Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ode to Great-Grandparents and Not Visiting the Asylum

I've expressed this to counselors before: any sense of sanity of have is owed to the unconditional love I received growing up with my great-grandparents. This thought has popped into my head a few times this week and I'm wondering why.

It could be that I'm reading Beautiful Fools: The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald by R. Clifton Spargo. I have a growing interest in the Lost Generation and have been reading a lot of non-fiction and historical fiction about this time period and the "stars" of the age. In my readings, I learned that Zelda went insane, having mental breaks, arguable schizophrenia with eczema creeping up her neck with every breakdown. It may sound far-fetched and book snob-ish of me, but I feel a connection with Zelda and her struggles with mental illness. Depression, anxiety and the likes have lasted generations and will continue to infiltrate the lives of those inflicted. It sounds so bleak and hopeless, but I'm finding hope where it seemingly doesn't exist.

While my great-grant parents couldn't "save" me from mental illness, they did save me from myself. I certainly had horrible episodes of depression, drug use, alcohol-induced rage, and a revolving door of relationships, but deep inside my soul, past my flesh and earthly organs, I always held inside a sense of security and acceptance because they provided that to me during my most impressionable years.

Despite changing schools and apartments every year and verbal and mental chaos injected into my veins by my mother, I always had them. I had the cookie jar super glued back together after I broke it, I had my great-grandma's house heels I'd clink clink around in, their big backyard with a tire swing and vegetable garden, with a workshop I would use to "build" things and a hothouse where I would tend to the plants. Memories of putting every pot and pan and bucket in the driveway when it rained, weekends at their modest lake house. These memories are planted so deep inside of me, deeper than depression and drunkenness can invade.

They are both gone now, my great-grandma for 9 years and my great-grandpa for 15 years. I miss them. I wish I could tell them thank you and hug them infinitely for their saving graces. But, I can thank them and honor them in the present by living my best life, not succumbing to mental illness, reading and writing -- two things they always praised me for doing.

I realize that I repeat my past, the negative parts of my past, the failing, the feelings of sadness and inadequacy, excessive sleeping to escape. Instead, I'm going to work on repeating the positive parts of my past, the excitement of catching fireflies and having fun watching my great-grandpa grilling the minnows I caught at the lake. And while I won't be putting pots and pans in my driveway during a rainstorm, I will find hobbies and parts of life that take me to happy places, where I am loved and accepted and good enough just the way I am.

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