Sunday, January 25, 2009

Where to begin.......

It seems more than daunting to try to bring this blog current but I feel I must. I have hurt some people I care deeply about with my silence and they deserve something from me. It may also help me to see how far I've come.

When the house was sold late last spring, it was my plan to move to the Cape and regroup at mom's. When Chelsea's summer class began and we went down to begin preparing for our arrival, that plan fell to shreds. Not only did I sense we weren't going to be embraced by the sibs, the feeling was they didn't even really want us to be there. It was shocking to say the least and with two weeks to spare, we went back to VT to come up with Plan B.

I found a condo in town and signed a year's lease, convincing myself that leaving VT in "stages" was going to be better. I would have lost my house, but not my friends, my support system and my life as I knew it. The idea of condo living was hugely appealing to me and I began to embrace this new twist in my future.

There was a gap of nearly two weeks between the closing and being able to move into the condo, and since Chelsea still had her class to finish, we stuck with our plan to head to the Cape...this time to "vacation" and wait. All of my belongings were either in storage or still sitting at the house, waiting their move into the condo. We arrived on the Cape with clothes and not much else.

The first day, Chelsea went to class and I sat and stared. Leaving Vt had been so traumatic...the last afternoon in our house was one of yelling and tears as everything was taking longer than we wanted. I cried for the whole trip down as my dear daughter begged me to get a grip. I was oblivous to how hard this was for her as well, leaving the only home she'd ever known, as I was overcome with sadness, anger and resentment at yet more loss in my life.

So that first day, I sat and stared. The second day I did the same. Being alone all day gave me no reason to move...there was no one to watch me give in to my emotions and no reason to do a thing. So I sat. I felt like the commercial for depression even knowing I was the poster child for it. Still I couldn't move.

By the third day, I realized this was going to be my life in the condo. I would have nothing to do. Twenty minutes of picking up and my day would be done. There would be no projects, no yard work, nothing needing my attention. I would just be sitting. I began to realize that what had seemed so appealing about condo life was really about the exhaustion of moving. All those weeks of cleaning, sorting and packing had left me so tired I was relishing the idea of doing nothing. Little did I stop to think that, once rested, how boring that would be.

So, on the fourth day on the Cape, I decided to finish the bedroom. I cleaned out mom's things and started striping wallpaper. I worked my butt off and was so tired by the end of the day, I could barely move, but it felt right. The next day, I started early and got it ready to paint. By the end of the week, I had finished her room and could sleep in a space that didn't feel haunted by her both its wonderful and difficult ways. She was everywhere and her absence hit me at every turn. Had I been in VT, I knew I could pretend she was still alive and yet here, it was impossible.

Within a week, I knew I had made the wrong choice. I knew I was supposed to be on the Cape and that I was meant to redo mom's house. It was so obvious to me that bringing this place she and daddy built, that she had toiled over for so many years, back up to speed was my job. It was the last gift I could give make her home beautiful again. Once I realized this, I was caught in the dilemma of whether this would create problems with my siblings. Did they really not want me here or was it just that I needed to slow down and move through things more slowly? It had been six months and they had done virtually nothing to any of mom's things. Was that about denial or lack of time and desire? Could I be selfish and do what I needed to do despite them?

I decided I could. So I broke my lease and at the little "going away" dinner with my family (complete with housewarming gifts for my "new" home), I informed them that I was staying after all. They seemed only somewhat surprised and supported my decision.

What followed is a blur. I know it involved threatened lawsuits and logistical nightmares in terms of moving my things. Much of what I owned went into storage and yet that was okay. I threw myself into working. Chelsea went back to school and I started once again, sorting and cleaning, stripping wallpaper, painting, refinishing furniture. Some days I would have four or five projects going at once...a dresser I was painting, a table I was sanding, a bookcase getting its final coat of finish.

Somedays I started at 4 am and worked until midnight. I realize now it was about not thinking...about making myself so exhausted I would fall into bed unable to move my arms or legs. I was in a state of depression, so eager to remove myself from my reality, that I created a world in which there was no chance to feel anything beyond the physical. I stopped answering the phone, reading emails, opening mail. For months, I lived in my own private bubble with no contact from anything or anyone outside my self-centered life.

Friends worried. I didn't care. I tried to convince everyone I was fine, despite my silence and withdrawal. The kids worried, which was harder. I tried putting on a veneer of doing fine, but they didn't buy it. Trevor came from California and for five days, I rallied myself into being social. We had a lovely time, revisiting memories of our vacations here when he was little and slowly, I began to look around me. It was after Labor Day and the crowds had left but the weather was still lovely. I had forgotten how soothing it is to sit at the water's edge and listen to the waves roll in. I had lost sight of how special this place can be, how full of memories and events from my past.

The other thing that happened which went a long way towards bringing me out of my depths was the labor itself. Not only did I think constantly of mom and how many times over the years she had painted this wall or washed this woodwork, but it made me think of dad too. These stairs beneath my paintbrush were boards he measured and cut, nailed into place as he created this home for his family. It was coming home in a way I found so healing and so complete that my depression began to lift and yet re-entry was a long time in coming.

I didn't know where to begin in explaining to people where I was. It all felt so confusing and so raw, that I continued to avoid everyone. I wasn't ready to rejoin the world and yet knew I couldn't continue through the holidays to sequester myself away much longer. Being here meant family obligations that could have been avoided in VT; the holidays meant reaching out or blowing my "cover" that I was fine. I was afraid and embarrassed at being so out of touch and didn't know how to begin to recover those relationships...nor did I know if I even wanted to. Couldn't I be an island? Couldn't I live the life a hermit and not be noticed?

