Monday, January 13, 2014

Life with PTSD: Depression

WARNING: Contains spoilers for Disney's movie, Frozen.

Kame made a rare foray out of his mulch a few days ago. At the height of winter, he goes several days, up to two weeks, at a time without making an appearance. I miss my little friend, and hope he'll be emerging soon. Hibernation can be one way of dealing with the cold, but it is not a permanent solution.




Depression is weird.

It makes you lonely, but the thought of being with others is overwhelming.
It makes you wish you could get up and do something... but moving takes too much effort.
It makes you remember happier times, but you have no hope that you will ever be happy again.

Just socializing can make you feel as if you're living on a stage, putting on a show... and it's exhausting.

"Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, put on a show
Make one wrong move and everyone will know"
-Elsa, Disney's Frozen 

Depression, allowed to fester, can cause deep and lasting damage to relationships, and the closer the person is to you, the deeper the damage can go.

This was my kids' first holiday without their dad. Their first Thanksgiving, and their first Christmas, since he moved out of state. I knew it wouldn't be easy, so I planned to spend as much time over the break with them as possible. On Thanksgiving day, we went to the movie theater to see Disney's latest animated movie; Frozen.

The movie surprised me, in a lot of good ways. I'd seen the trailer, and was expecting the usual funny-but-predictable Disney fare. I was pleasantly surprised, both by the movie itself and by the effect the afternoon out had on my relationship with my kids.

For those who haven't seen it, Frozen is the story of two sisters. The elder, Elsa, is "cursed" with the power to create and control ice and snow. She uses her gift to entertain her little sister Anna, by creating snow inside the palace for them to play in. The girls build a snowman together. Anna begins running as Elsa throws snowdrifts in front of her, creating a path for her sister. Anna gets excited and runs faster than Elsa can create new snow hills... and when Elsa tries to catch Anna as she falls, she hits her sister with an icy blast to the head, nearly taking her life.




Anna is, of course, cured, but the girls' parents, frightened by the near miss, warn Elsa that she must not use her powers, and that she must learn to control them, lest she be seen as a monster by the people in the kingdom.

The fright, and the new restrictions, cause Elsa to withdraw into her room. Anna, with no memory of the incident, can't understand why her older sister won't play with her. When the girls lose their parents, leaving them alone, the separation becomes even deeper. Elsa is unable to reconnect with her sister, preferring to guard her terrible secret in isolation.

Elsa sings,

"A kingdom of isolation and it looks like I'm the queen...
Don't let them in, don't let them see.
Be the good girl you always had to be.
Conceal don't feel, don't let them know...
"

Anyone who's attempted to have a family while living with PTSD can relate to Elsa's words. 

When the kids ask "Do you want to build a snowman?"... sometimes the answer is "Go away". Sometimes it seems best to separate, to send them away, to protect them.
 
Once her secret is out, Elsa runs away to a crystalline palace, hidden on the snowy mountain. Anna comes looking for her, and Elsa sings to Anna:

"You mean well, but leave me be
Yes, I’m alone, but I’m alone and free
Just stay away and you’ll be safe from me ..."

What Elsa doesn't realize is that she's left her kingdom locked in an eternal winter. If she doesn't return, the winter will never end.
 
 
 
Spending time with my kids, I realized that I've been isolating myself, hiding my grief and fears after the disintegration of my marriage, from them. I haven't been fair to them, and I haven't been the Mom I need to be.

The reasons for withdrawing are many and varied. I have good reasons for keeping a distance. I need to protect my kids. There are things about my life, and my experiences, that I don't feel they're old enough to process. There are things kids just don't need to know... Sometimes I feel ashamed. I don't want to taint them with the knowledge of what I am, who I've been, or what I've done. I want to protect my kids... and as a parent, that is my job. My kids are not my therapists. It's unfair to burden them with festering pain, unfair to expect them to heal wounds inflicted before they were even born. A child's love is healing... but it's not their job to be a crutch when a parent is hurting, and that kind of expectation can be an overwhelming load for a child to carry.
 
What I've come to understand, through forcing myself to deliberately spend more time with my kids, is that withdrawing is not the same as protection.

