I have always been a person with a very strong “Fight and then Flight” personality. I was never afraid to battle anything, but once I had done everything I could and there was no positive outcome, I was out of there.
My childhood is a perfect example of this. I fought very hard to prove myself and I fought very hard campaigning for change. I fought to influence others to find happiness in themselves. After doing what I could and realizing that there was simply nothing left to try, I left and I felt good about it because it meant that I wasn’t endorsing sadness and guilt and depression. It was simply me beginning another fight altogether, a fight for survival and a good future.
When I left home at 17, I wasn’t exactly at home. What had happened was that I was living with my father and he had lost the will to fight for us long before I had. I wasn’t a horrible teenager, but I wasn’t a great one, either. My dad dealt with every minor infraction that I committed by having me put in juvenile hall. He simply didn’t want to deal with it anymore and wanted free from me.
I was happy in juvie. I missed my boyfriend terribly, but enjoyed something very strange while incarcerated:
I was respected and valued by the adults there.
They saw me as a super intelligent, insightful person, talented and worth a lot. They saw me as being a typical teenager who pushed boundaries, but never hurt anyone. They understood the things I did and saw my actions as being the result of unhappiness at home. They treated me very well there and I felt free, something pretty strange since I was locked up.
We weren’t allowed outside there, but I remember this one time when I was snuck up onto the roof by a couple of the guards. I hadn’t been outside for a couple of months and it was a cold day when they took me up there all by myself. It was cloudy and dreary and I got up there and just stood looking out at Cincinnati and I started to cry. They gave me twenty minutes and it was a great twenty minutes. The downside was that I got very sick from my outing after not having been outside for so long. My immune system was weak and the fresh air made me ill for a week after.
But it was worth it.
I was released from juvie and sent to a home for kids who were screw ups and couldn’t go back to their families. I was there for a few months and I hated it. We had a lot more freedoms and were able to go outside and wear our own clothes, but I was miserable. The first time I ran away from the home, it was because I was set on fire by another girl there. I was caught a few days later and sent back to juvie which was fine with me. I only stayed in juvie for the night and then was sent back to the home.
The second time I ran away from the home it was for a reason far worse and I don’t want to talk about it, but I was caught a couple of weeks later and sent back to juvie. I was really hoping that I would stay there, but again, they tried to send me back to the home. This time, I wasn’t going.
We were being transported in a van and I was handcuffed, but not shackled for the trip. We had two guards on the transport and while making our way from the garage to our van, I decided that I wasn’t going. I started walking away, sort of backwards, away from the guards who were saying things to me about how I didn’t want to do this and to get my ass in the van. I told them I wasn’t going and with ten other people to look after, they had no choice but to let me walk and radio the call in for me to be picked up.
Once about a block up the street, I started to run and I ran my ass off until I found a dumpster and I hid in that dumpster until the sounds of cop cars had died down and until darkness had settled. Once this had happened, I found a bus stop and, trying to hide the fact that I was in handcuffs, I bummed a dollar off of some guy and got on the bus. I was wearing a sweatshirt and had wriggled it up over my head and down my arms and tried to make it look as though I were holding it.
I rode the bus to an area where I had a friend’s family that I knew would help me a bit and my friend’s uncle got the handcuffs off of me, a painful process that began with a small saw and ended with bolt cutters. We were only able to get one bracelet off and the other one stayed on for about another month, until I had lost a good deal of weight and pried it off in the ocean. The uncle helped me find a place in Kentucky to hide for a couple of weeks until we had a car that we were going to use to go to Florida. I figured if I was going to be homeless, I wanted it to be warm.
Our car broke down before we ever hit the southern Kentucky border and from that point, we hitchhiked, scoring a ride most of the way with this guy named Joe who drove us all the way to Clearwater and then released us on the beach. At this point, I was 17 and alone and finding my own way.
I remember when we hit the Florida border, I insisted we pull over at a truck stop because I wanted to look at the palm trees that seemed to appear out of nowhere. I got out of the car and smelled salt in the air and I burst into tears knowing that this was the smell of my freedom. I felt safe and carefree and chased an armadillo around the truck stop like a little girl. I had never been so happy and although there were going to be some serious challenges ahead, I didn’t care and I didn’t feel hopeless. In fact, I knew I was going to be fine.
