Thursday, February 2, 2023

Joy Unspeakable in the Midst of Pain

Joy Unspeakable in the Midst of Pain

I haven't been actively blogging here, but I have been focusing on being already happy in the moment. Have I succeed every minute of every day? No, I have not. Have I succeeded better than I was when I started? Absolutely. I am a normally happy person. I just found myself for several months in difficult circumstances that made experiencing happiness more of a challenge. Life is like that sometimes, like when you have a loss of some kind that makes your heart feel heavy and not at all happy. A dear friend of mine is facing the demise of a beloved pet right now. She's normally upbeat and positive and is managing even now to focus on the positive and on letting go of her animal soul mate. Times like that make it a challenge to feel happy, but I know that deep down, though his condition weighs on her, she knows that he will be met at the Rainbow Bridge by those who have gone before him. Those animal buddies who tussled with him on this side of the veil will meet him on the other side and play with him there too.

The woman I blogged about in the beginning, who inspired me to start this new web page, appears to be going through a trying time herself. Last week when I made my Monday trek to the restaurant where she works, I sensed that something was amiss. I couldn't tell what was going on, only that something wasn't quite right. This week the entire family is absent from both restaurants, so I can only surmise that something major--like a death or serious illness of a family member--has wrenched them all away at the same time. If their families of origin are still in India, then I imagine that they must have flown over there to be where they are needed at this difficult time. No doubt I'll find out more when they return. In the meantime, I send heartfelt blessings their way.

This is a good reminder that being positive and upbeat--being an "already happy" person--doesn't mean that nothing happens to you to make you sad. Loss is loss; and grief is grief. We all experience loss, and we all go through grief. However, I can speak from personal experience that the death of a loved one doesn't have  to overwhelm us completely. I'm not saying that there will not be tears or sadness or missing that someone special. You'll experience those things of course, but sometimes the veil on the other side is lifted enough for us to see what it's like over there. Then we are reminded that when we cry over a loss, we cry for ourselves and others affected by the loss. We do not cry for the one who has passed over to the over side. That is like weeping in sorrow for someone who has won the lottery and suddenly become a multi-millionaire. Why on earth would you do that? It makes no sense.

The experience that taught me about joy in the midst of grief was the death of my beloved Granny in Kentucky. She and I were very close. We were definitely part of the same soul group, and we recognized each other upon sight pretty much. I was 13 and she was in her 60s. We were meeting for the first time basically, although we had technically met before when I was younger. This was the first time we had spent any significant time together and the very first time we spent any time together on our own. I will write more about this time in my life, but for now, suffice it to say that we bonded instantly and became fast friends from that point on. I spent many summers with her in Kentucky during my teenage years, and I kept going back to visit in my twenties and thirties.

She was 91, I believe, when she died. It wasn't sudden. It had been the slow demise of old age, but her mind stayed sharp much of the time until the end. I made one last trip to see her a couple of months before she passed. I flew to Orlando and then drove up to see my Granny while she was alive and still alert. I knew then that it would be the last time and it was. While I was staying in Florida for a couple of months, we got the call that she was gone. Although I was sad and shaken by the call, I had been expecting it, so my best friend and I loaded up the car and drove to Kentucky. We stopped one night along the way since there was no point in hurrying at this point. We got there the next day in plenty of time to meet up with some of the other family members in the only nearby town with a hotel. The next day we all got dressed and headed for the funeral. My sister had flown in that morning so we met her at the funeral home too.

I hugged everyone in my family then took a seat with my sister and my buddy, who had known my Granny for decades and had spent enough time with her to know what a wonderful matriarch she was. Once the funeral music started and people began to weep more because of the choice of songs, I became very aware of my Granny's spirit standing right next to me where there was an empty seat. I sensed her energy as clear as day as she hovered there in that place, witnessing her own funeral and trying to comfort her loved ones. I was overwhelmed by this amazing sense of joy. It emanated from this spot, and I knew it was coming from this being who had been my Granny in this life. From that moment on, I found it utterly impossible to cry for her passing. One time, months later, I cried a little bit when I recalled how soft her hands were, despite how hard she worked all her life. That was it. The only tears shed. It wasn't because I didn't love her. On the contrary, I loved her very much and had continued to call her periodically after I moved to Seattle, even once she went into the care facility. She had been an important part of my life and my childhood. Yet it felt like a dishonoring of the love and joy I felt in that moment for me to shed tears for myself. There was clearly no reason to cry for her. She was filled without radiant joy and had been released from the physical body that had served her faithfully for so long, but had recently begun to crumble from the inside out.

When I felt her there so strongly, I leaned to the left towards my sister and said, "She's right here. Standing beside me and she is filled with so much joy." My sister knew that it was true and started weeping even more. The words that came to me that described what I was sensing coming from my Granny's spirit were from a passage in the Bible in I Peter 1:8, where the writer says, "...yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."

Sitting there in that funeral for my beloved Granny, all I could feel coming from her was this joy unspeakable, and full of glory. I could not in the face of all that joy shed another tear for myself and my loss. Yes, I would miss her at times, but I knew that I could talk to her any time I wanted, and I've done that. I've spoken to her, and I've sensed her presence many times over the years. I know you can't really take my word for it, and it may not be of help to know that someone else can feel those who have passed over, but there are those of us out here who can do just that. I have experienced more than once departed loved ones on the other side, doing the best they can to comfort those left behind. It is always the departed trying to comfort those who remain on this side. It is always those who have experienced the "joy unspeakable" who are trying to help those who are experiencing pain unspeakable because of the loss.

I had a customer one time in my store who was wearing a wrist band sort that was clearly a military remembrance of some sort. I asked her about it because the one she was remembering as a fallen hero was dancing all around her, trying his best to get her attention to let her know that her brother was fine. More than fine, he was ecstatic. I could sense the heavy grief that surrounded her heart, but when I told her what I was feeling and asked her a little bit about the kind of energy he had, she started crying and said, "I thought I felt him, but I wasn't sure." I reassured her that he was more than fine and that this was not a tragedy. He was so happy now. When she left my store, her relief was apparent. That sense of heaviness was no longer wrapped around her like a shawl. Little brother had finally gotten through to his sister.

The point of all this is to say that grief is part of being a sentient being, and it isn't limited to humans. If you can feel anything, then you are subject to grief as well as joy, but I'm standing here saying that in the midst of grief and pain and loss, there is still the capacity for joy and happiness. Feel your pain. Allow it to be there, but also allow room for the light of joy to illuminate these darkened moments. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Sacred Contracts and Leaky Vessels

After a recent move, I found this poem that I wrote while I was navigating the waters of menopause, an agonizing relationship breakup, and the loss of my life as I knew it. While I don’t regret giving up that life to move back to Florida, where I needed to be in order to fulfill a sacred contract to take care of my lifelong best friend during a health crisis, it still caused me heart-wrenching grief.

