I have spent a lot of time thinking about this in the last couple of days:  At this time in my life it’s not even about ups or downs or moods…it’s about bad days and good days. People say that you can choose to have a good day just by having a positive thought when you wake up, or by praying or meditating when you wake up – all sorts of different things like that, usually involving gratitude for something, even just life itself. I find that extremely difficult some days, and completely untrue on those days, as witnessed by my past couple of posts.

I don’t think that the power of positive thinking is always enough. There is nothing I can EVER do to change things with my mother. I can not cure dementia. I can not change her. I can not change the situation as it is at this time. Same thing with grief – I can not change the fact that my father and my best friend are dead. They are not coming back. In those instances, people will say it’s down to acceptance and that is true. I can get behind that, to some extent, although as most of you know I don’t believe in such a thing as an end to grief…

I was listening to music earlier while I was folding laundry and this song came on called, “Breathe Me,” by Sia. It hit me in my gut like a bad piece of chicken. We can take responsibility all we want to, we can take action all we want to, but sometimes it just hurts. Sometimes we are just lost. Sometimes we are just hurt. Sometimes we are just afraid. Sometimes we are all of those things and more, all at once, and we are completely overwhelmed. That’s where I’ve been.

Yesterday a friend of mine told me, “Now I’m gonna say this and I just want you to listen to me. I don’t want you to use (anything) as a crutch. You’re STRONG. You walk around with a shaved head because you want to! You don’t care what people think…” She went on… So last night I laid in bed, in my pitch black and freezing cold bedroom trying to stave off an impending migraine (unsuccessful, by the way), and I let all she’d said float around in my head. And ultimately, two things stood out to me.

I do have a crutch. It is alcohol. And it is a waste of time – it doesn’t accomplish anything positive, except momentary lapses in the ability to feel things. And, strength is relative. People see different things as examples of strength. The fact this person, who has been through more than I ever imagined when I first met her, completely rebuilt her life and walks around with such an air of confidence even my shaved head is in awe – for this person to say to me, “you are stronger than this. You ARE STRONG,” humbled me in a way that I couldn’t understand. Of course, that led to more thoughts and more considerations and a whole lot of writing in my journal…but I fell asleep knowing that I did not want to drink today.

And I didn’t.

And I don’t know why. I don’t know what changed.

I do know that by lunch time tomorrow I’ll be craving alcohol like the drought ridden fields crave rain…and I don’t know what I’ll do about that. Probably text or call her, or my cousin, or my therapist…maybe go to the feed store and hang out. I don’t know. But I do know this much – if you really want to make a change, you will do it.

I haven’t smoked in over 24 hours, haven’t had a drink in over 24 hours, and the only reason is because I just wanted to see if I could. I didn’t tell anyone until later in the day today, when I was at the feed store. I didn’t keep it to myself because I was afraid I would fail. I kept it to myself because I only wanted it to be about me and what I wanted.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. But I do know that I don’t feel the same way I felt a few days ago when I was battling the suicidal ideation and the complete lack of regard for my life, my health, or my Be-ing. I don’t know what changed… I think mostly, it was being seen, and being cared for, and being spoken to in a way that wasn’t at all what I expected.

I always said I would never allow another “Dorie” into my life – or at least that there would never be another her. I think I may have changed my mind…or my heart… You never know who is going to walk into your life, or when.

This past week or so has been so crazy. I know – I’ve already written about that more than once. But tonight I want to write about how old I feel, and it’s BECAUSE of not just this past week (while the majority of it is) but of being my mother’s caregiver in general for the past few years.

In itself, caregiving gets old. But the way it makes you FEEL… Argghh! There are days when it doesn’t feel “like a gift to be able to care for one who once cared for you.” There are days that I don’t feel “grateful for the chance to give back.” Pfft. Let’s be real – it’s emotionally nasty. It’s a nasty, dirty, wreck of an emotional job and it SUCKS a LOT, a lot of the time.

That said, I still push on. As of now, as you all know, I don’t have any other choice.

In updates to my lasts posts about my mom, I’ve gone in to check on her and twice found her in the floor since those posts. There have been a couple of other issues that have come up (financial issues), and all she wants to talk about is going to buy a new computer. She doesn’t even have the Internet right now. She has an iPad. I explained this. She doesn’t NEED a computer, she needs to worry about us getting other issues sorted – namely her CARE. It’s just like she doesn’t NEED, nor can she have, her car.

She doesn’t – she can’t, or she refuses to even meet me halfway and try to – live in the reality that, as sad and frustrating and angering and annoying and depressing and ridiculous as it all is, especially for her, her life is not, can not, and will never be again what it used to be. I know that is awful for her…but it’s emotionally exhausting for me, too…

And you can’t ever make that make sense to them. You just can’t. It’s a losing battle to try, so you lie to them. You tell them, “maybe when you heal from this fall.” Then you say, “maybe we should give it just a couple more months.” Then you say, “maybe once we get the car fixed,” even though the car is not even broken. You make shit up. You LIE to your parent, even though as a child you were beaten for such nonsense. Like, BEATEN. With a hickory switch.

