Thursday, August 23, 2012

Always Say I Love You

Today is a hard day for me. Just a couple of short years ago I went to bed on August 22 married to  a great husband and father, and woke up on August 23 his widow. The grieving process seems to be taking me a very long time-but as my therapist says it takes as long as it takes. Part of the problem is that so much else has gone wrong in my life since my husband was killed, but that is a subject for other days.

Today, I will grieve, but I will also know that I am surrounded by the love and caring and support of family and friends and even a few strangers. Today, in the midst of my grief I will temper the sadness with remembering the good, sharing the blessings.One of the most difficult parts of being a widow, is that there is no one to talk to in the middle of the night. Mr. Bill and used to talk to each other for hours at a time. We were very much blessed by being very much in love, but we also genuinely liked each other.

One of the things that made our marriage good was that we talked to each other. If I were giving advice to those getting married it would be to set aside time every day-no matter how busy or hectic your life can get-to talk to each other.Talk about your life, talk about your dreams, talk about the weather-but talk to each other.The other advice I would give is never end a conversation without saying I love you.

Now, I know that sounds a bit contrived, but Mr. Bill and I never regretted making it a rule for our life. Believe me, many,many minor disagreements were settled with just those 3 words. Major disagreements brought into focus, routine conversations made sweeter.It was such a habit for us, that if a phone conversation ended without it being said, we immediately called back.It was a habit that we extended to our conversations with our son-much to his chagrin sometimes. But, hey, isn't it a parents job to make their teenage son squirm?

But doesn't constantly saying I love you trivialize the sentiment? Doesn't it change the 3 most important words in the language into something less meaningful when it simply becomes a habit? My answer is HOW? How can you ever make love not meaningful. I grew up in a home where the words I love you didn't exist, and when I finally found love I knew never to take it for granted. Never. I remember the first I knew what love truly was, and the overwhelming sensation that enveloped me. Not something I would ever be able to take for granted. That was one of the reasons Mr. Bill and I made it a habit to always say I love you, we knew that love was so important that we must never take it for granted.

On that August 22nd, Mr. Bill had started a new job, and we worked different schedules that day. He called me from his new job on every break. That was another one of our habits, we called each other on our breaks. That night, I was at home,and he called me on his breaks and lunch. The last time we spoke was about 11:00 pm. He told me he would be working until about 2:00am, and for me to not wait up. "Take your medicine and go to bed," he said, "you'll  wake up when I get home.I love you." My answer was "OK, wake me up so I can hear about your new job. I love you." I took my medicine and went to bed.

My husband coming home from work wasn't what woke me in the early hours of August 23rd. A Highway Patrolman knocking on  our door to inform me that my husband had been killed by a drunk driver on his way home from that new job is what woke me.While I will never forget that moment when I opened the door and what that highway Patrolman said to me, the more important thing is I will never, NEVER forget that the very last words my husband heard from me,and that I heard from my husband were I LOVE YOU.

Always tell those you love that you love them. Never let a conversation end without reinforcing that.Life can change in the blink of an eye, and if you didn't say it you may not have another opportunity. Make it a habit, make it meaningful, never ever take love for granted.

Always say I love you.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Words have Power

So, here I am again this morning upset by something on the news. Now, I have mentioned before that I have a major depression disorder. I have mentioned that I am struggling right now to bring myself out of one of the deepest depression episodes I have ever had. It isn't easy, and I am not talking about it to garner sympathy. I talk about it because I know I am not the only person who struggles, and if my being open and transparent about it helps even one person know they are not alone, then it is good for me to talk about it. It's not easy to share about something as misunderstood as depression, especially when you are someone who is often the one your friends count on for encouragement and inspiration.But it seems important to share.

Some days I think must have fallen asleep and awakened in a different universe. Or maybe I am just getting old,but honestly, I don't remember civil discourse being so polarized and divided when I was younger. People have always disagreed, not seen eye to eye on things from religion to politics to current events to sports. I think, back before we communicated through a keyboard we remembered that those we disagreed with were fellow human beings because we were looking them in the eye.It was possible to engage in spirited debate and still remain civil.

It is possible to have friends that you are diametrically opposed to what they support and still remain friends. I know this because it is true in my life. I have friends from all political and religious parts of the spectrum and we love each other. I think it maybe because while we can think the  person is wrong or misguided we can respect that they have the right to feel and believe what they do. We understand that people can honestly look at things and understand them differently. Different doesn't mean someone is right and someone is wrong, it simply means different.And, honestly, differences can be discussed without demonizing or marginalizing the other persons opinion. In fact, as members of society we should each make it our project to bring the civic conversations in this country back to this.Because, the truth is, words have power, and you have no way of knowing who you are hurting with your words.

