Need a Refill

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I don’t even know what to write about.  All I know is that it helps me to write.

I’m traveling again, and I am lonely.  This is a trip that I’ve taken too many times.  I am at the state capitol for a legislative forum.  While I know that this is important, I also know that I have more important things going on locally.  More immediate issues require my attention.  I have brought staff along with me on this trip so that I can hole up in my hotel room and work from my laptop.  I wish that I could have stayed home, but the bureaucracy I am part of requires that I attend this forum. I tried my best to delay my appearance for an additional day, but that same bureaucracy won’t allow my staff members to drive an official car.  I could have asked them to take one of their personal vehicles, but I just couldn’t.  Even though they would have been reimbursed, it didn’t feel right to ask.  So I drove the official car.   It feels like I am their mother chauffeuring them on a field trip.  They are excited, and I’m happy to see that at least. Continue Reading »

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What Might Have Been

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For all sad words of tongue and pen, the are saddest are these, “It might have been.”

~ John Greenleaf Whittier

Most people in my daily life don’t even know that I once had a daughter named Grace.  It was a long time ago, and there isn’t really any reason to disclose information that will only serve to make someone uncomfortable.  Often, the “face” we present to the world is far different from the person who resides in our hearts.

Thanksgiving is November 24.  It’s a day of family celebration.  I will celebrate along with those around me.  I’ll be thrilled to have all of my kids home and under one roof for several days.  What most people won’t know or won’t remember is that November 24th is also Grace’s birthday.  It would have been her “golden birthday, 24 on the 24th.  I can’t help but think of how things might have been.  What an awesome day to have been able to celebrate her birthday.  Instead, I will remember alone, and I won’t say a word to anyone.  After all, who wants to remember something sad, something that happened so very long ago?

Lately, I have been spending too much time thinking about “what might have been.”  I am standing in the present, but too much of the time;  my head is turned around looking back at the past.  I miss my dad, and it isn’t the same to celebrate Thanksgiving without him.  I miss my grandparents during the holiday season, too.  And Grace.  Thanksgiving will mark the beginning of a time each year when too much of my time is spent remembering and thinking about “what might have been.”

Several years ago, a friend who had lost a child asked me to join her in forming a support group for those who had recently lost babies.  It was at a time in my life when I was very happy.  I had returned to work.  I was moving on and moving forward.  I felt sad for this woman.  I really did.  Her experience had been horrible, but a couple of years had passed since then, and she seemed to still be LIVING for her grief.  She wore her baby’s name and birthstone on a necklace around her neck.  She set a place at the dinner table for her missing child.  While I understood her pain, it made me sad to think of the pain she was causing her children that were THERE.  This woman had defined who she was by her grief, and it scared the hell out of me to see that.  I had to tell her that I could not help her out with the support group, but I also felt the need to gently explain to her that I while losing a child still hurt; it no longer defined who I was.  I offered to help anyone who needed someone to talk to one on one, including her, but I just couldn’t go backwards.  I knew that weekly grief meetings would not be something that would help me in healing and continuing to move forward.

What has happened since then?  SOMETHING has happened, because I am no longer that strong, positive woman who would not allow her life to be defined by grief.  I know from experience that sadness breeds sadness.  One sad thought leads to the next sad thought.  It becomes a vicious cycle.  When it rains, it pours.  I believe that!  Negativity will only lead to more negativity.

I suppose  that by recognizing that I have slipped back to a place that doesn’t feel very good is the first step in pulling myself back up out of the hole.  I’m not sure if happiness is necessarily a choice, but I do know that wallowing in self-pity and looking back at “what might have been” is not congruent with moving on and moving forward.  Negative thoughts, negative feelings, and negative people all need to be pushed out of my life.  While these next few days and weeks will be full of sad reminders, they will also be full of moments full of happiness and joy.  Those are the moments that I need to pull in close, and those are the moments that will help me to become someone who I can be proud of once again.

