Thursday, June 30, 2005

Having a Q-Tip Moment

It is 4:08 AM as I start this post. No whining allowed today. But in hopes of getting some sleep before the sun creeps over the horizon I need to put down in writing what I thought while I was cleaning out my van yesterday.

Cleaning the van ranks right up there with cleaning closets, fridges and ovens. As in never. I do get the occasional pang of guilt that something (empty pop bottles, books, and jackets on the floor or petrified french fries under the seat)is going to become a projectile and do serious damage if I am ever in an accident. But it is rarely enough of a guilt trip to make me do anything about it. This time though it was the aroma of 10 day old left over salad from Wendy's(am I admitting that in public?) that forced me to clean. That and the fact that whenever I feel like life is careening out of control I get this overwhelming urge to clean something. Too bad I hadn't checked my grocery list on the fridge before I did so. Right there at the top it says: Q-tips.

What does that have to do with cleaning? Well - you can tell the level of out-of-control-ness I feel by what I choose to clean with. Today I really wanted to get at those hard-to-clean filthy crevices with a Q-tip or toothpick. That desire is a signal I have enough stuff strewn inside of me doing serious damage but I'm finding it easier to pick at something visible and feed the illusion that I AM in control of it all.

I was halfway through cleaning the van when I realized I wanted a Q-tip. Truth sometimes looks ugly and denial deceptively beautiful. To the ordinary passer by (not that we have those in this remote corner of the world) it would have looked as if I was just cleaning my van. But the urge to get out a Q-tip and clean every crevice of its dirt forced me to look at just what I felt so out of control over. I think it's called LIFE with KIDS. Some days I honestly think parenthood starts with hyperventilation during labour and it possibly never ends. I wonder if there is a paper bag out there strong enough for the long haul.

I'm never going to be in control of it all. In the place inside of me where Truth is beautiful I know that. Much of the time I am thankful for that Truth and I can rest in it. The Q-tip moments are more the exception rather than the rule now. It used to be that I lived either in those moments or chaos(ok, I know those are the same thing but they look different to the passerby) - much like my messy or clean van.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Job's Tale

Lord knows I needed some perspective today. I wrote a post in my head while I was cleaning my van. It doesn't matter right now. I came in from cleaning and found I was whining to myself that I had used up all my blankety-blank spoons cleaning the van - as if that was something to whine about. Some days I think, "Oh, God, save me from myself." If today is a day where you, too are in need of perspective, please go read this true Job's tale.

Monday, June 27, 2005

New Blogroll Additions

I added a bunch of new links to great blogs on the side bar - be sure to check them out. Some will make you laugh, some will make you cry and some will give you a new perspective. What I like the best about reading other blogs is that it reminds me I am not alone in my humanity.

Funky Head Space

I am in a funky head space. It's really hard to embrace it. "I'd like another head please," I want to say to the cosmic waiter. But there is this knowing inside me that tells me to embrace it.

There have been several themes vying for space in my thoughts these past few months. One is that I feel like I am having mental bearing down pains....trying to give birth to something from the depths of me. Another is that I am fighting a battle as to whether I will continue on in trying to round up the world according to my plan or accept it as it is.

Yesterday during Mass I had this picture come into my head of trying to make my way through a giant spider web. I want to see clearly. I can't do it on my own. Through some reading I have been doing I've realized I live entirely in my head - separate from my body. Coming to that realization helps me understand the urge to start doing stretching exercises again...start reconnecting with my body instead of viewing my body as a traitor. I'm tuning into the language I use about my body too. The last few years I have felt as if my body has betrayed me. I seesaw from being victim to fighter and back again. The overwhelming thought lately is to fight to live. Fully live.

I don't know what living fully looks like. I have a feeling the cosmic waiter does.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Chain Reaction

On the 21st we sat outside around a campfire to enjoy the lingering daylight hours. Up here it means we were out there a long time. It was close to midnight when we finally went inside. I was sitting there with my freshly painted red toenails when my husband commented that he liked my nails. Before I could reply he went on to tell me that he liked my hair with its new dye job and highlights, my wearing makeup, my new clothes. All of it, he liked it. He said it showed him that if I was taking an interest in myself there must be this interesting woman underneath. I nearly fell out of my chair. This is a man who has hardly ever said a word to me about how I look in our 23 years of marriage.

