Recalibrating the Reality of a Mother-Daughter Relationship

Although I have been known as a chronic daydreamer and an outward over-optimistic person, my grasp on reality has always been firm. While this momentarily causes me to be figuratively and literally unsteady while recalibrating myself, it has been the reason that throughout everything that has erupted throughout my life, I have managed to stay upright. But at this point in time, more than ever, all I want to do is run as far as possible beyond the grasp of the reality surrounding my mother.

Right now it is a struggle to accept the person my mother has become, trying my best to learn to love her as she is now, but is beyond hard. It has been so fucking hard. Perhaps this appears harsh or selfish. Despite my best intentions to convince myself things will go back to the old, not-even-close- to-perfect normal, the reality playing before my eyes cannot be ignored.

This is not the first time I have had to reconfigure my senses regarding my mother. At barely twelve years old, I was forced to adapt with the changes our mother-daughter relationship endured under the strain of chronic illness, as her physical and mental health conditions became the fourth member of our household. For over sixteen years, more than half my existence, I’ve lived with this adjusted role as my mother’s only child. Now as an adult who is acutely aware of the gravity of what is happening, the realistic outlook for the future and the pain plastered across my father’s face, this shift to this new ‘normal’ has been absolutely gut wrenching.

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When Emotional Chaos isn’t Penciled into My Planner

At the end of December, I spent a laughable amount of time researching planners to make 2017 the year of doing. To help manage my goals in every area of my life, and trying to be more present by actually penciling in time to decompress.

The 2 untouched planners on my dresser remind me how completely unplanned the last 3 months of my life have been. Honestly, shit has been off the rails for the past year in the realm of being blindsided.

But back to the planners. 

So I spent an absurd amount of money because can there really be a price limit on peace of mind and organization? They were delivered in fancy packaging in a box to pretty to throw out, and for an entire night I spent placing glittery stickers and mapping out important things I knew were coming up. With all of the other white blocks left to be filled in, the possibility of unknown felt exciting because it was centered on ideas like trying the recipes I pinned on Pinterest, and a writing schedule to revisit the writings I had shelved away since late summer.

Maybe the planners jinxed me, or perhaps the Universe decided to send me a wake up call that nothing ever will go as planned.

No sooner did I buy the planners, the rails of routine went rouge.

The only items being added to an ever growing list were the unimaginable situations that seemed to be popping up faster than I could deal with properly. Imagine a whack-a-mole arcade game, but replace the plastic rodents with emotionally charged situations springing up without rhyme or reason. Because it wasn’t feasible to take out my aggression with a rubber hammer, my only choice  was springing towards each one at a rapid pace without any plan of attack other than dealing with as best as an unsuspecting person can.

Rather than share my list of big plan for the new year, I find myself only being able to share the list of the completely unplanned clusterfucks…I mean events…that were not penciled into my planners.

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Favorite Snapshots of 2016

A few days past 2016, but some of my favorite shots from a year that kept me forcing to find the bright spots in the middle of struggle. 

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I’ll Love You Forever, I’ll Like You for Always

On May 8th, my beautiful grandmother left this world surrounded by her family at the age of 81 years old. I had the honor of giving her eulogy at her celebration of life on May, 13. Below are the words I shared that barely scratch the surface of her amazing impact on myself and my family.


13162349_10156797985100063_631360207_nThank you all for coming today to celebrate the life of Pat Bendig. My name is Patrice, and I am Pat’s granddaughter who she affectionately called Tricey.  Your attendance speaks volumes of how many lives she impacted.

Some of you know Pat as an an active member of the Church of St. Katherine Drexel, which she has been since moving to Mays Landing in 2003. Or perhaps from St. Anselm’s Church in Philadelphia, PA for over 40 years prior to relocating. Perhaps some of you know her by her unwavering loyalty to the Phillies & The Eagles (even during losing streaks), or as a Red Hat Lady, or maybe you have been touched by her contagious optimistic outlook on life.

For me, Pat Bendig will forever be remembered by me as grandmom. My grandmom whose laughter filled the room whenever she was surrounded by her family while talking over coffee and cake. Memories of Jersey shore summer vacations, holidays decked out with decorations, warm hugs that smelled like Estee Lauder perfume and selfless love for her family will continue to be cherished.  