 

 

 

Who Will Catch Me When I Fall?

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Today is one of those horrible anniversaries of a BAD November day, a day that was most likely the worst day of my life.  I have been thinking a lot about that fact this past week in anticipation of this hated date.  It truly was the worst day of my life, and that makes me feel bad.  It makes me feel guilty.  I have lost loved ones through death, but not on this date.  On this date, my horrible experience was something worse than that of losing someone through death.  That makes me feel bad and guilty, so I have been trying to examine what happened and what went wrong.  Unfortunately, all the fingers point to me.  I have no one to blame but myself for getting to a point in my life where I was truly alone in my pain and grief.

While the experience of losing a child, or my dad, or when Andrew had his terrible accident were all gut-wrenchingly horrible to live through, I didn’t blame myself.  Those things were “just life” or bad luck.  During those terrible times, I felt surrounded by love.  I had a safety net.  I had people there to catch me when I fell and to soften the blow.  On this WORST November day, I was utterly alone.  I was crushed by ugliness, lies, and betrayal, but no one knew.  No one cared.  I had destroyed my safety net.  Those good people who had once been there for me where no longer around.  My dad was gone.  My friends had long since washed their hands of my troubles.  My family was clueless.  I had taught them through my actions to simply “leave me alone,” so they did.

I had made a mess of my life, but I thought I could handle it.  I thought everything would be OK.  That was not the case, though, not on that dark November night.  On that night, the very flimsy ground that was my foundation crumbled out from under me.  No one cared.  I had misplaced my trust.  Those I thought cared, did not.  Those who did care, had no clue.  I was truly alone for the first time in my life.  I wanted to die.  Truly, literally, I wanted to end my own life.  It scares me now to remember that BAD November day.  It scares me that those whom I thought would care, did not.  It scares me that those who did care, had no clue.  It has been a long struggle back from that dark place.  Many times, I have wished for a quick magical cure, but there is no magical cure to the pain life sometimes brings.

Last night, I thought about the times in my life that have been seasons of grief.  I thought about those other, more rational times of grief, and I realized how things have changed in my life in the past several years.  My Dad, my friend and father, he TALKED to me.  He and I talked about anything and everything.  During some of the most horrible times in my life, I could always count on Dad’s daily phone call.  On days when all I wanted was to pull the covers over my head, Dad would call, and I always answered.  We would talk about politics, religion, local news, or current events.  He always had a story.  He always made me smile.   He pulled me through some of the toughest times in my life.  He has been gone now for almost two years.  Without a doubt, those two years have been the worst years of my life, not because my dad has been gone, but because my life was a mess (and only got worse) at the time of his death.  Oh, how different these past two years would have been if my dad had been there as a steady, loving part of my life.

These past two years have been terrible.  I have learned some valuable lessons the hard way.  We are all responsible for our own actions.  I will repeat that one, because it is important.  WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE FOR OUR OWN ACTIONS.  No I didn’t deserve to go through such a hellish experience, but as I said, when I look back at the circumstances, all fingers point at me.  If my trust was misplaced, who placed it wrongly?  Me.  If I went through a terrible experience, and no one was around for me to lean on, whose fault was that?  Mine.  I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR MY OWN ACTIONS.

Slowly, I am rebuilding the foundation of my life.  Many of the people who were once part of my support system are gone, but I am learning to reach out again to the good people in my life.  More importantly, I am trying my best to be good to others and to be there for those good people in my life.

The Perspective of Memory

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I have to reiterate how very much I hate the month of November.  The time change has made it even more dark and depressing.  It’s cold and damp.  The fields, whose beauty I have admired all spring, summer, and fall are now bare.  The land looks harsh and unforgiving.  The world seems tired and used up.  I hate November.

