Grief cycling

I didn’t realize it has been over a month since I posted here. I was doing fairly well up until a week and a half or so ago. I was just working on other things and occupied with other life events. But, then, the same old things started happening which always seem to happen around this time:

Chaos and upheaval in family life and relationships with unemployment, bills piling up, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I’m so tired of writing about it and talking about it. I’m so tired of living through it. I guess that’s the way a lot of folks feel through. Life happens, sometimes the way we want and wish and work for, but, often, things (people) happen outside of our control and knock us for a loop.

We found out about a month ago that LaLa and her SpiritLove are going to have a baby.

Yup. . . I’m going to be a grandmother. Sometime in late April 2014 the next generation will be born into my family line.

The melancholy started around the time the pregnancy test was confirmed. It’s been deepening and growing inside of me ever since.

I have to say, it is an odd space I find myself in, right now. I’m feeling like a metaphorical octopus with eight hands. On the one hand, I feel hope and happiness that this new life is being welcomed and loved from the very beginning. The second hand is holding onto the mundane concerns about how unprepared we all are for this new life and wondering how are the basic necessities going to be met. A third hand keeps patting that harried, worried second hand offering reminders and assurances that a) I’m not the momma of that baby and it’s not my responsibility to figure it all out and b) God is in control. Underneath those hands are the others that hide: One which holds onto fear: fear of not being involved in my grandchild’s life and anxiety about how to be included without invading my daughter and her lovers’ lives; then there’s the codependent fixer hand which is busy ticking off and calculating all the variables and telling me that trying to pursue my own identity and interests at this point is pointless. This one is holding hands with the harping, critical, bitter, resentful, critical hand that tosses out the short-tempered, irritable, and defensive attitudes and words with increasing frequency. Finally, there’s the hand which holds onto the grief so tightly that it has never had a chance to be fully experienced and processed and put to rest.

I’ve been crying at so many things lately, you’d think I was the one pregnant. I’ve been hiding the tears though, as much as possible. Mostly because there isn’t anyone I can share them with who has the time or the space to help me figure out what the hell it is that I’m really crying about. Yesterday, the tears got worse. Then I figured it out.

I think today is my mother’s birthday, or it would have been her birthday. She’d be 60 or 61 years old today.

That’s part of the grief – I don’t even know her actual birthday for sure.

Approximately 32 years ago, the last words I recall saying to her were that I hated her and didn’t want to live with her anymore. She left me with her brother, returned to Texas, and a few months later, we got a phone call stating she’d killed herself. For the next 29 years, I lived with the belief that my mother committed suicide while believing that I hated her.

I got the police investigator’s report and the coroner’s report. They concluded suicide, but it was quite evident that there was no actual investigation performed and the description of the wounds seems a little off. So, it’s possible she didn’t commit suicide after all. At this point, it doesn’t really make a difference one way or another.

The facts remain that I didn’t have a mother after the age of 12 and barely had a relationship with her prior to that point because of her depression and the chaos of our lives – a pattern that has been repeated in somewhat different circumstances with my own children. The major difference being that I’ve lived an additional 16 or 17 years more than she did.

I used to think I wasn’t affected by this or at least that I had a handle on it. Now, it seems like every September/October, I slide into a depression that I can’t stop myself from going into.

A friend of mine shared this video yesterday, and, yes, it triggered tears.

Whether my mom committed suicide or not, she shrunk so much that she completely disappeard by her own choice or by the choice of another.

My grandmother, her mother, died in February 2009, and had shrunk from her own life and the lives of her family to the point that in her angry, paranoid, sometimes abusive, state of dementia, she died in the midst of non-related people in an adult foster care home.

In my line and my branch of the family tree has become so diminished and disconnected that, if it weren’t for Facebook, I wouldn’t know what was going on in the lives of the other women in my mother’s family.

I still struggle with knowing how to be a mom to all three of my children: the son who is no longer my legal son, my adult daughter who is becoming a mother herself, or my four year old daughter who tells me she loves me so much one moment and that she only loves her daddy the next moment.

I ache with the inner conflict and tension of who I am, who I want to be, who I think I should have been, and who I believe others need, want, and expect me to be.

Another friend of mine posted a link to a survivor’s tale, “When Darkness Falls,” and said this:

When I hear someone tell another or me, “you must value yourself!” it strikes me as odd now because I know self-value doesn’t come from just the person in question but the host of people constantly surrounding them with the reassurance it’s true.

The fact of the matter is we don’t find healthy self-value by ourselves, it takes community and constant input. If anyone is wrestling with their worth, I can shout all I want across whatever divides us how loved they are or how much they’re worth but until I cross the divide it means nothing–even to me.

I don’t think my grandmother or my mother knew how to love themselves. I know I don’t know how to love me. I KNOW that I love my children, but I also struggle with knowing how to act on that love for them and that it’s a constant struggle to show up enough to let that love impact my choices and decisions.

It will get easier again, for a while. I know it will. It has before and personal history tells me to trust that it will be so in the future. For now, though, grief is cycling through and it is what it is. I’m not feeling sorry for myself, but I have to acknowledge the pain and grieve the things which have not been allowed to be grieved.

