Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fragile Mom

Talked to Mom last night on the phone. She sounded young. Not youthful and full of vigor, but vulnerable and without her usual armor. The loss of her companion of the last 16 years is going to be a hard blow. Now she has no parents, no siblings, and only her three children. I predict she is going to experience depression, loneliness and grief.

I will offer to move the sofa out of my "art room" and put in its place a twin bed. We have a twin bed in storage left over from when my husband's daughter lived with us. A bed for my mother would mean that she could visit with us all evening or day and not have to drive home at night. We could cook dinner together and go for walks. There is little else we have to offer her, we live very simple lives. At night, after dinner we frequently have the discussion, "shall we watch a movie or read a book?" We don't have regular television. It saves on the cable bill and is perhaps a healthier way to live.

When I watch t.v. at my mother's home the emotions of the actors in the ads bothers me - it is so forced, artificial, and borderline hysterical. Most of the time also I hate to watch actors acting. Sitcoms or talk shows are rarely appreciated by me. I like "The Office" and "30 Rock" which I rent on DVD after the season is over. The television is mounted at the foot of our bed - there is no living room in our apartment. Four rooms. The large kitchen that fits a sofa and table in it, our tiny bedroom with the looming screen by our feet, a large art room, and a library. The apartment matches our interest in reading and creating.

I'm going to go spend a little time with my mother. She is planning already on taking me everywhere she goes. Every errand. But I hate going away from my husband. And he will suffer too. He will start drinking beer to feel less lonely. And every day the weather is nice he will take the dog on a long walk. She will also get a privilege only indulged in when I am away, - joining my husband on top of the bed. Last time I left for my mother's I returned home and found that the sheets were full of grit. It is what the dog drags in from the outside.

I love my mom but I dread the loss of my routine and my familiar surroundings. I think these things, along with my husband, help keep me grounded and sane. I'm not one to care for traveling or doing exciting new activities. We go to the same familiar places. We walk the same route. We have our little rituals; a shared spinach calzone on Thursday night, grocery shopping on Friday night and Church on Sunday.

The great French Flaubert, author of "Madame Bovary" wrote to a friend in 1876 and said, "Be well-ordered in your life, and as ordinary as a bourgeois, in order to be violent and original in your work." In other words, save the emotional drama for your artwork. Live life simply and keep your mind clean and clear for the times when you create. With creation you can experience wildness and uncivilized highs and lows that will exhaust. I do believe that when my life is well ordered and I am writing my book every day I experience two lives, separated and distinct. There is the inner life of creation and the outer life of everyday happenings. Occasionally an inner light will shine upon some everyday happening, and I will see or understand something profound in the world around me, but really, most insight about life is reserved for the characters of my book.

My therapist gave me his personal cell phone number to call in an emergency while I am away. He doesn't know but I would probably never call him. I dread asking anything personal of him. Not an ounce of his personal attention outside of the therapy visit in his office. He is not my friend, he is not my acquaintance, he is Other. I would consider it a grave weakness in character to call him in need. I like him a lot, I don't want to be a burden on him. He's like a gift you save until last to open at Christmas time. Someone special to talk to on Friday afternoon. A chocolate dessert. I even, don't really want to share my sickness with him. I tell him "What you see is the best of me". I'm usually well rested and in good spirits at all of our appointments. Of course I do share stories of my sickness with him, and perhaps he sees it in me. How I am sad that my sickness lessens me. I suppose that I would like to be my therapist's peer, something that is impossible. The shame of having this illness runs deep.

In the past I have called a therapist at a private phone number. It was humiliating while he whispered to me so that his children would not hear his conversation. That was when I was 18 years old. Another time I called a different therapist at her phone service (I was in my late twenties), said it was an emergency, and they patched me through to her private home. I can't remember why I would have called either therapist - it must have been because I was suicidal. And both times they talked me down, calmed me down. So it isn't really a bad idea to call your therapist when you are in need, except, I've grown so much in how I handle my illness I don't see the need. I can medicate myself or I have a husband to call, and of course, I can always drive to an emergency room. Probably I'm simply too proud to call my current therapist. I like him so much I don't want to be his patient - a paradox and an untruth. So I'll try, as much as I can, not to act like a patient. Calling him would be like admitting defeat.

Perhaps I am simply a coward. And I find it hard to believe that human kindness exists. When I see evidence of it, it always surprises me and warms my heart. But this is because I always live just a little removed from the existence of other human beings. It could be my illness. Schizophrenia is not known for making people feel closer to one another. Schizophrenia tends to create loners. But I think I have had the mark of an outsider on me from birth. I try hard to harmonize and go with the flow of my surroundings. I've grown adept over the years. I'm skilled at smiling and making small conversation. This is helpful in church situations. But in my heart, what I ignore and shove aside, is fear of the other person. Probably the only person that I completely trust is my husband. I use him to comfort me, he is like a soft baby's blanket. Beloved, frayed, clutched close. All those evenings when he is reading a book and I lay my head upon his stomach and close my eyes. This is what is the essence of being home means.

And that is why it is going to be so difficult to spend a mere few days away from him.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Karen,

    You are kind to take the time to be there for your mother as long as you don't neglect yourself in the process. I understand how precious private time is, especially when you have a creative spirit. I think it's important to be there for your family, but it's just as important to be there for yourself, especially when you have mental health issues. I am definitely one of those schizophrenia loner types. Sometimes I get too isolated, but other times I thrive in my solitude mainly because I am creative. At first I felt a bit guilty about being so withdrawn from humanity, as if it was a fault I should be ashamed of, but within the last year I have come to terms with myself and realize that this may just be my natural state. There's a big difference between being non social and being anti social. I like people, but I need chunks of time alone. It's a balancing act. But ideally I think your situation is best, to have a best friend who is also your spouse and to have private time to be an artist.

    Stay well,



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