This poem, which looks like a leaky vessel itself and is missing the whole first page,  describes my sense of myself and my energy at the time of writing. For physical and emotional reasons, I felt very much like a cracked and leaky vessel. There have been times since then when I have felt shattered to bits. I have felt like Humpty Dumpty. Fortunately the God I know and love is considerably more resourceful that “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men.”

Here is the found portion of the poem:

“It becomes apparent what the filling is 
by what seeps out through the cracks 
in your broken and glued back together heart.
If you fill a cracked vessel with emotions, 
which are like liquid, 
that filling will leak out through the cracks onto others. 
If you fill it with toxic substances, 
too will leak out from the cracks 
and poison the surrounding environment 
and anyone who treads there, blind to the danger.

“Fill your cracked and glued back together heart 
with the Light of Eternal Love, 
and what leaks out onto the surrounding world 
will help to heal the wounds of others, 
even as it heals you and adheres the remaining pieces 
into a whole heart again.

Fill your broken and glued back together heart 
with The Light of Eternal Love.
“You won’t get back the lost pieces of your broken heart. 
Let those go. 
The parts that were lost were not part of the eternal you, 
which is why they could be lost in the first place. 
What will never be lost is Eternal Love 
and its myriad fragile, earthly  expressions. 

“Your heart will heal again if it is filled 
with the Eternal substance of Love.
The light of this Love will shine through the cracks 
of the broken and torn tissue of your heart, 
fusing and mending the remaining pieces 
until your heart is whole again.“

Despite all the leaking and shattering that has occurred since I made the monumental decision to move back here, let me say that I would do it again, knowing full well how hard this stage of my life would be. Once I got down here, I figured out quickly  the main reason I was here, and as I suspected, it was because I needed to be with my buddy to get her through a second cancer battle.

The first battle occurred in the early nineties. While I had to travel back here to help her out, I only had to come down from North Carolina for the surgeries she underwent. She had to undergo emergency surgery because she was in agonizing pain, so they had to open her up to find out what was wrong. What they found was horrifying. Her ovary, which had been hurting terribly for months and had sent her to her incompetent gynecologist several times, had burst, spewing cancer cells throughout her abdominal cavity. After a lengthy surgery,  during which they performed an oophorectomy and cleaned her out thoroughly, she was able to go home after a few days of recovery. They operated on her while my then partner and I were driving down to Florida as fast as we could, driving straight through the night.

It was because of this trip that I started taking my cats with me on many of my driving adventures. I had been setting things up for my boy, Sandy, to stay at home with a friend of ours checking on him every couple of days. He saw what was going on and came to the door with me and stretched up my leg for me to pick him up. He was not about to let me leave without him. So I rapidly changed plans. I got a plastic storage box with a lid that I could use for a travel litter box, packed some water and food and took him with me.  He was well behaved and rode on the back seat, watching all the lights, always getting up to get a closer look when a big rig passed us. Instead of being terrified of them, he was mesmerized by the lights.

We drove back after staying down there for a week. Then I flew back down for her second surgery several weeks later. They performed a complete hysterectomy that time. Of course, Jan and I joked that they should have put in velcro so they could just rip it open again instead of having to cut into her twice. During this trip to the hospital, I slept in the chair next to her bed for several nights, so she didn’t have to be alone. It was during this hospital visit that I started writing my novel, Artemisian Artist. One of the characters, Dr. Terri Jackson, was based on a woman in blue scrubs I encountered in the hallway. That was the creative catalyst. No words or glances exchanged. Nothing. The story is pure fiction based on a random passing with a stranger in a hospital. I don’t remember how many nights Jan was in the hospital, but I stayed with her as much as possible until she was able to go home. Her father was still alive at that time, so she went home with him for the post-surgical recovery and chemo treatments. I returned to North Carolina and graduate school.

Since then, her father has passed. I’m pretty sure he was the one on the other side of the veil lighting a fire under my butt to motivate me to move back to Florida so I could see his daughter through the second cancer battle. Although I didn’t know that when I was packing to move back here, and I certainly didn’t know the year before, when I started downsizing my home like a woman possessed, that I was about to move far away from the life I loved in Washington state.  I didn’t know for sure why I was back in Florida until shortly after I arrived. It was not until after I had to have my fifteen-year-old cat, Dustin, put down a mere two days after I got here because he was in renal failure. The following day my human buddy was diagnosed with breast cancer, and the day after that she had a mastectomy.

There I stood in her doorway, still somewhat shell-shocked from the ordeals my cats and I had survived on the trip back east, ready to take over the care of feeding of a small herd of cats. One even had to be given insulin shots twice daily because he was diabetic. While Jan’s two cousins and BFF stayed with her at the hospital during and after her surgery, I fed, petted, and injected kitties and continued to do so after she returned home. I took on the role of nurse and caretaker too, dressing her surgical wound, soothing her soul over the loss of a body part, chauffeuring her to and from all her medical appointments, etc. I got groceries and takeout to feed her body.  I picked up her prescriptions and took her cats to the vet when they were sick or injured. She wasn’t supposed to drive for three weeks, but she had to return to school two weeks after her surgery.  It was the beginning of the school year and she didn’t want to miss those critical first days. She turned down my offer to drive her to and from work because it was only a couple miles each way, but I continued to drive her everywhere else for months until she was physically and emotionally ready to go solo to her appointments. I continued for two years to take care of all the cats until nearly two years after the move back to Florida, I drove all the way back to Washington for six months to fulfill another sacred contract. That one was to take care of the infant sister of the little girl I babysat for the first year of her life, which turned out to be my last year of living in Washington state for the foreseeable future.

I had gotten my buddy through this second cancer battle, as well as being able to drive every other weekend to spend the day with my mom, laughing and talking. That was pure joy, even though my back didn’t always enjoy it. A few years later when my back spasms started causing my right leg to go ramrod straight, I had to hang up my car keys and go for fewer visits when Jan was able to drive me there to visit with my mom.

I reinjured my back while I was living back in Washington taking care of an infant. What hurt my back was not taking care of the baby as it was dragging my laundry upstairs in the two-story house. I had to squeeze in as many visits to the chiropractor as I could before the long drive back, which first involved a drive to Cape Cod to attend Women's Week in Provincetown. My back really took a beating during that journey,  hauling my four cats in and out of motel rooms all along the 4500 mile trip.

It took more trips to my Florida chiropractor,  and some blood work, to find out that I was very low on magnesium. Looking back, I realize that the magnesium deficit had probably started in Washington, in 2010, when I packed and sweated my way to the collapsing point in my garage. On the final packing day, the weather took a bizarre turn and went from consistent highs in the high 60s to 95 on the last day of packing. While packing my car with the last of my possessions, my legs simply collapsed beneath me and refused to allow me to get up for several minutes. When I did get up, I knew I had worn myself out completely so when I was finally able to get my cats loaded up and we got on the road, all I could think about was air conditioning and never moving ever again, and I don’t mean moving house. I just mean that I didn’t want to move my body any more than what was required for driving for a very long time. Fortunately I didn’t have to move much for many hours because I drove for a long time that day despite a late start. That day is when I suspect my body first started starving for magnesium.

