2019 And the Pig Pug Pagan

5BA59A78-B6B3-4C46-BEE0-B510F72BD4A2It’s been a long, dark year. But I see a brand new light beckoning at the end of long tunnel full of monsters and fears.  Without the valiant efforts of my pug, I might have fallen to despair. My daughter started calling Frankie my Pig Pug Pagan for reasons I can’t understand. But she became the guardian of my life and soul more so this year than in her first three years at my side.

Life threw a few curve balls, opened some doors, slammed others shut, and in all the pain and confusion, my writing improved. I look forward to querying my book in the New Year.

Mothers and Daughters

A644879B-C9C9-4F11-BF3F-3FDE5D82F44DWow, this is one of the most complex relationships, is it not, ladies? I have a difficult relationship with my own mother and a very close relationship with my daughter. All three of us share a challenging trait. We all suffer from severe depression. All of us are survivors of various traumas.  My daughter and I have made great strides in conquering our demons, but both of us will likely be in some kind of therapy for the rest of our lives.

All The Things We Don’t Speak About

While my daughter drives toward a bright future in New York to start 2020, my mother remains in the hospital six weeks after a serious suicide attempt. No one calls it that, but it is what it is. We are not supposed to speak about these things, are we?

My mother faces multiple physical battles and one very large mental one. The doctors had not expected her to survive the complicated surgery in her weakened state. She did. She can’t walk and her heart is badly damaged, making her physical therapy challenging.  There is no dignity in a rotted body, and trying to recover from such self-inflicted harm. It’s the fear of jumping in case you survive that dissuades me in my darkest moments. I can’t quite see the darkness that caused my mom to let go and step off the ledge.

And she is determined to return home, away from the constant vigilance of the nurses and doctors who care for her now. Not to live but to die. Nothing is as awful as trying to save someone from themselves.

For years, my mother self-medicated, drowning out the demons of her own mind in bottles of gin and vodka. She still sees mental illness as shameful and so refuses to engage in any long term therapy. Years ago, after my daughter had been in therapy for six months or so, my mother asked how long I intended to let my teenage daughter use a therapist as a “crutch”. It made me so sad.

My mother is wrong. Seeing a therapist, seeking out help with a group like AA, joining an online group to talk about issues, taking medication to stem the worst of the despair, is not wrong and it is not a crutch. It is necessary.  And it is nothing to be ashamed of. And for many of us, it is the only way for us to rejoin the dance of life again.

Clinical depression is a monster without a cure. It must be met and dealt with or when life delivers one of its hard knocks (a guarantee – life is hard, sometimes for no reason at all), the monster will devour its host. I wish my mother would find the light before her last breath in this life.

On Christmas Day when we visited, she seemed to be getting so much better. She was sober for the first time I could remember in years, and she seemed determined to return to life. But three days later, she was slipping again. I hope 2020 will see an end to her pain, one way or another. She won’t have much life left, no matter what the doctors do, but I wish she could see the end of her days in the light, and not give over to the horrors of her own mind.

My daughter and I got a lot of help from the book, Lost Connections by Johann Hari last year. It may not be “the answer”, but it does help one feel less lost, and not alone.

In a sick world, it is almost impossible to be fully sane. Reach out for help. Yes, there will always pain in life, but there is joy.  And everyone deserves redemption, happiness, and purpose.

The Beautiful Game

img_0070My demons did a fair bit of throwing themselves against me and pitching fits, trying to tell me that I didn’t matter, that the world would be better without me. I hit back and scattered them to the chaos courtesy of Liverpool FC.

Loving to pull out victories in the last seconds of the game, they kind of mimic my life. Where I think I am defeated, in the last moment, I take another shot on gaol. Yes, a Premier League football team represents the endless light in my darkness.  They end 2019 on a long, freaking winning streak, adding three new trophies to their tally, and improve the most beautiful game there has ever been with such creativity and incredible collaboration. This is one of my many joys.

ChampionsOfEuropeI still watch the magical highlights of the game at Anfield against Barca where Liverpool recovered from a 3-0 loss to advance to the final of Champions League (which they won) with a 4-0 victory.  The crowd singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” seers my soul with such light. It’s just a game, some say, but for Liverpool, it is more.

For me, this night, New Year’s Eve is not the end of the year. It’s just a date on the calendar. My year begins in August with the beginning of the new Liverpool Premier League season, and ends the night before their first game of the next season. So while others make their new year’s resolution, I am still on my journey of the year.

 

There Goes My Life

IMG_0601I remember my daughter’s first steps, her first words, the first book she read all by herself, her first day of school, the first movie she loved, her first crush, her first heart break, the day my best friend and I dropped her off at college, all of it a tapestry of memories, forever playing notes in my soul. One of those country songs waiting to happen.

Atlantis 011I no longer recall the pain that came with the struggles of raising a daughter on my own, the exhaustion, the stress of trying to provide a good life for the two of us. I know at times it was very hard, but from the moment I held my daughter the first time, all regret was gone. Even though, I had no business having a child when I did, a child I knew I would have to raise on my own.

My story is not that unusual. Wendell Mobley and Neil Thurber wrote about my life for Kenny Chesney to sing about way back in 2003 when Kate was only ten years old. It told the story of young man getting his girlfriend pregnant, giving up his dreams, and staying to raise a child and finding love and delight in his decision.

