Learning to Fly

As I sit here typing, reclined on my bed in the dining room, I’m not sure what I want to say but I know, deep down, that I need to say it, to know it and to believe it. The relentlessness of my thoughts is unbearable at times; creating this swirling cauldron of steaming and bubbling contradictions that simultaneously demand and defy reconciliation.

I’m becoming more confused while I’m becoming more certain. I’m growing more lonely while also gaining a new selfish affection for my own company. I’m getting over my dead lover while also loving him more each day. I’m withdrawing myself from the frenzy that is social media and broadcast news but becoming ever more aware of the decay in the world and the collective despair of its inhabitants. I’m finding light in the world’s religious texts but finding nothing but darkness in those who claim to preach and follow their messages. I’m settling down into the new life I’m making for myself just as everything around me seems to be in the process of being overturned. I’m reconciling myself to my failings as a mother and working to make amends just as my youngest child is becoming an independent adult and can no longer be greatly impacted by my parenting. I’m falling up while the world falls down. I’m just starting to live in a dying world.

Sometimes I have to admit that all of the contradictions makes everything feel hopeless. Why bother working so hard on myself and my mental health when the world around me seems to be going crazy? Why worry about building a life for myself as my body shows signs of reaching its expiration? Why make myself bleed trying to sort through the years of shame and disappointment in order to find my peace when medications and a little weed is all I need to forget about them completely for a while? Why try so hard to become a better mother when my children are no longer children? Why work so hard to solve the puzzles in my mind while it becomes so obvious that my insanity was the only thing keeping me sane for so long?

I don’t know what the answers to these questions are and the foundation upon which I stand in this world is crumbling beneath me more each day. Sometimes I want to be scared and retreat back into the oblivion that has kept me safe for most of my life. But the little light within me glows a more warmly each day and, even as I become more confused about almost everything else and my footing becomes more increasingly precarious, I’m starting to believe I was never supposed to be standing here all along.

Perhaps I was meant to fly.

Goodbye, Ms. Dragonfly

Yesterday morning, as I sat in my chair looking out the sliding glass door, a dragonfly flew full speed into the door and dropped to the balcony below. It shocked me for a brief minute as my anxiety spelled out scenarios of insects attacking but then I remembered the time I briefly interned with a crappy company in a big glass building. It was while I was there that I learned that birds routinely fly into the reflection of blue skies on glass buildings and the sidewalks below these buildings are often host to their dead little bodies with people stepping over them on their busy way to work as corporate slaves churning out the profits for the select few. But…I digress. Sigh.

So after the dragonfly encountered the false sky reflection in my window and I had recovered from my invasion anxiety, I contemplated it while it lie there, presumably dead. I remembered the time I went fishing with one of my closest friends and how excited she became when a dragonfly landed on the end of her pole. “Oh look!” she exclaimed, “A dragonfly! That is good luck.” Having never heard that particular rural myth before, I reconsidered the dragonfly – an insect I had never really thought about before then. I came into my appreciation for insects late in life and, while I loved butterflies and have always considered them sacred, I spent a lot of time on my grandmother’s farm growing up and was the kind of kid who burned ants with sunlight, salted slugs and pulled the flashy butts off fireflies to make pretend jewelry for myself. (God forgive my little rural ass.)

As my mind traveled down the memories of insects past, the dragonfly on my balcony suddenly flipped up and then zoomed away. I was happy. And not just because that meant I didn’t have to go pick up a big dead insect and discard its carcass but because it lived and, for a brief moment, it brought me to some of the memories that I treasure most…fishing with my friend, getting sweaty and grubby on the farm, chasing fireflies. And just as I was lost in contemplating these memories further, another dragonfly zoomed into the second half of my patio door – the side covered in a screen. But this time, rather than slamming into the door and falling, the dragonfly landed gracefully and clung to the screen, slowly beating its double set of wings and seeming to be settling in for a little rest.

