Fog, like Pea Soup

I drove into work yesterday in some of the worst fog I have ever encountered. It was thick, oppressive, massive, and isolating. It made me think of recent news of a former student tragically completing suicide this past weekend. I know many in their family, I have taught and had multiple connecting points with them and their siblings. I feel privileged to have taught them in some capacity over the years. Driving through the fog, they taught me.
Many will look at a person’s decision to complete suicide as one of the most selfish acts someone can commit. I used to think that. I don’t anymore.
Take fog. Depending on the time of day and the density, it can be all-consuming and frightening–there are also some moments of serene beauty.  As I drove yesterday, I could not see a hands distance from me on all sides. While there may have been, (and were) people traveling the same road beside, in front of, or behind me, I was oblivious. I could not see them, and they could not see me. Normal non-verbal communication that happens with drivers was not seen. Normal signals such as lights, slowing down or speeding up, or a lane change were lost. Eye contact and the bevy of non verbals (yes, even flipping the bird) were gone. In that moment, I was alone. But, I wasn’t. There were others out there, traveling the same stretch of interstate, similar paths and goals, different destinations. I felt alone.
In the case of suicide, this description fits. It’s a dense, all-encompassing fog that breathes heavy, clouds the windows, casts shadows on what we think we see, and impairs our judgment. When the light breaks through, it is blinding in its intensity and after our eyes adjust, we loosen our grip on the steering wheel, turn up the volume on our Spotify playlist, breathe a sigh of relief, set the cruise and motor on.
Being consumed with the painful fog of suicide offers no relief. I say pain here because I believe that is what it is . Wait, I don’t believe it. I know that’s how it feels. I know this pain.
You see, when we encounter moments of intense pain, we will go to any lengths to alleviate that pain. That’s why we have an incredible drug problem out there. People are trying to survive through immense pain. Note that I said, survive, not thrive. When the pain is so crushing that mere survival hurts, a person will do just about anything to find relief. That’s not selfish.
Take a migraine. For those that suffer, it is extreme. I’ve even driven myself into clinics and endured shots to the skull for relief. When it hurts in every fiber of your being, alleviating pain is not necessarily selfish.
Likewise, a person watching a loved one in that much pain will do almost anything to help. We know how helpless we feel when we can’t take the pain away from someone…any parent knows this. Imagine the pain of a child in almost any circumstance, I can guarantee you that most parents feel that pain more intensely than that child and come almost unglued with the want to rid them of it. I have seen my sons’ in moments of pain, their howls of agony rip at my soul. I want to help them and in some instances, I can’t. This is one of them.
In the moment when pain is at its most acute, there is nothing else a person can see or feel. They are not thinking about anyone else, not because they don’t want to, but because they CAN’T. When I am in a migraine cycle, I cannot function for or on behalf of anyone else. I may have the thought that I feel bad for not functioning,but rational thought of taking care of anyone else is gone. This is not to say that I do not love in those moments. I am simply unable to see or feel anything besides the pain and a quest for relief. Relief of pain is not selfish, it is natural and necessary. How we go about that is the slippery slope.
In the moment that a note, email, voicemail, text, or Facebook post is written claiming that we would be so much better off without their existence, there is absolutely no thought to the repercussions of that action. Pain has clouded the mind and fogged judgment so severely that rational thought and action do not exist. All that remains is what the mind and emotions are screaming at that person and all they want is peace.
I am NOT condoning this action. I am trying to grasp hold of it myself and wrestle it to the ground. I want easy answers and they don’t exist. I see others in pain and I want to help relieve it and I can’t. Only the person walking in that pain can and that’s where it’s hard. At the end of the day, I can hurl every strength, show of support, courage and love to a person and I still have no control over their actions. NONE.
That hurts. That’s scary. That’s real. And. it. Sucks.
I know this world. I’ve seen it, mucked around in it, examined its possibilities, attempted to taste its fruit to find it bitter and rancid. My experience is not yours and yours is not mine. But, I have to keep reminding myself that even when I feel isolated and am fumbling in the pea soup, I am not alone. There are others in their cars, on their journeys, similar to mine. I have my own road to take and a destination that belongs only to me, just as they have theirs. They can’t fix me and I can’t fix them. As I remember moments when people wrested bottles from my grip, I recall the deafening scream of silent pain that wanted freedom, that wanted the fog to lift so that I could find relief. Luckily, pain did not win. Tormented plots and twisted thoughts eased and the clouds parted. The fog lifted. I am lucky.
I am lucky because I understand. I am lucky because today I breathe life. Many are not and have not been so lucky and I mourn for them. I mourn their opportunity, I mourn their life. I mourn the level of pain that dictated this as the answer. I mourn because the work continues. But, I also rejoice in a deeper understanding of really dark and twisty places that do not have ready answers. That sounds weird. I rejoice in a constant quest for more understanding and more places of intersection so that I, and many others, do not have to feel so alone.
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Carpe What Huh?

The recent death of Robin Williams shakes many of us to the core, but to the core of what?  What is at the core that rips us of a blanket of security that shields us like a blanket.  I look at the quotes which have been posted, I posted right along with them.  It was not until I was in the safety of my car this morning, did I pause a moment to mourn.

What?  Why could I possibly have to mourn in the death of a star with whom you have never met, yet was soooo impacted by his story relived on the movie screen.  When we laughingly toss  Carpe Diem around believing somehow we have our crap together. How am I supposed to seize the day when I dread going to school?

What, you?  You have so much going for you>>>>   Ah, you don’t remember or encountered me during some of those hellish years.  I remember I used to walk around the block that our elementary was located.  I remember so many trips around there, singing and talking to myself.  I spun the pourings of my heart, of how I knew that I would never be accepted and that I was somehow “weird”.  I knew from a young age that I would never go to prom, (I wasn’t) or to be asked on a real date (it never happened).  I knew in my heart what I thought was real, was in fact real.

I hated everything about myself.  I used to look in the mirror and tell off the reflection that stared back at me.  I hated her.  I wanted her vanquished, I wanted her dead.  Yup, I said that.  I wanted her dead.

That is so hard to write, some believing that at almost 40 I have it together..I don’t–none of us do.

Honestly if you had told me to Carpe Diem in high school and much of college I would remarked some deprecating slam and “beat them to punch”  I knew they hated me, why not beat them to the punch and throw out the comments as bitingly as possible.  If I could turn it so the response was mine, they could not touch me.  Sure.  I beat em to the punch.  You know what happened?  No one, I mean NO ONE wanted to hang with me.  High school classmates would never invite me to their homes ( that changed a bit my senior year..they were wonderful peeps to me)  Collegiate theatre majors dubbed me weird and cautioned anyone who might be a friend that I was not someone to be accepted.  This did nothing but make me hate that girl in the mirror even more.  Trying like hell to see at least 1 production in which I was cast…it never happened.  I still feel the pangs of hurt and rejection in both those scenarios

I remember my junior year especially, it was a  fairly good year.  I faked most people out and those I didn’t I severed those relationships with a biting  remark that left them shaking their head.  I lost many a friend, I still mourn those people.  Senior year spawned hell in every sense of the word.

