Tonight I decided to stay home and nurture myself. I made homemade marinara sauce and the house smells lovely; like basil. I tried a new red wine that is just dry enough with a hint of berry. And I drew myself a warm lavender bath with candles. I nursed my cold with some decongestant ~ the third cold of this winter which tells me my resistance is down. And now, I’m in my PJs with my hands on the keyboard and the fireplace glowing. This cushy white bathrobe that Padraic chose to comfort me during some difficult times last year is coming in handy now. And I am crying. Finally.
During this unspeakable year I have hardly been able to cry at all. For those of you who know me well it will come as no surprise that, in a very practical way, I actually scheduled ‘crying time’ into my day because I knew it was essential to my own healing. But then? Nothing.
The truth is I was in a war zone. There was much to do and no room for error as I watched my daughter fight for her life and I watched my other children scramble for any sense of normalcy. Had I allowed myself the freedom to really experience the pain of all of that ~ the pain that I am now feeling ~ I never would have been able to do what was required at the time for all of our survival. Quite frankly, given the magnitude of what I needed to bear for this family I’m not sure we would have made it through.
When I recently asked my friend how she managed the news of her young son’s degenerative disease she answered that she handled it great…for about for 14 months. And then she lost it. As it turns out, that appears to be my magic number as well. At least that’s when it started.
Here we are now...Mackenzie is making High Honor Roll grades, running cross-country and catching for softball again. She has a regular babysitting job and enjoys time with her boyfriend. She likes to photograph and write creatively. She has what appear to be permanent limitations to her left hand use and headaches every single day; and periodically she realizes that certain things are harder than they used to be. Her left side also hurts all of the time. But, on balance, you would never know that she suffered multiple strokes. She has been discharged from PT/OT. She has been released from Neurology for one year. She has her one year heart surgery follow up tomorrow and we are expecting more good news. And she laughs. A lot. And she is still alive. None of this is taken for granted.
The rest of us are healing too, in varying degrees and in our own ways. One of her siblings is really struggling this year which, I believe, is a direct result of the challenges we endured. So now, I am turning my attention to loving her and giving her what she needs to thrive as well. I am doing my best to make room for what each of us needs.
Writing has always been the place that I work things out. Most often in the form of journaling which later becomes poetry, or a short standalone piece, or a chapter to my memoir. Yesterday, however, I finished a first draft of a very different kind of writing for me. It’s a scene, I guess. A monologue? A something. I don’t know. It’s a woman talking to her in the mirror about what she witnessed. It was incredibly painful to write. It is even more painful to read which I cannot do without sobbing. I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the courage to let someone else read it at all, never mind aloud to me. But this much I know ~ it was a necessary and long overdue step to my own healing process.
One night in the hospital, Mackenzie was reduced to a heap of tears herself and she begged me to explain what was happening. So, I told her…sometimes you just have to let the tears out to make room for the good stuff. If you harbor tears too long, they will drown your heart. It’s time to let happiness live there instead.
(God, I hope I was right.)