Tuesday, December 22, 2009
My friends are mainly in their late 30’s and single. So we are all in that same position: none of us consider Christmas joyous. It’s nice to be around people who understand that emptiness that comes with these holidays. On Thanksgiving, after fulfilling our family obligations, we met for a movie and then went to a club. On Christmas Eve, we will do it again. It gives us something to look forward to. Our own version of holiday cheer. Vodka makes everything a little more tolerable.
Our favorite waitress at Village Inn is amazing. We all chipped in and bought her a Christmas present—a robe, slippers, a candle, and a face mask. She loved it, and told us this may be her only Christmas gift. She has no family. She works Christmas day. So she is going to go out with us on Christmas Eve for the first time.
A cousin of mine is also single, and has no family that he is close to. He is coming with us as well.
It’s comforting to look around and know that I’m not alone, but to also know that if single folks unite, we can still have fun, even if it is not in the religious or traditional form.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I was looking for some negatives. I had a friend who had lost his photos of Paris, and I had been there and offered to let him make copies from my negatives. I began tearing through my drawer of photos, unsure what I may have done with them. I found myself flipping through random piles of photos. I began throwing them away – weddings of cousins who are now divorced, my honeymoon, my trip to Vegas with my ex. All of it had lost its meaning. Still no negatives.
Wait! They may be with my wedding negatives! So I began plowing through that file box, and cleaned it out as well. As I came to my wedding negatives (they were actually engagement, bridal, and wedding shoot negs), I suddenly found myself sitting in a pile of discarded photos. Discarded…..history. My ….history……was lying in shambles on the floor around me. What did I even save this history for? My own daughter or son. It was a history of their mother. A story that needed told to understand where I came from.
And, it is a waste. I will not bare my own children. I sat on the floor and was suddenly overcome with grief. What are these photos for? What’s this house for? What’s this life for? Is there any real purpose for any of this? Why am I even here?
And so, I called my sister, and broke down. She explained this was natural, that these emotions would come and go. But this time, they took me completely off guard.
Today, I am both sad and in physical pain. My cramps are the worst I’ve ever had. I feel like my internal organs are swollen. I almost went to the ER this morning. I want some closure. I want some sense of direction. I want something to live for.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
It has become a Sunday ritual.
It’s naptime after Sunday lunch. One time, my niece approached me in the living room, holding a stuffed animal, and said, “Kwisti, come nap wif me.” I was sure Nana put her up to it, but it was still adorable. Of course, I obliged.
Again, I was happy to lie down with her this past Sunday afternoon. I had been milling over my choices on my own reproductive future. I hadn’t vocalized my concerns, but I had been running scenarios through my head. What if’s. Why me’s. If only’s.
I crawled into bed with my niece after she was already asleep. Being hot natured, she was shirtless with only a sheet as a cover. I slid up next to her, careful not to wake her, and absorbed her beauty. Her hair is similar to mine—color, texture, lack of control. Her skin is commonly compared to a China doll’s white, flawless tone. But what struck me was her frame. This angel is now 3. It seems an eternity ago that she came into this world. We had wondered at the time what she would look like, act like, sound like. And I have to tell you, I’m awestruck. She is creative, intelligent, and analytical. She is funny and manipulative. She is no longer a baby, but a little girl. The cries and noises, are now replaced by words, conversation, creativity, stories, and song. Lots and lots of songs—in tune, mind you.
I gazed at her neck and her frame. I wanted to touch her soft skin, and even reached out my hand, but stopped myself in fear of waking her. As the light entered through the window, highlighting her shoulders, I wondered how something so perfect could exist--something so innocent. I remember praying before she was born that she not inherit my depression, and be spared my low self esteem and fears. So far, so good.
As I pondered the magnificence of God's creation, I wondered if I had the strength and patience for a child, and if my chance for one was truly over. Surely if I had a daughter, she couldn’t match the beauty of the child next to me. I wondered why some people keep children they don’t want, with so many families waiting for a child. How can anyone intentionally hurt a child? How can God allow some children to be born into horrible homes, and allow good homes to remain childless?
Soon, I fell asleep. But even now, days later, my mind drifts back to those quiet moments of reflection. The song that comes to mind each time is one by Steve Nicks, Landslide:
“…Oh, mirror in the sky what is love? Can the child within my heart rise above? Can I sail through the changing ocean’s tide? Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Well I’ve been afraid of changing, ‘cause I’ve built my life around you. Time makes you bolder, and even children get older. I’m getting older too.”
Many of my expectations and hopes have included lying down with my own child. I am left wondering if this is the closest I will ever get—lying next to my niece. Is a child what I really want, or just what I’ve always expected? How could any child be more perfect than this? Am I really prepared for the dedication of motherhood? Am I really prepared for a life without any children? So many questions, so few answers.. . . . . . .
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Since my divorce 7-1/2 years ago, I have battled pre-cancerous cells that went away on their own, some so severe they were removed by surgery. I have my ex-husband to thank for the HPV that caused all of this. I’ve had an enlarged and sensitive cervix my whole life. I have cysts on my ovaries, and cysts in my uterus. When my doctor lasered my cervix, she took as little as possible to preserve my ability to have children, but warned another surgery like that would render me barren. That was several years ago.
Now, I’m 37. I have no children, and have never been pregnant. I did what I was taught—get married first, then have children. My ex not only left me an HPV present, but he left just as we agreed to start trying for a child. (FML) I kept telling myself through all of my abnormal paps, "God is preserving my organs for a child, right?" Apparently not.
I’ve waited for Mr. Right for a very long time, in vain. I sat in my gyno’s office a few weeks ago and she began asking about my periods. I gave her the rundown—my cramps last 7 days, my periods last 7 to 8 days, and are VERY heavy. I may have a period twice a month, maybe only once. You never know until it happens. I’ve had periods since the age of 10. I have other issues that have popped up in recent months that I won’t describe here. (TMI)
She told me that my options have ended, and offered me a hysterectomy. I told her I wanted to wait for more vacation and more money. But honestly, I wanted time to think about it. I was shocked at her offer, and left her office in shock. She told me to call anytime that I’m ready.
I am at that age where pregnancy means taking on huge developmental risks for that child. I’m at a high risk for infertility and miscarriage. And let’s face it—I’m not even in a relationship!!!!!
My mom asked me tonight why I am waiting to have surgery, and I told her that I know what will happen: I will say, “Let’s do it”, and I will emotionally break. As soon as I said that to my mom, I nearly broke. As tears rolled down my face and my lips quivered, I told my parents, “You guys have to realize how hard it is. It’s hard to go to church and see these young couples talk about God bringing them together. And you see them having babies, and saying that God gave them this gift. It makes you feel worthless. Like God hates you or is playing favorites. I can’t look at that anymore! But the day I give in to being barren will be the first day of many, many tears. ”
And so, the reality is setting in. I haven’t been to church in a while for a number of reasons. This is one of them. There is a part of me that thinks it’s pointless, because God isn’t listening anyway. And I am concluding that it is time for a hysterectomy. I’m tired of waiting. Tired of wanting. Tired of hope. The older I get, the scarier the thought of bringing a child into the world. I am only up for it if I’m in a healthy relationship, and I’m not even close to that.
