Letters to Mom 020: Relationship Rambling

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I ran my race.

I didn’t run all of it. I didn’t really try to run all of it. There were two points where I met another runner and walked with them while we talked about life and our past race experiences. I could have run more, but I don’t have this pressure or feeling that I should have run more. I did what I wanted and I’m ok with that.

I’m surprised with how recovered I feel. I know I ran more this race than I did on any of my previous races. I still did all of the obstacles. I still crossed the finish line and had my victory beer.

I’m… happy… with my race and that makes me feel sad in a way. I wrote about it at least once that I can remember. I never thought success could be painful, but it is now. I did well and so I hurt because I did well when mom isn’t here. Maybe one day I’ll grow past this point in my life where everything comes back to her death, but right now I haven’t and so this is where I am.

I did well and I can’t show mom any of the pictures. It hurts even though at the same time I have all of these positive feelings. Ox went with me. He was there when I crossed the finish line. He even gave me a half-way hug while someone else took our picture for us. He drove me to and from the race. He went to dinner with me the night before where we got subs and had ice cream from a local deli near the race location.

We had a mostly serious conversation about our relationship, and though nothing was really solved or figured out, I feel like it was important that we talked.

It’s hard to want to go back to work. I want to see my patients but I really don’t want the stress that goes with my job. I don’t want the annoying hours. Maybe part of the discontent is from being tired. Maybe I’ll be more ok with the thought of work tomorrow, but for right now, I would be ok if I didn’t have to go back. I have too many tangled emotions right now to want to be around people.

I’m glad that almost all of the obstacles felt easy and that the hardest part about the run was running uphill. I’m glad my new Vibrams performed well. I’m glad I didn’t get super sunburnt. I’m glad I went to the race.

There’s so much I want to write about but I don’t know how right now. It’s why I didn’t write yesterday or before the race.

Mom, I miss you. I know you would be so proud right now. I know you would listen to every word if we were talking. I’ve already been cornered by Mama Ox and talked about all the different obstacles and how I felt I did and was the time with my trainer worth it and all of these other questions and side tangents…

But it wasn’t you. She wasn’t who I wanted to talk to and though I knew it was a conversation that I had to have, I didn’t want to. I wanted to talk to you. I still do. I still need it to be you that I gush and ramble to. I need this to be for you right now.

The “race day” adventure started Friday evening. Ox came home after getting off from work. We packed the car up and said goodbye to his parents so we could try to out drive a storm that had the potential to hail on us.

We stopped at a gas station before getting on the interstate to fill up the car and get snacks. He helped me scrub the windows clean of bug guts since that’s a thing I have to deal with here in Nebraska. We ate pretzels and beef jerky while listening to music as we traveled. We were able to beat the storm because we’re badasses like that.

We made it to the town of Blair, home of the bears, which is where I had been able to get a hotel room. We were still about 30 minutes from the race location, but that was the closest hotel I could find. Nebraska is so spread out and a lot of the towns are small. I was sort of surprised we ended up as close as we did.

Blair is quaint. It’s bigger than Hickman, but it has a lot of mom and pop type places. The deli we went for dinner is a good example. In a way, it reminded me of Ye Old Fashion in Summerville. The food wasn’t anything crazy or out of the ordinary. I had a roast beef sub. It wasn’t anything that I couldn’t have made myself at home, but it was still good and I enjoyed eating carbs at night guilt-free, knowing that I would run them off during the race. I even indulged and had a waffle cone with cookie dough ice cream.

It had been a choice between driving to the race location so we could see where it was at and getting food since we didn’t get to Blair until 8pm. Food won out and I’m glad it did. I enjoyed sharing a nice meal with Ox. It was datey feeling, getting ice cream with him.

This was our second road trip together since he flew down to Orlando to drive with me to Nebraska when I moved. It was nice to feel like we got away together.

I wish I could ask you about sex advice, mom. I know Ox says it isn’t me, but it’s hard to feel like it isn’t. We were finally alone. Away. I’m losing weight, again. I’m doing well at work. I cover my bills. I’m domestic with doing laundry and cooking and cleaning.

I don’t know what else to do to be a better, more attractive or enticing mate.

I have been told it’s not me. I’m doing everything right. But that doesn’t change the feelings of “It is me”. This issue has followed me through all of my relationships. I have a higher sex drive than my partner and I don’t know how to change that or to come to terms with the feelings of loneliness that go with it.

Did you ever experience relationships like this, mom? How did it make you feel if you did? What happened? How did you cope?

I’m told I am sexy. I am beautiful. But I don’t feel those things, mom, and I don’t know how to change that. When I say them, when I say, “I am beautiful” it feels like a lie. That combination of words isn’t one of MY truths. I know my truths shouldn’t be based on another person’s opinion or actions or feelings. It should be based on mine, but in my head when I hear “You’re beautiful” I think, “No. I’m not. I’m just me.”

Just me…

That’s a lot of things, though. I’m “just” amazing and fantastic and compassionate and empathic and logical and emotional and structured and spontaneous and fun and funny and outgoing and reserved. I’m an INFJ and there’s so much that goes into “just me”. I don’t know why having sex less often than what my nervous system wants causes so much strife within myself.

Why does it make me question my self-worth? What does it make me wonder if there’s something I should be doing, or doing differently, or not doing? Why does it make me feel like the problem is within myself?

I don’t know if you would have any insight, but I wish I could talk to you about it. I wish I could hear your voice assuring me that Ox and I will figure it out. He’s so many things that my past relationships haven’t been. Why can’t I let this one thing go?

It made Friday night hard. I had packed a piece of lingerie with me. We were alone. We didn’t have Life breathing down our necks with obligations or responsibilities. Sexy time wasn’t in our cards for that night, though. The lingerie went unworn.

It was hard to not feel unattractive.  While we were outside smoking before going to bed I asked if there was anything I could or should be doing differently.