I did not qualify for Nationals like I had the year before–gotta do it one more time–  In January I lost the one person I had looked up to and idolized from day 1.  They washed their hands of me, refused to acknowledge my existence.  They were friends with my friends ( the same ones I had severed ties) .  They were so damn talented it sickened me…I knew I would never reach that pinnacle of greatest.  But, damn I tried hard.  With every fail, with every second place finish I hated the girl in the mirror that much more.  I scored up a stash of blades, I wanted to be gone…I stashed them and there are still scars that dot my right and left arm.  I am ambidextrous you see.  I could go both ways.  I had bottles of sleeping pills–I worked at a grocery store, no one thought anything of the purchases I made.  Hell, no one thought much about me anyone..I knew it and it hurt like crazy….still does once in awhile.  I remember the night I had not qualified, almost but not quite.  The general smirk of the one who had seen my victory the previous year now watched me lose.  That one stings badly.  That night I also received a letter from the state college to which I had applied.  It was a letter negating my acceptance into their college.  The work that had to be done just to get me there….Finally a scholarship in theatre was awarded so that I could attend…See, if a dept. offered an incoming freshman a scholarship there was little else the Adminstration  could do to negate it.  In hindsight, I think I got it for the sake of another freshman coming in, talented and pretty–so pretty.  I never ever fit the bill, no matter how I tried.

That night I went outside, sat with my big Labrador (who i had spilled most of my life) and held the massive bottle of aspirin in my hand and the sleeping pills in another.  In a fit of anger, I downed a good share of both of them….then fear hit.  An all consuming fear spread over me…..I still do not know what caused me to throw them up–you see I was a talented Binge and Purger, I knew all about taking care of unwanted food—you throw it up.  There were members of my family who watched me do this…it was not to first time…I lost a lot in those years, years I will never get back as hard as I try.

You see, to declare to a person, Carpe Diem…well, that hurts in a place so deep and dark they can’t explain.  How can I seize the day when I so hated and loathed the person I saw staring back at me?  How can I be  joyous when I hated going to school where there are relationships were cut to the quick so that no one would even talk to me…You see, I did it first before any of them had a chance…I held that manipulation like a banner—ha ha ha ha,  I hurt me first before you even had a chance to…ha hahahahah.  The thing is, I wanted them to hurt as much as I did.  Silly me, it hurts worse than I can imagine.  Sometimes the dark rears its ugly head and I wrestle with depression, loneliness, hurt and self hate.  I often see that girl staring back at me.  I see her amid all the good and wonderful people in my, in those who were watching from afar…(they know who they are), amid a successful career and the beginning of some great connections and respect.  I look at her and wonder…what the hell are they thinking…me?  I dunno.  The dreams that I hold are so jam packed with concepts of redemption and reconciliation are as near and dear to me as breathing…..the writing, the speaking, the moments to speak for those who can’t.

Carpe Pencil?  Seize the pencil?  Write the words, speak….ah, if only I were not so terrified of the person I see in the mirror.  There parts of me that grieve–losses in family, friends, opportunities–(prom–you who giggle probably had a date and the stories from them) I don’t and I knew it all the way back to 3rd grade.  Could I rewind the clock?  Many times I say yes ( and tell the one in the mirror to go to hell, I scream it and pray it transcends to the whole of me), then again I think of all the students I taught, the people I speak with, and those who allow me to journey with them—showing me a glimpse of their reality.  Not sure where I stand ( no pun at all Captain)…that is an ever present fight.

Today instead of Carpe Diem, I challenge us all to say Carpe Rogare!  Seize the Question–How are you,and wait, wait, wait for the answer.  You may be surprised at what you hear.

 

Shalom my friends

I am an Addict

There is no way to sugar coat this reality.  I am a drug addict.  I am not ashamed to admit this, but am not addicted in the way you may be thinking.  I am addicted to drugs, that is the truth.

I have taken anti-depressant medications coupled with anti anxiety meds for quite some time now.  As anyone who takes medications like this will tell you, sometimes it takes a bit to get the dosage and the combination correct.  What worked months ago, may not work in the present, for whatever reason.  Constant awareness of body and mind has to  be a top priority as well as continual conversation with the doctors in charge of care.

It became clear this past fall that the meds I was on were not doing the trick.  In order to make a move to a more stable med regimen, I needed to wean off of one med in order to take another one.  There are a number of meds that cannot and should not be quit “cold turkey.”  Extreme care and caution has to be taken to make sure that there are no big time reactions.

Cymbalta is one of those meds which cannot be quit rapidly…one that has to be monitored with dosages lowered at a rate that the body can handle.  No matter how slow you go, the impacts are still there.

I had been on Cymbalta for quite some time and really had no idea how I was supposed to feel.  I felt no different than any other day.  The decision was made to do some tweaking…first I had to wean off of it.

I have never thought myself addicted to anything, not really.  I mean I like my Diet Coke, but I choose to drink that.  If I decided to stop, I could and would.  This was a a purposeful removal of something the body was using and something the mind knew it needed.  Whether it was working to its highest level is inconsequential.  The body had it, needed it, and wanted it.  To deprive the body of this would prove harder than I expected.

I was instructed to wean off at a slow pace, but was also warned that some days would be tough.  Oh my goodness.  Never have I felt more at a loss and on the edge of a dark hole than I did at that time.  I felt constantly agitated, irritable, on edge, borderline bitchy all the time.  I could hear myself saying things, thinking this was not me saying these things, and I could not stop.  I screamed in my head…STOP STOP STOP, this is not you!  Then I would feel bad for saying and doing things I could not control.  There were times I could not stop the thoughts in my head…could not tell whether I was coming or going or how I was going to feel hour-by-hour.

Physically I felt worse than I had in a long time.  My stomach ached all the time, headaches were worse than ever, nothing tasted good, I did not want to eat, could not sleep…the list was endless.  I look horrid, I acted worse.

As my body continued to release the medication and my body attempted to reset, the cravings kicked in full force.  These were not food cravings.  These were the intense desires to feel leveled out..to feel normal-at least the normal I felt when I was on the drug.  I would hold the remaining pills in the bottle, my hand shaking, willing myself not to take one….I attempted half doses….and yes.  There were times I told no one and took one to make it through.  I felt guilty and sneaky for doing so.  I hated the fact that I could feel so out of whack by the removal of one med. I was angry that my body needed it, my mind demanded it, and it felt like I was powerless to stop what I was feeling.

