2.46. The Wounded Soul – My Proudest Failure

This post is not about the many known names who have died over the course of this year from apparent suicide. Their deaths are sad and a loss to the world but there is nothing that can be done for them.  Their chances have ended. It’s sad but what can you do about it now? This is not about the unknowns who are gone from this world. Their story is no different. This is about the ones we can save. 

When I was 26, after my son was born, I suffered from postpartum depression while simultaneously suffering from an infection, which caused me to lose part of my right breast. The fake glue that was holding my doomed marriage together melted away. My world crumbled very quickly. I recall sitting in a bathroom and penning a letter to my child in which I apologized for failing him, for not being strong enough to have the desire to continue. I remember calling a crisis hotline while sitting on the curb of a dark street and telling some stranger I was a horrible piece of shit because I had a child but I wanted to die. I remember going to a hospital and asking for an evaluation. I sat in a cold, bare room, and waited for someone to tell me I was insane. After talking with Tom, he informed me I was suffering from PTSD, from events earlier in my life,  and Postpartum. When I said I wanted to die, he explained, I was simply asking to sleep…for rest…escape from pain I could not seem to get away from. I was released and attempted to pull myself out of that darkness. 

When I was eighteen, after being caught in the act, I admitted to battling Bulimia. It was a slow way out but I often hoped I would just become extremely frail and collapse and that same sleep would come. My mother told me to get over it. 

When I was 13, my father found me in our trailer in Clintondale, New York. I’d swallowed a ton of his painkillers and anything else I could find in the medicine cabinet. I was ashamed of my life. I was scared of being a nothing. I wanted to quit. 

When I was 11, I was admitted to a mental health ward, against my will (and my parents) for a mere 16 hours (a lifetime to an 11 year old btw). I’d gone in after a referral from a childhood therapist. Because I wouldn’t discuss things that were happening but implicated myself in several acts of self-harm, I was held for evaluation. I can still remember the screams and belligerent rants of those held in rooms next to me. After those 16 hours, I conned my way out of that hospital, claiming it was all an act and absolutely nothing was wrong with my home life. I learned how to lie on that day. 

When I was 5, a sibling found me on the ledge of our apartment window. When asked why I was up there, I said I wanted to die. My mother beat the ever-living piss out of me and sent me to bed. 

I have tried to die, thought of dying, hoped for dying…TOO MANY times in my life. I’ve purposefully put myself in dangerous situations, in the hopes that I would find release. Through those years and failed attempts…I never found it. 

I’m not telling you this because I want pity. Because I want you to think I’m epic and strong for “surviving.” I don’t know why I wanted to die from such a young age. I don’t know why I wasn’t “built” to better deal with the hardships of life. I don’t know why the unknown seemed so much better. 

What I do know are two things. 

  1. I was already dead. My body didn’t have to perish. TRULY, I believe I was a walking tomb. My son gave me my soul. I still struggle. I still panic. I’m still a hot mess. But I have never hoped for another breath the way I do now…as I have my son in my life. 
  2. Someday, I will die. I will not try. It will be against my will. And I will not want it to happen. I will feel pain as it all slips away because I will not see the tomorrows of my child, his children, the life I will miss. Someday, I will not have a choice. 

All of that being said…

I AM NOT AN EXPERT but I know the helplessness. I know the desperation. I know that feelings of sad hope that the damn phone will ring and someone…ANYONE will pull me back from the ledge and say, “I care about you. Please don’t go.” We all want to know that someone wants us to stay. That someone NEEDS us to stay. That our fire lights another persons world. We all need a reason to have no desire to step on that ledge. It’s ALL about love. 

The trauma that happened in my life, very early on, stunted my growth in MANY ways (so the doctors say). There are many times that I am stuck back in that mind frame of a child and I am terrified. I am frail. I am lost. It’s a fight to not go back there. To train my brain that I’m not reliving those traumas. That things are not repeating themselves. That I am capable of dealing with it IF they are. 

I am telling you all of this because we all know someone who struggles. Who is fighting. Who may be too quiet. May say the wrong things. May lash out at the smallest occurrence. May come off so angry. May push people away. May be an emotional punching bag. May live a lifestyle that is reckless. May be unaware that they are begging for help. May be pleading for rescue in their eyes but not their words. 

