Letters to My Son

This begins a series as we prepare for the next step in the care of our special needs son. He is being referred for brain surgery in the next few months. To follow our journey, I have decided to express my thoughts about the process through letters I will write to my son. This is the first of hopefully many over the course of this scary and hopeful journey.

image

Letter 2:

image

Dear Little Buddy,

We are still waiting for the call to schedule your visit to the neurosurgeon. The longer we wait, the more I ponder the impossibility of this trip. There are so many things to consider; the expense, the logistics, the care of your siblings, and the possibility of being away from home for a considerable amount of time. I am very saddened that your declining health has made it necessary to go to this extreme but it’s not your fault and I don’t want you to feel bad. It can be easy to carry guilt when you need help due to your disease. I know because I also have a disease that has made it necessary for me to ask for help on occasion. I have a disease called Rheumatoid Arthritis and it has changed my life in many ways that mirror how your life has been effected because of your disease, Tuberous Sclerosis.

Since I found out that I have this disease, I have needed to take different medications, some very similar to medications you are or have already taken. One of my medications could effect my vision and I have to it checked every three months. It wasn’t that long ago when we were taking you to the optometrist for the same reason. Although our specific medications are different, I also take an anti-epileptic and a medication that is used to treat cancer in high doses. I look in the mirror and see how the appearance of my own face has changed just like yours did as an infant when you took a medication that I am taking now. The physical changes we both have experienced doesn’t end there, we are both weaker than we were a year ago. I have benefited from a rollator and we will be meeting to fit you for a wheelchair next month. It could all be a coincidence but I think it’s more. Through my struggles, I get a rare chance to understand you more.

It is also through these similarities that I can sympathize with the side effects of your medication, the frustrations when your body feels the effects of failed medications and therapy, and the never-ending rotation of doctor appointments. Unfortunately it also means all of these things double for our family. We spend twice as much time waiting at appointments, twice as much money on medications, therapy, and surgery, and double the worry over getting through each day. Those are big issues for us, but we care about you above all.

We are always thinking about how to make your life a bit easier. It is in these thoughts where I have struggled to help, and sometimes, understand you. You have done things that seem irrational; sometimes you scream, hit your face, beat your head on the wall, or you will hit me or someone else in the family. It wasn’t until I too started to feel quite irrational that I began to understand you. In the last few months I have had to start numerous medications and I didn’t anticipate the variety of side-effects I began to experience. Unlike you, I have a full understanding of what is happening to me and yet I still cried and wanted to shut down. Since you don’t understand your situation as I, it must feel like your life and/or your body is out of control. How can I expect anything but an occasional meltdown or outburst from you? I have nights where I can’t verbalize my own emotions, yet I have expected that from you. I have expected you to do more than I have been able to do myself, and for that my little buddy, I’m sorry.

I am sorry for all the times I haven’t been patient and understanding. I am sorry when I haven’t searched beyond your anxiety and outbursts. I am sorry when I haven’t been a safe place for you to fall. I know I have needed a safe place where I can have no fear rejection or judgement. You deserve the same. It has been hard for me when you have had terrible days and have taken it out on me. It’s hard to be hit or kicked by someone you love. It hurts my heart because I want to spend my time enjoying you, not fighting with you.

Don’t forget that little buddy! You are amazing. I may wish we could enjoy our time together without the some of the bad things that come our way, but I will take you and our situations just as they are as long as we can be together. I am also thankful for my own struggles that bring me a closer understanding of you. It makes me a better person and a better mommy. You have taught me a greater compassion for others and the value of patience. I also promise I will do my best to remember you are doing the best you can despite the mountains that stand before you. You have prepared me for all the difficulty I personally face because you have been an example of bravery. Yes, you are brave. You don’t have to know you are brave to be brave.

Thanks for being my companion in a journey two people rarely get to have together. I look forward to climbing the next mountain……together……because bravery doesn’t mean you have to do it alone.

*d*
(Mommy)

☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

Dear Little Buddy,

It was about eight years ago when we found out that you were going to come into our family. You weren’t planned, but most miracles aren’t planned. You were born on a beautiful July morning. You were perfect. We brought you home and I imagined a bright future for you but some of those dreams quickly became lost. You were three months old when you had your first seizure and the words Tuberous Sclerosis Complex came into our lives. A few short weeks later and we learned you had also developed a rare and catastrophic form of epilepsy called Infantile Spams. These innocent looking seizures made it a very real possibility that you would experience developmental and physical delays. It was hard to imagine the same bright future as we did the day you were born. We were so very sad and the future looked as gray and solemn as our broken hearts. We had never heard of this disease and here it had changed the way we looked at you.

