I had been pretty well settled into my post-therapy life. I had stopped napping mid-afternoon and was getting more done–more exercise, more crafting, more projects, a bit of paid employment. I was contemplating giving up the my occasional brainspotting therapy sessions, since they weren’t leading to anything anyway. When something upset me, I was drawing on the many strategies I learned over my years of working with E.
Then earlier this month, my husband and I took a vacation to Hawai’i. I know, a vacation in the midst of the pandemic, with Omicron spreading like mad? I wondered myself about the wisdom of going, but everything had been reserved months before and was already paid for, and except for the plane ride, we’d mostly only be outdoors in uncrowded spaces. We decided to go, and I’m so glad we did. It was warm and sunny and stunningly beautiful, as Hawai’i always is. We spent a lot of time swimming and snorkeling, some time on a boat, and even went ziplining one day. I was nervous about that ahead of time, but it wasn’t scary, just exhilarating and delightful. Towards the end of the 10 days, I realized what a long time it had been since I simply let go and played. All that laughing and sunshine and salt water and those colorful fish and sea turtles and palm trees did me so much good. My breathing was deeper and more relaxed. I rediscovered how good it felt to be centered and calm.
On the plane home, I was sorry to leave, but I also felt that the happiness and relaxation would sustain me through the rest of the gray, rainy winter at home. Then we landed, and I saw I had five or six from Andres, my older son:
“When do you get home, Mom?”
“Call me when you get home, Mom, okay?”
“What time does your plane land? Be sure to call me right away.”
And more in this vein. One of the things with his disability (he’s on the autism spectrum and has attention deficit issues, and maybe something else undiagnosed) is that he is incredibly impatient and impulsive. If he has an idea about something or wants something from me, it has to be NOW. He has no ability to delay gratification or think about what is a good time for another person. Sometimes this is cute and amusing, but a lot of the time it is exhausting to be at the receiving end of this.
(And yes, of course, I have told him many times that he only has to text me once, and I will respond when I can.)
Anyway, we got our luggage, went home, settled in just a little and then I texted Andres, “I’m home now, still want to talk?”
“Call me on Face Time, Mom,” he said.
I looked at my husband. “I bet he wants to talk on FT so he can see my face when he tells me that Patty is pregnant.” I said it half as a joke, but at that moment, I also realized that it could very well be true.
And I was right.
I was shocked and not shocked, if you can understand that. I was scared and worried and also happy. I mean, I will love this baby, I already know that. I will love being a grandmother! A whole new world is opening up for me. The next day, I went around the house smiling as I imagined holding and loving and playing with and reading to this small child.
But as the week has worn on, I’ve been smiling less. Not because there is a child coming to a young couple that have only been together for six months. Not because my son has a disability that would make it hard for him to fully take on all parental responsibilities–Patty is responsible, and my son is more stable in the time he has been with her than I have ever seen him be.
Rather, I’m a huge ball of anxiety and dread because they are moving in with us. They have very little money (my son is on disability and Patty earns minimum wage). They have no family support and few friends where they have been living, about eight hours’ drive away from here. So they want to move here to be near us, as well as my other son and his fiancee. Also, Medicaid benefits are going to be better here and there are more doctors here in the city that accept Medicaid, in contrast to very limited clinics in the small rural town where they were living. And I’m glad to have them closer.
But housing here is crazy expensive. Seriously–over the past year prices have increased 20 percent! It will be very hard for Andres and Patty to find anything they can afford to rend, and all the more so because she doesn’t want to give up her two big dogs. I fear they may end up stuck here at our house indefinitely because they won’t be able to afford a place in the area. Or even if they can, it will be months away, because Patty first has to find a new job here and they need to find something and to save some money. And we’ll need to co-sign for the rental, because they don’t have good credit, and then if Patty can’t work all through her pregnancy, we’ll be responsible for their rent.
Also, my son is not easy to live with. It’s so lovely that he gets along so well with Patty. She’s very patient with him, and he’s very affectionate and loving to her. But he demands a lot of attention and completely disrupts my peace of mind. He lived here with us from late 2019 until last July, so I know what it’s like when he’s here. I lose the ability to control my space and my rhythm. I work from home, and we only have one car, which my husband takes to work. I am trapped at home nearly all the time, which can be a drag and a bit lonely in ordinary times. But with Andres here, it can also be crazy-making.
I’ve had a nervous stomach all week. I’m distracted and find it hard to get things done. I’ve started having negative thoughts about myself and, last night, even thoughts of harming myself again (as a means, I guess, of regaining some sense of control?). I’m really distressed. I don’t want to feel this way about my son and his girlfriend coming. I love him. But I just do not want to live with him.
To calm myself down, I try to bring to mind the feeling of playing in the warm Pacific waters at Anini Beach. I remember the way pineapple purchased fresh on the island is nothing like pineapple that has been shipped to the mainland; it’s juicy and delicious and never makes your mouth pucker. I call to mind the spinner dolphins that put on a show for us. But even with those lovely memories, I can’t seem to regain that feeling of being centered again.
In a way, I want to call E. She heard me talk about Andres for more than a decade, and she knows both how challenging he can be and also how sweet. She understands I love him and will never close my door to him, but that remaining open to him has a cost to my mental health. I know she would see me and be kind. But I also feel too proud to reach out to her. I ended therapy last August because I could handle things myself. It kind of feels like turning to her would be a sign of failure. Not only that, but she is retiring in December, so I’d just be setting myself up for reconnecting and then saying goodbye again.
Maybe it will be okay. Maybe having Patty around will make things easier. Maybe I’ve been catastrophizing. (Take a slow, deep breath).
They are getting here this evening, arriving any minute now, in fact. Maybe I can just treat the first week as an experiment, where I don’t judge but simply observe. I can observe their behavior and my reactions. Later, based on my observations, I can figure out what I should do. Because honestly, right at this moment I have zero idea how to bring myself back to center.