My therapist asked me recently when the last time was I felt good in my body. I told her about being a slightly overweight, awkward 13-year-old, in a new neighborhood, worried that I wouldn’t be able to meet anyone before I started school. How wrong I was. The neighborhood was full of kids my age who instantly inculded me in their group and their activities. By the time school started, I had loads of friends and was involved in lots of school activities. It didn’t matter that I had bad skin, wore glasses, sported hand-made clothes, and was somewhat chubby. I was accepted for who I was and was encouraged to participate. As far as how I felt in my body? I felt free, uninhibited, unselfconscious, and relaxed.
Forty-some years later, I’m trying to recall another time when I felt that good. When your world is constant worry and pain, it’s hard to push all that aside and try to visualize when I was relaxed. I came close in August 2007. My oldest and youngest children and I spent the day at the community pool. We read books, we talked, we played pool games we hadn’t played since they were very young. My daughter left early to go to work and my oldest and I floated lazily in the late afternoon sun, chatting with an older couple about school, music, aspirations. We went home and showered, put on clean clothes, puttered around doing our own separate relaxing things, ate supper, and relaxed some more. My body felt tired, but the comfortable tired from having been out in the fresh air and exercising in a pool all day. My muscles had melted and I drifted off into a comfortable nap. Too soon I heard a loud voice in my head yell “Emily’s tuition!” and I was instantly awake. We were in the process of getting Emily ready for her first year of school, so I know this thought had been brewing in the back of my mind. It was something different, however, that woke me so suddenly; I had never in my life been awakened in such a startling fashion. I felt there was something else at work, something devious, disastrous.
The next night was Sunday. Emily, Barret and I finished supper, played a game, then turned off the TV to go our own ways when the phone rang. Barret answered, and by the look on his face, I knew my premonition had been correct. As a parent, the last words you ever expect to hear coming from your 19-year-old son’s mouth are “mom–dad’s dead.” It was chaos from that moment as we rushed to pack bags and get on the road to Atlanta to be with Casey. It’s been inner turmoil for me ever since. I feel like I’m not being a good parent unles I’m constantly worrying about everything. I believe all the physical ailments I suffer are because of the worrying I do. I can’t relax. I can’t focus on what’s really important. I don’t have fun any more. I feel I’m being punished for things I’ve done in my past that may have hurt myself and others. The physical and emotional pain is all around me like a thick fog and I am having a really difficult time clearing it away to get to the ecstasy. I don’t even believe there ever will be ecstasy for me again. I don’t believe in the Christian version of heaven or hell; I believe you make your own heaven or hell right here on earth while you’re alive. I have created my own personal hell and can’t find my way out. I’m lonely and scarred from tremendous psychological pain. I’m scared that the phone is going to ring and cause more chaos and worry. I’m afraid I’ll lose focus so much at my job they’ll fire me, and then I’ll be homeless and my children will have no home. I don’t have any good memories or good times to replace all the worries. I fear that I am so focused on worries my children will give up wanting to spend time with me.
I guess I’ll take being an awkward 13-year-old with zits over the massive bundle of worries I’ve created for myself now. I always remember Debra Winger’s line from “Terms of Endearment”: It’s so hard sometimes you’ll find yourself wishing it was that easy. Or something trivial like that. I know I’m making all of this harder than it has to be. But I’m lost in a maze and can’t find my way out. Occasionally I keep the small slips of paper that come out of fortune cookies. I squirrel them away in places where months later I find them and contemplate whether they were truly a fortune. I found one a few months back that said “you will emerge victorious from the maze you’ve been traveling in.” I’m still waiting. I don’t know where to start.
Does anyone have any ideas?
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