Blocked…

Hi All,

I’ve been trying to write for several days now but have been blocked out of my own head. I’ll feel the urge to sit and write, then the words don’t flow. I’ve got a lot going on, but that’s not any different than it was a week or a month ago. It’s not timing, it’s not for lack of something to share, it’s just me. And to be perfectly honest, it frustrates the hell out of me.

This last week has been a trip of extreme lows and highs, almost whiplash like in its own way. Last Saturday morning I had the most terrifying thoughts screaming inside my own head, and they came out of nowhere. Absolutely debilitating in nature. I had never been so afraid of myself as I was last weekend. It was brief, but paralyzing at the same time. I feel much better now and by the end of the day I was okay. I spent the afternoon and evening surrounded by my precious family and 5 young women from the ages of 11-14. The girls reminded me, without even knowing, that life is a series of “the next adventure.” Even when the adventures take twists and turns that would never be welcomed by the traveler, they appear and you go along for the ride. This past week has been a ride I’ve been ready to get off of, but thankfully the last part of the week was quiet and somewhat boring.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and make my life make sense again. I try hard to keep my blog positive, but today it’s just not possible. I miss my husband, that makes me sad. I miss my daughter and her family, I miss my grandchildren and their dad in NC. I miss my friends. My family. Sometimes the pain of missing my husband is so blinding, I feel physical pain. What should be doable has become such a struggle. The mental health ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic have been so vast and so varied. Then add the restrictions of having a loved one in a long term care facility… Not a single person is untouched by this virus. No matter who you are, or what you do, all lives are touched by it in some way. It’s incredibly hard to get my brain injured husband to understand why he can’t see me every day. I haven’t found a way to break through the injuries to help him realize that I don’t choose to stay away. I would be there with him every day if I could be.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn how to do since my husband’s stroke is to not share my heart with the man I love. He doesn’t process conversations the way he did, and adding the hurt I carry with me is not something that would be beneficial to him. No matter how much I want to share with him, I can’t. I won’t. It would be like telling a five year old. I wanted to get to a place where I could join a support group for caregivers, now the pandemic makes that an impossibility. Virtual support is good, but the human interaction of meeting with others face to face would be better. Someday…

Being blocked and not knowing what to write is antithetical to my mind. I usually have a head and heart full of words, not lately. I am usually more upbeat, not today. I want to feel the knowledge that words are not escaping me, but I don’t. I haven’t written in my journal, or my book, in weeks. I don’t know what to say.

I realize that this is not much of a blog entry, but it’s all I have right now. I appreciate you all and hope that you stay safe. And well.

Until next time…

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

If There Hadn’t Been You…

Hi again,

Today’s title comes from a 90’s era country song by Billy Dean. I heard it in my car this morning, on my way home from picking up my pup’s remains at his vet. Morgan is home now, safely ensconced in a beautiful African Walnut urn, next to his former kitty mate, Dexter. I miss my four-legged boys, and try and remember that they both had wonderful lives, were loved and spoiled, and had it not been for them, my life would not have been as joy filled. Rest well sweet ones, until we meet again…

Hearing the song this morning made me think of all the people that have been a part of my life over these 57 full, and just shy of 58 trips around the sun. I think back to the very first memory I have and I was 4. In the Boston Children’s Floating Hospital, (which no longer exists) in an oxygen tent with a terrible case of pneumonia. I didn’t know it then, but the man who was my nurse was considered a trailblazer by many. He was a man in a world that didn’t readily accept men, especially black men. 1968… and only one of those things seem to have changed for the better. Men are no longer seen as less than for being a nurse, but being black is still an issue for many narrow-minded, priviledged people. I was sick. I was very, very sick and this man would hold me in his huge arms, sing to me, rock me and make me balloons out of rubber gloves. I didn’t care then that he was black or male, and I don’t now. 54 years later I am just grateful that he was there. A human being with a gift for compassion was what I needed, and he was that person. If there hadn’t been you…

If there hadn’t been my first best friend when my parents divorced, and my mom moved herself and three kids to the inner city, I wouldn’t have had the most awesome childhood adventures. My best friend was from a large family, still has the most stunning red hair and accepted me as the skinny country kid that had no clue how to make friends. The friends I’d had up until then were basically built in. I still maintain contact with her after 50 years, and if this damned virus ever breaks, I hope to see her again someday. If there hadn’t been you…

If there hadn’t been my middle and oldest siblings what would this life look like? Sure, we have our issues, but siblings are our first friends and they don’t really have a choice about that. Unless of course they’re much older and reach adulthood long before you do. My siblings are mine, and though I wish they were closer to one another, I maintain relationships with them both, just separately. I’ve always thought that after your parents die, who keeps the family together? Siblings do. It takes effort, but we’re all that’s left of our parents, and I am not willing to expend energy on the negative side of sibling rivalry. Heck, my husband had 5 siblings and is now down to 3, it’s sad and lonely and hard. The conflicts aren’t worth the hatred that grows from things unresolved. Eventually that hatred becomes numbness and numbness brings apathy. There are times that apathy can be a type of shield, a protection from the heartbreak of a child throwing her parents away, but it’s not something I want to have to learn. Or to live with.

