I can’t sleep, so…here are some trees. #ilovetrees
Also, two things are heavy on my mind tonight, both I feel like sharing because two other friends have shared these same thoughts in the past day:
The “I never let my pain/disability/illness stop me” narrative is ableist and harmful. Sometimes, even with illnesses that aren’t considered chronic but pop up just long enough to make you have to see a doctor/go to the ER and piss you off, you ARE held back/unable to do all the things. And guess what? That’s ok. You shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about it just because someone else doesn’t understand (or simply refuses to entertain the idea that you shouldn’t have to suffer just for the sake of “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” – people like that have health issues way earlier than they’d prefer, and if they don’t want to acknowledge it that’s their cross to bear).
Stop the testing. Bring back the joy. When you sit in front of a kid with a stopwatch to time them on ANYTHING, whether it’s speed reciting multiplication tables or the alphabet or the periodic table, and they aren’t fast enough to beat the clock, they feel embarrassed, like they’ve failed or let down someone they are supposed to impress, or worse – they just feel plain stupid. Guess what? They’re not. Kids learn at different paces and have interests and greater abilities in different areas – JUST LIKE ADULTS DO. Some are good at labor. Some are good at creative endeavors. Some are good at organizing. Some are good at service. EVERYONE is needed. If you’re putting a bunch of rules (besides actual grammar rules) on reading and writing, and putting a bunch of pressure on a kid to meet some ridiculous and possibility unattainable standard (for them), you’re not teaching them to read or write well – nay nay, my friend. If that’s how you’re teaching? You’re teaching them to HATE reading and writing – even about the things they love.
Anyway, just some “unpopular opinions” that I have been arguing with myself about for a little while now.
Do good. Be kind. Be compassionate. And remember, all of those things are verbs, not just words. You’re not perfect either, so give others a break – especially when they’re already down. Try offering a hand to lift them up instead of a foot to the side while they’re down that makes them not WANT to get up. People need help, not hate. One day, you’ll need help, too. Love y’all. 🙏
You never know where the road is going to take you. Be careful with yourself. Don’t abuse yourself or others, or take your body (or life) for granted.
One day you may be in a situation where you don’t know what’s next for it – and whether you believe me or not, or like it or not, or think it’s a dramatic statement or not, I don’t care – it’s a terrifying and uncomfortable place to be, especially when you have small children.
It’s funny how you can be considering the future, looking forward and not behind, but feel as though you are watching your past happen all over again – and you never expected it and thought you’d done everything to prevent it from ever being this way again. Well. When it comes to the body, and to life, really, sometimes things just happen.
Sometimes things happen and they’re scary and they’re hard and you can’t talk about it because…well, no one will understand and you don’t want anyone to act a certain way, or maybe you just don’t want to be vulnerable because you’re already possibly more vulnerable than many people assume.
You don’t mean to be vague but you are just doing the best you can to process your own existence – and you have no clue. None. Not even a tiny one. You’re just waiting. You’re waiting because it’s deja vu and you know what happened then; but, it’s also a different experience and you know it’s “now,” not “then,” but you’re gun-shy from the last experience…so time is the only source of answers, if time or answers even exist.
Life is like driving a car. You can drive all you want, but you never really have power or control over anything. Forces far greater than you do – and sometimes they’re not kind. And, if you think you do have everything under control? It’s an illusion.
Don’t delude yourself. You’re going to be in a world of hurt at some point, if you do. Don’t forget that when you dance, eventually you have to pay the band.
Don’t assume you know people. Don’t assume you know what’s going on in their life. Don’t judge based on what you THINK you know, because in reality? You don’t know squat except about yourself. Focus on that, unless you do know facts and you can be of some emotional or physical help in someone’s life.
That’s what the last few years have taught me, in being treated like crap, and allowing myself to be used by people and abused by the medical system. Did it make me stronger? Wiser? Yes. Did it hurt? Badly? Also, absolutely yes.
Don’t be a selfish jerk. Do good. Be gentle. Be compassionate. Be kind. Do all those things for yourself and for others. Make it a great day. I love you all. ❤️
So very true. Expand your mind. Don’t allow yourself to become stagnant, or, worse yet, frozen in time like this camellia in my backyard this morning.
The brain naturally shrinks with age, despite being filled with this “knowing” stacked upon that “knowing,” even without trauma or defects caused by medical situations or diseases.
…with increasing age and there are changes at all levels from molecules to morphology. Incidence of stroke, white matter lesions, and dementia also rise with age, as does level of memory impairment and there are changes in levels of neurotransmitters and hormones. (NCBI)
It’s hard enough to remember what you already know as you get older, but the best thing you can do for yourself is to continue to learn – even if that includes unlearning only to relearn from a different perspective. The only way to slow the shrinkage is to continue to learn.