It hurts. When a parent withdraws, it damages a child. Being pushed away hurts, no matter what the reason.

As a parent, I need to manage the depression, just as I would manage any other disease, in order to be as healthy as possible for my children. It's hard. It hurts. There are times I'm angry and resentful and miserable and just want to curl up and hide, but if you have children, you have an obligation, and so you pick up and you move forward. Because that's what parents do.

Do they want you to build a snowman?
Build it.

Do they want you to watch a movie with them?
Sit down on the couch and watch.

Do they want to know why you cry sometimes, for no reason? 
 Explain to them what depression is. Tell them it's an upset in the chemistry of the brain, that can be caused by genetics, by family history, and by experiences. Tell them that sometimes you have sad memories. Sometimes you have sad thoughts. And sometimes you need to cry. 

Then, when you're able, get up, and go out, and make new memories.

If you're not able, then talk to your doctor. Seek out a good, qualified counselor, one with whom you feel a connection, one who respects you and who has experience dealing with depression.

The worst possible thing you can do to your kids is to isolate, to cut yourself off, to try to "protect" them by not being there for them.

Don't turn your kids away. Don't freeze them out. Don't let your fear and pain rule your life.

If you need help coping, get it. If that means trying medications until you find the one that works for you, keep trying. If it means seeking counseling, or engaging in self-care, if it means taking classes, do it. For me, it means self-care, and sometimes it means forcing myself to parent, to be the "bad guy" even when I know that conflict can trigger the depression for me.
 
Whatever it takes, because your kids are going to grow. And they're only going to have the memories you create for them.

Build a snowman.

Journey safe, friends.
Mary

~*~*~

Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.”
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  “When you're surrounded by all these people, it can be lonelier than when you're by yourself. You can be in a huge crowd, but if you don't feel like you can trust anyone or talk to anybody, you feel like you're really alone.”
~Fiona Apple
 “There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.”
~Laurell K. Hamilton

Please, friends, do not inflict those wounds upon your children. If you need help with depression, there are many, many resources, both nationally, and in your community. Educate yourself, and seek out the help you need.

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml


Monday, December 2, 2013

The Journey

My mommy is in town. This makes me ridiculously happy. I've missed her terribly since she moved to Florida this summer. The unselfish part of me knows that she's in better space. Not least of all, Florida is a lot WARMER than New York, especially in winter. She's finally been able to get some outside help with my step father, who isn't able to care for himself. These are huge steps forward.

Living in a house, with the need to take care of a lawn and garden, not to mention living on a highway which meant that she had to drive John to the mall so he could walk each day, was difficult for them both. Now, they can walk around the neighborhood, and there's no fear of falling on the ice, or Mom injuring herself trying to shovel snow. It was the right move for them, and I know it's been a good one. As much as I miss her, I want her happy, above all.

My Mom, Gloria, with her sister, Pearl. Mom's in blue. :)


The selfish part... misses being able to just drive over and have a cup of tea with my mom. I miss having her here for my kiddos. They're long past the age of needing a babysitter, but they miss hanging out with their Gramma as much as I miss hanging out with my Mom. My daughter said yesterday, about my step-father, "I know he can be a grumpy pain sometimes, but I miss him." It made me laugh.

Mom's a painter, and the kids remember fondly sitting at the table and painting with her, everything from paper to rocks. I feel closer to Mom when I'm painting, even though her talent far exceeds my own small efforts.


Families... are so complicated sometimes. Mine more than some, less than others I suppose. Everyone's family has their own internal pushes and pulls, jealousies, loyalties, happiness, and sadness and memories, all mixed together. Families... add the holidays, and you've got a recipe for emotional chaos.

I asked my ex to hang lights one Christmas...



Funny, just like with Christmas lights, with chaos and a tangled mess... it's the lights you notice. Families are crazy at times, but the love is the part that shines through.

Since my ex left, the kids and I have moved forward. We've re-knit ourselves into something new. It's different, and sometimes we feel the empty space... this is not how life was "meant to be", but it is how life is for us now and I think, all things told, we've grown into our new reality, just as Mom and John have grown into living in Florida. It wasn't easy, I know, for them to leave behind everyone here, to leave the home John built himself. It was a big change... and change is scary, but, as they say, regret is scarier.

