Jack of All Trades

Following my accident, while being transported by ambulance, the paramedic asked me who they could call to inform them about my situation. Even in the depths of my pain, I knew I could not give them my Mother’s number. She could not have survived a long distance phone call like that.

My older son was at my home, but there was no way I was going to allow him to get a call from a stranger telling him that his mother had been in a horrible accident and struck by a freight train. I couldn’t bear the thought of his 13 year old psyche taking that kind of hit.

So, I gave them my brother’s number. He was tough, and while I knew he was irresponsible in numerous ways, I also knew he knew better than to just call my mother on the phone and drop that kind of news on her. He lived in the same city as her, so could, at the least, drive to her house and inform her in person, which he did.

Unbeknownst to me until months later, at the exact time I was beginning my trip to the hospital, my brother and my son were chatting to each other online.

When my brother got the call from the RCMP, he hung up the phone and then chose to relay the information to my son that his mom had been in a horrific car accident. Hit by a train. Not likely to survive. Then closed the chat by adding that he needed to go tell Nan about it in person, cus she couldn’t handle that sort of news over the phone.

My son then apparently jumped on his bike and flew over to his father’s house, three blocks away. As he was turning into the cul de sac , he spotted his dad pulling out of the driveway with his 11 year old brother in the passenger seat.

He jumped off his bike while it was still in motion ( remember having that skill as a kid?) and screamed at his dad to stop.

This 13 year old child (man), then had the emotional maturity to tell his little brother to go in the house as he had something important to tell his dad.

I can’t tell you with absolute certainty what my ex husband felt in that moment, but I can guess, based on the look on his face when I woke up in the trauma room and saw him looking down at me.

“If she dies, I’m going to have to raise these boys on my own.”

“I can’t believe she did this to me.”

” I wonder if she was still paying the life insurance policy?”

“I hope I’m not on the hook for a funeral-we were separated. For all I know, she’s seeing someone else already!”

He looked scared shit-less, for lack of more flowery prose. Absolutely terrified.

And seeing his face like that gave me the strength and will to fight through the pain and continue living.

Because I knew he was at the core a very unemotional and intellectually barren man. I had been married to him long enough to know all the reasons why.

In the beginning, he told me all of his sad stories of his childhood.

I shared not much at all, to be honest. There simply wasn’t enough room within our relationship for anyone else’s pain but his, and I was OK with that. I was already such a skilled enabler and codependent that I was the perfect girl for him.

The time was never right to open up to him, and I quickly learned to watch his expressions and those big blues, for signs of boredom or distaste.

He was and is an incredibly selfish man.

A man who keeps an internal list of who owes him and who he has helped in the past. For someone with that kind of memory of wrongs perpetuated, he has no side of the ledger where his trespasses against others are tallied.

He is the judge and jury of everyone he has ever met or interacted with his entire life.

He once wrote off his favourite nephew for borrowing $ 400.00 for a hungry wife and babies and not paying it back. It didn’t cause him to go hungry, or take on extra hours at work, or even cut down on his daily 6-pack, but it ate him to the core.

To the core.

Any time that particular nephew is brought up in conversation by someone, he just has to share that story with everyone, and I find THAT more distasteful than the act of not paying someone back that you borrow money from.

I have a PhD from the esteemed schools of Shit Happens and Hard Knocks.

I get how you can start a day with great intentions and end it with the covers over your head and shaking inside at how much shit has flown down the hill your way and knowing you won’t have the strength to deal with any of it until the next day.

My ex husband, father of my children, has always been such a dichotomy to me.

I began seeing him shortly after my father died suddenly. He was 27 and I was 17.

He was big and strong and loud and fierce in appearance. He had the bluest eyes I had ever seen in my life.

He liked to drink and he liked to fight. He had boxed for years semi-professionally and missed all that action, I guess.

What he saw in me, I really don’t know, and he wasn’t the sort you asked silly questions like that to.

I asked him once about 10 years into our marriage if he loved me. It was while we were laying in bed together in the dark, waiting for sleep to take us, and I spontaneously asked him.

His response was a loud sigh of displeasure and then he said ” That’s a stupid question. I’m here, aren’t I?”

I never asked again.

Another time, after watching a segment on the Oprah show, I closed my eyes and asked him what colour they were. We had been married about ten years by then, and he guessed wrong.

He also shared with me that he has read 2 books in his entire lifetime and both times, they were mandatory assignments in school.

Oh- and he doesn’t really like music.