If there hadn’t been my first serious boyfriend, there wouldn’t have been a future father-in-love to save my life. Literally. I have never had the easiest of lives, and that’s okay. I left home at 15 and ran to my boyfriend’s house, where I was safe and protected from the demons that preyed on me as a young girl. My future father-in-love slayed the demons and he saved all of me. My physical self, my emptional self, my spiritual self. Looking back more than 40 years later, I realize that he loved me then, and I think he knew his youngest son would become my husband. He died in1999, and I sure do wish he could’ve lived forever. Or at least long enough to know the joy of being a great-grandfather. “Bumpa,” we sure do miss you.

If there hadn’t been all the amazing friends I’ve made over the years, I wouldn’t be half the person I’ve become. One of those friends became a sister-in-love when she married my husband’s next oldest brother 11 months after my wedding. I am not proud to say that I let her down, but am beyond grateful that she forgives me for such. We are reforging the bonds of love, family and forgiveness as we walk out our grief together. I know she knows that I love her. So much. Life seems to have brought us full circle and though we both wish our husbands could be with us to share in the journey we’re on, we know that they had their own journey together. Their journey was complex, as is ours, and we know our husbands made true amends at before the end for both of them. My heart aches so much for her loss, and though my husband still lives, the man I married all those years ago is gone as well. We feel our husband’s walking beside us in spirit, and for now, that has to be enough.

If there hadn’t been my husband, there wouldn’t be the gift of our youngest daughter. She is an amazing woman, a great mom and a compassionate person. She is as moms want their daughters to be. Strong, fierce and brave. Tender, loving and kind. She has given us the son we never had when she married her husband and he is the answer to prayer. Many prayers. As girl parents we prayed often for the men that would one day join our family and our prayers were answered. Without my husband, we would not have our oldest child. And though she is lost to us, we prayed for her mate as well. We miss him very much, as well as our beloved oldest grandchild. I now pray for our son-in-love and grandson to be safe, and that’s all I can do. Love will break your heart, and love is worth the pain, even when the brokenness is more than you can comprehend.

If there hadn’t been our youngest grandson I believe my husband would have died from pneumonia in November of 2019. Sometimes you just have to let go and that night was such a night. My husband was so sick and his doctor said I should call family since he believed my husband would die in the night. I did. I whispered to him it was okay to go, our daughter did the same. Sometime during that dark and scary night my husband dreamed of our youngest grandson. He swears that little boy is the reason he lived. I am beyond grateful.

If it hadn’t been for our youngest granddaughter, I wouldn’t know what joy really looks like. She is fearless and stubborn and so much fun to be with. She loves with her whole heart and has had it broken, even at her tender age, and she still loves with all she has. She will be a world changer someday. And the world will be a better place for all because of the fire that lives in her heart. She believes in fairness, and she knows that people are not always kind. She keeps going with a determination that most adults would love to have. It’s true, she gives her parents a run for their money, and she can be as sassy as any 5 year old, but she is light and happiness and joy also. She is my heart beating outside my chest X2.

If it hadn’t been for the pain brought into my life because of the events of May 2018 and the ensuing months of turmoil, this blog would have never come to life. My heartbreak has found an outlet to ease the pain and I am so thankful that people read what I have to say. After my husband’s stroke I thought I might not be able to write again, but I was wrong. His stroke has changed the course of both of our lives and the lives of our entire family as well. It has become my priority to keep him safe, let him know that he is loved and to appreciate whatever time we have left together. My blog gives me a way to share and hopefully communicate that we don’t have to be alone. I feel bereft much of the time, but I know I am not alone. My most sincere wish for people all over the world is that they know they matter, and that they are not alone. Being lonely happens to each and every one of us throughout our lifetime, but there is always light at the end of any tunnel. Walk towards it. Crawl if you have to, you are worthy and loved and no one should live compltetly in the dark.

Until next time…

Photo by Barb Enos

8 Days Later…

Hi All,

It’s been 8 days since my beloved dog, Morgan, died. Why does it seem like 8 years? Life without him is sadder and less fun, but I’m doing okay. I find my self listening for the click of nails on the hardwood floors just a little less with each day that passes. I find that the first thing I do in the morning is NOT look over the edge of the bed to look for him. After 8 days I find that I am not looking down from the dinner table as much to see that goofy Boston Terrier smile. He didn’t beg at the table, just sat with a certain expectation that he never lost. He was always hopeful that someone would drop something for him to scoop up and feel like he got away with something. He was a happy dog, he made my life a sunnier place to be and I will always miss him.

Eight days later and I am still waiting on heartbreak to take a rest and not plague me with the pain of losing so much. I am learning to accept that I will never be as I was before, and that I don’t have to be. Change is hard, and it hurts, but we can all benefit from it personally if we allow ourselves to. Not all change is self-created, and changes thrust upon us by someone else are probably the hardest to accept. And to adapt to. It takes a great deal of personal strength and more determination than we think we possess to adapt to unwelcomed changes. It takes giving yourself grace. It takes a certain amount of faith in yourself and it takes time. Time. More than 8 days…