That was not quite my story.  There was no young man in my life. It was just me, immature, unsure of what I wanted, not settled, dead broke, and pregnant before my life even began. So I saw myself in that song, but only as far as the second verse. Yeah, I loved my little girl and there was nothing I would trade her for. Then the years rolled by.

KateandStuff 028My daughter went to the University of Georgia for college, just down the road a spell from where I lived. She had been accepted at schools as far away as California, but decided to stay close for a short while longer. And so I thought she would remain tied to the South, to home.

After all, I had dreams too that fell away over the years, dreams of living in the UK, living as a gypsy traversing the world with nothing but a backpack and pen and paper for writing. Perhaps, I was not so brave as my daughter. Perhaps, that mistake I thought I made simply spawned new dreams.

Friday morning, March 10, 2017, my life got up before dawn and drove away. My daughter, Kate, moved to Brooklyn, New York. To stay. This is how things are meant to be. I know that. I am so proud of my little girl. Still, who knew things would go so fast? The lyrics of that old song changed to strip my life bare and left me bleeding. There goes my life.

AutumnSkyAll she could think about was I’m too young for this. Got my whole life ahead. Hell I’m just a kid myself. How’m I gonna raise one?

All she could see were her dreams goin’ up in smoke. So much for ditchin’ this town and hangin’ out on the coast. Oh well, those plans are long gone.

And she said, There goes my life. There goes my future, my everything. Might as well kiss it all good-bye. There goes my life…….

IMG_0600A couple years of up all night and a few thousand diapers later. That mistake she thought she made covers up the refrigerator. Oh yeah……….she loves that little girl.

IMG_0598Momma’s waiting to tuck her in, As she fumbles up those stairs. She smiles back at her dragging that teddy bear. Sleep tight, big eyes and bouncin’ curls.

She smiles….. There goes my life. There goes my future, my everything. I love you, mommy good-night. There goes my life.

 

img_0381She had that Honda loaded down. With Abercrombie clothes and 15 pairs of shoes and her American Express. She checked the oil and slammed the hood, said you’re good to go. She hugged her tight and headed up the East Coast.

And she cried, There goes my life. There goes my future, my everything. I love you. Baby good-bye.

 

IMG_0589There goes my life. There goes my life.

Baby good-bye.

Clothing Optional

Say you live to be 80 years old. That is a good, long life. A bit better than average. That’s 28,160 days dancing on this earth.

That is a fine number but a decidedly finite one. How does the song go?

It’s only forever, not long at all…

Most days for most of us are unremarkable. We are such creatures of routine. So days, minutes, hours are meaningless in and of itself. Time spinning through an hour glass we are hopeless to stopper.

Life really comes down to those moments that distinguish themselves from the others in ecstasy or agony.

So here I sit sipping a Manhattan with my daughter and her customary glass of wine with this view at sunset. My daughter and I traveled to Asheville, NC to visit the Grove Park Inn and Spa. It is a mother and daughter retreat we had planned for sometime. When we planned it, Kate’s plan to move to New York had been tentative. Now, in less than two weeks time, she will be gone. How often life changes on a moment.

I will remember these two days with a mixture of awe and pain. I had never been to a spa, would tell you I am not a spa person. But I am a mother, and a spa seemed a grown up mother and daughter trip, a way for two women to share some time on equal ground. There was not time or resources for longer travel so we drove here to take a single day away from the chaos. Kate has so much to do before she drives up to her new apartment in Brooklyn, New York. And then who knows?

My brother and parents, and most everyone in my life, says she will come home one day, not to worry. No one really leaves the South. Yes, that seems true for most that I have known. However, I feel deep in my gut, a painful recognition, that this will not be the case with Kate.

My daughter may visit as she can, but she is never coming home again. In her heart, she has always been a New Yorker. Her father was from New York, and while I divorced him very early in Kate’s life, his family adored Kate and she spent many vacations in New York City. Every time she would come home, she would tell me someday she would live there, even when she was a tiny girl. So my emotions split between joy and loss during the two days in Asheville.

My daughter and I are as different as fire and rain and as alike as ice and water. The spa was enchanting place, far exceeding my expectations and far less awkward than I feared. We spent the day in pools, swimming laps, enjoying hot tubs, sitting in a steaming pool, sipping wine, and ending with long stone massages. We chatted quietly, but as usual as of late,  Kate’s attention was elsewhere most of the time.

When my daughter was little and new, she clung to me so fiercely, wanted to share everything with me, wanted to be included in everything. My mother used to fuss at me because Kate was so attached to me. I was told I would spoil the child into uselessness. My mother can rest easy now. Kate no longer clings to me at all.

At the beginning of our spa day, we were given a tour of the spa. We came to the woman’s whirlpool and sauna. The tour guide told us this area was clothing optional. I cringed with my own modesty. My daughter chose the optional bit.

I could not imagine being so bold. Kate has a confidence and courage I wish I could claim for myself. She is also young, brash, fiercely opinionated, and impulsive. That can and probably will get her in trouble or at least introduce her to some humility now and again. It is the way of things. She’s an adult, and she will have to learn like the rest of us do. My part is over now.

Time to let go. When clothing is optional, I have no say in what choice Kate makes. Life is now hers for the taking and the living.