I grieve the loss of a mother I never had to begin with. I grieve the fact that I have been a motherless daughter most of my life and it has, in many ways, caused me to to create a sense of motherlessness in my own children.

I am grateful that I am still here and available to mother my children, all of them, even if it is painful, sporadic, and difficult.

I wish I had a mom to turn to and for my children to turn to.

Changing your fate: Conflict and relationships

“If you had the chance to change your fate, would ya’?” ~ Princess Merida, Brave 2012

My girls and I went to see Brave yesterday, as a belated birthday celebration for LaLa.  Sure she’s 19, but after watching the first trailer, I knew it was something I wanted to share with her as well as Luna. Lachesis showed up in the form of the “short” that opened the movie, “La Luna.” It informed me I was in a defining moment by being there with both my daughters.  La Luna foreshadowed what I perceived to be the primary theme of the movie itself: conflict and relationships.  The trailers make Brave seem to be about a young woman’s efforts to define her own future, and it is.  However, I think the actual primary theme is about conflict and the restoration of relationships.  The mother-daughter relationship was definitely the central story, but other relationships were touched on as well: father-daughter, husband-wife, siblings, and community.  Each of these had moments where conflict and restoration were involved in the overall story.

Conflict in relationships has been a constant in my life for so long, I’m not sure I can recall a time when one or more key relationships wasn’t conflicted.  As in the movie, much of the conflict in my life has been as a result of a strong desire to fight against my perceived fate and my determined pride in knowing that I had the right of it as opposed to someone else’s vision or ideas.

I am a walking, talking, living, breathing set of statistics.  I have been most of my life.  Born of a teen mom who lived a nomadic life filled with broken relationships and ended in a suicidal depression, I understood at a young age I would be going against a tide of assumptions and expectations. Prior to my mom’s death I was taken in by my uncle and the statistics kept stacking up, living in a household with partying, swinging, pot-smoking 70’s throwbacks.  A divorce and custody battle between my aunt and uncle meant I had to fend for myself and try to be there for my little cousin.  The resentment and bitterness I formed against the adults in my world grew into a mountain of self-defeating rebellion.  I jumped from the frying pan into the fire and ran away from home with a man who was 14 years older than me. And so began my pre-destined course to becoming a teenage welfare mom.

The next three and a half years were spent living out of cars, hitchhiking across the country, and playing on people’s pity for survival.  By the time I was 19, I was the poster child for statistical failure; a single-mom, without a diploma or GED, and dependent on welfare. Determined to counter society’s expectations and my deepest fears, I sent myself into hyper-drive with school.  No way was I going to be the poster girl for welfare motherhood.

At the same time, I immersed myself in relationships with people who needed me to help fix them, in my not so humble opinion.  People who were more damaged than I saw myself as.  I inserted myself into their lives and involved myself in their activities.  I was the social queen bee who knew it all and had the intellect and the verbal skills to back it up.  Making myself necessary and central to people’s lives meant I would never be alone.  Surrounding myself with those who were somehow “less than” meant I wouldn’t be at risk of being hurt, used, and damaged the way I had been in the past.  Of course, I wasn’t conscious of either of these things. My certainty that I knew what was best and right for others, combined with my refusal to heed suggestions and advice about my own situation eventually put me into conflict with everyone who was important to me.

Within three years, I imploded.  I burned the candle at both ends, socially and academically. I involved myself in overly complicated and twisted relationships. These choices grew the guilt and knowledge that I was sacrificing my son and his needs in order to “fight my fate.” I landed in a very dark place. In my heart and mind I knew I didn’t know how to be a good mom or a good friend.  I felt disconnected from everyone, everything, and even myself.  I manufactured good feelings to put on a false front.  I came across as a happy, motivated, and functional woman, but underneath it all I all I felt was numb layered over a deep sense of futility. My core deep belief was that no matter hard and frantic I worked to change and improve myself and my life, I was destined for failure. Instead of committing suicide, I got blackout drunk and withdrew from college the next day.

Nine months later, on November 3, 1992, just before I went to cast my ballot, I found out I was pregnant with my second child.  I was a 23, back in school, and living with my grandmother.  I took the phone call from the doctor’s office and when I told my grandmother she slammed down the knife she was using to chop vegetables and angrily informed me that I was never going to amount to anything or get anywhere in my life.  This was after telling me at one point during the previous two years that she wasn’t going to let my little boy drive her crazy and to suicide the way I drove my mom. The statements from my grandma just summed up everything I was fighting against inside of myself.  So, without realizing it, my internalized fate was that of a woman who would never amount to much and would drive the people in her life away.

The past 20 years have been spent spinning my wheels trying to change my fate and despairing of ever being able to do so. Yesterday, after the movie, LaLa and I talked quite a bit.  We talked about depression, our relationships with each other and her brother, as well as the subjects of destiny, fate, and pride.  She shared with me that even though she’s said harsh and hurtful things to me and has gone through her times of intense dislike of me, it was never a thought in her mind that she would cut off all communication and relationship with me.  I was able to let her know that no matter what feelings or thoughts she experiences toward me as she goes through her life, I will always be available to her.  I realized that despite my internalized fears and certainties, my fate is changing, I am growing, and although it’s being redefined, success is achievable.

“To change your fate, look inside, to mend the bonds, broken by pride” ~ Witch, Brave 2012