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Winter, particularly these two weeks, are very difficult for me. It seems especially hard this year. I am heavier than I have been. My depression is thick. My back hurts again. I am having a hard time remembering to be grateful for the wonderful things I have and that I’ve recently had an amazing trip to somewhere lovely and warm. And that in itself makes me sad.
When I trudged up the stairs from the bus station yesterday, as most I do most days, I came into Union Station (a story in itself). There are two remaining original benches in the new version of this place where I used to find such solace. On bad days, like yesterday, I try to lower my stress levels for a minute by sitting on one of these benches and just soaking in the spirits that still remain from thousands of travelers who passed through this building for over 100 years – including my own grandfather.
As I watched the light flooding through the high, round, window, a Cat Stevens song came on over the piped-in music. I think it was “Morning Has Broken”. I remember hearing that song when I was in the sunny front window of my first restaurant at 17. At that time, I knew where I wanted to go to college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew where I wanted to go. I was a little slip of a thing, a dancer. I was looking forward to my future, even though I couldn’t see what it was
There was a line in “Out of Africa”, one of my favorite movies, that says, “Perhaps God made the world round so we could not see too far down the road.”
I believe that.
I never thought I would be living in Denver, would have been here for over 30 years. That wasn’t in the plan when I stood in that sunny front window that afternoon. I wonder when I lost track of the plan? I wonder if I ever had a plan? MKL and I were talking about this the other day – how I have a hard time with creating a plan and sticking to it, especially when I have more than one thing to focus on. Together, he and I are building a plan, and that feels good. I never thought I’d be divorced, much less re-marrying. All of that makes me look forward to my future.
I watch my daughter planning her future – I think she’s better at it than I was, but then she’s more down-to-earth than I was. But I wonder, in twenty years, will she look back on being just 18, and having all these plans and dreams, and have achieved them? Or will she be like me, looking back and wondering, “What happened?”. If that’s the case, I hope she finds herself happy with where she is.
There’s that other saying that I love (credited to many) that “Life’s what happens when you’re making other plans.”
I believe that too.
So what’s the point of this ramble? I suppose it’s that when we are younger we cannot see our future, no matter how much we think we can or how optimistic we are. It’s great that we have that vision, but it’s a real challenge to make the vision a reality. I didn’t really understand that at 17. I do now. So that’s part of the point.
And the other part is that I am a gloomy otter and the eighth anniversary of my Mother’s death is next week.
I’ll find my light again. I promise.
The mantra of my tribe is that Depression Lies. You may recall a post a few weeks ago about a young woman who committed suicide, a friend of my daughter. I have thought of her often, and of the culture in which our teenagers grow to adulthood (as if any of us every REALLY become adults – I still maintain that we’re all just playing at being grown-ups, and some of us are just better at it than others.) I would never blame a parent for a child’s suicide. I have nothing but the utmost, heartfelt compassion for what they must feel. Since I have personally contemplated suicide and self-harming behaviors since I was young, I feel I want to share my perspective on it now as the parent of a teenager.
It’s very difficult to judge your own capabilities as the parent of a teenager. You think you are encouraging your child to work harder, to achieve more in school, and somehow she interprets that message as “I am a disappointment to my parents,” even when you are conscious of telling your teenager how proud you are of her. And if a teenager is suffering from depression, that sense of being a disappointment becomes not just overwhelming, but seemingly unconquerable. Sharing those same feelings with their parents just makes teenagers think that they are even more of a failure, that their parents won’t believe them, or won’t understand, and their world starts to spiral out of control, through behaviors such as excessive drinking, cutting, or drugs, and sometimes with unthinkably horrible consequences – such as choosing to end their own lives.
I have consciously tried to not push my daughter too hard in school, and she has been an excellent student since kindergarten. And yet, in her eyes, I am constantly nagging her about her homework and her grades, despite the fact that she has proven to me that she’s got this – she’s proven it by her grades. These difficult few months, combined with the fact that she’s taking much harder courses in her senior year, two of her grades aren’t aligned with what her grades usually are.
