The blanket

This was written for a dear friend who is looking for some way to reach her sister in the darkness. May it touch you as well. 

The blanket

I stand still and try to disappear into the darkness around me. The cold is unbearable and soon my body begins to shake in search of some warmth or light.

Finding none, I curse everything and everyone. In desperation, I gather up all my pain and begin to knit together a blanket. Weaving in every insult, every punch, the horrible unspeakable things, the shame and the evil I know all too intimately.

I step back and look at my blanket. It is beautiful, a complex knit filled with all the colors of sorrow and despair. I fling it around my shoulders, and like a superhero, it gives me the identity I so crave.

Now I am someone special because of my pain. I am a survivor. I am not numb anymore and I am alive. The blanket makes me think and feel. I spit in the face of everyone who has hurt me.

No longer shivering, I parade around in my blanket for all to see.

“Look at me!” I cry out in joy. “Look at how beautiful I am now.”

I sleep curled up in my blanket, the softness making me feel comfortable and safe. I never let it out of my sight. When others try to get near me, snap, I fling the stitches in their face. Only I know the truth of my pain. Only my blanket can protect me.

Over time though, the blanket becomes worn, heavy and the stitches start to unravel. I desperately cling to it, but the power seems to be fading and the cold and darkness reaches me again.

Huddling under the blanket with tears streaming down my face, the blanket refuses to comfort me anymore. It mocks me now and I get angry.

I look until I find something else to give me comfort.

Then something else.

Then something else.

They all offer a moment of warmth.

Just a moment.

I lay down and now the blanket is so heavy I cannot move. My body is being pushed into the earth and the fabric is cutting into my skin. I pray for death to take me away.

Then I hear a voice quietly whispering my name over and over. I recognize this voice instantly and recoil from it.

No. Go away. I’m too damaged. Too broken. Just leave me.

But the voice continues to whisper over and over and then gently tugs at my blanket.

“I don’t need help,” I yell and pull the suffocating blanket so tight around my face that I can barely breathe.

He whispers my name again and I feel the blanket slowly peeling away from my body. I tug against it one more time and then let go.

All at once He takes the blanket and flings it onto His own shoulders. Through tears I roll over and see Him smiling down at me.

“I will carry this now,” He says.

He reaches His arms out to me and without thinking I leap into them.

He puts a robe around my shoulders and it is the warmest, softest thing I have ever felt.

“Walk with me,” He says.

I do.

I feel so light and free. The air is fresh, the colors bright and everything feels different.

I am no longer alone.

I never really was.

He tells me this walk will never be easy and I will be tempted to weave a new blanket over and over again. The pain, darkness and cold will forever chase me, but I don’t have to live in fear anymore.

He has my blanket. He has my hand.

I am not alone.

I am a child of God and He loves me.

Although I feel unworthy, I accept this love and this gift.

Now, I proudly wear my robe for all to see and remind myself daily to let Him carry my blanket.

I don’t need it.

I am free.

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My phone makes me lonely

phoneHe sits a few feet away on the couch. I’m in my comfy chair. Lonely, I reach for my phone.

The next hour goes by. He is lost in the world of the History Channel and me into my little box.

I really want connection.

He probably does too.

But we are tired.

Always so tired.

So instead of asking for the hug I really need, I like photos on Facebook.

Instead of telling him how angry I am about the way a friend treated me, I read the news and feel the hopelessness of it all.

I used to think my cellphone was my friend, helping me stay connected with the people I love.

Now I’m not so sure.

The more hours I stare at its little white screen, the more acutely alone and isolated I feel.

I read a friends post and I know they are sad. I want to put my arms around them and let them cry big tears into my neck. I want to hold them tight, feel the warmth of their skin and let them know they are not alone.

Instead I write, “I’m sorry you’re going through a hard time.” I might add, “<<hugs>>” or “I’ll pray for you.”

Lame.

These are not the ways humans find comfort and connection. Our words are powerful, but eye contact and touch are infinitely more.

There is never time though. We are all so busy.

It seems nobody wants real comfort anyway. Not really. That’s a version of intimacy very few, myself included, even know how to handle.

Better to text a friend a sad emoticon with, “I love you. I’m sorry. Things will get better.”

Maybe share a quote of inspiration or a funny picture.

Typing the words is easy. Saying them and following through are completely different and require much more.

How many times have I saw a post of a friend whose pet or family member has died and I’ve typed, “sorry for your loss, let me know if there is anything I can do”?

Far too many times to even recount.

