Leaving Normal

Normal, something  elusive to me.  I have held it in my hands, briefly, only to watch it’s shimmering light spill through my fingers.  “If only I was normal”, “Why can’t I be normal?”, the battle cry from my childhood has echoed into most of my adult years too.  But why?

“Normal: according with, constituting, or not deviating from the norm, rule or principle.  conforming to a type, standard or regular pattern.  occurring naturally. ”  Merriam Webster’s dictionary

Seems like that ought to be easy enough, but it wasn’t for me.  At least that’s how I felt.  As a child, I felt like an outsider in my family.  I was the kid everyone tried to change.  I was too sensitive, too fat, too mouthy, too quiet, too emotional, too everything.  My brother was the Golden Child.  I thought so too, and he was.  He was adorable and funny and I loved him with all of my heart.  I knew my parents knew how to accept and love a child, I watched them do so with my brother.  I figured it out in my child’s mind, there must be something really wrong with me.  So started my quest for normal.

It’s not normal to strive for normal though.  in the definition it states: ‘occurring normally’, so chasing normal was abnormal.  What was I really chasing though?  Did I really want to be like everyone else?  I thought so then.   I tried to be normal, I think I succeeded at times but it wasn’t genuine.  I had been taught that my thoughts and emotions were not normal and needed to change.  Why did I feel them and think them then?  I complied, I became a people pleaser.  I became quiet, I learned to numb my emotions and dreams.  I settled for normal jobs I didn’t enjoy and normal lives that whithered my soul.    No matter how normal I became, it never stopped bad things from happening to me, marriages crumbled, my youngest son moved with his father and my oldest son died.   “Why can’t I be normal!”  screamed in my head, but now in an adult voice laced with shame.  Guilt came to play, and it didn’t play fair.

My last hope for normal died.  Now what?  How do you move on from here?  Since my life was in ashes, it was easy enough to dismantle old beliefs.  I had to go on and I had no idea who I was anymore or how to do that.  I played with guilt for a while but walked away from it.  It hurt too much and I had had enough of pain.   What was I really looking for in normal?  Love.  Acceptance.  Belonging.

In Grief groups, “A New Normal” was a catch phrase for finding our way after losing a child.   I never had “Normal” but this “New Normal” really sucked.  I hated it.  I wanted my “Not Normal” back!  After years of self excavation and grief, the man I had been dating, proposed.  The prospect of “Normal” was tantalizing.  I felt hope for my life, I accepted.  Pretty quickly I realized, “Normal” was never going to be me.  So, going back to what I figured out I was really looking for in normal, I went back to the beginning,,,ME.

Love.  Acceptance.  Belonging.  Was I giving these things to myself?  No.  I couldn’t love myself if I didn’t accept myself, and I would belong until I did.  But you have to know yourself in order to do any of it.  Who am I under all of the people pleasing crap?  I started by feeling my emotions and thinking my thoughts without judgment.  That last part, without judgment, is the biggie.  Truth, another biggie.  As much as I wanted to point fingers and place blame for the way things had turned out for me, I knew I was wasting time, precious time that I wasn’t willing to lose, as I went looking for me.  I was no longer desperate for normal, but I was desperate to find Me. My purpose. A reason to be.  Funny thing though, when I found myself, purpose came naturally.  I said, “I AM” to myself in a meditation one day and I burst out sobbing.  Great wells of grief and heartbreak broke out of my chest.  I cried not only for the son I lost, but for the me I had lost.  In my mind I held them both and rocked them as we all cried.  My heart broke in empathy, for my child, for the child me, and for the me who needed to go on without them.  I AM.  Nothing else needs to be.  No one has ever been me, no one else will ever be me, but right now, I AM.  I belong.  You belong.  We belong.  There is such perfection in the uniqueness of You, in the uniqueness of me.  We each bring something different to this world that no one else can.  I believe that we are all sparks of God.  God wanted to experience the world in the way only you can, living a life only you can, so he can feel what it feels like to be You.  He has given you the strengths and flaws you need to live out this adventure.  He gave you the thoughts and emotions to figure it all out, so that you can see it’s just You, and Me, He and She, Them and Us,,,which make WE.    Everyone you see, is just one way God wanted to feel the world.  The pains, the joys, the humility and the proud.  There is no wrong and there is no Normal.  There is just this Life, beautiful and horrible,,,and Ours.

Why am I telling you all this?  Because I don’t judge myself anymore and I think you probably feel this way too sometimes and I want you to know that my Truth is your Truth and it’s not normal but it’s YOU.  Perfect.

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The House of my Soul

2017!  Yay!!  I started this blog last year and my anthem for that year was, “Fuck It!”.  I had a blast doing that.  I also had a blast writing the blog.  I had been writing in a journal for years but it usually swung between self pity and garish rose colored glasses.  I figured if I wrote a blog where other people would be reading what I wrote, I would have to be accountable for what I actually put out there.  It was so scary at times, but I promised myself that I would write, post it and then remind myself that I was writing for ME and if anyone got anything from it, well that was a bonus.  Thank you for reading my musings.  It is healing for me and helps me to work out all the thoughts that bump around inside my head.

I learned so much in my exploration of the year of “Fuck It” and from writing here.  I found that I truly wanted to express the real me.  The problem was that I wasn’t too sure who I was anymore.  I had experienced such a tragedy in my life, that the ME I was before was virtually gone.  I  had an opportunity to rebuild a new me!  What a great concept on paper but I was also reeling from the death of my son and trying to figure out if I wanted to actually stick around on this planet.  This deep and frantic grasping for meaning and joy, was difficult at best and impossible at worst.  “Fuck It” was born from the need to shake off a lot of crap I no longer wanted to drag around if I was going to be a new joyful me.  I didn’t want to swing from self pity to fake happiness anymore.  Here’s the thing though,  I did.

