Sometimes things work out…

All I can say is we just never know where we are going to end up. We have no real control over anything. All we can do is make plans and have hope that things will be okay. For  the last two years  the one thing I had wanted so much to do was to ride my horse again. It wasn’t  a lofty goal really but one that seemed to be unattainable to me not long ago. I didn’t want to give up the hope that one day I would ride again…..but for a while it was iffy…

Two years ago I thought I would never be able to do many activities again let alone ride a horse. My only goal then was trying to find someone to fix the pain I was in. That was a battle unto itself but I did not want to give up- because to do so left me in a very dire situation. One that I could not accept.

June 2016 was a start of an intense pain drama that was caused by breast cancer treatments. The pain had been an issue since my surgery in October of 2013. I had sought help for it with no luck and then it really  reared its ugly head in May 2016 leaving me bedridden for much of the next year. It was hell trying to find the a doctor who would listen to me and not send me away with a shake of the head. They either had no idea what was wrong with me or they thought I was nuts. But finally I found a surgeon who listened.

Today, three surgeries later. I am not that woman stuck all day and night in bed anymore- but I still live in chronic pain. But the levels I am managing- and there may be more surgery in my future. I am left with a disabled arm that I cant use fully and overuse causes pain. Sometimes I don’t know what that overuse is. But I just try to dance with it- sometimes I am in the lead and sometimes the pain is.

I have been hell bent on doing more living- I have always been a physically active person and I missed the mental boost such activity gave me. So many things I could not do. Some because of the limits of my arm and some activities were contra-indicated by my surgeon- one being horse back riding. It was a total bummer to hear this but I temporarily shelved that disappointment and sought another activity .  I bought a kayak with pedals so I could go out in the bay near our beach house. The feeling of independence being on the water propelling myself was intense and important in my recovery. I bought a bike. I began to walk more. I can do limited exercises in the gym.  But I was really missing the one activity I was told not to do—ride my horse.

In the summer of 2017 I was still in enough pain that I was not sure I could ride and on enough drugs I was not sure I should ride. But one day that summer  on a whim Kevin and I tacked up my horse Harley . He accepted the saddle and bridle so well  that I decided to get on and have Kevin lead me around the dry lot. I knew the surgeon had not been keen on my riding but I wanted to be in the saddle. It was just a pony ride but it was the kick I needed – I set a firm goal – I would  ride my horse again. But there were still obstacles to overcome.

I didn’t think it would take another year before I was able to ride again. I had another surgery in November of 2017 to hopefully further reduce my pain. I would say the result have been pretty good. I am off opiates but still need nerve pain medications. . I have pain flares more often than I would like. But I am doing more. The surgery itself – which was fat grafting -had a longer than expected recovery time.

Every time I went to see my nerve surgeon – Dr. Williams- I would tell him that I wanted to ride my horse.  HIs concern was that my arm would be yanked forward if the horse pulled the reins forward suddenly- and this does happen. This can cause more damage to my arm. Also there is the risk of falling off but I think in my case the real concern was with the yanking of my arm. So I wanted to rectify that. How to keep that from happening. There had to be a way . Maybe I would ride one armed. I began to look into that as an option.

Then sometime this past spring my farrier came. I was telling her my plan to try ride again. I explained my concerns of riding with two arms and one getting yanked and I was also becoming nervous about not being strong enough to ride using only one arm (my horse is also neck reined) if my horse pulled suddenly. She told me to get a Daisy Rein. I had no idea what they were but it turns out they are used often for young riders. The rein hooks onto the saddle and also to the bridle and that keep the horse from pulling his head down. Maybe it would work for this old rider!

I saw my surgeon again in July and explained how much I wanted to ride and told him about the rein. He never did give me his blessing but he told me if I did ride I needed to send him photos after I was safely off.  So that to me was an ok to go ahead.

My plan was to move slowly into riding my horse Harley beginning in early August- but life threw us a loop as we suddenly  lost Harleys companion a- our beloved Arab mare -Airy to colic. It was a tough loss on all of us and I again shelved trying to ride. This time more for Harley than for me. I knew it was a stressful time for a horse when there are changes like that adding me riding him after such a long time off might add to the stress – and we wanted another companion for Harley so the focus shifted on that. It took some time but we now have Hank and Yukon here. Hank belongs to our neighbor and Yukon is our Guardian horse form a local rescue.

