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.

Thoughts from 1993

Ahhhhh memories. Snowmageddon in Alabama, this week in 1993.

I was 14, and I remember my dad yelling at me because I would not come inside once it started snowing. I had never in my life seen snow like this snow – I was completely fascinated. It was different snow. I swear it was physically different than any snow I’d ever experienced up until that moment in my life.

I remember being out there in the backyard, in the dark, at something like 11:30PM, bundled up and just sitting there letting the snow fall on my face and consciously feeling the snowflakes melt on my skin in a way that connected with my soul. I remember thinking about magic and all these ideas I had that were “sinful” according to the cult I was raised in but that were so beautiful to me and how it WAS magical, even if the biblical God created it.

Like, how could those two things not go together, in my mind? They believed in a “holy ghost” that they willingly allowed to possess them and speak in unknown languages through them that wasn’t supposed to be real unless someone in the immediate vicinity could interpret the message.

First of all, why couldn’t God just give it to them straight, and secondly WHY? That was me from about age 2 until the day I die. WHY? What? Constant curiosity. Constant trying of new things. Constant exploration of self and soul and consciousness and the physical earth. None of it ever made sense to me from a religious aspect. Why couldn’t it all just be signs and magic and the fates and wonder and beauty? I still want to know that – where do people go in their life experiences that makes them forget the magic? The spark? The music…?

And yet, here I am. Deep in the depression and what to others seem to be mere suicidal thoughts when those thoughts are really so much more than that. But, we will visit that notion a bit later on…

I remember the “good” things but I remember the “miserable” things, too. And in reality, they weren’t miserable things to me. No power? That’s fine. We had kerosene heaters and propane gas in a tank outside that I used to pretend was a horse and I couldn’t tell you how many cows I roped that were actually logs I’d stood on end or how many criminals I’d captured by shooting them in the leg with hip shots that were actually soda cans I was shooting with a BB gun. We were warm. It was fine.

I remember not having power because I remember the coolers on the back deck that were buried in the snow with all the cold stuff in them, and I remember my dad being a smart ass and using the BBQ grill with an iron skillet to cook eggs just because it was “a fun new way to grill chicken” even though we had a gas stove. Ha! But I remember being completely unbothered by the lack of power. Why? Because of the time I spent with my dad. I remember my dad building a snowman with me that he named Larry and making a tiny one with me that I named Mo.

Curly never got made (built) because that was my mom’s choice but she never came outside and my dad said that if Curly was being built she had to make him with us or her snowman wouldn’t be magical (without her energy in him), so there was no point building a snowman with no magic in him. My dad was an evangelical deacon and that was the first time I ever heard him mention magic from the perspective a kid would and not from the perspective of evil. My mom said to my dad, “oh, fiddlesticks. Magic is not reality.” I will never forget that. It crushed my soul in some way. What happened to the “magic” that had brought me into her life? Did that not exist anymore, or had it ever existed for her at all? That was heartbreaking to me.

My mom did play the piano, though. And instead of being filled with the sounds of Andy Griffith and Lucille Ball and Perry Mason, I was surrounded by the comforting sounds of old (what I thought at the time were just) Southern hymns like, “It Is Well,” How Great Thou Art,” and “I Surrender All,” and classical “hits” from Pachelbel’s “Canon” and beautiful Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” I adored Beethoven. I adored romantic era classical music. I adored music washing over me. I adored my dad’s voice. I adored singing with him. There was that…and laughter. Not so much my mom because she was busy with needlework and knitting and incessant organizing, but my dad and I were having a ball.

I remember walking in the woods behind where my grandmother’s giant garden always lived in a path he cut out for me in this deep ass snow – we walked to this specific place that he would often visit just to sit and reflect on life in the quiet (and magic) of nature, crossing the frozen and snow filled wet weather stream and climbing over mounds of snow on fallen limbs and logs on the way and me being glad the fae that lived in the holes in the bank had “moved away,” as my grandmother had told me, so that they weren’t blocked inside their little fairy houses and if they were ok (the fae in the holes turned out to be snakes, I later learned when I tried to catch a fairy at the age of 7 and ended up pulling out one of those little grey ring neck snakes that I tried to keep as a pet but that went suspiciously missing overnight, only later to learn that my father had let it go – I was so distraught and depressed by this reality that my grandmother literally told me they’d just moved away or gone on vacation and the snake was protecting their homes…ha!).

