Tag Archives: thanks

Life and Death Experiences in the Overflow Lot

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Things could have gone differently.  

It’s the thought running through my brain.

Like, I could be on life-support.  Or in a full body cast.  Or paralyzed.  Or really badly bruised.

My morning had gone off without a hitch.  The kids were cooperative.  Lunches got packed just so.  I posted an ironic and witty Wordless Wednesday post, which I thought was an apt follow-up to the post I wrote last week about Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the winter pummeling we are getting in the North East this year.   I replied to a couple comments on my blog.

I even had extra time to fully dry and round-brush my hair.  In my cashmere sweater and ruby lip stain, I felt pretty and confident.

I dropped my son off at school and proceeded to work.

It is creepy to think those could have been my last movements on this earth.

Our lot at work was full.  It is always full lately due to the excessive snow.  There is an overflow lot across the street next a big, old cathedral.  I pulled into the overflow lot and took the last space, in front of the building.

Since I am a creature of habit, I have a little ritual when I pull in to work.  Even when I am running late, I take a moment to collect myself before getting out of my car.  I take a breath.  Sometimes I look in the mirror and tell myself I am a sexy beast capable of anything.  I turn off the music streaming from my iPhone, and unplug it from my car.  I gather together my lunch, pocket book, and then check to see if there are any new alerts on my phone.  Today there were a couple Facebook notifications.

As I was completing my ritual by checking into Facebook.  Something happened.

There was a roar of thunder, a hiss, a pounding.

I saw a flame of white sparkles shower my car, followed by mounds of white.

The pounding continued.

My brain could not narrate this story for me as rapidly as it was happening.

I saw my windshield shatter.  I heard myself scream.

My first impulse was to start my car and back away, but my car would not start.  This was probably a blessing because, in my panicked state, I probably would have backed into the cars parked like sardines in the lot.  I grabbed my keys, lunch, and pocketbook and leapt from the car.  IMG_7262

Through screaming and hyperventilating, I realized that an orca-sized avalanche of snow had slid off of the cathedral and onto my car.

Through my screaming and hyperventilating, my brain worked to remind me I was experiencing trauma.  My body was flooding itself with fight or flight chemicals, my brain was working overtime to formulate words to accompany the storyline.

You’re shaking because of the adrenaline, my mind told me kindly, ever the social worker.  You’ll work it out.  Your breath is fast and your muscles are tense because you have been scared, and your body has responded in its most primal way.    

A woman approached and I asked her to get someone, anyone from work.  I instructed my fingers to dial 911.  The police station, which is less than a half mile away, took my call and let me know someone would be on their way. I heard sirens and my shrieks melted into sobs.

Some of my colleagues came out and held me and waited with me.  We waited.  And waited.  There were sirens all around but no one was coming.  Then we noticed the street was blocked off and there were flashing lights congregated at an intersection down the street.  There must have been an accident.

As we were standing there, another avalanche of snow came thundering down off of the roof.  The thudding rumble terrified me.  I started screaming again, then sobbing and shaking.

My boss instructed my coworkers to take me inside, so I let myself be led into the building through the back.  I did not want to run into any of my clients looking like I did, whatever that was.

I sat in an office with some of my work pals.  We waited. And waited.  I grew calm and then hysterical again.  I was hugged.  I was given water.  Our program’s psychiatrist came down and put a bag of frozen edamame on my neck as she rubbed my back.  On a primal level I was aware of how upset I was, but on another level I was deeply conscious of being loved, cared for, tended to.

I felt confused.

I could see people around me and they were talking.  My head hurt and I felt confused, like I was looking at them through an aquarium.

Briefly, I wondered if I would pass out or die.  But I didn’t.  I said,  maybe it was good I was with the car and knew that it happened, as opposed to coming out after dark at the end of my work day and having to deal with it all then?  My friends nodded and agreed sympathetically.

I called AAA.  I called my husband.  I called insurance. The police still had not come.  I called the police again.  “Yeah,” the dispatcher said.  “We were responding to an accident, and then another accident, and then there was a domestic dispute.  We’ll send a cruiser out when we can.”

