PlazaJen: The Blog

Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: grief (page 1 of 5)

A Tale of Two Christmases…

Growing up, Christmastime was always a mixed bag. Because my dad’s mother passed away before Christmas, and he would, shortly after Thanksgiving, go into a very dark depression.  I don’t remember my grandmother – when she died, I was maybe two? And we had plans to go to Florida to visit her, but instead, as life will do, plans changed. My father would retell the story of flying from Florida to Chicago with his mother’s ashes in an urn in a package on his lap, the elderly lady next to him cheerfully chirping, “Christmas present?” And in Dad’s typical biting dark streak, he replied, “You could say so.”  He would then describe clawing at the frozen ground, attempting to spread her ashes, not realizing what the urn ultimately contained. I’ll spare you the vivid description, but it galvanized me as a child, and basically drew a line around my father, his dark moat, he was not to be messed with in December.

So every other year was my Mom’s “Year” for Christmas. A huge tree, loaded with lights and decorations, geegaws and ribbons and red velveteen everywhere. The off years were Dad’s. I would string popcorn and put it on the ficus tree. We had this really old, and to me, AMAZING, three-dimensional ornament that unfolded from two sides of cardboard, revealing accordion-folded beehive-like tissue paper that once the little metal tabs clasped over the other side of cardboard, displayed a two-foot Santa Claus. That was it. That was his concession,  a ficus tree decorated with ornaments I made from colored paper and popcorn and an ancient santa that grew more delicate each year. His darkness got its turn. We tread lightly around him no matter what, and there was always a sense of relief when the holidays were over, when January arrived, bringing with it a new year and the darkness receded.

I felt that deep dark current come forth this week, as someone was trying to excuse another person’s terrible behavior, trying to justify their actions, that they were sure the holidays were hard for them, given some of their life circumstances. I tartly countered, “Is it a competition?  Both my parents are dead. Nobody gets a pass at the holidays and everyone ultimately has to behave.” I regretted it, albeit fleetingly, but it ultimately summed up in five words what’s heavy on my mind, and contributing to a feeling of isolation.  Both my parents are dead. It sucks. I’m alone. My party of three is now a party of one, when you look at all those formative years of Alternating Christmases.  But I also tell myself, I’m not a Syrian refugee, either. I’m not being raped or beaten with my own baby. I’m not suffering through chemo treatments or in an abusive relationship. There are lots of worse places to be and lives to be living.  But I have my own dark current (god, could I sound more like Dexter? Don’t worry, I’m not ordering rolls of plastic sheeting and dressing in three-button henleys) and I know the holidays are challenging for most people, whether they’re trying to measure up to a societal projection of perfection, or are coping with all the things that hobble our lives.

We never had big gatherings – my father shunned them – and weren’t close to other family, whether it was geographically or emotionally. Basically, I’m wired for small gatherings and being the best hostess possible. I was talking to my therapist about this – he pointed out that for some people, it’s not a true celebration unless there are hordes of people gathered.  Obviously for others, smaller gatherings are more valued.  Not having any siblings, I’m kind of out of my holiday traditions, even if we’d stopped getting together, there were cards and gifts and emails. Strands of connection.  There are so many variables, you know? As you blend new families together, as you go home to your parents, the dance steps and conversations and expectations and all that … history. It drives the bus, it plays the music, it conducts the orchestra. We have expectations we don’t even realize we have until they don’t happen, or the plan changes, and then we still don’t necessarily know what those things were, we just know we’re unhappy. Or angry. Or sad. Or all of the above.

