Darkness and light

2 weeks before Jr’s birthday he announced he wanted a Chainsmokers hat.  After much bickering and back-and-forth about what we would listen to in the car, electronic music had become our common ground of choice the summer before – so this was not TOO shocking….

That being said, I gave him a hard no on that particular band name, as a 7 year old wearing a hat that says “Chainsmokers” was sure to earn us some heavy sideeye at the supermarket.  So I told him to name his current favorite songs, and ordered the hat of the artist with the heaviest representation.

His birthday came and went, with the hat on back order.  A month later my son’s prized Avicii hat arrived – 4 days after Tim Bergling passed away.  When we talked about it, Jr sat on my lap and said “I guess we are lucky he left his songs so we can keep him forever.”  Oh my heart…  yes my sweet doodle, we are lucky for that.

Still, I thought – oh I won’t write about that… Maybe it was ok to write about my experiences with generalized anxiety disorder, but  I am no mental health expert, after all.   I am so far from having my shit together, who am I to say anything about this man and his impossible decision?

Of course we talked about it, my friends and I, and said how our hearts hurt, and “oh how young” and nodded silently with eyes closed tight when someone commented about the importance of destigmatizing mental illness.  Like you do.  Because we all kind of know, don’t we?

And then the news came of Kate Spade, and we all shared pictures of our first KS bags on social media, and told the stories about how she was kind of everything to so many women looking so intently for SOMEONE to look up to – to show us how it was fucking done.  And her husband was eloquent and honest and raw and perfect in his truth about her and it was far more than we were entitled, I think.  But it meant something to so many – and again we nodded with closed eyes, like you do.  Because we all kind of know, don’t we?

Then as we were marinating in the news of that truth, Anthony Bourdain was gone.

ANTHONY FUCKING BOURDAIN.  This cannot be.  (If it seems like my use of the f-word is increasing as I keep writing, it is exactly because my use of it has increased with each news story as well.)

Chef Bourdain was…  he was a lot to me when I was very young, very lost, and VERY angry.

A friend shared his first piece in the New Yorker with me because of my love of all things culinary  – and early 20’s me soaked it up like a sponge.  At the time I told myself it was just the whole “kitchen thing” of it all – and I hung a copy of the essay above my desk in my single-girl condo and read it over and over again. (If you haven’t read it – read it here.  He was such a gifted storyteller.) He was talking about a world I felt locked out of by doctors and diagnosis…. But he was doing it in a voice that was almost my own, and OH how I ate up everything he did after that.

TV Shows and cookbooks and essays and interviews – his connection to all things human was a magnet.  His driven desire to embrace  the entirety of humanity, using the tools he understood – it was all a substantial gift.

Which could be said about them all.

It couldn’t hold them here. It couldn’t keep them from that action.

And then we are quiet and we nod our heads knowingly, with closed or downward eyes, so we don’t accidently make eye contact.

BECAUSE WE ALL KIND OF KNOW, DON’T WE?

We are all thinking of the family member who lost the fight, leaving us all shocked and sad in their absence. The friend from college or high school who tried and failed and everyone knew it, but it’s ok now because they are on facebook looking oh-so-perfect, so we can pretend that we know they are fine.

Or maybe we are thinking of ourselves.  No one wants to say that – no one wants to give voice to an intimate understanding of those thoughts. Maybe because they have clawed their way beyond that enveloping darkness and they fear that if they even glance back towards it, they will be sucked in once again.  Maybe because admitting it might mean confessing that is still very much where they are, and the true bitch of being in that space is that you really don’t think you want anyone to come into your darkness and try to connect with you – though that connection is the very thing that might save your life.

When I read that New Yorker piece – I was 23, and drowning in the sadness and anger and hopelessness that surround a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. I lashed out at those who tried to help with my (now I see) obvious and profound depression.   Everything was a scary and painful unknown.  The only truth I knew in my heart was that everyone EVER would better if I was not there. I was not able bodied, I could not take care of myself, I was costing everyone near me in time and money and energy and I was the least deserving and worthy of all they spent.   I was a horrific and total failure, at every single thing I tried to do. Knowing that I was such a failure that any attempt to leave this life would probably just be something else I fucked up, making me even more of a disappointment to the world, was the only thing that stole my thoughts from that most painful and permanent of choices.

I was lucky.  Because in that blackest, deepest, loudest, longest night trying to consume my soul, the people who loved me did not shut their eyes or nod knowingly and turn away in silence.  They fought.  They fought like hell, and they did not let me push them away – they grabbed on and clung to me and dragged my ass kicking and screaming away from that darkness, and tied me very unwillingly in the light. They unflinchingly reminded me of the truth of who I was, shouting over the demons of the darkness telling me I was the reason for all of their shame and pain.

I am lucky, because for me – it eventually worked.   That is not the case for everyone.  Not every battle waged is won, not every lifeboat offered is boarded.  It can be impossibly hard and feel like the dawn will never break.   It can be uncomfortable, it can be scary, and it can force us to face our own truths when we may not want to.

