Thursday, July 22, 2010

When do I tell?

I can't not talk about my family. I love them as much now as I ever did, and the fact that they're gone doesn't mean I lose the right to brag about them.

People were complimenting me on my belt today, and asking me where I got it. Like about half my wardrobe, it was a gift from my mom. At some point, this led into a conversation about the incredible fashionista she was, and how proud she was of me when I started becoming more interested in fashion.

I feel like I lie to people - when they refer to her (or my dad, or my brother) using the present tense, and I don't correct them. I feel as though I'm consciously and intentionally deceiving them. But do I have a right to - in the middle of a friend's birthday party - say "oh, well, she passed away"? Of course I do, it has nothing to do with rights. But somehow it's my responsibility to protect people from the same style of emotions I experience. The shock, the not knowing how to react, the fears of one's own current situation. It's my responsibility because if I don't take that responsibility, I end up an outcast. I made that mistake once. I ended up having to extricate myself from a community because I was no longer viewed as 'normal.'

But at what point is it appropriate for me to tell the truth? Or, at least, to put an end to the assumptions? I never have lied about the situation, though I have on occasion told partial truths.

At the end of the night, a friend and I were walking in the same direction toward our homes. It came to a point where he was calling me a girly-girl, and then he started to say that when I was 30 my mom and I would go shopping and go out on the town and have a blast. For me -- immediate grief. I went dead silent. What do I say? I've gotten to know him over the past few weeks, but do I know him well enough to cut into his merry disposition to tell him she's dead?

I was lucky enough that we hit my street, and we parted ways before it could progress. (I think he may have assumed my silence was a hesitation to believe that my mom and I could hit the town as friends. He countered it with, "Oh yeah, you will!"). I walked home trying my best not to start crying. I could so easily have stopped his conjecture (which, in my world, is now pure fantasy) and ended my pain, but instead for 'his' sake - or the sake of my newly-found friendship with him - I suffered and let him prattle on.

I don't think I would've even had the heart to let him know that the words he considered kind were like hollow-point bullets --- right through the armour.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


It's said that in order to escape chronic worrying and find consistent happiness, one must be able to accept that there is an amount of uncertainty in everything.


That's fine if you still have a feeling of immortality. I remember that feeling. Nothing bad had ever happened to you or the ones you love, so you feel as though (in a solipsistic way) you're immune to life's inevitable pitfalls. At that point, I was able to accept uncertainty. Embrace it, in fact, for it usually meant that something surprisingly wonderful might come along.

Chronic anxiety and worry stems from the idea that your 'worst case scenario' will occur. It is so highly unlikely that it is never, in any case, worth the amount of worrying put in. My problem is: my worst case scenario (the only scenario I could imagine that would truly pull the rug out from beneath my feet) did occur -- and it was when I least suspected it.

I suppose I've been classically conditioned now to believe that the worst will occur. I'm absolutely aware of where that belief comes from, and I try my best to think rationally - but that does not stop the fear. My next worst case scenario would be to be diagnosed with a fatal and incurable illness, and it doesn't help that grief produces some pretty frightening symptoms.

I've had nausea, diarrhea, extreme and chronic fatigue, infections, a weakened immune system, increased hunger, decreased hunger, increased thirst, headaches -- even heart palpitations (in the middle of class, too; that was scary as hell). For the last 5 months I've had a consistent pain and tingling in my arms, legs, hands and the back of my neck. I'd like to believe that it's also due to the grief, but as my luck has been going, it's more likely to be a brain tumour. So I've seen doctor after doctor after nurse after specialist, I've had a CT and a ton of neurological tests, and an MRI booked for next month. One by one, each test comes back with perfectly normal results. I should be happy. This should spell relief to me - it must be, in the end, psychosomatic stress. All I can think, though, is that it just means it's a rare, obscure, and fatal ailment that only the MRI will be robust enough to pick up.

And you know what? If I could call my mom and tell her how scary this has all been, her reassuring words would probably be all that I'd need to feel normal again. I even tried that once. Some woman who had been assigned my mom's old cell number picked up. "Hello? Hello? ...Hello?" And I just sat there, silent, and absolutely bewildered that it wasn't in fact my mom who picked up, though she'd been dead for months.

So, instead, I guess I'm going to keep thinking every ache or twitch will be the one that will kill me.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I, Orphan

I am 21 years old. A year and a half ago, I lost my mom, my dad, and my eldest brother - all of the people in my life who acted as mentors, role models, and reliable confidants.

In a moment of grief, I confided in one of my dearest friends that I hated being an orphan. He said to me:

"Orphans are children who can't fend for themselves. You are a strong woman, not a child."

It was a beautiful sentiment, and it gave me the courage I needed to overcome what I was feeling in the moment. But his words did nothing to dispel the feeling that sustains.

It depends on your definition, I suppose. Perhaps being well beyond the age of majority prevents me from being labeled as an 'orphan.' (Then again, as 'compensation' for having no parents, the government gives me "Orphan's Benefits" from their CPPs.) At times I certainly feel guilty for having that feeling, because for essentially my entire development I had the love and nurturing of both of my parents under the same roof. That is a lot more than many people can say.

But I promise you: the feeling is there, and it is more painful than can be described. There is nothing more important in this world than having someone who will love you unconditionally and for always. That is what we seek in a significant other, and that is what many very lonely people seek in having a child. It provides a comfort that you take for granted. However much you worry that one day you'll lose your job and end up living in a ditch, you at least know (if even in the very depths of your unconscious) that someone's love for you will remain consistent. You could kill a stranger in cold blood just for a laugh, and when all of society thinks you a monster, you would have someone to visit you in prison, write you letters, and try their very best to help you get well.

I had that. And my God, did I take it for granted.

I won't be so foolish as to say the family that I still have doesn't love me, or that no one would visit me if I ended up in prison. But that feeling of safety no longer exists. The knowledge that I can always call my Mommy if I'm scared is now a lie. If a boyfriend doesn't treat me well, my Daddy has no way of avenging me by tracking him down and scaring the shit out of him. (Though, I suppose - and here's hoping! - my Dad could haunt him). The brother who always defended me, always took my side against our parents, and was always my first resource when I needed something - from him, now I get nothing but radio silence.

It feels like:
- I'm on a boat in the middle of the ocean, and my paddles suddenly floated far away.
- I was walking down a plank when it suddenly became a tightrope.
- I'm walking in an alley at night and my phone has just died.

Sure, I'm still going. Yeah, I'll probably make it to safety just fine. But it's become a hell of a lot scarier.

Having that feeling pervade every moment, waking or otherwise, of my makes me feel nothing like a strong woman and everything like a scared, orphan child.