If you are that person…tell someone. ANYONE. Talk until your blue in the face. But keep talking. If you’re talking…you aren’t dead. AND THAT IS BEAUTIFUL. If you know someone like that…listen. Listen and really hear. You don’t need to fix it all. Just listen. Sometimes, that is all a wounded soul needs. 

Dear Suicide – I am proud to have failed you. 

Sincerely not yours…this girl. 

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2.43. Dear Daddy – Happy Fathers Day

I wish you were here. I wish I could call you again. I wish I could hug you. I wish I wasn’t so naive to think you would live forever. I wish I said I love you just one more time. I wish I could have stopped your pain. I wish I could have given you an even better life. I wish I made you proud. I wish I could say sorry for failing so much. I wish you could hug your grandson. I wish this didn’t hurt so much. I wish I could hear you laugh. I wish I could have avenged the wrong doings done against you. I wish I could have said thank you a million more times. I wish you knew how much I needed you then and how much I need you now. I wish my son could sit with you and pick up your habits of tapping your thumbs against everything. I wish we could go to Barnes & Noble one more time together. I wish you could teach me how to cook half as good as you did. I wish I could make you smile. I wish Heaven wasn’t so far away. I wish Heaven had phone reception. I wish you could have lived with us. I wish you didn’t have to see my life turn to shit. I wish you could see my life get better. I wish I knew what to do without you here. I wish you weren’t just ashes in a box on my fridge. I wish you didn’t just live in memories and songs. I wish we had new memories together. I wish we could have you back. I wish people appreciated you more. I wish you could see us reconcile. I wish you knew that we love you so damn much…it hurts.

Happy Fathers Day to the best damn father and mother figure I could have ever hoped for. I miss you. I miss you I miss you I miss you I miss you I miss you I miss you I miss you I miss you!!!!!!!!

 

2.24. Parental Efforts

If you’ve gone through a divorce, you know life can be hard. If you’ve gone through a divorce with a child in the mix, you know life can be gut wrenching. But I have to tell myself, time and again, this isn’t about me. Revenge cannot exist when you have a child with someone because the only person you’d be punishing is the innocent. The one who didn’t ask for two parents who couldn’t resolve their shit.

I’ve been on the receiving end of the spiteful intent many times over the course of this divorce. I’ve been deprived of hearing my sons voice solely for the fact that it means so much to me. And as much as I want another to know what that agony feels like…I can’t.

He calls and I answer. But my son is somewhere between sleep and annoyance. He doesn’t want to talk on the phone and screams instead. The call ends. It could be just that. I answered. I did my duty. But is that all my duty entails? In my eyes, no. I sit with Hunter and talk to him. I ask him why he doesn’t want to talk on the phone. “I don’t want to talk to daddy because daddy is mean.”

And that breaks my heart. But I know my son can also say I’m mean because I won’t give him 5 cookies. So, I try again. I tell him that his daddy loves him. That his daddy called because he misses him and thinks he is very important. I tell him that his daddy is happy when he hears his voice just as I am when I call. I ask him if it’s okay to call daddy back and try again. He says okay. He calls and they share a moment on the phone. They laugh and say I love you. The conversation ends and it is good for them.

Now, my duty is fulfilled. At the end of the day, I may not like the person on the  other end of the line. I may feel that my son is being used as a pawn to punish me. BUT I know that despite my feelings, I cannot do the same things and feel good about the state of my soul. And so, I will encourage every phone call. I will encourage every visit. Because encouraging my son to love and know his father does not take away from our bond. It simply says that my son will know that I always put his needs before my own.

I can’t force anything. I can’t make strong bonds form. I can only nurture what is there. I can be strong for my angel and be there for him, to talk and work through the good and the bad.

Bottom line, we didn’t get stuck with each other. He got stuck with us.

2.16. Letter To Daddy

Dear Papa Bear:

It’s been 17 long months since you went away. Tomorrow is Christmas and I wish for nothing more than to hear your voice. I wish I could call you to say “I love you,” one more time. I wish for many ‘one more times.’

The past 17 months haven’t been easy, Dad. I’m sure you know that. I’m sure you know I’ve felt broken for so very long now. I know you have seen me curl into a ball and cry until there couldn’t possible be anymore tears. I know you have watched, helplessly, when I have silently begged to be with you because it feels that hard.

