Monday, March 21, 2011

One year later ...

So, this is a couple of weeks early, but it's something I'm thinking about a lot anyway.  April 1st is fast approaching and if you know me, you also know that's my birthday.  If you know me well enough, though, or if you happen to read through this blog enough, you know that it also the day my mom passed away last year.  It took me a while to really be able to talk about everything here, but eventually I did so in two separate blog posts ("It's been a long time ..." and "Moving forward ...").  If you haven't read those before now, do me a favor and read them now, because I not only want you to understand what's gone on in my mind, but I also hope that my experience might be able to help some of you (or those you know) out during some particularly rough times.

Go ahead and take the time to read (or re-read) those two posts, and then come back here and I'll let you know what's on my mind now ... 
Back? Good.

So here we are ... nearly a full year since the night that everything around me felt like it fell apart.  The past twelve months have proven to be ... "unpredictable". If you read those posts, you know that by the end of last year, I had lost my mother, a father figure, and a best friend all around the same time.  Going through something like that forces a person to stop and look at their own lives, and I haven't been any different.  I've spent a lot of time re-evaluating my life and, I'll be honest, I can't say I've figured it all out yet.  But I've made an active and conscious effort to try.

I'm not going lie to any of you. I'm still a storm of emotions when it comes to everything that happened last year.  Luckily for me what was once an epic maelstrom has diminished to more of a partly cloudy with occasional thunderstorms.  There are days I still catch myself wanting to pick up the phone and call Mom to let her know the latest that's going on with me.  There are still times I miss hearing her, even on her bad days, and when the realization that she's never going to be around reopens some of those old wounds.  There are days where I almost can't see straight because I'm still so utter pissed at her for copping out the way she did.  And then there are the days that I feel guilty because a part of me wonders if I should be feeling something completely different than what I do.

The thing I keep reminding myself, and that I want to remind any of you out there that might be dealing with something similar is that it really is natural to go through this.  I'm not going to get up on some high horse and say that "This is how you should feel" when tragedy strikes, because ultimately the only one who can define that is you.  What I WILL say, though, is that you need to make absolutely sure that you take the time when you feel something to really look at it and to try and understand how it's affecting you.

Right after mom died, all I heard from people is that they thought I was handling the situation well, and how they would have broken down.  What they didn't realize is that I was holding myself together because I was going through so much.  It wasn't just the feelings I had about what had happened, but I'd actually started to question myself as a person for feeling (or in some cases NOT feeling) the way I did about everything.  I was angry, hurt, frustrated, scared, and at times, believe it or not, relieved when I thought about mom's death.  And all of those feelings weren't just directed at her, but at myself as well.  There were times I couldn't stand my mom for doing what she did ... and then not long after, I couldn't stand myself for feeling that way about her.

In the older posts, I talked to all of you about the issues my mom had. All those late night drunken phone calls I had to take from her. So many times I had to drop everything to be there for her as she had a breakdown.  All the times I had to sit through an alcohol fueled tirade on how big of a disappointment I was, or hear how I didn't give a damn about her or anyone else in the family.  I'll be honest, after she passed, there was a lot of emotional weight and baggage lifted off of my shoulders.  I felt guilty admitting that.  After all, I couldn't help but wonder sometimes if it made me some sort of terrible person to feel a sense of relief after my mother passed.  In time, though, I accepted the fact that there was some measure of relief ... and that it was okay to feel that way. The drug and alcohol problems she had affected not only her, but me as well.  She refused to accept that anything was ever wrong with her, and refused to get any sort of help.  There's the old saying that you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.  My mother refused to even be led to the water, and so at some point I had to let go, or else I would have been pulled down with her.

That's not to say I didn't love my mom.  I loved her then and I love her now. The best way I can put it into words is to say that I loved my mother because she was my mother ... but I didn't like the person she'd become.  Still, there were times that my mother ... my real "mom" who I loved dearly ... would manage to shine through.  It was the mom who would still call me when I was sick to see how I was feeling.  Or the mom who would listen to the latest happenings in my life or career.  It was THAT mom, the one I saw in some rarer moments of clarity, that I miss being in my life.  It's that mom I wish was still around and that I still, even as I write this, tear up because I've lost her.

Having said that, though, I'm in a much better place emotionally.  They say that "time heals all wounds", but the key is in knowing how to help those wounds heal.  If you don't give a wound proper care, then all that time will do is lead to a serious infection.  You've got to clean it, dress it, and pay attention to it.  Sometimes, you can't do it alone either.  Personally, I wish I had reached out more to my friends than I did (or more than I  still do), but I still was smart enough to occasionally grab hold of the hand offering support.  I also took stock in myself and my own capabilities.  I made sure to remember that at the end of the day, my feeling were my own.  There was never really a "right" or a "wrong" way to feel.  You've just got to own your feelings and not let them end up owning you.

And hey, if you ever want to talk ... you know where to find me.

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