One  day a few weeks ago  I went out to the barn to feed the horses and our neighbor was bringing Hank back from a ride. I began to feel that envy. That yearning to ride my horse. I really felt it was now or never so I began to get Harley tacked up. It is a bit of a chore for me to get it on while trying to limit the use of my arm but I was able to do it with Kevins help.

Before long I told Kevin I wanted another pony ride. I have to use a step to mount now to get on- it allows me to not use my arm too much.  I got up and settled – feet in stirrups and I was holding both reins because we put the daisy rein on to give that a try too. He tolerated it well and best of all it worked! He couldn’t pull very far so no yanking of my arm.  After a bit, I asked Kevin to let me go and and I took a deep breathe in and let it out and off I went.  I maneuvered Harley around the dry lot for a while..at a walk.. nothing fast. He did very well – and we then called it a day. Best to end on a good note when working with a horse. And I was not ready to ride in the fields yet. But it didn’t take much time for me to be ready! So much for slow starts.

Since that day I have ridden twice out in the fields. The last time – this past Saturday- I was able to tack up on my own. I have learned to yank the saddle out of my locker with one arm and I can toss it up on his back with one arm too.  It was very freeing to be able to do this on my own.

I also can ride with one arm so I switch from using two hands on the reins to one. It turns out my arms are in a “safe” position so I don’t think I will get a pain flare if I am careful – but again it is that dance i mentioned above. That day I was in the lead. Dismounting is a bit of a challenge. I now lower the stirrup iron and dismount on the  right which is the opposite side we proper English riders are taught to do.

Obstacles aside I can’t begin to explain the mental effect being able to ride again gives me. It is something I have needed. It didn’t feel like it had been two years since I had ridden solo. It was as if no time went by at all. I felt right at home in the saddle. I am so lucky to have the horse that I have. Some horses may have been too much for me after not being ridden for so long. Harley is a true champ. We have a bond.

My goal is to ride twice a week for now. I will have to be flexible on this as well as I live my life around things we have planned – social visits, traveling, and doctors visits. So I often curb any physical exercise for a couple days prior to doing these things because I don’t want to have a flare up of pain which may require me to cancel the plans.

But that is life as I live it now. I accept it. You just never know where you will end up…right now for me I ended up back in the saddle. How lucky I am….

….And Dr Williams has been sent a photo..with more to come…

Learning Acceptance

I think I have been taking a sabbatical from writing. It hadn’t been my intent but it seems it just occurred.

I think I felt blocked in a way. I have had a lot of writing ideas so that wasn’t it. I had personal things that I needed to process and until I processed them -maybe not fully but processed them enough – I felt like maybe my writing would not feel authentic.

I was upset over something very personal that I could only touch on vaguely in my writing. So much wanted to come out and that stuff was better for a private journal than a blog.

I have had to decide where my line is in what I share on my blog. Just because I’m upset with someone doesn’t mean I need to air that in my writing. Sometimes it is ok. This time it wasn’t.

So I had to come to some acceptance with that family issue and I have had to try to come to acceptance with some other things that seemed to be causing me stress.

One such issue is my ongoing pain. I am sooooo much better. I am so very blessed. But there is still pain. I can’t seem to use my right arm ( which is my dominate arm) fully or for very long without some pain. I also get flares. It happens when I “overdo” in some way. The problem is I never know exactly what will trigger it. I am learning though but I still get surprised. A lot.

Ice packs have become dear friends. I have been known to walk through the grocery or hardware store sporting an ice bag of some sort under my arm. Ice really is my savior.

I have had to reach an acceptance with this pain. If I had to live like this I certainly could. Would it be ideal? No. Sometimes it’s really sucky. But I’m improved. I’m out living life.  I’ve lowered my nerve pain meds a lot. Hoping to lose some of the weight I’ve gained. Which is another area of acceptance I’ve had to reach. I can’t hate myself bc I don’t look the way I want. I am trying to embrace that I may never look like I really want again.

