Outrun Sorrow

I don’t know how she did it. How she survived losing the love of her life. Not once but twice. First to the bottle, then to cancer. Maybe three times even- to blindness then booze then illness. The sequence does not matter really but that it all happened.

Before the elephant in the room came to live with us, life was happier. We laughed a lot and had family adventures; we ate meals together at the same table and played board games; we did chores and went to the drive in and got ice cream cones. We got tucked in tight and kissed good night. The house was filled with love. My parents made that for us. Their love made our family.

We all experienced the same situation- my Mom, sister and I- but in entirely different ways. My Mom has asked me when I am going to be past all this. I believe her intentions come from a place of worry and concern because she’s my Mom and she hates to see me unhappy or in pain and maybe she wishes she could take it all away and make it better. Maybe she feels guilt too because she was the grown up and I was the kid. My Mom and I are close and I love her fiercely but there are certain things she and I have never been able to talk out even when we’ve tried. We are a lot alike even if she might deny it. I see myself now as a version of her when she was my age minus certain life circumstances. This complicates our communication. I don’t talk a lot about my Mom here because, well, she is alive and she reads my blog. Frankly, it’s easier to talk about someone who is not living. No rebuttal, you know?

So how does a person survive watching the man she loves stop choosing life? That’s the thing that I can’t figure out. After bouncing from one grief coping mechanism to the next, how do you come to peace? I suppose I wonder this because I can’t fathom it. Either allowing myself to love someone that deeply or watching the man I love leave. Maybe in our own way we all tried to save him. At age 38 or age 16 or age 13, we all tried to love him enough to fix him. And almost 18 years later we still have pieces of it to sort out. Isn’t that a big part of why we’re all in therapy?

How do you watch your partner take up space in the home you created but no longer participate in life? How do you talk to a drunk, depressed, passive aggressive? How do you take care of your kids, the mortgage, the bills, your full time job with him passed out in the chair and still manage to make dinner? I’m a grown up now and I think about how hard that must have been for my Mom. All those pressures. All that heartache. All those choices to make with no help.

She did the best she could.

I’ve spent my whole life afraid that I might find the kind of love my parents had and that it would turn out the way their love story did. A man lying in a bed breathing his last breaths way across town as two teenagers cry in their childhood home knowing that the woman driving frantically to get to him would not make it in time to say good-bye.

Maybe that wasn’t the end. But it’s what has stayed with me. And I’m trying to make my peace with it.

“Because you thought that you could outrun sorrow/Take your own advice/Thunder and lightening gets you rain/Run an airtight mission, a Cousteau expedition/To find a diamond at the bottom of the drain/A diamond at the bottom of the drain …” -Magpie to the Morning, Neko Case


39 thoughts on “Outrun Sorrow

  1. All I can say is your mom must be one amazing woman. Even though you are worried you may end up in a similar situation, keep thinking that there’s a HUGE chance you will not.
    Big, BIG hugs.

  2. The only way to deal with an elephant in the room, is just to ignore it. We hope, somehow, he will go away.

    FWIW, I don’t think your father realized he was doing anything TO you. I think he may have thought in his depression, that he was simply doing it to himSELF. He was only hurting himself. That was acceptable maybe, to him. Depression as we know, does hurt those around us tho… and maybe once it got far enough for him to see it, it was a hole he couldn;t crawl out of. I don’t know.

    When bad stuff like that happens, we feel inadequate to the situation at hand. We just cope the best we can. Even with my own spouse, all these years have gone by, and now sometimes we are two ships passing each other. I long to reach out and somehow bridge the gap, but I don;t know how to anymore. I love him, but I don;t know how to get him “back” anymore. He has slipped thru my fingers of what I once knew. All I know is, he is healthy, and I have to let him be free to live his own life and make his own choices. Maybe your mom hit that point, too, just to a worse degree.

    We all have to look back on our childhood and make sense of things. We have to look back, and decode what happened, what went wrong. We want to understand. The problem is, the scene changes, as you age and mature and find different understanding. 🙂 I see my dad in me, I see also my Mom in me. I have made both mistakes of nature and nurture. Yet, here I am. You, you are a product of both two too– and you are a LOVELY person. Your mom maybe just wants you to be Happy, and let the baggage go on something you cannot fix. She wants you to be Happy. That’s what the childhood of Love was all about. Because of that, you have Love to give. ((hugs))

    Keep working on it, seeing things more clearly. Once you have perspective, you have a location on the map to where you are.

  3. This is such a well-written post. I found your blog through Hilly’s and have really enjoyed reading.

    My stepdad–who I knew well but never lived with–was an alcoholic, and I came very close to marrying someone with a drinking problem myself. So the things you wrote really hit home for me.