I was talking to my friend Randall the other night about relationships. I told him, “In a perfect world, a man would come up to me and ask me out, and I would say, ‘here is a book called Love is a Choice, about overcoming codependency. Read it, think about it, and then call me if you are still interested.’ And months later he would call me, still interested, but emotionally healthier than before.” Randall laughed and said, “No, in the perfect world, he would say, ‘Oh, that book? I already own it. It’s helped me tremendously.’ Then you would KNOW it was a match made in heaven.” He is so right. And well, this isn’t a perfect world, is it?
Now, it's out in the open. The conversation with my parents, and this blog, make it real. So I guess the next step is: when shall I do it?
Friday, October 23, 2009
After 10 o’clock, I began to get very nervous. I was supposed to text Michelle the moment I heard from him, and she would text Traci. So, I texted her, “I haven’t heard from Randall. I texted and messaged him.” She tried calling him, with no answer either.
With that, we devised the plan: I would drive to Randall’s house and see if he is home. If not, I would drive to the general location of this stranger’s home and look for Randall’s car or his body. I would give Michelle updates, and I would not get out of the car in a bad area without calling her first and staying on the phone.
As I drove, my mind milled over the possible outcomes. He could be in bed asleep. He could be at the man’s house having a grand time. Or my worst fear, he could be lying on the side of the road, injured or worse. There had been a gay bashing in Tulsa just a few days before. Randall is a strong man, a healthy man, and an energetic man. But he is also gay. He had taken a risk by meeting a stranger at his home, instead of a public place. He normally has his phone handy and checks it periodically. He normally tells me what’s going on. This . . . .was not . . . .normal. I had already planned for the worst—call 911, call Michelle, call Randall’s daughter. . . .
I know that people assume a man can take care of himself, but ask that young man who had been beaten, bitten, and stabbed, and you realize the world is a scary place. Three people ganged up on him. Prejudices abound, and ignorant people do cruel things. Get more than one attacker together, and most men would not stand a chance alone.
I drove Randall’s house, and his car was there. It was 11 o’clock and his house seemed very quiet. I rang the doorbell. . . . . .no answer. So, I rang it again, determined to beat the door down if necessary. If he’s home, he’ll probably be in bed and surely be pissed that I’ve disturbed him. But I needed peace of mind.
“Kristi! What are you doing here?”, he asked as he opened the door, smiling broadly.
“Randall! I’m making sure you are alive! We are worried about you!!”
He laughed. “I’m fine. I left that man’s house a long time ago. He was an ass and I wasn’t comfortable so I left.”
Randall had quickly changed focus after leaving his date, and become pre-occupied with other things. He forgot about calling, and his phone was in another room.
“I’m so sorry! I feel bad you drove all the way out here! That is SO sweet!” He said.
‘I don’t mind, as long as I know you are alive and well!” I replied, relieved.
We hugged several times and upon leaving I called Michelle. She then called Traci.
The next day, Randall told me, “That meant more to me than you will ever know. I don’t know if that’s what you guys normally do as friends, but I’ve never had any friend or family member do that for me. You know, people go to church in hopes of making friends. You go every week, shake hands, and make shallow friendships. But I did that for years and never made close friends. After church, everyone goes home to their real lives. Being around you guys is better than church. When I leave you, I feel like I’ve been to church. I’ve never had friends like you.”
Thursday, October 22, 2009
It began with some bizarre purchases he made. He was already in financial ruin. Just when he realized the effect of his purchases, he quit his job. He became embarrassing in public, with random comments and overly zealous behavior. It’s as if his filter was removed, and it was a free for all as he said anything that came to mind, including “jokingly” discussing his desire for drugs, and his previous days as a dealer. In a bar, drunk, he gave me a “message from God’ that made no sense at all. When he wanted to buy my meal and I refused, he told me that I don’t have faith in him or God. God was going to take care of him. For some reason, that really hit a nerve, maybe because of my own relationship with God. Not only did it seem surreal to have him give a false prophecy, but it hurt that he questioned my faith in God or him. His understanding of God at that moment was very flawed. The truth is, we create our own hell much of the time, and we want God to save us from it. God doesn’t always clean up our messes, and when he doesn’t are we going to resent him?
I finally decided that he was on drugs. I do not use drugs, nor do I want them around me. I talked to him about it one night, and he denied using anything in months, which I knew was a lie. He expressed his anger at the world for dealing him a crappy hand, his resentment toward the young gay community for having it easier than he had when he came out, and his unwillingness to let go of bitterness. It’s his right to be angry, he said. I tried to tell him that holding onto that anger will eat him alive, and he should be happy that young gays have it easier than he did. But he kept talking over me. I finally told him that I do not share his anger, nor do I want to be around it. I wasn’t ending our friendship, but drawing a boundary with him.
I am a recovering codependent. Finding myself in friendships like this are dangerous. I will attempt to fix him. I will worry over his problems as much as my own. I will do whatever to appease him, so he will be happy. I will make myself his source of happiness, which is unhealthy. Recognizing my own tendencies, I drew a boundary.
His response was to for me to have a good life.
I tried to relay the story to a coworker who is a Christian, and her response was, “Maybe he needs a friend now more than ever before!” I understand her religious thinking, as if I could help “save” him by loving him the way Jesus loves us. I felt a tinge of guilt, followed by frustration that she doesn’t see the big picture. You cannot help someone who doesn’t want help.
So I had a good cry and I let go of the friend. I think of him daily. But I believe one day our friendship will return. I hope so.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Tonight, I was at a friend's house and we watched "P.S. I Love You". Yeah, I cried. I nearly teared up several times in the movie, but the point where I really lost it is when she realized. . . . . .she was alone indefinitely. That was the moment when she finally accepted the loss of her husband and the reality of moving on without any help. That was also the time that she said, "I promised I would never let a man hurt me again."
I remember in my divorce, realizing that I was alone IN a marriage. But then when we physically parted ways, the loneliness was overwhelming. The silence was deafening, and the hurt was numbing. I mean, how was I supposed to move on? My parents hadn't divorced. My sister hadn't divorced. I had no idea how to cope. And just as in the movie, I had been hurt before. I had been in an abusive relationship, and after that I swore no man would ever hurt me again. And yet, I trusted again and it all crumbled on me.
And so, this movie touched my heart. I felt like I was reliving that void--a void that is still there today, but that isn't raw anymore. I had to learn to be strong by myself. I had to learn to get out of bed each day, anyway. I had to learn to exist in a way I never wanted. I still don't like to be at home all alone, but that's what my dogs are for.
I hurt for anyone experiencing this pain, but life does get better. Trust me. And I think I need to go to Ireland to find me a hottie musician with an accent. . . . .
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Jane finally married when she was the ripe old age of 16—with her mother’s blessing. The church they married in was forever dubbed the “Church of the Circus People” in our minds. My family flinched at the little people, the hobblers, the amputees, and the greasy masses. There was an extraordinary number of deformed people in that church. Jane cried with joy the entire wedding. The reception included a delicate blend of tuna fish sandwich quarters and pimiento sandwich quarters. It was a redneck shotgun wedding. We all expected to see a bulging belly protruding from Jane at any moment. Why else would she marry so young? Well, we were wrong. She had not been pregnant, and did not become pregnant in her 12 year marriage. She was simply ready to be important to someone.
Jane is now 30. She is divorced from her abusive, controlling husband. She is the adult in her relationship with her mother. She worked for 9 years at the same place, until recently (laid off). She didn’t flee her marriage to live with her mother and her newest stepdad—she found herself an apartment.
