From Pinterest to Promise

Recently I was approached by the group facilitator of our church’s Divorce Care support group. She asked me to speak about some of the proactive steps I had taken over the years.  It’s hard to believe three years ago I went to my first Divorce Care meeting and once it was over I promptly handed back the workbook and told the facilitator that this wasn’t for me, that I wasn’t ready.  Five months or so later, I went again and it was the start of exactly what I needed for my recovery.  Being in a community of folks that had gone or were going through what I was going through helped. I firmly believe we are not meant to do life alone. The notion of self-reliance and self-sufficiency is so misconstrued and misinterpreted. We need each other.

With the group, I shared that one of the things I did during the craziness was to spend time searching through Pinterest.  My sole (soul) purpose was searching for words of encouragement, something in which I could believe.  I found some good ones – some that I still to this day recall and either sigh or smile when I read them. However, it struck me that while these words of encouragement existed, they weren’t alive.  I don’t know that I can pinpoint exactly when I started to seek out the promises of God in my Bible but I know that as I searched for words of encouragement I found them. Eventually, I compiled a handful and I  would stand in front of my bathroom mirror and say, “Cast all your cares upon the Lord for He cares for you (Psalm 55:22). You are clothed with strength and dignity and laugh without fear of the future (Proverbs 31:25). That the Lord is your shepherd; you shall not want (Psalm 23:1).” After awhile, I began to internalize them and began to really believe them. “Cast all my cares upon God, for He cares for me. I am clothed with strength and dignity and I laugh without fear of my future. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”  Most recently, I used these promises to remind myself that He knows the plans He has for me (Jeremiah 29:11). So while the diagnosis of MS (let’s be real and include everything: foreclosure, bankruptcy, losing everything in Arizona, infidelity, divorce, suicide, and sickness) took me by surprise, it didn’t catch my God off guard.

Today, I got an email letting me know that a woman I fully respect and honor has received a diagnosis of cancer.  I don’t love hearing this – in fact, I hate hearing this. But C is a remarkable woman who finds peace in the midst of every situation because she is confident that God was not surprised by the phone call she received.  C doesn’t need Pinterest to carry her through this next stage in her life, but some of us that love her might – I still struggle this side of life in understanding why we are asked to walk the path we are given.  Have I gone through my own health battles to remind her and others that there is hope? Am I here to remind her that it never occurs to any of us that one day we’d wake up sick and never get better? Will I still turn to Pinterest to find words of encouragement to grace the cards I will send reminding her that she is loved?   Probably.

But I will also search for promises in my Bible because I know that is the life that is needed right now.  And I am reminded that it’s my responsibility in this “tribe” of life that I am meant to offer encouragement, and support, and to not let her feel like she needs to be anything other than selfish about her own self-care right now.  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2Corinthians 1:3-4).

So to C, and CM, and AS: I’m rooting for each of you and the challenges that life has brought to your doorstep. You’re not alone.

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My M.S. Update

How are you?  You feeling OK?

I answer these two questions constantly. Most often asked by folks I don’t see on a regular basis. And since my job includes a group of 1,400 people, the rotation of folks that I don’t see on a regular basis, is well, regular.

It’s been awhile since I updated on my health.  I still have MS – it doesn’t go away but my symptoms are manageable. I’m still following a primarily plant-based diet and still practice self-care by speaking life to myself each day, and trying to keep my stress level low(er), as well as doing things that allow “me” time, such as massages and manicures.

I think the biggest thing is that I’m super, almost hyper, sensitive to every nuance in my body and how I feel. I swear that during stressful times I can feel each strand of hair on my head move. I try hard to remember that each day is just a day and that a bad day doesn’t mean a bad life. A bad food decision doesn’t ruin a day; it’s just a bad decision.  The problem with that last one though is that I’ve given myself a lot of grace…and I mean a LOT of grace. I can’t really explain it except to say that maybe I’ve been so successful that I feel like I can’t fail? And that’s a hard mindset (for me) to overcome. Maybe it’s because for the past few years, people allowed me to live by excuses… if I was angry, I had right to be; if I was sad, I had a right to be; if I was snippy or rude, I had a right to be; if I needed a night of binge eating following by laziness, I had a right to be.

