MOVING BACK INTO AN APARTMENT IS NOT THE SAME AS MOVING BACKWARDS

Yes, I realize it has been a long time since I have posted anything on here. To be honest, I’ve been lying low. Flying under the radar. Stuck in a weird place. To be even more honest, I’ve been wallowing in the drudgery of writer’s constipation. The only things rattling around in my head were uninspired to say the least. It was just more of the same old, same old. More of the story that feels like it’s been told a thousand times, and I simply ran out of different ways I could talk about how hard things have been. How much we still struggle with the crazy that comes at us, over and over, and over again. Sometimes, it can be exhausting. I know I am not alone in this. I can’t be the first person in the history of the world who is exhausted by their own story.

Then recently something happened, as it often does in life, and I was motivated once again to put some words down on paper… or at least virtual paper.

So there we were, backed into a corner… again. And facing down the impossible… again. The car was broken beyond repair. Excuse me, I mean the third car that had passed through our hands in the last six months was broken beyond repair… again. The computer I use for work turned in its resignation. The floor was STILL uncovered concrete. The air conditioning was hanging on by a thin thread. The youngest daughter needed braces, and not the cosmetic kind. The older daughter was on her way to college soon… too soon.  And the bills, the bills, and the other bills created a version of not-so-fun phone tag between us and them. It’s not really their fault, but I didn’t even want to give them a name. That would give it all too much reality. I couldn’t face it.

We tried to be strong, to hold our heads up, to keep a positive attitude. But from our perspective, it all looked rather bleak. And since it all went down the week before Christmas, it was especially painful. Depressing almost. My only defense was that we had already purchased our holiday gifts. Take that cruel waterfall of financial strain. In this tiniest of corners… I win! Ha!

But. Then.

There was a break in the clouds. An interruption. A ray of hope. And not just a simple, hey my life just took a different direction and I’ve learned a nice, cute little lesson, kind of interruption. But the kind that requires a total and complete u-turn.

For those of you who read my book, My Movie Memoir Screenplay Novel, (yep, that’s called shameless product placement) you already know how much it meant to us to purchase and move into our first house. It was downright miraculous. Owning our own home was a concept consistently out of our reach. Impossible.

And then the impossible happened and we bought a house.

Then the impossible happened, and we were forced to sell our first home.

I know that the truth of that can sound… uncomfortable… to most people. Really? Sell our home? The place that gave us rest? Our oasis? After all of our multiple moves this was supposed to be the place where we finally got to stay.  Our refuge from the storm. Were we really supposed to give that up just to make some quick cash? Would it even work? And if our house sold, exactly where were we going to go?

An apartment, that’s where.

This might seem like a giant step backwards. I mean, owning a house is the metaphorical American dream. Living in an apartment in my late 40’s with two teenagers is… well… not. Except there are so many good things about it, not least of which are the amenities, and of course the pool. The glorious, glorious pool. Say it with me… ahhhhhh.

So, we didn’t move backwards, not really. We actually moved forward… toward something new. Something different. And ultimately something better. It all, eventually, added up to something good. Even if getting there required the sacrifice of something big. Something important. Something cherished. Something safe.

I suppose that’s the story of our lives. We live in that kind of crazy where the really amazing something good is born out of the really difficult something hard with a large dose of sacrifice on the side. I should be used to it by now, but still it comes as a surprise. In this case, the surprise was a relatively peaceful one. I don’t want to jinx it… but did I just sell my house, move into an apartment, pay off a huge amount of debt, completely change my life and so far (knock on wood) it went okay? Why, yes. Yes, it did.

Crazy.

 

©2016 Betts Keating. All rights reserved.

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Behind the Scenes – Good Job, Baby Girl

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Author: Figuring out how to add movie scenes to a memoir was challenging. My first attempts were rough and confusing. One woman in my critique group unabashedly told me exactly how much she didn’t “get it.” She made my writing better. I kept furiously working until even she agreed it made sense. This was the scene in the book where I finally won her over. It was a painful memory to write about, but using the movie scene to distance myself really helped tell the story.

