Taking Refuge in the Appearance of Life

img_4194The snow is only fluttering now. It is large as goose down and I can follow a single flake from its appearance outside my attic window as it tumbles down to the slushy street. Cat asleep on daybed. Knitting project put aside momentarily. Within this small room, my study, a picture of contentment.

For this moment I take refuge in the appearance of life. Trying to believe that I, the inhabitant of this picture, am really here, am really a human being on earth. Because my soul knows better–it understands that I am a ghost. As is my son Sean in his far-off psych hospital bed who is still puzzling over the wrinkled reality that shot him to another planet.

My life tore on the day that my son in his paranoid delusion denied me as his mother, but it didn’t disappear. I had Sean to fight for and I did so ferociously. But time is time, and when wrestling with mental illness time slows down. My fight has slowed, my hope subdued. Each milestone I yearn toward opens up new pain.

A year ago, I fought to get Sean into a shelter only to have him refuse treatment and end up on the streets worse than before. I sent his father to find him and what he discovered was so wretched it nearly cost my son’s life. The LPS state conservatorship that we won was miraculous, and yet, the ensuing months of locked care have yielded few results. Sean lives a drugged, lonely life in a suspended state of what I can only imagine is merely adequate psychiatric warehousing. While it is so, and while he refuses all contact with me, I can never come home to myself. Part of me will always be whisped around him, embodying his disjointed sense of self with my own. It’s exhausting.

In two weeks I am planning to fly out to visit his treatment team and to try to make contact with Sean. My first time in California since my intervention two and half years ago. I fear for myself, what it will do to me to come face-to-face with his shabby surroundings and the inadequacies of this care. I remind myself there are good people there: His conservator is a beautifully attuned woman with a solid spiritual wellspring; his program manager downloads music for him and talks art and books. A man from FERC, an incredible Bay-area resource for families dealing with a loved one with mental illness, will meet me for support.

And Sean has lucky invisibles: The person who helps him wash. And brings him pills. And tries to lure him to attend groups. And serves him meals. And delivers the books I send under the guise of “county donations.” I pray they are kind to him.

I pray I will find kindness too.

 

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Preparing to search

CandlesHow do you prepare to hit the streets of an unknown city in search of a lost son? I have taken care of the practical aspects–rented another Airbnb flop (this one close off Telegraph Ave. where the panhandlers purportedly roost), rented a car, developed a Missing flyer to post on poles and bulletin boards, called the police for advice, printed off homeless resource centers and soup kitchens.

The psychic preparation is lest distinct. Once I decided I actually was going to fly to Berkeley to try to locate Sean, I noticed a new spaciness in my approach to life. It’s as if my mental CPU is very busy running some background software, leaving little free space for running the rest of my thinking. I’m probably dreaming deeply, epically, because I wake up groggy. But I am oddly calm. I wonder if this is the calmness before the storm or if I actually have entered a realm of blessed serenity.

I have a couple of mentors in my life who have been incredibly kind and smart in helping me think this through. Both have asked me to call them daily while I’m out there, which will be a good touchstone. One friend made what I thought was a brilliant point: “Make sure to make some happy memories when you’re out there. Do something wonderful for yourself.” That had not occurred to me, and I now see it as essential for keeping me from sliding into a manic mode or donning a martyr’s robe–both are habits I’m working hard to shed.

I recently wrote two prayers: one for my son, one for me. Tomorrow, I will go to a nearby chapel to light candles and dedicate those prayers. This is the deepest preparation I can invent, because whatever I may find on those streets–son, no son, drug-addicted son, loving son, angry son, mentally ill son, other peoples’ sons–I will need God’s soft mercy.

Here is my prayer for myself:

From all the souls,
in all the stars
across universes known and imagined,
I find my own self.
May I raise my voice to sing out the Lord.
May I use my hands to lift up others.
God, help me keen my mind to the truth
and soften my heart toward my humanness.
Lighten my mother’s pain,
and erase the marks of my mistakes.
Help me to trust this eternal bond:
the mother
the child
the universe unfolding
As it was, as it always shall be.
                — SF