I’m writing this post on Thursday and it’s the last day of school for Avonlea and Marilla. I have mixed feelings about school ending today. I’ve been launched into creating a new daily structure for our girls over the next few months. It’s hard enough for me to get my own schedule in order, let alone a six-year-old and a nine-year-old’s, so I’m a bit freaked out. The ironic fact that our summer officially begins on Friday the 13th is not lost upon me.
As many people with bipolar disorder know, structure can make all the difference between stability and its hellish opposite. Now that I’ve had my taste of stability for the last year, I don’t want it to end anytime soon. I’m going to give this summer my best shot so I stay the hell away from Hell. (a.k.a. the hospital.)
I’m happy to say that I planned a few fairly substantial activities for the kids in advance. Next week, I’ll get fifteen precious hours of child-free time while they attend the local (free!) vacation bible school. They are technically Jewish, but no matter. It’s still a good education for them! The following month we’re splurging on a two-week-long Science Sleuths day camp run by County Parks; it’s an excellent program that our older daughter has loved attending in the past.
We have a summer membership to our community pool, but that’s an activity I’ve placed my husband in charge of due to my still-intense social anxiety. I hope that given my recent progress which I described in my “No Profundity” post, I’ll make an effort to visit the pool over the next month. However, I’m not going to pressure myself because honestly, life is challenging enough right now. There are other cool things to do in this area, which is visited by tourists from around the world, aside from the pool.
This morning both of my girls tearfully told me how much they will miss school – they said they’d miss their friends, their teachers and the fun activities. Two nights ago they even begged us for a school yearbook. I never had a yearbook in 1st or 3rd grade – how times have changed! $30 later, they got the yearbook and they’ve enjoyed pouring over its pages, fighting over who got to take a turn every ten minutes.
I felt stunned regarding their positive attitude toward school because I had a completely different experience. I was 100% elated to say goodbye to each school year, and I certainly never shed a single tear in June when I bid my teacher and classmates farewell. I never thought that the girls’ school would be such a hard act for me to follow, but in a few months they’ll return to their beloved school, so I won’t stress too much about it.
Meanwhile, come next week my Mom is visiting this area. She’s excited to spend time with her grandchildren and meet the adorable Lucy puppy at last. She’ll stay at beautiful hotel called the Chaminade which holds many happy memories for her, including numerous stays with my Dad, and my wedding rehearsal dinner. It’s hard for me to believe that my Mom has been a guest at this hotel for two decades because she started visiting here when I attended college at U.C. Santa Cruz. The Chaminade used to be a monastery and it has stunning views of the Pacific Ocean/Monterey Peninsula. Craig and I used to live in a tiny studio underneath the hotel property next to the infamous cemetery. (See “Cemetery Days” for more about that.)
I haven’t seen my mother in a year. The last time we were together I was almost med-free from my ill-fated lithium taper. I was hypomanic during our visit and she wasn’t doing well emotionally. My bipolar relapse had just begun, and culminated in another hospital stay. This upcoming visit, I hope, will be 100% better than the last one. (I’d be thrilled with at least 80% better!)
I’ve written about my Mom’s shortcomings at length, especially in terms of the stigma towards my mental illness she has harbored. (My post “Stigma from the Source” covers this topic in depth.) But she also has wonderful qualities – she even passed one or two of them down to me! 😉 Moreover, Mom is great with children, especially since she worked with kids with special needs for many years as a speech pathologist in the public schools. She was able to easily connect with the kids and her colleagues and they saw the best side of her. Before that, she was a working actress in Los Angeles and had won the University of Michigan’s first award for television acting. She’s very histrionic, to say the least.
I look forward to watching my mother interact with my girls, and I’ll try my best to refrain from flipping out at her inevitable criticism of me. There’s always something during every visit. The usual comments include: “Your hair…what have you done with it?”, “I thought you said you were 140 pounds – you look much heavier than that!” and the classic: “What do you do all day, especially now that you have this summer break?”
The truth, although it’s hard for me to fully process it, is that my formidable Mom, the woman who drives all around Los Angeles on highways I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot-pole, is slowing down at seventy-eight-years old. She could live another fourteen years like her robust Jewish grandmother did, or live another day. Who knows? I don’t have tranquilizers or alcohol to see me through the crunchy moments with her this time around. I need to remain stable. I need to be strong. I know I need to give her a break, but that is much easier said than done. I know I’ll have experiences to write about, that’s for sure.