Sometimes,

a thing needs to get lost,

never to be found again,

before I realize just how much

it really meant to me while I had it.

Her laugh,

her smile,

her scent,

her softness,

the sparkle in her eyes

when I’d tell her the secrets of my heart…

and the fire in them

when I’d tell her the pain in it.

I never expected to have a “her”

in my life.

I never expected “her”

to last twenty years…

Then, cancer.

Three years later,

three years since the end,

I’m more convinced than ever I

never will again.

Sometimes a thing,

like this one,

doesn’t get lost.

It is taken.

Stolen away,

for what seems like no reason at all.

That pain never heals.

Never.

~C.

There is nothing like the joy of a child, or your love for that child and that joy.

It’s snowing here tonight – very lightly, compared to our snow in December, but snow nonetheless. I have a memory that always returns to me when it snows here in Alabama. It is a memory of a father watching his only child play outside in an Alabama blizzard at something like 9PM, darkness never bothering the child and snow never failing to fascinate and excite.

I remember this man watching this child and seeing a sparkle in his eyes, despite his misery at being outdoors in the cold, dark night, wind howling and snow blowing from what seemed like all directions.

I can see him suffering at the hands of neuropathy and overworked muscles and joints, every step a sharp pain and every breath a hope for the snow to stop and the pipes not to freeze. But I can also see him glorifying the excitement and the newness of the snow in the child’s eyes and spirit, and struggling to roll the three parts of the snowman just in case it melted the next day.

Turns out, that snow lasted for almost a week, there was no power until days after the snow had melted, and the man saved the child from frostbite by giving the child his own full faced toboggan halfway through the snowman building process.

This man was willing to suffer for his child. He was willing to forgo the knowledge that his body would hate him the next day, that he wouldn’t be able to go to work (even though there was a blizzard his factory didn’t care – he was a supervisor and was expected to be there, no matter what).

He didn’t care that he was hurting or that he would pay a price for the temps in the teens and the random but grand night adventure. He played. He laughed. He threw the child in the air and caught the child. He didn’t let her fall. He never let her fall.

This man was my father, and this child was me. And I will NEVER forget that night or that blizzard, not as long as I live. I will never forget the milk and the goat cheese and the freshly churned butter and the wax paper wrapped venison and squirrel that he’d taken for us and cleaned and processed himself, literally buried in a drift of snow, or the cooler on the deck full of all the condiments and other refrigerated foods.

I will never forget his smile. His laughter. His attempts to run and to make six foot four inch snow angel and perfect lines of size sixteen footprints right alongside my own. I will never forget the light in his eyes, even in the dark, even in pain. I will never forget how warm I was when he would hug me up in his own coat or the comfort in the voice I have almost forgotten saying, “how do you like the snow? Are you having a wonderful time? Do you see and feel the magic?”

I am thirty nine now, and have an eight year old child of my own, and suddenly tonight I realize the sacrifice that was a part of what was one of the best memories I carry in my soul. I know now what he gave to me – not just suffering the cold that southerners “can’t bear,” or staying up late, or giving up his recliner and his comfort. He gave me his time. He gave me his patience. He gave me his love. He gave me his heart.

When you have a child, and you love that child, that’s what you do. It’s not even a choice. It’s just what happens. You don’t think about your own comfort, even if you repetitively say, “I don’t know how long I can stand this cold!” You just…do. Because the child brings out the magic and the joy that’s been buried in your soul by an exceptionally long overworked-with-nothing-to-show-for-it run.

You realize you have everything right there in your arms, and no amount of pain (physical or emotional) or cold or worry about the future is going to stand in your way of that moment. That now. That memory.

That’s what I experienced tonight. Tonight I became my father. And now I sit in bed and weep tears of both longing and joy. Because I was raised, protected, loved and spoiled by a loving man. A faithful man. A steadfast and gracious man. A good man, despite his flaws.

Watching my boy, and playing with him tonight in the cold and the wind and the little bit of snow that presented itself, I realized that I carry that within me and I am capable of giving it to my baby. Although eight years old, and someday 39, like me, my baby he will always be.

