Posted by: Kate | March 15, 2011

Train of Thought

Rumor has it that there are people out there – even, say, you – who approach their “Add New Post” pages with a sense of plan and purpose.  You wander through your day and stumble upon an idea – or maybe you even deliberately go out and cultivate ideas, not unlike tomatoes but a bit less delicate – and then you plant that idea in your title, develop it over the course of several paragraphs, and then harvest it nicely with a click on Publish.

What’s that like?

I’m tempted to go all hyperbolic and sarcastic here – did you know, I’m prone to that? – but I think I did that plenty in Saturday’s post.  And, really, nine times out of eleven (because 90% just seems too nice, round a number), that which appears online after I click on Publish bears a close resemblance to that which appeared in my head while waiting for the computer to boot up, or while waiting in line at the grocery store, whatever.

Every once in a while, though, I start with some point in mind, some collection of words or ideas that I plan to unleash upon the world.  But then I realize I need to provide some sort of background explanation, or I’ll distract myself with an unexpected turn of phrase, or will find some other way of derailing that train of thought.  Sometimes the result of this is a bunch of deleting and retyping, because I’ll really prefer that first train; other times, with yesterday being a pertinent example, I end up liking the new direction enough that I’ll ride that train to its terminus, and will hop back aboard the original track some other time.

(Happily, I have exhausted myself of train-related references, and just in time: I was in serious danger of getting way off-track.)

I would have guessed that the anniversaries of particularly relevant events from last March would have bothered me, in the way that Godzilla bothered Bambi, once upon a time.  But, at least so far, I’ve carried a sort of constant low-grade awareness of it all – a year ago, I was just starting to realize that this was a serious problem, and then, I was beginning to believe that the night-shift nurses were deliberately attempting to loosen my grip on sanity, and then, I was sliding from terribly worried to convinced I was dying, and then, it all went black – without being completely swallowed up by the intensity and presence of it all.  I can feel it there, that nasty, snarly grip that PTSD can take upon one’s thoughts, but it feels a step removed.  As though I could slide into the morass of anxiety and fear if I wanted to allow myself to do so, but instead I’m opting to focus on the millions of details inherent in a move and new health insurance and taxes.

(I can’t tell you why I’m saner than I thought I would be, though I wish I could.  Not only would that mean a million copies of my book on shelves everywhere as I unlock the secret of avoiding long-term PTSD reactions to trauma, but it would also mean a fundamental level of certainty that I would never again find myself facing the business end of a clinical depression.)

It’s true that I’m not sleeping well, but that’s due to a mix of negative and positive reasons.  On the negative, and highly predictable, side are the nightmares, which come pretty much every night.  I’ve always been prone to very realistic dreams, whether they’re happy or sad or scary; often, I’ll spend time over the next few days wondering, “Wait, did that actually happen, or did I just dream it…?”

But balancing that is a set of positive experiences and emotions that I never, ever could have predicted.  I spent over a month completely removed from my children last year, and then even when I was home I wasn’t necessarily present and focused on them.  So I felt increasingly distant from the older kids, and I experienced a distinct lack of mother-child bond with Isaac.  He was a nice enough kid and I liked him, but I kept waiting for his mother to show up to bring him home.  I worried that his first birthday, with the requisite developmental advances (crawling away from Mama, learning – and starting to test – the word “no,” speech), would  only bring him farther away from me, more independent, and thus leave me regretting the loss of his babyhood altogether.

Instead, something magical happened, right around his birthday.  He has, indeed, started to crawl wherever  he can – he hates baby gates and such, so we refer to him as our free range baby, happy to roam about the ranch uninhibited.  He has a few words, and a few signs, and I’m learning more of his communication attempts every day.  (The other day I told him, “Bear with me, kiddo… Mama’s just a slow learner, sometimes.”  And he looked at me,  very seriously, nodded his head, and said, “Yeah.  Yeah.  Mama.”  The tone was just perfect, so spot-on for the toddler version of, “I understand, and I’m trying to be patient with you… but life would really be a lot easier for us both if you could just pay a little closer attention to what I’m saying.”)

He’s inching toward independence, and while that threw me for a wild and unpleasant loop with each of his siblings, I just nod and accept the inevitability of progress this time around.  And somehow, when I wasn’t watching, something truly magical happened: I fell in love with him.  That all-the-way, head-over-heels, unconditional love that I had been trying so hard to feel, the same stuff that I had firmly developed with the other two before we checked out of the hospital after their births.  Such a magical, special, precious thing, made all the more special by the fact that I had basically reached an acceptance, that I just was not ever going to feel quite as intensely about this baby.  I did love him, and I believe I was as good a mother to him as I was to the older kids, and I’m reasonably certain that the difference is something that no one would ever have noticed… except me.

So that has been a wonderful thing, and I’m grateful.

There have been a couple of other situations, just lately, that, if you had told me they were about to happen and asked how I was going to react, I would have  predicted a poor-to-horrible response on my part.  There has been the loss – whether permanent or temporary, I don’t yet know, but it is in effect right now and hurts right now – of one of my closest friends.  The pregnancy – and then, almost immediately, the loss thereof – of someone reasonably close to me; not only was I aware of and talking about the pregnancy/miscarriage roller coaster with her on a regular basis, but it ended up that I was in the exam room with her when she received the final, official, “I’m sorry,” from the obstetrician.  The ongoing snark-and-growl that Willem and I seem inevitably to engage in whenever we are in the process of changing addresses.  The dual meltdowns from my older children, for differing reasons and in differing manners, requiring immediate attention and the involvement of outside help.

Any one of these things could have completely derailed me.  And yet, somehow, amazingly, miraculously, they have not.  I’m still hanging in there, putting one foot in front of the other, getting stuff done every day, and so far not even feeling like I’m losing speed, much less about to jump the track completely.

I’ll keep trying to figure out the why’s and wherefore’s underlying this particular set of accomplishments, because I really would love to be able to share the answers with the world.  Especially in hardcover, at $25.95 a pop.


  1. As I was reading this (catching up!) I totally had the thought that you should totally write a book. Have you ever thought of it?

    • Thanks… I have thought of it, and had hoped to try – maybe even succeed – in coming out with a book-length something-or-other even before the events of last year (which, oh yippee, have certainly provided me with more than adequate fodder for writing). Maybe someday, I tell myself, though the only thing I’m waiting for is to stop being terrified of trying.

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