I credit my wild imagination to her- she got hooked me hooked soap operas like Young & The Restless and The Guiding Light at an early age while she would watch me. I remember her helping me learn how to read by sounding out the words in Soap Digest that was always in the house, and laying on her couch under a blanket while she read to me ‘I’ll you Forever, I’ll Like you for Always, As Long as I’m Living My Baby You’ll Be” by Robert Munsch.

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Redefining a Mother’s Love

Originally published on Huffington Post

Happy-Mothers-Day-716527Mother’s Day is a punch in the gut for anyone not celebrating with their mother. The ache doesn’t discriminate against the reason of absence. The social media feeds that will be saturated with Mother’s Day tributes will be downright painful for all of us coping with a void.

The feeling of motherlessness is overwhelming countless times throughout the year, but near Mother’s Day its intensity can be downright suffocating. As the days creep closer to that Sunday, my anxiety level continues to steadily increase to an agitated state. This will be the first Mother’s Day without my mom, since making the decision to cut off contact with her for my own sanity earlier this year. Conflicting feelings are battling inside my heart- dread of the actual day and anticipation of its passing until the next year. While traditional holidays celebrated on my own have been developed over the past several years, the awkwardness of establishing a new way to get through the day is fresh.

Not surprisingly, my past several weekly therapy sessions with Dr. R have centered on making sense of the emotional tornado brewing. While working through this, Dr. R has repeatedly encouraged me to really figure out what I needed in order to comfort myself. Pulling the covers over my head with the companionship of pinot noir and Grey’s Anatomy reruns was my first instinct. Or to abandon my smartphone for the weekend and seclude myself at a hotel. To not be reminded of what I am missing on Mother’s Day was the answer I continuously kept arriving at.

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Untangling Myself from an Emotional Rock Bottom

Originally published on Elephant Journal on 1/28/2016.

 

RG-Mermaid-2Not being able to see instant gratification from a newly-incorporated healthier lifestyle can snuff out any enthusiasm for sticking with it.

But sometimes we find ourselves in situations where there is no other choice but to stick it out for the long haul, clinging to the promise of an elusive “one day.” The alternative is to continue down a path of self destruction, whether it be emotional, physical or often times both.

A person does not suddenly wake up one morning and find themselves unexpectedly at rock bottom. The trail is paved by half-hearted attempts to integrate new routines that always seem to be sidelined by discouragement, before being forgotten for tried and true habits. The cycle repeats itself indefinitely until the build up of poor choices leads to a derailment of everyday life, serving as a gut-punching S.O.S.

Hitting rock-bottom is similar to sitting on the bottom of a swimming pool and looking straight up to the surface. At the bottom of the swimming pool, there is an awareness of sound and movement whirling above, but nothing is clear enough to be understood. Although a person may be able to avoid the wave-making commotion and chaos transpiring above, it comes at the price of never being able to experience the direct warmth of the sun.

Two years ago, I had realized that years of unresolved feelings and continuous unhealthy choices had navigated me to an emotional rock-bottom. Continue reading

A Legacy of Life: The Miracle on 34th Street Remembered

Originally published on Huffpost Impact on 12/8/15

2015-12-06-1449371218-1875698-325717_2615726525313_1133717942_o-thumbThe staples that mark the essence of the holiday season occur like clockwork on an annual basis-and are not dependent on any particular person. Despite any aversion to the holiday season, it will take place all around you just like every single year of your life. However there never is a guarantee on how it will feel from year-to-year. This Christmas season, the thought of taking part in any merriment may be intolerable if you’re in the middle of grief. Or perhaps because of a recent life event such as a new baby or relationship, Christmas has taken a new feeling. The holiday season never changes, for it is truly tried and true. Our receptiveness and experience are the triggers that impact how the holidays are acknowledged throughout the years. Loss, change, acceptance, additions- all are moving parts in how we experience life, which includes the holiday season and all things associated with it.