Eight days. What can happen in 8 short days? Well, with the Coronavirus raging, hundreds of thousands of people have become infected. Thousands more have died. Many thousands of people have recovered. The virus has touched me personally more than once, and I am shocked at the lack of concern in my home country for our fellow human beings. I don’t debate with others about wearing a mask, I just wear one. I am living in one of only four states not experiencing some type of surge of the virus, but Massachusetts was raging with the virus just a few short months ago. I’d like to go to SC and NC to see family and friends, but will stay here in New England until I feel I can safely travel and not become infected. and to not bring that infection home to my housemates. Eight days in a different environment could potentially cause a world of havoc. I’m unwilling to open that door…

Eight days from now I have no idea where my head will be, but I imagine that I will still be trying to cope with the loss of my pup and missing my husband. The missing my husband will always be, and I know that as time passes, I’ll be able to better handle the loss of my dog. Grief is the price I willingly pay for having loved him as I did. I’ve learned to accept that love is not always the best feeling in the world, but living without it is so not an option. I am more cautious than ever about opening myself up to pain, but I am not ever going to stop loving because it hurts. Life without love seems like a very dark way to live to me, and I don’t want to live in a world made darker because I am afraid to love. I’m not. I just realize now that the price paid can be quite high.

I know this blog post is shorter than most, but it’s really all I have to say right now. Be well, stay safe, and remember always to be kind. Shine your light into the world’s darkness, love your neighbor and love yourself.

Until next time…

Photo by Barb Enos

Dog is love…

Hi All,

Yesterday, July 2, 2020, will be another one of those dates we all have. You know, anniversaries for a special (or not so special) event. My beloved Morgan, my 9.5 year old Boston Terrier, crossed the Rainbow Bridge. He is running without pain and illness, I am, however a wreck. My experiences dealing with crushing loss will see me through. I’ve learned over these past three years that I can withstand heavy losses, both emotional and physical. I’ll be okay, some day… I know the decision to have my beloved dog euthanized was the right one, but it doesn’t make the loss any less greivous. Even when we decide a loss needs to happen, it doesn’t diminish the pain. At. All.

Almost a year ago I had to let go of my Dexter kitty, Morgan’s kitty mate. The two boys loved each other… after Dexter decided this small, smelly, beastly puppy was no threat to himself or his domain. Morgan came home on March 17, 2011 at the age of 8 weeks and was as cute as could be. (Yes, they were named Dexter and Morgan for the series on TV called Dexter.) And, the best part of bringing him home was the puppy breath!!! He was small and warm and happy, and we all loved him so much. He had his challenges as he was born with a mega-esophagus, and had also suffered a stroke at birth, but he was ours and he became my constant companion. We had intended to make him our grandson’s dog, but dogs choose their people, it seems, and he chose me. I am so glad he did because after my husband’s stroke, the dog became the driving force in moving forward in my life. Once my husband was moved to Richmond, VA for long-term treatment, I lived for getting Morgan back. He spent 6 months with his foster Momma in NC while I was dealing with my husband and his decline. We were reunited in April and now he’s gone. To say I am sad is putting it mildly, but I am so grateful I had these past 3 months with him… Thank you KP, for all you did for MoMo (a nickname) and for me.

Morgan had a plethora of health issues throughout his life, but we managed them and he flourished. We went on hikes together in the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains when we lived in Western NC, he played with our daughter’s Dutch Shepherd whenever we took him there to visit. He would jump in the car, as excited as he could be, until you turned the key and started the car. Then he had a split personality… he would never look out the window, wouldn’t lie down, and prefered to ride behind the driver’s seat on the floor. Weird. He barked aggresively at gun shots, thunder and fireworks, but was afraid of the bing of my phone telling me I had a text. Weird. He loved to play tug of war, and would growl incessantly while doing so. Weird. Eating was his favorite thing, next to farting (ugh) and he would eat until he puked if I let him. I didn’t let him. He was fed twice a day, loved to play, hated the bath and having his nails trimmed. He loved his D, his Daddy R and Momma D, and me. Our youngest grandson was so in love with him. He loved so many people in his own goofy way. He loved me through the crushing grief of losing our oldest daughter. He loved me through leaving NC for SC. He loved me through my husband’s stroke and craniotomy. He went to his foster Momma the night of the craniotomy, and he loved me through the move from Richmond to Boston. Four weeks to the day after we moved to Boston, he was gone.

I am thoroughly convinced that grief is the price we pay for love and I can also tell you that I am no longer willing to pay such an exacting price again. I am done being a dog owner; I can’t bring myself to step over the threshold of loving a dog again. At this point in my life I am learning that inviting pain is unwise. I’ve learned that sometimes the choices we have to make are not at all the ones we want to make. Not even close. The choice to put Morgan down was made a tiny bit easier because I had taken him to his vet just a few days ago and his health was failing. He was showing signs of increasing neurological damage. He was losing muscle mass. He was falling. A lot. He was in pain. His liver was failing. He went to his vet on Sunday past because he had fallen down the stairs late last week and I wanted to make sure he was okay. No broken bones, but lots of soft tissue damage. Lots of pain. Then he fell between our stone wall and our neighbor’s privacy fence and I knew then I had to make the choice I did. It wasn’t a matter of being strong, it was a matter of doing what’s right. It killed me inside, and it will for a long time, but it was right.

Morgan had a good life and he gave so much more than he was given. He was many things and had many names. MoMo, Puppa, Dews, Beast, CC (constant companion), stink-pot/stink/stink-butt. For anyone that has owned a flat faced breed, you know this to be true… He loved to sleep in the bed with his humans, he loved stretching out in the sunshine and he hated going out in the rain. A well lived life for a well loved dog. What more could we ask for?

