03 January 2013

The Middle of a Journey

I keep promising to get back to blogging.  I have the tools now, so there should be no excuses.  Yet, I sit here wondering where to start.  In my head there are days worth of thoughts and ideas, but to put them into words...

A new year, a vaguely arbitrary human construct in the vastness of the universe, symbolic nonetheless, gives many a sense of new beginning, a chance to make changes, a point in time to fashion new hopes, the start of a 365 day journey.  For me it is a place I look back on the "last year" and look ahead at all the potential of the "new year."  The last year has served to strip me down, break me, and leave me metaphorically naked.  I guess in so many ways I could view this as a fresh start, almost like being reborn.  And yet, all I really feel is lost.

At the beginning of a journey it would seem that you are not lost, usually you know where you are because you are starting out from a known place.  At the end of a journey, I assume you would also know where you are, otherwise how would you know it was the end?  In a life journey, the end is pretty obvious and rather certain.  I guess I am not at the beginning of a journey, nor am I ready to be at the end.  I find that I must be in the midst of one.  In the last year, I started a new portion of my journey and I guess I must have lost the map.  Both circumstantially and through conscious decision I find myself wandering in uncharted territory.  It seems time to chart where I have been, learn to embrace my fear of the unknown and build the strength to forge ahead. Only then, I may have any hope of finding new and extraordinary wonders.  It is time to start making my own map.  I think I need to lighten my load and to do that I need to get rid of some baggage and make room for new tools and treasures.  

Lightening the load.  Please do not feel obligated to read further.  Some of what follows may seem like whining, it is intended only as a cathartic exercise, for me. Anyone who wishes to understand why I feel lost, may find insight in what I need to purge.

I find myself constantly coming round to this internal need to reach a place of honesty about my current place and situation.  I have so many thoughts on the whole thing I am not sure I can get it all out, and it is sure to be a little less than clear in some areas.  I am not clear myself on some things, but am in search of understanding and this may help.

Life has been a blur for the past 3 years.  Many changes, many decisions, many ups and many downs.  Three years ago, we were living with my grandparents in order to save money for a house of our own.  This plan was a bit less effective than originally intended due to the fact that I was laid off from my decent paying job, just shortly after hatching the idea.  We looked at it as a blessing due to the fact that it would relieve some of the burden of my being without work.  I puttered for far too long, dreaming up poorly completed ideas and eventually getting a fill in job as a administrative substitute with the school district.  I became desperate for a place of our own, letting too many silly ideas and knee jerk opinions push me into a blind pursuit of "independence."

Long story short, I pushed us into the first place that seemed workable.  We had a list of necessities and I managed to justify a great deal to make the place we now live fit.  I just wanted to be me, to be an adult, to have "my own dirt."  There are many pluses to our decision, there are many minuses too.

Fast forward to the honest truth.  We live in a single wide mobile (I initially insisted on referring to as a "manufactured home."  Pride and denial talking.)  It is quite possibly the least ideal structure to live in the Colorado Mountains, at 9000 ft.  We have a lovely property with loads of potential, but very little possibility of my insane ideas ever coming to fruition.  (But maybe 2013's action word, believe, will lead to better opportunities.)  This is not so much the tragedy I make it out to be sometimes, though comments made shortly after we got our "home" made it hard for me to feel good about my forcing us into this place.  At the outset the whole thing seemed workable and freeing.

My second knee-jerk decision in retrospect seems like the beginning of the downward spiral.  I decided I wanted to add a little person to our lives.  There is so much "beautiful" about this decision, it makes me feel guilty to even shed light on the troubled aspects of the whole thing.  But honest is honest.  We made a "plan" and then it promptly went completely a different direction.  Again long story short, we were more successful than initially imagined and everything went into fast forward.  All this was very workable.  I was going to handle budget, insurance, etc. to make sure we handled things to the best advantage.  It was going to be great - a grand adventure.

Then Ivan lost his job, and with it our benefits.  It is a scary place to be in the midst of a pregnancy and suddenly have no care.  This led to a mad scramble, a lot of avoidance of certain "options", a lot of putting pride aside and many hard decisions.  The story of the scramble alone is a somewhat interesting story in itself, but today we will leave it at that.  The end result of a lot of tears, research, phone calls and interviews was that our only option was to accept the assistance of the state.  I felt like the worlds eyes were on me, judging.  I have heard enough cruel comments in my life about "low life creeps living off the government" to make me more than ashamed.  It was a hard decision, but I justified it by putting my child ahead of my pride.  I figured, we would be as undemanding as possible, and we would get back to where we were, things would sort and be fine.

