Weird Normal & Cancer Envy; Part One of Bear With Me

Friends, Ed & E called. They were concerned, curious mostly about the intensity and/or emotional topics on my recent posts, and because I’ve been missing in action.

Bear With Me 4I have been quieter in general, but to address some of their concern, I explained that I usually write about my or other’s experiences in the way they felt at the time of the occurrences. It gives the impression they all happened recently, but really they could have happened yesterday or thirty years ago.

I do mix them up because while they make the point that I want, it also protects people who may need shielding.  I also just like to indulge in a little mystery for fun.

Admittedly, the events of late are not all related to that fun; they have been more unusually taxing. So yes, I’ve been more reserved in my activities and have expressed more personal poignancy in my posts.

I manage a rare disease within my daily routine. For the most part everything about me seems pretty normal, except for when this disease bounces my world into chaos.

To explain the beast in 10 words or less – it’s an inflammation-based disease of all kinds of irritation, but mainly it unpredictably interferes with organ function and defies prognosis.  It’s a pick an organ, any organ to screw with when it’s bored or cranky, kind of bastard. I call these visits by it, the ‘big ones’.

Friends may observe it has pounced by my newly inhibited movement, or noticeable weight loss, or I might be hospitalized for months engaged in hand to hand combat with the Grim Reaper. Sometimes he’s content to just gnaw on a limb for a few weeks.

The moments in between these time-outs are the same as most – work, growing kids, growing me, up days, down days, and once in a while even surviving catastrophic days unrelated to my health.

This fall, previously written about on the loss of someone I loved, and the pain of a betrayal, played into that old myth that these sort of events come in threes.

So, in the midst of the hell, number three showed up, in the form of another scary, frustrating flare-up. It would take another post to detail it and I’d rather leave it at saying I acquired a painful syndrome that they say will take a couple of years to unwind. It also triggered a former crisis. Let the good times roll.

Of course, I’m scared. Yes it troubles me, and yes, I’ve cried. Navigating pain is tricky business & each of these events makes me feel just a little bit or a lot bit, lost at times. There is a real aura of alone because I am in some ways, the least of which is that I have never met anyone who has my disease.

Not that I wish for someone else to have it for company.  It can stir up a weird head space though.  I’ve actually envied cancer patients.  They have so much support, myriad services and immediate sympathy.  And ready understanding.

Once I walked out of a private ‘washroom for disabled’ and a woman waved her cane and loudly castigated me, “You should know this room is for the disabled!”

I’d used the privacy to deal with a temporary drainage bag attached into my belly. I only stared at her, feeling indignant embarrassment as I brushed past her. I wish I would have said something to puncture her presumptions and I still can’t believe I didn’t…

That experience was too new for me to think fast enough.  Maybe.  Probably, I was drugged. I’d later considered wearing a scarf to cover my hair – chemo hair-loss style – whenever I was struck by the big ones. I eventually got over that and earned another level of psyche strength; I definitely don’t feel obligated to always explain myself anymore.

Which leads me toward the point of this post. Well, it will somewhere down the line.

Hindsight is 20/20 when measuring growth through adversity, but when awesome reader/friends, Rebekah Ingram & Randall Willis, zinged me with some gorgeous insight, there was an intriguing moment of ‘aha’!

Their views pointed me to observing the growth & changes in me as they are occurring. Maybe we call it 10/10 forevision. This means I’m paying attention to what’s going on in my feelings, body & spirit now, during these trials, rather than surviving and processing later.

Along with mom & dad flying across the country to hug & assist me, I believe applying this new aspect could, in some ways, help me heal a little faster.

It’s another work in progress, but I look forward to seeing what’s being brought to me and through me with this new process. I’ll start in gratitude to these friends for sharing their caring hearts at just the right time.

 

Pick a Hero, Any Hero, Even if it Turns Out To Be You

I thought I’d speak to another level of resolutions, as the idea of new beginnings for a new year gels for many. I’d originally posted this last spring, but I can’t help thinking the winds of change in progress means looking at the world and our place in it a little more – and that maybe helping people is in itself a full enough belief system…

It would be crushing to write another Dejah story.  Despite the privilege of being able to write about it, I wish there’d never been a Dejah Milne story in the first place.  At least not the way it had to be written because otherwise the right story would say that his mother, father, and sister are still able to hold him and hug him whenever they want.

