Monday, June 8, 2009

That way madness lies.

(With respects to Wm. Shkspr)

I've been running around and around in circles lately, not taking much time for reflection, or writing, or even a scarce breath, and I can feel the downward spiral begin, back off, and then begin again its inexorable turn. This post has been brewing for a while, and it has nothing to do with any sort of needlecraft or hobby or anything fun.

This happens to me periodically, although not as frequently in the past months. I think the last time was actually a freak-out leading up to going back to work after mat leave, about 6 weeks before I was due to report to the lab. That one was easily explained by hormones and lack of sleep, but this one has been a bit more difficult to pin down.

I've been dealing with work, of course, but that stress is pretty much self-inflicted. I try to do too much, I imagine horrible things, and I beat myself up for experiments that didn't work, but likely had no business working anyway.

There's a part of the work-stress that's not under my control, and that's my contract extensions, and it looks like the economy may finally hit close to home with us. We're privately funded, and have been able to get contract extensions based on our progress and potential quite nicely since I started. The original project was only supposed to take 9 months, but of course those types of estimates are rarely accurate, and we kept on working long past that. Unfortunately for me, this last extension was only for three months, and I may be out of work this fall. The problem is that it's so uncertain, I have no idea whether to look for another position, or hope we can extend past our existing contract.

We can afford for me not to work. We essentially live on one salary, and can continue to do that if I stay home provided we pull the baby out of daycare (and go back to the bottom of the waiting list). I think I can afford to keep him *in* for a couple of months, while I look for another job, but not much more than two or three. Of course, all this is outside my control at this point, and I'm keeping my eyes out for another position that can tide us over until Hubby finishes and we can move back home. So, that aspect of life, while scary, is completely expected, and we have lots of ways to deal with it.

We're also dealing with the M-I-L, but that's nothing new. She's extremely high maintenance, and totally not grounded in reality, and we're eventually going to have to send Hubby up to get her to stay in one place (rather than change apartments every 6 weeks; long story, trust me you don't want to hear it). Right now, she's been stable in the same place for almost three weeks, and seems pretty happy, so we're running with it. I know it's temporary, and the most we'll get out of this place is a few months until the weather starts to change again, so I'm waiting until the end of the summer to start actively worrying about that. And, she's healthy and safe, and has people checking in on her, so it's really not so terrible.

There is one thing I'm not directly dealing with in my day-to-day life, but it never leaves my mind for more than a few hours - my grandmother. Her Alzheimers is getting worse and worse, and my parents are doing their best to make life as normal as possible for everyone involved, but it's so hard. She's at the stage now where she can't make new memories, and she's having a hard time keeping things current for more than a few minutes. Mom will bring her over dinner, put it in the fridge for later, and call before bed, only to find Grammie had forgotten that there even was food in the fridge. She also believes her parents are still alive, and waiting down in the country at her childhood home (which was torn down almost 20 years ago). She keeps saying she needs to go and visit "Mumma and Daddy", and it's so classic that it just kills me. Alzheimers patients often regress like this, and eventually they get to a stage where it does more harm than good to remind them of the truth. My mom used to gently remind her that she's almost 90 years old, and ask her to think where her parents really might be, then she would feel stupid and angry at herself for forgetting. Now, if she gets reminded, or remembers on her own, she gets upset and can't believe that her parents are gone, and have been gone for 40 years. Each day she sets aside her best clothes, because she believes they'll "fit Mumma better" and she'll "bring them down to the country for Mumma when we go visit".

I hate rambling on about this, but I'm pretty sure it's the main contributor to my latest feeling of disconnect, of standing outside my own life in everything except my relationship with N. (who is the best, smartest toddler and saves my life every day), and my darling Hubby. I talk to Grammie on the phone every week, and she sometimes remembers me, sometimes remembers N.'s name, but even when she does, I can tell she only barely remembers. She forgot a few weeks ago that she had a granddaughter, until she was reminded of my name. This disease is so horrible, to have to watch a person disappear while she is still right in front of you, physically very healthy, but mentally absent.

I have so many facets that make up "me". I'm a mother, I'm a wife, I'm a daughter, a sister twice over (my relationships with each of my brothers are very distinct, and are both so important in their own ways), I'm a sister-in-law, a daughter-in-law, a cousin and niece, a scientist, a knitter, a best friend. And, I'm a granddaughter. Some of these facets are recent, nearly brand new; some are years old. I've been some of these things since I was born, and some only a couple of years.

Some of these facets are mine alone, and some are totally dependent on other people. I'm a knitter because I chose to embrace that part of my personality; I'm a scientist because I'm good at it. N. makes me a mom, and he lets me be make mistakes as I try to be the best mom I can be. Hubby makes me a wife, and I'm so lucky to have him. And so on.

I'm a granddaughter for my grandmother, but I don't know how to be a granddaughter as she disappears. I feel like I have to remember *for* her, but I can't do it for her, and the more we remind her, the harder she takes it. I also can't remember from her point of view, so I just remember from mine - the Christmases, the birthdays, the Sunday dinners; the baking lessons and sewing lessons, playing cards for pennies at her kitchen table.

I'm trying to keep a sense of myself as this goes on, and it's so hard. The thing that hurts is that as she disappears, I feel like I'm disappearing too, and it's so scary. I have her name, and a huge part of my story is tied up with hers, written over 30 years, and the ink is fading, and the paper is crumbling.

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