Family, HLHS, Sobriety

Inviting in Compassion while shutting the door on resentment

When she awoke the next morning after a very restless night, she realized that she still had blood in her hair. Wincing as her arm slowly moved upward to the source of the pain in her head, she was still trying to piece together the events that happened the day before. The strap of her bra dug into her shoulder. She went to adjust it and realized that she still had on her sister’s white bathing suit. They were supposed to go to the beach. “That was how the day started,” she thought, “we were going to go to the beach after we picked a few things up for my bat mitzvah.”

The events began to knit together. We went to Paperama, where Christy and her practically wetting her pants laughing over the silly books we were reading. We stopped for ice cream. Christy had Cherry Vanilla. She had Heavenly Hash. Then the next thing she knew, a woman’s hands were reaching toward her through the glass window and her mother’s head was at an unnatural angle in front of her. She could hear her grandmother crying out. She turned her head to the right and her eyes met Christy’s.

“Are you ok??” Christy shouted, in complete shock and bleeding from the back of her head. She had been wearing her father’s oxford shirt. It was a complete mess now. The ambulance ride consisted of her trying to remember what happened, and what was happening to her mother. Where was her grandmother? And Christy?

She smacked her lips together and reached for the tepid water that was next to her on the stand. It felt good going down her dry throat. Her head hurt so much. She could barely handle the sunlight in the room. Did she still have her period? Oh crap. She paged the nurse to help her get out of bed. Slowly she swung her legs to one side. Stepping down gingerly, she began to make her way to the bathroom. A wave of nausea overtook her as she stepped forward. She saw her when she looked up and out of the door into the hallway. Instant rage trumped the nausea and her eyes narrowed. Her fist clenched around the IV pole and she could feel her palm pressing so hard on the metal it was turning white. She regained her balance immediately and stepped towards the hallway.

“If anything, anything happens to my mom, I will fucking kill you.” She managed to spit out through her clenched teeth. Her voice became louder. “If she dies, I will tear you apart!” She took another step towards the hallway. The nurse quickly pulled her back into the room and sing-songed her into the bathroom. When she opened the door to leave, the girl was no longer visible.

“That bitch better stay the fuck away from me.” She said to no one in particular. She heard the door shut across the hallway. Exhausted from the bathroom trip, she closed her eyes.

True story.

This is actually what happened to myself, my mother, grandmother and my best friend on a beautiful summer day in August. A 16 year old without insurance was drinking with her mom and blew through a stop sign doing 65 mph. She hit us without hitting her brakes. My mother’s neck snapped with the force of the impact and I was knocked unconscious. The impact hit my grandmother’s ribs and broke them. Christy fell on top of me and was ‘lucky’ enough to catch all of the glass.

My mom was almost taken out by a drunk driver. Thank God she wasn’t, but she could have been. I could have been sent to live with my dad, which would have been disastrous since he disappeared over a year later. My sister was in Israel and had no idea this had happened. Today, even talking about it still gives me feelings of anger and I think I may be onto why I get so turned off when people drink with their parents. If I want to be honest, my mother was in fact taken from me that day because the woman she became after that is not the same person. She lost full rotation of her cervical spine, and was in a neck brace for what felt like months. She was afraid when she rode in a car. She couldn’t play golf anymore and struggled with the intense pain her surgery had left her.

Throughout the years I have wondered if I would meet this girl or woman in the halls of AA, if they ever learned from their mistake. A close friend made a similar mistake the other night and is facing some serious consequences. Since Sunday, I have been angry at how thoughtless this person could have been. No one was hurt but still- what the fuck are you thinking when you get behind the wheel after drinking a decent amount? The resentment and disgust stayed with me until this morning.

This morning, I realized that I wanted to invite compassion in because I know that is what this person needs at the moment. The last thing they need is another person telling them what a piece of crap they are. I have been shown compassion by those around me who choose to be in my life in spite of what I did to them while drinking. Wouldn’t I have wanted the same when I was in a similar pickle?

When you love someone, even as a friend, you accept them exactly as how they are. You don’t pass judgment, you pass on love. You don’t try to make them pay for their mistakes, you forgive them so that maybe they can forgive themselves. I care about this person very much and I know that with each minute they are praying that they could go back and make a different choice. We can be harder on ourselves than others are on us.

The girl who hit us in 1985 could have used some compassion too. She was young and probably thought she would never get into such a horrible car accident. I remember how frightened her eyes became when we saw each other. Her muffled sobbing could be heard through the door.

Justified anger is just anger. It doesn’t do anyone any good to hold onto it. As I flowed through postures that were designed to open my heart and chest, I breathed in the intention to welcome in compassion. I have to say that today has been an incredible day and I hope to do it all again tomorrow.

 

HLHS

Half the Heart Mom I Used to Be

Heart month is coming to an end and I totally slacked off spreading CHD awareness. No pun intended, but my heart wasn’t in it this year for some reason. Maybe it’s the melancholy I have been experiencing since my father’s passing, or just the fact that we have been blessed with a relatively ‘normal’ life in spite of what has been handed to us. Either way, there is no excuse for me not doing my part or maintaining my commitment to congenital heart disease.

A few things have happened this year that were completely unanticipated. In October, my father became sick and the time I thought I had with him was taken away in a flash. This January, I was able to land an incredible contract in healthcare doing what I love, but now I have less time to focus on my prior commitments. This past fall, I finally answered the call that has been inside of me since I first rolled out a yoga mat 15 years ago and started yoga teacher training. November was when Izzie had her fenestration closed but lately we have had a few vomiting spells to keep us on our toes.

You could say that I am a little busy. It’s a good busy, but I am disappointed that I haven’t been on top of things like I wanted to be. Some days my heart feels so heavy. I keep forgetting that it will take time for me to embrace this grief. When the negativity does enter my space, I send it back out to the Universe from my yoga mat. Life is too short to worry about things that are completely out of my control. If anything, life has taught me this over and over again.

I do worry about Izzie’s future. Just because she has had incredible numbers since her cath doesn’t mean that I am able to let go completely. She still has half of a heart, her circulation is still not ideal and she will still need a transplant when her function decreases considerably. God willing that won’t be for a long time. We have been encouraged by the stem cell research that is coming out of the Mayo Clinic and Boston Children’s. Our hope is that will be an option for us when the time comes.

This year I was not the Heart Mom I have been in the past, with lots of facts about congenital heart disease and pics of Izzie recovering from her surgeries. This year, I wanted to focus on what was in front of me – my family and my relationships. I want to help Addie adjust to life with a chronically ill sibling. She needs to feel just as loved as her sister and I know I fall short of that. My attention is always on the youngest- her coloring, her sats, has she drank enough, or is she coming down with something. No wonder Addie feels left out. There isn’t a lot of resources out there for siblings and that is something I hope to change. At least in my house anyway.

Until then, I will keep my focus on what I can manage instead of what I would like to.