Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


Leave a comment

The Real Talent

Some of you that know our family might remember when Frankie was 6 years old in kindergarten. It was his big year. He wrote a story called “The Kite and the Snowflake” and won third place in the Reading Rainbow contest out of 700 entries. (He clearly should have gotten first, of course!) It was an amazingly thoughtful and poignant story. The principal made it into an actual book and held a school-wide assembly for him to read it to the student body. He got invited to the Board of Education for the same. It put him on the map. I credit his teacher for discovering it, buried in the middle of a scribbled journal.

He is now 15 and I ask him to clean out his folders once every six weeks. He puts everything in the recycling bin and then I fish it out. I keep a few things here and there for his memory boxes. I caught this poem written on the back of a sheet of paper. I confirmed he actually wrote it and he even gave me permission to post it which surprised me. Anyway, I know I have a mother’s bias (obviously) but I think he is the real writer in the family. Let me know if you agree this is pretty great. It has the hallmarks of a teenager that make you chuckle, but overall I thinks he captures a deep understanding. The assignment was to write a poem from a Jewish perspective. (Thank God I never got assignments like that when I was in school!)

Where is my God?

My fellow Jews and I stand alone.

There’s nowhere to go or no place to call home.

My friends hidden behind ash.

Here I stand with no cash.

We are torn down by being beaten or blasted.

Maybe Hitler thinks all Jews should be trashed.

One thing that is not really cool?

All Jews are segregated from the great German schools.

Our God seems to be unreliable.

Therefore, us Jews are considered undesirable.

My depression is growing because my God isn’t near.

I can’t numb the pain because I can’t afford beer.

One thing is for sure, my God is not found.

Life is hard without Him around.

 

Yep, I’m a proud mama.

 

Advertisements


1 Comment

At 50?

I can’t believe at age 50 I feel like I’m back to square one. I know I’m not alone in this. Who would have ever believed that the big questions like career and partners would still be up in the air and a struggle when your life is more than half over?

I did a presentation this week about two hours away. A whole group of us participated in a death/dying conference like the ones we had done in Buffalo. It went great. Almost every speaker was dynamite and the audience seemed receptive and even enthusiastic.

I was the last speaker of the day which was tough because I knew everyone was tired. It went over extremely well though and I knew I had reached people by the feedback. The problem was, I didn’t make a penny.

So frustrating. I know I possess a good skill set. I can speak and I can write. I can do them both very well. The other panelists all came from companies or hospitals they represent. They are getting “paid” because it is part of their salary. I’m the only lone ranger in that sense so if there isn’t a speaking stipend (which 90% of the time there is not) then I can only hope I sell books.

I didn’t sell one book. I watched the woman next to me sell about 10 books. Same topic, different angle. Both of us good speakers. WTF?

This is not new. This is the scenario 99% of the time. I am well past the point of being able to write/speak simply because it is helpful to others. My heart is there, but my pocketbook is not. I am the sole breadwinner in my house. I have a family to provide for. And my social security is being cut in half in less than a year. Holy crap that is scary.

I’m going to have to reinvent my career and I have no idea what to do. Well, actually I have tons of ideas, but knowing which path to follow is confusing at best. Add coping with severe depression on almost a daily basis now, and it is beyond overwhelming.

What do I want to be when I grow up?

I thought that was settled years ago. I even had a brave moment this week and attempted to go on a date. I got stood up. I know it isn’t personal because we hadn’t even met yet, but cripes. Stick your toe back in and find out the water is frigid.

That’s was scary about being so depressed. You have to take risks in life and be proactive if you want to meet your goals. But if you are already down and out, you can’t afford to fail. At anything. What a freaking catch-22.

For the moment then, I will just stay stuck. Not sure what the heck to do with myself. I know I can’t stay this way, but I’m terrified to do anything else, with any of these areas of my life.

Maybe 80 is the new 50. Maybe I just have to wait another 30 years and things will fall into place. One can only hope :).


Leave a comment

Preaching to the Choir

My dad moved into assisted living this week. I burned the candle at both ends for a couple of weeks, but he applied, got accepted and moved in rather quickly. On move in day, we had finished all the paperwork but the moving truck hadn’t arrived so we decided to go shopping for some items he needed for his new apartment.

I do not generally enjoy shopping, but this was actually kind of fun. I felt like a mom with a kid going off to college that needed to furnish his dorm room. We went in with a list. The windows are all new and sometimes people don’t even use curtains anymore but Dad is old school. He had the curtains already, but he needed new curtain rods.

We went to the appropriate aisle and I was prepared with the measurements from the maintenance man. There are so many options for curtain rods now. Dad? Well, he wanted those plain white metal ones that bend in an “L” at the end. I did my best to try to change his mind. “Dad, there are so many cute ones. How about this one?  Or this kind? Or this? They aren’t that much more expensive.” Nope. The curtains cover these rods anyway so what does it matter? “Jeeze, Dad. You’re no fun. I can’t believe you are picking the boring ones.” There was an older lady, probably close to Dad’s age in the same aisle. I heard her snicker a bit at our conversation.