They’d be able to laugh with him, instead of at videos of his silly fun from days not so long gone by.  They would be able to hear his ‘I love you too’s with his voice.  They’d get to be angry with him for messing up the house, or coming home too late, or maybe denting the car’s bumper.   I know they’d rather that kind of everyday eye-rolling frustration instead of coping with the anguish of his absence now, because at age 13 years, he wasn’t able to overcome the tumour that he’d carried for 10 years.

I don’t want to write those stories if it can be helped at all. I don’t know anyone who does. The problem is, that the problems that end with those stories aren’t finished yet.  There are so many issues that need someone to stand up for them and in support of the cavalcade of teams who work tirelessly to end them once, and honestly for all.

These are the teams of people who have been called, or sometimes brutally and harshly forced, at a spirit level, to take charge in the parts of life that are painful, agonizing, hideous, and terrifying.  That’s heroics.

They are thrown toward the front lines to take on the darkness for us.  They stand and push as far as they can to get answers to the challenges that debilitate or outright steal loved ones from us.  They strive to make our world better, easier, more livable.

They need little from anyone else when it’s all put into perspective.  They’ve already taken on the heavy end of the fight.  They’re slogging, sweating, bleeding, and crying so that the rest of us get to hang back and throw out what we are able, when we can even as, just like us, they still have to navigate the trials of everyday life.

They ask for our help, but not for things like go earn a science degree or a doctorate, or to put our lives on the line, or to organize any kind of effort beyond our ability.

Those calls are usually only pleas to be heard, for us to see what is happening, and they ask us to spend the least of what we wish to.  Then they call us ‘their heroes’ for giving that bit.

Let’s get real please; they aren’t really asking for our heroics.  They are asking us to share only a little of our resources to sustain their herculean efforts for our sake.

Charity Capture distorted 3It doesn’t matter how we acknowledge that they’ve been heard.  Spend your hour of time.  Send your $2, $20, or your $20,000,000 if you can. Send your willingness to walk, run, dance, fast, drive, stand, or create, but whatever you do, please do not ignore these direct calls to your own soul. This is the least we can do, literally.

Look, whatever we choose to support today is directly connected to whatever is to be resolved tomorrow and in the issues in the days after that.  Start by choosing one, any one cause that made you turn your face toward it for even a minute.   We can all help another mother, father, son, brother, daughter and sister not have to spend another day in fear and grief.  That’s kind of heroic, right?

RL

Because I Can…

people heart redSometimes, maybe a lot of times, we need to remember, or at least ponder, what this whole experience of life is supposed to be about.  We hear it all the time; it’s about love. It’s about helping one another.  It’s about lifting each other up when we’ve been pushed down by experiences too heavy to carry on our own.

Living this mindset to any great degree didn’t happen overnight for me nor did it come easy. My middle name is Macadamia, (look it up). It took a number of jarring incidents to make me stop and assess where I was heading and how. We call those incidents philosophical bricks.

Philosophical, schmilosophical – the solid OUCH of those bricks served to open my abilities to care beyond my immediate family needs and the occasional charity event. One clunker that demanded attention is a chronic health condition. When I’ve had to deal with acute phases of it or any other life crises, (I’m really good at getting those), I’ve had the honor of being taught time and time again how living up to life is actually demonstrated. As it turned out, it’s really not as hard as I once might have resentfully imagined.

Those who know me would likely say I’m a strong person.  I know I am.  If you haven’t been defeated by life’s bricks and kicks, you likely are, but there have been times when I’d been so far down, I’d have sworn I was at the end and I was good with that. Relieved even.

I wish I could say I pulled myself out of those periods of desolation by the straps of self-determination, but the truth is, the ball to real self-help really couldn’t have started rolling if I hadn’t first been shown the path via the hearts of my near and dear.

They weren’t the surgeons or psychologists or ministers.  They were the friends who came to me to talk, listen, and hold my hand while I cried. They shared their wisdom and their resources to nurse and support the basics of life.

At the worst of times, they managed to break through despair that was blocking my will to fight any more. They showed me how to breathe once again through those debilitating trials. They worked with great and gentle care to help me feel seen and heard.

Those acts of simple and generous kindnesses were teaching me how to be a better human being, even as I felt incapable of even existing. In the most exquisite and genuine ways, I learned how to act when life grabs a tight hold and demands immediate action for survival.