As I drove to work the other morning, I thought about Grace.  All of these years later, I still feel her presence in my life.  I imagine what she would look like at this age (or any other age over the years.)  I imagine her much like Emily, and it makes me miss her even more.  I picture her making a life of her own, much like Luke and Andrew are doing now.   I wonder where she would be or what she would have become.  While those thoughts make me sad, they don’t overwhelm me.  After this many years, those thoughts bring a sense of melancholy.

I realized that Grace  would now be the same age I was when she was born.  The thought was stunning.  I was just a child when she was born.  The idea of any of my children having to face such a challenge, such a loss, at the tender age of 23 made me shudder.  They don’t seem ready for marriage or parenting, let alone being faced with the loss of a child.  My own 23-year-old is just now taking those first steps into adulthood.  He is energized and excited as he embarks on following his dream, experiencing new things, learning new things, meeting people, living alone for the first time.

The difference in my life with T and the lives of our own children are stunning.  We were 20 and 22 when we got married.  From that moment forward, there was no further guidance or support from our parents.  I don’t mean that they didn’t care about us, but that was it.  Their job was done.  There was no checking on us or offers of assistance.  We made our own decisions, good or bad.  We struggled financially.  We worked.  We attended school.  We paid our own way, often scraping the bottom of the barrel.  By the time T and I were expecting our first child three years later, both of our fathers were deeply into their alcoholism.

I remembered the 17 days of Grace’s life.  Our parents did nothing to make that time easier for us.  In fact, their problems  added to our stress.  Both of our fathers were often drunk on their visits to the hospital, and it hurt to see that during such a terrible time.  Classic enablers, our mothers turned a blind eye to their husbands’ behavior.  Confrontation was useless.  It only made matters worse.

There are many bad memories related to our parents from those 17 days, but that’s not what this post is about.  It was in  remembering those terrible days and our parents’ dysfunction that made me see something else entirely.  I was 23 years old back then.  Now things are flip-flopped.  I’m no longer the child.  I am the parent of a 23-year-old, and I was suddenly, profoundly aware of the difference between my relationship with my children and the relationship I had with my own parents at 23.

I called T as I was driving, because I wanted to share these thoughts with him.  I said, “Do you realize that Grace would now be the same age I was when I had her?”  He said, “Wow.  I guess I hadn’t realized that.”  We talked for a while and I asked him if he remembered how our parents had behaved back then.  “Oh, yeah….of course.”  We talked for a while about particular incidents.  We marveled that we were able to get through that hellish time and keep moving forward with our lives.  Looking back from the perspective of time, distance, and as parents now, it is stunning to see the drastic differences in our style of parenting compared to our own parents’.

While I am using our oldest son as an example in this blog post, certainly the same principles could apply to each of our children.  Andrew may be an adult, but we still support him emotionally as parents.  This past year has been a challenge for him.  He was struggling to find his way.  He lost his long-time girlfriend.  His grandpa died.  He didn’t know where he was headed or what he wanted to do with his life.  Many times, there were conflicts.  We saw him struggling, and we intervened even as he attempted to push us away.  We offered him support and encouragement as he worked to find his path in life.  We spent HOURS discussing options with him.  Truly, it has NOT been a good year.

As T and I talked yesterday, we compared this past year and our son’s difficulty to the challenges he and I faced at the same age.  They were completely different issues, but there was one similarity.  Young adults are still on shaky legs when it comes to facing the big things life can dish out.  T and I faced our challenges without the wisdom, advice, and support of our parents.  They were so mired in their own dysfunction.  Our problems were a burden to them.  It is stunning to look back on that time from the perspective of a parent and realize such a thing.

This is not about anger at our parents during that long ago time.  This is about something much more significant.  Years later, these memories and thoughts have allowed me to be so thankful for the wonderful relationships we have with our own children.  Through the pain and the loss, lessons were learned.

T and I discussed our experiences this past year with Andrew.  It’s amazing to see how far he has come.  The unhappy, struggling, and confused young man from last year has embarked on a new life.  His excitement and energy have returned.  Could he have done this without our support?  Maybe, maybe not, but I like to think that we tipped the scales in his favor.