I love you, Daddy. And I am so grateful for the 36 years I had with you. Thank you for the life you gave me, and the heart you taught me to have. And thank you for the snowman.

Session tonight was…emotional. It was one of those tearful, snotty, sobbing sessions – one of those ones that I go into wishing I could slide down a razor blade into a bucket of alcohol instead because that would hurt less, but at the end of it am left calmer and numb and call my mother back on the phone and say, “hey, I love you. Despite all you do to make me hate you, I love you, and that’s why I have done the things I have done.”

I’m trying very hard to accept and continue to be myself, and appropriately deal with my mother, even while many people in my life are dumping their opinions and unwanted advice on me like seven dust on a yard full of fleas.

I believe that…

No one has the right to tell you how long your grieving should last or how fast or when you need to move on, not even your own mind. Follow your heart.

No one has the right to judge or hurt or ignore you – especially when they call you “friend.” Don’t believe them when they call themselves your friend. Friends don’t do those things – not on purpose.

No one has the right to tell you how to live your life or how to be who you are. Don’t listen to them. Don’t try to manage or live your life based on other people’s double standards.

No one has the right to make you cry. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that your tears are your own fault.

Just because you’re not dealing with things the way someone else is dealing with things is irrelevant – they’re not living YOUR life or YOUR situation or walking in YOUR shoes.

That said, sometimes we care about other people so much – the people who do these things to us – that we continue to try. We continue to take responsibility for them when we know or believe we have a responsibility to keep them safe – especially when they’re mentally ill or senile or sick…

Because while I DO believe in taking responsibility for our lives and in taking care of ourselves, I also believe in taking care of others – even those who have hurt us – when they need to be taken care of – especially when they are mentally ill.

If my husband, for example, had given up on me because of my depression and actions and words (or lack thereof) – and Lord knows how many bad episodes there have been throughout our relationship – if he’d walked away to take care of himself or because he decided not to “allow” it anymore, I’d be dead by now. I’d be dead two or three times over. And that’s the truth. But this post isn’t about my depression. It’s about my mother.

Whoever reads this gets to have their own opinion. That’s fine. But don’t comment to me about how no one has the power to make a person do or feel anything unless the person hurting allows it because that’s bullshit. That’s what my therapist and I have been talking about in session tonight – how that’s all I’ve been hearing for three days now from different people around me regarding my mother, and I’m sick of it.

People’s words – or even lack of them – can HURT. People DO cause tears and pain and it has nothing to do with what someone is allowing to “control” their emotions. That’s a copout and it’s blaming the person feeling the pain for feeling pain that they didn’t bring onto themselves.

Sometimes a person can’t “walk away.” Sometimes there is no choice but to allow it to continue to some extent, or even fully. Sometimes there is no other option but to bide your time and wait for your moment to “escape.”

So for those people who keep saying things to me like, “why do you “allow” it to continue this way,” or telling me how I am only responsible for myself, I have a question (or two or ten):

How many times did YOU choose to allow someone to continue hurting you (in ANY way) because you loved them, or because you FELT you had a responsibility to take care of them (whether you actually did or didn’t)?

How long did it take YOU to start blaming yourself instead of someone else for how they “made” you feel? I’m sure you probably ALWAYS blamed yourself for the actions or behaviors of others, right? I’m sure you NEVER, ever were hurt by their words or actions and only blamed yourself for “allowing” it. Pfft.

And then, how long did it take you to STOP blaming someone else? Or do you still say things like, “he is/was such an asshole,” or, “she is/was such a control freak,” or, “they were/are so ridiculous?”

You know what? He/she may have been or may still be those things. That’s the role some people play in the world. And they’re hurtful and they ARE to blame for the pain they cause. And you may not always be to blame for “allowing it to continue.” Every situation is different. Don’t judge mine.

From my therapist:

“Maybe a person’s situation doesn’t allow them to fully escape the person hurting them. Maybe a person judging, or telling you how to live your life and deal with your situations, even when you agree with a lot of their advice and wish that it COULD work for you, just doesn’t get it. Maybe they don’t or can’t grasp the full scope of your situation.