  4. My mom got married when she was 19 and lost her first baby at age 28. While I love her and she’s there for me in a lot of ways, I sometimes feel like we are universes apart.
    Er, I don’t know that I had a point other than talking about myself. Ha ha! Okay, I think my point is we can be so close to our moms and never really understand how we are and are not like them.

  5. I’ve been reading your blog for quite awhile. Your writing moves me and keeps me coming for more. I just want you to know that. I enjoy your humor and also posts like this because….well, it’s the truth. It’s pain that a lot of us face in our lives. You write from your heart. Thank you for sharing….

  6. I often compare my life and what I am doing to where my mom was at the same age. At my age, my mom was divorced with 2 small children making half the salary I make now. I can’t imagine.

    I think that just by stepping back and realzing how hard it might have been for your mom is a good direction to go in. As you know, we can never really know how it feels to be someone else, but even empathy helps.

  7. I think the answer to the “how” question is simple: she did it because she had no other choice, given that she wanted to make you/your sister’s life as good as she possibly could.

    And as hard as all of this must have been (and must still be, sometimes) for her, I imagine she’s thankful for the experience every day, since it gave her two beautiful daughters and one amazing grandson.

    And for what it’s worth, I think kids of alcoholics often have trouble getting past things because as a kid, holding on to everything is part of surviving. It’s a hard thing to un-learn.

  8. You do exactly what you are doing. You go to thearpy. You do the work. You write about it. You have the wise Kaply and other friends to check in with. You look at your past and don’t go blindly into things. And then you go for it, because you realize that there are no guarantees in life and you can’t just keep it on hold while you make sure that it isn’t going to happen again. And if it does, you have way more information than you did the first time… and you might learn something more about your mom.

    I wish you a lot of luck on this journey. It is a really fucking tough one.

  9. This post resonates with me, Sizzle. For the past 5 or 6 years, I’ve watched my aunt stand by her husband (I guess that makes him my uncle) as he’s chosen not to make some imperative life altering decisions. Due to his inability to change, not only are his diseases controlling his life (and sending it in a downward spiral), but they are controlling her life, too. She must work, as he cannot. She must work where there is a comprehensive health plan; otherwise, the medicines he requires will send them into financial ruin. I see her making decisions over and over again that allow him to continue his spiral … decisions she would make differently if it weren’t for his selfishness.

    From what I’ve seen, I know I can’t explain it. I say I’d never let someone else take such control over my life. I say I’d be stronger than that. I say I’d make my love make tough decisions. Tough love. But, you know what? I love Sweets so fiercely that I’m not sure I’d wind up being that strong if he began a downward spiral. I think my decisions would become clouded. I’d hang onto the good times. And hope we could work our way back there. So, in some ways, while I absolutely hate to watch her ruin her life for him, I kind of get it.

    Hindsight is 20/20. We can only learn from the mistakes of those around us and hope that we don’t follow the same lead. I hurt for you, Sizz, and hope you’re able to find some peace with your past and with who you are today.

  10. You know, after reading “Me” by Katherine Hepburn, I came to realize how fucked up her relationship was with Spencer Tracy, and it made. no. sense. to me. Here, I was reading a book about a woman who came from a wonderful home, had talent up the yin-yang, had the brain of a scholar, and the will to get through whatever fears she encountered throughout her early days.

    Then she fell in love with Spencer. #1 He was married to another woman throughout their relationship. #2 He had children with his wife that he pretty well abandoned. #3 He wasn’t super-nice when he got loaded, so Hepburn slept on the floor next to the bed every night. On the FLOOR.


    Her devotion to him was blind and strong. And she was such an amazing person…such an amazing woman. He was lucky to have her. And she felt, equally, that she was lucky just to share the same room with him.

    I never will understand it. But it put a lot into perspective for me, that’s for sure.

  11. She did the best she could.

    and so did you. and dokey.

    when you are ready… forgive yourselves…


  12. Tears to my eyes, Sizzle. Tears to my eyes. This is a beautiful, heart-wrenching post. As always, I applaud your strength and admire your ability to process externally—I always learn so much, even about myself, when you do.

    I was raised by a single mother. People always comment on how hard that must have been, but it wasn’t. Being raised in a situation like the one you have described, having that reality mold your expectations and perceptions of what love is must have been so incredibly difficult. Being raised without any perception of what a relationship should look like, has allowed me to create my own expectations. Your mother had to raise you and your sister, and mother him. In turn, you had to feel like you were holding your mother up, helping to keep her afloat, because in a relationship like that drowning sounds like a real possibility for everyone involved. (I’m now rambling, so I’ll stop.)


