dreams · life · memoir · spirituality

Shaken

The year my second daughter was born, it seemed to rain eternally.  I can’t say when the depression set in, but by February, I didn’t want to leave the house.  I prayed a lot to God, asking what was wrong with me.  By all accounts, I had everything anyone could want:  two beautiful children, a brand new home, friends and community.  The more I tried to rationalize, the greater my gloom.  Is there more to life than this?  I asked.

During this time I had a recurring dream, in which I visited my childhood home:

 I walk in the front door and notice that the carpet leading upstairs has been changed to one with geometric designs, and that the once blue carpet in the living and dining area is now red.  Upstairs, I see that one of the walls in my sister’s old room has been bricked over.  As I pass through the house, the inhabitants are unaware of my presence.  Only the family cat swishes her tail in annoyance at my presence.  Stepping out the backdoor, I fail to see that the step is missing, and fall, jolting myself awake.

Haunted by the dream’s insistence, I decided to drive by my old home.  A “for sale” sign on the front lawn revealed that this day was open for agent viewing.  Curious, I walked in.  A quick glanced revealed red carpets throughout, with a geometric pattern running up the stairs.  I rushed up the stairs and down the hall, where I found the room with the bricked wall.  How odd!  Descending the staircase, I glanced at the photos on the wall to see the faces from my dreams staring out at me.  In the kitchen, I spotted the cat’s bowls.  The agent on duty asked me if I wanted to see the back yard.  Remembering my dreams, I said no and made my exit back through the front door.

I drove a block before the trembling hit me.  Shaken, I pulled over.  What had just happened?  The house was exactly as I had dreamed it.  But why?  Everything suddenly seemed so surreal.  What did it all mean?

I felt as if I had just been hit over the head with a giant frying pan.  For months on end I had prayed to God and asked if there was something I was missing in my life, and now this.  I decided that God had answered my prayers, with one resounding “YES!”.  There was obviously more to life than what I was experiencing, but I would need to look within to find it.

Needless to say, that day changed my life.

 

abuse · Family · life · Love · memoir · relationships · spirituality

Saying Goodbye To Father

My father fought against death at the end, even though he was wracked with pain,  had difficulty breathing, and spent many of his nights in hospital.

“At what point do we stop all this intervention, Dad, and talk about keeping you comfortable?”

It was the early hours of the morning after another night spent in emergency.

“Now,”  his voice cracked as he spoke.  Dad was so clearly in distress it was alarming.  Involuntary spasms of pain kept him from resting, and the strain was telling on his ashen face.

I took his hand in mine.  “Dad, all I want for you is peace,”  I hesitated.  “To be honest with you, Dad, I have never known you to have peace in your life.”

He squeezed my hand.   “Not a lot.”

“Do you believe that there is something for you on the other side, Dad?”

“I don’t know, Honey.  I don’t have the faith that you do.  I don’t know what to believe.”

“Some say that our feeling about God is related to our relationship with our own father.”

“How so?”

“When you were a boy, huddled in the coat closet, hiding from your father, what were your thoughts?  Did you ever think about God in those moments?”

“All the time.”  My father closed his eyes and laid back.  “I remember asking God over and over, what I did wrong to deserve the beatings.  I thought  God was punishing me.”

“Exactly, Dad.  Maybe your fear of death is because the little boy in you thinks God will reject you, or inflict more pain.”

He opened his eyes and looked at me.  “You could be right.  I know I’m afraid.”

“God didn’t punish you, Dad.  Your father did.  I have to believe there is something better awaiting you.”

He closed his eyes again, processing what I suggested.  “You were a child, Dad.  It wasn’t your fault.  You need to forgive yourself.”   A tear trickled down his cheek.

We didn’t talk about it further, but we did speak to the doctor on duty about changing Dad’s care.  Plans were made to transfer my father to palliative care.  The day he was to be moved, my father announced that he didn’t want any visitors.  He said he needed time to settle in.  They moved him mid-morning.  He died within hours.  I rushed to his side, but it was too late.