Compassion changes so many levels of pain. It infuses you with honest empathy. It changed me in ways that I hope never gets unchanged. They showed me how to get up and say, yes I can.

Yes, I can get through this day, pain, event. Yes, I can take time to tell someone I’m thinking of them. Yes, I can listen, yes I can cook a (barely edible) casserole for someone who can’t.  Yes, I can give a few dollars, even if it feels like I can’t afford to, yes I can help.  I can do all the things done for me and more. Yes, I can.

My ‘Yes, I Can’ mantra graduated to ‘Because I Can’.  For me ‘Yes, I can’ and ‘because I can’ means I am alive. I may be limited in talent or immediate resources, but I’m not limited in possibilities to demonstrate care.

It’s my sincere desire, maybe even an obligation, to live up to the promise, the truest meaning of life as so ably demonstrated by those loved ones I call heroes. ‘Yes, I can’ is more than a trite statement or a campaign slogan, it’s a way of life.

It’s not about becoming a saint or a world leader to do something that changes the world. You don’t even have to be a ‘good person’; if someone needs a hand, help them.  I’ll bet you’ll end up pretty happy too, and if not, then please be reasonable enough to settle for content. There are plenty of days in a life well-lived when that is more than enough.

RL

Originally Posted on

Someone to Watch Over Me…

It wasn’t a typical love story then and I suppose it’s not so much now either, at least not the kind we think about in this season of Valentine wishes and dreams.

broken flower 3jpgYou have to be this young to believe that you are this much in charge of life; that destiny has already been completely met.  To know that the only education you need to make your dreams come true is your own thoughts and a chat with your friends –  to be so heartbreakingly unaware of the precariousness  that will haunt even the babies to come.

She was a naive, pretty, eighteen year old small town girl who had no idea that so many of her dreams were going to turn into a lifetime of regrets.  She picked out her dream man, 20 years old, so very handsome and tall, and who held out to her a bouquet of the loveliest promises.

Not long after meeting, she became pregnant and it probably wasn’t much longer after that, that the first flower from that fragile bouquet fell.   The images her thoughts weaved for her future were simple, but meant everything – little home wrapped in the white picket fence of love, and lovely family dinners, family picnics and parties, and Christmas trees loaded with gifts.

She had intended so many occasions of wonderful for herself, and for me.  We were supposed to be that family that she envied in the movies, the love stories that she placed herself into in her favorite books, and in those images in Norman Rockwell paintings that confirmed how life was supposed to be. Sweet dreams sweet intentions.

They were slapped away brutally.  Literally.  He wasn’t ready for that dream.  Not at that time, not completely, maybe never.   He was more drawn to the calls of a wild party.  He had many more bottles to hoist up, and while he ‘owned’ her, he was nowhere near finished with his explorations of women.   Her resistance to ‘his way’ led to her learning that promises were only his dreams in the moment and they were nowhere near as real as those first black eyes.

I don’t know when I first heard or saw him hit her; I can remember that only from about age four.  I know that when it happened, I became very still as my heartbeat filled my ears.  I must have learned by then to make myself invisible.  The only way she could make herself invisible was to run away.   Some might say she didn’t learn how to do that right soon enough.

She did leave, many times, but somehow he would find her.  Us.  Sometimes her friends would tell him where we were; sometimes even her own brothers would sell her out during drunken party conversation or under threat.  Sometimes the loneliness and fear conquered her and she would call him herself.  She finally left for good when I was thirteen.

She didn’t leave her dreams though.  Not all of them anyway.  She still thought she could find that one good man. That’s how life was supposed to be.  Wasn’t that ever reinforced on every song on the radio, TV shows and magazine headlines?  So that’s what she pursued, even while the rest of her life was floating in a jumbled mess around her.

She had her share of boyfriends for some years, but no one could last for long.   They either owned their share of chaos and/or they couldn’t bear to deal with hers.  It would take years for the stars to align for her.  Maybe it was all the prayers she cried through to be delivered from that loneliness and to fill the need for someone to watch over her, because he came for her, finally.

It was not the typical script for a ‘let me rescue you’ love story.  He was just as messed up as she was, but somehow, eventually, this one wanted to get it together, with her, at the same time that she had reached her breaking point.

