There have been many changes in my little world over the last few months. As a relentless optimist, I like to dwell on the positives and that, of course, is just wonderful. What I don't do easily, is acknowledge the negatives and the difficulties that go along with all the changes. One of my brothers said today that I have had a hard life. This usually makes me very nervous and I deny it at once even though I have long suspected that all of my brothers think this. I fear that to have had a hard life I must be suspect, dreary and tedious company. This time, however, I agreed with him about the hard life. (Not about being suspect, dreary and tedious. I will have to be held over the Grand Canyon by my toes to admit that.) (It is wrong, anyway, so don't even think about booking tickets to Arizona, because I won't go.) It has been too, a very good life, and I am glad that I have as much in it as I do. It has also been eventful, and I have learned and experienced a great deal, and am glad and grateful to do the things that I do. Without having suffered loss and great pain, I would never have chosen to work as an artist with those at the end of life for the A Graceful Death exhibition. What my life is not, however, is easy.`Fun, eventful, challenging and full, yes. But easy, no.
One of the things that a parent dreads most is the loss of their child. I have three children, and all of them are alive. One of my children is not well though, and has fallen into a black hole of a life that takes him away from me, especially away from me, for however long, if ever, it takes for him to find his way out. I am dealing with the decision I have made to keep myself away from him too, so that I feel protected from his choices. There are so many things that this child, no longer a teenager and legally an adult, is facing. I cannot imagine the pit inside him that drains all the light and life from him, and fuels his powerful rage and terrifying instability. My child is not dead, he is alive, and I face a battle to keep myself going in spite of drawing a line in the sand with all the madness surrounding him.
This is hard. I don't want to have to think about it. I don't want to face up to it, and I don't find being tough and assertive easy. But there is no other way.
Where is my boy? I remember the games we used to play with toy dinosaurs. I remember the complicated buildings he would make with old video cassette boxes, reaching to almost taller than him. I remember him filling them with toy animals and furniture, and making magical new worlds in which he and his younger brother could play. I remember not being able to put him down as a baby, as he would cry for hours, and hours, and hours, and so I would go about my daily business with him strapped to me in a baby harness. Even at night, he was strapped to me, so that I could get some sleep. My boy, this difficult little angel, is stepping into darkness as an adult, and may not be able to step out again. He may not choose to step out again. Whatever he is taking, whatever he is doing, seems to numb whatever demons there are in his head that misinform him of his place in this world.
This, today, is the thing that I don't want to deal with, and this, today, is the thing that I am dealing with.
I am new to this. I have a friend who has had to do it for one of her children, and I watched her as she was coming to terms with having to make this choice. It was the only way, she said. It was vital to do this for the rest of the family, it was vital to tell this child, who was an adult too but in her eyes, always her child, it was vital to make a stand and to say, "No. You will not destroy us too. We love you, and we are here, but you must go this way on your own." I hoped at the time, that I would not have to do this, but I always had a dreadful feeling that I would.
Every week now, I join a group of people who are going through the same thing as I am. Every week, we speak and listen to each other in the presence of two trained and experienced counsellors in this area. I am not alone. I believed that my son was more damaged and damaging than anyone could ever imagine, but at these meetings I hear about other children who are just the same, and some who are a great deal worse. The thing is, we love our children. But in order to deal with the pain and trauma of their decisions and behaviours, we have to make a stand. If our children want help, if our children really want to change, then they must make the first move, and we will do whatever we can to support that. But in the meantime, we feel afraid, vulnerable, responsible and haunted. So we speak to each other every week, and find that we are not alone, and that we are not to blame, and that we are doing the very best we can but that we must not play the game that has kept us for so long isolated, frightened and aiding and abetting our children's behaviours.
The strange thing is, that my house is full of light and peace now. My work is going better than ever, and I am healthier than I have been in a while. I am making a conscious decision to lose weight and to regain control over my life, and I am having friends and family to stay when before, it was impossible. I am often afraid, but feeling strong. The quiet moments during the nights are the worst, when I dream of terrifying journeys up mountains in the dark, with violent storms making movement impossible and deadly. But then, the days are full of other people and other things, and often, answers to questions that I can't answer at night become apparent during the day, and I am relieved.
We shall end on a good note. My mother today said that as a family - and my family is vast, covering many continents - we do not like what is happening, but as a member of our family, this child is loved and we shall not give up on him.
And I remain not suspect, tedious and dreary. I remain sparking, bright and jolly. So put the phone down, I am not going to Arizona.
|The brighter the light the darker the shadow.|