I met her for a drink and to listen to some music one night a few weeks ago. We talked, laughed, and discussed her dreams. She is barely scraping by and looking for work, but she is going to a technical college. She has dated, and already ended a relationship because she knew she deserved better. She is . . . . a beautiful, strong, independent woman.
I dropped her off at her house after a few hours, and as I drove away, I was overcome with emotion. As I maneuvered the winding roads, I thought of the disheveled child that annoyed us, the wedding that shocked us, and the husband that concerned us. You could not see or predict any of those scenarios when looking at her today. Tears filled my eyes as I thanked God for keeping her safe throughout the marriage. For keeping her sane throughout her childhood. And for giving her the resolve she needed to start over.
I actually prayed one of those really hard prayers. A prayer where your heart cries one thing, and your mind tries to stifle it, knowing you may well regret that prayer. But, after a moment of hesitation, I did it anyway:
“God, give her the desires of her heart. She has overcome so much. Show her your love and your blessings. I will give up the desires of my heart, if it means giving Jane hers. She deserves it more than I do.”
I hesitate to even write that. It’s such a deep, personal, difficult thing to think, worse to utter, and nearly impossible to write. When it is written, it is proof. I did it. Maybe God wouldn’t withhold my desires over a goofy prayer. But the reality is, I thought it, I voiced it, I wrote it. It is a plea from my heart to God.
Following that prayer, I texted her: “When u left my car i almost cried. U have overcome so much, and become a vibrant, beautiful, intelligent woman. So many prayers have been sent your way thru the years. I am proud to be your cousin.”
The following day, she responded via text: “Just wanted to tell u that I love u…you made me feel so good after your text ya sent me last night. I now know people see how proud I am of myself too.”
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
And she began a harrowing tale of marrying into a very wealthy and very controlling family in Kentucky. After years of emotional abuse, and fearing for the future of her sons (and after hearing of sexual abuse that the youngest had endured), she filed for divorce. She had not worked outside of the home, so she had limited financial means to fight for her freedom and her boys. A very nasty legal battle ensued that was devastating. In the end, she had no proof of abuse, was labeled emotionally unfit, and lost custody of her boys. She was awarded limited visitation. Fearing for her boys, she visited them one day and fled with them. She took them to Kansas, where she had them for a few months before being found. She served 90 days in jail, and lost all parental rights.
Her boys contacted her a few times on the sly, but Karen was informed that they were severely punished when caught, and they stopped trying to reach her at all. Out of fear for them, she didn't attempt to contact them.
“When people ask me if I have children, I tell them no. They wouldn’t understand how I can let go of my children. People assume I was an unfit mother or I was doing something illegal. But I let go of them because I didn’t have a choice. I did all I knew to do, short of killing their father.” She had tears running down her face by now.
She hoped eventually they would understand that she fought for them. She started over in Oklahoma and earned a degree from OU. She had to move on, in case they did find her one day. At that time, she had no contact with them for years, and the oldest was nearing adulthood.
I have never had to let go of anything that serious. I have had to let go of a marriage, along with many relationships and careers. I usually stayed in them much longer than I should have. I don’t let go easily of things I care about. But I’ve done it enough I should be a pro at it by now.
Today I’ve been thinking a lot about letting go of some things once and for all, and Karen came to mind. I had let go of these things previously--or so I thought. But the desire for a husband and a child, along with other things, have continued to bother me periodically. Apparently, I've continued to secretly hope for them. If my friend can let go of such a huge part of herself, I can let go of these small things in my heart. Her desires were tangible--they were human, and she had once held them in her arms. Mine are mostly intangible, and only ideas and dreams.
I have held onto them for so long that letting go isn’t easy. It’s going to be a long process. But I have to do it, before bitterness becomes a permanent part of who I am. I don't want to be bitter, but I am. I hate to say, "Stop dreaming" or "give up hope". But for my own peace, I believe I need to do just that. I need to live in the now, because tomorrow is too uncertain.
As an end to this story, Karen contacted me again a few years later. Her oldest son had found her through the internet while serving in Afghanistan. He then paved the way for her to obtain custody of her youngest son, since he was a witness to abuses in the home and was now willing to go public with it. The last I spoke with her, she had remarried, and her sons were with her.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
As a kid, I was the girl who pretended not to be severely depressed and contemplating suicide. Doing so would mean my parents were failures and the church would be sorely disappointed in them.
In church, I was the good Christian girl who followed the rules. When things were said that I didn't agree with, I silently disagreed and hoped no one asked my opinion (and God help me, I disagree with much of mainstream religion). I always felt like I was hiding my true feelings.
While in college, I tried to be a good christian girl and not be a party freak. Granted, I had no money to party on and no friends to party with. But I was struggling with my own desires to be social, and my christian teachings that my environment should consist of other christians only.
When I was out of college and living in Dallas, I tried to be a party girl. I really tried. But I was not comfortable with myself at all. I thought I was ugly and fat. And I didn't know how to be in a social setting. I was completely overwhelmed by it all.
I married a man with about as many friends as I had. That means we had little to no social life. We were never our truest, authentic selves to each other. I always held back my thoughts, desires, opinions, hopes, etc. I was afraid he would disapprove of them. And he didn't let me in on his, so I was afraid to announce mine.
After my divorce, I couldn't hold my head high anymore. I was ashamed of failing in marriage. And all of these emotions poured out of me. All of these expectations and let downs poured out in a sea of tears. I couldn't fake having it together anymore. I had to be the Kristi that God made, because being the Kristi that my church and family had made was failing me horribly.
After taking a codependency class, and subsequently teaching it, I found that I am not so freakish or unusual. And it was OK to be real. It is OK to be the odd person that God made me. It was OK, and even a bit humorous, to be myself and to laugh at myself. The more I understood me, the more I became me, the happier I was.
So, at the tender age of almost 37, when my friends told me I was "real" it was touching. It's been a long road getting here.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Dieting is a bitch. Food is my biggest addiction. I have no will power when it comes to sweets. Reunions, holidays, house warming parties, etc. They are all kicking my fat, white butt. Cake and sweets are everywhere. I’m a very picky eater-- I don’t like most veggies. So finding a good balance is hard. The Southbeach diet ruled out fruit for 2 weeks. I really love fruit, since I don’t get enough veggies. I did great on that until I came into contact with cake. (mmmm, cake.) Yeah, I was totally derailed after that. The Zone diet has “blocks” that overwhelm me. Weight Watchers has points, but I tend to use my points on crap and skip the healthy stuff. Jenny Craig has food I don’t like. I have an excuse for all of it, and it boils down to me not being able to say no to sweets and breads. So I’ve decided to do something different—I’m cutting out the starches and lowering the carbs, and eating more greens, more protein, more fruit. It’s a change to a healthier diet, without measuring or counting anything, and without expecting to lose chunks of fat per week..
Also, I have to change my focus. I will never arrive at a certain size and be able to maintain it unless I’m FOREVER on a restricted diet. I will never be the high metabolism person who can eat her cake and ice cream without paying a price. So I will not one day be able to eat anything I want. I will forever have to keep my weight in check.
My family struggles with my desire to change my diet. They get testy when I say, “I can’t eat that” or “Can I have that without the bread?” and “Can we make some green beans instead of chips?”. At work, our chef has started her “summer, figure friendly” meals, which is basically a sandwich and chips. Umm, that’s not healthy at all. So I find myself with a drawer full of green bean cans at work now, along with a can opener. I have my own salad dressing that I keep with me. I now take vitamins (a probiotic, a digestive enzyme, cod liver oil, and B-12) to help me poop, help me digest, give me energy, and help my heart and inflammation. I am lugging this bag of paraphernalia with me—vitamins, food, and exercise gear (and sometimes skates)—and it gets frustrating at times.
