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.

38’s Special

I was Here

Well, here it is.  According to my birth certificate I was born at 6:42 am on Sept 6,1974.  For a longtime, self-proclaimed NON morning person, that is quite a shock to the system….interestingly enough, my youngest son was born at 6:43 am on april 14.  Coincidence?  I think…..

I have spent the last nine years claiming 29 and I have done it well.  My inner circle joked with me this year about whether or not I would have the courage to DO IT….Would I turn 30?  NO!  I won’t.  Wait for it….I plan to claim 38.

Now, on a good day, with FANTASTIC lighting, great hair, and impeccable make-up I can easily pass for late 20’s…. lately however those good days lend themselves closer to 30ish and according to FACEBOOK, I pass for 35…we all know how truthful that is!

As I gaze into the mirror, trying not to adopt a critical eye…the telltale signs are there.  The laugh lines are deeper, the wrinkles on my forehead a bit more pronounced, the gray that will not relinquish its hold….they are all there.

So why embrace this?  Well, that is a super good question.  I think back to what i wanted at 30….I was supposed to have my career in place, on my way to owning a home, a couple of kids running in the yard OH BLAH DEE OH BLAH DAH!

Uh, sure.  At 35, I started sweating the lack of the “dream”  At 38, I OWN NOTHING!  I have a couple of cars with over 150,000 miles on it, no mortgage, no owned home, boat, timeshare, motorcycle… I do possess almost 90,000 of federal loan debt, so I guess I can say the government owns me…that’s something, right?

WAIT WAIT WAIT.  I do have a Bachelor’s degree, A Master’s of Divinity, 2 full units toward clinical chaplaincy.  I have 2 amazing amazing and wonderful children, who are smart, caring, and articulate…they’re cute too!  Not that i am biased.  ,I am not in jail, do not deal drugs, and am a contributing member of society…I am the director of communications and marketing for a growing and impactful non-profit, and I work with people on all levels of civic, faith-based, and city involvement.  These people are some of the closest things to angels in flesh that I have encountered…the staff that I work with is above par and what’s more, they put up with the pain in the butt that I am–lovingly.

At the end of the day, as I embrace 38 I understand that I am a lucky woman and I have earned these 38 years.  I have earned what I have learned and the woman I have become as a result.  I have seen much and endured much, that much is true.

Ok, so what have I learned?  Can I write to book now?  Seriously.  I have experienced female friendships which are more valuable to me than anything I could ever anticipate.  I have women who have poured their lives into mine at various age levels and I am a better me because of them.  There is such comfort to sitting with a good gal pal (or facebooking, chatting, iming, googling, or whatever you want to call it) and laugh, cry, talk, shop, drink good wine, eat chocolate, and laugh some more.  I love love love my girls, what’s cool is that they know who they are.  Some are soul sisters, creative companions, writing legends, or just plain lovely.  I don’t need to tell them every day how much they mean to me, they know….but I am not afraid to tell them I love them.

I am not afraid to embrace my sons, let them see me cry or to be human around them.  They know that their mama is real and I make mistakes and when I do, I beg their forgiveness.  The result?  My boys and I are TIGHT TIGHT TIGHT.  I know them and I am a better woman because of their impact on my life.  The road is not always easy, and sometimes I am at a loss as to what to do next….I pray constantly that I do not mess them up completely.  Love does heal a multitude of wounds and I love them with everything that I am…and unashamed to claim it.

I have not traveled an easy path and the skeletons in my closet are anything but pretty.  The incredible knowledge is that I have survived, not only that, I BEAT THE ODDS.  Those who read this and really know who I am, know that I speak gut honest truth.  Every card in the deck was stacked against my favor and somehow…somehow the Creator and I overcame.  It is daunting to think about sometimes, and scares the crap out of me most of the time.  I do not know why I would be chosen to beat the odds, but we did it.  Creator willing, we’ll keep at it.

I dream really big dreams and I am beginning to face the fact that I may just be able to accomplish them…on my own.  I lived in the shadow of some amazing family members for most of my life.  That is what they are to me now, shadows.  The longer I keep chasing their legacy I have none to  call my own.  Their legacy is theirs and not mine to claim.  While a couple of massively talented people ended up in the same family, it does not have to eat me alive.  This is something with which I will wrestle my whole life…identity.  Maybe that’s ok.  I am an artist of words, and advocate for people, a lover of people and animals (except snakes and spiders), a change artist who desires to make a positive impact and leave this world a better place for my children and my grandchildren.  I am a storyteller and a compassionate teacher and chaplain.

The latest I have learned as a result of grappling with authority.  Sometimes there is a fight in which to engage and a time to open my mouth and stand up for people and values in which I believe.  There are moments when the gloves come off and in grace, love, and wisdom, I do declare that I will not stand for what I see happening.  I believe that if I disagree with something but have done nothing to remedy or impact the situation, I have no right or authority to speak in opposition to it.  If I choose not to vote, I have no right to criticize.  If I have not taught I have no right to judge those who ask to be dully compensated for the education they provide my children.  As I age, I understand that I have more experience and less to lose….and I can be more comfortable in saying “to hell with this.”  pardon my potty mouth.  People of all ages, stages, and places deserve HUMANE and GRACE-FILLED treatment.  I am here to do my part to the best of my ability, and I will fail and sometimes I will win.

So, there it is…I promised myself I would stay under 1200 words…I have done so.  My day has been long and I bid my 37th year and 29 a fond farewell.

Shalom,

cahl.