Here's looking forward to a new year, full of changes, and hopefully fewer regrets.

Journey safely, friends.

~*~*~

Not all those who wander are lost.
~JRR Tolkien
It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
~Ernest Hemingway

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Same River Twice

I have been debating for a while now, about the nature of this blog, and whether I should continue on. It started as a chronicle of my marriage, which has now come to an end.  I wondered if the blog should end, too, but I believe that its title, Life, Dreams, and a Turtle, like my life, is larger than my marriage. There is life after divorce. The direction will change, but the blog, and our lives, will continue to move forward. I intend to shift the focus from my marriage to the day to day struggles that come with living with teens and with PTSD.

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”
-Heraclitus

Where there is life, there is hope, and hope lives on.

 ~*~*~

Laura took this photo of Kame exploring her sneakers about three weeks before she passed on.


Kame has always been a very good judge of character. He enjoys cruising around my upstairs, and although he rarely leaves the office or bedroom, depending on which room I'm using, when my friend Laura would come visit, he made his way into what was then the guest bedroom, as if to say hello and see what she was up to. He was particularly fond of her sneakers for some reason, and would make it a point to crawl over them on his way through the room.

All my pets loved Laura. While my bed is nearly always occupied by three cats and a dog, when Laura stayed the night, I was abandoned in favor of the delights of the guest room. She loved animals, and missed her two elderly cats and her beloved dog deeply, so she never minded the extra cuddles.

My beautiful friend. This is her sarcastic "are you REALLY gonna take that picture?" look. She hated having her picture taken, much to my sorrow now, because I have so few photos of her beautiful smile. That little half-smile smirk she has here means she's about to make a smart remark which would make me laugh... She only had to give me this look, and I'd know her thoughts... Miss you, Lady. <3

Losing Laura was one of the most difficult blows I've endured since my own father passed in 1990. She was more than just a good friend. She was an anchor, someone who was there through the very best, and the very worst times of my life, for nearly a decade. I live with PTSD, the after effects of a very traumatic event as a teen, and Laura was the only living person who knew the story. Among the coping skills I've developed is to develop and nurture a solid network of friendships. While I have many amazing and beautiful friends, and a select few who I trust with everything, not many people understand PTSD, what it looks like, how it manifests, and what it's like to live with a permanent, debilitating condition. Even those who are closest to me sometimes don't understand why I'm in a "bad mood" for extended periods, or why I can't simply shake things off and move on. The closest thing I can compare it to is the loss of a limb. With hard work and a prosthetic, the patient can become functional again, and participate in every day life. They may even pass as "normal" at times, but the truth is, the limb will never grow back. They have a new normal.

"Coping skills" is just another way of saying "occasional adjustment required."


My normal is not the same as my friends' normals. Neither is their normal the same as anyone else's. I'm coming to realize, bit by bit, that everyone's normal is different, and there really isn't any such thing as normal, anyway. None of us are handed a standard-issue life. We all have different experiences that affect us in different ways. We all have our own definition of healthy and what is healthy for me might not be for someone else.

Am I normal? Are you?


For me, normal is waking up each morning, and gauging my own mood. Will it be a good day? If not, how will I get past the lingering depression or anger or anxiety to function? Routine figures strongly into my day to day. I need to do the same things every day. The activity anchors me. Taking five dogs out every morning is a hassle that makes most people think I'm a bit nuts. I am, but it's the necessity of getting them out every morning that helps me to focus and get on with my day. Having my kids go back to public school after homeschooling for 3 years should be an enormous relief. I should feel great, having my freedom... but the truth is, it's screwing with my routine. I'm having to adjust to a new way of doing things- getting up earlier to prepare my kids' breakfast and see them off to school. Do I "have" to take care of my kids this way? No. They're old enough to get up and fix their own breakfast and get themselves out the door, but it's part of my normal, and for us, it's a good and healthy thing. It helps us connect in the mornings and they go off to school with the security of knowing they are cherished.

