Love is letting them have the last cookie.

So, there have been 4 times my son has said things to me that have literally gobsmacked me…made my jaw drop and my eyes bug out. Did I get over it? Of course. Do I still bring these up to him around holidays when he’s shopping for my gift? Of course. 😐

The first time was when he was 18 and while I was walking out the door to get to school, he said this: “Ma, so and so moved to an apartment and needs help with the rent. I want to move in with him.” I said, quite reasonably I might add: “Over my dead body. We’ll discuss it when I get home.”

I got home and he was packed, the living room was full of his stuff, and 2 guys were loading up their van. I said: “O. What in hell are you doing?” He said: “Ma, I told you I was moving out.” I replied: “NO you didn’t! You told me that some boob I’ve never heard mention of before couldn’t pay their freakin’ rent so you were ‘wanting’ to move in with him. I said we’d discuss it.” His response? “Ma, I talked to him about it.”

So, discussing this issue with ME…the person who raised him, loved him, nurtured him, paid for private school for him, and spent every waking minute of his 18 years adoring every bone in his body is NOT who he discussed this with. Instead, he listened to this guy who promised living with him would be nirvana. Blech.

Little did I know how insignificant this was until he popped over about a year later and said this: “Ma, I want to move to Texas for a promotion at Verizon.” I said: “Over my dead body. You are NOT moving 800 miles away from me. Period.” This was all said with as stern a look as I could muster as well as forcing a couple tears in my eyes which were hard to come by through my shock. His answer? “Ma, I’ve already accepted the job, rented an apartment, and am getting a U-Haul on Tuesday.”

WHAT? As much as I love my son, there are times I wonder if he understands the difference between asking and telling…between throwing an idea out there to discuss and having a solid plan with monetary investment. I said: “O, we need to DISCUSS this! This is a HUGE step! I won’t be there for you when you need me…it will take me a day to get to you!” His smile couldn’t be hid and I starting looking for condos on Zillow. Unfortunately, I was married at the time and didn’t think relocation would go over well. Fortunately, I taught over-load every semester so I could fly down and grace him with my presence every couple of months. I know how much he longed for these trips. 🙄

The factory in better days.

The third time I was stunned by another revelation of his was when we were driving on an overpass in our town and went by an abandoned furniture factory that looks like a strong wind could raze it. He said: “Me and G have climbed up that a few times and messed around on the roof.”

Heh?

Me: “You did WHAT?” (please say WHAT in the screechiest voice possible)

O: “We climbed to the roof and played around…you know, doing flips against some of the ventilation hoods, sitting on the edge, and poking around just to explore.”

Me: “How the hell did you ‘climb’?”

O: “Mother, we shimmied up drain pipes until we could find pieces of fire escapes that weren’t rusted through and then pulled ourselves up by ledges.”

Me: “Ok. Let me get this straight in my head: You and G climbed up a dilapidated, crumbling factory that was built during the time of Jesus and used pipes and rusty stairs as a means. Then, when those weren’t available because of 1000’s of years of corrosion, you used ledges like a mountain climber uses rocks.”

O: “Yes! That’s exactly it!”

Me: “I forbid you to ever ever ever ever do anything that stupid again. What the hell were you thinking?”

O: “We were just bored.”

After he shared this little tidbit with me and saw my conniption fit happen while I was driving 45 MPH in rain, he said he would never tell me anything else he did as a teenager. As much as I’m a believer in transparency, I said this was for the best. I preferred not to have a heart attack in my 40’s.

The last time (and I know this announcement won’t be the last, but as of now, it is) was just this past weekend where we had a conversation that went like this:

Me: “O, have you thought about ever getting engaged to K? The woman who you have been with for a few years now, have bought a home with, have adopted pets with, and who you can’t walk by without hugging/kissing/touching her while calling her baby, angel, and love to the point I think you’ve actually forgotten her name?”

O: “No.”

Me: “Why?”

O: “Ma, I don’t ‘believe’ in marriage.”

Me: “For fuck sakes, why?!”

O: “Ma, it’s antiquated and only a piece of paper…there’s no reason for marriage in our society anymore!”

AAAAGGGGGHHHHH! I hate it when people say ‘it’s only a piece of paper.’ Let me tell you, that ‘piece of paper’ is powerful!