I tell these anecdotes not to disparage him, but rather to give the most precise examples I can recall from our relationship in order to best describe him to someone who has never met him.

I truly believe that my children are the reason I survived that accident but I must give Jack his due, as well.

There was no fucking way I was leaving those two amazing, intelligent, loving boys in his solo care…ever.

I knew he would damage them in ways they would never recover from. Not from anything intentionally done, but by his negligence and lack of ability or sense.

He would forget them, or their needs, or give to himself first, as he always had.

They would receive the scraps and there was no way I could allow that to happen to them.

They would have figuratively been like two small trees drying out and bending until they snapped from lack of water and the nutrients they required in order to continue to grow and thrive.

Their roots would be weak and rotting from the inside.

They would never survive strong winds or sunless days.

They needed me to provide for them in those ways, and I believe the fates knew that and allowed me to survive for that reason.

While they were fixing all my broken pieces in the trauma OR following my accident, my sons were in a quiet room (rooms in hospitals where they hide people who are likely going to receive bad news and they can smother the sights and sounds of grieving) with Jack and another family member, and my older son shared with me years later that his father kept muttering , ” she won’t survive this, she’s a goner, it’s just too much damage.”

Apparently to the point where my son snapped and screamed at his father that I would, in fact, survive. He pleaded with his father to stop saying those things he knew were not the truth.

As I was being put back together in a state of nothingness, that little sapling of mine was railing against strong wind, rain, lightning, locusts and the mighty oak, Jack!

You already know who was right and won that one, don’t you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Distance Makes the Soul Forgive

The place I called home was not typical and I have spent all my years since leaving there trying to assimilate the emotional damage done , while at the same time trying to put the pieces of myself back into some semblance of a “normal” human being.

It has not been an easy exercise, with much of the old one step forward, two steps back going on. I mostly try to focus on the steps forward and tell myself every day is a chance at a new start.

Distance and time has assisted in my work, and always brings to mind how when someone dies, suddenly all the bad they did during their lifetime disappears, with only the good memories remaining behind. I used to cynically scoff at that, actually.

I used to wonder how a sinner became a saint overnight.

In my jaded youth, I would think to myself that I was more than capable of reminding them of the shitty behaviours, moral ineptitude and sketchy actions of the dearly departed, if they only agreed to granting me 5 minutes of their time.

Now, I find myself in that same group I used to internally scorn, when remembering my family who have all left me behind on this mortal coil. I am not sure if it is the distance of time or aging, but something has softened the edges of the shards of pain that their memories used to cause.

My memories are hazier and softer and are mainly composed of times spent together laughing.

I have to try really hard to catch hold of a bad memory anymore.

Is it my own need to find peace or resolution that has caused this shift within me?

Is it the passage of time or is it a willingness to let go of resentments and grudges and laying blame for all the mistakes I made after leaving?

Maybe it is all those things combined.

All I know today is that I am grateful for the peace and I feel much lighter from letting the weight of bygone resentments disperse as I walk along the rest of my path.

 

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In the Moment

The Sandbox challenge this week asks us the following:

Can you recall a time in your life
when you were able to live fully in the present moment?
How or why did that happen?
What would it take for it to happen again?

I can honestly say that during the births of my children, I was fully in the moment, every one of them. It was the first time in my life that I blocked everyone and everything out, including the coaches and clinical people. I knew I had a job to do and that it was MY job to do, and I slipped effortlessly into that mode.

Due to my childhood, I have always had the capability to compartmentalize with ease, but this wasn’t quite like that…this was instinctual and as old as time.

My Mother confessed afterwards that she was pretty nervous about how I would perform during labour and birth. In her eyes, I was a bit emotional as a child and she feared they would hear me for miles and that I would embarrass her in front of the hospital staff.

I surprised her and also annoyed her with my refusal or inability to even respond to her or my husband by a certain point in my labouring. I quite honestly remember feeling like I was the most powerful beast in the universe, riding those waves and breathing in and out, and feeling my sons working hard to enter the world. I felt like it was fate and I was just the machine that was tasked with making it happen for them. It was my job, and by God, I was going to do it well.

No drugs.

Long labours.

Exquisite results with the last two.

I seem to recall staying in that cocoon for at least my hospital stays with them, as well as drifting into those moments in the dark after returning home, up during the night with them. Staring out the window at the stars in the inky black sky and then looking down at them nursing and feeling like we were the only two in the world awake at that hour.

Much more recently, I experienced living in the now once again.