My husband texted me and told me to make sure I took photos.  I texted him back and let him know it was not safe to get close enough to the car to take pictures.

It was at that point, I realized that if I had gotten out of my vehicle even seconds earlier, I would have been pulverized by that falling snow.

I imagined myself lying, bloody and broken in the parking lot, unconscious, unable to call for help.  And with all of the city’s resources being diverted to other accidents, I could have laid there for hours.

What would have become of me?

I can’t let my brain go there, really.  But it does.

My husband called me and asked me a bunch of questions.  I got pissy and ranted about how, geographically speaking, I was in Hitler’s asscrack, and this was the worst possible place something terrible could happen to a person because of the common crapulence.

After a while, I was calm.  But not a nice calm.  Shock calm.  The kind of calm where you are numb and a little off.

I peeked out a window and saw a cop car circling around the lot where my car was.  I gathered my stuff and ran out.  The cop took my report and waited with me for AAA to come.  We waited.  And waited.  As we were waiting, another avalanche of snow came off the roof.  I felt validated by the cop’s response of surprise and awe.

Eventually the tow truck came and got my car out of the pile of snow.

I’m okay.

I made it home to hug my family and that is all that matters.

But something about the whole experience today just feels. . .  deep.  That’s not even the word.  I don’t really have a word.

A couple days prior, the psychiatrist (who put the edamame on my neck) and I were talking about how sometimes we fear we might go crazy from the relentless stress of working with people who are at high risk for going crazy.  I’m ashamed to write these words, but I said to her, “Sometimes I fantasize about getting in a minor car accident on my way to work so I can go be in a hospital for the day instead of at work.”

Is there fate?  Is there karma?  Did this happen to me to prove to me that those sort of thoughts and statements are totally bogus and that you should never wish for anything so awful?  Gosh, I don’t know.  But it gives me pause.  And I’m terribly thankful.

This is the kind of crap we are dealing with in the North East this winter.  We are dealing with seasonal depression, property damage, accidents, slip and falls, loss of revenue, and cabin fever.

We are also dealing with orca-sized tons of snow that fall off roofs 200 feet up and crush our vehicles with us in them, which I can honestly tell you is something that had never even crossed my mind.

Be careful out there.

Hug your people.

Send out positive energy and rainbow-colored light for goodness.  (Note I did NOT say “white” light.)

And take a moment to pause and notice where you are and what you are doing.  Imagine, if I had not had my little pre-work ritual before getting out of my car.   That little moment I keep for mindfulness before going into work may have saved my skin.

I wonder what my trauma response will soften for me, and what the chemical reflexes will brand into my brain.

It is all still so fresh, so I don’t know.

Thankfully, I have been granted the time to wait and see.

Gratitude

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I am grateful for the horrendous behavior my son had at bedtime because it means he is alive and feisty, and it means I am a mom.

I am also grateful my husband handled said tantrum and said bedtime.

I am grateful for the bickering my husband and I did this morning over who would mail the mortgage payment.  Our relationship is always strong enough to handle silly arguments.  I am grateful I can drop it, go to work, and come home to start fresh with him, even after we have been fresh with one another.

While I am on the subject, I am grateful to have made my first mortgage payment, and grateful I will have the opportunity to make many more.  It means we have a wonderful home of our own, and it means we have the finances, however meager, to afford a sturdy roof over our heads.

I am grateful for the plumbing, and heating, and painting, and lighting problems we have already experienced because it allowed for us to get creative solving problems, to see how supported we are by family.  It also allowed me to see my husband shine in his new role as master of the house for the first time.

I am grateful I have learned that no one is all good, and that no one is all bad.  This knowledge helps to temper my relationships with humanity.

I am grateful for the gigantic, purple bruise I have on my back from falling down the cellar stairs the other day.  All that blood under my skin is a sign I am alive and my body is doing what it needs to do to heal.