I started to protest. But he was raised with women who never wore makeup, never went to a hairdresser, wore no jewelry and definitely no red painted toenails. [There was a time in our marriage when I tried duplicating that look. Grew my hair down to my waist, wore a headcovering, left my makeup behind and only wore dresses. And while my husband was never pleased with any of that on me, he had often said he liked long hair, liked the natural look.] In fact that very night I had changed from wearing my first ever tank top to a top that covered me up better because his folks were coming for supper and I knew the tank top would be offensive to his dad. My husband stopped my protest by telling me that doing all these things were very feminine and he liked them.

Probably the best thing to me about it all is that I hadn't done any of it for him. The last time I had a marked response from him about my appearance had been the summer we both shaved our heads in a fundraiser for the local Cops for Cancer Campaign. [Being married to a bald woman was enough to illicite a comment or two from him!]

His comment stirred up quite the conversation between us. My last post had had him teary eyed. He keeps telling me that it goes so much deeper than red painted toenails. We both know something is happening in me that is a good thing. Like a domino effect, change happens, deep change, when I DO something. Who'd have thought red painted toenails could start such a chain reaction?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Hard As Nails

I went shopping today. For myself. That may not be a big deal to anyone else but it was for me. There's been a pattern in my life lately of thinking ugly, really ugly thoughts, towards others because I perceived that none of my material, personal needs were being met. Not that there was anyone standing over me threatening me harm if I so much as bought myself a pair of socks, but I was increasingly becoming pissed at any spending of money that highlighted to me that my needs were smack dab at the bottom of the list. Put there by me. Actually I put my needs on an invisible list that no one could see. And then I held it against the world that is my home for not seeing it. To top it all off, I tried to spiritualize it all away.
My needs should come last. That is what a good mother does. She never thinks of her own needs. Heck, she doesn't even have needs.
Thoughts like that which are all malarky. I don't know what happens to you when you try to spiritualize your (seemingly) lack of choices. When you try to pretend how you feel isn't how you feel. When you pretend that how you feel is someone else's problem to fix. I end up acting like the devil incarnate. It ain't pretty. It's a false brand of martyrdom.

What prompted me to do something about it finally is that I was increasingly hearing my mom's voice channelling through my thoughts. I think of how she often doesn't buy what she really wants. How she willingly decides what she really wants isn't worth it. That she isn't worth it. Sometimes I don't think she even hears herself. When I told her on my birthday that gifts were really important to me (they are my primary love language). She told me that gifts weren't important to her. The next sentence out of her mouth was how she nearly cried when my brother and his wife bought her something for Mother's Day.

Hmmm. I just don't want to get that disconnected from myself. I don't want to continue to be bugged when I am willingly lying to myself and my loved ones, pretending my needs are not only unecessary but nonexistent. The last time my husband asked me (when we were shopping) if I needed anything, I said," no." Boy and I wonder where my anger comes from that erupts like a volcano over the littlest things? My relationship with my husband had grown to the point where he won't rescue me from myself anymore. If I told him about this 'denying having needs'habit he would look me square in the eye and tell me, "Do something about it." (And I would be glad on one hand that he wouldn't rescue me and upset on the other that he wouldn't reassure me that I was worth it. But he knows that I need to validate myself and no amount of validation from him will make me believe in me.)

So today I spent money. On me. Inlcuding two pairs of shoes at one time....I normally only have two pairs of shoes at any one time total.(How's that for martyrdom? Ugh.) My real splurge was nail polish for my toes. I stood in front of all those colours to choose from and told myself to take a risk. That clinched it. Red nail polish it had to be. It's that "Hard As Nails" stuff. Every time I wear it I will remember that my spirit is in danger of getting hard as nails when I stuff my feelings, ignore my needs, choose false piety, all in the name of God.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Father's Day

My mind is a swirl of memories as I sit here and try to decide what to write about my dad and what to leave out. How to reconcile this part of my dad with that part of him. And then I think about how we all are both parts - the good and the not so good.

My earliest memory of my dad is of him coming to see me in the hospital when I was 5. A combination of too much sun and my sister feeding me toxic plants landed me in the hospital for a bit. My dad came on his lunch break to read me a story. I remember that we each sat on a separate chair. I wanted to sit on his lap but didn't tell him that.