My body has been through hell. Three surgeries in one year and the last -fat grafting-was supposed to be liposuction on my abdomen that would make me look better and sadly I hate the outcome but the fat had to come from somewhere

So I’m trying to accept this. I’m into being in shape and being skinny. It’s how I grew up. Skinny was good. And sadly I was a chubby kid and That fact was reinforced often by schoolmates and Neighbor Kids. I have spent years battling my minds critical view of my body.

So for me it’s a mental exercise in trying to accept myself as I am now. I’m 54 and I’ve had many surgeries and cancer and I’m menopausal. I can work hard as I’m able (I limited in my activities bc of my nerve damaged right side) but I’m likely not going to look the way I want to ever again. I might but it may not happen and I want to be able to accept that. I don’t want to feel embarrassed for my husband to see my nude body. But I am. He thinks I’m beautiful. I have a hard time seeing what he sees. But I’m lucky that’s what he sees

I really am a work in progress on this acceptance thing. But I’ve come to realize that acceptance doesn’t mean giving up. It means that in this moment in time I accept that this is where I am.

I accept I still have pain but I won’t quit trying to find improvements. I just began laser therapy. It might help.

I do have gratitude for how far I’ve come and I’m thankful I found this brilliant nerve surgeon who wanted to help me as best he could.

I am accepting that my body isn’t what I want to to be. But really if that’s a worry in my life I’m pretty blessed seeing where I was two years ago.

As far as my family issue. I’ve had to forgive and I have had to give much of this to God. I can’t control someone else’s journey and I accept that. And I accept that where i am now – on the edge of this persons life – that I can’t do anything but let them know they are loved. That’s what I can do.

I think maybe I’m in a growing phase. Learning that I can’t be in control all the time.

My two sons just graduated high school. I have been waiting for this day! I feel like we’ve finished the first of a set of hurdles. It’s been a ride. But they begin college in the fall and now it’s up to them. They have all the tools to succeed.

Then going away is bittersweet for me. My role as Mom will change. It already has. Though I’m still buying the things on the “what to bring” list the College provides. It has to get done by someone and they seem oblivious to the fact that College is six weeks away. I, however, am ever aware. But soon I have to let go. I have to say “you need to try to figure this out  “ and let them muddl through.

Part of me can’t wait to boot them out the door. The other part is terrified. This is another thing I have to find acceptance with. I have to let go. I don’t know if I’ll grapple with the empty nest thing, I have my mom living here so I still have a bird in the nest to care for. But I think I’ll miss them more than I am imaging now. . And I know it’s time for them to fly.

But the acceptance comes with letting them do the flying. Letting them steer their course. I know they’ll need me once in a while. (At least for $). But I have to give this one to God and let go of my need to be in charge. I will always be their biggest fan even if they don’t realize it.

I also wonder what do I want to do? If I could catch up on all the things I’m behind on what do I want to do? There’s so many things. Some not attainable now. And some doable.

Since I had cancer I’ve been on this “you gotta live now” motto. And since I’ve been feeling better and have had less pain I want to avoid putting off things for later -when I can. But I can’t do all the things on my list now bc I have responsibilities to others that are a priority. I’ve had to accept this knowing it’s ok to take things a step at a time.

But my biggest question is who do I want to be now that all my kids will be gone from home? I think this is something that I’ll have to feel out.

If anything – I have begun to accept that I don’t always have immediate answers for so much in my life. I am learning to accept that sometimes we just have to wait and see.

And there is some excitement in that for me.

When I’m 54 

Five four

Fifty four. Today I’m 54. 

19710 days alive on this earth. This beautiful, wonderful, terrible, scary, joyful, glorious, sad, happy earth.

That seems like so many days. That number is big. That’s 2808 mondays, tuesdays etc. that I’ve been around for.  I was thinking today that I missed a few of those days or most of one or two or so – but that was during college and I needed a recovery day. Wink wink.

So many days. Each one different. Each one with surprises and joys. Some with hardship and pain. 

But then I was thinking I’ve had 54 (almost Christmases) , that doesn’t seem like that many. And only 54 birthdays. That doesn’t seem like that many right? 