I am grateful for my daughter’s presence in my life, how she came to me when I fell and brought me the tiny ice pack, offered me hugs and kisses, put her hands on my thighs and said, “I’m here with you, Mama.”  This moment was such a blessing, despite the pain in my back, because it offered me a glimpse of her gentle nature, and was a tiny reflection of the nurture I have poured into her.

I am grateful for piles of dirty laundry that I will wash and fold and make sweet and clean for my family because it means we have fun, funky threads to keep our bodies warm as the weather cools, and clean water with which to do our wash in the comfort of our own home.  I am grateful for my husband’s assistance in this and many other chores.

I am grateful for the traffic tonight because I got to listen to music in solitude, and to relish private memories hidden therein.

I am grateful for the company of Regina Spektor, Peter Gabriel, the Cure, Iron and Wine, George Michael, Zap Mama, Tori Amos, Alanis Morissette, Florence and the Machine, Ingrid Michaelson, Erykah Badu, Ani Difranco, Bon Iver, Dido, and so many others who have been with me in moments of joy and darkness.

I am grateful for the crowds in the grocery store because it means people are getting stuff to nourish their bodies and to spend time with their own.  I am grateful for the eye contact and smile of the grocery clerk who rang up my last minute purchases with good cheer.

I am grateful for all my friends who complain about the rain, the cold, the wind, the sleet, the heat.  I am happy to hear their weather woes because it means there is nothing more tragic in their lives.

I am grateful for my familial squabbles because it offers me an opportunity (if I so chose to accept) to deepen bonds and mend ways.

I am grateful for the anxiety I will feel over going to family events for holidays because I have lived with anxiety forever and it makes me realize how strong I am and how far I have come in being able to tolerate it.

I am grateful for the food I will eat, for the wine I will drink, for the multiple desserts I will savor (just because they are there and amazing!).  I am grateful for how sick and lazy I will feel afterwards because it is truly a blessing to be so decadent.

I am grateful for the memories of those no longer with me, weather because they have passed beyond the veil, or because we are out of touch, or because we have fallen out of each other’s graces because the grief of a loss is always in proportion to love.

And love is everything.

I am grateful for love.

That I can feel it.

That I can make it.

That I can share it.

That I can say, thank you, I love you.
I am grateful for this, and this, and everything.

Big love and blessings to you and yours from Momaste.

 

The Five Stages of Moving

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We are moving.IMG_6354

And we are not just moving out of our apartment, but buying a house.  A home.

Somewhere there is a list of the top ten most stressful things in life, and moving always rates in the top five, right under death of a spouse, death of a child, and divorce.

It seems like it should be a happy and awesome thing.

But there it is, on that list of life’s greatest stresses.

I now understand why.

At first it seemed like an awesome dream.  I just couldn’t believe it was even a possibility, and then to have our dream house practically fall into our lap.

When I was younger, I used to fantasize about having a house to live in with a family, to decorate, to make my own, to fill with joy and love and whimsy.  Somewhere after grad school, in the midst of a crashing economy and crippling student loan debt, that dream started to fade.  Then I married an artist and got pregnant almost immediately.  I cut back on my hours at work while simultaneously taking on the debt of daycare.  And we had another child.  More debt.

We live in a part of the country where housing is very expensive.  Salaries have not grown much over the past decade, due to the economy.  But because my husband and I both have our families here, moving cross country is not an option that feels comfortable or happy for us.  So, we have tried to be content with what we have.

For the most part, we have done ok.

While our beautiful apartment was cozy, as the children grew it just became too small for us.  A home that was filled with love became filled with stress because we never had our own space.

It had gotten to the point I thought we would all live and die on top of one another in the small apartment.

Then I remembered my dream.  Why had I stopped dreaming? I wondered.  Then I wondered what it would be like to open myself just ever so slightly to that dream again of having a bigger space for my family.  My dream was quickly crushed when I looked at the prices for larger apartments in our area.

As fate, or karma, or luck would have it, I ran into a friend of mine who I had not seen for a long time.  In the decade since last seeing her, she had become a realtor.  I told her about my wish for a house.  “Aw, we can totally get you guys into a home!” she insisted.  She whipped out her mortgage calculator and quoted some prices.