So, this morning, I actually woke up felling a bit stronger. I do have some great friends,and like my last post talked about, even in the midst of my struggles there are Everyday Miracles and good medicine. Now when I reminisce about the fact that people were nicer to each other back in the days when we could see each other I am in no way disparaging the community that can be created in cyberspace. I have made some amazing friends on message boards and facebook. In fact, for someone like me who is disabled and doesn't get out much anymore, social media can be a lifeline. but it can also be a minefield.

So, what has me so upset? Well, summer isn't good for me anymore anyway. My late husband's birthday, our wedding anniversary, and in 2 days the anniversary of his being killed by a drunk driver tend to not help me deal with my depression. But, I hang in there the best I can, and struggle through. This summer has been even more of a minefield, with the shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin. I am a survivor of random gun violence, and so the news tended to trigger my panic/anxiety issues. This week, it's the war of words over rape. Honestly, my PTSD kicked in the minute I read the first article.

I am a rape survivor, and really, I thought we had come so much farther in our thinking. I am not addressing the political aspects of this weeks brouhaha. I am just reacting to the insensitive words used by so many. In 1983, I was attacked and raped. I ended up in the emergency room with lumps and bruises and a broken collarbone. I dealt with the misogynistic treatment at the hands of the police and prosecutor's office. Apparently, since I wasn't a virgin, they felt it would be hard to prosecute. Crazy? Yeah, it was. The treatment I received from the authorities was, even in 1983, backwards and anachronistic. The man that attacked me went to jail, but ONLY because after he attacked me he went on a rampage and took an axe to a pay phone at a gas station. I guess I should have just considered myself lucky he didn't get the axe out of his car trunk until after he left me broken and bruised  in the alley behind my house.

I honestly thought we had come farther than that kind of thinking, but as I read comments on facebok and news pages, I see that we haven't. I feel like women my age should apologize to younger women. We thought we fought the battles for fair treatment and won them. Maybe we just thought once we achieved better it would stay that way, and apparently we have dropped the ball.

In can honestly accept that people have different political or even religious beliefs. What I can't accept is stone age language devaluing and trivializing rape. Words have power. No matter which side you are on in any debate, please, stand up for civility. Choose your words carefully, and ask others to do the same. The people those words hurt may be someone you love.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Everyday Miracles and The Best Medicine

I've had a really stressed out crappy day. Seems like they are like that lately. Life has been really hard,and quite frankly has worn me out. The months of triple digit weather have left me feeling depleted, physically, spiritually, and financially. After catching up the electric and gas bills,buying some groceries, getting my sons prescriptions filled, I am left with 86 cents in the bank and the low fuel light is on in my car. It is the 15th of the month, how is that supposed to work?

But, in the midst of all that, I am reminded that I am indeed blessed. I was able to catch up the electric bill, which was twice what I had budgeted the last few months because of those triple digit temps, because of a small miracle. I was sitting in my meditation spot, talking to Creator, wondering how to pay the bill.Nothing came to mind, I finished my meditations. Grabbed a cup of coffee and logged on the computer. There I was reading my facebook feed and I got a message from a friend. Check my paypal account. This friend had felt like I needed to be blessed. There was the money for to catch up the electric bill. Now I use the word friend, but this is someone who I have never met in person, someone I met in a community on the computer.Amazing. Even though we are not of the same religion, we both had our faith reinforced that day. I was reminded that in the midst of my stressed out crappy life Spirit still hears me and she was reminded that in the midst of some spiritual questioning she still hears Spirit.

A few days later, in another cyber community, I asked my friends to say extra prayers for me. That's all, I didn't share the need, I just asked for prayers, because being broke this summer because of the heat and everything costing too much is just not conducive to me climbing out of the depression I have been struggling with. But, one of the needs was the gas bill. Granted, I don't need the gas for heat, but hot water is a good thing.Later that day, I got a message from another friend-this one I have met personally, but we originally met online-again the message was to check my paypal account. There was the money to pay the gas bill and get some groceries.

So, I know that Spirit is aware of me, and that I have friends who hear Spirit. Those seem really rather miraculous to me these days.Depression is a terrible disease, one that take's a lot of my energy to deal with,and I just haven't had the extra energy lately. But, even though it feels like my steps forward can be measured in centimeters, I do think I am starting to move forward a bit,and as I am often heard to say...every step you take is a step away from where you used to be. Now it may only be a centimeter away, but it is away. So, here I am, struggling,and today just throws everything it can at me. That stupid low fuel light came on when we went to the library, and then we got home and on the hottest day of the week my electricity goes out. Now my first response was to panic. I opened the front door, and the stairwell light in our building was still on. Because while I had caught up, the next bill has arrived,and my anxious mind immediately thought they had turned my electricity off. Just then, the apartment door across the hall opened,and their electricity was off too. So, the neighbor heads down to the basement of the building and it turns out it was the circuit breakers for the ground floor apartments.  So, one more crisis averted.

