Friday, August 12, 2011

Treading Water

I have become a narcoleptic.  I am snoozing all the time but never feel rested.  I was hefting trays at work the other day and thought the carpet looked oh-so-comfy and wouldn't it be nice to lie down on it and do a bit of snoring.  Perhaps this is associated with the grieving process; some friends have told me they did the same thing about a month after their loved one died.  The timing is correct but I don't feel devastated by Mom's death anymore.  It's more an ache when I reach for my phone to tell her something and remember, "Oh yeah..."

I was rearranging my DVD collection tonight, hauling books out of one of my bookcases to make room for the movies that are spilling out all over.  A letter my son wrote to me a year ago fluttered out.  I picked it up and re-read it, then sighed and put it back.  It had been full of recriminations for my evils as a parent, then basically said that he thought we should have a relationship and wouldn't that be wonderful?  It was the first contact we'd had in seven years.  I remember how thrilled I was, despite the catty digs, to have heard from him after so long; how excited I was at the prospect of seeing him.  What did he look like now?  Last time I'd seen him, he was a gaunt and pissed off seventeen-year-old.

He never contacted me after that.  I wrote back immediately, really happy, but he never contacted me again.  After Mom died, I emailed his father and asked him to tell Leland what had happened.  His dad even sent flowers to the funeral, for which I was grateful.  Leland neither attended nor sent flowers or a card.  He did write to my sister, quoting Dostoevsky's Brothers K about happy childhood memories.  He wrote that if it hadn't been for his grandma, he never would have had any.


My friend B and I went to a movie the other night: Rise of the Planet that went Ape.  Loved it.  We had a blast, laughing and blabbing as we always do.  She told me that Leland had recently been on vacation and posted photos on his facebook page.  It's a private page so I can't see them.  She pulled them up on her phone and I looked at pictures of beautiful scenery and gorgeous architecture.  The only shot of another human being was of Leland himself, and not his face at all.  He'd been lying on the beach, and had taken a pic of the water, catching a glimpse of his feet, gritty with sand.  That one hit me; the first sight of my own son in years.  He has my feet.

It's a strange thing to realize that someone you love isn't a nice person.  I never wanted to lump my own kid into the group of poisonous family members but for the moment, that's where he is.  I wish him well.  I hope that some day he can find his kindness again because he'll never really be happy without it.  I fear for him; scared he'll turn into an Ebenezer Scrooge, toiling daily on his invisible ropes of chains and money boxes, growing angrier and lonelier as the years go by, bitter with the whole world.  But hell, I'm nothing if not an optimist.  Even Scrooge, scum ball extraordinaire, found his inner soul in the end and became a good, happy and kind person.  I truly think that's the secret to self worth: to become worthy.  Simple but surprisingly difficult. 

Sometimes sadness just overwhelms me.  The weight of the past curls its tendrils around my legs and pulls me under for a simulated drowning.  But I always swim back up to the surface.  There's so much beauty, so much life, to still be lived.  For so many years, all I could see was grey misery and soggy bitterness, like day-old Coco Puffs in rancid buttermilk.  Sticky, inescapable yuck.  Sure, life's full of slime and angst and panic.  They're all noisy and they all want to snatch a ride on your back, weighing you down and nagging you to hurry, do better, try harder.  But if you take a moment to step back, straighten up and see sunshine in the trees or even lovely rainbows in an oily puddle in a parking lot, you can sluff the little fuckers off.  You can refuse to carry them any farther.   Beauty works wonders.  You just have to recognize it.

Insecurity addicts aren't really that different from Ebenezer Scrooge's chickenshit dealings with the world.  He feared life's hardships so made his own life harder still.  Insecurity can make you do the same thing; select bad choices because you're shaking in your boots and it's too scary to try for happiness.  Over the past couple weeks, several brave women and a courageous boy have inspired me with their decisions to change their habits, leave their abusive relationships, and take the plunge into new lives.  All of them, once drowning, now treading water and heading for the shore.  I'm doing the same thing, coughing a little sea water and cussing a blue streak as I swim back from far shallower water than they've been in.  Good luck with your own oceans, my friends.  May you feel the sun on your face and firm ground underfoot soon.  Just keep paddling.  Roll over on your back and float if you have to, but always keep swimming for the shore.

Love, R

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