. I have 6 hours of sleep under my belt but I feel exhausted. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically. Happy Monday. Veterans’ Day. 11/11/2019
Nope. Not gonna do it. Not going to write about “the news”. I am going to discuss Christmas. More importantly, Christmas trees. Please let me state, for the record, that I have a long standing tradition that dove tails quite nicely with my deep seated belief that Christmas trees need to be Real. Fresh cut, alive even, but most assuredly not artificial. Many, countless, several, years ago I jumped up on my high horse and I proclaimed that I would never own an artificial tree as my primary Christmas tree. Since 1992, my husband and I have been making our pilgrimage to “A Spirit of Christmas” tree farm in Sebastopol, CA. We went when we were dating. We went when we were married. We took our girls from infancy through 2017. In 2017 we went to the Christmas tree farm hosted by the Graton Fire Department. We went here because our home burned to the ground in October of 2017 and we felt drawn to this farm. Last year (2018) we went back to “A Spirit of Christmas” and commented on the sad state of available trees. So this year…
This year we are predicted to be in our newly rebuilt home. Predicted to be in by December 15. Our tradition has always been to get our tree the first weekend in December, after the company Holiday Party. This year is massively different. I have a daughter in college and her break begins on December 13. We should get our tree on December 14, based on this fact. But what if we are just moving back HOME? Where am I putting the tree? Am I putting a fresh tree on my brand new floors? I’m actually stressed about this. So stressed that I found myself looking at artificial trees.
I am sure you all know that artificial trees range from$100 to upwards of $5000, depending on where you look. I used to say that no amount of money could duplicate the look, smell or feel of a freshly cut tree but I bet that $5000 tree comes close!
I don’t know what to do!
I toyed with the idea of buying 5 or 6 tinsel trees. In blue and silver. Small, maybe 3 feet tall. And placing them around my new home. Is this a cop out? Where will Santa put the gifts? Someone help me with this decision. I can just about 100% guarantee that my husband will be apathetic and my daughters will be steadfast in their beliefs that it’s REAL or nothing. But truthfully doing NOTHING is not an option.
The new house has tons of storage space and we could easily buy the grandest artificial tree ever created by man and use it this year and reuse it every year after that and supplement with a fresh cut tree starting next year?
I just texted my family.
Me: “If we move in December 15, 2019 what are we doing about a Christmas tree? Cutting one down? Buying 5 or 6 tinsel trees in iced blue and silver? Investing in a spectacular artificial tree that we will reuse year after year? I am legit stressed about this. I need your opinions.”
Husband: “probably buy a real tree, you snark.”
Me: “Like cut one down?”
Husband: Thumbs up emoji
Daughter 1:”I honestly like the tinsel tree idea and an artificial one too!!!!”
Daughter 1: “MY final decision is a spectacular artificial one!! 4 heart emojis”
Daughter 2: “I’m down for anything”
Daughter 1 “let’s change up our traditions with the tree this year cause it’s a new house and everything!!! I loved cutting down a tree but it was always so hard finding a good one tbh!!”
Here is the story of my life.
Essentially I don’t know anyone who lives in my home. I barely know myself. Merry Christmas y’all. We are going to stick with a real tree this year and I can guarantee there will be at least one tinsel tree in the house as well.
#NABLOPOMO2019 Day 3.
Here is my side of the imaginary conversation I am having with the contractor who is rebuilding my family home after the wildfire of 2017 destroyed it.
It actually pains me to have to have this conversation with you today. Today is day 560 of the rebuild. Initially I was “promised” that we would be living in our home on the 2 year anniversary of the fire. For your reference that was 26 days ago. 26 days doesn’t seem like much of an overage, and actually I agree that it isn’t. EXCEPT….the next ‘promised” deadline was Thanksgiving, aka November 28, and this will come and go and we still won’t be in our home. The new “promised” date is December 15 and forgive me if I do not believe this for a second. Here is my problem: you seem to be a weak business man. Your subs are also weak and you do not have the resources, connections or infrastructure to remedy this situation. Almost daily I am wondering how you became my client instead of the way it should be: I AM YOUR CLIENT!!!!!!
