I’ve changed by not changing at all….

I’m in one of those semi-rare moments of contentment and peace (spell check just changed ‘contentment’ to ‘containment’ – however being locked up is not so rare…).  Maybe it’s just because I actually got some shit done today instead of procrastinating.  Maybe it’s because I have a long weekend coming up.  Maybe it’s a mere reflection on what an amazing year 2013 has been, and thinking about last Thanksgiving….

Last Thanksgiving was my first major holiday ‘alone’.  I had Jenn and Keith and my mom over for brunch.  I was racing around making eggs and pancakes and bacon and monkey bread and mimosas.  I was standing at the counter, pouring and mixing and flipping, and my eyes welled up with tears.  Tears of relief and happiness and peace.  My first holiday alone, free of fighting, anger and rancor.  A holiday with people I loved and free of tension (well, except the kind my mother causes me).  I was so thankful to finally be living a life  true to myself.  It was an unbelievable feeling and I was totally content in that moment, in that life, with those I love and who love me, and my two little pumpkin munchkins.  At night, I loved putting the kids to bed and coming down the stairs to a quiet and peaceful house.  I was ensconced in my little home with my children, my pets, a warm bed and plenty of electronics to keep me in touch with my friends near and far.  Content and peaceful.  

I am not the most demure girl.  If I had a nickel for every time someone has ‘shushed’ my very loud voice I’d be a millionaire.  Or a at least a thousandaire.  I had made some controversial choices in the past and I didn’t always pick the right path, and I know I have been judged for them.  I was a devastated confused girl free falling and desperately grasping at exit doors.  I won’t apologize for the mistakes I made, although the Catholic school girl deep inside me chides me for such pride.  But last November, it had all brought me to that day, my very grateful Thanksgiving of 2012, and I was happy.  HAPPY! Can you imagine? It wasn’t long ago that I couldn’t imagine ever being happy again.  

And the universe wasn’t done with me yet (‘ARE YOU DONE WITH ME NOW?? DIDN’T THINK SO.  CAN YOU CUT ME SOME SLACK THOUGH?? KTHANKS’).  That same month of November 2012 I joined match.com – I know, I know, but it is the new millenium and all the cool kids were doing it.  At that point my friends were sick of my regular texts begging them to hang out with me.  I needed a companion-type person to go to dinner and the movies with.  I could have gotten one of those service dogs but they are really pricey and are frowned upon when sitting on barstools.  I just needed a date because Uncle Bernie wasn’t going to cut it anymore.  

So I went on dates – I went on dates with all sorts of lovely dudes.  One tried to bring me to a strip club on my first date.  One resembled a troll (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  One texted me 27 times within the first 5 minutes after our first (only) date.  But I was only looking for a twice monthly companion, and my friends REALLY enjoyed the stories, so I went on dates like they were job interviews and assumed that the worst that could happen is that I could run out of one dollar bills.  

And then I met this dude – this tall, quiet dude, who watched me talk non-stop all night on our first date and laughed at all my jokes.  He didn’t even suggest a strip club until the 3rd date (KIDDING! He waited until the 8th.).  He noticed my little quirks, like how I play with my earrings and he complimented me on my smile and laugh and my walk and told me he loved my (loud obnoxious) voice.  He saw ‘me’ and liked me for who I was, and I wasn’t sure if any boy had ever done that before.  He was funny and sweet and smart and handsome and a phenomenal full time dad and he was…it.  I grew to respect him, loved his company, and his kiss brought me to my knees.  (Proverbial people, get your minds out of the gutters!)   And here I am this Thanksgiving, one year later, in another totally unexpected place.  

Life has become broken into two parts – “BEFORE” Owen’s Fragile X diagnosis and “AFTER.”  It feels like anything before 2010 is a gray haze of in-utero shadow memories.  And then BAM – the diagnosis – and the earthquake of Fragile X hit my life and since then life has become a reassembly line.  Keeping what fits, getting rid of what doesn’t, finding what is broken and replacing it with glue and tears and hearts, covering the broken places.   It has been change after change after change, and I continue to have waves of feeling overwhelmed and stricken by all that has happened within a short amount of time.  And through it all, I have had one constant.  This girl right here….Image

 

I knew her before she was conceived – the one thing I always wanted in life was a daughter named Bridget.  She was a part of me when I was still a child – Bridget is my middle name and I would berate my mother “WHY did you name me Kathleen??? There are SO MANY Kathys at school? Why didn’t you name me Bridget?”  But now I know why – because my Bridget was destined to come to me later.  

I never knew true joy was until she was born.  She was the epitome of a good baby – sweet tempered, great sleeper, great eater, and adorable (not that I’m biased or anything).  She was my mini-me, and I understood her.  We love the same things, suck at the same things, and I ‘get’ her because she is so much like me.  She is an old soul and very, very wise.  Also a huge wise ass – and yeah, don’t think I haven’t heard the old “wonder where she gets that from” joke umpteen times.  

