Friday, November 8, 2013

These haunted arms...

November arrives, and brings with it so much excitement and anticipation.  The years first snowfalls delight children, and adults who feel like children and the promise of Christmas coming soon.  For my family, November is a month of celebration, of birthdays for Avery and Landon, my mom and niece Anna, and for Everett.  Don't forget Everett.  Of course we never could, never would.  But strangely, come November, a new and much higher degree of awareness of Everett washes over me.  November ushers in so much happiness, but it also ushers in the grieving season.  All my Everett senses are heightened.  Suddenly, I can feel him. 

The first snows that stick to the cars and the grass bring flash backs to looking out the window at Sick Kids, it's snowing, and I'm thinking, maybe he'll be home at our local NICU for Christmas.  Those birthday candles Landon picked out for his cake, the ones shaped like Lego bricks, I'm wondering what candles would Everett want on his birthday cake.  On his 6th birthday cake.  Six years have vanished before my eyes.  Time passed so astonishingly fast, how time has distanced me from him, and how miraculous it is that come November, I am right there again at his bedside.  I walk in the doors at work, the dialysis doors that are right next to the pediatrics entry, labor and delivery is straight ahead, the air smells different in this part of the hospital, and something as simple as a breath of that smell, and I'm standing at the payphone just inside these doors, and I'm talking to my dad and I'm bawling about his heart, Everett's heart, and I'm telling him how sick he is.  Or I'm standing by the nursing station while the team from Sick Kids stabilizes Everett for transfer, and Elvis is there and he's inconsolable, he's crying so hard he is breathless, he's terrified and I'm holding him.  It takes only the scent of the hospital linens this time of year, and it's November 2007. 

At the time, in the thick of it, Sick Kids felt like an awful place to be.  After Everett passed away I walked away from Sick Kids and I vowed I never wanted to set foot in it again.  I was overcome with anger and grief and I never wanted to be reminded of that place and that battle that defeated my son.  As time went on, those feelings that repelled me faded and in 2011 I found myself at Sick Kids once more, accompanying a friend who worked there.  She left us there in that same lobby as she went to conduct some work business, and I sat in those same tables Elvis and I ate at while we were there with him.  I looked up at his floor, the hallway that led to his wing, I watched people ride up and down the elevators we rode it, I listened to the familiar fountains, I used the same washroom, saw the same murals.  To my eyes, to my ears, to my nose, it was EXACTLY the same.  It could have been November/December 2007.  Everett could have been upstairs waiting for me.  He could have been alive.  I could have had hope.  Everything was exactly as it was then.  And instead of being overcome with the guilt I expected would arrive, I felt unexpectedly content.  Happy almost.  Happy to pretend for that very short time that I was back then, I felt closer to Everett then I had in a very, very long time.  It felt, dare I say it, good.  I went to the gift shop where we bought our Bravery Bead necklaces, our symbols of solidarity and love for Everett, and bought a matching bracelet, and put it on my wrist, and felt something tying now to then.  And I walked out of that building with a hesitancy I didn't expect, the closer I got to the doors, to the parking lot, to the street, the greater the pull to go back got.  I wanted to stay.  I could have stayed all day.  Leaving felt like leaving him, all over again.  Lately I've been thinking I want to go back.  I want to sit in that little food court.  I want to walk down that hallway to the Tim Hortons and the little vending machines that give out miniature Care Bears figurines.   I want to go to that gift shop and buy some piece of jewelry.  Bolder still, I want to ride up those elevators, I want to walk down that hallway, and I want to enter that waiting room just outside his wing.  I want to sit on those couches we waited on endlessly and I want to just feel.  I want to feel whatever emotions come my way.  I want to pretend that Everett is through those double doors, the last room on the left in his hallway, the bed in the back left corner, he had a nurse named Stephanie I believe, and she was Scottish.  He laid in open bed with a warmer above it, he had a flannel sheet folded beneath him with sea turtles on it, his lamb we bought him (and one for Landon too) was in the upper left corner of his bed, by his head at the start, his feet near the end.  I want to pretend I'm crouched down at his bedside, or perched on one of those awkward white metal stools, and hold his hand, and touch is cheeks, and emplore him once more, "please don't go".  I can't be sure if it happened or if I just wanted it to happen, but the day he died, when we were huddled at his bedside making these huge decisions about his life, I held his hand and he looked at me, just one eye opened, but he looked at me.  I hope he really did, I hope that moment was the incredibly meaningful deep connecting moment I've remembered it as. 

