Thursday, May 18, 2017

White Shoes

Today I saw too many people standing on the side of the road, asking for help. In the three miles I travelled to get to my errand, I saw three people. The one that struck me the most was a woman standing alone with a small sign in front of her that read, "family needs help." She didn't look like she should have been there. She looked clean and decently clothed, and her face was full of worry. You never know what people are going through. How many times have I been walking through the grocery store, probably looking like a "normal" person, but in total agony on the inside? Too many. 
In these past 5 years, there were some points where I felt so hopeless I also wanted to end my life. It all gets too much sometimes - still. And then people came to my rescue in some way. I know God orchestrated all of this. There is no way you can tell me any different. Some helped in big ways, like paying bills for me, some just being a friend to me when I really needed one, a job offer, and more. So, today I felt like I really wanted to do something to help.
Today is R's Birthday. He helped people without giving it a second thought. Year after year, I try to think of something special to do on his birthday and these grieving anniversaries, but I have been waiting for the right idea to come to me that could start a yearly tradition to celebrate his character. Maybe today I found it. Maybe it'll just be for this year. We'll see if it sticks. 
Here is the back story:
One evening we were walking to our car after a movie, in quaint little downtown San Marco. An older man stopped us and asked for money. R surprised me and the man when he pulled out his wallet and said, "I can do better than that! Here ya go," he said as he handed him a gift card to Burger King. R looked at the man's feet, and said, "what's your shoe size?" I was confused. Shoe size?
The man said a "12."
R said, "Come on over here, man." He led him over to the trunk of our car, opened it and handed him a pair of very gently used leather white shoes. The man was so surprised, he tried to turn them down.
"Aww, naw man! I can't take your shoes!"
R insisted- "take them! I don't need them!" He put them in the old mans hands.
He looked at R and grinned and thanked him profusely.
I don't have a lot of money to give out, but I figured, a person who is on the side of the road will probably take anything. I've always wanted to make Blessing Bags to keep in my car, but struggled with what to put in them that won't melt during summer... or for that matter, what do they really need at this moment? I don't want to assume that I know what they need. That's when I thought of a gift card. I can keep it in my car for when I run across these poor souls and just hand it to them, with a little word of encouragement. So, I went into Dollar Tree with some money I just made off of selling my son's clothes to a consignment store. I didn't spend all of it, but it was enough to create 4 Blessing cards. One person will get an especially nice message. I bet God has that person picked out already.  

I had these cards from the Billy Graham Library, that have been sitting in my purse waiting to be given out. Benji kept grabbing handfuls of them and we came away with a little stack. So, each card contains one of these, too. I planned to hand them all out today, but wouldn't you know it, on my way back home they had all disappeared. So it will have to wait for the next time. For those chosen people. Who are they? What are their circumstances? God knows.
Don't ever think that your little bit of kindness isn't worth anything. I have appreciated a sympathetic look in my darkest days. Your kindness could be saving someone's life by letting them know they are worthy to be here.

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Father's Love

I dare you not to shed a tear while you listen to this and read all the promises He has made to you.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Grief Season

This morning I woke up happy and tired because I stayed up too late watching Nurse Jackie episodes. I did everything as usual. Hit the snooze a couple times. Got up to feed the cats. Got my coffee. Read the Bible. Looked at the weather. Hoped for snow. Woke up my son. Fought to get him out of bed until I had to drag him out by his blankie.

He walked to his calendar with puppies on it and as he circled today's date, it hit me. I said, "Today is the day that Daddy and I got married." No comment from Mr. Pajamas. We went about our business of getting dressed and brushing teeth. And as I was making our lunches, I started to think about how long it has been since we got married, our wedding day, and everything R has missed since he died. Or maybe not missed, if he is hanging out with us in spirit. But his son certainly has missed his Daddy being there. And that is what pains me the most.

