A mom at dance class asked me about some of Kath's swallowing issues and opened up the vein of memory from when we worried continuously about Kath's swallowing. We don't have to worry in the same way anymore, though of course we watch her eat and when she coughs I stop breathing until she breathes normally. Otherwise some of the other panic feelings have abated. But all it takes is the 'right' mood and the 'right' question...and wham I feel the weakness in my knees and my gut starts wrenching all over again.
This time, because the conversation was brought around to the mom of a child newly diagnosed with health issues, and how she was handling things, I was brought back to the not-so-distant past and of how I first felt when Kath was diagnosed (we are coming up on almost 4 years ago). I looked around the dance studio waiting area at the other moms watching their daughters practice and I realized that I still felt an 'otherness' from them. Since Kath's diagnosis I never fit back in with other moms...or at least moms who don't have children with some sort of disability or health issue.
It is as if when I was told of Kath's stroke diagnosis I broke. I shattered. I remember that feeling, I remember exactly how I felt, and even just by pulling back the little piece of that scab, I find I still bleed. I remember how I vainly tried to cover up my brokeness, how I tried to hold my seams together and not just scream. Scream. Scream. I had sharp, pointy pieces inside of me; whenever I breathed, it hurt. I could only take short, pant-like breaths. I could only get enough air into my body to survive. Some days only barely.
That shattered feeling lasted a long time.
A long time.
What helped to make that time last longer and feel even more despairing was that I lost 'friends' who either misunderstood or couldn't handle what I was going through. I lost friends because I couldn't pay attention to their needs when I was so shattered---I felt that I needed all of my energy to remember to breathe and that I had to be there for Kath and the rest of my family. I couldn't spend time with others, away from Kath. I had to be near her every chance, every second I wasn't working. I felt like everything was so fragile, so delicate, that I had to be there if anything else broke. I still sleep in the girls' room...but that's probably a whole blog unto itself. :)
One person made the comment on her way out to the effect of something like this, as if life is some bumper sticker, "You'd find the time for me, if you really wanted to."
That is false. And so painful to have thrown at you--as if life was just that easy. As if my life and my time was/is my own.
Those types of comments made me feel that not only was I somehow a failure at being a parent (why else would I be going through all of this?), but I also was horrible at being a friend?! Just at the time I needed friends, it felt like they were leaving and scarring me on their way out.
More pointy edges. Further withdrawal on my part.
On the outside, I smiled, got up and dressed each day, taught, embraced the students who could weave through the brier patch into my heart, ...and I watched my old life disintegrate. A couple of times very publicly and always most painfully.
Then something very magical did happen. I began to realize that there were still people around. I didn't chase them all away! Those who did weave through the thorns I was protectively cultivating, let me lean on them so I could regain my footing. I had started to build up a wall so I wouldn't ever shatter again (as if one can ever truly prepare for that). These people didn't expect anything in return. They just stood beside me and waited for me to catch my breath. They gave me hugs. They smiled. They let me frown and cry and they weren't scared away by my intensity. And even though it has taken a few years, I can feel it happening, I'm finally starting to catch my breath.
I have a few friends, my mom and my sons, who I can text on a Friday night at 9PM. Most of my people know I don't like to talk on the phone. I'll text, but talking is akin to opening a vein some nights and I just might not be able to stitch it back closed by the time everyone wakes up and needs me in the morning. So I text short blurbs and swallow the rest. And they understand. They are still there as the smoke settles.
Many adults seem to think that if you share a problem they have to help fix it, kids don't have that misconception. They know so much is out of their control and that sometimes, without even knowing the specific problem, just saying "Hey" ...sometimes that is enough. "Hey, are you okay? I'm thinking about you." I think teaching the groups of kids I had the past few years (many of them, maybe not all! haha) helped me to get back on my feet too. They too live with the thorns and broken glass of their own lives and yet they come to school and try all over again every day.
There were a few friends who may not have known what I was really going through, or may not have wanted to face the fear and pain that I'm sure I reflected in my eyes, but they waited. They stayed on the sidelines and instead of making me have to start from scratch with them or walk away to find new friends, they have reopened their arms and said, "Hey."
Ah. My hemimoms. I'm crying as I write this because these are the moms I have shared my Life with even though I haven't met most of them, probably won't ever either. But I have shared so much with them, as they have with me. As heavy as it all gets, these women inspire me and help me to share my burden. These moms understand the triumphs better than most, sometimes better than my husband, and they feel the anguish as deeply as I do. We breathe the same air. They laugh and they sob as if they are right by my side, which of course they are, in our virtual Facebook commune. I only hope I have been able ease some of their burdens a bit along the way sometimes too.
And of course there is Kath herself. Her joy. Her laughter. Her love of life. Her curiosity. Her smile. Her abilities. My amazing gift. One of the five amazing gifts I have been granted.
I have started to pick up my shattered pieces. With much time, energy, patience and assistance; I've started to glue myself back together.
I'm not the same as I was before that bitter day in February when I was told Kath had a massive stroke.
I'll never be the same.
What I'm finding, as the mending and healing continues, is that the pieces do not fit back into the the same places they came out of.
And thank God for that.
Some of those edges needed to be worn down so as not to puncture my lung or make me bleed out. The edges are smoother ~ like rocks and shells churning in the ocean for hundreds of years. Some parts are even shinier than they were before. I am a better mother. I am a better teacher.
Those are the spots I pull most of my energy into and I'm glad at least those two spots are improved.
I'm not some vase to show to company. I'm not working towards some kind of show. I'm for use, this life is my show. I can't 'fake it' as well as I used to, I don't really feel like I need to have that curtain shielding and providing a boundary like I used to.
I'm me. This is it.
I've become a mosaic. I am broken and in pieces, but I've been rearranged to show a different beauty (a different perspective to life, a different purpose, perhaps?). Bits and pieces of brokenness put back together, sometimes with an eye on creativity, but mostly just glued back together in a quick fashion to stop my insides from pouring out and landing in a puddle at your feet.
So you see, I can't really worry if the pain in my eyes makes you feel uncomfortable, I have too many other things to deal with each and every moment. So leave if you must, but be sure you tell the truth to yourself...it's not because of me that you go. It's because of you. The people who left me will probably never read this or begin to understand and though negative perceptions hurt me, I really can't do anything to fix them. It's their problem, afterall, not mine. And it has taken me awhile to come to that understanding.
My mosaic is the art work of my SELF--A Work in Progress-- of my healing and of my living. I'm actually more than I was before I was broken, even if it doesn't always seem that way, even if I have more wrinkles, my hair is thinner and grayer, and I cry quicker. I also laugh and love deeper, I understand students better, I believe in grace and I give good strong hugs. I see brighter colors. I understand how quickly things change from worrying about silly things like your credit rating, to worrying about whether your child will choke if she swallows too much while trying to breath, or god forbid, even laugh.
I could have handled things differently, better even, but I do the best I can with what I have. Every day I have to be aware and conscious in a way I never was before. Now the path I chose is not to wallow (most days), but to take my Elmer's, my thread and needle and a few pieces of beach glass and continue forward creating the new path, redefining and fixing who I am, as I go.
I'm broken. I'm mosaic.
But I'm still here, trying.
I'm here for the long haul.
I will be worth the wait when I catch my breath.