Last night Andrew called T to tell him that he had just finished writing a 10-page analytical paper.  I came in the room just as they were ending their call.  I sat down, and T told me about their conversation.  I was so proud.  I was happy to see T’s pride in our son, and happy that Andrew is taking things so seriously.  (He had skipped free tickets  to a private movie premiere to stay home and write.)

After T updated me on their conversation, I called Andrew.  “I am so proud of you!” I said.  I was beaming, and I could feel his happiness as he began to tell me about the assignment.  When he was done talking, I reminded him once again of how proud I am of him.  Oh, how I wanted to remind him of the mixed-up young man he was a year ago.  I wanted to tell him that I was proud of how far he had come, but I didn’t.  Those bad times will remain in the past unless he brings them up.  My job is not to remind him of his failures, stumbles, or faults.  My job is to be there if is falls.  My job is to congratulate him on his successes.  My job is to love him and to be proud.

A Word of Kindness

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Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the

blind can see.  ~ Mark Twain

I haven’t had much time for blog writing lately, and I’ve missed that.  I’ve been doing a lot of writing, though.  Last week was spent writing pages and pages of a grant narrative.  I was often frustrated as I sat staring at the screen willing the words to flow.  It was so very different from writing in the blog.  When I write HERE, the words flow without much thought.  Often, I don’t know where a blog post is even heading until I’m finished writing.  Last week, though, I was a frustrated writer.  At one point, when someone stepped into my office, they asked me if I was having trouble seeing.  I didn’t understand what they were referring to until I realized that I had a pair of reading glasses on my head, one on my face, and yet another tucked into the front of my shirt.

Eventually, I did complete my writing assignment.  The mass of papers was mailed out, and now I am keeping my fingers crossed that we will be blessed by the powers that be with a grant to fund the project.  By the time my words made it to the Post Office, it felt very much like stuffing my child into a large envelope and hoping for the best.

The boys are doing well away from home.  The girls are busy with their lives, school, and friends.  T and I are finding our way around a much-too-large space that was once occupied by the bustle of four kids.  All around me I feel change and transition.  I’m waiting it out, yet feeling a sense of isolation, melancholy, and loneliness.  Even so, I know that the dust will eventually settle, a new routine will become established, the voids I am experiencing now will be someday soon be filled with new activities and interests.  Still….  I don’t like this in-between time of waiting for all of that to happen.

I have been making a point to acknowledge to myself all of the GOOD things in my life by taking a moment and a deep breath of appreciation when something good comes my way.  Can I call that “cultivating” the good?  I am trying to exorcise the bad experiences, bad memories, harmful thought processes, by redirecting myself toward the good as often as possible.

Today is a busy work day.  I am speaking at a luncheon this afternoon, which means I have to ON.   Bleh…  Don’t feel like being ON.  Tomorrow will be even busier with meetings and my obligation to take my mother to the doctor.  On top of all that, I will be packing to leave for a conference on Friday.  There will be no weekend for me.  I’ll be sitting in conference sessions a thousand miles away from home.  I already miss my daughters at the very thought of leaving them.

A ray of sunshine entered my grouchy morning, though.  I received an email out of the blue, and it was full of kindness.  God Bless this Good Person!  It was a simple act of reaching out and spreading goodwill for NO OTHER REASON THAN TO BE KIND.  How incredibly needed and refreshing that felt.  Someone thought of me.  They thought kindly of me.  They reached out to me.

I know we haven’t seen each other in a while, but I wanted to let you know you are doing a great job.  (Name of my employer)  is lucky to have someone like you.

Thanks for everything you do!

My gosh!  I had tears in my eyes.  This person had no way of knowing what those simple words meant to me.  I will remember that feeling, and I will pass it on.  That’s one reason I’m sharing it here on my blog.  Take a moment today, please, to make someone feel valued.  Take a moment to be kind.  Pass it on!

Create Kindness!