“Good for you, Dad,” I cried.  “You finally made it.”

 

abuse · creativity · Love · nonfiction

Contemplation of Inner Lives

Wasn’t it Carl Jung who said that each of us has a cast of thousands within our psyche? What if I could meet with my inner personas, envision a way for us to all get along?

I am reminded of a recurring dream I have had about an underground cave full of people, through which I try to maneuver. I picture the cave to help me imagine my inner selves.  The space is roomy,  with high ceilings, and a fire that lightens the scene.  There is an underground body of water around which people are gathered.  It is crowded in here.  I visually push the crowd back, clearing a space in the light.

“Listen up troops!  This is ego talking.  Can we have a meeting?”

Who will come forward?

A small figure steps into the clearing.  She looks to be about three or four years old.  Dark curls of hair fall in disarray about her shoulders.  Dragging a stuffed animal by her side, she rubs her big, brown eyes with her free hand, as if just waking up from a deep sleep.

“Hello, Little One.  Welcome.”  I am delighted both by her innocence, and her bravery for being the first to step up.

Out of the corner of my eye, I catch more movement.  It is a twelve-year-old version of myself, who steps in to take the little one’s hand.  Ah, responsible me.  I know her well.

An older woman steps in next.  She is well-groomed, neat and trim.  Her hair is white, and obviously long, but caught up in a bun.  Her face is long; not my face.  I don’t know her.

“Welcome,”  I say and she nods approvingly.

“Anyone else?”

A pregnant version of myself steps forward.  Not the new mother me, but the woman expecting her third child.  The established mother.  She looks tired, but not unkind.  She has brought her babies with her.

A shadow darts across the opening, then fades back into the dark corners of the cave.  I try to see where it went and see a figure trembling there in the darkened crevices.

“Would you like to join us?”   The figure is slightly hunched, hugging herself tightly.  “Please.”  The others reach out their hands towards her.  She moves to the edge of the darkness.  Her long hair looks tangled, dirty.  Her eyes are cast down, I can’t see her face.  It looks like she is holding a blanket around her.  “If you are here, you are part of us,”  I offer.  “We’d like it if you’d join us.”  She looks up and it startles me.  The pain in her eyes it so real my breath sticks in my chest.  She steps forward and I see she is naked under the blanket.  She is my violated self.  “I’m sorry,” I whisper.  “Please come into the light.  I want you here.”  The others move to surround her.

The shadow darts again.  Is that a little boy?  I follow the movement.  There is a tall, proud, Aboriginal woman.  She is wearing some ceremonial costume, although nothing I recognize.  She steps silently forward.  I like her energy. Then three figures push out of the crowd to join in.  They too are of different ethnicity and race.  Arms locked like old friends they are laughing and jostling; a happy presence.  Another woman pushes forward, directing a young boy before her – the darting shadow.  He has a dishevelled mop of hair, and dark mischievous eyes, reminding of pictures of my father as a child.  She is a big bear of a woman, very motherly, and obviously very much in control.

There’s a boy here?  Are there any men? I wonder. I look around.  Many faces still stand on the periphery, and yes some are men, but none have come forth….oh, wait a minute, here’s one.  A whiff of pipe smoke hits me first.  Very professorial.  Tall, thin, with greying hair, and kind eyes.  A thinker, I’m guessing.  Another young man steps forward.  Dressed immaculately, and carrying a case, he looks driven by ambition: fearless.

“Okay,”  I say.  “It looks like we could do this all night, but we need to begin.  Can we get started?”

The big bear of a woman steps forward, with the little boy in tow.  “The goal here is to find some harmony,” she states.  “I think it would best if everyone could be heard.  State your concerns, and also what you bring to the whole.  I’ll start.  I am Mother Earth.  I believe in the unity of the whole, and am big and strong enough to hold us all together.”

Cool!  I am liking this exercise.