All I can say is, be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. If you have a dark moat that rises this time of year, don’t pretend it doesn’t exist, because that only makes the moat angry.  Angry moats want to rise up and drown you with lies and destruction. Acknowledge your moat, even sit with it at times. Because it’s just part of the whole thing. Say some of the things that hurt the most out loud. When I finally said, “I miss my mom,” it was like the dam broke. And it hurt and I cried, and I felt confused, because we had our issues with each other, but those fine strands of connection I maintained are gone, now that she is gone, and this year more than last year, I feel the holes they left behind, and what those holes are connected to inside of me, my expectations, my dreams, my sadness, my history.  And even in my loneliest moment, I am trying to say, over and over, until it feels true, “I am enough.” My heart is not there yet, but I know in my mind, I will be ok. If you have any of this in your own heart or head? I hope you are ok, too. I have faith that you can find it. We are enough.

 

scraping the hull

It’s been a rough month, indeed. There was a brief respite – a quick trip to Vegas – that was an utter escape, lots of fun (no big wins) and I’d say Vegas is definitely like a Disneyland for adults. The rough spots have been lots of work, some serious brain chemistry working against me, and now, we find ourselves at a terrible spot with our younger dog, Tripper. He’s got a detached lens on his eye, an infected tooth, and his fever was too high for surgery. Now he’s panting, not eating, not drinking, and I’m desperately dropping pills down his throat to ease the pain and fight the infection(s). Plus an ice cube just now to try to get a smidgen of fluid into him. I’m taking him back to the vet tomorrow, and I fear deeply that unless they have answers and can stabilize him, our vibrant, goofy loving dog will be crossing the Rainbow Bridge before old age should have taken him. I’ve pretty much spent my weekend crying, not unlike each day the past month, so I’ll work to stay hydrated as well, and hope we all get through this with love, kindness, caring and the least amount of pain possible. And I’d like to ask for a new deck of cards, because I’m not doing well with what’s getting dealt to me.

#TilItHappensToYou

I wrote this blog post a year ago. I’ve carried the words inside me for 29 years. I’m an open book but I can also be intensely private. This is my story. I’m tired of pretending it’s not part of who I am, or that it influences my life. Today, I watched the video “Til It Happens To You” from Lady Gaga, and it’s like it happened yesterday. I’m done. Secrets eat you alive.

I look at your profile on Facebook once in a while.

Holding my breath the whole time, I don’t realize I’m doing it until I click away.

Your cover photo shows you standing with your wife and two sons, smiling. The American Dream, right? The comedy of the picture, with a previous family photo of you all lined up, on the stairway behind you.

I look at those boys.

Awkward in their teenage states.

I wonder, under my breath and in my head, “Will they grow up to be rapists, too?”

Because that’s what you were that night. My rapist. Mine. And then I click away. Avoid.
AvoidAvoidAvoidAvoid.

The bell that can never be unrung.

The night started out fun, a typical college fall weekend, drinking and laughing and all of us running outside, off to the next party. We kissed because you wanted me, and I thought what the hell, l’m having fun. It’s fun to be wanted. But. You were too needy. Some part of me sensed this, had always sensed it about you in regular interactions. Somewhere along the line, in my drunken stupor – I gave you the slip.

Went back to my dorm, the room began to spin, and I went into the co-ed restroom. Proceeded to get sick. Then I heard your voice in the hallway, and froze. You were calling out my name, banging on my door. I held my breath. Then another classmate said, Oh, she’s in the bathroom. Oh.
How I wish you hadn’t told him that.
Why did you do that. Oh.
I pretended to be passed out.

Would you tell your sons how you got under my arms, and dragged me out the door, back to my room? I opened my eyes in the hall, saw the girl who’d given away my location, pleaded with my eyes. But it was too late.

In your memory, I bet you don’t remember me telling you “No.” It was the only word I said.
Over and over. As you pulled my robe off. Pushed me into bed.
No
NoNoNoNoNo.
But it was not enough.

Years later, a therapist would explain to me that the reason I metaphorically left my body that night was to preserve myself. To save me further trauma, as you hunched over me, barely looking at me, absorbed in your own triumphant conquest. Thank god for small favors, right? You finished, you borrowed my robe to go to the bathroom, returned, dressed yourself & went back to your dorm room.

And you called the next day. A gentleman? Hoping for more? Pretending that word never happened, that it was some magical night.