I am still going to the gym, and skating on Wednesdays. I have 4 more sessions with my trainer and I’m finished. I still have my gym membership, and I have a lot of info and exercises to keep me busy. I am stronger now, and I can feel it. I’m always sore somewhere on my body.
But I have to learn to say NO to the potatoes and corn and bread and cake and ice cream and French fries and brownies. . . . . .. ..
God, give me strength!!!
Monday, June 1, 2009
No matter your views on why he should/should not be in church, and abortions at any stage of fetal development, killing him was equivalent to judging him and his character. It was basically saying, “God, you are an idiot to allow this man to live, so I will be the judge and jury in your place. Maybe next time you will get it right!” If you think that he deserved it because fetuses died at his hands, you are acting as judge yourself. Whether he did the right or wrong thing, killing him does not bring justice. Don't forget that we judge others on their actions and ourselves on our intentions.
Christians infuriate me when they use the church as their stepping stool to hurl their judgmental venom at others--especially for highly controversial issues such as this. How quickly the word “love” gets lost in our righteous indignation.
To some Christians, love is not very unconditional. I hope God loves me much greater than I could ever love him or anyone else. I hear his love is unconditional, and I can only pray he is more forgiving than I am.
Friday, May 29, 2009
When I was a child, we had a full set of encyclopedias at home, and a full set of the Childcraft How & Why Library. The Encyclopedias were not very modern by the time I reached high school. But those Childcraft books were awesome. For years, we perused them. One book had nothing but poems and riddles. One book, my favorite, was a book on making things like paper hats and paper sail boats. Lots of crafts to keep a creative child busy. It was my personal volume of self entertainment.
My sister reminded me of those the other day. Somewhere along the line, they were sold or donated or even trashed. I don’t know their fate. But they were awesome. And I see they are still in publication.
Their price tag these days is rather high, but I can’t help but think on the amazing usefulness. Maybe when my niece gets a little older, I will invest in a set of them for her to play with.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Therefore, I have never been one to sweat. Sweat is nasty. It stinks. It’s sticky. It’s uncomfortable. It turns my face bright red for a good hour. It leaves a rash on my chest and arms. And when I get truly, deeply heated, I get swollen glands in my head that are very obvious to anyone who sees me. It’s not pretty, and it takes at least a day to go away. Sweating brings me anxiety. Being hot brings me anxiety. Maybe because I have no control of the sweating. Maybe because it’s been such a foreign thing to me.
My workout routines in the past lasted until. . . . well, until I started to really sweat. Then I would quit. So my workouts were never intense. Now, seeing a personal trainer has me sweating within 3 minutes of beginning our workout. I don’t mean a glisten. I mean a heavy sweat dripping on your cheeks from your hair kind of sweat. The kind where you take a cold shower, and get out only to find yourself still sweating. The kind where an hour later your face is still bright red and people think you are sunburned.
After meeting with my trainer several times now, I have found myself more accepting of sweat. I have grown more comfortable with it. This weekend I mowed my lawn, used the weed eater, and sprayed for weeds and poison ivy. It took me 2 hours in the sun. I usually only work an hour in the heat and take a break. But this time I plowed through. Why? The sweat didn’t bother me as much. I was OK with it. And yes, it was pouring off of me.
I was at a friend’s house this weekend and his air conditioner was not on. This was Sunday afternoon, on a hot day. I walked in and the stuffiness and heat hit me between the eyes. My first instinct was to leave. And I realized the anxiety that being hot has brought me. I went into anxiety mode, and I didn’t want to be there. But I stuck it out and it was all fine.
Now, I remind myself that it’s a purging. My body is releasing unnecessary chemicals when I sweat. It’s a sign that I’m doing something good for me. Even if it is sticky and wet and stinky. It’s a good thing.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
My mother is one of 10 kids, and her father is still living, but in the hospital with a broken hip. He can’t hear well, has no teeth, has weak knees, and needs glasses. However, up until now, he only took 1 pill a day—for cholesterol. He worked out daily on an exercise bike or a rowing machine. He’s still strong mentally as well. Have I mentioned he is almost 92?
Grandpa was not a lovey dovey kind of man when I was young. Grandma gave the hugs. He and grandma would argue nonstop about everything. I heard stories of his harshness with his kids and his wife, though I never saw it. But when Granny died and he felt her loss, it all changed. He hugs me when he sees me now, and when we depart company.
Lying in that hospital bed, I have seen him transition from determination to get back home, to being angry and unsure if he has any hope left. I have watched as my relatives catered to his complaints about the nurses, the physical therapist, the food, the pains, the aches, the pills, etc. My mom had expressed her fears that he’s given up, and she just felt helpless, unsure of what to say to him.
During a recent visit, he informed me he won’t walk again, and my Deckard came out:
“Grandpa, why won’t you walk again?” I asked very directly—a little miffed at his statement, knowing the doctor had told him he can walk and will walk.
“Because I can’t.”
“The doctor says you can.”
“Yes, he does. But I just don’t know, myself.”
“Aren’t you a Deckard? Deckards are mean and hardheaded. We don’t give up that easily, do we? You can’t let this beat you!”
“You will only be bound to this bed if you want to be, grandpa. It’s going to take work, but you can and you will do it.”
Maybe I was too abrupt. But I wanted him to know that he’s not a lost cause. His kids won’t stand up to him, because they fear and respect him as a tough father. But I do not know that man. I only know my grandpa who doesn’t show weakness and who is always sure of himself. I’ve never been so direct at him, and he seemed to like it. And since I had already shown an unusual boldness, I decided to broach a subject I’ve been afraid to ask about for years:
“Grandpa, I wanna hear about World War II.”
“You do? Why?”
“I want to know what you did. Where you went. Why you joined the navy.”
He looked a little taken back, and then he went deep in thought. Suddenly, the memories rolled off his tongue. As he spoke, he forgot his aches, and stopped complaining about pains. He chided himself for forgetting names from 75 years ago. He would take pauses to make sure he wasn’t confusing 2 different stories. And as he spoke, I began to massage his feet. We joked that we had a barter going on. As I massaged, he spoke. He exercised his arms and showed me how strong he still is, and I provided resistance to make him work harder. He began moving his legs and feet for me. It was like he had a purpose—to leave his legacy. I left on cloud nine, with stories in my head and realizing that this was as good for me as it was for him.
The next day, as I arrived, I found the buzzards (relatives) circling, and he was complaining again about the nurses, the pain, the physical therapist. I was immediately deflated.
But when I reminded him of our good discussion the day before, he began telling his stories again. He would say, “Write this down!” And I would scramble for a pen to get details down. He told the same stories from the day before, only this time with more detail as he was able to recollect more of the past. And the complaints ended. The pain was not an issue. The stories were the focus.
And this time, some of his kids were present, listening in awe and wonder. My Aunt Ruby kept looking at me in awe. “I’ve never heard this stuff! But I always wondered! Please write it down!”
