Mental Health stories of courage and resilience Part 4

Y is for the true You inside

This post is the last of the Mental Health stories that I will share in honor Mental Health Awareness Month.  As I’ve written earlier, these are memories I carry with me from past experiences. I hope that in reading these snapshots, you can get a glimpse of the struggles for a  person who lives with chronic and persistent symptoms of mental illness and from that glimpse, gain understanding and empathy.  This mini-series resulted from the letter “Y” in April 2018 A to Z writing Challenge. If you’d like, you can go back to Part 1 and start at the beginning.  

I met Margaret as I did many of my clients, in a state-run psychiatric hospital to be a part of discharge planning.  As I had mentioned in my last post, Margaret was on the younger end of middle age. She had been married once and had a child, a boy named Shaun. The boy’s father had full custody.  Margaret had not seen her son, now a teenager, for many years.mother-daughter-love-sunset-51953.jpeg

Margaret carried a dual diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder with manic episodes along with Alcohol Abuse and Dependency.  Hospital records indicated that there was a family history of substance abuse by both parents and siblings. Margaret had lost contact with her family. She had lived “on the streets” or in psychiatric facilities for most of her adult life.

One of the first things that Margaret wanted me to know was that she “was not like the other homeless drunks.”  She wanted me to know she had lived in a big white house overlooking the Bay in a small posh town known as a summer retreat for famous people.  As she stuck out her arm in front of herself, she fanned her hand and wiggled spread fingers to make a point,  “and, I had di-ah-mends…”   

Whenever she was having a hard time, she would repeat the story to me with the same gestures and intonations.  She wanted me to remember. It was her dream to get back to that point in her life.  It was my goal to help her get as close as possible.  She was discharged to a women’s transitional residential program with seven other women and plenty of support.  The structure proved too much for Margaret.  There were curfews, chores and according to Margaret “the staff was pushy and some of the other girls were too young or too sick.” 

We started looking for safe alternative housing.  It was the 1990s. Margaret’s only income was Supplemental Security Income and the minimum allowance of food stamps. Today she would probably get a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs for that amount.  Without a housing subsidy, it was impossible for Margaret to afford even a room in one of the many rundown boarding room houses in the city.  We applied for a rental assistance allowance through a special grant designed for downsizing the state hospitals.  While we waited, Margaret’s boyfriend, Jean found a small attic apartment in an old triple decker. 

Jean was supportive of Margaret’s treatment and personal goals. We were able to adjust the subsidy request to use at that apartment.  With a place of her own, the primary thing on her mind was to see her son Shaun again. Margaret was able to open communication with Shaun and his father.  Now she could tell his dad that she had a safe place for him to visit.  Jean was able to borrow a car to meet her son for lunch near his home. It was the first time they had seen each other since he was a small boy.   She was so excited.  She bought a stylish blouse and slacks at the Salvation Army.  For Shaun, she purchased a gift from a local department store, precursors to Target or Walmart.   They tell me she looked fabulous.  It was very stressful, but she managed to get through it without hospitalization or too much disruption in her life.

It was a year later when Shaun got his driver’s license and a car, that he was able to visit Margaret.   From the moment she got the apartment, everything she did was with Shaun in mind.  Now, her little boy was coming for Christmas!  

Margaret and I would shop for her groceries and personal items at the beginning of each month when her Representative Payee would give her spending allowance according to her budget.  Margaret had planned and budgeted for Shaun’s Christmas visit for months.  She wanted to make sure she had enough for a Christmas tree.  She was extra careful shopping because she also wanted some ingredients for a special dinner.  After we secured her monthly staples, we were done, but with very little left for a Christmas tree. 

Margaret wanted a real tree for Shaun.  She didn’t want a dusty beat-up artificial one from a thrift store.  We searched high and low on that cold New England winter day.  Finally, in the back of a tree lot, Margaret spotted the perfect one.   It was short and lopsided, but not too scraggly and at least one hundred times better than Charlie Brown’s.  To Margaret, it looked like the one at Rockefeller Center. She negotiated and got it for eight dollars.  She cried silent tears as we drove home.