NoNoNoNoNoNo.

At least we didn’t have phones in our rooms back then. Every time you called, I just shook my head. I’m pretty sure the senior classmate across the hall figured it out. She was pretty perceptive, even though we never talked about it. I went on to join a support group for sexual assault victims (I hate that word, “victim”, oh how I hate it) and I listened more than I spoke. Then I moved on to crisis counseling. I would channel my emotions into helping other people. I would gain weight, because nobody will ever be able to lift or drag me again. That powerless feeling is one of the worst feelings in my life, and I don’t know if it will ever go away.

Today, there’s lots of talk about addressing sexual abuse on college campuses. I listen to it quietly, and sometimes, if I’m getting ready in the morning and there’s a story on NPR, I’ll look at myself in the mirror. And my eyes fill with tears.

Because this will never leave me. I made bad choices. I got drunk. I kissed you back. And then, even though my voice said “No”, my physical being couldn’t defend myself and I was reduced to a warm body you used to your own satisfaction, never mind it wasn’t willing. “No.” I get to keep that word. You raped me. Your word is rapist. And I imagine now you talk to your boys, as a father, maybe you even say things about respecting women and you’ve changed the history in your mind, how I was a bitch who wouldn’t give you the time of day after a Friday night hookup.
What a bitch.
Yep.
The bitch who said no.
The bitch who will carry that night of violation and pain with her for a lifetime. Oh sure, like all scars, they thicken and they fade and they blur. But what has been marked upon cannot be undone.

You took my power from me, and I hate you. I hate that you have sons. I wish you’d had daughters, so a part of you could feel queasy inside, maybe you would look back on that night and think, maybe when she said no, she really meant no. No. I even said it. I said it. And you, you ignored it. And you would think, I don’t want that happening to my daughters. Because you wouldn’t, right? I will carry your name inside me until I die, but I’m tired of the pain you caused. Tired of being fucking triggered by Bill Cosby stories and fucking movie scenes that eroticize rape and tired of badly-written books that glamorize an imbalance in sexual power. Tired of hearing words like “unrapeable” because a woman isn’t pretty enough, thin enough, young enough. I’m tired of being silent about it. I am, in so many ways, a force to be reckoned with and a strong, intelligent woman. So I’m going to own it. Yes. If you know me? You know someone who was raped. No matter what the fuck I did, what the choices were that I made that night, you can judge me all you want, but I. Said. No.

And that word makes all the difference.

(P.S. – I’m editing this to add that someone who is incapacitated does not even HAVE the ability to consent. My “no” was actually unnecessary at that point, but I have still clung to it all these years because with everything that was taken, that remained mine.)

Grief, Take Two

James’ grandfather is dying. Stage IV Melanoma; it’s in his brain and lungs and a lot of other places, too. He had a doctor who put him into radiation immediately, but the 2nd opinion at KU Cancer Center confirmed everyone’s worst fears – nothing could be done to save him, and just live what life you have left. Hearing how kind the second doctor was brought my first tears, for he was so kind. So caring. Facing finality, with no good news and surrounded by family, this man took all the time necessary to convey the worst news of all: there is no hope. For hope is that tiny spark in the face of darkness.

Obviously this is painful and horrible and heavy and sad. It is hard to watch your partner struggle with the oh-so-many-faces and emotions grief brings when it moves in and settles down, right in the center of your chest like a boulder going nowhere. It’s hard to relive the memories it all churns up, images I’d pushed far to the back of the closet, the bottom of the box, the gray shell my father had become, a shadow of his former self, his body an empty sarcophagus that once housed a robust, vibrant, witty man. What those final moments were like and how months later they threatened to destroy me, crying at the night sky, anything to end the constant aching pain of loss.