And so, I’m compiling his stories. I’m recording history through his eyes. I’m in awe of the opportunity to do so. Sometimes we have divine moments, where we know we are at a certain place at a certain time for a reason. And this was one of those.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Recently, a coworker and I had been discussing our old roller dreams. I was then invited to go skating with my friend Darren and I pounced on it. He told me it’s hilarious and will give me flashbacks.
Last night, I walked into Skateland, overwhelmed by the smell of stinky shoes and sweat. It was adults only night, and cheap entertainment. I selected a pair of brown, skanky, skates from their wall of rentals and laced them up (and praying they put some Lysol in each pair). I realized that the place looked much as it did many, many, many years ago. I wonder if they have cleaned the carpets since then . . . . .
As soon as I stood in my skates, I realized – I’m not 11 anymore! Keeping my balance was tough. My anxieties overwhelmed me, but I was determined to persevere. So before I began to skate, I took in the view. Most patrons brought their own skates. You could see them adjusting the wheels before they put them on. The music was from the 80’s. All ages were there, with the typical male tricksters in the middle showing off their skating skills: jumps, splits, break dancing on skates. They would chat with each other, and then continue with the same tricks over and over and over again. I wondered if any of those men had ever been on a date………
People were skating and grooving to the music at the same time. These people were regulars, and they didn’t fit into a specific social class. They were all ages, all sizes, and all colors. After an hour of skating, one gentleman retired to a seat and hooked oxygen up to his nose before taking to the rink again. That’s what I call determination!
It took me an hour to be able to skate without holding onto the side, without worrying that the faster folks would trip me up, and without zoning into my own world of “don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall!”. Darren tried to goad me on, and I snapped, “Fat girls fall hard!” But I kept trying, as the sweat poured down my face. Immediately my feet ached. Flat feet and crappy skates don’t mix. Then my quads ached. Then, my back ached exponentially more than I have ever known it to hurt.
In the end, I was able to skate without holding on, was able to let go of the fear that someone would run me over. I never fell down! But a big inspiration was an older gentleman. He hadn’t been skating in 60 years. If he could do it, so could I! So he and I slowly found our balance, our courage, and our old skating groove.
Would I do it again? Absolutely!
Friday, May 8, 2009
I have been using my sweetleaf sweatner (Stevia), drinking my warm lemon water in the morning and water or herbal tea all day. Last night, I caught myself drinking an entire 20 oz bottle of water. I don't think I've ever done that. I was parched! I purchased a tea that was unsweet, and realized that I had left my sweetener at home. You know what? I liked the tea without it. Shockingly, I drank unsweet tea.
Monday was OK, but Tuesday I thought I would die if I didn't eat an entire cake and batch of croissants. I wanted carbs and sugar so badly! I admit, I had a cigarette, and have been a bad little girl (but not completely taken it back up again, but still not "good"). I was in hell. I was also crashing randomly in the day. (I found out that may have been from the protein shake with the fructose, but it also may be my body dealing with the diet change and the lack of sugars it normally gets energy from). By the third day, Wednesday, I woke up and felt great. I felt good on the inside, which I haven't felt in a long time. So the workout just topped off a good day.
My threelac came in the mail and I've taken it for a few days now. It's a powder that you down with some liquid. Not too bad, but kinda gross. It helps with digestion and eating away the bad yeast that has overtaken my stomach. I am using oxygen drops in my drinks to see if that has positive effects.
Also as inspiration, 3 of us at work began this journey on our own. None of us consulted with the other--we just happen to all be 37-40 years old and want to feel better. 2 of us are seeing trainers, and 1 is an organic food and supplement guru that let her weight and intake go south. So we are sharing body changes, emotional changes, and struggles with each other. It's great to have someone else who's a little ahead of you or who knows more than you to talk about the process with.
My diet has changed in that I 'm taking in much fewer carbs and sugars. I'm still eating plenty. Right now, this is a drastic start for me. Cutting portions will come soon enough.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Now, I did have a few classes my freshman year of college that I rarely attended, and found myself very nervous at test time because I realized my mistake in blowing off the classes. However, I attended enough to know when tests were, what homework was due, etc. And I passed both classes. I have this dream when I am very stressed at work. I have it when I am overwhelmed and frustrated with myself. But when I'm naked in the dream, it's when I've found myself in a very vulnerable position. for whatever reason, I feel exposed emotionally.
Why, 4 years after my divorce, this man has crept into my dreams escapes me. And why it's recurring just drives me nuts. I honestly believe that if he came back, the feelings I had in my dreams are the same I would have in reality--apathy and disinterest. I have no desire to rekindle anything, because there wasn't much kindling there the first time. So it leaves me wondering what it means . . . .
Sunday, May 3, 2009
“B-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-g” She whispered as if in awe.
After I put duct tape on Julia’s mouth . . . . . just kidding. I laughed on the outside, and was sad on the inside.
Food addiction is the true problem in my family, and weight is the result. Sweets, carbs, obesity, anorexia, bulimia. The Davis’ have it all somewhere in the tree. I have had digestive issues since I was a tot, which is common in the Davis'. I only began gaining weight after a nasty breakup in my early twenties, but the gain was small until life got REALLY stressful. Late twenties brought on more stress and more weight. Early thirties brought on divorce, unemployment, and more over eating. I have 6 cousins who have had gastric bypass, if that gives you any indication of the severity of food abuse in my family.
I have been on every diet. I have a stack of weight watchers books that is embarrassing. Sure, the program works, but I lose the weight and gain more back. And so, I am realizing the need to end the “diet” thinking. I need a lifestyle overhaul.
I joined a gym last week. I get 2 free sessions with a trainer, the first being a body evaluation. I hoped they didn’t pull out calipers, because I didn’t want to have to shove them up the trainer’s ass. But they didn’t. However, I now have an accurate reading of my weight, fat percentage, and weight goals. The importance of goals is something the trainer stressed. I realized that I have never had a goal of a healthier lifestyle. I’ve only had a goal to lose weight. I have missed the whole point.
An interesting thing that the trainer pointed out is that Weight Watchers is a great program that helps you to cut your intake. But it doesn’t rid of the addiction to sugar. Instead, we find lower cal ways to get that sugar into our systems. She feels I need to address my addiction, and the weight loss will follow.
The trainer suggested, from my descriptions and experiences, that I have candida in my belly. I’m going to start taking a few supplements, working out, and eating healthier. Sure, I want to lose 100 lbs. But what I would love is to have energy again. To feel good again. To have a strong immune system again. To not feel a slave to my diet.
I’ll let you know how it goes . . .
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
I am quitting. I have quit many times before, only to allow myself to cave in to the addiction, the camaraderie, the breaks. But the longer I smoke, the more I smoke.
I don’t consider myself a smoker. I just always knew I would quit one day, since I've done it in the past. But quitting has become harder and harder. As I smoke more, I find myself getting ill more often, battling bronchitis a few times a year and coughing year round. My clothes and car stink. If I smoke in my house---which has only happened a few times---I feel guilty for giving my dogs second hand smoke.
I have developed a slight cough, and when I laugh I can’t breathe. I can’t talk or sing for long without taking a breath. A coworker coughs so hard on a regular basis that I fully expect to see a black lung land on her desk one day as she coughs it up. Splat! I am surrounded by smokers at work.
My niece was making a coughing noise the other day, and my sister asked, “Are you choking?” “No mama, I cough like Kristi.” Tina started laughing, and I did to. But the seriousness of the comment wasn’t lost on me. It made me ashamed.