After the physical, the mental mess I was in was not something I anticipated.  I could not form a coherent thought and did not want to.   I wanted to scream and yell and throw every kind of temper tantrum known to man…and in some ways I did.  There were times I did not recognize the person looking back at me, I know others felt the same.  knowing that made me hate myself and how I felt even more.  I could not control it.  I craved to feel level.  So, I caved.  I gave in…then some light broke through.

I was under the watchful eyes of my doctor, her staff and nurses were incredible to me and for me.  They kept close tabs on me, asking my symptoms, let me talk some frustrations out and told me that I would get through it.  I wanted to quit many times.  I wanted to swear and tell everyone around me that I didn’t give a damn about anyone and I would say and do what I wanted.  There were times my skin itched, my mind ached, I could not tell if what I dreamt was real or hallucination….it was hell.

A couple of people finally asked what in the world was happening.  I had told no one except my dr what was happening.  I broke down and told them I was going through a med withdrawal and I could not tell when it would be over.  They looked at me with such relief and concern…I did not expect that response.  I expected them to hate me, I certainly did not like the person I was becoming.  Out of care, they asked why I had not said something before, why did I think I had to go through it alone?  Why did I possibly think that no one would care or want to help me.  Instead of making me feel small and weak, they were there to bolster me, to lend me their strength and love.  They loved me no matter how nasty I became.  In fact, they showed me more grace, knowing that what was happening was temporary.  They checked in on me, they asked questions, they did not leave me alone.  I made it through.  I could not have done it without that collective care.

Sooooo many people do not have that.  I have never been addicted to alcohol or other recreational drugs, painkillers, gambling, or other addictions.  I do not know what that feels like….but I do.  I do know what feeling deprived of something the mind and body needs to feel normal…or at least the normal I understood.  I know what it feels like to be alone, or at least feel like I am alone.  I know what it feels like to sneak around, to have almost every waking moment consumed with how I could get a hit.  What could I do….how can I get it…will anyone know if I sneak one?  Will it matter?  Maybe this is not that big a deal.  Maybe they are wrong, maybe I do need this.  How can I possibly be addicted, that happens to “those” people.

Those people, indeed.

I was sooo lucky.  I had people, when I let them in, who rallied in and around me and saw me through that time.  There are tons of people who suffer silently, never saying a word and beat themselves up for what is happening.  They continue muddling through.  Or they refuse to admit that there may be a problem, unable to take steps to remedy it.

I was so lucky.  I do not know what it looks like to battle an addiction that has been there for decades.  I  do not know how it feels to try and try again…hoping that this time it will work.  I do understand how quickly an addiction takes hold, how strongly it grips mind, body, soul.  I know what it is to feel powerless, succumbing to something stronger than myself, forgetting that I am stronger than this drug.  I do not know what it means to sacrifice everything and lose everything to keep a norm.  I am so thankful I have not had that experience.  My heart breaks in a new way for anyone wrestling with any kind of addiction…it does not matter what it is.  I know what dark and twisty feels like and I know what it means for people to pull me through.  I am lucky.

I am also lucky to know this side of me.  I am thankful to catch a glimpse of what a world encased in addiction looks like.  It is not a place I would wish on anyone.  It is not a place anyone would want to camp.  It is not a place that people hope to get to and remain, no one wants to lose control of themselves.  I think most of us would just like the chance to escape or dull a pain that exists, for whatever reason.  I think many of us wonder what it feels like to feel good…laughingly, lovingly, ridiculously good.

I do not have the answers, but my eyes are open, my mind is cleared….I understand…if only for a moment.  I will remain today and always, Addicted.

Hush hush

It has been 3 years since I heard the door close on a children’s behavioral unit and left my son there for assessment and diagnosis.  It was the singularly the most scared and vulnerable I have ever felt.  Even though I knew these doctor and nurses well, I had been working with them for half a year as a chaplain, I could not control what went on behind those doors.  I was powerless.

Many of us feel the same way.  The diseases and illnesses that attack us every day sometimes render us powerless.  One thought continues to plague me though.  I have watched as tons of my friends, and as I age, tons of my classmates battle the ravages of cancer….an all consuming claim on mind, body, and soul.  I watch as people I know fight and fight, and rally, and win.  God Bless them!

I have also watched as tragedy upon violent tragedy happen across the US in our public places—schools, malls, movie theatres.  The list seems endless.  I have watched as the number of people without homes increase, I ask myself why.  I watch the news as violent events happen and the first comment made is “oh, they must have some kind of mental illness”  I have watched as people will do things which people do not like.  The response is almost always, “oh, they must have some “issues””

Wait!  How come no one treats other illness as a hush hush swear word?  It’s not as though depression is on the same level as “The name which shall not be spoken”  By the way, it’s Voldemort.  See, I said it and the world did not come to a screeching halt.  Good thing!  Whew!  I thought I was a goner there!  😉

Seriously though.  I want to unpack this concept a bit.  We are so accustomed to hearing of the battles of the seeable illnesses.  As well we should.  The fight is real, it is fierce, and requires everthing of the person diagnosed.  They are not the only ones diagnosed and fighting, it permeates the whole household.  Ok.  If that is the case, let’s transfer that to the illnesses which are not as readily seen.

The rate of persons diagnosed with a mental illness is skyrocketing.  As I pen this I imagine all the instances mental illness   to the top of a list.  How many of us become agitated when the weather turns gloomy for an extended period of time?  Seasonal Affective Disorder… Do any of us suffer anxiety over speaking in public, taking tests, heights….?  Those are better known as a phobias–psychologically defined as a type of anxiety disorder.  This applies to almost every one of us..me included.

I write this as I watch my oldest son twirl a piece of hair on this forehead as he turns circles on his knees in the middle of the livingroom floor.  Reminds me of the old days with a sit and spin…..only this will go on sporadically for hours, just after he attempts to wrestle our pug—resulting in a scratch on his armpit, which will enrage him….what he will not be able to realize is that it was the wrestling with the dog which brought about the scratch in the first place.  He will not clue in to that.  I watch him everyday.  There are days I cheer as loud as I can (silently) that we have had a good day.  There are other days that I hang my head in near defeat…wondering what more I can do….what I could have possibly done…..if there was a way I could take this from him.  I can’t.  I have my own to manage…..

The frustration, if you will, is when horrible things happen (and they are horrible) and we jump to a conclusion of a mental illness which HAS to explain the whole situation.  Wow!  I was not aware we could do that unless all of the research has proven without a shadow of a doubt, that a mental illness is the sole reason.