I found myself apologizing to him over and over. Hot tears streamed down my face. I'm sorry you have missed so much. I'm sorry you are not here. I'm sorry that we didn't communicate well. If you had just talked to me. I was supposed to be your BFF. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry... 
I know he wouldn't want me to keep apologizing, but it's just what is natural. What can I do now? What can I say now? Nothing. He is gone.

Suddenly I became angry. Angry as hell. Angry at everything. You did this to us. WHY? Do you see the hell that we have been through? Look at me! Trying to make a sandwich and crying all over it!

The only way to keep it in check is to remember WHY I am angry. It's grief rearing it's head again. I lost someone. It turned our lives upside down. We went through trauma. But things are finally starting to come together, looking like I really will get a new beginning after all.

And this is what I must remember. Grief will come and go. But, now I am healthy and happy. So healthy that I just recently came off of my anti-depressant medication. 3.5 years after his death. That's how long it took me. This is a big, huge deal! There was a point where I resigned myself to likely being on an anti-depressant for the rest of my life. When I realized how much of my energy it might be stifling, I wanted to get off of them, but not until I was ready. I have been trudging through everyday, one day at a time, trying to keep up with exercise and eating well and keeping positive thoughts. It takes discipline, I tell you.

We got married on January 20, 9 years ago. Life is so busy now that writing this blog might be the only time I get to sit and reflect today. But I have a feeling it will permeate my thoughts all day long.

I'm so glad the grief anniversary season is coming to an end. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, the wedding anniversary, my son's birthday. All of this happens within 3 months. And then not too far off is Mother's day, and then Father's day. And not too long after that is the anniversary of his death. It never ends, really. There are memories not just in these special days, but the every ordinary day, too. Like making a sandwich. What is it about a sandwich? R used to come home for lunch everyday and while he was on his way home he would text me and ask me to make him a sandwich. And I happily did that for him, eager to spend a little time together during the day. Today it was a trigger for tears. Most days it's not; but today is just one of those days when grief gets intertwined with my new life.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Pity Party for 1

This morning I have been reading Women Living Well, by Courtney Joseph. She talks about how to balance life as a Christian woman. I have been reading about how she had a hard time figuring out how to balance being a good wife in the beginning of her marriage while supporting her husband finishing school. She goes on to say she figured it out, mostly by letting go of being perfect. While that is wonderful for her, I sit here listening to my son slurp his cereal with his headphones on, in my crappy rental condo with the horrible smell I cannot get out of the carpet, and piles of STUFF all over the place because I am too busy with my part-time job that takes full-time work, to clean it up. I.AM.TIRED. I am exhausted from trying to survive everyday. I can comprehend why R became so overwhelmed that he needed a desperate escape, but will never understand how he could follow through with it.

Yesterday was Halloween and today I just need a break from my son. Some time to myself. But I cannot get it. I have no one here to take over for me. So when I read about how perfect someone else's home life is, I am so envious it brings me to tears. It's all I want to be able to stop surviving day to day, and focus on being a good wife and mother. I want a family again. That sounds like a dream come true. But that's not my reality and I am pissed off about it. I didn't ask for this. I didn't expect to be a single parent.

"Don't you have family around that could help you out?" People ask.
 No. No, I don't. Because I am an idiot. I moved here knowing no one, which I thought was quite adventurous of me. It was definitely what you would call an adventure, with all the ups and downs. But, I was also desperate to get away from all the memories and triggers of the place where the 3 of us were a family. Everywhere I went was a memory of some kind. I lived with all of that for a year after his death.

Sometimes it is so difficult to be grateful. Today is one of those days. I'm going to start really simple just to start somewhere.

I am thankful for a place to live.
I am thankful for the food we have in our kitchen.
I am thankful for a beautiful child.
I am thankful for supportive parents.
I am thankful for re-discovering a wonderful man.
I am thankful for hope.
I am thankful for my church family and all of their support.
I am thankful that my body is intact and I am a healthy person.