Years later, my chiropractor recommended soaking in Epsom salts along with taking a magnesium supplement in powder form to be added to my drinking water. I was feeling great relief by doing that. I suspect that if I had done that as soon as I got to Florida, my back would have healed with some months of being gentle with it, but I didn’t learn about the magnesium deficiency until five years later. I went through menopause and bled for weeks at a time until I figured out how to stop the excessive bleeding naturally. I made green smoothies with fresh organic spinach leaves to help with the excessive loss of iron and other essential nutrients my body needed. It was during this heavy bleeding that I felt my life force or “chi”  draining from my body. It was during this time in my life that I wrote the poem about being a leaky vessel.

When I ran out of the plain Epsom salts I was using to ease the pain in my back, my friends picked up more while shopping for other stuff. For some bizarre reason, the gigantic Walmart ran out of plain Epsom salts so they got some that were lavender scented. I wasn’t thrilled about using anything with a fragrance because I am terribly allergic to fragrances and dyes so I avoid them if at all possible. I knew that I wasn’t allergic to real lavender though, so I finally relented and used the scented  Epsom salts, hoping it would be okay. It wasn’t okay though.

The first time I used the scented Epsom salts, I didn’t experience the major relief I had from previous Epsom soaks. The second time I used them, I suddenly started feeling sick to my stomach and wretched all over. I turned on the fast drain plug and got out of there as fast as I could. I felt awful, and I didn’t know why, though I suspected it might have been the fragrance in the Epsom salts.

Within a day or two blisters began to form on the lower half of my legs. Not only had the lower half spent a lot more time immersed in what my body interpreted as poison, but I also had tiny perforations on my lower legs because Tai and Chi were still kittens who like to race across my legs, or they would forget that they weren’t tree trunks and would start to climb them until I hollered and they thought better of that idea. Jan and I were forever performing first aid on ourselves or each other so our cat scratches didn’t get infected. The perforations on my legs had been cleaned but they were still tiny openings that provided access for the chemicals in the Epsom salts to enter my body. Chemicals that my body viewed as deadly poisons.

I went to the doctor right away and underwent a round of antibiotics immediately. When that did nothing to stop the blisters that would swell to a diameter of 3-4 inches before bursting and spilling hot clear liquid down my legs, recontaminating them and starting the battle all over again.

After trying to keep up for three months with the frequent (sometimes hourly) unbandaging and rebandaging of the wounds on my legs, I succumbed to infection, which eventually turned into septicemia. I had chills frequently and would fall asleep, sometimes in a doorway. On occasion, my back would spasm and, in my sleep, I would pitch forward out of my wheelchair. I had taken to a wheelchair because of the pain of walking and standing, but until the allergic reaction, I could still walk a short distance to the bathroom or bedroom.

After the allergic reaction, and subsequent infections, I couldn’t even transfer to my bed. I fell asleep in my wheelchair whenever and wherever exhaustion overtook me. The third time I fell out of my wheelchair, I pitched forward in my sleep and landed headfirst in my wicker laundry basket, which rolled with my body, laying me as gently as possible on the cold hard terrazzo floor. I don’t know why my empty laundry basket was sitting near my bed, but it was perfectly placed to keep me from landing on the floor, bashing my head open or causing me brain trauma, as happened to my mother several  years later. Finding myself on the floor, I knew that I would have to go to the hospital, even though I had no insurance and had been unable to work at all for months. That reality is what had kept me from going to the hospital earlier. I knew I had no way to pay for my care, but I also knew that I would die soon if I didn’t get help immediately. So I reluctantly allowed the EMTs to drag my weary body on a tarp through the house to the awaiting ambulance.

They took me to the local hospital where I stayed in an isolation room for a month. I had to be hooked up to multiple IVs during this month long stay in the hospital, battling the septicemia. During the months both before and after my hospital stay, Jan had to take care of all our combined cats. It took me several months to recover sufficiently to resume even some of the cat duties.

The allergy debacle happened in 2015 and has caused recurring challenges until my last trip to the hospital in April of this year. My back injury also continued to cause issues. I did, however, recover to varying degrees over the intervening years. I was able to regain the ability to stand and walk a short distance several times until Hurricane Irma passed right over Jan and me in Haines City. We lost power at three in the morning. I recall Jan walking past my bedroom on the way to her bathroom and saying, “It’s three o’clock and the power is out.” Somehow I had the presence of mind to quip, “Why can’t you be like all the other watchmen and say, ‘It’s three o’clock and all’s well?’”

Having being without power for two days, the temperature was rising both inside and outside. When the news foretold further heat increases, and all my attempts to get rides from my insurance-provided non-emergency transportation failed, Mitzi came over in her car and took me over to our friend’s house, who still had power and a bunch of hurricane refugees filling her house. I stayed there a couple days until staying up all day proved to be my undoing and I collapsed on the floor in the bathroom. Fire Rescue came and my blood pressure was dangerously low, so they took me to the emergency room, where I stayed for several hours while they checked me out. Finding nothing dire beyond the low blood pressure, which returned to normal after enforced bedrest and a complete chill down from the morgue-like temperature in the ER. When I got news from Jan that her power had been restored, I had the ambulance service return me to Jan’s house.

We all felt the after effects of exhaustion and trauma after the hurricane. Jan and I had planned to attend my 40th high school class reunion not long after the hurricane, but we were so wiped out still, we couldn’t muster the strength to drive a couple hours then have to stay overnight in a hotel. We just couldn’t do it, so we canceled.

I moved out of Jan’s house about 6 weeks after Hurricane Irma. That probably wasn’t the best idea because it was a huge change to undergo when I still wasn’t back to full strength, but it was all planned and the move was made. I stayed there for two and a half years, until I fell and broke my ankle this year, which signaled the beginning of a difficult ordeal, which I am not yet able to describe. I seem to have to process some events longer than others. I’m nowhere near ready to write about the five months I spent in and out of the hospital and rehab centers (nursing homes) during the time of Coronavirus. That will have to wait. Suffice it to say that I am in a new home, beginning on a new chapter of my life and the fulfillment of my sacred  contract with Jan to adopt the cats I swore to take care of them in the event that something happened to her. In the process of fulfilling that contract, and I am blessed daily in doing so. I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be when I’m supposed to be here. That level of assuredness generates a “peace that passes all understanding.”

