Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Transitioning and the Power of Female Comraderie

Too inappropriate NOT to use.

In the past two years, I have experienced what my Mom would describe as "a lot of life."

In a nutshell,  and in accordance with the timeline, my husband lost his job, I began working again after ten years of staying at home with my three daughters (I've already quit, natch.), my Mom died, my husband purchased a company (read: works/lives out of town most of the week) and my Dad is now engaged.  Exhale.

The week that my Mom was dying, I was extremely raw, as you could imagine. I mean,  I would literally tell anyone ANYTHING that I was thinking if they would ask me.

Believe it or not, I can be very guarded at times, and I had become even more so when all of this shit started to hit the fan. I like to control my own PR with this blog, resplendent with its exaggerations and half truths.

I wish that I could be more eloquent, but the only way to describe what it is like to watch your Mom die is that you live in a vacuum. Then, you go through the funeral and the rest of it, and you are spit back into your life and expected to act accordingly.

It is the most bizarre existence I have ever known. For the first few weeks you literally walk through your life, without experiencing any of it. I guess that is known as shock. I could not tell you one conversation I had with the exception of the one I had at my unsuspecting neighbor's house on July 4th.  The party was the morning after the parade, following a four day power outage that was a result of this insane storm that occurred the night I got home from my Mom's funeral.

Soooo, I struck up a conversation with a girl from the party, and this sweet, unsuspecting guest at my neighbor's house asks me what I have been up to. She had CLEARLY unknowingly brought a knife to a gun fight.

Thaaat's riiiiggghhht.

I tell her. "Well, my Mom just died and I just got back from Louisville, where the funeral was, you know, where I am FROM, and then the power went out so I have been staying with friends of ours, and I am just now back home....and well, herrreee I am."  You're Welcome.

The air was thick as molasses and somehow I managed to add conversational flour.


Well, she didn't skip a beat, this young friend of mine (she is probably 10 or so years younger, with kids much smaller than mine) and she elbows her impossibly beautiful younger sister sitting between us, who is knee deep in a conversation of her own, and blurts, "Oh my Gawd, I am soooo sorry. Our mother died four years ago and we are STILL not over it, are we?"

Her angelic sister chimes in, rapid fire, "I moved into her basement, and she was married with these two tiny babies, and I was single, and I went to work everyday, came home, went into the basement and didn't come out again for four months!"

They are both stunning, in every sense of the word. They were empathetic and real and insightful. It was an unexpected connection with two complete strangers. These two girls saved my life that day.  In addition, to explaining to me that "there is your life before you lose a parent, and then your life after,"they inspired me to "look for signs."

"Because they are REAL," the younger one said. as she nodded in unison with her sister.

I told them about the bumble bee that kept bumping into my window at work, head first, over and over before the storm hit the night I arrived back in Columbus.  My office was on the second floor.  It was so bizarre.  I hadn't told ANYONE about that.

I told them I thought it was a sign from my Mom because she was obsessed with all creatures, big and small, and she had been a nervous Nellie. who was one to call me up because she saw on the news that we were about to "get some Weather".

Their heads started bobbing again.  "Uh-huh. Absolutely," they agreed, in tandem.  "That was a SIGN. Pay attention to them.  We still get them today.  They are REAL."

So, one night last year, the television in the basement erupted about two decibels above a shell exploding next to my bed, and it was blasting an Amber Alert through the vents from two floors down, at exactly 11:11p.m, and woke me out of a deep sleep.

I raced downstairs and was enveloped in a bellowing male voice describing two missing children and their clothing and their last known whereabouts.  I turned off the sound and noticed the television was black.

Immediately, I went to check on my three children. I found my last child, Eva, in tears that she could not explain to me. She could not stop crying.  I brought her into bed with me.

I had been thinking about my Mom alot that day - wondering if she was doing okay, and lamenting about feeling alone in my grief - even conversing with her outloud at some points, because the house was uncharacteristically vacant, except for me, and I found myself alone with my thoughts, which had not happened in a long time.