Pregnancy was fun, I loved the whole experience.  I got used to our situation, Ivan went back to work at his old company, still no benefits, the company was too small and profits to low to offer employee benefits.  Ah well, it was a decent place to work and a necessary service to society.  It would all work out, right? 

I had a dream.  I eagerly wrote out our birth plan, prepared everything for our natural birth experience, even fighting to find an obstetrician who would support me in my dream.  Third trimester arrived, a healthy little girl in our future.  It had been a great pregnancy, easy.  Baby is breach.  I try to cling to the hope that she will still turn, we have options.  I try inversions, daily, three times daily, using my ironing board propped up to lay on, clothes pins on pressure points in my toes, flashlights shown to my bulging belly, any old wives tale will do.  Bent the ironing board in my desperate attempts to cling to my dream birth.  All along I prepared for a natural birth, frankly terrified of a c-section, and more so the spinal anesthesia.  Last days, we try an external cephalic version (turning the baby manually from the outside), to no avail.  We set the date for my "scheduled c-section."  I felt ill.  Babies are supposed to pick their birthdays, like magic, a miraculous call to be born that only they can hear.  I couldn't even pick her due date, the doctor was off that day.  Ambivalence starts to creep in. 

Light in the dark. The day after my final appointment before the dreaded "scheduled c-section" I take a job at the school, figuring we set the date, this kid is not coming anytime soon.  My water breaks at lunch passing period at the high school.  Awkward.  Then it all went quickly from there, resembling nothing in my carefully thought out birth plan.  I cling to this day to the high points.  My baby chose her birthday, I got to experience my water breaking, a few contractions - SHE IS BEAUTIFUL AND HEALTHY.   

The darkness closes in.  Despite everyone's assurances that I would be fine, no way I would have any trouble after, not to worry about postpartum depression, things did not go well.  Dreams were ripped from my grasping hands.  Having a c-section is like having the end of a gripping drama erased, missing, lost.  I almost feel like I never had a baby.  I went from pregnant to having an infant, there was no closure to the 9 months of waiting and preparing.  In 15 minutes it was done.  I was the least important person in the room that day, cut off from the entire experience.  Never even touched my girl before she was whisked away and I was forgotten in an instant.  I was okay being second fiddle to our beautiful new life, I expected it.  I did not expect to be lost, alone, broken in recovery, slipping into a state of detachment and pain. 

I didn't feel a lot that day.  It really was mostly just blank.  I didn't feel a lot in the days, weeks, months that followed.  I was lost.  I was alone.  Promises that were made were quickly forgotten or possibly avoided.  I felt avoided.  I know my attitude was off, I know I was hard to be around.  The loneliness served to solidify my state.  I took good care of my new girl.  I didn't find a lot of pleasure in the new tasks, but I did them well.  I felt like I couldn't feel.  Things seemed dark.  I was depressed.  Very few people came. I imagined in what seemed like a distant past, that people would want to come.  They didn't.  I wanted help, but was afraid to ask.  Afraid to admit that I was unsure.  Few offered.  I slipped into a state of perpetual motion.  I started to feel pain, not physical, just the ache of regret.  Regret for making plans, the regret of the cruel fate, the regret of each day.  I regretted not being joyful, I regretted not doing more, I regretted living in a haze of depression.  I moved through the motions wanting there to be more.

For a year I went through the motions.  My girl turned one.  I tried to make it a good day.  Something that would look good in pictures, so that someday I could look back and remember how "good" it was.  Much of the first year felt like trying to make memories, trying to fabricate emotions.  I cared for the little one, I loved her, but why couldn't I feel anything.  Some say that when you birth a baby the "normal way" that there is a "cocktail" of hormones that is released that initiates, even kick starts the bonding process.  I would believe it.  I didn't feel like I had the right connection, like I missed some crucial part of the process. But I cared! I know I did.  I just couldn't feel it the right way.