This week, I was deeply disturbed in a lady's group when one of the moms mentioned that her daughter is in counseling for panic attacks. And then she said that "anxiety is a sin". It was all I could do not to ask if her daughter had diabetes, would she then consider that a sin as well? Not relying fully on God to control her blood sugar, but turning instead to medical science, would that be a sin? And the longer I dwell on the comments, the angrier I become. My heart hurts for that child, whose mother doesn't understand, because I know what it is to not be understood. My family is mostly unaware of my condition and the reason for it. Some members prefer not to know, others I simply haven't told. There is enough drama in our collective lives, and the past is not a safe subject for most of us.


Have you ever been made to feel like trash because you can't control your emotions and thoughts? I have.


I realized, reflecting on that conversation, that I am angry. I'm angry that Laura is gone. I'm angry that my friend has left me, though I'm not angry with her, exactly. I'm just tired of everyone I love going away. It's that simple. Every single person I've ever cared about has either been taken from me by circumstances or death, or has left of their own volition. As I get older, I have come to understand that this is the way of life, and that one day I, in my turn, will leave the ones I love behind, but the knowledge doesn't make the separations any easier, or the pain any less.


Separation may be part of life, but it hurts. I can only hope that the seeds will land, and grow.


I don't have a conclusion to today's entry. I don't know, yet, how to deal with this anger, this grief and fear. I don't know whether I'll return to the ladies' group, to try to educate that mother, to share what I've learned from my experiences. I don't know if I'll step up in my church. After 10 years as a member, and having come through a healing process, I do feel I have something to share with others, but I'm unsure if I'll be accepted by the leadership as worthy, knowledgeable, or  capable of leading a group or even serving in ministry again. I'm quite often unreliable and unstable. When I have a bad day, I might blow off everything. They don't happen often, and I can usually make up the time, but they do happen. I haven't been attending church regularly in almost a year... but I know something has to change if I'm going to move forward. I don't want to stay in this place, stuck. I've reached a plateau, and I feel ready to move forward, to take a new step, to move on.

Hopefully in the coming weeks, I'll have more to add. For now... All I have is today, and I need to make the best of what I have.

Journey safe, friends.
-Mary

~*~*~

"Where there is life, there is hope." -Hamato Yoshi

“Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it.”
-Dorothy M. Neddermeyer

“That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ -- all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself -- that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness -- that I myself am the enemy who must be loved -- what then? As a rule, the Christian's attitude is then reversed; there is no longer any question of love or long-suffering; we say to the brother within us "Raca," and condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide it from the world; we refuse to admit ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves.”
-C.G. Jung

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Of Flickers and Flames

Silly Kame... He makes me smile, and helps me remember happier days.

Gaslighting was a term coined by a movie. The villain of the piece adjusted the gas lamps so that they flickered at intermittent intervals, but only when his wife was in the room. He would then tell her that she was imagining things, that there was nothing wrong with the lamps. Bit by bit, he drove her to question her own sanity, her own perception of reality. His end game was to have her committed to a mental institution so that he could seize her considerable fortune.



Gaslighting has passed into the regular lingo of counselors and psychologists, to describe the behavior of certain narcissistic personalities. While gaslighting might be as simple and straightforward as making comments like "you're so sensitive", or "you're too emotional", it's not always that obvious. Sometimes it's acting shocked when you respond appropriately to outrageous behavior. When you express hurt at his (or her) behavior, the response is "you made me do it"... and there's always a reasonable (seemingly) explanation. You didn't keep the house clean enough. You didn't do what I wanted in bed. I'm not happy.

There's a lot of water under the bridge I've been crossing over the past year. There's a lot more to come. A marriage is never truly dissolved when children are involved. Although it would suit me to simply make a clean break, and move on with my life, a little sadder, a little wiser, than I was, my kids don't have that option. Some relationships can't be severed, nor should they be, in the absence of abuse.



I am struggling with finding balance. For my own mental health, I need distance. I need to remain free of the influence that has been a part of my life for so long, it's difficult not to believe, when I see the lights flicker, that my eyes are not deceiving me. Even when a lie is outright and obvious, false outrage can make me doubt. I have learned to verify, to be certain, before making an assertion, that I know reality, that I know the situation, before I ask the question, because it's the only way to be certain of the lie, to see the flicker and know what I'm seeing is real.