Somehow, armed only with whatever bit of guidance that was to come their way, they pushed through all the debris of their lives and rebuilt everything.  They did as best as they could, which turned out to be very well.  Their turned-around lives are far richer, and have lasted three times longer, so far, than their early trek over those fiery, alcohol-fueled coals.

Now she prays, hard and often, that her lessons of recovery from hell have been seen by her children, and their children, who learned all too well the modeled example of her youth.

Dreams do come true, but not from behind the wall of recriminations, isolated introspection, and avoidance.  The answers could be easy, but it’s still  work to carve out the road to them.  This can’t be any harder than it is to stay in pretension that all is well, to stay in hell.

I will pray that her prayers are answered for her. Again.

RL

Stuff I’ve Learned – Mostly the Hard Way – and I Have the Scars to Prove It. [Hindsight|The Daily Post]

A few years ago I re-joined the ‘Critically Facing Your Mortality Club’. It’s an event that can sort of become semi-normal when you’re challenged with a chronic health issue; in my case, a rare disease that defies prognosis attempts. I know to prepare for some difficulty from time to time, but I wasn’t ready for the words that this time, my life was down to literally, minutes.

Just before I was wheeled into surgery, I was allowed to call my mother to let her know what was happening and to potentially say goodbye. She told me later, she was too shocked to do anything, but slide to the floor. I was good with just being put under -anesthetically.

Clearly I made it through, but at the time, along with an urgent need to update my will, I was desperate about the still very real possibility that I would not be around long enough to teach my then 8 yr. old son about the facts of life.

mom and babyI had so many plans in store to show him how to navigate this world using shortcuts I’d earned through many moments of angst, sweat and heartaches. How could I spare my baby even a bit of this painful journey? ‘Cause, there it was – that in-your-face reality that I couldn’t take for granted the kind of time I thought I had, to show my boy how to live life a little more successfully than me.

True to form, I immediately tried to take notes of my thoughts. I went for the sort of inspiring fashion of ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ by Mitch Albom or ‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch. Unfortunately, I was seriously impaired by heavy narcotics, a web of wires and myriad tubing, and some seriously constricting leg compression things from ankle to hips. I’m sure I could have written something under the influence, but writing while prone did me in. Figuratively, that is.

Following two months in the ward, my panic induced lesson outline was further inhibited by long recovery, and then distracted by the less galvanizing daily details of getting back to raising my boy and making a living. Also, it’s really not easy to write like, nor as well as, Mitch Albom and Randy Pausch.

Eventually I did fill out my notes and I’m sure that I will keep adding to this list of hard won wins, at least I certainly hope so. I now consider myself a member of the ‘Don’t Take Life for Granted for Real Club’. I am more hopeful that I will help my son and perhaps someone else to shorten a bumpy ride to success. Maybe someone will smile in remembrance of also winning one or more of these lessons.

If I don’t make it to the end date that I have in mind, my son will have a small record of what I would like for him to succeed at. True, it may not be as eloquent as my inspirers, but if it makes the point…

