“…or I might find out what it’s like to ride a drop of rain…” ~ Brad Paisley

Dear Ma,

So, where do I start? The hole that’s in my heart grows more and more as I come to understand that you are truly gone. Honestly, it takes my breath away and as much as I try to push down those feelings, I’m finding I simply can’t do that much longer. Ulcers, stomach pains, and headaches are telling me that I need to start what others call the ‘healing’ process. But to me, it’s not healing at all – it’s actually scarring which will be with me always and will still cause me pain when I bump against it. And you know, the funny thing about all of this is that the one person in the world who could comfort me best is you. You.

I feel so selfish though because I’m crying so much for me…for losing my support, my rock, my best friend, the person who loved me more than anyone else in the world ever has. Ma, I’m scared to be without you…so scared of what my life will be without you. I miss our Sunday lunches…our card playing…our trips…our eating Mexican and then getting too stuffed…our jokes…our conversations…our laughs. You always made me happy. Always.

Something else I’m struggling with is guilt. So much fucking guilt, ma…and it’s eating me up. What you went through with Richard is making me vomit whenever I think about it. I should have helped you more. Tried harder to get you away from him. Drug you to the police. Forced you to go to the DV shelter for help. There are so many ‘shoulds’ that I have running through my brain and they torment me. You always protected me and did everything you could for me and in turn, I feel like I failed you. Remember when I apologized to you in the hospital for this? I’ll never ever forget what you said to me: “Kristi, you did all you could.” I heard that ma…but just can’t believe it yet.

I also didn’t know how much you were drinking because you hid it so well. Sometimes I’d call you at night and knew you were drunk just because of your slurred words. But I truly thought those were one-offs…not a nightly thing. I’ve been going through tons of old photos and can now see the signs in your face during that time. And you know, I also see the difference in your eyes over time: I have a pic of you when you were with Richard (don’t worry, ma…he’s going to a very different place than where you are) and drinking, and your eyes are empty. Glazed. Vacant. After you left and settled in to what you call the best years of your life, they brightened and sparkled. What an awesome transition that is to see!

You know, I think a lot about your strength and class. I know you and pop divorcing was devastating for you. I saw your pain…your tears…and then your strength when you pulled yourself out and started to live again. Fighting back against Richard was horrifying; I remember you at the shelter as we were getting your OP and then going in front of the judge. You were shaking so hard beside me and grasping my hand to where I had indentations from your nails. But you persevered even with the fear of retaliation from him. And then you grew. And grew. And grew.

Your quilting business blew me away. Who knew you had such a keen business sense? What you built in the span of just a couple of years, and then worked at for over 15, was amazing. So many of your customers came to pay their respects to you, and Terri and I were so proud to hear them talk about your kindness…sweetness…talent…helpfulness. We were gobsmacked. You made such an impression on everyone you met and everything they said was true. Completely true.

So Terri told me what you said to her before you lost your ability to talk – “I want Kristi to be OK and I don’t want you to worry in your life.” Terri has been wonderful with me and has taken over the role of older sister seriously. We talk multiple times a day and are always checking up on one another. We’ve worked together on your house and haven’t had any sort of disagreement at all. We know you’d be proud. And when she came over the other day, she said “I’m going to hug you now!” Then we looked at each other and laughed. We both know Terri isn’t a hugger…but she knows how much I need that and is comforting me so much…I hope I’m doing the same for her. Little does she know she’ll be a champion hugger in a few months.

And ma, I know you wanted me to have your house but honestly, I just can’t do that. You are too much there and I don’t think I’d ever be able to move on to the degree I should in those surroundings. I would also feel like I was taking your place in a way…something no one could ever ever do. I do have your living room furniture though, and when I look at the chair you always sat in to read and sew and watch TV, I see you. In your jammies from Kohl’s with a scrubbed face and damp hair. I love that picture of you so much.

I talk to you everyday, ma and I hope you can hear my words…I know I can hear you. Understand that I’m never going to stop having you in my whole heart…never let go of your hand…never ever say goodbye. And when I see you again, I’d better get a damn big hug.

Thanks, ma. You were truly the best mom I could ever have. There are a lot of things that haven’t gone right in my life, but you were always there. Always. And having had that for all of these years makes up for anything else.

Love you ma. Love you more.

Kristi xoxo

“It’s a Poor Sort of Memory that Only Works Backwards.” ~ Lewis Carroll:

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So, this isn’t the post I was going to write today…I had another one mapped out (and it’s a goodie 😳) but I’m putting that off a day or two because I need to process what I’m feeling right now.  I hope you don’t mind.

Today I was at the college for a couple of hours to box up my office since I’m moving to another location in the building; there’s going to be construction where I currently am.  I’ve been in my office for 17 years and I was surprised at how emotional it was to pack it all up.

I have so many letters, cards, drawings, and gifts from students over the last 20+ years and getting them out and looking at them again brought back so many memories.  I had letters from students telling me how much I had helped them when they were facing difficulty, cards saying ‘Thanks’ for all I did teaching our class, drawings of llamas and my Dottie and name designs that hung on my walls, and lots of gifts like mugs, stuffed llamas (see a pattern here?), books, etc.  It really delighted me to know these wonderful young people took the time to say and give these things to me.  I could picture each one of them in my head, and laugh at the memories I shared with them.  I’m somewhat known for often having nicknames for people and I was smiling, with tears running down my face, thinking of the special things I called them (for example, one of my sweeties is my “money beet”…if you don’t get this, watch The Office).

