Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"Straining to See Through the Windshield, Covered with a Gathering Layer of Ice" Thoughts on Positive Thinking

             It is 6:45 am on a Wednesday morning.  There is a light snow and with the darkness and streetlights, a magical kind of picture, winter framed, emerges.  I'm on my way to work.  By my side is the at risk student I work with every day.  I've been bringing her to school and picking her up since she returned from a suspension in December as an intense intervention.  I hand her a hot cocoa, she pulls out an earbud and says, "Thank you."   We engage in the kind of random and mundane morning talk about "How did you sleep?" and "This snow is pretty."  and "Who are you staying after with today?"  She is testy this morning, having gone to bed way past what I would consider a good bedtime.  Then she reveals: her best friend is moving away.  And, even though she may not admit it, I know the pending school vacation is going to be tough for her as she will be going away to visit her siblings.  Seems like a great thing, but she will have to leave them again at the end of the week.  I reassure her that it is ok. Still, I know she worries about them.  I tell her,  "You will make new friends." I tell her she will see her little brother and sisters again.  I tell her, "Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out."  I encourage her to use social media to connect with her friend and siblings.  She is still downtrodden.  I smile and give her shoulder a squeeze and we pull into school. I tell her "Have a great day.  I'll see you at 3."  She says, "You too," and shuts the door.
             I am nearly 40 years old, have a satisfying albeit stressful job, a caring and compassionate life partner and some pretty awesome kids.  We have a lovely home, a new SUV, and another car that's been paid off.  He has a reliable and good paying job.  We buy mostly organic food and make healthy lifestyle choices.  While we are conscientious of the money we spend, we are able to afford to live a comfortable lifestyle.
             I am a part of the middle class.  I say things like, "I'm blessed," and when times are tough I say, "This too shall pass."  When I spill a cup of coffee on myself (which I've done countless times) I'm able to laugh about it or rationalize it.  If my plane is delayed, my car breaks down, or my plumbing backs up and I have to call a professional, it's not that I'm happy about it, but mentally I am conditioned to believe that these things are temporary and that good things are just around the corner.          
        Not only am I living a life of physical luxury, but I'm also living a life of mental luxury.  There is a cultural shift right now, as I write and you read, to be "mindful," to "live every moment," and to "see the blessings in the everyday and simple things." There is a movement in which mental toughness and zeroing in on the good is at the forefront.   I admit I too am just as part of that paradigm as anyone else.  But let's be honest, (for the moment).  We are able to do this because we have a life of comfort.  It's true...  When something bad happens to me, I have the support of the people around me who are able to give me sound, productive and constructive advice.  I am able to reason through a series of wise steps, and chances are if I need some kind of therapy or care, I am able to access it for as long as I need it.  Living this lifestyle, I have things I look forward to: vacations to sandy beaches with friends, hiking excursions, that new book I just can't wait to read.  These things and people give me a sense of well being and hope that there is some kind of meaning to this existence, and the financial resources and education I have helps me evaluate the situations as they arise and respond accordingly.  This is why I understand that a setback is temporary and that I will persevere.
             But what happens if you are a single mom on a limited budget.  Your partner left you for another woman.  You've gained some weight and as much as you'd like to work out and eat healthy, you don't have the time and you can't afford to (having access to clean and organic food, vitamins, salt lamps, essential oils, paraben and sulfate free products isn't something you can't afford).  Your boss is just that, a boss, and not understanding when you have to take time off for sick kids.  Today, on your way to work, you are thinking about how you are going to be able to afford to pay the electric bill since your children's father hasn't given you money in as long as you can remember.  You have no heat in the car and the muffler is rattling.  It needs to be fixed.  Your youngest child has an awful cough and you spent your last five dollars on medicine for him.  You drive by Tim Horton's and look at the line of cars, wishing you had that luxury.  There is a soft snow falling, but you don't see it.  You are straining to see through the windshield which is covered with a gathering layer of ice.  You wipe it away again and bang on the dashboard.  You hope it will shake the defrost, but at the very least it relieves some tension.  Your feet are frozen.  You are wearing the boots you got at a garage sale and the socks have multiple holes in the toes.  They were all that was clean.  You haven't had time to make it to the laundromat this week.  Or the money.  Maybe this weekend you can go.  You decide you can save some money by hanging the wet laundry around the house, instead of using the dryers.  You signal and slowly turn a corner, but your car begins to fishtail despite your caution.  The back end slides into a light pole.
               Shall we tell this woman "This too shall pass?"  How do you think she will get to work now that she has no car?  She is already thinking about what she can sell in her house that might pay for whatever needs to be covered.  She has a microwave.  She thinks maybe she can get 20$ for that.  A gold ring with a topaz her grandma gave her when she graduated from high school, when it seemed like maybe she would go somewhere with her life. She never made it to college.  She met him and she thought she was in love.  Then the babies came.  He barely acknowledged her.  He came home when he needed a meal and a bed.  She had only one person. Then that one person who meant the world to her, her grandma, died. The only woman she could ever rely on.  She didn't want to sell that ring, but she knew she might have to.  She gets out of the car and looks at the pole.  It doesn't look to have any damage.  Her car is another story.  She doesn't know how she is going to do it.  She wants to give up.  It's too hard.
               The power of positive thinking, you say?  Being positive is more complicated than we give it credit.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Delicately Intertwined

