Unabridged Me

JUST ANOTHER WRITER

Coming to terms

October 17, 2019

“Did you hear that?” Laurinda asks as silence pulls me from my dozing state.

My mom’s friend and I sit up at the same time, searching the dark recliner ten feet away. Gears activate in my mind, and I count measured seconds. I reach and pass 50 before Mom’s lungs pull and push one breath of air, followed by noiseless darkness pushing my eardrums.

For one heartbeat Laurinda and I look at each other across the dim room. In a synchronized dance choreographed by three days together in a death watch vacuum, we stand up and move over to my mother’s prone figure.

“I think it’s time,” she whispers.

I nod as I move behind my mom, leaning down to kiss her forehead before whispering “I love you.”

Another raspy breath. Two short gasps. Silence.

The hum of electricity invades my ears, threatening a headache with its roar. Darkness wraps my shoulders, an embrace that grows heavier with each passing moment. Air seeps into my nose, my lungs afraid to scratch the night with an inhale as time stretches and presses on me. While my chest suffocates in black ink, my fingers separate from my mind and search for Mom’s pulse.

Nothing.

I shake my head at Laurinda, my fingers caressing Mom’s jaw before I step back. Like a newly wound clock, I move down the hallway with silent but solid footsteps. A strong wind of deep snores occupies the guest room. Minutes tick in each second as I shake Susan’s shoulders, urging her from a sleep drawn from 36 hours of hurried traveling.

“Mom’s gone,” I whisper after my aunt jerks awake.

The silence has followed me into her room, squeezing my neck and shoulders as I step away from the bed. I move in staccato measures, returning to my mom.

My hand finds a phone and hospice’s card. My ears hear echos of my voice talking to the on-call nurse. One hour, she says.

“One hour,” I say to Susan and Laurinda as metal gears direct me towards the recliner that has been my bed for the last two nights.

“Michelle,” Laurinda says, “she’s no longer here, maybe you should, I don’t know, cover her?”

I look at Laurinda, her words taking a minute to ease through the black quilt stitched around my mind. Tick tock, I walk to my mom and pull up her blanket, covering an expressionless face. The task complete, the clock resets to focus on the recliner.

I sit down. I pop up the leg rests. I pull up the blanket, a brown dual sided throw my friend lent me during the first hospital stay. I pull my legs up to my stomach. I put the pillow on the arm rest. I set my head on the pillow. I close my eyes. Except to open the door to the nurse and the mortician, I do not move. I do not sleep.

The silence wins, sinking me into darkness as time stops.

*

On March 31st, my mom and I sat in an ER room, staring in silence at the doctor as she delivered results against the beeps of a heart monitor. A CT scan showed a mass emerging from Mom’s pancreas and partially blocking her intestine, plus what appeared to be numerous cysts or tumors in her abdominal cavity.

On April 24th a biopsy confirmed the tumor was malignant. At the time, there was only 7mm space for food to pass through the duodenum and past the tumor.

On May 1st, we sat with the surgical oncologist and discussed whether it was more important to begin chemo or perform a GI pypass surgery. At the time Mom was still eating small amounts of food and protein shakes.

On May 8th, at the first meeting with the medical oncologist, Mom was hospitalized for emergency surgery.

*

“Mom, you need to get out of bed and walk.”

“I hurt and I’m tired. Just let me rest.”

“Every doctor who comes in here says you need to get moving. That’s the only way for the stomach to start working and for you to eat again.”

“Enough. Let me be.”

*

Due to Mom’s lack of recovery after nearly two weeks, another CT scan was performed. Though the surgery appeared successful, the tumor was threatening the artery to the liver and Mom had a blood clot in her lung. Mom’s GI track was still not working.

During the GI bypass surgery, Mom had a GJ tube installed. It is common practice for cancers involving the GI system, as the gastrostomy tube (G) can bring relief to nausea by draining the stomach contents while the jejunostomy tube (J) can deliver nutrition, hydration, and medication during times when the patient feels no hunger.