How many have taken me up on my vague offer of help?

None.

They aren’t going to do that. To ask for help in our culture is to admit you are weak. Americans are supposed to be strong. Pull yourself up. Push past it. Get over it.

We assume if they don’t turn to us, they have someone. I’m sure their spouse or close family is offering all the support they need. I’m sure they are fine.

We tell ourselves they would ask if they really needed something.

We stay hidden behind our devices, safe from really being there for them.

I’ve been told to keep things in perspective, be grateful for what I have and to just choose happiness.

I’m trying.

This week my body is telling me to stop it. I can’t just push it away. I can’t will myself to just be fine. There is no way to reframe the pain I feel in my heart.

Pain is pain.

It’s not competitive. It’s not subjective. It’s not a choice.

What I feel does not have to be explained away or pushed away. I can’t take a pill to make it disappear. I can’t bury it with food or drown it with alcohol. I can’t distract myself away from it with movies, TV or my cellphone.

I’ve tried all of that.

The pain keeps returning and it demands to be felt.

So I’m going to allow myself to slow down again, even though the voices in my head call me “weak,” “pathetic” and “crazy.”

I’m going to be gentle with myself. I’m going to try and be open. I’m going to ask for help.

Sometimes being a mother breaks my heart

Today wasn’t a good one. I can’t and shouldn’t measure my mothering skills by what happens in one day or even one moment. However, I can’t help but feel I’ve let them down. Again.

I know tomorrow I will wake up and all the pain of today will have lost its luster. The tears we cried a memory getting fainter as the days go on.

But tonight I hurt.

I ache.

I bleed.

My heart breaks for the pain you felt today. The pain WE felt today.

When I saw you both all packed up and ready to go ride bikes, I could tell there was more.

I felt it.

You said the food you packed was in case you got hungry. But I saw the look you gave each other and I knew it.

I let you go anyway.

I stood at the window and watched you go. I prayed you’d be safe and knew you’d come back.

I didn’t really know. Couldn’t really know what you’d been plotting while you sat on the swing last night together. I thought it was something like hunting for fairies or looking for magic doors.

When you came back less than 10 minutes later, hot and defeated, I could sense it was so much more.

You both started crying within seconds of coming through the door and my heart dropped. It took some time to get it out of you. The plan. The secret. The wish.

Your plan is adorable and heartbreaking at the same time. Ride your bikes to Pet Smart. You’d wave at a stranger, pretending they are your parent, fool the staff. You’d adopt a kitten and a puppy. Ride home with the pets in your backpacks. You’d keep your little babies in the playhouse in the backyard. You’d feed and care for them when we aren’t looking.

You’d have the pets you so long for.

My heart breaks.

I hold you both as your tears flow and mine join in with yours.

You’re probably wondering why I don’t run out and buy seventeen kittens and puppies.

I want to.

My husband is allergic to cats and refuses to get a dog. Its been an ongoing topic of discussion and every few months it rears its painful head again.

I support him in front of them, but argue with him about it frequently. His list of reasons is short, but he will not budge.

My heart breaks.

We leave the house and go shopping to break the moment. I try and distract with humor, new books and a shared cookie.

It helps for the moment.

Later in the day though, it surfaces again. More tears. This time rage and anger. You fight with each other and get violent. You hit me. Hit each other. You scratch me. You tell me I am awful. You shake with frustration.

I listen. I hold you. I talk to you.

We talk about better ways to vent our anger so it doesn’t hurt others. You ask why I’m crying too, and I tell you I hurt when you do.

You cry more and I apologize.

I should not have cried.

I should be stronger.

We make it to the end of the day and when daddy comes home we try and hold it together. I want to rage and scream and scratch, like you. I want to make him feel the pain you do.

I don’t.

Of course I don’t.

Someday you will see I am protecting you. Marriage isn’t easy and being an adult is about compromises and sacrifice.

Or maybe you will be in therapy someday telling them you wished your mother were a stronger person.

I don’t know.

We snuggled before bedtime and I told you I loved you more than you could ever imagine. I read to you and kissed you. Tomorrow will be a better day, I say. Tomorrow we will do something fun.

You look up at me with wounded eyes and I want to cry again.

Sometimes being a mother breaks my heart.

Sorry nobody clapped for you, people suck

It is pretty much always the same. Lines of kids in caps and gowns, flowers, balloons, crying moms and fussy babies, speeches about the meaning of life, scattered bursts of applause and snapping cameras (mostly cell phones now).