Over the course of the next hour, I contemplated this new dragonfly a little more deeply than the first. Rather than bringing up fears of insect invasions or memories from the past, I became curious and studied it as it hung on the screen less than three feet away me. I could see its damaged wings with pieces missing and its huge alien eyes. Occasionally it would curl the lower half of its body outward but otherwise it stayed perfectly still and I started to feel all voodoo about it. Some people believe that when we die, we are reincarnated into other forms of life, including insects. Was this dragonfly here for me? Was it someone I knew? Was it Mom coming to stare at me because I called her “fucking bitch” in my last post? 

I didn’t consider any of these questions seriously (at least not for very long) and eventually googled all about dragonflies; learning the one clinging to my window screen was a female because she had little dangly things on the end of her tail for cutting plant matter when she laid eggs. I learned that she spent her days eating mosquitos (bad bitch) and had a lifespan of approximately a month as an adult. And that is when I suddenly realized my dragonfly probably wasn’t hanging out with me to rest a spell, like I had thought, but had probably landed for the last time when she found this space next to me. She had, most likely, come here to die.

Over the course of the next several hours, I watched Ms. Dragonfly closely and there were signs of life even as her legs started to curl under her one by one. I couldn’t help but draw the parallel between this and the days I spent watching my mom approach her own death. I couldn’t help but contemplate my own approaching death and the parallel of flying off to a quiet place to be alone and to find peace and rest while life ebbed. I couldn’t help but feel a little sad, a little encouraged and a little blessed by the experience. Mine is not an exciting life these days but it’s a contemplative one lived, not through so many grand experiences of my own, but through the exploration of even the smallest of moments that allow me to be transported into all of the possibilities of existence. And as I gently removed Ms. Dragonfly from the screen this morning and wrapped her in a tissue, I couldn’t help but feel grateful to her for sharing her last moments with me. 

What though the radiance that was once so bright be now forever taken from my sight. Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower, we will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.” ~ Wordsworth

Thirstier Than Ever Before

It’s funny, isn’t it? How one day you can be feeling so confident that you’ve finally arrived at that place where things are going to be better and within minutes of having this crazy notion of normalcy, the wind shift and everything is batshit again? While my persecution complex makes me want to believe this special kind of neurotic cosmic energy is directed to me alone, I know it isn’t. I know I’m not the only one who fights the voice inside that says “Give up.” I know I’m not the only one who is afraid to feel happy because it’s easier just to stay sad and not have happiness taken away. I know I’m not the only one longing for what we used to take for granted….for unmuffled laughter, for festivals, for theater popcorn in a crowded movie theater, for a country not courting civil war, for peace of mind, for a blissful raw-dogging-the-air-without-fear existence. I know everyone is stressed out, broken hearted and fatigued by endless outrage. I know I’m not the only one who is “thirsty” for better…for a time when it feels safe to hope again.

In my last post, I more or less said “goodbye” to this blog. It was created in 2013 after a life event that left me shattered in a way I never thought I would recover. I named it “Thirsty Thoughts and Prayers” because that is what I was feeling when an online friend offered to set up a writing space for me. And for many years, this space helped me makes sense of things while I mended. Having moved through my 2013 heartache and arrived at the other side of the event where hindsight made me grateful it happened, I thought I was “quenched.” I thought I wouldn’t be thirsty anymore. I thought, having survived the hardest thing I had ever experienced, I was done being thirsty for answers and a life that made sense.

If I could go back in time and talk to the 2019 version of myself who had discovered “freedom in shedding my personal belongings on an unplanned journey of minimalism” and embarking on a life of full-time travel, I would try to be gentle but there is no real nice way to say “I know you think you’ve got it all figured out and your new life as a sojourner sounds great but there is going to be a global pandemic and probably a civil war, so hold our happy panties girlfriend…you ain’t quenched. And, what’s more, you fixin’ to be thirstier than you’ve ever been.” Truly…there is no way to say that gently.