At my next visit, I saw the lopsided little evergreen sitting in the corner glowing brightly pexels-photo-264988.jpegfrom the lights and ornaments that Margaret had collected from around town – donation boxes, thrift stores, and friends.  The little Christmas tree did look like it belonged in a big white house by the Bay with strings of “di-ah-mends” to light it up.  Margaret had poured years of bottled up love for her son into decorating the tiny apartment for that visit. It was Margaret’s first Christmas in a long time as well, and sometimes she would become flooded with so many emotions. It was good to hear they had a lovely time.    

Margaret was a loving mother who also happened to struggle with distressing symptoms of a major mental illness.  I tip my hat to her this Mother’s Day wherever she may be.   

Each one of us has our own evolution of life, and each one of us goes through different tests which are unique and challenging. But certain things are common. And we do learn things from each other’s experience. On a spiritual journey, we all have the same destination. A. R. Rahman  (from BrainQuotes.com)

Please check out the links below for additional information for family supports as well.  Many times family and friends want to help but don’t know how. There is also information about Peer support groups and peer mentoring programs.  No one has to do this alone.

SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration) at  https://www.samhsa.gov/

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness (a grassroots organization run by families and consumers) https://www.nami.org/About-NAMI

Mental Health stories of courage and resilience Part 2

 

Y is for the true You inside

A few days ago, while participating in the April 2018 A to Z challenge, I wrote a post about  The fun side of living on the edge of reality.  It was about the silliness of letting my imagination run away. I imagine it’s a trait common among those of us who like to write.  My theme for the challenge was to tell the stories that marked my simple life; the memories of those moments are in my mind like snapshots.  After I wrote the post, I felt the need write the stories of those who struggle with harsh realities, yet find a reason to get up every morning and do their best to make it a great day. For the next few days, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, I am telling their stories.  Once again, at the end of the post, I will put links to resources for additional information.

Imagine 

Joy of graduation
Imagine you are a high school senior or college freshman

Imagine for a moment that you are a high school senior or a freshman in college. You ’ve been a straight A student, involved in sports programs and volunteering.  You’ve done everything right. Just last month you were told that it’s a great thing to have your whole life ahead of you.  The world is your oyster, the sky is the limit, and yet here you are, sitting in with your parents in a psychiatric ward waiting to talk to your hospital team about discharge planning. You have been handed a diagnosis something like Paranoid Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder.  You’re a smart kid, intellectually you understand the information, but it doesn’t make sense.  You can’t return to school; you need extended treatment in an outpatient day program.  You may need to pack your things and move out of your dorm, mid-semester to a therapeutic residential program in your community.  You don’t remember how you got here.  You’ve heard the stories, you’ve been given a diagnosis, but you can’t believe this is happening to you

Mental health services and the Government

For the most part, I loved my job. I found it meaningful. I believe it addressed a need in our community especially for the families and individuals we served. Even though we were just another branch of government, I felt we were doing great work moving forward to try new ideas in the interest of improving the system for our clients.  As it happens sometimes, I was promoted to long days of sitting behind a desk with a mountain of paperwork while trying to interact with the bureaucracy. I missed being out in the field, but I was fortunate enough to work with a team of intelligent, well trained and compassionate professionals who were driven to provide the best services for their clients on the road to recovery.   Together, in weekly sessions, we did a lot of brainstorming and problem solving to address the individual needs of the clients.

During this particular time, our emphasis was to work towards helping clients break the revolving-door cycle.  In particular, we had begun paying close attention to the unique issues of the transitional age and young adult population.  These individuals ranged in age from 16 to 24 years old.  In some cases, we were able to expand age limitations to 30 years old. We sponsored supportive education and employment initiatives, peer mentoring and independent living in the least restrictive settings.  We wanted to offer user-friendly alternatives to interrupted lives.   That is how I had come to know about Mike.

Mike –carrying the stigma of an ex-patient

Mike had come to us after his second or third psychiatric hospitalization at a local hospital.  He was in his late 20’s, almost out of age range for our new menu of services.  He was bright, hardworking but was having a hard time adjusting to his life as an ex-patient of a mental hospital mainly because of anxiety about the stigma it carries. Who was he now?  He had been living with his uncle and family for many years.  Upon discharge had returned to work at the family business but symptoms of his anxiety, OCD, and depressed mood caused persistent and unrealistic worry. At times increase in symptoms became full panic attacks and physical immobility.   His case manager thought he would flourish with a young adult support system and advocated strongly for a spot.

