10 (plus another 4) of the 40 (make that 44) Moments of my Life – Part 4

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2011

10 of The 40 Moments of my Life – Part 4 (And I’ll throw in an extra 4 to round things off)

**It’s interesting to note that it’s almost as difficult to hit publish this time as it was 4 years ago. But, it only makes sense to finish moving this post over to WordPress.

And so here we are. My 30’s. This is by far the hardest of the 40 moments to write. Mostly because I haven’t had enough distance from events to have really processed them fully. It’s much easier to laugh, cry or analyze situations that have occurred 20+ years ago. But the closer in time the events are to the present, the harder it is to reflect upon them. So bear with me…..

31. Moving Out and Moving On…Again: So I left my marriage and my 20’s behind in the same month. In January of 2001, I moved all of my belongings into a studio apartment in the exclusive downtown Kennett Square apartment building known as 131. Thanks to my good friend Steve Warner, a spot in this very exclusive apartment building was made available to me. Complete with its own entrance through a sliding glass window that you stepped down into off the porch, this studio signified my new life as a single woman. I have to say the first few years of my 30’s were an intermingling of healing a broken heart and a whole lotta fun. 131 was kinda like a college dorm for my friend Wendy and me. We lived 15 feet apart (she had the fancy 1 1/2 bedroom), were steps from the Kennett Square Inn and spent our evenings watching bad TV over the phone. We dated interesting (in the broadest sense of the word) men and drank a little like we were 22 years old. We had fun. And I needed to have some fun.

32. September 11, 2001: Just like our parents, we will always remember the moment the planes hit and our world changed. I am still dumbstruck to this day by my naivete as to the evils of the world before the morning of September 11. I was positive it was a huge mistake. I was positive it was a huge mistake even after the 2nd plane hit. It wasn’t until they hit the Pentagon that I realized this was real. And I distinctly remembering that the world would never be the same. And it hasn’t been.


33. Stephen and Max: One of the most life changing moments in my life is meeting Stephen and subsequently having Max. I had known who Stephen was long before we really knew each other. He used to wait on me and Mark when we would dine at the Farm House at Loch Nairn. And we loved for Stephen to wait on us. We felt special and taken care of when Stephen waited on us. So years later, when I went to work at the Great House (which is also at Loch Nairn) as a bartender I slowly came to know Stephen. He had forgotten about me and Mark until I jogged his memory. Apparently, he was in high demand and all of the requests run together. To make a long story short, we started dating and a few months later….surprise….I was pregnant. I will address this now because I get this question at least bi weekly; I truly believe Stephen and I are able to maintain the largely positively relationship that we due to the mere fact that we weren’t together for long before we got pregnant. We knew we were taking a chance on each other. And we trusted each other. By the time we figured out that we weren’t going to work out, we had developed a deep commitment to Max and each other as a family unit. Stephen is and always will be my family. God had a plan for us.



34. Motherhood: And then there was Max; all 9.6 lbs and 23 inches of him born after 18 hours of labor and an emergency c-section. I remember Stephen coming back from the nursery when I was still high as a kite and in recovery, and me saying to him in a panic and crying, “Where’s the baby? You can’t leave the baby! He’s never been alone before!” I was instantly in love, an anxious mess and sleep deprived to the point of mental breakdown for the first 13 months. I suffered from some pretty severe postpartum depression that I didn’t even recognize until I went postal on my boss. I have said it before and I’ll say it again – Motherhood is hard; by far the hardest thing I have ever done (in fact I wrote a blog about it). But the rewards are beyond any measure. I have never loved another human being the way I love Max. He is the exact child I was meant to have. And I feel inadequate and honored every day.



35. Back to School: Having Max put many things in perspective for me, one being that I finally needed to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Becoming a role model to Max became the catalyst for going back to finish graduate school. I wanted to be the person I knew I could be but never had the nerve to be. I never had the belief in myself to move forward in a career in psychology. There are alot of reasons for that but ultimately I think I had an incredible fear of failure. After having Max I decided I couldn’t be afraid anymore or I would be teaching him fear. So I went back to school and completed my Masters in Clinical Psychology. And then actually got a job in my field. Which is much more impressive than getting the degree.

36. Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone: About 4 months after starting graduate school, I had another falling out with the same boss (we had issues) and abruptly left my job. I stopped on the way home, grabbed the paper and started looking for a job. And there was an ad for a TSS. I had heard about TSS’s but didn’t think I had it in me to work with kids with developmental disabilities. I had this perfect little boy and I was afraid of how I would feel being around kids who weren’t perfect (or so I thought). But I also knew I was working on facing my fears so I went and interviewed and got the job. And they sent me to this orientation with the county that my current boss at Devereux facilitated. I thought the whole idea behind the orientation was to train me on how to be a TSS. In actuality, it teaches you what a whole bunch of acronyms like IEP, PDD and ODD mean. On the second day, I raised my hand and asked, “When are you gonna teach me what I’m going to be doing?” I was assured it would be on the job training. And it was. But the most powerful and profound lesson I was taught on the very first day with my little 3 year old girl with autism was “Always Assume Intellect.” And I did. And that lesson has served me well. It has allowed me to expect great things of people most others assume will never amount to anything. And I have never been disappointed by the abilities of those who are considered intellectually or developmentally delayed. They are some of the smartest, most adaptive people I know.

37. Moving Out and Moving On….for the umpteenth time: Over the years, Stephen and I drifted apart and it became clear it was again time to move on. Again – many people don’t understand why we aren’t together but we get along better apart than together. It is hard to break up your family unit and I feel like we were forced to make Max grow up faster for it. But we both felt like staying together for Max would send him mixed messages about what a healthy relationship should look like. We handled it as a family – proposing it as an arrangement in which Max would have 2 homes instead of one. Which he conveyed to others in a manner that implied one was our primary home and one was a vacation home. While he was and continues to be sad about the situation at times, he has done remarkably well with it. If I can give any advice to anyone going through a split when kids are involved it is this – your children deserve to feel loved, respected and complete in every sense of the word. If you make your shit your kid’s shit, you are screwing with how they see the world. And they deserve better than that.


38. Losing My Brother: Many of you reading this probably feel like you really got to know me through the fact that my brother died. And I told everyone. All the time. And I still do. Losing my brother Ralph was the most profound loss I have ever experienced in my life. And you have to remember, I have experienced a lot of personal loss. I lost my father, I have lost close friends, I lost my marriage. And I got through all of those things. But after Ralph died, I hit my lowest low. I have explained it before but I’ll do it again; I oozed grief. It poured out of every part of me. And I didn’t believe it would ever stop. The first year was incredibly hard and I will admit I still cry almost every day. I miss him. I took him for granted but I have needed to forgive myself for that in order to move on. Because there was one thing I knew about my brother. He believed in me probably more than any other person in my life.  He had a faith and a belief in me that never wavered. All of the doubt and fear I carried around was lost on him. He expected great things of me long before I had ever dreamed them possible.


39. Finding My Voice: I believe wholeheartedly that the greatest gift my brother gave me in his death is that I have finally truly found my voice. The night my brother died, I came home, went on to Facebook and poured my heart out onto a note and hit “share”. In the midst of all of the grief, for the first time I truly did not care what others thought of me. At my most vulnerable, I laid my heart and soul out for all to see. And the response was overwhelming. One of my biggest fears over the years was being perceived as weak and vulnerable. But I was and I am. About six months after Ralph died I finally started this blog; something I had always wanted to do but was afraid of what others would think.And it goes deeper than that – I suddenly felt incredible free; freer to be me than I ever had been in my life. And I was happy again. Happy to know that even in tragedy you can be given a gift.


40. Count your Blessings: And here I am. At 40; a moment that I fully embrace and yet I’m faced with another painful realization that life is what happens while you are busy making plans. I had decided about a year ago that I just needed to get to 40 and it would all be ok. I could leave the pain of my 30’s behind and start over new. And I would be happy and finally find everything I was looking for. I was shedding a lot of old baggage and putting things to bed. I was planning a party to celebrate moving on. A few days before Christmas, my mother became ill. It came on suddenly and hard. High fever and very weak. My sister took her to an urgent care center where they did an x-ray. They discovered a tumor which has since been diagnosed as lung cancer. Over the past few weeks, we have learned that the cancer has metastasized and her treatment options are limited. The interesting thing is what sent my mother to the urgent care center that day had nothing to do with the cancer and she has since recovered. But she now knows that she has cancer and it is not going away.