Morgan, wherever you are, know that I loved you so much… So did everyone who met you. Run free, sweet boy, and give Dexter hell!!! I hope you found Zoe and Gozi and that the three of you play without ceasing… Goodbye, MoMo… You will be missed.

Morgan in Virginia. Photo by his Momma, Barb Enos

Gratitude…

Gratitude. From the Latin word gratia. Gratia also means grace and graciousness.

As I sit here in my room reading, and now writing, I am moved by the word gratitude and its’ multiple meanings. I have spent the last four and a half days focusing on being more grateful, more positive and more kind. More gracious. Being gracious doesn’t mean you let people take advantage of you, at least it doesn’t to me. It means you show kindness and compassion and understanding. It shows that you see the world around you with a more positive set of eyes. I am very grateful that someone that loves me enough to say the hard things I needed to hear wasn’t afraid to speak up. She showed me the book she was reading and now I am reading the same one. “Attitudes of Gratitude” by M.J. Ryan. A beautifully written missive on the importance of living with a spirit of gratitude, even when things are bleak, hard and seemingly impossible to surmount.

My husband and I have been married 38+ years and have experienced so many highs and lows, like any other couple has. We had our first date in June of 1977. We went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant and then to see Star Wars, the first release, and we had such a good time. By this time we were both in high school, but we met in elementary school. 6th grade. Mrs. Sallen’s art class. I didn’t like him much then, or any other boy for that matter. Our date was sweet, and when we got fortune cookies after dinner, his said, “Stop searching, happiness is just next to you.” Those same words were in the fortune cookie of the author M.J. Ryan when she went to lunch with a friend after completing her book!!! Happiness… Happiness has been next to me for the 44 of the 57+ years I’ve neen alive in the form of my beloved and I am very grateful for him. Gratitude is not difficult to come by if you practice finding it, so practice frequently!

We can get lost in our lives so easily. Sucked down into the depths of stress, grief, angst and a myriad of other vampiric emotions. It seems that these type of emotions are more likely to be present in today’s noisy, fast-paced and tumultuous world. Slowing down in today’s world is pretty much frowned upon, or misunderstood, but it’s necessary. We get one life. One. That’s all. No matter the circumstances of your particular life, isn’t there a little room for an attitude of gratitude? Start small. Restart small. I woke up this morning. I’m grateful. My beloved husband is doing as well as he can since his catastrophic stroke. I am grateful. I am grateful that I saw him in person yesterday, albeit from 6 feet away, with no touching, but I’m still grateful. Looking for the moments that we can be grateful for becomes easier as the time goes on. It takes personal effort to look within and find those moments, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Having an attitude of gratitude doesn’t mean things won’t be difficult, or that you are self-centered, it just means that you choose the positive, no matter how small. You matter. I matter. Human beings matter and when we lose sight of just how much we matter to ourselves, it’s very difficult to believe that we matter to anyone else.

How is it possible that something as simple as having an attitude of gratitude seems so unreachable? What stands in your way? I’ve stood in my own way for much of the past 8 months, and the only person putting up road blocks and barriers to my personal peace is me. Other people have hurt me, sure. But those hurts are on them, not me. I’ve been struggling with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs for many months now on my husband’s behalf, and I’ve been damining them at every turn on one hand, and grateful for them on the other. I’ve decided to try and be more patient, though I’m not exactly known for being patient. The federal government of the United States is a behemoth, its far reaching tentacles invade most of the lives of those of us that call America home, but that invasion is no reason for me to be ungrateful. I am beyond grateful for the care my husband has received, and continues to receive. Yes, he earned his benefits, but those benefits come with milies upon miles of red-tape, and that’s where the damning comes into play. The red tape just is… it’s not a reason to be defeated or ugly tempered. I’m tying hard to remember this.

Close your eyes for a minute when you’re done reading this blog entry and just breathe. Breathe deeply and slowly. Be grateful for the ability to do so. Listen to the world around you. What do you hear? Do you smell anything on the air? Are you surrounded by man made noise? Is your environment a pleasant one? What can you do to change your environment if it’s not a pleasant and peaceful place to be? At this precise moment I can close my eyes and hear the floor fan blowing in the background. I hear my dog snoring under the bed, his favorite place to be. I hear my Echo playing music I love. I smell the body lotion I out on after my shower. I feel the softness of my favorite t-shirt against my skin. I can see the light from my desk lamp through my eyelids. All small things to be grateful for. When you seek gratitude, I can guarantee you’ll find it, don’t give up!

I’m going to stop here as I am hoping to get some surprise house work done for my sister today. Something else I am grateful for the chance to do. I live in her home now, and I am hoping to show her that I am grateful for her opening her home to me. People say I love you in a million different ways… I do things to make her life easier because I love her. She loves me, too. I am grateful…

Photo by Barb Enos

Wednesday’s Heart…

Wednesday is here, and so am I. Hump day… Half day… call it what you will, I am here on this humid and what should be wet Wednesday in New England. I woke up with a start at about 5:45 this morning having a dream that I’d rather forget. My husband was in my dream, but it wasn’t good so I’m glad to have woken up. My dream has me thinking about the trajectory our lives are on right now and I’m determined to hit the reset button and go in a different different direction.