One very cold night, as I was waiting for a ride at a bus stop, we talked about it on the phone, both of us in tears. I realized what she needed to hear – and what I told her – was that SHE was not the sum of her performance in school. That she is an amazing, intelligent, compassionate, talented, beautifully unique human being, and that’s what matters. Not – at this stage of the game, as she is trying to find her future – how well she did on a Calculus test. I told her I didn’t care about her grades anymore. And I meant it. It seemed to take some of the pressure off, and I am truthfully telling her now that I am proud of her when she is trying her best, and proud of her no matter what. I remember what it was like at her age, struggling with workloads, priorities, time management, work, socializing, and just trying to figure out my future. Remembering that is great help when your teenager is in the same place.
I have not chosen the “friend, not parent” role, though we are friends. I tell her when I need to say “mom stuff”, like having a conversation about the availability of drugs when she goes to college, and the dangers of drugs now versus what was out there when I was her age. I know she’s done things that I don’t want to know about, even though I thought she was telling me everything. She wasn’t. That happens when teenagers are trying to find their path to independence. We, as parents with seemingly open relationships with our children, need to prepare ourselves for the possibility that this will happen, and short of locking your teenager in her room for four years, the only thing you can do is be supportive, vigilant, protect your child-woman as best you can, arm them with as much information as you can, and hope that, if they do not feel they can share with you, that they can find someone trustworthy to share their feelings and confusion with.
My daughter was fortunate enough to have a counselor at school who, while she often gave her the same advice I did, was not me. She is a stronger and wiser soul for having had that counselor at her disposal, and having made that close connection. I was sad to see politics make her counselor leave the school just as so many students were recovering from their friend’s suicide. But that is the way of the world, and at this age, there is no sense in sheltering our soon-to-be-adults from it.
I’m probably rambling a little. I’m trying to help with my words. I’m hoping some parent will see themselves in my words, and think about what they are pushing their child to do, how they are pushing, why they are pushing, and have an awareness of how their child might be perceiving what the parent thinks of as gentle pushing. Let’s try to see our teenagers as more than just students or ultimate players, but who they are, which is so much more. We can offer guidance, but not make the horse drink. We can offer to listen, but cannot expect to be told the whole truth. We can be aware of signs of depression, but must understand that we may not see it.
These are the people we love more than anything else in the world. And as my mother always said, we are all doing the best we can with what we have at the time – both us as parents, and them as teenagers. Let’s just hope it’s enough to keep our children here in this world, instead of thinking that leaving it is the best or only choice they have.
Kelsea and I are on our annual mother-daughter Labor Day trip. She’s now able to cross another state off her list – Utah. I’ve been here before but never spent a night, so I guess now it can really count.
Our first impressions of Utah:
It’s dark. Really, really dark. Of course, it is night.
Right after the “Welcome to Utah” sign, was a sign for the “Trail Through Time”. If it hadn’t been so dark, we would have taken it. And it made me think of Dr. Who.
Shortly after that sign was a sign that said “Eagles on Highway”. What?! No!
Followed thereafter by towns with such intriguing names as Cisco and Yellowcat. None of which offered any services. And were completely dark.
Utah has very nice, smooth roads. Truck kept zipping up to 85 all by itself.
The shift in energy when we passed from Colorado to Utah was tangible. Not unpleasant, just different. Perhaps I will be able to put it into words after a bit more time here.
We know we were driving through someplace magnificent, but that darn darkness prevented us from seeing what it was. It reminded me of when MKL and I went to Monument Valley – when we arrived at night, we had no inkling of what beauty we were missing.
In the course of our seven hour drive from home, we avoided running over a coffeemaker and a pair of gym socks, and did not see any chupacabras. I have been up for almost 40 hours now, and so it’s time for me to go to bed. Photos tomorrow.
