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Over the last 8 months I’ve focused on just, you know, staying in the precise center of my boat. I get hit by the waves but I haven’t been thrown overboard. No thanks to any skill I have, frankly. I’m just trying to get there. Wherever there is.
My there is anywhere but here. Here is where despair creeps like fog over the edges of my boat. The tendrils curl around the lip of the boat like fingers, and I know that if I give it too much attention it will yank the sides of the boat apart. I’ve stayed afloat this long by giving it the side-eye, but despair is relentless.
I want to hope.
I want to believe that Jake’s out there somewhere, being Jake.
Fortunately–or unfortunately, depending how surly you feel–life is relentless, too.
Dawn comes whether you sleep or not.
I had an early morning meeting with people I value, in which we discussed issues and plans for the year. I came back and meditated on goals and lesson plans and syllabi and the dinner menu. I read the Word, which helps me maintain perspective. Last summer I worried that I would lose my faith over this ordeal. I’d just returned to the faith and had found peace; I didn’t want to lose that.
I haven’t lost my faith.
I’ve learned that I can feel despair and yet feel peace.
I can ache and yet be okay.
I can be in despair and not be depressed.
I can be present for my son, Josh, and be glad for who he is.
I can go on dates with my husband and enjoy him.
I can be in despair and yet laugh.
I can be a ghost mother and walk in the desert and find joy in the things that have always made me happy.
Everything does not exist in the context of my missing son.
I haven’t lost. I’m not lost.
I know this on some level most of the time.
What I’m missing is hope.
Which maybe sounds like I’m not okay, and maybe I’m not.
I have peace with not being okay for now.
Have we eyes to see
That love is gathering?
All the words that I’ve been reading
Have now started the act of bleeding
Into one, into oneSo I walk up on high
And I step to the edge
To see my world below
And I laugh at myself
While the tears roll down
‘Cause it’s the world I know
Oh it’s the world I know
The last few weeks have been exceptionally difficult. Does it have to do with the holidays? I can’t tell. If I could just ferret out why I keep finding myself on the edge, I think I could control it better. You know, not tip into the abyss.
I hate having this continual ache because now it seems normal.
I found myself searching ditch banks on my way home from work a couple of days ago. On the way to work each day I see the Calexico cemetery along the way, and it normally doesn’t elicit an emotional reaction, but that day I remembered searching the cemeteries for his body throughout May, thinking maybe his body had not been discovered. Before class. Ugh. Mondays are just difficult. I got it together and was fine till I drove home, and there my brain was, on the ditch banks.
I don’t know what the trigger is. What’s the switch? If I could find it I could duct tape it off, right?
My son is still missing. No one I know has heard from him, and his Facebook account shows no signs of life that I’m aware of.
There’s this tension between dread of knowing the truth and grief at not knowing. Occasionally I find the sweet spot of peace in knowing that this is part of life, suffering is, and that I am not alone, and that I can do meaningful things in the meantime. I give away books, I quilt, I teach, I write.
And other times I forget.
Today I realized afresh how fleeting life is, and how thankful I am to have today, to have irons in the fire, to have things to look forward to. If you’re in my life, I’m thankful for you, too.
Someone asked me where Day 1 was of the Blog of Missing. I started with Day 20, which is kind of a let-down, right? Where’s the beginning? There should be a Day 1. A way to find the genesis of the heartache.
And there should be words for every day of the missingness. We’ve got all the feels every day, and by we, I mean everyone who misses Jake. A post a day keeps the insanity at bay (except there ain’t no sanity clause….)
I don’t know exactly when Day 1 is. I know the first day he left.
I know the last day someone thought they saw him.
I know the first day, approximately, that I started worrying about him before he disappeared.
I know the first day he stopped talking to me three years ago.
I know the day he started talking to me again. And the day he said he forgave me and that he had been mad for dumb things.
I know the day I dropped him off at Denny’s.
I know the last day he called his dead friend’s phone.
I know many significant days.
Which one is the first?
Today marks 118 days since I knew he was safe, had shelter, and he was talking to me. Now I have hope that he is not dead. I don’t know about shelter, I don’t know his mindset, and I don’t know that he’s safe, but it’s comforting to feel mostly sure that he’s not dead.
This summer two people approached me to ask if I’d been checking Jake’s Facebook. When I said no, they told me that their messages to him in Facebook had been read by someone. I myself have seen that twice. I dismissed it because I believed (and still do) that Jake had sold his laptop. I figured someone had access to his Facebook messages.