Through the weeks, I had completely redone two bedrooms, the front and back entry areas, a hallway and the stairway. I finished the last big project just before Thanksgiving...the kitchen. It had taken me weeks to complete and I was thrilled with the results. Mom's kitchen, the hub of our home, was clean and bright and a rich deep red. It was warm and welcoming and I knew she'd be pleased. The kids were coming and it was going to be a happier holiday than last year when mom got so sick and then died just before Christmas. For the first time in months, I was actually excited about something beyond a paint color or a finished wall. My excitement involved other people and I was relishing being with my kids.

Thanksgiving and the weekend that followed were a joy. The kids made me laugh and there is just something so wonderful about my family unit feeling as it should to me, with us all together. Listening to them laugh, tease each other, sqabble in jest, sounds so comforting and familiar. It never ceases to warm my heart. I felt energized and ready for the Christmas season to begin. I was eager to have new shops to explore and gifts to buy for those I loved. I was ready to get moving again on living my life and not just holing up in the solitude of the house.

But I guess someone had other plans for me, because the day the kids left, I got a toothache. Within two days, I was in the emergency room with an absess and infection in my face. I looked like a cartoon chipmunk. In the proceeding months, I had managed to arrange for health insurance but had yet to get a doctor and certainly not a dentist. My lack of attention to this detail suddenly seemed huge...and was about to get even larger.

The day after being in the ER with my tooth, I stumbed rushing for the phone and torn a muscle in my calf. I literally could not walk. Because of the large amounts of medication I was taking for my tooth, coupled with my heart medication, my leg bled internally until it was about four times it normal size. Another trip to the ER to rule out blod clots and a hasty choice in doctors found me with strict orders to stay off my leg and keep it iced. So much for shopping. With no choice but to sit still, I pulled out needles and knitting for the first time in months. It had been so long, it all felt awkward in my hands.

The leg refused to heal. The swelling refused to go down and my medications refused to get in line. My life became hobbling to the doctor for blood tests and limping back home, to sit with my leg raised. I was depressed, frustrated and fed up with being infirm and before I knew it, it was Christmas. Then it was New Years. Once again, the transistion from one year to the next was painful and sad and colored in negativity. And the leg wouldn't heal. The swelling would not go down. It had been nearly six weeks and I still couldn't walk and the doctors kept saying they couldn't do anything until the swelling was down. Argghhhhh! I was no longer depressed. I was pissed. Finally, towards the second week of January, it was "small" enough to be evaluated and a therapy plan engaged. Within just a few days, it worked and I was able to begin moving about more comfortably. It seemed forever since I'd been well and I was determined to rejoin life.

Through this period of time, my darling daughter had decided to quit school. She had been unhappy for months, her grades were suffering, she was lost in terms of majors and goals and it all became too much. I had worried about having her here...about both of us losing ground on our relatively new independence and falling backwards into her being a teen and me being a full time mom again. Where was the happy medium between being supportive and enabling? Little did I realize how important her presence was to become and how all these thoughts about my role in her "recovery" would be a joke.

I managed to enjoy my return to good health for about a week. I was still being blood tested weekly as my new doctor struggled to get my meds under control. Then, what began as a fever and impending chest cold became something quite larger. Two days of a temp of 102 and I couldn't breathe. No cough, no cold, just a fever and no breath. I couldn't lie down, I couldn't sleep, I was miserable. I was being hit with one thing after another and so sick of feeling crappy!

The long and short of it is that my "chest cold" and inability to breathe was fact a heart rate out of control and I suddenly found myself in an ambulance being raced to the hospital. After a diagnosis of pneumonia from a heart that couldn't keep pace with its own blood flow, I was admitted for four days. Slowly my heartrate slowed, my temp came down and I was out of the woods.

I've been home for 10 days now, feel a bit stronger all the time but have no doubt that open heart surgery is in my very near future. It scares the crap out of me, but I can no longer live this way and postponing is no longer an option.

In all this time here, through all the various ups and downs, I have thought my being here was about mom...what I could do for her, my last gifts to her etc. Now I know its really all about me. This is where I'm supposed to be and is the perfect place to renew, recharge and reheal myself. My daughter's presence is so wonderful...she cares for me, waits on me and feels useful and needed. She has enrolled in the local community college, is excited about her classes and has found a job she thinks she will enjoy.

And I am happy here. I am loving the mild winter, the snow that comes, looks gorgeous and then melts away. I am knitting again, working on the next room slowly and without obsession and happy to be able to meet my sister for lunch on our mom's birthday. I feel like the last six months are a blur, yet provided me with a clarity I needed. I know I disappointed, offended and hurt people through that time and can only offer an apology. I never meant to do any of those things and yet couldn't stop them from happening. I don't know what the future holds for me...there is still much to sort out and decide. But I feel strong enough and optimistic enough to begin thinking about it. And that is progress, even if slow in coming!


Mari said...

What ahalfyear you have had. I'm really glad that you can live there, the pohotos look so lovely and I'm sure you will be happy there.

I'm so sorry for your leg and heart - but perhaps you will now sit down and knit, instead of painting and sanding?


Dorothy said...

So much to handle! I do hope your health makes a full recovery, and that your spirits are continually raised. You will be in my prayers!

Dianna Rubidge said...

Oh my dear, I will be hoping hard that all of the turmoil is behind you leaving a lovely vista full of possibilities. Dianna

Hippy Goodwife said...

What a time! I am so happy that you are moving forward ( healthwise and housewise) It sounds like things are at last beginning to fall into place for you. The house sounds lovely and your daughter sounds like she is enjoying having some freedom and responsibility, and isn't that what life is, a balance between two extremes.

I am glad you are willing to be back among us. And ever so glad that you did no succumb to any of your many medical issues!