The white-haired woman is next.  “Well, I am wisdom, and I believe this can work also, but I am a little concerned about how ego is running the ship.”  She looks directly at me.  “We won’t live forever, you know; be a little mindful of how you take care of our body.  Some exercise would go a long way.”  I gulp.  Yes ma’am, I’m thinking.

“What do you have to offer?” Mother Earth asks.

“Perspective,” is the response.  “When the ego needs direction, and is willing to listen, I offer perspective.”

“Thank you,” I say.  “Good to know.”

The professor tilts his pipe towards me.  “Don’t forget intellect.  You have a good mind.  Use it.  No concerns right now, as long as she keeps learning.”  Fair enough.

My mother self just beams at me.  She is happy that the babies are still coming.

The twelve-year-old, still coddling the little one, gets my attention.  “Don’t forget us,” she says.

“What do you mean?”  I ask.  “How could I forget you?”

“But you do.  You often do.  We need care too.  We need fun and new discoveries, and most of all we need love and affection.  Well, not so much me, but the little one does.”

I have to smile, because I’m sure she means both of them.  “Of course you do.  Don’t I show it?”

“Not very often.  You spend far too much time worrying about the future, and where the next dollar is coming from.  You forget that we need attention and just to hang out sometimes.”

The little one nods, as if she understands.  She puts out her arms and I hug her to me.  She is so tiny, and pure.  “You are precious,” I tell her.  “I would never want to lose you.”  She snuggles up and leans into me.  I offer my hand to the twelve-year-old.  “I would like for you to let me be the adult,” I tell her.  “I appreciate everything you have done, you have a great sense of duty, but you also need to just be a kid.”   The look she gives me is undecipherable. I look to Mother Earth for some direction.  She nods at the younger me.

“Go ahead,”  she says.  “Tell her.”

“You have made promises to us that you do not keep.  We don’t know what to believe.  Little One needs to feel safe and secure, she needs you to be consistent.”

“What about you?  What do you need?”

Her lip starts to tremble.  Is that a flicker of anger I see behind her eyes.

“You can tell me.”  I try to keep my tone calm, and reassuring, but my heart and mind are racing.  “What have I done to this child?  Then I understand.  “Are you angry with me, or adults in general?”  I ask.  “I know you’ve been hurt by many.”

“I don’t know who to trust,”  she begins.  “I try and try to be good and make things better, but it’s like I don’t exist.  It’s unfair.”  The floodgates burst open.  “I feel like I don’t matter.  No one notices me.  No one cares.”  The little one runs to her and they hug again.  “We need to know you care.”

“But I do care!  Maybe I just don’t know how to show it.  Please, help me to understand what you need.”

“When you were us you knew what you wanted.  You promised that you would not put up with injustices, and you would make us count in the world.  You also promised that we wouldn’t need anyone.”

“I know I did,  Honey.  But that is not a healthy response.  Relationships are a natural part of life, and while I haven’t always been able to protect us from harm and abuse, I have made better choices, haven’t I?  I do care very much about you, and I know you have been hurt.”  There’s so much I want to say, but she does have a point.  “I’m sorry.”

“And what about her?”  They both glance in the direction of the young woman in the blanket.  She is too wounded to be angry.

“I made a terrible mistake, and you suffered for it.  I am so sorry.  I don’t know how to lessen your pain.”  Then, “Mother, I have stumbled through life, and made poor choices out of fear, anger, and impulsiveness.  I see now that I have hurt all of us.  How do we find alignment without trust?  Have I ruined our chances?”

“Of course not, Child.  There is always hope.  This is a good beginning.  We are talking, and you are listening.”

“I am listening, but I feel so responsible, and inadequate.”

“Oh, you are not inadequate;  far from it.”

