We can never really be prepared for that which is wholly new. We have to adjust ourselves, and every radical adjustment is a crisis in self-esteem: we undergo a test, we have to prove ourselves. It needs subordinate self-confidence to face drastic change without inner trembling. — Eric Hoffer
My intense but weak grasp on being able to enjoy just being had the footing ripped from under it in the last two weeks of July.
In the last five years, my family has gone from quirky but ideal to something that has had me experience what it means to love not just intensely, but with an aching heart.
Last month, my aunt — my father’s and uncles’ only sister, my grandparents’ only daughter — lost her life to suicide as a result of suffering yet undiagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder.
During my senior year of high school, we were only just beginning to get a taste of this mental illness. At the time we thought we were simply dealing with our first, but to the world was yet another, messy divorce. Congruently, Penny was suffering from acute physical ailments.
So little of the behavior during the divorce made sense. For the time, it was this fire forever on the verge of flare up that burned in the background of every family interaction. It was unpredictable and illogical. During my last family birthday party over the summer before I went to college, I remember hoping to god we could make it through with no drama and enjoy just hanging out. Penny left at one point in a flurry; she thought one of my aunt’s had said something derogatory about her.
As much as I hated what my cousins were being put through, I boxed up dealing with this part of my life when I left for school. My grandparents and dad were doing all that they could and things continuously spun out of control. When I first got to school, I received regular updates of what was going on. (My family is a living example of news traveling through the grapeline.) At some point I realized the flare ups had not gone away, but they had become so normal they no longer were being reported.
At the end of this spring, my family finally hit a true breaking point and began the process of revoking Penny’s full custodial rights. The only thing in the last five years that was constant was Penny’s unwavering love for her children. That she made it through the last five years was because of this. But knowing how close her past suicide attempts had been, I recognized this likely would become Penny’s breaking point.
Facing this Reality
As expected, going home and playing a very different role than in past visitations and funerals I’ve attended was partly surreal. However, for the first time in years, there was a comfortable underlying feeling to the event. As Penny’s eldest commented after the visitation: “This is the first time we’ve all been together in a long time.”
After having boxed up this part of my life for so long, it’s been quite the lovely mess during the
unpacking dumping of the box. This has also in turn been my breaking point. After everything that has happened in the last year, having this box upended laid out more items than I was able to keep control.
And so I’m working on dealing. I consider it a broken work in progress. This was one drastic change that inner (and outer!) trembling pretty much had to occur in order to do such.