5,114 days- The Dividing

5,114 Days = 122,736 Hours
5,114 Days = 7,364,160 Minutes
5,114 Days = 441,849,600 Seconds

It sometimes seems like a lifetime ago but can be broken down into hours and minutes and even seconds by a simple Google search.

14 years ago today is when the dividing of my life into two parts occurred.

I have linked the background posts within this piece for reference if anyone should have any curiosity about what led up the the “dividing” for me.

I have learned there are no coincidences, and Cheryl posting this prompt this particular week has pushed me to try and make sense out of one of the most significant losses I have so far endured in my life.

I lost myself that day.

I lost the young, optimistic, cheerful girl who never felt dread or fear of the smallest things or places or smells or events. I lost the feeling of power and trust in the easy fluidity of my physical self and the endless opportunities I had before me.

I lost the dreams of someday walking the Camino or along the Great Wall. Those had to be put away permanently for me. Shattered pelvises and broken backs tend to limit the ability to walk too many steps in a row or run up stairs without a deep aching pain. So you tuck those away and try not to think of them any more.

“You were just a dreamer and likely would have never made it there anyway. You had responsibilities and children to raise and those types of adventures are for wealthy people, anyway.” 

And you stop browsing travel  books and delete links to adventure destinations and start listening to co-workers’ & friends holiday stories and make excited sounds while looking at their pictures and try and save those images in your mind to feed your soul. So you feel a little bit like you were actually there yourself years ago; you can still feel a part of it all.

A consolation prize of sorts.

A Participant ribbon.

My best girlfriend in the entire world came to me and my children when she heard the news of my accident. I remember opening my eyes and seeing her beautiful blue eyes full of tears, looking down at me in the trauma room I was taken to for  the putting back together of all my broken pieces.

She was sobbing and muttering  in a quiet voice ” I loved the way you walked. You had the greatest walk in the world…so loose, arms swinging, long strong legs, Shannon. Your walk was amazing to see. Not a care in the world. You will never walk like that again.”

At the time, in my drug haze, I brushed that off, as it seemed the least of my worries. But that moment between us two has come back to me many times since then.

I have never walked that way again.

There is a tiredness and caution in my walking now.

Always a moment of stiffness and pain and stretching before I can even begin walking.

A measured carefulness, much like with the elderly.

A preparing of sorts.

A measuring of steps and time involved and stamina.

A quick visual for obstacle or danger lurking around a corner somewhere waiting to harm me.

I lost that naivety and sense of comfort that the world was an open one without danger and numerous opportunities for mishaps and accident which would take away the person you had always been and leave the empty shell behind.

That girl and this girl.

I grieve for what my sons lost of me that day; my best self forever gone. The young carefree mother who was up for any adventure. The one who danced like no one was watching and who jumped on a bike or ran through the sprinkler with them. The one who did cartwheels over and over one sunny day in the backyard for them when they were toddlers just to make them laugh and clap.

Not the embarrassing,fearful, broken one who jumped two feet in the air with a scream and horrified bulging eyes if someone’s lawn chair on the next patio over blew over in the wind, making a clatter.

Not the one who suddenly wailed during a family movie night if there was fast camera work occurring or sudden violence, or god forbid a train or train scene at all. Their worried eyes looking at me fearfully and their clumsy hugs of comfort.

Not the one who cried and cried watching the news; whose heart broke over and over and over again every evening at 5. Who stopped watching the news and just relied on others to keep her updated on things on a need-to-know basis.

Certainly not the one who would drive them all to the big stores and malls and then last three minutes in the mall before telling them she would wait in the car, because all the lights and sounds and people were just too much and always would be. Too many dangerous variables in those places. Too many things that could go suddenly wrong. And all those damn steps. Doing her best to not leak that fear into them and their sense of safety. Making jokes about how she was getting older and really hated places full of people and noise.

I became the master of excuses with my sons and friends.

I laughed when I felt like crying over losing her.
The real me.

The after this brought the mother who obsessively checked flight tracker when her eldest went to Germany the first time. Not once. Not twice. Probably over two hundred times. Sitting at the laptop, chain smoking, endlessly hitting refresh…watching from afar, checking, checking, checking. Watching the little air plane icon moving away from her ” boundary of safety” and out into the world of dangerous happenings. The silent prayers uttered…the pleas of ” if someone has to die  in the universe tonight, please take me and not him”, her cuticles chewed and torn and dripping blood on the keys of the laptop.

The one who talks to herself and reassures herself in whispers that surely if there even is a God, he has already doled out the suffering allotted to her and will spare her sons. The one who thinks in a fair world, you should only have to endure a specified amount and if you endure more, your loved ones get a pass on their suffering.