The mental and emotional strain this rebuild has put on my family, and in particular, my husband, is crushing. The level of professionalism we are used to compared to what you are exhibiting is miles apart. The actual health of my family has been jeopardized by your ineptitude. We are filled with regret over hiring you and yet we are stuck. What are the chances I will celebrate Christmas 2019 in my home? I do not have any faith in you at all. It is not a great feeling.
Because I believe in the sandwich technique, I want to point out a few positives before I end this chat with you. Thank you for Kayse. She has gone over and above in every way designing our home. She is a professional. She responds to our requests and concerns in a timely fashion and her taste is unrivaled. Thank you for allowing my husband to choose some of his own subs. If we waited on you, well…forget that. From the pool contractor to the electrician, to the sound guys; we are thrilled with them and all of their personal dedication to our project.
What is your plan for all of the mistakes? Do you fully understand the concept that we REFUSE to move in until every item on the punch list is corrected? Do you get that we have zero desire to see another contractor type working on our home once we put the furniture in? Do you get that????? Let’s pretend you do. You have 41 days to button this project up. FORTY-ONE days. That is it. I am asking you to do something I have no evidence you are capable of doing, but I am asking anyways….Rally your troups! Lead your men. Work the extra days and the extra hours to complete the job. The one thing that has never been an issue from us is payment. If you actually busted out the work in a timely fashion, there would be no question on the prices. What is the disconnect? Why am I not your priority? I feel compelled to add, at this point, that you should know who we are by now. You have seen how quickly we (my husband) can get shit done. We have demonstrated our reach in the arena of “friends and connections”; do you really want to F this up and have us tell the truth about our working relationship with you? It seems short sighted to me.
At this point, we are so apathetic about the entire rebuild. We have flashes of excitement when we visit the house on the weekends and we see for ourselves that it is real; but our hopes have been dashed so many times over the last 2 years that we can’t even relish in the potential joy we will have once we move in. Can you please commit to me right now, that you will do everything in your power to give my family Christmas on Clearbrook Court? Can you stretch yourself and put us back on top of your priority list so that we don’t slip into year 3 post fire without a place to call home? I’m asking. I won’t beg. You owe us. Don’t disappoint us again.
This kind of wrecked me since I just posted advice to myself. But it’s pretty spot on as well.
Day 12: what would you tell your 15-year-old self and how would the advice change your life?
I wonder how Veronica B Em Dee came up with age 15 as her choice? My 15th year was doozy!!!!
Dear Dani Jane Phillips,
Stop telling people you hate your middle name. It doesn’t need to be explained as, “Tarzan’s wife”. Jane comes from your beloved grams, Carrie Jane. How can you feel about her the way you do and disregard the beauty of the name? Stop it. You are really hot shit right now. All cheerlead-y and track-y and popular and boyfriend-y. That shit is about to come crashing down on you like a fuck ton of bricks. Rheumatoid Arthritis is going to take from you everything that you let it. For some unknown reason, you gave it your all. Instead of fighting it like a mad woman, you crumbled under…
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Sunscreen. Body image. Truths. Sex. Drinking.
NABLOPOMO2019 day 2. What five things would you tell your younger (teenaged) self?
Dani: Wear sunscreen! Every day. You live in Arizona and you swim, what are you thinking? Well I know what you are thinking, you think you are fat and you believe that fat looks better if it is tanned. You are wrong. On both counts. You are not fat. How could a full grown woman weighing under 105 pounds be fat? You are 5 feet tall. You even claim the 3/4″ that some doctor said went along with the 5 feet. You are not fat. You have body dysmorphia. This dysmorphia has been worsened by your chosen boyfriend. He thinks everyone is fat. He never said you were fat, you just gleaned this from his incessant comments about every gorgeous coed he said was either, not pretty or too fat. So you wore jeans everyday. Never shorts. It is over 100 degrees every day in Tucson but you sweat in jeans. The only time you don’t feel fat is when you visit your sisters. They see the true you. They know I am not fat. If only you could tell the truth. About everything. From how you feel to what you believe to why you do the things you do. You know what I am talking about. Binge drinking and having sex on the first date. By the time you figure this out, you will be well past your twenties. All boys are willing to have sex with you on the first date. It’s up to you to decide if this makes sense, feels good, rings true etc. You rarely feel good about yourself after you do this but that actually feels good because you think you are fat and gross so if someone desires me then maybe I’m not? Complicated shit for a young Dani to figure out.
