Oh yes, right here. At The Nickel.
How could I forget? I mean, it's only been, what, 11 days? On the other hand, 11 days can be an eternity.
So much has happened in those 11 days. The sun has increased its volume by 35 percent. (Don't look it up, just take my word for it. You know you can trust me.) The grass in our yard has risen to ABOVE-KNEE HEIGHT. (And we live in a town where virtually EVERYONE has fancy landscapers taking care of their emerald plots. Embarrassing.) Every morning when I take the Hellacious One out for his walk I say, "Welcome to the jungle."
All kinds of things are waxing around here, and a lot of them are good things, for once. Except for the grass, and the weeds, and the weed trees on our property (the latter of which drop all kinds of disgusting, wet vegetative matter on our cars all spring, so we're driving around looking like the Beverly Hillbillies of Eastern Massachusetts, but before they found that oil well in their yard and got stinking rich. I've got the junker car and the house with peeling paint but none of the benefits of a supply of "black gold" on the property.
Anyway, the waxing of good things. Well, there's Benjy. He's been back in the hospital for about three weeks after severe suicidal longings, a desire to stab himself -- or for me to do it for him -- greater and more intense than I had ever heard . His stay in the acute inpatient unit went pretty well, but we had no indication he wouldn't end up right back in the revolving door to the hospital. And that was getting pretty tired. For everyone.
Then our insurance did us a favor, only at the time we didn't know it and we were pretty angry. They kicked him off Unit One onto a lower level of care -- the CBAT unit. (CBAT=community-based acute treatment.) It's in a different part of the hospital. It is a different beast. Still inpatient, but not a locked ward. Very, very structured -- more so, I believe, than Unit One. Every day Benjy has group therapy sessions and school and lots of outdoor activities (he has organized a regular ultimate Frisbee game there. He has taught the other kids how to play it. He turns out to be something of a mover and a shaker, at least within the confines of CBAT. We never knew he had that in him).
He is thriving on the structure there. He is rising to the challenge of participation in all aspects of his current life: groups, school, eating the bad food without complaint and without hassling me to bring him outside food (and baby, that food is BAAAAD). He has tripled the amount of time he is able to tolerate participating in school before needing a break. (Ten minutes to thirty, if you must know.)
And here is the BEST thing of all. The BEST SUNSHINY BEAUTIFUL HEART-STOPPING GOLDEN THING OF ALL: he has friends. A community. And we have realized for the first time how isolation, how not belonging to any kind of community outside your own family, can crush a person's soul. Make depression and anxiety ten times worse.
So, let me spell it out for you: 24/7 structure and clinical supports + a built-in community of peers who really are peers and are there for him ALL THE TIME=happy and functional Benjy.
That gives us data we can work with. Finally. And we are working with it. With a wonderful team consisting of school administrators (some pretty spectacular ones in our town, I must say), clinicians and social workers, and a very special friend, we have moved a mountain and done it so easily I have to pinch myself every so often to make sure I am awake.
Lars and I spoke with urgency, passion and love about our boy and his needs to people -- one person in particular -- who could make things happen, and things are happening, For real and true. That's all it took -- passion and love and a clear idea of what was needed. And a person on the receiving end who cares about our child and our family -- all of the children and families he serves, I am quite sure -- and who accepted without question his ethical (and very costly) mandate.
I can't say more now. I will as soon as I can. But for the first time in a really long time -- at least two years -- I have hope for my boy. That feeling of hope waxing in my breast is so wonderful I could scream (but I won't because Lars is snoring away upstairs and I wouldn't want to disturb his beauty rest).
Other waxings: somehow, in spite of my own sometimes vexing symptoms and Benjy's implosion and that leaf-meal-encrusted junker that makes small blond children turn and stare as if I am some sort of freak, and my car is an even bigger one because it is leaf-encrusted AND not a German luxury car)*** I am writing like a demon (a good kind of demon. I'm sure that kind exists). And for me, that kind of productivity looks like four pages in three days. Three good days. But it is happening, and it's coming out in good shape.
I just "sold" (for the currency of tons of exposure and a nice feather in my cap) a personal essay on stress to the Huffington Post, for their series on...stress! I'll link to it here and on my website when it comes out in a couple of weeks. That was one of those four pages in three days kind of essays.
I most likely sold (for the currency of a small handful of greenbacks) a different essay to a glossy magazine. (That one has been out there looking for a home for about a year -- and if they accept it, it may be another year before I am paid. Publishing is slooow, even if you have the good fortune to be able to work quickly.) The editor who would like to buy it is awaiting an A-Ok from the Grand Poobah of Glossy Magazine Publishing.
And then I will take Lars out to dinner with the proceeds.
I was also invited by the editor of one of the most prestigious literary journals in the country to please submit some more creative non-fiction, pronto, because he was very enthusiastic about the last one I submitted although he was not going to publish it. (Win some, lose some.) This is one of those "50 bucks and two free copies" kind of venues. At the rate I am going I'll earn a couple of dinners out a year, if I am lucky, but it's gratifying.
Oh, and I have one more little piece, also written over a long stretch of weeks, in the hands of an editor at The Paper of Record. Hoping to hear back on that one soon. Again, payment in exposure (as far as I know). And probably a long shot.
On the downside, stress is waxing larger than ever for all of us around here but I hope and believe it will subside soon.
But we are laughing, too, and having a little fun. Our Saskia has been whisked away by friends for a weekend in NH. Lars and I are thinking of fun things to do with Benjy on his home passes this long weekend, while tackling, finally, the grass jungle.
Shit happens, and less frequently (for us, anyway), lovely things happen.
So there it is.
***I do, however, have a German Luxury Husband, whom I've only seen leaf-encrusted once, when he decided to get up on the roof and clean out the gutters during a prodigious rainfall. So there, smug blond children. There.