 

My Movie Memoir Screenplay Novel, by Betts Keating
Chapter Sixteen – Good Job, Baby Girl

…I remember standing next to my husband in a brightly lit, white hallway while holding my seven-day-old daughter in my arms. I remember looking down at her and thinking to myself, No way. There is no way I’m handing this child over to those people. No way, no way, no way, no way….

Back to the movie.

OPEN: INTERIOR/BOSTON HOSPITAL/HALLWAY

CAMERA HOLDS on MOMMY and DADDY standing in front of sign that says “Pediatric Surgery.”

MOMMY holding BABY. DADDY stands with arms around MOMMY.
Two young DOCTORS stand nearby waiting to take BABY to surgery.

MOMMY (crying)
I don’t think I can do this.

DADDY (with emotion)
Me either.

MOMMY and DADDY cry over and hug BABY murmuring “We love yous” and other reassurances.

DOCTORS motion that it’s time to let them take the BABY.

MOMMY won’t let go. She clings to the baby, wetting the baby’s face with her tears.

DADDY makes small motion towards helping MOMMY hand over BABY.

MOMMY (whispers)
Not yet… not yet…

CAMERA HOLDS on MOMMY – hugs baby close almost “blocking” the doctors from taking her.

MOMMY (blubbering)
OK, baby girl… this is it. All you have to do is take a nice long nap while the
doctors do all the work. OK?

MOMMY makes small motion toward letting go.

In one swift move the DOCTORS seize their moment, swoop in, grab BABY, and walk quickly down hall toward the double doors of surgical wing.

CUT TO: MOMMY and DADDY – left standing in hallway with empty hands and obviously deflated spirits.

CAMERA pulls back from couple and continues down hallway away from MOMMY and DADDY (from POV of BABY as if BABY was looking back at her parents and seeing them fade away).

Emphasize smallness of two parents standing lonely in a large, colorless hallway.

VOICE-OVER/MOMMY (whisper)
Ouch.

FADE TO BLACK

 

©2016 Betts Keating. All rights reserved.

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Motherhood on Balance Summit

So excited to announce that I will be part of the 8-Day Motherhood on Balance Summit with Mara Watts and these lovely ladies. My interview will be Wednesday, May 3rd at 9am. See more info below.

Motherhood on Balance ALL

I have joined Mara Watts in The 8-Day Motherhood on Balance Summit – a FREE 8-day summit filled with interviews, tips and advice on how mothers live a life on purpose while striving towards balance.  This summit was created to help mothers overcome the stress and anxieties with trying to live a balanced lifestyle.  The interviews are both enriching and raw with mothers and women opening up and sharing their stories.

Join us here ~ http://bit.ly/2naspmC

Raising a Heart Warrior in the “Normal”

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This week is CHD Awareness Week. A week that rides on the coattails of Heart Month, Heart Awareness Month, Wear Red Week, CHD Awareness Month and many other names for February. February has become the month for everything heart related, for obvious reasons. Thinking about this compelled me to write something in honor of our own heart warrior, our youngest daughter. But, what could I say exactly? When I spoke to my husband about it, we both agreed. Sometimes it’s the aftermath that sticks with us. Sometimes the residual, the left-overs, the stuff around the edges, is the part we still struggle with.

Like when this happened…

We were at a swim meet, which is not unusual. We had been to many meets before, more than I want to count. It can be challenging to keep a positive attitude while sweating out of every pore of your body. You have to learn how to sit next to water but not actually participate by getting in the water. It can do funny things to your brain. Just ask any swim parent.

In the past, I would chase down my kids and let’s be honest… hover… to make sure they were actually in the right place at the right time so they could achieve the glory of swimming in a 30 second race. Lately, they have both grown old enough to keep track of their own events.  My daughters had earned the right of responsibility and I had been lulled into a new sense of freedom. I let them go and do their thing, while I was suddenly free to do other things, like volunteer to help organize the new timing system. It’s because I was volunteering that I was watching the meet so closely. It’s because I was volunteering that I ended up looking up at the blocks… and then down at my heat sheet… and then up at the blocks… and then down to my heat sheet… and then…  With a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, I realized that what I saw written on the page did not match the swimmers lined up for the race. One swimmer was missing. My youngest daughter was missing.

The anxiety washed over me like a waterfall. I was paralyzed.