29 Lessons Learned Over & Over a Lifetime

1. Make your life as big as possible – create for yourself many areas of interests and friends. If one piece of the pie breaks down, it’s not the end of the pie. Don’t worry, the missing piece will eventually get filled in, usually in a better way.
2. READ – please always find out what’s happening around you. Learn something new regularly. Reading is decent, enlightening, uplifting &/or heartrending entertainment.
3. You will often be judged, or more likely misjudged, by the way you spell. So learn this and grammar, as much as you can. Spelling & grammar nazis are dying over this post, this very minute.
4. It’s a fact that helping someone else seriously chases away your serious blues. Volunteer for anything. Often.
5. Laugh. Laugh as often as you possibly can – yes, even at a funeral, & especially in a hospital. Know funny.
6. It’s OK to not know something. Don’t be afraid to say I don’t know, (don’t overuse it either, that’s laziness). You can’t learn anything if you spend your time pretending that you already know it. You don’t make great friends doing that either.
7. Don’t lie too big or too often. Let’s face it; we all lie at times to some degree, (yes, your new crazy paisley suit does look um, interesting, boss). If it is indeed relevant, tell the truth. Your heart will know when.
8. You have nothing if you don’t have your word.
9. Behave honorably. Live with integrity. You don’t have to believe in Karma to receive it.
10. Believe in something. Whatever you decide it is, it must be something bigger than you. Universe, God, a cause, a calling to be better in any and all ways.
11. Try to keep your thoughts to yourself for a bit before blurting out something questionable. Oh yeah, sometimes this one hurts – especially if you have to bite your tongue hard. Bite it anyway and reward yourself with a piece of chocolate later. Definitely tastier than crow. Or tofu.
12. Keep any promise you make, so please, don’t make promises lightly.
13. Did I say you have nothing if you don’t have your word?
14. Make sure that you are the friend, lover, spouse, boss, employee, in-law that you want those people to be to you. (If you honestly are and they aren’t, wish them well and walk away – far away if necessary). Both of these steps take practise. Keep practising. Forever.
15. It’s not your job to change anyone. If someone likes how you live, they will follow your behavior and/or adapt it to their own needs if and when they want to.
16. Be very careful about what you say about someone you don’t know. That stranger you just talked to about the jerk down the street is often a friend of the jerk; that twit you flip off in traffic could quite possibly be sitting behind the desk to conduct your next job interview. We say it’s a small world for a reason.
17. Fact check! Make sure you know what you’re talking about. Otherwise preface your statements with, “I heard somewhere”. It turns out that ASS.U.ME saying is absolutely true.
18. Ask for help. You can’t do it all on your own – even if you insanely think that you’re supposed to. That drowning sensation is an accurate cue to ask for help.
19. When you are really stressing, really upset, check yourself to see if this is something that really matters. Really!
20. Apologize when you mess up-which you will if you remain human. Don’t beat yourself up, at least not for too long. Fix what needs fixing. Learn how to not do that again. Carry on.
21. Admit when you are wrong. Own up to it, apologize; gain respect.
22. Don’t try to act cool. You may think you’re getting away with something through some fast talking, but the people around you are definitely employing point #11. Trust me.
23. Deal with what is, not what might be, what may be, what could be. Use the mights, mays, & coulds for emergency or event planning.
24. Be thoughtless… for 10 minutes a day, be still in mind and body. It re-sets your brain. It calms you, and opens up your creativity, sound judgment, and perception abilities. This could be the most important lesson of all.
25. Be wary of appearances. Especially true today with the changing principles of appropriate daily wear. That skateboarder could very well be a Facebook creator and the biggest thieves and crooks wear designer suits.
26. Treat everyone with courteous civility, but wait for them to earn your respect.
27. Eventually, the burned rice marks will fade from the bottom of the pot. Same with scars and fears – if you face them. If needed, hold someone’s hand through that too.
28. Not everyone will like you. Doesn’t matter. That’s OK. You matter. Just continue to live as upright as possible. You will attract people with mutual character. That matters more than popularity. Character will have your back. Popularity will run for the hills the minute your world has some clouds.
29. Read ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ by Mitch Albom or ‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch.
30. OK, I lied, there are really 30. Say I love you every day. I love you, son.

Postscript: Said son informed me that he liked this note, that it was: “A good job mom, almost as good as my goodbye card that I made for Eric”. I see that I am doing well on the esteem building side of child rearing. Lesson learned.

RL

Written in response to the WordPress Daily Post challenge to re-write our first posts.
https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/hindsight/

Big Troubles and a Fence

Being bullied as a kid feels like you’re walking out into a dangerous field that’s surrounded by a big fence electrified by fear. I remember this from when I was nine years old. I’ll always remember because no one forgets their encounters with bullies, ever.

playground 1For whatever reason, in grade four I caught the eye of our school bully. His name was Shane and although we were in the same grade, he was almost a head taller than me. I suppose it’s not surprising that a bully might have sought me out; I was one of the smallest in our class. I’m sure he felt confident I was one of the weakest.

Shane would look for opportunities to push me around and because he was so much bigger than me, it didn’t take much of a push from him to knock me down. He would generally follow that up with slapping me and threatening worse after school. There weren’t many options for me after school, it was either run like hell for home, try to hide behind people as they were walking, or just take the beating while trying to fend off too much damage. Teachers weren’t much involved outside of class in those days and my parents were otherwise occupied with the drama of their own lives.

One Saturday I was heading over to a friend’s a few blocks from home. I had a temporary shortcut because a house between my street and hers had been torn down and I could cut through the now open yard. The only impediment was a fence in the back that I could climb over at the alley.