Read. Think about things in an interactive way. Write. Do things to exercise your brain, whether with puzzles or word games or just deep conversations with yourself in thought. Train (and/or retrain) your mind. Remain active in mindful and conscious ways. You’ll thank yourself for it.
I suppose this is a big deal to me because of physiological psychology and being a scholar in that field, but more than anything it comes from what I watched my mother suffer as she deteriorated from the added and horrific bonus of early onset dementia that turned to Alzheimer’s.
Take care of your mind. Fertilize it. Grow it well. Maintain it. Keep it in bloom. ❤️
Until you have actually walked this road in a way that leaves the soles of your shoes worn out and developing holes, and your feet blistered and bleeding twice as much as your heart pumps through you and until you have not only seen but had no choice but to actively participate in the sights and scenes DAILY, because there literally was no one else, for so long that you feel like you’re in a Stephen King novel, no – you will never know what it’s really like.
How it can wear you so thin that it nearly destroys you, the way water seems to work like acid and melts cheap toilet paper.
How it can tear you down to a level that you, as compassionate and kind a person you are or try to be, think, “the next time someone tells me I should smile more, or I should look on the bright side (which is what? That eventually she’ll die and I won’t have to do this anymore?) I’m going to punch them in the face.”
How you start avoiding people because you’re sick of their hypocritical judgments and comparisons, OR the way they pretend to understand when you know good and well they have no clue so you just stop talking about it and pretend it’s easy and everything is fine…
100%. Until you’ve done it, you’ll never understand completely what it’s like. I shared a lot of our journey. Even then it was only a fraction and what I did share was picked apart by completely irrelevant, inexperienced people. But I will keep sharing this until we have real reform and raise the standard of care for caregivers and their loved ones with dementia. (Thank you, Martina.)
When my mom died, it broke me. It wasn’t the grief that broke me, it was the RELIEF that broke me. Because I had no idea what to do with it. And I felt guilty for feeling it in the first place.
Finally being able to breathe and stop and rest after SO LONG of being a full time care giver going between two homes and three people (wait, four – but I never really thought of myself, lol) and dealing with doctors and being sick myself…?
THAT almost killed me.
I’m not exaggerating or trying to be dramatic or draw attention, which is what people always love to say when you share thoughts like this (which reallllly doesn’t help so just shut up because that kind of thing can drive someone over an edge you will never understand when they’re grieving loss after caregiving).
I just finished writing a whole chapter about this. Maybe I’ll share it via my blog… For now, here’s the thing I want you to know and remember:
If you’re in a situation like this or are grieving after a situation like this, know that you’re not alone. Know that there ARE those who see you and feel you because they’re there, too, or they’ve been there before.
I pray not one of you ever has to go through it (or go through it again).
If you are forced to go through it, I pray you get the resources you need (financially and otherwise) sooner than a month before your loved one dies because the only thing that finally saves the day is hospice.
I pray if you do face this situation, you have less people than more coming at you with what you need to do and how you need to act but NEVER actually doing anything to help you do what they think you should do and regularly acting the same way you’re acting despite not being in your shoes and instead having everything they could ever want or need.
And I pray that if you ever find yourself in those shoes, you give yourself grace and you forgive yourself daily, before the day begins, for the fact that you’re never going to be perfect. You’re not going to get it right and keep your cool and manage your emotions well EVERY DAY. You’re just not. Period. So accept it and be gentle with yourself and just keep doing the best that you can. You’ve got this. You really do. You don’t think you do or feel that you do, BUT YOU DO. 🙏💜🙏
And if you’ve never been there at this level and never have to be? I pray you don’t take that privilege for granted. Because you ARE privileged.
From my dream journal (01/12/22), for those who don’t believe that working on your spirit self and spiritual focus opens doors for a spirit to communicate and that you can actually hear them:
I have never been a skeptic because as a child I always had experiences and while the belief system I grew up in called that, “evil,” I never stopped communicating. I never stopped hearing or seeing. I never stopped believing. In fact, they believed it, too – they just contradicted themselves with double standards like, “spirits are evil,” but, “we worship the Father, the Son (let’s be real, SUN), and the HOLY SPIRIT.” No, I never “let it be,” I just learned to be quieter about it. I have, since my mid-20’s, learned how to speak up again.
My Daddy came to me last night. I didn’t want to wake up, if I’m honest. I never want those dreams to end. They’re few and far between as I continue to heal and grow, so I savor them. This one was different than most, and thankfully not the recurring psychological nightmare that I had for months after he died and that still comes around every so often.
In this one, we were in some strange, very flat place that reminded me very much of the plains, and there were animals everywhere. My father loved all animals, so it makes sense that he would appear in a spiritual way surrounded by them. It was like a cross between Kansas (not “Wizard of Oz” Kansas, more like agriculturally beautiful Kansas) and Noah’s Ark. Very weird to me, that, because my dad loved woods and mountains. “Whatever,” I thought, just being so happy to see him.
