My heart hurts. As I went about my day -- writing papers, sitting through classes, laughing with friends, walking around campus -- a dull ache persisted and continues to persist. This is the same dull ache I've had for quite some time now...going on a year, in fact. There are times, however, when it seems to demand my attention instead of quietly forming the background of my life. Lately such has been the case.
I was home last week for Thanksgiving break. I knew it would be difficult; it would be the first extended period of time I would spend at home since summer. Mom has changed in so many ways, and none of them have been for the better. Surprisingly, I handled things well for most of the week. I had prepared myself for what I was going home to and I had the prayer support of countless friends and professors. A very unexpected peace surrounded me as I was exposed to the harsh reality of the person my mom is becoming. But like they say, all good things come to an end.
Sometimes the hard moments come in big emotional outbursts or catastrophic events. Sometimes, though, the hard moments sneak in through the backdoor and quietly tear away at my ability to be "okay". Sunday was like that. After lunch, Mom and I were going to decorate our Christmas tree. Brian had already put it up and readied it for ornaments. The holiday tradition for decorating the tree has been the same for as long as I can remember. We get out all the ornaments, taking away all the protective tissue paper and setting aside the boxes. Before any ornament is placed on the tree, we spread them all out on the floor and spend time reminiscing. Every ornament on our tree has a story behind it, whether it's a gift from a friend, a souvenir from vacation, or a craft made in elementary school. We joke, laugh, tell stories, and get sentimental over the decorations. As you can probably imagine, this year was different. First, Mom started hanging ornaments on the tree before I even got in the room. Once I started helping, she stopped and sat down. I asked her what she was doing and she said, "Oh, I just want to watch you for a little bit. I'm not done yet." But she never got back up to finish decorating; she just sat. As I continued, I tried to engage her in our tradition by talking about each ornament as I found a perfect spot for it on the tree. She didn't say much of anything at all. She never says much of anything at all anymore.
Through the duration of my time at home (which was only a couple more hours), I was fine. The difference certainly did not go unnoticed, but I was the picture of holiday cheer as I tried to keep the mood happy and light, singing Christmas songs and sharing my excitement about the upcoming season. However, I haven't been able to shake it off since. Such a small thing as the breaking of a Christmas tradition has yet again pointed out the fact that life, home, family...will never be the same. Never. Short of a miracle, things will not only be different but will continue to worsen. And again, as I left, Brian stayed. He gets no reprieve. His heart hurts too...I can see it in every expression, with every movement, in everything he says and leaves unsaid. And we grieve.
I am starting to feel like I sound like a broken record. And as much as I am dealing with the same things over and over again, the difficulty is fresh and new every day. Every morning when I wake up, I feel the weight of guilt and grief, and I carry it around with me everywhere I go. Sometimes when I am able to step back from myself, I realize that I am afraid of who this is turning me into. I can be mean now. I can snap at people and brush aside their needs as a self-defense mechanism. I can be bitter, cynical, and pessimistic. I can indulge my negative coping strategies and justify my actions readily. I can distance myself from my mom when that's the easy way out. I could never do those things before.
Just another day for me, I suppose. It has been a good day...I have spent time with friends I love and gotten some work done. But even the good days are clouded. Case in point, here I am, at the end of a good day, spilling my emotional guts onto a computer screen because I don't think I can go to sleep if it's still locked in my head. I welcome your comments and thank you for stopping by.