Sunday, May 14, 2017

Dear Mom...

Dear Mom,

Here we are, 50 Mother’s Days later. Yes, your baby is 50 - one year older than your own mom was when she died. I have infrequently heard you talk about your mom, though maybe it’s because you live in the present while I am often in the past or fearing the future.

 Regret for things we cannot change during a life we can, is senseless. So here we go…

 I don’t know how you celebrated Mother’s Day when you were growing up, but when I was growing up, it was no big deal. You always used to say that our dad was not your dad so it wasn’t his job to make it a celebration. 

Each year you accepted what your four children gave you, but I don’t think it was ever much. You have never been a “bring on the fanfare” type of mom. Most years you seemed to just want to be left alone. Most years when my children were young, I think I wanted that too.

Now that my boys are grown and your children are grown, times two, it seems like all we want is for our children to spend time with us.

One year into a new home in a new city I remember the many times our own family moved while I was growing up – so many houses and schools and boxes to be packed and unpacked again. I never heard you give voice to your fears or regrets, if you had them. 

You portrayed a sense of adventure in every move to every new place we called home, even when those homes included kitchens without a place to sit down and saloon-style shutters, to bathrooms with red velvet wallpaper. Truly every home we lived in was a wonderful adventure because of whatever unfinished and poorly- decorated shape it was in.

When we moved the last time, your children were 15, 13, 12, and I was 10.

Until I turned 10 you were, to my knowledge, a “stay-at-home” mom; at that time, most moms were. I was no wiser as to whether you were or were not home before I was 10 since mostly we were all independent kids and you raised us that way on purpose. A child does not know what his or her mom does all day because children are selfish beings and they do not think about nor care that a parent must make money, plan, create, cook, do laundry, carry out rules and all the hundreds of other minutiae of days spent with one, two, four or 10 children. This is the way it should be when you are a child.

There have been many, many years that I have thought, during my growing up years, that if I don't remember you fawning over me or talking to me or cooking me meals or shopping for clothes with me or driving me to and fro or hither and nigh, or if you were not interceding on behalf of disputes I had with teachers over grades or wondering why this or that or the other thing, that somehow it was not enough, even though there was plenty.

There have been many, many years that I have thought, during my growing up years, that I should have had something different and that my years of depression as an adult were in direct proportion to unhappiness during childhood, even if the greater part of my childhood was filled with happiness.

Seventeen years ago, we watched in utter despair as dad died. As your 33-year-old child, I watched you closely and you suffered. But you did not give up when you become a single parent to four grown children and a single grandparent to ultimately nine grandchildren - I didn’t expect that you would. Your husband died, you broke your leg, you sold the house that together, you and dad loved. And then you went on and brought each grandchild on multiple vacations, you brought each of your kids on vacations and still, 50 years in, you are a present and active mom to me.

Some people talk and talk and talk about their difficulties, while enduring, and some people are quieter in their endurance. We are miraculously created, born to be molded, and shaped by every tiny experience. And if I poured out every experience from my life over 18, 32 or 50 years, I would have more happy than sad and more good than bad.

When I have called, you have come, when I have pushed you away, you have stayed back just enough.

I hope when I grow up, I can be like you. That if I should suffer even half of the adversity or double the adversity as you, that I can still keep moving and quietly endure, or be so loved by my adult children, as you are, that I can talk and talk when needed.

 And I hope that for the ways in which I have not been the best mom to my own boys that they would forget those parts much earlier than I have forgotten them, or at least not form the whole of their lives on the memories that I want them to forget because I was not the best me I could have been when they were young.

Most of all, I want to thank you now, on this Mother’s Day, so that I don’t live another moment with regret for what wasn’t, and will never be, or with fear that I will wait too long to say the words I have been unable to say until now.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Find Your Spot

Find your Spot

Last week I had a meltdown. It was 10 minutes before my husband arrived home from work so when he greeted me with his usual, “Hi, sweetie!” and I greeted him with, “We have to send this dog back. I can’t do this. We were stupid to think we could. I cannot do this,” he took me into his arms and let me cry into his shoulder.

I have had a dream for most of my life to have a German shepherd like my Uncle Mike had and I have been unwilling to give up on this. It wasn’t until Friday, when mid-meltdown, in front of my kitchen sink, watching the last of daylight drop beneath the pines behind my now-empty flower garden, that I began to weigh the cost.

I have been certain that if I just give a little more of my time, read enough dog books, spend more money and drop a few more blood-soaked Band-aids into my scented garbage bags that I hate, I will have my dream of the pet German shepherd that I viewed my uncle’s dog to be.

 I have been asking myself over the last few weeks whether I should give up on this dream or keep working- because I love training these dogs and loving these dogs and it gives me something to do and I can think of a dozen more reasons to keep moving or give up.