“What we need,” interjects the Warrior Princess, “is direction and leadership.  You,” she is speaking to the young business man, “need to take a step back.  While your ambition is appreciated, it is not always in line with the common good.  Your energy and spirit are good, but you serve us better by working in the background.  As for you,”  she turns to the three friends, “your lightheartedness is wonderful, and we need you as a constant reminder of the need for tolerance and harmony.  Young lady,” she says addressing the twelve-year-old.  “You are mighty strong and that is admirable, but you are yet a child.  I invite you to be open to the future instead of always fearing it.  We need your youthful exuberance to power the movement.  And you, Little One, you are indeed precious, and we never want to be without your sense of wonder and innocence.  Professor, Wise Woman, you know your roles.  Young mother, you are much appreciated right now with these new grandchildren coming.  As for you, Young Man,” she turned to the little boy with the hair.  “You have the very important role of looking out for possibilities.  You have just the right amount of restlessness, coupled with curiosity and daring.  Every good team needs that. Now there is just one more thing to do.” Opening her arms, she gestures for the crowd to form a circle around her, then she invites the wounded girl and myself to join her in the middle.  Silently, she positions each of us facing one another.  I offer my hand to the girl and she takes it.  I clasp it to my heart.

“There is a lot of strength in this room, and I want you both to feel it.”  Although the room has fallen silent, and the faces are all somber, we can sense the truth in what she is saying.

“There is also a lot of hope, and love in this room.  Let that be with you, also.”  We both take a deep breath in, and I can see her shoulders relax a little, though she still clutches her blanket to her.

“There is no movement within a community of blame, only heartache and pain.  I want everyone here to release any blame that their heart may be holding.  Take a deep breath in and as you let it go, release any blame with it. Replace the blame with love for the whole.”  All chests rise on the inhale, and collectively we exhale a sigh of release.  Breathing in again, we begin to feel lighter.

“You are so beautiful,”  I tell my wounded self.  “You didn’t deserve this.  None of us did.  We all hurt for you.”  A murmur of agreement circles the room.  “And we all pray for your healing.”  The murmur becomes a rumble.

The Warrior Princess raises one hand in the air, placing her other palm on the Wounded One’s forehead.  “You are not alone,” she says.  “You must not carry the burden of this pain alone.  Let us each take on our share of the burden and lighten this young woman’s load.  Open your arms and receive her.”  All bodies push forward to embrace the Wounded One in a massive hug of energy.  From within the circle their is a heart-wrenching sob, then a flow of tears that passes from one self to the next until there is a palpable shift in the air.  Then, as if on cue, everyone steps back into the circle, giving us room.  Our eyes meet, and the most incredible thing happens.  The young woman lets go of her blanket, and standing straight and proud reaches her hand out for mine, and clasps it to her heart.  Her whole being shines with such radiance and light that I am not embarrassed by her nakedness.  She is beautiful!

I am beautiful.

We are all beautiful.

And in that moment we are so wonderfully aligned that we feel the perfection of our being, and the miracle that is existence.

“Thank you, all.”  I whisper, not wanting to break the reverie.

(Image: en.wikepedia.org)

 

disability · Family · health · life · memoir

Path Rights

Born underweight, and with a hole in her heart, my oldest sister seemed doomed from the start.   By the time I was born, her condition had deteriorated, and she spent most of her time in hospital.  My parents were told to expect the worst.  Open-heart surgery was the great new procedure that saved her life at thirteen.  She got better.

Two years behind her peers at school, she was hell-bent on catching up.  Years of being pampered had not helped her emotional development, and she was not afraid of acting out.  She loved being the center of attention, and didn’t care if it was for being good or bad.

Eleven years her junior, I found my sister’s volatility scary.  It was almost a relief when she would lock me out of the house, or ignore me for long periods of time.  Our relationship didn’t really develop until she gave birth to her own daughter, then she needed me.  I was a built-in babysitter.

I watched my sister jump from one bad relationship to another.  I witnessed my parents rescuing her time after time, and I was dumbfounded at her disrespect and lack of gratitude in return.

