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In The End

It seems often my mind will wander back over the years at the times or the things that I should’ve or could’ve done differently.  It starts simply enough, any little thing will trigger the memories.  This day, it started with the movie A Star Is Born.  I have already given enough testament to how great I think this movie is, but the end of the movie is what doesn’t leave you.  I don’t want to ruin it for those that haven’t seen it so I am not going to enlighten any further on it, but it is enough to say that it moved me enough to think back over my life, and to the path I have chosen, or maybe the path that was chosen for me.  Fate is a funny thing.  I do believe in fate.  I think the question I wonder most about fate is, does it choose you, or do you choose it?

I will say that as my mind starts to wander back through the years, there are so many things that I would like to have done differently.  My mistakes would be novel worthy.  I have hurt my share of people.  That is the dark side of my fate but there is the light side, the one where I look back and know that if I had changed even one thing, it may not have lead me to where I am today.  I like where I am today, even though my road to now was filled with potholes.

I think back to when I was young.  I know that I did some things right, like care for my family and look after my siblings.  I will be honest though and say that at times, I despised that responsibility.  Gone were the simple cares of a young child or an adolescent girl.  They were often replaced with the realities of too little money, parents that could never find a common ground, and a home life that was often filled with strife.  Those things caused me to make not the greatest of choices at times, and honestly it probably haunted me into my adult life.  As I look back now, I realize that my mind has always had two different Carla’s.  The side where I seemed strong enough to handle most anything, and the other side where I was vulnerable, anxious and angry.  That Carla still exists today.  I also realize now that I am older that by accepting the weaker side, and the side of me that hasn’t always made the best choices, that it makes me a stronger person today.  Why it takes one’s whole life to see these things is the question.  I guess that is why they say that with age comes wisdom.  It is probably more true to say that the experiences of a life filled with tribulations and regret fills us with that wisdom.

There is one part of my life that I look back on and although I wish more than anything that I could erase it, I realize it is part of my past, and it is part of who I am.  It is events like the one that I wil share with you that leave us vulnerable. What will people think, right? This is also something I have rarely shared, and talked about even less. In fact, thinking about it I am unsure who even knows about it? Maybe a few of my high school friends. Some of my siblings may remember it. I am unsure Bruce even knows about it? I have never shared it with my boys, although through the years I would inquire about their mental happiness. I would tell them again and again how much life is worth every second, and that even though at times life may seem overwhelming, it always works out, in the end.

My story begins long ago, I was young, just 16 and at the time there probably wasn’t a whole lot going right and yet, looking back it probably could’ve been much worse.  To get into all the specifics is pointless, it is enough to say that at a certain moment I felt hopeless enough to take an entire (huge) bottle of aspirin (of course alcohol played a part in that decision).  To this day, I cannot even think about taking another aspirin. It makes me want to throw up just thinking about it.  There were a lot of things that played into this (bad) decision.  Looking back, I can’t even remember the specifics of that night.  I was at my friends house, and thankfully she called for help.  I remember being in the emergency room, and them giving me a liquid to make me throw up.  Then honestly, the next thing I remember is waking up in a completely foreign environment.  What I remember the most was opening my eyes to see my dad standing over me, tears sneaking out of the corners of his eyes.  My mother stood just behind him, and for all our problems, she looked relieved and was tearful as well.  I laid there wondering what was going on and bit by bit, it started to come back to me.

Fast forward again, to a day or so later, I found myself sitting in a room with a psychiatrist and my parents.  I would learn that I had done a pretty good job of harming myself.  The emergency room staff in Marshall had done enough to keep me stable until they could get me to Sioux Falls, where they placed me in an induced coma for a couple of days.  They needed time to right the damage that I had done to my body.  That is why although it sounds like stuff from movies, waking at the perfect moment to see my parents standing over me as I woke as they were crying, was more the fact that the ICU staff woke me with my parents at my side.  As we sat in the room, I sat on the window ledge looking out.  More than anything just wanting to erase the last few days and to go back and pretend that it never happened.  I was embarrassed, and mostly I was angry at myself for hurting my parents, especially my dad.