I have tried over and over to quit. My coworkers have made it hard to quit, by talking me into smoking with them. But I’m easily swayed. This weekend I went to San Antonio and couldn’t smoke the whole trip. So it got me through the first 3 days of non-smoking.
Now I’m on day 5. So far, so good.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
I have had my house for 7 years, and for a few of those years my dad mowed the lawn. He hated to see my glands swelling in my face and neck each week. He began reporting snake sightings to me after mowing, and it scared me. One time he was taken back by the size of one and it scurried away before he could nail it. He threatened to begin mowing with a machete, but became ill and couldn’t mow anymore.
I’ve been mowing again for about 3 years now, and snake sightings are typical in my yard. The first time I saw one, I immediately went online to find out the danger I was dealing with. It was a typical garter snake that only leaves an itchy place if bitten (and they usually don’t break the skin). I decided that if they can’t break my skin, it’s doubtful they are getting through the hair of my dogs.
Last year Leroy is the name I bestowed upon the snake living under my shed. He was small, and poked his head out periodically as I pulled out my mower. I haven’t seen him this year, yet. I have learned to not fear them so much—especially the smaller ones—after killing a few with the lawn mower, weed eater, sticks, etc. Now, I give them a chance to slither away. Why?
They eat mice. They eat insects. They eat frogs.
As I was mowing last night, I suddenly saw a snake up ahead. He was the biggest yet. Not in length, but in girth. I had that moment of “what to do? He’s in the path of my lawnmower . . . . “ when he slithered away at amazing speed, through my chain link fence and into the neighbor’s yard (which is rarely mowed). I hope he comes back and feeds on mice and insects. On a side note, it’s really cool to see them suddenly slither away at such speed.
I wonder if my dogs have had meetings with the snakes. Probably so. Sidney is curious enough to try to catch and play with one, but she also has a husky coat to protect her. Sam would run if one raised its head at him.
I’m not saying I’m a snake lover. Not at all. I have a good dose of fear and have no interest in “petting” a snake. But I’m learning to respect their role in the ecosystem.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
She was born Elsie Mae Cooley in Blackgum, OK. She was raised at the bottom of Tenkiller Lake, before it was evacuated and flooded in order to create a man-made lake. She married her childhood sweetheart , Richard Davis. That began a long, hard journey of marriage, kids, grandkids, war, and poverty. They were Okies who headed west to California in order to find work. They returned to Oklahoma and bought a piece of land in West Tulsa, and lived out of a tent with their children until their house was built.
My grandfather was a machinist. My grandmother was a stay at home mom, giving birth to 10 children who lived past infancy and into adulthood, and possibly 2 more that did not make it past their first few months. Grandma was a Pentecostal woman, with a deep faith in God. Grandpa was an alcoholic who knew that no matter what he did, he had a faithful wife waiting at home for him. He may not have been faithful, and he may have been abusive at times, and he may have been a scrapper, but she loved him.
She became pregnant with my dad, her youngest, when she was 42. Ashamed at being pregnant yet again at such a ghastly age, she tried to keep the pregnancy very low key. Dad was born April 29th, 1950, right after she turned 43, a preemie weighing under 2 lbs. Both nearly died, and both spent the years following with health issues. My grandmother had a weak heart, and my father grew up in fear of losing his mom.
Grandma was a rock for my dad, and she shaped who he is today in so many ways. By the time my dad was born, my grandfather had mellowed with age. Grandpa died in 1970, when my mom was pregnant with my sister. Grandma died after my sister was born, in 1971. My dad was 21 and had lost both of his parents.
I was born in 1972, so I missed out on ever seeing my grandmother. But I know she sees me. I have heard so many stories of her, and I am filled with admiration for her. She held her head high, through some horrific circumstances. She always had faith in God. My mom loved her almost as much as my dad. When I was a kid, age 11, I remember suddenly being overwhelmed with a feeling of her presence. It was a hard time for me socially, and I remember just sensing that she was near and watching over me. I never discussed it, because I knew it sounded weird. I just knew in my heart that someone very comforting was with me.
So, happy birthday grandma!
Friday, March 20, 2009
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow weed,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
By Robert Frost, 1915
I always wanted to do something exceptional, something different from the norm. To pave the way for others. To leave a legacy. I felt like I was made for something really big and unique. I think all of us feel this way at some point. But most people follow the path of least resistance, out of obligation. Life and duty smothers the fires of our hearts, until we forget what the fire was about and what it felt like.
I cannot say that I have lived an exceptional life or have exceptional accomplishments to gloat about. I’m actually very hum-drum, very vanilla (and a little nutty). I have still not done anything I’m exceptionally proud of. But I am plagued with curiosity, and have left the beaten path many times to examine the brush, animals, and aromas that cannot be found on the trails. Each time, I enjoyed the freedom and chose not to return to my old path, but found a new one to connect with. And so, my life has been full of changes—good and bad. My life would have been simpler had I never left the path, but I’m afraid I would have died of boredom. I have invited some heartache and frustrations with my curiosity and my own impatience. In all, however, I don’t regret the risks I’ve taken.
Per Garth Brooks, “…Life is not tried it is merely survived when you’re standing outside the fire.”
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
We had a young adults meeting once, and he came. At the time I was about 21, and he was in his 80’s. He talked about how being single was our chance to really allow God to be our mate.
Blah, blah, blah. I didn’t want to hear that, when I wanted someone to share my bills, take out the trash, change my flat tires, and cook me dinner.
But then he started telling us , one by one, about ourselves. When he came to me he said, “You have a mantle of a missionary on you.”
( Insert cascading violins.)
My sister was always the pretty one, the smart one, the future minister, the one who would travel the world and who would do great things for God. I was the red-headed step child, so to speak. I was younger and was skipped over (at least in my own mind). But here, someone told me that God had a call for me that was wonderful. My heart immediately filled with joy at the thought of God bestowing such a title to me. I had grand visions of Africa, India, feeding the poor, sacrificing in the name of Jesus, martyring my life away. (All of these thoughts occurred within about a 3 second period). Tina wasn’t the only one God cared about after all!
He continued: “But, not all missionaries go overseas you know. We have plenty of people who need our help in our own back yards.”
(Insert the sound of the needle ripping across the LP and killing all music.)
“You will be as a gentle, quiet stream that flows through peoples’ lives. They won’t even realize you are there, affecting them as you do.”
Say what? I'm going to be a missionary to the Christian nation of the United States of America? Who ever heard of that?
At least I had a mantle on me, right? At least God acknowledged me, right? Another time a lady told me that I was an alabaster box that God would break open, and the perfume of my spirit would fill those around me with God’s aroma. Hmm. That sounded cooler. I can handle the fancy box of perfume better than being a stream.
Oh, how I completely missed the point!
I always secretly held onto that dream of being a missionary overseas. Until the reality of life slapped me in the face. You know the drill---marriage, debt, student loans, dogs, mortgages, insurance. And the desire to be a traveling missionary faded. It just wasn’t in the cards. But a local missionary? Not me. I don’t like people enough.
And now, I’m 36, and looking back at my life. Maybe there was truth in those prophecies. I know I have affected people. I know I’ve managed to touch some lives. But I also know that I’m not amazing enough to affect anyone myself. I’m snide, I’m sarcastic, I’m moody, I’m easily offended, I’m messy, I’m impatient, and I’m very, very guarded. Does that sound like a person who has a positive effect on people? Maybe that’s why God has chosen to give me this “mantle.” There’s no way I’ve been able to help people with my charm. It’s been God’s charm. God’s love. God’s lure. There’s no real doubt here that it’s God, because I couldn’t do it on my own!