Some of my own defenses kick in, and I don’t cry at home. I have to be strong and kind and gentle and understanding, because it’s some rough shit and it’s my turn to drive. My turn to be a rock. So I’m angry when grief still springs from the office ceiling or the backseat of my car, causing tears to slide down my own cheeks while I fight off old haunted feelings. The best thing I can do is just be here, be there, because if there is proof you can survive some of the greatest loss imaginable, I’ve done it. Still kickin’. Still pissed at grief for being an unpredictable demon, reminding us that with great love can also come great loss.

There are lost periods. Time passes in fits and starts. And where my world, 8 years ago, was filled with a jumble of crazy, of helplessness, wildly racing emotions and rage, confusion and denial, now there is … white static. It’s like that thing you hear in your ears, as though the air pressure around you has shifted, increased, and your head feels like its underwater, but you can still breathe, you just feel suspended by the buzz and hum of containment. It is an odd purgatory, this limbo, for it insulates somewhat against the pain, while you wait for the next verse to start.

White light. Open spaces everywhere.
The hum. Holding my breath.
Just. Waiting.

Cold Moon

The 13th full moon of the year, in the last week of the year, only comes along every 27 years. When you reach middle age, and numbers like that are tossed around – you wonder, will I be here when the next one rolls around? Hopefully. Paging through my alumni magazine, I saw a classmate had died – last year. I can still see him, in his food service uniform – just like mine – and now he’s gone. It makes you pause and remember that nothing is guaranteed.

These nights have been reminiscent of the cold winters of my childhood, where snow covered the landscape, developing a hard crunchy crust and glistening in the moonlight. One night, a large full moon rose, shining the brightest light through the trees. My mother thought there were poachers on the property, and it forever became known as a “Poacher’s Moon”, light so bright that in tandem with the snow, you could read a newspaper at midnight.

Late, late at night, I would put on my coat and boots and go out to sit in my dog Oscar’s kennel, and cry. He would lean against me, licking away tears. Sometimes I just walked, under that poacher’s moon, each step breaking through the surface into the powder below. I push those memories down, leave them in the past. We all have our own rows and baggage.

But it is not unfamiliar. This time of year is always challenging. Sunlight is fleeting, the nights are long and cold, and the memories of holidays and the people we love come rushing back. For years, we only celebrated Christmas in a festive way every other year – my father hated the month of December, as he grappled with the pain of losing his mother. I would decorate the ficus benjamina with paper garland and strung popcorn in his years. No tree allowed. In my mother’s years, boy howdy, we had magnificent trees, trees that had been planted and grown over the years on the farm, acres of ribbon, twinkly white lights, everything coordinated. There was the same routine every Christmas Eve – no presents until every dish was washed, order restored, and then my father would still say, “Aw hell, let’s just celebrate Christmas tomorrow!” just to hear me wail my dissent.

Then came the contentious years, and more often reasons found to stay away, and then one last Christmas where we had a battle of Epic Proportions. That was the final Christmas we were all together. They divorced a couple years after that, and I just learned to deplete my expectations. Of course, we never really do that, fully – we still hope, we wish, we want to believe that people won’t disappoint us, that they’ll follow through, they’ll treat you with kindness, they will have the wherewithal to set aside their own demons to give you what you believe you need. We give lip service to the words, “no, it’s ok, I understand, not a problem,” while inside we hope it might be different. But each year, I find myself in a situation or a memory and the tears fall with no restraint. Always relegated to the outside looking in. It’s ok, really, it’s where I’ve always been. And as I pointed out to someone online, who voiced a similar pain, if you’re outside, and I’m outside, well, that means we’re together. So I know I’m not alone. Rarely is one unique in one’s woes, pains or fears.

Oh dad. I’m living your legacy, it seems. Every December winds down with sadness and missing you. It is, indeed, a cold cold moon. I look forward to January, and the proverbial fresh start. Each year I try to invest less in people who don’t reciprocate the effort, and I believe in the tenet “Go where you are celebrated.” Each year I recognize what I do have, what is good and healthy and positive in my life. But in the moonlight, December’s darkness, sharp air entering my lungs, I still feel every winter’s heartache.

UDPATE: Guitar Obtained!