I have reason to believe he is at least alive and has access to his Facebook account because I used to be able to see his friends list, and now cannot. A person with access to his account would be indifferent regarding privacy, I think.
You know as much as I do.
I can extrapolate a lot from this info, but I’ve learned I’m usually wrong about stuff when I do that. Too many assumptions.
This. It’s where my head’s at.
I’ve found a website that offers help to those who have been reported missing:
THE MISSING BLOG: HELPING YOU SEND A MESSAGE HOME
Here’s what the page says:
You might not be ready, want or be able to return home at this time, but still want family or loved ones to know you’re okay. You could be scared of how they might react or be worried about a difficult situation you left behind.
It can be very hard to make that first contact or find the words you want to say to someone, for a range of personal and individual reasons. That is why we have developed our Message Home service.
Remember, we won’t disclose your location if you don’t want us to.
Simply talk to us and provide us with information that will help prove your identity to the person we are passing the message on to, such as your date of birth or any memorable information. We will then get in touch with your family and ask if they’re willing to receive a message from you.
After, they will also be given the opportunity to pass a message back to you and we will check with you first to make sure you are willing to receive the message.
We will never pass on abusive, harmful , threatening or upsetting messages between family members or messages regarding legal or financial matters.
Want to talk? We are free, confidential and available 24/7.
Call or text 116 000
You can text us even if you have no credit left on your mobile phone.
Here is more general information for someone who is missing: http://www.missingpeople.org.uk/how-we-can-help/missing-adults.html
If you are reading this, know that there’s help available, and it’s okay if you don’t want to pass on a message. I love you.
101 days. No word. I still don’t know where my son is or if he is okay. I am thankful for people who ask about Jake. Please don’t stop.
I’ve been dragging my feet about posting because it means I have to unbolt the hatch to the compartment where overwhelm lives. Overwhelm is a troll and he gives me the willies.
Today I did a DNA swab, something else I’ve been dragging my feet about because of what it means. It means I’m traveling a landscape littered with dry bones, scoured by dusty winds that leave your eyes scraped and gritty. This desolate country is no place for mothers.
Today the troll is my shadow.
We walk on because we must.
I pray that Jake is, too.
3/1/2016 1:41 PM to CMTN GRDN/CA (310) 345-#### 1 min.
This line of text kept me up last night. That, and the fact that I didn’t know my son needed to hear his friend’s voice.
Of course he did.
And I didn’t know how to create a space that encouraged him to grieve.
I’m bugging my own self here, now, because his grief is private, is supposed to be private, and I’m putting him on blast while I deal with my own grief, and how fair is that?
I’m opting to do it anyway because the subject is typically verboten in our fussy society. Grief is messy, and no one wants to see your splotchy face and raw emotions. Keep it under wraps, please. I myself am not dealing with anyone putting the stomp on me, but I wonder if Jake did. Or if he dealt with some invisible pressure to keep a strong face…. Or maybe that was his interpretation. Did he feel like he wasn’t allowed to show sadness?
If so, why?
I want to hurry through sadness, or to avoid it entirely.
Sadness, and fear, and unknowing. I’m in the space of all three at once.
Is my suffering caused by my expectation that I should not have to deal with these things? (Seriously, though. I have had enough, I think. There should be a cut-off point, at which time anything that goes over that line should be diverted like run-off to the sea. –> Nope, no room in this drain, off you go.)
Last night I got up after flopping and tossing, and if I could have tucked my ache under my husband like a blanket, I would have, but instead I Linus’d it to Facebook, where I came across a post in my feed that led me to this quote:
If I’m feeling a very difficult emotion, maybe anger, or deep sadness, and I try to focus on my breath, isn’t that a way of avoiding my emotions?
Usually people lose themselves in a strong emotion and become overwhelmed. That is not the way to handle emotion, because when that happens you are a victim of emotion. In order not to become a victim, breathe and retain your calm, and you will experience the insight that an emotion is only an emotion, nothing more. This insight is very important, because then you are no longer afraid. You are calm, you are not trying to run away, and you can deal better with emotion. Your breath is you, and you need alliance with your breath to be more of yourself, to be stronger. Then you can handle your emotion better. You do not try to forget your emotion; instead you try to be more of yourself, so that you are solid enough to deal with it.
- Retain your calm.
- Emotion is only an emotion. Nothing more.