I had been bothered by my one eye on and off for months and had put off going to the Dr as I was busy with work and Xmas, and the things we all get busy with.

Waking up every few mornings and feeling like I had something in my eye, and rubbing it made it feel worse. But it always resolved within an hour, so kept telling myself I would book an appointment when I got a chance.

A few weeks back, I woke up on a cold Sunday and my eye was really painful and felt almost like I had glass in it. I went through the day trying to see what was in it, watching it watering and watering and swelling up by the hour. The light sensitivity was excruciating.

My good eye was aching as well, which I found out later was due to overuse and over compensation.

It had been desperately cold outside for a week straight and when I looked outside, I realized there was now quite the little blizzard going on.

So, I made the decision to wait it out until Monday morning and go to my Dr right across the street.

I awoke around 3 in the morning, and could not open my eye. My sight in my good eye was also blurry, which scared me…honestly terrified me for a few moments. Anxiety washed over me as I sat in my bed, gingerly trying to open my bad eye with my fingers. The best way to describe my vision was like someone had smeared Vaseline over my good eye and so I could see shapes but not edges to anything.

I knew I couldn’t see well enough to drive myself in a blizzard, no matter how much pain I was in, and am currently living alone, so had no one to help me.

I couldn’t call anyone for help, or a cab, or even an ambulance because I couldn’t SEE.

So, all that is simply back-story leading up to my living in the now more recently.

After my dark night of the soul, as I will forever refer to it, I saw my Dr the next morning and was taken directly to Emergency to see an Ophthalmologist.

I had a corneal abrasion and to the best of anyone’s knowledge, I have had something in my eye for months, which caused it.

It has taken me almost three weeks to heal and I am still suffering extreme photo-sensitivity.

During that healing time, while my eye was patched, I realized that moving my good eye at all, made my bad eye move, no matter how firmly the dressing was taped to my eye.

So, I quit using my good eye as well when I absolutely didn’t need it to lessen the pain caused by my bad eye involuntarily moving with it.

No reading or television. No playing on my phone or laptop. No work. No driving except to daily medical appointments, where my eye was debrided of the epithelial cells which had grown all willy nilly on my eye, trying to heal on their own in clumpy little masses.

The two weeks I spend alone in the dark was as close to living in the now as I have ever experienced since my sons’ births.

Nothing to do but think and feel.

Living squarely in the right now.

Living experience through senses other than sight.

Adapting to the darkness surrounding me.

Learning the path to the kitchen and bathrooms by touch and then by memory of how many steps.

Calming myself with the sounds of my breath in and out and the purring of the cat in my lap and on my chest.

Hearing things I had never noticed before living in this house.

Coming to prefer the darkness to the light, as light distracts us and shows us a different reality than the one we instinctually know to be true.

Finally turning the television on and listening to silly sitcoms, which really do not require watching with your eyes at all.

An eventual creeping back to the light during the healing time, with visits from the kids and assorted friends.

Lots of long hugs and worried looks from my sons, who are texters and not used to Mom not responding. Unbelievably touched by my oldest son carefully drawing a skull and cross bones in glitter pen on my eye patch during his visit, in an attempt to make me laugh.

Thankful that I am a food hoarding beast in the winter and had more than enough soup and stews and frozen meals stored in the freezer to take us ALL into spring.

Back to work this week as I can tolerate with the fluorescent lights.

Looking like Jackie O at all time with my shades on, even inside!

Content with the knowledge that I have endured and survived one more obstacle.

One more fear successfully smashed through, with the knowledge that while I would never want to repeat those two weeks again, if something should ever happen to my eyesight, I know how to adapt and survive it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acceptance

The challenge this week over at the sandbox is about acceptance and the differences between acceptance, passivity and resignation.


I have been passive in my life, especially in my younger years, when passivity was a means to get along and not cause a scene even when I most definitely should have. Being passive is similar to a leaf blowing in the wind without utilizing any of its own energy in order to gain the momentum for movement. It’s staying in one place and allowing outside forces to move you in whatever direction those forces choose. Pliant. Immobile. Weightless, without plan or thought of changing direction. 


Resignation arrived in my thirties. The years where my main concern was my sons’ wellbeing and keeping them fed and loved enough to thrive and just getting through the day, in order to maintain. The years of caring for sick relatives and even sicker men. Resigned to the fact that I needed to stand still and in one place, to push down thoughts of what my life could be if only there wasn’t so much weight upon me and responsibility tangling about me. Allowing my struggling spirit to give in to the demands and letting my dreams go into hibernation. A settling. A relief of sorts. Mechanical.