But I can’t be with you right now. I have to stay here and fight this battle. I have to figure out how to make things better so I can give your grandson better tomorrows. Because when I am gone, I hope he loves me just a portion as much as I love you.

I didn’t make it home, Dad. I know you wanted your girls to be reunited. I couldn’t keep that promise to you. I’m sorry. I am truly sorry. I tried and failed. But I will make the best of this and I will do all that I can to keep the bonds strong. The bonds I know you prayed about.

I signed one of Hunters presents “Love, Grandpa Santa.” As I always will.

I miss you, Daddy. And the child in me is coming out as I type this. I regret so much that I didn’t have my life in order when you passed. That I still don’t. I know you loved me. Greatly. But I wanted your pride. Your respect. I wanted you to go knowing that I could take care of myself. That you didn’t have to worry for me. I’m sorry you went out not knowing.

I’ll keep trying. I won’t quit. I promise.

Love, your babygirl.

P.S. If there is a God, Dad, could you tell him/her to please have mercy on me. To give me a chance to be better. To give me a chance to gift my son with the life you always wanted to give to me. Just put in a good word for me or something.

1.180 – I Love You, Dad

“……., it’s Sabrina. I know we’re not talking but daddy’s dead. I need you to call me. Please. He’s dead. Just call me. Please.”

A year ago, today, those words lingered on a voicemail I wish I’d never received. A deliverance from a god I don’t believe in. A curse sent down from somewhere, a blatant sign of thievery, a shattering of my heart. One that would send me into an outcry as I ran from a bathroom stall on my fifteen minute break at work. One that would send me running through the back of the store, screaming “help me.” One that would leave me a collapsed lump of sobbing meat…a dying soul.

Anyone that knows me knows that my father was the light in my life that kept me alive…the one who believed in me despite the odds stacked against me. My father loved me by pure choice. He didn’t have to. He could have walked away at any time. And he stayed. He loved with his whole heart, was obsessed with technology and prided himself in being the most badass, metal rocking, piercing toting, sarcastic “jew-ban” known to man. He was a finger tapping, finger snapping, perverted, hilarious culinary master. He was a man who kept his word, who believed in love and forgiveness more than I could understand throughout my life. He was passive to a fault but a gentle soul that, at the end of the day, just wanted to be loved.

Dad’s Birthday Card #1 ~ Signed by everyone in a local bar

“You’re a good man, a good dad, and you are loved…today and every day.”

I’ve shed tears today. I’ve watched my son play and laugh and color and enjoy the motions of his life. I was lost in a heap of emotions…a sort of fog. And then my son came up to me, just about ten minutes ago and said “up.” I picked him up and he pointed to my fathers urn. I said, “that’s grandpa.” He said “hi grandpa.” I said “grandpa loves you.” He didn’t miss a beat. “I love grandpa too.”

I was going to write about how much it hurts without my father here to support me, to guide me, to enjoy life with me. But that’s the thing about this journey. What I intend it to be can change in the blink of an eye. And with my son greeting his grandpa and saying he loved him…I am inspired.

To give my son the love my father gave to me…tenfold. To love with my whole heart. To keep my promises. To mean what I say and say what I mean. To be forgiving. To be understanding. To be patient. To be compassionate. To have empathy. To learn from my child. To grow with my child. To evolve. To savor and encourage the beautiful imagination and spirit of the amazing boy who rules my world. To accept my truest emotions and to follow my heart. To keep my son at the forefront of my existence, no matter how hard the days may be and to know…my light has not left me. It shines brightly…in my memories, in the love of my family, in the beauty and joy of my son.

Dad’s Birthday Card #2 ~From his daughters

“Because her father listened to her, she knew she had something to say. Because he believed in her, she believed in herself. Because he said she could do anything, she did…

Dad, so much of the good stuff in my life started with you.    Thank you.”

I will not mourn you, Dad. I will remember you. I will rejoice in you. I will believe in what you taught me and I will show you that all of your love and hard work was not in vain…never wasted. I will love my son to no end and show you that you gave me the greatest gift any parent could ever give. You showed me what a parents unconditional love is and for that…my son and I will will always honor your name and live with your spirit in our presence.

I love you, dad. Always and forever.

