Sunday, September 11, 2011

Final Straw

This weekend may have marked a turning point. The final straw that broke this camel’s emotional back has been added to the load.

While I was frolicking by a river in Tennessee watching cardboard boat races and attending a festival in my stupid, lonely, self-absorbed little life, deliberately crowded with activity in an attempt to fill the vast, emotional emptiness, my sister was in Massachusetts receiving the shocking blow of the sudden death of her father-in-law. While I was wondering about the monumental things in my day, like whether or not the cute guy would be at the beer store and if the weather would remain nice for the rest of the festival, my mom was watching my three nieces until such time as my sister and her husband could collect them to deliver the devastating news about Pepe.

And when, save for the distance of half a country, I could be there helping in any number of ways big and small -- like watching the kids, holding a hand, making dinner, running errands or whatever it is that might need doing -- I am sitting alone (because even when surrounded by people, I am alone and that is just a fact of my life), feeling as isolated and helpless and useless to my people as I have ever been these past ten years.

When my grandmother learned she had cancer again, I was in Tennessee working a meaningless part-time job (it was all I could find) and angrily going through the motions in the marriage that was deteriorating around me -- that same marriage that I let take me so far from my family (and thus, some of the anger). My sister and Mom were dealing with ongoing doctor visits and stress and medication that may or may not be taken correctly by a stubborn woman who wanted things on her terms which meant no nursing home and a flat out refusal to live with my sister and the kids, because she didn’t want to change her lifestyle and/or be “a burden on anyone.”  They took care of Mummu and juggled their schedules and kept me from stressing about things I couldn’t help with by not telling me what was going on. When I finally got parts of the story, I tenderly cultivated a weighty crop of guilt over being the one who left and is no longer around to be helpful.

When Mummu was close to what everyone feared was the end, I finally got the awful story and swooped up to Massachusetts in time to see her in a medicated coma in the hospital, and that night she passed away and then we were making funeral plans. After a few days of actually being there for my family, I was gone again, returning to whatever trivial crap it is that I do on a regular basis.

Any time something happens back home -- whether good, bad, or indifferent -- I get the edited, condensed, sanitized version. There is little (or nothing) I can do to help with the coping or celebrating of it, anyway. This is how we function and half a country is a pretty big distance to cover, and while the florists would have us believe otherwise, lovely flowers do not really deliver all that much.

This weekend, it has hit me harder than ever that this is not the life I want. While never established that it was ever the life I ‘wanted,’ it’s definitely the one I allowed to happen. I chose to leave my family to move away with a husband, because it felt adventurous and seemed like what a new wife should do and it was logical to move into a house he already owned. When we split up four years ago it made sense to take a minute to catch my breath while I figured out what would come next. Yes, it was the perfect time for going home to family, and there were people who were surprised I didn’t, but the “back” in “going back home” tasted like neediness, weakness, failure and defeat, and that is not a stew I enjoy. I am supposed to be the strong and self-sufficient one, a false construct erected entirely to justify myself to myself.

And the fact remains, in four years, I really haven’t started breathing again and I definitely haven’t done any figuring. The only conscious thing I’ve done is (over)fill my life with activity so I don’t have time to deal with the hard stuff like coping with my ever present loneliness; finding a new job and selling a house  in a bad economy; moving 1,200 miles on my own; letting myself feel what it’s like to be human; or even cleaning the house.

But it’s time to get real and do it. I am tired of not being there. I want to hug my sister, brother-in-law and nieces so much right now it is a physical pain, and my arms are not long enough to do it from here.

1 comment:

  1. It was not weakness to stay and it is not weakness to go back now. Go with your heart and help heal your soul a little. I will miss seeing you when I visit Clarksville but I will be happier knowing that you are more at peace with your family in MA. -- Rebecca S