My dad brought us each a treat every Thursday when he picked up the groceries on the way home from work....when we were too little to read we got candy on grocery day and eventually we graduated to getting our own comic book. We had stacks of comics several feet high. Even after our family's grocery habits changed from mom phoning in a grocery order and my dad picking it up to my mom going to town on Thursdays to shop at a chain store my dad still picked up comics for us.

When I got my first bra my dad and I happened to meet in the hallway of our home. He stopped and looked me in the eye and I felt like he was acknowledging without speaking that I was on the edge of womanhood. I felt very affirmed.

My dad loves words - loves to read them - loves to know the meaning of them all. He is one of few people I know who consistently scores close to 100% doing the Word Power section of the Reader's Digest. He just has a hard time speaking words from his heart.

And now that I think of it, I wouldn't know he had this other side of him had my mom not told me certain things. Hmmm. I often struggle with knowing what my kids need to know of me and what they don't. What needs to come into the light and what is ok to leave in the dark? I don't think knowing the darker side of my dad makes me love him any less but it does cause a certain amount of confusion for me. It reminds me that we never see the whole picture of anyone during our lifetime.

I don't know about you but every so often I get this glimpse of someone I know and I recognize that the part I am seeing in that moment is the view that God keeps in perspective....the person He created them to be.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Bobble Headed Reality

This parenting thing just does a number on my (bobble)head some days. I find myself wanting to call a prolonged time out. A time out so long that I don't have to deal with reality until life goes a little more to my liking. I can hear you chuckle. I know, I know, it just doesn't work that way. Denial and reality are not compatible. Not even in my dreams.

That is probably a good thing. But boy, the stretching in my soul feels like my gravity bound skin is going to have me dragging on the ground before too long.

One of my sons is dating a girl I'd rather he wasn't. I was once that girl to another mother and that complicates it. It should make it easier but it doesn't. My(future)mother-in-law handled it well. She gave me an example of grace in motion. I feel like I am trying to drive a standard car and extending whiplashes of grace with every change of gears. Bobble headed here I come.

This son of mine is very forthright. He has come to me with several heart stopping reality questions. Like this: "Hey mom I know you aren't cool with my dating her and I know it is a mom thing to a certain extent, but you may have something objective I need to hear so tell me okay?" Sputter - sputter. And this: "Mom, I think you are carrying your baggage into my relationship with her and that isn't fair." Choke. Choke. "Mom, I sense this tension anytime I talk about her and I want to know why." I tell him I'd rather he wasn't dating her. He tells me he'd rather know that upfront than have it hanging in the air between us. Gulp.

His habit of being upfront and the consequences of me being forced to be upfront in return makes me feel like I am failing. His upfrontness sounds so mature. Every word of honesty coming out of my mouth in response sounds just the opposite. He reassures me I am handling things just fine. (Aren't I supposed to be reassuring him?)

But you will know it's me when you see a woman walking around with her gravity prone body (soul)stretching to the ground and her head wobbling around all bobble headed. I should patent that figure and have it included in a welcome home baby and mom newborn gift pack. I can just imagine the parents thinking it refers to (post partum) skin sags and bobble headed (lack of sleep) fuzzy brain. Now that is a reality/denial combination I am content to let be.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Breath Of Life

My mom tells me she almost gave birth to me in a bedpan. Weighing in at 2 pounds 11 ounces and 21 inches long that would have been something of a shock to the nurse who came to remove the bedpan. I'm glad it was something other than steel that I landed on when I came into the world on this day 43 years ago.

An incubator was my home for the first 3 months. Mom says several times the nurses used their thumb to massage my chest and get my heart going again. At one point my weight dropped to 2 pounds 2 ounces. I think that was the last time in my life I was underweight.

All kidding aside I am always thankful on this day that God breathed life into me. The odds for survival were not good. I think of my brother Rodney who weighed more than I did at birth but only lived for two days. After he died the doctors told my mom that the best thing she could do was get pregnant again and so when I came along 18 months after Rodney and was another premature baby - I can only imagine her anguish.

My birthday is always a reminder that life is tenuous. I try not to take it for granted.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Are You Your Friend?