The long term effects of a catastrophic stroke on the person that had the stroke are visible, and hidden. The long term effects on the family and friends are also visible, but less so. As the spouse of the man that has had the biggest stroke I have ever known anyone to have, I can honestly tell you that as the months pass, I realize that the stroke didn’t just happen to my husband, it happened to me as well. And to our daughter, our sons-in-love, our grandchildren. We’ve all lost the man that was the strong one, the fixer and the lover of all things family. Our friends have suffered as well, and those ripples you see when a rock is dropped in still water? Those represent so many lives that have been changed because of the stroke. My husband is the one who has suffered the most, especially physically, and my heart breaks for him every single day. Over and over and over again.

I’ve spent the last 8 months pushing against the tide, trying to make sure I “do” everything right, that I live up to the expectations (I hate that word) I have of myself that I lost myself along the dark paths of this journey. I spent this past Monday with a much loved family member and we walked along the beach and talked. About everything. She helped me see that I have worked so hard at being strong and doing, that I got lost in the weaknesses that strength needs to keep going. I realize that statement doesn’t really make sense, but it does to me. All of us can be strong at any given moment, but it takes weakness to bulid strength. Life knocks us all down, and when we’re down, most of us fail to see the beauty of weakness. I was turning a blind eye to my weakness without even knowing it, but I see it now. And now? Now I am going to determine to become stronger. Stronger with a greater sense of self awareness. I’m gonna let myself fall as many times a day as I need to. I’m going to work harder at walking the walk and not just talking the talk.

I believe with all I am that kindness matters. I haven’t been very kind these past few weeks and I am hoping to change because of, and learn from, my lack of kindness. Life isn’t fair, we all know this. In spite of the unfairness of it all, we can find moments of joy and gratitude. We just have to want to find those moments, and then seek them out. Sure, there’s not much joy in what’s happened, but there is joy in the love I see in my husband’s eyes when we Zoom visit. There’s joy in the reconnecting with family that was always so far away. When we live as though we are dependent on someone else for our OWN happiness, we sell ourselves short. Happiness is personal and joy can be sought out. Kindness is learned, self taught and so needed in today’s dark world, why not spread a little today? If you need to apologize to someone, or yourself, then do so. The apology helps heal wounded hearts and spirits, and hey, it’s free to give.

Sometimes, when we’re stuck in the middle of our self-made battlefields, we forget to surrender. We dig in, we have to “win” (another word I can’t stand in certain context) and we have to be right. At what cost, though? Is winning worth losing your parents? Does winning mean you step on, stomp on or spit on someone else? To some people that’s exactly what winning means. For me, winning is knowing that it’s okay to be weak as long as I can remember that out of every weak moment I’ve had, something beautiful blossoms. Winning is knowing that I can discern between what I need to fight for and what to let go of. Winning is not found in setting out to deliberately hurt someone, but in sincerely apologizing for doing so. Hurt people hurt people, but that doesn’t mean you get free license to do so. Apologizing isn’t weak, it takes a great deal of strength to do so. And when you apologize and the other person doesn’t hear it, or accept it, that’s on them. Taking your high road can be painful and very difficult, but when you look back over the road traveled, you’ll see the sun shining and fell its’ healing warmth. That warmth is the representation of your winning a battle that could have defeated you.

In closing on this Wednesday, I hope you know I appreciate you’re reading my blog and that I am striving towards joy, gratitude and letting go of some of the burden I have placed upon my own shoulders. Go live your best life every day, even when you’re best doesn’t feel like enough!!!

Until next time…

Norfolk, VA photo by Barb Enos

Pain, Pain, Go Away…

Hello world,

Why doesn’t the pain ever stop? Why? What the hell is it about pain that makes it seem never ending and so damned present every day? I wish to hell just one day, once in a while, even once in a great while, a day would pass with no pain. Physical pain is not the pain I am writing about, but yeah, I have that, too.

Pain is listening to your beloved husband sob on the other end of a virtual visit while he’s lying in a strange bed, in a strange place and has been completely isolated for weeks. That happened to him today, the sobbing and the crying and the despair. Why does it have to be this way? When I know he would be made to feel better with a simple hug, a kiss on the forehead and a smile. I can give him none of those things in person. Damn COVID-19. I can’t help but wonder how many millions of people in this country are feeling the exact same way… It shatters my already shattered heart to hear and see my husband cry out about being helpless and not be able to comfort him. In any way. He’s not helpless, but he can’t hear me through his own pain to know that he matters to a great many people. He can feed himself, he can love his grandchildren, he can sing, he can smile. He’s not helpless. He perceives the need for assistance as helplessness, and I can totally understand why. I feel helpless also, knowing that I could make a difference in his life by just being near him, and I cannot be… The long lasting effects of coronavirus on people’s mental health will long be fresh study material, and I volunteer to be a case study.