1.165 – My Bookstore…My Time Capsule

Today is a bittersweet day.

Two weeks ago, I was thrilled to put in my notice as the Cafe Lead of my local bookstore. I have the opportunity to work for another company that can financially help me in my current situation. It’s a smart financial move.

I was happy to say goodbye to a lot of things. To try to bring some level of a clean slate to my life.

But…something happened.

I walked through the parking lot…my final walk…and cried. Just as I am crying now. Why? Yes, I’m going to miss people. Yes, I’m scared a lot of my “friendships” will end because I don’t work there anymore. Yes, I’m going to miss my customers. Yes, I’m going to miss being the girl that pretty much knows how to do everything. Yes, I’m nervous these newbies will screw up the amazing bonds I have built with my favorite and loyal customers…and I won’t be able to answer a question or fix a problem or find that damned book that no one else can find. Yes, I have the opportunity to pick up a couple of shifts if I’d like to make extra money…so I’m not even fully gone.

But that’s not why this change makes me cry so much.

In that building, I have faced the struggles of not being able to get pregnant. In that building, I shared the excitement of finding out I was going to have a baby. In that building, I have faced the struggles of a failing marriage and upcoming divorce. In that building, I learned that my best friend died. In that building, I learned that my father died.

I can’t count the number of times someone in that store has sat with me and comforted me through tears. No, my four years weren’t perfect and I’ve had plenty of moments when I’ve wanted to bludgeon people with sticks. But these people have seen my life change in ways I was never prepared for.

This building holds the moments that replay in my mind, break my heart, elate me, and ground me. This place is a capsule in time of my greatest gift and my greatest losses.

My daddy introduced me to that bookstore…not that particular one but the chain itself. It’s sentimental for me. It always will be. I lost him in that bookstore.

And this shit is rocking my world way more than I thought it ever would. Bringing up feelings I didn’t think were connected.

I cry. Because apart of me feels like I’m leaving that place behind…like I’m leaving that moment there. I’m leaving him there.

And I relive the pain.

1.144 – Heavenly Earth

Sitting on my lunch break, I read an article by Jon Meacham entitled Heaven Can’t Wait – Why rethinking the hereafter could make the world a better place and it got me thinking. So much so that I had to reread it. And then I had to read it again, only this time, with a highlighter in hand. And then I had to give a copy of it to someone I know…because I had to share this…whatever this was.

Meacham starts his article with a synopsis of Heaven Is For Real by Lynn Vincent…a book I’ve never read. He quotes John Blanchard, founder of Planet Rock Youth Ministries…a ministry I know nothing about. He talks about N.T. Wright,  Billy Graham, and Stephen Hawking…people I know nothing about. Realistically, this article…in a magazine I’ve never read…should be of no significance or interest to my silly little mind. However, this article…in a magazine that I’ve never read yells at me. Forces me to think.

“Heaven isn’t just a place you go-heaven is how you live your life.”

“…people who are motivated by heaven are also people motivated to make a positive difference in the world.”

“”Seeing heaven as the world beyond this one can offer powerful comfort, particularly in life’s most dire circumstances.”

“Gods love…should inspire the religious to open their arms more often than they point fingers. Heaven thus becomes, for now, the reality one creates in the service of the poor, the sick, the enslaved, the oppressed.”

“Our entrance into heaven has nothing to do with how good we are; what matters is how good Jesus is, and what He did for us.”

I’m just a girl. A girl from the Bronx. A girl who’s gone through her struggles and in turn…sits in front of this keyboard with one million questions and zero answers. I’m just a girl who hopes to be better and doesn’t know how. I’m just a lost soul dreaming of something beautiful…hoping it’s attainable for someone like me.

After reading this article, I asked myself…what is heaven? Where is heaven? I will not consider what the world tells me. I will not consider the images painted upon walls and on the pages of old books. What is heaven? Where is heaven?

Heaven is seeing that glimmer in my sons eyes. Heaven is laughter. Heaven is a warm hug. Heaven is feeling loved. Heaven is feeling understood. Heaven is music, art, spoken word. Heaven is understanding. Heaven is giving. Heaven is the unconditional. It is what we search for every single day…in everything that we do…in every encounter we have.