Or maybe, just maybe, other people just don’t have the heart or the character you have – not everyone is strong enough to endure mental illness or abuse and still love the person or care for the person who has or does hurt them (emotionally in this case), and not want them to hurt themselves, and want to protect them from dying or care for them while they are dying despite the pain they themselves might be feeling, or want to try to help them to help themselves.”

And so this all sums up where I currently am on the situation with my mother. Her idle threats don’t scare me. State laws don’t scare me (at this point). But I DO have a responsibility to take care of a woman who has no one but me and is literally going senile.

Not eating or taking care of herself.

Becoming a danger to herself and others.

Even if that care exists only in bringing in outside help and even if it means having to sometimes be exposed to her narcissistic and emotional abuse, I DO have and carry that responsibility.

She’s not my mother, but she used to be.
Sometimes she was.

Until session tonight I’d forgotten that sometimes she was normal.

Sometimes she helped me with school projects all night until they were finished (even if only because she wanted me to get an A for her).

Sometimes she cooked meals instead of delegating that task to my father despite his working, too.

Part of her controlling behavior was keeping the house spotless and sanitary and that’s was, in some ways, good for me and my health and well being.

Sometimes she made me clothes, with her own hands, because they couldn’t afford to shop for them.

Sometimes she hugged me, and meant it, even if I never remember her ever telling me she was proud of me unless it was in front of someone else.

There were others, but I’m finally sleepy now and will save them for later…

Tonight, my therapist cracked open a whole new set of memories from my childhood with my mother that I had blocked in the process of trying to block the bad ones. And tonight she made it a point, in “forcing” me to share some of those better memories, to remind me that despite my mothers illnesses, she is human – just like despite my illnesses I am human. That’s the thing I have kept trying to get people to understand about my heart and why I struggle so with the whole situation since my Dad died.

There’s a song by Rascal Flatts called, “What Hurts the Most,” that comes to mind and while it is actually meant to be about a romantic relationship, it reminds me very much of my relationship with my mother throughout my life. There are these moments – or have been – of being so close…and what hurts the most is not knowing how it could have been to have had her as my mother consistently when every now and then there would be a little taste of her being kind, being motherly, not hurting me…and those are the parts my heart still carries that keep me in this place of caring…

Don’t. Judge. A. Heart. You. Don’t. Know.

Don’t. Judge. A. Life. You. Don’t. Know.

Don’t. Judge. A. Life. You’re. Not. Living.

I have written many of these posts over the last three years. Especially after her death, I haven’t shared them publicly. In fact, after her death I took most of the ones written when she was alive down… But today, I just feel compelled to share one. I feel compelled to share more of me. Again. 

This is my best friend and one of the soulmates in my existence. I took this photo on the day of the diagnosis, after a long ‘ol conversation and a lot of tears. It was not the first time that sitting on this front porch was heavy and difficult, not even the day it was heaviest and hardest (for me, that would be the day she died, and I was on this porch watching in disbelief and denial as they took her away). It was also not the first time smiles prevailed over hardship there… They always did. But, definitely this was the day that the truest miracle of friendship happened between us – the day we made the hardest promises, and kept them. 

I miss having this in my life – not just her but what we were. I can’t say I wish to have this in my life again – I don’t believe it exists for any of us more than once, if we have it once at all; it would almost feel selfish to ask for it, anyway. But to look back and to be so grateful to have had it once, for half my life, makes me so very aware – joyfully so – of the miracle I had in my life in these people, and still have to some extent because some things just can’t be destroyed by death. 