Drinking has been a thing for a long time. In your future you will see that drinking is not even important. You can have a conversation without it. You can love someone without it. You can sing and dance and laugh without it. And you are not a sophisticated drinker. Even though you drink expensive champagne, you still binge on it until you black out or vomit. Not cool. You will figure this out. It’s gonna take some time and the right man to switch your mindset, but it’s gonna happen. Wait until you have kids and they start going to parties. You will pray they don’t act like you did. PRAY. Literal prayers.
The sex thing is complicated. You waited to get started and then you went a bit crazy for a few years. You were “that girl” but it didn’t even register that that was a bad thing. The feedback was immediate and it felt good. You ended up spending over 8 years with a guy you had a SERIOUS make-out session with on the first date but you waited 6 weeks to sleep with. He demanded sex every day. It wasn’t a chore. It was amazing. He went home for vacations so there were weeks you went without him and sex so it was fine. His feedback was positive and you knew that the sex kept him close. That much you knew. When the relationship ended, sex became something vengeful. You were filled with self-loathing and anger. You used sex to hurt people and to continue to hurt yourself. It was a dark time. Then you met him. The man who would become your husband, life partner, father of your children. He wanted someone with experience because he had friends facing divorce because of infidelity and he didn’t want that. (Check) He had tons of experience as well. He was polite. Charming. He said I was beautiful and sexy and smart and a challenge and he kissed me on the cheek after our first date. We made love for the first time after a month of dating. That was a big deal and it turned out to be THE BIG DEAL that would change my heart forever. That was 27 years ago. He still adores me and I love him completely.
The best thing about these five things is that I have ZERO regrets. Not a single one. The pain, the wrinkles, the heartache, the self hatred…I needed all of it to get to today. Today I am solid. Married. A mother. In love. Settled in my squishy mom bod. I still drink expensive champagne but I am a light weight. I get drunk easily and I haven’t vomited in years. So five things my younger self needed to know turns out to be five things I didn’t know but I know now and yet I am ok with and I was ok without the information. Unless I die. From skin cancer. Or obesity. Or an incurable, long time latent, STD. Or liver failure.
Come on….why you gotta be like that?
I don’t have to. It’s my sarcasm. I am fine. On all accounts.
November 2019 begins with a new NABLOPOMO challenge. The first prompt is about what scares me the most and why. Without a doubt, my biggest fear is one of my daughters getting hurt in some way. I am not talking about emotional pain, I mean real injuries sustained either in a car accident or some other injury situation. My eldest is away at college in Southern California so if she were to sustain an injury of any kind, I would need a few hours to get to her. Just know that I would 100% be getting to her if she were injured. I worry about her a lot and much of my worry is around the fact that she does not drive so she is at the “mercy” of other college aged drivers. Additionally she has a seizure condition so she could sustain an injury from a fall or something like that. That is worrisome on a whole ‘nother level.
My younger daughter causes me to fear for her safety in about 100 different ways on a weekly basis. She is a senior in high school. She drives so there is that. She has had her license and her car for a bit over one year. She has one speeding ticket. She was rear ended on the freeway in the fast lane and she has had a few “near misses”. Her driving scares me. Not to mention all the other teenagers she drives around and around with. The fear is real every time she drives away. This child is also an athlete. I am usually pretty afraid that she will get injured in her game. She has had 2 concussions. A quad injury. A knee injury and several back injuries. Thankfully this is her last season playing competitive sports. <——- actually cannot believe I just typed that. She has played competitive soccer for 11 years. She could totally play in college. She has letters of interest from over 112 colleges. But she is done. I can soon take that fear and worry off my list. Teenagers are pretty fearless. I see my girls take risks that I never would have taken but I see them avoid risks that I took with abandon.