In the end, I asked if it was like my grief and how it can’t really be explained. Was it similar to how I wish my grief could be something like the memory orbs from Inside Out where I could let someone else hold it and say, “This. This is what I feel.”

Ox said yeah. It was like that. He could try to explain as best he could, but there wasn’t really a way to explain to someone else what it feels like to want to please your partner and not be able to.

I know we’re more than roommates or good friends, but it’s hard to feel or support that fact inside my head. It feels like a big part of the relationship is missing or withering away. We both come home from work. I do chores. He plays video games. We go to sleep. We wake up and repeat.

We ended up sleeping cuddled close together which helped keep the lonely feelings from winning. I still didn’t feel sexy or beautiful, but I didn’t feel alone.

When we woke up we checked out the breakfast bar at the hotel but decided to go to a local diner instead. It was another decent meal of nothing super facey. I had rye toast with a mushroom omelet. I even had some of the hashbrowns. We drove to the race site. Ox helped spray my back down. I wore the top he found for me. I had my new shoes. He was at the start line taking pictures and watching me raise my hand for Nebraska even though I had been giving him shit about still representing Florida.

He was there at the end, mom. He was there when I crossed the finish line covered in mud and he didn’t make me feel bad or weird for doing it. He held my bag and let me have my beer and… goddamnit, he’s awesome and I feel like shit for having such a shallow hang up.

He didn’t have to drive two hours to sit for an hour and fifteen minutes out in the sun surrounded by strangers while I ran a circle. He didn’t have to sit there and worry about me not finishing the race because I hurt myself on an obstacle he couldn’t see or twisted my ankle while running. He didn’t have to go. He didn’t have to give me a partial hug. Hell, a partial hug is more than what Zane would give me when I got home after biking to and from work so he could use my car and all that was was sweat.

Ox didn’t try to stop me from going or try to talk me out of it. He doesn’t make me feel bad for spending as much time at the gym as I do or the nights I’ve spent a majority of our “together” time at the dojo instead of being home. He goes to SCA combat practices with me even though he doesn’t fight. He wakes up at 3:45 on the mornings I work just so we can have a cigarette together before I leave even though it almost always fucks up his sleep. He lets me sleep on the couch when I feel the need to have space. He lets me write. He always says thank you when I do something. Making his lunch. Doing the laundry. The small, trivial, unnoticeable things of everyday life aren’t unnoticeable to him and he acknowledges those actions.

Through our conversations of Friday night, he told me he thinks it might be low testosterone. Having been in relationships where I’ve been told I need to be on medication to “fix” myself, I feel awful about the thought of Ox feeling like he needs to take or do something to “fix” himself.

He’s human, so I can’t say he’s perfect, but the thought that I might be making him feel pressured to do something like taking pills or medication sucks. It didn’t make me feel good when it was done to me, so I don’t want to do it to another person, intentionally or unintentionally.

He said taking supplements is something he wants to try; for me, but for him too. He said he’s noticed other things which could be related to low testosterone. I guess it’s something he’s thought about since before our conversation.

I guess there’s not much else to say in regards to this. I wish I knew your opinion, mom. I wish you could tell me if I’m making mountains out of molehills. I know sex is important, yet at the same time not, yet at the same time is… I wish it wasn’t such a big part of the race but since all of this talking happened the night before, it’s tied into it and so there’s no way I can talk about one without the other. It’s the part that’s unresolved in my head and so it’s the part I need to talk about first.

The conversations I have with Ox always bring us closer. In the end, we agreed that we’re ok. We cuddled close together, his arms wrapped around me, and slept through the night. I woke up rested even though I was in a foreign environment and usually have a hard time sleeping in a bed other than my own. I was with Ox and we were ok so it was ok.

We had a nice breakfast in a cute town. He let me have my day. We drove back to Lincoln and we went to our Mongolian Grill and he let me wear my fuzzy warrior hat inside the whole time along with my medal. He went out in public with me while I was still grimy from the race. He even looked up other events I could still sign up for this summer while we were eating.

He let me be grouchy and sad afterward when my headache from dehydration started setting in and I came down from the high of my race. He let me sleep for hours once we got home.

And today, he’s let me be whatever it is that I am. I’m not as sore as I expected to be. Physically I’m doing pretty well. Emotionally I felt frayed, though. I’ve wanted closeness and contact and I think a lot of that has more to do with the runner’s high than anything. It felt a lot like sub-drop after an intense BDSM scene.

We ended up going to the movies since they have the dream lounge chairs. I was able to sit cross-legged the whole time while we watched the new Jurassic World movie. We were close and touching the whole time. Being out of the house helped. Not being the “responsible one” was nice. I didn’t have to drive. I didn’t have to choose anything. I didn’t have to talk to anyone. All I had to do was be present and watch dinosaurs attack shit. I was able to be low energy and quiet and near him and it was nice.

We were able to stop at GNC before going home so I could have my energy drink in the morning since my stockpile was out. So not only did we get cuddle time with dinosaurs, we were also productive.

You would really like him, mom. He honestly does take really good care of me. We take good care of each other.

I want to run another race before summer ends. I want to meditate more on the sex issue because I do feel like I need to explore that more within myself. I need to figure out why it is such a big deal for me because as much as I don’t want it to be one, it is and I can’t expect others to understand it if I don’t understand it myself. I want to keep training and losing weight. I want to figure out why I have such an issue with the words sexy and beautiful. And I want to figure out what I want.

That doesn’t seem like a lot, but I know on the emotional “figuring myself out” level it’s going to be a lot of work. I guess it’s a good place to start, though.

I don’t feel as frayed anymore. I feel more ok with the thought of going to work. I have a battle plan for figuring out some of the stuff that’s bothering me.

Thanks for listening, mom. Maybe next time I’ll be able to gush about the obstacles and which ones I liked and which ones were annoying and about the two runners I met and winning my free water bottle and all of the things that went into making my third Warrior Dash the warm memory that it is.

I love you, forever and for always.