In the U.S., there are 1,138 benefits that are granted to couples when they sign that paper. Examples are making medical decisions and being able to visit your spouse in the hospital (ICU, etc.) – God forbid that ever happens, sharing joint parenting rights, not having to testify against them (which in O’s case and his climbing predilection may be in his favor 🤨), etc. However, understanding my son as I do, as well as acknowledging the genes he inherited from his father, I know that hitting him in the wallet is much more appealing so I prattled on about income tax breaks, insurance benefits, spousal IRA’s, selling homes (in regard to capital gains), etc.

Now, this made him think a bit. Just a bit though. Then he said: “Ma. I am a wedding photographer and I’ve seen people that spent $30,000 on a wedding while demanding perfect pictures of their ‘forever’ day only to get divorced a year later.” OK. He has a point. A huge point. However, I see marriage and living together analogous to owning a house and renting an apartment. So I said:

Me: “O, in all of the apartments you’ve had over your many years of life (28), did you ever paint them, repair their plumbing, strip and re-varnish the cabinets, pay for new carpeting, shovel the walkway, mow, replace windows, or anything else that would fall under the heading of maintenance.”

O: “No, ma.”

Me: “Now that you’re in your house…your mortgaged home in which you have a long term financial stake (note: reasoning involving money seems to work best for him…), are you doing these things now?”

O: Rolling his eyes: “Yes, ma.”

The point I was making to his was this: renting and owning are 2 different things. Now, before you comment about how you are just as committed to a live-in as you would be a spouse, I don’t doubt it! I felt the same in relationships…totally! However, walking away from a live-in partner is easier than divorcing…and yes, I speak from experience. 😬

It’s kinda like when people say: “I love my dog/cat like I’d love a child.” OK. I’ve been there…done that. I LOVED my first little dog, Scooter, with all my heart…as I have every other furry sweetie in my life. {In fact, it’s been 9 months since Dottie died and I can’t go a day without crying. I miss that little shit so much.} However, after I had my son, I realized my love for pets and my love for kids is simply different (this may not be the case for everyone, it’s just my experience). The feeling I have for O is so much more ‘inside’ and that’s the only word I can think of. It’s so much more primal…emotional…deep. All animal species risk their lives for their kids…protect their kids to the bitter end. Channing Sargent writing for oneearth.org says this: “The fierce and protective maternal instinct in different species is at least equal to, and in some cases maybe even stronger, than ours. Biologically programmed to preserve their species by protecting and caring for their young, some species go to incredible lengths to do so…” Even wolf spiders will carry hundreds of their kids on their backs to protect them. Hmmm. Carrying O in a back pouch was difficult enough.

Would I do anything for O? In a freakin’ heartbeat. I can’t see myself in a situation where I wouldn’t run in front of a bullet or pin him down under me during a tornado. Not one. If you told me today: “Kristi, you have to die right now in order for your son to live, I’d say okey dokey.” If it were Edward or Mally? Honestly, I wouldn’t. Because I have O (and ma, pop, T, etc.) to live for. It’s as simple as that. Mom’s have been known to lift cars, walk into fires with no hesitation, jump into swirling water, and the list goes on. I’m not saying all people don’t love completely! Not at all! I’m just saying it’s a unique love with kids, whether they’re biological, step, adopted, nieces, nephews, or any kid you see as family. It’s just ‘more.’

Yes, divorces are easier to get nowadays and Lord knows I’ve had my share. But you’re always ‘connected’ in a way when you’ve been married…especially when you have kids. And even when you don’t, things pop up: when I applied for my passport this week, I had to list my last spouse and other married names I’ve had (thank the Lord I’ve kept mine for 30 years now…it would be too much to write out if I hadn’t). That’s why health forms ask if you’re married, widowed, divorced, or single…because it makes a difference in terms of stress and other potential physical and psychological issues.

So, O’s response to this ‘rant’? “Ma, you are just so old fashioned…you just don’t ‘get’ it.” And he’s right… because I am old and fashionable 😏.

I guess I do want O to be more traditional…more willing to commit to someone by declaring it publicly and having a legal ‘piece of paper’ to show that. But really, all I want is my baby to be happy…to live a healthy, content life…and to eventually, give me ‘something’ (I can no longer say the g_______ word…I’ve been forbidden) to hold and cuddle since all of the people I went to high school with have them. If does this without paper, I’ll love him and support him. If he gets married, I’ll love him and support him. And, I’ll be able to buy a rockin’ mother of the groom dress too. In fact, I’m gonna start looking now. 😉

Kristi xoxo

“Great Gobs of Goose Shit” (Clay – City Slickers)

So, I love to go back and watch older movies and one of my favorites is “City Slickers.”  If you’re not familiar with it (because of being much younger than me…sigh…) it’s about 3 guys who take a trip to a ranch where they learn to round and drive cattle while working through the various issues in their lives.

