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