Yes our hearts were changed. We loved you even more and we were more determined than ever to help give you a wonderful life despite this new knowledge. Your disease was now a part of our family because it was a part of you. You weren’t the same kind of perfect we once thought you were, you were a unique and special kind of perfection. You see, sometimes the world can have a different definition of what perfect should be but that isn’t how we define it. We want to love perfectly with all our imperfections because none of us are perfect. Because you are loved so very much, this letter is now going to be even harder to write.

After seven years, we have been unable to control the seizures that are a biproduct of your disease. Daddy and I have tried very hard to get you every resource possible to help you in your fight. We made big changes when we decided to take you to a clinic that specializes in Tuberous Sclerosis. We did this so you could be in the care of neurologists that are the best at treating others just like you. We have spent the last seven years exhausting every avenue and turning over every stone to control your epilepsy and help you make the most developmental progress possible. You have worked very hard too. You have been in numerous therapies since you were a baby. You have fought hard after every seizure increase and every regression that happened as a result of those increases. We have all fought so hard together for a very long time. I am so sorry that we couldn’t make it all better. This reality makes me sad when I see the look in your eyes during a seizure. You want Mommy and Daddy to make it all better and we can’t. All we can do is be strong and comfort you.

Because of all of this, a big decision had to be made. We know the last few months have been hard for you. Your epilepsy has been making you weak. On school mornings, I see how hard it is for you to walk down the steps and up into the bus. I see how hard it is for you to do so many things that were simple to you just a year ago. I cry at night because I know it’s been harder for you to understand and communicate with me. I see all the terrible things epilepsy has done to my wonderful boy. But I know there is still fight left in you, I can see it. I see your fight every time you get angry and scream in frustration or have an outburst of anger. I cannot imagine how difficult it is to have so many things going with you and to you while having no control over what happens. I try to remind myself of this every time you get angry with me. I try to remember that you need me to be strong because you are still so little and you really have no way of understanding what has been happening to you. I will continue to be strong with you because we have one more fight we need to face together.

We are going to see another doctor in another hospital that may be able to give you another chance at living a life free of the seizures that done so much to you. He is a neurosurgeon. He may be able to get to the root of the problem and remove what is causing your epilepsy. It is a long trip and we may be gone a long time but there is hope. This is just the beginning of a long process and we have no idea how we are even going to make this happen. The wheels are in motion and it began with a referral to this hosptial. There are still a lot more details to work out and a lot of people want to help you little buddy. Many, many people would like to see you seizure free and making developmental progress.

image

Remember when I said you were a miracle? Well, you are for many reasons. At one time I thought a lot of good was gone from this world. I had lost a lot of faith in myself and in others. Then you came along. In the middle of all the tears, worry, and sadness surrounding your life, many people came to help. Friends and strangers alike reached out to give us hope. When we needed hope and love, someone was always there to show us that there was indeed good still left in this world. You taught us many wonderful things too. You changed the person I am and who I want to become. You make me see that every single day is a gift. Through you, I have a daily reminder that I can only appreciate those things that are here today. I wanted so badly to live in a future made up of my dreams. When you were diagnosed, I could no longer do that. At first I was sad that I could no longer clearly envision your future, but now I see the true blessing of living for today. Your life is a miracle because of how you have changed lives just by being here. You may be small, you may deal with more than most do in a lifetime, but you are capable of doing even more. We may be in charge of seeking the best help possible and doing it in a big way, but in the end, you will have the victory because you will win this fight.

I know I may never read this letter to you. I really don’t know if you would understand. I’d like to think that despite your developmental delays, you do hear and understand more than I know. So we will talk about the next battle we will face together. I will remind you of how strong you are and how much we love you. Your daddy and I would give all that we have to help you. It seems like an impossible journey but we will get there one way or another because you are worth it. Don’t ever forget that. Even when you have had the most terrible day and you take it out on one of us by hitting, screaming, or spitting, or even when you have a terrible meltdown because life is overwhelming, we still love you. We see the hurt under it all and we want to help. No matter what happens, you will always be our little buddy and you will always be loved. Remember this when the next leg of our journey becomes difficult. Sometimes we must decide to take the most difficult of roads because they lead to the most hope. I pray we get there and the best is waiting for you at the end.