The reality is that it’s a privilege to be surrounded by friends that understand that there will be days that I’m still angry, sad, rude or snippy. But they are excuses, and I don’t have the right to keep using what happened to me to still control me and allow me to get away with the lack of common courtesy. It’s the same with MS. Yea, it sucks to think that I have something that will forever be a part of my life. But Lord, help me to remember that it’s a part of my life – it’s not my life.  It’s forever going to guide me, but I don’t want to give it so much control that it leads me.

So, right now, I’m struggling mentally with accepting the limitations of what I should eat. It’s easy to have and experience success short term, like I did from August to December last year. I have medical evidence that the plan I am following does work for me. But now, I’m feeling the weight of having to do this every day for the rest of my life.  I’m not angry that this is my life. I accept the story that is mine knowing that somewhere, somehow there is a plan and a purpose. This body is just a shell – just a physical manifestation of a life that I believe I will have for eternity. And in the end, no matter the emotional, mental, physical struggle that each day brings me I know one thing to be absolutely true….

I may not have signed up for this life but I’m damn sure going to show up for it.

 

Webster has no words

I hate the thought of labels, but secretly I crave the definition just for some sort of inkling as to who I am now.

Since the word vomit incident, I’ve been back to see my therapist. I shared with her what happened and she said what I already knew – maybe there are still some unresolved items. Maybe she’s right.

Some things in life are easy to define; but consider infidelity, divorce, and then suicide all in a matter of just four months and who knows what to call it other than mind-numbing. This I know… this was the craziness that was my life in 2014.

Since the “craziness that was my life” happened, I’ve struggled what to call it, how to refer to it, how to give it the “respect” it’s due. In fact, I always seem to default to calling it the “Craziness.”  It doesn’t seem to fit any mold, at least none that I know.  I mentioned to my therapist that I think I struggle with defining it because I really don’t want to be tied to whatever label might come with it.

To me legally divorced and emotionally widowed is the only thing that makes sense and yet, that’s not an option when filling out paperwork (since the Craziness every time that question comes up, I leave it blank.)  With my recent determination towards self-care, I affirm each morning that I am a child of God, that I am loved with an everlasting love, that I am clothed with strength and dignity and laugh without fear of the future (Prov 31:25) but there are times that I still can’t seem to figure out who I am and the lyrics to Irene Cara’s song Out Here on My Own play over and over in my mind.

I’m not sure I will ever really know what to call it. And maybe the Craziness will just be what it will always be. And maybe I don’t need a label. Maybe the definition of it will be just a picture of me surviving after such a crazy time that was my life. Maybe…. nope, definitely.

 

Word Vomit, Verbal Diahrea, A Rose

…by any other name, they’re all the same.

Ugh, I was feeling so good about where I was mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually. And for the most part, I am in a pretty good place but unfortunately, I got “sick” on a poor unsuspecting soul a couple of weeks ago and it has been on my mind ever since.

It was just any ordinary day at work. I had a meeting with a colleague/friend to go over some prep work for her upcoming lecture. Four months after M took his life, her own husband did the same thing. That sort of story seemed to be the theme for me in 2015. I remember asking God what was I supposed to do with all of “this” and in the span of six months, three other women I knew experienced the loss of a spouse/former spouse through suicide. I knew that at least I would know what to say and could share, even if just a tiny bit, some of the same emotions they were feeling.

Well, fast forward another 18 months. C & I were casually chatting after we finished our business and she shared with me that another woman she met basically blurted out that her husband had died in the same manner and it took my friend C by surprise. I shared with her that it was a story shared all too often once people know that you can “relate.”

I hate the stigma about even saying the word suicide. I read obituaries now (weird, I know) and I can tell when the cause of death is suicide. Sometimes, the person was young, other times older, but there is always a sadness that is different from other obituaries and I know that the loved one writing it is struggling to say what they cannot understand and my heart hurts so deeply for them. 