Every time I attend a graduation, I’m proud and happy for the graduates. I never get tired of seeing all that hopefulness.

But it comes with equally strong feelings of hate for the human race.

I try to suppress it.

I focus on the mom with the tissues in front of me that screams out, “I love you baby!” as her boy walks across the stage.

I focus on the dad beaming two rows down who is videotaping the entire thing with due diligence.

I focus on the grandmother who is overcome with such joy that tears run down her face.

Then it happens again, another name is called that is met with silence.

This kid has no cords around his neck. No awards to speak of.

I clap in my quiet, lame way, but it’s nothing. It isn’t heard because the next kid, the one with 50 family members and tons of his peers screaming his name, is now walking across the stage.

That’s when the anger starts and I think about how fucked up this whole thing is.

I was one of the “good kids.” I worked hard, understood the game, and had lots of family members to cheer me on.

I wasn’t that kid that nobody clapped for.

But I see you.

I know that your life is harder than these spoiled kids with two loving parents and a hundred relatives that flew in from around the country to support them.

I see you.

I know that you barely graduated because you had to juggle taking care of your siblings because your mom has to work. She couldn’t come to your graduation because of work. She works hard. You do to.

I see you.

I’m fucking pissed on your behalf.

You’re the 302nd kid to walk across the stage and I know you feel alone. I can see it in the way you walk and the way you don’t make eye contact with the staff that is shaking your hand. From way up here in the stands, I can feel the pain of your life.

I see you.

This doesn’t diminish the accomplishments of the other kids. The ones that are dripping in awards that they earned, the ones who are famous around campus for their sports achievements, the ones who didn’t miss a day of school. Yes, they absolutely 100% deserve the recognition, praise and love.

But so do you.

I wish you could have heard my clap.

I see you.

The inequity of the hand that you were dealt makes me want to do something. I want to hug you and tell you that it gets better. That everything will change now. That you will be that American success story, rising out of the ashes like the phoenix, and you will get everything you’ve always dreamed of having.

But that’s a lie.

The truth is, you have to keep working. You have a lot of hard work ahead of you.

You have to show up and do stuff.

Every. Single. Day.

Life is not easy for anyone.

The kids that have a million fans in high school are not exempt. Everyone has work to do.

They might also have to face a hard fall from the high of being on top. They may spend a long time recovering from the ego blow coming their way.

They may also be so hard on themselves, a perfectionist bred from parental/societal/internal pressure, that nothing they ever do will make them happy.

We all suffer in some way.

We all have to work hard.

The thing I really want to tell you isn’t far from the silly stuff your classmates said in their commencement speeches. All that shit about “your life is what you make it” and “you can do it.” I know you rolled your eyes. I did too. But it’s true.

One minute you will feel overwhelmed with regret and sadness.

Then your 8-year-old daughter comes up behind you and gently rubs your temples and kisses the top of your head.

You will have a list of stuff to do that never seems to get smaller and you’ll scream at how meaningless it all seems.

Then your 10-year-old boy brings you coffee while your writing and it’s the right amount of cream and sugar. He sets it down and quietly whispers, “I love you.”

So, yah, life is hard. It’s not going to get easier or simpler.

But there is coffee, soft touches and moments that lift you back up and flood you with hope again.

Now get to work.

Fear, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing

She is screaming in terror again. Afraid to walk into her own bedroom, she cowers and shakes her legs. As I push her to go through the door, face her fear, her anger turns on me.

“You just don’t understand me,” she screams.

I know she believes that with every ounce of her little body.

Yet, I do get it, my darling daughter.

Fear is something I understand intimately.

This week I had a car accident. I escaped with a few injuries, but my car did not. The events are on a loop in my brain, robbing me of sleep and keeping me quite tightly wound in fear.

Driving down a country road at 40 mph, a white van tried to cross right in front of me. I had no time to stop. I screamed and slammed on my brakes, but it wasn’t good enough. I hit the side of the van, the airbag opened and I just sat there in a cloud of smoke. I had been talking on my hands-free to a friend. I was on my way to deliver chocolate milk to his sick child. He heard it all.

Fear.

I stumbled out of the car and sat on the curb. Police officers were everywhere and I was very confused. Someone put a blanket on my shoulders and my hand hurt bad enough for me to scream and cry. I looked down and it was burned. Some chemical from the airbag was burning my skin.

Fear.

My friend arrives and so does an ambulance. The driver of the van was a parole officer and that’s why there are police everywhere. I sign forms, answer questions and do what I am told. It’s all a blur. My hand throbs whenever ice is removed and all I keep thinking about is my children, my friends and my family.