Love,
Mommy
(*d*)

Advertisements

The Dogged Question

Let me preface this by saying that I love animals and have grown up with a variety of furry friends from pet mice all the way up to my beloved late Appaloosa horse. Children are also acceptable but I am more likely to hang out with your kid if he’s well-behaved. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request. I’m not an expert on all these creatures, but time and experience has given me a well-rounded knowledge.

That being said, last week I was dog-sitting for a friend. She’s a tiny black Pomeranian—the dog, not my friend—with a summer haircut the neighborhood kids would definitely make fun of if she were people. The dog has always been overjoyed and clingy with me when I visit my friend so we thought she’d be fine coming to spend a few days with her Aunt ~L~. And she was. I mean, sure she missed her mom, but she mellowed out pretty quickly and was a joy to have. Except for that pesky being-a-dog part.

Does this haircut make my head look huge?
Does this haircut make my head look huge?

Dogs are needy and very reliant on their people. I know this, and yet, I’m still amazed by the level of dependence. Don’t misunderstand me! Dogs are great! They’re fiercely loyal and forgiving and make great friends. But I’m just not the kind of person who likes adding more time consumption to my day. That’s why I have cats. They’re easy because most of the time, they could care less if I exist or not. I could be on fire and they wouldn’t look away from the sliding glass door to the patio.

Having basically a furry, adorable toddler in the house made me think about something that often bothers me, sometimes to an eye roll, sometimes to a teeth grinding anger.
Though I’m not a dog person, that doesn’t mean I haven’t had years of experience with family pets and the pets of friends. The same goes with kids. In fact, I find myself equating having a dog with having a small child, especially if it’s a puppy. And this brings me to my point. Dogs and kids are great, but they’re most likely NOT for me.

I’ll be 34 in August. I married Husband a little over two years ago. When we got together, the obnoxious question on everyone’s lips was: “When are you gonna get married?” Once we were engaged, it evolved into: “Have you picked a date yet?” And once I marched down that aisle and Flashmobbed my reception hall (seriously, we did, and it was AWEsome), the question became down right personal: “When are you going to have kids?”

Since I was probably 11 or 12, I’ve felt like I never wanted to have kids. Until I got married, I was only slightly aware that all of humanity was expecting me to want to. That seems a little messed up to me. First, I find everyone’s preoccupation with both my vagina’s business and my uterus’s functionality kind of disgusting. And it takes a lot to gross me out. Ask *d*. But if you think about someone asking you when you plan to have children, you realize what they’re really asking is: “When will you and your husband be having sex in order to make a baby?” See? I could get far more descriptive, as I’ve thought about this quite a bit, but I won’t. Second, it makes me angry when someone hears my answer: “I don’t want kids,” and insists that I do, in fact want them. That it’ll be different when it’s your own kid. I am under no delusions that it won’t be different. Of course it will. I’m not a mother but I’m also not an IDIOT. What really makes my jaw clench (and causes heavy use of italics in my blogs) is the idea that other people feel like they know what I want and insinuate that they also know my body, mentality, and personal preferences better than I do. STOP. IT.

I know myself very well. That’s the beauty of waiting to get married until after I turned 30. I’ve had those 30 + years to get to know just what I can and can’t stand, what I like to do, and where I want to go. The decision to remain child-free is not something I take lightly. In fact, I still mull it over at least weekly. It’s like I’m checking my stats and seeing if this is the week I will change my mind (SPOILER ALERT: IT ISN’T). But I do think about it. I don’t think about it because I’m hounded by so many people (even those close to me who should know better), but because there is part of me that would like to have someone to teach all the things I’ve learned on this speed-bump riddled road of life. I don’t doubt my capabilities to love unconditionally and sacrifice as a mother should. But I also understand that I like the way my life is and that I am selfish and wish to stay that way. At least when it comes to devoting time to a kid. Hell, I don’t even want a dog. I’m not going to do what everyone expects when I know it’s not right for me.

If my plan changes in the near future (‘cause let’s face it, it would have to happen soon since I ain’t getting’ any younger), it will have nothing to do with the harping and nagging of others who harp and nag even though it’s not their bodies or lives that will be altered.