There’s so much pain involved in losing people you love, whether to death, traumatic brain injury, alienation or a vast array of other causes. Pain has far reaching tentacles and those tentacles hold on tightly while trying to squeeze the life out of you. Pain is exhausting. And cruel. And not welcomed. It’s because of pain that I can hold my head up high and look forward. Pain has taught me to expect nothing, and to be grateful for what is. Expectations are evil and make life more painful when they are not met. I am now thankful for the loss of expecting anything, thought the lessons it took to learn to be so were very, very painful. Those same lessons taught me that not everyone that says they’ll do something will do it. It’s easier for me to just do it myself, or not ask for something in the first place. People let people down, it’s that simple. And in that simplicity is pain. And in that pain is healing, if you’re willing to fight for it. There are more days than not that I just want to stop fighting to feel good, it would be easier to give up, but I am not a quitter. I’ve learned that through painful lessons as well. Pain is a forging of the spirit, a cleansing, and I am trying hard to not feel pain all the time.

When I watch the world around me imploding as it is, I feel so sad. This country seemed to be heading in a progressive direction such a short time ago, and now? Now we are inviting pain into our living rooms, our classrooms, and our lives by condoning hatred. It pains me to see how many people think it’s okay to hurt someone. To kill others. To mock those that dare stand for decency. As painful as it is to see communities torn apart, I keep trying to look for the helpers. Mr. Rogers taught an entire generation to look for the helpers. Helpers ease the pain of others without expecting anything in return. I don’t have any answers as to how to help heal the divisions we see on TV every day, especially when the one person we should all be able to look up to makes a mockery of kindness. Or mocks empathy. I say let’s not play follow the leader, he’s not able to set a decent example. Being kind helps heal pain, even if only for a few moments, so spread kindness, not pain.

My life right now is full of pain, but I am hoping for relief. That relief may come in a form I may not recognize right away, and it may not come at all. My happiness is dependent on me, and I find that I am struggling at the present time to find happiness. I’m tired. I’m sad. I’m lonely. But I am also loved. I’m favored. And I am blessed. Pain cannot last forever, it has to give me a break every now and then. I hope that no matter what causes your pain that you also find peace. And remember to always choose joy…

photo by Barb Enos

I’m Gonna be Okay…

Hey all,

Do you find yourself saying this inside your head a bazillion times a day? I do lately, and have for the past two and half years. I’m gonna be okay… Seems like a reasonable mantra, doesn’t it? I’m gonna be okay… I am… soon. Soon seems to elude me on a daily basis, and soon seems just around the corner. Now the corners I’m trying to turn onto are sharp, blind and steep, Unforgiving. I’m gonna be okay. I swear, I’m gonna be okay.

You would think by now I’d be a pro at saying good-bye. So long. See ya later. As many times as I’ve said good-bye or been told good-bye doesn’t make this impending good-bye any easier. I am tired of leaving the people I love and am close to, behind me in the wake of a life I once recognized. Eight short months ago I told my husband good-bye, drive safe, let me know when you get there. All the things a wife would say to her husband that was leaving their home to drive hundreds of miles from home to visit family. “I’m gonna be okay” he said. He drove away one man and came home another and he is forever changed. As am I. I’m gonna be okay I tell him now, knowing that most days I feel anything but. My husband is never gonna be okay again, at least not like he was. It’s amazing how a stroke and the ensuing brain damage can change a person right down to the core of their DNA. He’s the one who physically suffered the catastrophic stroke that ravaged us both, and our family, and trying to be okay is not so simple anymore. Neither is saying goodbye.

We are on the cusp of more change and now that the changes are imminent, I’m afraid. Am I making the right choices for all of us? Am I strong enough to keep going? Am I gonna be okay ever again? I am. I’m sure of it, I just have to give myself, my husband, and the new journey we’re embarking on some grace. Grace. That word makes me think patience, and the thought of patience makes me chuckle to myself. I’m gonna be okay… as long as I give myself grace. And as long as I show myself some patience. If you knew me personally you would know I have never been long on patience, but this ride I find myself on lately has almost beat me into a submissive sort of patience. I’ve learned the art of grace because I believe in self-forgiveness, and grace is a huge part of that. Forgiveness as a whole requires grace, it’s that simple. And not. Being okay is giving yourself the grace, patience and forgiveness you need to face the next trial, and there’s always another trial… Change happens and most times we cannot control it, all we can control is our reaction to the change. Will you give yourself the grace and patience you’ll need to be okay? I try hard everyday to be okay, I hope you do, too.

I try really hard to not focus on the past, but the past has taught me so much about how not to be that I have to let it in sometimes. I’ve learned that no matter how much you love someone, they’ll hurt you if they’re intent on doing so. I’ve learned that being okay looks different in different situations. I am learning how to be okay with being the mother of one, not two daughters, and it’s going okay. I learned to let go fully just about a year ago and have spent this past year enjoying the absence of anger and hatred. Those two things can destroy even the strongest of spirits, and I am not inclined to let that happen to me. Both anger and hatred try and make their presence known, I just push harder to close the door on them. My spirit soars these days knowing that I am a decent woman that has been wounded, but haven’t we all been? I have hurt others as well, both with and without intent, and I am sorry for that. I’m gonna be okay. I have asked for forgiveness, I have asked for help, and I have left my pride by the side of the road in my quest to be okay. It’s all been worth something. The struggle to find joy in a world full of so much pain is hard enough, I have been trying my best to not make things harder.

