Saturday, July 15, 2006


So I've learned some things in the last 364 days. Here are a few of those things...

Panic attacks don't last forever. Having experienced even one, one's ability to empathize with folks of any disadvantage grows as does one's sense of place in the universe. We are each of us teeny specks, practically insignificant in many ways, completely essential in others. A panic attack (or several) serves as nothing else to reduce one's hopes and expectations and to knock one back a few steps.

The light of Grace is everywhere. In the darkest moments, in the sweetest. In the beginnings and endings in life and life itself. It is hard sometimes to recognize while wading (or drowning) in a sea of indescribable pain, but when one dries one's feet after the wading, it is there in the soft, warm sand and salty water, ebbingandflowing, ebbingandflowing. It is there in the cheering section who have shown up on the beach to make sure you don't imminently need the life guard. It is there in the towel, warmed by the sun, warding off the chilling breeze. It is there in the temporary castles, the crabs, the kelp, even the sharks.

It is possible, even required, to pray for one's "enemies." Sometimes this means growing one's humility quotient, sometimes it means asking God to hold oneself back from behaving in truly violent ways, even if those ways would be appropriate under the circumstances and encouraged under Old Testament law. Sometimes it means raging to God and asking that fire (or pestilence, plagues, famine) be rained down upon certain heads, even while one recognizes that God, thankfully, is still God, and no one else gets to make those kinds of decisions.

I can carry a 19+ pound baby in his car seat on one arm and a sleepy 40 pound girl on the other, with diaper bag and purse looped over my shoulders, up twelve steps and sidewalk into the house. Then, with lightning speed, bed down said girl, encourage bigger ones into bed, hugs and kisses all around, grab my own jammies, brush teeth, dole out vitamins, tuck in all and do prayers. Only then, when the rest are down for the night, will the punkin begin to fuss. But it's okay now, because I've taken care of everyone else, including myself (surprise), and can turn my attention to the baby. (And thanks, mom, for getting up to change him so I could finish collecting paperwork for the next day's adventures.) This sort of scenario occurs at least once a week in varying forms, though I did astonish myself with the carrying of two kids and stuff besides. And if you're a mama, you know that's how you have to do it, because if you don't, someone will begin to fuss and then everyone will be fussing because they're too tired not to, and then it's all over and several hours later you're still mopping tears and blood off the floor and just grateful that no one's dead, yourself included.

I can write about things I can't talk about. I can write a lot. You should see the notebooks. It took me months to get my brain to move fast enough to be able to think as fast as I could type, so there's pages and pages of longhand, then this blog, plus reams of things for other specific purposes. Somehow, once it's written, it's easier to speak of. Easier to organize in my head, to process and file away or dismiss altogether (though there's not much of that going on these days, sadly).

I am tougher than I had ever dreamed, and I knew before last July that I was no fragile flower (though I have since kind of wished I was). The title of the blog came to me in the days following the initial revelations. I've always been fascinated with brain function--I think of myself as a brain function junkie. I don't get it, really, but I can't get enough information about it. When I was in massage school, I became sort of fixated on the dura mater (tough mother), the membrane which encases and protects the brain. So a year ago, after the confessions, when I was thinking about how I wanted to be after the inevitable coming chaos dissipated (inevitably), it hit me that I would need to brace myself securely and for the long term on behalf of the kids. It is easier in a two-parent home to use the interplay between parents to do much in the way of non-verbal or non-specific modeling and explaining life to one's children, especially if that home is functional and mostly happy. That's how it's supposed to work and it's a good thing. When doing this parenting thing alone, every little event and detail (never mind the big ones) takes on new, exhausting importance. At the time I was learning of my new reality, I had only the vaguest of notions about it. While I'm sure I still have no practical clue as to the scope of need to "get it right" over the lifetimes of the kids, I'm beginning to. My role is to be tough mother to my crew, to lay a filter over their hearts and minds, to protect them, to allow and encourage their spiritual, emotional, physical, intellectual and mental growth and development, no matter other difficulties. Add in Q's special needs, and Dura Mater suddenly takes on ironic meaning, given particularly his neurological issues. I love irony. But I don't much like living it.

Disgust and moral certainty by themselves get you nowhere. Being right is of very little practical use. This does not make me happy. I would prefer that being right carried as benefits a generous stipend and use of a lovely home on the Mediterranean.

It is possible to do this, to live this, and ever so much more heinous things and still be a happy person. It is possible to view people as basically nice, the world as a basically safe place, not extra scary, just because of betrayal, humiliation and drama. It is possible to separate out personal pain from the needs of the children and act on behalf of those childrens' best interests, long or short term, even while one's heart and head are cracking in half. It is possible to hope and work for good things and revel in what is, while mourning tragic, needless loss. It is possible to be a whole person always, even while feeling the wee-est bit truncated. All things are possible, yes they are.

These are some of the things I've learned since July 15, 2005. I wonder what this next year brings?


erin said...

(((Carrie))) you are truly an inspiration. I hope the next year brings many new wonders for you and yours.

Bob & Claire said...

You are an inspiration to me too--a tough and beautiful woman and mother! You are so often in my prayers, and I pray for a calmer next year for you, one filled with healing and joy.

AFwife Claire

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