Lesson From a Nope Rope

I believe this is a hybrid rattlesnake – the product of a timber rattler and a diamondback. I could be wrong.

So, this is raw. I never edited any of this. I have so much b-roll stuff from our hikes and stuff and I pick and choose bits here and there when I produce something. This is some of that footage that I came across when getting my stuff together for the project I’m working on.

I’m glad I came across this. I’d forgotten about it. It reminded of something about myself that I think a lot of people tend to misjudge. Don’t be led astray by my mostly nice, friendly, patient and overly kind demeanor. Don’t think I’m as ignorant as I might look. Don’t think I don’t know things just because I don’t say them out loud. I’m kind – not stupid. I am not afraid of much, not even poisonous snakes in the grass. Thing is, the worst snakes in the grass are people – it’s really the wrong phrase to use to describe a sneaky, lying, abusive human fool. Kind of an insult to snakes, if you ask me…

You see how calm this nope rope is? Maybe it just ate (doesn’t much look like it). Maybe it was a little cool (doubt it because I was sweating like crazy – this was a humid, warm July morning). Actual snakes don’t want to bother you. They really don’t. Maybe this dude just didn’t feel threatened by me. Animals rarely do. Only God knows why that is. But I can tell you this:

I wasn’t afraid of getting close to this guy, even if maybe I should’ve been, but I also was not stupid enough to try to handle it. No – I’m only that stupid when it comes to people. I never used to be the “once bitten, twice shy” type. I used to let them strike me and just forgive and pretend things were fine. I would give a person every reason to believe in me and make sure they knew that I still believed in them and cared about them. I would be willfully ignorant to the point that I was breaking my own heart.

But you know what people do? Even “family?” They don’t see that. They don’t see your heart. They don’t see your actions. They don’t see what you do for them because you love them. They just see what they want and take it from you and go on. Many times they don’t even need be provoked. They’ll strike out of the blue, with no warning at all – unlike this guy, who would have at least warned me. Thing with people is, you have to let them do it more than once. So don’t let them, because if they continually behave in ways that hurt you and refuse to respect you? They’re never going to change. Have no doubt – I have finally learned that lesson.

Today? Once bitten? I’m absolutely going to be twice shy. Still kind, with the same heart beating inside of me, but I’ll never trust you again. Once I’m done, I’m done. And if I ever reach that point with you, you have only yourself and your own behavior to blame. Just ask my father in law. His life wasn’t in vain. He taught all of us this lesson.

When Mother’s Day Hurts

My mother in law was just here and I know what’s wrong with me – it’s Mother’s Day. It came out of nowhere – like a deer in the night trying to cross the road or a tornado that has no sign of existing but suddenly does, and drops directly onto your house. And of course this has nothing do with her or her bringing it up – it’s just the way I feel, and that’s mine to own.

Mother’s Day has been a big deal for me all my life. When my mother in law mentioned it was like I felt a knife in my heart, all the way through my back, and radiating throughout my whole being. I hate feeling so deeply. I wish I didn’t feel at all sometimes – I would rather be dead inside than feel at the depths that I do – for many reasons, but this is a prime example. I wish I could be heartless like other people are sometimes.

My adult lifelong best friend and I used to “uncelebrate” it, Mother’s Day. Different reasons but…that was our whole thing every Mother’s Day. It got super hard after she died because she knew all the details of why it was so difficult for me and she got it – and vice versa. Now, with my mother gone, and this idea I have in my head that my birth mother is probably dead, too, and all hope is forever lost of finding her – that makes me have even more questions…I think about all the miscarriages…and it all hurts…

I know this is like three weeks away but it’s like…I can’t explain. And I wish I could. I wish I could find words. I wish I could talk it out. Write it out. Music it out. Art it out. Ride it out. Run it out. Drive it out. Kill it. I feel like a shell. And yes, of course, it will pass. But please be kind to those who are hurting on Mother’s Day.