Kansas City Hospice needs your help – they have a patient, and her father would like to play the guitar for her during her final days. He discovered his was warped. A friend of mine & I were all set to go with a Yamaha guitar from Craigslist, but the douchecanoe has failed to follow through. (KARMA! It comes around!) Anyway, I will refrain from posting more identifying details but may a thousand stinging bees descend on his heart.
To that end, if you have a guitar in playable condition that you are willing to donate, PLEASE call KC Hospice (816.363.2600) and ask for Kenyon, who will make sure it finds its way into the hands of this dad. My heart breaks every time I think about this, on so many levels – first and foremost, I wish no parent ever has to witness their child’s passing, followed by the fact that despite our country’s reluctance to acknowledge death and even allow people suffering in pain a dignified choice to end their lives, people who work in hospice are angels on earth. They at least provide a level of grace to a painful situation.

If you can help, and need to get in touch with me, email me at plazajen – at the good ol’ gmail.com and I will do whatever possible.

 

Update: a guitar came in to hospice yesterday, so this has been taken care of. It hadn’t been confirmed when I posted this, and I didn’t want to lose any more time. I appreciate the support – within ten minutes we had two guitars being offered, and that means a ton. Balances out the struggles of yesterday/this morning, trying to get one. Most people are really, really good peeps. Love when that gets re-affirmed. BUT – if you still would like to donate a guitar to them, they’d love to have one around Hospice House, for families to use. Phone/Contact still the same as listed above.

 

Another Letter, One of Compassion and Sadness

Today started with me rolling out of bed, and shortly thereafter, walking into the living room. My husband was folding laundry and had an inscrutable look on his face.

“You’re never going to guess who’s dead,” he stated.

I responded, “Patrice O’Neal? That happened yesterday.”

“Nope. Don Harman.”

And it felt like the floor fell out from under me. The first thought I had was for his little girl, so young. In some ways, she is spared the heartache her mother will carry for the rest of her life. Of course, like everyone else, we searched online for answers, and waited for more news to unfold, wondering if there would or could be any sort of an explanation for why a man in his prime, at the pinnacle of his career, could possibly be dead and by his own hand.

(For those who aren’t in Kansas City, or those who eschew morning news, Don Harman was the meteorologist for WDAF, Fox 4. We switched to Fox mornings after KCTV fired their morning crew, and laughed along with the team who consistently pulled in the #1 ratings in the market for their daypart.)

This is the second high-profile suicide here in two months, the first being John McClure, chef at Starker’s Reserve, about to open a second restaurant and arguable, at the top of his game as well.

And for the second time, I read comments from people online and winced. Sure, there are always assholes trolling around. But I have to say, for anyone out there who calls someone’s suicide “selfish”, let me gently try to convince you it’s the wrong word. I started to write this last month, and pushed it aside, telling myself it was too personal, it wouldn’t make a difference. But I’m not going to care about that part, because frankly, it’s too damned important, and it’s too damned frustrating to see another good person get sucked under by the undertow of pain.

There have been times in my life when I’ve known that pain, where the depression, self-hatred, bleakness all swirl together and try to drown you. I can tell you that in those raw moments, it is truly moment-to-moment. The pain is excruciating. The mind plays tricks, tells lies, and you are in a free fall into the abyss. There’s a reason the Greeks invented The Furies – mythical demons that chase you and hound you until you can no longer live. I come by it honestly. My father told me of times in his life, when he had the barrel of a shotgun in his mouth, tears streaming down his face, as he looked at death and saw it as a viable alternative to how he was feeling. Depression is not something that can always be overcome by force of will or temperament. There are many types of depression, there are just as many treatments. What I’m sick of is the accusations – or worse, silence – that surround the depths of depression in this country and the judgment and misunderstanding that cause it.