- Be solid enough to deal with your emotion.
This reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, wherein travelers discover that the grass of heaven slices into their feet because they’re insubstantial and heaven is real. The longer they stay there, the more substantive they become, and eventually their feet are no longer pierced. I will stay present.
I get it. I learned young that emotions were unwieldy and threatening, and I can’t think of anyone in my family who learned how to navigate these waters with grace, so I have to learn to *sail this train on my own.
Nothing’s wrong with me.
Something’s got to give.
You know the rest.
*One of Jake’s favorite sayings: Dude. That train sailed. [In other words, Let it go.]
And my song today: Dear Younger Me
38 days now.
I’ve gleaned a surface narrative from Jake’s phone records over the past year.
From May 2015, when he apparently purchased his phone, till mid-September 2015, many of Jake’s voice calls and texts were to the number of his friend who died in September.
There are four one-minute conversations to that number on October 1. If Dave had already passed, those calls must have been to his friend’s voice mail. Or perhaps to his friend’s wife.
I’m sorry, Jake. So sorry for your loss.
I don’t have the records yet for December 13-Jan 12.
On Jan 14 he called my old number, then he called and talked to his brother. Then to his best friend.
This was after he’d driven to Texas in December and then come back.
He did not call me on my current number till Feb 4.
His calls and texts to me grow in duration and frequency, till the last few days before he disappeared, when I’m the last person he texted and called, with the exception of a brief call to T-Mobile.
And just now I see, on March 1 at 1:41 pm, a call to his friend’s voice mail. 1 minute.
I can’t remember Jake ever saying he was grieving. He acknowledged sadness when I pressed, but he never went further than that. I wish I’d known how to navigate that terrain. But I can barely navigate the terrain of my own grief, and it’s not the same, anyway. I just wish I could have somehow comforted him.
I saw a little boy today who reminded me of Jake.
Jake’s not a little boy any more.
I know this. I do.
I really do.
I’m just–Mom of it all.
And little boys remind me of how much I love him and his brother.
I’m tired. So very.
Jake must be tired–where’s he sleeping?
Did he eat today?
Now, every time I see a homeless person, I think, That’s some mother’s child.
I had compassion before; this is different. Before, I speculated and sympathized. Now I know.
How can I build something good from this?
I’ve started something rough–if you’re interested, you can check out the resource page I’ve started. Just hover your mouse over ‘a little about me‘ in the menu bar near the top of this page. A drop-down menu will show the page I’m working on. (When someone you love goes missing.)
Sometimes I only have a scent. Ivory Soap. Pine sap. Old Spice. It’s faint, like an afterimage, as Atwood writes in The Handmaid’s Tale.
Other times, I catch a memory when I noodle about something peripheral, like the weather of my childhood.
And other times, I am knocked into a pit by something that happens, like my son telling me he will not be seeing me again. As of this writing, I am 18 hours and 40 minutes from that revelation, and all I can think is, ‘if I’d known it was the last time I’d see him, I’d’ve lingered over dinner. I’d’ve drawn out the conversation, which would have been easy because our conversations have always been interesting. I’d’ve found some way not to be the mother who drives him crazy.’ Okay, nix that last one. I actually don’t know how to do that.
(He is not suicidal.) (And he doesn’t read my blog.)
There’s more to it. There always is. But that is not what this post is about. This post is about how present events harken back to old wounds.
I often identify old hurts by rooting around in the new ones (when I have the clarity to do so.) Today, in this fresh hell, I can identify the pain of many old things, but I will name only two:
1) giving my son up for adoption almost three decades ago, and
2) my mother washing her hands of me when I was 11, and again when I was 19.
So my next question for myself is, which pain am I feeling?
Here’s the thing: I have seen enough of life to understand its cycles. The grownup in me knows that nothing stays the same. So the enormous pain I feel is not just about my son walking away.
So what does this mean? How does the current issue illuminate the past hurt?
I see that by linking them I am telling myself the old story of abandonment, and that’s a story I’m done with. Being abandoned means I have no power. I’m not an abandoned waif, I’m a grownup, and I will not be undone by grief. I do leave my arms open for him should he return. But I also accept that it could be years, even decades, before that happens, if at all. My mother was dead ten years before I understood some things in our relationship, things about her.
I’m writing this because I am devastated and I have to work through this or go crazy. I have to be back at work on Monday and I can’t be dissolving every time something reminds me of my son. I have to see some meaning.
