I have a basket in my bathroom filled with make-up; 2 or 3 eyeliners, several shades of blush and too many to count colors and types of mascara. I admit it, I am a make-up whore. No, I won’t perform sexual favors for a new lipstick, but I will give up other things for the latest and greatest lash-lengthening, lip-plumping and cheekbone-enhancing product . Every morning before work, I would spend an inordinate amount time looking for the same eyeliner, blush and mascara that I used yesterday and the day before and the day before. It was always there, seemingly, right in front of me.
A couple of years ago, I decided it was time to stop this insanity and place these items in the front of the basket so they could be easily found. God forbid I should throw anything away! Or maybe I should have held the items in my hands and determined whether they brought me joy, but hoarders don’t have time to do that. Anyway, as I looked in the mirror I almost didn’t recognize myself – I was attempting to eliminate chaos, which is a what I do in my work life, but at home, in my personal life, I typically created it if I couldn’t find it. Let’s be honest, it always found me, like attracts like as they say. But I stopped liking it. I wanted peace, calm, solitude.
Under the hot glare of the Hollywood style lights of my mirror, this desire for calm became very clear and by mid-day, was in my face.
I was at work, doing chaos control, and calling my youngest brother’s cell in between fire-fighting. He rarely answered his phone – no one called him but me. At the time, he was 53 years old, a developmentally delayed, man that came to live with me after our mother died in 2005. I had consciously or unconsciously been seeking peace by been putting pressure on him to have a life, to get a job, maybe live on his own. He was very high-functioning but hadn’t worked since I fired him from our family business in the 90’s. He called me around noon that November day, hysterical. He wasn’t sure where he was. He had driven to Cincinnati with the intention of killing himself.
Throughout his life, I had always been my brother’s “person”. I had helped him overcome his fear of driving. With the help of my grandfather, I helped him get back on his feet after a broken leg and a year of inactivity led him to believe he couldn’t walk. He was ruled by his fears. The idea of living on his own or getting a job triggered those fears again. I shouldn’t have been surprised, it was right in front of me.
For the next six months we were drawn into a cycle of admissions to different mental health facilities and then being released back to me, followed by some event that would result in him being admitted again. Each cycle included a new batch of diagnoses with matching prescriptions, leaving him unrecognizable to me.
The day I got the hysterical call from him started this journey which has, ironically, led to peace, not just for me but for him as well. Last week was the one year anniversary of his placement into a nursing home where his meds are monitored and he is happy, and so am I.
I often wonder what would have happened if I had been in a meeting that morning. Would he have succeeded, as so many others do, in his search for calm? A suicide attempt was the last thing I thought he would ever contemplate and I saw him every day. Yet I know, with absolute certainty, that in the midst of chaos, it is hard to see what is right in front of you.
Sherri Walker for the Poplar Grove Muse