The darkness gets darker.  In the last year, the gritty realness of life settled in.  Our life slowly imploded.  We were holding on by our fingernails already, trying to keep our little ship afloat until Ivan could finish his teaching degree.  We would hold out, the job he had would be a great transitional job, good on a resume.  We could make it, just a little over a year, we could hold on just a little longer.  We tightened out belts, budgeted and budgeted some more, squeezed pennies, accepted a little assistance here or there, putting pride aside for our girl.  Ivan's company self destructed in the spring.  Our well pump broke, my car quit.  I had quit working at the school to be a stay at home mom, one last dream to cling to.  Besides, school was just about over, substituting wasn't even and option.  Ivan takes a few odd jobs, sends out resumes.  The dog itches.  I sink deeper into the dark.  More resumes sent.  Dog itches.  More things wear out or break.  Nothing can be replaced, some too expensive to fix.  More resumes, more itching. 

We start tying knots in the metaphorical rope.  We can hold out.  Ivan will have more opportunities as the school year approaches.  We hope.  Our pride takes another hit.  Mustering all my honesty, I relate this detail of my journey.  We discover bedbugs.  I am devastated.  I cry.  A lot.  We throw our bed away.  I don't care much anymore anyway.  We have figured it out up to this point.  We can do without a bed too.  We scour the house, throw tons of things away in my paranoia.  We treat the whole house and cross our fingers.

Car still dead, dog still itches, more resumes, and now no bed.  Having no bed seems like a last straw where my pride is concerned.  I don't want people to come over anymore, it is too embarrassing.  I feel even more isolated.  Dog must go to the vet he is so itchy he has licked his toes into infection and is ripping his gorgeous hair out.  No answers yet, just a lot of expensive possibles.  School year starts, still no job.  Things seem bleak.  We are having trouble making ends meet.  Our grocery budget has been tight and now it is taking a hit to pay bills, glad I like beans.  Life seems impossible.  Pride stripped, we return to Human Services.  

Small ray of light.  Ivan gets a job offer.  He takes it.  It pays less than unemployment each month, but we pray it is going to be a good decision in the long run.  I give up on being a stay at home mom.  Resumes go out.  No interest.  I go back to the school, at least they want me and the job has flexibility.  Dog gets fleas. I see a counselor.  I struggle with guilt issues, depression, regret, the list goes on. Dog meets something stinky. Twice. (Poor guy.)  We get assistance, I feel ashamed to use it.  Think of my girl. 

My girl.  There was a wonderful thing that happened in the last year.  I learned the joy of being a mother.  Finally.  I learned to feel again.  I found me again - in Phoebe.  She gives me strength, she gives me hope, she makes me smile inside and out!  She is the truth in my life.  She has helped me struggle through the things I need to struggle through.  She inspires me to love Ivan more.  She has taught me to feel again, to dream, to play, to hope, to try to believe.

Things outwardly have in many ways gotten worse.  We are certainly "impoverished," holding on by a thread and the good graces of other peoples generosity, living check to check and never having enough.  The truck broke in a big way.  The dog has been in to the vet consistently to little improvement, I struggle with worry over my "first baby," my fuzzy buddy.  Insurance is due this month, I have more money being hedged on my credit card than I have ever charged in my life.  We eat by the grace of food stamps, we have medical coverage for the first time in years thanks to Medicaid, kind people have anonymously helped us over the last two months.  I push guilt and shame aside every day.  But Ivan and I are trying.  We work one and a half jobs between us, he goes to school full time, we parent full time, we keep hope.  We are working on belief.  

There is light in the dark.  I remind myself everyday that we are moving forward.  That we have hope of better jobs and new opportunities.  In the mean time, I am learning to ask for and accept help.  I am dealing with issues I should have dealt with long ago, learning to be a better person.  I am growing and so is Phoebe.  We are all growing together.  We are learning to be a better, stronger family.  Ivan and I are learning to be a better couple.  I am learning to be more honest.  I am learning to turn hope into belief.  I am finding inspiration and motivation.  Discovering who my true friends are, letting some friends go and trying to seek out new friends and directions.  We will make it.  We have to.

So here I am a little lost.  But I am finding my direction.  I am embracing the truth of where I have been, lightening my load through honesty, building strength to forge ahead, and learning to use belief as a tool.  I may not know what is ahead, and that is a little scary, but I am mapping a new course from here!  On to a new part of my journey.