  13. I’ve seen this in my own family. Some have worked out in the end and others came to a tragic end. It’s hard to know how one would react in the same situation…

  14. Hi. This triggered the hell out of me. What are friends for if not to occasionally trigger you straight to outer space?

    I have a lot of compassion and respect for the difficulties my mom has had in her life. I used to give my mom a father’s day card every father’s day because she fulfilled both roles for us, imperfectly and to the degree that she could.

    Your mom sounds like a strong woman. And so are you. And I think you are making peace with it all.

  15. Isn’t it amazing how strong women are borne from strong women? We wonder how they do it; how do they get up every day when we sometimes feel that the titanic effort just to move to the side of the bed is too much? I only know that my mom had some of the same fears I do, and she just plowed through it all anyway–because she had to. Because somebody had to.

    Hugs from Canada…

  16. I think your still focusing on trying to change something that you can’t change. Trying to fix a past problem. Perhaps you just need to realize that you can’t change the past. You can only learn from it, grow it and try not to make the same mistake twice. Try not to let it define you.

    You are trying to understand something that has no good answer. You will never be able to get inside another person’s head to really understand why they do the things they do or did. I think you need to find a way to ‘accept’ what has happened and come to terms with it.

    wish I could say more to help.

  17. You guys, these comments are AWESOME. (and now I think that *I* am triggered! LOL) What a wonderful outpouring though, and for some it is a gift for those who find them too.

    Sandra, what you said about ‘children holding onto everything, because that’s how we survive’? Holy Sh*t. That is so true. Your words hit the bullseye, hon. Honestly, I don;t know that we can ever UN-learn that response, but we have to learn to let stuff go, and some better coping skills. yeah. I’m still working on that. Having emotion and feeling makes a person complicated, but maybe, that’s a good thing.:-)

  18. I am sitting here having a good cry over this. The Man is a recovering alcoholic. He is also a loving father, friend, community leader, lover, et tout ça… he is more than his disease. He was when he was drinking too…

    I know that when he was drinking, I’d cling to those moments of sobriety… You cling to the hope that one day he would see what he was doing to himself and get help… that he would reach out… he did. And I had nothing to do with it… because it’s not something I could do… that’s the hard part. There is absolutely no way I can fix this. Just like there was no way you or your mom could… and by the same token, this was not your fault either.

    I always figured I should have gone… took me a long time to forgive myself for staying. Things are really good now.

    Your mom would also remember all the good times. The love. The joy. And it’s damn harder to leave than it seems. He was more than his disease… he was the man she loved, who had an addiction to alcohol… … and she wouldn’t give up on that.

    As for you, well, I expect you’ve seen enough, done enough to make your own choices for whatever reason…


  19. I want to hug you, for your experience of course, but also for your bravery as posting this and expressing it is all part of the process for you. And that process will lead you to that peace, I have no doubt. Peace will come both to you and through you, and you will not mistake it for just okay, because those are two very different things.

  20. So many beautiful, haunting things about this post.

    I’m sorry that he stopped choosing life. i’m sorry that you all suffer as a result.

    And I believe you WILL get past this, on your own time, on your own terms.

    Thank you for continuing to share your journey with the world.

  21. We’ve had very similar childhoods and we’ve talked about that a tiny bit in the past. I don’t know how our mothers survived their marriages – and their endings. I know that each day she got up it was by simply deciding to get up – not to survive a whole tragic situation. It was one step at a time – just like it was for us. People will comment about how much courage you had to survive, but as we both know it never once felt like courage. It felt like getting up, eating your Cherrios and going to class. Nothing stopped because home was a giant downward spiral. You and Mom and Dokey each did what you could as you could.

    And now… and now there is fear and worry. Now there is – at times – terror where there should simply be love. It will be there until you (and me and other survivors) make the choice to just walk away from it. We call it baggage for a reason, because you have to choose to pick it up and carry it every single day. And laying it down is impossibly hard because after a while all that fear, terror, and worry becomes a comfort simply because it is what you know.

    After a while the why doesn’t even matter – what matters is that you let it go.

  22. I, for one, think writing it out is some of the best therapy out there. And you write it out beautifully.

    I’m not sure we ever outrun sorrow. We just learn to weave it into the fabric of our lives as seamlessly as possible. (Did that last sentence sound a little bit like a line from a Cotton commercial? Awesome.)

  23. …i have to agree with Kerri Anne, writting thing out is very good therapy …but you know that …that’s why i started writting …it helps me greatly

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