Still working on that.
What I do know is that I can model the grace I now recognize for myself. I can be thankful that he has new-found faith and that he is seeking his own right path. And I can trust that everything will be okay. Mostly. Still working on that, too.
I wrote a little about Shenpa in 2012, but I didn’t have a lot to say because, while I recognized it, I didn’t really understand it. I’m not sure I do now, but I’m going to write about it anyway. I’ll share the same quotes:
Shenpa is what Pema Chodron calls the hook. We each have different hooks but we all get hooked by attachment to outcomes, expectations, or regrets. It is emotionally painful and we suffer. Whatever the hook is, I have to let it go. I must remember that 100 years from now when I am dead and gone, it truly won’t matter. It won’t be important because all my actions will be in the past. Just as they are now while I am living, from moment to moment. Why hold on to the negativity? What matters now is being kind, forgiving and loving towards myself and others. ~ Loran Hills ♥
I was just telling myself this yesterday: next year, it will not matter, these hurt feelings. I will be over them because my perspective will have changed. So why not fast-forward through the struggle and forgive NOW? Trust that my perspective will eventually have more understanding, that even if I don’t have it now, it will come, and I will not have caused more damage with resentment and hurt? Why hold on to it? Why am I attached to the hurt?
I don’t know why I’m attached to hurt feelings. I’m less so now than ever, but still. I recognize that staying in that space is a choice, and all I have to do to get out of it is to ask myself how much I want to be happy.
Here is an everyday example of shenpa. Somebody says a mean word to you and then something in you tightens— that’s the shenpa. Then it starts to spiral into low self-esteem, or blaming them, or anger at them, denigrating yourself. And maybe if you have strong addictions, you just go right for your addiction to cover over the bad feeling that arose when that person said that mean word to you. This is a mean word that gets you, hooks you. Another mean word may not affect you but we’re talking about where it touches that sore place— that’s a shenpa. Someone criticizes you—they criticize your work, they criticize your appearance, they criticize your child— and, shenpa: almost co-arising.
Trying to root out shenpa is like trying to force a paradigm shift. You know you’re in a box, but you can’t find a seam to force your hand through.
It’s an irresistible itch. You get that your partner didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, and you get that in the grand scheme of things it’s insignificant, but those hurt feelings…they’re more comfortable than happiness and peace because they’re familiar. You know what to expect, and the hurt fits the paradigm of abandonment and neglect and disillusionment.
Never mind that it’s been YEARS since you were abandoned.
I think shenpa is like the old rusted bike that got leaned against a sapling and was left there for the tree to grow around.
The only way to dislodge that bike is with an axe and chainsaw, and then you destroy the tree.
In dislodging that hooking point, it’s necessary that some part of ourselves is destroyed, but it’s only the part that doesn’t serve for the good.
I became aware of the tightening during my various attempts to quit smoking. I was trying to figure out why I smoked, and I discovered that I did it to shut my mouth. Better to inhale poison than to say what I thought. I was afraid that if I quit smoking, I would offend everyone around me when I said what I thought.
I quit smoking over a year ago, and I’ve offended people and I frequently wish I was more skilled in diplomacy, but I’ve also learned that not speaking is my choice,not something I have to force myself to do.
I’ve given myself the same permission to speak that I gave my children.
You know how in movies when a mother is hiding from the enemy and she has her child tucked tightly against her, and her hand is on his mouth to keep him from crying out? I think that when Mama silenced me when I was little, in some ways it was for my protection. This is how we do things in this family. We do not say what we think because it endangers us because the adults react. The tightening is both taught and embedded in us at an early age.
I will have to come back to this again.
I’m very interested in your thoughts about this shenpa….
Silence has been my project lately, and the hardest time for me has been over the last few days. My original post had this:
- Silence–Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
I decided to do silence for week 3, and to focus on serenely shutting up. Humility is its companion because staying silent means I’m giving space to the words of others.
Sometimes being silent means not saying what YOU need to say, but allowing space for another to speak. It means it is not your turn. It means that when you do speak, you speak love and grace and nothing else.
Do you know how hard that is? Shutting up does not come easily to me.
Obviously, since I’ve been trying to do it for three weeks. Gah.
I am wearing an industrial-strength bracelet for this–it’s made of a rope material that, if unraveled, can be used as a survival tool. I love the symbolism in that. And I love that I’m learning to be a better person, even if the process makes me want to gnash my teeth.
In silence, of course. lol