November arrives and suddenly my memories light up and Everett is suddenly quite alive in my head, so vivid these memories can be that my even my senses feel uncertain of what's real.

I can hear the sounds of his monitors alarming, I can hear his little bleating cry.

I can smell the hospital smells.

I can see him laying there in various stages of his life.

All these senses bring me back to his life.

But my arms, these haunted arms, only remember the weight of his body in death. Heavy from fluid and the excess blankets he was wrapped in, unyeilding, and cold.  These haunted arms, desperate to recall what it felt like when he was placed in my arms wailing and pink, and only for a split second after his birth.  Whisked away and intubated right away, unable to be held for a few days more, then suddenly so sick, on a helicopter ride to Toronto, held only once or twice, we shuttled from our NICU where Landon was to Sick Kids to see Everett, who was then intubated again, unholdable, then operated on.  An open sternum for the last two weeks of his life, unholdable.  On the day he passed away the Dr's worked fast hoping to place him in my arms alive, they were too late.  The longest period of time I ever held my Everett was when he was newly gone.  I held him close, I cradled him, I kissed him, I studied his face, his puffy little face, his hair, where they shaved a spot for a IV, then a sensor left a funny little bald spot. And the weight of him, not really him at all, the weight of what we did to him, that's what my arms remember. 

Sunday we'll celebrate Landon and Avery's birthday's, 6 and 8 years old.  Landon will blow out his candles and open his gifts and my heart will celebrate him, my smile will be genuine, because Landon delights and amazes me.  I'm awestruck over that little boy.  None of it will be for show.  The love and appreciation I have for my living children is consuming, it fuels me.  But the grief, the haunted arms, the longing heart, the memories that are so strong and so calling, they're very real too, especially this time of year.  The memories from this time of year, six years ago, of Everett, of his life and of his death, though they may be at times quite macabre, are also quite welcome.

Everett can haunt me any day.

Grieving season is as welcome as Christmas.  It brings him close enough to see, to hear, to smell, to feel.   That alone is a blessing.

Friday, November 1, 2013

This is the beginning, this is me.

Tonight, I'm angry.  Like, really super angry.  Angry at so many people and so many things.  Not an outwardly pissy kind of angry, not the slamming doors and stomping around kind of angry, but that burning internal kind of angry.  That kind of anger that's active and bouncing around inside you, looking for an outlet, but a contained one, that kind of anger that is so desperate to be expressed but at the same time clouds your mind, so that you're certain you can't really express it properly anyway, and that only makes you angrier.  In a sense it's comical brand of anger, anger that just has to sit back and laugh at itself.  What brought on this anger you ask?  Well let me tell you now, it's not a good idea to sit down at your computer and re-read old Facebook messages from your ex husbands girlfriend to you, do laundry instead.  Why oh why didn't I just do laundry instead!? Anyway, these messages brough to surface some anger, spite, loathing and indignation I had burried long ago.  Not deep enough I suppose.  This is a deeper issue though, I'm burrying feelings, not dealing with them.

And that my friends, is why I have invited you here. 