The role reversals are hard. They make no sense to my brain some days. Some days, despite the fact that my mother was never in my life like this for me, I want her to be my mother and hug me and tell me it will be OK and say comforting things like, “we’ll get through this,” or, “your daddy would be so proud of how much you’ve done here, and that you’ve worked so hard to get this back to a working farm.” It’ll never happen. It wouldn’t happen even if my mother didn’t have dementia/mental health issues. But as a child, I DO wish it would.

My life exhausts me. I get up early in the mornings, I take care of mama and the horses and chickens and everything. I come home and take care of my kiddo, we do things, whether it’s school or playing outside or whatever. I do housework and yard work at the neighborhood house. Then, after whatever other running around I’ve done all day (bank, post office, etc.), it’s back to the rinky dinky little farm I’m trying to build and mama’s, to either bring her home or to make sure she still IS at home.

By the time I sit down at dark, I feel like a little old lady who can hardly crochet anymore because of her aching, arthritic hands – and I only have slight arthritis/carpal tunnel – when I try to write or type these things out of myself. I feel like a firefighter who has been battling a blaze all day long in the hot summer sun. I feel like a marathon runner who has been training all day. I feel like a doctor who has been running all day long to go from this patient to that, this hospital to that office to this building to that, trying to make sure everyone is being cared for and check to see how they are and what they need and what changes need to be made, etc.

Yet, I’m nothing so achieved as a firefighter or marathon runner or doctor. I’m just little old me, wearing myself down to the core of my sanity and watching it start to spindle apart backward, one twist at a time coming off the spool and piling up in a big ball at my feet. Then I get tangled up in that ball, and start tripping over my own delusions and disillusionment and exhaustion and the anxiety and panic start to build and then the depression grabs on, you know, just for kicks, and I end up sitting in the pile of sanity that I used to have, having a complete come apart.

Does any of this make any sense? I don’t know if it does or not, if you’ve never been in a situation like this or at least somewhat similar to this. But I have a hunch that most of us have felt this way at least once – maybe more than once – just because…well, LIFE.

Life is a gift. Yes, it is. And I am so grateful to be alive. I just wish I felt it. I do, sometimes…but I fear I’m wearing that escape thin, as well. Perhaps I should just dwell on writing about the life I wish to live rather than chasing after one I can’t have right now…and another one I know I never will have (because some things are just not meant to be and not gonna happen…you know?). I’ll keep making music, and sometimes sharing it. I’ll keep playing with photos. I’ll keep hugging my son and my doggos and my gentle giants. Playing with my chickens, and with fire.

I’ll stay on the outskirts of my own chaos for as long as I can before I let it suck me in. I will make no promises on how long that will be.

Dear 2017,

What can I possibly say to you? As I begin this I am speechless. I sit here overwhelmed with all the challenges, all the horrors, all the sheetrock dust… I don’t even want to think about any of that. That’s not where I want to focus. Anyone who really knows me already knows all of that – anyone who follows this (very intermittent) blog already knows a lot of it..

I want to focus on this:  I am alive today.

I am alive today. That is…both a miracle and a feat of inner strength I didn’t know that I had but found only because I was loved, even when I didn’t realize I was being loved.

I’ve needed the friendship and love I’ve had in my life this year more than any other I’ve faced. As everything from the past few years came to a head within me, and as I lost my grip and slid down to as close to rock bottom as I have ever gone, I found myself in a darkness like no other I’ve ever experienced. But with support and love from so many people, I began making the changes I needed to make to begin to get better both physically and mentally (like fighting my way back to the meds I knew I needed – and what a fight it was…).

2017 has been one my hardest fights with depression and anxiety and after being diagnosed with CPTSD and some specific physical health problems that I have had to learn how to manage, well, initially I didn’t handle anything very well at all. But then, I came to a precipice where I realized how life or death the situation was, and I did something I can hardly believe I did. I showed my weakness.

First, I showed this to my husband. It is truly to him that I owe my life this year. He has taken control in ways I have never seen him take control and he has exhibited patience beyond what I have ever seen in him – and that is saying a lot. He is my rock, my partner, my saving grace in so many ways, and still, after 18 years, my best friend. He and I have grown apart and back together more than once but never like this year. I love him so very much and I am so grateful that he is a part of my life. That’s a choice he made, and I am so blessed that he did.

I was also very open with my son about what was going on. I leaned on him, perhaps more than anyone, whether he realized it or not. It was simply his existence and the fact that he needed me as much as I needed him that gave me purpose and something to fight back with in my brain when my pain and my depression would try to convince me to give up. He is the light of my life, my dear friend, my little hero, and my biggest inspiration. I love him dearly. He is so much of my strength – and isn’t it amazing how such a small human can be such a source of healing and love… God bless that mess, as my father used to say…

My mother in law and her husband have gone above and beyond to help me by making the hardest things much easier and by being so incredibly understanding about my not being able to drive. They have come to us here so many times to pick up and to drop off the boy, and the phone calls I have shared with my mother in law have been another huge source of comfort and of feeling loved and supported. They are both more than inlaws to me. They are like my own parents. And Lord knows I’ve needed their help this year more than any other.

