Recently I have been remote and quiet. Both of these are unusual things for me to be. I rarely blog, I do not tweet or even open Twitter, and I ignore text messages. Okay, ignore isn't the correct word, it is more like don't invest myself in conversations. This is something I do at times. Remove myself from my online presence and ensconce myself in the nonvirtual (or real) world. This time, I don't feel like I've made a conscious decision to DO that. I figured maybe if I sat down and just did a "stream of consciousness" blog about what has been going on, it may help me (and any of YOU who are interested) see what is going on.
Part of my reduced time is due to work. Multiple clients, multiple schedules, and serious issues leads to more paperwork and less down time during school hours. Because I don't have downtime to complete paperwork during school hours I bring more actual work home. (Quick refresher for those who are unclear about my actual job. I work with kids who have severe behavioral issues and are at risk of being removed from the home and/or school. I help clients identify their negative behaviors and learn appropriate behaviors, ways to handle their emotions, and coping skills. Each day I submit paperwork detailing my interactions with each client. This year I work in a middle school.) Having to do all my paperwork at home leads to less time to do ANYTHING else. It can take hours to type up notes, and that is on a good day when I have actual time to jot down notes during school hours. On the days that I am so swamped that I don't even have time to make notes about behaviors, I can be up well into the night trying to finish. In the past this has mainly led to me 1) complaining on Twitter or 2) complaining to BFF1 or BFF2 via instant messenger or text. I'm really trying to be more positive. Basically I deal with a LOT of negative things every day at work, and I'm trying NOT to be so negative everywhere else. It is a pretty new thing, but essentially when I feel the need to put words like "UGH! I HATE THIS" out into the universe I generally just choose not to tweet or to send the text message. Does my best friend CARE if I tell her I hate paperwork? Of course not, she KNOWS I hate it...but it isn't fair that the majority of our conversation is tainted by negativity. I would prefer to discuss Disney movies and horrifying listings on Etsy.
Unfortunately, as much as I would like to blame my lack of a presence on work, I know it is a convenient excuse. The biggest reason I have been mainly absent is because I have increased the amount of time I spend with my grandmother. As most of you know I live with her, and I have for a little over two years. She is one of the strongest people I know, and I am consistently in awe of how she deals with the hardships life sends her way. Almost four years ago my grandfather passed away in April. For almost 62 years my grandmother was married to the man she loved more than all others. In no way did they have a fairy tale life. My oldest aunt had polio, my grandfather lost his job and was unable to find stable work for years, the first year of their marriage was spent with my grandfather in the Army stationed in California while my grandmother stayed home in Virginia. They raised five children and ran a small working farm until I was in middle school. At 82 my grandmother has led a long and happy life, full of joy and sorrow. However, losing my grandfather has been the hardest thing I have ever seen her experience. She has dealt with it beautifully, rarely giving in to the sadness that she feels and keeping a strong facade in place for her children. But I see the cracks in her molding. She is willing to tell me when she is sad, perhaps because I am so willing to be honest with her about my own fears and sadness. There are months that are particularly hard for her. April (when he died,) May (her birthday,) June (their anniversary,) and August (his birthday.) She has had a difficult time at Christmas, because it was his favorite holiday and she was unable to fully enjoy it without him here but simultaneously felt guilty for bringing the rest of us "down with her sadness." Valentine's Day this year hurt her, and she has spent hours recounting sweet stories of how my grandfather used to celebrate with her. I have spent more time being AROUND her, providing a sounding board, and telling silly stories to keep her mind off of things.
There have been other difficulties in the last year as well. Last May my aunt passed away. Though, I have no children of my own I can only imagine the pain she experienced at the time, and the pain she continues to experience. Again, she handled herself with grace and reaffirmed her strength in my eyes. As time passes she is more able to reflect about my aunt's life. Silly stories from childhood, frustrating things about her as an adult, reasons we loved her, things she would love if she were here, things we are sad she is missing. Our grieving processes takes place as a whole in this crazy family of mine. We never do things alone, even when we want to. To add to my grandmother's grief, we received more bad news last fall. My aunt who passed away left behind a husband, who has been part of our fold for many years. He is one of our own, and still continues to be surprised that our arms remain open, even though she is gone. Last fall he went to have a cyst removed from his pancreas, a routine surgery that was not cause for worry. My auntie Wanda and my cousin Mimi took him to the specialist in NC and stayed throughout the day. There were mild concerns that there would be complications, but the news he received was completely unexpected. Two years ago he had pancreatic cancer and treatments that placed that cancer in remission. Apparently the cyst masked the fact that his cancer had returned and spread to his abdominal wall. He was given the option of having intense chemo, which would allow him to live for roughly 8 months; or refuse treatment, which gave him no definite timeline. My uncle chose to refuse treatment. No member of my family has handled this well. It is something that I didn't even discuss with my best friends until about a month ago when I had no choice but to tell them how bad things were. As his time dwindles, my grandmother becomes more upset. Evenings are spent crying or in silence. Attempts to engage her in conversation don't always work. My uncle is at peace, and accepts the path he is on. My grandmother is having difficulty accepting defeat. This brings back memories of my grandfather and my aunt suffering. She is about to lose a link to her child. She is losing another person she loves.
I have never seen her break. Yes, she gets sad and has mourned. She will probably mourn for the rest of her life. However, even at her darkest moments she has more strength that I can ever imagine possessing. She is the person I aspire to be. In no way is she perfect, everyone has their flaws. But she inspires greatness in me. She is a mother who raised her children with love and discipline. She took me in when I was an adult and needed somewhere to go, a place to heal. She gave me love and space to heal my own wounds and recover from a broken heart, even when she was grieving for the loss of a love much greater than mine. She would battle anyone for me, or any of my relatives. She is gentle and fierce, loving and strong, and the most incredible person I know. And a part of me is terrified she is going to break. She has withstood so many things in life, but now she seems fragile in a way she has never seemed fragile before. Perhaps because I am no longer a child, maybe because she has lost her helpmate. But I know that I cannot let her fall, and have therefore devoted more time to her. Fewer nights are spent with headphones in watching TV on the computer, I am involved in less textual communications. I cannot escape paperwork, but I try to be done with it early so that I can watch TV with her. We enjoy mocking contestants on American Idol and DWTS, we discuss which Food Network recipes we would try, and I impress her by answering Jeopardy questions. I cannot ignore the weakness she tries so hard to hide. I would devote myself to her if I were able, and never leave her side. Unfortunately I have to work. I feel a desperate need to help children, and I also have college debt to pay off. Since I cannot devote my working hours to her, I have invested more of my free time to her.
I have not made a conscious decision to avoid online communities, it has just happened. I miss the interactions I usually have with my friends online, and I hope that I can be more present soon. I hope all of you are well, and I am comforted knowing you will be there when things return to normal and I tweet 40 times a day and post semi-regular blogs.