The doctors began tube feeding through a GJ tube to increase Mom’s nutrition and strength heading towards chemotherapy. Around receiving tube feeds, Mom drained her stomach to a foley bag. Both the draining and feeding were temporary measures.

Mom was released from the hospital, beginning her chemotherapy sessions that week.

My routine: Wash hands. Put on gloves. Pour formula into a plastic bag. Attach tubing to plastic bag. Prime tubing to remove air. Attach bag and tubing to pump. Put pump and bag in backpack. Flush GJ tube with 100 ml of water. Attach feeding tube. Begin pump. Administer abdominal shot of blood thinner. Wash hands. Try to write for clients.

Two weeks later Mom began vomiting, a common occurrence with chemo so we did not question the symptom. By the end of the weekend the fluid we were pulling from the stomach portion of her GJ tube changed in color and consistency. Over the weekend we took Mom into the ER twice, and both times she was hydrated with saline and sent home. By Monday she started leaking fluid around the tube site in her abdomen, despite draining her stomach regularly. Tuesday we went to her oncologist appointment and ended up in the ER. Mom was diagnosed with acute kidney failure and severe blood shortage.

The first week of June, Mom was hospitalized again. We spent two nights in the ICU as Mom was pumped full of fluids and blood in attempts to recover kidney functioning.

Despite all appearances, the connection between Mom’s stomach and her small intestine healed like a valve. The feeding tube that was directed into her intestine flipped, causing her stomach to close. Mom’s stomach was a closed balloon, filling with liquid every 12 hours.

That was the first time I watched my mom escape death.

After a week in the hospital, we were sent home with Mom carrying the foley bag attached to her G tube. Her stomach was still not pushing anything down into the intestine, causing bile and stomach acid to build up. While in the hospital Mom had a port installed into her chest.

A lot of chemo patients end up getting ports, as it allows IV treatments without having to access veins every week. More importantly, the port gave me access to feed her via VPN (a bag of lipids, fluid, and essential nutrients) for twelve hours every night.

My routine: Wash hands. Put on gloves. Lay out all the necessary tubes, needles, and medication. Via syringe, add multivitamin to the lipid fluid bag. Mix. Set aside. Put battery into pump. Attached tubing to lipid bag, priming tube to ensure no air bubbles. Attach tubing to pump. Put bag and pump into backpack. Put on new sterile gloves. Uncap the access to my mom’s heart. Wipe with alcohol. Flush with saline. Attach lipid tubing. Start pump. Administer shot into abdomen. Pull off gloves. Get a glass of wine.

I emptied the foley bag attached to Mom’s stomach twice a day, mentally noting the volume. Mom was taking in 2400 ml of fluid per VPN, and she was venting 2400 ml by stomach every 24 hours. Intake of water by mouth: nominal.

We went to the ER twice for dehydration, once after Mom passed out when a friend was with her and resulting in a scalp injury that never quite healed. Another time they sent her to the main hospital for overnight watch, just to make sure she was okay due to heart irregularities.

Add to the routine: prescribed saline bags when hydration appears to decrease, approximately 1000 ml every other day.

Mid-July Mom went back to the original GI doctor who performed the biopsy. This time they put in a stint to prop open the connection between her stomach and intestine. He removed the tube for feeding, leaving only a G tube for infrequent venting purposes, and gave Mom permission to start experimenting with solid food. As the doctor said, the plumbing works fine now. We felt a mix of relief, hope, and a little confusion. Mom no longer needed to drain fluid from her stomach, and for the first time in two months she was free from a foley bag.

Add to routine: medicine to move the stomach and intestines. Medicine to block stomach acid to prevent stomach bleeding. Both administered via artery port.

*

“Do you want yogurt or apple sauce?”

“I don’t really want either.”

“Mom, now that your stomach is working you need to eat. If you don’t eat, your stomach won’t work anymore. The doctors have cleared you, no reason to not eat.”

“Fine. Yogurt. Then a protein shake.”

“Thank you. Are we going to take a walk outside today?”

“No. I’m tired.”

