Sunday, January 22, 2006

Windy Nights

The wind is blowing frightfully hard here in the Los Angeles suburbs, pressing against the windows, reminding me of how terrifying this same kind of wind used to be when I lived in Pasadena with my parents. The wind was so strong once that it literally blew down a massive pine tree in our front yard, blew it down so all 90 feet of it crashed in between our house and the one next door.

We had been watching that tree in our darkened kitchen for all the electricity had gone out. My father stood at the sliding glass door with my younger brother next to him. We were talking about what would happen if that tree fell, that beautiful, pine-needle-sprinkling tree that certainly saw the development of our neighborhood back in the late 1800's. I was 18 years old and you'd think my constitution would have been stronger, way past the time when I was afraid of the dark or the boogie man. I was sitting at the kitchen table when all of a sudden my father yelled out that the tree was falling, get out! Time seemed to have stopped for me and I heard the tree literally being yanked out of the ground and crashing downwards. I had stood and turned to get out only I tripped on the chair and crashed, too, right down on the floor, imagining the house was coming down around me. My father pulled me by the arm, dragging me away from the kitchen, until I could get up and run with him outside.

I stood outside, the wind whipping around me and the tree...the tree down on the ground, huge and helpless, branches punched through the neighbors' roof, conveniently though lying right in between our two houses. Safely fallen. Miraculously fallen.

For many nights after, for years after, whenever wind blew hard against the windows, I would be overcome with an overwhelming sense of insecurity. Never before had there been a more perfect metaphor come to life for what I felt about living in the Pasadena house what with my parents' constant dramas.

When I married and moved, only when my father was near death did the wind scare me again. The fear faded only to be reinvigorated with my mother's passing. The fear receded once more. Until tonight. I'm in my office preparing for tomorrow's lecture and I'm scared of the wind as it presses the glass windows, as it makes the vent in the garage whirl wildly.

I don't wonder why I'm feeling this way, however. Last week we learned why J's behavior has so intensified, why for the past couple of months he's been making horrific choices when given options - such as choosing to shoplift a trinkette in a store when visiting the mall with a church group - such as choosing to disappear in the neighborhood with friends when making a trip from right next door back home - such as choosing to self-destruct with regard to his grades, dropping from the cursed D's to F's, even in the face of losing that which he loves most in this world, his drumset. I took him finally to be evaluated and the doctor said he's presenting classic symptoms of bipolar disorder, just like his brother, just like my mother.

For months now, J has become the primary focus of the family - becoming a mini-tornado in our home, causing disruption wherever he is, from the moment he wakes up until the moment he goes down at night, always later than we want, always in defiance.

He's made me extremely insecure.

So the wind is blowing, I'm scared and I'm grasping once again to those little things in life to make me...happy. Moments of simplicity, or peacefulness, or joy.

Sitting in my grandmother's kitchen, eating chilaquiles and drinking instant coffee, while the sun pours in from the window right onto the table, warming the both of us, warming us as we talk about the family.

Driving in the car, coming home from dinner and a visit to the car dealership, D and I talk about how good it is that we found a new car for a price that won't kill our budget, that it's all going to work out just fine. We are practically giddy.

Picking up A from school and watching him lip synch Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire". He knows all the words and it is so funny to "see" such a deep voice singing about passionate love coming from such an angelic, smiling, still-a-baby face. We both laugh and laugh all the way home while Sassy sticks her head outside the open window, lapping at the breeze.

Walking around Barnes & Noble, deciding I'm going to spend $40 on books I'll never finish. I'm joyous.

Talking about movies and television with my friend, happy...happy. Isn't Keifer a beauty? Isn't it great the Shield is back on and smokin'? Doesn't every reality show suck, suck, suck? Yes! Wasn't King Kong great and how in love am I with Juaquin Phoenix? I'm relieved for the simplicity of it all.

Thinking about writing a post on Ray's Market, the treasure trove down the road. How it looks through my children's eyes, how it will look in their eyes when they look back on it as adults. How wonderful!

The wind is pounding our trees, the windows really take it well. I'm certain no trees will fall this night.


Fromage de Merde said...