But back to me and C. Well, next thing I know it’s thirty minutes later and I’ve totally unleashed on her a multitude of things that really didn’t need to be said. I shared stories of mine & M’s relationship and shared a bit about the challenge that was life when he was alive. I shared that I now know and understand why abused women stay and how it ended like it did. It was definitely more than needed to be shared and yet I couldn’t stop myself — so much word vomit! It was the worst case of verbal stomach flu ever.

And when it was over and C had left, I knew it was definitely a lot for someone to have heard for the first time. I have to realize that I’ve had 30 months to live/mourn/recover/remember/mourn/recover/grieve/mourn/recover… but for someone hearing it all for the first time, I cannot imagine how it must have sounded.

There is nothing I can do now except try to face her as if it didn’t happen. Hmmm…I suppose denial isn’t the best thing to do – ha! but I am sorry it happened. I wouldn’t wish the reality of what I went through on anyone, let alone the retelling of it. But I hope that on some level, C can understand the emotions that you think are in order can all of a sudden rise to the top and some poor unsuspecting soul gets more than they bargained.

 

I Don’t Think So!

This is going to be a different kind of post for me… its pretty reactive but I just can’t get it outta my “craw.”

I was reading one of those articles where one writes in for advice and the so-called expert chimes in. In this particular instance, a husband and wife were going to be returning to their hometown and she wants to hang out with old college friends,which includes an ex…. someone she was only with for a few weeks but with whom she had an intimate relationship. And apparently she feels obligated to include/see him since they share mutual friends.

The husband is uncomfortable with her hanging around the ex and though he knows this guy (he came to their wedding!) he has tried on numerous occasions to share his feelings with his wife… to which she replies “get over it.”

The question he asked the advice columnist–Was it OK for him to ask his wife not to see this guy because it caused him so much anxiety, or should he listen to his wife and just deal with his feelings of anxiousness. This so-called advice columnist told him that he needed to be open to his wife spending time with the group, including this guy, and that he should -and I quote, “…for goodness sake, be cool about it.

Are you KIDDING me?! How many of us look back and wish we had trusted our gut? I remember telling M that I knew something was going on, I was just trying to sort out the pieces. It’s a weird feeling but when you feel something isn’t right – most of the time something isn’t right. And for this “advice expert” to tell this husband that his feelings aren’t justified or valid and that he should be perfectly fine knowing that his wife was only trying the guy on for size before she met her now husband…. give me a flippin’ break!

I’m by no means qualified to give this guy advice, but if he asked me, I would tell him that if his wife can’t acknowledge the present emotional stress that she puts on her husband and marriage by maintaining this link to her past, then its time to reconsider the future.

Ok, rant managed.

 

 

 

Reservation for Two, Table for One

Since M is no longer a part of my life, I’ve been to movies, concerts, restaurants, and local events by myself. That’s nothing new for me – I was doing all of these before I met M and immediately after the craziness that was my life in 2014, I did things by myself primarily because I needed the escape from my own life.

I still go to movies and concerts and out to dinner and local events but now I prefer to share these moments with others.  Recently, I purchased two tickets to see one of my favorite songwriters, Matisyahu.  I had always purchased multiple tickets and I was always fortunate enough to find someone with the time and money to go – that is until now. For weeks, I asked everyone I knew and the answer was always no thank you, can’t make it, I don’t know that artist, nope.

Now mind you, money is still not the easiest for me to come by, so having $80 wrapped up in a ticket that I was going to have to suck up really hurt.  Just because I was willing to spend $80 on a ticket didn’t mean anyone else was willing to spend $80 on a ticket.  In the end, I called a friend at the last minute and said that either I could go by myself or find someone who enjoys all kinds of music even if they didn’t know this particular artist. And in turn, she drove and paid for dinner so for me that was a win/win.

Yet somehow, this became yet another reminder that at the end of the day, it is just me – a table for one. When I pause and remember to put it all in perspective, I’m realizing I’m in good company since after all…

Just one sun lights the sky.
Just one moon turns the tide.
A man can change the world with just one thought.
One promise made can last forever
Just one rock will bend a river
One God up in heaven is all we’ve got        

yup… sometimes one can be a lot

One Can be Alot – Blackjack Billie