But never again will I nod knowingly, eyes cast downward, speaking in whispers, succumbing to the stigma that makes the already hard job of reaching those who are hurting even more difficult.

It may not be music, or fabulous shoes, or cookbooks and conscientious travel, but EVERYONE is a substantial gift to SOMEONE.  Everyone deserves to be seen, to know that the darkness tells lies, and that they can escape for the light of the truth.

_______________

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255

 

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Finding Our Adventure

Timehop informs me that 6 years ago was THE day.

The day I started my morning 6 stories up watching the sun rise above the treetops that grazed our suddenly very empty party patio…. I hugged all the doors, I took one last quick soak in my beloved big pink tub, did a touch of early a.m. day drinking (thank you for being a friend, mimosa,) and made sure the pads were secure in the elevators as I buzzed the movers in to the lobby.

Then in a blink, a drive, a long ass day, suddenly I was taking my dog for our first walk along the miles of trails crisscrossing the wide-open-spaces of our new berg, watching my toddler giggling at the goats on “weed patrol” in the fields, holding hands with the grandparents who were now his very close neighbors as the sun set behind the (now much closer) rocky mountains.

I can’t say it felt like “home” right then, and it felt like FAR from the safe choice to me that day. Watching Jr tentatively eyeing the insanely large expanse of manicured sports field at the park with much reservation, all I could think was “same, Kiddo… same.”

There have been some fairly hilarious adjustment pains, and (for me) moments of flat out regret. But we found our footing, and our little family has flourished here.

Mid-call with my East-coast-based boss today, I got a text from my parents sharing some pictures from the 1st grade family picnic at Jr’s school today. How lucky we are to be able to say that.

And since I am writing this over happy hour ceviche at Big Mac and Little Lu’s, I guess I haven’t wasted away in a sea of horrific chain restaurant mediocrity.

And maybe some of it is me knowing that I have a handful of lunch spots with great food and people and wifi, but it is so much more. We love our neighbors and the friends we have made and watching Jr striving and learning and growing along with our town – the same way that I guess I did when I was growing up here.

For our family, this is home now.

The road spreads out towards places we all love in many directions – only one of which is the city where so many firsts happened in our story. 6 years later all of the other spokes stretch out, leading to the years of stories our life has revealed since then, and just as I hoped so very hard those years ago – they have been amazing as well.

I have stopped making “never will I ever” statements, for the most part.

The adventure, as I have learned to love, is in making it up as you go along.

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May Day vs Mayday!

I used to love May Day.  Bulbs blooming, grass getting green, days at least STARTING to try and get a little longer…..  the promise of summer relaxation looming, full of promise, on the horizon.  Oh yeah.

But when you are a parent, May Day becomes more like MAYDAY!!

There is so much to do – May is the moment that the insanely big wave of all the parental shit you are doing finally breaks, and washes over you… grab something and hold the f*ck on, or be sucked out into the sea of trying to wrap up a school year while simultaneously plotting an entire summer AND making sure you have everything you need in place for the coming school year.

MAYDAY MAYDAY, we have a mom down! Send coffee!! Send wine!!  Throw up some shameless bargaining prayer!!

Every time I open my email, I find a new deluge of invitations for end-of-year school year activities, and forms to fill out for summer day camp, and even more forms for the coming fall, and (the worst) an unending supply of notices regarding MORE fees for said summer and fall.

All of the flat surfaces in our house are covered in forms and notices and finished products, with a fresh new hell of paper added to the pile each evening when Jr’s backpack explodes in a crapstorm that leads me to believe nightly that “this must’ve been the big day for sending stuff home.”  But no…. no no…  Silly, silly Keri.   Tomorrow’s pile will make you long for the smaller size of today’s.

The entire last 3 weeks leading up to the final day of the school year is an m-f-ing blur.  It is like I KNOW the days must actually be passing, but I can’t remember where they go.

A great example of this is that I actually started writing this the week BEFORE May Day.  As in, May 1st.  But then I blinked, got buried in a backpack paper explosion, and OH LOOK, it is May 15th.

This past weekend I cooked brunch for my parents to celebrate Mothers’ Day – and part of that “celebration” included 20 minutes where we all poured over our summer calendars, marking out all of the things we already KNOW are happening – followed by scrutinizing the leftover dates to see where we can wedge in other things that we all need or want to happen.

When did summer turn into something I need project management software for!?

Not to mention the last week of school that is roaring up on us – otherwise known as “the week Keri is going to office in her car in the school parking lot,” evidently.  I think there is at least one family participation activity a day for us in Jr’s class from now until the end of school.   There needs to be some sort of “emergency May mom clone” that we can all keep in the basement storage closet and just charge her up to trade off conference calls and field days…  family picnics and reconciliation reports….  appreciation teas and power points… and play performances and making meals and permission slip completion and new hire intros and sports physicals and laundry and bank file approval and swimming lessons and magazine submissions and carpool and HVAC tune ups and bedtime story books and ……

MAYDAY MAYDAY!!!!