Take ADHD.  My son is diagnosed with this.  If you do not believe me, spend a weekend with him without his medicine.  You will be exhausted after 2 hours….guaranteed!

I live and love for this kiddo with all that I am.  He drives me nuts…or rather his illness does.  I can never determine what will set him off in a flurry of activity….I rue the days (many of them) where he is up at the crack of dawn, running around the house screaming because he has too much energy and he does not know what to do.  Mornings are hell.  I do not say that lightly.  His ability to transition and focus his energy makes organization difficult.  Mom does much behind the scenes to smooth over anticipated rough spots and tells no one the worry she holds as report cards or conferences happen each school year.  I cringe when I wonder about his friends at school. Some understand him, embrace him, others claim he is odd and weird, and wash their hands of him.  I cannot control that.  Nor can I control the unspoken hurt I see in his eyes when his younger brother is invited to outings with his own friends…and he is not.  Mom again does much behind the scenes to set up play dates so the situation is a bit easier.

Take the family who struggles with Autism.  The hurt, the frustration, the fatigue, the vigilant watch for a change in communication.  I have watched families lock arms and walk boldly into what that diagnosis means.  One of the awful realities is that often families feel like they have no one to turn to.

The isolation, hurt, frustration, the hope and strength it takes to move forward is incredible.

Ask any of those famillies…ask me if I ever believed that my son would ever hurt anyone—illness or not. When we cannot find an immediate answer to a tragedy, it seems unfair to pin it on one of any number of “explanations.”  Reminds me of the lyrics from “Kill the Beast” in Beauty in the Beast.  “We don’t like what we don’t understand, in fact it scares us.  So, kill the beast.”

I think back on that night 3 years ago and the heartache I felt as I left that hospital.  I watch the facebook posts of fellow parents, some I have met, some I have not, who are bravely walking in worlds which have no road maps.  There is not an easy solution, not a course of meds or surgery which can work in tandem bringing about an end or remission from something.  It is there….everyday no matter the day, holiday, or special event.  What surprises me is how few support methods are available for those in the midst of walking in these worlds of mental illness.

Sit down with a parent of an autistic child, a child with ADHD, bi polar, depression…the list grows.  Sit down with a family of an alzheimer’s relative.  Ask them how they feel watching and waiting, hoping and praying.  Ask them the questions, hear the answers.  Ask those who can articulate what having that illness means…ask them about their world…what does it look like, feel?  What do they hear?

The double diagnosis my son has scares the heck out of me every time I go back to a med check.  In a giggle the psych dr told me last time, “we knew he was one in a million….he is just that.  Every time we think we have it explained, he throws us another curve ball.  He will rival every box we try to put him in, he will never fit a true diagnosis.”   That is great and scary at the same time.  My son is one in a million….yes, yes he is.  There are times, like right now…when I wish he would fit neatly into textbook diagnosis.  It would provide answers and a more complete path of treatment.

For now, we move ahead, thankful that so far we have only had 1 hospital visit in 3 years.  If there need be more, I will not hesitate.  I will never stop advocating for him and others with mental illness.  I will never stop looking for ways for families to seek comfort and strength from one another and others shouldering the same burdens.  I will never stop, in the non-profit in which i work, look for options for those with diagnosed illness to find other options of walking through their illness.  What about the impact of a teaching garden to reduce stress and anxiety—re-focusing energy or providing hands on work which aids communication and learning?

I write each year around this time to honor him….my son, the light of my life–one of 2 reasons I am a better person.

shalom,

Surreal

I have been thinking about death lately.  Now, don’t give me the eye roll and think, oh great, here we go.  Stay with me on this one as I brainstorm some ideas with which I am wrestling.

In the last year some pretty special people have either passed or are in the process of passing.  I am not sure why I cannot say with certainty that they died.  It feels almost like a sware word, or like on Harry Potter, the name which shall not be spoken.  I began thinking about my life, the fact that I recently turned another year and what that means.  I also thought about the process of transition from here to the next.

Now, I have taken my grief and bereavement classes and achieved the requirements for pastoral care and counseling.  They never really prepare a person to walk through that journey with another person.  So I thought about what it must be like.  The idea is daunting to say the least.  I mean, one minute you are there….doing whatever it is we are to do.  Then the next moment, what?  Is it like instantaneous?  Is it like the blink of an eye and then a transition occurs?  I don’t know.  I would venture to guess few, if anyone, can answer that question.

I think about those moments where an accident occurs and upon reaching the scene, and knowing there is nothing that can be done, what does that instant moment look like?  I believe there is a life and a destination when we leave this place and time.  I  do not believe that we are random or out of reach from a Creator who has a Divine plan.  I believe that something awaits each of us, something magnificent and unimaginable.  It is almost too much to consider.  In the situations where a long and painful illness occurs, is that last moment steeped in understanding and an absence of pain?  How does one know that this is IT?  How do we know that the transition is approaching, medical assessment aside?  Is there a definite sign?  Is the person passing accepting, much more so than those present?  What is their knowledge of that moment?  Is it resignation or a release?

All this thinking has me contemplating life as well.  In a surreal way I have, at times, come to a real understanding that I AM HERE.  I exist.  I have height, depth, movement, thought, and capability.  Not by mere coincidence I am here in this time and this place.  No one thinks the thoughts I have, the moment I have them. As individual as an eternity of snowflakes, so am I.  That is mind-blowing.    I have touch and an awareness of all my senses, I have not been created an animal, incapable of works, emotions, dreams, and actions.   I hurt, emotionally and physically, I walk, talk, interact, sleep, eat, drink, any number of menial tasks.  Are they really as menial and insignificant as many of us believe?  I think of those who are not able to perform the simplest of action or thought.  What does the world look like?

If I am as individual and un-reproducible as I believe, what is my obligation in this time and in this place? How does one embrace a life of lived fulfillment and not existence?  How is that possible?  If it is one steeped in existence, was that a moment in history missed?  Is my definition of a life lived exceptionally limited by my small world and after life knowledge?  To expand that would require?  Am I willing to jump into that mix and explore the necessity of our impact on one another and the world around us?  Am I willing to think of the legacy I choose to leave behind me, or am I content to remain quietly moving from place to place until the inevitable happens?

I don’t know, I pray this is not morose or depressing, but an invitation to thought and contemplation.  These are not questions with easy answers, nor are they ones that I can answer for anyone else.  As I rejoice in memories of those who have died (ouch) and those who are actively dying, I think also of the meaning of the here and now and what lies beyond what we see.

shalom,

cahl

 

I was READY….to quit.

