|bubble and baby feet in La Jolla, CA|
what do i want to give you?
what do i want to leave behind?
money? shelter? memories? legacies?
-- of how to stand up when you fall
and when to get out of gravity's way?
how to catch a bus
and not a cold without losing your cool?
how to pause
and never forget how to play?
i could leave you with a handbook on putting your guard up -
which fences work well to keep your demons away
what materials are the strongest
and which crumble over time
sticks and stones rarely work though
that much I know
i could teach you to show up, lift up, fist up
and other metaphors that basically mean
what you always say when I ask you
what do you want to be when you grow up
i could show you how to fight for yourself
when you want to freeze
and run as fast and far as you can
and i can remind you it's ok to freeze and flee too
you need to fight a bigger fire
i could help you find your own reservoir
i could show you how to really see water flowing -
it might teach you a thing or two about
how to move mountains with your fiery tears
there are things i still don't know
those i'm still learning --
how many times to wash your hands
before the voice in your head tells you
how to quiet voices you never
gave permission to scream
how to live right along death
knowing that all we really have
is a countdown to all this ending
we get to choose
do we want to stare at the clock ticking down
or move in total violation
to dance holding each hand of that ticking-down clock
in a flashmob so furious and gorgeous that time
s t o p s
to give you a standing ovation
i don't know how to do these things
so while i practice
i tell myself
and i have more to give you
than a collection of compulsions
i have more to share with you
when you put on your mask
i hope you'll check
if it's on right
if you're comfortable
and who you're letting in
while keeping the world out
i have more to ask you
what do you see
in a sink full of soap bubbles?
i hope you never see the loss of
and what do you see
when we blow bubbles outside?
do you see a little dreamy part of you flying away?
what will you call these bubbles -
full of your dreams?
what will you wish for these bubbles -
as they float away - awkwardly
what will you tell your bubbles -
as they leave you?
and what will you do when they burst?
My dear M,
Long before I met daddy, I already struggled with OCD. Every time daddy got sick, I would blame myself and wondered if I had been careful enough. I washed my hands again and again as if I could wash away all the world's germs that might get daddy sick. I learned through therapy and healing work that I could only control so much and learned to understand my triggers. Through years of CBT, EMDR, psychotherapy, storytelling, group-work, etc., I slowly felt like I was getting a handle on things. I would calm my reptilian brain by activating my prefrontal cortex and my parasympathetic nervous system through meditative, energy-based, and kinesthetic techniques I've practiced over the years. I felt like I wasn't becoming my triggers, my compulsions, and my intrusive thoughts. I felt stronger than them. I felt like I was healing (another letter for another day about what I'm healing from).
And then this pandemic happened.
And we got very sick. And as a parent, it's my job to keep you safe. As daddy's partner, I take his care and advocacy very seriously. I felt like I failed on every count. I felt like I didn't do enough to keep you and us safe. On a typical pre-Covid day, I would always have hand sanitizer with me, washed my hands frequently, avoided being around sick people, and double-checked anything I thought could keep us safe. Since Covid-19, the whole world seems to have been given the same directive I have been following without any help from the CDC, and only assisted by my own trauma and resulting compulsions.
In some ways, I felt less alone. Hey - I wasn't the only one washing my hands for 20 seconds! People started posting the perfect songs to accompany their 20-second routine. I've had a playlist full of them I've curated over the last 20 years. People started sharing memes about good hand-washing techniques. I'm usually ready for surgery after a single hand-wash. So in this way, I felt seen.
In other ways, I felt like my cushy little spot on the rug I had finally carved for myself got pulled so violently from under me. An example of something I'd tell myself in the time of B.C. (Before Covid) is, "It's okay to touch the doorknob. My hands are clean. No need to wash them again." In the time of Covid, I couldn't do that. My coping mechanism was rendered dangerous and totally not feasible.
And we still got sick.
You'd think that the fact that I couldn't control daddy getting exposed would rationally help me see the disconnect between the cracks in my hands and the sickness. But that's not how OCD works. The more out of control I felt, the more control I tried to (re)claim through well-practiced choreography of soap and water.
And it's exhausting. It's exhausting being this anxious, feeling this scared, and hearing this loud voice in my head telling me I'm never going to get better.
And I want to be different for you. I want to show you that healing is as much a process as it is possible. And I'm well on my journey in this process of healing. Covid definitely created a roadblock - a deep swamp to wade through, a hardened hillside to climb - but I've got a lot to fight for, and a lot waiting for me at my manzil.
Thanks for being a big source of my strength and my most resilient teacher. Always,