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The chase

This.

This pretty much sums up EVERYTHING right now. Me in a desperate chase to just keep up.

Don’t get me wrong, although I am talking about Jr – who is quite literally always off on one rolling thing or another while I either huff and puff to keep up or watch as he straight up blows by me in a blur – it is way deeper than my kiddo’s unending need for speed.

It really is EVERYTHING. It is the startling realization that it is practically May already, and I am still congratulating myself for getting the holiday decorations down.

It’s looking over baby pictures of said tiny, freckled speed demon as they come up on Timehop, because he is suddenly SEVEN years old with all the sass and swagger and fun and flash that comes with being seven. And also with new and specific fashion rules that are as unique as they are non-negotiable, in his eyes – but whatever, you do you, Doodle (a nick name I am most certainly NOT allowed to use in front of anyone even remotely cool or important, BTW.)

It is the non-stop (and very rewarding) challenge of working for a company experiencing an amazing amount of growth. The fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants whirlwind of constantly learning about new industries and evolving technologies – and growing a stellar team and trouble-shooting and brainstorming in a dynamic environment where questions can be as big as predicting roadblocks that could be many months out, or as small as predicting where I am going to be sitting next month.

It’s that “40-something” thing that hits me when I feel or see the passage of time truly affecting my body – the nagging voice that sends me to the gym, pushes me to add the weight, or the reps…. That tells me to eat the egg whites and avocado instead of the breakfast pastry. That deep down drive that I know is me somehow trying to chase my younger years, even if I don’t want to admit that is what I am doing at all.

I like to tell myself that I have LONG given up on the whole “be perfect at everything” idea – and maybe that isn’t what I am chasing at this point. But it certainly does seem that I am always chasing after SOMETHING or another of late. Never really catching it, I think…. Just racing on to the next thing I am trying to keep up with, or thinking about what it is, with eyes rolled toward the sky in thought. I see the same face on so many of my fellow moms – in the office, in the store, at the gym. 20 steps ahead in our minds, chasing down whatever is coming next. No wonder we are all so tired!

Screw meeting for coffee, or wine – the next time I get a group of moms together I am going to skip the planning (something else to have to chase down, ) and suggest we put our damn feet up and take an hour long nap.

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overwhelmed.

I can’t remember the last time all the flags weren’t at half-staff.

This is not at all what I wanted to write today – not at all anything I want to have to say.

But it is true.  It struck me, ironically, on the MORNING of February 14th as I drove past our area’s city and county government buildings, and then also by 2 schools.   The flags were half-raised, and I thought to myself that I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen a flag raised to the top of a pole.

We are a nation always in mourning, it seems.  And within a few hours of my trip through town, our mourning would be renewed.

Maybe “compounded” would be a better word than “renewed,” as it seems now to come not in waves that ebb and flow, but instead in quick hailing succession that floods our collective soul in an endless, bottomless ocean.

The deluge is crushing.  It overwhelms.

That is the truest word I have.  It overwhelms me.

Hearing and speaking the truth that in 2018 there have been so many shootings AT SCHOOLS in our country overwhelms me. (Evidently we have reached a place where we also have to split hairs over WHAT TYPE of gun use on a school campus actually qualifies as a “school shooting,” which overwhelms me.)

Seeing my 6 year old not-so-much scared anymore as angry and indignant – hearing him tell me that someone should fix it because “Spiderman says that with great power comes great responsibility” and even he, AT fucking SIX YEARS OLD knows we are falling down on the damn job as country overwhelms me.

Coming to grips every second of every school day from the time  I pull into the tuck and roll hug and go circle and watch him walk toward the school – a little life I have the sworn universal directive to protect with every fiber of my being – that in spite of all his amazing teachers and administrators do, something beyond horrific may happen to him because that is now-more-than-EVER-before a possible truth cripplingly, awfully, and completely overwhelms me.

It makes it hard to leave his sweet, sleeping self in bed each night after our chapter of Harry Potter, so I lay in the half-dark of his superhero night light, watching him so quiet and calm and begging every power in the universe to protect him.

It steals my thoughts during business calls – leaving me wondering what he and his sweet little classmates are thinking and feeling and doing during their days –if they are safe physically, but also if any hearts are hurting, or feelings are ignored….

Or if any of the multitudes of intricacies that make up the growing little people in his class and his school are maybe going quietly unnoticed or being harmed  – and what can I do, and what can we as community do, and a country, and why are we not talking about it, and WHY THE FUCK ARE WE NOT ALL SHOUTING ABOUT IT EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL OUR KIDS DAMNIT WHY WHY WHY!?

So yeah.  I am overwhelmed.

Scared, and angry, and sad, and confused, and desperate, and mortified, and tired, and brokenhearted, and in pain, and incensed, grieving, and raging, and lost…

Overwhelmed.

But fighting.  For him, and for always…Fighting like hell.

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