As a little girl I was allergic to EVERYTHING!!!  I mean everything made me sick.  Sugar, milk, citrus, and most spices sent my stomach into fits of pain and bloat.  While all of my classmates celebrated birthdays with great cakes laden with tons of multi colored frosting, I looked longingly at huge slices of cake and tall glasses of ice-cold milk.  Both items would have sent me over the edge and seen me visiting the bathroom each hour.

I snuck it when I was a kid, even retreating to the basement to drink a shot of pure syrup out of the bottle.  I got in major trouble when I was a kid and my parent’s found out, it is a little funnier now that I am older and can picture my sons doing something similar.  I think that most of the time I was not sneaking goods out of some evil plot to undermine my parents, I think I wanted to know what it was like to eat and taste like everyone else.  I got so sick of diet candy, many of which contained some dye or sweetener that I could not stomach either.  The sight of diet pop==TAB cola made me want to yak a good yak.  I had uncles (my uncle walt) especially, who would throw me a treat at special holidays once in a while–usually my mother saw what it was…hours later as I was sick in the toilet.  To say that I was stubborn and unwilling to listen was an understatement.

All through school I watched what I ate, what time I ate, and how much.  I got so sick of peanut butter sandwiches that I cannot stand the sight of them to this day.  Remember they would be only peanut butter no jelly.  My fruit and veggie intake also had to be monitored because too much citrus or too much ruffage caused even more problem. Dry cereal took the place of dry toast, and hot dogs and hamburgers were eaten with no ketchup.  I grew used to this, and sometimes my parents would make something special.  I craved rice with raisins and cinnamon.  Today, I would rather have a meal of “real” food than a bunch of junk,  to eat a donut in the morning is almost unheard of in my world.

After years and years of battling I got pretty good at predicting what I could and could not do.  As I aged and stress levels increased I noticed some other issues arise.  With the more stress, the more intense the pain I carried.  The more worried I became, the more intense and sick I felt.  My stomach became a barometer for what was happening in the environments around me, and for many many years it has been hell.

Tension and stress gave way to acid creeping up my stomach into my throat and I choked back chunks daily.  This got worse and worse until doctors discovered that I could lean over and cause acid and reflux to rear its ugly head.  My first colonoscopy was at 25 when I ended up in the Spencer, IA hospital for a couple of days.   Procedure after procedure I endured…radioactive eggs, barium drinks, more radioactive eggs, CT scans, more endoscopes and colonoscopies than any person should endure.  I endured.

In the last 3 years I have seen almost 20 polyps some of which have been cancerous, many pre-cancerous.  I have awakened at night in pain, refrained from eating because I was in pain, and undergone a laparoscopic nissen and the removal of my gall bladder.  Whatever organ which is not necessary has been removed, except my appendix.   Up until the last month, I believed my life was sentenced to this roller coaster called my stomach.

You see, not so long ago I sat with my adopted file and it spelled out in great detail much of my early life, including how my biological parents interacted with me.  The file described a pre-mature baby who had really bad gastro problems from birth.   The implication was that there was not adequate pre natal care and improper feeding taking place.  There was also mentions of bottles of beer being fed to me as well as bottles of straight formula given to me as a newborn.  This caused so much internal damage that we believe it will take a lifetime to recover-if ever.

Knowing this information, coupled with my track record had me so depressed and downtrodden.  I felt like I would always battle to feel level.  I was ready to quit.  I dreaded every doctor appointment, had seen too many ER visits, and found most pain medicine made me sicker.  I hated get togethers where good food was on display, I ate but within 20 minutes I would be sicker than a dog and regretting that I had eaten.  I lived this way, day in day out for 38 years.

Until now.  I found  a gastroenterologist who told me that he would not stop until he had come to the bottom of the pain (no pun intended).  No one had ever treated me like that before, no one had promised to care for me until the pain was gone.  Every other doctor looked at the symptoms and treated them, making me endure procedure and haphazard guess, none of it alleviated the pain.  I cried at night, dreaded every meal.  Now that I am in a drug test where it appears I have received a drug which has cut down on the pain and other unpleasant side effects, I can think of more than where the closest bathroom is.  I can see beyond the last meal I ate to thinking about how to feel even better.

I did not care, really, until a couple of weeks ago, what my future held.  It felt like each day was more of the same and the colors were always grey and dreary.  Never did I feel like running down the hill, grabbing after the sunshine and laughing.  Today, I feel a bit differently.  I am just under halfway through the drug trial and my pain has decreased from a solid 8 to a 1 or 2 and the number of bathroom visits down from 8-9 to 1 maybe 2.  This is monumental in my world.  This is freeing in my world.

The effects of all the damage may not be gone, I will have to watch the inflammation and scar tissue for the rest of my life.  There will never be a time when I won’t have to have endoscopes and colonoscopies, I will have to watch them carefully–constantly aware.  Today, though I received my next dosages of medicine.  I am more hopeful than I have ever been.  In fact, I made a decent batch of banana bread and am looking forward to eating it.  I want to eat it.  I am thinking about a work-out regime not for 2013, but for me personally.  I want to feel better, I want to feel more physically strong, and if the insides are healing, I want the outside to match.  I want to experience what WHOLE body and soul healing looks and feels like.  For the first time I am willing to consider what tomorrow looks like…I have never lived like that.  I never wanted to think that there would be a tomorrow.  I was ready to quit…to embrace the rest of my life in a dark tunnel where everyday looked exactly like yesterday.

I don’t want to live victim to a past, a present, someone else’s reality, or a pre-conception of things being one way because they have always been that way.  Damage may have been done, but I do not have to exist victimized as a result of other’s actions or inactions.  I can live–I can live healed.  I am not sure what that looks like, but in the days and weeks to come I intend to explore that idea…I invite anyone and everyone to come along on the journey…if you have ideas or comments….please let me know.  Let’s do this together…let’s live this journey together.

Shalom,

cahl.

With all the HYPE…

The Conneticut tragedy is still not far from my mind, I have read the account in the book, Columbine, and the area of mental health fascinates me.  If I could ever pass statistics, I would consider another Master’s in Psych or a focus in mental health for a PhD.  It’s that math thing that trips me up every time.  ANYWAY!!!

This day of all days has special significance for me.  It is  day which will be forever etched in the recesses of my mind, sometimes I take it out, look at it and feel immense guilt.  Other times I look at it from afar and wonder how in the world I made it through that time, still others I am thankful to observe from a more detached place where we were then and where we are now- 2 years later.

Lots of people are talking about the impacts of mental health and the need for more research and conversation surrounding these issues.  I would agree, but I would offer a word of caution as well.  Having a mental illness does not pre-determine an individual to violent behavior anymore than a person with heart disease or diabetes does.  It is something that needs to be recognized, honored, and treated.  Note that I included the word honored, here.  Just as we honor people with any disability or injury…or scratch that..We honor people simply because that is what they are, PEOPLE.  We honor one another  because it is part of human nature–because we MUST.