I started to walk across the yard, but suddenly a shadow caught my eye. Shane stepped out from behind some building debris that I’d just walked by. His face was sheer glee at having me cornered and alone. My mind took in the entire scenario in about eleven seconds. I knew exactly what was in store.

My heart dropped as I watched him slowly stepping toward me with the promise of pure menace. Within those eleven seconds, I figured my only options to get away were to run back by him or run for the fence. As my panic escalated with his every step, it felt like I couldn’t move my feet anyway. I knew I had reached the point of no return.

He got closer and as he raised his hand, instinct took over. I closed my eyes and I ran toward him. Hard. His head being higher than mine was providence; it turned out it was the perfect height for my hands to reach his face, which I blindly pummeled with my fists. Hard and fast.

I heard a cry. I opened my eyes and saw that Shane had stepped back from me. He was holding his nose and just staring at me. Then he took his hands down and looked at them. They were covered in blood. He couldn’t see it, but so was his face as the bleeding from his nose dripped steadily down his chin. We stared at each other equally stunned.

Then he brought his hands back up to his nose and started crying. I took this as my cue to head for the fence. At the same time I started to move, so did he, but the other way, for home I presume.

My body was unbeaten, but the adrenaline continued to beat in my heart.  I didn’t bother running to the fence, but I’m pretty sure I scaled it like a parkour athlete.  I was safe and I would remain safe.  Shane never bothered to come near me again.

 I didn’t know it at the time, but that was a life changing event.  It wasn’t just that I was able to defend myself, no matter the miracle was unplanned. It was because it was the first time I was consciously aware that I did something I had no idea I could.

 Unfortunately it wasn’t the last time I would encounter bullies in my life, but sometimes, when I do come up on the short end of the stick in those meetings, I remember that sweet, sweet time I kicked ass. Like a boss.

 RL

Songs of Small Town Mothers and Daughters

Once in a while, my mother plays for me an old country song called, “Idol of the Band”.  One of the chorus lines speaks to a brief bittersweet period of shining glory for a young woman from humble beginnings.

sheet music with red rose sepiaWe always have a little laugh with it, but within the mirth is a little wistfulness too. I think that song reminds my mother of a funny moment or two from the bad old days. I share those feelings, but I also feel traces of poignancy that can’t quite be defined.  They are flashes of the heartstrings that join us more by fate than by our blood.

I’d heard forever that I am my mother’s daughter.  I look a lot like her, and I put her temperament on display now and then, but that was the absolute limit to the comparisons that I was determined to live out.  I loved her, but I had every reason not to repeat every aspect of her life.

My mother was that young small town girl that did not dream of escape to the bright lights of the big city.  Maybe she’d become a nurse, maybe even a nun, but in the end she longed only for a simple life of family, and hearth and home in the same little town. As it always is, it was about a boy.

Her dreams were devastatingly reshaped when step one of her plan led her into the arms of that handsome young man who soon became an abuser who drank too much.  Step two in the unintended reality was giving life to me, and then pulling me along on the path to their hell.

By the time she left him, I’d already learned a lifetime of what not to be. There was no doubt that meant being everything my parents weren’t.  What I had no way of knowing then was how deeply the sins of the father and mother had already been woven into the fabric of my future.

Like my mother, I was mostly raised in small towns or a very insular sensibility within a city. Maybe partly because of that I grew up craving the promise of anything but simplicity.  I was going to be one of those bright lights in the city. I intended to be the people I saw on TV or read about in books about success.  I used the same success examples my mother did, but unlike novels of romance, I was not going to depend on a man, or have babies anytime soon.

I was desperately eager to be in that new life.  Desperation was probably mistaken for boldness and so, at almost sixteen I went off in search of those bright lights. I hugged my mother goodbye.  She armed me with a little money, those lessons well learned, and a crock pot.

The years to follow were harder than I could ever have imagined. I began them by piling on loads of makeup and lying about my age to be able to work long days analogous to slave labor. When the realization grew that I could be stuck there forever, I added night school to the schedule.  It took years, but eventually I got my business titles.

I succeeded at school, I succeeded in work, and I succeeded in social status.  I was nothing like my mother’s life.