I’ve spent the past seven months in utter isolation. With the exception of two one-week visits from a dear friend, I’ve spent every minute of these seven months alone, 1,000 miles away from anyone who knew me and completely without purpose or any idea of how to find a purpose. I couldn’t plan a way from being alone with myself. I couldn’t escape my own company. I was alone, so very very alone, with the person I’ve hated most all my life.

Maybe there are some who have moved through this past year in all ways graceful and successful. I have nothing but respect for these people who have turned tragedy into triumph but I don’t claim to be one of them. I’ve gained weight and lost my direction. I’ve slipped into a comfortable depression and I’ve slept away the days, weeks and months that seems too long and pointless to live. I’ve ignored relationships that needed tending and mending and let things go unsaid too long. I’ve numbed my mind and my emotions with Xanax and Netflix. I’ve stopped having adventures and making new memories. But at the same time that I admit that I have fallen down in a lot of ways ove the past couple of years, I have grown a new kind of grudging respect for myself. It’s true that I’ve haven’t thrived. But…I have survived.

It wasn’t pleasant, it wasn’t pretty and it isn’t over…but at least I’m writing again.

Quenched

2018 was quite a year. Every single relationship I had changed in some way. Some drastically and others in more subtle ways.

The biggest change was in my relationships is my relationship with myself. I am no longer thirsty for love and understanding from others because I’ve finally learned to look in the right places.

I’ve found answers to many of my old questions and discovered new, more significant questions and observations. I’ve lost many of the people and possessions that once made me feel loved and safe and have found honesty, authenticity and respect in unexpected places and freedom in shedding my personal belongings on an unplanned journey of minimalism.

If there is any one lesson I’ve found to be unfailingly true about life is that we’ll never be done learning life’s lessons. As long as we’re breathing, there will be another lesson learned; usually through a painful experience somehow redeemed with a bittersweet aftertaste.

Here’s to a new year, a new journey and a new blog. I won’t be posting on Thirsty anymore and have already moved on to a new writing adventure that promises adventure and challenges me to dig a little deeper; to step into spaces that are a little less safe and a lot less comfortable.

To the small group of folk still following my posts – thank you for your support. It has meant so much to me.
“The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.”

– Steve Maraboli

Ellie

Ellie

Just a few weeks after saying goodbye to our fur baby, I find an old unpublished blog post about her. From what I can tell, I originally wrote this about Ellie almost 5 years ago. Tears. Lots of tears. I miss my sweet girl and I feel so blessed to have had her as part of my life.

Rest in peace, Ellie. I will miss you and love you forever.

********************

If you are a true dog lover, you’ll understand my unconditional and highly devoted relationship I have with my Ellie. I know a lot of people love dogs….and enjoy them as pets and I have nothing but respect for people who have “pet” dogs and treat them well in that kind of relationship. But there are a few of us who can connect so fully with our canine friends that they are are truest companion…the keeper of our every secret and the truest reflection of who we are ourselves. No…more than a reflection of who we are….but actually part of our reflection. I, without the companionship of Ellie, feel her absence like the trees must miss their leaves during the winter…just a little more than bare. I can venture out away from her…but I’m sure a lot more comfortable when she is beside me. She’s a part of my whole and bestest and closest friend. And she is my protector. Grrrrrr.

Ellie is a lovable, sweet, charming, loving and highly intelligent dog. But she has a harsh history and much of it unknown to me. She came to me as a foster about 2 years ago and ended up becoming part of the family. Highly intelligent and eager to please, Ellie had moderately serious behavioral issues when we took her in. If I understood correctly we were at least her fourth home – she had been relinquished, rescued, returned, rescued again… and THEN came to us as a short-term foster. The couple originally asked us to keep her while they worked out a lease situation with their landlord. But in the meantime, I fell in love with her. And my son fell in love. And my daughter and her fiance fell in love with her. And Ellie was ours.