2 years ago I admitted my son to a psych floor at a local mental hospital.  It was the hardest moment of my life and I have written about it before–the sound of the locked door shutting….the feel of my keys in my hand that I could not use to save him.  I worked there at the time as a Chaplain and there was nothing I could do to rescue him, it was not my place to rescue him and I still can’t.

Many will continue to talk in the coming weeks and months about mental illness, touting solutions, pretending that they have the “answers” to the situation.  There is not one solution…and the problem of mental illness is such a personal and humbling realization.  Simply throwing money at it will not solve, banning individuals from certain rights with mental illness will not solve it, there is no blanket solution.  The sooner we understand that, the better strides we will be making in understanding and equipping one another to honor people with them.

confession:  my son has 2 mental diagnosis.  I also have propensity for a couple of them.  I have some PTSD from situations in my past, I possess a tendency toward anxiety and dysthymia as well as some Season Affective Disorder, I may also dabble in the ADHD realm.  All of these are interrelated and are linked to issues that go beyond what people think could or should be a blanket response.  Simply throwing medication at any of them will not solve the problem on its own.  It is a day in, day out understanding of who I am, who my son is and responding with grace and honor to who we are.  I am old enough to know and can tell when situations may be getting out of hand, and there are times when my medication has not been what it should have been.  There are times that I tried to go off my meds only to realize that I feel better, and am a better Me with my medication.  Thankfully I have had insurance the whole time, which has afforded me the chance to stay on meds.  But, throwing one medication or a cocktail approach does not warrant the only mode of treatment.

Do you know what it is like to live in what feels like a hole that continues to drop lower and lower, the bottom of which you cannot see or feel, but you know is there?  The hole sometimes closes in, making you feel suffocated and larger than life at the same time.  Sometimes it is so engulfing you think it may swallow you whole and take over your whole existence–you feel small and insignificant–and sometimes like the backpack you are carrying is so heavy you cannot take another step forward.  The weight of its contents so overwhelming it causes you to collapse under it right where you are–stuck.

There are moments of wonder and awe, when things are leveled and you feel good.  There are also moments of deep despair, confusion and frustration.  I have watched my son go from being a happy camper to someone who is so filled with anger that I do not know what to do.  I have witnessed him wake in the morning and go tearing through the house like the Energizer Bunny on  crack, and I am exhausted by it.  Do not get me wrong, he is a wonderful and loving boy…but he also drives me to tears in the wee hours of the night, when I lie awake and worry about his future.  Note that I have anxiety, so the guilt and worry factor is high here.

I worry about his classwork, his organization, his social standing in school.  I worry about how he feels about himself.  You see, he has not had a past of abuse or neglect, but he will claim that he hates himself and his life.  There is no reason for his lack of confidence in himself…he is loved, cherished, and encouraged to be the individual he is.  It is something in the brain that screws with his perceptions and the world around him. There is nothing wrong with him as a person and he is not predestined to a life of crime or a danger to society.  The most damage he will do will be to himself, in his own mind, to his own body, or to the 1 other person whom he trusts more than life itself….mom.

Each day is a lesson in learning about my son, the external stimuli, and his reaction to them.  I have to juggle his BIG personality and intelligence with tolerance to what his mind and body say he needs.  I also have another son who does not exhibit the same personality or mental illnesses…but is just as intelligent and capable.  I have to balance interacting with both of my sons, knowing that they are both individuals and the way I parent one is not the way I can parent the other.  It is a daily exercise in patience, which I lack in major degrees.

It takes a toll on every aspect of family life.  It strains marriages and consumes my thoughts, and I am guilty to paying more attention to my children than to myself and relationships that I have in my life.  It confuses grandparents who don’t see the effects of it everyday…who wonder why the need for meds and their desire to solve the problem motivates them to search for answers that are not readily available.  In their quest to love on their grandkids, they comment and grasp at straws…and those of us who deal with it 24-7 sit and watch and….hurt.  It may claim my marriage, it may not…..it remains to be seen how we weather the impact.  Statistics are not in favor for families who deal with any child with any level of disability.  It takes an immense amount of effort and the pressure is extreme.  I do not say that for a sympathy vote, I say  that as fact.

What is really needed is support and encouragement.  I want to   know as a person who takes medicine for a mental illness, that I am not alone.  I want to know that I have worth and importance as much as anyone else.  My affliction may not require I wear a brace, take my blood sugar, or spend my days in a wheel chair, but it is something which I must pay attention to each day.  I want to know that there are people out there who understand what it means to deal with it on their own, personally.  I want to know that there are people I can talk to who have children who wrestle with this…I want to know that I am not a bad parent with people waiting to sit in judgment of me and my family.  I want to breathe…large and long. I want to feel empowered and the know that the “it takes a village” idea actually works.  I want to use my knowledge to help others and to glean from them when I need it. Above all, my son and I want to feel NOT ALONE.

I think that is all I have at this time…my sons are now fighting over their individual bags of reese’s pieces and requesting I play Gangnam Style for the billionth time.  Excuse me while I go tear my hair out and run screaming from the building….aaaaahhhhh

Shalom dear ones,

cahl.

 

 

Musings

It is quiet in my house tonight.  I have spent the last 2 days away from my baby boys (yes they are still my babies even though they are 5, 8–they will always be my babies)  The last time I saw them was about 10:50 yesterday morning as I made sure they had been properly picked up by their grandparents so that I could assist my husband with judging and chaperoning kids on a debate overnighter.  I knew they were safe and were in good care, but before I set forth for Brookings, I had to make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be.  I was able to walk them down the hall, hug them, kiss the top of their heads, and tell them good-bye and that I love them.  They smiled and told me they loved me and happily climbed in my parent’s pick up for the next adventure.  They were safe.

Moments later, I got in a school van, turned on the radio expecting to crank up the tunes and blow into the parking lot to help load a group of kiddos.  MPR and its broadcast from Connecticut stopped me in my tracks as they described the horror unfolding there.  Questions loomed in the air, doubt as to how someone could do such a thing….certainly there must be a mistake.  People just don’t do something like that…we must be hearing things.  No one walks into an elementary school and opens fire—no one.  Someone did.

