|Lost in Space - remember that one? |
"Danger, Will Robinson!"
Significant loss changes a person, I've been told. You spend the rest of your life finding out who you are now. Career, divorce, a death...these things have a lasting effect. Ignoring that fact not only doesn't help, it actually hurts.
Last night, who I was, or who I appeared to be, was not "sparkling," as my sister would say. First there was the blow-up with my teenage granddaughter, followed (after a bit) by my apology for getting angry. I assured her that what I had needed to say wouldn't have changed, or what I did, but I should have said and done those things without the anger. Anger = loss. That's just the way it is. If you get angry with a child, the opportunity for teaching and effective discipline is sucked into his or her vortex of snarkiness. You can hardly blame kids for being disrespectful when you give them the upper hand like that.
Just after that, I went to log on to my laptop and it politely informed me that my either my username or password was incorrect. Couldn't be my name, because I know who I am. I tried my password over and over. The computer thoughtfully provided a hint. Still, I was wrongwrongwrong. But it felt right. I knew it was right! I'd logged on a dozen times that day without a hitch. What had changed?
Obviously it was the computer. I ran a lengthy diagnostic - backup a sec. First I had to locate the book to tell me HOW to run a lengthy diagnostic. The grandson needed to get to bed - the granddaughter had already gone to sleep at the astonishingly early hour of 8pm (which explained HER snarkiness...the poor thing was exhausted!) - so I enlisted the husband's help (the daughter was taking a test at the college). Grandson tucked in, I used the desktop to find tech support, prepared for an online chat or phone call, saw a suggestion for bypassing a password, looked into that.
After hours...HOURS...during which I also deleted an enormous amount of junk the grandkids had downloaded onto the desktop, I thought to try another time. Months ago, I had dropped the numbers in my old password. Last night, my brain reverted to that time frame, insistent that the numbers belonged, when in fact, they did not. Without the numbers, I was in like Flynn.
|Long ago Hollywood bad boy |
Errol Flynn, accused (but acquitted)
of naughtiness with underage girls.
"In like Flynn" is a slang phrase meaning "having completed a goal or gained access as desired". In addition to its general use, the phrase is sometimes used to describe success in sexual seduction, and its folk etymology often asserts the phrase has sexual origins.
So this morning, the husband asks if I was able to fix my computer. "Yes," I said. "All I had to do was type in the right password." He knows me pretty well after 35 years, replying, "You need a day off." And he is correct.
That's what my brain does. Like a supercomputer that slows down while working on a difficult calculation, my brain can only deal with so much stress before it calls for a time out. Usually, it functions adequately. Stress overload, and I start forgetting appointments or losing track of passwords. It is my gray matters' alert system. Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!
The first time I noticed this in a dramatic way was twelve years ago this week, and in the weeks to follow, for several months. Our son Adam died August 22, 2000. Grief took so much energy that my brain slowed down considerably. I noticed it at work. I noticed it at home. A sentence was difficult to put together at times. Already on a low dose of anti-depressant for Life, my doctor gently suggested I might need more now. He doubled the dose, and I saw a big improvement.
Even then, I heard comments to the effect that as soon as possible, I should get off "drugs." As if taking meds was a sign that I lacked faith, that I wasn't availing myself of God's everpresent supernatural help. Really? No one suggested that stop wearing contact lenses because God was enough. The chemistry of my brain was askew, and taking medication helped things work better. Since when is that a lack of faith?
I also bought a punching bag, taking out some of my pent-up anger - at God, at Ford (the faulty manufacturer of the Explorer, which went out of control, ultimately resulting in my son's death), at a few ridiculously insensitive people I had to face regularly - by pummeling
it instead of exploding.
I turned to other things for comfort, too.
About a year after Adam's death, 11 years ago, our OPO representative (the Organ Procurement Organization - Adam was an organ donor) called to check on me. I laughed at some comment and he said, "I'm glad to hear you're doing so well." I laughed again. "Let's keep this in perspective, Dave: I'm on Zoloft, I have a punching bag, and I drink." He laughed, then, too, saying he was going to remember that one, and tell the others he worked with. Maybe they still talk about the donor mom who didn't exactly go off the deep end, but definitely wasn't just wading.
I'm not on meds now, haven't been for years. The punching bag is no longer needed...oh, yeah, I still get angry, but I lean now toward other anger management tools: yard work, yoga, writing, exercise. I still drink, but it is because I want to, choose to, not because I have to. I actually like the taste of a nice glass of wine in the evening, or the combination of diet Code Red and hot buttered popcorn (still have to have comfort food some time!).
But then, this week, this anniversary week for the worst week of my life, hits and my brain goes to mush again. Twelve years into this process of getting to know who-I-am-now, and some things haven't changed all that much. I can take a lot, but only so much. Anything extra, anything at all, and my brain makes me stop and take inventory. Deep breaths, a little meditation (the Psalms are great for this), a glass of Cabernet, maybe a word game against my son on the phone...perspective is regained. The heart slows. Oxygen flows.
All may not be right with the world, but when I allow myself time to reboot, give myself permission to fall back and regroup, arrange a day off to look forward to...it's not too shabby. Not too shabby at all. There are even quite a few sparkles...and the blacker the sky, the brighter the stars appear.
(c) Ellen Gillette, 2012.