If I say I’m fine….I’m lying

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Many memes and many jokes (mostly at men’s expense) have skirted around the fact that if a woman says, “I’m fine”, there is an emotional undertone that means something far beyond being fine.  My experience with the phrase ‘I’m fine’ has completely surpassed that, to the point that nobody in my immediate family uses those two words to describe their current state of being.

Both of my parents were alcoholics and suffered through a myriad number of complications through their later years.  It is an ugly disease with ugly consequences.  The worst part of watching the effects of alcoholism deteriorate a human body is having that person tell you that, while they are suffering numerous symptoms and contrary to every doctor’s diagnosis, they are fine.  Fine is no longer a word I use to describe how I feel and for very good reason – it’s bullshit.

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I sent a text to a friend yesterday to ask about their well-being and was given the response “I’m okay”.   Although it was not the tried and hated response of “I’m fine”, it ranked right up there and it made my Spidey senses tingle.  I knew there was more going on but I also knew not to push.

When you get a text message from someone you know on a very personal level, the inflection in their voice is heard loud and clear above the silence of a text message.  The only thing I can do is be here when they need to vent, to be present when they realize that I know they are not “fine” or “okay” and just be ready to listen.

 

Finding light in the darkness

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“What happened in the past that was painful has a great deal to do with what we are today.” ~ William Glasser

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Looking back at my past, I can almost see the lines in the distance of the paths that I have chosen.  They are faint in the waning light but the traces are still visible.  Those lines, those roads I chose to follow, helped to carve the figure of the person I am now.

Along that road not everything was painful but I can say that those arduous moments gave me more definition as a person than the happier, less stressful times.  Those darker moments made me a stronger version of myself.  Those difficult stages during my life gave me the tenacity and the persistence to overcome obstacles that I may not have been able to cope with had my life been easier.

It is how we carry ourselves through the difficult moments that gives us our strength.  It is how we persevere through misfortune that builds our character.  I am who I am because of what I have experienced.  I am a better version of the me I could have been because I endured pain and suffering.  I made a point to learn from it and now my inner light far outweighs any of the darkness from my past.

Cut and dry

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Perhaps I spent too much time worrying.  After all, it wasn’t my problem but I couldn’t seem to stop ministering to his lack of self-control.  I care more than he ever did and in the end I divorced the bottle, not him.

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The things I should remember

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I have been thinking about, and talking about, my parents a lot lately.  For a person my age, it is sad that I have to talk about how they used to be because they were taken far too early, both victims of the serial killer known as alcoholism.  I wrote a very heartfelt blog post here telling the tale of what my perspective was like growing up as a child of alcoholic parents.  But after I read it again, and cried again, I realized I had been doing them a grave injustice.

So, I went back to the beginning – back to the days before that serial killer lurked in the shadows of my house, back to the days when life was great and back to the days when no elephant existed in any room in our home.

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My mom and dad were a lot of fun.  My brother and I had many parties at our family home and my parents would remain in their bedroom allowing us full access to the house to host our friends.  But at the end of the night, the number of our friends watching TV with my parents in their room far outweighed the number of our friends in our living room.  Those were my parents.

They played strip ping-pong with the neighbours.  They ran naked from the neighbours’ sauna to roll in the snow and then back to the sauna.  They enjoyed life, they made the most of the good times and they truly loved each other.

When I began to think of what they were like as a couple, I couldn’t help but smile remembering how my dad used to look at my mom.  If my mom was within arm’s length, his hands would make contact with whatever part of her he could reach.  He would pat her bum as she walked by him.  He would kiss her every chance he got.  And when he grabbed her hand, I could see his hand physically squeezing hers several times in a sworn gesture of being smitten by her.  It was all about being able to touch each other, just to remind each other that they were there for the right reasons.

I had long forgotten those moments.  I was so marred by the effects that alcohol had on their relationship that I failed to remember the beautiful connection they had to each other.

And now that I have blinded myself to the painful memories, I will embrace the images of their fingers intertwined without realizing they were holding hands.  I will cling to the thought of how my dad just wanted to be close to her.  And I will forever hold close the knowledge that a simple touch from someone who means so much can change everything about your day.

After so many daily thoughts about so many things that don’t matter, I finally realized…..these are the things that I should remember.

 

 

 

 

Who’s hiding behind your walls?

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Today I have contributed a post at Stories That Must Not Die.  It is a brief synopsis of alcoholism and growing up with two parents who were haunted by that very beast.  Click here to read the story.  My post here was prompted by the post at STMND combined with a conversation I had yesterday.