Being okay is not always possible, realistically speaking. Things happen. Events that rock our world happen. Even our small, personal worlds implode. A stroke takes away your mate, but leaves the body. Someone you love more than your own life dies suddenly. A sibling hurts you with words and actions. An adult child keeps a beloved grandchild from you. You lose a job. You learn that your spouse was unfaithful. A trusted friend becomes someone you don’t recognize. There are so many things that happen around us to make us not okay. How do we get back to being okay? For me step one is to get vertical each day. I make coffee, and coffee makes me okay for a few minutes. I shower and appreciate the pounding of the shower on my back. I listen to music that makes me happy. Or calms me. Or makes me move. I know there is something within each 24 hour time period I am given that shows me I’m gonna be okay. Even when I cry, and not a day has gone by since May 15, 2018 that I haven’t cried, something shows me I’m gonna be okay. The more you look for that which makes you feel okay, the easier it is to find. I lose sight sometimes when I’m looking and when I feel overwhelmed, but the more I search for the okay things, the more I find. I’m gonna be okay…

I’m gonna be okay, and so are you. Believe in yourself first, turn toward the sun, get vertical and shine on!!!

Photo by Barb Enos

Simple things…

Hello world,

As I sit here in my little apartment with the windows open, a gentle breeze floating in, and Jim Brickman music playing on my Echo dot, I am reminded that the simple things we take for granted every day are more precious now than ever before. The breeze here in central Virginia today is something I will remember a week from now when the breezes I feel will have a northern chill to them. I am reminded to appreciate the train whistles I have come to love here in Virginia, knowing that soon I’ll be trading them for sirens, traffic and city noise. Life is about to get complicated again, but the complications are welcome ones in most ways. The complications will bring about a more simplistic way of life down the road, I hope… I just have to navigate a few more twists and turns to find a bit more joy amidst the trials life has brought to my door. This move doesn’t come without its’ share of heartache, but I have learned that heartache is not the silver lining. Joy is. Love is. Friendship is. Living a life with purpose is. Silver linings are the hugs from my precious grandchildren. Silver linings are the opportunities to spend time with family. Silver linings are the walks along the coast of Maine. Silver linings are the simple things…

What could be more simple than going home? Going home is something each and everyone one of us deserves to do, and going home is not always going back to the place where you were born, it’s going back to a place, or places, where love lives. I may be going home to New England soon, but home is also in Charleston, SC with my beloved daughter and her family. It’s hanging out in my best friend’s new backyard with her and enjoying her company. Home is in Asheville, NC with my oldest grandson, his stepsister, his dad and his paternal grandmother. It’s hanging out with JH at the Ice Bar and enjoying drinks and garlic knots. It’s in North Asheville with 3 Boston Terriers and their people. Home is in Jacksonville, FL with my extended family. My heart lives on in many places, and I am blessed beyond measure to have a sense of home in Richmond as well. After almost 6 months here, it’s time to take my husband home and start over. Again. I will cry as I drive away this week, that’s for sure, but I will also fall into the arms of my family and be loved on. That’s all I can ask for.

Simple things are, or at least they should be, the foundation we build our lives on. Faith, trust, gratitude, love, appreciation for others… These things should be easy to come by, but as we age, they can become things that we lose because of stubbornness, pride, rudeness, silence. I have been thrown away, maligned and accused of terrible things. Things I never did. It’s okay. The person making the accusations is sick, I pray for her peace of mind. After 2+ years of not having her in my life, I can honestly say that I would like to thank her. Her actions have shown me just how strong I can be. Her actions crushed my heart, but my heart beats still. I no longer engage in the destructiveness of her drama and I thank her for that. I sincerely hope that she knows that people are praying for her around the world and that letting go of her has been hard, but it has been done. Saying goodbye is never easy, and it’s especially hard when it falls on deaf ears and a hardened heart. Be well, dear one… we will always think of you with fondness and compassion.

Simple things are all around us, so much so that we really don’t have to look too hard for them. The sun shine is a simple gift. A gentle rainfall in the early evening, another simple gift. A sticky faced toddler that gives his MiMi a kiss, a beautiful, simple gift. A 5 year old girl, inquisitive and fierce, drawing a picture for her beloved Poppy, a breathtakingly beautiful simple thing. With the world around us in such chaos, the simple things may seem much harder to find, and while they probably are, when you find them, take time to pause and enjoy them for the simplicity they present. My heart breaks for this nation in which I live, and while I try not to make my posts focus on negativity, I am saddened at the current state of affairs we find ourselves in. I will simply pray for peace and understanding. And for justice to be swift and true. I will also try and enjoy the simple gifts that each day brings, be they few or many. May peace be one of the things we find. And soon.

In closing, I would like to say that I appreciate all of you that read my blog. I am hoping that this next move makes it possible for me to get back to writing on a more consistent basis. My husband’s recovery from the catastrophic stroke he suffered last year has been long, hard and made more difficult by COVID-19. I haven’t been able to see him for months, though we do talk every day. I miss touching his face and hugging him, and hope that sometime soon I will be able to visit him. He is my person and being kept apart like we have been is hard on all of us, not just he and I. We have much to be thankful for, and the simple things are most appreciated. Be well and stay safe!