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Letters to Mom 019: Good Morning

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Hey mom,

I don’t have a lot of time and I’m sorry for that. I went back to sleep after Ox left for work and have stayed in bed for longer than I should have if I wanted to have more time to write.

I talked to Jon for a little bit just now. I know it would make you happy to know we’re getting along better than we ever did while you were alive. I know it would make you feel like you had done something right to know that we love each other as much as we do and that we support each other as much as we are. We’re there for each other and I think, in the end, that’s all you ever wanted for us to learn.

The past few days have been hard. I’ve been missing you a lot and I don’t know why. I know it’s almost the fourth and so that means it will be two years and three months since you died. I know that a lot of people think it’s unhealthy to count that way and to be so aware of the numbers like that. But when I have to write the date, everyday, on everything I open at work, when I write the date at the top of my to-do list everyday, when I’m so hyper-aware of what date it actually is in relation to when you died… it’s hard to not be conscious of it; to not know. At the moment my brain processes the information in that way and I don’t know how to make it not do that, just like I don’t know how to not breathe or blink or how to make my heart stop beating on its own, firing off electrical impulses to move my blood through my body. I don’t know how to make my muscles not use energy.

I don’t know how to make my body not do all of these automatic functions, and knowing how many days it’s been since I last held your hand is one of those automatic functions now. Maybe that will change with time, but so far it hasn’t and it’s one of the things I live with; this constant knowing, constant counting, constant ticking further and further away from that day.

I miss you a lot. It hurts and I don’t know how to explain to anyone what it feels like. I know it’s pain. I know it’s in my chest. I know I can feel the edges of this wound. It feels circular. I know it doesn’t pierce all the way through to my back but I don’t know how far in it goes. It feels deep. It feels like it reaches into something past my self, into something that is no longer physical; a part of myself that can’t be seen or touched. I know it feels like it’s on the inside and that it’s under the surface of my skin; beneath the bones of my rib cage. It’s higher up in my chest, sort of below my collar bones. I know it feels like the edges are trying to close rather than growing bigger. I know it feels like spasms when I do feel the pain of missing you, like the muscles around this invisible, untouchable wound are twitching, contracting. It makes my shoulders hunch inward. It makes it hard to breathe. It makes silent tears run down my face and I have no control over them. I can’t hide them or stop them any more than I can stop anything else. They’re an automatic response to the pain just like the short shallow breathes I have to force myself to take to get through the aching twitching spasms in my chest where something used to be.

The pain makes everything feel heavy. The pain makes me feel injured because even though I can’t see it or show it to anyone, even though it seems like it’s not there, there is a wound and I am injured and when I hurt the most I wonder if I’ll ever heal at all.

Ox tried to hug me after one particular episode of Violet Evergarden and I pulled away because I knew his hug would be too much. It would hurt too much because I felt my wound more than ever and accepting the hug would acknowledge it; would acknowledge the pain that has no cure. It would admit that I’m lonely and that I miss you and that I hurt in ways that I try so hard to hide and work through on my own.

That hug would have meant it’s all real. Your death. My pain. The invisible wound that connects us… It’s all real and I can’t hide it.

I love you, mom. I never knew or understood how much until you died and I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry for all the times I was selfish and didn’t do the things you asked me to. For not taking care of the dishes or cleaning the litter boxes. I’m sorry for all the times you asked for my help and I didn’t only to turn around and ask something of you and for you to selflessly give your time and energy.

I know I wasn’t an awful child. I know that you’re proud of me and that you feel you raised me right. I feel like you did, too. I feel like I’m the person I am because you were, because you are, my mother. I’m grateful for having had as much time with you as I did.

The past few days have been hard and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that with the kids being gone and me not working overtime as much as I was, I finally have the time and space to address the wound that I haven’t given much time to.

I think there’s still a lot I need to address in regards to your death. I don’t really agree with the stages of grief but I also don’t have anything else to express what I’m going through. I feel like, on the inside, there is more anger now than in the previous years. I know that I do feel regret now even though I try not to.

I regret that Ox will never be able to meet you. I regret that you’ll never be able to play Cards Against Humanity with him. I regret that you won’t be able to banter with him because his sense of humor totally fits our family. I regret that I am with someone I know you would be proud of and that he’s the one person you’ll never be able to meet face to face.

It sucks and I’m angry about it even though I don’t want to be angry. I fight and try so hard not to be and that most likely makes it all that much harder.

I’ve fought for so long, mom. Ever since you died. And now I don’t have to. I don’t have to fight to pay rent. I don’t have to fight to get to the gym. I don’t have to fight through the exhaustion of work.

I don’t know how to not fight. I don’t know how to not have things be a struggle and I guess that’s part of learning how to live this new life that I’ve moved to. I guess it makes it harder, feeling like I can’t call or ask for advice on how to do this.

How do I be a parent, mom? How do I be happy? How do I love someone after everything I’ve been through? How do I stop fighting and let people get close again?

Did I make life easier or harder for you when dad left? Did I give you purpose, a reason, to get out of bed on the mornings you didn’t want to? Did I make life feel heavy and like an overwhelming burden on the days that were hard? Did I help you after Mawmaw died? How did you get through those days? When did you cry? Did you every scream because it hurt so much to not have her anymore?

Did you ever feel like giving up?

Why can’t you be here to answer all of these questions? Why can’t you come back? Why did you have to leave? Why? Was it a choice? Did you know how everything would turn out? Is there some major thing in the distant future where it will all make sense and I’ll understand why and that the pain was worth it and things really are and were ok?

I wish I could hear you say those words one more time. I wish you could tell me “It’s ok,” just once more. I promise I would believe them. I promise I would cherish them.

Hate that I need to go for now. I hate that I have training at the gym at 10. I hope I do better than Thursday. I hope I don’t break down during my training and yell about how it sucks and it’s unfair and what’s the point and how no one understands because how can they? They weren’t, aren’t, your daughter. No one but me will know what it feels like to be me in the wake of your death. And in a way, I think I’m ok with that. It makes me feel privileged. It makes me feel honored.