My husband was dubious, because of his self-employed status, but he agreed to go to one of my friend’s open houses and hear her out.

We applied to be pre-approved for a mortgage.  During the two weeks we waited while underwriters (and yes, I learned what an “underwriter” is in this process) reviewed our numbers, we looked at houses online.  My friend sent us a bunch of addresses and told us to drive by a few and see if we could picture ourselves living there.  We very  much wanted to stay in our neighborhood, ideally not having our son change schools.

I fell in love with the first house I drove past.  It was a grey bungalo-style home on a double-corner lot and the very end of a quiet street.  I looked at the pictures online and was charmed by the hardwood floors, modern kitchen, and huge upstairs where my husband and I could make a master suite.  We finally got our pre approval and went to see the house the next day.

I just had a gut feeling about this house.  It was the only house we looked at.  We made an offer.  The sellers countered and we accepted.  We put down a deposit and scheduled an inspection.

For days I had butterflies in my stomach.  I could not settle at night, thinking about the rooms, about where I would put stuff on the shelves in the kitchen, about how I wanted to paint the bedrooms.  I thought about packing and moving and cleaning.  I became so anxious about all of these things, I found myself paralyzed by it, unable to do anything about anything because I was totally freaking myself out.

Then I realized, while hopeful and amazing, this move represents the end of a chapter for us.

I’ve always loved my apartment. I was a fiance, a newlywed, and a new mom in this apartment.  I love the windows that look out on the bay.  I love the little yard where my children have spent hours playing in the sand box and paddling pool.  I love the mantle where we display family pictures.  I even love that when we vacuum the living room floor we can still smell just a hint of a doggy smell, left behind by my treasured canine who passed over the Rainbow Bridge three years ago.

In addition to the sentimental stuff, I also love our warm, understanding land-people.  They have always been dependable and trustworthy.  The washing machine and hot water heater were magically fixed at no expense to us when they broke.  Those are no longer luxuries we will have, as we are now the home owners, the ones responsible for repairs and restoration.

We are all excited.  The kids are thrilled about having their own rooms which they will be allowed to decorate as they please.  My husband is happy he will have an office where he can work more efficiently from home than his current station in our dining room.  I am excited about the increased space and opportunities to organize things.

We are all happy about it, but we are also all freaking out a bit.

Kubler-Ross famously wrote about the Five Stages of Grief–  how people go through Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression, and Acceptance as they grieve a loss.  It is like we are traversing the Five Stages of Moving.  It is certainly hard to believe, and somewhat abstract in its nature at the moment as we live in this limbo (denial).  I find myself eager to give away one of my kidneys if I could only blink my eyes and magically transport all our stuff to the new house (bargaining).  My husband and I have been snarking at one another all week out of increased tension and concern (anger).  Today I felt sad enough to cry at the thought of leaving our apartment (depression).  And we finally bought some boxes, went through books and weeded out a few loads to donate, in addition to packing a few shelves-worth (acceptance).

Much like grieving, this whole moving process is not completely linear.  It seems like it should be–  look, buy, move–  yet I find myself circling back around denial, depression, acceptance, and back again.

I imagine myself lying in my bed at the new house, but without Emily’s little cot next to me because she is down in her own, sweet little room.  The thought makes me happy, panicked, and sad all at once.

I think about Jack sleeping in a room that is different from the messy jumble where he has slept each night since he was an infant (that is when he wasn’t co-sleeping with us!), and that thought also makes me feel hopeful and stricken all at once.

Change is hard, and I’ve never been particularly awesome at it.

My husband and I are stymied by the thought of a mortgage, and all the little projects we will need to undertake.  We are also running around like wacky lemurs trying to get paperwork in order, and get things over to the mortgage company in time for our closing.

The kids are, no doubt, sensing our stress as they also experience their own anticipatory anxiety which they may not be able to articulate, but share with us in behavioral demonstrations.

