Fish food

BZ5A2348Yesterday morning, I ugly cried into the ocean.

I heaved and tried to breathe and thought I was okay, and then I just began again, and again, gasping and crying.

I felt it aching in my gut muscles. It hurts, crying that hard.

I was chest deep in saltwater as warm as a bath. I was alone, looking at a sunrise gift.

The reason I was there was a lie. I screwed up with scheduling for work (my head is not totally clear these past days), and was too ashamed to admit such a mistake to my family.

Childcare had already been arranged. Schedules had been shifted. It was all a big mess.

So instead of telling them, I took advantage of the situation and headed to the beach, alone.

As I was wading into the water, all the comments, letters, emails, messages were swirling around in my mind. I’ve never had so many people tell me how brave or strong or loving or amazing I am in all my life.

I was thinking of my mom, who I still cannot save, and my brother, who is scraping by, and my own family, who thinks I am working at this moment, and I’m not.

I’m nothing. I’m not brave or strong or amazing. I can’t even keep my own schedule straight and I screw up every single day.

I began this project out of sheer desperation. It wasn’t an act of courage.

It was a scream in the dark. The doctors were not keeping us informed. My mom was not communicating. Everything was falling to pieces when I made that video for her.

Nothing, in all these years, has been enough to get my mom into a better situation. Never enough money, never enough time, never any new solutions.

I’ve daydreamed about hitting the lottery, like a child. The house I could build her, the places I could take her, the things I might do for her, and my brother.

I could save them. I could save us all.

But the years have relentlessly passed, and instead of that fairy tale ending, it’s just been hard, brutal reality with harder times ahead.

And looking into the vast ocean ahead of me, I felt so, so small and inadequate. So that’s when I cried.

When I got my shit together finally, I pulled my mask on and stuck a snorkel in my mouth and went under.

It was so quiet under there. Just my breathing, which was panicky, at first.

But as my breathing leveled out, I began to see.

I could see the ripples of the ocean floor and the rainbow light arcs dancing on my arms and the floating specs of sand like glitter in the underwater sunbeams.

The fish began to appear. Tiny, beautiful little things with yellow fins, swimming all around me.

Deep breaths. Floating…

“What is the lesson here?” I asked myself.

“What is the lesson? What is the lesson?” I kept asking.

And then the fish began nipping at me.

“I’m fish food,” I thought. “That is the lesson. I’m nothing but fish food.”

I laughed at myself, and felt better.

Later that night, after most of the petty anxieties of the day had been resolved, I spoke with my mom on the phone.

She was in a good mood.

She mentioned how she had been feeling a bit nervous earlier in the day, but she was okay now. We talked a little about her mind and I said “I think you have a beautiful brain.”

This is not something I normally might say. She paused and said “Thank you. Thank you for saying that. Some parts are not so beautiful though. Some parts are kind of ugly.”

“I know, but those parts are not your fault.”

The next pause was too long and felt too heavy, so I said “Let’s not get too deep.”

She laughed and said “Yeah, don’t go too deep, or you might fall.”

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13 comments

  1. I hope you’ll be ready to see yourself soon, to recognize that life convinced you of something untrue. we see you, we see clearly your light, your talent, your worth. You deserve the recognition, the accolades, and all the goodness that comes your way. My hope is that your project helps your mother and every other person living in the shadow of their illness

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  2. Please, don’t beat yourself up. I spent years exhausting myself thinking that if I do more or buy more or say more of the right things I could make my Mom better and everyone happier. It doesn’t work that way. Because it’s an illness that has no cure. Not medication, not money, not time and not even enough love will cure it. I was determined however that I would make the difference and burned myself out to prove I could be the difference. Sadly my mother is still ill with the desease and everything I did didn’t change anything. She is 83. Take your beautiful and wise advise and don’t dwell in the guilt or the sadness for too long. Love her but love yourself first. You’ll never abandon her but boundaries are healthy especially if you have a family of your own. Only you know your limits and they will save you through the years. Let go of the guilt….you Will not abandon her. She loves you and she understands.

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  3. I see in your beautiful and painful recounting of your “messed up day” -myself- often daily, sometimes for weeks on end. Your strings are pulled taut, and today was not messed up at all. Today you found out you were just fish food, which is a good thing. It put your problems back into focus. I found mine one night while walking the beach at midnight and feeling so out of control and sad. I looked down and saw these tiny glowing dots in the sand, plankton, shining forth from the moons’ bright reflection, and I realized, I am but a speck of plankton in the entire universe…the smallest living thing that mankind can see with the naked eye. I’ve been where you are, and sometimes I think my ability to care so much is my downfall. You write, I paint, and together we rebuild ourself! Journey on, for this day will come again, and because we are alive, you see? We are alive.