Just as I have endured these years, so has she.  A brother with a disability.  Divorcing parents.  A mom who is dating – and dealing with other kids who want her mom’s attention.  And this week, the loss of our oldest dog, Georgia, our 13 year old labrador.   Bridget has been through so much and has amazed me with the ease, compassion and dignity she has shown through it all.  As Owen is my soul, she is my heart.  I think of this Thanksgiving, and all that I have to be grateful for.   And as I laid in bed tonight with my little girl – she will always be my baby, and I tell her this – and I stroked her soft cheek and ran my fingers through her long straight hair, and I thought how blessed I was to have birthed this little person.  This phenomenal, sweet, awesome, cool, funny, little person.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude at her presence in my life.  She doesn’t yet know her own strength, and I’m not sure she fathoms how much she has truly endured (although she will freely tell you how awesome she is).    I have 10 years left with this kid under my roof, and no matter how crazy she will make me when she is a teenager (maybeshewon’tmaybeshewon’tmaybeshewon’tokwhoamIkidding) I will never take her presence for granted.  

This Thanksgiving continues to remind me of how much has happened and how life has changed.  At this moment, I have a foot in each life, the old, the new.  It can feel precarious, not out of one life, not completely in another, still slightly shell shocked from all that has happened, and with a sliver of terror at the changes that are coming and will continue to come (some days more like a whole full pie of terror).  The word “overwhelmed” is one I use often.  I’ve been resenting my life limbo – I want to move on! I want the next phase already!  But tonight, lying with Bridget, talking and snuggling – it hit me that I need to accept this moment.  This place, this limbo, THIS is where I am supposed to be right now.  Here, with her, in this bed this time this space.  Today, she was 8 years, 4 months and 25 days old.  And she never will be that again.  

So we lay, and we talk, and we read together, and I am grateful for all that this year has given me. 

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Love.  Loyalty.  And definitely, lots of luck.  

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Where’d you go?

I know it’s bad when even Leah’s Aunt Carole from England is asking her why I’m not blogging.  I could give you a laundry list of reasons, some truer than others -procrastination, insomnia suffering, being happy, having other people involved in my life and wanting to protect them – maybe even wanting to protect myself.  

For so long, 3 years now, my blog was where I turned when I had no where else to go.  It was where I could vent, inform, educate, but mostly a place I went when I was devastated and desolate, grieving and lost.  Almost all the significant changes that have happened have been directly and indirectly connected to the publication of my old blog in BayState Parent Magazine in November of 2011.  Never one for subtlety, I did totally explode my life right around my 40th birthday in April of 2012, and have been picking up the pieces and reassembling the old and the new.  

I wake up everyday and thank the universe for the people it has sent me these past years.  The support I receive from my friends is one of the only things that can leave me speechless. I also know that as I have begun to live a life true to who I am, I have become more available to be a friend to those people also.  I am no longer hiding myself and my shame, my guilt, and the nagging voices in my head that I tried so hard to repress.  As I live a life of realness, I attract people who also do.  As I live an honest life, people have appeared as my angels.  I could not have a better cheering squad in my life.  I’m a lucky, lucky, lucky girl.  

And yet – I’m still in limbo.  Life is still assembling but isn’t done – and really, is it ever? I’ve been separated for over a year and a half years but still not divorced, although classes have been taken, mediation conducted, and papers almost filed.  And although not divorced I have met someone and am very much in love.  And he and his family have become a huge part of my life, however they never signed on to this whole ‘public blog persona’ and I feel a need to protect them.  And I also (thank you Irish Catholic guilt) feel bad writing the next chapter when the last one isn’t completed.  So there is my life limbo.  

I am living a life I never thought possible. I never knew you could live an imperfect life and yet be so fulfilled and happy.  I had no idea that life could change so drastically for those you love and yet continue on and become even better.  I didn’t think it was possible for me to ‘do more’ – and be more and have to handle more – and yet still feel complete.  I never believed in destiny until I realized that everything I have been through has brought me to here – and ‘here’ is wonderful and exactly where I am supposed to be.  

Is it easy? No.  Dating at 41 and all that comes along with it is a HUGE adjustment.  And as Leah has said (I’m stealing her quote) “Owen still has Fragile X.”  He is adjusting to kindergarten, he is still mostly non-verbal, he had 3 restraints in school a few weeks ago, another toilet clog, kitchen flood, several vomitting episodes INCLUDING one in the middle of Pub 99 (I caught 90% of it on a plate – SO impressed with myself!).  So easy? No.  But I never expected life to be easy.  My dad was diagnosed with cancer when I was 14 and died when I was 19 – I learned at a very early age life was not handing me unicorns and kittens and cookies.  Many people grieve for a lifetime when their kid is diagnosed with a disability.  I refuse to do that, but I also accept there will be times that the wave of grief hits me.  

My boyfriend and I signed our girls up for gymnastics.  Night one – waiting room was MOBBED, tons of people, Owen was a huge grump and I knew…just knew…it wouldn’t go well.  He was in a frenzy, running, opening doors, trying to escape.  We finally took turns waiting in the car with him while the other adult watched the girls through the viewing room window.  That night devastated me – FUCK I just wanted to be NORMAL and be able to watch the girls like all the other parents! I worried about how his diagnosis will affect my daughter and my ability to participate in her life.  I just wanted to WATCH OUR KIDS like everyone else.  So I had a ‘why me’ night, cried a little, and the next day I called the gymnastics center and set Owen up with his own private class with an instructor who has experience with kids with special needs.  In other words, I put on my big girl undies.  

And he loves gymnastics. So there ya go.  That is where I have been.  Living, loving, fixing, surviving, rearranging, changing and being with the people who love and support me.  I’m happy, probably for the first time in my life.  I’m lucky.  I’m blessed.  And I am so, so excited for the future and what lays ahead for me.  

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