The next two years were an adventure in and of itself and there are so many stories to be told when the time comes, but this post has a theme that you probably haven’t picked up on yet. But we’ll get there.
I had said goodbye to my family and friends and my home and done something that most teenagers would find to be terrifying and I wasn’t scared in the slightest. I knew that I needed this to save my life.
Years later, after I had met Dean and had gotten to know his family, the two of us spent endless amounts of time trying to save his mother from her alcohol addiction. We did everything we could, took her to A.A. meetings, tried to have her put in rehab, supported her but encouraged her to stop. This was Dean’s first lesson that you do what you can, but then you have to let go, say I love you and wish you wouldn’t hurt yourself, but we can’t stop you. We let go and she died without ever having tried to fight for herself, her husband, child and family.
I was dumbfounded by her ability to watch her son plead with her, beg her to fight and survive, and refuse to do so. I was already a mother at this point, and surrendering even to a disease or an addiction was an impossibility to me when faced with hurting your children. After all, I had been on heroin and morphine and every other dug you could think of and I was addicted to them. But discovering a child growing inside of me put a stop to it all because that is just the fight you have to face for the ones you love. Everyone has the strength or so I thought.
I have never, ever gone down without a fight and I have felt myself slipping away these last couple of years. Today, I sat with Dean and cried because I’m unhappy and I know why I’m unhappy. It is because I HAVE fought for so long and now, knowing that I can’t fix everything, I normally would have flown the coop by now. I have walked away from the unfixable when fighting wasn’t enough for all of my life. Now, I can’t do that. I am forced to sit and face everything that hurts me and I am forced to leave everything to fate.
It’s very difficult for me to do this. I have never seen a reason to sit back and watch the destruction of people and their happiness. I have always done what I could to make it better and then I have walked away. I can’t fix everything. Sitting here, knowing that I can’t do a thing about what is happening, is the worst of the worst for me. I want to run away. I have given up the fight and I am, right now, someone I never ever thought I was. I am a spectator to my own life. I have failed myself and failed the ones I love. I have been devastated by this realization.
And then today, Dean said something to me that changed everything. I don’t know how he found these words, but they have reached inside of me and yanked the warrior that used to be the prominent figure of myself, right back to the surface.
What he said was this:
“Kyra, I know that you are here because you love us too much to walk away. I know it hurts you and I know that it has dragged you down and made you feel like you have lost the ability to fight. But you are fighting right now just by being here with us and facing everything that we will go through. Of everything you have ever done in your life, this is the most courageous.”
Courageous. He said courageous and with that one word, I felt for the first time, that maybe he was right. I have given up on believing I could fix us all, but I have not run away and this is the first time I haven’t done that.It is the first time, I have stayed and observed the pain and destruction and if I’m doing that, then it is because somewhere inside, I must feel that things will be better one day. I might not be able to fix it all, but I can suffer along with my family and I can be here for them because they need me. I can let them know that we are united and in this together. I can let them know that there is nothing in the world that can happen to us that will tear us apart and I can be here to show them that I love them enough to continue to fight.
I have four reasons to fight. I had thought that I had given up, but the person who gives up would not be here right now. My children are begging me with their eyes and with their smiles to be strong enough to see us through and as a mother, I cannot walk away from that.
So, I might cry. I might scream. I’ll be sad and stressed out and terrified for a long time. But I will color pictures and give baths and hugs and kisses and I will tell stories and start food fights to make the kids laugh and… I will be here. With them, where I belong.
So, to Dean… thank you for helping me change my perspective and thank you for still being able to see the warrior in me when I wasn’t able to.
And to Matthew, Owen, Olivia and Emi… thank you for being enough to battle any monsters that come my way. Thank you for being the reason I will find my strength again. Thank you for your smiles and your hugs and for the outrageous things you say that make it impossible for me to imagine life without you. Thank you for making every single day a day worth waking up for. Thank you for testing me. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for teaching me the most important things in life.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be your mother, for choosing me to take on the task. It is difficult and challenging and worth every second of it.When you laugh at my jokes, I know why I am here. When you come to me when you’re hurting, you identify me. When you act insane, you teach me about strength and patience. Every important lesson of life, I am learning from you, my teachers. Thank you.
I love you so much… and I am here, fighting for you. I will be your Army and will do whatever it takes to help us come out as winners.
And we will. I promise.