I've learned that there are very few things more painful than to be on the receiving end of a lie. The wounds lies leave fester, like a burn. I hope that, if nothing else comes out of this, that I can teach my kids the skill of honesty. Although I make every effort to keep my own disappointment and hurt from coloring their world, I hope I can break a cycle, and teach them to relate in healthy ways. I hope they will be better people than either of their parents, and that they will go on to create something new, something beautiful, out of the ashes of this defeat.



Journey safe, friends. And keep your eye on the lights. If they look like they're flickering... they probably are.

~Mary

~*~*~

I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.”
~Friedrich Nietzsche

You can't stop the future
You can't rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret
...is to press play
.”
~Jay Asher

Monday, July 1, 2013

Anger

A couple weeks ago, I screwed up on Facebook.

Yep, it happens. It happens a lot actually. People say things they regret, or they get into pointless arguments, or they post drunken pictures of the party they shouldn't have been at because they'd called in sick to work that day. Facebook can be a minefield for the unwary and the careless.

I'm usually more careful, but I let my temper get away with me. When I get angry, words are my medium, my weapon, my outlet. If I'm angry with a person, I quite often write them a letter, though I rarely send those words spilled out in anger, burning through the page like acid. It helps me to get the anger out of my system, to pour it out and look at it with a saner mind, and quite often it helps me to put things into perspective.

Image by William Arthur Fine Stationary, courtesy of Flickr.


This time, in an impulsive moment, I poured my anger, grief and frustration out into a post, not meant to be seen by anyone involved, but I made a mistake. Well, I made TWO mistakes. First, I ranted publicly about an incident that made me angry and sick and sad, but that did not happen to ME. I had my facts straight, but the story wasn't necessarily mine to tell.

The second mistake was to make my post "Public". If you're unused to social media, here's a quick tutorial: you have the option of setting your posts to "friends only", "friends of friends", or "Public". There is also an option to put certain friends (like your boss, if you're prone to posting photos of your weekend exploits), on a "restricted" list. Those friends will then only see your public posts.

Image by Sean MacAtee, courtesy of Flickr


I accidentally made my harshly-worded post public, and made comments elsewhere, setting off a minor explosion. I responded, apologized, and removed the rant entirely, which is what I should have done in the first place. I did what I could to stop the drama before it went any further, but I couldn't take back what had been done. Blood spilled can't be recalled, which is why we must be cautious always, whether we wield a sword or a pen... a fact that I have been well aware of for a long time. The urge to defend, prove, and explain is still strong, but whether I was right about what I said or not doesn't matter. The fact remains that I shouldn't have handled it the way I did.

It took me some time, and some reflection, to understand the anger that propelled the entire incident. My fury was out of proportion, and it drove me to acting out in a way I normally wouldn't. I've spent years learning to control my anger, and learning to direct it into positive, constructive solutions. I learned many years ago that only bullies scream and rant and yell and assert their power over others because they can. Only bullies and cowards tear down or attack or are mean even in little ways, because it makes them feel powerful and in control.

Childish thinking leads to childish actions.



My father, by contrast, was the most gentle, easygoing person I've ever known. I rarely knew him to raise his voice, and even more rarely saw him argue or fuss. I don't think there was a mean bone in his body. He was one of the most respected people in our little community. His funeral was packed. A custodian from a little town, retired for over 15 years, and still former students, teachers, family and friends packed that church so that we would've been hard pressed to fit one more person into the assembly. My dad was a real man, something that I think we are lacking these days.

The more I thought about what happened, the more I came to realize that anger is always, always fueled by fear. My rant was fueled by fear. Fear that something like the incident I ranted about could've happened here, where I live. Fear of living in a neighborhood where I feel vulnerable as a single mom trying to raise two teens. We live in a rural area, in which kids run loose, much as I did growing up.

Image by Earthworm, courtesy of Flickr
 I've been afraid since last year, when some local scrappers took advantage of my letting them have the metal out of a bin out front, and came back to try and steal what they could find in my garage and barn.  It makes me nervous to live here now, with my ex's and father-in-law's extensive collection of metal miscellaneous junk laying around the property. To some, that looks like easy money, with the scrapyard paying well for scrap metal and hey, her husband isn't there, so it's free for the taking, right?

