Living in a ghost town (Part 2)

Miss my daughter

So it’s taken me a while to get to this post.  Not because I haven’t had time.  I have.  Not because I don’t know what to say.  I do.  It’s because this subject brings up so much emotion, I have to be in just the right frame of mind to write about it.  I think I am there now.  We’ll see how it goes.

I have written before about my daughter and the relationship that we don’t have.  If you missed it, you can read it here.  So I won’t bore you with the details of why we don’t see one another.  Suffice it to say, it is the biggest price I paid for being a drunk.

In my previous post, I talked about living in a town where I have to deal with the ghosts of my past – the negative ones.  This part of living in a ghost town is different.  It’s more about living with the ghosts of good memories, but knowing that, at least for the time being, I won’t be able to make more of those types of memories.  It’s the joy of being reminded of all of the good, happy times that I had with her, but in the same instant feeling the painful loss.  It’s the definition of bittersweet.

When I am driving around Tucson, I am constantly bombarded with memories.  I often have to drive by her old school, and I think about the day we went to register her there.  I remember the parent-teacher conferences, the beautiful email I received about her from her Spanish teacher, the fun I always had chaperoning field trips.  I am not exaggerating or romanticizing when I say that we had a wonderful relationship.  We liked each other.  We had fun together.

I still live in the same apartment that I lived in with my daughter.  When we first moved in, she went around marking her territory with white chalk.  Her first initial was on everything…the patio furniture, the plant pots, light fixtures, and stuff in her bedroom.  It was only recently, when my husband realized how much I looked at those things and felt sad, that he got rid of them.  There’s still a little bit of her writing on the back of the bathroom door though, and I kind of like it there.  All other traces are pretty much gone, done so at my request, because I just couldn’t stay where I was emotionally when I saw them.  It was way too heartbreaking.

Who am I kidding though?

Whether or not there is something physical there to remind me that I lost her, I think about her all the time.  I miss her all the time.  I love her all the time.

It’s not only the ghosts of the past that haunt me now, it’s the ghosts of the present too.  I am at the point now, having not seen her in over two years, that I look for her wherever I go.  When I see a girl that is about her age, and there is any similarity to what she looks like, my heart beats a little faster, my throat starts to tighten, and I feel kind of panicky.  Then I see that it’s not her and I there is both sadness and relief.  Sadness that it’s not her, and relief that it’s not her.  What would I say to her at this point?  I don’t know the right words.  Maybe there aren’t any.

Ugh.  This post is harder than I even thought it would be.  Is there any other pain that is worse than being separated from your own child?  Not just physically separated, but emotionally as well?  I don’t think so.  I’ve suffered a lot of pain, and this is by far the worst.  There are times that it is utterly unbearable.  My heart aches.  This isn’t how things were supposed to turn out.

I keep a box in my closet that has photos and little things that she made for me over the years.  On her 16th birthday, I wrote 16 little notes to her, wishes that I have for her.  I will do it again, each birthday.  I hope that someday she will read them.

Living in a ghost town (Part 1)

I’ve lived in Tucson for 34 out of my almost 42 years, and I’ve liked it for most of that time.  My blood is used to the hot, dry summers and I love that I can wear flip-flops all winter.  I like that Tucson is spread out and kind of flat, with mountains surrounding the city on all sides.  It’s a short drive to Mt. Lemmon for hiking and camping, where you can have a reprieve from the hot, summer weather.  And, even though I don’t notice it all the time, like the pictures on the wall at work that I walk by everyday but don’t see, the Arizona desert is truly beautiful.  I think that we have the most colorful, vibrant sunsets of anywhere in the world.  Oh, and when it rains here, the smell of the wet creosote and the clean air…it’s like nothing else.

It doesn't look like much, but it smells like rain.

It doesn’t look like much, but it smells like rain.

I like that Tucson is a relatively large city, right around a million people, but it doesn’t feel like a big city.  Everything is casual here, there’s not much call for dressing up, jeans are acceptable pretty much everywhere you go.  Overall, it’s not a bad place to live.

So why am I telling you all of this?  No, I’m not trying to sell you a time-share in Tucson.  I’m just trying to paint a picture of how I used to see the place I consider my hometown.  Here’s the problem, it’s hard for me to see it that way anymore.  For me, living here, has become like living in a ghost town.

My family moved to Tucson the summer before I started 3rd grade.  So pretty much every clear memory I have took place while we have lived here.  Over the years, I have lived in various places around town.  I grew up in central Tucson, lived on the southwest side, the far west, the southeast.  I’ve worked pretty much all over Tucson.  So there really isn’t a part of this city that I don’t know, or with which I don’t have some memory.

The problem with that is, a lot of the memories that I have are not good ones.  Every bad thing that has happened to me, or that was caused by me, happened within a ten-mile radius of where I live.  I am reminded every day of the ghosts of my past as I soon as I walk out my door.  They are always lurking, waiting for me.  And if I don’t deal with them in a healthy, mindful way, they can quickly have me circling the drain.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I took a drive around town.  The drive could have been called ‘The History of Jami Tour.’  We drove by every place I’ve lived, every place I’ve worked, every school I’ve gone to, every place that had some significance to my life.  And we talked about all of the things that happened at each location.  It was not a short trip, and it was not without tears.  The points of interest along the way included: the family home that my parents forced me out of when I was 16, the houses I lived in when my abusive ex-husband was at his most violent, the duplex where I was raped, the first place my daughter and I lived after I got away from her dad (where my alcoholic drinking really took off), the spot where I got pulled over for a DUI, the bars I used to frequent, I could go on…

It’s hard for me to see those places and not feel the pangs of shame and remorse that came along with them.  At times, just seeing them can make me feel like I’m reliving the bad things all over again.  I know that’s not the case, that I don’t have to live like that anymore.  Most of the things that I listed above have been addressed in therapy. They can be put on the ‘dealt with’ list.  I’ve moved into a place of acceptance and forgiveness about them.  But that being said, the reminders still aren’t easy to feel.  When those ghosts show up, I have to remind myself that they are nothing but ghosts.  They are a part of my past, but not a part of my present.

But even though they’re in my past, they still have a powerful effect on my present.  It’s hard to leave the past in the past, especially when I live in a town full of poltergeists.

One of the hardest things I have to deal with every day is the absence of my daughter from my life.  I wrote a post about her a while back, and part 2 of ‘living in a ghost town’ will be dedicated to my feelings about living in the same place that she does, but feeling like she’s just a ghost.  I have to gear up for it emotionally, but it’s coming soon.  It’s been percolating for a while now.

In part 3 (it will be the last part, I promise) of this post, I want to talk about how all of this affects my recovery, what I am doing to try to deal with it in a healthy way, and how I am not going to let my past dictate my future.

the past