*

Mid-August we had completed three cycles of chemo. It was time for another scheduled scan on August 15th to gauge success of the treatment. We never made it to the scheduled scan. Instead, Mom went into the ER with sepsis. A CT scan was performed by the ER doctor, and the infectious disease doctors searched for a source. The scan showed the tumor had blocked Mom’s liver and gall bladder. No source confirmed, but suspicions were blockage of the bile system caused toxins to back up into the blood stream. CT scan also confirmed chemo was not working.

The medical oncologist talked to Mom about options, which were very few in his mind. For him, she needed to recover from sepsis and regain strength before he would discuss any additional treatments. Chemo was off the table. The type of chemo that was ineffective for Mom was proven to be the most effective with the least amount of side effects. Any other version would have more side effects with less likelihood of success.

As the doctor said, he felt it would be practicing bad medicine to submit Mom to the side effects with decreased chances of success.

We had a meeting with the hospital’s palliative team. The doctor explained why radiation was not an option for Mom, as well as reinforcing and supporting why her oncologist was not going to pursue other chemo options.

After five days, Mom went home with IV antibiotics. At her next appointment, she was tested for immunotherapy and gene therapy. The oncologist did not have much hope for either, but there was a chance.

Add to routine: once every 24 hours administer 30 minutes of antibiotic via port.

The prescription was for 7 additional days after the hospital. Only 6 days after her last dose, Mom returned to the ER for her second case of sepsis. I watched my mom’s skin turn jaundiced in the first 24 hours as they tried to pump her full of fluids per protocol.

While in the hospital, we learned Mom was not a candidate for immunotherapy or gene therapy. We spoke with Intervention Radiologists about installing a tube into the liver to drain it to an external foley bag, and we talked with the GI doctors about installing an internal stint for the liver to drain.

The GI procedure was not an option due to the tumor. The IR doctor was honest about the risks of tapping the liver and what it meant, including having a bag she would have to carry around. Mom asked if it would help her live longer. The response was it would make her more comfortable. Risks associated with the procedure, combined with Mom’s current health, had a high chance of killing her. We decided against the procedure.

About three nights into our stay, I mourned my mother. I laid in the recliner next to her hospital bed, covered in my friend’s brown blanket in my nightly hospital repose since the first surgery, sobbing silent tears.

Hospital plan: comfort.

Once again we were sent home with IV antibiotics. Knowing how sepsis works and with no recourse for the source, I watched the days bleed by until we didn’t have antibiotics any longer. My mom gained 60 pounds in a few days, water weight her body shucked into her cells and abdomen. After pulling herself off hospice, my mom went into see her oncologist. He understood if she did not want to utilize hospice, but there was nothing else he could do to help her. He would continue to put in medical orders, but his message was clear: her liver was going to kill her in only a few weeks.

Our summer had been a quiet summer of routine and sleeping, punctuated by medical appointments and hospitalizations. That ended, and the time vacuum began on my birthday, September 10th of 2019.

A few minutes after midnight on September 22nd, my mom passed away from pancreatic cancer complications.

Hollywood and inspirational videos paint cancer as a slow wasting away until the person falls asleep and never wakes up. And maybe that’s the case with other cancers. Not pancreatic cancer. I watched as my mom’s major bodily systems shut down one by one, creating toxicity and decay. Until her last breath, my mom sat in her recliner hoping a miracle would save her life. Her fear of death was strong, but the disease was stronger.

I never questioned moving in with her. I never doubted changing my family’s entire life to be with her. Every choice I made was based on each moment, supporting my mom in the way she requested. I became an encyclopedia of events and medical jargon, medications and procedures.

For six months I didn’t look further than the day I was living. I tried to meet the needs of a five year-old with the increasing needs of a previously independent mother. What had become my life’s purpose ended in one weekend. Since my mom’s death, I have drifted aimlessly. It is not the loss of my mom, though there are traumas I need to process. Death is a part of life, and life continues.

Rather, I’ve tried to reinsert myself into my previous life. I don’t fit anymore.