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I was raised nondenominational. I knew I wouldn’t find the same belief system, but I wanted something fairly similar. I also didn’t want to drive across the DFW metroplex. I found a church near me. So one Sunday, I told my husband, “I’m going to church. You can come with me if you want.” “No.” I knew the answer, but I was scared to go alone. My stomach was already in knots at the thought of going into a church alone.
I put on my dress and heels—Sunday garb—and headed to the massive church I had selected to attend. I arrived, and sat in the car. Scared. Stomach churning. I was here. Now all I had to do was get out of the car. I sat there, and finally forced myself to get out. I selected a seat in the back, and tried to look calm. I wanted to run home to safety. So many people were around me, and they all seemed to know each other. It compounded how alone I was. I was afraid for someone to talk to me; I didn’t want to cry, but I didn’t want to fake a smile either. A lady sat next to me and asked, “Are you new?” I nodded. “Are you married?” “I’m going through a divorce.” I choked back the tears. “I’m so sorry. Well, it’s good to have you.” Thank God she kept it simple!
As the worship began, I bawled. I knew God had never abandoned me, but I knew I had abandoned him. And yet, he was still by my side. Just waiting for me--sitting shiva--to ask for his help. And I did.
I wish I could say that God saved my marriage because of my pleas. But Todd’s heart had already been set—he wanted his freedom for his own reasons that I will never know. Maybe he was cheating. Maybe he was never as devoted to the idea of marriage as I was. Lots of maybes that no longer matter. What does matter is that I took that step. I walked into church, alone. I had already been crying out to God. But being a well-churched girl growing up, I longed for that connection that you find in church. To me, church is a reminder to keep God close. In my mind, I needed to make that step to show him I wanted him as much—actually more—than I wanted my husband.
I only attended twice. My marriage dissolved quickly. I went to my mom’s church in Tulsa, and they had a special song that they sang. It was a song I had heard many times growing up, but it suddenly had meaning to me for the first time. I bawled from the depths of my soul, because I had never imagined such a deep valley could exist. And people would say, “Oh, just have faith. Just pray. Just believe in God to heal your marriage.” Those are hollow words if you haven’t been through a divorce.
You may recognize the song:
Life Is Easy, When Your Up On The Mountain
Just because you go through crap in life, doesn’t mean God has abandoned you. He’s still there. Just because people trivialize your pain and say, “Just give it to God” as they smile and go back to their picture-perfect lives, doesn’t mean that God doesn’t understand your pain. Faith isn’t putting on a smile and pretending it’s all OK—that’s denial. Sometimes it’s just living life. It’s just praying. It’s just trusting that you will be OK in the next 10 years or so and sticking it out to see the end result. Faith is a minute by minute acknowledgement that I cannot control everything, and admitting I’m scared, and asking for God’s help, and trudging along with the resolve that no matter what happens, I’m gonna stick it out. Because I know that God has my best at heart.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I am overwhelmed. I get this way from time to time. I get very selfish and anxious and testy. I struggle with the balance of giving myself but also saving a little bit of myself back. I mentally commit to so many things in my mind, and when my physical world cannot live up to my mental commitments, I feel like a failure.
My job is stressful. I have a lot of bosses. I have a lot of random duties. I like it, because I tend to get bored very easily. There is a certain level of security in having so many responsibilities. There is an excitement with new ones. But the truth is, I get overwhelmed from the pressure of it. And I get overwhelmed from the pressure of life—bills, the recession, the family health problems, and obligations. Every now and then, I just get . . . . . . . overwhelmed.
These are the times I find it hard to be social. I find it hard to be the person I want to be. Because I just want to hide and lay low and weather the storm. I know it will pass. I know things will change. Age and time have shown this to be true. But it’s being a lone pillar that wears me out. I’m standing alone.
Through the wind.
Through the rain.
Through the blazing heat.
Through the fires and tornadoes.
If I fall, I fall alone. So I don’t allow myself to fall. And if I show the cracks in my structure, I could be a target for bored vandals. So I stand strong. Hiding the soft, sandy interior underneath the solid surface of stone and mortar.
And every now and then, I become emotionally spent. I find myself in a state of shock, where little by little, different parts of me shut down. I know it’s a safety mechanism in my brain. It’s a way to keep going by conserving energy.
I’m sure most adults feel this way. After years of weathering life, we are thankful for what we’ve overcome, but also tenuous about what we have yet to endure. We bellow “how much longer?” to an invisible God. But magically, we endure. And the storms pass. And we find ourselves walking through a meadow with sunshine warming our backs to counter the coolness of a hearty breeze.
I’m waiting for my meadow.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
I sat in my first hour English class, Miss Pilkington. She was brash. She laid out the rules, the curriculum, the expectations. She gave the correct pronunciation of her name, “Pil-KING-ton, not Pilkinton. If you cannot pronounce it correctly, do not say my name.” She wasn't kidding, as she pursed her lips and gazed across the room to make sure we all heard it. Great, I surmised, this is going to be hell for 9-1/2 months.
Turns out, Miss Pilkington was stoic and guarded, but she had a heart for her students.
I specifically remember one day, out of nowhere, she told the class, “If you ever need to talk, I will listen. My mother tried to commit suicide and I’ve been through a lot.” Did anyone take her up on that? I don’t know. Surely not me, because I was still deciphering my depression. I thought I had a birth defect or a curse or a punishment from God looming over me. I had not pinpointed my problem as anxiety or depression at this time. I just knew I was . . . . “different”. But the idea that such a disciplined and demanding teacher threw out such a personal story and plea, stopped me in my tracks. I liked her after that. I felt a connection to her, even though I never sought her counsel.
One day, she presented a class exercise that sent groans across the room. She handed out a piece of paper from her note pad to every student. The paper was very small—about 2” by 3”-- with a drawing of a mouse at the top. Written on the back of the paper was an individual’s name that was in the class. Our assignment? Write a compliment about that person—anonymously—on the inside. How random is that? So, we all slowly looked around the room, wrote our compliments, and turned them in. Who knew it would be so hard. The next day, she returned them so we could read what others had to say about us. I opened mine, and I held my breath. I knew what the compliment would be, and I knew it was going to be shallow. I had few friends, and didn’t open up well. No one knew me well enough in this class to give a good compliment. I opened it, and sure enough it was the typical, “You have pretty hair”. Blah! But underneath the anonymous peer’s handwriting was also a compliment that Miss Pilkington had written. “You have a great speaking voice. You would be good in plays.” We each walked away that day with 2 compliments. One from a peer, and one from a mentor. What brought on such an assignment, I will never know.
Me a good speaker? My voice cracks. My tone is more monotone than interesting. I lose my train of thought too easily. How could I be a good speaker? Had I ever spoken in class? Only when called upon. Wow. That compliment was a boost. I kept that paper in my wallet for 10 years until I finally lost it.
As I went through college, I found that nearly all of my senior classes required a presentation. I hated speaking in public. But I always hearkened back to that note. If Miss Pilkington thinks I can speak well, then I can do this! And I always did.
In 2000, I sent her a letter. That was 10 years after high school graduation. I thanked her for the compliment. I explained that my emotional state was frail at the time, and the comment about her mother was comforting. No one knew the mental war that was in my head daily, the thoughts of suicide, the anxiety, the hopelessness. But even more beautiful was the compliment, which I still carried with me. Something so small made a huge impact.
