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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Retiring My Wonder Woman Status

I have always been strong. Often it got me into trouble.

Age six: I live in Ogden, UT. We have a very large tree in our front yard, with a thick branch extending straight out from the middle. My father, because safety has never really been something he thinks about regularly (yes, it's a miracle I'm still alive), rigs a long rope with a 10-inch dowel attached at the bottom (so we could sit or hang from it) from a much higher branch, and we stand on the lateral branch and leap off.

I loved the swing. I don't believe I ever sat on it, but I learned all sorts of rope tricks during gym time at school. I could climb the rope and ring the bell. I could straighten my body upwards while hanging upside-down, I could wrap the rope several times around my thigh and hang from the rope, no-handed, upside-down (no, this was not sanctioned by the gym teacher). And the beautiful thing was that those last two tricks translated well on our homemade swing. There was nothing more amazing than hanging upside-down and swinging.

My older sister wasn't as flexible or daring as I was, but she could climb. So one day she climbed the tree as high as she felt safe--then dared me to climb higher. So I did (one does not think these things through at six years of age). And I got really, really high. It was amazing. And then I tried to climb down. Turns out up is easier than down.

I couldn't do it. My mother tried to have my older sister climb up and show me where the footholds were to get down. She couldn't quite get high enough, and every time she would get close, I would scream at her to get away. Yeah, I'm cooperative. My mom said I'd have to stay up there forever. I pondered. At the moment, it didn't seem a bad plan. I was comfortable. There was a fork in the branches where I could straddle the branches and sleep (nope, didn't think about falling out while I was asleep--remember--six years old). My mom said they'd have to tie my meals to the swing and toss them up to me. I thought that was the coolest thing I'd ever heard.

My mom gave up and called the fire department. In a minute or two, a hook-and-ladder truck was in front of my house and a fireman was helping me out of the tree. Once I was off the branch, I was ready to see how fast I could go down the ladder and I was very put out at the fireman who insisted on descending before me and showing me how to put my feet carefully on the next rung. I said, "I know how to go down a ladder." He said, "I'm sure you do. Now, carefully lower your foot to the next rung and don't move your hands until both feet are on the same rung." It took forever.

So one could analyze this story and say I was reckless--but I was six. I'm cutting myself some slack. However, that same driven, recklessness has been a part of who I am for all my life. And the physical strength I enjoyed as a six-year-old, has been present, as well. I'm small but compact. I spent a good part of my life hauling hay, driving tractors, feeding livestock, moving hand irrigation, fixing fence, and doing whatever heavy, dirty job needed to be done.

I've also dealt with some pretty hefty emotional crap, and I think, given my age and the circumstances, I was fairly strong then, too.

My kids have always jokingly referred to me as "Wonder Woman". I've always assumed it was because I spend my day in a glittery bustier/blue underwear combo, complete with awesome high-heeled boots, but they say it's because I've always been able to do whatever I wanted, physically, emotionally, and mentally. They don't actually know if this is true, because I haven't told them when I failed miserably (or I took some time and flew away in my invisible plane until I could put on a happy face about everything). It also could have something to do with the fact that I always knew when they were lying--they believe my lasso of truth was cluing me in. I've told them that's just a mom thing. They don't believe me.

I'm not strong anymore.

The past four years, dealing with a suicidal daughter, learning of her abuse by my own brother, having to place her in a treatment facility--these things have robbed me of my emotional resilience.

The physical problems I've had in the past four years--four surgeries for various reasons, deterioration of bone and cartilage in my hip, increasingly intense pain--these things have gradually robbed me of my physical strength.

The past four years of declining ability to use physical activity to deal with stress and manage PTSD, being emotionally overwhelmed, feeling panicked all the time--these things have robbed me of my mental stamina.

Tabitha is home now and doing well. I've put a plan in place for when my family is unsupportive or unbelieving about the abuse she has suffered--and I've stuck with the plan for nearly a year now. I'm getting surgery which won't restore me to my original state, but will relieve pain and allow me movement again. I'm doing things to put my brain back together, learning new ways to manage PTSD, and learning how to find small bits of hope for the future.

But for now, I'm hanging up my Wonder Woman title. While I'll miss the ultra-comfy clothing and footgear, I need to stop trying to be something I'm not. At this point in my life, loading the dishwasher, making my bed, and vacuuming are challenging for me. I'm just not up to making the world a better place.

I'll be renting out my lasso and invisible plane. You're free to take them for a test drive. If you can see them.

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