We moved on to the next item on the list. We happened to bump into that same woman. Or perhaps not. Perhaps she followed us. She walks up to me, puts her hand on my arm and says ever so firmly, “Now young lady, you know that your opinion doesn’t matter one bit. After all, it is HIS house and he should pick out what he wants.”

I was a bit taken aback, but I thought she was really going to be embarrassed when I pulled those old, ugly white curtain rods out of my cart and showed her that he indeed makes his own decisions. I said that he always calls the shot but I like to rib him a little. It’s what we do.

She was having none of it. She went on to say that, “Someday, YOU will be a senior citizen too and THEN you will understand things.” Her disgust of me was crystal clear. My mind was racing. Me? The one who tends to my dad’s every need? Surely she should know that my sister and I both worked in nursing homes. There was no McDonald’s jobs. We took care of the elderly. Surely she should know that when I lived in Chicago I set up an “Adopt a Grandparent” program for those elderly folks that had no family. I have a lifetime of being respectful to senior citizens.

Her final parting shot (as if the first two weren’t enough) was, “My goodness. Your father and I were certainly raised very differently than your generation was.”

Huh.

She couldn’t have been more wrong about me. It got me thinking though. Jay pointed out to me that people like us go to all the trouble in our heads (or out loud) to defend ourselves when really we don’t owe anyone an explanation. But we even if there is no one to hear, we have to justify ourselves to ourselves. Crazy.

I also wondered how many times I have heard a snippet of our conversation and thought that I had accurately surmised the dynamics with all of my expertise and experience. What the hell do I actually know anyway? I can be pretty accurate with my intuition, but it’s nowhere near 100%. I will try to keep that in mind the next time I have an urge to confront a total stranger (or a beloved person for that matter).


1 Comment

Love

“I can’t make you love me if you don’t
You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t
Here in the dark, in these final hours
I will lay down my heart and I’ll feel the power
But you won’t, no you won’t
‘Cause I can’t make you love me, if you don’t”

That is a song by Bonnie Raitt and I realized it was my life song several years ago. It is one of the first songs I ever learned at Karaoke. It is written in the context of a lover, but I identify with it on many levels of relationships. I have spent much too much of my lifetime trying to get people to care about me that don’t, then more time mourning because I’m not loved the way I had hoped to be.

My dad is a stoic German. He isn’t comfortable saying I love you. My sister was always able to be satisfied knowing that he loves us. He is kind, generous, predictable, stable and a provider and so on. But I always wanted (and still do) him to say it as well.

Then I got married in my early twenties. After my husband became an atheist, he also no longer believed in marriage or romance. He told me repeatedly that he had never loved me. He tricked himself into believing in love because he wanted to have sex. We were Christians and believed in waiting for marriage. Therefore, he tried to tell himself he loved me in order to relieve his sexual urges. When I would show him the box of letters he wrote me during our engagement, (one a day, sometimes two a day) he dismissed them as lies.

I dated a guy after Tim died that I thought was a real possibility of being someone I could stay with. He went to karaoke with me and heard me sing my Bonnie Raitt song. When I came back to my seat, he whispered in my ear, “You will never have to sing that song again. You need a new life song now.” My heart soared at the thought. About three weeks later, he left Frankie and I without any explanation or closure.

Later, I dated a guy on/off for about three years. Every couple of months he felt the need to remind me that I loved him more than he loved me, that he didn’t want anything permanent in our future. I didn’t either, but for some reason it had to come up over and over.

Now I have a teenager who I tell I love every few days and I get no response or an “ok” for an answer. Where did that come from? He grew up in a home that has love expressed consistently. Yeah, I know. Normal teenage stuff.

I have a guy friend who doesn’t say I love you to a girlfriend until he is ready to ask her to marry him. Two and a half years of dating but they don’t exchange that phrase.

I have a girl friend who doesn’t think much of saying it at all. Her response is, “Don’t say it, show it.”

Everyone has different perspectives I guess.

The New Testament was written in the Greek language. There are at least three different words for “love” depending on the nuance of the word. That is part of the problem. We only have one word that I know of. It is an incredibly complex subject (love) with millions of meanings, but it is a wonderful thing.

When I say, “I love you,” to someone I met recently but “fell head over heals” for, it means something different from when I feel love for them six months later. It means something different twenty years later. And if I whisper it on someone’s death-bed, it means something different. But it is all love. All of it.

Then there is love as an action or choice. Sometimes we love someone even if we don’t like them very much at the moment. We choose to behave in a loving way because that is just what is needed.

Here is another theme song for me.

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.”

