Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Can I have a safe word? The weight too heavy. There are weights we carry that by their very existence hone and strengthen inside of us a place of resilience we never believed we possessed. I have always been resilient. I remember being Lola's age, in the back of the car as we drove, and my mother telling me I'd worry about Lura if I died, but not you. I know you'd be OK. Since then I have weathered many hardships, sometimes horribly gracelessly, but still- I did it- and found each one- Mr. Curry's bipolar, my horrific panic attacks, my medical ordeal and surgeries, subsequent bankrupt debt, Mr. Curry's loss of business- truly did strengthen me, teach me about navigating pain, fear, relationships. Life. With Dakota I feel only the weightlessness of a void below me. The whistling of air past my face. Having small, happy children apparently made up more of my self-esteem than I realized. Now that I have a tall, unhappy 17 year old, it feels as much about me as it does about him. I say feel. Because I don't know. I'm smart enough- at least- to know I don't know. Nothing else I've encountered- my marriage problems, financial hardships, physical pain- has undermined my sense of self so neatly and cleanly, so simply and swiftly, as my son's struggle. I keep thinking lately about how much shame is attached when we don't feel or think the way we think we should. I am ashamed that what is happening to my son feels so much like it's happening to me. That's not healthy. It may be motherhood, though. It's real. Maybe it's the exact reason why my son is now staying at his grandmother's house, 15 minutes from where we live.Flesh of my flesh.I have scribbled down and recorded many of the sweet and loving things my son has said to me as he grew up. I have loaded books of photos of the two of us, laughing, kissing, hugging. I wonder if I did something so crucially wrong for his temperment and needs that he could not keep his feet on ground. Perhaps another mother- one less loving, maybe, but more beautifully organized, more constant in routine- not! a writer- might have served him better. Kept him safe. When he was small, and then even not so small, and something was scaring him, he would come to me and tell me about it, and we would have a huddle. The two of us would sit and talk it out, and afterward he would tell me, with supreme confidence, Mommy nothing will ever be too much for me, because I have you. How can I let go of that? Where is the letting go door? How do I walk through it?

Sometimes I say as many as six impossible things before breakfast, and here is one: I will let go of this pain.
It's not supposed to be mine. It's not happening to me.

A door through a door. I step through his eyes and into him, a particularly female act, and believe I know how he feels, what he thinks, who he is. I do, I do know what I know, and I know it well. It's the rest, the landscape that has formed privately without me over the last few years, that I do not know that I must accept. This is a person now, completely separate from me, and were he safe, were he OK, I could let go perhaps, at a more timidly scheduled pace. But this thing he's struggling with is breaking up all the scheduled stops, and I am not damn well letting go of him while his legs dangle over this void. I am his mother. What that means when he is 17 and fighting something dark, I don't know. I'm learning it.
There is a whole family here. Two daughters, another son, a husband, a wife. All here too. I love them. I don't want to and will not allow myself to abandon joy in them; abdicate a 'normal life'. But what is our life then, carrying this with it? How do you make room for something so hard in the pace of a day: the teeth brushing, driving, homework, work, baths, dinnertime talk? Is there room for both pain, fear, hurt and the routine of family life? I don't know what that looks like. Now it seems this bleeds into the most unexpected moments, and suddenly I am crying, and there is the rest of the family, looking at me. Crying, again. In this way I am beginning to feel myself failing, flailing. My husband is tired of this. Cracks are forming in our marriage. The weight. When you don't know what to do, do nothing? I'm quiet now. Waiting for signs, a hand of God, the right book, the right person, the right article.

My husband....a note on him. Sometimes I stand back, and look at him through the years, the changes he's made, the progress, his steady, quiet way of changing, so different than my mad flailings, his introspection so slow and constant at times that it seems infuriatingly still- stagnant, I think meanly at times, when I'm hurt or scared- but it's not still. It is his way of moving forward in life, not mine, and at times when I can get the perspective to stand back and see how hard he's worked on bettering our family, our marriage, then I am deeply touched. I try hard to see what love looks like from the other people in my family, because it doesn't come out the same for each person. Seeing how each person expresses love can be the key to feeling deeply loved. For Ever, it's an open mouthed tongue thrust or a smile so large it looks like it's eating her face. Love!

One woman, telling the truth about my life.
Anonymous said...

and your son still has YOU; HER MOM!!!
hope things get better soon!!

... maggie, i know about my good feelings toward you but don´t know how to express my thoughts. oh.
courage, my girl!!

~L said...

you are validated mother Maggie.
you are real, honest, compassionate and hopeful.
I learn from your words.
I learn to feel and think deeply, deeper.
To appreciate your truth, know your soul, feel yourself living...LOVE.

peace friend ~L

StrangeBird said...

It seems a little crass to say so, given the pain you express in this post - but it was so beautifully written. I feel like I'm right there with you. May answers be on your horizon.