I’m ok with being your only daughter. I’m ok because I’m YOUR daughter. Even if you had had another one she still wouldn’t have been me.

I don’t know. I didn’t know what I wanted to write when I started this.

I guess… I guess I just wanted to say good morning, mom, and that I love you and that I miss you and that I’m going to try to make today a day. I hope you’re doing ok. I hope that you don’t worry too much about me. I hope that I’m making smart choices and that even if I am giving you more gray hair that it makes you smile because at least it’s me doing it.

I love you. Forever and for always.

Letters to Mom 018: Coping With My First Infiltration

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I’m crying right now as I write this. I feel like I need to admit to that.

There was a comment from a reader on my last post, linking to another post about a woman who also lost her mom and how “she’s still her mother’s daughter”.

At one point she says, “I still need you.”

I’m not the only one who thinks that; who feels that and I don’t know why but it makes it feel like things are ok. I’m not weak or “holding on” or whatever other stupid things I tell myself.

It’s ok to still need you, mom.

I needed you yesterday.

I infiltrated my first patient. In a year and a half, I’ve never infiltrated. I’ve missed. I’ve had the fistula and graphs roll on me like normal veins. I’ve had to restick patients… But I’ve never infiltrated and I’ve never caused a patient to not be able to run their treatment.

Until yesterday.

My patient came in like he always does. I wasn’t able to call him in early. He used to run on first shift, but with having to close the clinic down to three days a week with an ISO patient, he had to be moved to second shift because he is (un)lucky enough to be immune.

He hates running on second shift. His lunch is cold by the time he gets home. It messes his morning up. He’s one of the nicest, quietest people I have ever met and it hurts to know that I can’t make the situation better for him. Whenever there’s an open chair in the morning he’s the first person I call.

Me: *teasing voice* There’s an open chair for you if you happen to feel like coming in early.
Him: I’ll be right there!

It always makes my day to greet him, to spread out his blanket after his treatment is initiated, to help carry his bag to the scale as he’s leaving and saying our farewells.

Yesterday there wasn’t an open chair so I couldn’t call him in early. We flipped the station as quickly as we could. We got everything set up. I smiled a warm and genuine smile when he came into the clinic. We exchanged small talk as I took his standing blood pressure.

I can tell his smiles are real now. They’re different than the ones in the beginning when we were both still strangers. After being there for almost four months I think we both are getting used to each other. I’m not a random stranger stabbing needles into his arm. I’m his tech and he’s my patient and I actually do care about what he’s doing in his garden and what are you talking about? The weather is amazing. I’m from Florida. 100 degrees is basking temperature. You guys are the ones who are weird for thinking it’s too hot.

We moved through all of the different stages of the pre-treatment process. I cannulated his arterial needle fine. I cannulated his venous needle and… hesitated. It didn’t… feel? right…

There was flashback… I pulled the needle back a little… I wasn’t against the wall of the vessel or anything… There was no resistance on the advancement of the needle… But I couldn’t shake the feeling of “wrongness”.

I drew labs from the arterial needle. No resistance. Everything was fine there. I administered his prescribed heparin through the venous needle. Again, no resistance. When I asked if the needle felt ok he said yes.

Ok… Maybe it’s just me…

I connected the bloodlines to the needle lines and initiated his treatment. I watched the machine as the pump started. The needle pressures were within normal ranges. I still wasn’t sold on the whole, “everything’s ok” thing.

I turned the pump up to the prescribed flow. Still ok on pressures…

If nothing is wrong then why do I feel like something is wrong?

With no answer to that question, I reluctantly secured my patient’s lines. I put his feet up and spread his blanket out like normal. I asked if he needed anything else.

Me: Anything else I can do for right now?
Him: Nope. I think that will do.
Me: Arighty. If that changes you let us know.
Him: Will do.

I took my gloves off, rubbing hand sanitizer over them before I began to chart on the computer next to his machine.

That’s when the machine’s alarm went off. Venous pressure had reached not ok levels and the machine automatically shut the pump off. I looked at the machine, reading the alarm message it was giving. I immediately looked at my patient’s arm dread already making my stomach turn to ice. My patient’s arm was so swollen at the venous needle sight, so “not right” that all I could do for the first half a second was stare unbelieving at what I was looking at.

Irrational Right Brain: … But… But everything had been fine…

My next thought was a mild freak out of, “omg is he in pain?”

I asked him if his arm hurt. He said it had for a little bit but it felt fine now.

Irrational Right Brain:  Your arm is not fine. I let this happen. I cannulated you. I did this to you. I hurt you. This is my fault.

Rational Left Brain: It doesn’t matter if it is or isn’t your fault. You’re patient needs you to keep your shit together and not have a fucking meltdown right now. You can do that on break. Right now you need a nurse. You’re not a nurse. Get the nurse.

I called the nurse over. She confirmed it was an infiltration and that his blood could not be rinsed back and he could not run his treatment.

I can’t express the soul-crushing feeling I felt at hearing her words. I hadn’t felt emotions like that since I first started training and would have to be reminded to increase the blood pump speed or hearing the words that I had messed up stringing a machine or being told I had left the saline clamps open… again…

I haven’t felt those feelings of absolute failure since my RN mentor would point out all of the things I was doing wrong, in front of the patients, while I’m trying to already not fall apart because I fucked something up with the last patient I was with, too, and I can’t do anything right and this was totally the wrong choice and why did I think I could ever do anything medical related. I’m just a total failure at life and all of these “wrongs” prove it. I’m a fuck up and I’m sorry and I can’t seem to get it right, just once. I’m sorry I’m a failure.

Those.

Those feelings…

I got through them somehow in the beginning. I had long talks with my coworkers on break. I had my patients thank me at the end of their treatment and tell me that I was doing well. I had several nights of crying in my car after work and talking to Jon. I had all of these moments that helped me get through and fight back that voice in my head that cried out “failure” over every mess up. And eventually, I messed up less. I learned. I got better. I got faster. I got more confident and familiar with the totally new work world I had thrown myself into.