She could be sweet as anything when she wanted something, but if she wasn’t interested, or changed her mind, look out.

When she got sick again, I decided to explore ways to help her.  The more I learned about the body-mind connection, the more I was sure I could save her.  She laughed in my face.  You are so naive, she would say.  Or, You are playing with the Devil.  Personally, I’d always thought she was the devil.

One day, I decided that I would just let her be, and stop trying to change her.  I told her as much.  She tried to fight with me.  I stood my ground.  She cried.  Then finally, we talked.

“Everything I’ve been studying and doing is to help you,”  I explained.  “But it’s not working, so, I’m not going to push anymore.  You are sick, it is your life, and you have to do what is right for you.”

“You don’t understand,” she said.  She was right, I didn’t.  “I don’t know how to be any different.”

“What do you mean?”

“If I did what you say, and got better, then what?   Being sick gives me power.  It lets me get away with whatever I want.  How could I do that if I got better.”

She had a point.  Being sick gave her enormous power.  How could I argue with that.

In all the years that I had judged, and fought with my sister about her life, I had not appreciated that it was working just fine for her purposes.  We all have the right to our own paths.

education · life · nonfiction · spirituality

On Wisdom

The difference between knowledge and wisdom is experience.

A young man once asked me if he could shadow me for a summer, so that he could learn from me.  I asked him to tell me about his life.

“It’s good,”  he replied.

“Tell me about a hardship that you have overcome.”

“None that I can think of.  My life has been easy.”

“Are your parents together?”

“Well, no,” he explained.  “They separated when I was fifteen.”

“That must have been hard.”

He shrugged.  “That was about them.  It wasn’t about me.”

He was a nice young man, and I believed him to be very sincere.  “What will you do with your summer, if I say no.?”

“I was thinking I’d try to get a job at a resort up north.”

“That’s what I would recommend!”

His disappointment was visible.  “But I want to help people;  I want to do what you do.”

“Let’s look at this hypothetically.  If someone came to you suffering from deep depression, how would you help them?”

“I would meditate on it and look for answers.”

“I see.  And if none came?”

He had no response.

“Let me explain something,”  I was starting to feel a little bit like David Carradine talking to Grasshopper.  “Much of my ability to help another comes from life experience.  In the case of depression, who do you think would be in a better position, someone who has lived through it and come out the other side, or someone who has meditated on the possibility?”

He didn’t need to answer.

“The best thing you can do for yourself right now is gather experience.  Learn all that you can, too, but when your intellectual knowledge, meets your experienced knowing, then you will be ready.”

“How long will that take.”

I had to suppress a smile.  I was impatient once too.  “That depends on you.  From where I stand, you have a ways to go.”

“Why’s that?”  He looked offended.

“You haven’t even recognized the pain of your parents’ divorce.  How can you help another deal with their wounds, when you haven’t looked at your own?”

“There is time for everything,”  I said more gently.  “Now is a time for gathering.  Go North.  You’ll learn much more there than I can ever teach you now.”

life · nonfiction

Focused Intent

For years a padded treatment table doubled as our dining room table.  The height was right, but the width was too narrow, and it felt awkward to sit guests around it in the center of our large dining area.  Replacing it was not a priority, but I knew if I didn’t move it out, I’d never get a proper dining set.  So, one Sunday morning, I packed it away and started to polish the hardware floors.

“What are you doing?”

“Getting ready for our new dining room set.”

“Is there something I don’t know?”

“No, but it’s never going to happen if I don’t make room for it.”

“So, we’re not going to eat in here anymore?”

“Not until the new table comes.”

In the midst of this exchange, my parents arrived unexpectedly.  “Guess what we did today?”

I had no idea.

“We bought ourselves a new table and chairs.  Would you like our dining room set?”

* * * * *

I shared this story with a friend.  I had learned about it in a workshop.  Set your intent by specifically asking for what you want, and clear any blocks that might stop your wish from manifesting.  Then let it go, and let God.