Catherine said...

I'm sorry. I have 5 boys, really young men now, and I can tell you that their growing pains were far more painful than labor pain. Like labor, those pains are inevitable and worse for some than others.

I never prayed until my kids hit that age when I think most of us do go "crazy". Most of us stablilize or learn to deal with it. Until that happens, the pain for those suffering is enormous and it's not just the kid who feels this horror.

Ms. Moon said...

Oh darling. What a lie it is when we push that baby out and think, "I am done!"
We think we are done with the labor pains but we have only begun. The pains are not the same, but they are as intense, and more so.
Do you remember how, right before the pushing begins, that is the moment when we all say, "I can't do this?"
Of course you do.
Well, here you are again. Both you and Dakota.
And just as the midwife says to the woman who is saying, "I can't do this," I will say to you, "Of course you can. You ARE doing it."
You and Dakota are birthing again. He is being born into being a man.
You are being born into being the mother of a man.
Yes. It's hard. It has to be.
But you'll both be fine. And there will be joy again.

Brigindo said...

"Mommy nothing will ever be too much for me, because I have you."

He still has that knowledge and that knowledge is letting him walk away (but only 15 minutes away) and find what he needs right now. At 17 the bond can feel too close for them (somehow its never to close for us) but that doesn't mean it isn't there and that it isn't working. You are mothering in a new way. Our mothering changes throughout our children's lives but the change at young adulthood seems particularly brutal (at least it did to me). The pain must be excruciating when it occurs along with the darkness that he's facing but the work you are doing now and the work you've done the past 17 years are not in vain. He and your relationship will prevail.

Fousty said...

i don't know the situation, but i know what it's like to be 17. i know what it's like to be a slightly suicidal 17 year old. i know how hard it was for me to get through the ten years following 17. these times are hard for a lot of us. things are messy. our poor brains.

he will be okay. this is a hard, hard time, but he has this great foundation. even though you might feel like the floor is coming out from under him, or he might feel that way... it's still there. the floor is still there. it will always be there, and one day you will both see it again.

i went through a lot of things, because i was so severely depressed. i was so hurt. it was so hard. i was so lost. i have great parents. they couldn't have done anything differently. it had nothing at all to do with them, and looking at it, i can see that they gave me the courage to push through. in everything they taught me growing up, they gave me the courage to push through the other side. i had the courage to hold on.

you just hold on mamma. hunker down. he will make it through.

Anonymous said...

You have done absolutely nothing wrong. Where there is love, there is no wrong.

I always look for signs, too. I hope you see, hear, or feel some soon.

YES Gallery + Studio said...

Oh, Maggie. Heavy burden for sure. More than one man in my life has told me that when they were a struggling teen/young adult someone gave them the book "Way of the Peaceful Warrior" and it changed their life. Just passing along, because I know you believe in the power of writing. I myself was saved by 'Franny & Zooey' and 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' when I was 19 and slammed with severe panic disorder. I hold a space of peace for Dakota, and hope this is a time of being forged in the fire, like steel, and will emerge transformed and transcendent. xo

mosey (kim) said...

I am so glad you are here, beautifully and painfully articulating life in a way that I never will be able to, but feel just the same. Love and prayers to you and your family.

Annie said...

I am always struck by your honesty, and your ability to evaluate and look at things from all sides. It's that ability to also "feel" from all sides that can be so overwhelming. You are right. It is not happening to you. It is a survival phrase I was taught, and it is so true. But for those of us in tune to other people's emotions, it's hard, sometimes, to accept that separation. Rightly, you have discovered how important that separation is, so that you can be there for yourself, and therefore, for all of the members of your family. The love is there. The communication is there. And you know where your son is; and he knows where you are, and how much you love him.

Wishing all of you the best in healing, and moving forward. I understand that self doubt. I am often feeling that I'm not doing enough for my seventeen year old son, or being there for him in the right ways, or that I have been there for him in every way I ever could have been, but we can only be who we are, and do what we do- and you have done the work, the good work. It is my gut feeling, and my hope, that he will come out of this process of becoming a young man, independent and fulfilled; and that this space away will give him the perspective he needs to find his way. Keep those doors open, as I know you do. The respect you give to his feelings and his thoughts has got to be a plus for him. Not every child has that. Hugs...

Elizabeth said...

Oh, Maggie. You are so good, such a good mother and woman and person. And I do believe that you can have a normal family life and great, horrific sorrow. I know this for sure -- I live that, for sure. The trouble (or perhaps the beauty) of folks like you, like me, like many of us, is that we see and live both sides of the same coin, understand both sides, can actually exist and hold both sides. I'd listen to Ms. Moon -- see her words as your sign. And do your clinging to Dakota, your loving as always and eternally and grittily as you are doing. Do both. Watch him on his own journey and agonize alongside of him -- but don't blame yourself. Please.

