Sunday, July 7, 2013

Rock-Bottom Sunsets

To many of you, this won't come as surprise but recently it has come to my attention that my personal "rock bottom" is really pretty shallow.  I know a lot of people who live their baseline lives well under my melt-down point and survive quite nicely.  They have a spouse who travels or works long hours or is unsupportive; they taxi 4 kids to 3 travel sports each.  Work crazy hours.  Live at fast-food chains.  They don't remember the last time they watched a TV series on Netflix or read a novel or went on vacation or rearranged or had someone over unplanned or "dated".  They squeeze in their cardio while paying their bills.  Bills are a challenge to pay and their homes are cluttered.  Their time is all scheduled.  Their life a swirling happy, crazy, blur of excitement and activity.  But that just isn't me (or us).  I am not judging those people  I love that everyone is different.  Truthfully, if I'm reflective:  I am nearly jealous of them. 

Our family just doesn't do well without a peacefully consistent life.  I'm not sure what to do with this epiphany, but I guess admitting is the first step.  And I also guess that thankfully, we experience our version of rock-bottom very very infrequently.

We live this really well planned, uncomplicated, and self-disciplined life-- most of the time.  We know what keeps us happy, sane, and stress-free.  We can each go for a little while without, especially to fulfill a big picture goal, but usually, we map our little lives so that these things are just regularly maintained and stay in an acceptable range:
  1. House and Soul and Schedule are clean and organized
  2. Budget and Spreadsheets are solid and kept
  3. Food is cooked at home and healthy
  4. Lovin' is sweet and plentiful
  5. Yoga / Exercise / Cardio are very regular
  6. Ample rest and downtime and reading and quiet and calm
  7. Generous time with friends and at social events and in nature
  8. Creative projects and trips and dreams are clearly on the horizon
  9. Unplanned magical time is abundant and includes lots wine and laughter
Our house is (ideally) this sweet wonderful little allergen-free bubble where all four of us feel safe and happy and nurtured and nourished and loved and even challenged -- but in the best possible way.  For some, our life would be insanely boring to the point of rage, but to us, it is just right.

These past months, life wasn't just right.  It started because Jake had rather sudden but very necessary reconstructive surgery on his achilles tendon and literally could do NOTHING.  He was on lots of pain pills and felt useless and weighty.  I kept trying to do it all but would fail miserably without my other half (who I realized carries quite a load-- literally and figuratively).  I was tired and frail and spent. My head and soul physically ached.  Our daughter in constant tears, our middle school son withdrawn and angry. We were well beyond, "feigning happy".   On those very rare occasions when we were seen in public, people politely asked the obligatory,  "How are you?"  Our answers ranged from:
  • We've seen better days; in all honesty, you probably don't want to ask.
  • Seriously crappy, even with Xanax and Norco
  • Do you want the truth?!  You can't handle the truth!
We had plenty of help.  That wasn't the issue.  We are surrounded by people who love us and who support us.  My parents came in and built the most amazing covered pergola that felt like a whole new wing on our house, especially wonderful because we were so immobile.  We were sent our favorite chips and salsa with margaritas and beer.... delivered to our door with no strings attached.  Others still came over when we wouldn't leave the house and played cards, got their own drinks, and didn't mind that we were a cranky mess.  Our kids had a million unreciprocated carpools and open-ended play-dates.  An aunt gave me a book that was encouraging and wonderful and nourished me on a deep level.  GG made a colorful afghan of roses so beautiful that when I crawl under it I can feel her protective love.  My mother in law gave extra money toward our recovery trip.  Jake's brother took him faithfully to the horse track where he would laugh and feel normal.  Many asked what we needed when they were out on errands.  Lots of hugs, meals, and tear-filled knowing nods.  I can't even name all of the things that people did to help make the season easier, mostly because it is all a giant blur...