If we are lucky we could get 100 birthdays. That 36,500 sunrises/sunsets. But we don’t know how many days we have so I don’t want to take any for granted but I will. I’ll waste some. Some days I might not feel good. Some I’ll just be so crammed with things that I won’t take time to even register it. It’s life it’s what we do. But some days I will turn to face the wonder of this world. It’s easy to focus on the bad stuff but there is such wonder. 

Did you know that otters sleep holding hands? So stinking sweet? 

Or caterpillars completely liquefy as they transform into moths? What? 

Or two-thirds of the people on earth have never seen snow! Wow they need to see it, feel it, it amazing ( and cold!)

Or hummingbird weighs less than a penny? I knew this only because I saved one once and I’ll never forget it. It was a moment I didn’t take for granted. A magical moment. 

Thank you 54. Thank you 19710 I’ve learned so much….

And your welcome for the fun facts ….

Have an awesome day -I’m going to eat cake…:) 

——

Fun facts credit: all-that-is-interesting.com 

Meandering moods 

My moods have waxed and waned lately. The other day I was in a terrible mood. It was one of those that was just making me feel ugly and I swear it permeated out of me and I just looked ugly too. Which didn’t help my mood any.

I am tired of dealing with the pain and I’m tired of missing out on doing things. Some days I feel like I’m about to burst with being tired of feeling crummy. Add life’s doling out other stuff like my daughter being in two car accidents in one week you could understand why I might get moody     .

But it’s not who I want to be.  We are all allowed our moments but I don’t like those moments to last. I don’t want to put negative energy out into the world. Don’t  we have enough of that? I feel like we get back what we put out.  I will tell you that it’s not easy to put out good stuff when you feel crappy.

I seem to find a change in my down spirit when I go looking for positive things. I know it’s bad when a baby goat on Facebook  doesn’t make me laugh. When I get like that I know I’m craving nature. The real kind -like me being out in it. And that’s not always easy now BC of the pain. But when I want something I somehow will figure out a way to do it.

Walking has become important to me. I know that if you keep moving you keep moving. So I keep moving. Even if I don’t want to. If I have to I take pain meds and I go. Pulling in the elixir that nature freely gives lifts my mood most of the time.

When my mood is up I am vastly aware of all the good things in my life. I see how one small area of pain can turn gold into ash. It’s all perspective. And some days my perspective will be positive and others not so much. I am only human.

I keep looking ahead to better days. But I don’t want to waste the days in the present. Waiting is fine but we need to live while we wait.  So I do what I can. I live the best I can. I try hard. Sometimes I’m just tired.

I have another surgery April 21. I am optimistic that my surgeon can help much of the pain. I’m grateful to have found a doctor that is so dedicated to helping woman with post breast therapy pain. Multiple surgeries aren’t uncommon in this group. In the waiting room on one visit I met a woman who was going through her 19th surgery. The third with my surgeon. We exchanged contact info and we are in touch and she joined the Facebook group for post breast therapy pain that I am in.

On that same visit I met Mary. We had “met” online on that same Facebook page a while back. It was fate that we had appointments the same day. Mary and I suffer from the same pain areas and we lament to each other. It feels good to connect with people who are living what you are living.  You don’t feel so alone. When I left the surgeons office that day I felt happy.  Even though I felt crappy. I like days when I can feel happy and crappy at the same time.

I think about what I’d like to do when I feel better. How I’d like to help others. I want to share this story with others. If I could save a person one less closed door, one less doctor telling them their pain isn’t real , or that it isn’t from the cancer treatments, – I’d feel so great. This story may always be dynamic but i know I have circumvented the system and I know that can be of great help to others

There are other things I want to do to help others. I might be able to do some. Some I might not. We will see.

I also want to do things for myself that I havent been able to do for some time – ride my horse, paddle a kayak, swim , lift weights, do laundry (ok that’s a stretch) , cook(sometimes), and spend time on the beach just being.

See what I mean about living in the future? I thinks that’s ok but I want to live here and now.  I want to make now the best it can be under the circumstances and sometimes it takes a lot of effort to that. I have learned to be resilient over this last nine months. I have dealt with pain, surgery, loss and grief and more pain. I am strong. Even in my worst moments there is something inside of me that wants to keep going. Thats been a beacon during some of my hardest days. That little niggle of strong.

