Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Treading lightly

A few years ago Ali Edwards posted about an ordinary day in her life. Her son Simon is autistic and he was a toddler or preschooler then, and he was as much a handful as most kids his age, and sometimes more. This was one of those days where Simon was more. I don't remember the specifics, only that it was a difficult day for Ali as a mom, that she felt judged by other people in a public place, that she said she felt "tender."
I remember the post because I felt so keenly for her that day -- I had been there, feeling inadequate as a mother, feeling that the incredible love I had for my child just somehow wasn't enough, feeling like everything I did was a mistake and that the world was likely to crash down around me at any second.
Today I am tender.
The past 6 weeks (has it only been 6 weeks?) resonate in my head, like an errant Super Ball careening wildly around in my brain. I remember running frantically for a trash can so Kris could throw up in it, after taking in perhaps a tablespoon of something nourishing. Walking past the entrance to a huge cemetery to a quiet restaurant/bar to have a glass of pinot grigio to get a break and allow Kris to have much-needed time with other friends. Quiet, pain free moments lying on her bed and talking to her. Waking from a sound sleep to anguished moans, cries and calls for crushed ice, ice packs, and a gentle touch. Riding on a bus home from Chicago to be greeted with joyous, wide open smiles and crushing hugs by my boys, and a tender kiss from my worried husband. Rationalizing my grief in my head -- "you have to get past this, she was your friend but she wasn't in your life every day. You need to work this out." While the irrational emotional part of me screams, keens, wails for things that will never be, and insists that even though we didn't live close to one another, SHE WAS SO IMPORTANT TO ME. And that, while I know that I am certainly not the only one mourning her, and that her loss will leave a gaping hole in the daily lives of her dearest friends in Chicago, I DON'T KNOW HOW TO BE IN A WORLD WHERE SHE IS NOT.
And so, today, as I continue to fight this grief (because it is a battle, believe me, almost as fierce as the one she fought with that dreaded "C" word), and fight the seasonal depression that ordinarily tries to swallow me up but that this year has me in its icy grip in an entirely new way, and as I try to fight my hatred of all things Christmas and decorate for the holidays because, while I most certainly DO NOT CARE, my kids do; as I fight these battles, a new one has been laid on my doorstep.
It's a political fight. One in which I have been walking a tightrope for a very long time. I don't actually have a role in it (at least not in my eyes) but today I am most certainly at the center of it, with a very few other people.
And I am tender.
I do not accept the fight. I do not have it in me to fight right now. And, after spending the better part of 2 weeks caring for a desperately ill friend for whom I would have done almost ANYTHING, I just don't think it matters anyway.
What matters? Friendship. Telling the people in your life that they matter to you. Putting your energy toward positive things. Working for a beloved cause. Giving people a chance to care for you. Spending time with the people you love. Listening to your kids chatter as they come in from their 3rd romp in the snowy back yard that day. Telling a new friend that though your acquaintance has been short, he means a lot to you and that you respect him for the work he does, for his intellect, and for the fact that he is just an all around good man. Inviting your friends over to make crafts and drink wine and eat chocolate, not necessarily in that order.
I am tender. DO YOU HEAR ME? I am too tender to take this on, too tender to really care about how it is resolved, or if it is resolved.
I am so tired. I so wish that I could wake up and realize it was a nightmare and that my friend, my sister, the godmother of my child, the person who understood me, the delicate flower with a stem of steel, was still here. That she would be here for graduations, for Thanksgivings, for margaritas on the rocks, for cruises in convertibles and walks along the shore of Lake Michigan.
But she is gone, and I? Tender does not scratch the surface of what I am. I am lost, bereft, untethered. I am windswept and storm tossed. I am sinking in a sea of melancholy.
And I do not accept the fight.
I can hear her now, in my mind. She is angry that I have let this fight get to me. She wants me to stand up for myself, to yell back, to defend myself from undeserved attack. Or maybe not. Maybe she just wants me to think about what I am supposed to learn from all of this. She always believed everything happened for a reason.
What was I supposed to learn?
Perhaps we all are tender more often than we admit, even to ourselves. Perhaps this is my reminder to be kind to myself, but also to others.
I am gentle with myself these days, trying to ask only what I can reasonably expect of myself. Today I will do the dishes, I vow. Today, the laundry will get done. Today I will get the recycling out the door. Small tasks that seem gargantuan. And those around me have been gentle, too. I am grateful for the lack of pressure lately, as I try to put my heart back together.
I am tender. And those who hurt me today, they are tender, too. We are ALL tender, nursing hurts, pains, slights, losses, that are invisible to the rest of the world. And I think maybe this is one of the lessons I was supposed to get.
But I sincerely wish it had not come at such a cost.
We are tender, all of us.
Tread lightly.


  1. Jennifer, ask yourself:

    Is it a fight worth fighting? Is it a mountain to die on? Will it matter to you in a week, a month, a year?

    I think I know what fight you are talking about here and I think it's not a mountain...not even a mole hill.

    Pick up the phone. Call them. Tell them it's not a mountain to die on and you just don't care. Remember you are a volunteer and you're not being paid to play this game. You remember the second codicil to the golden rule, right?

    Oh...I'll remind's "Don't f*** with the volunteers."

    Tell them to take a leap or you'll walk. You are highly relevant in so many ways, you don't need this gig to prove it.

    Take care of you.

  2. I understand those feelings. I have been fighting them for almost 16 years [that is how long I have known Kraigy has autism]. And, as you know, I have some other challenges in there. I have good days and bad days;; but I am trying to remember each and every day how blessed I am. And, while none of this helps now. It will someday. Call me if you need anything. XO.