I digress – as usual… Anyway, we got to this specific place and my dad and I sat there on a log he had cleared of snow. He proceeded to have this talk with me about my religious beliefs and the difference between that and spirituality. He didn’t yell at me for being a sinner or for not believing in or for questioning the cult (obviously, he never thought of it that way but I always did – even before I understood cultism – it NEVER made sense to me how this was love and freedom). He simply quoted to me for the first time in context two scriptures that have always stuck with me (hey, the literature of the Bible is really rather brilliantly written – it has everything good and terrifying in it).

He explained his thoughts on death and salvation to me and I remember very specifically and vividly him saying to me that it didn’t matter WHAT I believed, really, about religion. What mattered was that there was, in his perception, absolutely life after death because how could there not be? Our souls had to exist before we were born in order for them to enter our bodies, he said, and so we must logically still exist once our bodies died. That made sense to me.

That was the day – maybe two days after the snow had fallen – that he told me that the only real truth was the truth in my heart, and that was always the truth I should follow – and seek out, and sometimes chase in times of great despair. “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” It’s Philippians. Chapter two I think (I’m not looking it up, I’m lazy right now).

And then he told me – at 14 and a fourth years old – something that I remember very clearly but am struggling with since he (since they all) died. “We all die, but we never leave the ones we love. I will always be with you. Our Gods may not have the same name but they are one and the same being – love (which I questioned deeply and still do because the God of the Bible is only rarely ever what I would call “loving” – he has to invent a son before he becomes that, which to me is kind of this whole personification of the experience of growing and learning and becoming better and letting go of who you thought you had to be in order for life and your world to work).

Then he quoted another scripture to me that has been my north node for the past five and half years since his death. “And Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”

I want to believe that they are still here. I used to be so faithful to the idea of spirit and energy that it didn’t matter whether I could see the energy with my eyes in a physical manifestation of itself – it was just there, even if it wasn’t, in some form. Now? I don’t know what I believe anymore. Do I still believe that? Absolutely. Scientifically. I mean, hello, gasses that can’t be seen or smelled but can still kill you. Energetic, invisible death.

But in that sense of spirituality and magic? How does that energy put pennies in my bathtub or place heart shaped rocks and leaves directly in my oath where there should not be rocks or random fallen leaves (like in paved parking lots or on concrete pathways in well manicured city parks? I don’t know. Where do the random smells of bacon cooking or the paper mill or even jasmine and smoke when no one is smoking (Dorie) come from? Where does the audible sound of the piano or a typewriter come from when there are no working typewriters in my house (a couple of broken ones, though) and no one is there but me and I’m not playing the piano?

Are these experiences a mere wishful figment of my imagination? Or are they my people, who are still in some way my people, that have not left me? DO THEY still dwell where I dwell, just in a different dimension?

I want to believe that. I choose to believe that. But sometimes that belief hurts…because when I “feel them there,” it’s not enough. I want to hug them and hold them and say the things I didn’t say to them and apologize for things I did say that I wish I hadn’t said. I want to feel their warmth and hear their breath and their voices. I long to just sit with them for a moment and hold their hands in mine. To sing with them. To laugh with them. To feel the safety and the gratitude of their physical presence. But none of our bodies are safe. They will die. They are literally dying now – and have been from the moment we were born. But what about our souls?

I want to go there. I want to know. So when I say I’m ready for that trip? It’s curiosity and it’s existentialism and it’s wonder and in all of my thoughts about it, that place is so much better than this one. It’s not that I don’t deeply love and want to be around the people I love and call friends and family now. It’s missing the soul connections with those people because the physical gets in the way of that in this society and in this world today. It’s not as magical as it used to be.

Things are no longer filled with so much color and shine – although for a moment they were again, for a recent moment…a moment I sometimes wish I’d never had now because the taste of that and then seeing the mirage that it was…that hurts almost worse than losing my people to death, because maybe, just maybe, they still exist where that never did.

These are the thoughts in my mind tonight – or this morning – at 3:33AM. I know they may sound a little delirious and maybe they are. Are my thoughts any more or less real than my soul? Or are they one and the same? This is why I studied and continue to study human behavior and human cognition and spirituality and philosophy. Because I NEED to know. And one day, I will. But not today – because today things need to be cleaned and washed and taught to the boy. So not today…and I should try again to sleep.

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.))

🤷‍♀️

Therapy.