I couldn’t have articulated ten years ago what I can say with confidence today. In 2010, all I knew was that I had to downsize my belongings greatly because I had to move back to Florida for an indeterminate amount of time. There was not one molecule in my body that wanted to do this. I only knew that I had to do it. If you are not aware of sacred contracts in your life, then you probably think me nuts, and that’s okay. I’m used to being far left of normal. If I had lots of money, I would merely be viewed as eccentric. Since health issues drove me to a place of bankruptcy and disability in 2015, the choices I make in life just seem looney from the outside. Oh well. So be it. If you’re curious about the subject  of sacred contracts, I highly recommend Caroline Myss’s book, Sacred Contracts.

The place and time I find myself is not particularly comfortable. My circumstances are not necessarily giddiness-inducing, but I am happy mostly. I wouldn’t say that I’m content because there is still so much I have to do, but despite present circumstances, I do feel like I am gaining speed in regards to my physical challenges. Anyone looking at me from the outside would find that a pitiable statement at best, but I witness daily the increase in strength and endurance. I started out in a bad place indeed, but the rate of growth and recovery is exponential.

I’ve been home for twelve weeks now, and I’m pretty amazed at how far I have come in that time. I look forward with great excitement to how much farther along I will be in another twelve weeks then another. With the rate of my progress proving to be exponential, I think I should be in pretty good shape by year’s end. Already I am able to do most of what I need to do with the exception of laundry, but that is a matter of access rather than ability. At the very least, I should be able to do as much physically as I was doing before I fell and broke my ankle in April of this year. I spent an extremely difficult five months just to get strong enough to get home and survive.The first week home was mind-bogglingly difficult. The only reason I made it was because angels were watching over me, family and friends were checking on me regularly, and God was giving me the grace and grit to push through it. 

I know I still have a long road ahead of me to get back to full recovery and complete functionality, as far as writing and publishing is concerned, but as long as I focus on what is right in front of me and keep a steady pace, I will get there. With this exponential rate of increasing health and strength, I think 2021 will be an amazing year for productivity.

As I unpack my belongings from storage, I am setting up my living space to be a fully functional office and publishing house, as well as a kitty haven and cozy home. What I lack in space, I will make up for with multifunctional arrangements. I can see the biggest part of this happening by year’s end with some help from my friends. As I sit here writing this, I can see at least ten steps ahead on what needs to be moved next to what location in order to create a living space that allows for creativity and organization, while also allowing for comfort .

While I have taken only a few hundred steps on this journey of a thousand miles, I can see clearly what I have already accomplished. I can see how far I have come. As long as I stay focused on what is immediately in front of me, I will make it to the finish line faster than anyone, including me, thought was possible. This broken and leaky vessel is healing at an astonishing pace. I look forward with much gratitude to heaven and all of my earthly friends and family who have supported me and helped to make it this far. I thank in advance all who help me make it to the next milestone and the next. Namaste.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Don't Worry, Seek God's Kingdom

"Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you."

Before Jesus spoke these famous words, there was a discussion about how God takes care of all the needs of the natural world as well as those in our lives. There is no need for us to worry about having the food and clothing that we need, when our heavenly Father already knows our needs before we know them. He anticipates those needs and makes arrangements for those needs before we are even aware of them.                                                            

God also knows there is a pandemic at play in the world around us. He was not taken by surprise by this virus that has spread around the world. He knew it was about to happen before China even had become aware that something bad might be happening. God knows how many will die from this virus worldwide. He knows how many will get it and survive. He knows it all. We can worry all we like, but our worrying won't change one thing about it. What will be will be. Not because God has foreordained people to die from the Coronavirus, but because we humans are constantly making decisions that impact not only our lives but also the lives of those around us. God is not surprised by our decisions, but neither does he makes us do what he wills unless we agree to abide by his will. He does, however, know whatever changes will take place because we chose to do one thing and not another. He knows who will be affected if we wear a mask as well as who will be affected if we don't, but he doesn't make us do one thing or another.                         

This is where free will and social responsibility intertwine. We get to choose, but our choices will have consequences and we will have to answer for those consequences one day.  If this virus teaches us nothing else, it should teach us how much our actions impact those around us, even if we don't find out until later. People might not drop dead on the street instantly if we don't wear a mask, but someone you interact with may pass it on to you. You may never know you were carrying it and obliviously pass it on to someone else who has a mild case that passes as nothing more than a cold, which isn't enough to make them think that they have Covid-19, so they go to work at a restaurant that has delivery only. Everyone wears a mask at work and washes their hands frequently. Only when this man with the virus is alone in the restroom, he takes off his mask while he's washing his hands, just to get some fresh air and cool off a minute. Only he suddenly sneezes without warning just before a coworker enters the bathroom, and while those droplets are still dancing across the space between them, this coworker drops his mask too just to cool off for a minute and he inhales the virus via the droplets infected with Covid. He doesn't know anything about the sneeze or his co-worker's mild cold. He thinks that since he got negative test results yesterday, he is clear and won't be any danger to his grandmother, who has been invited to his father's 60th birthday party tomorrow. He attends this birthday party and hugs his grandmother, whom he loves dearly and has gone months without seeing her in person, because she has been self-isolating just in case.  Next thing he knows, his grandmother is in the hospital and has died of Covid-19. He certainly didn't mean to kill his grandmother, but since he tested positively recently at work and his father with diabetes is also in the hospital fighting for his life, he realizes that something happened that connects him to his grandmother and his father's illnesses, even though he doesn't know why or how.                                                                                                         
This young man is puzzled how all of this transpired, yet our heavenly Father knows and understands everything. He knows that even the most innocent of actions can result in death and suffering because nothing ever happens in a vacuum. All of our actions have consequences, positive or negative. Even those actions that are not deliberate. The young man didn't murder his grandmother. She died as a result of someone else's careless actions. Someone infected with Covid-19 transmitted it to someone else because neither of them were wearing masks. Ultimately the virus reaches a vulnerable member of our population and she dies suddenly. The family is both surprised and grief stricken, yet God is not surprised because this faithful believer is welcomed by all her loved ones who have passed before her. All the worry surrounding the grandmother is wasted energy. The prayers weren't wasted because those praying drew closer to heaven by those prayers, just as they will draw closer to heaven and the family will draw closer to each other in their shared grief. This is part of the cycle of life. Eventually, the person who has been spreading the disease becomes painfully aware of the suffering all around him. Several members of his family die, several more get very sick and are impacted negatively for months. Finally, he tests and turns up with antibodies, even though he has no recollection of ever being sick.                                                        
Someone else's free will choice had repercussions in the lives of many people. Their free will choice has intertwined with social responsibility and changed the lives of many. Nothing we do is done in a vacuum. Some things we do have very few repercussions in other people's lives. Others have far-reaching consequences that reverberate throughout our home town, our families, and even our country. At few times in our history has this truth been made more real and more dire, and yet people will continue to shun masks, much as some continue to shun condoms when having sex, even though they have a sexually transmitted disease. These people view their personal freedoms as more important than the well being of those they infect.
At no time in history is it more important for us to weigh personal freedoms against social responsibility. In a day when food shortages are very real for the financially vulnerable, we have to consider our actions closely. if we have not been negatively impacted by the pandemic in the area of finances, we need to look around us and see the needs in our community around us. There are people in this rich country who are worried about food and drink and health care. We need to see how we can help. Those who need help  need to be open to receiving it from neighbors and even strangers because all help is ultimately from our Father in heaven, who knows before we do what we need. Our job is to cease worrying about it and start seeking God's kingdom first, discerning what we can do to meet the needs of others during this time of Coronavirus.              
"25 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Consider how the lilies of the field grow: They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles strive after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:25-34)                             