Being scared that something will happen to my girls is pretty much second nature to me. I know that they will get hurt. Odds are they will. I have zero control over this. I have imparted my knowledge and experience on the both of them and that is where my power begins and ends. I try not to obsess over possibilities. I endeavor to stay positive and not waste precious time worrying about what ifs. Fear is a gift with purchase. You receive it when you are a mother. I have a double dose. I just checked the SnapMap and my younger daughter is a the coast. I did not know she was going there. When she left she said she was hanging out with some friends. I assumed she was around here at someone’s home. Now I am scared she will get too close to freezing cold ocean water or get struck by a sneaker wave because she isn’t paying attention. Damn! Wish I hadn’t looked at the location map. Should I text her? Ask her what she is doing? Even though I already know? The stress….the fear….the worry. It’s a lot. This is my pocket. Until they are both fully grown and flown I will continue this pattern of worry/relief, scared/relief. It is the way it is. I ask the universe to keep my girls safe. I pray for their actual safety. So far I think it has been working. fingers crossed it stays that way.
Two years ago our lives changed in the most unimaginable way. I am using the milestone of the two year anniversary as a way of contextualizing the current grief my family is suffering with. The wildfire that destroyed our home, devastated our community and shattered dreams was so all-encompassing that the 725 days since that fire have transpired like a slow moving lava flow and we are feeling burned and battered still.
Many began to rebuild. Some were either unable or unwilling to even consider a rebuild. We were in the former group but here we are, 2 years hence, and we are filled with regrets. The process has been glacier like in speed. The obstacles were, at times, insurmountable. Our hearts were bandied about as delays and broken promises piled on top of weather issues and unreliable contractors. If this was the only thing we had going on in our lives, I suppose it would have felt differently. However; it was one of a million struggles we faced over the last 2 years and few people have any understanding or the ability to stand, where we stand.
The fire stole much more than our new home. It took all of our memories and our plans as well. As we dealt with insurance and tried to gather a team to help us rebuild, we simultaneously managed a multi-million dollar business, a child in a mental health crisis, another child in a fragile state of anger, sadness, rage and regret, a strained marriage, personal health issues and a beloved dog with a lung cancer diagnosis on top of a myeloma cancer battle. From the outside we were warriors. Inside we were deteriorating.
As I look back over the past seven hundred plus days I have to focus and refocus on the positives. Without this mind trick I would be a crumpled pile of sadness. My eldest daughter graduated from high school. After more than 8 years of emotional challenges, she went to college. She is thriving in a way I only dreamed about and I am forced to reanalyze just how much the fire impacted her mental and emotional state in addition to her pre-existing condition. This is not an analysis I want to make. Individually, my family of 4 dealt with the fire losses in a vacuum. Collectively, we dealt with the losses OUT LOUD IN ANGER. We were in counseling and PTSD groups. We prayed and cried and blamed and raged but we stayed together. Fractured. Shattered. Broken. But bandaged and trying to heal.
I made a commitment 26 years ago to a man I love deeply. We brought two beautiful daughters into our love and created a family that rivaled my wildest dreams. We built a hugely successful business after many lean years; with the help of a tremendous group of employees and friends. But we were not indemnified from pain, suffering, sadness, loss, grief, sickness, tragedy, betrayal…even fire. We did not have a clear path to our current place. I am well aware of how we look to the outside world. We look fortunate and blessed. In many ways we are. But we are carrying burdens as well. A sick child is one of the most difficult things to endure. The pressure the rest of the family feels from one member’s sickness can cripple the entire family. We were crippled for many years.
Yesterday we put our beloved Labrador, Dexter, to sleep. He fought his cancer for 7 months with chemo and natural remedies and we loved him completely all along the way. He was about to turn 11. His birthday is October, 20. But he was in pain and he was not himself and we couldn’t bear to wait until we ended up carrying him into the Vet, so we made the decision to say goodbye yesterday. He still had his dignity. My husband, daughter and I ushered him to heaven at 5:00p.m. on October, 1, 2019. My eldest had a FaceTime session with him before we took him in and she thanked him for helping her through the toughest days, weeks and years as she struggled with her anxiety and panic attacks. She told him she could not have survived without him there to comfort her. She said he was her truest friend because he loved her every day. She is mourning this loss away from home, in college, alone. If you visited any of our homes over the last 10+ years, Dexter either barked at you, jumped on you, licked you or begged from you. He was the epitome of a lab and we will miss him forever.
Our home is not completely rebuilt. The October deadline will come and go. The November deadline may pass as well. The concrete around the pool and all along the back patio is failing. It has fissures and cracks in it. This will further delay the already delayed, move in date. No one cares. We cannot believe how apathetic we have become about the home. Our loss was monumental and the rebuild was the salve. Now the rebuild is more of a tease than a reality and we are all numbed up.
