Last Week in Everything But That One Thing

And then I didn't say one single word about rehab for two whole weeks straight, because I suck. I'm getting to it, I swear.

Fact you may not know about me: I'm an athiest with something of a thing for churches. So, naturally, this happened while I was in Montreal...this being proof that I will never be a real Canadian like some people because I made the mistake of calling it the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal and not, OOOO! The place where Celine Dion got married! 

And then I had some Canadian meat and then I came home. 

And between then and now I haven't been able to figure out how to talk about everything that has happened, and everything that hasn't, so instead I've been talking about other things in other places. 

Like the fact that Voices of the Year closes at 5pm PST today, so if you want to nominate a post, you better click here, like, rightfreakingnow. 

Or like the fact that my 12 year old can make onion rings and so I will be keeping him chained to the radiator forever. 

Or that I can write a post about eating vegetables and find a correlation to skanky cheerleaders. Which, when I write it out like that, isn't all that impressive. Shit.

Or that I'm going to BlogHer Food for the first time ever and I'm kind of totally excited about it and stuff.

And eventually, I'm going to get to the rest. 

Another Fourteen

I missed your birthday once, because of a very noble and solemn situation and also stupid Donald Sutherland, and I swore that I would never again not be there to say goodbye to the child I was tucking into bed for the last time, nor miss greeting hello with a small birthday cake and a kiss the new child I was meeting the next morning, another day older and wiseasser. 

You seem to have forgetten this, mostly I believe because at 11 you don't realize you're supposed to be keeping a running tally of all your parents' failures for your future blackmail and/or therapy. I doubt I will be so lucky in life twice, however. 

I left for Montreal yesterday, earlier in the morning than the sun even begins to wake, and so I will never know how you spent even a moment of your last day as a 13 year old. I hope you had fun. I hope you cruised around on the skateboard I bought you (with a little help from my friends, who love you as much as I do, and I just want you to know that they do) and felt like the king of the world. As far as I am concerned, you are.

I hope you enjoyed the movie your grandmother took you to see today, I hope you enjoyed talking to your father this afternoon while we sat on a French Canadian porch and tried to sort out what happens next with us. I hope you enjoyed getting your first anime books at the bookstore today, and I hope you enjoyed your first ambulance ride this evening. 

I suppose old women falling off of curbs and breaking their feet isn't the worst thing that can happen to a kid on his 14th birthday, especially if that means he gets to ride in an ambulance to the hospital with said old woman, spazzing out six year old sister, and totally-unable-to-process-current-events 12 year old brother. 

I also, with all the sincerity in my heart, would like to thank your grandmother for going to such great lengths to make sure that you'll never, ever forget your 14th birthday. You know, the one I wasn't there for. Well played, Grandma. WELL PLAYED.

I hope you know that I have laid in my hotel room bed each night and taken inventory of every minute of you. I hope you know that you are the single greatest catalyst on earth, and that everything I became when you did is because of you. 

I want you to know, even though you will think that it is oh my gawd sooo naaaasty mawm that when you fall asleep on the couch because you are so quickly becoming a man that your body simply cannot keep up, that in those moments I kiss your temple and smooth your hair and whisper in my ear that you will always be little to me, and always be loved by me, and always be every good thing in the world as far as I am concerned. I whisper that you hold a place in my heart that no one else ever could, that I don't care how quickly you are trying to outgrow my heart - it will just keep getting bigger to accommodate you. I do this because you would probably punch me a little if I said it to you awake. 

Moms always get their way eventually. We know where you sleep

You are one half of one inch away from being as tall as I am and most likely already wiser than I will ever be. You are funny at all the right times, and funnier at all the wrong ones. You have discovered the person that you would like to be, and it has been the greatest privilege of my life being able to feed and nurture and support this discovery. Every moment I know you, I stand in total and complete awe, whether it be of your aspirations or your compassion or your intelligence or that smell inside of your hats. 

When I laid in a hospital bed 14 years ago, swollen and beaten and tired and terrified, I thought I had given birth to my son. What I didn't know is that I had actually given birth to pure, unadulterated wonder, and that I would get to spend the rest of my life watching it radiate outward. 

I marvel in you. And I always will, even when I'm not right there. 

Pinky promise. 

Day Fourteen

When I was a very little girl, smaller than my daughter is now, we lived in a house made of stucco and mud. Inside that tiny house (an apartment, really, with two stories) we had a very, very small kitchen. To me, it seemed so big - I could never reach the ice box, or the high shelves where our parents kept the chocolate syrup - but to them it was a cruel joke played on poor people who could ask for nothing better. 

Two grown adults couldn't fit side-by-side in our kitchen. It was like a galley kitchen on a Barbie Dream Yacht. It had avocado green linoleum countertops and an avocado green rotary phone to match. Over the sink was a florescent light bulb, one of those long ones you pulled a little chain to turn on, like under the hood of an oven a million years ago, when I was a child. 