So while it may be difficult not to worry, try focusing instead on ways you can relieve the suffering of others. Relieving the suffering of others is always a way to follow God's righteousness. It's a way to couple free will with social responsibility. Just remember to wear a mask and maybe a face shield too. And for heaven's sake, wash your hands and the rest of your body while you're at it. Oh, and you might want to refrain from removing the speck in your brother's eye as well as the log in your own because, you know, that whole need to keep your hands away from your face, as well as someone else's face.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Human Shield, Part One

I have always had this “thing” in my life. I didn't really know where it came from, but it has always been there--beneath the surface or flashing brightly in the sun. Until now, I didn't understand why. I originally thought that it was simply a human trait. That everyone had a similar feeling, but experience screams otherwise. The "thing" to which I refer is a sense of being a human shield to those who can't defend themselves. I have always, always defended underdogs. I think that's where my soft spot for animals of all kinds arises. I think it's why I always defended kids in school who were picked on by bullies. I think it is why I still defend adults even who are bullied. I never viewed it as anything as grandiose as a hero complex. It was just a sense of needing to stand up for those could not or would not stand up for themselves. Only when I'm the one needing an advocate to stand up for me, I haven't always been there for myself.

I have come up with various analogies to try to explain this feeling of needing to be a human shield to others to myself. I have used metaphors like being a mama bear protecting her cubs, only I'm protective of anyone I perceive as an underdog. An example of this is when I was on a public bus near Seattle, and I encountered a group of teens who were picking on this grown man with a bag of groceries. The man was probably in his twenties. Apparently he was giving off a scared rabbit vibe because these teens rather blatantly swiped a bottle of wine out of his grocery bag and refused to put it back. The guy was clearly outnumbered by the teens and overwhelmed by their bully energy. I suspect he had been bullied as a child and a familiar scenario was taking over his will to stand up for himself when he was outnumbered. Had someone not stepped in to help him, I suspect he would have gone home one bottle of wine short.

That someone who stepped in was me, a thirty-something dyke, who looked more like a mom than law enforcement. Still this mom-like dyke spoke up after about a minute of their bullying behavior. I had been watching them, hoping that their better selves would override their bully selves and do the right thing by returning the bottle to its rightful owner. When that was clearly not going to happen, and no one else seemed inclined to step in, I told them to cut the crap and return the bottle they had stolen. They, in the form of a snarky teenage girl, denied that they had stolen anything. Being quite used to confronting snarky teenage girls from my years in social service, I said something like, "Come on. I saw you do it. Just give it back and leave the guy alone." Never doubting for an instant that she would comply, I kept my eye on her until she gave it back. Then she and her friends moved away from the guy and me. I guess all those years of working at an emergency shelter for teenage girls paid off. That authoritarian tone had not left me and the battle ended peacefully. The guy thanked me and that was the end of it.

It wasn't until later that it dawned on me that in this day and age, the punks could very well have had a gun or a knife and things could have ended differently, but they didn't. My angels were no doubt keeping them in line. They were just punk bullies, and someone older, with authority in her voice, and a strong mama bear energy in her aura stood up to them. It wasn't my fight, but neither was it right to sit idly by and let the bullying continue.

Related to this sense of being a human shield is the concept of being a Rescuer. To use archetypal terms, it's like being a knight in shining armor, or is my case, a knightess in shining armor, coming to the aid of damsels in distress. I'd say that at least half of my romantic relationships started out as rescues. That's not a good way begin a relationship unless you're talking about rescuing kittens. I think it was the Buddha who said that a relationship based on need will always be a needy relationship. My need to rescue and another's need to be rescued adds up to a needy relationship every time. Even when I've tried diligently to stop myself from acting out the Rescuer archetype, I seem only to postpone this scenario for a time. A few years at best. 

It has only been my shift into a role of being the one in need of rescuing that this theme of rescuing has abated somewhat. It's really hard to be both the rescued and the rescuer simultaneously, and yet I continue to try. Like the time a hawk zoomed down and snatched a squirrel from the magnolia tree in my front yard. Somehow the two of them ended up by the hedge in front of the house. Had I not been in a wheelchair, that squirrel would have lived to see another day. I would have run the hawk off and saved the squirrel. Instead, I had to sit in my wheelchair on the sidewalk and try to figure out a way to get the hawk to leave its perspective dinner alone long enough for it to escape.

I played great horned owl sounds on my phone in hopes of scaring it away by making it think that one of its few predators was nearby. Unfortunately, the sound quality was poor and it sounded too far away to be a threat. I prayed and grappled with this moral dilemma for a while, trying to scare it away by tossing an empty water bottle at it. Physics worked against me and the light as a feather empty bottle landed uselessly several feet away from the hawk. That effort yielded not even a blink of the hawk's eyes. Sadly after a half hour of being able to figure out nothing, I had to roll away and allow nature to take its course. That felt awful to me, particularly since a van full of ambulatory people sat in my driveway watching me, offering no help whatsoever. If I had been in that van and abler to walk, I would have jumped out and chased the hawk away in seconds. It was a prime example of how few people there are who will protect the underdog, or in this case, the undersquirrel.

I had to go inside  because I couldn't bear to watch as the hawk ate dinner, when dinner was a small creature, who had called the tree in my front yard home. I guess I've spent too many hours watching squirrels cavorting in the trees not to feel a kinship with them. I didn't know this particular squirrel, but neither did I know the man on the bus whose bottle of wine was stolen from him in the presence of a host of witnesses, who remained silent except for me.

There are other incidences when I stood up for kids in school, who were being bullied for one reason or another. I befriended them and sent would-be bullies on their way, mostly just with my presence. My presence at their side demonstrated that this victim was no longer alone. No longer prey to a bored bully with nothing better to do than pick on someone who was at a disadvantage because of a handicap, shyness, poverty, or some other trait that set them apart from others.

I've never understood bullying and my bully alarm goes off quite easily. Bullies make me angry. No matter what the circumstances, and I will stand up to them. The hawk was less of a bully and more just another one of God's creatures who just needed to eat to survive. No amount of discussion over the benefits of a plant-based diet was going to change that.  So I yielded to the higher intelligence of nature. That wasn't easy to do, but I had no other choice that I could see. I certainly had no intention of harming the hawk. It was simply following its hawk nature. Still I haven't forgotten the squirrel or this difficult situation, as this blog attests.