As I start the process of cleaning out her house and cleaning out my mind, four words continue to haunt my consciousness. The four words started six months ago, but now is the time for me to act on them. I only hope I hold onto what I’ve learned through this experience to avoid inactivity. Instead, I will consciously choose life.

After all, life is too short.

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Writing and Rejection

April 4, 2018

It’s inevitable. Rejection is a way of life for authors.

Once in awhile an author has an amazing, unbelievable debut novel that blows everyone out of the water. These novels are published immediately to great acclaim. I can’t think of one now, but I don’t want to exclude the possibility.

However, for most of us writing means rejection.

Last week writers around the world received results in Round 1 of a short story contest. I entered, along with 4000+ other writers. And all but 700 received news they would not be moving forward.

Me included.

During the six weeks between submission and results, I vacillated between absolute certainty I would get into Round 2 and complete belief I would not progress. The second belief proved accurate.

I won’t lie; I was devastated at first.

After talking with friends who write, and people who care, I slowly processed my disappointment. I worked my way through the pain of hearing you are good, but not good enough.

The contest provides feedback from the judges, giving an opportunity for growth and development. The additional information gave me data points of strengths, as well as ways I can make the story stronger.

Also, I came face to face with an aspect of me. My perfectionism gets in the way of trying, of putting myself out there. Constantly. In turn, I am sensitive to critical feedback and rejection of my writing.

Critical feedback and rejection will be an aspect of my life for as long as I write.

There is no going back regarding the choice to write, so I will have to grow up a little. Work on my sensitive nature. Review rejection stats until they are ingrained in my head.

That will take some time.

The important piece is to keep bitterness at bay, remaining open to any opportunity. For now I will look for more contests and continue on my WIP: a short story collection.

What It Is to Be Abused

October 5, 2017

Ghosts are scratching my brain tonight.

The topic has been on the edges of my periphery for awhile, swirling the drain of my consciousness.  And maybe it’s time I talk because to not do so is just sticking my head in the sand.

I was in an abusive relationship for 6 years, from my early to mid twenties.

I’m not talking about Hollywood stereotypical woman with a black eye, cigarette and baby acting nasty to her husband.  Hollywood does not have the right of it, in any fashion.

Physical abuse was part of it, to be sure.  Particularly in the early years.

But I was a college student.  Then college graduate.  Then professional.  The surface of my life appeared to be following in standard mid-America fashion, though I was a bit weird and definitely introverted.

The hows and whens of getting into this relationship are not necessary to share.  I had moments of intuition, to be sure.  I had moments of doubt.  But what people need to understand is abuse does not start out the gate as beating someone up.

No, the first step is emotional engagement and manipulation.  The first portion of our relationship was him learning my buttons by way of wooing and earning my trust.  Don’t get me wrong.  Not a smart man.  Just very manipulative and wise to navigating human nature.

I want to take a moment to point out lying and manipulating are not the same thing.

I had childhood injuries used against me, sandwiched with the repeated message of the only person who understands you is me.  The only one who gets you is me.  The only one who will always be there for you is me.

It was by far the easiest button to push.  A lonely introverted child who was not close to her family at this time, in an attempt to extricate herself from perceived childhood misery.

Repress and run, that is my standard M.O.

By the time I felt the urge to run, I was tightly wrapped in his reality.  A reality where he was nearly suicidal any time he felt me slipping away.  A reality where drinking, and cutting, and midnight runs to the ER became David Lynch nights to my college days.

I wanted to save him.

We were about six months into the relationship before the first fist flew.  He was drunk.  Blacked out drunk.  Made it easier for me to accept, I think.  Not being in his right mind.  Along with the teary eyed, nevergonnadoitagain apology.

And he didn’t.  Not in that fashion.

Looking back, I hadn’t even seen the war I was losing before the first bruises.  It was a 3 prong attack:  isolating me, convincing me he was a victim who just needed my love to do something with his life, and exposing me to the world of night most people do not realize exists when they are at home sleeping in their beds.

The emotional abuse and sexual abuse were a majority of my reality.

