FAILURE AND REPETITION
February 27, 2015
The following was written as an assignment for an Art class we were asked to redo something that we had done in the class during the semester that we felt needed to be improved upon, however nothing that was worked on during this class seemed to require and further work or improvement. However, while mulling it over led to a review of this life and was there anything that looked like failure, something which could have been improved upon or done differently and what came up and comes up time and again (though not for a long time now) is being a Mother.
If I see things of failure in this life around my person … it is in being a Mother. Not because either of my children are failure’s, they are both good men, however, I would say that they are good men in spite of me, in spite of how they were raised. In fact, I would say they are great works of Art.
It came into awareness to see oneself as a paintbrush upon the Canvas of Life, and that each action is a stroke of the brush upon a canvas that is not ever done, never finished … a never-ending work in progress.
I was 15 years old when I gave birth to my oldest and although I had great intentions, very few were consistently met. On top of being a single parent and child myself, I had struggles with mental illness and debilitating depression throughout his childhood. The demands of this world to work and provide for your family added quite a bit of additional stress. Drugs and alcohol played a large role in the inconsistency in his upbringing. I would disappear for days at a time and when the pressure would get unbearable, friends and family would have to take over and care for him until I returned. He was moved from place to place all throughout his childhood. I found myself in two long-term relationships during his formative years, neither of which were with his biological father (who has not actively participated in his upbringing).
For a time, I would create or attempt to create a “family” environment, but then could not keep up the façade for long. I would read him bedtime stories and go to all the parent teacher conferences, but I was just a child pretending to be an adult and it would all unravel time and again.
He was an honor-roll student and received all kinds of awards for his grades and was in the gifted program in elementary school, but I didn’t know the importance of grades when he was young … I didn’t even finish 8th grade myself.
He had a very mixed up way of seeing the world through me … and was often on his own to figure things out. My mother was also a single parent and had her own challenges and did as much as she could to be there for my son when I wasn’t. He was raised with and in Love and genuine care, however he was also abandoned and neglected for periods of time as well. He was raised in a very bi-polar world. There was very little extended family or support, only enough to keep him fed and roof over his head when I was not well and there were times that he didn’t have anyone but himself to watch over him, or to care how he was fairing.
I would like to say that by the time I had my second son, eight years later that I had become a more stable person and in some ways I had, but in many ways my illness had become worse. I was medicated on all kinds of prescription substances by then … each one supposedly to stop one thing, which in turn would create another. By the time I was 30, I had been prescribed over 23 strong anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medications … none of which really helped get to the core of the problem and would usually lead back to quick fixes like running away or addicting substances such as alcohol.
The stress of two children and a significant other that worked a full-time job and owning his own business, created long bouts of depressions and cracks in reality. There was very little time without major depression and illness during the formative years of my second son and the teenage years of my older son as well. I would be able to hold it together for a time, but when the cracks started cracking, it would be like a volcano erupting and my whole system would explode, leaving me unable to care for them or myself. The reality that I would be experiencing was nothing like the realty that they were. They had to spend long periods of time with their father/step-father, while I was recovering.
History repeated itself with my second son in the same patterns that had played out with my first, the only exception was that instead of disappearing with no one knowing where I was, now I was hospitalized and being labeled “crazy.”
When I would return I would once again build up the false sense of security in them … through schedules and routines … bath time, all eating together for meals, homework and reading at night, involving them both in sports. Then I would take on too much again, doing things like signing up to be the team mom of whatever sport they were enrolled in and then barely being able to keep my head up from the types and amounts of medications I was on, which were supposed to keep me functioning in the world because without the medication I wasn’t a social person and yet because of the medication, I couldn’t function as myself. It was an awful catch twenty-two.
By the time my second born was a teenager, I was not in a very good place. Actually, in this world, physically I was in an ideal situation, with a man that was stable and we lived in a very nice home. However, I was probably the least well and/or stable I had ever been. You can see things in retrospect that you can’t see when you are in them. I didn’t know I was sick. I was told I was … but I didn’t know I was. How can one know they are sick, when it is all you know, you can’t see out of what you are in. I didn’t know how to help myself because “sick” was “normal” and “normal” was crazy.
When my youngest turned 14, he was sent to a Military Boarding school. It is a very good school that I am in debited to for their commitment and service to raising up young men with a strong foundation in theirSelf. I am not going to say that it is an easy school … these boys work hard for what they earn and will probably not know how much they were given until they are adults themselves and it is not a perfect school, but I have seen what it has done for my son, things I couldn’t have given him if he had been with me for those years. In all honesty, I don’t think I would have done a good job with him at all. I look back on the person I was and she was a mess. In a sense, Military school bucked me and my boys up, gave us discipline and structure and accountability and continue to do so by what has been instilled in us through his time there. It placed in me things that I didn’t know were lacking. I had to face many fears and insecurities. It would be horrible to go visit him because many of the parents were successful and hadn’t lived the kind of life I had or didn’t seem as if they had and I would go through terrible bouts of insecurity and inferiority, when I would go visit. I went anyway.
He graduated an A student in advanced college classes and is currently attending University as am I … something that I would not have foreseen for either one of us. My failures happen to be our success.
The thing with children is you only get one shot. You don’t get a do over and they are the greatest works of Art a human can help create. I see my failures in raising them. Where I fell short, where I could have done more but I can’t. It went the way it went. They are beautiful works of Art. And yet my heartaches when I recall the things they have seen and had to go through to be who they are.
It wasn’t all gloom and doom. We had amazing times as well, we had cross-country road trips and we did the typical things like Disneyworld and amusement parks and camping and reading together and all the typical holidays and we went to movies and had Saturdays at the library and I sang to them each morning when I woke them up even though they hated it and would cover theirs ears, we practice “Aum” on the car rides to and from school and fought over radio stations. The trouble was simply that I could maintain what I wanted them to have. In many ways, the world sets you up for failure. It doesn’t offer you the amount of time (for most) that is required for parenting. The support systems for raising a child, especially if you are a single parent; are thinly spread.
What I would have wanted to give to them if I could repeat our lives together would be stronger more stable version of myself; to put them first more often or always, to have their best interest at heart, to hear their stories, feed them good nutritious food, kiss them more and be involved in their friendships with others, know their friends names, know their teachers names, make sure that all the homework was done and grades were kept up, participated in their education and their recreation, laugh with them more and have a genuine interest in their interests and I would be sober.
I am now more of the latter person than I have ever been before in this lifetime. I cannot go back and fix what they remember about their childhood. They have their own stories and experiences, which probably don’t match mine at all because we see things about the past so differently. However, there is pain in both my boys that I can’t take away or fix. It may heal over time, however it will be because of the work that they do, just like I had to with my parents. The good news is I know healing is possible since the healing in the relationship with my parents happened. I did the work and now smile and feel love when I think of either one of them. I don’t know how much my boys will have to go through to get to that place with me and with their own life experience. However, I am here for them now. I am here when they are ready.
The above was written last week and as Life’s Canvas would have it my older son wrote the following on Facebook and I was gifted the opportunity to paint some of the above on him directly:
“Life’s Art is never finished, therefore, failure is a lie.”