I'm angry that I've had to inform my ex, and my father-in-law, who I'm rather fond of, that they have to remove their stuff because I can't keep it here any longer. I'm angry that I can't take my time cleaning up the property myself, because I'm afraid someone will decide to simply help themselves. I'm angry that I should have to worry about this kind of stuff, on top of everything else that comes with being on my own.

Image by jbcwalsh, courtesy of Flickr
 On the flip side of the anger is the intense gratitude for the family, friends and neighbors who are good and decent people. There are those who've given me a hand up. My own family, of course. While I'm grown and they have no obligation to help me out, families take care of one another. I'm grateful for my brother, who came and put siding on and replaced windows. I'm grateful for my Mom, who has been a rock, and my other siblings who've helped when they can and who've been nothing but supportive.

I'm grateful for my neighbors who helped get my lawn tractor running again, and who have offered practical help with getting an old barn down. I'm grateful even to those neighbors who've done nothing but mind their own business and let us get on with life, without judgement or spreading gossip. There are those who call themselves friends, who are all talk and no where to be found when there's work to be done or a problem to be addressed, and then there are those who have stepped up and done more than I could've, our would've thought of asking for. I've been surprised at who's landed in each category.

Anger can be poison. It gets into your system and festers, like a splinter under the skin. Unleashed, it can only cause destruction. However, anger isn't the problem. Fear is the problem. Fear causes the lack of control that sets anger free, reckless, dangerous, and destructive. Anger needs to be controlled, directed, and focused, to be productive.

I'm working on that.

*~*~*

Angry people are not always wise.”
~Jane Austen

Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.”
~Aristotle

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Of Roots and Wings


Today is not a good day.

For the first time in over two months, I have nothing to do. No new pile of work sitting in my inbox waiting for my attention. No urgent e-mails. Nothing. And it's driving me crazy.

Kame never has any trouble finding something to do.
There's always something good on television...

I've gotten used to being a working woman, to waking up every morning to a job that needs to be done. Not having that... leaves me rudderless.Oh, there's plenty I could be doing. I could clean (yuck). I could write... if I could pick up the thread of the story I haven't looked at in 2 months. I could paint... but that would mean dragging out all my materials and finding something I want to do...

I could paint my peonies that just opened...


I could blow the entire day, chatting with friends and hanging out on Facebook. I could write letters. I could do so many things... that I'm paralyzed by the sheer number of possibilities.I should, perhaps, go outside and enjoy the plethora of flowers that are finally coming into bloom. My yard smells amazing... but the forecast calls for rain, and all I want to do is go back to bed and wait for this day to be over so I can return to my normal routine.


The back yard is full of forget-me-nots.
Not having a working lawn mower has its advantages.

This year, my lilacs burst into flower. The plant has been growing into the foundation of this house since we moved in. We tried, once or twice, in the early years, to remove it, but it always grew back, just a little green puff of leaves. When Ken was building the porch, I knew that would cover the foundation, finally depriving the tenacious little tree of light and water. I decided that, since it had worked so hard to eek out a living from between the stones, I couldn't let the plant die such an undignified death. I found a sprout that had grown into the earth, and dug as much of the root as I could from between the crevices. I planted the 8 inch tall tree in the front lawn.

That was almost 5 years ago. So much has changed since then.

My lilacs, blooming for the first time in over 17 years.
I feel as if... I should be happy. Things are going relatively well. I'm working, and making more now than our income when we first married. In less than a year, I've become financially self-sufficient, to the point that the kids and I are living entirely on my income. I still need to build a solid cushion of savings for times, like this, when I'm not getting enough (or any) work, but on the whole, we're doing fairly well.

So why do I feel so... stretched thin, tired out, sad? Is this the lingering grief? I know I'm not the first person to ask, "why can't I just get over it?" But the pain bites fresh every time... and I don't know how to stop being surprised by it.  There are times I miss my own dad so deep I can hardly breathe. He comes to mind more and more often these days, and I just want to talk to him, to get his advice... I want to hear him say things will be ok. I want to know if I'm doing the right thing. I want to know if he'd be proud of me, even though I let my marriage fall apart. I want, so much, just to hear his voice.