As a survivor of a troubled youth, bad up bringing, learning disorders and addictions at a very early age (pre-teenager), I too was a horror to be had, a melee waiting to happen, a veritable maleficence of epic proportions – but it was never that I wanted to be that or that I was inherently a bad kid. I just didn’t know any better and the chemical imbalance that was going on in my brain, the one that I tried to remedy myself through drugs, caused me major bouts of depression and all the other goodies that come with - like low self-esteem and introverted behavior and in the end I was just confused and waiting for another day to end so that sleep, the opiate of the depressed, would take me away from the burden of having to be “good” and having to try so hard to do the right thing all the time – even though my head told me to do just the opposite!

In the end he will be alright, you know this, right? He just needs the help that he needs and you also need him to get it so that it all doesn’t seem so futile and endless!

I feel for you Adriana, and I feel for J too. But he’s got a great mother, one that obviously cares a great deal for him – and that’s a lot more than a lot of other children in this world can say…

“When I was very small I can remember some trees in my neighborhood being knocked down by a huge storm and how afterward the whole world looked sideways in that the tree’s weren’t pointing to the skies anymore and I was finally able to get to the top branches – the one’s that I used to only see from the windows on the third floor by the fire escape. But then a few days later some men came and chopped them up and all that was left was another vacant empty lot of woodchips, dirt and trash and broken chainlink fences.”

Adriana Bliss said...

Thanks, Fromage, my bloggy friend. I can imagine your childhood...can see how difficult it must have been without support. In fact, what you write here is partly what I'm afraid of, for J.

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your kind words of encouragement. D and I are trying to learn as much as we can so we can do our best with our J...and A...and M down the road. Oy!

As a note, what a beautiful image you've painted here with the downed trees. I see it so clearly and you've left me thinking. Beautiful.

Lori said...

Hey bud---

I am so sorry you and D are going through such hell with J. I feel for you. I hope this new round of treatment will help him get back on track.

And yes, Kiefer IS gorgeous...and the Shield rocks!

nappy40 said...

Storms brewing?

Yes, The Shield is back and it's great!

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

This post touched me, Adriana, as you could probably guess from my recent autobiographical post on bipolarity. It's very fortunate that we live at a time when these things can be discovered and treated early in life. (Assuming that the diagnosis is correct, of course, and as you know, pediatric diagnoses especially have a tendency to follow the trends and thus to require later revision.) Proper treatment could save J from decades of trouble. Fromage is right in saying that J will be okay in the end, but the more wrong turns avoided in the process, the better. (Great line by Fromage: "Sleep, the opiate of the depressed.")

Just an observation that I hope you'll take in the right spirit: "Walking around Barnes & Noble, deciding I'm going to spend $40 on books I'll never finish. I'm joyous." Knowing your family history, that could be seen as symptomatic, yes? Not to say that you should run out and get medicated or anything -- maybe it's subclinical in you -- but it seems like a small piece of evidence for the hereditary nature of the problem.

Meanwhile, it sounds like you've got a family that's full of fun and love as well as difficulties. The love is the important thing.

Adriana Bliss said...

Thanks, Lori - this challenge definitely calls for extreme patience and sometimes I worry that we don't have it. BUT...but...I was proud of "us" this morning in dealing with a BIG lie J told us...we calmly talk to him this morning (I think the element of time helped being that we learned the lie when J was sleeping, forcing us to wait our anger out) and without drama, grounded him for lying. When he began to skirt the edges of a tantrum, we calmly explained the problem again and asked him what he'd like to do to avoid the problem in the future - that I agreed certain standards we'd asked him to accomplish were too difficult and discouraging. That maybe there's a middle ground for everyone to get what they want.


Yes, Nappy40, you have that right - the Shield is greaaaaaat!

Richard, I have little doubt that I have a low level of bipolarity - having lived, though, with my mom who had it in UBER form I'm grateful for the low level. LOL I don't feel the need for medication but if this low level of depression continues I might have to consider it. Oy!

David N. Scott said...

You should be careful punishing him too much, in my most humble opinion. I had a major bout of depression in high school, and my parents slammed on the consequences... everything they did just made me feel worse, though, and so I did worse. I mean, just speaking a bit from the other side...