cancer, death, finding myself, kids, Living in the Moment, mindfulness, mother, mother loss, Mother's Day, pain, Uncategorized

A Motherless Daughter on Mother’s Day

People always say… you can put this behind you and you can move on to something better. Well, what happens when you just can’t? I mean, what happens when you slowly stop thinking about it and then you can’t remember when the last time you heard it… but it then comes back full on haunting you, at least for one day. There is a legacy to these things that stays with you for a long time, maybe forever… It bubbles up. It revisits you like a dream that continually reoccurs until it is just knit into who you are. You expect it and embrace it.

Whether I can put “all this” behind me remains to be seen, what is fact is that “all that” from the past keeps haunting me. I mean, days like Mother’s Day come and draw me into the past. It is without fail that I am thrown back to so many things. No matter how many breakfasts in bed or smudgy Mother’s Day cards I get, will never push it out of front and center on Mother’s Day. It makes me realize that there is so much that I have never dealt with. Never dealt with feels of loss and abandonment that sting and hurt and seriously won’t go away. I hope that at some point they can meld into just who I am, become just a stitch, and not be the entire fabric of my life.

I have never made it a secret with you all how tough things have been lately. I have made it no secret that life before “all this” was sometimes very difficult. Maybe today, the day that always haunts me, is the day that I put it out on the table and make it more real than it ever has been. By sharing it, maybe I can finally accept and let all the good memories back in, instead of those that haunt. In getting ready to write this, I can feel my mother wrapping her arms around my shoulders from behind. A bear hug that I always “know” as her being there, that she is pushing me forward into this thing… so here I go.

I have so many memories of my mother. So many wonderful memories, that always get over shadowed by the others. I am going to give you “another” in hopes that it will truly fade away, so that I can love other Mother’s Days and not dread them like I do.

My mother valiantly fought cancer for just over ten months. I remember strength from her. I remember her beauty and who she was, but what I most remember are moments from the last days of her life. Quite sad if you really think about it. She had her whole lifetime, almost half of mine, at that point, and I remember the sad and terrible parts.

In my Mother’s last few days, she was in the hospital under the direction of doctor’s to mediate her pain with morphine. It was no secret that she was not going to leave the hospital. Perhaps at the time, I didn’t totally believe it. I was living in hospital scrubs because there was no going back to the house. I guess it never truly sunk in that it was because there was a moment that was coming that I couldn’t/shouldn’t/wouldn’t miss.

My mom had been lying in bed for days. Days of quiet that was not like her. She talked. She laughed. She lit up the room. Now she was the center, but really just an accessory around all of us. It is in these moments that my memory always drifts on Mother’s Day.

My Mom’s face was ashen and her mouth hung open. She didn’t look like herself. I couldn’t stand another minute looking at her. I needed her makeup. When I had packed a bag for her… I packed her makeup bag. She would have never have left the house without lipstick or blush.

It wasn’t even an option of whether I would make up her face. She would have wanted it that way.  I carefully applied her makeup as she would have wanted it. To give her the dignity that she deserved.

She was less ashen after, but the pallid color of her skin still came through. It was a mask of what was going on. It wasn’t until days later when the makeup had started to fade that the mask would come off.

She hadn’t responded to talk for days. No squeeze of the hand, no blinks, nothing. Her body was giving out.

I had taken to calling her “Mama” which was odd. I had never used that name for her. I had talked and talked to her with no response, but with Mama at the beginning of each sentence. Maybe it was because the mask was starting to slip off and to me, she was started to look and act like another person.

Her lips were so dry. They were cracked. They looked so sore. We had been directed by the hospital staff to use these sponges on long sticks to wet her lips, to wet her mouth that had long since dried out from breathing for days straight like that.

I dipped the swab into the small paper cup full of water. When I pulled it out the sponge at the tip was soaked through and dripped back into the cup with the excess. I squeezed a bit out with my fingertips. No worry about germs. It wouldn’t matter. Every time I squeeze the suds from my sponge in my own sink while doing dishes, I remember this moment.

There were others around us, but for me, it was like I was in a vortex and nothing else existed but me and that instant. I wiped around her lips and started for the inside of her mouth. In that moment she closed her mouth and swallowed. The struggle of it was so painful to see. No! She was strong! She was a rock! She couldn’t be working so hard to do something so small as to swallow.

To see her lifeless body perform a basic task made me know she was still in there.   The sadness I felt wasn’t from the fact that it was so hard for her to do such a thing though. It was because she was still in there. She was holding on. She hadn’t totally given up. In her last days, she was holding on because we hadn’t asked her to let go. I hadn’t asked her.