“If you’re going to clean your house, you’re going to have to see the dirt.”-Louise Hay

I spent months thinking positively and saying affirmations, then spend months depressed.  I’d pull myself together and slap a smile on my face, then have a breakdown.  I’d say, “Fuck It!!” then tell myself to, “Suck it up.”  I would search for Joy endlessly and be so pissed that I couldn’t find it.  I cared too much only to care too little.  I needed to so that my quiet loving soul could finally ask me, “Are you done yet cause I have an idea?”  Emotionally exhausted, I was quiet.  Quiet enough to see what was there all along,,,the real ME.  With her sad eyes and loud laugh and her caring too much and too little.  Her broken heart and her Fierce loving heart were what stared back at me.  I looked at her messy hair and bruised mind and fell in love.  Real genuine love.  Maybe it was defeat, maybe it was surrender, but I saw it all.  Good and bad, mean and kind, fucked up and fed up.  I admired her spirit.  So, we got down to business.  We picked up the trash in that house, the discarded self defeating self talk and burned it.  Next we opened the windows to let some fresh air in and saw the dust of unanswered wishes and the dirt of other people’s shoes and we got rid of these too.  Windows were cleaned so I could see the world from eyes that weren’t looking through  with victimhood and positive mantras.  When it was time to go into the basement, I cried for days trying to avoid it.  I knew that what was down there was everything I didn’t want to see.   Every mistake I ever made, every stupid choice .  Every rejection and every hateful word spoken.  Every beating, every smack and every spit in my face, they were all sitting around Petie’s broken body.  It was an ugly I didn’t want to see.  I sat on the stairs for a while.  I would run down then run back up.  Finally I thought, “Fuck It!”  and went down.

I sat with that ugliness.  There was a light coming off of Petie.  That light had turned most of everything around him to ashes.  They were no longer relevant to this life.  I realized that it was up to me what to do with them.  Do I put them in jars and keep them on the shelf or do I sweep them up and away?  Do I really want to hang on to all of this ugliness making my house so shitty or am I ready to throw it away?  It was up to me to decide.  I looked at myself and it was time to accept myself, all of me.  Accept that I make mistakes, sometimes huge.  Accept that I love in a big way, and that hurts, but I will lose my mind if I try to change that.  Accept that I AM, so I deserve to be here, right here, right now, exactly how I am.  Accept that I won’t always BE right but I AM right.  That there is light and darkness in us all, and that is right.  Accept that I am responsible for my actions, but not other’s, even when they are directed at me.  Accept that I will be angry and pissed and I’m allowed, but I am not allowed to direct it towards anyone, including myself.  That I can be unreasonable , but I am not.  Accept that as beat up and such a mess, I still deserve love and life.  Accept that I grieve Petie’s death every minute of every day and I always will, but his death is not who I am.  I accepted it all without rose colored glasses and without self hatred.  I accepted that I can hurt but I don’t have to suffer.  In that moment, I brought Petie up from the basement and sat him by the light coming in the windows and he added just as much light coming out of my house as was coming in.  My house isn’t perfect, the front steps are a bit weather beaten and there are piles of dirt in some corners, and I haven’t completely cleaned out the basement, but it’s cozy, warm and loving . I still cry there and rage, and I sit quietly in gratitude for the tragedy and beauty of this life.  I love living here and joy comes to visit a lot lately. Petie lives there with me and I finally feel safe.  The magic of “Fuck It”.  I can live like that.

 

 

Laughter

I love to laugh.  I always have.  It is so much a part of my day that I need a good belly laugh just as I need coffee, every single day.  It has become my own personal ‘canary in a coal mine’.  When I don’t laugh, something is wrong in my life.

After my son died, I didn’t laugh.  I didn’t notice, it was one more thing that had died inside of me.  This new me swung between searing pain and numbness.  I was surprised that it didn’t kill me, then I wished that it would.  I started thinking about dying every day.  I prayed for it every night and begged for it every morning.  This went on for well over a year.

Being a single mom and living in a mobile home working full time and barely paying all of my bills, I found myself sitting in my chair crying and thinking of ways to end my life.  I was looking at my ceiling fan and thinking of hanging myself from it.  Given my luck, I imagined that if I did, the fan would probably pull out of the ceiling, I would have a scar on my neck from the rope burn (everyone would know I tried), I would have a hole in my ceiling that I couldn’t afford to fix so I would have to drape a big blue tarp over it and look like trash!  For some reason, this struck me as funny and I started laughing.  I laughed so hard that tears ran down my face, it probably became a bit manic, but when I realized I was laughing, I suddenly knew that I wasn’t going to die.

