Excerpts from The Vault: I’m Still Here
One morning as I drive to work I catch my reflection in the rearview mirror; a face stares back at me but I don’t recognize me, the light behind her skin has burnt her to coals. Could I have changed so much in just a few months? Will I look like myself again when this is over? And if this is never over whom will I look like? Author, Glennon Doyle, calls this kind of change—the change that occurs when you sit inside your own pain—revolutionary: “[w]hen you let yourself die, there is suddenly one day: New Life. You are Different. New. And no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot fit into your old life anymore.”
This is true; I don’t fit. I have put myself back together completely differently.
And yet I’m still here. My nineteen year-old court appointed client is “The Block Monster.” He murdered a mother in front of her three sons while she read to them Maurice Sendak’s book, “Where the Wild Things Are.” The story of a little boy whose mother sends him to bed without dinner is really about a child’s rage, his reaction to his mother’s emotional absence and the darker, neglected parts of a child’s psyche. The Block Monster’s mother asks for her son’s forgiveness, “for being his mother, for not knowing his dark thoughts.” For not accepting that a mother may never know her own child, that her child may be unknowable to her, may not want to be known and may ultimately be the stranger she fears.
“I’m still here,” she writes the judge a letter. “Still just figuring out how to do this….”
“This” is ambiguous. Grief is ambiguous. People ask, are you “Okay?” The alternative is scary, different and primal. It’s Not Okay to be “Not Okay.” The Block Monster took a mother from her sons (they are not Okay); his mother lost him (she is not Okay). I lost mine (I am not Okay). But I’m still here…. Still figuring out how to do this…
“Forgive me,” the Block Monster’s mother writes. “I am not myself anymore. I just lost my son.”
Like me, she is falling awake.