Thursday, September 5, 2013

For Whom The Bell Tolls (09/05/13)

The elevator bell rang many times in that hour: but I knew when it was them. I knew. All the air went out of the room and a terrible heaviness worked its way down from my stiff frozen face to my tightly contracted stomach. I had no fear. My eyes were dry as old bone. I had no room for anything but the incredible weight of what was coming. It was time to sign the papers that would terminate my natural rights as a mother. I was 17. I was alone. Every cell in my body was screaming, where's the baby? My breasts leaked milk for him. I had not been allowed to touch him him since the moment he was born. And now it was time to do what I had waited these 9 long months for. It was time to do right by my boy.

I knew I would have to wait until 24 hours after his birth, so that I could not later claim that I had been influenced by medications and cause any upheaval in my son's new life. My son's new life: I had given him life by birth, but now it was time for me to really give him life. My parents had offered to help me raise him, but frankly I would have sold my ass on every street corner in hell rather than let them get near my child. They were NOT going to have a chance to hurt him in any of the ways that they had hurt me. I knew I could do better for him than that.

I had watched the clock, and I called the nuns when it had been exactly 23 hours since his birth. I asked them to bring the papers. I added one request: please, hurry.

Sister Janice came promptly, in her habit and her sensible shoes. For the first time since I had met her, she did not make any of her trademark bad jokes. She gently asked me if I wanted to talk, and laid her hand on mine: I said no, please, let's just get this over with, and moved my hand. I could not bear to be comforted. She had to read page after page of legal documents to me, and I tried not to listen but I heard every word. They needed to make sure that I understood exactly what I was giving up. And in spite of the legalese, the words hammered home over and over again what signing these papers would mean. Everything I was giving up. Everything I would never have. Everything. I did not cry. I did not fidget. I nodded when required. I could barely breathe. I listened for almost an hour, and then finally, it was done. I had listened to all the words and signed all the things. I had given my son up for all time.

She asked me if I wanted her to stay, and I said no, I need to be alone for now. She hugged me briefly and she walked away. I heard the elevator bell again, and I knew that she was gone. So I got up and went to the nursery. And there he was, the one with no name on his tag. I had always thought of him as Ian Andrew, but his parents would be the ones to name him. Not me. I watched at the nursery window, and he started crying. The nurses were busy tending to other babies, so I tapped on the glass to get their attention because my baby was crying and I could not touch him. They didn't hear me. I started knocking on the glass and they still couldn't hear me. I started banging on the glass. MY BABY WAS CRYING AND I COULD NOT TOUCH HIM.

They still couldn't hear me.

Finally, I stopped.

I walked back to my room somehow. I could not cry. I could barely breathe. And the true weight of what I had done began to dawn on me, in waves of pain too great to allow for tears. I sat on the bed and just kept breathing. There was no escape, there was no relief. All I had was the knowledge that I had done my best for him. It was small comfort at that moment. I don't know how long I sat there, hours maybe, until they brought me more drugs and I slept. I did not feel 17 anymore. I never felt 17 again.

The pain and the loss were with me every waking minute for so, so long: but as in all things, even pain changes with time, gets made smoother as does any rock tumbling through the turbulent waters of life. 32 years later, there is no pain left, but there will always be something missing, an empty space deep in me that calls quietly for him. Maybe I will meet him one day. The odds are frankly against it, but I choose to believe that I will see him one day, that I will hold him close in a bone-crushing hug and smell his skin and have a chance to tell him how very much I loved him. I have never regretted my decision, but until I can touch him again, I will never be complete. And so I hope. Fuck the odds. I will hope.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I Am The Warrior

I want to talk about pain in a way that I rarely do. No one wants to be perceived as a whiner, and if I talked about it as much as I think about it, I'm pretty sure no one would want to listen to me anymore. But the truth is that pain is one of the most dominant forces in my life. As in the zen way of all things, it has taught me much, and it has cost me much, too.

It happens sometimes, just seeing someone walking down the street in front of my house. I think, she is not counting every step she takes. She doesn't feel like she's walking on broken glass. And I am suddenly sick with envy. I was a strong girl. Still am actually: but I was so fucking CAPABLE. For years now it has been a daily struggle to even get clean. IT HURTS WHEN I MOVE, EVERY FUCKING THING I DO, AND IT HURTS PRETTY FUCKING BAD. That is my truth. I want to cry just writing this. I'm not gonna catalog the variety and intensity of the various things that are wrong with me, but they all pretty much suck. I do what I can about it, I exercise when I can, I see doctors and eat well and meditate and listen to music and give back to life every chance I get and other shit, but it is a fucking STRUGGLE and it is brutal at times. I try not to whine, but I certainly do bitch to a few select people. Because if you do it too much you get judged.

I bathe and do my hair every day. I wear red lipstick too, damn it. My pride drives me forward, to work what magic I can, to inspire myself in every small way that I can. I don't wear pj's or yoga pants all day even if I don't leave the house, and most days I don't. I don't have a car. My disability has taught me to be my own best friend. I have to forgive myself for the things that I cannot do. When it comes to my son, and not being able to go for a walk with him, or being too fucking sick to honor plans we have made, well, you can imagine the guilt. He always says, no, Mom, just take care of yourself: that kid, man. That kid. I love that kid. And I have learned to forgive myself even for letting him down, aided by his grace. That is hard beyond any words I have. Have I mentioned today how awesome my son is?

I have lost friendships. I try not to make firm plans with too many people. Going to the grocery store is a huge chore, thank God I have someone to do it for me. I keep my house clean and care for my cats and look for ways to do good and to give back to life. I have come from so many kinds of hell, to be delivered to a relatively good place in life: I feel that when it comes to life, I OWE. So I try to give back. It's what I CAN do.

I don't know why I'm writing this. I know I'm not alone, but I feel like I am screaming into the dark. I just want to say all this for the record. Just this once, I want you to know what it's really like. Because the battlefield is never in my body, it's in my mind, in how I choose to look at things. That has been the hardest part of this journey. And you know what? I do it with a fair amount of grace myself. When a woman I barely know accused me of being full of shit regarding a specific affect of my disability, I ended the conversation pleasantly, immediately, and firmly. And I wanted to hurt her in the worst fucking way for days. This bitch has no fucking idea what I have come from, the abuse, the horror of my childhood, a Styron novel scratched out in the dust of a double-wide...and then my years of wandering in the land of drug addiction, finally finding my way to recovery and then throwing it all away again to suck a crack pipe and discover that there is really no end to how low your soul can go...there are no words. So my life today is actually pretty fucking sweet in comparison to that. Frankly, my perspective does make it easier to accept what I have to deal with now.

But there are days where the pain crushes my soul. Needles me with doubt. Sows the whispering seeds of suicidal despair. I hear them. Anyone with chronic pain, physical or other, hears those whispers. As a recovering addict, my chemical choices are pretty limited. I cannot safely use narcotics to maintain a saner level of pain. There are days I drug myself with TV. With video games. With fantasies, I have an amazingly vivid imagination. Those are the days that all I do is try to escape as best I can. I hide from you. I cocoon myself, and wait for better days. And there are days that I fight. With my hard dark humor, with my silliness, with my love for the world and my red lipstick, I fight. I am a fucking warrior. And even at my lowest, I believe that I will find my way back, because that is just who I am.

Every person who makes me laugh, it is like a prayer to me. Every person who I love, you make my world a bigger place. And for the many amazing and wondrous people who give me so much love, you humble me. Because in the end, it is the love that matters after all.