Today we have been pelted with a snowy rainy mix and I want to take a walk later to see how the sun hits the snow on the trees. Maybe I’ll get some photos.

Right now I’ll share some beauty from my walk the other day. I decided to walk into the cornfield.

I hope I am putting out some good chi. I’d sure like to get some back.

A glimpse of the lane along the cornfield.

Pine trees at the edge of the field

Sunset looking at the back of our little farm.

Winter cornfield.

Another look at the back of my farm. I didn’t get rid of the orb. Kind of liked the vibe.

Cornfield selfie

Thoughts on busy-ness

Whew long time no post. I actually wrote this post a week ago but didn’t have time to edit it- how apropos to the topic of this post! —

Kevin, my husband, and I were chatting recently and he said something that made me think.

“When I talk with people I rarely ever tell them anymore that I’ve been busy because it seems like everyone is busy and my being busy isn’t more important than there busy ”

Well…wow – that’s true I thought to myself. Then I began to do a self check  as I do when someone says something very smart -do I push my business out there in convos I asked myself-and by goodness gosh I do. Because I’m freaking busy. Like so busy that I forget all the stuff I did in a day and sometimes even become paralyzed with all the stuff I need to do. I’m so busy that I’m taking time to write this in the car in a traffic jam inYork PA as we drive back from helping my mom because when I get home I’ll be too busy or tired to write. But Kevin’s is right we are ALL busy and my busy does not trump your busy.

I need to stop putting my busy in other people’s face.  Unless I want to vent a little. Venting feels good.

So now I wonder am I busier or has middle age just made me more aware and less resilient than when I was young?

When I was young I could get up and head to work after being out late the night before – I could work a full day and then go home walk my dog and head to the gym and maybe even go out again to meet some friends.I used to drive back and forth to the beach in a day -I baked in the sun in-between.  I took night classes for my MBA after work. I never got an MBA -I got married and then things got super busy.

Why do I feel so much more busy now? Perhaps it’s because I have others to worry about -kids, husband, aging parents. I manage their schedules, I worry about their health, their grades,college possibilities(I have a whole other post just about that), I drive people around. And I work. It’s insane and maybe my menopausal brain can’t process it all as well as my younger brain could.

I’m in the the middle of life- middle age. Nobody warns you that being in the middle isn’t only the sagging body and wrinkles that seem to come overnight. We are often caring for growing children and caring for aging parents. We often work full time while juggling the other stuff. Nobody warns you how that can keep you up at night and super busy during the day.

But isn’t our world just busier overall? Or is just my view of it that has changed?

Middle age, oldster, youngster.  We are all busy. My own daughter works two afternoons a week and one day on the weekend while going to cosmetology school while she still taking her high school courses.  She is busy. I don’t remember being that busy as a teen.

Sometimes I think the technology that I love so much makes us that much busier BC we have so many things that can be done right at our fingertips. Just take the app Yelp. Awesome app. But if I want to find a restaurant near where I am or going I can just look on the app but lo and behold the app shows me lots of restaurant choices and then I need to read all the reviews. In the olden days I may have asked a friend for a recommendation or I may have just stopped at a place that looked good. Now I get out the app and check how many stars a place has. I leave nothing to chance and I spend lots more time making sure I choose just the right restaurant. I love (many emoji hearts) my smartphone but you get what I am saying -yes?

Let’s face it, we all are on the busy train going somewhere. Until we aren’t.

Sometime in our lives we might actually miss the busy because we can’t physically get on that train anymore. I have been derailed a time or two temporarily. When I had cancer and was getting treatment life as I knew it kind of stopped. I had to limit my focus on my health and my family and my recovery. Other stuff had to take the back seat.  I began to miss the things that I had fretted about before. I saw things in a different way. That being busy may be stressful but being unable to be busy is also stressful.  As I recovered I was so happy that I began to have the endurance to be busy. I thought I would be able to temper my busy with my new look on life that having a serious illness can give a person. But no – I seemed to have jumped back on that busy train – it can suck us in so fast.

