Today was one of those days. And I needed that. It was one of those days in which one thing after another just went hay-fucking-wire. And at the ends of those wires dangled support and surprising joy from places I never would have thought to look for it. Is it just because I was too worn down to hold up the blinders that otherwise stop us from noticing the little surprises?
Okay, the last 4 days or so have just sucked. Not in any super concrete way, but I have felt literally drained of the energy that usually propels me – that vague belief in magic being around the corner. I have lost things that I loved profoundly, and with them, a lot of my energy. The upside of that has been the kind of laziness that is vaguely healing – a lot of cooking and sewing and gardening and….
But today, holy shit. I was at the gym and forgot my lock, which meant I had to carry my bag with me. Annoying. BUT, that meant I had my phone with me, and was able to see that the mother of one of my daughter’s friends was calling met at 9:00 am. Which is odd. (And I knew, in my gut, not good.)
Long story short, she was calling to tell me that all hell had broken loose at Celia’s school. The problem started in December last year – some sort of strange off-gassing in their (gorgeous) new building was making students and teachers sick with a variety of troubling symptoms. They told us that they solved the problem, and I chose to believe them even though, in my heart of hearts, I knew they hadn’t. Last week, the problems started flaring up again, and this morning a child passed out at school.
After the child passed out and the STUDENTS carried her to the office, some of the kids started texting and calling their parents. Before first period was over, most of the 6th grade had been picked up – including my daughter, by a friend.
JOY #1: I have the kind of friends and community that look after each other. Which means they look after me and my kid. Damn, that feels good.
After much discussion amongst parents, we decided that not only was the problem MUCH bigger than any of us realized, but that we’d gotten the run around for months, and the school district just wasn’t playing fair or safe. And they weren’t taking us seriously.
“Alyssa, do you think you can get the media to pay attention?”
JOY #2: My friends know that I can and will help in a time of need. They believe I will get stuff done and they trust / respect me enough to ask me to. There is no bigger compliment than that.
Emails, phone calls sent and received, they are on their way to my house. They being the local NBC affiliates and some other parents and kids. I do not want to be “that mom.” Or at least not the only one. And I actually hate being in front of the camera. That is why I write. Interviews are conducted with both parents and kids – the reporter stopped by the school first and actually ran into parents who were picking up their panicked kids. I am relieved – they got the kind of footage they need. We did our part. The story was told and I have faith. For a moment, we are all riding high on that feeling of togetherness and getting things done.
We tell the kids that they should feel good and proud. That in life, there are always times when things are just wrong and when fixing them seems hard, but that someone has to try. SomeoneS have to band together to speak the truth and speak up for those who, for whatever reason, don’t have access to a voice and an ear and the will and power to create change.
JOY #3: I have a child who has a voice and is not afraid to use it. Who has already felt pride in using that voice, and has seen it start the process of change. Only life can teach that, not school, and life has offered her that opportunity.
And then she coughs, and I am reminded that there are very real health issues to be dealt with, and they scare me. For how many months has she been breathing these chemicals. Unidentified chemicals with unknown impacts on unguessable parts of her developing brain and body. All my voice and power cannot become a scouring brush to clean out her insides and restore them to the shiny and fresh pink that I imagine they were before I let the world poison her.
Thursday we see the doctor. But this afternoon, we go see the Chinese Medicine doctor / acupuncturist who so many of my friends adore. We spoke earlier and she is well versed in environmental toxins, wants to approach the immune system and liver. I liked her so much when we spoke. And in all generosity and strength she assures me that she will make sure we can afford her. I want to tell her that I can hardly afford a cup of coffee these days, but somehow, I know it will work out. I know my daughter needs her, and I know that my needs are met.
We go to see her, and she is amazing beyond what I had hoped. Her energy is strong and calm, she’s direct and playful. My daughter likes her, I can tell. Though she is still not interested or willing to have needles in her. And the doctor is strong and respectful enough to tell me I should leave the room and leave them alone, which I do. And they are better without me. When the doctor comes out, she tells me that Celia appears fine, though is very mad at me. And that seems such a gift, for her to have been honest with me. But also that Celia was honest with her. I am comforted. I know there are times coming when Celia will not want to tell me what’s going on with her, but I am so glad to have learned that she will be able to tell someone.
JOY #4: I am reminded that the world does not need me. It will all be fine without my guidance. I can let go. I am allowed to sit and observe it, feel it, watch it, be part of it without bending it to my will. The same is true of Celia. She’s solid.
JOY #5: People like Monica Jones exist. This amazing woman / doctor / healer. It occurs to me that there are probably lots of people like her. Not in characteristics, but in the impressions and patterns they make on the world. Chances are good that I encounter them daily, but have no reason to pay attention, so don’t notice. I think that all I have to do is notice, and the world will appear brimming with people like this. That seems easy enough.
We make it home just before the evening news comes on. We are confronted with unpleasant financial realities, which bring with them everything from fear to guilt. But I am too tired to even think about them. It’s been a whirlwind.
When the news comes on, Celia is so excited to see herself. But more than that, we watch, hoping they got the story right. That we love our school and the people in it, that we are scared and worried, that people are really and truly and terribly sick from the fumes. That something has to be done!
And they did. It is good. They did it right. (Click that link and watch for yourself. But seriously, I have a huge forehead. What the hell?)
JOY #6: It worked.
Celia is off to the baseball game with her father. And after dropping them at the train, I finally (like 2 months later than I should have) call my friend Roxanne. Of all the people who have kept me buoyed in the last couple months of heartbreak and stress, she is one of the strongest. Which is odd, because we’ve never met in person. We were introduced by someone who thought we should know each other, could and should work together. And I’ve always wanted to find a way. Somehow, she knew when things got bad for me a couple months ago, and has been relentlessly calling and emailing. With humor. Relentless humor.
After a hour on the phone with her, I have some ideas. Things I can do with her, to jump start JUST CAUSE, to feel good and creative. But more than that, I am reminded how much talent and energy people have. And strength. The whole time she’s been calling me, I’ve been responding with some form of, “I think I’m having a nervous breakdown, hang on, I’ll be back.” And she hung on. And I came back.
JOY #7: I am reminded that no one really cares when you suck. They love you for you, and as long as you’re honest and let them know you know they’re there, it’s all ok. They’ll still be there. I am so fucking lucky.
Silence for a while.
I am sad. God, I am just exhausted. Drained. Lost. I just want, more than anything, to be held and told everything will be alright. I want to feel beautiful and desirable and wanted and protected.
I send a one sentence email to someone saying, “please tell me I’m fabulous and it will all be okay.” And in less than 30 seconds, he is online, in IM, telling me all that and more. And making me laugh. And this is someone who has held me crying, and let me hold him when he cried.
JOY #8: It’s not that he told me those things, it’s that I knew, without having to ask him, that he believes those things about me. That to him, I am the Monica and the Roxanne. I am the amazing friend with amazing energy who he feels lucky to have in his life. (I feel the same way about him.) And with that, there is balance. (Thank you Matty. I love you.)
Thank you, universe, for this profoundly shitty day. It was just what I needed.