My sons were robbed of the mother I was supposed to be and ended up with this version. The  after this Mother I became. They have never talked about the ways I have changed or admitted any judgement on the changes, but it is there in the way their eyes light up or voices get more excited when they share a memory they had with the before this Mom.

I am slowly putting the pieces back together on the inside for us all.

There will always be the divide of selves, but I have time to try to put in the work involved in making this one great in her own way.

441,849,600 seconds since she became me.

 

 

 

 

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Survivor

The Sandbox Writing Challenge this week asks us to reflect on  what makes us a survivor.

The majority of my posts here are primarily stories about how I have personally survived various obstacles, injuries or loss, but the idea of finding qualities that make one a survivor and another not is rather difficult for me.

If I really ponder it, I think it all comes down to choice and what you choose as something that can be overcome. What would be a normal Monday for me might send someone else to the nearest mental health clinic or ward for a “wee rest”, as my Mom used to put it when discussing her friends and their assorted nervous breakdowns.

As a child, I think my natural curiosity about what could happen tomorrow and my optimistic spirit enabled me to survive the dysfunctional environment I was raised in. I knew tomorrow was always a new day, with a fresh chance for things to be better than they were today. I still have that optimism, which is rather amazing, all things considered.

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In my own very unhealthy codependency, I thrive on others need of me, so since the age of 23, I always had a babe or child, who I knew was counting on me to be OK and to carry on, which motivated me greatly. Following my accident, I kept the thought of my sons in my mind, in order to move through the pain of rehabilitation and the months of recovery, where there were certainly moments- days, even, where I thought I could no longer bear the pain or the effort of getting back to myself.

Moments where I would curse at myself ” Just shut that shit, down, girl- no time for a pity party today. Get up on your feet and take one step forward..just one step.” I would self motivate, and listen to that grumpy voice, the part of me that refused to give in. Is that the spirit within us? Our mothers? What is that voice? I am not entirely sure, but I have it and it has pushed me along, with no patience for excuses or whining.

 

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http://www.livelifehappy.com

In my middle years now ( still hella optimistic, ha!), as an empty nester, that curiosity is back and it is stronger than ever before. I have so many things left to do and people to help and love and perhaps even influence in some small way. I need to keep myself healthy so when grandchildren come for me, I am strong enough to carry them and mentally alert enough to savour every single moment with them. It must be like a do-over with your own children. A chance to make everything right with all love and no discipline!

Once again, I have rambled, and not answered the question, I’m afraid. I don’t know what that is inside of me that has made me get back up repeatedly and keep holding on.

Life is beautiful to me. I want to be here and I want to contribute good things. Pain and suffering are simply part of the journey, and I honestly would not change one thing that has happened to me. The struggle has made me who I am at my core and I am very thankful for my strength and resiliency.

There was simply no other choice for me but to survive.

It is who I am.

 

 

 

Into the Abaddon

These events occurred following this.

Paramedics transported 37 yr old female victim of the MVA to nearest acute hospital twenty miles away from the crash site. Assessment by Emergency Medical Transport personnel indicates multiple spinal fractures. Pressure gauze applied to gaping head wound. O2 given by nasal cannula as SATS decreasing rapidly. Shock. BP  decreasing to 96/57 during transport. Patient responsive to stimulus but non verbal.

blinding lights and pain. more pain than could ever be imagined or a loving god to allow to be suffered by one of his children. too many faces, shimmering in the lights of the icy cold room. chattering teeth slamming uncontrollably against each other. can’t stop them from tearing into my lips and tongue and a hand shoves something warm between them to stop the violence of the shaking. taste of warm blood in her mouth, coppery, thick, running down her throat, causing the heaving. Ohmygodohmygod cant breathe. and struggling to sit up and stop the hurting and then a prick of the needle 

and

nothingness.

wake to the uniformed man asking about drinking that day and how much. crying please leave me alone, no, no, i wouldn’t do that ever. . he is telling the nurse with grey hair that he wants the blood immediately. has to have it before i decease for some legal reasons. the priest who is sitting by the stretcher tells him to stop, he is upsetting me and I am gasping for air, and to go away and what does any of it matter any more. the nurse is pushing the officer out of the room telling him she will get to it after,unless he wants to steal it like a thief right off the floor or me and  that it can be done quickly when it is needed. am i dying? i turn to the priest and whisper am i dying? and he looks at me with the saddest eyes and moves his lips in prayer         

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.”

i awaken in the blackness of nothing and silence.  it is quiet and feels like death has come for me after all. no pain, no sound, womb-like, with no atmosphere but the absence of everything. entombed in a shroud of blank space and opiates. sensing like an animal that i am not alone, i turn my head and see the whites of my sons eyes looking at mine. “mom mom mom, are you going to be ok? please be ok.”  i must be dreaming or stoned or dead. i feel removed and cannot open my lips to speak to him.he isn’t here, i must be dreaming of him. suddenly a  horrible pain in my stomach and a splintering inside of me. feeling the heat of it rising up my stomach to my throat and the spewing out of the blackness and a sudden tearing of tissue and searing agony and …ohmyGOD..and as it comes pouring out of me, out of everywhere it possibly can, burning me with its heat, i hear my son’s voice again,

” SOMEBODY COME HELP US PLEASE COME HELP US MY MOM IS BLEEDING, SHES BLEEDING ALL OVER AND IT’S EVERYWHERE! HELP HELP HELP.”