I met Mike for the first time at the office when he came looking for his case manager who was out on appointments.  He asked to speak to me because he felt that being with anyone who understood his struggles would help to lessen his anxiety during this episode. He had just had a falling out with his cousin who was supervising his work on a project.  His cousin felt he was too slow and taking too long to get the job done.  He was feeling overwhelmed and worried what his family would think.  He worried that the incident would be a setback in his recovery plan.  We reviewed his Recovery Plan and the Safety Plan that he had worked on with his therapist and case manager for these very same situations.   

“You know what I wish?”

He told me he felt he was on shaky ground with his family since his hospitalization.  He said he knew they saw him differently.  “They think I’m lazy; they don’t realize what a struggle it is for me to get up and face the day each morning.” He didn’t feel he could address it because he believed they would mock him.  Whether it was true or not, I can’t say, but that was his perception.  We talked about how unrealistic expectations and perceptions could present a barrier to recovery. 

He was sad and angry.  On the one hand, he explained people see a good looking young man who appeared smart, secure, physically fit and “put together” as if there was nothing wrong.  But the reality he said is that he can’t manage his fears and anxiety without support and medications.  He sat quietly for a moment; shoulders slumped as he stared at his hands resting on the desk.  He took a deep breath and with a surge of energy, leaned in on the desk to look me straight in the face. “You know what I wish sometimes? I wish that I would have lost a leg or an arm or have some form of disfigurement in my face or body.  I wish that I looked disabled. Then people would be more empathetic and realize that I am living with something catastrophic.”  

It wasn’t self-pity, he was stating the obvious.  I had heard it before verbalized in different ways.  Anxiety disorder and depression are sometimes referred to as a silent epidemic.  However, in our society, it is often misunderstood, and its effects minimized, precisely because patients do not appear as if there is something wrong with them.  They don’t fit the stereotype of “mental patient.” 

Mike did eventually move out of the family home and into his own apartment with minimal supports.  He enrolled at the local community college and began to think about becoming a peer mentor.  The road to recovery with mental health issues varies for each person, as life does for all of us in general.  Sometimes for every step forward, there are two steps backward, but the key is to keep going.  

If you would like more information about mental health services in your area, please check out these links below.

SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration) at  https://www.samhsa.gov/

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness (a grassroots organization run by families and consumers) https://www.nami.org/About-NAMI

 

eXes and Woes

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A to Z Challenge Letter X

eXes and Woes

Clotilde Delsapo looked at the caller I.D. on her cell phone. She didn’t usually pick-up when she didn’t recognize the number, but the area code was from her old hometown, so she did. “Hey, hellooo,” said the playful voice on the other end. “Hi, what’s up?” she responded tentatively. She knew who it was. The call was unexpected, but somehow she was not surprised.  It had been about three years since their last conversation. At that time Laurence Olivier Madioti was getting ready to settle down again. It was always the same story, and she’d come to understand this was going to be the last phone call – for a while. “I’ve learned so much from the past. She and I have so much in common. She has wonderful qualities. I’ve good a good feeling about this.” To which Clotilde would politely reply, “Great news; All the best. Really hope it works out this time.”

Now, he was rambling about how difficult it had been to find Clotilde’s phone number again. He wanted her new address to send his recent book. He was looking to get her feedback. “It’s different from what I’ve written before. I think you’ll like it.” Clotilde hesitated but shrugged, sure why not she thought, and she answered without emotion. “1300 Mockingbird Road, Paradise, Florida.”  To which he responded. “Great, I’m here for a graduation, but I’ll send it as soon as I get back.” After a bit more mindless chatter, he added that he was single again. “Let’s just say we had irreconcilable differences.” Clotilde didn’t bother to feign shock but replied. “Wow, too bad. Sorry to hear it.”

Today Laurence O. Madioti was calling after a third long-term relationship fell apart. It had been 13 years since they had gone their separate ways but each time a relationship had ended, he called with a similar story. “I think I made a mistake.” Each time it started to sound as if he had regretted that their liaison ended the way it did. She listened carefully, but the words she waited to hear didn’t come. After a while, they were just friends again, former colleagues shooting the breeze.