How offended would you be if you had children and I told you shouldn’t?

Yeah. That’s what I thought.

Perspective could save us all…

~L~

Music and Pause

Pause. My life has been on pause. That includes this blog. Sometimes a pause is necessary to reevaluate our lives and it seems as if my friend and I are experiencing a life shift worthy of a pause simultaneously. We both are once again standing at the crossroads and wondering what direction we need to take. We are both sitting idle at the intersection of life carefully planning the next road to be followed.

Health issues have been to blame; my own, my mother, and my son have been experiencing increased difficulty with health. I have now been told I have two incurable diseases, my mother has had another serious operation, and my son’s epilepsy has been harder than normal to control. I needed a pause. I chose to step away to observe and listen at the crossroads. I needed to know what lie down each road and how to navigate the future. My decision: pull up a chair and wait. I didn’t feel like a change needed to happen, but I did feel a slow down, and pause, was needed. I needed to stop and let the world speed by because I was not able to zip along with the rest of the world (in part by my diagnoses). So here I am sitting in the middle of my road with my feet up and unapologetic about it. While everyone else is buzzing by I refuse to be moved until I know exactly what I want to do. There will be no rash decisions this time, there will be no spontaneous movements, I will wait…..

Pausing life does not come without its share of victims. This blog has flat-lined and I often feel more than guilty about it but I remind myself that this project was meant to be an enjoyable release. I do not want it to start to feeling like a job. I have plenty of work to do and I refuse to make the little things I enjoy feel, well, less enjoyable. Everyone and everything is in too much of a hurry. Everyone is rushing, but to where are they going? What is the destination? Run to our earthly end? Run out of expectation? Run out of habit?

I have been house-sitting while my mother has been in the hospital. Instead of going straight home after my last check, I took all four kids to the cemetery where my grandfather was buried over six months ago and to where my uncle was laid to rest over three years ago. On this day I was listening to a play list of some of my favorite songs instead of the usual kid’s movies. As I pulled up to my grandfather’s grave, Pink Floyd’s song “Wish You Were Here” came up. I parked in front of his tombstone and turned up the radio. It was hard not to be captive by the moment. I could hardly imagine the vast number of people who have visited that same cemetery and their hearts were singing those same lyrics, “How I wish you were here….” I didn’t have the words as I stood beside the bare earth above where he lay, so I just listened. Then, we slowly drove to the other side of the cemetery, my mind still fixated on the moment. I found my uncle’s grave and as I shifted into park, “Whiskey In the Jar” by Metallica began to play. Obviously my songs are in alphabetical order but the order and timing of what happened made me smile. I remember my uncle driving like a bat out of Hell down the interstate listening to our local rock station. He may be the reason Metallica is one of my favorite bands and why it was on that very play list. So I turned up Metallica for my uncle and stood where is body now lays. I was once again at a loss for words but I grinned thinking of my less than proper behavior at a cemetery and how my uncle was one to break the mold. The visit was humbling but not sad. My heart hurts to know that my time with these men is over but I am confident they are not confined to the grave. I know they are as free as the lyrics that filled the air.

A stroll, or drive through a cemetery can be quite humbling. If you haven’t done it, you need to. It is a good reminder that we all will eventually have the same space under the Earth to occupy. With all the running the world says we have to do and all we have to accomplish, we are just speeding closer to that hole in the Earth. STOP. Slow down, sit in your intersection and be unapologetic about it. And listen to a good song or two…… the music of life is hard to hear when you are moving too fast…..

*d*

The Rose Colored Glasses

image

Beautiful is the view from rose colored glasses. The dreamy spectacles enchant the lackluster world. Nothing can spoil the view when the world is tinted in the hue of rose. Storms roll in and candy colored drops fall from the sky. Just open your arms wide to receive the gifts imparted from a world radiating a floral glow. All have worn them and all have felt immune to the world. The newly in love, the couple having their first child, or maybe newly acquired wealth. While in this transient state, nothing else matters. No words or advice can penetrate the feeling. I was there many times. It felt glorious and no one could change me. All was right with the world and I had all the answers. I only wanted to do as I wished and no one could challenge my flawed beliefs.