It is a great transition for us, but it is not an easy one.

So, I caught myself in all that anxiety, and tried to be more present as we spend the last few weeks in our apartment.

In two more weeks we will move.

But for the moment, we are here.  We are home.

Centered

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Find your center.

This expression was common in every dance class I ever took.  Roughly translated, it means getting balanced. Being balanced is essential for executing complicated dance moves, poses, turns.  When you find your center, you can spin forever, leap out of bounds, deepen flexion.

When you find your center, you find ecstasy, and can leave your own body.

Or something like that.

The center is elusive.

Many dancers can pirouette endlessly or do a Russian straddle-split with ease, but struggle with other things.

Addictions.  Eating disorders. Loneliness.

Our bodies do amazing things for us, yet we become majorly unbalanced as we berate ourselves for not being thin enough, not being bendy enough, not having enough stamina.  While we may find the center to balance on the tips of our toes, other areas in our hearts experience the imbalance of suffering and sadness.

It has been 15 years since I danced.  I did it all–  ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, modern, African, belly–  you name it, I tried and loved it.  In the end, I gave it up because I hurt myself and couldn’t dance anymore.

I left dance sour and resentful.  I stopped going to dance shows. It was depressing to see others onstage use their bodies in ways I no longer could.

A spurned lover, I walked away and didn’t look back.

It has been 15 years since I danced, but I have a recurring dream.  In this dream, I find the center.  I twirl with joy and wild sweetness.  In this dream I have that centering, a delicious, orgasmic balance of simultaneously self control and letting go.

From this dream, I wake devastated as I realize my aching 40 year old body, weighted from age and bearing children, laden with gravity.  It is after this dream I look back on those dancing days.  Enough time has passed, and I no longer grieve my lack of motion in the way I once did.

Additionally, I’ve been practicing mindfulness, or a non-judgemental awareness in the present moment.  Be here now.  Usually it helps.  They say dwelling on the past leads to depression, and thinking too much of the future breeds anxiety.  It is supposed to foster peace to focus on the moment at hand, accept it, and celebrate its unique function and flavor.

Or something like that.

Much like the center, mindfulness can be elusive.

I recently had the opportunity to reconnect with some former dance friends.  We met at a pub, shared some drinks, and laughed.

Prior to meeting with these dear, old friends, I rummaged in the back of my closet and found a stack of photos from those days.  I quickly sorted through them to find ones pertinent to my dance crew.

It was like seeing my life flash before my eyes, or at least going 20 years back in time and seeing six years of my life flash before my eyes.

There was my first dog, who we got in college because I was suffering from depression and we thought having a pet would help.  It did help, but seeing his face transfixed in a photo, realizing he had been born, lived his life, and died shook me.

There was my grandmother, dead now for 16 years.  There was my father, looking young and thin.  There was my brother  years prior to his break.  There was my mother, the age I am now.  There were all my friends.

And there was me, frail, beautiful, and full of self loathing.

I was running late and didn’t have time to be stricken, so I shoved the parcel of pictures in my purse and chose a happy face.  As I embraced friends for the first time in a decade and a half, the happy face became happy feelings.  We all talked about being working moms, our kids’ quirks, and how our bodies have changed.  My face hurt from smiling, as we giggled over the photos of ourselves.

For days after, I luxuriated in the anesthesia of memories.  Sometimes I felt sad for time perceived as wasted, but mostly it just seemed like my life had flowed in a series of channels that felt right.  I didn’t really miss dance, or have regrets, but it was a bizarre head space.

The gift of it was it allowed me to look back with fondness on those days.

So much in life threatens to knock us off our feet, swipe the rug from under us.  Time can pulverize, but it also can soften.  Looking back so happily on that time in my life made me remember a quote from a Grateful Dead song, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”

When we find our center, we realize we are strong and solid, while also soft and fluid.

Maybe I am always in the center and just don’t realize it.  Maybe I have been dancing along, each moment perfectly balanced as I pick up a child, wipe a tear, cook a meal, drive to work.