A couple of weeks later he had called her again to let her know he was heading home at the end of the week. “Why don’t you pack a bag and come with me for a bit. We always have a great time together.” She shook her head and laughed at him. “Some things never change” she gently chided. “I didn’t mean it like that. You sound like you need a vacation. You can stay at the guest house. There is a pool, and it’s walking distance to the beach.” She didn’t know why she didn’t just say no, that’s a bad idea. Why was she always careful not to hurt his feelings? Instead, she explained that she couldn’t leave now.  “Sounds like a great place though.” She would let him know when she could visit; after all, they were still “friends.”

She didn’t know why they remained “friends” for all these years. Maybe it was something about forgiving those that wronged you, not because they deserve it, but because you deserve peace. It seemed to have worked. She was at peace, and hindsight gave her a better understanding of their past history.

They had met over thirty years ago when they worked at Allen, Bradford, and Jones. Together they led an up-and-coming team breaking barriers and maximizing productivity, making it one of the most successful teams in the company’s history.  In the midst of success, as they say at Disney, there occurred a Tale as old as time, True as it can be, Barely even friends, Then somebody bends, Unexpectedly… Neither one remembered precisely when or why things changed between them, but they did.  It became their secret for many years after.

Some time ago, Clotilde realized that she had finally reached a place where it didn’t hurt anymore. She accepted what she had known all along but had refused to let it surface to her conscious thoughts. She had misinterpreted that friendly relationship. It was as simple as that. She was able to close that chapter and look back at the story as if it were a bad rom-com. She felt relief, her spirit was light, and she was at peace with herself and the world.

Laurence O. was a great guy as far as “friends” go. He was giving, supportive and loyal. A person knew he could be counted on to always have your back in a troubling situation. He was smart, funny, articulate and cultured. He spoke four languages fluently, had traveled extensively and could recite poems and sonnets by heart. He wasn’t handsome in the usual way, but there was an attractive, confident air about him. Women and men both admired him. They considered themselves lucky to be counted among his friends.

One could also say that Laurence Olivier Madioti was an incurable romantic in a temperamental way. He was the personification of the ads found in the personals. He loved walking on a moonlit beach, and dinners by candlelight accompanied with good music at a fine restaurant. He was also an excellent cook and enjoyed entertaining at his place. He loved picnics, red roses, and fruity red wine. He was an expert at helping to release the tensions of the day whether with a shoulder massage or cuddling on the couch watching a silly romantic comedy.

Unfortunately, although he said he longed for a stable relationship, Laurence Madioti had been unable to transition to happily-ever-after. After the second post-break-up call, Clotilde had told him that it appeared that he was in love with the idea of LOVE, the conquest, and romance. He had studied the novels, memorized the poems and watched romantic movies. Others would say that once the thrill of the chase was gone and things started to feel mundane, Laurence would find the nearest exit. For all his intelligence and insight, a part of him expected that once he found “the one,” the stars would align and life would be perfect for all eternity.

In the weeks that followed the book’s arrival, Laurence O. continued to call or email regularly. They would talk about the book, politics, and weather. They didn’t take that walk down memory lane. Clotilde could hear the uncertainty in his conversations, sometimes overstepping the boundaries of friendship. She found it sad that sometimes it was as if they were strangers with very little in common after all these years. She wondered if he felt the same. She had thought to bring it up because she didn’t want to continue this shallow friendship.

Clotilde wished they were face to face.  At some point, she began to feel awkward about the phone conversations or video calls. It was not the same something was lacking. She didn’t know what but could not speak her mind. She had decided to go to visit him to end this semblance of friendship but then thought better of it.  What if she felt different when she saw him in person, after having him in her arms from the obligatory hug between friends?  What if she got lost in his the dark pools in his eyes or felt faint from the smell of his skin next to hers? What if she was flooded with a rush of all the emotions she had managed to put away for so long.  She didn’t want to muddy the waters. She would wait. If history repeats itself, he would soon be on the mend from the broken heart and would get too busy to call.

And so it was. The calls stopped abruptly, and after several weeks, Clotilde sent an email to confirm her hunch. “Yes, he said sheepishly.  We are in the beginning stages, but I have a good feeling about this.” Clotilde politely responded “Great news; All the best. Really hope it works out this time.”