I want heaven. For myself. For my son. For my best friend. For my father. I want heaven for people I don’t even know. But how do you reach something that defies all sense of logic? Religion makes no sense to me. There was a phone call between God and I at some point in my life but the call got disconnected.

He may…in some way…be trying to call me back. But I don’t know if I’m willing to answer that call.

I don’t know if God exists. Without a shadow of a doubt…no, I can’t say that I know. But do I know heaven exists? Yes, I do. It’s not a crown of jewels and a palace made of gold. It’s in our works. How we nurture our fellow man. How we inspire our kin. This is heaven. This is where I want to be.

1.142 – Away We Go

Tomorrow will be my first time ever visiting Disney World. I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m antsy. I am many things. I look forward to feeling like a kid again. I look forward to seeing my son laugh and have a level of joy I have yet to gift him with.

But this trip means more to me than dressed up characters and amusement park smiles. If you told me, one year ago, that I would be taking this trip with my sister and her family…I would have told you that you were full of shit.

My family has always been broken. Someone is always not talking to someone else. The words “you’re dead to me,” fly around like a normal family’s “hello.”  I can’t count the number of times I was disowned in my adolescence. Hell, it still happens now. It’s as easy as saying “go ahead and block me,” on Facebook. Because, apparently, social media determines whether you act like you give a fuck about your family or not.

But this isn’t about the dark shadows. THIS is about something much more important. You can always talk about what you don’t have or you can treasure what you do. And what I have is a family vacation. A family bonding time. Children unified because their parents could get over their shit. Because everyone can look back and say, “I did fuck up and I’m sorry.”

When I was a kid, my mother was accused (and rightfully so) of stealing something from my dead uncles casket at his wake. That was the final straw and she was banished. Her siblings and her own mother detested her. In turn, my sister and I lost just about lost all contact with our family. Uncles and aunts vanished from our lives…not that we were ever close but fuck if we didn’t become nonexistent. Years passed without hearing a word about our cousins, babies born or any happenings of these people that were supposed to be family.

I blame my mother for this. I equally blame the adults who chose to give a fuck less about children who did nothing wrong. You don’t have to think I’m a great person…you don’t have to like a damned thing about me but at the end of the day; I was a child and those people gave up on getting to know me, being an influence or showing an inkling of humanity. For that I say: FUCK YOU AND THE EXCUSES YOU LIVE ON.

I swore I would not be like those people. But I was. I harbored pure hatred for my own blood. I swore I would never forgive for the pain I felt.

And then my father died.

I will protect my son from every source of pain, anguish, and unnecessary stress. That includes me. There is no reason to burden my child, no reason to stifle him, punish him, or deprive him because of mistakes made decades ago. And for that…in knowing that no day is guaranteed and I may never get the chance to be forgiven for all of the wrong I’ve done…I opened my heart to the possibility of things being okay. Of breaking the cycle. Of refusing to be like them.

I’m going to Disney World tomorrow. I’m going to share experiences with my family. I’m going to make memories. I’m going to see my son bond with his cousins and laugh the greatest of laughs. That is worth hours of self-reflection and compromise. Of hashing things out and admitting to mistakes. That is worth every damn tear I have ever shed. He is worth it.

Thank you Dad…for showing me what’s really important. For giving me back my sister. For giving my son family. For all of your love. I will do my part to keep this bond strong and return the favor.

And now…I’m off to my vacation. SEE YOU IN A WEEK!!!!

Much love, readers. To each and every one of you.

1.141 – Burning

My mother left. I hate authority.

My marriage failed. I hate relationships.

My best friend died. I avoid friendships.

My father died. I avoid love.

Any attempt to fight the inevitable is a losing battle. I’ve learned this lesson at least four times in my existence and probably much more than that. Some would say that this life is worth living, that I have so much to look forward to. But the sand is flowing through the hourglass and the the tears flood away the granules of salt destined to count the seconds until my demise. No, I will not live forever. And someday, my son will mourn me. Someday, my loved ones…the few I have left…they will be as tormented as I am right now.

How do you grieve? How long does it take? My mother gave up on me 27 years ago. Is 27 years enough? My marriage failed 2 years ago. Is 2 years enough? My best friend died 15 months ago. Is 15 months long enough? My father died 8 months ago. Is 8 months enough? I mean, when the fuck does it stop? When does it become okay? Does it ever? I want someone to tell me when! How! I need to know this shit is happening for a fucking reason. Cuz I’ve got nothing. I’ve got no fight in me.