I'm already starting to change my attitude. Buck up, S! Life is not over.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tug of War

"Why is Nursing still on your mind?" my counselor asks me. I wanted it for myself. It was something I chose to do, a commitment I made to myself and our family to help make things better. I was fascinated with the human body and the medical world. I was two semesters away from graduating with a BSN. Then everything stopped. R decided to leave us.  Then this struggle begins between my reasoning and what could have been his: How could you have done that to our little boy? Why did you do that when everything was about to get better? Why didn't you just talk to me? I can't go on like this. She doesn't love me anymore. I can't lose my son. Everyone will be better off.

Three years later I have moved to a different state, and tried to start over again. It hasn't gone so well. You can't spring back from something like the suicide of a spouse, and ever be the same again. You cannot throw your life back together and expect it to work. There are so many stages of healing to go through, in addition to grieving that I could never have known about until now. I used to think healing meant that it wouldn't hurt as much or bring back as many painful flashbacks and memories when a trigger went off. But that is only part of it. It's a good part of it, a good indication of healing, but that is really only a part of what is going on inside. If you let God heal you, he will. If you let people help you, they will. Can you swallow your pride enough to let him do his work? Can you give the chaos up to him and trust that he will lead you the right way? I got to a point where I felt I was at my absolute low. I could not go anywhere but up and was forced to ask others for help. When help started pouring in I knew God had placed me exactly here, and certain people in my life exactly now.

I taught for a long time before I made the switch to nursing school. I swore that I would never teach in a classroom again because I had a horrible experience as a new, young teacher. So. Here I am teaching again, with joy in my heart. Do you hear that? It's God laughing. It has been a completely different experience this time, probably for various reasons. Mostly, I know my priorities and my perspective on life have totally changed since R's death. Life is too short to be pissed off all the time. Life is too short to be stressed out about nursing school all the time, too. I really cannot force myself to give a crap about a test when I have to figure out how to emotionally support my young son who lost his Daddy. I would have been a good nurse, I already knew that. I already had a job waiting for me on the way out of school. I did not give up. S does not give up. S fights tooth and nail until something drags her down (like an actual rock). I FAILED. Yes. I FAILED. Let me say it again, I FAILED. I was mad as hell, angry at myself, angry at R. But, here is what I learned: How would I teach my son to fail and get back up again if I have never had that experience myself? 

I love the picture that shows the road to success being a squiggly mess and not a straight line. I don't actually consider myself a successful person yet. My time has yet to come. There are goals I have had my entire life, that have not been conquered. Writing is one of those things.

My son and I spent two nights in the hospital recently after he had a vicious broken arm. While I was there, I was very appreciative of my nursing education. I knew what was happening. I knew during the times of waiting exactly what was going on behind the scenes. I knew how to make their jobs easier for them. When I talked to the nurses, and then thought about nursing school and what going back would mean, it felt daunting. It felt like a race I was never going to win, because maybe I wasn't meant to anymore. Did the trauma of my husband's death literally change my brain? It may have. Maybe I cannot handle all the itty bitty little facts I need to keep straight for every single medication my patients would take, but maybe I can handle using my creative side by teaching others and writing. Maybe I am different now. Maybe I have grown. Maybe part of my heart has healed and this is what's left of me.

Friday, July 31, 2015

What You CAN Take With You When You Die

Here I am again, with the boxes.

As I was purge-writing in my Morning Pages today, I decided that today I was going to dive in and start unpacking. I've moved so many times in only three years, it's become easy to put away the things that are not necessary for everyday living in a box and shove it in a corner. And then it's not only in the corner of my living place, but also in the corner of my mind. Think about this: why is it so relaxing to go away for a weekend to someone else's home or to a hotel? I'm convinced, it's because we aren't surrounded by our own crap! You don't have to see it, deal with it, make any decisions about it. You can have a great time because your mind is free! And then when you come home, there's all your crap again. Waiting for you. Is this why Jesus asked his disciples to give up all their possessions? I can only imagine that the purpose was to allow for focus and to build faith. We don't have to be attached to our things to live life. I don't think we have to give up our possessions, either. But I do believe if they distract you from what is important, then it should go.