I lost the paper immediately after writing that letter. I looked everywhere for it, but it just vanished. A month later, I received a reply from her. She said it was always good to hear that she made a difference in someone’s life, and usually you never know if you did. You just hope.
Since I lose everything that I touch, I am amazed I kept that paper for so long. Maybe it stayed with me as a reminder to thank such an influential person. Maybe she truly needed her own compliment at the moment she received it. And since I accomplished the goal, the paper was no longer necessary.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
I had been laid off from a construction job and had difficulty finding another in a slow time for construction. I was fed up, however, with the whole industry. I began to look at other options. I found myself checking out a massage school program, and enrolled. As part of the program, we had to accumulate intern hours where we actually performed massages outside of the classroom. An opportunity opened up to massage hospice patients and caregivers on a volunteer basis. I signed up, knowing that it really fulfilled 2 purposes – my desire to help people, and my desire to graduate.
I was able to massage cancer patients and 3 caregivers after a short time. I enjoyed my time with each. And then I received a phone call about another patient—close to my age. A man, Bryan, with a muscle disease. HIPA prevents the hospice from giving any other information. I nervously called his home, and made the appointment through his father. I would be lying if I said the thought didn’t scare the poop out of me. What would he look like? I envisioned a wheelchair bound person who could not hold his head up, who drooled, and could not communicate. I assumed it was a problem from birth.
I nervously approached the door to the family’s home, in my scrubs, with my massage lotion in tow, and my racing heart. Bryan’s mother answered the door, and ushered me up the staircase to the 2nd floor. Bryan’s room was at the end of a hallway. I entered, in terror. What I saw, was not anything I expected.
I saw a young, dark headed man with blazing blue eyes lying in bed. He looked as nervous as I felt. He was not drawn up, he was not drooling. He was deathly skinny, and his limbs were stiff, but he looked normal. I introduced myself, and promptly began to massage with care because I was afraid of small talk. He informed me that he wasn’t going to break. His speech was understandable, but he struggled at times to get it out.
Bryan’s gleaming eyes spoke volumes. He was vibrant on the inside. After massaging him, he told me he had Lou Gerigh’s (ALS) disease. It came on him suddenly, and no one knows the origin of such a curse. It hits randomly. It is the disease that is usually behind assisted suicides. Healthy people quickly degenerate, unable to feed themselves, to walk, to communicate. They are alive on the inside, and dead on the outside. It’s a horrible way to die. Usually, they suffocate to death, within a few short years of diagnosis. The only treatments merely buy you a few more months. Every muscle atrophies.
Bryan kept asking questions. And I found myself completely at ease. We laughed as I massaged. We talked about who he was before the illness—he had worked on computers and was independent and was healthy.
His family called the hospice and requested I return. They said Bryan's demeanor was nearly his old self again after I left.
I began to make a weekly trek to his home. Massaging him. Talking to him. Laughing with him. He would have a flower for me every time in the beginning. I would stay after the massage and we would watch Dr. Phil. And I found myself falling for this dying man.
I grew to love Bryan. Coming from bad relationships and a failed marriage, this guy couldn’t hurt me. He was safe. He couldn’t disappoint me. And I believed in the power of miracles. Couldn’t God heal him? Wouldn’t he? I had never been so open with a man in my life. Bryan taught me to bare my soul, and be OK with it. He didn’t care about my oddities or my social inadequacies. We would go to movies and dinner. We went to the museum. He was able to his arms slightly and operate his wheelchair when we met.
My parents met and loved Bryan. I saw an amazing love in them that made me proud. They treated him as if he was one of us, and never flinched taking him into public. He loved them as well. They prayed with me for him. They were not ashamed of him.
Over time, Bryan deteriorated more and more. I can’t tell you how hard it was to see that happen. Eventually, he struggled to operate his own wheelchair. His speech became less understandable. He had a feeding tube. I took him to a healing service at my local church once, much to his mother’s disgust. Nothing happened—no healing, no changes at all. His deterioration was much slower than normal. Unexplainably slow. That was both a blessing and a curse. I had researched other possible reasons for his condition, since he did not fit the ALS mold completely. But no one seemed as interested as I was in finding a better answer to his degeneration. Maybe they had been down that road. And maybe they were tired of fighting.
Bryan’s family was full of bitterness and anger. After being there a while, I realized that there was a constant power play. There was a harshness in that home. Bryan, his mom, and his father were all guilty. They provoked each other. When they felt attacked, they used the most hurtful verbal weapons they could think of against each other. They loved each other, but they hated what had become of their lives. Each of them had dreams, and all were squashed by the illness. Instead of retiring and taking it easy, they were lifting their 35 year old son from chair to chair, dressing him, and making their home more accessible. I began to dread my visits, to avoid his parents, to chide Bryan for his participation in the drama. But it only intensified over time. My stomach would be nervous before each visit.
After a year, I was mentally wasted. I was working 2 jobs – massaging by day and full time graveyard shift at night. I had to fit visits in with Bryan, and always ran on half the rest I needed. Bryan’s lungs filled with fluid and he was hospitalized. The reality of his looming death became even more apparent. He survived, but not without some emotional damage. He wanted our pastor to come by and talk to him, and so I set up a meeting. In the meeting, very little talking occurred, but Bryan cried. And his mom humiliated me by holding a glass of wine and staring the pastor down. She didn’t want anyone to make her son cry (apparently that was reserved for herself and her husband). Our pastor wasn’t welcome, and he left. As did I. In humiliation. In anger. In disgust. In mourning for the way things could have been.
My heart changed. I was taking a codependency class, and I realized that one reason Bryan had been so attractive to me is that he was safe. I was tiring of witnessing the manipulation in his family. And I was just . . . . . . spent. I had nothing left to give to anyone or anything. I had promised Bryan to be there until the end, and I would have, if it were not for his home and his increasing manipulation.
The more I tried to pull away to get a break, the tighter Bryan would hold onto me. He became possessive. He became manipulative toward me, and lied to keep me close. He seemed desperate. And I began to resent it. He had sucked the life out of me. I realized that even if God healed him physically, there was so much dysfunction in his home and his life, that he would still be a shell of a man. He would have to go through intense therapy to shake the craziness of the world he had been bound to since his illness kicked in.
Finally, I walked away, after almost 1-1/2 years. I knew that people would judge me. I knew that they would think I abandoned him. I knew his family would see me as a horrible person. But I couldn’t do it anymore. I had failed Bryan. I had failed myself. But I couldn’t do it anymore. I mourned that decision, but it had to be. My communication had to end, because I was such a victim to his pleas. I had to make a break and not look back, or I would go back and become as bitter as his family.
I now am thankful for my freedom, but find it hard to discuss this relationship with people. I usually get confused looks when I mention I dated a dying man, or I dated a man who was in a wheelchair. The assumption is that I have a screw missing of my own. Until you know someone like that you can’t imagine the humanity of the person and the beauty of their spirit. I have a whole new appreciation for physical challenges. I think Bryan is still alive today—3 years later. His father passed away recently, I saw it in the paper. Some days I wonder if God will heal him and I will pass him on the street one day, in awe. Or if he will find out it's not ALS, get treatment, and then find me and spew anger at me. He's had the disease for 13 years now. Whatever happens, I've made peace with my decision, and followed my heart.