If you loved me, you would…

People who love each other…

The physical abuse was used as punishment for when I pushed hard enough and he agreed to do something.  Like going out with one of my friends. The night would end with my head meeting a wall, or his head.  Punishment for wanting anyone but him in my life.

Or in the early years when I fought back.

A weird thing started happening to me.  I mean, beyond the surreal hell I was living.

He only worked for the first few months of our relationship.  During the grooming period, when he was still trying to ingratiate himself into my life.

Once he was sure of my sympathy towards his upbringing and horrible childhood, he promptly quit with big plans of all the amazing things he was going to do.

So I was going to college and supporting the both of us.  I was operating in an upward trending fashion, as if I was heading towards a Suburbian middle class life.  I was taking psychology classes.  I was an intelligent, self directed, independent individual.

Until I got home.  Then emotional reality stepped in, and I had no control over what was happening to me.  But a part of my mind stood apart, whispering to me.  My brain maintained it’s own monologue of how fucked up the situation really was.

In the sober moments.

We spent a large portion of time drinking.  He was running from the ghosts of his childhood, I was running from the ghosts of my current life.

In general I avoid conversations about domestic violence.  Repress and run.  But also because there is no way for anyone not in the situation to understand the situation.  And not every situation is the same.

What is the same is abuse is not about anger management.  It is not about being pissed off, or stressed, or a case of kick the dog syndrome.

Abuse is about control.

I was his mother.  I was his plaything.  I was his accomplice to the quagmire that was his mental illness.  The femme fatale and angel to his real life noir.

I am one of the lucky few.  I’m out.

I descended to the depths of my own mental illness, made choices that my voice told me at the time were going to land me exactly where I landed, yet was lucky enough to have support and therapy to recover some form of life.

My  life with him didn’t just scar me or break my bones.  It shattered me.  I was lucky to have professionals who picked me up piece by piece and superglued me back together.  I was lucky to have an amazing family who, despite my horrid treatment of them at his hands, rallied behind me and gave me undying love.

But I’m not really out, mentally.  I never will be, I don’t think.  Even as I write this, I feel the compulsion to put in details about how it was my fault.  How I saw the signs, or how friends tried to warn me, or how I had the means why didn’t I just get up and leave…

I have no words to describe the anguish I feel when I think those things.  How I had zero control over my emotional life.  How impossible it will always be to get others to understand.

Still I cry in torment because I can’t be angry with him.  I can’t blame him.  I will forever see him as a product of an awful childhood, someone worthy of my sympathy.  Despite the rapes.  Despite the trauma.  Despite my body never feeling quite my own.

I used to live in fear I would see him at a bus stop.  Or I would pull up to a stoplight and he would be staring at me from the next car over.  Or I would look behind me and find him following me.  Nearly ten years later, that has diminished mostly.

Except when I’m stressed, or exhausted, or worn down by life.  I start looking at bus stops again.

The purpose of me sharing this is two fold, and partially selfish.  I can’t live with the ghosts haunting me anymore.  I need to get this out, and I have no other medium to do so.

But I need to stop hiding from this.  I need to stop pretending this horror didn’t happen to me.  Because every time I do, it reinforces mainstream misunderstanding.  That they can leave whenever they want, or they asked for it, or they participated in what became their reality.

It’s not as simple as just leave him.  And no one outside will ever understand that.

Nor will anyone ever understand how my relationships continue to be defined by him.  Unless I’ve had a chance to watch you, study you, learn about you I will not trust you.  I don’t handle physical touch well unless I trust you.  I keep my thoughts and my emotions to myself.

Until recently I had successfully made myself invisible.  But people change and grow, and it’s time for me to be seen.

And the writer in me apologizes for the rough writing, but I have to hit send before my nature takes over.  No time for editing.

Life with a Mood Disorder

September 22, 2017

Vivian:  I don’t like this day.
Me:  Ditto.

While Vivian’s comment came from anger for not doing something the way she wanted, my feeling is a bit more pervasive.

I make no secret I have a mood disorder.  Check out my bio page, I’m pretty open about the chemical imbalances and subsequent diagnosis I have been assigned.  But despite being open about my brain, I still think people don’t get it.

