Sunday, September 27, 2015

In the Thick of It

Lately there is something very wrong with me. I suspect that the diagnosis is parenting a high school senior. I was foolish to anticipate myself a parent who would navigate a child's leaving for college with relative grace and equanimity.

How else but by this diagnosis can I explain the near crippling anxiety I am feeling this year? I have not even begun to consider the financial implications of sending a child to university. The numbers petrify me. A complicated family arrangement means that I have some assets in another state, but they are not liquid, and I don't know how to declare or otherwise deal with them, so I procrastinate. And I procrastinate. In this I am not unlike my senior.

Money or its lack aside, because I've pushed it away, I watch the stress worm its way across my senior's face: the winnowing down of a bigger list of schools into a smaller list of schools, the teacher recommendations, transcript requests, the score reporting, the organizational finesse (never his strong suit, organization) required to handle the logistics of all this on top of enrollment in several AP courses (his choice, not mine). I want to cry for him, and for me.

Mostly, though, I want to take my son by the hand and ask him if he wants to play with Legos. Or maybe have a mid-morning snack. Followed by a blessedly long nap. And this time around I will take my nap when he takes his.

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I don't need advice. This is hard, and I understand the reasons why. Here, consider this: I am in the unenviable position of nagging my kid to complete paperwork the goal of which is to remove him as an occupant of our home. Then ask yourself: Is it any wonder that I can't quite catch my breath? Yes, the diagnosis is clear. And the treatment, well, I suppose that's clear enough, too. The treatment is time. Try as I might, I cannot view this year as anything other than a year to be endured, which layered on top of the anxiety makes me grieve, for the year that might have been, the year that was, if only in my imagination.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

For Stacy, A Promise

There was this woman whose wit balanced on the sharpest part of the razor, every time. I should have remembered that comedians are the saddest among us, but I did not. I was too busy smiling.

There was this woman who was about as beautiful as anyone can be. She was thin, and elegant, and she had high cheekbones and large doe-like eyes. I should have remembered that her hurdles were no lower than mine, that her loveliness did not spare her from psychic pain any more than my ordinary looks spare me. Instead, I assumed that her life was cushioned in ways mine is not, and, if I felt anything, I felt envy.

There was this woman who could write devilishly funny, and sad, but mostly funny, because that's where she staked her claim. I laughed, and because I laughed, and the world felt just fine while I was laughing, I decided that her world must feel just fine.

There was this woman who was alive, but now is not. And while I was a friend of hers, I was never a close friend -- so although I missed many of her distress calls, I will not take that on, because I had not communicated with her in a long time, and because God knows she would not want me to take that on.

But. I will be more careful with those I love. I will try to read between the lines they speak and read into the lines written in their faces. I will probe for sadness, check to see if its flames are licking at the bottoms of curtains. No longer will I stop at "I'm fine." I will reject the stock answer.

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And my taking an extra step, or ten? Stacy, that is on you. Because if you could fall between the cracks, surely anyone can.

I can't bring you back, but maybe I can help someone else stay here a little longer. Maybe I can remember not to assume anything about anyone, especially when the content of the assumption concerns the private places and spaces where sadness takes root.

I think you'd like that.



Stacy Lyn Campbell, 6/22/77-9/16/15


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The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 1-800-SUICIDE