Reframing my reflection.

Telling the story about my son’s brain tumor is the easy part of writing my memoir.

I first wrote most of the dramatic scenes over fifteen years ago, within a few years of his diagnosis at age 11. Had I not written them, I would still remember. The trauma created new neural pathways in my brain, and the memories travel them frequently.

I’ve shed so many tears over the years as I scribbled and typed away, there are fewer left now. It helps that Matthew is about to turn 32, and he manages his minor deficits so well, you’d never know anything had ever been wrong.

A mother knows. But that’s what mothers do–they know, when others do not.

During the three years that Matthew’s slow deterioration remained a medical mystery, I knew, deep inside, that something was wrong. But I didn’t listen to my gut. I didn’t stand up for what I believed to be true.

The hard part of this memoir is to tell that story: that motherhood exposed my flaws, and those flaws jeopardized my child.

At this point in my writing, I’m struggling to understand who I was as a mother, as a woman, as a person. I’m struggling with forgiveness.

Today, as I stepped out of the shower, an insight hit me like a blast of cold water, and I ran around in my towel, dripping on the floor, trying to find paper and a pencil. I scribbled my thoughts down; here’s what I’ve written:

I was a flawed mother, but I didn’t give up and I didn’t fail. I pulled my family through our ordeal, and we survived, not unscathed, but stronger and wiser. And by grappling now to understand who I was then, when my children were little, I’m coming to peace with my flaws, and realizing my strengths. What better example can a mother set for her children, even though they are now grown?

I looked in the mirror, and for years, all I noticed was the jagged crack running through the middle. Shards of glass occasionally splintered off, drawing tears and blood. Now, I have sealed the crack. It left a scar. There are some chips in the beveled edges, and the antique glass is wavy. Black splotches show through where the quicksilver backing has worn away. I see character. As an antique, the mirror is more valuable with its flaws intact. The cheap frame, however is moldy, and needs to go. I put a new one on, and it changes my reflection. I love what I see now, flaws and all.

If you are on a quest of forgiveness, for yourself or others, can you reframe what you see?

Brain Tumor Awareness Month, Day 19

Since I failed reconsidered and revised my goal to post daily this month, I was challenged to figure out how to name this post. It didn’t seem right to call it “Day 12” or “Day 13” in sequence after “Day 11,” which posted May 12 (because I missed May 1). And it was too odd to call it “Day Y,” following “Day X,” which posted on May 14, plus that would only leave me with one more post for the month, which would have to be “Day Z.”

I hope you’re laughing. I am. But why do I always make things so complicated?

My husband would say I overthink things, but I know I just think and feel deeply. So much so, it’s hard to figure myself out. It makes writing a memoir especially hard. Not only am I trying to tell my story–of my rumble with my son’s childhood brain tumor–but I’m trying to figure out who I was 20 years ago, and how I became that person. Then I have to figure out who I am today, and how I’m different.

The writing process has been hard, but so much of it is finally starting to come together. I’m refreshed from my short break from daily posts, and I’ve been devoting my writing energy to my manuscript.

I wrote the excerpt below to explain, in part, why Matthew went undiagnosed for so long. If you’ve had a child who faced unusual challenges, or if you’ve dealt with a medical mystery, you may relate.

Matthew’s behavior was like a new freckle on the back of your leg. “It’s probably nothing,” you tell yourself. And you watch it. It gets a little bigger, so you look up skin cancer just to be sure, relieved to see it doesn’t meet those criteria. But you watch. Then it gets a little darker, so you twist your leg around, and ask a loved one to take a peek.“It looks normal to me,” they say, but you read up on melanoma to be sure. And you watch. Then it gets bumpy, so you finally call the dermatologist, who says, “Don’t worry.” And you try not to worry. But you watch.

We all have to find balance in this life–the pull toward panic, jumping to conclusions, and thinking the worst, against the pull toward calm and reason and wait-and-watch.

Both approaches are valid in different circumstances.

I’ve learned this the hard way.

I don’t know that there’s a formula for predicting which side should win when in our tug of war between panic and reason. I doubt there’s a checklist or logarithm or how-to listicle to guide us. If you have a theory, though, I’d love to hear it.

I do believe, to keep ourselves strong and sane, both teams need to be available to us. If they’re both pulling their weight, we can make our best decision.

That opens us to the gift of letting go, knowing that we used all of our resources, and have done the best we could.

I’ve learned this the hard way, too.

Brain Tumor Awareness Month. Day X.

 

Yesterday, I was so busy enjoying Mothers Day, I forgot to write a daily post, which ruined my perfect record so far this month. Now I don’t know what to call this day, so I’ve dubbed it “Day X.”

The truth is, I didn’t enjoy all of Mother’s Day.

I enjoyed when my son Matt came over to visit. What a simple gift– just to be with him. You don’t take that stuff for granted when you’ve rumbled with a brain tumor like my family has.

I didn’t enjoy that my chronic health issues again caused me to cancel our plans to go out.

I enjoyed talking with my other son Steve, and my mom, on the phone,

I enjoyed when my husband salvaged the day by cooking dinner on the grill, while I plopped down on a lawn chair in the beautiful sun with a glass of wine and a book.

That’s life. Ups and downs and sideways and flip-flops.

Since life is that way, today I decided I have to break my commitment to daily posts.

I hate doing it. I hate setting a goal and then reneging. I wish I didn’t go public, that I had kept my intentions to myself.

But managing my health conditions and finishing my memoir manuscript are higher priorities than daily posting, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all.

Sometimes it takes more courage to quit than it does to soldier on, even though quitting still feels like crap. (Although I have a feeling as soon as I hit “publish,” I’ll feel relieved.)

There were so many other things I wanted tell you this month about how a brain tumor impacted my life. I’ll get to them eventually, just not as quickly as I had hoped.

And if I leave anything out, well, you’ll just have to buy my book.