I don’t expect any sympathy. I don’t want any. Our life is full of stuff. Good stuff, bad stuff, difficult stuff, celebratory stuff; but it is far from perfect. We are not special. We are just doing our best. We want our girls to be happy, healthy and stable. We want our marriage to continue to grow and survive despite the cracks and breaks and shattered hearts that come with the life we created. Missing Dexter reminds us of our first lab, Dalton. That reminds us of the urn with his ashes that perished in the fire. It always leads back to the fire. One day, I hope and pray, the fire will be an anecdote instead of the headline, in the life of us. It is the only life we get, as far as we know, and we have had one big life so far. I, for one, am ready for small and tidy. More than ready. Survey says: we all agree.
The pressure is intense. The feeling that something, make that everything, is off. Off balance. Off kilter. Off the charts complicated. That is my today. It was also my yesterday, week, month, year. My parenting cup runneth over. Over flowing with all kinds of stressors and drama and health issues and trauma. Yes, the trauma still surfaces on a regular basis. I am so sick of it. All of the Capital” IT” shit.
My offspring baffle me. I do not fully understand how disfunction has been passed down to them. (did you miss me? I had to go laugh my fucking ass off at that last line)
Both of my daughters are obsessed (in the best/worst possible way) with unrequited love interests. Without naming names….AJ and JP (kidding. These are teenagers, I would never do that) RJ and PJ. (Kidding again) Mark and Julius. Nom de plumes.
Anyhow, they like boys who do not like them back. And when I say don’t like them back I mean a few different thing…
- the boys don’t even know my girls like them
- the boys have actually said, “I don’t like you like that”
- the friendships will never be romances but how can that be?
- the obsessing is private and only I know about it (or so they think)
- it has been going on for YEARS!!!!!!
Move on ladies. If it were me…and it is not…I would be kissing every Tom, Dick and Harry (we need a new trio of names!) and finding a real boy to like me back. But noooooooooo…
…..they stay in the orbit of these boy men and drive themselves nutso crazy over every look, word, etc. I am so over hearing about so and so likes so and so and how can so and so not know that I like them?? Mom, it’s so unfair. I’m a good person. I just don’t get it.
Yeah, I know. No one gets it and if you keep holding a torch for this “going nowhere” imaginary relationship, YOU WILL NEVER GET IT!!!!! Go to college already!!!! Jesus.
And in the meantime…do some fucking homework!!! Your grades suck ass. This boy has taken enough of your study time already. I bet these boys have good grades. Why wouldn’t they? They are the object of the affection. That takes zero effort. Just bask in the glory. Meanwhile my girls are scribbling names on papers and day dreaming about kissing lips.
Yes, it’s a different time. No I cannot relate. If I liked someone, except for Goobs, back in the day. When I just followed him around on my bike trying to catch a glimpse of him being cute. He was much older than I was too so….
Ask the question. Live with the answer. MOVE ON!!!!!
There cannot just be one boy for every girl. Kiss a frog. Who cares??? Life is long. This entire time suck is going to come back to haunt the both of you. You will not look back fondly on your time wasted obsession. At least I was getting exercise when I was following Goobs around. And seriously,,, Goobs? What was his real name even? Maybe Steve Goobner? I am cracking up. Did I make that up? I may have. My memory fails me. But know this, my daughters, your mom was not waiting around for a boy to like her back. I was making moves and kissing lips. Real lips. Boys like kissing. Find a real live set and pucker up.
Guess what? Every single time I have typed the word “boys” in this blog, my fingers typed the word “boyd”. That is who I am kissing. Boyd Stockham. Your father. 27 years of smooching those lips. Trust me, he kissed a million girls and I kissed a million boys before we started kissing each other….no one cares. You will remember 3 types of kisses in your life…
- your first kiss (Jeff Noftz)
- Your worst kiss ( sloppy McSlopperton (junior year in high school, I forget his name)
- Your last kiss….every damn day for the last 9855 days.
The imaginary ones don’t matter. Next.
It is impossible to live life in a vacuum. You cannot wall yourself off from realities and feelings for very long before the truth creeps in and deflates your safety balloon. I have been thinking about how people compartmentalize their feelings so that they can function day to day and how when this practice becomes second nature, the authentic feelings get rationalized into distortion.