That’s what moms do. They never give up. They never stop until their kids ask them to stop. They do what’s best even if it is excruciatingly hard.

I did finally ask her to let go. “Mama, it’s ok. You can go. Please just let go. We will be ok. I will be ok.” She did. She let go in the early hours of the next morning.

That’s why Mother’s Day is so hard for me. I see that moment all day every Mother’s Day, every day. I don’t think back to her last moments on this Earth, but I do remember that moment.

It doesn’t matter if I am a good mom. It doesn’t matter that I won’t let go until they ask me to. All that matters for me on Mother’s Day, is that she wouldn’t. I had that. What I still need to remember though is that the bear hugs that I feel mean that she still won’t ever totally let go. Ever. She will always be here. Holding me. Loving me. Pushing me forward through every moment. Supporting me in those really tough ones and enjoying the really good ones. There will be really good ones. She will be there.

Maybe that moment is meant to stick to me. Maybe I need to look at it in a new light to move on from it. I will always be there for my children and she will always be there for me. That is what I need to celebrate on this day. The reality of that. Maybe then I can enjoy the runny eggs and wilted flowers..

 

 

finding myself, home, kids, mindfulness, moving on, self worth, sticky floors, Uncategorized

Moms Have Messy Floors and Messy Lives

My house is a constantly evolving mess. It’s everywhere. My kids have numerous chores that they begrudgingly do, but it is still a hot mess.

Class papers threaten to multiply and take over every flat surface in my house (I attempt to combine them so that there is only one large stack every couple of hours). There are dirty socks that coat my floors, stripped off in sock balls and thrown down wherever they are taken off. Cups half full of water sit everywhere in my house, making me wonder how many each child uses a day. Toilet seats always sport sprinkles and there is never a day where gloops of toothpaste aren’t cemented to each sink throughout the house. Dirty dishes? I’ve got them ten fold, even after we have mostly switched to paper plates!

Some days, I tackle the clutter but then the underlying dirtiness shines through. There is insidious dirt that lives at my sliding door, dragged in from the outside, deposited on the hardwoods and then spread by stocking feet throughout the house. One minute vacuumed, the next a hopeless of mess of backyard debris. The slider is our link to the backyard, even though I had another door installed off the mudroom with the intention of it being the outside egress, the slider gets all the attention.

It’s a constant battle with nature, the tendency for things to go towards chaos. The threatening of nature always trying to return to its primitive state.

Maybe this is why I watch so many home improvement shows with there updated and serene spaces. I understand that they are “made for TV” houses. That fact is not lost on me. They are completely staged. Once the show is over, the furniture and nick nacks are removed and the families move in, their mismatched possessions take over and from there disorder ensues. There is something about those houses, though, that is so clean and stripped of mess, with so much promise for an ordered life. I can just imagine what it would be like to live in those spaces, anxiety and stress lowered.

My house is a tragic mess lately. Two months ago, I switched our house cleaners from every other week to once a month. Last month, I stopped the cleaners all together. Quite honestly, cleaners are expensive and they were just too much for my budget. Imagine cleaning your house but then multiply the number of people in your house by two to three, add one shedding dog and any number of child playmates. At any time, our small house could be harboring 5-9 kids, all with their own appropriate age toy mess and food crumbs. The sheer number of kids and friends is something that I would never want to give up. Don’t get me wrong, I love their craziness. Cleaning up after kids though, is a full time job. Cleaning up after all of my kids is a high paced marathon with absolutely no finish line. Someone once said that cleaning with kids is like trying to “brush your teeth while eating an Oreo.” So true.

Lately, it seems like I am trying even harder, but still getting nowhere in the battle.   My home reflects my state of mind. Right now, my house is out of control and a mess, just like my life. It’s like a tornado and it sucks to live in it. I can fix it up with the illusion of “put away-ness”, but if you look closely, stuff is hidden in dark closets here, always ready to spill out.

This morning as I was cleaning up my umpteenth dirty dock I got to thinking about the sayings “Excuse the mess. My children are making memories” and my other favorite, “Good moms have sticky floors, messy kitchens, laundry piles, dirty ovens and happy kids”. I think that I use these sayings as a scapegoat for my inability to keep a tidy house. First and foremost though, let me get this straight with all of you… I have never had a clean oven. Let’s get that out of the way before I continue. That would be a monumental effort that I am certain I will never get too. My oven regularly sets off the fire alarm with the amount of burn off smoke. True, I have sticky floors because I have so many kids and I just can’t get it all done. Kids spill and in my case, stick stickers to the floor. My kitchen is always messy because I am constantly cycling through meals so that breakfast dishes always get pushed to lunch meal cleanup and then often stretching out until dinner pickup.  It makes me wonder why the open floor plan was such a great… It’s open and people can see the dirty dishes! The piles of laundry are a consequence of at least twelve outfits a day being stripped off onto the floor. Sometimes, I feel like I have become the Old Lady Who Lived In a Shoe. She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.