Don’t remind them they have at least the child/children they do (that’s actually feeling like the HARDEST part of this year’s upcoming Mother’s Day for me – BEING a mom on Mother’s Day, because I don’t want to be reminded of it and I feel guilt for that, on top of everything else I’m feeling). Don’t minimize it. Don’t belittle them. Don’t try to fix it, either. Just let them hurt and be there for them. Don’t pour salt in their wounds by saying all the cliche things. They know what they still have but it doesn’t invalidate what they’re missing, or what they’re feeling.

I know many of you are going to struggle with Mother’s Day this year – and many of you have for years already. Please…just be kind to yourself. Try to be graceful with yourself. Don’t go to the what if’s and the I should haves and all the thoughts. Let yourself grieve whatever you need to grieve. Honor your heart and your feelings in whatever way you need to (for me it’ll likely be writing and/or music). Just…love yourself gently, and try to remember that you’re not alone. ❤️

When Mother’s Day Hurts

The Mighty Oak Will Kill You

I mediated this morning on something that I told my child last night when he asked for advice about why someone in his life did what they did and about why it hurt him. I told him that this the person who had hurst him was not yet coursgeous enough to heal himself before he broke someone else, and that it hurt him because he cared about this person.

He depended on this person to not hurt him. He believed in this person. And for a child, that’s really scary and difficult because as a child you’re still learning to process emotions and understand what emotions are. It takes maturity at multiple levels to remain calm and to not hurt a child with you words. I suppose the same is true for adults – especially the way we treat and speak to ourselves.

So, I went on this very deep, very enlightening almost hour long soul journey with my own meditative backing track (coming soon, shameless plug) and it was one of those meditative experiences where you’re doing your meditative thing (eyes closed, body relaxed, going within your deeper, inner being and connecting with it) and it hurts.

It burns. It stings. It aches. Tears roll down your cheeks even though your eyes are closed. You feel every needle the porcupine of life has shot into you. But you keep going and you find yourself at the edge of your inner self and inner peace and you step into it, and you bathe in it’s light. While you’re there, you see things about yourself for what they are.

What did I see within myself? That being strong doesn’t require being fearless – it’s facing the fears that create the strength in the first place. That protecting yourself doesn’t require meanness, it requires patience and love. And, that being guarded and angry doesn’t deflect the things you don’t want to see as much as it blocks your blessings and wastes valuable energy and time.

This is hard. This process is one we are faced with numerous times in our lives. My son was faced with it for the first time last night, and I shared some of my experiences with him and it helped me to remember things that current shadows have been hiding: We learn as we go, but we don’t learn unless we put in the effort to do so.

We all know it takes more strength to be kind and to love anyway than to run. But if I didn’t run from my demented mother who randomly beat me with a cane because of her disease, if I handled that and still did my job as a daughter and in the role I was thrust into as her death doula…and I did it mostly on my own (because I was dealing with absent people and also still blocking spirit and blessings for so long), I can handle just about anything, right?

((Please note, there is a difference between running from yourself because of self-doubt and walking away from toxicity because of self-confidence. There’s always two sides to these memes. There’s always two sides to everything – and often a lot of gray.))

Personally, I am really struggling with a lot of negative and toxic emotions toward my body right now – and with a lot of negative and toxic energy surrounding me. The things my body and I have faced in the past two years have been unforgiving at times, almost suffocating at others. They’ve been so difficult, and continue to be in some moments. But that’s the thing. It’s moments. You learn to rest in the moments that you have to – especially in the moments that you NEED to – but not give up completely.

You learn to be ok with the fact that venting your fears and anger and concerns about things is NOT always “just complaining” and it’s not being ungrateful. It’s COPING. It’s figuring things out. It’s keeping your own balance. Because you can’t thrive in ANY way without balance. You learn that a response of kindness and empathy and gentleness is more powerful than a response of coldness and lack of depth.

After all, look at nature – what’s more beautiful and pleasant? The colors, the beauty, and the warmth of spring and summer and fall or the harshness and bone chilling cold of winter? Can winter be beautiful? Sure. But is it as pleasant and comfortable and conducive to joy? No – that’s why so many people struggle with seasonal affective disorder.