Fear.

It could have been so much worse. That morning could have been the last time my children saw me. My friend could have heard my death while on the phone with me. My husband, mother and brother would be left with nothing but memories of me. Someday my children would read the journals I’d left behind and wonder at this mother that was so consumed with pain, anger and depression.

I would be leaving a legacy of fear.

That is not what I want.

I sit on my daughter’s floor and we are looking at each other. She is shaking again as she retells the story she heard at school that has been the cause of her anxiety and fear for about three weeks now.

A mother and daughter are playing a game in their house. The daughter’s eyes are blindfolded and she reaches her arms out in front of her. The mother claps and the girl follows it. At some point the mother goes into the kitchen to cook, but the girl is still playing. Clapping comes from the closet. The girl walks toward it, thinking it is her mother. Red eyes and hands appear and grab her. She disappears.

Tears stream down her face again at the retelling. I hold her and let her cry. I’m out of tricks and I’m so tried.

Stupid fear.

I have tried everything in my mommy arsenal to combat this for her. I have rubbed her back, let her follow me around like a shadow, slept with her, used natural calming oils, woken up all hours of the night to comfort her and talked endlessly about fear.

Nothing is working. She is jumpy, quick to tears and still as scared as ever.

“You just don’t understand me,” she says again in an exasperated tone. “You have never been this afraid.”

As I hold her, all the stupid fears that I live with daily swirl around me. They are all so limiting, debilitating and so ridiculously boring.

Suddenly I am angry.

Stop acting like your mother.

Be stronger.

Be tougher.

Be more.

She is looking at me and I see so much of myself reflected back. All my imperfections and insecurity just mirrored back at me in this little concentrated form.

I do understand you, my love, and I am sorry.

“I can’t fight your fears for you,” I say while I stroke her cheek with my injured hand. “You have to do it. You have the power.”

“I can’t mommy,” she says. “I just can’t.”

“You can, my love. You will. There is no other option. You are tougher than you think.”

We lock eyes and she smiles a teeny bit.

Brother walks over. He has been fighting his fear too, but he has found a way to conquer it. No longer is he shadowing me or refusing to sleep in his room.

“Pretend you are a puppy,” he tells his sister. “You are learning and you might not always get it the first time, but you keep trying.”

He barks and licks her hand.

They both laugh.

Yes, my boy, we are puppies.

Sometimes we bark and chase our tail in the pure joy of the moment. Sometimes we chew up the couch and sit back and wonder at the destruction we caused.

We deserve instant forgiveness, endless chances and boundless love.

We all do.

There are moments when the monster wins

Walking up the stairs with my arms full of laundry and my coffee cup balanced on the top, I tripped.

I didn’t fall, but my knee hit the stairs and I dropped everything. The hot coffee burned the front of me and also managed to get on most of the newly cleaned white clothes I’d been carrying.

On another day, I’d probably laugh or curse. Or maybe I’d do both.

Not today.

Today the tears I’d been holding back came rushing forward violently. Before I knew it, I had to sit as my body convulsed with sobs, the deep kind that take over every inch of your body. I felt like my insides were ripping apart and that nothing could ever be right again.

After a few minutes, I stopped.

Grabbing a white sock to dab my eyes, I started to clean up the mess. I’d have to wash all the clothes again, spray clean the carpet, wipe down the walls and put burn cream on my chest.

I moved through the motions trying to squash down the pain inside and just go forward, but I could feel it clawing at me. Its talons scratching my gut, begging me to just succumb to it.

So, I made my way to my bed. Pulling the covers over my head, I let it come. The pain didn’t disappoint. It was faithful in its ability to crush me and tear at me. I buried my head in my pillow and screamed.

This happens sometimes.

The weight of life just crushes me and everything just becomes too much.

My mind becomes a prison in which I am stuck reliving decisions and fighting against my own reality. Over and over the same records play until I want to smash them against the wall.

Then the fantasy takes over and my mind becomes a blur of alternative realities where I’m not here in this bed screaming in pain, but I’m happy and living a completely different life constructed from dreams of what might have been.

Sadness, disappointment, grief, regrets, guilt and fear all swirl around until it almost becomes a game to see how deeply I can feel.

Then it just stops.

The tears cease, my gut unclenches and I roll onto my back and look at the ceiling. I will myself to slow my breath and to be calm.

I roll onto my side and look at the green walls of my bedroom.

Flashes of the day my husband and I painted it run through my head, along with images of cool forests and tall trees.