Not until I was.  Not until I realized that there was just one thing missing for me, and I would wholly embrace the answer to that, and it would gut everything I’d worked for, including part of the spirit that had carried me away from small town nightmares.

I fell madly in love.  He said that I was the smartest, most beautiful woman he’d ever known.  He asked, “What can I do to make your life happier”?  He said, “I promise, I will take care of you”.

He eased the deep thread of emptiness so common in the fabrics of my kind of past. It was really an unraveling, but I’d grown used to pretending that strand of vulnerability didn’t exist anyway. That was a necessary evil to confirm how much more ahead of my mother I was.  So, I ignored the red flags that waved and I said, yes.  Just like my mother did.

He swept me off my feet and back into hell.

It was a little over three years before I was able climb out.  By then, almost all of my relationships with friends and family had deteriorated, along with all the other areas of my life.  The only miracle within the madness was that I didn’t have children with him.  Not that we didn’t try.

I moved from the immediate brutality of that time, but it turned out I wasn’t completely out of those woods yet. I was always a bit of a slow learner for anything that required my heart to assess what was not in my best interests, especially where love was concerned.

I hadn’t learned yet that honest trust for anyone else can only come from honest esteem for self.  I still had to learn what that looked like. I still had to learn that betrayal hides in plain sight for the unwitting, and sometimes it’s disguised as your best friends and your closest confidants.

It would take another turn on that shaky dance floor before I could really see under the masks. This second teacher was far more subtle, but just as oppressive with his demand to control.   That three year dance was a constant and chaotic struggle to change him/them, but it was clear that this one was about accepting that all the changes needed were mine.  I accepted finally that it wasn’t my job to love someone enough to become a better person or to make them be better people.

Time moves every story along, and it became more of my friend this round.  My bright future lay tarnished on the ground, but I was finished with the idea of gleam anyway. The only choice I could face was to go back to the beginning.  A revisit to that place that gives you the so called strengths you depend on to survive, but really are old scars that need to be opened in order to be properly closed.  I was taught that healing me was part of healing the whole of humanity, but it was the only part that I was, or could be, responsible for.

I reworked how I defined success and my revised ideals created the roads to more meaningful ways. I learned to accept that healing is never really over, but the lessons begin to bloom more in joy than the scrapes of sorrow.  I worked my way to a life that is different, quieter, but true; to one that matters.  Just like my mother did.

And every now and then, we sing together the words of an old country song that plays to our fated heartstrings and we smile at the notes that we more than survived.

RL

This story was partially published as a guest post for JT Weaver.net in September 2013. Revised May 15, 2014

 

 

My Mother, the Nun

Alright, my mother isn’t, and wasn’t ever, a nun.  She grew up wanting to be one, but life has a way of trading dreams on people, and I was the first trade-off.

Her life wasn’t anywhere close to a serene cloistered order.  I wrote a little about that in a post called ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’.

Her adult road didn’t include even following the tenets of her early faith.  The closest to church involvement was the annual search for one that held summer camps for kids.  That was her summer break and our free annual vacation.

What she ended up doing mostly was working 12 hour days in emergency first-aid and security detail.   A few years into this industry, she’d re-found her faith, but it could never be used as any kind of vocation. Those 12 hour shifts were an economic necessity and there are few comparable offerings in the faith field.

So, it was long days until retirement at age 71.  By then she wanted only to putter, and maybe volunteer a little.  She’d already started going to church regularly again, and she helped the Reverend here and there.  Their pleasant working relationship became true friendship. She had no idea this would cause her earliest reveries to swell again.

One day the Reverend made her an offer.  Would she like to be a lay-reader?  She would only have to study some, and practise the rituals in assistance for a while.  She was instantly transported to places of long ago innocence.  Her sixty something year old dream, a little re-shaped, finally got her to that place that was always meant to be.

Mom vestments October 2013-2

Kicked the habit, made good in
vestments
My mother,
Lay-Reader

RL

Blogger and author JT Weaver posted a challenge to write stories in the 270 word range. For some of us, this is like requesting a brush-cut after we’ve been used to only a trim up to the hips. In the end though, it’s made me appreciate the less is more doctrine even more.  JT’s challenge idea was inspired by the “Hemingway Challenge” and Abraham Lincoln’s succinct Gettysburg Address of 270 words:
jtweaver.net  (2014 – 01 – 11- the-270)

P.S. This exercise also taught me that WordPress includes the captions on photos in their word count. I did not.