My dad and I have always had a “poking fun” at each other relationship.  Sometimes it stings, sometimes we are in hysterics.  Now that I am caring for my elderly dad, laughing has become our barometer for how things are going.  Some situations have been so sad and tragic that we find ourselves laughing at them, only to reassure each other that all hope is not lost.  Some of the most absurd events we have been through, have been easier to accept if we can joke about it and laugh.  I have posted some incidents, making fun of them, sometimes with tears in my eyes.  Some have found them offensive, I still have a relation who does not speak to me, who doesn’t visit my dad, but is offended enough to cut me out.  They don’t understand!  Sometimes life becomes so incredibly hard and serious.  It starts to break you.  The word disaster comes from the words Astros (stars) and dis (without), so a “disaster” means to be without stars, or without light.  When life gets too dark, sometimes you need to bring the light with you into it.  That’s what laughter is to me.  The things that we lose when disaster strikes are the Joy, the Hope, the Light.  To me, if I am still laughing, I can make it through.  I will swallow down my fear and step into the dark laughing.   Laughter doesn’t fix anything.  There are plenty of times that I can’t laugh, but I have learned that it can help shine a little light in the dark corners of my fears and it shows me that I am still alive.

To the One Left Behind

I saw a hummingbird today.  She’s the only one I’ve seen since the others left.  As female hummingbirds do, she flew silently, alone.  I was always told to take down my feeder so that the hummingbirds will leave.  Fortunately, I recently read an article that said we should leave them up for a week after we no longer see them, for the ones left behind.  I was planning on taking mine down tomorrow, until I saw her.  I felt a sadness seeing her.  Knowing her tribe is gone.  As I watched her sitting in the tree, I wondered  why she hadn’t left.  Did she have her babies late and they weren’t strong enough yet?  Was she ill?  I’ll never know.

Life will put us all in the position to feel that we are left behind.  Through loss, divorce, losing a promotion, experiencing empty nesting, even aging.  But we are always moving through life.  I know that I usually feel this way when I lose my sense of joy.  When I feel that my joy is in the past and I have lost my hope, that’s when I feel left behind.

It’s a little know fact, that  hummingbirds  move their wings in the pattern of the infinity symbol, which represents eternity and continuity.  We are never left behind by life.  We are life’s longing to experience itself through our unique journey.  Feeling left behind is your soul asking you to grow and stretch beyond your yesterdays into the now.  To experience a new version of joy for this day.  When one tribe leaves you, there is another one waiting for you in this next phase of your life.   It’s not being left behind, it is moving along with the flow of life.  The things that brought you joy at 12, will not bring you joy at 50.  Losing loved ones is worth the pain of their loss.  It marks a life of love.  Loss of a marriage, allows you to remember yourself as an individual.  Loss of a job, gives the opportunity to grow and learn and find your passion.  Empty nesting allows you to watch your children evolve into their lives and loves. To see yourself into the future inside of them.  And aging, well aging slows us down to enjoy the stillness in our minds, to learn to see eternity in one moment.  Gifts, all of it.

The hummingbird, by always actively seeking out the sweetest nectar, reminds us to forever  seek out the good in life and the beauty in every day.

The lone hummingbird I saw?  She’s not alone, she has another one with her.  She was not left behind and neither are you.

 

 

 

Defending Our Millenials

I am not a millennial.  It is the generation of people born between 1977-1995.  I was born in 1961, which is considered the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation, which is defined as being born between 1946-1964.  I am a mother to Millenials, and I must say that I am proud of it.  Let me tell you why.

Some of the things Millenials are bashed for, being lazy, entitled, and narcissistic, have not been my experience.  My sons and their friends work hard and are driven.  Maybe we judge them because they are driven and hard working in ways we weren’t.  My generation, being raised by the Traditionalist generation (born before 1945), had a set path before them.  We went to school, went to college, got married, worked for corporations and had kids in lovely suburbs.  The American dream of those times was safety, money, staying the course.  We outgrew our parents’ vision also, we were the generation of the Hippie, Vietnam, Woodstock, Sex, drugs and rock n roll.  We shook up human rights, legal abortion and divorce.  We wanted something different something more.  So we raised our children without hitting them, we taught them not to be sheep and follow the crowd, and we taught them to think outside of the box.  We put them in daycare from birth, raised them in “step families” and kept them busy in any activity we could.  We praised them for participating and this helped them to participate in everything, but they weren’t fooled.  They recognized the winners and losers and “participant” ribbons were not sought after.

So our kids, these Millenials, came to recognize others in their “Tribes” as family.  The people in their daycare, their classmates, their teammates, their blended families.  They learned to love people with different personalities, races, religions, sexes and interests, as family members.  They learned to “Love the One You’re With”.  They were exposed to such diversity that they don’t use these differences to judge anyone.  They didn’t form cliques of “Jocks”, “Nerds”, “Brains”, they were great atheletes who wanted to be Geeks.  They grew up with an appreciation of Different and the internet gave them a world view.  Being able to chat with people anywhere in the world gave them a different aspect of distance than we could ever know.

These Millenials are not motivated as much by money, as by experience.  They watched us, their parents, working endless hours at jobs that took up our lives.  They were there when we stressed and raced to their games and conferences.  They saw firsthand how unhappy we were.  We taught them not to live to work, but to work to live, so they want jobs they love.  They do not define their success by possesions and big cars. They would much rather travel or jump out of planes.  They want adrenaline and campfires.   They are passionate about the environment.  Not only do they want to play in it but they also want to save it.  Politics are important to them, just not the way it has been done.  They are highly unsatisfied with our government and I see them as completely overhauling the system. They know there’s a better way and they are open minded enough to also know they will figure one out.

Their priorities are vastly different than our generation, they are big Dreamers and because we rewarded them for “Participating” they are confident they can achieve their dreams.  They grew up quickly, and went from daycare to home alone early, so they’re independent and confident.  They have learned to rely on themselves.  They know their parents are there for them, I haven’t met one who actually wants to rely on them however.