 

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Upside Down – A to Z challenge letter U

 

What happens when your world is upside down, and you feel like you are holding on to the edge with your fingertips? How do you manage to get back on top or at least get a better grip?

The other day I received a message from a young man who I hadn’t spoken to in about 30 years. The last time I saw him, he was 16 or 17, and I was his Youth Leader in church. Some of you may be doing the math and maybe don’t consider this a young man, but time and memory are funny that way. Your memory keeps those snapshots of the way it was, and in this situation, we both found ourselves the way we were.

He was never your typical Choir Boy or Boy Scout. In truth, he was the proverbial black sheep of his family, but he had a good heart, and one could tell he just couldn’t get out of his own way. Although his mother was a leader in our church, her son was out of reach to her and his immediate family. The rest of us tried to bridge that gap during those turbulent years and so when he reached out, I was there for him- his youth leader again.

He got straight to the point. Since I had last seen him, he had continued with his self-reported “craziness” for several years but when he met someone with “good sense”; he fell in love, and his life began to turn around. They’ve been married for twenty plus years; have three lovely children-already finishing college. He went back to church for a while, bought the house with the picket fence, the furnishings, the cars and the dog. A few months ago, without warning, his wife announced that she needed space and wanted to separate for an indefinite period. He felt he couldn’t go on without her; everything he’d accomplished had been for her. I reminded him that this was what he had always wanted and he achieved it. Not just for her, but for himself.

I listened carefully with my third ear, trying to hear what was actually going on. I don’t make assumptions, I don’t know his wife, and although I believe our core stays the same, the chances are that so much time has passed, that I don’t truly know who this young man has become. In my experience, things never come out of the blue.

When he was done, I asked a few questions. Some he wasn’t ready to answer, but he listened.  He was briefly able to step back and recognize some of the things I was talking about. Naturally, when it was too painful, he deflected, and we moved on. Put in on the back burner, I told him, and I shared some of what has helped me in times of trouble or distress.  The trick to survival is using your tools.

• Take care of yourself. Stay healthy. Get out and move – exercise. Keep your mind clear and grounded with mediation or prayer or both. If you know substances like alcohol or drugs are a trigger, don’t reach for that as your life saver. The chances are that you’ll go under to the dark side quicker.
• Be open to self-reflection but don’t beat yourself up. We all make mistakes, just be honest with yourself. Are you doing the best you can? Is this your best self?
• Try to walk in the shoes of the other person but don’t judge. Don’t take it personally. Each one of us is dealing with our own issues, battle scars, and fears. Yes, even your life partner may have difficulties communicating some things. Don’t push. Be ready to accept and respect the other person’s decision.
• Remember each day is a clean slate. We can make it what we want. Eleanor Roosevelt, one of my favorites said “With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” from Brainyquote.com

It happens to all of us. How do you get back on top when your world is upside down?

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Twinkle little star. A to Z Challenge

Windows in heaven
Perhaps they are not stars, but rather windows in Heaven where the love of those who went ahead pours through and shines upon us…

 

Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are. Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky… or as my fifteen-month granddaughter sings it “kakle, kakle, sahh, ahh, ahh.” Don’t judge.  Her mother grew up in New England where people say “Pahk yah, cahs in Hahvahd Yahd.”  It could be she’s already picking up the accent her mother brought to their new home fifteen hundred miles away. The point is that my granddaughter loves that song. Every time I go to visit, almost as soon as I walk in through the door, she brings her storybook with the big yellow star on the cover. We put the world on “pause”,  she proceeds to climb on my lap and rests her little head on my chest. We cuddle to read it- at least three times before we can move on. I don’t mind. I love it!

I can’t say that she’s made a connection between the star in the book and the immense collection of twinkling diamonds in the night sky outside her window. She rarely stays up past 7:30 anyway. I’m sure when she’s old enough; she will be as mesmerized by the vast infinity of bright lights in the night sky as I am. How can she not?

The first time I was aware of the overwhelming expansion of the stars in the black velvet sky, I was breathless. To understand the extent of my reaction, you have to remember that I am a “city kid.” I grew up at a time when folks were talking about smog, pollution and how to make the air better in the large cities across the country.  I don’t lie when I tell you that I never imagined the night sky could be so much more amazing than a visit to the planetarium. I was about 16. It was during a Winter Youth Retreat in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, the night was crisp and not a cloud in the sky. It was magical.