Therapy used to be the bane of my existence. Now that I have the best therapist on the planet (for me) via BetterHelp, it’s not so bad. The whole thing revolves around my time schedule – which can be pretty chaotic – and finally finding (or being gifted by the universe?) a therapist who GETS ME is priceless.

That said, it doesn’t change my thoughts or feelings. It helps me to express them in a safer environment than any other, but the reality is that my kind of depression doesn’t ever really go away. It’s up and down, it doesn’t flip but it rises and falls. And with my mom? It’s basically a pit of hell.

I think the thing that brings me down the most is watching this all play out and not being able to do a damned thing about it. Dementia is like that. No matter what you do, it’s gonna progress. Maybe slowly, maybe quickly. Maybe meds help. They don’t if you’re fighting with the person to even take them.

Mostly, the whole situation makes me both miss AND respect my dad so much more. Sometimes I am so angry that he is gone. Most of the time time I’m just sad. Sad at a level that isn’t just melancholy or blue, but at a level that is a thunderstorm – dark clouds and pouring rain, raging winds and thunder in my head. Sad at a level that I can barely breathe through these days.

But here I am. That counts for something, I suppose. Even still, I feel so useless to everyone around me. I feel useless to my mom because she won’t LET me be useful to her. I feel useless to everyone else because, well, depression. I just stay in my room, and read. I cry but I don’t know why as it doesn’t really let anything out. I wish that someday I would be able to find the words to describe this experience just in case I make it past it and have an opportunity to help someone else.

I hope you all have a pleasant weekend. I appreciate your correspondences and your kindness more than you know. You help me more than you know.

All the love,

C.

There is No Logic in This | Dementia

Yesterday was the worst day. I don’t know why, but life always seems to implode (or explode) with everything at once. Yesterday I battled with my own body and began to battle again with my mind and my thoughts. I laid down in the afternoon to nap and I missed a phone call from my mom.

About two hours later I was awakened by a phone call from the hospital. We rushed up there and were told that she had been wandering again (not so much wandering as making more poor decisions, having it in her head that it was a good idea to walk 3 miles to a store, which she has attempted to do several times since the beginning of this year). She has so far not fallen on these little escapades but this time she made it about two or so miles before she did fall.

I believe that she passed out because she refuses to eat properly and she’s also very weak and feeble to begin with, so I am not surprised. I have begged her not to do this, making that very argument and explaining how dangerous it really is. In fact, the last time, a neighbor picked her up around the same place she fell yesterday and she was walking IN THE MIDDLE OF A TWO LANE ROAD with curves and fast traffic.

I also believe that she hit the pavement so hard that she had to have knocked herself out because she hit the pavement hard enough to bust her chin all the way across and knock all of her teeth out of line as well as broke two teeth. She has a major swollen bruise on her temple and severely bruised ribs as well as scrapes and contusions on her hands, arms and legs. Today she looks like she lost a fight with Mike Tyson.

I’m not sure how long she laid there before she called me because, again, I don’t feel like anybody could take a blow like that without being knocked out for at least a short period of time, but eventually she tried to call me and I was asleep. #guilt Three people passed by to offer help – she refused help so the first two just drove on without even calling an ambulance, while the third person refused to move her and called an ambulance but then left before the ambulance arrived.

There was at least a 40 minute time frame between the time that she fell and the time that an ambulance arrived which means that she laid on the side of the road (possibly in the road for a period of time) for that long miraculously not getting hit, robbed or otherwise hurt.

This is the final straw for me and I can no longer accept the fight that I have been fighting for so long to prevent her from living alone. I will no longer allow – regardless of the fight to come with her – her to live alone. I will be raising hell with the doctor and I will sue on my own if I have to for guardianship. I have had DHR on my mother‘s case for over a year and two months and still have had no appointment with a lawyer – nothing.

The state is a waste of time and the American medical system is a waste of time. The doctor at the ER understood my concern and tried to find a way to hold my mother for at least 72 hours whether it be a psych eval or a need to be monitored physically but because she answered three or four questions correctly like “what is your name,” “what year is it,” and, “who is the president?” and because her vitals were good and her test results were negative for any breaks or internal damage, she could not be held against her will.

Now, go back and read this story again and tell me why, just because she says “I’m OK,” she could not be held. What kind of decision making and what kind of serious ridiculous danger does a person need to put themselves in – she is clearly a danger to herself and needs to be evaluated – yet there is no ability to hold her? She needs to be given the proper care and I do not have the power to make that happen because I have no legal power when it comes to my mother.