You very literally see that the people who told you throughout your life that you have to be good with yourself before you can be good with anyone else, and that you won’t have true peace until you do the work to heal yourself, was telling you the truth. You won’t ever find peace of mind and true and lasting joy in your soul until you learn to sit in the darkness and kill it with your own inner light and magic. And you have that. You ARE that. You are magic. You are made of literal “stardust,” for Christ’s sake.

Shine like you’re supposed to. Don’t let your circumstances and your old wounds or should have could have would haves or even the opinions and actions of others put out your light and stop you from sparkling like the diamond you’re supposed to become under pressure. If my mom’s stuff taught me anything, it was the harsh reality of that. Pressure and pain can grow you into a brilliant diamond or petrify you into a bland and plain stone.

Don’t let it be the latter. Don’t let your heart become petrified and your mind become stagnant. You aren’t here to be a rock, or you’d have been created as a rock that just lays there on the ground and does nothing. You’re here to LIVE. Not just survive, LIVE. In order to do that, you have to mind the diamonds – you HAVE TO DO THE WORK.

As I find myself struggling with my body, and with random triggers of mom grief (that’s a whole other blog) I’m not making the same mistakes I’ve made in the past and choosing to hide away or beat myself up (and thus, others). I’m going to continue to grow and one day I’m going to bloom, and y’all are all going to watch me do it. Actions speak louder than words, even as loud as words can be screamed.

I’ve been here before but I’ve learned and grown. After my last episode with my health, with depression and the thoughts that ran through my head, I’m terrified of only one thing: dying knowing I haven’t given all I could give or done the work I needed to do to live well and in peace and thus bring peace and joy to others. But, that work I can only do that for myself, with my own choices and actions. It’s a conscious choice we have to make over and over in our lives.

It was a conscious choice with a lot of conscious effort behind it to fight my body’s BS before, to fight depression, to fight my self doubt, to heal traumas and wrongs inside myself – especially around my mom so that I could care for her when there was no one else to do so. The shadow work had to be done. I took my little soul chainsaw and cleaned out the vines and the poison ivy and the dead trees of my past and my experiences and do you know what I find, over and over again? Baby trees. New growth that needs room to become.

There are stumps and scars in the garden of my soul that still feel tender sometimes but they remind me that I CAN heal and I have many times. The more times you go through this process, the more you learn to listen to spirit and see the signs and open up the natural spiritual gifts that we all have, the more you realize that nothing is ever in your control and that most of the time, when you stand like the oak, you’re standing in your own way.

You realize that when you break, that oak is gonna fall hard and it’s gonna crush anything in its way, and you’re going to be the one who has destroyed all the good you couldn’t see while you were fighting for more more more and fighting to look strong and hide your truth and avoid other people rather than to be your authentic self and to SHOW UP, for yourself AND for those you care about.

Vulnerability bends. Vulnerability can move with the moment – it can handle the pressure without breaking. It gives, it sways with the energy. And when the hurricanes and tornadoes and even the weight of the winter ice come, it can withstand them, because in reality? Softness is stronger than hardness when it comes to humanity and the soul.

It’s a metaphor we’ve been presented with eleventy hundred times in eleventy hundred ways in our lives: The oak is the ego. The willow is the soul. Don’t let your ego break you and those you care for. Don’t let your ego block your blessings and destroy your soul. Your peace and your heart (and the peace and hearts of others) are worth way more than that. Keep it open.

The more you give, the more you receive – even if it doesn’t come from where you are directing it. Life will surprise you. Let it surprise you with gifts, not problems. And remember, you create so much of both in the tiniest actions and choices you make.

Death, Grief and Inexplicable Nightmares

Ugh. Nightmares. I’m just about tired of them.

It does NOT phase me to be with someone when they die. I mean, I don’t see it as a negative experience. I’m good at being fully present for another person’s death. I’m good at opening my heart. Letting the energy flow. I’m good at holding hands and holding space and saying the words that you say to dying people, helping them to let go. Lord knows I’ve done it enough times.