Being raised by parents who were disillusioned by religion, they are not a big religious generation but amazingly, they are highly spiritual.  Most have explored various religions but have not quite found a good fit from just one.  So, being the dreamers they are, they have developed very unique, individual personal beliefs that combine aspects of many beliefs.  Again, this gives them an appreciation for people of all religions.

I think the generation of Millenials are wonderful!  They don’t really even think there is a box to think out of, they just do.  They are intelligent, driven, creative and non-judgmental.  They wouldn’t know a glass ceiling if they saw one.  They are open, loving and are not a generation to exclude anyone.  They admire differences and diversity and would much rather be outside having adventures than a mortgage.  They either love their work or they leave it.  They are not a generation of regret,,,if there isn’t already a way to do it, they will make one.  So, actually, I have not seen the entitled, lazy, narcissists. They want their cake and eat it too?  Yeah well, who doesn’t?  These kids will figure it out!  I’ve seen  lovable dreamers trying to find a way to love their life,,,all of it.  I hope they do!!

 

 

Ode to My Inner Bitch

I can honestly say that I am a nice person.  I can also honestly say that I have a very “un nice” side of me.  I learned in my childhood, that my opinions didn’t matter and any emotion, except happy compliance, would not be tolerated.  I grew into a delightful people pleaser.

My Inner Bitch was there, with me all along, but I was ashamed of her.  I suppressed her, ignored her and felt even her existence meant there was something wrong with me.  My child’s mind figured that if I was perfect, she would go away.   As a teen, my inner bitch popped into my head with snide comments constantly.  Naturally, rebellious thoughts and behaviors are all a part of figuring out who you wanted to be.  Dreams are being made, but not so much for me.  I was horrified when she pushed me to think anything but all the “shoulds”.  But she did have her way with me.  I had parties that made the one in “Sixteen Candles” look tame.  I drank and smoked with the best of them, all the while being a cheerleader and girlfriend to a football player.  I was a “nice girl”.  Going away to college, what a disaster! Inner bitch was let out of her cage, I had a blast, majoring in beer and boys.  Didn’t set myself up for success, however.

I eventually settled down and married a narcisisst and had 2 sons.   Anyone who has had a relationship with a narc, knows how charming and wonderful they are at the beginning.  I was wooed and was given love lines from the movies.  This must be love.  Anyone also knows that when you are “landed” by a narc, you will never ever do anything right again.  Perfect!  More ways to prove that if I am perfect enough everything will be all right!  I cannot tell you how I had to beat my inner bitch down to survive.  Any emotion I expressed meant I was unstable or crazy.  He even convinced my children of this.  If only I would “lighten up” everything would be perfect.  Ok, lightening up!  One morning, after he had been out at the bars, he told me he no longer wanted me to fill our timer coffee pot the night before because it tasted bad with stale water.  Inner bitch to the rescue!!  She came screaming out of my mouth, “Seriously?  The f*ing water tastes stale?  Did you and your friends sit around last night coming up with ways you could try to make me jump through my ass to make you happy?”  That felt GREAT!!!!  Another night when he came home at 3 am with scratches on his back and I questioned him about them, he started cussing at me telling me how insane I was and she came back again!  I found myself punching him square in the mouth.  I had never hit anyone in my life!  Wow!  It felt fantastic!!!  He actually shut the hell up!!  My inner bitch made me feel powerful!  That didn’t last long as he went to tell anyone who would listen, how insane I was and how jealous.  Not only did they believe him, but I did too.  It was insane behavior.  Inner bitch back in the box.

Years later when we were divorcing, I worked hard at being accommodating to him.  I told him I would not fight him for anything except our younger son, who was still in school.  He agreed to stay in town until he graduated.  I found out that he had been planning the divorce for a year, hiding money, and WITH our 13 year old son.  Inner bitch was no where to be found.  I was granted custody of our son, but in a few short months after our divorce was final, he moved 1700 miles away and convinced our son to go with him,,,and to have no contact with me.  I rolled over, defeated.  When I heard what he had been telling his hometown about me and the divorce, I remained undefended.  Inner bitch started popping out in suprising moments.  It was like she just couldn’t stand it that I wouldn’t stand up for myself.  I had learned my lesson from before, when she came out, it was rarely a good thing.  So I numbed her with humor, rum and men.  That was fun for a while, but like anything superficial, the fun doesn’t make a satisfying life.  I quieted down, got to know myself and try to figure out who I really was.

The thing is, of course my inner bitch was unruley when she came out, she was like a puppy who is tied up all the time, when you untie them, they are going to run wild.  She was no different.  Trying to be perfect is dangerous.  It’s like once you mention perfect, that’s a sign of supressed shit.  Shit that has to blow eventually.  And it did, off and on for a while.  So, I took my inner bitch out for a couple of strolls around the neighborhood.  I always liked her, even when she was blowing shit up.  She made me laugh.  Other people didn’t always like her.  You can’t be the Nice Girl and have people appreciate you when you’re not.  They don’t expect it.  You were so sweet and compliant, accommodating and now your aren’t?!  I didn’t expect it, you know, having needs and wants.  When I quit putting everyone else’s need and wants ahead of mine, I finally saw that I had them too.  It was disconcerting.  But by this point, I had been through a lot of life experience and I was tired.  I was tired of fighting me, I was tired of being everything to everyone, in the hopes that they would love me.  But how could they love me if I wasn’t all me?  That included my inner bitch.  The one who said, “F*ck it!” and F*ck YOU”, and slugged my abusive ex.  The one who’s comments in my head made me laugh, (and the one who laughed everytime she remembered the look on the ex’s face after being slugged). I had to quit making her another person and finally realize that she is me.  I had to accept that I can be a bitch.  I can be a nice, compassionate person, but yeah, I’m a bitch too.   The insane shit she does?  Me.  The snotty judgemental crap?  Me again.  The cussing like a sailor, unreasonable bullshit?  Me, me and me.  The making me laugh with her audacious, witty, courageous, standing up for me?  ME!!!  Occasionally, I do have to turn to her and ask politely, to please hand me my spine when I am tempted to fall into people pleasing mode.  When I let her out more often, she really isn’t so explosive, and she’s kind of nice.  And I think I have fallen in love with her.  I think I have finally looked at the real me,,,and she is fucking funny!