This is where I plan on digging up old and burried feelings, mucking through my emotional garbage, and hopefully, with luck, finally riding myself of it all.  You see, I'm burried beneath it all, and I haven't been really very emotionally functional since I decided to NOT deal with it.  I let it pile up and up and my headspace until I found myself blocked in, like a metaphorical emotional junk hoarder, my mind is condemable.  I told myself I was fine, I didn't have a problem, afterall I was insightful no?  Rational? Mostly.  Functioning? Enough.  In fact, these floor to ceiling stacks of anger and spite and sadness and shame and grief, they didn't pile up overnight, they've been accumulating here in my head for a few years now.  It's just that in the last few months, these piles, they've been toppling over on me, and this mind of mine is so full now that there's no where to rest, like those hoarders who sleep on a coat in a three foot square patch of floor in what used to be the livingroom because there's literally no place else to lay.  I've got no more space to stash the ugliness I haven't wanted to face, and I'm so tired of standing, and these feelings now, with no place to go, they spill out in these hysterical and teary little outbursts.  For the first time in my life, I don't recognize myself, I don't feel like me, I can't find the parts of me I liked, they're burried under all this shit. 

It's time to clean emotinal house. 

On top of being a hoarder of trash worthy emotions, I'm also an emotional eater.  This is a life long issue but lately, I'm not in control of it at all.  I still know I'm doing it, but common sense and rationality be damned, I just can't seem to stop.  Are you familiar with emotional eating?  It's not all about the doom and gloom feelings, I eat for all of them.  Happy, sad, depressed, enraged, there's a binge meal for that.  Food has very much become my drug of choice, and its easy to tell yourself that it's not dangerous, that it's not addictive, that its not serious, but that's just a way to delude myself, like I'm sure users of so called "real" drugs do too.  I've been burrying and feeding my emotions so intensely lately, that I have emotionally and physically handicapped myself.  I've rendered myself immobile.  I'm more overweight then I ever imagined I could be, not pregnant atleast.  And most shocking to me is that I have gained 50 pounds in the past 18 months.  50 pounds I worked to lose after my youngest daughter was born in 2011, 50 pounds I should never have seen again.  And worse still, if I told you this story a month ago, I would have told you I gained 40 pounds in the past 17 months, I would have continued with "I need to stop, my clothes don't fit."  And then I gained 10 more pounds. 

This is the first time I have ever felt like inspite of the glaring evidence that I need to get a grip, I have continued to spiral. 

And of course on the outside I've got to act like I've got it together.  I have to tell my family and my friends it's under control, I have to act like I'm okay with who I am, that I even like myself, that I'm practicing self acceptance and self love.  It's a lie though.  I'm pretty sure they know it.  I'm trying to conceal the fact that I'm fat and sad and angry, I'm trying to pretend that my joint pain is arthritis and not fat related.  Maybe it's both.  It's more then likely the 102 extra pounds I'm carrying around.  Ya, thats probably it.  How could it not be it?  Don't forget to add shame to that pile of emotional litter.  Lots and lots of shame.

Want an honest description of who I am right now?

I'm a 33 year old separated mother of three indescribably lovely children.  I'm 5'11" tall, thank goodness for that, and I weigh in as of this morning, 266.6 pounds.  My ex husband and I had a baby in April of 2011, a delectable little rainbow baby who followed the loss of one of our twin sons in December 2007 and two misscarriages, one in 2009 and one in 2010.  When our baby was 5 months old we bought a beautiful new house, when she was six months old we took a family vacation to Florida and then had gorgeous family photos taken.  When she was 7 months old he left me for another woman.  Since then we've lost the house.  I had to return to work much earlier then planned and had to work with the other woman, 12 hour shifts, face to face with the woman who stole more then my husband, but the life I thought I'd have.  I filed for bankruptcy and moved my lovely babies to the townhouses I lived in as a child, they're small but cozy and it was a good choice for us.  I've never been more mentally or emotionally strained, I've never leaned so hard on my family for every kind of support.  I've never been so unsettled, so unstable, so lost.  I feel demented.  I forget things pretty much instantly.  I lose things all the time.  When I talk, I stutter, I use the wrong words all the time, my oldest is quick to point that out, other people notice but they're better at hiding it from me.  I don't sleep well.  I have restless legs and mind that can't settle.  And nightmares.  I have so many of those.  I'm so tired all the time.  I get nothing done.  And I tell myself I don't care, that I'm happy with how things are, but that's another lie.  I'm not sure if I'm lazy or just too damn exhausted from carrying around all these feelings to add anything else to the load. 