This morning at Mass. The service is over and I am getting ready to go to confession. Confession is so messy. I know I am going to blubber all over the place. Maybe some people go through it calmly but I never seem to. Well, I'm not hysterical but neither am I serene. Whatever the prayer is today right at the end of Mass it has the word friend in it. I sit there and am reminded, "Jesus is your friend. The priest is your friend. Are you your friend?" At this there is silence within me. I am left with that question reverberating in my soul. "Are you your friend?"

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Rent, Food and Tossed Salad

Some days, just for the heck of it, I click on the blog links on other people's blogs. I was doing that the other day and came across this blog and a post about Rent vs. Food and one about Tossed Salad . They both really spoke to me. Actually they hit me in the gut because I could relate to them so well.

It's been nearly a year now since we came off the welfare rolls. It feels like a lifetime ago. I never kept a journal during that painful time. For that reason. It was too painful to live it and I didn't want to face it every day in the words on the page. But it's time to write about it because people think this kind of thing only happens to 'other' people. I never told my family. The shame was too great.

This quote from Rent vs Food says it well:

"If our clients had more money in social assistance the vast majority of them would spend it on food. I don't think the social assistance system was designed intentionally to keep clients oppressed by poverty yet this is exactly what seems to be happening. "

This came home to me one day when one of my kids told me that afternoon she had been talking with her brother and they were dreaming outloud about what they would buy if they had money. The conversation was halted when they both realized all they could talk about was what kind of food they would buy. They realized that in our 'other' life they would have been talking about music and ipods and luxuries.

I learned to see every bit of money as equal to so and so many loaves of bread or jugs of milk. I remember seeing my chiropractor after a prolonged absence and telling him I hadn't been in because paying him was equal to 5 jugs of milk and I couldn't justify the trade off.

Here is another quote I could relate to:

"Many must choose between rent and groceries. They are forced to purchase food items that are the cheapest variety available. This means they consistently purchase highly processed and nutritionally empty foods. They will also naturally gravitate towards fat-laden foods as fat adds satiety - a polite way of saying they stay full longer on less food, an important consideration when hunger is routine."

With only $400 left (after paying rent but not utilities) to cover all our other monthly costs we became regulars at the local food bank. I have never been so happy to open the bags and find a container of peanut butter or those little packages of ramen noodles. One day when things were really bad the food bank lady asked me if I could use a bag of flour. Flour can make so many things that fill a person up - although there were many times when I couldn't because I was either out of margarine or eggs or baking powder and the like. If a person goes into the grocery store with 20 bucks and you don't know how long it will be until you have another little bit of cash to buy food it is really hard to justify spending one fourth of it on a container of baking powder.

One day I asked the woman at the food bank what the support was like from people around town. She said it was low. She said that most people tell them that if people need to use the food bank they should just go get a job. Or they complained that they knew someone who used the food bank and they saw them at bingo the other night. I thought of our situation where my husband was off work waiting surgery and my own health problems had forced me to stop work as well. Many evenings we spent discussing if one of us should just ignore the health stuff and work anyway, knowing that doing so was putting us at greater risk for longterm problems and would be going against doctor's orders. One night I said to my husband, "This is so hard to go through without an addiction." We often talked about how thankful we were that we had a good support group around us - how we were thankful for our faith and that our situation had brought us closer together when it had the potential to do the exact opposite. We wondered how people went through it in isolation, without faith, without hope? We knew this time for us would end eventually(18 months later)but what about those for who this was permanent?

There were many people who helped us through this rough time with tangible gifts of money and groceries. It was really hard to receive graciously. It was really hard not to feel like a beggar. It was really hard sometimes not to feel like we must have done something wrong to be in this situation. There were Sundays when I sat on my hands during Adult Sunday School to stop myself from standing up and blurting out that the discussion didn't matter. That figuring out who was right or wrong didn't hit the radar screen because all I could do was sit there and try to figure out how I was going to put three meals on the table until Wednesday (the once a month food bank day) came. It was during this time that I lost a great part of my need to be right about everything in the world. You wonder why I didn't just stand up and share our need? Try it.