She refuses to offer me any leniency or cooperate with me and I am done with being put in the position of a doctor telling me “you need to take care of your mom” and me knowing I need to do certain things to take care of my mom, but yet being pushed away and out of the picture by my mom and the doctors – it’s a total cluster fuck and I am about to lose my mind.

If I thought I was losing my mind a year ago, well I had no idea how bad it could really get – and I know it’s only going to get worse.

Hello depression, extreme and uncontrollable anxiety and overwhelm. Welcome back.

An Alabama Snow and a Memory

There is nothing like the joy of a child, or your love for that child and that joy.

It’s snowing here tonight – very lightly, compared to our snow in December, but snow nonetheless. I have a memory that always returns to me when it snows here in Alabama. It is a memory of a father watching his only child play outside in an Alabama blizzard at something like 9PM, darkness never bothering the child and snow never failing to fascinate and excite.

I remember this man watching this child and seeing a sparkle in his eyes, despite his misery at being outdoors in the cold, dark night, wind howling and snow blowing from what seemed like all directions.

I can see him suffering at the hands of neuropathy and overworked muscles and joints, every step a sharp pain and every breath a hope for the snow to stop and the pipes not to freeze. But I can also see him glorifying the excitement and the newness of the snow in the child’s eyes and spirit, and struggling to roll the three parts of the snowman just in case it melted the next day.

Turns out, that snow lasted for almost a week, there was no power until days after the snow had melted, and the man saved the child from frostbite by giving the child his own full faced toboggan halfway through the snowman building process.

This man was willing to suffer for his child. He was willing to forgo the knowledge that his body would hate him the next day, that he wouldn’t be able to go to work (even though there was a blizzard his factory didn’t care – he was a supervisor and was expected to be there, no matter what).

He didn’t care that he was hurting or that he would pay a price for the temps in the teens and the random but grand night adventure. He played. He laughed. He threw the child in the air and caught the child. He didn’t let her fall. He never let her fall.

This man was my father, and this child was me. And I will NEVER forget that night or that blizzard, not as long as I live. I will never forget the milk and the goat cheese and the freshly churned butter and the wax paper wrapped venison and squirrel that he’d taken for us and cleaned and processed himself, literally buried in a drift of snow, or the cooler on the deck full of all the condiments and other refrigerated foods.

I will never forget his smile. His laughter. His attempts to run and to make six foot four inch snow angel and perfect lines of size sixteen footprints right alongside my own. I will never forget the light in his eyes, even in the dark, even in pain. I will never forget how warm I was when he would hug me up in his own coat or the comfort in the voice I have almost forgotten saying, “how do you like the snow? Are you having a wonderful time? Do you see and feel the magic?”

I am thirty nine now, and have an eight year old child of my own, and suddenly tonight I realize the sacrifice that was a part of what was one of the best memories I carry in my soul. I know now what he gave to me – not just suffering the cold that southerners “can’t bear,” or staying up late, or giving up his recliner and his comfort. He gave me his time. He gave me his patience. He gave me his love. He gave me his heart.

When you have a child, and you love that child, that’s what you do. It’s not even a choice. It’s just what happens. You don’t think about your own comfort, even if you repetitively say, “I don’t know how long I can stand this cold!” You just…do. Because the child brings out the magic and the joy that’s been buried in your soul by an exceptionally long overworked-with-nothing-to-show-for-it run.

You realize you have everything right there in your arms, and no amount of pain (physical or emotional) or cold or worry about the future is going to stand in your way of that moment. That now. That memory.

That’s what I experienced tonight. Tonight I became my father. And now I sit in bed and weep tears of both longing and joy. Because I was raised, protected, loved and spoiled by a loving man. A faithful man. A steadfast and gracious man. A good man, despite his flaws.

Watching my boy, and playing with him tonight in the cold and the wind and the little bit of snow that presented itself, I realized that I carry that within me and I am capable of giving it to my baby. Although eight years old, and someday 39, like me, my baby he will always be.

I love you, Daddy. And I am so grateful for the 36 years I had with you. Thank you for the life you gave me, and the heart you taught me to have. And thank you for the snowman.

She’s Elderly, and Senile, and Hurtful, But…

Session tonight was…emotional. It was one of those tearful, snotty, sobbing sessions – one of those ones that I go into wishing I could slide down a razor blade into a bucket of alcohol instead because that would hurt less, but at the end of it am left calmer and numb and call my mother back on the phone and say, “hey, I love you. Despite all you do to make me hate you, I love you, and that’s why I have done the things I have done.”