I think of you 
from the time I awake and 
off and on 
if I allow 
my mind to wander.  

Our meeting and parting 
is a tangible expression of what I know and feel  I have always known about you and me, 
something more than my body, 
more than your body,  
something more than my words, 
more than your words.

It is a feeling and it is a thought 
and it is more and less than both.  
And sometimes it is neither and only feels like a memory. 
 It is more powerful than the human expression of love and it is not lust, 
but it is like something of both.  

I try to put into words and I find it impossible.  
I only know that there is something that is the very essence of what is me 
that feels that something that is the very essence of you 
is delicately intertwined.

I hope you can understand:  
I have known you and will always know you despite what events happen in this lifetime.  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

An Impromptu Conversation While Reaching for a Package of Always Infinity: A Reflection on Womanhood and Our Periods

How lucky are we to be born women.... We uniquely have the ability to carry forth life, a blessing that begins that first time we bleed.  Our life revolves around that cycle and yet most of our discussions are in private and hushed.  Women endure humiliation, shame, teasing, ridicule because of our cycle.  Proof of my own embarrassment is in how often as a young woman I tried to covertly place my tampons on the conveyor at a grocery store or made a split second decision in the feminine product aisle just to get the hell out as quickly as possible.  No one wants to have an impromptu conversation with an acquaintance while reaching for a package of Always Infinity.

I remember when I first got my period.  It was the fall of 6th grade and I was at the Collette's house sitting with Gramps while the rest of his family milked the cows.  When they came in, I rushed across the road to my house in the dark and promptly told my mother.  If I close my eyes and breath deeply, I can remember the warm September night air pressing in around me and the sound of crickets.  The starry night and the open field. I was altogether embarrassed and wanted to keep it a top secret.  My mother had other plans and announced that she needed to go to the store to get me pads.  She came home with Always extra longs as well as ice cream from Greg and Molly's store.  To celebrate, she said.

 Looking back, many memorable moments are because of my period.  We've all been there.  White pants and our period.  Enough said, right?  I even remember the first time my grandmother suggested I wear a tampon.  She tried explaining how to insert it, and I was sick thinking about how I would put that "thing" in where I peed. I didn't realize I had more parts "down there." 

I never understood why my Mom wanted to celebrate that moment.  I couldn't--until I lost the privilege of having a period long before I expected it would happen to me.