And this time of year is the worst. Expectations don’t match reality. Memories of people we’ve lost loom larger in the doorway, the hole they left behind seemingly infinite. Everyone expects happy, magnetic people to always be happy and magnetic. It’s hard to live that prescription every day – and unrealistic. People can tell you that you have everything to live for, even make you lists, but when the pain is so great, you can’t hear them. You can’t give credence to anything, because those people don’t fully comprehend how worthless you actually know yourself to be.

This is the best one-line summary of what suicidal feelings are like that I’ve found:

Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.

This summation, along with some really sensible advice for anyone who has suicidal feelings, can be found HERE. Want to talk to someone? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Want even more resources? Here’s a good place to start.

Does this mean Don’s wife, co-workers should have done something, could have done anything to change what happened? No. But until we remove the stigma of what it means to be depressed, until we are all better educated on what to do or what to say, it’s worth taking thirty minutes out of your week to do a little reading, possibly challenge some ideas or beliefs that keep you biting your tongue, or telling yourself it’s none of your business.

You wouldn’t tell a man with a broken leg to “walk it off”, would you? You can’t tell someone who’s depressed to “just get over it.”

Goddammit.

Dear Don, You were part of my mornings, your cranky rants and willingness to laugh at yourself resonated in me, and so many others. I wish to hell we could have reached you in time. I’ll never forget meeting you (forgive the bad cameraphone picture below), and I’ll hope that somehow, some way, in some strange twist of fate, that losing your light can somehow save someone else from following you into that terrible, terrible darkness. You are missed. More than you ever believed possible.


Two blurry people. They look happy, right? Sometimes you just can’t tell.

New Day, New Decade

We spent last week, and much of the weekend, watching many of the programs dedicated to the memory of 9/11.

I spent a lot of time in tears, and despite that sadness, the explanation I have for that choice is simple. I feel, as a citizen of this country, that it is my duty to know as much as possible about what happened that day, and to never forget it.

Because here, in flyover country, that day was as blue as the skies in Manhattan.

And as I drove to work, listening to the DJs in confusion and not having anything visual to go on, I just kept  yelling, “WHAT IS GOING ON?” which probably sums up how most of America felt that day.

When the first tower fell, I was sitting in our conference room. My mind went blank and all I could think was, “All those people.” I started to cry. Nobody else was crying. I still don’t understand that, everyone around me was silent and stoney-faced.  Maybe it was the horror, the shock, just being in the workplace – but none of it was a barrier for me. I went to my office, shut the door, tried to call my friend still living in Manhattan. All the lines were down. (He was fine, I found out later.)

So I called my father. The man who always had an idea, a solution, greater knowledge of the world and what to do. This would be the only time in my life with him that he didn’t have an answer. “Why is this happening? What is going on?” I could see  him shaking his head as he told me he just didn’t know, that it was terrible and awful. Things we both knew, small words that couldn’t capture the enormity of it all.

I left work, listening now to reports that our president was flying all over the country, and I was angry. One of the shows we watched last week was on NatGeo, and it was an hour, interviewing George W. about that day, and despite my feelings about his politics in general, it was an excellent show. It really explained the chronology of events, how information was being gathered, how that day unfolded, how even our government was in shock, reacting, doing everything possible to keep our president out of harm’s way, while trying to prevent more of the same from happening.

Later that afternoon, I called James. We had been dating for two years. He still lived in Clinton. He described walking out onto the playground and looking up at the sky, seeing all the hairpin vapour trails from the planes that had left MCI, and then turned back around, grounded. Hearing the fighter jets take their place, departing out of Whiteman AFB.

For the rest of the night, I watched the news, horrified but unable to turn away. Also, unable to knit, I could only wind yarn. I still haven’t worked on that project, but for the first time, I think I can again.

Ten years later, all I’ve got is this: Love, Solidarity & Wisdom. They all came with a painful price tag.

5

Five years ago, Life took my world and upended it, spinning me off onto a journey no one ever really wants to take. This blog became my voice for dealing with some of my grief; some of it you never saw, darker times and a desire to end the pain any way possible.  What really pissed me off about the pain after my father’s death is that it just wouldn’t go away. After all, we experience heartbreak when a relationship comes to an end, shouldn’t our heart sew itself back up, the wound heal, the ache easing each day, until one day you forget what he looked like, you struggle to remember his last name?

