Vast majority of the time I feel lucky. I feel blessed. I am genuinely grateful for the many great aspects of my life and times. When I was a kid and growing up I never felt fortunate. I felt anxious, insecure, afraid, and dreadfully cursed by any and all higher powers imaginable. I never wanted to hear different religious theories because it meant just another deity looking down in judgment and banishing me to burn in their version of Hell, a much worse place than what I was enduring. I blamed myself. I was sure I was doing something to bring all the bad stuff down onto myself.
In our household my sister was the great and shining angelic figure who would bring honor and glory to our family, and I, on the other hand, was the bad seed who would end up in the gutter (the childhood term for homeless), in prison, or dying young. I pretty much accepted this as my fate, and few events in my childhood offer any hope of a different outcome.
My mother’s perceptions aside, I was actually a good kid. I did not smoke or drink or partake of recreational drugs. I was not loose or slutty (I had enough problems) and while I frequently went out and stayed out with my friends, we were typically hanging out at a school event or hanging out in someone else’s living room or backyard. I got good grades (probably I could have tried harder and done better, though) and had zero disciplinary problems. I started community college after high school, got my first office job completely on my own from applying to a classified advertisement I found in the local newspaper. I married a decent guy from a fantastic family. I got good and better jobs. I had children. Yeah, I got divorced, but I was able to support myself and my kids with minimal bailouts from my parents, a far cry from my sister and her husband – who my mother absolutely despised – and their quarterly pleas for financial help.
Through the years I have sought and received professional help for my issues. I’m a pretty far cry from great American normal childhood kid, but I know it could have been so much worse. I never take my happy, stable life for granted.
My tendency to blame myself, to scour my thoughts and deeds for signs of deserving any bad thing that may befall me is ingrained. But despite the knee-jerk, I know I am not at fault for every bad thing that happens to me or to those I love. It’s the risk one takes with love, and from personal experience I know the benefits far outweigh the grief. It’s just hard to hold onto that rational perspective 100% of the time. Being human is damned inconvenient sometimes.
But I’m having a really bad week. I’m struggling. I’m an emotional mess before and after work, and again today I found myself striding around the warehouse district at lunch with sunglasses on and a wad of tissues in my hands to blow my nose and blot my tears. I am a mess and am counting the hours until I’m sitting in my psychiatrist’s office and laying it all out, praying he has a few ideas in his arsenal to get me settled down enough until I get a genuine grip. That’s my hope; that’s what’s keeping me sane and trying.
Tonight I came home, a little calmer and feeling a bit more stable. Only now it’s M’s turn to struggle and falter.
M’s dad passed away just before Thanksgiving. It was sad, but we had been estranged from him for a few years. Still, M loves his father and grieved his loss in his own way. As he said to me more than once, the real grief began 3 years prior, when he and his wife filed paperwork for restraining order against him. We hired a lawyer, fought it, and won, but by the damage was done; we would not see or hear from his father again and we both knew it.
Into this second marriage M’s dad brought a collection of family heirlooms – antique clocks, glassware, cabinetry. These were things collected by M’s mother and clocks carefully refurbished by M himself. Monetarily we have no idea the value of these items; in sentiment, though, they are priceless. All remained in the stepmonster’s possession and under her control. The only contact his elder sister had with her has resulted in verbal assurances that these things would be divided upon her death. Dealings with her and her daughters do not give any of us hope or faith of truth in her statements. In this case possession is 100% of the law, and I have counseled M repeatedly to not get his hopes up for a pleasant outcome. He agrees, but it makes him understandably angry. We choose not to go there and simply banish thoughts of his dad from our day-to-day lives.
Only today M’s nephew texted him that the stepmonster sold their home in May. From what we can gather it’s about 6 months since M’s dad’s death. When I got home and M was sharing that story with me, I looked it up and sure enough the real estate records support what his nephew had learned. I am not especially surprised; the stepmonster was having difficulty coming up with the money to have her husband cremated, so I suspect debt was a primary motivating factor in this decision. Between the mortgage (they were in their late 70s when they used their paid off home as a piggy bank to finance remodeling, stepmonster’s annual trips to Israel with her church, the motorhome (that never left the yard) payments, medical expenses (hospitalizations, surgeries, etc.), and the credit card debt that came from supporting two middle-aged daughters and a 30-something grandson caught up after losing the second, larger pension payment M’s father brought into the household.
The worst thing is this is another boulder in the pathway of ever recovering the family heirlooms that M craves. In our minds those items have been already sold for whatever cash they could bring, and it adds a new layer of depression and anger to my floundering household. M is doing his best to keep it together, because it’s currently my turn to have a crisis, but I can tell from the heavy atmosphere that he’s brooding and upset.
And I feel hopelessly helpless to comfort or aid him.
We are not fighting, arguing, or shredding one another. We ate dinner, talked about mundane events in our days, sat outside for a long time, iPads in our hands, listening to the sounds of our backyard as the sun went down. It is a night to be quiet and close yet alone with our own thoughts and our grief. Tears slid down my face, I went through half a box of kleenex with more crying and nose blowing.
I wish we were not so sad tonight, yet the most hopeful thought I have had today it occurs to me this is one day out of many left in our lives. We will not always feel this way, close and distant at the same time. Our hearts will heal, my hopeless anxiety will fade, and the rest of our most turbulent emotions will settle down into a manageable state. We will be together, and we will be happy. Because underneath all the black clouds and negativity we are enduring and cannot seem to escape, we still have very rich lives. We love each other, we love our families, we love our friends. As another blogger has been saying … go where the love is. We are already there, Emma, even when it is occluded by grief.