Family

SAD SKIN

I had my therapist laughing at my last visit, as usual. I am always direct, up front with her. It’s so refreshing to be honest with her. I was telling her about my conversation with my sister, about me not knowing how to do “this” and how I wish I could push myself up off my knees and be inspired. I told her how I have saved several hundred uplifting and inspirational quotes from various Facebook posts since Ben died and how my collection has grown exponentially over the last several months, saved on my laptop and my new smart phone. After I held up my phone for her to see, I tossed it down on my chair, chuckled and blurted out, “But that ain’t my life.” And she burst out laughing, at my dry humor and my honesty.

I am not there. And that definitely “ain’t my life.” I do want to be inspired. I’d love somebody or some words to pull me up. I really do. I believe there will come a time when that happens, and perhaps there will even be a time when I can inspire and lift up some other sad soul, but not now. So I’m saving those quotes for “later.”

In analyzing myself recently, trying to “improve my outlook” (meaning being less depressed and sad), I’ve gained some important insights. I know everything is in the interpretation, and I’ve discovered that as I’ve read these numerous “inspiring” quotes, I interpret them to say (to ME): “Quit sitting in your own shit! Get up! Move on! Inspire us!” I can watch others inspire, but I can’t inspire others. And I may never be able to…..because there is no blessing in my son’s death. Consequently, I feel like a failure…..because I am not able to stand up and proudly proclaim that I am strong and so powerful and so insightful and so appreciative of the lessons learned from my sorrow–I cannot overcome whatever life throws at me. I can’t. So, in lieu of being my own worst critic, I’m realizing that I am putting expectations on myself to be the Super Woman of Grief. Knowing full well that I can’t be. I’m learning it’s OK to admit this to myself: I AM NOT STRONG.

So, for the last few weeks, when I’ve read the words “Be strong!” I’ve been able to tell myself that there’s strength in admitting you are weak. And who in the heck even knows what “strong” is….after your son dies? What better way to eventually become strong and less sad than to admit that I am sad and miserable and 99.9 percent of the time “uninspire-able”? Is there a kinder way to become more inspiring, to yourself, than to be real? I don’t think so. So, because I can admit that I am weak and accept that I carry immeasurable volumes of deep, dark, ugly pain inside me, I can accept that I am the most comfortable being alone now. I don’t like being around people for very long, with the exception of the few people who allow me to be myself. And I am being kinder to myself and expecting way less of myself than I did just a few weeks ago. It’s not that I’m anti-social and fatalistic and not seeing any joy in this world. I am just being realistic. I like being alone. To me “alone” is a place where I don’t need to put on a performance for others, feeling as if I am being censored. It’s a place where I can remember sweet memories and grind through those troubling thoughts that take my mind captive. It is calming and therapeutic for me…..which is something I am beginning to realize, as I continue to lessen the expectations I put upon myself.

So, when I am alone, with my persistent grief around my neck, and I’m being introspective, I pat myself on my back, with a little bit of pride, because I am learning this:

I can accept that I am not just sad, I am devastated!!! My son died and I am damaged. There are ugly scars on my heart and slashes through the very core of me. But knowing that, I’m getting good at just being myself, feeling relieved when I don’t need to “perform” for others. I’m not fighting my sorrow. I AM my sorrow. And that’s what it takes, isn’t it? Taking a good look at myself and being honest? I’m getting to know who I am–where I am. And I’m lessening the impact and pressure I put upon myself when I feel like expectations are being put on me, by others and by myself. And, most importantly, I’m telling myself that it’s OK not to jump up and proclaim, “I am strong! I am invincible! Let me inspire you!” I am getting comfortable in my own skin.

So how about this for a post?

I am a mess. I am not OK. If you think I am getting better, you are wrong. I cry a lot….every day. I am just getting better at pretending. Often times I feel like a crazy woman! My only certainty in life right now is that I am going to die with a broken heart and there is nothing that can be said or done to change that! I cannot be “inspired” to run and hide from my grief. I miss my son with every ounce of my being. BUT……I am proud to say that I am becoming accepting of who I am and where I am….in this moment. I am being kind to myself. I am learning to live in my own skin. My sad skin, that is. Yes, you heard me……. I am learning to live in my own SAD skin.

Can honesty be inspiring?

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THE GLASS

I’ve always been the pull yourself up by your boot straps, look on the bright side, praying for strength and grace, and encouraging others kind of person. I love many, many people, including my wonderful husband, and I am blessed to have had immeasurable joy in my life. But my life equals my kids. My three kids, Ben, Nick and Gina. It’s been that way since Ben took his first breath. I am a mom to my core.

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THE DEAD BIRD DID IT

I was having a “good” day today. Work in the morning, lunch with Nick, a little nap. When dinner was in the oven I headed out to mow the lawn, rushing out the door so I could have most of the lawn done before my husband came home for dinner. While starting the push mower, I remembered my daughter telling me when she’d called me on the 4th of July that I should move down south where it’s warm because “you’re a different person when you’re working outside, Mom”. I’ve always loved to work outside, so I knew she was comparing the me of this summer with the me of last summer….right after Ben died when I couldn’t and didn’t do much of anything. I know it gives her comfort to see me functioning. Doing. So, I was a bit upbeat and energetic as I started to mow the lawn, thinking “Gina’s right. This feels good.”

I did several passes in my front yard and then I saw it. A dead bird on the pathway next to the garage. I was instantly taken back to the “orange circle” I had seen painted on that lonely road in Kansas where Ben had taken his last breath. Like that bird. Was this a mama bird? Or her son? Do birds grieve? Was a mama missing her baby as much as I’m missing Ben? I avoided looking at the bird again. I couldn’t look at it. But I knew it was there. Like my grief. There. It never leaves me. With me every second. I mowed around the flower garden I had put in last summer…..Ben’s Garden….the spot where I was standing when the words “love you” and “love you too” were last spoken between Ben and me as we ended our phone conversation less than 24 hours before he died. Sacred ground.

I got on the riding mower to mow the field behind our house. And that bird made me see it all back there in my backyard. Me putting Ben’s 5-month old butt on our ground for the first time ever…in the early spring with our elderly neighbor telling me, “Don’t put him down. The ground’s too cold.” The fire pit and bonfires and  marshmallows on sticks. Ben and his teenage friends ending their “party”–running out of the woods when Mom and Dad came home unexpectedly. 2-year old Ben in our swimming pool with his daddy.  Endless summer days playing in the sandbox and swimming in the pool with friends. The holes in the tree used for target practice. That rusty 55-gallon drum that Ben and his buddy Matt had to “get off” someone’s property so they put it in our woods, promising they would remove it. The barrel is still here. Ben is not. The two new huge flower pots that Ben helped me fill with dirt. Ben laying in the grass by the back deck sleeping. My husband and me building the wooden play set for the boys when Ben was about 7. Torture, torture, torture every which way I turned the lawn mower. Snapshots of 27 years with Ben. Sobbing and talking to myself out loud. Mopping my tears with my t-shirt. Thinking I can’t do this. I can’t do this any more. I hate it. I want to die! I hate being sad. I hate knowing I’m going to be sad every day for the rest of my life. Varying degrees, I know, as time goes on, but every day. Sad every day for the rest of my life! Why Ben? I shut off the lawn mower thinking, “People are crazy if they can’t see that I’m crazy. I’m a crazy mother.” I went into the house and got my dinner out of the oven and set our table.

The dead bird did it today.  That’s all it took….a dead bird trigger.