It is quiet in my house tonight, but I know where my children are and I will speak to them (at least 1 of them will talk on the phone)before they rest tonight.   My mother told me not to worry about whether to pick them up tonight, but to get some rest.  I will rest tonight knowing that they are safe.  It is awful quiet without their chatter, their noise in the hall, their feet pounding the floor, and their instant mood changes which means we have to duke it out in the middle of the livingroom….I am not telling anyone to pick up their coats, put their boots by the register, and to stop pestering the dog.  No one is climbing in my lap, asking me questions while I try to go to the bathroom, or eating off of my plate…it is quiet here tonight.

It is quiet other places tonight, too.  Places where it should not be quiet.  Homes where there are children or parents missing….they should not be quiet.  Homes of aunts and uncles, and grandparents, fellow teachers and aides, administrators, coaches, cooks, librarians, secretaries, brothers, and sisters are quieter tonight than ever.

Sometimes maybe we have been too quiet….I say that gently, wondering if times have come to start talking real truth in our circles.  I wonder if the time has come to crawl underneath what appears to be ailing our society and ask the deeper questions…Why, why do these things keep happening?  Is it for want of more regulation, stricter laws and more awareness?  Will more education do the trick?  Will looking to government controls moderate our behavior?

Maybe it comes down to regulating ourselves.  I said last night that if we could move toward a world where the human race was not hunting one another like animals, maybe we would be a bit better off than we are now.  If we could start to look at one another through different lenses maybe we would begin to see one another as human beings, capable of greatness and wonder, and yes, heart wrenching sadness.  We are all capable of lifting one another to highest of highs with our encouragement, love, kindness, and support.  We also have the ability to destroy one another.  We have the ability to do so much.

I said to my students yesterday, the scary moment was the realization that at any one point, any one of us is capable of something as heinous as yesterday’s shooting.  That is the dark truth no one wants to admit.  We are all capable of losing it and blowing a micro-chip, so to speak.  It may not look the same as it did yesterday, but the propensity exists.  Thankfully, most of us filter and keep ourselves in check, most of the time.

What would it look like to begin allowing tough questions to find answers?  what would it look like to embrace one another as truly brothers and sisters, rather than the individual enemy we want to categorize each other?  What would it look like to take seriously the ideas our parents and teachers instilled in us from birth….to be kind, tell the truth, treat others the way you want to be treated, and look both ways before crossing the street.  We had buddy systems in place to help each other  what happened as we grew older?  Do we not need our buddies to help us anymore?

It is quiet in my house tonight and I miss my babies in a place I cannot describe.  I want to hear their voices, to hold them tight, to cradle them as they fall asleep.  I don’t want to explain the last couple days to them…but I will.  I will use it as a teaching moment to speak of grace and love and compassion and bravery.  I will tell them that I do not understand and there are parts of this story that I struggle to get my head around to understand.  I will tell them that I am trying to find room in my heart for forgiveness, but I find it lacking….I find my role conflicted as to how to love all persons in this situation.  I will be honest in telling them I do not know how to solve the problem or why innocent children paid a price.  I don’t know.

In this moment, no one wins.  Not the victims, the families, schools, friends, and dare I say, the perpetrator.  No one in his family wins tonight either….there is death and loss and mountains of grief and questions which will never be resolved.  That is the hardest realization….there can be no winners—-only a moment to learn from and pray we can move from this a better human race.  We can either learn from this moment, invite the conversations, and seek answers; or we can put our blinders back on, admit that yesterday was horrible, and continue in our same paths as we did.  We can choose to let this impact us to action and motivate us to real and deeper exploration; or we can lull ourselves back into complacency.  The choice is ours, it always has been, always will be.

I choose to take that mantle of community seriously….I seek to understand how I can make an impact that leaves lasting and positive change–even when it’s quiet out there tonight.

To BE…..Healed

Wow, I can hardly believe the road has taken me this far.  After 38 years and a constant battle up the hill and fighting, it appears I may have reached the summit and I hardly know how to react or what to do.

I sit here on a Tuesday night, I  can see the small string of lights attached to my house, i am seated right next to the Christmas tree and its lit branches, I can hear my oldest son play Star Wars Battlefront and narrate the scenario as my youngest plays on my Nook.  Most electronics make their way to my sons’ hands before I get a chance to get used to them.  It is the cost of having boys it seems.  If it were girls, they would be in my jewelry and make up and asking to borrow my clothes…I will content myself with the onslaught of noise and boisterous play.  My pug is seated on the floor, gazing at me with forlorn eyes, knowing that she would like to lay claim to my lap, but the square typey thing I call a laptop has taken that honor.  She sighs and snorts at me, then fixes her eyes back on the floor.  Maybe, she figures, the more pathetic and uninterested she looks, the more pity I will have on her.  She is right.  An invite to her, a call of her name and I have a 20lb, fawn colored, fur child resting her head on my typey thing.  She sighs a deep moan of contentment and settles herself into the crook between me and the chair.  All is well in her world.

She has not left me alone much in the last couple of weeks.  She has been my constant companion as I make multiple trips to the bathroom, grimacing in pain and logging them for a drug test diary.  The day before Thanksgiving, I was given the news that the last set of polyps I had were stage 2 and that due to the major damage done to my gastrointestinal system many parts had been compromised, including the pancreas.  GREAT.

Back up, did this just occur?  Heavens no.  My adopted family will even tell you, that while I am prone to moments of dramatic fancy, my stomach issues have been present my whole life.  I kid you not.  There has never been a day that I have not had a stomach ache, wondered where the closest bathroom was, or how quickly I would lose what I had eaten. As a young child, there were lists and lists of items that I could not eat…never knowing if I was simply allergic to everything under the sun or my system was that sensitive.  No sugar, milk, citrus, or dark-colored pop could I ingest.  This is not to say that I did not do a fair share of sneaking contraband articles, but I paid for it dearly later that day.

When I received my full adoption file a little over a year ago, many questions were answered.  Many I will not reveal at this time, but from a physical standpoint, many murky moments were made more clear.  I was well over 6 weeks premature, and weighed less than 4 lbs at birth.  Born in a rural and predominantly Native American town, the likelihood of good prenatal care is questionable.  I was born the beginning of Sept and was released from the NICU at the end of Sept– over 20 days in intensive care.  Already narratives talked about my inability to keep formula down and their concern about what would happen when I went home surfaced.  They were right to worry.

Within the first 14 days, social services had been contacted 3 separate times by my biological family to have me removed.  When the social worker made the first visit she wrote about the confusion in the house, the lack of care I was receiving, and the total disregard family members seemed to have for my welfare.  Of great concern were the stomach issues I had already experienced and the care that I required being a premie and of low birth weight, there seemed to be either too much frantic questions or not enough attention being paid to me and the social worker was already concerned.  Too little attention paid to a 4 lb baby?  How could you pay too little attention?