Exactly two years ago this week, a pair of families underwent a life-changing event that forever alter their perception of the holiday season. On the same day in 2013, both families faced unexpected uncertainty, and desperately hoped for miracles that would put their lives back together. Two sets of parents kissed their babies outside of an operating room. Two children took their last breaths with the heart and lungs that brought them into the world. Two sets of surgical teams performed procedures that changed Christmas for everyone involved. Continue reading

Finding My Voice, Baring My Soul, and Pissing People Off

baby-writingOver the past year or so I’ve grown as a writer. I’m learning that part of that means that at times tears will be running down my face as my fingers bang out the words that are pouring out of me. Other times, it leaves me unpopular with others as I refrain from wrapping each essay with a cookie cutter ending.

For years I’ve searched for articles and essays that ring true to my heart. And there have been times where I stumble across pieces of writing that make me feel less alone. That is what drives me to be a writer. My latest piece on Bustle took months working on with the amazing editor Rachel Krantz, but she pushed me to turn in into one of the proudest pieces I have ever written. Feel free to check it out! 

Salt On Old Wounds

a84f27de348513453296f11820784a38Many things go over my head. Good jokes, facial expressions, body language. However I am never one to miss an opportunity of when a good, rich case of irony appears. This recent situation has been a slice of irony pie that made me laugh a little too much this evening.

It was confirmed that my mom had her fourth major stroke last week, which wasn’t confirmed until yesterday when I was able to coax her into the car for a CT scan. This wasn’t so much as surprise, because as I mentioned in my HuffPo essay her condition has gotten out of whack in recent weeks. Her speech is more slurred all the time, not just when she’s tired. Balance is non existent and there is a noticeable delay in her thought process. And she sleeps more than usual- which is a like hibernation.

But the timing is the kicker. Her episode happened during Stroke Awareness Month, and I was working on the article when my gut was giving me warning signs something was out of sync. At the the same time, for my full-time job as a communications specialist at a local rehabilitation hospital, I was profiling the incredible recovery of a gentleman who was fighting like hell to regain his life.

thread-stitches-broken-red-heart-threaded-47044972Like a perfect storm, my personal HuffPo piece was published Thursday, my work-related coverage was handed in Friday, and my mom’s stroke was confirmed Monday. Ironic that my mind has been more focused on stroke awareness month than my own birthday, which is this Friday.

It sounds silly, but seeing the bars installed in my childhood home takes my breath away. Seeing the guard rails on the bottom of the steps makes it even more evident that thing are changing. Of course things are changing- looking at my mother, watching her reluctantly use her cane and walker. But those rails and bars hit a nerve.

Thank you to everyone who has been supportive of my HuffPo article: What it’s Like being the 25 year old and Dealing with a Mother who is a Stroke Victim. Now more than usual, the wounds that have scabbed over sting right now. They will go back to only a dull ache when prodded, but for now I’m letting them be aired. Because to be on a role with the healthcare kick, it’s better to heal the right way than to give it half ass care. Dealing with the anger, confusion, and fear now will help me continue to cope- rather than letting the emotions fester up and explode down the line.

Stroke Awareness Month Thoughts from the 25-Year-old Daughter of a Multiple Stroke Victim.

American-Stroke-Month-2-The irony that Stroke Awareness Month takes place during the same month as Mother’s Day is not lost on me. For the past ten years, the words ‘stroke’ and ‘mother’ has become intertwined. Both have played a substantial role in shaping the adult I have become. Coming to terms with my relationship with both is an ongoing struggle. This is not a Stroke Awareness Month essay to bring awareness to the importance of healthy habits and early detection to lower stroke risk. Nor is this an inspirational essay about life after stroke and the lessons it taught has my family. What I write is about the reality of being a 25-years-old daughter of a multiple stroke victim, and how the it can make the future a bit terrifying

Unpredictable. That sums up what I have learned from the decade long experience of being the daughter of a multiple stroke and heart attack survivor. The other day, the news segment on the car radio reminded me that May is National Stroke Awareness Month. Ironically, it was the moment I pulling into the driveway of my childhood home for my weekly visit. The place where my family and I were unwillingly indoctrinated into the world of stroke in 2004 when I was 15 years old. In this household, every month is Stroke Awareness Month.

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