I’m trying very hard to accept and continue to be myself, and appropriately deal with my mother, even while many people in my life are dumping their opinions and unwanted advice on me like seven dust on a yard full of fleas.

I believe that…

No one has the right to tell you how long your grieving should last or how fast or when you need to move on, not even your own mind. Follow your heart.

No one has the right to judge or hurt or ignore you – especially when they call you “friend.” Don’t believe them when they call themselves your friend. Friends don’t do those things – not on purpose.

No one has the right to tell you how to live your life or how to be who you are. Don’t listen to them. Don’t try to manage or live your life based on other people’s double standards.

No one has the right to make you cry. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that your tears are your own fault.

Just because you’re not dealing with things the way someone else is dealing with things is irrelevant – they’re not living YOUR life or YOUR situation or walking in YOUR shoes.

That said, sometimes we care about other people so much – the people who do these things to us – that we continue to try. We continue to take responsibility for them when we know or believe we have a responsibility to keep them safe – especially when they’re mentally ill or senile or sick…

Because while I DO believe in taking responsibility for our lives and in taking care of ourselves, I also believe in taking care of others – even those who have hurt us – when they need to be taken care of – especially when they are mentally ill.

If my husband, for example, had given up on me because of my depression and actions and words (or lack thereof) – and Lord knows how many bad episodes there have been throughout our relationship – if he’d walked away to take care of himself or because he decided not to “allow” it anymore, I’d be dead by now. I’d be dead two or three times over. And that’s the truth. But this post isn’t about my depression. It’s about my mother.

Whoever reads this gets to have their own opinion. That’s fine. But don’t comment to me about how no one has the power to make a person do or feel anything unless the person hurting allows it because that’s bullshit. That’s what my therapist and I have been talking about in session tonight – how that’s all I’ve been hearing for three days now from different people around me regarding my mother, and I’m sick of it.

People’s words – or even lack of them – can HURT. People DO cause tears and pain and it has nothing to do with what someone is allowing to “control” their emotions. That’s a copout and it’s blaming the person feeling the pain for feeling pain that they didn’t bring onto themselves.

Sometimes a person can’t “walk away.” Sometimes there is no choice but to allow it to continue to some extent, or even fully. Sometimes there is no other option but to bide your time and wait for your moment to “escape.”

So for those people who keep saying things to me like, “why do you “allow” it to continue this way,” or telling me how I am only responsible for myself, I have a question (or two or ten):

How many times did YOU choose to allow someone to continue hurting you (in ANY way) because you loved them, or because you FELT you had a responsibility to take care of them (whether you actually did or didn’t)?

How long did it take YOU to start blaming yourself instead of someone else for how they “made” you feel? I’m sure you probably ALWAYS blamed yourself for the actions or behaviors of others, right? I’m sure you NEVER, ever were hurt by their words or actions and only blamed yourself for “allowing” it. Pfft.

And then, how long did it take you to STOP blaming someone else? Or do you still say things like, “he is/was such an asshole,” or, “she is/was such a control freak,” or, “they were/are so ridiculous?”

You know what? He/she may have been or may still be those things. That’s the role some people play in the world. And they’re hurtful and they ARE to blame for the pain they cause. And you may not always be to blame for “allowing it to continue.” Every situation is different. Don’t judge mine.

From my therapist:

“Maybe a person’s situation doesn’t allow them to fully escape the person hurting them. Maybe a person judging, or telling you how to live your life and deal with your situations, even when you agree with a lot of their advice and wish that it COULD work for you, just doesn’t get it. Maybe they don’t or can’t grasp the full scope of your situation.

Or maybe, just maybe, other people just don’t have the heart or the character you have – not everyone is strong enough to endure mental illness or abuse and still love the person or care for the person who has or does hurt them (emotionally in this case), and not want them to hurt themselves, and want to protect them from dying or care for them while they are dying despite the pain they themselves might be feeling, or want to try to help them to help themselves.”

And so this all sums up where I currently am on the situation with my mother. Her idle threats don’t scare me. State laws don’t scare me (at this point). But I DO have a responsibility to take care of a woman who has no one but me and is literally going senile.

Not eating or taking care of herself.

Becoming a danger to herself and others.