Written by Hal David. Yep, that is also the damn story of my life. I tell all my friends and family, 90% of the time, that I love them. At the end of every phone call. I guess when you have lost lots of people (and some very suddenly) you are very aware how important it is. Sure, I understand that it can become meaningless if it is overused. But can you overuse love?

This is my heartbeat, the core of who I am. But my experience has been the first song. Just the way it is. I am going to keep trying to love, in whatever form it is, no matter the response I get back from the world. It gets really, really hard sometimes, but I am going to try.


Leave a comment

Louis C.K.

I’ve been introduced to a comedian recently, Louis C.K.. He really made an impression because he talked about things that you can actually relate to. He references a thing he calls “white people problems” which I had previously heard referred to as “first world problems.” The idea is the same. The things we complain about in our privileged society are really quite spoiled and ridiculous when you stop and think about them.

I know he made an impression because as I am facing things in day to day life, I often catch myself and say “white/first world people problems” which makes me laugh under the anger and diffuse it a bit. Patience has never been one of my strong suits anyway, so anything I can do to increase my tolerance is a good thing.

Tim Horton’s has been trying my patience lately, although I also have laughed so hard at the stupidity of it, that it has also brought me great joy. When I laugh that hard, I always, always remember my mom because she could make me laugh like no one else can.

There is a billboard off the 190 – yes, a literal billboard – that advertises their $1 frozen drink specials. There are four pictures on it with two lemonade flavors and two iced tea flavors. I confess that once I drove through Dunkin’ Donuts and asked for their dollar special and they politely informed me they have $2 Coolatas instead. Took me a minute, but I eventually drove my embarrassed self off and chuckled at my senior moment.

The other night I went to Tim Horton’s. I was sure it was Tim Horton’s because I wasn’t going to make that mistake again. In fact, it was late and I drove up next to the mighty large sign and read it again under the massive street light. Unfortunately, the lone man that works that at night had no idea what I was talking about. After a prolonged silence over the speaker, I noticed in my mirror that he had walked out, headset on and all, into the middle of the parking lot to read the massive sign up close. I was almost wetting my pants laughing so hard.

After a few more minutes of silence, I finally spoke out. I told him I had witnessed him walking out to the parking lot so he had to admit I was not out of my mind. He still had no idea how to help me. The computer was ringing up $1.51 and that was all there was to it. He just kept repeating the price. Finally, I said I would pay it or else face the consequences of dying of thirst right there at 11:30 pm in the drive-through lane of a cafe.

The next day, I thought it was worth a trip back to speak to a manager. After I explained everything, she finally went to the register and said, “Oh, I see what happened. Iced tea is no longer on sale. It is only lemonade.” I politely walked over to the very, very large sign on the window in front of her and pointed to the two large cups of iced tea on sale. I thought maybe the visual would help her to comprehend the situation. She then said it must be a corporate problem. I politely told her that if they advertise something (especially so prominently, right?) they are really obligated (perhaps legally) to provide that something for the price advertised.

She agreed and thanked me for not yelling at her like most people do when they have a complaint. She also thanked me for bringing this problem to her attention. I paused for a few seconds, thinking she might want to actually show her appreciation by offering me a free iced tea. Maybe she would at least offer me the fifty cents I overpaid the night before. Nothing. Blank look.

Sigh.

There were a few more details that made it funnier than the writing I just did. But seriously, really? It is kind of ridiculous that this required the level of explanation it did to more than one level of employee. Then I remember Louis C.K. and I have to laugh again. This is a tiny blip on the screen of life when it comes to importance. Maybe even smaller than a blip.

Thanks Louis!


Leave a comment

Self-Reflection

Recently, someone told me that I don’t seem to do as much reflecting on myself as I do criticizing others.  For those of you that have known me for several years, I’m guessing you are as surprised to hear that as I am.  I suppose I know a few individuals who interrogate themselves as much as I do, but I honestly don’t think I have ever met anyone who is harder on themselves than I am.

So how would an intelligent person make that observation?

You will find this shocking, but of course this has sent me on a deep dive into the inner recesses of myself in all of its glory and ugliness. It has caused a wide divide in my heart. Part of me wants to lash out angrily and say, “Stop it! You have spent years learning how to be confident in your intuitions. Your therapist (Scott) has literally spent over 16 years getting you to believe your judgements. And he has met many of my peeps personally. Dear Darren has spent the last couple of years convincing you that you are full of love and light, more than you had allowed yourself to believe. You are not perfect, but you do some things extremely well.”

The other side of the divide, is frankly the side that I have spent most of my life on. It’s much more familiar to me, and therefore much more comfortable. It is the part of me that I understand and yet is completely an unknown to me at the same time. It is the part that I mostly loathe. It is the part that makes me second guess every thought that comes into my head. It is a torturous part. And it is fully awakened now.

