The new school year has begun.
My schedule will be similar to last year’s: my daughter, now in tenth grade, will have two classes on the high school campus and I will be teaching the other four at home. It worked very well for her last year, and I hope this year will go well for her too.
For me, it can be a rollercoaster of doubt: when should I push her to work during a bad headache day and when should I encourage her to relax? What do I do when I feel we are not accomplishing enough in the home subjects? How do I squelch my defensiveness and stress when dealing with the district, as she continues to fall through the cracks at times?
I’ve written before about how it feels to be a parent who is identified as a dually diagnosed person. In a society where mothers are already blamed for many things, I often feel that I have a target painted on my chest: anything imperfect in her life, her performance or her well-being means I have done something wrong. At best, it means that I’m on the right track but just not working hard enough.
As I write this, I’m in the library while she’s in class. These gaps in my day, absent during summer, will be a welcome opportunity to write more. It’s important that I do this; I need to remember who I am and what my duty is.
It’s easy for me to get caught up in the school stuff and forget that my deepest duty is to remain present in my life, and therefore in hers. Everything else follows from this. Keeping my recovery strong–and keeping my creativity exercised so the dark stuff doesn’t build up and seep out in a destructive way.
Instead of running from stress, resentment and fear, I need to seek their opposites in an active way. Fighting them only exhausts me more; I have learned this by now. Fighting them and trying to force myself to be “good” will back me into a corner eventually, from which the addict I am will lash out with sick behavior.
Instead of fighting, I need to seek the opposites of whatever resentment, fear, or stress I feel. Doing whatever I must do to give myself exposure to faith, acceptance, and love makes the difference between seeing my daily life as a sentence of exhausting stress and deprivation and seeing it as–well, life.
Acceptance also means trying to stay clear about what’s within my power and what is not. My daughter is fifteen now, and in the past year alone her consciousness is expanding in a way that awes me. She is beginning to go where I cannot follow, as children do when they grow up. I can’t forget this.
As usual, I need balance. A balance that lets me do what she needs, in a spirit of love and willing service, but keep in close touch with my own inner world. My inner world of darkness, and light, and words that form my true home. During the summer my creativity fell to the siren call of what-does-it-matter; everything I wanted to write seemed trite to me. I can’t tell you how many poem scraps and essays in the making I have sitting around.
If I’m going to make this school year a good one, I (weirdly enough) need regular access to a version of myself very different from the good school mom. I need the writer who, laughing with abandon, slashes open her skin and lets a poem bleed out. Who paints designs on her face with the blood and dances around the fire as the debris of not-good-enough burns.
I will remember: I am myself. I am a woman, a mother, a poet, an addict, a human. I am a consciousness, existing because I exist. I am enough, my daughter is enough, and anyone who thinks we’re not is cordially invited to go fuck themselves.