Aside

Let’s Get Physical

I have been thinking about this topic for quite some time.  I received my undergrad training as a Speech Communication and Theatre Studies and English Ed major from SDSU in Brookings, SD.  What may sound less marketable in terms of trained skills has taught me more about human beings and interaction than anything I have ever learned from concrete learning.  One of the  that has most fascinated me is that of non-verbal communication.  We say so much without ever uttering a word….it is amazing.  I continue to watch people, their interactions, the messages they send to one another when they are the most unaware.  In short, people fascinate me.

This week has been a hard week for me.  A good friend has suffered some loss and oddly enough two others that are wonderful friends of mine have also lost family members.  In the span of 3 days, 3 losses for dear friends.  I feel their pain, and although I have not lost a family member in about 10 years….the last was my favorite uncle…and i miss him.–the connection and relationship that I have with these 3 people means that I hurt for them.  I cannot understand the emotions as yet, I will someday soon, but caring for them and their families…I can only imagine their journey. 

So, what does that mean in the great NON-verbal communication conversation…well.  My week has been a jumble and yesterday I took some time to myself to just BE.  You know, the hole up in your own space and talk to no one…maybe read a book, not really think about anyone kind of time?  The kind where you are so tired, you have no idea what to do, but so tired that sleep simply won’t come?  I know you know the kind.  I took some of that time yesterday.  It was cold, felt like bleak December in the Dakotas and I hunkered down with my heavy comforter, 80’s streamed music and my dog….an extremely noisy Pug, whom I love to pieces.

How did this animal, one who cannot speak, communicate in any human terms what she is thinking, refuse to leave my side?  Now, she follows pretty closely as my shadow, but yesterday she simply would not leave me alone.   I tried many times in the middle of the afternoon to use my computer and do some writing, she would not let me.  She sat, staring at me, with her huge brown eyes…she then would use her paw to scrape “please” at my hand, and look at me again and sigh.  I talked to her…just like I would another person….I swear she understood what I was saying.  Her eyes would blink, sometimes she would snort a response, then lean against me.  Other times when I sat simply staring off into space while trying to think of the next best Words With Friends option, she would climb up on my chest and sit on my stomach…wagging her tail in my face.  If I was not paying attention, then she circled to sit on my stomach and stare straight into my face.  GOOBER!

Does she know the week has been full of stuff?  I think so.  Funny thing, that communication.  What does that mean in a human sense?

One phenomena I have studied is that of human touch and physical presence.  In infants, an inadequate amount of human touch and interaction causes a Failure to Thrive.  Babies can stop growing and can pass away from lack of human exposure.  Touch and closeness is so important…and I think we forget it.  My boys are constantly egging each other on and looking for reasons to beat on one another.  I have discovered a) that is a boy thing, and b) it is their way of engaging with one another in a physical sense that does not make them look wimpy.  Go figure.  Never a day goes by that I do not physically touch them in a positive way…whether it is a rumple of the hair, a tweak of the nose, hugs, zerberts on the cheek….whatever it is that communicates that I love them and am willing to bump into their presence often.

I wonder though, sometimes when I reach out and hug them, who needs it more?  Am I hugging them because I know they need it or is my need greater in that moment?  Do I even admit that need.  Often we don’t.  I thought of it as I sat with my dog…am I absently petting her fur because it feels good to her, ( it does) or is there an emotional need that I am satisfying ?  Do I need to hug my dog?  Yes, and she knows it.

Think of it…at the end of the day what is the mood we are in if we have not physically interacted with a person in a positive and affirming way.  I am not talking sex here, I am referring to a handshake, hug, arm about the shoulders, a playful push or something else.  How do we feel?  We often feel grouchy, irritable, angry, and more tired than we would normally and most of the time we have no clue why.  Bingo!  That is part of the reason.  We can fail to thrive as well.

Thrive though, looks different as we age than it does when we are infants.  Babies stop eating, growing, neglect to communicate, they can pass away quietly.  As we age, we isolate, draw boundaries, exact judgment, remain aloof…replace.  Half the time, I contend, we have no idea what we are doing or why we are doing it.  Many hide behind something else–a computer screen, being busy, a career, children, the past, the past, the past.  Wow, do we hide. 

Wow, do I hide.  As I write this, I am in my husband’s classroom, having subbed for him all day, prepping my mind to travel to a prayer service.  What I really want to do is sit down and bawl for all those that have lost this week and the void in their lives.  I want to reach out in the midst of that and cry that I am scared that may happen for me in the future, my parents are no spring chickens anymore.  Most people will read that and claim that I am being overdramatic…..but when you care about others their pain is your pain….we bear it together.  I listened to my sons last night pray for one of the families who have lost this week.  It broke my heart as they prayed that God would be with one member specifically when they feel bad.  How honest, how real.  How revealing.  I shared that with the person last night, they were grateful for the words…I was humbled by my sons’ lesson.

Would that I could be that honest.  Would that I could articulate how painful it is for me to watch others hurt and to know in a sense I am letting go of people and places as well.  I know that makes little sense to many who may read this… but when the time comes to let go of expectations that we place on ourselves and others….loss and grief and mourning happen.  It also coincides with graduating from Seminary in 35 days!  The loss of something familiar ( no matter how destructive or positive) brings a change…and a reaction to that change.  More to come in the days on that topic

Now, I am rambling, and many will have tuned out by now.  Summarize?  Keep in touch with people…love on them, please.  I really think 90% of the crud out there would be eliminated if we would venture out of our safe places and meet people where they are…not matter how sticky and gross it may appear.  We old peeps need those affirmations as much, if not more than the little ones. 

Mkay, I think I am done.  I better close and get myself looking halfway decent for the evening.  May this find you enveloped in safe and peaceful comfort…knowing Shalom to your soul.

cahl

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