I had just seen her. It had been a mere matter of seconds since she told me how much she was excited about getting to swim in this race. It was totally unlike her to forget. She’s usually that swimmer who lines up at the blocks early. She’s usually anxiously awaiting her turn. So, where was she?

As the panic began to rise, the bile in my throat made me feel like I was going to puke. I couldn’t seem to suck in a full breath. Relax. Breathe. I told myself.  Run through the possible scenarios.

If she had left the pool area she would have told me. She doesn’t wander and she’s not the kind of kid who would run away. Okay, move on.

If she had been taken, someone would have seen it happen. She was with her friends. They would have said something. Okay, move on.

If she had gotten sick, someone would have noticed. Again, she was with her friends. They would have found me and told me. Okay, move on.

So, where? Where was she???

After what seemed like forever, finally, I saw her. She was at the other end of the pool, by the concession stand. She was with her friends. Laughing. Having fun. She had no idea what had happened. She had simply gotten distracted.

Okay. Deep breath. It’s going to be okay.

Except that it wasn’t okay. Not really. It’s never, ever completely okay.

That little girl is more than my daughter, more than my genetic reproduction. She’s my medical miracle. My heart warrior.

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Everyday that she wakes up and says good morning is one more day marked in the “I can’t believe she has made it this far” book. Every moment she drives me crazy is another moment that I almost wasn’t given. Every question she asks over and over, every time she rolls her eyes, and every time she gets sassy, is another moment I was never promised. Every hug, every kiss, every tear is a second chance to love the baby that almost wasn’t.  I could lose my mind if I think about it all. I could lose my mind trying not to think about it all. It makes life here in the “normal” difficult to process.

As a family, we’ve fought the war of survival. We’ve battled the anxiety and fear. We’ve earned our scars. On most days, we’ve already won. We chose to fight rather than give up. In that, we’ve already received our trophy. We’ve already been accepted into the club.

It can be invigorating. It can be exhausting.

Somewhere inside of all that invigorating exhaustion, is exactly where I discovered that missing one race is not the same as missing her life.

She had missed the race, yes, but she was having fun. She had missed a race, yes, but she was also, finally, confident enough to explore on her own… without clinging to me. She had missed the race, yes, but she was happy, secure, and surrounded by friends. Who wouldn’t want that?

Sure, she made a mistake. She had even let the team down, but I didn’t need to scold her. Once she realized what had happened, she felt terrible. There was nothing I could say to her that she wasn’t already saying to herself. She’s the kind of kid who probably won’t ever do it again. At least, not if she can help it.

Guess what? Kids make mistakes. Kids get distracted. Even medical miracles. In my anguish of fear and anxiety, I had forgotten to consider, maybe she had just screwed up. Maybe, she had just acted like an eleven-year-old. Maybe, she was being “normal.” The crowd was so big, the meet was so chaotic, and my panic was so distracting that it kept me from seeing what was completely obvious. She was just a kid being a kid.

No matter what our particular situations may be, I think as moms we can all agree that anxiety and fear come with the territory. I think we all agree that our children are never far from our minds or our hearts. It’s more than a knee-jerk response. It’s like smelly left-overs from a meal you didn’t want in the first place. Something like garlic asparagus or kimchi. It’s the kind of gift that keeps on giving. But, just because my panic is justified, earned even, it doesn’t make it healthy.

That day at the pool, it only took two minutes to find her. Only two minutes had passed between the panic and the relief. Two minutes that of course took another two months off my life. That’s the price I pay for being her mother. It’s also a small price to pay.

The weight of her illness at times surrounds me, engulfs me, and brings me to my knees.  Occasionally, especially once I have recovered from my mommy induced panic, I can see that’s not necessarily a bad place to be. From down low, the best thing I can do for myself and for my heart warrior, is look up.

©2017 Betts Keating. All rights reserved.
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Read more of Betts Keating’s story in her memoir, My Movie Memoir Screenplay Novel, available for purchase at amazon.com.

Click the FOLLOW button to follow this blog.

Quotes

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©2016 Betts Keating. All rights reserved.

_____________________________________________________________

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Read more of Betts Keating’s story in her memoir, My Movie Memoir Screenplay Novel, available for purchase at amazon.com.

 

Click the FOLLOW button to follow this blog.