At some point, probably in one of her earliest homes in which she lived,Ellie was abused. Cruelly. I know this without a doubt. The first time I approached her while holding a coat hanger in my hand, she literally melted away from me and cringed away from me for several minutes despite my attempts to reassure her. And it’s taken almost two years of me singing about “happy sweeping from Mr. Happy Broom!” in an exaggerated “good girl” voice to convince her that I can sweep my floors without her cowering in the corner Through a lot of hard work by our family and through her strong will to succeed, she’s really come a long way. She is well-trained, responsive and very excited about being in a happy home with people who love her and have happy brooms.

One more final bragging point on our pup. She’s my favorite sleeping partner. Her 60-pound body curls perfectly into mine while I sleep and when I’m ready to roll over, she stretches and rolls with me. Sometimes my son wants her to sleep in his room and on those nights I miss her warm body next to mine. Now…there is a disadvantage to spooning a pitbull because they are notorious for having the worst kind of stanky gas. I mean…peel the wall, singe the hair in your nose and make your stomach burble kind of flatulence. But seriously…I’ve been married and divorced three men. I’ve lived through worse

And I love this dog. Truly. But dammit….she is a total pain in the ass sometimes. For the most part she’s gotten over her rough start, but she still pisses me off on a daily.

To be honest, I’ll never be able to completely predict her behavior because I don’t know her story before she came to me. I still don’t think I’ve found all of her triggers for her rare unexpected trigger reactions. It is very rare these days, but she still takes me by surprise sometimes…especially in times when she feels that I am in danger. If Ellie feels any threat toward me or my children, she goes a little…uhm…primal. For real. I have a post office box because the local post office considers my boog-a-boo a “vicious dog” and refuses to deliver mail to my home. It’s a long story but it was totally my fault because I startled in a way that made her think I was in trouble just as I was getting my mailed delivered. It makes me sad…but I don’t blame the postal service. It was a well-earned reprimand. However – I was really looking forward to getting mail from the cute little antique mailbox that sits just outside my antique door. Meh.

And another thing…she eats my favorite things. She chews on my favorite clothes or shoes, and sometimes even my sheets, when I’m gone too long (more than a couple of hours). I can’t be mad at her…eating is a stress reaction. Last week I ate an entire tub of pre-made chocolate chip cookie dough because I was feeling all alone and stressed out. It’s what some of us girls just do. It’s so understandable, right?.

Oh…and get this. She hurts me a lot…physically. She’s forgotten many times on our walks that I’m attached to the other end of her leash and it’s been painful. I’ve been dragged down gravel and asphalt roads, knocked into brick walls, run over, flipped upside down (ass up in the damn city park), jumped on, splashed and tripped. But when we found each other, we lived on beautiful wooded acreage and we could take our walks without leashes and leap and jump as much as we wanted. Neither of us of handled the move to leashes and sidewalks very well. We both miss walking in the woods.

I guess I connect so closely with my Ellie because I can relate to her brokenness. I’ve been through a lot in my life too and I have a few behavioral issues as a result too. Actually…I still make BIG mistakes regularly; just not as frequently as I used to make them. My sister and my closest of friends know that I can be a little unpredictable. But to my credit, I don’t think I’ve ever chewed on any of their clothes or sheets and I’ve never attacked their mailman. And I haven’t dragged any of my friends down gravel or an asphalt roads yet…but I’ve taken them all on some pretty messed up emotional trips of my own and they held onto my “leash” too. Guess Ellie and I are both pretty lucky to be loved by people who love us despite our bad behavior.

*Not lucky…Blessed*

Embrace

embrace

Across the street from my old front porch in my small hometown, there was a blooming tree that always made me happy. It was a tree that you’d normally see blooming in this area every spring – usually with beautiful white flowers or with bright pick flowers. This tree was special. It had been spliced at some point and both the pink and the white flowers bloomed on this tree; the colors not so much interspersed but instead wrapped around the tree next to each other in a strikingly harmonious way. This tree was well known and was easily the most beautiful tree to be found in a town filled with beautiful trees. This tree was good; it’s memory so vibrant in my memory that I painted a picture of it and hung it above my bed as a reminder of its beauty.