I have been battling a vicious cycle of getting angry and subsequently hating myself for my anger, which makes me angrier and around and around I go. Some people say that depression, my own included, is caused from anger turned inward. Of course, no disease is as simple as that, but I have wondered, over the last year or so, how much of my own anger at myself has caused an avalanche of hatred to bury me so deep that I cannot pick myself up and decide whether this is a ridiculous or real dream or whether to keep moving or give up.

A little over a year ago I began again the arduous, often-hated task of counseling in my seemingly never-ending journey to conquer, or at least deal better, with my chronic anger and depression.

I have gone through several counselors in over 30 years. I rake them over the coals, attempt stare-downs and dare them to help me as I carve notches above my closet door representing yet one more person who helped for a bit, said a smart thing or two, charged me money or not, and then I go back to my usual way of dealing with life.

Last February I was having coffee with a counselor from a local horse therapy center when she told me about Brainspotting.  My first thought is that this all sounds a little “woo-hooey.” She told me stories about people who have tried it and been helped. I stared a hole through the middle of her forehead and determined that this sounded like a dare. I slapped my hand down on the table, spilling my now cold chai tea, and said, “You’re on!”

Counselors who do Brainspotting, discovered by a man named David Grand in 2003, are licensed professional counselors,  trained by Grand. A lot of big words are used to describe this therapeutic tool, most of which are unimportant to us lay people. Basically, it can be summed up like this: “Where we look affects how we feel. When a Brainspot is stimulated, the deep brain appears to reflexively signal the therapist that the source of the problem has been found.”

If you are under the impression, as I was, that this is the easy way out in terms of counseling choices, you are wrong. Sometimes I leave my appointments, slouch into the driver’s seat of my car, and let the agitation ooze out my ears.

The appointment starts with my counselor asking me to choose, with or without her help, an area I would like to work on. I usually choose anger, mostly because I can almost always think of a red-hot instance, from one appointment to the next, that caused me anger. It’s important that I can feel the emotion inside myself – my chest, my stomach, my head, etc. -  because my counselor will ask me to think of a time when I felt anger and where, in my body, I presently feel it. She then holds a pointer in front of me and moves it to the left and the right, and up and down, asking me, as she moves it slowly, when I notice my angry feelings the most. 

The first time we did this I agreed to play along, thinking, again, that it was all a bunch of hocus pocus. Only it’s not. Regardless of what I am working on, I can feel it more, or less, depending on where the pointer is. My counselor then holds the pointer, sort of like a famous conductress, only with fewer arm swinging movements, in this precise place, and I stare at it, and she stares at me, for most of our appointment. 

Having someone study my face, while I study the pointer in front of her, mostly feels really disturbing. My counselor studies me for more frequent blinking, brow furrowing, nose wiping, eye darting, tears…well, you get the picture. I dislike a lot of talking and re-focusing from my counselor and she honors that. If I decide I want more, she will give it; I am not hypnotized. I can talk whenever I want and ask for what I need in the moment.  We have worked this out over the months. 

I try to have one appointment a week. Aside from the discomfort of the Brainspotting itself, an hour a week is easy because I know that regardless of what happens between appointments, we will always have something to work on. There is a lot more to Brainspotting than this, but I usually lose people if I go into too much detail.

Typical “talk” therapy, to me, has always seemed dependent upon having something to talk about. I don’t need to keep re-hashing abuse stories or what happened when someone “wronged” me at the ages of 12, 16 and blah blah.  It’s not that I can’t talk about these things, and my counselor has needed to hear them so she understands where I am coming from, but I have found, over dozens of years of counseling and handfuls of counselors, that simply talking about what hurts has not, over time, brought about the changes I need to sustain healing and contentment. And sometimes it is just resignation that things will remain the same unless I work on changes myself and allow myself to be changed.

My counselor has said we will likely need to Brainspot the hell out of my anger and she is probably right. And rest assured I have more than just anger to Brainspot the hell out of.

Several months ago, when I confessed that I wanted to deal with a new, difficult issue in an old, unhealthy way, my counselor told me that I am not that person anymore and I don’t need to do things the way I used to. I can tell myself a new story and do things in the “new me” way.

We have often talked about the story that I am telling myself. The story I tell myself if I continue working on pursuing this dream of having a perfect German shepherd for a pet and companion is that I will lose the people in my life and be left with only my dog, in the woods, alone. But I guess that is my fear, which feeds into my anxiety, which is what we are working on next in finding that not-so-elusive Brainspot.

If, like me, you often tell yourself old stories that bring more pain, try something new…or keep working on something old that brings about new joy. That’s a dream to keep working towards.