I try very hard in my classes to give a lot to my students…I don’t ‘read the textbook’ to them like a couple of professors I had in college did (yes, they had college even way back then…it was a one room schoolhouse 🙄), but create special lectures and expand on the curriculum content.  I also ask my students what they’re interested in and try to make a pertinent lecture based on their suggestions.  But here’s the thing:  no matter how much I give in my classes, I get so much more.  I love my students…and I don’t say love unless I mean it.  They are my family and have enriched my life more than I can say.

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Then, as I was cleaning out some drawers I haven’t touched for years, I came across a ton (not quite a ‘ton’ but damn close) of pics that I’ve decorated my office with over the years.  I found so many of Hubby 2 and my boy, O, when he was a little guy.  Hubby and I were shown in restaurants, on our front porch, on outings with O, and posing with pets we had had over the years.  I cried as I looked at these, because we did have such a terrific life together.  It was very much a ‘Leave it to Beaver’ type of situation and memories of it are so good.

When I look back at the end of our marriage, I know it could have been saved.  No doubt.  I also know I was wasn’t on meds for my bipolar, and that surely played a role in it’s demise.  Handling my ups and downs couldn’t have easy for this man who had no other experience with mental illness and I’m not proud of how I behaved during manic times.  It’s so hard not to have regrets and guilt, and I know that right now my ma is saying – “Kristi, you can’t go back…you did the best you could.”  Well, the thing is:  no I didn’t.  Doing the ‘best I could’ would have been breaking down my denial that anything serious was wrong with me…being honest with our family doctor when he’d ask how I was…and getting my butt to a psychologist for a proper diagnosis with treatment.  And because of all of that, my guilt remains.

Unearthing pics of Hubby 3 was difficult too (I know, I know…they are SO hard to keep track of…I promise not to add another to the freaking mix to help y’all out).  Yes, we are still really good friends and talk daily.  He’s going through some rough times and I’m here for him just like he’s been there for me.  I found pics of us in Chicago where we loved to spend weekends, pics of us at mountain bike races with mud all over our arms and legs,  pics of us at different zoos and in museums, and yes, all of these were rough to go through.  Hubby and I had some tough times (which I’ve written about and I’m sure you’ve read my sweet, loyal peeps) but the good times we had outweighed those significantly.  He was so much fun and no one has ever made me laugh like he can.  Hubby is the one person (outside of ma, sis, and O) who I can tell things to and never ever have them used against me.  He has always accepted me for who I am and I do the same with him.

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Did my bipolar affect our marriage too?  Is that why it ended?  Well… I can definitely say a resounding  ‘yes’ to the first question:  bipolar affects every part of my life, and I know I was a bit much at times when I was ‘high’ (that’s an understatement if I ever heard one and no ma, I don’t do drugs; please don’t run out and get a drug testing kit for me to prove it to you 🙄).  But when I was in a depression, it was even tougher for him.  I’d suddenly not want to do things with him and was much more distant emotionally which brought back memories of neglect when he was young.  I’m sorry I put him through those ups and downs that he didn’t have an explanation for.

Then I found my pics of J.  One of them was framed and had hung on my wall for 3 years; O (professional photographer) took it of us at a wedding we attended and we are facing each other, laughing, and looking into each others eyes.  We both look so happy and in love.  Seeing pics of J brings back bad memories…it’s no secret our relationship was tumultuous, but we had so many great times too.  I think out of all my ‘men’, J understood me the most.  Him having Borderline Personality Disorder (undiagnosed at the time) and PTSD helped him to understand my behavior better, and I tried to do the same with his.  Our biggest problem was each of us not getting the help we both desperately needed to get ourselves stable and our behavior under control .  We were 2 mentally ill people trying to have a ‘normal’ relationship, while doing our best to ignore our diagnoses and their subsequent behaviors.  It’s funny that I’m so much better now…so much more ‘even’ because of my mood stabilizers, yet it came too late.  Had I recognized and then insisted we both get the medical/psychological care we seriously needed, I believe our relationship would have had an excellent chance.  Yes, I still think of him everyday.  And yes, I miss his kids so much I ache.

I’ve talked about guilt before in this blog…as well as regrets, and I see, through all I found today, how much I have failed so many people in my life.

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You know, there were students I could have done a lot more for…students in my classes who may have had pain I didn’t recognize or needed help I didn’t spot.  I could have talked more to individual students.  Listened more.  Asked them more.  I have a feeling my students who read this are saying:  “Shut Up!  You were great!”  But sweeties, I could have been better…and hope to be as I continue in my career.

And why didn’t I get help sooner and maybe have my life on a different trajectory with fewer regrets and losses regarding my personal relationships?  Why didn’t I do this for my marriages?  For my family?  For myself?  Yes, the psychologist that sexually abused me for a couple of years (that fucker…sorry ma) did a number on me trusting any other therapist or counselor, but I could have worked harder at letting someone in.  I could have put the needs of the people in my life over my fear of being used again.  But, I didn’t.  Am I’m so sorry for that.   I’m especially sorry for those that were hurt by my inaction and mental illness…but to be honest, I’m sorry for me too.

Memories are a funny thing.  They can make us laugh and cry…surprise us and anger us…and they can teach us lessons we take with us as we move ahead in our lives.  I know I can’t go back and fix all the wrongs I’ve done and make it up to the people I’ve hurt.  But I can use those memories to make me a more loving, empathic, understanding person that tries her best again and again.  And that, grasshoppers, is what I intend to do.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

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