About a year before I moved, the tree was struck by lightening and caught on fire and never bloomed again. And so many times I would walk outside and see where the tree once stood and feel sad. There were still other beautiful blooms to be seen in the colorful neighborhood in which I lived, but none so extraordinarily so as this one tree with the two colors embracing each other.

When people talk about beautiful sunsets, they describe their beauty by the array of colors that are brought out in the sky just as the sun approaches the horizon. When we move into a house, we paint the walls of the rooms different colors in order to make the house warmer and more fun to look at and live in. When we buy cars, create art, capture photographs and even clothe our bodies, we use and appreciate different colors, shapes and shades as part of what makes these things more beautiful or more fun than it would be otherwise.

We recognize all the colors as equally beautiful and contributing to the overall beauty of the things themselves. In nature, in our homes and in our own appearance and in so many other ways we embrace color fully and we see beauty when colors are combined in a way that co-exist pleasingly. We like to see colors embracing in a way that leaves them more beautiful than they would be if they stood separate. We see this in almost every way…except in the color of our skin.

I am amazed at what I see happening in the United States right now. I don’t want to speak directly to the specific things that are happening because they are all so ugly and scary. I do want to say this though…the state of our country completely unacceptable. At this point in our evolution as a society and with all of the ways the human race has advanced in science and understanding, there is just no rhyme or reason for the kind of ignorance that we as a collective are demonstrating to ourselves and to the rest of the world.

There should not be people dying, threatened, oppressed or scared because of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or any other human quality. These things are just part of our human spectrum…our beauty as a collective humanity is made more beautiful by our differences and our diversity. This is the spectrum of diversity that makes the fabric of our humanity. We should not still be deciding what’s right for each other and hating each other because of our differences. Instead we should each be seeing ourselves as beautifully unique while allowing others to do the same around us; each of us creating a beautiful bloom of our own and embracing each other in a way that makes us the most beautiful tree on the block.

“Maybe I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one.” (John Lennon)

Where, Oh Where

empty-nest-1024x952

A year ago my youngest left for college 3 hours away. As a football player, he had a practice schedule that prevented him from coming home and visiting often. Instead I would attend his football games and once found a pet friendly hotel close to his university, loaded up his dog and took “home” to him. It wasn’t the same but it kept the emptiness at bay for the most part.

This summer he decided to quit football and college and pursue his dream of being a music producer and has been accepted into his dream music school…in LA. In the meantime, he moved to Boulder for the summer to start collaborating on music with some established producers there and I haven’t seen him since early May. His dog passed away in early June and my home is now completely empty of the parenting responsibilities that have kept me busy and fulfilled for so many years.

I’m so happy that he’s pursuing his dreams and that he’s escaped our claustrophobic small town midwest home, but my heart is wrenched.   I am retired and divorced shortly after the start of his freshman year in high school. Being his mom (and being involved in his football/wrestling/track/band/theater activities) have been the primary purpose of my life for so long and I’m finding myself lost now; struggling to find purpose within my days.

I feel like this should be a time in my life when I am liberated to do whatever I want – travel, volunteer and find my own interests. However I’ve discovered this will not be as easy as I had anticipated.  After he graduated I moved to a remote hilltop in the Missouri Ozarks and go days without seeing other people.  The MeetUp app promises some non-dating social opportunities but it has become apparent that Ozark hillbillies don’t use apps to congregate (IF they congregate…I haven’t quite figured out the culture here yet.) Meeting new people “organically” isn’t the way things work anymore; even with social apps, everything designed to help singles find a social life seems to more “hook up with someone” and I’m more interested in “find a tribe.”