Time still passes when in possession of new and pretty things. The dust from the journey starts to tarnish the pretty rose glass, a few stumbles toss and scratch them, and over time, they aren’t as nice as they once were. Some people rigorously try to replace the feeling with a number of different things. Yet, time wears down beauty and life refuses to stay roseate. So when it comes, maybe it’s best to celebrate and relish in the feeling. Everyone has their time when the sun shines a little brighter, the road traveled is smooth, and the air smells as fresh as a new spring day. At this time, some plead for time to crawl. Or even stop. These are the moments that make up the most perfect of memories.  Remembering can flood you with emotions and feelings just as fresh as when it happened. When things don’t seem as splendid, these are the best moments to remember. They act as a glimmer of light when it has been too long since life looked rosy. I often like to remember a time before diagnoses, the days my children were born, or when my husband and I fell in love.

Looking back can certainly swell my heart with joy but it can also remind me of my own ignorance. I don’t like parts of the person I once was. There was a time I was so high on this feeling that I thought I had it all. I had all the answers and I didn’t need anyone’s help. I was ignorant to the people closest to me and that had to change. The only unacceptable ignorance is the ignorance that refuses to be changed and I was full of it. I thought I knew more than people with a lifetime of experience, I had strong opinions of many things with no personal experience , and the only things that mattered were the ones that surrounded my life. I allowed myself to boast but was unable to look past the end of my nose. I had fallen from my perch many times and usually walked away unscathed. I had to take a few big falls before I finally broke. There were times I couldn’t get up. I spent a lot of time kneeling at my broken life, trying to put the pieces back together. Some parts of it are still not put together.

A lot of people pass along wisdom during times of tribulation. Many people quote the saying, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” The more hardships I experience, the less I like this quote. I know I have been given more than I have been able to handle. This quote has made me feel inadequate. Where was this strength equal to the turmoil I was facing? Why was it so hard to pick up the pieces of my rose colored life? I was broken down until I was folded over with my face resting on my dusty hands. There was nothing left but to lay down my ignorance and plead for help. I think we will all be given more than we can handle alone. There are times we must silence ourselves, kneel down, and ask for help. I have replaced this saying with one of my own, “God will give you more than you can handle because breaking you down is the only way He can get you to kneel.”

In those most dismal moments you can choose to desperately hold on to the beauty that is slipping away or you can kneel. You can cling to the ignorance that refuses to change or give up your turn peering through the glass and find something deeper. The only way I was going to learn was to be broken.  I wasn’t changing any other way. Something terrible would occur, I would reflect and realize I needed to change. Time would pass and I began to forget. I would forget the gifts suffering allowed me and went back to my old ways. I was stubborn and it took a lot to change me. I only wanted to be happy when I was peering through the rose colored glasses. It was easier that way. These days, I try to find happiness even when I am broken and dirty from the journey. I admit, it can sometimes take effort searching for a reason to be happy. That’s when relying on those reaching out to help and something bigger than yourself is worth it.

The world can give us many reasons to lose hope. Several years ago I wanted to change everything in my life. I wanted to move, find another job, and start over. I had lost hope in other people. My plans changed when my son was diagnosed. Those same people I thought I lost hope in began to reach out to my family. I found the love and compassion I had feared was lost in this world and it took my own devastation to see it. Disparity is not the end of happiness but possibly the best way to find it in the most unlikely way.

*d*

Wallflower Road

image

I am socially awkward. If it were up to me, everyone would wear a name tag and I would have the option to first write down what I want to say before speaking.

I am terrible at remembering names. To help me remember, my husband suggested that I use the name of a new acquaintance before the end of the conversation. I have tired but I still can’t seem to make the association between names and faces easily. Most of the jobs I have had since high school have required me to build some sort of rapport with clients. I did familiarize myself with the regular clients but my relationships with them rarely reached a personal level. My husband thrives in jobs where he can interact with people. He has had plenty of practice. He spent several years in sales and now holds a management position. I am sure he succeeds socially because he is friendly and he can make conversation easily. I, on the other hand, am terrible at small talk. This makes starting a converstion with a stranger difficult. My husband has made friends with people at the airport, random people standing in line, and anyone who responds to his generous smile. When it comes to social finesse, he and I are opposites. We compliment each other in many other aspects of our relationship, unfortunately it isn’t easy to see.

With two people who seem so different, the head scratching and comments to how he and I manage to work have surfaced. My husband was in his mid-thirties when we married. It seemed like so many people waited for him to find just the right woman, and then he met me…. Maybe it was the anticipation of who he would finally marry but I have felt as if I have fallen short of some great expectations. I was the clock radio instead of the HD television in the big gift box at Christmas or the free cat instead of the designer dog everyone wants. I was the shy girl instead of the perfect compliment to my husband’s outgoing personality.