Remember how I said this decade was the hardest to write? I struggled with even disclosing this. It is too fresh and too painful. Unlike the shock of my brother’s death, my family and I are now left with the realization that we are at the beginning of a journey to a goodbye. And the fear is great, the pain is deep and we have to learn how to continue to live knowing that my mother will ultimately die. And she doesn’t deserve this. But then I realized I had to disclose this (with my mother’s permission) in order to begin to move forward in the process.

In my grief, which feels never ending at times, I have to learn to continue to live. I have to focus on all that is good and pure in my love for my mother and reconcile it with the imperfection of the relationship. And I need to forgive myself for being less than perfect in that love. And I have to count my blessings.

So anyway, when I conceptualized doing this 4 part blog, I never dreamed the last entry would be this. But it is. And I have to learn to live with that. Thank you for coming along on this journey. Thanks for being my friends. Thanks for listening.

———–
41. The Loss of My Mother: When I finished this blog days after I turned 40, all I knew was that my mother was sick with a terminal illness. The doctors gave a prognosis of 1-5 years. Of course, we chose to believe the 5. In reality, less than 90 days later, I got a call at work from my sister to get home now. My mother, who had been coherent, serene and happy 24 hours earlier, was letting go. She had returned home on hospice 2 days earlier and in our denial, we believed there was still time. There was not. The next 18 hours were excruciating, chaotic and drenched in anxiety. We just did not understand what was happening until the hospice nurse explained the process and left us alone to sit in the dark with our mother. I will admit to total hysteria, to the point that my mother used the very last of her words to say “Carol, stop.” I couldn’t. In the middle of the night, I went to my brother who sat by my mother’s side and told him that I couldn’t do this. I could not stay. And he told me it was okay to go. I learned that night that the hearing is the last thing to go. As I whispered to my mother and told her what I needed to do and what she needed to do, she turned towards me and shook her head, giving me permission to go. My mother knew me. She knew I couldn’t be there at the end. And I wasn’t. I don’t regret that. My mother loved and understood me. As I’ve said, motherhood is a powerful force.
42. Continuing to Live: As my mother was being diagnosed and we were firmly entrenched in our denial, I was surprised by an offer to teach a developmental psychology course at Immaculata University. I had wanted this opportunity and even though I only had 3 weeks to prepare and was reeling from the idea that my mother might be sick, I jumped in with both feet. I have learned so much about myself through teaching. I learned it’s hard. You think you know more than you do when you first start. You think everyone will find you as charming as you know you are. You think everyone will be as committed to the learning process as you are. And you will learn that you are wrong. (Or at least I did). I have found teaching as rewarding as it is infuriating. It can leave you feeling defeated but then some 20 year old sends you an unsolicited thank you for being my teacher email and everything else fades away. I’ve learned not to reinvent the wheel and to stop taking the Millennial propensity for trying to make you feel they know more than you do, not too personally. Unless, it’s week 13 of the semester. Then, I am more likely to take it personally. 4 years later, I’ve somehow managed to teach 20 classes. In spite of all of the changes of the past few years, I have continued to live.
43. Redefining My Family: It’s amazing that you can hit your 40’s and have to examine how you are going to relate to your family of origin, but that’s where I’ve been for the last 4 years. My mother’s death (coupled with my brother’s death) pulled the rug out from under my definition of family. My mother was “the glue” that held us all together; her house was the North Star. Now, we have neither. Two of my sisters have moved away and that big family that has defined me doesn’t look the same. It’s been a hard transition. I’ve relied heavily on my friends to fill the voids. And I’m lucky to have such great friends. And Max.
44. Lupus or No Lupus: It only seems appropriate to include my near Lupus diagnosis as one of the 44 moments of my life. After surviving a root canal performed by a man with brain cancer, I proceeded to be subjected to three rounds of attempts to install crowns on two of my front teeth. In the process, I developed a dry mouth that naturally would lead a dentist to believe you probably have Lupus. I am happy to report that I am Lupus free, but still suffer from an irritated mouth 7 months later. My extensive internet research has resulted in a call to a holistic nutritionist to see if he can vitamin me back to health. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
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