My darling daughter starts her senior year in high school tomorrow. It’s a strange thing. I remember being her age so vividly, and now I am seeing it from my Mother’s perspective. Athough Kelsea is different than I was at 17. It is so hard to comprehend her leaving home in a year. Perhaps for me, since she has not been with me full-time since I left ex-Pat’s house, and since I have always worked so much, and therefore seen less of her than your average mom, it will be a little easier. But the closer we get to the day she leaves, the more that feels like an untruth. I am so grateful that I did not miss these last years with her – yes, that was an option when I was under the spell of deceit in my previous relationship. I would not trade where I am now in my life with her – and with MKL – for anything. Not for all the islands in the world.
As she looks to the West for her future, I see her future through the strands of my own memories. New friends, first loves, that sense of freedom and power that comes from being truly on your own for the first time. Philosophy discussions. Term papers. Dorm food. Calling Mom for instructions on laundry and cooking. Walking to class on cold wet mornings. Learning a new city. Finding your way.
And I see her past. Standing at the sliding glass doors with Tug, bobbing up and down as her Daddy came home. Feeding her in the bar sink at the beach house. Her wearing her little pumpkin suit on her first Halloween. Coaching her on her first word. Playing restaurant. Teaching her to ride a bike. White blonde hair in summer. Finger painting. Blowing bubbles. Bathtimes. Reading all the Harry Potter books together. Mother-Daughter trips. Cuddling in thunderstorms. Jumping waves. Hugging next to horizons of sunflowers and darkly phosphorescent seas.
A long time ago, there was a country song by Suzy Bogguss about a girl going off to college and how her mother felt. Even before I had a child, that song made me cry. When the time comes to pack up my girl and set her free for parts distant, I suspect I’ll be playing that song a lot. (And you may see a few more sentimental posts on this blog.)
I have always said that there is an invisible silken strand that connects a mother’s heart with her child’s – my heart with her heart. She spoke that back to me a few weeks ago, and I was surprised and moved that she had heard me say it, had remembered it, and felt it too. The first time I experienced the strength of the strand was when ex-Pat took her to a family reunion. She was five years old. I had to stay behind to work. I felt so strange the whole time they were gone. She and I missed each other, and the strand stretched all the way from her heart in California to mine in Colorado. Stretched fine and thin, but as strong as ever. Perhaps even stronger for the distance.
I will treasure the days until she leaves, rejoice with her when it’s time for her to go, and cherish the strength of the strand.
Topsail Beach, North Carolina.
Quote of the day: “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.” — Ayn Rand
That I was glowing today
Always carrying a book with me
Kelsea and I took our annual trip to Steamboat Springs for hot air balloons, pro rodeo, and pizza that is so good we call it “crack pizza”. We had too much traffic on the way out of town, but it was the Universe making sure that we saw this most incredible rainbow. We could see from one end to the other, and took off down a muddy dirt track hoping that we could actually get to the end of it. We could see the end, in a field, but couldn’t get far enough off road to actually stand in the end of the rainbow. It’s now on both of our bucket lists. But it was an incredibly special moment for the two of us to share – one that will last in both of our memories.
Grand County, Colorado.
Quote of the day: “Magic exists. Who can doubt it, when there are rainbows and wildflowers, the music of the wind and the silence of the stars? Anyone who has loved has been touched by magic. It is such a simple and such an extraordinary part of the lives we live.” — Nora Roberts
Actually hearing someone say “This is my first rodeo”
Talking late at night
On this Mother’s Day, most of which I have spent with Kelsea doing pre-college stuff, snuggled up on the couch, on this wet, slight snowy day, I am reminded of how much perseverance starting, nurturing, and living a life takes. For all of us. I hope you have all had a happy Mother’s Day. For those of us who are without our own mothers now, it is a blessing to know that we were so loved and that the stars are the lights in our mothers eyes still, glowing as they watch us.
Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Quote of the day: “A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” — Washington Irving
Fixing my own printer
The first cricket (though he might be frozen by now)
My darling daughter
A day at home
We have reached a high of 14 today, as warm as it has been in days and days. Perhaps I’ll put on a sarong and flip-flops. Or perhaps not. I am curled up on the couch today, battling a migraine, and watching football players do amazing things in the eastern snow, backing up my computer, and snuggling with Mr. Man. I am warmed today by the memory this image conjures up for me, of driving back from a Labor Day with Kelsea, when we stopped somewhere between South Dakota and Wyoming, at this turn to nowhere surrounded by nothing but sunflowers, and we hugged in such a way that it is imprinted on my soul. If that hug were the last memory I summoned before I left this earthly plane, I would be happy.
Somewhere in the mid-West.
Quote of the day: “Hope and courage and risk dwell inside of us on an uncharted island and if we learn to look for it and tap into it, our possibilities are endless.” — Katie Kacvinsky
Deep sleep (despite the dreams)
Safe travels for beloved friends
I am on the bus this morning, and I get the following text from Kelsea:
“So they think our school is gonna blow up.”
The world stops for one split second.
I call her.
She doesn’t answer.
The bus is speeding away down Highway 36 and I am thinking how I have to get off and get to her, to her school. Totally impractical. What am I going to do, run there? I’m twenty miles away.
I call my ex to ask him what’s going on, and he looks online and finds that a suspicious device – pipes, wires, and a battery – was discovered on a bus and brought into the school by the bus driver. The school staff took it back outside and called police. The students have been moved into the auditorium and the gymnasium. I tell him to go to the school. He tells me not to worry and goes bowling.
I am sitting on the bus holding the top of my head to keep it from flying off. Moving the students into the auditorium and the gymnasium puts the entire school in two places, so that if someone truly is evil, they can just blow up those two places where they know students will be sent in the event of just such an emergency. My imagination is colliding with thoughts of Columbine and New Town.
Kelsea calls me from the auditorium. She is fine. She is seeing her friends. She is overjoyed that she won’t have to take her algebra final this morning, because she wasn’t ready for it. She too wonders why they’ve just put everyone in two places instead of evacuating them all. She says she will stay in touch. I tell her I love her.
I know my daughter. She will do anything to save others before she saves herself. She has always been this way. Her future career choices reflect his attitude. It is something that, as a mother, I just have to live with.
But I do not want to be one of those parents whose child does not come out.
I sit on the bus and try not to panic. I have never really felt this way before. All these feels are swirling around inside of me: fear, panic, anger, anxiety, that feeling that I will do anything to get to her, and do anything to someone who hurts her. I feel a desperate helplessness as this bus takes me farther and farther away from my baby girl. Tears well up and I try to stifle them. Yes, helpless. I have always known how much I love my daughter, and how I am so blessed by having had her in my life for any time that the Great Spirit chooses to grace me with. But I never really had a glimpse of losing her. Not even a glimpse.
One of my friends at work calls this “catastrophic thinking.” I know I have this unfortunate tendency, inherited from my father. It’s a hard one to control, especially as a mother.
Half an hour later, I get a text from her.
“So it was a science fair project. Awkward.”
I spend the rest of the morning feeling like I am coming out from being underwater, trying to ease the tension in my neck, trying to return to a sense of normal.
I hope that kid who misplaced his science project gets an A. He certainly taught me something about myself today.
Well, our massive blizzard fizzled before it happened, but it has left unseasonal cold in its wake, with temperatures dipping to eight tonight. With the wind chill, it will feel like -7. Brrr. So I will think of Anegada, and how different a storm is there than here.
Anegada, British Virgin Islands.
Quote of the Day: “So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?” — Hunter S. Thompson
Being cozy at home with the cat
Not having to shovel the sidewalk
I watch your heart break from a distance
And there is nothing I can do.
When you were small,
I could cuddle you
And make you giggle
And kiss your tears away
And you would be all better.
Now, my touch at the sight of your tears
Makes you angry,
And the choices you never made
Are making you hurt.
It’s a pain we all go through.
You’ve seen it near break me.
And when it happens to you,
You think no one can know how you feel.
But we do.
We all do.
That doesn’t make it any easier.
I wish it did.
I so wish