It does NOT freak me out or make me uncomfortable to be around dying people. I know it’s part of life. It doesn’t scare me. It doesn’t make me feel weird or distressed.

In fact, death is one of the most peaceful things I’ve ever been around, in the moment that it takes place. It’s the getting there that is hard and sometimes scary and painful. It’s the living part that is hard. And the grieving. The being “left.” Dying? Dying is easy.

Everything goes quiet – even amongst all the noise, whether it’s chaos or just the whines and whooshes of machines that surround it. Everything goes still for that one, solitary moment…the one when you hold your breath as you wait to see if they’re going to take another one…and then, when they don’t…the release of your own long held inhalation.

I have seen them leave, and I always wonder where they go. What’s really next…? Are they still there, in a different plane of existence? Did they see a light? Did they know they were dying? Did they see something beautiful, or did they see nothing at all?

I mean, there are gross things about it – certain smells and things they do sometimes at the moment after dying, as the body releases them…it’s not “pretty” all the time but it’s not…it’s not that terrible to me, that moment. In that moment, they have something I don’t have: real peace, and the knowledge of what comes next. It’s relief. It’s that final endeavor of living.

I find death to be one of the most precious moments you can share with another human being. And so very often, it feels like a gift…

So why these nightmares. Why? My therapist says I’ve been through a multiple year long trauma that ended with holding another person’s hand as they died. I don’t feel like I’ve been through a trauma. I feel like I shouldn’t be having nightmares. Especially not ones in which my kid is dying.

Maybe I AM losing my mind. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m the only one left of that little family unit that was my family unit all my life. No grandparents. No parents. No brothers or sisters…or are there, somewhere? Maybe that’s it… The fact that I was adopted never phased me, until now. I never really had questions. I never really wondered. I just knew that I was blessed to have a home and to be loved. Not that I’m not now… I just…as we ease up on the one month mark since my mom’s death, something weird is happening inside of me.

WTF, dude. I don’t know…

Excerpts from counseling chats, #1

The last few years culminated into feeling like a dream for the last several months – I have literally survived, I realize now, by living in a whole non-reality, on autopilot, and there are very few everyday experiences and mundane daily tasks that I do now without being in an almost confused state. Like, “what is this?” or, “how did I ever do that…I don’t remember…”

I am beginning to realize that I actually exist – and can exist – as a being separate from continuous worry and fear about/for my mother, and I have completely forgotten how to be that person. I still wake up some mornings, if I’m not already at my moms, with this programmed state of, “I have to go check on my mother,” being the first literal and conscious thought in my head. Even if I stay there, which I haven’t been able to peacefully do yet, I find myself in the mindset that I have to get up every few hours to check and feel guilty when I wake up and think I forgot to set alarms to wake up.

Everyone says, “it’s got to be such a relief, though, since she died…” It is, in some ways. But in others, it is the same, just different, level of stress to readjust to “normal,” which is difficult now anyway because WHAT IS NORMAL in a world of COVID? I focus myself on cleaning and doing what needs to be done before anything else (music, photography, etc.) when the things I used to do I was only able to do mindlessly, really – just as a distraction from insanity.

I don’t know if this will make sense to anyone who reads. It has to sound like the ravings of a lunatic mind – but as I’m remembering my intelligent, creative, indulgent, passionate, and subconscious mind I find myself feeling everything from confusion to guilt to elating freedom to even complete blankness and emptiness.

It’s not the grief. Well, it’s partially that but only about 3/4. I don’t know, in this moment, WHAT the word or feeling or experience is. I remember going to through it to some extent after Dorie died and I had been such an integral part of taking care of her, but it wasn’t the same as this, nor was the care.

24/7 worry and anxiety about someone for years, and then 24/7 for months – even to the point of every single daily task they needed to do and then to the point of helping them through every moment of their death…it’s a completely different experience to readjust to existing without that task attached to your back when it was there for so long.

