Throughout this whole ordeal with my mother, which is really just beginning, I’ve had a lot of people telling me how strong I am. How strong I must be to do what I’m doing. That I’m strong, and I’ll get through this.
Here’s a little secret: I’m not strong.
I’ve heard from many people that I give off a tough, edgy vibe, especially when you first meet me. It’s not something I’m trying actively to do, it’s just how I am. I’m Greek, and have a natural scowl on my face even when I feel I look completely neutral and expressionless. Maybe it’s that. Maybe it’s my aura. Maybe it’s my dark hair or my big mouth or my blunt honesty. Or a combination of some or all of those things. But you know what? I’m not strong.
I was strong earlier in life. Before I was sick for 5 years. When I used to run 6 days a week, do the Navy Seals workout twice a week. When I worked a second job as a security guard as a concert facility, working all day in a proper office and then changing my clothes in the car on the drive down to Cuyahoga Falls and then racing to my post in the VIP area, where I’d take care of the corporate sponsors and their esteemed guests, and throw other assholes out on their ear, tearing up their ticket and letting them know they were on the lawn the rest of the night, or handing them over to the sheriff’s deputies if they’d accosted me. I remember dragging guys by their hair over rows of seats – bump, bump, bump, and pushing them under the rope line, never to be seen again. THEN, I was strong. Before I broke a vertebra in my lower back riding a horse, back THEN, I was strong. Before I went through so many broken hearts, broken engagements and broken promises that I realized there is no white knight, nobody who would always love me no matter what, that life is about choices and doing the best you can, which is often not as much as you wanted for yourself. Before countless people who said they’d love me forever quit speaking to me completely. Before I fled those who hurt me so often or so badly that I couldn’t stay any longer. Before I almost gave up on having a kid, gambled big and got lucky with IVF – which takes a lot of strength to go through. Before I had 10 surgeries. Before I did things I said I’d never do, said things I thought I’d never say. Before I found out my identity growing up as a child was built on a lie. Before I found out, as an adult, that I wasn’t in fact one of two siblings.
I was strong before. I don’t feel strong now. Stop telling me I’m strong. I’m not. I do what I have to do to get through the day, because the alternative is not to do anything, and I can’t really do that. I have a kid to take care of. I can’t just stop working, hop a plane to San Diego, rent a car and drive to Ensenada, and disappear into tequila and chips and guac for a month. I don’t have the credit, for starters, so I wouldn’t get very far. And my kid, he still likes me. He hasn’t figured out that his mommy put his grandma in the psych ward, or that Chuck E Cheese wasn’t really closed that one day, or that I lied when I told him he really likes mushrooms – that he just forgot because he was a baby when he ate them (and so now eats them all the time). That mommy is not perfect, not really all that strong, sometimes makes bad choices even when trying to do the best that she can. That I don’t always know the right way to do something, or even, what “right” means, exactly – right for whom, when?
Strong people don’t have to pull over because they are crying so hard they can’t see the road right. The 5K I ran last Saturday feels like it was a year ago. I couldn’t run anywhere now if a bear was chasing me.
I’d like to think that I am currently held together by the glue that is the group of my loving, caring friends. I’ve had many wonderful offers of support and many encouraging calls, texts, emails and messages. But none of them can make my mom sane again or make me feel less guilty, so I don’t know what to tell them to do to help. None of them can make me feel strong. Maybe some people should just physically carry me around until I can walk again on my own and not feel like I’m going to break with every step or dissolve into tears. Maybe then I can be strong again.