Monday, September 03, 2012

Griefwalking to Myself

When it comes to writing about my life here at Ordinary Time, I'm sort of bi-polar. On the one hand, I was well-trained by a secretive mother not to let anyone know my business.  On the other, I have been a writer for my entire adult life and know how it is the personal stories of people's lives that change us. I also know how much I value writers who are open with their struggles as well as their joys. To know we are not alone in the world is one of the greatest gifts a wordsmith can give.

However, these past couple of weeks, my bi-polar sides have been battling and the secretive side has been winning, as evidenced by the dearth of posts.  Even though I have been going through some intense emotional events, public sharing seems, well, just too public and I could hear my mother's admonition, "It's nobody's business!" ringing in my ears.

But mother has been gone seven months now and I decided that I would try to override the tapes that play on endless loop, sort of like the French distress call that had been playing for years in LOST and talk about some of my struggle.

My mother and I were very close, too close actually.  For all that was good in her, she had one great flaw and that was that she was unable to ever let me go.  I was conceived, as I have recently learned, as a substitute for a love she had lost. So her apron strings were made of titanium cords and even when she reeled them out far enough to let me marry and have a child of my own, they never came close to being broken. She simply couldn't afford to let go. She had lost one love and she could not bear to lose another. The result was that there was not a day in my life that she wasn't either physically or emotionally present. In her mind there were no boundaries between us.  There was only a permeable membrane--and titanium cords.

Now I was quite unaware of this because our family kept secrets...and the secret that I was to be my mother's everything emotional was one of them. It just seemed normal to me because it was all I knew.  I grew up being so in touch with my mother and her needs that I always knew where she was and what she wanted. Even as she neared the end of her life, I could tell by way she would move her lips if she wanted another bite of ice cream or if she was finished.  All she had to do was literally twitch a finger and I would know how she wanted the covers adjusted.

She, in turn, never was able to see me as anyone more than an extension of her own being.  For example, she would say to me, "I'm cold. Go put on a sweater," completely unaware that I might have a different internal thermostat than she did. And, because I knew no other reality, I would go put on the sweater, never questioning or even considering what I might be actually feeling.

Now talking about all of this would simply be an exercise is exposing the neurosis and dysfunction of a family except for one thing: when she died, I literally fell apart.  It's not really a surprise, since my life was so completely entwined with hers that I didn't really have a separate emotional identity. The first few weeks after her passing, I was almost suicidal, haunted by a kind of "survivor's guilt," even though she was 92 and her death was not unexpected.  Then as, the weeks began to stretch on, I became almost paralyzed by continual panic about everything from how I was going to support myself (even though I have worked every day since I graduated from school and I supported her in the end) to how I was going to sort out all of her things (I'm still a little panicky about that, to tell the truth) to how I could go on without her to take care of.  I experienced a sort of dark, black fog of depressive grief that makes even a bright sunny day look, literally, covered in gloom.

It's been a hellish seven months. It has often felt as if the bleakness will never end, that only my own death will bring relief.  I understand, for the first time, why people consider suicide.  Without my mother in my life, I had no foundation...and hence no life. Even now, most days I wake up to realize anew that I am an orphan, completely and existentially alone in the world. Sometimes the moments seem to stretch endless while the days pour out as as fast as sand in an hourglass. There are times I hope that my end will come quickly and then realizing how how short life really is, feel the terror of an unlived life as well.

Now if this were one of those perfect pious stories, I'd have a nice, tidy wrap-up that affirms a miracle, talks about how God rescued me and leaves you and me with warm fuzzies. Maybe there is such a miracle in my future, but if so, it still is in my future. What has happened, however, as I have spent literally hours in prayer, often at the Adoration Chapel, is that although my mother was never able to let go of me, I am beginning  to let go of her.

While she was alive, I assumed, as did she, that my purpose for being was to care for her. And so I did. While caring for one's parent is certainly a good thing, as evidenced by the Fourth Commandment, I am being to see that my doing so to the emotional exclusion of almost everything else may not have been God's real purpose for my life. I have seen--or perhaps been shown--that my actions were harmful to other, equally important relationships. I've sadly seen that I have not walked through the doors God has opened for me and, in fact, sometimes actually closed them in his face. I let my mother's misguided, neurotic behavior become the cornerstone of my own life...usurping the place that God should have had. I have destroyed relationships, threw away talent, wasted my one and only precious life because I never sought my own purpose, but accepted her purpose as my own.

However, griefwalking has begun to make changes. Gradually, over these months, my grief has shifted from the loss of my mother to the loss of my own life. The tears I now shed daily are not for her, but for me, for the little girl who  sacrificed her childhood, the young woman who gave up her dreams, the wife who could never fully commit, the mother who was always and ever torn between between mother and being mother, the writer who would never be completely honest. Tears for a half-lived, unlived, squandered life.

As I have asked forgiveness, asked that the years the locust has eaten might somehow, miraculously be restored, I have encountered a Scripture verse that I repeat daily:
 Come, and let us return to the LORD; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, That we may live in His sight.-- Hosea 6:1-3

I've always felt like fall heralds the real new year, probably because it is the beginning of the school year, and so as I enter into both the fall of the year and the fall of my own life (since according to all actuary tables, I'm past the mid-point of life expectancy), I am expecting  a new beginning, one that no longer centers on my mother and her need to be loved.  A life that no longer waits for my mother to fulfill her life purpose. A life that sees the years I handed over to the locust to eat be miraculously restored. 

I am, in faith, expecting the third day of my life.

May it come sooner than I imagine possible.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'd love to hear your comments. Let's talk!