I’ve lived just outside city limits since then, and whenever there is a night clear enough to see the sky full of stars, I swear I feel a little tipsy.  It still takes my breath away.  In one of those moments of stretching reality through imagination, I promised my kids that when I’m gone from this world, I’ll try to find a way to still keep looking out for them. Maybe I’ll be looking out from behind one of those stars. In our family, many of our loved ones have left this earth before we were ready to  say “Goodbye.” I love that quote that suggests that stars are windows in the sky for our loved ones to see us. Here Anne Murray’s version of the same idea.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbZBZC01_sQ

I do believe that our loved ones have the opportunity to become angels or spirit guides as some faith practices believe. A teacher once said it might take some longer than others, but that’s why we pray for the deceased souls and offer services. I find that comforting, maybe that’s why I will always love a starry, starry night. It lights my soul and gives me hope. Blog challengea2z-h-small.

AtoZ Challenge-NEVER a Dull Moment

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I remember those days when there was NEVER a dull moment in my life. Work, School, church, sports, birthdays, hospitals, friendships – drama at every turn. We spent our days running from one activity to the next, connecting and catching up in the car. No break during vacations either, they were usually jam-packed with pexels-photo-713149.jpegactivities as well. Trying to make the most of our time, how did we fit so much in a 24 hour period? Now I’m exhausted just thinking about it!

Now and then we’d call a timeout. The kids would sleep in, or they’d watch Saturday morning cartoons as they waited to have a leisurely breakfast with all the trimmings. Pancakes or French toast swimming in syrup or eggs and bacon with an Italian breadstick from the bakery in town, where my Dad had stopped before coming over for coffee. Usually, he managed to get it to us still warm from the oven. We’d use real butter and watch it melt on the bread right before our eyes. Just to remember it, my mouth waters.

In the summer we’d pack a picnic and head for the beach early enough to enjoy nature’s sights and sounds before the crowds lined the shore. We’d lay on our blankets soothed by the surf, the birds, and the ocean breeze. Later we would head to the boardwalk for a stroll, some fried dough and try our hand at the arcade games. The most challenging part was choosing a prize with that would equal the number of tickets we had won. At the end of the day were ready to start the week all over again.

It seemed like this was the natural order of things, but I think when we are in the middle of living like that, we forget to pause. I don’t remember the exact moment that I decided to do things differently but somewhere along the way I told myself it couldn’t continue. I was burning the candle at both ends as they say and burning out my kids as well. Years later I read the book The Four Agreements by Dr. Miguel Ruiz, and it validated all my decisions and choices. There was nothing magical about it. There was nothing in that book that I hadn’t heard before, but because it was able to put into words what I had been thinking, I felt enlightened. For a while, after I read it, I was giving that book away to family, friends, and co-workers – anyone who I felt needed to take another look at life.

I still keep those “Agreements” with myself. It is my understanding that in life there is NEVER a dull moment. I believe every moment is special whether they are quiet and peaceful or full of drama and pain. I had a friend who would always remind me “It is what it is.” I agree, but it’s up to us to take whatever “it” is and make the moments count. We fine-tune our skills with each experience and put it towards a rewarding life. We learn to listen to our internal voice and realize that when things are getting out of hand, we need to take care of ourselves first. It’s not selfish, its practical, its common sense. To be there for others, we need to be oK.

Does it make sense?

AtoZ Challenge- MOTHER of an Adult Child

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In my mind, M will always be for MOTHER and the many ways she made our life special. How many cards with acrostic poems did I draw or buy for her birthday or Mother’s Day through the years of her abbreviated life? Today’s poem is not for her but of what I learned and have passed on…

Dirty coffee cup on the counter—again.
Forgot to rinse—again.coffee cup in hand
A sigh escapes me
And like a gentle whirlwind,
Takes me down the path
So often traveled, once again.

Sweet memories at every turn
Prickly thorns around the bend,

A bump in the road
Puddles of tears,
Sunshine after the rain.

Wasn’t it you, so tiny
Who laid in my arms?
Crumpled, wrinkled, helpless
I sobbed, as you wailed.
Did the eyes of our souls look ahead?

Now we stand at a crossroad,
And as I fasten your wings,
I ask. . .
Did I teach you enough?
Did you learn your lessons well?
Only time will tell.