I hope that I am really not the only one who hides piles of stuff and that we all have sticky floors because we are just really messy. If not, I am pulling out a skeleton in the closet that I am just dirty. I’m guessing, although I can’t be sure, that we are all in the same boat. So why do we stress about getting it clean??!! Why does an unexpected ringing of the door bell strike fear in my heart?

June Cleaver always seemed to have such a clean house. She found time, when not preparing the perfect meal, to sit and enjoy a book (not a trashy tabloid) in a nice armchair with her ankles crossed. She always had on her adorable dress, neatly pressed, and heals, swathed in a lovely apron. The door bell would ring and she would strip out of that apron, poof her perfectly done hair and answer the door with a smile, always ready to bring out a hospitable tray with refreshments. If there was such a thing as a messy bun and yoga pants, do you think that she really would have worn them?!

Ready for this statement though? It might shatter your reality.  Is it possible that it’s all an illusion.  An illusion we (women), buy into even if it’s at an unconscious level? Is it even possible to attain that picturesque life? Maybe I am perpetuating the myth to my children that women can keep a clean house and teach my kids to read before they are two. Can I really always look perfectly put together and never get frazzled? Will my children feel the same when they are grown?

I can get over the not-so perfect clothing I choose or the dust bunnies that are getting bigger each day. My biggest issue is whether my kids are actually happy and if we are making any memories other than them watching TV and doing homework. I wield TV like a treat, an expert babysitter. When not cleaning, I am driving them to their seventeen activities each afternoon and evening? What happened to family board game night and playing pass in the yard? Sometimes, we get outside and they ride bikes or draw with chalk. More likely than not, if I am “participating” in any of these activities, it is in a chair with a glass of wine in my hands, pretending to watch them.  True, I had five kids and this is what I signed up for, but does that mean that I am still working towards making them happy or providing a clean organized house?

I feel guilty that I am not making those great memories with them. Their lives are not easy these days. Try as I might, to shield them from high emotions and changes, they are just as scared of the unknown as I am. I want to give them the order of a tidy house that I/they need to lower their anxiety levels. I want them to feel like even though the world is spinning out of control, at least they have a clean place to live and a pair of beloved pants in the drawer.  Is this what they really need, now or ever? I am wondering if providing this life for them is coming at the cost of not making memories that involve great times with mom.

Maybe cleaning has become just a scapegoat for not spending time, too. There are days when I am so sad or angry that I just don’t want to play. I want to hide at the kitchen sink and wash endless amounts of dishes so that I don’t have to have to play another round of imaginary doctor. “Please play with me?” “Not now, Brody, I have to finish the laundry.” Isn’t this selfish? A big chunk of me feels it is.

I think it really all comes back to the fact that I am beating myself up for not living up to all that I feel like I should be, something I have always done but now in increasing levels since my separation. Weighing on my mind… my marriage is a big fail, so I am a big fail. Not only am I not keeping up in the marriage department, but I am failing on the mom and house cleaning level. I am just failing.

Somebody let me off the hook! Give me the magic pill to take the guilt away and let me realize that, just maybe, I am good enough just the way that I am. Tell me that I am doing the best that I can with the circumstances being what they are. Tell me that someday it will get better, easier. Would hearing it all from you make me feel any better? Probably not.  Sorry.

In reality, all that really needs to happen, is that I need to let myself off the hook.  The biggest problem in this situation is that I am searching for the validation from a place that I really shouldn’t be looking for it, everyone else. Validation needs to lie in me, a belief about myself. It’s all about self worth. Well, there it is. Maybe that is why I am finding peace and relief in this blog. It is making me feel like I can share and be okay with who I am and how I think. I’m out there and people aren’t judging me harshly (at least not to my face) for what I am writing. It’s helping me gain that worth in myself that I really feel like I have always been missing.

In the end, I need to realize that I am doing the best that I can, in this moment. That maybe tomorrow, things will be cleaner and I will find that time to fit in that board game… and just maybe, I need to find a way to get a larger junk closet to hide all the mess!