But yesterday… Yesterday I failed.

I failed my patient.

It was so hard to not cry as I explained to him we wouldn’t be able to run his treatment.

Him: Well… It happens.

Irrational Right Brain: NO GODDAMMIT! It doesn’t “happen”. Be angry at me. Be mean to me. I hurt you. I don’t deserve your kindness. I don’t deserve your understanding. I hurt you and I’m so sorry and there’s no way to make it right and I’m so so sorry.

I had to go into the back hallway and cry for a few seconds alone before pulling my shit together to get through the rest of change over. I didn’t have time to feel like a failure. I had other patients who needed me to be there for them and in a way that helped. I had to cannulate three other people and all of those cannulations were flawless.

It helped quite the voice inside of my head saying I should rethink my entire career choice and that I was a horrible fuck up.

After my break, after talking to my brother, I talked to my FA about the incident.

Me: Have you ever infiltrated anyone?
Her: Oh god, yes. That’s part of the job. It happens.
Me: That was the first time it happened to me.
Her: Really? If I had known that I would have been more compassionate. Are you saying in a year you’ve never infiltrated anyone?
Me: No. I haven’t. Which is why I’m having such a hard time right now. I’m trying to complete the NFACT “expert cannulator” thing and yet I infiltrate this patient and have been having a hard time with another patient’s access. It’s hard to not feel like I’m doing a bad job or that I shouldn’t pursue it further.
Her: If you were doing a bad job I would have told you long before this.

I felt better as our conversation continued and she shared her own experiences with me. It reminded me of when I was in Orlando and my trainers would caution me, “You’re going to infiltrate. Everyone does and it’s ok.”

I had accepted, back then, back there, that I would, eventually, one day, infiltrate a patient. And I guess in the year and a half or so since I’ve been working, to only have one on my record is pretty unheard of. I had accepted with phlebotomy that sometimes you miss. It’s not that you’re a bad phlebotomist. Some days are better than others. Some patients are easier to stick than others. The same goes for cannulating a dialysis patient.

Missing doesn’t automatically mean you’re bad. Infiltrating, also, doesn’t automatically mean you’re bad. And that’s something I’m having to work through. I’m not bad at my job. But yesterday I felt like it.

Yesterday I started questioning pretty much everything. I need titles and labels and to understand my roll in all of the dynamics I have; in all of the spots I fill in Life.

Who am I? What am I? What am I working towards? What’s important to me? Why do I wake up in the morning? What’s the point of getting out of bed? What’s the driving force behind doing anything, achieving anything, caring about anything?

Those were the questions going through my head last night.

Everything felt so nebulous and tentative and ready to shatter around me and I don’t know why.

I had already accepted that this incident was not a direct reflection of my skill. Hell, it could have been something as simple as my patient moved his arm while shifting in his chair and the point of the needle infiltrated on its own.

The important thing was I reacted professionally. I made sure the situation was controlled and that my patient was safe and gave the proper instructions for the care of his infiltration while he was between treatments.

Yet, there I was at home, questioning who I am. What I am.

It reminded me of what it was like when you first died, mom. I was no longer a teacher. I was no longer a student. I was no longer an employed member of society. I was no longer anything…

Currently, I’m not a mother but I have an eight-year-old who thinks she’s my daughter. I have a significant other but I’m not a wife or a girlfriend. I’m a nebulous in between. I’m not a nurse but that’s the easiest way to explain things to people because Patient Care Technician is long and confusing and you can see their eyes glaze over with that “not processing” look.

I’m “not” so many things, but then what am I if I’m not those things? What are the constants in my life that I can cling to when everything feels unstable? What are the cornerstones I found for myself during your death that have pulled me through all of the hard times where I wanted to give up?

That’s when I started remembering them…

I AM your daughter. You ARE my mother. I AM a warrior. I AM an earth dragon. And Life can go fuck itself if it thinks I’m going to give up.

It doesn’t matter what other titles I have. It doesn’t matter what other people think I am or am not. I AM your daughter and that is one thing that WILL NEVER change.

I don’t know what else to write, mom. Things aside from the craptastic day of yesterday are going well. I made my first rattan sword this past Saturday and it was awesome. I’m down seven pounds as of today and up one pound of muscle. We’re supposed to be starting serious work in the addition this weekend. The new countertops for the kitchen got installed and they’re pretty awesome. I figured out why I haven’t been back paid for my certification from March. I’m level 20 something in Final Fantasy 14 and I’m still having fun with the game. Jon and I are making solid plans for visiting Jason.

Things are still going really well overall. I feel like I should say sorry for letting this one event shake me so hard, but I’m not sorry so I can’t say it. I can say I will try not to let it eat away at me. I will try not to let it cloud my perception of myself and make me question my self-worth or skill.

But I know myself. This is still an unclosed loop in my head because I have not atoned for the wrong I feel I have committed. I need to figure out something to bring closure to this for me. Maybe writing… Maybe a post for my patient, similar to the posts I make for you, or for the people I can’t say things to…

Maybe saying all the words I wish I could say to him would help me move past this so I can still be the confident, competent patient care technician that I am and that he needs me to be.

I don’t know… But I promise I’ll figure it out, mom.

I love you. And I still need you. And you’re still here even if it’s not the same as it was and I think after reading the post shared with me by my reader that I’m getting better about accepting that.

Thanks, mom, for listening. For everything. I love you. Forever and for always.

Letters to Mom 017: A Late Mother’s Day

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I wrote this on Tuesday, but for some reason, it didn’t post properly. I cherish this writing even though it was painful at the time I wrote it. It’s another writing where I grieved and bled invisible blood onto my keyboard, but it’s important to me and so even though it’s from the past, I feel the need to post it.

 


 

I didn’t write on Mother’s Day.

I had a dream about mom the night before. I still remember it.