I don’t know why I’m so randomly missing them today – because that’s the way grief works, I suppose. But today, I do miss them – especially her – from somewhere deep inside my soul. Not just missing a moment or a memory but missing what felt…feels…like such an essential essence to my being. All I know to do is recycle it into whatever it is I can give to the world…

I miss my Dad, my dog, my family and my friends and my life being what it used to be. I want it back. I can’t have that, necessarily… Some things can be mended, some things can’t…either way, it’s never the same. But I feel this today without tears or doubts. I feel this today with nostalgia and gratitude, with a sense of reverence for what it was, and look to it to find the tools to build whatever is next. I feel like that’s such a powerful gift. I don’t want to waste it; I want to live on…and I am. 

This was the time she had a rainbow on her shoulder and it reminded me of Mardi Gras. This one seems fitting for today, being Fat Tuesday and all. I said to her, “when you get better we should go together,” and she said, “yes! And I’m taking my grandson to Utah, too!” Perhaps it’s silly to make plans when you’re not sure whether you’re gonna be there for them…but are we really ever sure? No. We’re really not. 

We plan our lives when we’re well. Then we (Ok, I) get into panic, depression and sickness and feel like our lives are over. We start to think things like, “the best years are behind me, I’m past my prime, I’m too old, I’m too sick, I’m too afraid,” when in reality – and I know this from experience lately – it’s all bullshit! None of it is valid or true. But we use those things as excuses not to live, because the reality within us is that we don’t feel like we deserve to. 

There are many days that I don’t feel like I deserve goodness, love, patience, etc. I’ve done some terrible things to some people in my life while at the same time thought I was doing wonderful things for other people in my life. Sometimes stories don’t align and sometimes relationships fall apart; sometimes while we are doing what we feel in our hearts is right for someone else we are inadvertently hurting another. We do these things because we are human, not because we are horrible people. 

I truly and deeply believe that we are all doing the best we can with what we have and what we believe in any given moment. We make mistakes, we screw things up, we lose people, we inadvertently “break” ourselves. But we forget that we can make ourselves whole again – and we are the ONLY ones who can do that for ourselves. Then, sometimes we realize and accept it but don’t have the strength or courage to do the work. Maybe we just don’t know where to begin. I haven’t, since she died. The lack of her light in my world has left it a very dark place, indeed – but only because I’ve put my own light out with my tears. Death is so final…

I’m doing my best, every day. There are some I wish I could make amends with. I think of them every day but I can’t contact them. That’s one of my inner battles. I just have to – try to – honor them with the way I live my life now, and hope that they know the love is still there, that the love never left. And that’s what I’m trying to do. 

My memories of carnival are probably a lot different than what is shown on TV and in the news. Granted, this year there’s already been one drunken vehicle mishap through the crowd and more than a handful of street crimes but it’s really not as bad as all that. It’s…a part of what creates the rhythm of our lives and it’s more than just a big party… 

The Indians are sewing on the last sequins and attaching the last feathers… The energy is vibrating with the heartbeat of drums beaten by ghosts and songs and by Indians past. The air is already moist and muggy, early spring humidity getting ready to settle in. 

The streets are alive with music and laughter and the shouting of drunken men and women begging for a flash to aim their beads at. The bar doors are open and the krewes are taking their turns parading their floats and their passions through the streets. I’m not talking about the big, Quarter parade… 

The true spirit of it is in all the stuff that happens on the side streets and in the hidden treasures of communities. It’s a tradition of family and festivity and long-fought battles for the reigning Indian chief. It’s all been building up for a while now, and on Fat Tuesday the spirit of true imbibing begins as the people live as gluttons, stuffing the last king cakes and shrimp and crawfish étouffée’s and REAL Po boys in their faces and pouring the last beers down their throats, ready at the end for Lent to begin. 

The true spirit of carnival lives in the Tremé and on Frenchman street, in the lost taverns and gathering places where the real music and the real heart of New Orleans beats louder than the pounding steps of tourists feet down Bourbon street. It lives from Church street all the way around to Canal street in my hometown, Mobile, where Mardi Gras was born. It lives in little towns and cities up and down the southern gulf coast from Alabama through Mississippi and Louisiana and it’s my favorite holiday of the year.  