Nope. Grief is a motherfucker. It’s non-linear, and sometimes it can feel as raw and as fresh as the day it happened, which gives your brain whiplash the first 600 times or so, because you just think, “How…..?” Grief comes with a horse-sized dosage of bewilderment, that’s for sure.

Because Grief’s DNA is love. And unlike an ex-boyfriend, losing someone you love your whole life so deeply leaves a hole that doesn’t sew itself up magically. You stop bleeding, eventually, and the hole toughens up a bit, and life moves on and you realize you just have to figure out how to live with the hole, instead of fixing it or checking out completely.

Despite my tears and lumps in my throat as this day approached, like clockwork, I woke up this morning, remembered the anniversary – and then I thought instantly of all the good things I have in my life to be grateful for, to turn my face to like sunshine, to be my focal point in the day. Funny things, fun plans. Good friends, both on and off the internet, family – both blood and by choice.  At the center of it all, a wonderful husband who’s watched all of this, walked beside me, propped me up and adapted to the changes and loved me completely despite the craziness – and so much more.

I’ll cry again, probably more today; I know it, I understand where it comes from, and I’m not going to try and stop it.  I think that’s a big step in the grieving process: instead of fighting the current when it rushes forward, to just breathe deeply and accept that this wave, this surge of emotion is all part of it, when you love someone unconditionally and completely, you will never stop missing them.  My memories have not faded or been lost, as I feared so much in the first year after his death. I can talk about him, recount stories, even hear his voice in my head, spot my own words and action and instantly know they would be exactly what he would do, and hear his approving laugh in my head when I have a funny encounter or was able to display the quick wit he trained in me.

Miss you, dad. May we all be loved as much to live on in the hearts of others.

Faith

As I’ve noted, December isn’t the easiest of months to sail through. Between the busy-ness of work, the pressure of holidays, the sorrows and reminders of family and loss, on its own, the month is taxing. (Oh yeah – gotta pay property taxes and estimated taxes by the end of the month, too. Fun!)  Throw in a couple other unexpected experiences, and I’ve felt of late that my faith has been shaken.

Which is interesting. I don’t worship a conventional god, deity, in any sense of organized religion. So when my reflective mind tells me, “Our faith has been shaken,” and I know it’s referring to the trust and confidence in people and situations, sardonic self replies with, “What faith?” Of course, faith isn’t simply faith to God or god or whatever you want to call it. My faith is rooted in a set of behaviors and values, and when things run perpendicular to those holdings, I question not only myself, but the world around me. I think that in times of struggle, our faith rolls like the tides.  Betrayals of trust, seeing what was hidden before, whatever the provocation, you see the water recede from your feet, exposing the flotsam and the sand pulls away from under your feet. And as you stand there pondering all that is strewn before you, and wondering when your faith is ever going to return, it’s easy to think it might not come back. Or that it will take a long time to return, at the very least.

But in my solitude today, I realized something. Something that I hadn’t allowed myself to see. Because I spent the first 30 years of my life viewing every problem as something that was mine, and mine alone to solve and resolve. To some extent, that’s still true. In the end, we have to live with ourselves, the choices we make, and that sometimes there is no resolution or clear path. But. I forget to see the faith others have in me.  And while they want to take away my pain (and can’t) or want to resolve my own internal struggle (again, they can’t), that support and desire to make it better remains.  It surrounds me, like the faces of my friends last night, or the arms of my husband, or the emails from people across the expanse, checking in, valuing me, saying hello.

And when I realized the massive volume of that love and support today, I felt my own tightly-wound spool spin unfettered.  Air went deeper into my lungs. The path before me no longer strewn with pitfalls and hurdles, but just a path. One that I must walk, with my own feet, on my own – yet not alone.  Faith, restored.

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