The psychiatrist would ask questions, and essentially I didn’t say anything.  I just sat there looking out.  What do I even say?  Mom spoke the most, wanting to blame the “episode” on my brother that had recently died and the fact that I had also had a bad breakup with my boyfriend at the time.  Probably truth in all of that.  Still I said nothing.  Finally, the psychiatrist asked my parents to step out realizing on some level that I would never talk with them in the room.  The psychiatrist had read between the lines enough to know that my mom and I had a tough relationship.  I had been estranged from home, mom and I had had a falling out and I had been staying with friends for that entire summer.  He asked if there was substance abuse at home, I simply looked at him neither affirming his question, and yet not denying it.  He inquired further, but like so many times before when social services had been involved in our home life, I shut him down quickly.  More than anything, I was always frightened that if they knew the truth, they would take my younger siblings away, and so us older children kept our mouths shut.  I said little else, but I said enough that he was reassured that I was not a future threat to myself.

They let me leave with my parents and I will never forget my dad, just how much he wanted to make things right and to make me happy.  He took me up to see the helicopter, I didn’t really want to, I was embarrassed still and just wanted to go home.  He insisted.  We did and yes, it was cool to see the helicopter, and I smiled and pretended to care more than I actually did.  We went out to eat after that, again I didn’t really want to, and I know dad probably didn’t have the extra money but again, he was trying so hard.

Once home, he doted on me for the rest of that day.  My poor dad, to this day looking back I know that I had to have broke his heart and devastated him further, and so soon after we had lost Daren.  More than anything I wished that I could erase the entire episode.  One moment upon returning home stands out above all the rest though.  My little sister Dawn, 7 years younger than me, so she was just 9, found me in my room.  With tears in her eyes, she came to hug me, tentatively at first, but once her arms were around my waist, she simply asked me this.

Dawn:  Why did you try to leave us?

My chest tightened.  What had I done?  I could hear Roxy out in the hall, lingering just beyond where I could see her.  I wondered how much of this was her wanting to say this, and instead sending in our little Dawn, ever the tender one.  I stood there with no answer, other than to hug her back tightly, and reassure her in the best way that I could that I would never leave her again.

For mom and I, it was okay for a day or two but quickly we settled into our normal routine, which was rarely positive.  No matter the stressors at home though, I realized that I was thankful that I truly didn’t forever harm myself and more importantly, I learned a life lesson in one of the hardest of ways.

All of these memories were triggered after watching A Star Is Born.  The ending of the movie doesn’t leave you.  I also think that for some, the ending is not understood and possibly for many, the entire movie may be misunderstood.  If you move aside from the basic idea of the movie, which is truly a love story where two people refuse to give up on one another, there is a deeper thought.

That thought, and Bradley Coopers message with this movie was unmistakable.   It is a simple notion and yet so profound, and that is the idea that life is messy.  It is chaotic.  Rarely is it story book perfect, and most often everyone will know a challenge, and/or a heartache at some point(s) in their life.  We make choices based off all of that.  At times those choices are good, and sometimes they are bad. At times we can move on from them, and at other times we cannot.  Sometimes our demons are bigger than us, and in the end they win.  Almost always our choices are life altering, fate driven and poignant.  Every time, our choices impact someone, and most often they are the people we love the most.

Looking back over my life, I realize that by erasing me, obviously so many things would have been different. What would it have meant for our family, another tragedy? Would they have survived when we barely survived Daren? Don’t get me wrong, that is not being boastful. It is simply the truth. These things always impact those around us, and those we leave behind. Mostly the thought I settle on most is that I will have erased my boys. That thought gives me chills. Can you imagine? They are the greatest of men to me, each with so many great qualities and amazing gifts to share with those around them.

So back to my wandering mind and more importantly back to my point, which is life is always worth the ride.  Always. At times, the road we travel down is filled with those potholes I alluded to earlier but always, it is worth the bumpy journey.  In the end, life is ironic.  It often takes sadness to know happiness.  It takes pain to know joy.  It takes noise to appreciate silence.  And it takes absence to understand the value of presence.  And most importantly, it takes accepting the dark, to truly appreciate the light around you.

Life is a gift. It is a blessing. We only get one chance at it. We can’t get to the end and say, “nah, let’s have a do-over”. It’s go time and every day is worth the challenge and the tribulation.

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