You know that feeling…in the back of your throat? When you have a horrendous case of motion sickness, morning sickness, stomach flu, whichever? That feeling that tells you “if you open your mouth you WILL in fact lose your shit.” It’s the kind of feeling that can keep one quiet for hours on end simply for fear of what may physically result from attempting a conversation. Still holding on to the hope…that if you attempt to delay the inevitable, that exhausting nauseating feeling will dissipate?
I’ve felt that reflex over the last few days and it is indeed stifling. Not fear of actual, physical regurgitation, rather, a fear of what I might write. I’ve been stumbling over what I’ve interpreted as a writer’s block over the last week or so. I have nothing to write about. Or do I? Am I merely afraid of writing what has been gagging me in recent days? I’ve felt this once before and with much gratitude to my sister, I chose to write about some emotional stuff. She was right. It helped. Writing down those words did precisely what I had hoped blogging would do for me. But now…that I’m in front of this computer…with an active blog…with readers willing to peruse…why is it so hard to continue that kind of healing? Simply put, it’s emotionally easier to write about something quirky or amusing…gleaning smiley-faces, making someone laugh on a bad day, it certainly makes me feel better and less imposing on my audience. If I instead write about what is crammed against my heart, tugging at my throat, it may bring people down. If I thought no one on earth was reading this, it wouldn’t matter. Right? Then I wouldn’t be putting this on someone else’s heart. But what if someone identifies…what if someone else is dealing with the exact same thing…feeling alone and uncomfortably unique? In response to the handful of emotionally charged posts I’ve written, the resounding feedback has been “I’m so glad I’m not the only one.” So it’s okay, right?
Truth is, my life HAS been quiet as of late. No drama. No fighting. Ben is doing well in school…no additional concerns or worries quite yet in regards to his emotional well-being. No issues in our extended family. No financial woes…outside of the ordinary, anyway. Leaves me with a very quiet mind…one in which the focus has turned inward. On me. And I don’t like it. Not one bit.
I’m accustomed to focusing elsewhere. I’ve always had someone or something drawing my attention, my focus, my emotions…for as long as I can remember. Sure there have been those brief moments in time when all else is hibernating and I’m left with myself…truth be told, those are most certainly few and far between. Before I have a chance to inventory my own baggage, drama is banging on my door again. Thank God.
I grew up “entertaining” two depressed parents…although I don’t know that I realized it at the time. I was the family comedian. I tried my damnedest to make them smile, laugh, hug. I took it on as my personal responsibility to make them happy in any and every way I could. I would BEG for family gatherings because at least THEN they would pretend to laugh and have a good time. I lived for holidays and hold those traditions dear to this day. It meant more to me than the holiday itself. When our house was full of aunts, uncles and grandparents I could laugh too…and not feel the weight of the world on MY shoulders to keep the peace under our little country roof. I organically became the mediator in our little unit right down to the moment my dad attempted to pack his bags and leave. It was pivotal. I stopped entertaining and got real. Really fast. And he stayed.
My teenage and early adult years were consumed with taking care of my aunt who is an alcoholic. I didn’t physically care for her…but emotionally I was her nurse. We had always been close…only 15 years apart. After revealing some horrendous personal drama she was ostracized by the family…although she too is responsible for some of that isolation. She lost parents, a husband, a house, siblings, jobs, boyfriends, apartments…but she had me. I was the only one who would answer her call and that very fact weighed a thousand pounds. I could see the good in her, despite her inability to see it in herself. Do you know how exhausting it is to repeatedly reassure someone that they are worthy of a better life? As a young girl I had no idea how addiction worked. I didn’t know that I couldn’t fix her…or even help her. But dammit I tried. Late night drunken conversations to the point I couldn’t understand a word she said…where we cried together until she passed out. And then I cried some more. Middle of the night calls from motel rooms because her boyfriend was drunk too and had beaten the shit out of her…laying my head down afterward sure as hell she would not be alive the next morning. Defending her to my mother, inviting her to gatherings she would instead drink through, answering my inquiring call hours later completely intoxicated and mildly apologetic for not coming around. Two decades of this wore me to my core. My soul hurt every time she called. I finally made the choice to pull her to arms length, express my never-ending love for her, and say good-bye. After a year or two we’ve been able to email periodically, a cordial check-in here and there to make sure both are still alive and gainfully employed. With every email I worry. I wonder if she’s in trouble at work…if she’s behind on rent…if she’s dating an abusive man. For a split second I think I should call. I should visit. But I don’t.
I had already begun the process of weaning myself from my aunt a decade ago when my mother began battling an eating disorder. She was at the top of my worry chain for years. Massive and immediate weight-loss very clearly lead to a chemical imbalance and years of battling body image distortion, hours upon hours in the gym, avoidance of the family in order to workout longer, trips to the bathroom with lipstick in hand after every meal, deep depression, isolation, I could go on and on. I had become slightly familiar with the face of addiction by this time and I had her number, so to speak. She may not have been hiding vodka in the laundry room or masking her breath with peanut butter…but she was damn sneaky with her puking, and throwing away food. At least she tried to be. Why was I as a grown woman with a brand new baby suddenly taking care of my mother instead of my infant? It’s bad when your little sister calls you panicked because your mother’s bathroom door is locked, no one answered the knocking and the first assumption is “mom has lost consciousness”. Racing to her house that night to insure she was okay was the moment I then got real. With her. She did get help. She’s gotten better. Not healed…but better. I know she still takes her lipstick to the bathroom…but she’s trying. She is happier, at least a little. She isn’t completely consumed with the gym or being emaciated anymore. Fine. I’ll take it.
I can’t cry about it anymore. I look at my babies and realize that they are the ones who deserve the emotional caregiver in me. I have a son who is battling something that we haven’t quite figured out yet. I need to be here for him. To help HIM through…build him up when he’s down and celebrate him when he succeeds. He has siblings who need me too. My daughter who is embarking on teenage-dom (cue dramatic Star Wars music) and a middle son who often gets lost in the shuffle and needs a little extra squeezin’ from time to time. I have my hands full, for sure. I love being their mommy, their caretaker…I love being needed. I suppose it’s in those moments in between when the world is quiet and our home is calm, that I question myself. I have time to actually hear my inner voices. Am I being the person I should be? Am I prioritizing appropriately? Am I working hard enough at my job? Am I as healthy as I should be? Do I long to be needed for the wrong reasons? Should I have been steadfast for my aunt? Would she be better by now if I had? What else can I be doing to help my parents? What emotional hole am I attempting to fill? Do I self-medicate to extenquish a fire that is burning my soul instead of facing it head on? Am I woman enough to do so?
I don’t think I am. It’s much easier to figuratively plug my ears and redirect. I will someday. Until then maybe in those moments of self-realization and deprecation I should instead write about the agitation…the burn…that which has made me who I am. Blissfully discontented.
Thank you for letting me.