STARS air ambulance dispatched to rural hospital at approximately 2000 hours to transport MVA patient to FMC in Calgary. Internal hemorrhaging, right side pneumothorax and C7 spinal fracture primary injuries noted on transfer form.

whirring and roaring in my ears and freezing like ice, oh so cold. machines are bleeping and sending spirals of paper down to the floor and something is covering my ears. someone in a spacesuit is trying to talk to me but i can’t hear him over the whirring and clattering sounds of the copter blades and the screeching coming from the machines. i understand i am alive and moving to another hospital but not aware of urgency. i feel like i am in a space ship with all the machines and coloured lights and sounds. i don’t recall my son being with me at the hospital at all. my reality has turned into  a series of waking and nothing moments. no slow drifting from consciousness to sleep, rather a sudden jolting of existences. i no longer feel sadness or fear and feel weightless, floating along wherever these ever-changing faces take me. what makes me me, the ego, the id, my instinctive force within, has disappeared.  there is a sense of wonder and relief in the letting go

 

 

 

Scars

I’ve got scars. Physical and emotional. The physical scars are the result of a childhood lived outdoors with little supervision. The adult scars are from both light and dark moments in my life. I have borne three sons,  two of whom survived. Those births were possible by caesarian sections. That scar is now a pale and silvery whisper down my lower belly and indistinguishable from the ravages of aging and yoyo dieting over the years. I love the bumpy texture of that scar and lovingly glide my hand over it in the shower and feel my mind go back all those years ago to the feelings of overwhelming love and thankfulness for my sons. There is a long faded scar that runs from between my rib cage to slightly below my naval and it is a crooked mile of bad road. I earned that one for surviving a motor vehicle accident with a freight train thirteen years ago. They tell me they cut me open fast, almost apologetically. .to mend internal bleeding and to remove my spleen. I have scars under my hair that itch in the summer from 100 stitches. .and removal of glass from my skull.
Scars under my hair at my temples from the brace  I wore following my neck fracture. .barely there. .nothings.
Scars on my side from the chest tube inserted when my fractured  ribs went through my right lung. THAT one still hurts…nerve damage they say.
I tend not to look at my body. I clean it, feed it, and am forever thankful that all my movable parts are moving, albeit more painfully as I age but it’s simply the object that holds inside it all my most treasured possessions. My heart, which loves too much and is torn and  forever broken  in small places from betrayals and losses. My soul which still feels so incredibly young. And my mind.
My scars are not who I am.  They are where I have been. 
Every one of them are proof of my story. Proof of my survival and a life lived roughly.
My Nigerian Doctor, who  bears the tribal scars on his cheeks of his ascent into manhood many years ago told me I am one of the bravest warriors he has ever met.
I’ll take that.

Brothers and Other Addicts

kidsThe Early Years

When I’m thinking rationally with my adult hat on, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that my brother fell “victim” to the family “disease”.

That, of course, removes any blame from his otherwise pretty broad and fearless shoulders.

It also removes me quite nicely from the guilt of not catching it.

From my mother’s account, he was difficult right from the damn start. She was married for the second time and had produced a (gasp) daughter the first time at age 32, so had to basically take one more for the team and try one more time for the heir apparent at the age of 34.

After suffering through nine months of hell, losing weight and puking her guts and stomach lining out daily ( according to her), my brother, Mark, came sliding into the world. Weakly, thin, blue, and in most desperate need of an immediate blood transfusion. He was given new blood and a shit ton of drugs to just keep him with the living.

I have read enough to understand that the statistics regarding traumatic births and the need for resuscitation and desperate measures immediately following a birth can lead to addiction in later life. ( See? Adult hat appearing once again).

But I can tell you right now, that I believe in my heart that a whole lot of other things conspired within my brother’s universe to lead to his addiction and eventual death at the age of 47.

He was dealt a shitty hand, I think, and I am just now realizing with survivor-like guilt, that there was really never going to be a “happily ever after” in his lifetime.

I got the Aces and he got the 2’s, so to speak.

Strike 1: Our Dad was a drunk. A lovely guy, really…but a drunk. Back in the sixties, when we were born, boys and girls modelled themselves by their gender-alike parent. Lucky him.

