On Friday I received news that my grandfather--the one who founded my childhood cult (read the full story in my book)--had a stroke and fell. He is not recovering well. The doctors say he has 2-6 months to live. According to my mom who saw him in the hospital, he is not capable of coherent discussion due to increasing dementia. He is dying. This is not how I hoped the story would end. I wanted a happy ending--or, at least, a happier one.
All these years later and he has not repented nor sought to make things right.
Even though I said my goodbyes eleven years ago when I left the cult and forgave them several years after that--today, I'm surprised by how sad I feel about all this.
To protect myself and my own children, I have kept the relationship with my grandparents closed. The sad truth is that my grandparents left a wide swath of destruction in their wake and cleaning up the wreckage is still a daily struggle for me. Quite honestly, the only way I would have wanted to hear from them was if they were ready to make amends.
They had ways of contacting me--should they ever have desired it. But they never did.
I knew the end would come inevitably, I just didn't expect to feel so...deeply sad about it.
I also didn't expect to feel so triggered, so anxious. On the verge of PTSD relapse. Whenever something yucky happens in my family, this sort of brain-scrambling thing happens to me. It's like my brain fills up with static and I can't think clearly.
I just cry. And have panic attacks. Or, you know, eat lots of food.
Upon hearing the news about my grandfather, my first inclination was to park my butt on the couch and eat cakes all afternoon. Because that's totally how problems get solved, right? Here, God: how about I eat cakes while You Fix It, k??
And then I remembered: I've gained thirty pounds. Well, I remembered this AFTER I'd eaten half a pan of brownies but THAT IS BESIDE THE POINT, am I right? Point is: I remembered before I ate the whole thing. PROGRESS!
So, I decided to do something different.
There it is, my friends. The simple, little shift. If I could sum up my recovery in one phrase, that would be it: Doing Something Different.
And doing something different didn't mean making some big, huge radical change. It was a small thing.
I went out and bought flowers.
Then I swept my front porch and dusted cobwebs from the porch lights. Then I arranged the flower pots to create a welcoming entry. Then I went and bought pretty yellow seat cushions (on sale at Marshalls--woot!).
Once I got started, I was inspired. [NOTE TO SELF FOR FUTURE REFERENCE: it's the getting started that's the hardest! But once you're going, you wonder why you waited so long. Just get started already. Start somewhere, anywhere. Start with pots of flowers!]
Before long, a virtuous cycle had taken over. Instead of gorging myself on the rest of the brownies, I was now engaged in life-affirming contrary action: nesting, decorating and cleaning up my little corner of the world.
The twins swirled around me, helping me hose down the stone walkway and hang a St. Francis of Assisi garden flag.
Penelope The Rescue Pit Bull happily watched me while I worked and even agreed to pose for me when I was done. I seriously think she's smiling in this picture. (p.s. pit bulls are precious and lovable and it's such a shame they have a bad reputation because she is the sweetest thing ever).
Speaking of pit bulls, redemption is a thing. I believe in it.
I believe in it because it's happening to me. I'm still thirty pounds overweight, my family is still effed up in thirty-thousand different ways BUT! I've built a new life for myself--a life that I'm very happy to live!--a life that I intend on continuing to live with love and service to others.
Just for today, I'm not sitting on the couch sobbing into a pan of brownies.
And that gives me hope.