My dad rocked. Yes, that's a chipmunk on my lap.
Dad had been sitting on the bench, feeding him peanuts all morning.
When I came out, he had me sit down and gave me a peanut. This is
one of my happiest memories, despite those insane longjohn type
pajamas. What was up with that?? Sometimes I wonder about my
parents' fashion sense. :-p


 I miss him, so much. And my mom, too, since she moved to Florida this spring. I'm happy for her, because I know she has more help, living adjacent to my sister and her family, and my step-father is nearing the point where a nursing home was a distinct possibility. Mom can't take care of him by herself anymore. The inevitable has been delayed, at least for now, and she has the support she needs to help him make the transition if and when it becomes necessary. Since I came along so late in Mom and Dad's lives, I'm used to being on my own for many of life's big transitions. Growing up, they were immersed in my elder sibling's lives and problems. The year I graduated high school, my dad was dying of cancer. Going off to college, Mom was dealing with his passing.



One of very few pictures I have of Mom and Dad.
They looked so young here, at least to me.
This was taken about 8 years before dad passed.

Mom has been able to be there for much of my kid's early childhoods, and she has been an absolute rock throughout the end of my marriage. She loaned me a substantial amount to have my house re-sided and insulated, which made going forward possible. I am now closer to being eligible for a home equity loan, which would allow me to finish the renovations this place needs, if I decide to sell in the future. Without the siding, that would not have been possible. I'm trying hard to make good use of the chance she's given me, by making sound financial decisions, and thinking about the future.


I think that, from all of this, the lesson is that I just have to keep on getting up, every single day, and moving forward. Mom and Dad gave me life. They weren't perfect, (are any parents perfect?) but they tried. They taught me right from wrong. They loved me. They were usually good about acknowledging my accomplishments. Dad let me follow him around when I was little and thought my Daddy was the best thing since the space shuttle. Mom has supported me and loved me through some of the most difficult times in my life. They laid the foundations, and now, when everything else is shaking apart... those foundations are holding strong.

 I hope I'm building strong foundations for my kids, in my turn. I love them. I'm working to build discipline into our routines, something that I struggle with. I try to remember to praise often and scold gently. I try to tell them, every single day, that I love them.

My beautiful, amazing kids, as we sit down to a meal on the porch.
Arek cooked on the grill. Jessi helped me set the table.

I can only hope that I've done right by them. I can't make up for everything that's gone wrong. I can't make up for my mistakes, or the loss of their parent's relationship, any more than my Mom fill the hole left by my dad's passing, though I know any parent, if they could spare their child pain by taking it into themselves, would do so without a second thought. If I could relieve them of the hurt they've suffered from the divorce, I would live through it 10 times over. All I can do is keep moving forward, and keep laying those foundations. I hope my kids can see the bricks being laid, one by one, and that one day, they'll know what to do for their own kids, in their turn.

Even Kame struggles to move forward at times.
When obstacles block his path, he just
goes over them, and moves on.

We'll keep on keeping on. Sometimes, that's the best you can do. Something tells me that the best is yet to come.

God bless.
-Mary
*~*~*

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."
~Psalm 46:1-3 NIV


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Emerging

Who wouldn't want such a handsome guy? Look at those stunning markings!
SMT (Single Male Turtle) seeks SFT for companionship and possibly something more down the road.
He enjoys long walks in the yard, slugs and terrorizing nosy kittens. Also pina coladas and walks in the rain He is not into health food, but enjoys the taste of champagne.
Call 555-231-KAME and leave a message after the tone.

Spring is coming, and Kame will soon come out of hibernation more permanently than he has before now. He has been teasing me with occasional forays out of his mulch and dips into his bathing pool. I know he's not finished with his long rest, because he hasn't started eating yet, but with every degree the temperatures rise, I hope he will soon emerge for the season.