 

AtoZ Challenge – JOURNEY

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“Life is about the JOURNEY, not the destination.” I consider this quote one of my favorite expressions which continually renews the way I look at life. Whenever I’m with someone who is planning a wedding or a great vacation, I always remind them to enjoy everything leading up to the big event because it’s all over so quickly. People today spend countless hours and dollars planning for that special day, but then they are too busy or tired to enjoy it. I love to look at old photos of fun times, but I also warn people about trying to capture too many moments with the phone, you may be missing the opportunity for adventure or special moments that you can’t rewind. Laugh about the stressors and mishaps for someday they’ll be great stories to tell the grandchildren or reminders for yourself before you put your head down to sleep.

I often remember people that I’ve met on my JOURNEY and I acknowledge that whether it was for a moment or a season, a blessing or a lesson; those who’ve crossed my path have touched my life and added a bit to who I am today. One friend was especially attentive to enjoy the JOURNEY and life’s offerings. “Why stress about where it’s going tomorrow if it’s wonderful now?” Over the years, I’ve come to understand the importance and adapt that philosophy to my life and my JOURNEY.

To give proper credit, I went searching for the author of the quote that has become such a part of our everyday language (and of course memes). I found that Ralph Waldo Emerson is often credited with “Life is a journey, not a destination” but in fact, several ministers and Bible teachers of the time used similar language in journals or teachings. https://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/08/31/life-journey/

It makes sense to me that such a quote would also have religious connotations. I’m glad some preachers and teachers have tried to redirect their communities. If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you may have guessed that my JOURNEY has been via a road with twists and turns. For part of my life, I was teaching that the most important thing in life was the final destination on the other side of those Pearly Gates. For that, I’ve apologized.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped to take a break and look around me. I noticed that some people were too focused getting to the Promised Land, the mansions, walking on the Streets of Gold that they lost the purpose of their JOURNEY and forgot the words of Jesus Christ. “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me in. I needed clothes, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you looked after me. I was in prison, and you came to visit me.” … ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’Matthew 25:35-40.

After a while, I took up my satchel and changed direction –  same JOURNEY, different route. Rather than waiting to see all the wonders “over yonder,” I’ve decided to enjoy JOURNEY, and make the most of the blessings in my simple life.

Five Minutes of Fame

Every two weeks in the city where I live, a small group of bloggers and affiliates meets at a locally owned coffee shop to chat, troubleshoot, or share tips and ideas. I had been blogging somewhat consistently for a couple of weeks and wanting to keep the momentum; I finally made it to a meeting. As luck would have it, a journalist from a local news outlet had just surprised the group facilitator to do a story about Blogging and was asking to interview a few group members – today.

In one serendipitous moment, I found myself as one of only two bloggers to show up for the meeting today. I agreed to interview as an honest to goodness “blogger” with about ten posts under my belt and a page in the middle of reconstruction. The interview went well considering it was spur-of-the-moment. I was surprised at how relaxed I felt as I enthusiastically spoke of my “Self Censored” page for my five minutes of fame.

I watched the segment air this morning which caused cobwebs and dust to blow around those corners of my mind. I remember watching myself after another interview in what seems to be another lifetime. My dark brown hair was blown dry in a smooth shoulder length bob with professional, understated makeup. The dark gray skirt suit that I wore to important meetings was freshly out of the cleaners, and I wore a royal blue sweater because everyone still tells me that is definitely my color. I was to talk about a new independent living housing program for our clients and a family group which would help everyone with the transition. I had practiced and had index cards, and yet I froze. If not for my co-worker’s help, I would have been completely lost – what a disaster I thought. Whose idea was this anyway?

Today as I watched myself, I chuckled. I looked so comfortable in my own skin. My hair is short, gray and wild. My clothes were not pressed or laid out from the day before; plus my voice was still hoarse from a recent bout of laryngitis. I wasn’t prepared for the TV that day; I was flying by the seat of my pants, and yet I wasn’t afraid.

All is not perfect. My GPS doesn’t work very well, and the road is still crooked with plenty of bumps and ridges. I am content in my journey though, and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s around the bend. I think my younger self would be proud and relieved.

How would you answer the age-old question? What would you say to your younger self?