 

Life, Death, and the hummingbird nest

nestThe little mountain town that I live in, at almost 8000ft, is amazing.  The people, the scenery, the weather, everything is picture perfect.  This passionate, joyful town celebrates July 4th like no other.  Everyone looks forward to it, it’s a big deal.  Thousands of tourists flock to town just for the 4th.  I’m guessing that this little town triples in size for the wonderful celebration.

Six years ago, after getting off of work late, my son Petie died celebrating the 4th.  He and his best friend, had gone to New Mexico a few days earlier, to buy loads of fireworks.  The excitement level was high, to say the least.  Probably like most boys, Petie loved nothing better than blowing things up, and fireworks were his favorite since he was old enough to stand.  The 4th was his favorite holiday.

After work, he and his friends headed up into the mountains.  It was a favorite spot.  They sledded there and had huge bonfires and camped in this spot.  Deciding to set off their fireworks off of a cliff so it would rain down into the canyon and send the booms echoing for miles, Petie ran to fix a fallen over firework and ended up running off of the cliff, falling over 100 ft to his death.

He died instantly, next to the river in that canyon, in the early morning hours between the night of the 4th and the morning of the 5th, my birthday.

I hate the 4th.  I have never celebrated my birthday since.

I died too that day.  I look at those notices you get on Facebook that show your memories on that day.  Lately, I’ve been reading mine from 6 years ago, like reading a stranger’s.  As it grows nearer to the 4th, I feel myself contract inward.  With the influx of people to town, I try to steer clear of it.  I didn’t physically die, as much as I’ve wanted to.  I’ve spent these 6 years trying to rebuild some sort of life that I can feel safe within.  I do have my quirks though.  I have anxiety in crowds, I plan out my days so I can feel “safe”, along with other weird reactions to grief.  But I’ve grown too.  I don’t get angry easily, I love more, I say what I feel in kindness and try never to cause any hurt in another.  I still mourn my son.  I accept that this will never change.  The pain of his loss will never lessen.  I now  allow myself those days where I don’t want to function.  Today, tomorrow and the 5th are those days.

So that’s why I found myself working frantically in my back yard today.  Ripping and tearing weeds and wild raspberry bushes out, trying to exhaust myself in the hopes of not feeling the descending pain.

When you lose someone you love, I think especially a child, you look for signs from them.  For me, I relive Petie’s death.  It agonizes me to think of him alone, in the dark, dead.  Being his mother, I wish I had been able to hold him there, whispering that he was not alone, I was there, I wouldn’t leave him.  So seeing a sign from him that he is all right, is vital to me.  Since I love hummingbirds, I’ve received many signs from them.  I’ve had them hover in my face, staring at me for what seems like an eternity.  They’ve flown circles around me as I’ve hiked up to where Petie fell.  I have  swarms of them visiting my house every day.

So, today, as I was thrashing around in the pricker bushes, I was shocked to find a hummingbird nest.  Especially so close to the ground.  I felt tears prickle my eyes so I retreated and worked somewhere else for a while.  I wasn’t sure why, but finding it upset me.

A couple of hours later, after I was done working, I walked back to the nest and peaked in to look at the eggs inside.  I started crying, sobbing actually.  I knew it was a sign, because suddenly, all of the sadness I was holding back came forward in a rush.  This sign from Petie showed me that there is new life after death.  New life, new beginnings, new endings, new deaths.  It goes on.  He goes on.  I look for him in everything and everywhere and he is there.  He is in the hummingbirds, the fallen feather, the quarter on the ground.  He is in the stories his friends tell, in my memories, in my heart.  I see his face in the rainbows and clouds.  In the heart shaped rocks I find and in that tiny hummingbird nest in the pricker bushes.  In every place that I look for him, he is there, because my love for him and my desire to see a sign, brings him to that moment.  Even when I cry.  Especially when I cry.

This doesn’t change the facts that I hate the 4th and will never celebrate my birthday.  It doesn’t change that I will mourn him for the rest of my life and crave to hold him.  What changes is now realizing, that when I mourn him, miss him, and want so badly to hold him in the dark and promise not to leave him, he is there.  When I am trying to outrun my sadness at his loss and find a hummingbird nest,,,he is there.  So, I stood up from looking into the nest, wiped my tears and smiled.  “Thank you Petie, please don’t ever leave me.”  “Never” whispered through the trees.

 

“Twice Born”

Many times during my life, I have stood in front of a mirror, looking at my own reflection.  This one particular day, I was shocked to not know anything about the reflection of the person who stared back at me, with vacant hollow eyes.  Eyes that were swollen, red and looked to be bruised, but not one glimmer of life shown through them.  Anyone could see that the face had gone through searing pain, but the pain had also drained any spark.  I was amazed that I could touch that face with my fingers but not feel the touch.  I was destroyed, I was numb and I did not care.  My firstborn had died and my own firstborn life had died along with him.