I expected loneliness and some sense of losing  direction, but I never expected to still feel so purposeless and lonely a year after my nest became empty. Hobbies help. Exercise helps. All of the things suggested for new empty nesters helps…but nothing has been able to scratch even the surface of my feelings of not belonging and having no purpose. Just a few weeks ago I was writing about how I would be all set to live well once my house was unpacked from my remodel.  I was so confident…so sure that everything would be good once I was all set up and ready to live.  And yet…here I am…all set up and ready to live but not really living.

If I’m not the athlete’s mom, who am I? And where, or where, is my life?

Vertigo, Vortices and Victory

vivid reverie storms within me

When I woke up from my nap this afternoon and stumbled into my bathroom I wasn’t sure if I was really awake and walking. I wasn’t sure if I was walking or sleeping and dreaming I was walking. I wasn’t sure if I was awake or dreaming I was awake. I hoped I was awake and that the reality I had just experienced was in fact the dream. I kept telling myself “It was just a dream. It wasn’t real. Those horrible things didn’t happen.” But then I would immediately hear my mind reply “Maybe. Or maybe they really did happen and I am dreaming now that they didn’t.”

My mind wobbled back and forth in that precarious state…one I’ve grown accustomed to and one I fully expected to overcome this afternoon. I’m used to this….figuring out what is real and what isn’t real has become something I do every day. Every hour. And on the particularly bad days, every minute. Years of therapy have taught me the coping mechanisms that usually calm the mental vertigo. “Breath in. Okay now, breath out slowly. Again. In. Out. Good. Think of the safe place. Think of Grandmother’s hands. I’m safe. Grandmother’s hands. I’m safe. Breath in. Breath out. Good. Good. Doing good. It’s okay. There is no real danger. Sit in this…it’ll pass. I can do this. I am ok. I am safe. Breath. In. Out.”

I had almost calmed myself and I relaxed just a bit – it was almost over. And just as I felt my mind start to settle it’s warbling spin, suddenly and without any warning, a mental tornado set down within my mind and suddenly my vertigo, instead of fading away, was replaced with a vortex of anguish, grief and a pain so deep that I collapsed screaming. The sound that erupted from me is one I heard the first time five years ago and not since; a completely unhinged and unbelievably guttural and continuous wail that is all exhale and no inhale. Out. Oooouuut. OUT.

I was no longer calming myself. I was suffocating on grief. My head was throbbing. I was gulping, gagging and gasping for air while still screaming. Screaming. Screaming. My throat started to burn from the fiery raw emotions that were tearing up through and out of me. The darkness started to fill my vision and I wanted to run away… somewhere, anywhere. Instead I stayed where I was; knowing that soon I would be passing out and waking up covered in my own vomit, urine and possibly blood. I know how to do this too, instinctually; using the tiny bit of logical floating around in the magma of my erupted mind. “Sit still. Be safe. Lie down. Hold on. Brace yourself. Here is comes.” And there it was indeed. Every bit of the very real grief I’ve suppressed. Every fear I’ve reasoned away. Every tear I haven’t shed. Every painful memory and every ounce of anguish I’ve refused to feel. I laid on my bathroom floor and sobbed over the loss of the dear ones lost but not lost. I felt the pain of every painful experience not experienced. My heart shattered. My mind melted. My frail hold on sanity disappeared completely while the dream world became my reality and my reality faded away to like a dream I couldn’t recall.

I’m not sure how long I laid on my bathroom floor. I’m not completely sure if I stayed conscious. I remember only bits and pieces of what I did for the two, maybe three, hours unaccounted for in my memories of the time between first waking up from my nap and the time stamp on the texts I sent to my loved ones to make sure they really were still only a phone call away and not gone from me forever. I don’t know why I capitulated into full panic overdrive without any warning this time despite my usually successful self calming having at first seeming to be successful. I am not sure how my mind conjured up the tornado that wrecked my fragile balance. I don’t know how my body was able to produce the sounds that I heard coming from myself. I don’t know what to think about these new unknowns. I don’t know. I don’t understand. I don’t know why my mind, body and soul feel so wrecked even now…several hours later, my mind somewhat recaptured and quieted and my loved ones beautiful text messages showing proof it really was just a dream. A really really bad dream. A nightmare. A sleeping terror from which there is very little escape while my deepest fears are fully experienced in vivid detail. I am carrying a phantom, but very real, grief within me that is calling my name and telling me to remember, to hurt and to cry for all those very real things in my dream that weren’t reality.