I can’t say for certain that I am an introvert, but I am close. The world does not respond well to introverts. My point has been gratified while writing this piece. Synonyms for the word introvert is defined as a person who retreats mentally; autist, brooder, egoist, egotist, loner, narcissist, self-observer, wallflower, and solitary. In all fairness the same online dictionary listed show-boat, life of the party, and exhibitionist as a few synonyms for extrovert. When I looked up the word outgoing, a few synonyms listed were kind, easy and approachable. All words I would use to describe my husband. I define myself as somewhat shy so a few words used to describe my personality are as follows; distrustful, backward, and wary. “What the ????” How does one break the mold of the pre-defined? Shy, unlike outgoing, did not have the word kind listed as an acceptable synonym. Maybe I should cause an uproar about this. Just because I am shy, doesn’t mean I am not kind. Who do I write? Who is in charge of defining an acceptable word to describe a personality trait anyway? It certainly isn’t a shy introvert.

A few years ago, I took my oldest to his kindergarten screening. My husband (bless his heart) told me it would be a great opportunity to make friends with other parents who would also be attending the screening. What he didn’t realize was how scary it was for me to sit in a room full of strangers. Thank goodness I had my infant daughter with me. She felt like a shield between myself and a room full of snakes. I held on to her tight. She gave me the excuse I needed to avoid small talk. As hard as he tries, I know my husband doesn’t understand this part of me. Making friends is as natural to him as writing is to me. Texting and messaging are my friends. Unlike talking, I don’t need an immediate response, rather I can take a moment to think before I reply. That day at kindergarten screening was intimidating because I tend to over analyze what I say. I feel like I need more than the appropriate split second between small talk to think about what I want to say. I know I can be aloof with my words and I often stumble over them. Opening myself to someone else feels like I am baring my soul. Once I open up, I feel like I am open for scrutiny. Scrutiny to an over-thinker like me is like picking an open sore. I know my short comings; it’s even harder to hear them aloud.

This blog is a scary step for me. I feel like I am in the dream where I am wearing only underwear in class, except my underwear is bright yellow. It is easier for me to have a bit of anonymity while allowing myself plenty of time to reread my own posts several times before publishing. I know my writing needs some work, but my goal is honesty. I want to break barriers for others who can relate to me. I am shy and possibly an introvert, but I am still kind. I can still be open, honest and given some time, even I can handle small talk. Exposing myself to others is difficult and making new friends sometimes feels more like an experiment rather than a natural part of life. I am that girl other people really don’t know if they want to sit next to at the reception, or ask to carpool , or see on the arm of someone so outward and full of life. No one knows what to say to me and it can appear that I think I am too good to make conversation. It isn’t true. I am just scared and I need time to let my guard down. Be warned, if I let my guard down and I get hurt, it will take a long time to earn my trust again. I ask not to be defined by typical definitions but allow me to define myself.

As for my husband and I, we make it work because despite our outward differences we are a lot alike. We can and do talk about everything and enjoy similar interests.  Most importantly, we work because love is not defined by a book, dictionary, or any other person’s perception of happiness. Love is not defined by words, but how someone makes you feel. My husband could have found that one woman that exceeded the expectations of all those who waited for him to find his perfect match. Everyone could have unanimously agreed in excitement that he had finally found “the one.” It did happen but he had to find that definition on his own. It followed his heart ten years and four children later. I made a difficult journey and he took the long road but we met up at the same crossroad and decided to take the next step together. If we decided to let others define us, we would have missed the realization that we were truly what the other needed.

*d*

Filling In The Blank

It feels like the harder I try to figure out what my next move should be, the more entrenched in confusion and frustration I become. Do I keep cleaning houses and writing, working to get published, or do I throw myself into a small business venture, expanding and promoting my cleaning services and give up some of my writing time, or do I get an unrelated job and put the writing on a back burner, or…

I have this vision of where I want to be, but it’s like I’m looking at it from across a bottomless chasm; I’m on one side and my dream life is on the other. The most frustrating part is that I could build a bridge but I don’t have the materials or tools, my education seemingly a hammer made of cardboard, a nail gun spitting marshmallows. So, I stand there, looking down, kicking pebbles over the edge and getting more and more pissed at myself.