It would be dramatic to say that this moment was THE moment I became a “Twice Born”.  It wasn’t.  I spent over a year fantasizing about my death and bargaining with God to exchange my life for my son’s.  Two weeks after his death I found myself driving to my counselor in such burning pain that I had to pull over to the side of the road.  I was crying so hard I became hysterical.  I couldn’t bear my life without my son.  In my side view mirror, I saw a semi truck headed my way. I wanted to step out of my car and into it’s path and end it all.  End the lifeless feeling in my face, the night terrors  every night, end thoughts of feeling this way for the rest of my life.  What stopped me was realizing I would be only transferring my pain onto the driver of the truck and my  younger son.  Choosing to live in that moment, wasn’t THE moment either, but it was another baby step toward my rebirthing.

The Buddhists say that, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”  That used to really piss me off.  At that time, it didn’t feel as if my suffering was any different from my pain.  The two had melted into one big horrible blob that had become my life and I didn’t want that life.  Even after years of untangling the two, I still have time when they become one.  The knowledge that I am capable of separating them, helps me get through those dark periods.  It was only when I quit fighting the reality of what my life “is” and accepted what “is” that my “Twice Born” life began.

We all experience tragedy in our lives, divorce, loss of a job, a house, a loved one.  When life as we have known it ends.  A change needs to occur.  We are so uncomfortable where we are and daunted by the changes that must happen.  We resist.

I spent years denying that this was my life now.  I worked all day, then cried all night.  This pain should have killed me, but it didn’t.  Somewhere along the way, I noticed that I was fighting myself.  My logical brain knew the horrible truth and my heart ached with suffering.  And they were not connected.  Living this way was much too painful,  something had to change.  The circumstance were never to be altered.  What had to change was me.

“All suffering comes from not accepting what IS”-Buddhist saying

This is another quote that pissed me off.  But if ‘suffering is optional’ this seemed to provide a “solution”.  At least it provided me somewhere to start.  Kind of a bridge between my mind and my heart.  So, I started figuring out what IS.  Petie had died and I had not.  It seems simple but my heart  recoiled from this, and still does sometimes.  How was it possible to go forward?  If I go forward, am I leaving Petie behind?  Who am I?   I had so many questions that couldn’t be answered.  I had to sit with the questions themselves.

Amongst the ashes of my life, humbled, scared and oh so hurt.  My pain was inevitable, it would be a constant from now on.  I couldn’t go on suffering, it had to end.  I had to learn to accept the pain.  Slowly, something amazing started to happen.  I used the tears of my present and mixed them with the ashes of my past and began the long process of molding them together to build a new me.  I became “Twice Born”.  It felt like I was a raw nerve sitting there.  I was highly sensitive to everything and as I started to rebuild a new me, I kept the things that I loved and tossed out things I could no longer tolerate, negative things that made my heart cringe, like judgment, dishonesty, cruelty, etc.    Old behaviors and personality traits that I didn’t like in myself, dumped.  If they kept coming back, I learned to accept them.  Acceptance didn’t come easy.  There were many times I looked at the me I was re-making and decided to trash it and start over again.  Like all dichotomies in life, it was both terrifying and exciting.  I would fight to hang on to something, then turn around and throw it in disgust.  Again, I would start over.  Painful events didn’t stop happening to me.  Though I somehow thought that they would, hadn’t I already paid my dues?   I took side roads to self pity, depression and self righteousness.  Sometimes I stayed for a while, other times I left pretty quickly.  I was continuing forward though and with every step, I was bringing my mind and my heart closer together.  There were a lot of side roads I could’ve chosen, addictions to numb the pain, denial of reality.  Some looked tempting, others looked like more pain.  I was always aware of my choices.   I came upon many people.  I was propelled further down the road by loving exchanges, stopped short with negative ones.  I saw others head down those side roads and wanted to warn them, but I learned how important our choices are when rebuilding ourselves.  This road was Life.

As long as we live, we are traveling the road.  We will meet others, we will take side trips and we will meet our dragons. The more we run and hide from our dragons, the bigger they become. I was accepting this life, which meant I was accepting myself.  Overwhelming feelings of love started seeping through the pain.  The more that happened, the more my grip on fear loosened.    I was learning to let go.  I let go of how I thought my life would be, how I thought I would be, of the illusion of control.  I started feeling lighter and breathing deeper.   My broken heart broke open.

Twice Born.   Our hearts are much bigger from the wounds.  Scar tissue forms over the break and becomes stronger.   If we are to live this life with an open heart, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional,,,even though we will suffer.   I had the mistaken idea that to end the suffering meant I had to also let go of Petie.  What I found was I will never let go of Petie , he walks beside me on my journey.  The love that he gave to me, and I to him, never dies.  He is a part of everything that I am.  Just as his birth changed me forever, so too did his death.  As much as my throat closes, to keep these words from being uttered, blessings do come from every tragedy.   His death opened my eyes to this gloriously hideous journey of life, I now know what my truth is and I speak it.  I am no longer afraid to say what is in my heart, this new me may be rugged and wounded but she is true.   I was sleepwalking through everything before.  I didn’t question much. I did what was expected and became who everyone around me wanted me to be.  His love and my grief, awoke me to the beauty and love all around me,  I won’t be blind to what I’ve seen. His death was a pain so deep that I couldn’t escape it, I couldn’t run from it.  I could not see a future without him.  I could only breath through this one moment.  In this moment, I saw myself.  It was my choice, I chose to see.  I chose not to look away.