I don’t trust anyone. I hate people who treat me like I’m expendable. I hate people who are nice to me. I hate people who think they know me. I hate people who really do see the damage despite my act. I hate people who want me to be “on” all the time. I hate people who assume it takes one. I hate walking alone. I hate silence. I hate wondering. I hate never knowing. I hate being so scared.

I want my father back. I want my best friend back. I want my hope back. I want a clean slate. A fresh start. I want to know my purpose. I am an aimless vessel, writhing in the flames of uncertainty.

1.129 – A Million Petals

“Someone gave you flowers”

When I was in middle school, I had a really grouchy music teacher named Ms. Diaz. This woman scared the ever living piss out of me and everyone else I knew. But she loved what she did. And that was making us sing and dance like friggen smiley puppets. For our first performance, we had to sing some god awful song that I can’t even remember. But that’s irrelevant. What is relevant is that my parents didn’t show up. Yeah, that sucked.

The second performance of the year was the holiday set, which I was unbelievably excited for. My father was a self-proclaimed JewBan (Jewish and Cuban) and I was thrilled to have learned “This is Hanukkah.” The curtain went up and I was ready. We sang several holiday songs and I could see my mother and my father sitting toward the back. We’d just finished a set and the Hanukkah song was next. And that’s when my mother stood up, whacked my father on the shoulder and made her way out of the auditorium. Trying not to cry, I watched my father follow my mother out of the crowded venue. “It’s not really my thing,” she’d explained later. My father apologized when she was out of earshot. Yeah, that sucked too.

My mother and I fought the morning of my senior graduation. She’d called my father some awful names and I came to his defense. She slipped into the typical martyr act and hooped and hollered about how I showed her no love or respect…how I only regarded my father as if he were a saint. We went to my graduation and I left my parents in the car. The music played and I made my way to my seat. I got in line to receive my diploma and noticed that my father sat alone. My mothers seat was empty. When I got onstage, I looked around the gymnasium…only to notice my mother standing by the back entrance for a second. And then she walked away. Right before my name was called. Yeah, that sucked.

When I was in college, I was elated to get the role of Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. I invited my mother. Why, I still don’t know. She called with 20 minutes to showtime saying she couldn’t make it because she was in the hospital after suffering a stroke. “Well, you sound fine,” I’d said. “Well, I don’t feel fine.” The show must go on. And it did. After the show, I called my mothers friend…to check in on her progress. “What do you mean hospital? I just got off the phone with her…um…she’s been at her boyfriends.” By the way, opening night was my birthday. Yeah, that blowed.

What the hell does any of this have to do with flowers?

Nothing.

And everything.

Before he passed away, my best friend used to listen to me talk…allowed me the chance to vent and babble on about these types of moments in my life. He listened until there was nothing left to say. And then, he’d say the same thing: “Here’s a flower.” It was an imaginary flower…a figurative flower.

The first time, I asked what the hell was I supposed to do with a pretend flower and I am trying to tell you why I am upset and you are not being a very good friend right now you butthead.

I’m giving you a flower, he said, because you cannot see the beauty in the world. You are too fixated on picking apart everything until all you see if something of uselessness…of ugliness. Even in the bad, there is good. I’m giving you this flower so you can pick at it to your hearts content…and then you can let it go.

He gave me a field of flowers.

But he was right. In every performance, I got to perform…despite seats being empty. In graduating, I reached a goal so many in my family did not. In theater, I got to play a part I respected and worked hard to get. I did not see the beauty and wonder of each moment because I allowed myself to tear it apart and fixate solely on the negative of it all.

Very shortly before he died, my BFF said something that sticks with me even now. “I hope there comes a time when I never have to give you a flower again. Not because I don’t want to but because you will have no reason to pick any petals away.”

A time when I can just admire the beauty and find no reason to dwell on the bad. Sadly, I think I live in that field…continuously dwelling, worrying that something terrible is just around the corner. Because things don’t go well…can’t go well for people like me.

Despite a lifetime of being a Nervous Nelly…I hope there comes a day when I can walk in my field of flowers…and just enjoy the view.

Prompt taken from A Creative Writers Kit by Judy Reeves