being alive/being dead/being alive

i harbor a tremendous sorrow.

can it really take a lifetime to learn that one never stopped fending for one’s mother?

i don’t blame her; i don’t blame anyone. i tethered myself to her, she hung on to the tether for dear life.

she tried with my sisters, too, but they knew she had me, so they let go.

there is a tether waiting to be untied, a simple knot one can loosen in a few minutes, but it’s a knot that means “being alive” to me, at the same time as it means “being dead,” and i can’t let go of being alive through being dead.

but i am. i am letting go. i am forming new connections. different connections. see, in some sense, i have always formed the same kind of connection. this of course is an exaggeration, but the meaningful connections, the ones that drew me most strongly, that meant the most, were all tagged “being dead = being alive.” they all sought to reproduce the lifelong tether that connects my mother to me and me to her.

i owe a debt of infinite gratitude to my therapist, who lent the entirety of her soul to give me a chance at a different connection. that’s what she did.

a. she recognized my desperate need to be alive without simultaneously being dead.

b. she recognized that i couldn’t be alive without creating a life-bond with another.

c. she said, “let it be me.”

d. she held fast when i tried to draw her into the only connection i knew.

e. she didn’t push the “being alive = being alive” connection on me. she just waited for me to find it inside myself, inside her.

f. she would have waited forever.

g. she was in no hurry.

h. i writhed and screamed in terror and pain.

i. she held fast and soft, oh so soft.

j. she trusted the process, the stumbling of a desperate psyche in a very dark place, the surety with which light-seeking souls will find souls that are lit even in the darkest, most tumultuous inner weather.

l. she gave everything.

k. she is still giving everything.

m. she wants me to trust that she’ll keep on giving everything.

that i cannot do.


but this is what i see. i see a reorganization of all my relationships. a shifting of balances. new dynamics.

it’s easier with new relationships, harder with established relationships.

i have strong friends. my traveling companions are patient, solid, and soft too.

i harbor a tremendous grief. will my mother be okay? will she miss me? will she survive without me?

i speak to her on the phone. i try to keep the same rhythms we have grown used to, three times a week. but i can’t. it’s sliding to two times. she is always the one calling these days. she says, “it’s been a few days.” i think, “really? wow, time went fast.” our conversations have become shorter. i speak to her as if from a great distance, a place of terrible exhaustion.

we spoke yesterday in the morning. at night, the memory of our conversation had acquired the same quality as a dim dream memory. sometimes dreams are very vivid. this dream was dim. dull. heavy. opaque.

i harbor a terrible sorrow because i love my mom. she loves me. and yet, just like i jumped in to save her and carried her in utter aloneness (with death as my companion), now i’m loosening up the knot, one mm at a time, and i am, as i have always been, all alone. it’s our knot, my mom’s and mine, and she’s going to hang on to it for dear life, because, like i used to, she doesn’t know any other way to live.