Kame is not the only one who is in a transition phase. This blog started out as a record of the journey I was on, the attempt I was making to try to save my marriage. Two years later, the attempt has failed, but I am still here.
She remembered the day vividly, for how can you forget the day your heart is broken? The funny thing about a broken heart is that it's not fatal. Though you wish in vain that it were, life continues on and you have no choice but to continue on with it.”
~Tracy Winegar
I have been continuing on, because really, what other choice do I have? Through frozen water pipes, a quadrupled electric bill that took three months and hours of fruitless and frustrating phone calls to sort out, no water for 3 days, no washing machine for 2 weeks... I have carried on. Through stubborn children and pets passing on, through financial and emotional crises.  Through the loss of a very dear friend, through the normal, and not-so-normal, ups and downs of every day life.

When I started this blog, I closed my first entry with a quote:
“I found a pen; another person found a scrap of paper; a third person, the words. “Dead End,” we wrote and left it on the side of the road for the next traveler to find and perhaps turn around in time.”
~
For Sarah, by Annie Harmon
 I didn't know, when I shared those bleak words, that the road I was traveling down would turn out to be... not a dead-end, exactly, but certainly a detour, a deviation from the path I set for myself nearly 18 years ago on my wedding day. It was certainly not the road I wanted my children to travel. I wanted so much more for them, so much better... but life is not always what we choose. Sometimes, it takes us in directions we neither wanted nor expected and our only choice is to survive.

I am in the process of choosing some new paths to follow. College is a given. I will finish the course and earn my degree. I completed an associates last term and am on track for my bachelors. This is happening.
My career is the second fork I've taken in the road. Although I would prefer to write fiction, especially fiction for children, I am learning new skills to increase my value as a blogger and content provider. The market demands coding experience, so I am taking a class in basic HTML and CSS. I may never morph into a graphic designer, but I hope to at least gain a few valuable skills. And finally... This blog's focus will, indeed, it must, change. It will still be a chronicle of the journey, but now the journey has moved in a different direction and I, too, must move on.

It has been three years since I discovered my husband's affair. My marriage has been over for nearly two years, although neither of us was ready to admit it until a year ago when he told me he wanted a divorce. The final papers were signed two months ago. I am considering, just beginning to seriously entertain the idea, of re-joining the ranks of the truly single woman. I'm considering the possibility of dating again. Considering. Entertaining... cautiously sticking the very tip of my toe into the river, wondering if I dare step into the waters...

While I'm not ready to "jump right in" to dating at this point, I have allowed a male relationship or two to begin to grow into friendship, with very safe people. Both of my male friends are very happily married men, fully, completely and blissfully in love with their wives and their lives. I am learning, slowly, to interact with men as ... just me, without the filter of "I am a married woman" playing constantly through my mind. I recognize the change in myself and realize now that my insecurity up until this point when dealing with the opposite sex has been unhealthy.  I am also recognizing that I have a long way to go, emotionally and in healing, before I will be ready to enter into any kind of serious relationship. I also have my kids to think about. They will be my number-one consideration for quite a long time to come, and that puts any thought of a long-term commitment on hold for now.

So, when I say I'm considering dating again... What I mean is that I'm ready, after the maelstrom has finally begun to settle, to crack the door open just a hair and let a little sunshine in. I'm ready to meet new people. I'm ready to make friends. To open my heart to the possibility that one day, some day, I might meet someone special, someone who understands loyalty, commitment and honor. Someone who won't swoop in and "save" me from the difficulties, the frustrations and the day-to-day loneliness, but someone with whom I can laugh, someone who likes to read my stories and poems, someone who wants to know why I sleep with my door closed and my windows open at night. Someone I can trust. Someone I can love, and who can love me in return. Someday, I will find someone whose secrets will intrigue me, whose hobbies I find fascinating, whose efforts I can appreciate. Someone who makes me laugh with delight, who makes me smile. I will know he's the "right one" when I am satisfied to know he exists, and that he's thinking of me with the same quiet, contented delight, even when we're not together.
Someday.

For now, friendship is enough. I am learning, slowly, to embrace the idea that success is not in my lack of failure. It is in my ability to get up and move on.

Happy journeys, friends.
~Mary
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~Winston Churchill