This story brings home the point that sometimes I am the only one who stands between the victim and the victimizer. I don’t try to be a hero. I am sometimes just forced into it by circumstances. I don’t particularly like the feeling of standing out there alone, being a human shield to protect someone who cannot or will not stand up for themselves. So why do I do it when I have nothing personal to gain from it? I finally reached the conclusion that it might either be something in my DNA or very early life experience. It could be both, of course, but I'll skip the debate between nature versus nurture. It just is what it is. I feel compelled to stand up to bullies to protect the victims. I'm less compelled to stand up when I'm the one being bullied but I am getting to that point too. 

Human Shield, Part Two

I am going to begin right away by explaining my theory of why I have always felt compelled to act as a human shield to people and animals, who are in need of protecting or rescuing. This theory is based on my life experience. It is based on my habit of asking hard questions of myself and others. It is based on a lot of inner work delving into my dreams and my psyche. I am not seeking to blame anyone. I am not seeking to excuse myself for shortcomings. I am seeking only to understand my experience on this planet as a human being a little bit better. 

When I was an infant, and most likely when I was still in utero, my mother was battered by my alcoholic father. My father was an intelligent and gregarious man when sober. However, when he was drunk, he turned into a violent monster. I have two older siblings, a brother and a sister, who were already sharing my mother's daily life with a man who was part human, part monster. I have no clear memories of this time with them. i was only six months old when my mom gathered her three small children and fled to a cousin's house for refuge. 

I tried a few times to ask my mother about time, but as often happens, her consciousness mercifully blanked it out. I let it be. Much later in life, I asked the angels to help me to understand what happened the day my mother walked away from the abuse. That night I had a dream, which felt more like a recalled memory because of my perspective in the dream. I was witnessing a fight between my parents. I couldn't actually see anyone. Only shadows on the wall above what must have been my crib. I didn't understand the words, only the harsh tones. I started crying. I got the feeling that what happened next was that my mother came and picked me up and held me. I felt comfort and peace for a time then suddenly I was aware of a palpable fear of violence. What followed immediately was a huge jolt. The dream ended there.

Fast forward a lot of years and a lot of looking back at relationships gone wrong. To this day, I can't stand fighting. I dislike conflict of all kinds. I want to be anywhere in the world, but in a house where someone is yelling. If ever a disagreement turns angry, it's a signal for me to disappear. I simply can't stand it. This makes some people even angrier, but I am beginning to see why I am like this and why I probably won't change any time soon, if ever. I appear to be hardwired now to avoid being in a vulnerable position where violent energy is likely to happen. I'm not talking about mere disagreements. I am talking about violent energy I can feel. I will do whatever is necessary to get myself out of a situation like that.

Although I have no distinct memories of the time when my father lived with us, I seem to have a body memory of how the atmosphere around me felt before angry energy morphed into violence, before shouting turned into physical blows. If my father ever hit me directly, I have no knowledge or memory of it. All I have is an understanding of the way anger—as words, energy, and tones—feels just before violence occurs. I have felt that energy only a few times in my life since infanthood, and I think that is because I avoid conflict if at all possible. I have no tolerance for extreme anger. I hate when it arises in myself. I hate when it arises in others. I try to resolve conflict quietly and logically. If I can't do that, I do my best to remove myself from the situation altogether. For me, it's a matter of safety.

I truly believe my sense of being a human shield is tied to this early time in my life. In talking to my mother over the years, I learned that up until the day my mom took the three of us and fled, my father had not physically struck us. I think there was enough humanity in him, even when drunk, that kept him from hurting us. As long as this ounce of humanity was present, we and my mom were relatively safe. Standing alone, my mother was a target for his angry violence. Our presence was like a protective barrier against violence perpetrated against my mother, just as her presence was a protective barrier for us. I believe that somehow my infant body absorbed this understanding of being what kept my mom relatively safe. Not because I was a threat to him in any way, but just because of my siblings’ and my presence. The day that psychological protection was lost, when my father crossed the line and threw my mother against the wall while she was nursing me, the protective spell was broken and my mother realized that her children were in danger of being battered as well. 

That was the day she walked out from under a lock of her own hair and took her children to the safety of an older cousin’s house. My father,  in trying to stop her, grabbed a fistful of her long hair. Determined to get her children to safety, she kept going, leaving that captured hair behind still entwined in his fist. This resulted in a bald spot on her head that was still there when I was a teenager. I don’t know if she ever lost that bald spot. My brother might know since he cut her hair for years. 

At any rate, I think I somehow absorbed the sense of being a human shield that, at least for a time, can protect others from being a victim to someone who is attempting to bully them. I would not be surprised to find out that my siblings carry a similar sense in their psyches. I know we are all fiercely protective of my mom, protecting her even from news, whenever possible, that would cause her pain or worry.

Thus, this sense of being a human shield to protect others is deeply ingrained in me. So is my loathing of violence and bullying. It isn’t in any way heroic. It’s more of a compulsion, and it’s something that has stayed with me even though I am now disabled and feeling vulnerable myself. Despite my disabilities, my instinct is still to protect those more vulnerable. It causes me great anguish when I can’t help them physically. When taken by surprise by human or animal suffering, I frequently burst into tears, knowing that there is no way I can rescue them from their fate. Chafing at my limitations, I have taken on the role instead of a prayer warrior who seeks to protect others via prayer. I elicit angelic help to aid and protect others in their time of need. I may not be able to help others physically, but I can pray. I can always pray.

In your time of greatest need, I pray you will reach out your hand and find the aid of beings who can physically shelter you from harm. I know now that it has always been the presence of angels who have provided protection to those in vulnerable circumstances. If my presence has helped others to feel safe and protected, it is only because I have added my angels to theirs just by being there. I am not nor ever have been a hero who can rescue others. I am but one person who understands the power and protective nature of angels, and I am willing to allow the presence of my guardian angels to team up with theirs and thus make us both safer because of it. I realize that some of you may not believe in a Divine Being or angels, but if you ever are in desperate need of help, I implore you to ask for their assistance. You don’t have to use flowery, liturgical speech. A simple “helps, angels” will suffice to summon them to your side. They are, after all, always there waiting for you to reach out to them for help. They are not restricted to one religion and appear in many faiths. They are embodiments of love. They can and do act as protective shields for the vulnerable. They are a lot more effective at that than I am, but I will continue to do all I can to comfort and protect those in my path who need it. 