He apologized for some things – namely leaving me with the burden that was mama after he died, gave me this motivational speech about not beating myself up anymore and knowing that she was happy there (she was quietly waving from the background, which would in life be be quintessentially my mom if my dad was around) and that my hands had been tied in both situations.
He told me that I had actually fared much better than I imagined that I did. That was something I had needed to hear specifically from him since my mother died, though I hadn’t realized it until I awoke from this dream. I have dealt with a lot of guilt since my mom died, surrounding that. He told me that I was in a place most people don’t find themselves in when he died – young, career and goal driven, raising a child, and managing my mom (which he knew about when he fell into this coma, but hadn’t told me, and I didn’t realize it until she died and I found and read things he had written) while he was, for lack of a better phrase, literally rotting away in the hospital bed.
Bit of backstory: his feet were dead (literally) and about to fall off (metaphorically) when I signed to remove life support. They were scary and disgusting to see – they were freezing cold, solid blue and black because of his kidneys shutting down, and they’d stopped dialysis because they were getting ready to move him to another unit to remove life support, AND YET THEY WANTED TO AMPUTATE THEM.
In this dream he laughed his truest laugh, which had a deep, guttural beginning and ended with a more high pitched, fast paced giggle, and he said to me that he heard me say to the doctor, “are you out of your mind? What’s the point in that? You’re an idiot if you think I’m going to approve of you chopping his feet off when he’s about to die anyway. Why don’t you go fix somebody who can be saved instead of trying to rip off more money from my family and his insurance company? He fought to make it this long with both of his massive, size 15 diabetic feet and he’s managed to keep all but a single toe. You’re not cutting a damned thing off except this ventilator tomorrow so that he can finally be at peace.”
He quoted that to me verbatim, and thanked me for standing up for his feet, semi-pun intended because he was goofy like that with his dad jokes. I forgot I had even said that to that doctor, but upon waking I remembered it vividly and I remember being so angry that they wanted to argue with me about it and my mom wasn’t there. You see, she wasn’t there most of the time after the first day, but I had left only once (even showering in the shower of his CCU room) and when I did leave that one time, I didn’t want to.
It was only because she had asked me to come back to their house to get things FOR HER so she wouldn’t HAVE to leave that I had left, and then she left anyway. She would come for a couple of hours a day. She almost slept through his passing and J had to force her to understand what was happening. I was FURIOUS. I realize now that it was because she was already sick with the late-early stages of dementia then (hence the stuff I later read that my father had been taking notes on), and that’s why the doctors pulled me aside to that cold, dreary “counsel room” with her and told me that I had to make all the decisions and tried to explain that to her. Terrible experience.
I remembered the anger at him not taking care of himself better, in my eyes just willingly giving up his life and that somehow meant he didn’t love me as much as I thought he did. I remembered believing that if he’d loved me the way he had made me believe he did, he wouldn’t have treated himself so poorly. Flash forward to the last couple of years and what I have put my own son through with my health. That’s a bitter pill to swallow.
I also remembered something I didn’t consciously know existed: the resentment I had toward my mom because she thought he was just sleeping and left him for two more hours and when she came back to check, he had seized and stroked and there was no bringing him back after that. They tried. I pushed them. I argued. But I finally had to accept that they couldn’t fix his brain and he was never leaving that CCU bed. After five excruciating days of denial, I had to let him go, and I had to make that decision alone. I realized that I was SO ANGRY at my mother for being the reason we were there and for being sick and making me have to choose.
For what it’s worth, here I will insert the inspirational realization I had and the absolute fact that NO MATTER HOW IN CONTROL YOU THINK YOU ARE OF EVERYTHING IN LIFE, YOU ARE NEVER IN CONTROL OF ANYTHING. PERIOD. END OF STORY. More on that later…I digress.
I remembered so many things when I woke up, details I think I had purposely blocked and I think my dad triggered them on purpose, even though they are SO difficult to think about, because after all of his preaching (sweetly) to me in the dream, he said to me, “when you wake up, turn on the radio and don’t you stop singing, girl. Don’t you DARE avoid the one thing that makes you feel true purpose just because of some certain things you might hear that hurt you! Let the hurt drive you!” He was irritated about that because music had always been our most powerful bonding agent (again, upon waking and considering it, I realized I haven’t made music in three or more months)…and then he sang to me.
I knew he was getting ready to leave me then. He always sings to me right before he leaves me in dreams. He sang the bridge of this old song called, “I’m Moving On,” by Rascal Flatts. There is one lyric that is supposed to go, “And I have made up my mind that those days are gone,” but he sang it, “Girl, make up your mind that those days are gone.”