So here I am.  Hoping to unload.  Unfiltered.  Filtering means I'm holding onto the stuff I'm not ready to face, or own.  I don't want to hold onto it anymore.  Maybe people will read this.  Maybe they won't.  Maybe people will read this who I hoped wouldn't, and you'll know what's really in my head, when I hoped you never would.  Maybe you, reader, will see me differently then you did before, and then again, maybe you've always seen the real me, and I've only been fooling myself into thinking I was projecting as more controlled, more together, more confidant, more resolved. 

Maybe all this comes across as more dire and intense because I'm hormonal and PMS'ing.  Then again, maybe this is exactly as it should be. 

I don't have a clue how all this will play out.  I have a starting point, and I know where I want to end up, but the stops along the way are as of yet undetermined.  I'm having foot surgery on December 3rd, which will pose problems of it's own, but on a brighter note, it will get me out of my work environment, I shouldn't have to lay eyes on my ex's girlfriend for a good three months.  And, ideally, when I'm all healed up I'll have a lot less physical pain, I'll hopefully walk better, move better and generally feel more my age.  Hobbling like an arthritic elderly woman is bad for the ego.  Ideally, while I'm off, I'll get divorced, which will hurt I'm sure, but hopefully it's on my terms and brings the closure I really need.  Hopefully that will be one huge emotional load off my back.  Maybe then I can breathe, I can focus, I can see me for me, a whole person, not some severed half of busted down pair.  Identity, I think that's a big struggle for me, bigger then I knew. 

I'm getting long winded, forgive me, bear with me...

There's a lot of turmoil tied up in not knowing how to define yourself anymore.   In the confines of my marriage I understood who I was and felt free to be a lot of different things I don't feel comfortable being anymore.  Sexual for instance.  It was expected in a marriage.  Kids resulted and that was par for the course.  The marriage is gone.  The kids aren't (thank goodness), and I still feel like the same person.  I feel like mom and nurse and wife and I still feel like a sexual being.  But that part of me feels inappropriate now.  Can't lie and say that attempting a romantic and sexual life since the end of my marriage hasn't lead to some unexpected emotional pain.  Dating and flirting and sexual type things don't feel liberating like some people promised they would. It hasn't been freeing. It hasn't been healing.  In fact, they've caused confusion and hurt and shame that I wasn't ready for then and am still not prepared for.   This is one break through I had all on my own.  Dating to get over my marriage is a foolish and detrimental thing, I tried it, I didn't like it, and it brough new layers and pain, self loathing and confusion I didn't really need.  I know better now.  I can scratch that off my list of lessons to learn.  Katy Perry summed it up pretty well in her song "Thinking of You", thats precicely how it was, on every single date.  That was a big red flag I saw each time, and chose to ignore, to my own detriment.  I'm not young and free spirited and unattached.  Not in my head or in my heart.  I'm still a wife in my head.  I'm a mom.  I like to stay home.  I like to bake.  I knit damn it!  I get excited by fancy notebooks and new cook book stands on clearance at Target.  My "fancy" clothes are scarves from the Gap and jeans from Old Navy (which are too tight now by the way).  Dating makes me have to try too hard, and I don't want to.  Not right now. 

Well, holy crap.  How was that for a soul baring exercise?  That was a lot to dump out there.  But, I feel diffused already.   These thoughts ping pong around in my head day and night and they're what keep me up at night and fuel my dreams.  So, I think it's worth a little embarassment to get them off my chest. 

If you made it this far, you're a saint, a saint who now thinks I'm a crazy person.  I'm not though, just a tired person with too many feelings.

Thanks for reading.