Strike 2: Our Mother was already up to the eyeballs trying to be the responsible one, keeping a roof over our heads, food in our bellies and teaching us morals, all while trying to keep control of a stealthy drunken hubby. She was angry 99% of the time, slap-happy, and tired. But never too tired to slap and swing a belt at us, as she desperately tried to raise us into “good people”. Guess which parent we chose to spend the most time with? The predictable one – two moods…drunk(happy)…and…sober(quiet/staying out of my Mother’s way).

Strike 3: Everyone was just too busy trying to keep their OWN heads above water to pay much attention to what my curious little brother was up to. Sorry. Not sorry. I had my own shit to deal with and quicksand to manoeuvre!

So, fucked he was, right from the start.

And though I make light of it here, I am profoundly saddened to the core that all of us let him down in the ways we did.

Towards the end of his life,he once looked at me with an unbearable sadness in his eyes, and joked that we grew up in the same foxhole. We were survivors of the insanity that our home life was. He would sometimes be pissy and say that I “got a pass” from most of our Mom’s verbal and physical abuse. I just learned really early on that keeping your mouth shut and flying under the radar was the easy route through the blitzkrieg.

He never learned those lessons. Ever.

And yet he was her favourite;her baby: him with the loud, look-at-me voice so much like hers; him with the natural affinity for physical affection, so much like her. I guess he gave her the cuddles as a child and the love and affection as a boy and man that she never accepted from dear old fall down drunk Pops.

I have a couple vivid memories from my brother’s youth. One was him being mauled by a neighbour’s dog when he was around 4. I had once again been forced to take him with me (goddamnit!) out to play and headed right over my friend’s place to play with her dog. I swear, that little dog chased its own tail around, let us all play around with it for about a half an hour, and then just randomly snapped and went right at my brother’s face. Fifteen kids at least standing in a yard, and the dog zeros in on my brother’s face.

I remember the skin and the blood and the screaming…and I remember my brother running blindly away,trying to find his way down the block back home, blood streaming down his face..skin hanging…and me running even faster…AWAY from him and his pain and fear. A lesson for him on that day, and a reminder for me of how damaged we both were already at those tender ages.

That’s a little something called fright or flight instinct and I was obviously already well versed in that by the  age of 5 1/2.

The shit had hit the fan and I was getting the hell out of there before the hammer fell. I was supposed to be watching him. Keeping him safe. And I had failed. Abysmally.

He ended up with stitches all over his face. Came pretty close to losing an eye and most of his bottom lip, but he used it to his advantage for the rest of his life by telling people when asked about the scars ” You should see the other guy!” That instinct to turn tragedies into humor is something we both learned by osmosis.

A coping skill that served us both well.

The second memory digging at me today involves a harmless prank he and his gang of buddies pulled off when they were about nine. They had all stolen laundry soap from their homes and came up with the idea of pouring it into the fountain outside the hospital entrance in our fairly small town.

Looking back now, having raised two boys of my own, that is a pretty creatively, awesome prank. One I could have almost got on board with AS a Mom!

Unfortunately for my brother, our mother saw things much, much differently.

Being a small town, they got fingered and I.D.’d before they even arrived back home.

My mother met him, at the door, with a broom. She was swinging like Mickey Mantle before he was even all the way inside of the house. The shame he had brought on our family. The atrocious horror of the neighbours all knowing one of her kids had done such a reprehensible thing!

She actually broke the broom hitting him with it. I tried to stop her, first grabbing at the broom, then attempting to grab her swinging arm. Nothing stopped her, and my interfering actually ramped her up even more. She started jabbing at him with the broken end, practically using it like a spear. I caught a bit of that spear action to my side, just as she said in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t get the hell out of the way, I was gonna get some too.

Shots fired.

I retreated.

Left him to it.

Listened as he begged her to stop.

He wouldn’t cry.

I have so much respect for him today for not crying. I got accidentally speared once, not even a direct hit, and I was already bawling like a baby and can feel the hot tears sliding down my cheeks now,  just in the remembering.

Afterwards, we sat on the floor of my room, and listened to some music, keeping both it and our voices down, so as to not start her up again. I remember washing him up the best I could, and telling him he should have known the natural outcome of a stupid prank like that. Telling him he had to learn to not piss her off. Telling him it wasn’t really her fault… she was just worried/tired/mad/overwhelmed/broke…whatever she was in that moment where she lost her mind so totally and completely that she would beat and stab at a nine year old boy with a piece of broken wood.

Looking back,I think that was the moment in time that we made the mutual decision/pact to keep each other as safe and out of harm’s way as we possible could.

The love we couldn’t express verbally, would be shown in loyalty to each other.

Like brothers in arms.

Foxhole, indeed.