Even if it is true that I can be accurate often in my assessment of my self and others, what right does that give me to say any of it out loud? Just because I am capable of judging fairly, should I not be trying to curb the human urge to judge at all?

More troubling still, are the times that I find (always in hindsight) that I have overwhelmed someone or scared them with my intensity. I have no idea how I do it, which makes it almost impossible to control. I remember back in graduate school when a classmate sought me out to get me know me better and then I had to listen to her in group therapy talking about how I swallowed her up. All I had done was respond back to her letters she sent me. I don’t really understand it anymore now 20+ years later than I did back then. Seemed unfair to me, but nevertheless, that is how she felt.

There really isn’t any particular point to this blog. Just blabbing about what is going on in my cluttered, troubled head and heart. It’s not so pretty right now. I’m trying to fairly self-reflect without falling down the bitter rabbit hole of depression. It’s good for me to examine myself because I’m far from perfect. But cross your fingers and say some prayers that something positive and productive comes from it, rather than just useless self-loathing.


1 Comment

God’s Plan

I’ve had quite a spiritual journey over the years. My faith, religion and spirituality has been around the globe a few times. Recently, I’ve been doing a bunch of thinking about this again and am reading a book recommended to me called “The Naked Gospel.”

Of course, where I am now is only my opinion, the “truth” as I understand it. And that has changed dramatically over the last 50 years of my life. I had a session with a young adult client that was one of the most moving I’ve had in quite a while.

She came in having to make a decision about her life, and had narrowed it down to three options. She has a very devout, active faith and as she was talking tossed out a phrase that was something like, “So I’m trying to figure out if I just really want this for myself or if it is God’s plan for me.”

It struck a nerve in me and I found myself racing in my head about how to respond next. Therapeutically, I knew she was asking for guidance about how to make tough decisions. There are lots of therapeutic interventions to choose from to help people sort out their various emotions and thoughts. She hadn’t come to me about her faith. I knew I was taking a risk if I went there and I quickly had to make my own decision. My gut told me to go for it.

I first clarified, “If I understand you correctly, you believe that God has a specific plan for your life and it is your job to figure out what that is.” She nodded. Then I asked her why she believed that. I was her when I was 18. I knew she had been taught that and had it reinforced over and over again, but I was challenging her to really ask herself why she had come to believe it.

First, we went the logical/philosophical route. How do you decide which things in life are part of God’s will and which aren’t? Does God decide what the best clothes for you to wear today are? Is there a best pair of socks? How do you determine that isn’t important but who you marry or which school you go to is?

What happens if you get it wrong? Especially at such a young age, what if she makes the wrong choice? Does that mean for the rest of her life her only hope is to achieve a consolation prize or plan B? Life couldn’t get any better than that if she missed the first perfect plan, right?

Then we switched gears again. I asked her something like, “Do you really believe that is how God loves you? Really?” The God who sent Jesus to earth to love and redeem us, is now sitting with specific plans and hoping that we are smart or spiritual enough to figure out with it is so that we can be pleasing to Him? Does that really feel loving?

I wonder if it was more of a session for me than for her. I am very passionately invested in my clients, but this session I actually began to get more and more passionate in what I was saying, and that passion resulted in tears that began to run gently down my cheeks. They were running down hers as well. I couldn’t stop myself. I didn’t know if I was upsetting her or touching something important.

I reminded her this was all my opinion, but I just think God loves us differently than that. Options and choices are wonderful things. Back in the Garden of Eden, we were given free will. How could God give us free will, then have a target in His head of what He wants us to choose? That goes against the very essence of free well. I told her in my opinion that she could make any choice and that God would love and adore her exactly the same unconditional, immeasurable amount.

When I finally shut up, I asked about her tears. She used her gentle, quiet voice and said she felt in her heart she needed to hear it. In her heart, she struggles so much with believing that she is truly loveable like that. I was stunned. Stunned. I cried a few more tears as I told her that I wished with all my heart that she could just for a moment see herself the way I did. And wow, what if she could see herself the way God did?

She’s such a lovely, lovely young woman. She has the voice of an angel. She has a beautiful spirit. And I remember what life was like at that time in my life, so full of guilt and anxiety, trying to please God at every moment and never knowing if I was. I would do anything to free her of that, to help her understand the depth with which Grace and Love have gifted and touched her and enveloped her.

It was a powerful session. Probably way more for me than for her. I knew I was talking to myself as much as I was talking to her. I have been growing my understanding of Grace and Love for several years now, but I still need to be reminded myself.

Thank you my beautiful friend for giving me permission to blog your journey. You may not end up with any beliefs like mine, but I believe we will both grow because of our bravery to be open with each other on the journey.  You will make the best decision, my dear. I know that because you have a Spirit that lives inside of you that loves you immensely and guides you. Thank you for today’s tender but powerful blessing.