37paddington said...

dear maggie, that ps about how others express love is so piercingly true. it's so important not to mistake constancy for stagnation. so great that you can see that about mr. curry.

as for the rest, of course it feels like it is happening to you. it is. i dont believe there is confusion there. someone once told me that a mother is only as happy as her least happy child, and it struck me as entirely true. how could you not feel dakota's pain. the hard thing is to not be undone by it, so that you can be there for him, because 17 or not, fully knowable or not, he needs you, needs your constancy, your so powerful love.

my heart aches for what you are going through. but you are going through it. dakota is not alone in this dark place. you are there, tearing the wall with your fingernails, letting in the light.

Maggie May said...

Yolanda you probably don't know how incredibly glad I am that we stay in touch, like two flowers in the water, moving apart but still together.

L your words mean so much to me, that you feel so deeply when you read about someone else's have that kind of person reading and caring about me is such a gift. Thank you.

Strange Bird it's not crass for me, as a writer. Thank you. xo

Catherine it means so much to me to hear from other mothers of older children- SO much- it's perhaps the most comforting thing. Thank you for taking the time to tell me that.

Ms. Moon I need to hear that so much, it's amazing how just reading what you wrote bouys me, every time. Thank you mm xoxo

Brigindo when I read it written wtih such conviction I feel it must be true, too! xo

Trashcan thank you so much for sharing that with me. I am sorry you had to struggle with that kind of suffering..i'm all too familiar...and so glad you have seen the other side, and had loving parents.

Silver it feels so hard to believe that sometimes. xo

YES Franny and zooey was and is SO important to me too, for probably the same reason as you. I'll get that book.

Mosey thank you so much. It was hard for me to post this. I almost didn't. It's getting harder to post these kinds of things, but I make myself, for various reasons important to me, and hearing that it matters to someone else really matters to me. xo

Annie thank you, faithful friend. Hearing from other mothers with kids the same age is so comforting.

Elizabeth...your words mean so much to me. I come from such a place of real. Thank you so much. I am going to read what you wrote more than a few times. But not blaming myself is maybe impossible right now. i'm really struggling.

Angella my friend I'm glad you read this post and replied. I think us like hearted people must stick together.

Varda said...

Such a beautiful post, as posts born of pain so often are, for we writing folk. And what others, especially Ms. Moon, have said before me, are words of of such wisdom, full of truth and encouragement... I don't know what more I can add.

I do not yet have my own teenager (though I dread), I never got to experience the pains of birth (my twins entering this world as Caesar), but what I can say is that I see and hear you.

That I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you are a good mother. And that what will be will be. And that standing by and waiting are the hardest things a mother can possibly do.

I hope with my whole heart that your son finds his path through the wilderness soon. And I know that he knows you love him, even if he needs to shield himself from it at this moment, your love too bright.

Holding you in my heart.

Annje said...

I think that describes one of the differences between my husband and me too: steady, quiet slow and constant to my mad flailings.

Anonymous said...

maggie maggie maggie! you are always in my mind!
i love you sooo much!!!!

shabby girl said...

Oh boy, have I walked where you are! The most frightening time of my life. I could never have articulated it as well as you, however.
My son is now 25, finally understanding what it takes to live responsibly, and a baby on the way. I am truly blessed.
What saved him, I believe, is the Grace of God, and the knowledge that I love him unconditionally. That didn't, and doesn't mean that I enabled him. I just loved him.
You sound like you have done some deep soul searching, and by your words, I know you're on the right path.
Courage to keep with it!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I just imagine the energy circuit between my son and I being disconnected for awhile. Like the umbilical cord that never quite gets severed between mothers and their children, but needs to be from time to time for them to grow and for us to breathe.

Lone Star Ma said...

Love to you.

Lora said...

another mother, one less loving, one more organized, one who was different than you are- than you are raising and have raised and will continue to support him after the raising is done- would have failed him through this.

You are doing a good job. What he is going through is not a reflection of parenting, or of neglect, or of over indulgence or of anything lacking. What he is going through right now is a reflection of who he is right now, what he is going through right now. His here and now.

Dakota is experiencing what he is meant to experience- what the world/God/life has set out for him, and thankfully he has everything you have ever given him to help him through it.

His beauty and deepness and openness must be making it hard for both of you to witness all this, to survive this, to weather this. But without those things he would not be strong enough to endure the horrible things that 17 year olds can be up against.

Time with his grandmother does not mean time away from you. Physically, yes. Emotionally and mentally and spiritually and all that other stuff, no.
He holds fast to you just as you hold fast to him.

My favorite word right now is "Ndinombethe". Or, "as I go I am carrying you".

Caroline said...

I am reading this late (haven't had many quiet moments to read these days) but please know that I am thinking of you. Navigating all of this--never easy--but we are never alone. Even when it feels like it.

LOVE you Maggie May.

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