All of it helped, but it didn't change the fact that we were so out of balance and days were not getting better.  I told myself to, "buck up half soldier, you are being a ridiculous wimp" at least 200 times. I tried to bury myself in novels and mini-series so that I didn't have to think about our out of control (albeit hopefully temporary) real life, but our real life kept screaming for attention.  I was on new BP meds (which were working but my body takes awhile to regulate).  School and behavior struggles with the kids.  We had the worst stomach bug ever fly through a couple of us; hitting me the worst, I literally saw only black from being so so so sick.  A friend died (finally and mercifully by this point) from cancer, leaving a broken and grieving husband... the list goes on but I won't bore you.

At a couple of points, when obligation beckoned us to leave the house, I would half-kiddingly murmur, "Or we could just stay in our little bubble / cave / nest / sanctuary and sit on the couch and cry."  To which our daughter would respond with longing, "Oh, mom, that would perfect.  Can we please just do that instead?"  

Despite our best planning and our conscious choices:  Our family was a mess.  I'm not saying this melodramatically or to get pity or for empathy or even as an excuse, but more just to be real and genuine and to release myself through confession. We were restless and exhausted without deep sleep or adequate exercise.  We were impatient without reason.  We were over-whelmed by everything and nothing; unable to be creative, or write, or cook, or even use pinterest, and with a relate-able melancholy bond to the many many songs about breaking down and being unwell and homesick... for the way life was...

Eventually, school was out, homework done, lockers cleaned, house sterilized from the flu, soccer season over, tears shed, obligations ended, Jake was somewhat mobile (at least for short distances or on a knee scooter).  As a family, we unplugged (literally) and took a very long,  much-needed, uncomplicated, unexciting, (and cheap) road-trip to Maine; where we sat in a very remote (15 minutes down a dirt road / 1 bar of sporadic internet) ocean front VRBO house.  We listened to the waves, collected rocks, watched movies, read, played games, immersed in music, meditated, drank wine out of an epically awesome stainless steel travel cup (pictured above), lazily made simple food, canoed, and tried desperately to recover a bit of our equilibrium --and our sanity while surrounded by a sanctuary of uninterrupted peace.

Hypnotically watching the Bay of Fundy extreme tides was so candidly symbolic of accepting the high and low tides of life.  The high tides being so much more rich and rewarding (and a little scary) with the perspective of the low tides in not so distant memory.  The reminder that this won't last but it also won't be the last low tide -- that we made it and we will make it again.  Learning to ride the high and low tides together, and with more grace.  That when the fog eventually lifts (and it eventually will) the sun still sets beautifully, even when the tides are lowest.  

We drove home late on the 4th through a never-ending surreal parade of fireworks welcoming us back to our real life.  Our wine glass is looking half full again.  Our inner serenity is starting to grow and spread.  Jake can walk again, slowly and not for distances, but he can walk. Our "bare minimum" middle-schooler is starting to pull some extra weight without fighting back so hard.  Our daughter is returning to calm and happy.  I feel like cooking and writing and planning and socializing.  Our prayers are not the desperate pleas for strength to cope but transitioning to thanksgiving and peace and acceptance:  The special acceptance that sometimes, many times, proper healing isn't easy or fun.  Sometimes the tide goes even lower than we think it can.  Sometimes things get worse before they get better.  We must painfully break or fully sever in order to become better than we were before, but it is all worth it.  

And now, with a private wink to each other, we can honestly answer, 
"Yes my friend, we are doing okay."

I've never ever been the type of person who fakes things.  I hope it is evident by this point, but the "Feigning Middle Class" blog title is very tongue in cheek because I don't really feign much of anything-- which is why it is kind of ironic and  funny to me-- I actually pride myself on transparency.   It is a quality that I always admire and respect in people.  I will be my normal happy self soon.  I know that I am not likable at these times.  I certainly don't like myself, but I also promise that you will get the real me, moles... warts... crazy teeth... bruised spirits...  limping gaits and all...

oh -- and my personal sunset at rock-bottom?!  turns out, rock-bottom makes me skinnier.  I'd frankly rather be a little more round but overflowingly happy.

oh -- and the literal silver-lining?  I started losing a ton of hair, probably from the stress and the new meds.  The new hair coming in?  Mostly silver.  I went from about 10 gray hairs to about 200... not sure how I feel about this particular silver-lining.

No comments:

Post a Comment