There needs to be a balance – I suppose- and I look hard to find it. I do know that when I get overloaded with things my mind sometimes goes inert. I become unable to do anything unless I break each thing down into smaller tasks. Or I delegate something to someone else. Maybe this is a good thing. This inertia. It at least gets me to realize I need a break.

Busy isn’t going to stop I am afraid. So maybe there is a way to enjoy it whilst in the middle of it.

All of us need to take some time to unplug and breathe. Spend time with the family if you aren’t so sick of them BC you’ve been driving them all over or picking up after their messy selves. Read a good book. Or binge watch a show. I know that is not unplugged in its true sense but for me it’s a distraction from my own crowded mind. And there are so many great shows to watch- yes?

I even try to meditate but thats a work in progress for me. I have read how good that is for cancer survivors and I maybe a good way to still my mind. Oddly, for the months that after I completed my cancer treatments I was able to sit still for long periods and just be. Maybe this is as close to good meditation that I will ever get. Time would go by and I would just be sitting…sometimes at the end of the bed and other times at my desk. I would lose track of time and an hour would be gone. It was rather strange. Unfortunately this was during a time that i was frustrated that I could not tolerate busy at all. I was tired out from the treatments and I became depressed as well. Which is not uncommon after cancer treatments I have since found out.  I would become tired and overwhelmed after doing just a few things. So my ability to just drift into some zone wasn’t as much as a blessing to me as a curse back then. Sometimes now if I am tired i can get into that zone- but again I lament about wasting time and not getting things done.

I am sure some of this sounds familiar especially to women.  We want balance and when we go to take a breather – we often feel guilty.  I am trying to learn my limits and allow myself to take some time out of the busy. I actually appreciate the busy more when I give myself that break.  Right now I am finishing this post sitting in my mothers sunroom. Its so quiet. I hear the faint sound of traffic outside and my golden’s soft snores. I came for an overnight with my husband to check on my mom but these visits have also become a welcome break from the home-front for a day. I can get a moment to breathe and then go back recharged to my busy life.

I really want to appreciate my moments even the busy ones because I have the opportunity to be busy.

So I’ll try not to tell you how busy I’ve been unless I need to vent once in a while.

My busy doesn’t trump your busy and really now that I’ve written all this stuff about busy – I realize busy isn’t bad at all. Being busy can be a gift. We just need some balance.

It’s always something….

gildaThe new year really came in like a steam roller for my family. From the loss of my father-in-law in late December to some issues with my teens to my mom’s back surgery which came just before a blizzard which drove me from being able to stay to manage her care post-op to getting home to deal with two and half feet of snow that hit our area and kept my kids out of school for a week – it has been an eventful new year thus far.

What a difference a week makes. Here we are post blizzard and the roads are cleared, the snow is melting and the kids are back in school (thank God).  My mom has been moved to a rehab hospital in Lancaster, PA where she is making good progress towards regaining strength and mobility. It is a slow process but she is in a very nice facility and seems to be comfortable there. The next road for us is to find a place for her to live in Maryland near us as we would like to have her down here before June. So that means a lot of research and visiting places. Not to mention the packing up and decluttering of her home in PA so we can get that sold as quickly as possible.

I am again reminded by my friend Donna – “It’s always something” – a quote she sent me recently from the beloved Gilda Radner playing Roseanne Rosannadanna.

It is always something.

I remember when I saw the slogan “Shit Happens” years ago on a bumper sticker on some car someplace. I remember thinking how funny that was. But I don’t think I realized how true that was at the time. Shit had happened in my life but up until then the crap hadn’t really hit the fan. As we age shit really does happen and some of us get a lot of shit and some of us are luckier and we get less. But it Happens. What a wise quote – it grows with you – and we aren’t alone because everyone has shit happen! It is comforting in a way – yes?

It really comes down to how we handle it all – right? Some days we want to put our heads under a pillow and not face the day, sometimes we long for a bottle or ten of vodka so we can drink ourselves into oblivion and forget the shit that surrounds us. Other times we stand with mighty fists trying to face down our shit and other times we plod through just trying to get to the other side.