Our society has plenty of information about it, right?  Brain chemistry, awareness, medications…  but that is not the experience of what it is to live with a mood disorder.

There aren’t words for me to describe the experience for those who don’t live it.  So instead here’s some points on how to help and not hurt someone going through this.

Don’t tell me it/I will be okay.

That is the equivalent of a patronizing pat on the head and a shoo away.  The lack of emotional investment in what I might be attempting to share merely reinforces the isolation.  If you aren’t going to try and sit with me, don’t bother stopping.  It will make things worse.

I get to say I will be okay.  Why me and not you?  Because I live this.  I have survived and will continue to survive.  In fact, I manage to thrive most times in spite of this.  I have a healthy and mostly balanced life because I embrace, understand, and work through this.

I know it will be okay.

Don’t force me to hang out in public or be social.

Right now my brain is interfering with my ability to attach and engage with physical reality.  Forcing me out will only make it worse.  We’ve all learned from society and our parents that when unhappy, distract.  When Vivian is having a tantrum, I distract her.

This is not a tantrum.  This is not a break up, or a sad movie, or wanting attention.  I am locked in my brain and cannot see things the way you want me to see them, or even as they are.

If you force me out, I will make both of us miserable.  I will be incapable of engaging, and it will have the opposite effect you intended. My sense of isolation will be worse, and it may even prompt leaking of the eyes because I will be aware of my lacking in social regards.

Don’t ask if there are meds I can take

There are.  We all know there are a plethora of chemical changing, mind altering drugs.  Both prescription and alternative.

I choose to not take meds.  And for those who are taking meds, they are already on them.  Asking me if there is something I can take for this reinforces I am not normal in your mind.

I get enough reinforcement from society I am different.  I already combat marketing and mainstream expectations.  I consistently feel isolated and alone, more so when I am struggling.  Don’t remind me my choices regarding my body are not the easy answer.

I know this already.

Do listen and process with me

If you are a lucky one in a billion people I open up to when I’m here, please help me process.

Wait, this is chemical right?  What’s to process?

While the mood disorder is chemical, most of us have life experiences that have laid triggers and trauma on top of the chemical imbalance.  Either due to choices I’ve made, or traumas I’ve experienced, the imbalance creates a cyclone of thoughts in my head picking up speed every time they pass by.

It’s never one single thought, either.  Usually two or three minimum.  It could be a memory of bloody fights, or feelings of inadequacies, or even a generalized fear of being vulnerable and letting people close.

By listening and responding, helping me to see a different reality of the thoughts pile driving my brain, the ruminations can stop.  It helps, believe me.

If you are not going to listen, or if you are going to trivialize my experience, my feelings, or my thoughts, don’t bother.  You will no longer be one in a billion.

Give me a hug

First, disclaimer.  I do not like most people touching me.  Wait for me to initiate.  Unless you are one in a billion, you are not to touch me unsolicited.

If you are one in a billion, and you can see where I am mentally, please reach out and give a hug.  That small reminder there is a physical reality, containing someone who cares, can give me a moment to sit rather than fight.

And sometimes sitting in the quagmire of my mind and not fighting to be normal is all I need to start pulling myself out.  Embracing myself stops the anguish.  You embracing me reminds me I am worth embracing.

Be patient

At the end of the day, this is a reoccurring cycle regardless what is happening in my life.  I have chosen to not medicate, opting for more cognitive options, but that does not lessen my need for patience.

This will pass.  I will relish in awe of the small details of life, raising my face to the sun as breezes kiss my cheeks at some point.  In fact, I will be more appreciative of the beauty around me, for once again I have run my hero’s course through Hades and have emerged.

Here’s the kicker 

Most people won’t know I’m struggling.  It’s likely you will look at me and think I’m maybe a bit more tired than usual, or haven’t had my coffee yet.

So my last suggestion, in general:  don’t judge what someone else might be going through at any given minute.  Unless you are one in a billion, you don’t know me.