Acceptance has come to me in my middle years. My time since all responsibilities to others have disappeared. Enough time to myself and quiet in order to get back in touch with the spirit within. A period of reflection on choices made and of decisions needing to be made in regards to the rest of my life. 

An almost Zen state in the evenings when the dusk sneaks in the windows and I put off turning on the lights. When I sit quietly in my chair, with the kitten purring against my chest, eyes closed, in reflection and thanks for a day without pain or chaos or regret.

Acceptance that in the letting go, I am opening my soul to all the potentially good things that could be heading my way. 

Accepting that every decision I have made in my life was primarily made with a good, caring heart, and that it is not my fault that my light drew the darkness as well. 

Acceptance that everything is as it should be, and that I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this time. 

Happy

After a break, I am back to the Sandbox Writing Challenges, with a question about what makes me happy.

As I age, I find I am not so much happy as content or at peace, and that I much more strive for that than I do happiness any more. If I look back at photographs in my albums, there seems to be more pictures of me looking quizzically than with a face-splitting smile even going back to my childhood.

The little blonde girl at 3 is staring back at the camera, trying to work out in her mind what the person holding the black box “wants” from her. What she is expected to do or give, in order to please the large human taking the shot. Even the infant being held closely by loving arms, seems to be staring intently up at the holder, never smiling..instead searching…wondering…waiting.

20-something Shannon holding her babies and toddlers and staring again at their faces, their eyes, gazing down at a chubby hand locked into her own. Never fully facing the picture-taker, instead looking elsewhere, sometimes intentionally turning her head to the side..her eyes away from the camera, allowing the profile to be taken, rather than the eyes..those searching eyes.

My favourite pictures of myself that I have in my possession are pictures that were taken when I was unaware of the camera or the picture being taken.

One is of my Mother and I taken months after my accident, when she flew me home to see her once I was recuperated enough to fly alone.

We are in her living room on the sofa together, sitting closely and I felt a spontaneous urge to lay my head on her shoulder, while she was reading something. Probably to get a better look at what she was reading, quite honestly, as I was never overly affectionate with her. My brother was her baby and her cuddler…not me, and I was fine with it, as I’m not overly demonstrative that way.

But that moment caught in time shows me with my eyes at half mast, closing, and my face moving towards her neck, almost like a kitten searching out warmth or safety.

The other photo is one that was taken right after she died and I had family and friends over and it was well into the night and the drinks and music were flowing. My oldest son was around 18 at the time, and he leaned over the back of my chair and wrapped his arm around my neck, while putting his cheek against mine, snuggling right in. My friend just happened to have her camera ready and stole that moment in time, without either of us noticing.

I look pleased…startled almost that someone noticed me sitting alone, and took the time to comfort me. My oldest son has always signified safety to me, as my brother always did. They are carbon copies of each other, the two men I have trusted the most in my life with my safety.

Happiness to me, whether for good or bad, or for totally dysfunctional reasons, means feeling safe. No drama. No fears of the unknown or what could be coming. A sense of quiet calm. That incredible feeling that you can close your eyes for just a moment..and someone else is watching to make sure you are safe.

I have known for my entire existence that the other shoe will be dropping. It is an exhausting way to live, but I have been doing it for so long that it is second nature. I am not like my younger son, who struggles to even enjoy good tidings, in case it makes the next setback even harder to survive through. But I am always, always, aware of the danger lurking around the corner, waiting.

My way of holding on is to be absolutely prepared and aware- it has served me well.

There is a sadness that I have had to evolve into this person, but has become easier to accept it as me, than it would be to change it now.

I have Plans B, C, and D ready at all times.

I have course-corrected my entire life and it makes me feel less fearful to know that I am prepared to anything that comes my way.

I choose to enjoy the small moments now and am grateful for the little things that we all natter about as we age.

A great cup of coffee.

No red lights for miles.

Discovering new music through my sons.

Walking in nature and sitting with my own thoughts.

I really love spending time in my head and that  brings me closer to where I need to be.

 

 

PTSD

I just found this online by accident and wanted to share as it is the best explanation I have ever come across yet as to what living with PTSD is like.
I, thankfully, have not suffered the debilitating effects of depression,  but certainly can relate to anxiety of varying levels every day of my life since my accident.
You understand you aren’t reacting rationally and yet cannot control yourself.
It is exhausting.

“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”
– David Foster Wallace