Ok so maybe it’s not exactly like all that anymore, but mostly it is, and I miss it. It’s a passion. It’s a spirit. It’s a love. It’s carnival and we all get lost in it and find ourselves and our humanity and oneness in the process. There’s nothing like it in the world. Happy Mardi Gras, y’all.

All the love,

C. 

I propped my phone up in the front window just to play with Hyperlapse and the sunrise this morning. I ended up with an audio-visual of myself (clip above). Played around with the Hyperlapse capture using VivaVideo and iMovie and was both surprised and excited by the result of mirroring clip. 

You know, it’s almost always a shit day in my world lately and I work very hard to not focus there. I feel like for all of us, no matter what’s going on, things can be boiled down to a matter of perspective. I’ve always felt like its a choice. I remind myself (numerous times a day lately) that there’s a light in me somewere, and I try to outshine the shit going down around me so that by the end of every day I’ve convinced myself it wasn’t so bad. 

Usually that’s enough and the shit wave recedes back into the sea of life and the sun comes back out and it’s pretty good for a while. That’s not how it’s been for a while, for me, and while I know at least a couple of my shit things in the last few years have ultimately been down to my own choices and consequences, so many things are down to nothing but “that’s the way life works…” Alas, I continue to “shine,” but I keep saying, “I’m tired,” a lot lately, & my body is rebelling. 

I spend most early mornings and late nights pondering all manner of codependent (with grief) and self-destructive thoughts. I write a lot of journal entries that are effectively letters to people who will never receive them, mostly dead people; they’re mostly just prayers and poems of grief and injustice, bitterness and fear… My heart is upside down and my soul is twisted, and I don’t know where the light comes from exactly but I want to believe it’s from the goodness inside me that the grief and injustice can’t kill with the bitterness and fear. It’s like this inner war is ever raging and I just can’t be fully killed, no matter how readily yet nervously I rush to the front lines to defend myself and no matter how badly certain parts of me wish to die. 

Mostly, my CPTSD battles are still fought in my dreams. I dreamed last night, for example, that my mother was sleeping and I was there with her. I sat with her and I told her so many truths knowing she couldn’t hear them and punish me… “I am my own savior – I don’t need yours. I never have… But I’ve needed a lot of you that you’ve only ever given to that savior. You destroyed me as a child and I have spent the last 25 years trying to rebuild myself. I finally got almost there, and now here I am – not protecting myself from you but protecting you from yourself. How does that even work? I don’t know. But here I am… And you don’t even get it – all you can do is continually thank this savior of yours. This savior who, if they had any compassion at all for you, would just let you go and be with daddy like you want it to be…” 

And then I heard Dorie whisper, “her time’s not done – your lesson is not over.” My heart lifted, and I looked around and there she stood in my mother’s kitchen with a cigarette in her misty, transparent hand and that unmistakeable, uneraseable, beautiful smile on her face. I’ve been fucked up since I woke from that dream – grateful, sad, anxious, so many things all at once… All of this, and the thing I really can’t stop wondering about is “heaven” being a smoke-friendly zone. Go figure. 

So here’s to Flashback Friday (above photo):  early spring blooms hiding in the swamp at Pearl River WMA, March 7, 2015. Found this in my prints folder this morning. God. I can’t believe nearly two years have passed since the day I took this photo. I can’t believe I’ve sold two prints of this. Who’d have thunk it. And what’s up with all the two’s today? I digress. 

I also can’t believe winter is soon to end. Just a few more weeks and the season of change is upon us again. Honestly? This winter hasn’t been as bad as I expected it to be, at least regarding SAD. I really was terrified that I would find myself in the worst bout of SAD depression I’d ever fallen into. Turns out, I was wrong – apparently, nothing can top 2015. Maybe it’s because that me is dead as a door nail. After the last two years it takes a LOT to affect my emotions that powerfully. The winter after my dad died was the most ridiculous winter I have ever faced: the SAD did kick in, I was grieving him, and grieving dead dreams, and watching Scrappy and Dorie die… 

Maybe I’m just that numb now, even though I still have gratitude within me. Maybe it’s because it’s been pretty warm. Maybe it’s because there’s been so damned much going on that I haven’t had time to process anything or feel the seasonal affective cliff-jump happen. Maybe it HAS affected me and I just haven’t consciously noticed it because of the aforementioned BS. Regardless, I have come to realize that winter hasn’t been so bad this year despite my fears that it would be (especially after the CPTSD diagnosis), but I’m not really all that excited for spring (yet) this year. It feels like SAD in reverse. 