Self-Doubt, Let’s Fight

May 24, 2017

(Originally written May 24, 2017)

Traffic has got to be the worst time for anyone with an overactive internal reality. Sitting there in a car among hundreds and hundreds of cars emitting waves of heat into the air, monotone and blah, leaves the mind way too much time and space to push on cracks and fissures ignored the rest of the day.

Currently my commute consists of 19 miles each way which, when combined with regular stop lights, erratic drivers, and overall general congestion of an ever increasing population, usually equates to about 1 – 1.5 hours of my day.

Way too much time to sit alone with my brain and no way to vent it out in a productive way.

Until my recent  and entirely unexpected reality shift, which brought about a) the desire to be a SAH working mom and b) accepting the blessing-curse that is my calling, compulsion, and overall being, I filled the space and time with listening to talk radio or music, depending on what type of touch I needed with the collective conscious.

Of course, that all changed last Wednesday.

​​Now my drives to and fro consist of an entirely different type of gymnastics. I run the course of a practical, business minded, revenue driving strategic mindset to an emotional, irrational, someone kicked the hive in my chest cyclone.

The worst of the latter is self-doubt. Self-doubt is water slowly undercutting dirt and sand which makes the road base of my thoughts.

Driving along at top speed, everything is looking clear as my wheels of creativity and intellect are humming on smooth asphalt when…

Bam.

I’m in a sink hole 6 feet deep.

Wait, what?

The sudden halt in speed gives my awareness whiplash as the wet heavy blanket of panic tightens around my chest.

Well, shit.

Creativity has ground to a halt as self-doubt finds its voice.

You have nothing to say. What makes you think you can do it? You are delusional. You will never be more than average, and average does not pay the bills.

I yank myself in front of my psyche’s mirror and say, knock that pathetic shit off. Self-doubt has always been here, and it’s never stopped the journey before. Just drive around.

You were driving on someone else’s map following a road you didn’t create.

My brain is lit with words and possibilities.  My reality is so altered there is no going back.  I have a taste of fulfillment with happiness.

Possibilities don’t put food on the table, clothing on your baby’s back, or heat the house in the middle of winter.  Happiness does not get traded on Wall Street.

And so goes the internal fight, until something yanks me out of my mind, reminds me reality does exist beyond my brain, and my resolve is further hardened.

​​This morning was one of those mornings. I felt I was opening my eyes into a sand storm with everything grating roughly on my senses. We were able to get dressed and going decently smooth enough, mostly because my daughter is a very sweet and caring child who can read when mommy is about at her break point.

Yet both of us were on the verge of an emotional Vesuvius.

The drive was filled with too bright of sunlight, and when we pulled up her school had a slightly vacant air with art projects and window ads having been taken down. Certainly no human is super awesome at change they didn’t create, and I am no different.

My tone was a little more harsh than it needed to be when Vivian accidentally broke my makeup compact she was using as a phone. In the short 5 seconds it took me to come around to her side of the car, she was crying hysterically at my meanness.

I don’t even wear makeup.

I calm her down, I apologize, I kiss her head and the tears stop. For now. Until we get inside. The rooms look empty, the windows are bare, she is resistant to me leaving.

I give her my standard five minutes of count down cuddle time that usually helps my little one adjust, and we are slightly perked up and ready to sit for cereal. And not let go of my hand.

I kiss, I hug, I remind her I always come back.

I pull my hand away as a teacher moves in to cuddle. As I leave I hear my baby girl scream her mommy-something-is-really-hurting sobs, and I can barely see where I am walking.

To this self-doubt can’t compete. My resolve at changing our reality has grown and hardened into Zeus in my mind, ready to strike down anything that impedes my pathway forward.

Even if I am broken and bleeding, I will claw myself out of self-doubt’s sink hole before I give in.

There will be days when the road is rough, full of sink holes and washboard ruts. Just as there will be days when the asphalt is newly paved, the sun is shining, and I am the only one on the road.

The difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is who can inch forward when the road is rough, the car is broken, and each breath is completed in a waterboard of panic.

I will succeed.