So yeah, you’d think it’d be lighter, more peaceful existence…but it’s actually more like a feeling of chaos. I hope like hell it doesn’t last long. I have too much to do – and, too much I want to do. I assume it will last through and a bit beyond probate because that limits me on the speed at which I can chose to move forward and move on… If it were up to me, I’d snap my fingers and life and the “me” I was “pre-Alzheimer’s parent” would click right back into place.

We don’t get into any state of being in the blink of an eye and we become the next version of ourselves even less quickly, I suppose. That’s been my past experience. So trudge along and get it done, I guess… ((Yawn.))

🤷‍♀️

Dementia, a Mother, and an Adopted Child

**Edit: my mother passed away 26 hours after I posted this.**

About five months ago, my mother was mentally bad and had wandered and broken her arm. Three and a half months ago I brought her home from the hospital. For years before this, from about six months after my dad died, I had struggled and fought for her and tried to care for her but she didn’t want to let me. I heard, “I am FINE,” at least 72,000,000 times. We had all made jokes about her condition – jokes about “NaNa” – jokes about how bad she was getting, “but there was nothing we could do…” Yet, I still fought…and I know those battles, and they’re why I’m here tonight.

I wish we hadn’t done that…made jokes, because it’s not funny. But I’m glad I never stopped fighting, even if we never had the mother/daughter relationship I always wished we’d had and even if I didn’t get her the help she needed WHEN she needed it because of a broken system that doesn’t correctly diagnose dementia/Alzheimer’s until it’s too late to really slow it down. It shouldn’t be this way – not with the research and the knowledge we have, medicine we have, and resources we have in this country.

I am at peace with the fact that I did my best – that I did everything I could. I don’t need to be externally validated for that…but it makes me feel and have almost a need to validate others who are or have been or will be in my shoes. All these years…they’ve culminated so quickly – in just a matter of weeks.

Three months ago, my mom looked like this (first photo) when I picked her up from the hospital. Tonight, she looks like this (second photo), grimacing and clenching in pain, almost choking on even oral liquid Ativan and Morphine, and her own phlegm and fluid, coughing like a weak squirrel, moaning and crying out in pain to the God that she believes in and still praying incessantly (again, quietly like a weak squirrel, but in pain all the same, barely able to verbalize it).

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are considered mental health issues and illnesses. Don’t tell me you can’t SEE IT because “it’s a mental disorder.” You CAN see it, right there on the MRI. Don’t tell me it’s not real or difficult or physically painful because it’s JUST a “mental disorder.” That’s what I was told for so many years – she’s just getting older. She’s just getting forgetful. She’s just having “mental problems” because of age. No – not just mental problems. A DISEASE – and a terminal one at that.

And you know what else? Especially if you’re a doctor? Don’t pretend to care when you don’t. When you belittle. When you get annoyed with children who are fighting for a better life and end for the parents. Don’t pretend to advocate because for the moment you feel sorry for someone. Don’t pretend like you’re Gucci just because you give to this or that charity or “buy your way” out of having to actually GIVE CARE.

You know what means even more than your charity checks and your “honest opinions” to families struggling with ANY illness or disease or end of life process when you follow up your explanations with the words, “we care?” When you SHOW THE FUCK UP for them.

I am showing up, mama, and even when you don’t want me here, here is where I will be. Too little too late to heal all the old wounds, but not too late to SEE that bygones can be bygones, and despite all of our bad times, all of the good you’ve done for me.

I’m so sorry for the hell, all the chaos I brought to you. I’m sorry for all the hurtful words and for all the times I fought you. I’m sorry I’m not the daughter you’d always hoped I’d be, playing the philharmonic or writing novels or preaching the gospel…but so many of the good things I am are things that you taught me.

“I didn’t carry you in my belly for nine months, but I carried you in my heart for a lifetime,” is what you’d often say to me…and that “to do your best and leave the rest,” was sometimes the only way to be. These words I’ve never forgotten and these words I’ll never forget.