“Well, I’ve been working on it,” I thought, “but anyway, point taken.” He somehow remixed into “Let It Hurt” as he turned and was walking away. He was apparently on a Rascal Flatts kick (yeah, he listened to stuff besides WDJC – a local Christian only radio station – when my mom wasn’t around…he listened to EVERYTHING, especially musical theater stuff).
Anyway, so I turn on the radio – yes, an actual radio app and not Spotify or Apple Music on shuffle – as I was getting coffee ready and guess what song was playing and barely into the first verse when I chose the radio station and it finally tuned in? Yep. ⬇️
So, there’s that… I listened intently, and of course I shed tears when that certain part of the song arrived, and I sang it just like he had, using the rewording of the lyrics he had used. I went on with my day. I say with it for a long moment.
I showered, I did a few things in the bedroom and moved on to the kitchen where I washed the dishes and cleaned the counters (I do this ritualistically every morning and most nights, now that the kid is older and dirtying so many dishes with his “bottomless pit” eating habits…). And then, I sat down to write this. I listened to the other song Daddy was singing/humming in the dream as he was leaving before I opened WordPress, and I took it in – as difficult as it is for me to listen to that song lately, for a number of reasons), and I cried some more. And as those tears flowed, so did my words begin to…and here we are.
Grief is like a strange and living creature, and it’s grips are never ending once it touches you (though it waxes and wanes in its intensity), but so are those soul connections that we think we can’t live without. Whether we lose them through death or living circumstances, the universe knows what it’s doing. That’s what you need to take away from this post. And, I think that’s where I’ll end this one.
Sit with your grief. Let it do its job. Allow yourself the gift that grief really is, even though you may not realize it’s a gift at all right now… One day, you will make friends with it. Eventually, it will cease to be a monster and become a friendly companion that helps you rather than tortures you. But you have to allow that transfiguration to take place, and in your own time you will…because it is an inevitable process.
I know that if you’re struggling with grief, you’re going to be ok. One day, if you just keep going, you’ll know it, too. You’ll look in the mirror and see yourself and just as suddenly as you didn’t recognize who you were seeing at some point after grief came, you’ll begin to see yourself again, and you’ll realize that all along your grief was there to help you. I know it may sound crazy, but I promise you, it’s true.
“May not be what you want, but it’s what you need Sometimes the only way around it Is to let love do it’s work So go on Yeah, let it hurt…”
Sunrise thoughts and a thing nature taught me a long time ago. Spirituality and self-discovery go hand in hand, and they work the same way: both are a never ending journey. Wax on, wax off. Learn, unlearn. Learn again. Change habits. Become, unbecome. Become again. Know better, do better. Love yourself, love others. Rinse, repeat.
And this idea so many people have of grinding? It’s insanity. Grinding is NOT what you need to be doing. The definition of grind is to wear away, to destroy. You are killing yourself to do what? Have more stuff that you don’t need? Make other people happy? Working to the point of taking care of yourself is one thing. “Grinding?” Totally different thing.
At some point, you have to decide that you’re going to enjoy what you have while you’re here to enjoy it rather than constantly want more or be dissatisfied in life. In fact? That is exactly why people are dissatisfied in and with their lives. That’s why people are not really and truly happy – “at the core” happy.
It is really because they are doing one (or both) of two things: holding on to what has long been over and carrying anger and bitterness with them in everything they do and doing the things they do for the wrong reasons, or trying to maintain a certain life that isn’t really living. A truly happy life is one that can maintain itself with just a normal amount of effort, because there is balance.
Grind yourself down with a constant focus on one thing – even something you love – and you will no longer be balanced. You will no longer be strong. You will no longer love that thing or that person. You will no longer be you. You will wear away every beautiful, unique thing about yourself and end up exhausted, aching, empty and bitter.
Please don’t grind. Work hard, but don’t grind. Do more of what makes you happy. Do it from a mindful space and conscious heart. Awaken yourself to ALL that life has to offer. Pro tip: it’s not found in material things. It’s not found in excess. There is no such thing as security – any of us could lose everything in a single breath. No, it’s not something you can hold. It’s something you can feel, and it is found in the space between breaths. You can find it there no matter where you are or what you’re doing or who you’re with – try it, and you’ll see.
No matter what you’re doing, throughout the day today randomly become conscious of the fact that you are breathing. You can still be doing whatever you’re doing – just be aware. In that silent, focused pause between breaths, remember that one day that will be a permanent situation. One day, there will be no breath. One day you will CEASE TO BREATHE, and therefore cease to have that moment. This moment. Any moment. Every moment.
It might come sooner that any of us think, that permanent space between breaths. You never know… Appreciate everything. Even the pain is teaching you. It’s showing you what not to do. It’s showing you what your body needs you do, what your soul needs you to do, what your higher self needs you do.
Do good. Be gentle. Be compassionate. Be kind. Do all those things for yourself and for others. Have a beautiful day. 💜