City-Slickers
City Slickers – 1991

Anyhoot, in one scene (my fave), the men share what their all time worse day was and all time best day was.  It’s always made me think about what I would have chosen, and I finally have an answer…at least up to this point in my life.  After all, our best and worst days can change, can’t they?

Of course my all time best day was the day my son was born…that’s a given.  My all time worse day was when my nephew died on the USS McCain.  Both of those are above and beyond anything else, so I’m going to talk about 2 other times in my life.

Let’s start with worse day(s)…so we can finish on the positive (that’ll be a switch…huh?).  When my son was a sophomore in high school, he started having stomach problems.  His dad has always had them, and O was tested for IBS, Crohns disease, food allergies, etc.  Those tests all came up negative, and then we started thinking that maybe it was psychosomatic.  The divorce from his dad was still pretty fresh and because O is very much the type of guy to push feelings down, this seemed to be a possibility.  That was pretty much ruled out too.  Finally, the specialist told his dad and I that he needed to biopsy lymph nodes in his abdominal area (they seemed to be swollen) because there was a possibility that O could have Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.

The minute I heard those words, my world completely shifted.  It’s hard to explain, but before even knowing whether he had it or not, all of a sudden I realized that something horrible could befall my son without me being able to just fix it with a smooch or band-aid.

O was admitted to the hospital and had his biopsy, then spent the night for observation.  After the biopsy was done, I asked the doctor this:  “Would you be worried if this was your son?”  He said:  “Yes.”  OOOKKKAAAYYY…thanks for the reassurance, doc.  O told me and his dad that he would be fine spending the night alone…he was 15 after all!  I went home, which is just a couple tenths of a mile from the hospital…I can see it from my back windows, but couldn’t sleep.  I went back to his room and slept in a chair just so I could be with him.  The next day, we got him showered and he came home.  Then, the waiting game started.  His doc said it would be about 72 hours before we knew anything conclusively.

I gotta tell you, this started the longest 72 hours of my life.  My ma and I weren’t talking:  I couldn’t take her husband anymore and she wouldn’t be around me without him because she knew what the consequence of leaving him out would be.  So, it was pretty much just me, my hubby, and his dad.  Even though hubby tried to comfort us, he still wasn’t as invested as O’s dad, and so he and I talked a lot during this time.  It was our son, and we were the only ones who could really relate.

Obviously, O was aware of what was happening and tried to be brave, until that first night at home when he called me into his room and asked me to read some of his old books to him like I used to when he was a little guy.  I got a few of his faves out, and in a choked voice started reading.  It was so hard to do, but I wanted to reign in anything I was feeling and do what he needed me to do.  We trudged through every day, trying not to think the worse, and even though hubby kept telling me to be positive, your mind can’t help seeing the darkness.

46451738_2164519953567469_8359044309877522432_n
My awesome son!

Finally, we got the call that O was OK.  He didn’t have leukemia.  He was battling some kind of bacterial infection in his stomach that made his lymph nodes swell.  I can’t even begin to express the relief I felt.  I truly couldn’t see myself living in a world without him, and to think of such a talented, sensitive, genuine boy to not have his whole life ahead of him was too much to bear.  Going through something like this with your kid makes you realize the gift they are.  How they are so much a part of you that you can’t really see them any other way but connected to you.  How they are so inextricably tied to your heart that they have become the biggest piece of it.  No matter how much I knew I was blessed with O before this, I’ve never forgotten how incredibly lucky I am to have O in my life.  Truly.

Now, my best day?  Easy.  Y’all know I had a breakdown around 2 and a half years ago, and I hit rock bottom.  We don’t need to yack about all that contributed to this, but it was a combination of so many things that I simply couldn’t handle my life anymore.  I have to admit something horrible though:  prior to this, I really didn’t think ‘nervous breakdowns’ happened.  I thought that was a histrionic term for “I can’t handle things anymore so I’m labeling it as such.” What a stupid asshole I was.

The break was a few weeks coming as situations kept piling up.  And then POW;  I found myself broken with absolutely no ability to care for myself.  I would cry for hours at a stretch and was incapable of eating, showering, dressing, or doing anything in terms of self-care.  Just getting out of bed was a major feat, and the cry of my dogs needing to pee is the only reason why I had too.  I couldn’t think straight at all…it’s like my mind got so jumbled up nothing made sense.  I’d hear my doctor, my counselor and my mom talking, but I was in a dark tunnel where their ‘words’ registered, but not their ‘meaning.’  I was living alone and getting through an hour by myself was hell.  This is when I started cutting, badly, and also when I attempted suicide.  I truly didn’t want to live (which is so hard to recall now) and I kept sobbing to my mom that all I wanted was to be with Grandma and Grandpa in heaven.  And I meant it.  It wasn’t a metaphor, it was a truth.

