"Oh, I'm fine."
How many times have you ever said that and knew that it was a lie? Knew that you were anything but "fine", but you said it anyway because it was easier than the alternative?
It's easier to say that we are fine than confront whatever it is that is going on.
It's easier for other people to believe that everything is fine because then no further involvement is necessary. We can all go on with our days believing that things are okay.
It's easier. For a little while.
My mom used to say that "fine" was the worst four letter word of them all, and she wasn't one to swear as it was. She knew that any time I said I was fine that I wasn't, even if I was unwilling to tell her what was going on, which I usually was for a plethora of reasons.
Likewise, whenever she would try to tell me that she was fine, I knew that what was really happening was that she was cracking the door just a bit and inviting me in to play some exhaustive game of twenty questions where I had to try and figure out what the most pressing problem was at the time.
And I did. Because I knew she wasn't fine.
Well programmed, I am.
I knew that any time she used that word in particular was a time when I needed to tread carefully. I knew that when she used it, something was very wrong. I could tell depending on her tone when she used it, whether I was the cause of the reason she wasn't fine, at least from her perspective. It was a passive aggressive guessing game a lot with her.
The word, this word, this simple word. It's emotionally loaded for me.
It's also one that I try not to use for that reason, because I know how much baggage it carries and I know that there is no chance in this world that I am the only person that a word like that carries said baggage for.
And yet, the urge is there for me to say it now whenever people ask me how I am doing.
I want to say that I am fine.
I wish that I was, and I wish that that word wasn't so encumbered with all that it is.
I wish that I could tell people that I was fine and that it wasn't a lie.
People expect me to be fine, they tell me that I should be. They tell me that I need to "get over" the things that have happened and focus on the positives, except that nothing in my head ever works quite that way. My head takes the negatives, especially the ones that I try and ignore, and magnifies them, grows them exponentially until they are so huge and daunting that they take over any piece of the good that was there.
I never claimed to be totally stable. Wink, wink.
Seriously though, my feeble attempt to laugh at myself is really just another coping mechanism.
I'm needing everything I have right now, just to stay upright and to prevent myself from dissolving into an ocean of tears at the drop of a hat.
I did just that a few nights ago. Driving home from dropping my oldest off at scouts, a song came on the radio. One that I haven't heard before. About living and dying and the regrets people have or don't depending on how they do things before that moment. One of those songs.
And it hit me. Like a ton of bricks. Like these things always do.
My father...all he ever really wanted was his family. He wanted us to be happy and healthy, he wanted us around, he wanted us to live our lives the way we chose. He just wanted the chance to be a part of it all.
My mother...all she ever wanted was more. We weren't enough because we never could have been. She always wanted more, needed more, tried to take more. When it wasn't enough, which it never was, she sought out replacements for us. When I say us, I even mean the kids. When her own grandkids weren't enough for her, she would seek out other children in her life somewhere, ask them to call her grandma. It hurt. Goddamn did it hurt, but she didn't see it.
She never did, because it was always about her and her emotions, not us.
I know that for some out there reading, this might seem like pent up anger that I have at her, and I'd suppose that in some ways it is. It's anger more at why she was this way than at her, though. I knew then and I know now that she didn't necessarily make conscious choices to be the way that she was. I don't think that she hurt us on purpose, or at least I refuse to allow myself to entertain those thoughts because the very idea is untenable in my heart. I know that she had issues, I know that we were collateral damage. I know that somewhere deep down she loved us the best way she knew how, the best way that she could.
And now she is gone. It will be a year that she's been gone next week, that date sneaking up on me a bit more with each passing day.
When my father died, there was nothing left unresolved. There were no words left unspoken between us. There were no moments of hesitation. No harboring resentments, no wondering what could have been or should have been or wishing for those moments back. We were in a good place, and mourning him, though it was never simple, has been uncomplicated.
With my mother, nothing was uncomplicated. It still isn't, though the reality of death and the finality of it all forces me to live in the present where she is gone and nothing can ever be different than it was. I am forced to accept everything she did, everything she was, because there is no more time for things to change, not that they ever would have anyhow.
Even the remote chance that things could have been different is gone now.
Sitting beside me, curled into a ball, the grandson she will never meet. That my father will never meet.
The baby that has simultaneously brought so much healing and so much new pain into my life, through no fault of his own, but because of situations that were out of my control and certainly out of his. Leading up to this moment, things where I was almost exclusively just along for the ride.
And he is here. In a world where his mother is without parents.
This innocent new beginning, this new life that I am wholly responsible for, he needs me to be fine.
Not the fine that exists in the world my mother occupied, but the fine that is legitimate and real.
The fine that isn't dragging along a set of matched luggage with it.
I know, through the journey of the past few years, that the only way I get to be fine is to face all of this. To work through all the feelings. To allow myself to be disappointed and sad. To let myself mourn. To get angry. Only after I have done all of that will the clouds begin to lift.
If I don't face it all, it won't get better. It will only get worse.
There is so much that I need to write about, so many words that need to come out of my head, and I apologize in advance to those out there reading if it seems a bit dramatic around here for a while. This has always been, and will probably always be, my first best therapy.
I'm working on some stuff. Big stuff.
I'm wading through PPD and PTSD and doing it all while having a newborn around the one year anniversary of my mom's death.
No, I'm not fine.
But I will get there.
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