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The War.

Early on in the therapeutic relationship that accompanied me as I left my marriage, I told my therapist that I felt like a Navy Seal who had been in Afghanistan for 20 years and it was time to come home. All of the worry and striving and ambition and perfectionism that had carried me out of the chaos of my family of origin into a type of safety that hinged on continued striving was wearing me out.

I was tired. My mother had just died, and I was so crippled by that loss I could barely move. I was  bone-aching, soul-crushingly tired. I was ready to come home.

How was I to know that four years later, the war wouldn’t yet be over.

Since that day, I divorced, I lost my father, and my teenage son’s undiagnosed anxiety became poorly understood and mismanaged depression that then boiled over into a monthlong inpatient stay at a mental hospital - a diagnosis and situation that still takes day to day management.

Is that enough yet? No? How about some more?

I got a job and was laid off, started working for myself, tripled my business in one year, rented one house and bought another, moved twice, and somehow managed to keep the three other children alive (and fed and clothed). Enough?

No? I got West Nile Virus, and my father in law died after a short, intense illness.
In four years, through death and divorce, my entire adult nuclear family disappeared.


One more: I adopted  a cat. A stray, very nearsighted, hard of hearing cat. With allergies.


There are times I feel worn to the bone and this poem arises:

A Weathered Skeleton

A weathered skeleton
In windy fields of memory
Piercing like a knife

—Matsuo Bashō

I am ready for the war to be over. At the same time, I’m not sure I am ready to be in my own personal Reconstruction era.

I am trying to hold myself  in compassion and forgiveness to realize that what we faced as a family with our child would have been stressful and challenging even if our relationship had been intact. Add the divorce, my Dad’s death and stressors on my ex’s side into the mix and it was, to put it  mildly, a perfect storm of terrible. Any one or all of those things would have been difficult to handle. But all at once? No human could do that. It’s best to just say “I was not at my best, but I did what I could.”

It’s easy to say “it will pass” or “time heals all things.” So, don’t.

I feel allergic to platitudes. The wounds are too fresh.

I’m grateful for my spiritual director, Sr. Nancy, and her wisdom about grief. When I said “I feel so strange and unfit for company. I can’t or won’t date. I’m fearful and awkward and prickly. I hate being out socially. I’m wondering what is wrong with me.” She said, “But you’ve only been divorced a tiny moment! Our expectations about grief are that it’s abnormal and we look at it as something you need to get over. You’re a single mother and you’re still in grief. It is OK.”

There are times in your life when there is no other option left than to just be yourself. Drop the pretense, breathe in and out, will your heart to keep beating and put one foot in front of the other, as yourself. It feels like I’m getting there, but not by choice. I don’t have energy to do anything elanymore.

Daily, I reflect on the goodness of what I have and yet I am still left with the hard work of being in grief.


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