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

I learned…

You have the power to overcome conditioning –
especially conditioning you’ve done to yourself…
Patterns.
Obstacles.
Regrets.
Even fears.
It takes bravery, but it rests within you.
Be compassionate toward yourself,
Believe and see – you have the ability to heal the wounds that bring your anger,
that slice you open,
that feel like ghosts who just won’t follow the light and leave you be…
Forgiveness of self,
understanding is yours…
Now take the reigns and seek the changes,
do not doubt,
do not fear.
Know that you can change these patterns –
thoughts,
wants,
expectations of self…
You can do so much,
you can pray so much,
you can love so much –
others and yourself.
But
life will always happen
on life’s terms.
There is no other way.
Understand that no matter what you have chosen
or what you choose,
what you know,
or think you know,
what you wish for,
or what you loathe,
life will rise and fall,
come and go.
There is true peace to be found,
and felt…
but only within yourself,
and only when you let go and allow it…
only when you give yourself the opportunity
and the gift you need…
Only you know what that is.
It’s the only way.
~C.

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.

Devil’s Backbone (Again)

Some shots from Devil’s Backbone…

Also, had this on my mind tonight:

You don’t know what someone is dealing with…what they’re going through. Sometimes a person can be confident and also anxious, look healthy but be sick, look happy and be miserable, look good but feel ugly, act hopeful but feel hopeless, smile and be broken, or never smile at all and be happy… You don’t know. So unless you ask, don’t judge. Don’t assume. Sometimes a person you see every single day or think you know very well can be fighting battles you know nothing about.

Be kind.

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.))

🤷‍♀️

The End of the Road (Last Blog Before My Mother Died)

TW: the dying experience. Do not read further if you can’t deal with that kind of reality, or if you’ve had a recent loss that this will gnaw at…







Seriously, I’m going to share this reality so don’t keep reading if you’re not comfortable with this type of thing. This is my coping mechanism. To write. To share with those who can handle and understand it. To feel like my support system is with me…







This morning around 3:30am my mom’s oxygen started dropping. First it was 92. Then it was 90. Then it was 88. Then it was 85. She kept yanking the oxygen away. I stuck it in her mouth until the higher dose of morphine kicked in and she relaxed. Then, I put it back in her nose.

I called the after hours line. I was told I was doing everything I needed to be. I mean, it’s kind of common sense at this point, after the others, for me – but that doesn’t mean adrenaline and norepinephrine don’t fly and dopamine and seratonin don’t plummet…and you need that reassurance because you second guess. You feel responsible for more than comfort. You feel responsible for the pain, too. You can’t help it.

I cranked the oxygen up to 3. I started giving half doses of morphine every 30 minutes. Her chest would rise when she gasped, then cave in. Then the fluid rattle started again with her shallow breaths.

She would draw up in a fetal position, moaning and gasping, still with oxygen in her nose but oxygen levels still rising and falling at will because of the mouth breathing and the breath holding and the inability to get enough oxygen with the fluid.

She has not eaten in 12 days. She has not drank in 3 days. She is in the final phase of the dying process. I knew that. I know that. But nothing prepares you for that. I am grateful that she is home, and that I moved here. I am grateful that it is not the nursing home I fought for, or the hospital, where I likely couldn’t be with her…where she would be alone.

I have laid with her – some would say a gift, and I agree…though in the moment it doesn’t feel like one. I suppose it will one day, just like with both my grandmothers, my Daddy, and Dorie, and pets… I held her hand. I cried silent tears, watching her face grimace and her eyes open with the moans only to reveal cloudy, lifeless eyes. I waited patiently for the nurse.

The nurse came at 8:30. Upon assessment, the things are happening. The limbs are cooling. The bp is dropping. The heart rate is rising. The temperature is rising as her core fights to hang on. All the things.

It could be today, it could be three days. It could be a week – probably not longer than that, because of the lack of food and fluid. I have chosen to make her comfort the priority, with oxygen, and liquid morphine and Ativan. Myself and the doctor have chosen to forego the feeding tube, and IV fluids. There is no point in drawing it out, and a DNR is a DNR – all those things are at this point are life support. She doesn’t want that. It’s documented. I will not allow myself to feel guilty for those choices. She made them long ago – not me.

But it’s not easy. It’s not a happy choice. It’s not a good choice, in many’s eyes, I’m sure – but for her it is the right choice. And I will live with having to make it for the rest of my life. But I will also live for the rest of my life, however long or short that may be, knowing I’ve done all I could and what we felt was best for her. She has fought me tooth and nail, even changing the locks to keep me out of the house and away from her business, and now she groans when I’m not there. My, how things change. How they heal. How they induce growth. How they make you a different person.

I have been many different people the past year and a half, through the worst of all of this – some not always graceful, some quite angry, some extremely depressed…and now, regardless of the amount of time left, I feel nothing but…strength. Courage. And love.

I will see you all on the flip side… Love one another. Be kind. And live with an open heart. 🙏❤️