Even if that care exists only in bringing in outside help and even if it means having to sometimes be exposed to her narcissistic and emotional abuse, I DO have and carry that responsibility.

She’s not my mother, but she used to be.
Sometimes she was.

Until session tonight I’d forgotten that sometimes she was normal.

Sometimes she helped me with school projects all night until they were finished (even if only because she wanted me to get an A for her).

Sometimes she cooked meals instead of delegating that task to my father despite his working, too.

Part of her controlling behavior was keeping the house spotless and sanitary and that’s was, in some ways, good for me and my health and well being.

Sometimes she made me clothes, with her own hands, because they couldn’t afford to shop for them.

Sometimes she hugged me, and meant it, even if I never remember her ever telling me she was proud of me unless it was in front of someone else.

There were others, but I’m finally sleepy now and will save them for later…

Tonight, my therapist cracked open a whole new set of memories from my childhood with my mother that I had blocked in the process of trying to block the bad ones. And tonight she made it a point, in “forcing” me to share some of those better memories, to remind me that despite my mothers illnesses, she is human – just like despite my illnesses I am human. That’s the thing I have kept trying to get people to understand about my heart and why I struggle so with the whole situation since my Dad died.

There’s a song by Rascal Flatts called, “What Hurts the Most,” that comes to mind and while it is actually meant to be about a romantic relationship, it reminds me very much of my relationship with my mother throughout my life. There are these moments – or have been – of being so close…and what hurts the most is not knowing how it could have been to have had her as my mother consistently when every now and then there would be a little taste of her being kind, being motherly, not hurting me…and those are the parts my heart still carries that keep me in this place of caring…

Don’t. Judge. A. Heart. You. Don’t. Know.

Don’t. Judge. A. Life. You. Don’t. Know.

Don’t. Judge. A. Life. You’re. Not. Living.

Deathiversary

Tuesday, March 21, 2017, 2:52PM. Only 22 hours away from Dorie’s deathiversary. How weird…. Today is one of those days when it feels like she is still here, just hiding away somewhere where she can’t be seen but still be felt. Maybe she is here today – I don’t know what I believe about any of that anymore…

I’m having a few hours of time to myself. No child, no mother, no company, no people. I LOVE IT, surprisingly enough. I didn’t really want to be alone today and I REALLY didn’t want my son to go to his grandma’s for a sleepover but now that I’m here, sitting on the deck with my laptop and my words, listening to the birds and watching roses start to bloom and tulips already beginning to fall away, I’m…peaceful. I’m happy in the solitude.

I know this – I want to go riding. But I’m so, so tired… So anxious. So afraid… And my stomach is uneasy. Hmmm… What to do?

Tomorrow a friend is coming to spend the day with me, so maybe we will do that then. I have barely eaten today – I’ve had a banana, some coffee, and a lot of water. Maybe I should just focus on eating some food and resting this evening and tonight… Celiac is a bitch.

………………………………………..

It’s several hours later – nearly 8PM now. I sat for a while on the deck earlier, and I talked to Dorie’s ghost. Of course I don’t believe there was really a “ghost” there, but I talked to her anyway. About halfway through my conversation with her, her husband texted me a photo of her crocuses blooming. It was eerie, in a way, but it made me very happy. He called and we talked for about a half hour, and that was nice.

When I went back to the deck I finished reading this little book called “Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments,” by Kent M. Keith. It’s tagline is, “finding personal meaning in a crazy world.” It’s a book Dorie gave to me nearly 12 years ago, and for whatever reason there it was, laying on the shelf. I happened to notice it today – I’m sure I walked past it a hundred times since it was last touched, and probably laid it there myself the last time I read it.

That was probably a few weeks after she died – it seems like that was the last time I read through the entire book… Stacks of books all over my house, but I left that one laying flat on a shelf, where I could see it, all this time. Anyway, I picked it up to read it again. It just seemed like the thing to do with my time this afternoon. I’m so glad I did…

I must’ve read this book a hundred times in the years that I have had it. I’ve quoted from it many times, and it’s truly become the core of who I am, not only because of the book’s message but also because it’s how my father raised me all my life, long before the book was ever written. In fact, it reminds me very much of my father, and different parts of the book bring back vivid memories of experiences and situations I found myself in with my father when he taught me many of the lessons I have learned from him throughout my life, both as a child and as an adult.