My father worked the swing shift at the steel factor a mile or two up the road from our house (if I am not mistaken, it is one of the few functional steel mills left on the eastern seaboard) (and the reason everyone from Claymont, DE is going to die of some very horrible lung disease someday). Some nights, he would get home at what felt like 3,729 am to a little girl not old enough to gauge time after the sun went down. I would hear his key in open the door, the dog greet him, his boots and coat come off, and all the while I'd be creaking my way down the old, wooden stairs of our home, trying to catch of glimpse of Ed before Dad noticed me in pigtails and nightgowns, peeking my poofy eyes through the spindles of the banister. 

He'd call me down and we'd go into that tiny huge kitchen together, just the two of us, and he'd plop me up on the cold, green linoleum. He always let me pull the chain on the light over the sink, and we'd listen in silence as it hummed itself awake, then bolted into the moment with a crackle. 

I would watch him wash his hands under flickering blue lights and scalding hot water, scrubbing 8, 10, 12 hours of black soot off his skin and his nails with Lava soap. It took what felt like forever, but was probably only minutes, for him to scrub away layer after layer of steel plate or bearing or block or whatever they made all day in the place that pumped the black smoke into the air. He scrubbed and rinsed and we talked about our days. Sometimes he would tell me silly stories, and sometimes he would let me wash my new-person hands with that Lava soap. 

I remember how it stung, but I wanted to be tough and brave like my daddy, so I washed with it anyway. When we were all done, he'd pat my hands dry, rub them with lotion, make me a little chocolate milk with the secret stash of Hershey's syrup way up high in the cabinet I never reached, and then tuck me into bed. 

This is my single greatest memory of my entire existence. 

This is also the same man who regularly laid my brother and I out naked over the edge our our bed and beat us with leather and metal until the skin tore away from our flesh. 

And this is why I can't be too hard on myself when I sit here, having infrequent and faint feeling like I miss parts of my husband, like his stupid jokes or the way he shaves his face, even though when the phone rang on Saturday and it was the number of the rehab center I had the same feeling just above my stomach and below my heart where the terror of the sound of my father walking through the door at not-3,729-am lived. 

I learned to compartmentalize. I learned that was able, if I wanted it badly enough, to love someone so much for what was good in them while at that very same moment, being absolutely terrified of every single way they were probably going to kill a part of me the next day. 

And this is how I ended up with an alcoholic, though neither of my parents ever really drank. I actually hate drunk people, and hate being drunk myself, and yet I worked in bars for 16 years and married an alcoholic because I learned before I was old enough to read a standard clock that what you love and cherish with all of your being is also what is guaranteed to hurt you in ways you could never fathom, no matter what you do to stop it. 

Four Foot Ten Inches Is Plenty Tall

My middle son is no stranger to being bullied, and if I was a better blogger, I'd have tagged and SEO'd the three or four posts on this blog about various incidents with "bully" or "stupid little a$$h*les who messed with the wrong mama bear" but no. No tags, so I can't find any of those posts to link back to anything. 

Things I can link back to aside: This is why I will never succeed as a mommy blogger. That and the fact that I hate both cupcakes and bacon - but to my credit, I've got the xanax thing daaaaoown, yo.  

Better blogging through $ymbols aside: I'm trying to swear less on my blog, partly because I have a job that inspires me to play a professional adult on the internet now, but also because swearing on your blog screws up your SEO, did you know that? It's true. Google is not afraid to wash your potty mouth out with a bar of Lowered Page Rank. 

All of these confounded asides aside: My anti-anxiety meds are working really well. (confounded: excellent substitute for bull$h*t; totally SEO friendly.) Maybe too well

So my teency tiny little snack sized blue eyed precious little munchkin-butt came home from school yesterday in tears. Tears, friends. By the time they hit 6th grade, I expect them to come home weepy because the girl they like is into some other boy, or because they accidentally smelled themselves in PE class, but what I do not expect is for them to come home crying because some kid decided to choke them in 4th period over a Pikachu origami. 

Choked my child. That happened. 

This came after a bunch of kids called him an over-sensitive bee eye tee see aych in 3rd period, and was followed by the kids from 5th - 7th period laughing at him because he cried, which made him cry more, which made them laugh more, and this is why the poor bugger begged me to let him stay home from school today.

Which I didn't.

Because I suck. But also because if I let him stay home, the terrorists win. 

We talked about my thoughts on why people were calling him names - that it was just his turn in the Junior High School crappy day rotation and that tomorrow, they'd probably move on to fresher meat. We talked about the kid grabbing his throat and I reminded him that he's trained to fight, and that kid probably isn't, so if push came to shove he could most likely lay that kid flat f*ing out with very little effort.