What I saw was love.  The love I had given and the love I had received.  The love from my family, friends, and everyone I share this journey with.  Petie’s love and mine for him.  My love for Dylan, my youngest, and yes, I saw a love for myself.  A love of Life.  Would I go back and exchange my life for Petie’s?  Yes, oh yes.  A million times YES.  I was not given this choice.  I was given the choice on how I would continue on.  I knew that Petie’s death would either destroy me or save me.  I chose Love.

Despite all of the pain and disappointment, the tragedies and loss, there really is only love.  I believe it is fear that guides our firstborn life.  Fear of the suffering that failure and loss bring.  The fear of our own humanness and frailty…  the breakdown.  Twice Born life is guided by love.  The acceptance of our humanness and frailty and the love and respect for ourselves and others.  With our knees on the ground and tears in our eyes,  Twice Born life begins. I have not left my firstborn life though.  I am made from the ashes of it and the tears of its  loss.  It is cast in the knowledge that I can love through the suffering.  There is redemption in the hard won faith, hope and acceptance of life.   Confronting the dragons of our suffering and deciding to thrown down the sword of fighting and accept the pain.  It is then that we can climb onto it’s back and fly.  It is then that we become heroes of our lives.

6

I have felt it coming, like far off thunder.  Almost 6 years ago and roughly 6 miles away, my life was forever altered.

If you look at my oldest son, Petie’s, Facebook page, you would notice that he doesn’t have a cover photo.  This is a feature that wasn’t available the last time he logged in.  His profile picture hasn’t changed, it is a picture I took of him at my dad’s Christmas party 6 years ago, 5 days before his 21st birthday.  His last of both.  He posted these two quotes as his favorites:

“Resiliance and determination are the only keys for sucess”
“The only necessity for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”

His life ended almost 6 years ago and roughly 6 miles away.  The anniversary of his death is almost here,,,the day his life ended and mine forever changed.  The day I quit celebrating my birthday, forever at 49, because it was on my birthday that he died.  On July 5th, I will hike those 6 miles up to the place he fell, like I have done for every holiday, birthday and anniversary since.  It isn’t easy.  Not only for the consistent uphill journey and gain in altitude, but for the journey to my heart and the memories it stirs.  Petie’s journey through life ended, 6 years ago.  My journey to myself, had just begun.

It’s a pilgrimage now, those 6 miles up.  I have trudged up in the fall leaves, in hot blazing sun, pouring rain, and blizzards where I can hear distant avalanches rushing down.  I have cried the entire way, cussed at God, screamed Petie’s name, and prayed.  I have looked out to the magnificent scenery and not seen it and I have tried to burn it into my memory so that I can see what he last saw.  I have lost my faith there and gasped in wonder at the magic of life.  I have run away from the spot in horror and I have felt a peace descend on me like no other.  I carry him with me up the mountain and I find him there.  I hate that I have to go there and I cannot wait to get there.  I have wanted to jump off the cliff and I have fallen to my knees in terror.

This is grief.  But Petie died almost 6 years ago and roughly 6 miles away.  He hasn’t ever left me.  His love has always been with me.  This pilgrimage up the mountain has been a journey to me.  I continue up looking for Petie but finding only myself.  I am still looking and still walking those 6 miles up, I’m not finished,,,but I carry Petie with me, ALWAYS.  I am looking for me.

Blame, Shame and Forgiveness

I made a mistake.  Even though I have tried not to, even though I have been terrified of it since Petie died.  I made a mistake.  I didn’t cheat on my husband or steal from Walmart,,,nope.  I posted on Facebook.

Right as I was hitting the “post” button, I did wonder if maybe it was too much.  But I was tired, stressed and scared.  Into Facebook it went.  Exhausted, I took a nap.

I am the sole caretaker for my dad.  He is starting on the path of Alzheimer’s and since his hip replacement, cannot get around very well.  Over the past few years, my responsibility has increased steadily.  Recently I quit my job so that I could focus on his health and care.  Since my son died 6 years ago, caring for my dad has filled a void in my heart.  It has been an honor for me and a necessity for him.

Switching roles has not been  easy  for us.  He has a tendency to resist most everything I suggest, from taking his medications to every single doctors appointment I have made for him.  It took me years, and his declining health, to convince him to wear his doctor prescribed oxygen.  Every single day I have to explain every pill he is supposed to take, what he’s taking it for and then convince him he needs it.  This has been the most difficult, heartbreaking, intimate and loving period of our relationship.  I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

A few days ago, after having him at 2 doctors, one giving him a diuretic and the other dialating his eyes, I ran into the grocery store to grab a few things quickly.  I existed the store to find my father urinating in the parking lot, on my car.  After the initial shock, we ended up chuckling about it.  Well, actually laughing hysterically about it all the way home.  That’s my dad, with his devil may care attitude and amazing sense of humor.  That’s our life together, anything can, and does, happen so we laugh about it, a lot.

Here comes my mistake.  I posted the story on Facebook with some dramatics thrown in to make it more entertaining.  I do this a lot, about my own disasters, my husband’s insane war with the neighborhood bear and the grey chin hairs that grown enthusiastically on my face.  Most of my friends responded as expected, with humor and love for my dad.  Two people I love dearly, were very upset.  I immediately took the post down and wrote a genuine sincere apology.  I felt horrible and ashamed.  The text came, Blame.  Hurtful words were sent to me.  I didn’t defend my self, Shame set in.  I spent a sleepless night crying and berating myself for being such a bad person.