After I was removed the first time, I was placed back in the hospital where it was determined that I was not being fed, had not been taking in calories, and had in fact, lost weight.  I had none to spare.  The long spiral of stomach concerns began and were exacerbated by lack of care, my biological mother never did get it together and overcome her fear of dealing with one with such stomach problems.  It seems that much of the fine-tuning of system growth that happens in the last month in utero did not take place, coupled with poor natal care, and it is a miracle I survived birth….literally.  Yet, I did.  I survived bottles of beer being fed to me so that I would stop crying, and I survived enough to be adopted into a new home before I was a year old.  For that I am thankful.  Given the track record and the narrative I have, I would not have lived much longer in that environment.  I was delivered–again.

The stomach issues have continued to plague my life ever since I can remember.  There is no consistent behavior, nothing sets it off, nothing makes it worse, and yet, everything does.  I can be going along fine, eating a wonderful meal and 20 minutes later, am miserable.  I have been tested for every allergy–none appear.  I have undergone colonoscopies and endoscopes since I was 25, I am and old hat at the game, with more barium enema and radioactive eggs consumed that I can count.  Yesterday I underwent another set of scopes and found out for the first time in years that I had a clean one.  While there is much inflammation and scarring, I had no polyps to speak of and no reason to take tissue samples.  The dr even told me that I had beat the colon cancer for the 5th time, and he has not a clue how I have done it.  Neither do I, other than the host of angels and prayers covering me in the last weeks.

Tomorrow I walk into my Dr’s office and receive a drug (or placebo) which should start to calm down the constant spasm of my intestinal system, taking some of the pressure off the pancreas.  There is great concern about this as it has thrown off all my metabolic.  There could be an end to pain, an end to the constant worry and stress over how I feel and why.  An end may be near for the feeling of punishment that I have felt my body to have undergone my entire life.  You see, I believed wholeheartedly that much of what I was experiencing was a way to punish me for my existence.  If I had been born into a different set of circumstances, I would not feel this way.  Had I been a more docile baby, more adaptable, I would not have annoyed my parents….UH DUH!!!! I did nothing wrong.  Repeat, I did nothing wrong and I am not being punished.

Tomorrow could give me the permission I have sought my whole life–permission to feel and be pain free.  I have no idea what this looks like, I have no idea how to embrace this concept, parts of me have no clue what to do.  This is a gift, a wonderful chance to experience something I do not know.  There is fear.  What do I do when there is no pain?  How do I function if there is no reason to worry and carry a secret of inner turmoil?  Even the alcoholic will tell you they would give their right arm to be done, but the fear of the unknown, no matter how enticing is almost paralyzing.  That lifestyle is all they know, this pain is what I have known for 38 years.  38 years could be over in a manner of days—it has taken this long to get here.

38 years of tears, anger, humiliation, and hurt come together in a chance at something new, and here I sit scared out of my mind.  I am terrified to walk into that DR office, terrified to take the med (or placebo), terrified to think my journey down this road may be over and a new order will replace what i have known for 38 years.  The status quo is comfortable even in its dysfunction, but it is time for a change, a shift in the continuum.  I pray for the courage to move forward, to embrace this, to rejoice.  To LIVE.  I ask from you the permission to speak freely, to express my thoughts, and the space to work through some of what this calls me into exploring.

Let’s do this?

Shalom and healing to you!

cahl.

Ignorance is NOT bliss

Ya know what, life was easier when I chose to stick my head in the sand and pretended that all the world was made of chocolate streams and all people are good and kind and loving.  In utopia, that may be true. Sometimes life hands you a moment to show you who you are and what you have or have not become…if we are lucky, we rise to the occasion-sometimes we choose-to remain buried.  Today was one such day.

I awoke in a tense mood after having put in a full day of work previously.  Both my boys ended up sleeping in my room, one on my bed, the other on the floor–the weather turned hot and putrid and I believe the my body is part TIN MAN and is in desperate need of oiling–especially on my neck.  In short, I was in a snarky mood to begin.  As rounded the interstate, traveling to my work office I encountered a woman standing by the road with a “NEED HElP” sign.  There she stood in her tie=dyed tank, big ole shades, NIKE swishies, flip flops…and wait for it….Hot pink Pedicured toes.  NICE.

I felt myself angered for the first time.  I pass many of the signs, people stranded on the roadside and I always wonder if I should stop.  Sometimes I don’t because I have my children in the car and I have to think of their safety–sometimes I am alone and I have to consider my safety…when I am in the position, I try to pause, show them my phone, and inquire if they need help. This one made me angry.  I look down at my own toes and see polish that is over a month old and know that it was a gift to me from someone as I embarked on a new adventure in my life.  I do not have the finances to keep up a manicure or a pedicure, so I understand how much of a treat and a gift like that is for me.  Yet, there was this woman asking for my help…NO!

In an interesting movement of opposites another situation presented itself.  As the middle of my town was riddled with anger and confusion and tragedy….a middle aged woman and her 2 children ambled into place we house our office.   Asking for gas money and some sandwiches, we heard her story.  We know her name and her kids’ name–a young lady about 13-14  not in school, flanked by her older brother–16, almost 17 with Asperger’s Syndrome and Bi Polar Disorder.  My heart broke in 2 as I watched some of the same mannerisms of my son…heard him talk about drinking the blood of a raw d to shock someone.  I saw him not able to listen to his mother–i saw her pain, heard the anguish in her voice as she recounted losing her husband of 13 years in April to a massive heart attack ( ps, i have been married 13 years)  I picked up on the frustration on her daughter’s demeanor…the anger, the just under the surface rage.  I worry about her.  I worry about her future, I worry about the lack of education and the chances she may have.

Into a white pick-up with ply wood sides so they have walls while they sleep, they piled amidst what appears all their worldly belongings–including 4 terrier dogs.  From South Carolina to Montana they plan to travel in hopes that she might find a job and someone who will help watch her 2 kids while she works.  She knows that her oldest son cannot be left on his own, I wonder about who he will become.

I had to climb into a car and motor off to a meeting….i watched them leave and i choked back a sob as I entertained where they will sleep tonight.  This was the face of poverty and a complete lack of hope and it left me with no choice….but to SEE.  These were the least, the lost, and the lonely and marginalized.  I wondered about what our Presidential candidates would do in that moment, without the microphones and campaign trails and the throngs of people to entertain.  Would they extend a sandwich, listen to the heartache, would they be impacted by the sight of a truck driving down the road.  Had I not been working in community development, would lI respond in the same manner.  If I did not have an MDIV—-would I do the same?  Would I do the same tomorrow?

My husband asked if I could compartmentalize it, not let it affect me–to do what I can and then let it go.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  In this moment, the experience is about 5 hours old…and yet, I wonder.

SHALOM

cahl.

 

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