I was in a house. I was with other people though I don’t remember who they were. I remember that I knew them, but I’m not sure if it was family or close friends. We were supposed to be going somewhere, but mom had said she would be visiting and I really wanted to see her before we left the house. I knew I wouldn’t be able to see her again for a while. It was important that I be there. It was my one chance.

I remember the feelings of anxiety and worry. Mom was running late. Her flight was delayed and there was traffic and all of these things keeping her from getting to the house on time. The people I was with were getting annoyed with me because we ourselves were going to be late if we didn’t leave soon, but I kept asking for more time. Just a few more minutes. Please. She’s so close. Just a little longer…

I remember in the dream I was almost in tears but the other people wouldn’t wait any longer. It was so hard, so heavy, to close the front door, to turn the lock. It sounded so final; the door closing. It was like I had allowed myself to give up. It was me giving in. It was me walking away and not waiting. It was me caving to pressure.

I wanted to wait. I wanted to be there. I wanted to see my mom. But I wasn’t staying and that felt like a betrayal. I was making the wrong choice and I hated it but I didn’t know what else to do. I had to leave with them.

There was so much confliction inside me and still, I turned to walk away from the door. But just as I did there was a knock.

I knew it was her. I knew mom had finally arrived and I didn’t care if I was late to whatever it was I was supposed to go to. I turned around as fast as I could and unlocked the door, throwing it open without regard.

She was there. My mom was there. I threw my arms around her and hugged her and cried.

I heard her say my name over my tears.

I KNOW she said it. I can still feel it in my chest even though I honestly can’t remember what it sounded like.

I just… I know my dream was real and that mom is still here, in whatever way the Universe is allowing.

This Mother’s Day my mom gave me a gift instead of the other way around and I still cry when I think about it. Fucking tears…

I’m grateful for my dream.

Thank you, mom, for everything that you did in life and everything you continue to do for me. I’m sorry I didn’t write on Mother’s Day. I’m sorry I still get sad and have hard days like Tuesday.

I’m sorry I’m not doing better even though I know writing that will make you frustrated with me because I know I’m doing amazing right now. I’m doing so much better than I ever have before and that makes me angry and sad at the same time because I wish you were here so I could show you; so you could be part of it. I wish I could call you and tell you about everything. I wish you could come visit and watch me beat people with sticks at SCA practice and meet Ox and just… everything.

I love you, mom. I wish it hadn’t taken your death to make me the adult I am now. I wish we had had more time. I wish I had thought to ask you all the questions I have now. I wish I had listened to your stories more. I wish I knew more about the hardships you faced while you were growing up. I wish I had you the way so many people still have their mom, but at the same time I know we’re closer for what we went through.

Thank you for raising me. Thank you for the dreams I have of you. Thank you for helping me get through the hard times.

Happy late Mother’s Day, mom.

I love you. Forever and for always.

Letters to Mom 016: I Promise I’ll Try

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Hey mom,

I woke up tired today.

I miss you.

I miss a lot of things.

I miss Jon. I talked to him today while I was on break at work. I got to tell him that I’m homesick.

I guess it started when I got a text message from Big Bad.

I miss him, too.

And there’s a part of me that wants to hate myself for that. I want to be angry at myself for missing the times he and I cuddled together. For missing our quiet mornings. For fucking up our plans to do the Warrior Dash in February.

I want to not miss him. I want to remember what it felt like to read his message about being “disappointed. Thanks.”

But I’m bad about remembering things like that. I’m bad about remembering how he never said, “I love you.” I’m bad about remembering that there most likely would have never been a family Thanksgiving that I would have been invited to. A house I could come home to with him. There wouldn’t have been an “ever after”, but that doesn’t make me miss what I had less.

I miss wrestling with him. I miss kicking his ass at Mortal Kombat.

I miss my friend.

Just like I miss Jon. I miss going to Friendly Confines with him. I miss driving up to Daytona for breakfast. I miss our sappy hugs goodbye. I miss the times I slept on his couch.

I miss my dojo. I miss not having anxiety over going to work out. I miss feeling strong and healthy.

I miss feeling like a warrior because right now I don’t.

In a lot of areas in my life I know I’m doing better, but the overall feeling I have right now, the most pervasive one, is that I’m treading water. I’m bearly holding on and maybe that’s just the tiredness. Maybe that’s just the overwhelm of having the kids for the weekend and not having a safe space to get away to.

I feel apathetic right now about most things. About gaming. About working out. About eating.

I don’t want to do anything.

I want to sleep. I want to wake up and feel ok even though I know I’m not “not ok”.

I don’t have drive or motivation for anything at the moment, mom, and it sucks.

I’ve been breathing better for the past few days. I’ve been taking a lot of decongestant stuff and I guess it’s working. So now that I don’t have to struggle so hard to breathe I guess my body thinks it’s ok to remind me that my soul hurts. That’s I’m actually still really injured and I need to take care of that.

But I don’t know how because I don’t know what’s wrong.

I know I like it here. I know I’m starting to love my job again. I know that I don’t dread getting up in the morning even though I still wake up at 3 am.

I know I don’t want my own apartment because I like coming home here. I like being part of a family. I enjoy falling asleep next to Ox. Being away wouldn’t feel right. At the same time, all of my things are mostly still in storage. When the kids are here I don’t have a space for myself. And there’s a part of me who’s not ok with giving up the few days I have off to socialize.

Maybe “not ok” isn’t the right words. I would rather it be a choice rather than something I’m forced to do due to the living situation. But it’s not a choice. I have to and there isn’t really a way to change it at the moment. Maybe ever.

If I’m not “ok” but I’m not “not ok” then what am I?

Why can’t I just figure out what it is that I need to do?

Why can’t you be here for me to talk to? Why can’t I hear your voice on the other end of the phone? And saying, “because I’m dead” doesn’t count.

I don’t care right now. Because you’re dead isn’t a good enough answer.