How Some Kids Say Happy Valentine’s Day

How do kids say Happy Valentine’s Day?  Well, if you’re a kid at my kid’s school you put on a heck of a show assembled in the school gym and tell everyone gathered about other amazing children who risked their life to make a difference for humanity. They spread the news that even this day’s audience could make changes for a better world and showed them some important ways how.

We Day love 2A few of the various social responsibility groups within the school came together to create a mini version of WE Day.  WE Day, is an organization that was begun in 2007 by young Canadian brothers, Craig and Marc Kielburger, who wanted to wake-up children to the idea that even though they are too young to even vote, they can still be an instrumental part in exercising change for each other and for people around the world.  They present a very potent message of empowerment for kids.

The WE Day organization spreads its message primarily through large concert settings, also titled WE Day!  They enlist participation from renowned civic leaders and activists, high profile celebrities, and local students from elementary and middle schools.  They fill stadium after stadium with enthusiastic kids who get informed, empowered, and pumped up to take on the world.  Then they take home ideas and plans to get to work in their own communities.

WE Day love 3The school group that lead the show today were leadership teams from grades 6 to 8 that had gone to WE Day this year. They led and encouraged the assembled by reading stories about social changers, singing songs, playing music, dancing, and informing with various video presentations.

They introduced the students to the stories of 12 yr. old Iqbal Masih  and at the time, 13 yr. old, Malala Yousafzai, two children of prominence because they respectively lost and almost lost their very young lives by standing up for the right to an education.  In fact, it was Iqbal’s story in 1995 that riveted the attention of Craig and Marc and spurred them onto creating social change projects and ultimately the WE Day organizations.

One student presented a powerpoint report on his own family’s visit to Africa last July to help build schools for the children there. The pictures showed how the schools were shambled wrecks of barely there walls and roofs and then the beautiful and solid replacements that now stand in their place.

WE Day loveOther students got up and sang songs by Taylor Swift, some presented ideas on how to be givers of donations or time and showed where it would help. There was even the crazy-talented teacher band who played and sang their hearts out, and proud mom moment here – my son did a drum cover with Hedley song “Anything”.  They turned the lights down and balloon balls went into the air, and the kids were off on a singing, ball tossing, cheering high note.

A lot of effort went into this day of kids wanting to take care of other kids, and kids taking care of kids in real ways that matter to real life day-to-day.  The school administration and staff poured their support into it too.  It made you want to weep and sweep them all up into your arms in sheer joy, pride and gratitude.

Every one of them spoke, sang, danced and played the spirit of their hearts into ours, and as we danced our way out while the teacher band was playing (Brave), I couldn’t help thinking, this is what the day is really about.  This is really Valentine’s Day, this is the heart of We Day.

RL

Ever Been Properly in Love?

During his first year on CNN, TV Host Piers Morgan always asked his guests, “Have you ever been properly in love”?  Of course that always got his guests wondering or reminiscing, and so, I did too.  Forgive me a few moments of sentimentality. It is Valentine’s season after all.

Valentines-Wallpaper- whiteI realize as I’ve got older that I have been properly in love many, many times.  Hey, keep calm and read on, it wasn’t all hormones.  I don’t mean just in the romantic sense that Piers was inquiring about, but with all the wonderful friends that I have known over the years. They may have come and gone, or come and stayed, but I am forever changed by the genuine love grown between us.

It’s the kind of love that inspired countless shared hours of deep laughs, light fun, brilliant thinking and inspiring ideas, and so many fabulous occasions. It is the kind that offers a solid place to lean on while navigating troubles and sorrows.

It’s the kindness of love that draws us to each other maybe for only moments in shared interests and similar stories, or for a quick friendly review of talent or taste.  Of course it has also taken my hand and flipped me flat out on the threshold of deep resonating romance, and then even permanently tied me to the indescribable heart-song of my child.

Love is a song made of infinite notes; it’s a never-ending tune that rises and fades like all dynamics of life.  There are no real endings because even after we’ve moved on, we left the trail of what we gave.

And so,  after all of this, yes, I would get to answer that question, yes. I have been properly in love, many times, maybe always. And, actually, isn’t that really the truth of us all?

Happy Love Day!

RL