It's time to clear the crap out. I've been putting off these decisions for a long time, because it is a hard thing to do when you don't feel like you can trust yourself. My grief created a mess in my mind- and voila! It also appeared in my living space. That is not a coincidence.

Right now I am ultra-motivated to de-clutter and live simply. My focus is coming back. It's taken a lot of time and work. I've been in this season of Winter, a period of waiting and stillness, forced to reflect and reevaluate. Since R died and my perspective on life completely changed, some of the thoughts I've wrestled with are: What do I want to do with my life? What is my purpose? What m I supposed to do?! Never mind that. What does God want me to do with my life? What is God's purpose for me?  

There have been so many different influences God put into my life to help me think it through. For instance, I attended a new member class at my church, learning and discussing the basis of the Lutheran faith. I was baptized Lutheran as an infant. My Dad is a Lutheran minister. Did I really need that class? YES. In every class or study I've attended, there is something new to learn. I could take that class ten more times and learn something new each time. I came to some realizations during that class. I have been in this confusing place, looking for a job, and also trying to figure out if I should go back to Nursing school. It was absorbing my brain. I started to question if I was really trusting God or if my god had become this worry/obsession over what I would do next with my life...

Oops. Yep. When God tells you to let go, he really means let go (Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6). I like to sing "Let it Go," (Yes, from Frozen) to remind myself in a humorous way, because really, I cannot get through every day without humor.

I processed through how to tell my son that things are just things, and we can't take them with us when we die. I know he might feel like I don't care about his toys and his feelings about his toys. So my plan is to remind him that Daddy didn't take any of his toys with him when he went to Heaven. And why is that? Because what Jesus wants us to care about is loving each other, not our things. We can take love and a happy soul with us to Heaven, but we cannot take our things.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Ton of Bricks

Grief can come on so unexpectedly and hit like a ton of bricks, right in the heart.

This morning my son and I finally became members of the church we have been attending for 2 years. I was very happy during the service feeling very welcomed. It was a gorgeous day outside and we drove home with the windows down, music turned up.

I started to make our lunch and heartache grew and grew in my chest. I kept preparing lunch, but felt like I was on the verge of tears. What is wrong with me? My son grabbed his plate and went into the living room to eat in front of the TV. I didn't bother to protest. I started to eat my sandwich and about half way through the heartache became too much and the tears rolled down my face. Why am I crying? Why am I hurting so bad? What is going on with me? Am I lonely? I'm happy for this thing that has happened, but have no one to celebrate with? Was it a trigger? I grab a box of tissues and go curl up in my bed. Here we go again...

Then I thought- the last time I joined a church, R and I did this together. He actually converted from Catholicism to Lutheranism which was one of the most loving things anyone has ever done for me. And now he's gone. That person that loved me that much, is gone. I know he still loves me from Heaven. But all I can think is that I need love - right now. I need to be loved. I need to know that I am special to someone and cherished. I want to have that again. I want to share my life with someone. Just a couple of months ago I had resigned myself to the fact that I may be single for the rest of my life (...all the single ladies put your hands up...). It'll just be me and my son, and I'll try to give him as many wonderful experiences as I can. But I don't think I am made for that. How could God put so much love in me only to have no where to go with it? I NEED to give it away. NEED to. Have to. I can't keep it all to myself.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

How I Got Through

No one has ever had the nerve to ask me how I have gotten and still get through this horrible thing that happened. My faith alone was the one rope I had to hold onto. I felt so isolated because no one understood what it was like for me, and many people were afraid to ask. Rather than being angry at God, I relied upon him to enfold me in his love. He was there holding me when no one else was able to. Watch this video- the lyrics say it all. He can get you through anything!