I miss you, mom, and I so desperately want to say that I need you, but I know that word isn’t true because I’ll wake up tomorrow having survived another day without you and so it’s not a true need. Not like air or water or electrical impulses within my heart.

But I need you, mom. I need you to be here and you’re not and it sucks and I hate it.

I meet with a personal trainer tomorrow. I’ve signed up for a Warrior Dash in July. I have no motivation to do either of those things, but I’m going to do them because I know they need to be done.

This is the therapy part of healing. This is the hard part. The part that hurts. The part that sucks. The part that makes me cry and want to give up because the thought of doing them feels like it’s too much. Too heavy. Too hard.

It’s so much easier to hide away and stay in bed and be sad and to not do anything, but I know that’s not what I truly want for myself. I know it’s not what you would want for me either, so I’m going to go to my stupid meeting tomorrow, mom.

I’m going to try, mom. For you. For me. For us.

I’m so sorry I can’t promise more than that. I’m sorry I can’t do more than try. I’m sorry I can’t say that I’ll kick ass and take over the world and be an amazing person who does amazing things.

I wish I could, but right now I don’t feel those things. I don’t feel amazing or strong. I feel weak and broken and all I can do is say that I won’t let the sadness win and that I’ll try really hard for you.

Today sucks, mom. Nothing bad happened. Work went smoothly. I’m back home and I’m writing, but today just really, really sucks.

I love you. I promise I’ll try to make tomorrow better.

 

Letters to Mom 015: I Need You Right Now

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Mom. I really need to talk to you.

When I got off the phone with Jon I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who to call. I knew I needed to talk to someone but you’re the person I wanted to call and you’re the one person I can’t.

I know I won’t be able to hear your voice and I’m sorry that still hurts. I’m sorry this wasn’t the first thing I thought of after getting off the phone with him. I’m sorry this still doesn’t feel like enough sometimes and that I still wish you were here.

Jon can’t pay rent next month. His roommates are screwing him over just like mine are doing to me.

I know you would be frustrated with both of us. I know if you were still here you would be helping us as much as you could. I know Jon and I would both feel like failures if we actually asked you for help.

I get angry at people like Warren. He came downstairs shortly after I got off the phone with Jon. He saw I was upset and trying not to cry and he asked what was wrong.

I told him Jon wasn’t able to pay rent.

Warren said something along the lines of that’s the plight of our generation and how Jon could ask Jason for help. I told him, no, he couldn’t. Jason loves us and is our brother, but he’s not going to help, and Jon isn’t going to ask.

Jon and I don’t have that luxury anymore; that safety net. Not like Warren does. We can’t go to our parents and say, “Oh no. We messed up. Please help us undo this terrible decision.”

I had 9 dollars to my name this morning. I told Warren that last night. He said the online banking system was having issues but that he was trying to get his payment to me. I told him it would be appreciated because I had 9 dollars and was unable to buy groceries.

There wasn’t a deposit in my account this morning when I woke up. Warren sleeps until noon since he works the late shift. I couldn’t spend the day waiting to get money to do the things I needed to do. I don’t have time to wait on other people like that. I can’t “Life” things like cook or grocery shop on days where I work 16 hours. I have to do everything on my days off or it has to go undone.

Because of that I had to use my credit card to get food, which isn’t all that bad. I mean, hey, I was able to get food, and pay for my new car tags, but it sucks. I have to pay interest on that money. I shouldn’t have to use my card because someone doesn’t pay me on time. I shouldn’t have to pay interest as a punishment for other people slacking off because it’s not there account that has 9 dollars in it.

It’s so ungodly frustrating, mom. I want to be able to help Jon. I want to be able to tell him that it’s ok. That we’ll figure it out together. But I can barely keep myself afloat. I can’t take care of three people. I can’t save anyone else, and it sucks because he’s my brother. He’s the one I should be there for and he’s the one who’s having to suffer because one of my roommates is still unemployed and the other can’t get his shit together financially even though he worked a fuck ton of overtime with the iPhone release AND got a dollar raise.

How? HOW are you STILL having financial issues? What the actual fuck?

I’m terrified that Jon’s going to have to drop out of school to get a job that he hates just to make ends meet. I’m terrified that he’s going to become another statistic in dissatisfied America who got screwed over and gave up.

I hate where I’m at, mom.

I hate how I worked 30 hours in two days and was so tired on Sunday that I slept for 14 hours. I hate how next Monday I work and I’m going to have to miss my night with Big Bad. I hate how I wasn’t supposed to close the clinic on Saturday, but I ended up doing it which screwed over my whole night. Louis and I had made plans to see each other. I was supposed to leave at five. We were looking forward to our evening; to seeing each other more than once.

It was my light at the end of the tunnel. I got up even though I didn’t want to. I fucking killed it at work. I was a total bawce and several of my coworkers mentioned it. But I still had to give up my night. I had to give up my plans.

Nothing I did or have done was good enough to mean anything. Just like how my awesome credit score and pristine renters history didn’t matter when I needed an apartment when I was unemployed. It didn’t matter that I could pay all of the rent up front. None of my past, none of my actions, mattered.

That’s what Saturday felt like. Nothing mattered.

Life: Fuck you, Jen. And the horse you rode in on. And the one that sired it, just for safe measure.

You know what? No. Fuck you, Life. I’m so sick of your bullshit.

I’ve given up the dojo. I’m giving up my plasma. I’ve given up my room and having my computer with me.

When is it enough? When am I allowed to feel secure? When am I allowed to have things for me and to not be injured by other people?

I’m so angry and frustrated right now, mom. I’m tired of this constant fucking struggle to make things work, only for them not to, so I have to find a different way and that way works for a while but then there’s another roadblock that I have to figure out. It’s always an uphill battle and the few things that make it feel worth it always feel like their taken away from me.

It’s not fair. And I feel like a four-year-old for saying that, but it’s true. It’s so fucking unfair right now. Why, if I do everything right, if I’m such an amazing, kind, caring, compassionate person like people say, do I not deserve to feel like life is worth living?