The next day, depression came and I trudged up to care for my dad, alone.  I started shaking it off by afternoon when I received a nasty text from someone on the very fringes of our lives, asking me for the right to express her opinion.  I asked her why she needed to vent now, after I had removed the post and apologized publicly.  She never did answer that directly, but I gave her the apology that I suppose she expected.

It’s here that I went into the downward spiral of SHAME.  The thing about shame is, it is no longer about making the mistake, it’s about BEING a mistake. So, I started thinking about responsibility.  What was mine to own.  What could I learn from this experience.  How could I get out of this shit feeling and why did I allow myself to sink so low into SHAME.

BLAME:  Yep, I have done this.  I wish I could say that I am so spiritually enlightened that I no longer lay this little beauty on people, I can’t.  Honestly, it feels good, no GREAT, to point the finger.  That great feeling doesn’t last long.  We eventually move so far away from any facts with our righteous indignation that we are further away from compassion and empathy.  We all judge others.  It makes us feel better about ourselves to be able to point the finger at someone else’s mistakes.  Let’s be honest here, if you take offense toward another person’s mistakes, what about their actions do YOU have a problem with?  Did their mistake bring up a fear or shame in you?  Did it push a personal hot button that you haven’t resolved or healed?  Did it bring up grief or embarrassment from your own past?  Examining the cause of your reaction gives us all the opportunity to bring peace to any unhealed parts of ourselves.  When we are at peace within, offense at someone else’s behavior is not found.  We are better able to feel compassion for others when we feel compassion for ourselves and our humanness.  When we feel compassion for others, we can accept our own mistakes so the mistakes of other don’t sound the call for attack.

Shame: My own personal demon.  Like I said earlier, shame comes from instead of thinking you made a mistake to thinking you ARE a mistake.  As much as I’d like to think that those nasty texts made me feel shame, it is not true.  No one can make you feel anything.  I used to hate this statement.  It’s so much more comfortable to blame someone else for how you feel.  You always have the choice on how you will feel.  Realizing that I made a mistake, I felt badly and wanted to correct that mistake.  I took down the post that hurt other people and wrote an apology.  Should’ve been the end of the story.  My own feelings of unworthiness cause me to move from feeling badly to thinking I am bad.  I chose how I dealt with my feelings.  How do we avoid shame?  In the same way you avoid blame, compassion and empathy, directed at yourself.  We all make mistakes.  It is hard wired into being a human being.  Someone told me today that even the Dalai Lama gets pissed off, but it is how he is able to pull himself out of it that makes the difference.  We can all learn to pull ourselves out of these emotions by accepting that, yes I am pissed off.  I am not a bad person for being pissed off.  I won’t be pissed forever so let’s just take a breath, ride the wave and move on.  Shame comes with being unable to stop and breathe.  It happens when we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with judgment on our being pissed and deciding we are not a good person for being pissed.  If we are able to accept our feelings as they move through us, we can let them move out.  Fighting them causes us to grab hold and go under the wave drowning ourselves along with the emotion.  You do not need to judge yourself.  You do  not need to judge others.  Self love and compassion are again the key.  Every single one of us has a story.  We each have wounds and heartbreaks.  We make mistakes.  We have victories.  We love and sometimes we hate.  It is the way it is.  We all are getting through our lives and learning our lessons the best we are capable of.  I don’t believe anyone intentionally sets out to do harm.  Allow yourself to make your way, to make mistakes and to realize we are all in this together.

Which bring me to FORGIVNESS:  EVERY single event in your life, good and bad, carries with it a blessing.  EVERY ONE.  The blessing that came from my mistake is recognizing how fast I sunk into shame.  It was so uncomfortable that I knew I had to heal something within to avoid feeling that again.  I also realized that the reason my critics were not satisfied with my apology is not because of me, but because something about my action touched a sore spot in their lives. I didn’t feel angry with them I actually understood and related to it.  Lord knows I have vented my stress where it didn’t belong.  I understood that I  would not be behaving in a compassionate way by responding with more anger.  Nothing positive would come from my blame and anger.  Defensiveness is not taking responsibility for having the choice in how I respond.  We are so powerful when we realize we have choices in every moment of every day.  Other people do not have the power to control you unless you allow them to.  You choose.  It is practicing that beautiful art of stopping to breathe.  Before you respond, breathe.  Before you hit post or send, breathe.  Before you judge, breathe.  And when you breathe, pray.  Pray for the ability to see yourself and other people in your life, as the beautiful, broken, many flawed sparks of love that we all are.  Pray not only to forgive other people for their imperfections, but to forgive yourself too.  What I learned from my mistake was that the reason why I fell into shame so quickly is because I had not been able to forgive myself.  I had not forgiven myself for posting something that hurt someone else.  When confronted I did not allow myself to accept my anger and breathe.  I could not forgive myself for making that mistake and being human.  Most of all, I could not forgive myself for covering up my fear of losing my dad with humor.  Once again I learned to look for the hidden opportunities in painful events for healing old wounds.  When I can forgive myself, I don’t feel the need to judge others  so forgiveness of others is not necessary.  There is nothing to forgive.   I am trying to breathe, and when I breathe, to pray. When I pray, to pray for compassion, empathy and love for all.  With these forgiveness is no longer needed.