I remember a particular crossroad of the past that was annoyingly similar to the one I stand at today. When I was growing up, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to be. Looking back now, I don’t recall ever telling anyone “I want to be a _________ when I grow up.” It could be all that Candy Crush I’ve played, or the numerous drowse-inducing pills I take, but I seriously don’t remember aspiring to be anything. When I got to high school and it was expected that I figure out what I would make out my life and study at college, I scrambled to come up with something to placate my guidance counselor, my friends, my family. I’d always loved Science, particularly Biology and Anatomy as well as animals. I’d also always thought I might like a surplus of money, so I opted to study Biology and then move on to a veterinary program. It made sense to my logical side, to the bookish girl graduating sixth in her class, to my pushy guidance counselor. But when it came time to apply, I balked. I’ve always blamed the severe clinical depression I experienced my senior year, but maybe it was more than that keeping me from wanting to run off to college the fall after high school ended. Maybe I realized that wasn’t where my passion lay.

If I had been paying attention, my path was more obvious than dumping that ridiculous boy I dated when I was sixteen who wore his two inches of hair slicked and pulled back into a tiny ponytail and told me his uncle was in the Chicago Mafia. As long as I could, I’d been writing. As a child, I wrote stories on wide ruled loose leaf, tying the pages together with yarn and doing my own illustrations. I read the classics—and loved them. I memorized Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay” when I read it in The Outsiders. I’ve always been the person my friends ask to proofread their papers. I was asked to join the Quiz Bowl Team in eighth grade because of my affinity for literature. I spent the summer between seventh and eighth grade in my room writing a novel length piece I eventually reread and ended up scrapping. The signs were always there as to what was in my heart.

I went to college two years later than most of my classmates and I began a Bio degree, still refusing to acknowledge the obvious. I was about a year and a half into school and taking a Genetics class I was figuring on failing. That subject had been my weak spot in high school as well. I was thinking a lot about the choices I’d made. The same time I was starting college, I was moving out for the first time. I was working part time and studying some of the most difficult information I’d ever read. In lab, I had to mingle with my fellow Bio majors, Chemistry, Anatomy, and various other science majors.

We were doing a lab that involved fingerprinting and my lab partner couldn’t get her prints to be anything but smudges. I may have made a joke that insinuated that she’d rubbed her prints off with excessive biblical-ish knowledge of the male nether region. She may have given me the nastiest look anyone’s ever shot my direction.

At any rate, I realized I didn’t fit in with these doctors-in-the-making. It was that feeling coupled with my sinking grade in Genetics that pushed me to make a change.

After years of thinking that my writing was just for fun, I decided to make it my life. It wasn’t an easy decision. I knew I would be forfeiting my employability, mostly because I had no intentions of pursuing a career in teaching. That had to be the first question anyone would ask me after they learned that I was an English major. The. Same. Question. Every. Time.

“So, you’re going to be a teacher?” they’d ask.

“No. I’m going to write books. Maybe work for a publisher. You know?” I’d reply.

And no, they didn’t know. And apparently, neither did I. While I did write a book, the chance to work for a publisher sailed away when I decided to stay in my recession-battered state, in a county where opportunities go to die. I have stayed because my family needs me and I’ve always seen this as my home. Also, I used to think I could never leave because of the friendships I’d forged over a lifetime. Not anymore. Amidst the self-discovery involved in pursuing this fire burning in my core, I’ve also come to understand that support is hard to come by. Writing is a career of a different color in that you can’t excel at it on your own. Well, most of us can’t. We rely on the knowledge of others and their opinions to make us better. In the beginning stage it’s family and friends and later it becomes agents, publishers, and editors. It’s hard to get to that later stage when you’ve been let down in the beginning.

So, my current crossroad is not only whether I stay and clean or stay and write but whether I stay at all. The opportunity exists to go anywhere. My husband is in a high demand occupation and it wouldn’t be difficult for him to land something he loves virtually anywhere. The fear of leaving behind everything I know is fading with every frustrating day. I’m to the point where loading up my grandma and my mom like The Beverly Hillbillies is not completely beyond the realm of possibility. At least then I’d be making a choice. With that choice, I’d finally have the opportunity to construct my bridge and get over that canyon that lies between me and what fills my dreams.

~L~