I will soon, again, be an orphan, a fate you once saved me from…and with these fleeting last moments I am sorry. I know I was wrong. I’ll always be a daddy’s girl, and this always broke your heart…but the reality I thought you lived in was creating jealousy into art. But I always had a mom…

I understand your love tonight and what made you who you are…and that even though we aren’t the same we aren’t that far apart. I want to say, “it’s ok, let go,” though it truly breaks my heart…because I understand after all these years who you really are.

Rest now, precious woman, I know you did your best…and your best was really always enough, though I often put you to the test. I thought you didn’t love me, but you just loved me in your way…and, “rest now, precious woman,” is all I can seem to say…

I can’t – and that’s OK.

I can’t, and that’s ok to know and to accept and to feel and to express. That’s what this post is about. I know I haven’t really updated here and none of you will know what is going on in full but basically my mom has been living with me and… Well…

There comes a point where you have to accept what you can not do and stop letting people keep trying to convince you that you can do in their “motivational” ways. Sure, they’re trying to help.

But when I say I CAN NOT DO THIS BY MYSELF I need people to understand something: i am doing this BY MYSELF and it’s not working – and it’s not about not wanting to. It’s not about not believing in myself. It’s not about the inconvenience. It’s not even about my own mental health (though it should be). It’s about LITERALLY not being able to care for someone with these needs BY MYSELF, and raise my son and care properly for him. I’m not sorry that that will always come first. I AM legally responsible for him, he’s a minor. And he can’t help me with this. And…she’s not really even my mother. Never has been, by blood or otherwise.

It’s about debilitating migraines. It’s about health issues I had long before this ever started.

It’s about I PHYSICALLY am not strong enough to help someone who refuses to help me help them – lifting dead weight every five minutes to go to the bathroom? Nope. Can’t handle it. Especially with a migraine. Getting her in the tub? Impossible. So we improvise with bowls of water and a tub chair OUTSIDE the tub. Getting her to eat? Also impossible. Which doesn’t help with her strength issues. Getting her to get out of the bed and sit up without arguing and telling me how disappointed and ashamed of me my dad would be that I am trying to make her do something she doesn’t want to do – on his birthday yesterday, when she knew how upset I was – because she KNOWS what she’s doing and she just wants to hurt me.

This is not the dementia. This is just her being hateful and stubborn, naturally. Does she even have dementia? No. Not according to the doctors. She checks out fine. So this is just an angry, bitter, mean, frail and weak old woman who needs help with physical things 24/7 and is being verbally and emotionally abusive to the only person who can keep her out of the one place she doesn’t want to go – the nursing home.

Can I even get her in a nursing home? I don’t know. But I’ll tell you this much – I’m going forward with trying because the few people who have even dealt with her for a half hour at her home or dealt with her at church or even the beauty shop over the past few years have straight up told me that she is faking a lot of this and how she acts when I’m not around.

When my helping you hurts me to a point where I am literally sick all the time? I can’t help you anymore. And I will no longer try. This is my honest, heartbreaking statement: if she wants to do it her way, I will take her to the hospital and leave her there and refuse to care for her. They can’t put her on the street. I don’t know what they’ll do with her but it’s not my concern – I have NO binding, legal obligation to be responsible for her. Why? Because she won’t LET me – and maybe that’s been a blessing in disguise.

She’s already getting bedsores because she won’t move and wants to lay in piss diapers and fights me to change her. It absolutely ridiculous.

I don’t care about how it looks if I do take care of her or if I don’t. It’s not about that. I don’t want accolades for doing it, and I don’t give a damn if people think I’m horrible for not being able to do it. But I can’t do it. I can’t care for someone with these needs BY MYSELF, and raise my son and care properly for him. I’m not sorry that that will always come first. I AM legally responsible for him, he’s a minor. And he can’t help me with this.

It’s always going to be a never ending battle I’m never ever going to win. I have finally accepted that.

Now. To take more meds and pray my head quits and I can fucking breathe for five minutes without feeling nauseous and debilitated.