The center is delicate and small.  It is water and breath.  It is bearing and being blown away by children.  The center is ridiculous, and can be felt when we laugh, or cry, or retch.  The center stands alone in a crowd.  It is fleeting.  It is the beat of wings on water.

The center is the core of the dream, and the dream is us.

The other night, I had a dance dream, but this one was much different.  In this dream, I was a spectator in a large auditorium, watching auditions on a bare stage.  I contemplated the dancers before me- some lithe and lovely, others powerful and bold.  I was thrilled to be just there, and I woke with a smile.

Daddy’s Boy

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Jack was sobbing, his face pressed against his bed.

It had been about ten minutes and I wondered why he had not emerged fully pajama-clad from his bedroom.  I pushed into his room, and found him, red faced and bereft.  

“I just miss Daddy too much to put my pajamas on,” he cried.

His father is away on business for five days.  He’s never been away before.  Jack has enjoyed many a sleep over with his adoring grandparents, but he’s never experienced a night at home without his father.  They have a nightly ritual at bedtime of stories or games on the iPad, and then my husband stays until Jack drifts off to sleep.  It has been that way since Jack was very small.

“Jack, honey.  Come to Mama.”

Reluctantly, Jack came to me.  Tears slid down his face.  

“Nothing feels right without Daddy,” he wept.  

A very small and very cynical part of me thought, What am I, chopped liver?  Come on kid.  I grew you from scratch in my tummy!  I can do take care of you just as well as Daddy! 

But most of me felt the weight of my small son’s sorrow.

Earlier that night, Jack announced, “You know, a Happy Meal is in fact not happy without Daddy.”  It had been a steamy, exhausting day and I took the atrocious way out and did a drive through.  Neither Jack or Emily were particularly happy and picked at their grease bags.  (In all fairness, I fed them fresh fruit and smoothies made with coconut milk and more fresh fruit all afternoon, sooo. . .   Yeah, I know.  I still suck.)

Jack came home from karate chipper enough, but quickly decompensated facing the alteration of his beloved bedtime routine.  We called my husband and the three of us talked about our feelings on speaker phone.  My husband texted Jack some photos of the view from his room while we were on the phone so Jack could see what he was seeing.  Jack talked until he was ready to say good night.  Then, I tucked him into my bed, and rubbed his back until he fell asleep.

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It is hard to be Jack.  He feels everything so intensely.  In the long run, he will be fine.  Parents travel, and their children are none the worse for it.  I know he will be fine.  But it is hard to watch him wrestle with big and complicated emotions.  

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Holding my solid, nearly-seven-year-old in my arms, I remembered when he was a newborn.  He was colicky and always hungry and he terrified me.  His needs and demands swallowed me.  I feared I would not rise to the occasion of being his mom.  I would pass him off to his dad when his cries overwhelmed me.

In his father’s arms, Jack quickly settled.  My husband experimented with music and white noise, and discovered that the sound of the kitchen faucet turned on just so would chill Jack into a hypnotic trance if we stood and rocked the baby back and forth.

One time, I found my husband holding a placid Jack in front of his computer, watching a screen saver of swirling lights and listening to classical lullabies.  It nearly enraged me how easily my husband could calm and comfort Jack, but once my postpartum hormones settled, I learned a lot from my husband about being grounded and compassionate as a parent.    

Jack and my husband have always been close, and their closeness fostered a culture of closeness for our entire family.

We argue.  We bicker.  My husband and I drive one another crazy with our little quirks.  (But I mean really, he wears like the same four outfits every week–  why don’t they fit in his closet, and why must they be all over the bedroom, and why can’t he clean the other stuff he does not wear out of his closet?!)  Jack and Emily squabble and squall.  But at the end of the day, we are a family so close it feels eerily off kilter if a member is missing.

Maybe we are crazy and enmeshed, but watching Jack writhe in the dark with the pain of missing his father brought this family intimacy into light for me.  It also gave me yet another opportunity to rise to the occasion of being Jack’s mom.  

For every experience, there is a reason.