Aging is supposed to give you the ability to be more tolerant. But what if it really makes you more reactionary and judgmental? What if you “say” that you will not judge people, you will just accept their differences and be kind but your nature is in conflict with your proclamations?
Does saying that you are a “happy” person”, belie your truth? Can you be happy and still be disappointed in family and intolerant of others? Is it possible to say, “I love them but we just don’t have anything in common”? Can you care enough to do anything for someone but be so disconnected from the person that saying one thing and feeling another doesn’t even register as untrue? YES. YES. YES.
Here is the issue I have with all of this; if I were asked today if I am happy, I would have to say no. Not because I am particularly unhappy but because my happiness is connected to so many other people and situations and therefore, today, I am not happy.
My Labrador has cancer. His bloodwork just showed that after 2 years of chemo, he is out of remission. The chemo isn’t working anymore. Plus, he has a fist sized tumor on his lung and his behavior has been way off. He is currently undergoing an MRI of his brain, a CT of his lung and radiographs of his spine. Big decisions will be made concerning our 10 year old lab when we get the results of these diagnostics today. My friend has cancer. She finished her chemo and had her surgery. Now she is recovering. It’s unfair. She is mother with 3 kids who need her. I have 4 names on my cancer prayer board. I used to have 5 names but one person lost their battle last month. The 4 remaining names are all women. My daughter suffers from crippling anxiety. Her panic attacks and OCD have caused me, personally, so much trauma that I am almost afraid of her. I know, as a thinking mother, that her pain dwarfs my own, but I am still suffering. My husband and I have spent 100’s of 1000’s of dollars on treatment, therapy and support for her during her 17+ years on the planet and no end is in sight. And I don’t give 2 fucks about the $$$, I just want her to be happy and healthy for longer than a few days. My husband is burning the candle at both ends. From the outside we probably look like we have the world by the balls. But from the inside we know we do not.
Our home burned down. My health is a daily struggle. My eldest daughter is in a mental health crisis and my younger child has nothing that she can depend on consistently. Not friendships, not her family’s health, not a house she can call home, not a surety about her sister’s future, not a feeling of confidence about her beloved dog…but she gets no breaks. She is labeled as a bitch. People don’t understand what our life is like. And yet I still have boundless empathy for others. Walk a mile in my shoes…
Building a new home after a fire is not a labor of love. It is a micromanagement nightmare and there is no schedule that will satisfy the incredible sense of unease that my family feels around the “completion date”. Sure, we are fortunate. Yes, we can afford to build exactly what we can dream. But that isn’t by chance. That took 25+ years of backbreaking sacrifice by my husband. Building a business from our garage in our 1 bedroom apartment to the current success we are seeing today. There is no trust fund. There is no rich Dad. It was blood, sweat and tears. So many fucking tears.
We ask why a lot. What did we do to deserve all of this? That question is not about the good things, that is about the bad things.
Our reality is heavily weighted with tragedy. But we push on. We smile. We share. We donate and support and give and sponsor and enjoy every smile and thank you. But it comes with a cost.
So, no, you can’t live in a vacuum. You have to stand in your reality and it doesn’t always feel great. Having empathy for others and sympathy for yourself is a tangled web. Taking the time to acknowledge your own pain and shortcomings is not a cop out. Self care is paramount to survival. I needed this rant. The buildup has been coming on for a long time. I offer no tidy wrap ups with a bow on top. We are plowing through life with pain and struggle surrounded by love and compassion for others. We are insulating ourselves from the disappointments of the world around us by trying to focus on our own healing. Mental and physical healing alike. I wish I didn’t have all of this piled high on my plate. I long for an emptier plate and a bit more “breathing room”. I pray for emotional peace, physical healing and mental clarity. I strive for balance with what I know and what I hope for. I want to tolerate differences the same way I demonize discriminations. These are the aspirational rantings of a happily unhappy 50 something with an incurable, progressively destructive disease, married with 2 children, 2 dogs and 1 wondercat. Just your everyday American, believing in the dream but standing in a virtual nightmare. Too much? Some days it is actually too little.
Speaking of vacuums….suck it up. Right?