It's peculiar to me that I have held onto my feelings about going through premature menopause for so long.  I guess by writing about it, it makes it real.  When I was 35 years old, I began working out and eating healthy.  I stopped having my period about the same time, and my gynecologist attributed my new active lifestyle to the loss of my monthly "friend."  Although I had no intention of having any more children, I didn't realize how heartbroken I would be when the choice was taken away from me. I learned that I was definitely perimenopausal at 36 when my endocrinologist was doing bloodwork after my thyroid cancer.  She was very matter of fact and said that my FSH levels indicated that I was in the early stages of menopause.  My brain was still processing the effects of having cancer and I had to set the fact that I was entering this last stage of womanhood aside. 

But I had indicators before that day in which I guessed I would never again conceive.  When I felt my gynecologist of many years was not taking me seriously, I switched doctors.  He felt that what I needed to do was "freeze" my uterus.  In fact, the question he asked me was, "Do you think you want to have more children?"  I replied, "I don't, but I certainly don't want the option taken from me."  He told me with the pain that I was having (which he felt was most likely endemetriosis) it would be my best option.  It was the fall and school was in full swing and I was enduring Common Core (and not very gracefully) so I set aside the idea to come back to it later, which I tend to do with all important decisions in my life.

I came back to it before I anticipated when my ex-husband told me he and his wife were pregnant. I watched as my daughters' excitement spilled out as the babbled about their new baby brother or sister.  I pasted the smiles each time they spoke of the new little one.  When they found out it was a girl, we went out together and bought her some small gifts. When she was born and they wanted me to see the photos of her, I oohed and ahhhed on cue.  And all the time I couldn't help but think, "I'll never be able to give them this joy."  Inside, I was wilting.  What did it mean that my body could no longer carry a child?

After I found myself in a relationship with a man whom I adore and want to spend my life, the feelings came up again.  He has three children younger than my own (together we have a 3,5,7,10 and 11 year old).  His ex-wife also became pregnant and I couldn't help but wondering if Brock and I could have a child (despite being blessed with five) would we?  Part of me thinks yes.  I would like to have a child that is ours, one that would be a bond between the two families.  I have tried to stop imagining what that would be like because it's futile thinking, but I can't.  My brain processes information slowly and I come to a place of acceptance only by embracing the feelings that come with each new stage, struggle or success.

 I find myself longing to go back.  I'm no longer the girl and young woman I was once and never will be again.  My body has begun a decline and although I fervently attempt to prolong the inevitable by eating clean and working out, when I begin to think about menopause, I think about the cycle of life, which includes death.  I see my fresh faced daughter who has her cycle and think of the years ahead of her, the pain and joy of being a woman.  Not just the physiology of it, but the exploration and the discovery of her own self, her sexuality and her identity.  I think of the moment in Willa Cather's novel, O Pioneers when Cather describes the "V" formation of the geese.  The ones flying at the helm, eventually get tired, and must go to the back of the flock.  I project myself into the future, knowing that my body will altogether fail, as it has proven many times, and I will make way for the next generation as they take their place where I once was.

And ultimately, I reflect.  I reflect on my own journey, my unaware self falling in and out of love a few times, not understanding who I was and having no idea of what expectations I should have from my relationships.  I think of how as a woman in my 20s, I didn't give myself much of a chance, instead looking for someone to edge me toward happiness... or some material thing to give me a sense of value.  Knowing now that what my Mom said to me as a child was so very true- you have to love yourself before you can really love someone else.  I am working on embracing this new stage of life, the stage where I can pass on the wisdom of age and experience to not only the two daughters that came from my womb, but also to Brock's two daughters, who have become part of my story as well.

  And it is now, as I begin to take the helm from my own mother, that I understand the beauty of the day I began to bleed, and can rejoice in it.

Peace and Blessings,

Saturday, November 7, 2015

When God Speaks to Me This Is What He Says

My dear child,

I have given you yet another test and you are thinking, why?  Why me?  

Your struggle has been long, and constant.  I have given you few breaths and you've relaxed your weary feet only as little as the time between your challenges has allowed.  