Why can’t I have my hour at the dojo? Why can’t I have my three hours a week with my significant other while everyone else gets to go home to theirs?

Why can’t Jon go to school and not worry about keeping a roof over his head while maintaining his 4.0 gpa? He’s doing so well. I’m so insanely proud of him, and yet I can’t help him not stress. I can’t stretch myself any more than I already am.

I don’t know what to do, mom.

I studied for my certification today. I’m trying to get that out of the way. School starts for me in January. I’m trying to stick with my training as much as I can.

It feels like I’m trying so hard, so why does it feel like I’m not making any progress? Why does it still feel like I’m not doing it good enough, right enough?

I wish I could hear you right now. I wish, out of everyone in the Universe, that you could be the one to tell me things will be ok because you’re the only person I ever believed when you told me those words.

I know things will be ok. I know both Jon and I will make it through this. I just so desperately wish that I knew how. I wish things were already better. I wish all of the struggles and battles I’ve already fought felt worth it, but in this moment they don’t.

I feel tired and drained. I feel alone in my battles and I’m tired of showing up to them. I can’t fight Jon’s battle for him when I’m barely keeping up with fighting my own.

I’m tired of feeling angry. I’m tired of feeling sad. I don’t have tears left to cry for either emotion. I’m going to finish doing my chores and then go spend my one evening with Big Bad. I can’t even drink because tomorrow I have to donate plasma and I’m still behind on my water intake.

I miss you, mom. I promise… I don’t know what I promise. I’m not going to promise to hold it together because I can feel that at some point this season I’m going to break again. I just know it’s going to happen. With my birthday coming up, and Christmas… I just know that I’m going to end up screaming in my car and I don’t care.

I guess I promise to keep my promises I made to you that first day without you; the last day at the hospital.

I promise I’ll get out of bed every day. I promise I’ll eat at least one meal every day. And I promise I’ll at least shower.

I love you, mom. Thanks for listening even if I didn’t figure anything out.

Letters to Mom 014: Our Last Night

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This was our last night together.

This was the code STEMI. ST Elevated Myocardial Infraction.

This was my final night with you.

This was the night your hospital gown was soaked in your blood.

This is my fear. This is my desperation. This night. This is when I feel I lost you.

I keep having dreams. They all involve water. Emotions.

The shower drain in my bathroom being clogged so that the floor of the shower is submerged in water. Inches of it. Water that won’t drain. Clear, pure water that refuses to leave. It’s only when I reach down, my pale hand pulling a dark matted wad of hair from the drain that the water finally flows and lowers so that damage is avoided.

Me, racing up a snow covered mountain to save Akib from a storm that’s threatening. Somehow we all make it to a boat that will take us away from the mountain. We’re almost to the dock of our destination. We’re almost to safety when the tempest unleashes. The waves are high, the rain comes down in sheets so that the long wooden dock is almost obscured, but I can still see it. I know we’ll make it and so even though the whole event is still an emergency, there’s the feeling of security. We’re so close. We’re there. Even if the boat sinks we can swim to shore. We’re ok.

When I look up the symbology it’s about acknowledging something. Accepting something. Allowing the emotions to exist.

I couldn’t figure it out at first.

You’re dead. I don’t hide from that fact. I don’t sugar coat it when I say it, when I explain it.

That’s not the matted tangle I needed to pull from the drain. Saying those words, thinking them, doesn’t cause an emotional reaction. It’s not something I deny. It’s a fact that I’ve accepted in my life.

So what are my dreams telling me to accept?

I think I found it this morning.

Even though you died, you’re still with me.

You’re still with me.

Those words.

That phrase.

That’s the one that hurts. That’s the one that I don’t fully believe. That’s the one I hide from. That’s the one I don’t tell people because I’m scared of it being wrong or untrue.

I’ve typed it before. I’ve said it to a few people. Trusted people. I know I feel you, as if you’re behind me, wrapping your arms around me so that your hands rest on my arms, my biceps. I can feel you there, of all places, in my arms.

I don’t know if it’s really pain I feel. Maybe it’s just intensity and my brain can’t figure the sensation out so it labels it as pain. It’s so much of something that it’s painful to feel so much so deeply.

I feel like that’s what I need to acknowledge, though.

It’s not the same. It’s not like it was. It’s different and I still don’t know how to deal with that difference because it’s not logical. It’s not mathematical or chemical or rational. It’s not observable.

It’s something I feel. Sometimes others can feel it, too. But how do I know I’m not just making it up as a coping mechanism? How do I know it’s real? How do I know I’m not partially broken and hiding behind some shattered illusion, limping by, rather than facing reality?

I wish you were here. And that phrase is most likely so disrespectful because if you are still with me then why am I wishing for you to be here? You’re already here, just in a different way.

Isn’t that enough?

I’ve written about that before. Near the beginning, I think. I would have to go back through my posts, through my Book of Survival. I remember saying it was enough. So why am I back here, in this spot, thinking that you’re not here when you are?

These days have been hard, mom. They’ve been so hard. So long. So sleepless. So empty.

I know what I want to do for you tomorrow. My ritual for every April 4th from now until the day I die.

I’m going to buy you a rose, mom. I’m going to get a crystal vase and a silken rose, and every year I will add another rose. And when they become too many for the single vase I will buy another. Eventually, there will be 27 roses. One day there will be 28. More roses than years that I knew you. That rose will be different.

For now, until that day, they will be red.

I will keep them next to your urn. It will be my way of acknowledging your deathday. It will be the day I renew my promises to you.

I don’t know what else to say right now. I want to hug you. I want to cry in your arms while you hug me and reassure me that it will be ok. I want the past year to be a dream and to wake up and have you smile at me. But at the same time I know that’s not true. I don’t want to give up all of the good to get rid of all of the bad.

I want the struggle to be over. I want the tears to stop. I want the pain to cease.

You’re with me and it will be ok. I’ll make it through our last night.

I love you, mom. Forever and for always.