The tunnel I found myself in was dark as hell, and I was petrified to even try to crawl out because that meant facing some of the demons that were challenging me.  But I had too.  It was slow going…two steps forward…one step back.  It took weeks, but I managed, with the help of those around me, to do it.  Like the breakdown, it was a process.  But light started shining again.

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I have this on my bedroom mirror to remind myself every morning that there’s always reason for me to smile.

This pic of me and Edward is so important for a couple of reasons.  First, my son was visiting me from Texas where he was living at the time, and took this pic.  He knew what was going on with me to a degree, but until he was here, he didn’t realize how bad I was.  This particular afternoon, since I was getting better, he talked me into taking Ed to the dog park.  He snapped this pic of me smiling.  The first smile I had smiled in a couple of months.  Having my son with me gave me so much more motivation to keep pulling myself out, because I could see the pain I was causing him.  I realized I couldn’t hurt myself…couldn’t kill myself…because it would kill him.  He made me remember that I was needed.  Wanted.  Loved.  And that day in the park was my best day:  I smiled.  I knew I was going to be OK.  I knew I was going to fight this.  I knew I had people here on earth I needed to be with.  I knew there was an end to this pain.

Isn’t it something how our own worst times can lead to our best days?  And how the worst times in our kids/loved ones lives can give us the understanding just how precious life is?  Just how much we need to enjoy each and every day we’re given?

In the movie, as 2 of the men are talking about their worst days and their best days, they use the same day for both.  I guess I could too.  Both of these times for me were horrific.  O’s the worse…my son is everything to me.  But I guess in retrospect, they were my best times too.  Each made me realize how blessed I am.  How lucky I am.

It’s easy to forget that, isn’t it?  I hope I never do.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

 

The Tragedy of it All.

man walking on the empty street
Photo by Alex Fu on Pexels.com

So, I’ve written a lot since I’ve started this blog, and it means so much to me.  When I began this, I told myself these posts were my chance to say some of what I need to say, some of what people need to hear, and sometimes, a little bit of both.  But this is the first post I’ve written while tears are streaming down my face.

I’ve talked about my ex-partner in posts before, and I think it’s because the wounds from the relationship are still fresh, and because I thought he was my forever (actually, I thought all of them were until him, but c’est la vie).  I also write about him because he’s mentally ill like me.  He’s been diagnosed with PTSD from his 3 tours overseas in the Army, and also with Borderline Personality Disorder, which I believe is caused by a genetic component (I believe his mom also has this disorder), and also because of the abuse he endured as a child: serious physical and psychological abuse with periods of forced isolation where he literally couldn’t move from his bed for weeks at a time.  I was attracted to him before I knew all of this, and after he told me his story, it made me love him even more; I felt so much empathy and compassion for this man who had been through so much.  

For the last couple of days, he’s been messaging me.  The messages are horrifying.  Ever since his unfaithfulness last October, he’s been on a downward trajectory.  He’s completely isolated himself from everyone, including his 2 kids, and has told his family members that he hates them and won’t have anything more to do with them ever.  I know some of this behavior is the BPD.  But I also know he’s taking all of the pain of his childhood and tours, and turning it outward as anger against the only targets he has.  The problem is that many of his targets don’t deserve to be his scapegoat, most especially his children.

When I first met them (one was in Kindergarten and the other in 2nd grade), I fell in love with them immediately and completely.  I love kids and these 2 are so smart, sweet, affectionate, and funny.  To be honest, I didn’t know I could love other kids as much as I do them, with the same unconditional love I feel for my own son, and my nieces and nephews.  The feelings blew me away.  Once, my sister said this: “Blood is thicker than water, but love is thicker than both.”  She’s right.

These kids have been through a lot in their lives.  Not having their dad around because of his tours, moving around the country multiple times, and then experiencing a contentious divorce took their toll.  The little guy is extremely sensitive and like me is a huge feeler who is at a loss as how to deal with the emotions of what he’s been through, so he internalizes them.  He doesn’t eat well.  He doesn’t have friends. And he lives in his own world, not wanting others to intrude.  I’m lucky he let me in.   The little miss is also a sensitive child, but as opposed to internalizing, she externalizes her feelings.  She’s a clinger, and just wants to feel love from anybody and everybody.  In that regard, she’s like me.