You have wandered through darkness.  I've given you a candle along the way.  In the darkness you have stumbled.  You have fallen.  You have scraped your shins and elbows. You have felt your way along at times on your knees.  You have learned to not just listen, but to hear. To see things in the dark that others do not see.  There have been times you have lost the light and I have relit it for you or I have given you the stars.  

When you have stopped altogether and sat down on the rocky ground, gazing through streaming tears at the endless night I hummed you to sleep with the sound of my waters then woke you up with the wind of my breath on your face.

Do you remember the morning your baby brother returned to me with his wings?  That day I sent your grandfather to you.  I breathed his words.  I spoke through him.  His arm around you was my arm.  His tears were my tears.

Do you remember the day you were teased on the bus and you felt like you just couldn't go another day?  Do you remember running off the bus, straight into the house past your mother and into your room, then broke into sobs?  Do you remember the sound of your mother's voice, so comforting?  Her hand on your back?  Her gentle words were my words.  Her hand was my hand.

Do you remember the shame you felt in junior high when your peers teased you because of your clothes? Do you remember how heavy their words were and how you felt like you would never be good enough?  

Do you remember the years of enduring your father's alcoholism?  The abuse?  The shame of poverty?

 Or in college, when your "friend" attacked you in your sleep and took what makes you a woman without your permission?

When you received news that your father was in critical condition because he was drinking and driving?  Do you remember when you finally told him he could not be a part of your life anymore?  Do you remember the guilt you felt when you said those words?

When you were pregnant with your firstborn and your husband's family would not allow you to share your joy with them because your sister-in-law had suffered a miscarriage?  Do you remember how they pretended you were not pregnant and the one time someone asked you how you were feeling when you were five months and you had no idea how to respond because you had not been allowed to discuss the pregnancy?  

Do you remember after how you almost died in childbirth with your first born and carried the grief of being a new mother?  How you sat up breastfeeding, looking at her, wondering why?  Thinking terrible thoughts and feeling such shame and guilt because of them?

Your car accident when you were six months pregnant with your second born?  How you thought you would die?  Then how I brought you to your knees again four days after her birth and you spent five days in the hospital, aching for your new baby?

When your husband told you he loved you but he was not in love with... then you discovered he loved another?  How you cried every day for a year and hid the tears and pretended?  How you woke up everyday hoping to return to your sleeping because your living was a nightmare?

The shame when you filed for a bankruptcy because you could not pay your bills?

Then I gave you your health and you rejoiced. Then I took it away.  You experienced the physical pain of a ruptured disc and the pinched nerve that never healed and you thought that was the worst it could be.  Your surgery and your helplessness as you felt humiliated, asking for others to care for you?

Then I gave you cancer and you realized that the physical pain you'd experienced was not the worst.  Looking at your daughters and thinking of how you would say the forever goodbye was the worst.

And then, I gave you the death thoughts.   And you realized that it wasn't saying goodbye to your daughters that could be the worst.  It would be watching your daughters from heaven, dying, and not being there with them as they perished.

Then I gave you more three more diseases and the pain of bone and ache of heart at dreams dying and yet you fight still.

My child.  I describe these few moments of your experience because you must know that your ordeal has been one planned.  You are my warrior.  You have risen each time and battled.  

Have you not seen how many times I have sent my wounded to you, for you to comfort them, to extend your wisdom, to embrace them.  To heal.

Do not be bitter.  Is this latest trial more of a challenge than the others?

You do not see how strong you are.  I have made you strong. 

You, my warrior, my child, have important work still to be done.  You must be my voice, my gentle word, my loving grace.

When you question my judgment, when you wonder why, how could you not know that
I have given you each challenge because you have a mission on earth and your mission can not be accomplished until you have known as much terror, ache, lovepain as life can inflict.  

You are my warrior and you are strong.  
Now dry your tears.  

I am with you and in you and have both created your journey as well as walking it with you.
Trust in me.