The following morning, my Dad informed me that he had sold my childhood home. I didn't even know it was on the market.

But, I also discovered this essay contest on Facebook about "Women and Transitioning" and entered this story in it.  I had already written part of this blog, entitled at the time, Disconnection and Regeneration, but I could not bring myself to write anymore, so I saw this are her "urging me from the grave to follow my dreams and return to what makes me happy." I mean, it was all SO PERFECT!

Apparently it was the house, though, because my entry has since been rejected. I like to imagine the reviewers sitting around an oval table after reading my essay, and one guy sighs as he presses his fingertips together in a prism, and he says, "Ohhhh, I don't know, it's just not SAD enough.  I mean, if she would have put more EMOTION into it.  I don't know.  I just wish there were like,  a MESSAGE."

Although, my Mom COULD have been setting me up, which is entirely possible.  LOL.

You see, watching a parent die, to me, is the equivalent of being in a car accident and suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In a serious automobile incident, just before the moment of impact, your brain and nervous system literally shut down because it is too traumatic for your body to process.  This is why many people experience memory up to a crash, but no memory of the actual collision.

At first, after you watch someone that you love, slowly being drained of life, you have constant unexpected imposing memories, or flashbacks, of the entire experience, and the simultaneous impact of their immediate absence. If you are lucky enough to plan their funeral, and deliver their eulogy, that is just bonus material for your subconscious. To me, that has been the hardest part of losing my Mother - when memories and antecdotes literally grab me around the throat, when I least expect it.

There, of course, is a silver lining to losing a loved one.  You regenerate. Again, "There is your life BEFORE you lose and parent, and then your life after."  No truer thing has been said to me since. The important thing is to embrace your perspective, because you will never be this raw again, and so you have to incorporate that into your new personality, because as Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living".

It sounds sad, so I want to make sure you do not misunderstand.  I am not some shell of a person, I am just changed.  When my Mom died and my husband lost his job, a piece of me was torn away, but the beautiful thing is, that there is this appendage in it's place.

I am a little wiser, a little sadder, a little softer, a little harder...but, mostly I am someone who sees a bigger picture, rather that individually connected moments, and you gain the most important thing you have to show for your emotional bruises  - experience.  You could say that my eyes are more open, but mostly, it is my Soul that has changed the most.

You see, those beautiful, kind, empathetic girls that impossibly hot July 4th day, could have made an excuse to get up and get themselves another Bloody Mary or tend to their children, when I burst into their lives, with my swoolen eyes and accompanying dark cloud - but they sat with me, and they comforted me and they shared their stories as if we had known each other since childhood.  They did that because they had been changed, too, and they had come out the other side of the worm hole that is grief.  They reassured me that I would be whole, again, one day, but that I would grow back together with a new and improved part that was cultivated by an empathy and understanding that I had never before known.

As I tell my three girls when they are going through some tween angst, or they fall off their bicycle, or get fourth place at a gymnastics meet because they forgot to take out their earrings, "Well, now you have the experience of what THAT feels like, so in the future you will be wiser for it.  Unfortunately, it is the experiences in life that are HARD that shape you.  I wish that everything in life could be easy for you, but then you would not posses CHARACTER, which is the best part of a person who has gone through something negative and then overcome it."
Whaaatttt?  Bitch be CRAY!

They, then, always look at me like I am crazy (especially when they are just trying to ride their bike and I go all Billy Graham on their ass), as I would look at my Mom when she would try to impart some hard learned lesson to me.

Just use it in my eulogy, I think to myself. Believe me, it is the annoying things that you will miss the most, because they are the most REAL.

What I have come to believe is that, unfortunately, the only way to truly transition in life is to embrace that transition - accept it, internalize it, and then share it with others, because everyone and everything transitions or it dies.

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