My cousin and her farm have also been a huge part of my sanity this year. I haven’t spent as much time there as I have in years past because, well, I wasn’t leaving home very much and certainly wasn’t able to drive myself. But even from a distance, sharing with her via phone calls and texts, always being able to ask her questions about the physical issues and cry on her with the emotional issues…she has continued to be an incredible blessing in my life and I love her dearly.

My friend Ralph – he has come back into my life in a grand way this year – staying here for weeks and helping to solve problems and support us and heal me (and us). I can’t even begin to share here all the ways he has helped me this year. Listened, understood, allowed, accepted, taught, hugged – he’s been my dad reincarnated while still being my Ralph. For quite some time I forgot that he was my friend – I viewed him as the boy’s godfather and friend and I focused more on their relationship with each other. This year I have relearned my own friendship with him and he is one of the best friends our lives have ever been blessed with. He has gone out of his way to help with anything that we’ve asked for help with, and even stepped in when a need was there and we weren’t asking – no matter what it was. I wouldn’t be here without the teamwork between him and my husband to steer me in the right direction, make sure I got to appointments, make sure my rights were fought for despite my inability to fight for myself.

And then, there’s the internet. You. All of you who have commented on my Instagram and blog posts, who have emailed me or private messaged me. Strangers, friends, all the same – you have done much to propel me forward and help me to keep hope somewhere in the darkness. I have received so much love and shared many conversations with people like me, or people with friends or family struggling with similar problems, and all of these conversations have helped me to see things differently, to see through other people’s struggles, to learn different ways of coping that I’d never tried or even heard of before. While I’ve become quite private in the last half of the year, you have all always encouraged me to share when and what I wanted, and to remember that it always helps us, too, when we help each other, and that that is what sharing could amount to.

One of the things the internet gave me – nay, the universe – that has helped me tremendously this year was a reconnection to a person that forever changed my life years ago but still has that same role in it – teaching me, listening, showing me by her own example and opening my eyes to the me I CAN be, to make more and bigger steps forward and not stay there as long when I take steps backward, and to own the fact that I must and I CAN do it myself. It waivers, still, but my faith and confidence in myself and in spiritual things is returning in huge waves through the existence of this person in my life and the experiences we have shared in common, and I am so very grateful for the blessing that has (always) existed in our friendship.

Yes, 2017. You have been tough. The toughest. Even still, in the fall  of the year I found myself going more places even when it was hard and being more and more open with certain people in my life to heal the bits and pieces a little at a time. I found myself being pulled back to nature and spending huge amounts of time in it, hiking and climbing, exploring and camping… The winter came, and as always the struggle has returned in some ways. The cold hurts my body and the darker days hurt my mind. But I’m not planning on letting that stop me as the new year turns over it’s new leaf.

2017, you gave me the hardest battles I’ve ever fought – most of them with myself (and with doctors). But what you gave me that is really just about all I can see today is love and friendship despite the hard things. Support, kindness, compassion… You surrounded me with it – and while I didn’t realize I was accepting it until recently, I DO realize it and I am grateful for it. So, 2017, while your beginning was the most difficult, sickest time of my life, your ending comes with my realization of these lessons:

The harsh (for me, the independent) lesson in the reality of how life is not meant to be lived alone.

We are not meant to merely survive these horrible things, nor do we HAVE to do so, alone.

We are meant to give and receive love, and sometimes, although the balance is off, love is always there.

Good is always there – good things, good people, a good life to be had if we persevere.

Sometimes endings aren’t endings at all – they are mere pauses. The heart knows which is which with each situation and circumstance.

It is always worth our hope, and our hard work, to continue on.

There are ALWAYS people out there who can be touched by us, even by our worst experiences their lives can be made better.

It is okay not to be okay.

It is okay to take the time we need and to retreat.

It is okay to doubt, and to fear, but not to stay there.

It is okay to be who we are – those who are meant to be in our lives and bring good to our lives WILL. No matter what.

The universe truly does provide.

And, ultimately, that we all struggle, and we all matter, and we are all worthy of the help we are offered – sometimes, the hardest thing is to accept it.

So, in closing, I am grateful for the help that’s been offered me this year, and I’m grateful that I somehow accepted it. I wouldn’t be here without having done that. I wouldn’t be here without every one of the people mentioned in this post, including you. I am filled with gratitude and with love for you all, and to close this year I say, “thank you,” to you, to my family, and to 2017.

May 2018 overflow with all the love, friendship, joy, and blessings that you – that we all – deserve.

All my love,

C.