She and her husband were struggling to get by, with one income, and three children; the youngest having a lot of special needs.  Their old car was on its last legs, and they couldn’t afford the vehicle that would make their life easier.

“Believe me,”  she said.  “If that worked, I would have done it long ago.”

When she called me the next time, her tune had changed.  “I thought about what you said,” she explained, “and I realized that my block was my attitude.  So I asked for a van in which we could transport our family, and I set aside my disbelief.    The very next day, I was walking to work and ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen since high school.  We talked over old times, and then you won’t believe what happened.  She said she had heard about our daughter, and she wanted to help.  She said she had come into some money and she would like to either buy us a new vehicle or give us the money to pay down on our mortgage.  We pick up the van next week!”

* * * * *

The system does not always work so well.  One friend asked for abundance for years, but nothing happened.  She even tried to get specific, asking for a set amount of money, but somehow, it never manifested.

I do believe that we get what we ask for, and I also believe we have to be careful about what that is.  For years my sister “just wanted to be thinner”, but she didn’t do anything to make that happen.  Her wish came true, but the cost was not worth the prize:  cancer ensured she shed the pounds rapidly.

Picture what you want, then be open to receiving it.  Anything can happen, but you have to be able to picture it first.

 

blogging · creativity · life · nonfiction

Mapping Life

If you could make a map of your life, what would it look like?  Have you walked one path, or several?  Has the terrain been flat or rocky?  What would the road ahead look like?

Let’s see if I can describe the map of my life.

My beginnings were in the east, at the edge of residential land, bordering on industrial.  The path I was born on was bordered by rosebushes, but despite the flowery hope, the thorns were painfully evident.  Not yet able to carve my own path, I was often passed over fences and imposed upon others.

At four, we moved west as a family and the path seemed to open up, and brought the fertile promise of new topsoil.  It was here that I began to picture a direction of my own, and dreamed of writing, teaching, and fighting for children’s rights.   But the richness of the soil proved superficial, and the foundation started to crack, and suddenly,  we veered off course.

The new road took us out of town, away from the familiar, and on the edge of an escarpment.  The way was marked by rocky crevices, and treacherous footings.  As strong and independent as I tried to be, there were too many dark places here, and my confidence was shaken.

By the time we ventured back to my hometown, I had already disengaged myself from my parents’ path, and began to carve my own.  The beginnings were not auspicious.  I was headed into a dark, overgrown forest, which would trip me up many times over the next couple of years, causing me to grasp at any beam of light, desperately looking for a way out.

I came to clearings from time to time, and if  you look closely, you will see the areas that I clear cut myself, out of sheer determination to make that time of my life count.

Then there are the moments where the path lifted me out of the woods and onto the sunny, green hilltops, and life was good again.  And I resumed my dreams, and pursued my studies, and became a mother.

Until the earth opened up and swallowed me momentarily, but I climbed out of that, and for awhile I walked along the beaten path, not really sure if I belonged, but not wanting to miss out either.  See my footprints there, hesitant, beside the road?

And see where I started to carve out yet another new route?  There, where the trees are not so dense, and the wood is new, and spring green.  Notice how the path begins to develop, wobbly a bit, at first, then straightening out, making it’s way in a slow ascent along that mountainside.    There are the plateaus I have talked about, and look there, where I took a steep climb.  Those were good times.  I had purpose then, and felt so alive.

The path goes underground for awhile.  You can’t see it, but it winds its way through the caves.  I can tell you, I tried a few different trails while I was under there, but eventually settled on the one I’m on now.  You can see it emerging, there at the top of the map, where the mountain opens up to a green valley.  I’ll be resting here awhile, but the journey is not over yet.

Just over that next hill there is a village, and beyond that village, on the horizon, an ocean.  Looks like there will be a few more peaks to master, and that the road might double back once or twice, but I am hoping for a beautiful landscape ahead, and a lot more ease of travel.

Try it yourself.  Draw a map of your own life.