Of course, my panic reflex had already kicked on, and so it has been a long afternoon. My pain level went up and I got a headache. Stress will do that, its the adrenaline I think. That's when the Best Medicine showed up. My son checked out a DVD at the library,and put it in the player. It is a DVD of all of the Tom and Jerry cartoons ever made, and so for the last hour my house has been filled with the most beautiful sound in the whole world, my son's laughter. Tom and Jerry cartoons are his type of humor, and his laughter seems to come from his toes,and fill his whole body-and he is 6' 7" tall, so that is a BIG laugh. A beautiful, musical laugh that makes me smile. It's been a while since I smiled,and today, after the stress, after the worries, I have been smiling for over an hour.

So, while I still have problems,and while I still have depression, I have managed to take a step away, a step filled with smiles, and that seems to me to be the very best thing in a long time. Just a few everyday miracles and laughter, the best of medicines. Spirit seems to be hearing me, don't you think?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Here's Your Mirror

When you are the parent of a child who is non typical, you learn very quickly to celebrate and revel in the simplest of things. As a Mom of a young man blessed with autism, I have often been known to cheer things other mothers might groan at.I know as the mother of a son I often was overjoyed/aghast at the same time during our teenage years. YAY!!! age appropriate behavior...Oh No! age appropriate behavior! It's a fine line with boys!!

 I was reminded that we who are lucky enough to parent amazing children never take anything for granted, and revel in what might to others look like mundane accomplishments. A young friend of mine is also fortunate enough to be the parent of a male child blessed with autism. I have felt honored the last few years to be able to share with her as we are much farther down the road in our travels than she is-and it is always nice to know someone who has been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.

Recently we were both excited to share 'milestones' with our young men. Susan's guy will be 7 years old in a few days, and she was so excited to share that he had used a fork to eat spaghetti for the first time. I was excited for her. Now most moms are probably not excited by something a simple as a child learning to use a fork, but for some of us that is worthy of celebration. When my son has achieved something like this I have often wondered, how did that switch get flipped?

My son is an adult male now, and he did something the same week that most moms wouldn't be celebrating, but at our house it was amazing. He was watching his favorite sport, a NASCAR race, and a driver did something that caused him to exclaim "What the hell was that?" My first response was to ask "What did you say?" not because I am offended by the occasional use of the word hell, but because my son has never before used any type of expletive and I wanted to be sure I heard him right.
So, I said "What did you say?" (I have hearing problems he is used to me asking that) and he said "What the hell did he just do?" Yup, I heard him right, I thought. Then I thought how cool, I heard him right. Now that doesn't mean I want my son to be in the habit of throwing around four-letter words, it means I am always excited when my son does something that is age appropriate, and I am certain that "what the hell..." is an appropriate response for a 27 year old male sometimes.

Never taking anything for granted is a gift that some of us moms are able to cherish. Celebrating our children no matter what. Celebrating a 7 year old using a fork to eat spaghetti, or a 27 year old just being a guy. It's the little things in life that are never little for some of us. Perhaps there is a lesson in there for all parents. Celebrate our children, revel in the mundane, the ordinary, and your children will bless you every single day!

Of course this all reminds me of my favorite Erma Bombeck column, the one I share every time a mom finds out she has been blessed with an amazing child. I am including it here, and Hey, Susan, here's your mirror!

Most women become mothers by accident, some by choice, a few by social pressures and a couple by habit.
This year nearly 100,000 women will become mothers of handicapped children. Did you ever wonder how mothers of handicapped children are chosen? Somehow I visualize God hovering over earth selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As He observes, He instructs His angels to make notes in a giant ledger.

"Armstrong, Beth; son. Patron saint...give her Gerard. He's used to profanity."

"Forrest, Marjorie; daughter. Patron saint, Cecelia."

"Rutledge, Carrie; twins. Patron saint, Matthew."

Finally He passes a name to an angel and smiles, "Give her a handicapped child."

The angel is curious. "Why this one God? She's so happy."

"Exactly," smiles God, "Could I give a handicapped child to a mother who does not know laughter? That would be cruel."

"But has she patience?" asks the angel.

"I don't want her to have too much patience or she will drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wears off, she'll handle it."
"I watched her today. She has that feeling of self and independence that is so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I'm going to give her has his own world. She has to make him live in her world and that's not going to be easy."

"But, Lord, I don't think she even believes in you."

God smiles, "No matter, I can fix that. This one is perfect -she has just enough selfishness."

The angel gasps - "Selfishness? Is that a virtue?"

God nods. "If she can't separate herself from the child occasionally, she'll never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn't realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a "spoken word". She will never consider a "step" ordinary. When her child says "Mummy" for the first time, she will be present at a miracle, and will know it!"
"I will permit her to see clearly the things I see...ignorance, cruelty, prejudice....and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life, because she is doing My work as surely as if she is here by My side".

"And what about her Patron saint?" asks the angel, his pen poised in mid-air. God smiles, "A mirror will suffice."