For many reasons I adore this book, but earlier today when I picked it up again, I mostly adored it because she gave it to me. That is, until I started rereading it. Now, I love this book for that reason and for one other very important one: because I DO find myself in this book, twelve years after receiving it from her.

I see myself now, today, as she always did: capable. That’s why she bought the book for me in the first place. She gave me the book during a very hard time in my life in 2005. I was going through my initial split from the church and I was having a very difficult time with my adoptive mother. I was also going through the beginning of a pretty difficult breakup with a friend (that would end up taking more than a year) and I felt so incomplete, afraid, and vulnerable. I used the word vulnerable in conversations with Dorie I don’t know HOW many times during that period of my life. And that’s why she bought the book when she saw it.

One of the commandments is, “Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.” I remember her telling me that she had read through parts of it in the bookstore and that that particular line had reminded her so much of me. She said something to the effect of, “you might feel lost, confused and broken, but you’re much stronger than you believe you are and if your heart is guiding you then you’re in the right place. Maybe this book will remind you of who I know you are, and of who you already know you are…maybe now, maybe many times in the future.”

My word, how it has…especially today.

These last few years I have found myself in need of these reminders many times. Especially in the last year, since she died, I have felt more lost and heart broken than I ever have. Pain on top of pain on top of pain and loss after loss after loss does something to numb you from so much of life. You just reach a point where you really just feel “there.” It’s not depression, necessarily, or even grief.

It’s exhaustion (as I’ve written about earlier today and yesterday). It’s just being so tired at every level. It’s being…well, drained. When that happens I tend to forget how to ground myself and how to regenerate…especially now, with chronic illness in the picture, it’s extremely difficult to find rest.

As I read through the commandments today, I found myself thinking, “yes! That’s who I am. That’s who I’ve been for as long as I can remember, now…” My two favorite commandments are the first two.

“People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.”

“If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.”

Well, now. Isn’t that the story of my life as I’ve struggled and stumbled through the last few years. Not that I’ve been a saint myself – goodness knows I’ve had my moments of being rash, illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. And, I’ve made no excuses for those moments. When I have been conscious of it, I’ve tried to offer my sincerest apologies and learn from those moments. But I’ve also dealt with these two things more times than I can count (and by the same couple of people) over and over again throughout the last several years. And the truth is, I STILL love them anyway, and I still do good anyway.

I am still the same person I always was. How can I not be? It’s who I am, and I’m proud of that. I am GRATEFUL for that. There’s always room for improvement but I’m a damn good person and woman, and I believe that about myself.

Do you ever tell yourself similar things? You should, because I’m 99.9% sure they’re true. Be kinder to yourself. Even on your worst days, pat yourself on the back and say, “I love you!” to yourself. Then give yourself a treat of some sort, even if it’s just five minutes of sitting in silence on a busy day when you really “shouldn’t” waste those five minutes. Trust me – waste those five minutes, because if that’s what you spend them doing then it’s no waste at all.

The only way forward is not to just affirm things, per all the self-help gurus, but to TAKE ACTION. Actively love yourself. Walk your talk…don’t just speak it. Otherwise? It’s useless.

In spending some quiet time in true solitude today, I’ve really been supporting myself, and “myself” likes it a lot. We’ve been through half a box of Kleenex between allergies and memories, but hey – at least we thought to have Kleenex on hand.

The point of my “big cry” is this: not everybody is going to love you, no matter how lovable you might be, and not everybody who loves you is always going to be there, even if it’s only because they’re dead and they just can’t be. Learn to love and support yourself – it’s so important. I can give a lot of credit to a couple of people in my life for being there for me, to listen and to offer a hand, during the last year, but mostly, since my dad died? I’ve chosen to face my struggle alone.

I knew when my dad died that I needed to do that – because I knew that I COULD do that. I needed to step up and take care of myself in that way during that time. And, as far as the grief with my dad, I DID do that. I did cope and get through it mostly by myself (and with the help of an amazing bunch of animals who are just about the only living creatures I cried in front of, by choice), and I’m grateful for the people who care for me who allowed me to do that without question, without pressure, and without judgment.

When Dorie died, I decided to write my journey through that grief. It was so completely different than the loss of my Dad for many reasons. It was far more painful and confusing, and I had so much new growth that needed to be fertilized before it died. I had so much to say then, so much pain and so much confusion and so much loss… Writing has always been my most useful and trusted coping mechanism.