I keep one memory close to my heart from this time. After a day of appointments in town (a 50 minute drive from home) a friend invited me to have supper with her. As we sat down to a balanced meal(roast chicken, brown rice, steamed broccoli and slices of cucumber) I felt overwhelming gratitude. And guilt. It was hard to eat when I knew my teenagers at home were not eating a balanced meal. I also had to tell myself to slow down during the meal because I had an inkling that I was eating like a person who hadn't eaten in a long time. Dessert was slices of fresh, juicy, sweet cantaloupe. "Slow down," I kept telling myself. My friend must have noticed all this. She went to make a new pot of tea and bring out some cookies she had baked. In the end she ended up sending home with me the extra cantaloupe and the whole container of cookies. She had known hard times. She had learned what true gratitude was. She gave out of gratitude not pity. The gifts my friend bestowed on us that day and the spirit with which she gave them have never left me. (Well, ok the cantaloupe and the cookies are long gone but you get my drift). She showed me what it looked like to give because you had received so much and wanted to return thanks for that privilege.

There aren't many times these days when I sit down to a cup of tea or eat a piece of fruit that I am not thankful for the privilege.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Sandpapering the Soul

I want a beautiful countenance. I think of all the elderly women in my family and how none have had that countenance that speaks of wisdom and grace and love....the kind that makes a person know they have endured to the end and come out of it a better person. A softer person. A more graceful person. I think of my son's girlfriend and how she is scared of me. I wish I had the kind of countenance/spirit that put her at ease. The kind that said, "You are loved, as is." I'm not there yet. It is my prayer that I have that kind of beauty one day.

I wish I could make my countenance into that which I want it to be. I am not talking physical beauty here. That is something I am learning to let go of. I no longer obsess about the physcial. Does that mean I wish I had more cellulite or more wrinkles or grey hairs? How about more sag to the body? Nope. But I have come to somewhat more of an acceptance of what it means to grow older. This old bod IS going to give out one day. It's the stuff behind the beautiful countenance that lives forever.

I think of Jesus being a carpenter's son here on earth and how some days it feels like Jesus is chafing at my soul. While being rubbed hard by this thing called life I am getting my soul sandpapered.

Every so often I come across one of those women whose face has been softened instead of hardened by life. For some reason their actual physical beauty or lack of it plays not one bit into how beautiful they are. If God truly grants the desires of the heart then that is what my heart desires. No doubt that means there is more sandpapering yet to come.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Reality Check

Today was one of those no spoons days. I hate them. I need to accept them. I don't know how. I am open to suggestions from those of you who have learned to deal with a chronic illness.

Yesterday I spent a good part of the day riding the lawn mower, cutting the grass. It was great. One of my favourite jobs. As I was riding along I thought to myself, "I must be getting better." In all this time(7 months post diagnosis)I haven't yet accepted that those days are almost always followed by a "no spoons day". Last night I went up and down a friend's stairs twice and I thought to myself, "I must be getting better." I woke up this morning intent on mowing the rest of the yard only to find out I was so out of spoons that I couldn't walk and talk at the same time, let alone steer the lawn mower around and around the yard. Shit. There I was in the midst of all my lovely violets wishing I had a chair to sit on so I could at least talk.

Tonight my husband and I went for a drive - a chance to talk about life and where we are at. It is not often I am open - truly open - to hearing how he sees things in my life. I can put up a wall so fast to protect myself it isn't even funny. Tonight we talked about my self absorption - a common reaction to being diagnosed with a chronic illness and how he sees my lack of acceptance of it as being a big stumbling block right now. That my stubborness in accepting my limitations is using up energy I don't have to spare. He told me all the willpower in the world is not going to make all this go away. My genetics are not going to change. My reality is my reality and accepting it can only be a good thing. This kind of talk always ends up with me in tears. When he told me that the reality is that I may never play another game of baseball(man can I hit the ball!) with my kids I teared up. I don't know who it is that I want to prove it to that I can and I will but accepting it as reality - boy everything in my being just shouts, "no way!"

But this is getting to be an all too familiar cycle. I have a good day or series of good days and I think I am getting better. I have close to normal days but eventually all the activities of the good day(s) catch up to me and I feel like I am blindsided by my lack of spoons. Maybe I am still in a mourning process. I want what I had back and the reality is it is never coming back unless God does a miracle. It's one thing to be able to spend the day reading to my heart's content,it's another to be forced to because that is all I have the energy for.

Man, I feel like I am sounding so ungrateful. I hate it that being honest makes me feel ungrateful. Anyway, I am open to suggestions.