(Image: yourlifemapping.com)

life · nonfiction · spirituality

A Witness To Death

My mother told me that when she was a child, she would wake up in the middle of the night to find her mother slaving over the woodstove.  Grandma was a midwife.  Mom said Grandma’s dreams would tell her when a baby was coming, and she would get up and cook for her family, knowing she would be away.

Grandma’s gift passed on to me, with a slight variation.

I first learned about it the night my four cousins perished in a fire.  I awoke in the middle of the night with an awful chill.  When my mother told me the news, I realized that I’d already known about their passing.

Walking home from school one day, at the age of eleven, something unseen stopped me in my tracks.  The image of my paternal Grandmother filled my mind along with the sensation of her love, and a farewell.  I arrived home to find my family gathered around.  “I know,” I said, before anyone could speak.  “She told me.”

Lying beside my ailing sister one night, I had a vision of a spirit.  He told me to listen for the howling of the wolves, and that my sister would pass through the fire on her way to the other side.  I was with her the night an unexpected storm came in.  The wind it brought sounded like a pack of wolves howling outside the window.  I had been holding her hand, but the heat from her body was so intense, I had to let go.  The nurse said her temperature was higher than her thermometer could measure.  She passed away ten minutes later.

Do I believe in life after death?  Yes.  Does that lessen the grief of losing a loved one?  No.

Grief is the natural response to loss.  Life may go on, but the relationship has been permanently altered, and that is loss.

When Dee found out she was dying, she made me promise I would be there to hold her hand.  Death, like birth, I told her, is not something we have control over, but I would do my best.  The call came at 6:30 one morning.

“Dee says it’s time,”  her mother told me.  “Can you come?”

I had children to get off to school, and so it was two hours before I arrived at Dee’s bedside.  She was already well on her way.   With one hand I grasped hers, then placed my other over her heart as I leaned in to whisper: “I’m here.”

Dee’s eyes opened and she took one last gasping breath and died.  Her spirit, like a breeze, flowed through the house, flickering all the candles her mother and sister had lit to mark the occasion.  She was free!

I witnessed the miracle, and then I grieved.

 

 

adversity · health · life · memoir · recovery

Humility

Good, better, best.   Never let them rest.  Till your good is better and your better best.

Dad made us recite this whenever he thought that we were giving less than our best effort.  Like the time I came home with a 96% in OAC Relations and Functions.  If I could get 96, I could get a hundred; I just wasn’t trying hard enough.

The message I heard was that if wasn’t the best, I wasn’t good enough.  I told myself that there was no point in trying, but under it all, I just wanted his approval.  Of course, I couldn’t be the best, so I learned to act like I was better by putting others down.  As a young woman, I was constantly angry and intolerant of stupidity or lack of common sense.  I had no patience for weakness, and though I hate to admit it, I found fault with anyone who I thought was better than me.

Lucky for me, I learned the importance of humility.  Not all at once, but over a progression of events.

The idea of humility was first introduced to me by my Religious Studies teacher, in university.  He said the humble man was the happiest man, because he could just be and appreciate life.  I didn’t quite understand, but the idea intrigued me.

My second child added to the learning.  Baby number one was a calm and very manageable baby: a testimony, I thought, to my excellent parenting skills.  Other people clearly didn’t know how to parent, I told myself when I would see a screaming child.  Then Ester came along, and shattered that illusion, humbling me in the process.

Perhaps the greatest lesson came at the age of thirty-one, when my mind snapped.  A mother of three, I was working full-time to support the family, taking courses at the university to improve my qualifications, caring for my dying sister, and trying to find time to work out and diet so I would be more appealing to my husband.  I thought I could do it all.  I couldn’t it.  The walls of my carefully constructed existence came tumbling down, and I was lost in a black abyss of nothingness, unable to function.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Clawing my way out of the pit of despair, I came upon this quote (author unknown):

I turned to God when my foundation was shaking, only to find that God was shaking my foundation.