It is always something – it is always going to be something. And that really stinks when you think about it. But it is what makes life life. We are just always trying to deal with – or duck – the shit. Sometimes there are things to be learned from these events and sometimes they are just things to get through- maybe in the end we are wiser,stronger, more grateful, more loving, or we have an epiphany and sometimes maybe we are in shell shock for a while. I was in shell shock after my cancer battle- it took a while to make my way back to feeling like I was living life not just getting through the day. Maybe sometimes we get through but we are left with questions. I know I sometimes just have endless questions and I drive myself crazy with the asking because sometimes there are no explanations.

For me what gets me through the hard times is faith. Orange slushies and wine are a help but my faith in the fact the someone wiser and greater than I has my back is what I cling to when crap hits the fan. (I know some are reading this and wondering how I can write about my faith and crap in the same sentence- well it kind of feels good. And both are part of my life).

Faith may seem cliche’ to many and maybe it isn’t the go to for all of us. Faith is an important tool in my “dealing with life” toolbox. Sometimes when I am drowning in crap I forget to rely on my faith- it is when I am feeling so lost and like nothing will give that some little niggle comes into my head that reminds me that I have a wonderful God watching my back. I may not like the circumstances I am in and I may not get the outcome I pray for but faith is what calms my waters. We all should have some type of go to.

Whats gets us from one end to the other of this life- where it will always be something- takes a good amount of strength and hopefully a sense of humor (and hopefully a go to) because it is so much more fun to laugh than to cry. Have you ever had a good cry and then it pivots into a laugh – maybe bc someone said something silly to try to cheer you up or you are in the midst of a good cry and your dog farts and you have to laugh or urn to another room? It really is so weird – this life. That we can ball our heads off one minute and then snicker like a ten year old in the next.

This life – it can be ugly and depressing and scary and sad and it can be so joyful and gorgeous and silly and light- there is crying and there is laughing – sometimes life is faith and crap in the same sentence. Life is amazing…

and I am grateful for it….well maybe not the crap part…but the rest is pretty cool…

 

 

 

 

 

On loss and friendship

Recently my friend, Debbie, lost her 21-year-old son, Roma, from a fall off a ladder. It was a shocking thing to the many people who knew him and his family. It is one of those things that is hard to wrap your mind around when it happens. A young person who seemed to have a long life ahead of them doesn’t get the chance.

It is more than sad. It is devastating.

My heart broke for Debbie and her family. It is a parent’s worst nightmare to bury a child. I wept for their loss and for a life that won’t get to be lived. I wept when I thought what if that had been me. I wept because imagining the loss of my own child upset me.

How does one survive that? —I am not sure.

I have always been inspired by Debbie’s very loving spirit and strength and her deep faith in God. She has helped me during our friendship more than she may even know. In her time of grief I want to be a comfort to her. I have been thinking about how best I can do that.

Words of sympathy, anecdotes, and many pictures have been pouring onto her Facebook page. She told me they were comforting for her. But I imagine as the days after the funeral creep on and other people get back to their lives these things might quiet down some. This is the time that I hope to be helpful.

Sometimes when a tragedy happens such as this we may find it hard to know what to do. Some people may distance themselves because even talking about the loss of a child is too painful even for the one who might be trying to provide comfort.

I can see that. But I knew her son…not well but I knew him – and I knew him better because of how she shared him with others. Her son was adopted and she wrote a book about her journey to adopt him. She also had a blog where she often wrote about him and then recently she wrote an amazing story of how they found his birth family in Russia.

But the best sharing we did was together in our conversations. I also have a son who is adopted and who was having some problems. She not only helped get support for me and help for my son she listened to me talk (vent!) about my fears and worries for my son.

When she spoke of her son -who had also had some challenges during his teen years and had just seemed to turn a corner before he lost his life- she spoke of him always with love. She never lost hope for him. She had such compassion and care for him despite the frustrations and fear she also had for him. She is an inspiration to me.

So from all of these conversations I had with her, I learned about him and I learned a bit about compassion (and I have tried to emulate that in my relationship with my own son and others).

Things with my son had become difficult. It stressed the entire family. Kevin and I tried to get help for him and tried to let him learn through natural consequences. It was really taking its toll on me. I wanted to make him right. I saw his potential even if he couldn’t see it.

