Alway Change My Mind

One summer, many years ago, I was brought to my knees by a terrible depression; a phantom that came in through the window. 

It swooped in, dark and heavy, and would not leave. 

Until I surrendered.

I was living with my daughter, Jesse, in a little farmhouse in town. Her father had died the summer before, tragically and much too young, due to complications from alcoholism; the fall-out from his life and death didn’t really hit me until a year later. 

And still the after-shocks.

I made it through the school year, then I crumbled. Food shopping was a huge effort. When the phone rang, I’d flinch. 

In August, Mom came to visit and help with Jesse’s birthday party. It’s all a blur, paper cups, burgers on the grill, girls. I couldn’t stand the smell of food. I remember the day Mom was leaving. I watched her putting her bag in the car. I felt frozen inside, not able to speak, but then I said, “I need you to stay a bit longer, Mom. I’m afraid to be alone right now.” She stayed. 

I was very concerned about not being able to go back to my teaching job. I had lost a lot of weight, was weak, and tired. How could I possibly handle a room full of second graders, faculty meetings, the principal. 

I was always afraid.

I remember being with a friend. We were walking slowly around my neighborhood. I walked very slowly that summer, turtle-slow.

“I’m not sure what to do. I don’t know if I can go back to school. What if I can’t handle it?” I said.

“You don’t need to worry about that right now. School doesn’t start for three weeks. Right now, let’s walk. And when you have to make a decision about school, you will. Remember this, you can always change your mind. Always.”

This memory bubbled up on my morning walk with Chewy. Not in a sad way, no. More a noticing that the honest and kind things we do for one another ripple on for years, washing over us in a fresh way.

That long ago summer, I died to my old self, and rose, out of the ashes to a new one. I returned to my classroom and got stronger as the fall turned to red and gold. It took a couple of years to come back fully from that experience and there are times I fear the phantom’s return. It’s less likely to get its claws in me as long as I speak up, ask for help, and know I can always change my mind.

Go ahead, say it out loud. 

I can always change my mind.

6 thoughts on “Alway Change My Mind

  1. I can always change my mind.
    Bets, thank you for reminding of the power of our thoughts. Why trap myself in myself…I can always change…just what I needed to hear this week. And let me reflect something back to you, "the honest and kind things we do for one another ripple on for years, washing over us in a fresh way." What an amazing amazing amazing line..and Bets, for me, your blog is an honest and kind act of loving and sharing, rooting me in community and my feelings and more than anything, myself, thank you for being a very special ripple in MY life!

  2. I love this one, too. Powerful striking words. I had such a hard day at school today, and your slant, your memories, have helped me to shift towards what's important. Thank you Betsy!

  3. I'm so sorry that you suffered so much during that time. Thank you for sharing this experience, I don't know what to say, except that I too am moved by your phrasing "the honest and kind things we do…." . Be well, Betsy.

  4. Hey, you angels!!!! So happy to hear from you and glad that this piece struck a chord. Some days these "things" show up, seemingly out of the blue, but actually right on time.

    I love that.

    And you.

    xo b

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