“Get off your high horse, and come down to earth where you can be more useful!”  Not God’s words, but my interpretation.

Do you know what I discovered?  Letting go of having to be the best meant I could start to celebrate the successes of others rather than try to bring them down – a much more rewarding use of my energy.

Oh, and I let go of the fear of not being good enough.

In fact, I decided that I am good enough.

No, scratch that.  I am good.

Wait, even that is overstated.

I am!

 

 

adversity · disability · education · health · life · Love · nonfiction

First Glimpse Of ME/CFS

Hesitantly, I turned the key in the lock and pushed the door ajar.  A waft of warm, stale air accosted me.

“Hello?”  I’d been told there might not be a response.

Something was resting against the door, so I pushed harder to let myself in.  The beam from the light of the open doorway was thick with dust and it took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the darkness.  I was walking into a little foyer, with stairs ascending to the main level.  The walls on either side of the entrance were stacked high with boxes, and laundry baskets full of stuff.  Something lay on the floor at my feet – a coat, or a blanket, I couldn’t tell – the object of resistance.  I stepped over it and closed the door behind me.  The smell of the place accosted me then, a smothering aroma of dust, and cigarettes, and cat fur.  I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

“Hello?”  I called again, more desperate for a response.  None came.

She’ll be in the bedroom, at the end of the hallway, her mother had told me.  She likely won’t awaken.

It was the middle of the day, but dark blankets covered the windows, allowing for minimal light.  I waited for my eyes to adjust before climbing the steps to the kitchen.  The rows of boxes and debris continued and flowed into the kitchen, where dirty dishes and takeout containers littered the counters and floors.  Who could live like this?

I felt my way along the hall, carefully stepping through the hordes of items stashed there, until I reached the last bedroom.

Politeness made me knock again.  Again no response.

The situation was worse than I thought, and I seriously doubted my ability to be of help.  It all started when she was seventeen, her mother told me.  She had a terrible case of the flu, followed by encephalitis, and then one thing after the other.  She rarely gets up, and has trouble putting a sentence together.  The doctor’s have given up on her.  She hasn’t been out of the house for ten years, and we can’t get anyone to go in.  We’d really appreciate if you’d go see her.

Two tabby cats greeted me as I opened the bedroom door, as did the fetid odour of a litter box.  Shooing them aside, I approached the bed.  Rumpled bedding was tangled up in the middle of full size bed, but no sign of any thirty-three year-old woman.  Now what?

I decided she had to be somewhere within the mess of sheets and bedding, so centering myself, I began.  I ran my hands just above the bed, hoping for some sense of heat, or thickness, that might indicate there was a body inside.  Instead, I just felt foolish.  So, I stood at the foot of the bed and took some deep breaths, re-centering in hopes of some divine inspiration.

“Well?”  A thin, croaky voice emerged from under the covers.

“Hello,”  I said again, beginning to feel like a parrot.

A thin, waif-like hand appeared, followed by a matted head of hair.  She was tiny.  “Any hope?”  her voice sounded as if it was coming from under water: slurred and thick.

I was at a loss for words.  Here was this wisp of a woman, holed up this house with no daylight, and no fresh air, locked away from humanity, and all I could think of was how could she possibly survive.  I would have committed suicide long ago if it had been me.  What could I tell her about hope?

Then I remembered something both Joan Borysenko and Bernie Seigel had said during their workshops:  There is something to love about everyone.  Find it and you can help them. 

“Yes,”  I said.  “I believe there is.”

“Really?”   The word came out stretched and squeaky.

She had survived this long.  She had beaten odds, and continued to live.  It wasn’t much of an existence, but something kept her going.

“You have an incredible will.  Now, you just have to learn to channel that to get better.”

* * * * *

Patty’s story is for another day.  Meeting her taught me the importance of an idea that works.  There is something to love about everyone.  I use it everyday in my teaching practice.

(Image: www.experiencewellness.co.uk)