Bad Language for Good Aside: I find a well-placed f*bomb in the middle of an inspirational speech to be a more effective morale boost than all the homemade cookies and glasses of cold milk in all of the whole world. 

So my point was merely that the worst thing that could happen is that people could say more words, and maybe he'd have to knock a fool out - and sure, he'd get suspended for that but, you know, bygones. I told him that the sad fact of life is that the world is full of a whole lot of raging a$$holes and the best you can do is stick by the people who aren't and stand tall. Going to school is standing tall. 

So he went to school, white-knuckled and trembling. Sometimes I hate being the one in charge of making adult decisions. 

But he came home sunshine and roses and I found out that the counselor who'd spotted him crying at lunch yesterday pulled him into the office and had a long talk with him about how awesome he is in general, and the kid who choked him yesterday forgot he existed today, and the kids who thought he was an over-sensitive bee eye tee see aych yesterday didn't think anything of him today at all.

And he learned that sometimes, his dumb old mom is right, but more importantly he learned that we never, ever have to let the terrorists win. At least not without a fight. 

Day Six, Maybe Seven.

I spent the nine and a half weeks leading up to this point waiting to get here. All I had to do was get him to rehab; the rest could sort itself out later. Just get him to rehab. Baby steps on the bus. 

And then he left for rehab and that first day was like magic. I did it. I got him to rehab. I was quiet and calm and patient and as kind as I could be for nine and a half weeks and he went to rehab. 

And then it was later. And then I had to sort the rest out. 

I couldn't unclench my jaw for five, maybe six days. My face felt like I'd taken a sledgehammer to it. It took me 90 minutes to write a two-paragraph email for work. I washed the dishes every other day, and I called every single person I haven't been able to call in nine and a half weeks and I talkedandtalkedandtalkedandtalkedandtalked. 

I don't think I was doing okay. 

I didn't have insurance for the past year because he'd lost the job he's had as long as we've had children, and I don't even know why that happened, he still hasn't told me...but I can guess. When he took the new job, and an I-can't-even-talk-about-it-pay cut, covering all of us was just flat-out too expensive, so we just covered him and the kids. Thank god my vagina had decided to rip in half when it did, man. 

So I've been off my anxiety meds for a little over a year now, which is ok, actually, eh 80% of the time. I have an awesome case of PTSD, but I don't have it all the time, you know? It comes, it goes. I manage it when it comes, and I celebrate when it goes.

Of course, my PTSD comes from child abuse and attachment exploitation, which is exactly why I ended up with an alcoholic even though neither of my parents ever drank. My husband allows me to perpetuate my at-risk dependency into my adult life - because that's exactly what I want to do, keep being a broken, bloodied six year old for the rest of my life. 

But then I got this job, this really awesome amazing Joseph-and-the-Technocolor-Dream Job, and now? I'm not totally reliant on him anymore (later we'll talk about why that fact is in no way disconnected with current events.) Now, I can haz the insurance. Now, I can go to the doctor. 

By the time I sat on the exam table, I was talking so fast, even I couldn't understand what I was saying. It's called Pressured Speech, and there is not one single thing I can do to make it stop. It's typically a bipolar thing or a schizophrenic thing but sometimes when people hit extreme anxiety, it happens to them. It happens to me whenever I max out. It hurts because you can't stop talking and you can't slow your talking and so you don't get quite enough air in your lungs and you kind of suffocate yourself a little. My doctor was like, WHOA, WOMAN and I was like yesiknowthishasbeengoingonforaweekbutitsworserightnowbecauseijustgotoffthephonewith

And help me, he did. He gave me a maintenance pill that will keep my anxiety levels down and help stop the physical pain that my kind of anxiety creates in my face and back, and then he gave me Xanax for emergencies. Xanax really is the epi-pen for anxiety, isn't it?

Everything. Just. Stopped.

I sat on my couch Friday night and listened. Listening is a really hard thing to do when you've lived your entire life trying to control a whole bunch of shit you have absolutely no control over. I listened to my kids play, I listened to their friends shriek, I listened to to popcorn pop and the birds chirp. Later that night I laid in my bed, staring at the ceiling fan, and I had that same feeling you have three minutes after you have the best sex of your I tried to call a friend to talk, and I couldn't talk




Of course, it's all leveling out now. I don't have that zingy euphoria anymore, which I really think mostly came from the fact that my jaw could open entirely and I could breath allll the way in. Oxygen is totally underrated, yo. 

Last night, I laid down on the couch at 7pm, just for a minute while the boys played their video games, and I woke up at 6am. I slept - for the first time in months. More importantly, I woke up for the first time in months unafraid of what I was waking up to. 

All of that stuff that I put off sorting out until later? It's later. And I'm ready. Ish.