I hate feeling like I am flailing. I am ok at advocating for those I love; dogged, determined, clear. But when I am flailing I do nobody any good. I just occasionally land a blow here or there on people I don’t want to hurt.
It happens when I am sad, when my kids are sad, when they are in pain and I can’t fix it. It must be someone’s fault, and for sure, I can find ways they are being treated unjustly or failed by those they trust. It is easy to do because that is everyone’s experience, every single person on the whole damn planet. When I am scared and sad I go running around with a pitchfork, screaming like a banshee.
Banshees. My grandmother used to talk about banshees. They are a big part of Irish mythology. In Gaelic it is Caoineadh, which literally means to keen. If a banshee showed up you knew something really, really bad was about to happen. She keened, she howled, it was that gut wrenching pain that is so indescribable they had to make up a mythical creature to represent it.
Things are hard for my kids. They have bleeding disorders, and autism, and seizures, and learning issues, and their dad is dead. They are always dealing with shit no one else has to, or it feels like that. I used to think it was the unfairness that made me crazy, but it isn’t. It is two things, I believe, the relentlessness of it, the never ending cycle of crisis and disappointment, (“how do you deal with all this stuff?” Someone asked Sage. “I always see it coming,” he shrugs.) Second, and most importantly, there is the realization that I can do nothing about it. There will always be a bleed, or a migraine, or a meltdown, a moment where your dad is not here and he should be, he just should. I can’t fix it. You are everything, and I cannot make things okay for you.
Then I keen. And flail.
In my better moments I can sit and be at peace, realize that hell, kids in Aleppo only dream of the life my kids have, and my boys are safe, loved and have what they need.
Today is not one of my better moments. There has been a lot of flailing this month, because Eden’s ADHD and processing disorder and bleeding ankle have made his life hard, and I want to fix it, and I can’t, so I keened and I have flailed. I have landed some blows. I apologize, with tears and fruit baskets and coffee, and then flail some more. It doesn’t help. It’s hard to stop.
Sometimes I am surprised Eden’s teachers even speak to me. He goes to a small Christian school that is a co-op, basically, and the people who teach him are also good friends and people I live and worship with. If he went to a public school I could march down there with my lawyer and kick ass and take names. I don’t really care if Jude’s teachers at his school in Rockford are having a rough day or trying their best or have their periods or whatever. I just want them to follow his IEP. But, I can’t really yell at people who are loving and sweet to my kid, and love me, but maybe didn’t navigate his science project the way we agreed, and then go sit with them in church. Only I do. It’s awful, like I am watching myself from afar, begging me to stop. But I can’t.
Honestly, it is God I am furious with, because Eden is sad, because in some ways his life is freaking hard, and I can’t fix it. Yeah, we can work on solutions, and not everything is perfect, but maybe I can work on sitting with some of this pain, and not lashing out at random people, like Eden’s teachers, or the lady in the grocery store who has eleven items in her basket, or my friend’s stepmother who posted a Trump meme…
Yesterday I flipped off a guy because his headlights were too bright.
Jude would have, and still has, these nightmarish autistic meltdowns, which are like a mixture of sensory overload and primal fury that break furniture and injure him, and result in broken windows, bloody noses, toys smashing against walls. He never tries to hurt anyone, but it happens, and it is like a hurricane. You just have to hold on and ride it out. When it is over he comes back to himself, and says, “Oh…Mama….there you are.” As if he couldn’t see me. As if he forgot I was there, loving him, desperate to make it better.
I walked into my counselor’s office the other day and started to cry, gut wrenching, physically painful sobbing. I tried to take deep breaths and get it together, and she held up her hand. “No. Stay with this. Keep going.” So I did. It felt like my pancreas might land on her floor, but she didn’t seem to care. I didn’t apologize either. Unlike my poor friends, she gets paid to listen to this shit. No fruit baskets for you, lady. You chose to do this for a living.
When I was done we did more mindfulness exercises, where I felt the earth lovingly support me or whatever, and I didn’t even roll my eyes, because I need to know what and who I am furious with so I don’t hurt people who are just trying their best. I am mad at myself, and God. Who can handle my fury, and doesn’t need a fruit basket, and doesn’t seem to hold a grudge.
“What helps?” My counselor asks. “What makes it better?”
Eden’s eyes. Jude’s laughter. Sage’s hugs, Meeko’s discourses on Jung and Aristotle. Moments where I know in my soul that we are all ok. When my friend tells me she loves me, even though I sent her a text around midnight accusing her of being mean to my kid over a book report. When I remember God cried for his child, too. When there is hot tea and a snoring dog and memory of a man who adored me.
That moment when the keening is done, and I am still, and look around, and remember. Like waking from a bad dream. Like the end of a storm.
I should buy fruit baskets in bulk. You know, just in case.