So, mostly via instablogs on Instagram, and this year via this blog, I have publicly shared that journey and I have become all the better for doing so. Admittedly, there have been some pretty raw and ugly moments, but there have also been some truly beautiful ones. I have met some wonderful people, given and received so much support, and made some really good friends in the process. I am SO grateful for that, and I want to continue doing that… But there’s something I have to tell you.

That journey…it’s over. Timing unexpected, and perhaps a bit ironic or even serendipitous, I know… But this thing happened today as I sat alone, after I finished rereading the book I mentioned.

I sat on the bench in the therapy garden, finishing my conversation with Dorie, and I began to sing… I sang to her, like I sometimes did when she was sick and we’d sit on the front porch for some air. A lot of times she wouldn’t feel like talking, and we’d listen to music. I’d start singing along to a song, and she’d stop the music and say, “no, you keep singing. I like for you to sing.” Well. Sing, I would…

This afternoon I was singing to her this song called, “Sanctuary.” It’s a song that is from the show “Nashville,” and it reminds me a lot of our time together when she was diagnosed and throughout her cancer. I wish I had known it during those years with her, but instead I sang it to her “ghost.” You do what you have to do, I suppose.

I’ll link the video below, but for now what’s important for me to share are just two lines:

“I will share this weight you carry… Let me be your sanctuary.”

As I finished singing the song, with those last few lines, I could feel her in my spirit telling me, “I don’t have a weight anymore that you need to share, you can put it down. You don’t have to carry it any longer, Christy…” It’s as though she invited me to lay it down, and I accepted.

With that, just as swiftly as a cardinal flew from the feeder when the dog barked, that part of my journey through that grief was over. Does that mean that my grief is finished? No, of course not. It never will be. But today…that part of it felt like it came to a very gentle but real finale.

Here’s the really interesting part of this story:

For the last few months, especially the last two days, up until this afternoon, I have felt myself reaching a limit. You know the one – the one where you throw your hands up and throw everything away. I’ve wanted to toss away my phone, my cameras, my computer… I’ve wanted to delete my Instagram accounts and my blogs, burn my journals and shut myself off from the world. I felt like I was right there at the very edge, to the point of lashing out, openly sobbing and giving up – right there at this very tumultuous, very messy, very hasty end of all things sharing, all things real.

But, I didn’t do that… No, I offered myself patience, and I continued to follow my ever expanding heart instead of my hasty, very limited and fear-filled mind.

Instead, I’ve sat in my back yard this afternoon, finally meeting with silence and true solitude again after so long of not having a break from being mom and daughter and everything in between, having this conversation with Dorie’s “ghost.” It’s funny to me that it happened the way it did, really. I find it heartwarming (?) that she wouldn’t let me do those things when she was alive (give up, throw it all away), and she won’t let me do them now. Or, rather, I won’t let myself do them now.

I won’t give in to what’s easy and just run and hide. That’s not who I am in my heart, and my heart is what I always choose to follow, no matter how irrational or painful my mind might think it is. That’s because in my time in this body and on this planet, short as it may seem even to me, I learned (a long time ago, really) that my heart is always right.

So is yours. Remember that…

Dorie and I had some hard times. We fought sometimes. She’d make me madder than a wet hen sometimes, and sometimes she’d want to literally shake some sense into me. But you know what? We never gave up on each other, and we never let each other give up on ourselves, because true friends never do.

At the end of this day, I can reflect on that and I can say at least one thing with the fullest of confidence and pride: she was my best friend, and she was the closest thing to a mother I ever had. Losing her when I did was the most difficult experience of my life, and I miss her desperately, still. It is still difficult. But here I still am, despite that. Here I still am, sharing my feelings and working through, anyway.

I don’t know how the deathiversary will play out, exactly. I do have a sort of plan, per my fairy god therapist’s orders, as I mentioned earlier today. But, here I am tonight, at a new sort of threshold regarding grieving her death. I love her, but I love me, too. I love me enough to lay down a weight that she laid down when she died: cancer, and the pain and the guilt it brings, even in death to the loved ones left behind. That’s the thing I’ve chosen to do on this day, 364 days after her death, and I am determined to leave it there…

To close this post, I just want to ask you, whoever you are reading this, to keep sharing anyway if sharing is what your heart leads you to do. Keep being you anyway. Keep living anyway. Keep grieving, in your own way and as you need to grieve, no matter what it is you’ve lost. We’ll keep trying, and keep going, together.

All my love,

C.