When J told me he completely cut off everyone in this life (I think I’m the only one he can talk, or in this case text, to), I assumed he didn’t mean these sweeties.  You see, during our 3 years together, J learned so much more about being a parent than he previously knew.  He built a strong relationship with them, and we did so many fun things together as a family:  museums, zoos, hikes, eating out, birthday parties, swimming, playgrounds, movie nights, etc. and I could see the connection to their dad get stronger and stronger.  He also worked hard to provide a home for them.  He got a really nice apartment in a family oriented neighborhood, and the kids were thrilled at having this with their dad.  J and I had fun buying bunk beds, comforters, toys, books…anything that would create a positive environment for them.  He took them to the private school he got them into every morning, picked them up afterwards, started little miss in Taekwondo, made nice dinners for them, bought them birds so they could have pets, and hugged and cuddled them to their hearts desire.

Then, this BPD took over.  Actually, it had taken over before, something that I experienced first hand.  I was on the receiving end of rages, weeks of silence, damaging words and actions, but to be honest, I knew when it was the illness that was in charge, and not ‘him’.  People questioned me again and again why I kept loving this man…why I forgave him over and over.  The answer is simple:  because I’m mentally ill too.  When I’m in a depression or a period of mania, I’m not in control either.  I do things, say things, act out on things that I never would do when I’m in a more self-restrained time.  Sometimes…well maybe always…it takes someone mentally ill to truly understand another’s struggle.  Once I had a student say to me, “I like talking to you, Professor K.  When I tell you I’m depressed, I know you get it.”  And yes, I do.

But this time for J it’s different.  The BDP is in total control.  100%.  And it’s going to stay that way for however long he lives because he’s doing nothing to try to fight it at all.  He’s wallowing in it. Yes, I said wallow.  He’s feeding that monster we’ve talked about an awful lot of food.  He’s given up.  He’s become trapped in this disorder without grabbing onto the rope that’s there, and pulling himself up as much as he can.  He’s pulled up before…he just won’t even try to do it again.  He said he likes the wallowing.  The hating.  The anger.  The isolation.

And I think he’s a fucking liar.  He experienced so much as a kid that like his little guy, he doesn’t know what to do with the feelings.  So, by killing his soul, I guess he’s killing those emotions too.

But the real tragedy?  These sweeties.  After having a dad for these past few years, how can they ever understand why he’s no longer in their lives?  Why ‘his’ home is no longer theirs?  How can they take another loss?  Another upheaval?  Another piece of their hearts destroyed?  He’s doing to them what was done to him (to a degree).  Isolating them.  Rejecting them.  Maybe he thinks that will heal him.  It won’t.  All it will do is continue this generational cycle of abuse that’s been in his family for decades, and then cause these 2 innocent angels to grow up with what J is battling himself.  He had been reversing this trend for years so well…the kids were flourishing and J seemed happy and content.  It’s like he got the diagnosis of BPD and decided to live down to that as much as he can.  It’s the excuse I guess he was finally looking for to hate.  He’s making this diagnosis a label to be absorbed, as opposed to a diagnosis to aid in understanding. Dammit, J, you fought fucking Akeida for 3 years in desert conditions on the front lines, how can you not fight against this too?  Your kids lives are worth the battles this is going to give you;  you are worth the battle.  I know J is still in there.  I’ve seen him.  I’ve loved him.  He’s a smart, funny, passionate guy that he’s allowed this beast to consume.

Mental illness is a bitch to live with.  Y’all know that.  But I also understand first hand, that it’s a bitch to deal with in others too.  I’ve put my mom, son, and sis through so much.  I know I have.  If I could take back what I’ve said and done, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  It’s agonizing to know how they have been victims of my bipolar.  I can’t think about it without feeling so fucking guilty and ashamed, and I know words can’t take away the pain I’ve caused them.

When I attempted suicide a couple of years ago, I laid on my bed, ready to go to sleep forever.  And then God spoke to me.  Yes, he spoke to me.  He showed me my son.  My mom.  My sister.  My family.  My students.  He showed me the pain they would experience.  How horrible it would be for my mom to bury her daughter.  For my son to bury his mom.  And that’s what turned me around.  This fucking bastard of a mental illness is not going to be who I am.  I’m going to always fight and fight and fight to stay me as much as I possibly can.  I’m gonna win some battles.  I’m gonna lose some battles.  But I tell you what, every one of those is worth the bloodshed.

Kristi xoxo

 

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