Sunday, December 30, 2007

Doing my best ...

to hold it together.

Many days these days, I am trying my best to hold it all together. A plus is that I now have a job that I enjoy. With benefits. And as soon, as I get all the paperwork straightened out, I will be heading back to therapy. Because I know from past experience what with lies ahead, I will have a hard time holding it together without therapy.

On 23 December I learned that the doctors have stopped chemo on my stepmother. They want her to start a new drug treatment -- with no guarantees. This treatment has a lot of harsh side effects. My stepmother is debating the whole thing. If she starts the new treatment, it will be after the first. But I know that she doesn't really want to do it. She's been making statements about her "quality of life" and how it pretty much sucks already without the treatment. She has been telling my father that she wants to get all her affairs in order. In that long conversation with my dad on Christmas Eve, I asked, "She's given up, hasn't she?" He replied, "Yes." And the hard thing is that my father has not given up yet. And I really can't blame him. This is a woman who he has known for over 30 years, has been married to for almost 22 years. But in my heart, I know the truth. She's dying.

Most days I'm OK. But every now and then, I'll feel myself starting to cry. And that kind of surprises me.

I first met my stepmother when I was nine years old -- a year after my parents' divorce. My dad had just started to date her. They had met through their younger sisters who were close friends. Over the next ten years, I didn't see much of my stepmother. Well, not with my father at least. She lived around the corner from my mom and attended the same church that we did. Actually she started attending the church after she started dating my dad because she's Catholic. During those years there were other women. My stepmother explained to me a couple of years ago that she wouldn't really commit to my dad because of his drinking. (And yes, he is drinking once more. On Christmas I saw him down a shot of Patron with his cigar.)

When I turned 18, my father stopped drinking -- and smoking. Apparently one of his drinking buddies had attempted suicide and that scared the crap out of my dad. Within the next couple of years later he married my stepmother.

My stepmother, early on in their marriage, decided that I was a spoiled brat. We didn't get along. On my part, I know that I didn't have much respect for her. She came off as this bubblehead who could not make a decision without first hearing her husband's opinion. And this was a woman who holds a master's degree and has worked as a counselor at colleges. She could help others plan their futures but deferred to her husband in most things at home. I guess it went against all of my feminist sensibilities. Because one thing I am never willing to do is to play dumb for some man. OK. Maybe if there is a free drink involved but never in a relationship.

Then in 1989 my stepbrother was killed. He was only six months older than I. It wasn't until 2003 that I was ever able to discuss it with my stepmother. Circumstances had dictated that conversation though. I had discovered that the father of one of my students had been with my stepbrother when he was killed. And this guy -- his alleged best friend who left my stepbrother to bleed to death in a car in downtown Sacramento and then had his girlfriend -- the student's mother -- call my father and stepmother in the middle of the night to tell them the news -- wanted to speak to my stepmother about what had happened. I think this was a turning point in my relationship with my stepmother. Although I guess it happened earlier; I was just too blind to see that shortly after my stepbrother's death, my stepmother started giving me gifts for my birthday and Christmas that were solely from her.

And so yes, therapy will be in my future very soon. I'm a lot better about talking to people about what's going on inside of me but it's still not enough. Especially when I feel like I'm a conduit for everyone else's pain and loss at the same time. And it's probably part of the reason why I haven't been going out as much as I used to. I have found that going out and feeling so-so emotionally are not really a good mix. I tend to make some really dumb choices. But a part of me really wants to go out and to interact with people. So I've got to get my crap together -- and soon. Besides, I'd like to be able to post stuff that's not such a downer.

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