What I learned from Debbie is that we can guide with love and though we hurt terribly to see them falter or have to learn the hard way that we can just love them.

Debbie has written in her own blog that things got better for her when she realized God didn’t intend on her to fix Roma- only to love him. Reading her words was a changing point for me. I still have my moments of anger and sheer frustration but I am better able manage that and I try to see my son through the eyes that Jesus would have seen him through.

If anything comes of Roma’s death for me is that it puts so much of life with my own kids into perspective. I realized after I heard about Roma’s death how so many things I got upset about with my kids really didn’t matter. That what really matters is to love them.

And these are the things I can talk to her about. What she gave me and what her son gave me through her. Perhaps this will be a comfort.

Sometimes words aren’t needed though. When I got cancer I know that some people really didn’t know what to say. And that is ok. Some of the nicest things I got from people were simple cards. I loved the Bible quotes and sometimes little pictures. Sometimes just a few words of encouragement – “good luck today” or “I prayed for you today” were just the thing I needed at that moment. It doesn’t have to be a dialogue.

When my friend died last year of thyroid cancer I had no words except “I am so sorry” and how many times was I going to say this? So I stopped saying it. Instead I posted pictures on her face book page of my photographs. In fact, I did this in her last weeks of life. I had no words then so I would take a photo for her and attach an encouraging quote to it and post it on her page. I wanted her to know I was thinking of her and I hope in some way it was comforting. Posting on her page after her death was perhaps more of a comfort to me but maybe it made someone else feel good that saw it.

With Debbie, I hope to provide some comfort in these ways. The other night my family was out to dinner at a local Italian restaurant and I looked up at the décor on the walls and I noticed a wall clock and under the clock was the word “Roma” – her son’s name. I had my daughter snap a picture and I posted it on her Facebook just to let her know I was thinking of her and of Roma.

I hope to get together with Debbie after the holidays. I told her I wanted to come over and chat about Roma and maybe have a glass of wine. I want her to tell me more about him if she feels like it. I want her to cry if she feels like it. I just want to be there for her. I want to do what I am not always great at- just listen.

I think having had cancer was a huge turning point in my life.  One of the most important things I learned was what a gift it is to just have someone listen to you. My husband who is a great listener became a sounding board for all my fears and angst and anger and depression. He listened with love.

I had a few friends who had been through breast cancer and they were the ones I went to when I had a question or just needed to vent. It was just good know they were there. I didn’t always need words – I just needed ears.

And then there was the touch. During some really bad days hugs really helped. Kevin hugged me fierce. He caught my tears. I have not always been comfortable hugging on people. I didn’t grow up in a huggy family but over the years I have grown to be more of a hugger. So sometimes when I am in doubt of my words I hug. It brings connection and human touch is one of the most comforting things.

When I was in the hospital I was rolled into rooms prior to my surgery for icky procedures – my husband was often banned. He was my resident hand-holder and when he wasn’t there I just grabbed on a nurses hand for comfort and I told them it was a comfort. They were more than happy to lend a hand – pun intended.

So when in doubt of consoling words I hug or I hold a hand. I watched my friend the other day get hundreds of hugs. I bet she was tired but she told me that day that she and her husband really “felt all the love” from everyone…not just the days of the funeral and visitations but the days just following his death.

We all struggle with these things I think sometimes. We are lost for words. But it is ok. Any gesture that is from the heart is ok. It comes out of love. And that is a gift.

The loss of a child has got to bring unimaginable pain and sorrow. I can only imagine and I don’t like to – the imagining hurts. I feel such sadness over the loss of Debbie’s son Roma and such sorrow for her pain. I want to be present in my friend’s life- I don’t want to back away because I just don’t have the words or out of fear that I will make her cry because I do or say the wrong thing. I just want to her to know I care. I know I can’t make her grief go away but I hope to give support during it. It is all I have but I give it with love.

Debbie said it took a village to raise Roma. I know the village will be there for her and her entire family in their grief.

 

Debbie’s Author page here.

Photos courtesy of Debbie Michael

 

Rest In Peace Roma- though your mom says Rest and Roma don’t go together!