Spring was my time with both of them. Planting, tending, loving the blooms and foods to life, then shooting them with our cameras and sitting together and enjoying them…. The therapy garden… I can’t go to it since the fall of last year. I’ve neglected it, I’ve avoided it. It’s not therapeutic anymore. It just hurts. It just makes her absence (and his) that much more real. Maybe that’s the point… I don’t know. Something to ponder more deeply, I think. 

Yesterday someone commented that I don’t grieve well. I think that I grieve excellently. I think – no, I know – that what I don’t do well (if at all) is let go of the souls I love. Whether they be human or animal, dead or alive when they make their exit from my life, I just hate to say goodbye… I CAN’T say goodbye – not once my heart has loved them. One of the things I’m learning very powerfully from grieving Dorie especially is that I don’t HAVE to let go. It’s not a requirement. Even when you accept their removal from your story and even as life becomes something new and different without them, whether they’re dead or alive, you have to let go at your own pace…and despite so many self help and spirituality pushes and platforms to “let it go?” That’s not always they best thing we can do – especially if we aren’t doing it in our own time and in our own way. I’ve learned to allow myself that, regardless of the opinions of others. 

One more Flashback Friday that my previous train of thought led me to seek out on that same hard drive/folder: if you didn’t know, I LOVE the alligator. I don’t know why. They just, well, I love them… On this day, with this gator, I tried to sit with him; I wanted to lay my hand on his back and I wanted him to heal me. I believed he could. In my soul, I feel like be did, albeit it from afar. This was as close as I got before he swam away. But we had a good moment. We had a good run while it lasted. We all did…me and all my people (and pets) who’ve gone. I’m so glad I had as much time as I did with ALL of them before they “swam away.” I think that memories – reliving the old ones that are good and creating new ones – they, and nature, are hope and healing for me. They keep my soul alive, and grateful. 

Oh, and one more alligator related thing:  truly, there’s no need to fear the gator you can see. It’s the one hiding under the water, hungry, while you’re swimming – that’s the one that will get you.

Now it is late evening (past my bedtime, really), so  I think I will close with more Hyperlapse fun, this clip  recorded this evening in the backyard. As I’ve sat and enjoyed an evening to myself (as it were – a moms job is really never done unless there’s a sitter or a sleepover with a friend or family member involved) I’ve been thinking about my pondering a about time earlier today, and considering some old versus new ideas and questions regarding it. I often refer to time as an illusion, sometimes I refer to it as nonexistent (from one perspective of quantum theory). I’ve been reading a bit from some quantum theory articles this evening and one really struck me:

“Just as the double slit experiment illustrates how factors associated with consciousness collapse the quantum wave function (a piece of matter existing in multiple potential states) into a single piece of matter with defined physical properties (no longer a wave, all those potential states collapsed into one), the delayed choice experiment illustrates how what happens in the present can change what happens(ed) in the past. It also shows how time can go backwards, how cause and effect can be reversed, and how the future caused the past.” 

If my general disbelief in the existence of time AS WE KNOW IT is true, why can I (and do I) observe it (time) in so many ways? Not to mention the fact that I work so hard to remain stuck in a certain point in time, not wanting to leave certain aspects of the past behind no matter the fact that they’ve slipped away already…? I know…I’m weird and no one but me sits around a fire in the backyard on a Friday night and thinks about things like this, right? That’s ok – no place I’d really rather be… 

The day has come to a close, I’m afraid; but, even after all the scattered (yet purposeful) thoughts and struggles of the day I sit here tonight feeling mostly grateful, wanting to thank you for your part in my story, and wishing you all a wonderful weekend. 

C.