Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Dark Side

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Wiener Dog Art: A Far Side CollectionThe Dark Side is not nearly as fun or interesting as The Far Side, a comic which my father read to me faithfully every Sunday until I old enough to understand it without explanation. The Dark Side is more defined, somewhat fascinating (it must be or Discovery ID wouldn't exist), something we all have experienced at some point in our lives, but something that a lot of people don't want to talk about. It's a place within myself that I visited recently (and have already talked about, but here comes more).

I have this really bad habit of being an open book. It drives my husband absolutely crazy-- he knows I blog about us, our life and junk, but I have to be careful to strike a balance between my big, open and his sealed shut mouths. It's the same with other social media, like Facebook. I have the urge to just let all hang out, but do my best to self-edit. Lately, I haven't been so great at that.

My son has no innate ability to socially filter his words thanks to Aspergers. He says what feels in the moment with no regard for how it might make someone else feel. He's brutally honest. When he goes to dark side, he can make Darth Vader look like a puppy with a silk bow around his neck in a basket with a naked baby. I've developed such a thick skin to that sorta behavior that I sometimes quietly marvel at his creativity or laugh on the inside at the sheer outlandishness of his words. Kid, where do you come up with stuff?

But me? I was blessed with an incredibly diplomatic and rational nature, or so I've been told. There are times when I have to remember that it was no blessing and not a trait I was born with.. Not at all, the ability to look at a situation from all sides, consider everyone's feelings and act accordingly was forged in many great fires. I was born with an Irish temper and a Viking lust for... life (?) or maybe just a good survival instinct.

I struggled with the point of this whole post all day long. Well, as much as a busy mom with a recovering husband (and cats that now hate her) can manage to struggle with a thought independent from caring for loved ones and making a big pot of stew. That basically means as I laid in bed desperately trying to not check my husband's vitals and flipping through late night television shows, when it came to me, I think. (And I make no promise that this will be sweet, short or easy)

That Dark Side is the part of we don't share with everyone we interact with--unless you have a neurological issue-- and a part we often try covering up, excusing, ignoring, delaying and/or putting on the back burner.

If there is one common thing about that darker part of ourselves, its that every single one of us has triggers-- those things that push you over that proverbial edge. What happens once we start that decent into madness varies as do the levels. Yet, it all starts with with a small spark or sudden fire or a bit of both that makes us virtual strangers to ourselves. Sometimes it is fast and hard, sometimes its a snowball, sometimes its trickle, sometimes a gush.

These triggers (or if you are lucky, its just one thing) are the pink elephants in our minds. (There's no particular reason they are pink, it just sounds cool). If you're proactive, aware, or if you are in the midst of therapy, you work on naming, describing, controlling and coping when the elephant poops so much in your head that the poop spills out of your head at the wrong moments.

You paint the elephant with something luminescent so that you can stop yourself from picking up that Sith Light Sabre and rule your world with tyranny.

Recently, when speaking with the supervised visitation therapist (like there wasn't enough going on already), I had stated that I felt I'd become complacent in keeping my ex-husband at bay. The threat he is to my family, to me, to my life and my son never stopped-- I'd just felt safer because the seas had remained calm for several years. Then I got served. Literally and figuratively in court because I was so complacent I was unprepared for my ex to even show up (and he did, I got caught unprepared which is why I got to talk to a therapist at the visitation center).

The lesson the Universe was given to me went unlearned. The painted elephants in my head needed a new coat, but I ignored them. While I was busy lecturing my husband on why he should listen to those subtle (or sometimes loud) messages the cosmic forces seem to deliver us little beings, I ignored my own. For years, I kept saying to myself "If we just get over this last hurdle, I'm going to allow myself to have a good cry". Must. Push. Through.

It's flawed logic. It's misogynistic, too, because so much is expected of women. It's why they don't make good Jedis and if they do make it to that most respected of places, they sacrificed something-- relationships, children, career, orgasms-- are b-words... but that's a post I'll leave for the young feminists to address.

If you dissect the mantra of pushing through the hurdles and crying later, if you flip it over, it reads like a question: "If I sacrifice my needs for the greater good until [insert events here], I'm bound to see a good result, right?"


This is where that whole Autism being test drives for future, better brain wiring-- evolution in progress-- theory comes into play. Where neuro-typical people fail, autistic people thrive. They deal with their issues in the moment, as they come. They see the elephant without even needing to paint it. Their Dark Side is always illuminated. Covering up the internal, emotional ickiness is simply illogical. Imagine that.

The Dark Side is part of us, all of us. It's part of how we are hard-wired and part of how we are forged in the sunshine and storms of life. It's not inherently bad, its just part of that balance positive and negative, ying-yang stuff. Its our job to maintain our own inner balance for the greater good, not to dismiss it. Don't cut off your nose to spite your face, so speak.

If you play your cards right, you find people with whom you can share those really negative things, sometimes without even speaking about them. I have that with my husband. There is a lot unsaid between us. There's that Hallmark card connection where we know our lives parallel in some odd way, so that it doesn't need to be said, but we'll hand each other the proverbial brush or lantern to keep up with the elephants.

Want to know my trigger? The thought that got me out of bed to finish this puzzling post? Holding a shell of a person in my arms. No pulse. No breaths. Fading warmth. Doing it twice. I'm not exactly sure how one puts words to having your arms wrapped around a body when the life has gone out of it. A fast, sudden loss, or not. I'm not sure how you quantify a "sudden" when it comes to death. Is it days? Hours? Minutes? For me, it felt like forver, but it couldn't have been more than 24 hours that I knew the end was coming.

The time after burying two stillborn children was the darkest of my life. Nothing could compare and no one deals with these matters well. We simply are never, ever prepared. All we can do is talk, process and grieve and accept. Time heals for most, never for some, but you are forever changed by death. It is the one Dark Side experience we will eventually have in common. It's the one topic we all cover up. It is the human pink elephant.

It's why I check on my son every night before I go to sleep. It's why I wake my cats when they are sleeping deeply. It's why every night, I lay my arm across my husband's chest. It's why I spent the last two months waking up every two hours to make sure he's still breathing. It's why I couldn't sleep tonight. He had a bad day. He wasn't himself. So when he wasn't snoring, I was prodding the poor guy. (It's no wonder neither of us sleep well!)

I feel like I have been walking through the Dark Side even still, only its not quite so dark anymore and feels more manageable and less suicidy (at least for me). I don't think there's a defining anything about our whole experience as family, both inside and outside our four walls. It's just healing, all around.

In conclusion, here are things I've learned in the past 7 days:

  1. My husband's parents have a lot of umbrellas (or they did because one is sitting next to my computer).
  2. If you are going to lash out, be a little specific. Or rather, when you are lashing out, chances are you will have really crappy aim.
  3. You only lash out at people with which you feel safe.
  4. Vomiting sucks.
  5. When you tell your semi-conscious husband that he can leave the hospital when he get out of bed and walk laps around the ICU, it'll be the first time he actually listens to you.
  6. Even though he's home and healing, it scares me to death when my husband has a bad day.
  7. When my husband is having a bad day, so is my kid.
  8. We need more cowbell. 

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