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  4. We live in one of the richest countries in the world and we all should be taking care of your mom and my mom and every other person that is too sick to function on their own. That should be our agreement with each other. I’m sorry that you are going through this. Your mom is really baring the brunt of this situation and she is the least able to…this world she is in should help her. The healthcare system, the social services system, etc…we all pay for help and the government is so screwed up with a power imbalance that those who need help the most don’t get it but billions go to subsidize sick business instead of sick people. Your mom’s situation highlights this fact. This world should save her.

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  5. On Joy and Sorrow
    Kahlil Gibran
    Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
    And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
    And how else can it be?
    The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
    Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
    And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
    When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
    When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

    Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
    But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
    Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

    Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
    Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
    When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

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  6. Sadly, I know the feelings you are having all to well. You may not think so but you are very brave to tackle this issue by putting yourself out there in such a public way. You have no idea how much reading your posts have helped me. My mother died at 75 alone, living in filth and half starved in her home because she would not let her family help her. She would only eat what ” God” told her to. My brother, sisters and I have lived the hell you talk about. I understand the helplessness you feel at not being able to help, the desperation in wanting her to just take her medication. You may not feel you deserve the support you are getting but know it’s there and your posts are helping others face thier own demons. Thank you for your courage.

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  7. What an amazing daughter you are… The love, strength and compassion you have for your Mother, brother all of your family is a gift. And I know it took an amazing women to give life to you. Thank you for sharing such an intimate look into your family. I literally wanted to reach into the video and hug and love all of your sweet mothers fears and tremors away. She is a beautiful woman. It breaks my heart to watch… You have articulated your journey with such honesty, the highs and the lows. You are stronger than you will ever know!!! I know there are so many days and times you think this is all just bullshit and you want to give up!!!! But, please know people you don’t even know that read your writings and watch the videos are inspired and pull strength from what you are doing. Me personally, going through similar things, helps to see another daughter trying to understand and make the right decision for your parent. But, so many times you just want to say eff it!!!!! Why me… And,I just suck at everything!!!!, Hang in there you are Amazing!!!! And I know your sweet mother loves you and is so proud of you

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  8. I have so many emotions to this blog. I suffer from mental illness. I have OCD, General anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder. I have spent some time in mental health adjusting medications. I am well and work full time and I am currently in college for mental health! My anxiety took a turn when we became the caregiver of my father in law who was passing of COPD. It was an emotional roller coaster. I became maid, nurse, mom, wife, secretary and pretty much became friends with all the nurses and paramedics! I was the ‘caregiver’. Such a small word to explain a lot of jobs. I admire your journey and your willingness to share your thoughts and stories. Your mother has a beautiful smile. Know that you and your brother are loved. What you are doing is being recognized more then you realize. Your brother and you carry a kind of empathy not a lot of others even know about. As hard as I am sure this blog is please keep it up. I want to continue to see her thrive with your care and love. xoxo

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  9. The bravest people have no idea that they are brave, they simply do what has to be done because it has to be done. You are brave and wonderful, kind and caring and while it is hard to see right now, you are amazing! Please do not feel guilty or otherwise when you need time to yourself. This day, in the vast ocean, is a blessing for you and you should go there more often. Instead of the world depending on you and crowding you, you get to be in the ocean where the water is the biggest thing and you get to just be. Sometimes to just be is the most wonderful thing in the world!

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  10. I think what you have done is the biggest act of courage and bravery. I am very thankful you had it and brought into the light what many of us leave on our corners.
    I understand perfectly what you feel. I lived with my mom illness 34 years and it did not matter how many strategies or attempts we did, there was always a new challenge ahead us that changed the course and broken more our hearts. But on the same time, through all the sorrow and bottomless holes; I have learnt to love, to have hope and receive help and love from others. It is how I see it now. I know is not always easy to see all these learnings during the storms, because we just think we would like it ceases, we would like to wake up and realise we have normal lives, and that it was just a bad ream.
    My mom died last year, and I have a mixture of exhaustion, guilt for not doing enough, guilt for leaving my country and supporting her from the distance during the last years, guilt for not have being strong enough, etc…
    I think in such complex situations as mental illness are, is better to live one battle at the time and celebrate the victories, even the small ones.
    I send you all my gratitude, admiration and love!! you are a big soul, courages and strong!! and you are not alone! I am here and all the other people that have written you are here!
    With love and gratitude,
    Gabriela

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