I came home from church early with Patch because he was having a rough day. This has been the story of all my Sundays for the last two months. Someone in my house is having a rough time. Someone leaves early. Someone cries because life feels like too much. Often the someone has been me. I guess attending church pries us open and lays the emotions bare. I hope that we will make our way back to a place where church is for peace and comfort instead of raw emotions.
I broke down and bought pill boxes last week. They line up, four in a row, each with a week’s worth of pills sorted into their compartments. When I see those pill boxes, I have to face the fact that five out of six of us are on daily medication or vitamin supplements. There are nine prescriptions which I have to track and refill when they begin to run out. In theory I could get them all onto the same schedule and make one massive medication run to the pharmacy once per month. It never works out that way. I see the pharmacists 2-4 times per month. The pill boxes are an acknowledgement that I can’t track it daily the way I’ve been doing. The effort of remembering who has taken meds and who hasn’t becomes too much. Howard manages his own. I manage the rest and, in the dark of early morning, I must be able to run on automatic. Now I think through the medicines once per week instead of every day. It is a tiny simplification, a small thing that reduces the daily burden. Yet I didn’t quite realize what a burden it was, until I had all the pill boxes lined up like that.
The other thing I must face when looking at those pill boxes is the fact that I’ve become the mother who medicates her children. I was more comfortable with that when I had fewer children on medicine. I could use the non-medicated children as evidence that I was responding to need rather than jumping to pills as the solution to life’s troubles. This self-reassurance is less available now. All I have left is to cling to the knowledge that mental health is a process. I’ve not put my kids on meds and called it good. We have doctors and therapists involved. It is a constant process of evaluation and re-evaluation. Is this working? What does this child need now? How does that compare to what was needed three months ago? Six months ago? Last year? That too is exhausting. There are so many decisions to make. Which really is just a description of parenting whether or not medicine is involved.
It snowed Christmas Eve. I went to bed when things were wet, brown, bleak. We woke to the world coated in white. All the edges were softened and made beautiful. I’d heard this might happen, and the moment I did, I prayed that it would be so. I wanted Christmas to be different. I wanted to get to that day and set down the emotional load I’ve been toting around. I wanted Christmas to be a respite. At least for one day. Then the snow came, and our celebrations were everything they needed to be, and at the end of the day I was at peace instead of weary.
Of course the next day the snow was less lovely as it turned to slush and then ice. There is always a day after. This can be either discouraging or hopeful depending on what sort of a day it was. For me, I can feel the holiday continuing to work in me. I feel like I’m convalescing during this holiday space where the kids are out of school and the work burdens are lighter. I haven’t much time left to rest. Life will resume its regular pace next week and I have to hope that I’m up to speed.
I went back to church after Patch had settled and all the talking was done. There were only ten minutes remaining, but I went anyway. I wanted to be in the building and to be comforted by being near the people there. I came in just in time for the teacher to close her lesson. I sang with the closing hymn and listened to the prayer. Then the meeting was done before I was ready. I could have used a longer time sitting and listening. Just sitting there gave me strength.
In the hallway after the meeting I was greeted by friends. Once again I remembered how complicated it can be to answer the question “How are you?” I want to be truthful. I want to bring my friends in, and include them in my life, but some conversations are much too complicated for the hallway of the church building. Also, I’m kind of tired of crying at church. So I say that I’m fine, because that is true. My life is good in so many ways. There are dozens of joyful stories about the holidays. Our house has been filled with laughter during the past few weeks. So I pull out those stories and tell them. Yet, in the telling, I have to talk around all the worries that continue to plant themselves front-and-center in my brain. It is like being short and sitting behind a tall person at the theatre. I can lean this way and that to see the bright and beautiful display, but the view is not clear and I kind of want to complain about what is blocking my view.
The ice crusted snow crunched under my feet as I walked to my car with Gleek. The other kids had made their own trips home from church already. Gleek made a joke about the cold and I smiled. We passed Howard walking on the drive home and he hopped into the car. The three of us entered the house to find Kiki playing a game with Patch and Link. They were laughing. I watched them for a minute and treasured the sound of the laughter. Next week we’ll go to church again. Perhaps some of us will come home early again, perhaps not. I’m not going to pray for a week when we all stay. I’m going to pray for us all to work our way through the challenges immediately in front of us. I trust that when we do, the other things—like peaceful church attendance—will take care of themselves.