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There are moments that sneak up on you and make you realize how much a life growing up with two alcoholic parents has insidiously ingrained itself into your way of being.  My endearing character traits and my flaws are directly related to the life I lived as a teenager and a young adult.  If you read my post, you’ll understand that ours was a very loving home but I grew up much more quickly than I should have and learned, very young, how to build walls around myself.  I created a hard outer shell to keep myself soft and emotional on the inside but tough on the outside.

It was during a very interesting conversation with a male friend yesterday that the subject of dating came up, specifically dating websites and the basic instincts of humans regarding the laws of attraction.  He had taken a rudimentary stab at what qualities I would say I look for in a man and he was off the mark, but he was also guessing from a man’s perspective on what he thinks a woman would want based on the opposite of what a man would want.

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I had all-but forgotten about the primal instincts of men and I am not saying that in a negative way.  In my quest to protect myself and build my walls, I had potentially buried the softer, more feminine side of myself and let the tomboy be the dominant, protective personality.  It was how a teenage mind dealt with a difficult situation and potentially how I have removed myself from the desirable end of the dating pool. That simple awareness was like an awakening.  It is a rare but divine twist of fate that can take an outside force and use it to help you discover an inner truth.

Our conversation really opened my eyes.  I will never try to be someone I am not just to go on a date but perhaps that little girl inside of me is a part of who I really am and I just never gave her a chance.  I built my walls so high that she had no choice but to peer over them and wonder what was on the other side.

Walls are only effective if you know who you are protecting and who the real enemy is and, in this case, I became my own worst enemy.  I may have protected myself from a big part of who I was really meant to be but at least there is still time to find her and give her a chance.

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That glue really is Krazy stuff

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My mom and dad both battled their share of medical problems.  There were many trips to local hospitals and many chats with our family doctor to make difficult decisions.

In early 2003, my dad became so ill that those decisions were unable to be made by us or by our local ER doctors.   He had been flown by air ambulance to Toronto with an upper G.I. bleed and his stomach was sprayed with super glue to stop the bleeding.  According to the specialists, it was the only thing they could do to save his life.   By some miracle, it worked.

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My mom and I basically moved in with my aunt and uncle in Burlington and drove into the hospital in Toronto each day.  I became an amateur resident doctor in a span of a few weeks.  I would check his chart each morning and even yelled at a nurse when I read that he had been given Aspirin, a blood thinner, during the night to control his fever.

When he finally regained consciousness, he had been in a medically induced coma for two and a half weeks and suspended in his own state of consciousness for another four days after that.  He had been on a respirator that had since been removed and he was initially unaware that he had to cover the hole in his throat to be able to speak.

It took him a while to acclimate and, once we showed him that he had to put his finger on the opening to have a voice,  the first question he asked me was “what day is it?”

“It’s Wednesday, Dad.”

Without missing a beat, he put his finger back on the opening to his throat and croaked, “I’m not happy about that.”

I looked sideways at my mother and we both had to look away.  After three weeks of sitting vigil at his bedside, wondering if he would even recover from all of the things going wrong in his body, we started to giggle.  I was dumbfounded.  He was mad because it was Wednesday!  He wasn’t angry that he was attached to a plethora of medical equipment.  He wasn’t concerned that my mom and I were covered from head to toe in gowns and masks to prevent contamination in the ICU.  He wasn’t upset that he had to put a finger over the gaping hole in his throat to utter any words.  He was mad because it was Wednesday.  The stress-releasing laughter continued and my mom and I were quickly ushered out of the ICU.

That moment in time left an imprint on my brain.  I regaled my co-workers with the story and, since my dad was home and on the mend, it became our go-to phrase in the office.   Every time something went wrong, one of us would cover a phantom hole in our throat and squawk, “I’m not happy about that”.

My  dad passed away in March of 2006.  That memory had sadly disappeared until one of those friends typed the line “I’m not happy about that” into one of her emails today.  After all of the things we had gone through with my mom recently that moment in my life had become buried in the recesses of my brain, but I’m glad it’s back.  I forgot a big part of the journey with my dad and “I’m not happy about that”.  At least the memory is back and I will hold onto it this time.

To my mom – Trifextra Challenge

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Your strength and tenacity plagues yet amazes me.  You defy the odds of modern medicine and diagnosis.  Despite expectation you continue to thrive and live to see another day.  The gates will wait.

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Written for the weekend Trifecta Challenge and dedicated to my mom who is in failing health, but continues to fight with every ounce of her determination.

The challenge is this:  Last weekend we gave you a super prescriptive prompt.  We also promised you we’d ease up this week.  As such, this weekend we are asking for a thirty-three word free-write.  Any topic, any style–just give us your best thirty three.