Maybe someday I’ll have peace. Maybe some day I’ll be victorious over my masochist mind that tortures my soul. Maybe someday…but obviously not today. But even in this fog of mental illness I have hope. I am focusing on my upcoming therapy treatment sessions. Who knows what this new method will uncover in my mind and my memories. How much of my memory is real? How much is forgotten? Am I ready to start digging through my mind in search of the events that have made me who I am? Am I prepared to sift through the good to find the bad and through the bad to find the good? The answers to these questions has to be “yes.” I’m approaching my 48th birthday in just a little over a week. If I am to have a life before I die, I must first finally put my past to rest. I must take the power away the storms inside my mind, take the sting out of my memories and start seeing life for what it is…a beautiful gift of existence in the present moment. Day by day. Hour by hour. Minute by minute. Second by second.

This is life. And even in the aftermath of the storm, I am grateful for all that I am and all that I have ever been. And for the hope for all that I will be. I’m bruised, broken and weary but I’m not done fighting. I’m not surrendering. I’m holding onto the fierce warrior inside of me and I’m going to keep getting back up every time my mental vertigo makes me stumble and fall and vortices pick me up and toss me around. I’m in the midst of the hardest battle I’ve ever fought..but I’m still fighting. Fiercely.

“Come home with your shield. Or on it.” ~300

Shield of Understanding

I was scrolling through old unpublished blog posts and stumbled across this one from exactly a year ago. I don’t even remember writing it; so much so that, as I was reading it this morning, it felt like I was reading someone else’s words.

These are words I needed to read this morning and I’m so grateful for this reminder to myself written almost exactly one year ago today. I’m so thankful for the peace that comes from being reminded shield myself with understanding when others hurt me – understand just as much as I need to let it go. And then, the hardest part, to let it go.

I’m going to publish this just as I found it; raw and unedited. My fingers itch to correct the spelling errors grammatical errors and confusing segues. But because even with its editorial issues, it spoke to me exactly what I needed to hear at this point in my life.

Sometimes things in life don’t go the way you expected and people disappoint and hurt us. Sometimes the only thing we can do is let it go and let it hurt. Sometimes it hurts more than you ever thought it could ever hurt. But a shield of understanding let’s you believe it’s all going to be ok and hurt doesn’t have to bring worry.

[E]xtend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words and actions of others. ~ Brene Brown

*********************************

Sometimes people hurt you. This is a part of life. When my children were in the nest, they would often come home with stories about other kids who said and did things that hurt them, both physically and emotionally. One of my treasured achievements parenting children through my raging and ever-consuming mental illness, is the advice I would give them when others hurt them. I remember always saying “No matter what has happened or what has been done, what do you think that person is feeling? What might be an obvious reason they are feeling this way? What do you think could have already happened to a kid at home or in life that would make them do those things? How can you protect yourself with this understanding?

When you can understand a person’s hurtful behavior toward you, you can take the sting out of it. You can empathize. You can deflect their with a shield of understanding…taking away their ability to leave you feeling wounded. And, maybe most importantly, you can forgive them and move on from the experience.

I know all of these things are truths…I’ve seen it evidenced time and time again as my children, under my advice, deflected, healed and turn around situations where others hurt them. I don’t keep emphasizing this “parental triumph” here as a self-accolade but rather as a self-observation. I raised my kids on that advice and strongly believe I made them stronger and more resilient with that advice, but for most of my life, I never followed my own advice.