Monday, September 2, 2019

Hunkering Down in Florida

I get a kick out of language and the humorous side of difficult situations. Since we are currently watching and waiting to see what Hurricane Dorian is going to do, this is a perfect time to look at all the catch phrases that leap out of our mouths when a really bad storm is threatening our way of life. 
I don’t know how many times I’m encouraged to “batten down the hatches,” “hunker down,” and “ride out the storm.” Last I checked, hurricanes aren’t horses. I’m not sure I can hunker in a wheelchair. I’m pretty sure I don’t have any hatches to batten down, and I am not sure how to go about battening down anything, much less a hatch. Despite my asking people what this means, I have so far garnered only puzzled looks from the speakers of these phrases. They are as clueless as I am, so I decided to do some research in between the battening time and the hunkering time. 

Now I know the phrase “batten down the hatches” is a nautical one. According to the Oxford dictionary, it refers to securing a ship’s hatch-tarpaulins in preparation for a storm. So when a storm threatens, everyone in the US, including those in landlocked states, turn into a bunch of shipmates, using nautical terminology that otherwise stays locked away in Davy Jones’s locker (Google this if you don’t know what Davy Jones’s locker is. I don’t have time to explain jokes while I’m preparing to hunker down. Hint: It has nothing to do with a late British pop star of Monkees fame.). I’m rather surprised we don’t go buy macaws to sit on our shoulders and start sprinkling our conversations with outcries of “har!” and “ahoy!”

So once we’ve battened down our hatches, we have to await the arrival of bad weather so we can start hunkering down. One definition of hunkering is to squat or crouch down low.” I know I can’t do that so I will have to improvise in my wheelchair. Another definition is to “apply oneself seriously to a task.” College students, when someone tells you to hunker down, this is what they mean: “Study hard and don’t waste that money I’ve spent a lifetime saving!”

If you’re going through a bad storm, you need to crouch in a defensive position. Face it, you’ll be better prepared to bend over a little farther and kiss your arse goodbye, which is particularly appropriate if you’re in the path of a Category 5 hurricane. 

Now that we’ve battened down our hatches and are prepared to hunker down, we just have to “ride out the storm.” This idiom is explained by the Cambridge Dictionary thus:

ride (out) the storm. to manage not to be destroyed, harmed, or permanently affected by the difficult situation you experience: The government seems confident that it will ride out the storm.

What is particularly disconcerting about this definition is their example of usage about the government. I’m not so confident that our country will not be permanently affected by our current administration. Nor am I confident that we will all ride out Hurricane Dorian without being permanently affected. At least one family in the Bahamas will certainly be permanently affected by the storm. Their seven-year old boy has drowned.  

So while we bandy about these otherwise unused phrases, let us pray for those who are already being adversely impacted by the storm, figuratively and literally. Peace be to all and mercy.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Healing at a Snail’s Pace

“Even a snail makes progress if it keeps moving.”—me

I suppose it seems a little vain to quote yourself, but I truly say some of the darnedest things sometimes. It’s like every once in a while, my Higher Self sneaks in and drops a shiny pebble along the path to get my attention. I stop and pick it up, rolling it over and over in my hand, marveling at its simplicity and beauty. I tuck that shiny pebble into my metaphorical medicine bag. Then when I need it most, the pebble tumbles out of my medicine bag and brings healing to some broken part of me or someone else.

Thus above words are for a heart that is weary of needing so much help. I had been making slow progress up until I got my new wheelchair. Then for several different reasons, transferring got tricky again. First I had to have the leg pads removed because they were making it difficult to impossible to step out over the footplate upon transferring. Then I quickly discovered that the footplate was far too long for me to pull it up out of the way without scraping it along my calves, causing blisters and scrapes.

The added difficulty of calculating the exact positioning of every molecule in my body, the dimensions of the new chair, and the precise trajectory needed to execute successfully eight different transfers, proved to be too much. After scratching and scraping my legs for a few days, I was able to get a couple of friends to put the footplate of the wheelchair I had been borrowing onto my new chair, making it much easier to transfer. While things went much better after the footplate switch, I was sporting several new open wounds as a direct result of the new chair. 

Eventually I fell again in the bathroom twisting my knee and slicing back several layers of skin on my right foot.  I bandaged my foot but later that same day, I tried to transfer and my knee gave out, being too weak of a link to support my iffy transfers. I had the EMTs take me to Celebration Hospital in Orlando. I spent four days there letting them bandage my wounds and allowing my knee to heal. I went home four days later weak from the down time but with a mostly healed knee. 

It took four days to regain my strength, even though I had not yet completely regained my stamina. That took several more days. Once I was back up to par for me, I noticed that I was having spells of feeling weak suddenly when I transferred in the bathroom. I wasn’t sure what was happening but I knew something wasn’t right and I suspected that it was related to my blood pressure. In talking to a nurse yesterday about it, she suggested that I might have orthostatic hypotension. Many times I have wondered if I needed to be on medication for hypertension when my blood pressure is nearly always low when I get it checked either at the hospital or at home. Only sometimes when I go to the doctor does my blood pressure register high. This sudden drop in blood pressure is, I suspect, the reason I fall sometimes. 

It’s exhausting to have to figure all this out on your own or to tell your doctor only to get a quick diagnosis of this or that, which someone else has already ruled out via tests and observation.

After another hospital stay of eight days, they finally approved some home physical therapy to help me in strengthening my body so I can successfully transfer consistently. I am showing signs of improvement on days I don’t have to push myself to keep going. If I push too hard, I feel the sudden fatigue and my transfers are iffy at best. I have had to call Fire Rescue three times since I have been home. That’s so discouraging but I do feel that PT is helping. They are supposed to evaluate me this week to see if I am benefiting from the PT. I see a distinct improvement when I am not experiencing one of those sudden weary spells. 

I sometimes wonder if there is something else I need to learn before I can finally turn the page and finish this particularly long and difficult chapter in my life. I am getting better and stronger but most of the time my improvements have come at a snail’s pace. I’m not happy about that. To use the tortoise and the hare analogy, I’m usually the hare. I don’t like being the tortoise. It is not my style. Or at least it didn’t used to be. Right now I guess it is until enough healing occurs so I can begin to walk then run finally. I look to Isaiah to remind myself that it’s not a bad thing to wait on someone else’s timing. 

“But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 41:31

I’m ready any time now to mount up with wings as eagles. I’m ready to run without weariness and walk without fainting. Any time now. Until then I guess I just have to wait and watch, since I have already been told that God is doing something new and I need to pay attention to it (see earlier blog entitled, “Behold, Something New” at my Mystic Angel Healing website). I’m still not sure what the new thing is, but I am still watching and waiting. Although  I do admit to some drumming of my fingers while I wait. I am human after all. 


Friday, July 12, 2019

Facing Grief

(Reprinted with permission from my Slices of My Life blog.)