I stare at the walls and concentrate on being here.

I’m right here.

Scanning the room, I take in all the little mementos of the life I have.

Moon lanterns made at camp, my collection of old perfume bottles that were my grandmothers, a painting of a creek running through a forest that hung in my childhood home and two large pictures of my children as babies.

My boy. In this picture he has this little drop of drool right on his chin and he is staring straight at the camera. I love looking at those sweet wispy curls and I still get lost in those amazingly bright blue eyes.

My girl. She is wearing this adorable pink knitted bonnet and dress that her grandma made her and is lying on her tummy. Those soft and chubby cheeks fill the picture and I remember how I couldn’t stop kissing them.

Nothing is so bad that I can’t endure.

Sacrifice.

It’s what being grownup is all about.

Sarah: That’s not fair!

Jareth (Goblin king): You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is?

–Labyrinth

Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

–The Princess Bride

I’m up and writing, but that monster is still calling me back to bed. I can feel its pull, almost hear its talons clicking together in anticipation of ripping at my gut some more. It doesn’t always give me a choice, but today I have some fight in me.

I’m going to fight.

Time to shower and leave my home.

Reinforcements, a good book and coffee, are greatly needed.

Sadly, I am acutely aware that I am not even close to alone in this battle and that so many will relate to this piece. Know that although I am often lost in my war, I am here to support yours. If you need an ally, you’ve found one.

I’m still here.

bridgette

The monster strikes at midnight

“Mommy! Mom! Help!”

Jolted awake, I sit up in bed. I look at the clock and think it must have been a dream. Just as I settle back onto my pillow, I hear the most frightening scream.

“Mom! Help me! I’m so scared. Where are you?”

The sound of his voice sends me bolting out my bedroom door. His panic and intensity scares me so much that I almost fall.

I look in his room and he isn’t there.

His voice sounds far away and I start to panic.

“Where are you?” I yell.

“Downstairs bathroom! Hurry mom! Help me!”

Heart pounding I leap down the stairs and run toward the bathroom. As I do, horrible images enter my head and it feels like an eternity until I reach him.

There he is. Sitting on the toilet. He is completely naked. Tears are streaming down his face and he is shaking.

“Why are you downstairs? What is wrong?” I yell.

My husband enters the bathroom right behind me. I hear my daughter calling out now from her bed.

“What is wrong?” I yell again.

“I was going to the bathroom and then this terrible, scary bug came at me,” he sobs. “I was screaming for you forever. I think it’s by the door now. I am so scared.”

We look near the door and see it.

Another fucking centipede.

You have to be kidding me.

I cradle him in my arms and calm him down.

“It’s OK,” I say. “Daddy will kill it. It’s just a bug. Your safe.”

My husband jumps into super protector mode and kills it with a broom. I gather it up with toilet paper and we flush it down the toilet.

I follow my boy into his bedroom. He grabs his panda, snuggles under the covers and slowly starts to settle down.

“Don’t you EVER do that to me again,” I tell him.

“Sorry mommy,” he says. “I was so scared.”

“I know love, I know.”

After his breath returns to normal and he is settled in, I quickly check on my daughter and head to bed.

The second I enter the safety of my room I start to laugh hysterically.

It’s just all so ridiculous.

In a matter of seconds the laughs turn into sobs.

Big, giant sobs that take me down.

My husband looks on in confusion, and I can’t explain it.

Sometimes it’s all just too much.

I spent my afternoon holding a dear friend who had fallen hard into the darkness and weight of depression and pain. It was a dark day and it scared me.

I know that feeling.

I fear it.

I pray it never returns.

I go to therapy every week to keep from letting it take hold of me again.

When I get home I see the news of the death of Robin Williams.

Bam.

Pow.

Ouch.

Here it is again.

Depression isn’t something to be taken lightly or that can be “willed away” by people who love you.

Sometimes all the good, wonderful things in the world aren’t enough.

The pain can be deeper and more pervasive than love.

I sit and weep for my friend, for others who have lost the battle and for myself.

After a few minutes I stop.

I go back to my son, grab him up and hug him hard. He returns it with full force.

“I love you so much,” I tell him. “You know that right?”

He smiles and makes his sweet little cooing sound.

“Yep. I love you momma.”

Today is another day.

cooper

NOTE: I have been humbled by all the love and support that has poured my way regarding “Exposed by my children for what I really look like.” I can’t answer all your emails, but know that I’m grateful to each and every one of you that have written me. May you all see your beauty and embrace it.