I realized I haven’t been walking my own talk and it was a growing point for me. For the most part I’ve made significant improvements in my ability to rationalize away the things that would otherwise hurt me. Sometimes I still struggle…especially recently when I had to finally stop trying to understand, give up and walk away from the person hurting me.

Another piece of Dr. Suess advice I used to give my children comes to mind today: When you walk away from someone or someone walks away from you, “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” I am a pretty wise parent…maybe now I can learn how to translate that into being a wise person.

To the Power of One

“Being alone has a power very few people can handle.” ~ Steven Aitchinson

one

My peace sanctuary’s remodel is almost complete and I’m so grateful.  By next week, I’ll be getting my things out of storage and moving out of the guest room that, with a bed and television only, has started to feel like a prison cell.  Since I moved to my awesome Ozark hilltop, I’ve had a constant stream of visitors and an art studio filled with potential and in-progress projects to fill my time in between visits.  Until my remodel started, I considered myself living in solitude and I was pretty proud of myself for how well I handled it.  Since starting my remodel and having little to no contact with others for days at a time and no art projects to keep myself busy, I’ve discovered that I actually had no idea what solitude really looked and felt like before now.  And I’m humbled.  I am weepy.  I am sooooo alone.

One of my dear neighbors and friends is a retired professional chef and an artist.  He lives alone in a cabin in the valley below my hilltop and spends most of his time alone; secluded from others with a bed/tv/microwave setup much like the one I’ve been enduring these past several weeks.  Last week, after a full three days with zero human interaction, I texted him and asked “How do you do it?”  A couple evenings later, as we visited while the sun sat behind us, he told me his secret…it never really bothered him.  I have to admit, this secret just made me feel a little worse.  If it never bothered him and he didn’t have to go through some personal growth process to achieve contentment in solitude, then maybe I’m just lacking a gene or the personal strength to endure what he makes look so effortless?  Am I weak?  Am I unable to harness the special power of being alone that very few can handle?  Will I always feel so utterly and desperately alone without the company of others on my hilltop?

As I prepare my things for a trip to Colorado to watch the youngest of my nibblings graduate from high school, I’m full of mixed emotions.  I am looking forward to getting away from my suffocating seclusion and loneliness but I’m also dreading the idea of being away from my hilltop and surrounded by strangers.  What a paradox…what a hapless existence this feels like sometimes.  I want to wallow in my confusion and call my friends to hear their voices and reassurances that I’ll be okay and everything will be better when I get back and have a chance to get moved back in and settled with my paintbrushes and canvases.  I want to laugh with others, talk with others, and make memories with special people, but I don’t want leave home and that, I’m realizing, is just too damn bad.  Because while I’ve found some semblance of peace on my hilltop, the same seclusion that makes me feel peaceful also makes me feel lonely.  And if I’m going to life my life well, I’m thinking I probably need to adjust in two obvious ways: I need to learn how to be alone without being lonely and I need to learn how to be away from my loneliness without feeling overwhelmed.  It sounds simple enough and I’m sure at some point I’ll look back and wonder what the big deal was.  But for now it feels impossible that I’ll ever achieve the balance I need to truly be happy in my own existence – wherever I am and regardless of whom I’m around.

I guess if I had to count even the smallest of victories, I can be proud that I haven’t allowed uncomfortable solitude to lead me into unsuitable companionship just for the sake of not being alone. Maybe that isn’t a small victory…maybe that is actually a huge achievement?  Meh.  I’m not sure.  But one thing I am sure of, as with all the other times in my life when I endured, fretted and eventually survived times that rubbed my soul in all the wrong places, I will grow from this experience in some way and be grateful to have experienced it.  Not yet but someday.  In the meantime, I’m just going to blow up my air mattress again and try to remember that I’m stronger than I give myself credit…and work on harnessing that power that so few others can handle.

I just pictured myself whipping loneliness like Wonder Woman with my lasso of truth.  Maybe I’m onto something here…