I had a very long talk with a chaplain yesterday because I have been having a hard time emotionally lately. It has been difficult to maintain emotional equilibrium. I was surprised when our conversation came around to the fact that losing my nephew, David, was still bothering me so much. It has not been that long, and I have always been close to my nephews, so it shouldn’t have been surprising. However, the depth of emotion was a bit of a shock. My siblings’ children are as close as I will get to having children of my own. Of the four I have had the joy of knowing and loving, I have had to say goodbye to two of them already. Both were sudden and unexpected departures. 

As much as I want not to be hurting still from the loss of David, I had to realize and accept that the loss of this precious young man has been stalking me all year. I am angry that my current state of health robbed me of being able to see him more frequently at a time when I knew he was hurting and feeling a little lost himself because he went from having Ben’s two children in his and his father’s care to being an empty nester. I had talked to him about it at my house when he was there a few months prior to his passing. I wanted so much to be able to spend more time with him, but my lack of mobility has hindered me from going anywhere except the doctor.

After the loss of a loved one, life moves on, only a piece of the puzzle of our lives is missing. We can try to pretend that it isn’t missing, but it doesn’t change the fact that there is a gaping hole in our hearts where a person who once resided on this plane is no longer there. 

When we lost David’s twin, Ben, we were all forced to move on immediately. As soon as we got home from the family gathering after Ben’s funeral, we became aware that Hurricane Charley was barreling our way. We were jerked from grieving mode and thrown into survival mode instantly. 

When David died abruptly at the end of last year, it was like losing both of them all over again. The grief from the loss of Ben had been pushed aside in order to make sure my mom and my sister were going to be safe during and after the hurricane. I knew their hearts were broken and I tried to make sure that we were all going to be ready and as safe as possible when Charley came knocking at Mom’s door, where we were all three huddled together. I clearly recall standing next to my mom going through an emergency preparedness list that is permanently tattooed on my brain from spending so many years in earthquake country. After a careful inventory, Mom and I went off to buy bottled water since that was all we needed to be as ready as you can ever be for a hurricane. The quick shift from grief to survival mode grated on the heart, shredding it a bit because the shifting of gears was done without having time to use the clutch.

I am angry that my current state of health prevents me from driving to my mom’s house every other weekend to spend time with her. That is what I was doing from the moment I moved back to Florida in 2010 until I had to give up driving when I nearly crashed my buddy’s car because of back spasms that periodically rocked my body, forcing my right leg to go ramrod straight. That isn’t a big deal in normal situations, but it’s downright scary when you’re driving and the leg that loses control is the one pressing the gas pedal. 

I had to make a quick lane transfer to keep from ramming into a car that was stopped in front of me. I managed to make it safely back to Jan’s house with the help of a host of traffic angels. I went in, hung up the keys, and told Jan not to let me drive again until my back stopped causing my leg to do that. 
It’s been five years since the woman who drove across the continent a dozen times hung up her keys. When my Washington drivers license was nearing expiration, I got a Florida ID card instead. Thus ended my regular trips to visit my family. After moving 3500 miles back from Seattle so I could spend more time with my family, I had to ground myself. Since that time, my condition has made it nearly impossible for me to make the hour long trip even if someone else drives me.

Not being able to visit my mother at this time in her life is infuriating and another kind of loss and grief. Yet it isn’t something under my control right now. If will power and the desire to go were all I needed, I would be there with her already. I need my body to cooperate with me and heal so I can get around again on my own. 

The chaplain and I talked about how humbling it is to have to ask for help. Having to ask for the level of help I have needed for the past five years is downright humiliating. I know that I am a burden sometimes even though I’m told that I am not. I sense the anger and the frustration about having to worry that I am okay and not on the floor somewhere, and I understand it. It is difficult to have to be constantly aware of someone else’s safety. It’s stressful and I know it. It’s stressful and frustrating for me too. The loss of independence is yet another source of grief.

I have been very independent over the years. I moved across the country from central Florida to the Seattle area. Short of going on up to Alaska, something I considered doing when the Wasilla Waldenbooks store became available and was offered to me, I couldn’t have gotten farther away from the family nest. Ultimately I decided to stay in the more moderate Western Washington climate. Yes, i have had to ask for help at times in the past, but it has always been a last resort and an act of desperation after every other avenue had been explored. It has also been only for a short time rather than year after year of varying levels of dependence.

Yesterday I sought help from a chaplain because I knew I needed to talk to someone who was outside of the situation. I knew something was wrong and that I wasn’t figuring it out on my own. I’m so glad I did because it helped. Have my circumstances changed? No, but I think I can stop beating myself up for feeling so down. No matter how much we want grief to go away and leave us alone, it has its own time schedule. We may make ourselves busy and push through to survive the devastation, but that doesn’t mean that the waves of grief have washed us ashore to a new place in our lives, where we can stand and take those first faltering steps forward. Until that happens we can only try to keep the waves from overwhelming us. We must allow the waves of grief to wash over us until they subside into ripples in shallow water. Only then can we move on to a new place.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Why-not Wednesday

(Reprinted with permission from my Slices of My Life blog).

Today is Why-not Wednesday. Is that a thing? It is now. This is one of my (now deceased) LL Bean Adirondack lawn chairs. I used to sit outside in my chair and just be. Sitting in my chair outside was inspirational. I wrote many a poem from this seat. I watched the sometimes noisy, idyllic world act out its drama from this place. 

I came up with lots of good ideas while in this chair. Some have been carried out while others have fallen by the wayside. I was sitting by Hood Canal one night in one of my two identical chairs when I spotted a UFO and got the holy bejeebers scared out of me. I do NOT wish to repeat that experience even if it does make for a good late night scary story. I did a lot of good thinking, resting, chilling, sleeping, listening, and writing while in this chair (or its twin). Now the chairs are gone. They rotted in the summer rain and heat of Florida when I was back in Washington during the summer of 2012, mostly chilling back in my old stomping grounds on the Kitsap Peninsula. 

Even though the chair is no longer with us, what this chair represents is a time and a space carved out in the midst of the maelstrom of life where I let myself just BE. I didn’t have to prove anything. I didn’t have to produce anything, even though I did write a number of poems during my being time. I had a very demanding job when I first started using my chairs for quiet reflection in nature.

I was managing a rapidly growing Waldenbooks store in nearby Silverdale, Washington. I was in the process of creating my online bookstore, Bookshop Without Borders. I was working part time for my then publisher, learning the various aspects of book publishing. I created a syllabus for an independent study for a friend of mine, who was attending Evergreen College. I was actively practicing conscious living and being. 

Even just thinking about being in my chair is giving me some good ideas for creative projects. Let’s see where these ideas might take me. This is my first Whynot Wednesday and I am asking myself “ Why not?” Why not do something new? Something different. I am already doing that in a lot of areas in my life. What other things can I do? 

Do you have a place and time where you can ponder the big picture and ask unanswerable questions, listening quietly to see if anything comes back to you? If not, you might want to create such a place and start dreaming big dreams then asking yourself why not? You might be surprised by the responses you get.