Arnold Arboretum, Boston, MA.
Photo by Barb Enos

My Heart Hurts…

HI Again,

This blog entry may be a bit longer than what I normally write, but this subject matter is heavy on my heart and forefront on my mind this weekend. I state unequivocally that I am no expert when it come to Mental Illness, but I have been both a patient diagnosed with depression, and a human being directly affected by other’s diagnoses. I really don’t have the time to sit here at my desk right now, but I can’t afford not to share my heart right. Time is irrelevant at this precise moment, I’ll get done what I need to do later. Right now I have to share…

My heart hurts today for more than one reason. First, today is our 38th wedding anniversary and because of COVID-19, my husband and I are unable to be together. He has been hospitalized almost 7 months now, and I haven’t seen him in 7 weeks. Yes, it sucks, but it’s for the best. Not only for him, but for all the patients at the Richmond, Virginia VAMC. I understand with my head why I cannot see him in person, but the heart wants what the heart wants and I miss him. I would give anything to hold his hand, hug him and feel his warmth. I can’t. It’s just that simple. I also hurt because tomorrow is Mother’s Day and I am separated from my beloved younger daughter and her children. Mother’s Day is a stark reminder of all that I’ve lost because of someone else’s mental illness. Our oldest daughter threw us away right after Mother’s Day weekend of 2018. In fact, the last time I heard her voice was the day before. After two years I have learned to let go and not focus on the constancy of the pain I feel, but the sting is ever present. Losing our grandchildren is a much harder pill to swallow. I pray for our lost daughter every night, that she find peace of mind, and I let go. Every day, I let her go. She no longer exists as she has been replaced by a woman with a different name and an entirely different personality. Both my husband and I miss what was, and I can sleep at night knowing that we were good parents, we loved our daughter and we learned the hardest way possible what love really costs. We have lost our oldest though her body still lives. Our daughter has been ravaged by mental illness, and like any chronic condition, if you don’t, or won’t, treat your illness or disease, it will eventually become the driving force of your life. A negative driving force.

My heart hurts because I find myself struggling with the ghosts of my own mental illness. I had been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder with homicidal tendencies because of events that transpired long ago. I sought help before I went through with the act of homicide and I have walked out the advice and guidance of my doctors, my therapist, and others who have helped me over these past 20+ years. The self-isolation I live in right now because of the Coronavirus pandemic has triggered many painful memories, but none of them so hurtful that I need to seek inpatient treatment. I would, and have considered it more than one since February, but I maintain the lines of communication with my therapist. She is my first line of defense against the dark thoughts that start to invade my mind. I have felt the suffocation of loneliness here in this tiny apartment, spent many nights tossing and turning because I can’t get my brain to shut off, and cried out to God for relief from the pain. I am not a religious person, but I do believe. Religion hurts so many people, spirituality is comforting to me. Most believers would call me a hypocrite, it’s okay. I love people with all their faults and demons and misgivings. It’s not for me to judge. Ever. If I’m to be judged at the pearly gates someday, I hope to be able to own all my faults like I do here on earth. Anyway, as for mental illness, I have struggled and know I will again. I believe my struggles help me feel empathy for others and those same struggles give me strength to dig deep within and keep going. I love my life in spite of all the heartaches I’ve experienced, and I am still determined to seek the smallest moments of joy. If I weren’t willing, what would be the point of moving forward?

My heart hurts for those around me I see struggle with issues of their own and there is nothing I can do to change their path. Life is hard, but beautiful, even when the hard things are all you can see. There is no shame in reaching out to others for help when you find yourself in situations that you can’t figure out on your own. I feel like there is more shame in denying that there is something amiss in your life. Educating yourself about whatever you are facing takes a great deal of strength. Shame is not healthy, we all know that. Pride is very often mistaken for shame, and pride can destroy not only you, but those around you. It’s not shameful to be mentally ill, just like it’s not shameful to have cancer, or kidney disease, or to be recovering from a catastrophic stroke. I left my pride back in Boston in November of 2017 and have been reminded many times over just how necessary that was. I am not weak. I have been hurt. I have hurt others. I’m learning every day that strength and fortitude come from the weakest and darkest moments of our lives. If we allow ourselves to let go of our pride and learn from the lessons experienced through the falls we take, we come back stronger, wiser and more apt to help others deal with their issues. Other people need to know that they can make it through whatever they’re facing because someone else has been there and done that. Sharing your experiences with someone that is struggling or hurting can be a balm to their broken spirit. If you know of someone that hurts for whatever reason, let them know they can reach for your hand and that you’ll help carry their burdens. Telling someone what to do isn’t helpful, in my experience, it automatically brings out defensiveness. Instead of telling someone what to do, ask questions instead. Ask what you can do to help. Ask if there is anything they need. Ask. Don’t tell. If you’re met with the automatic “no” that most of us give as an answer, don’t be discouraged. Just let them know they’re not alone, that you’re available to listen if they need to talk and give them space. I know the triggers that signify a depressive event may be coming on for me. I had to learn them through trial and error over many years time. I know I am loved. I know I can reach out to people. And I do. Not everyone has that knowledge, but everyone can learn.

My heart hurts when I think too much about the unknowns my future holds and I feel myself slipping into dark thought processes. I have carried enormous weight on my shoulders since my husband’s stroke, but I haven’t had to do it all alone. Nor do I have to face the future alone. I have had to seek help. I have had to realize that I am not alone. I have had to realize that while I may feel incompetent, I am not. Lately I have been feeling that I don’t have a purpose in this life anymore. I live alone. I eat alone. I sleep alone. Alone. Ugh… not my favorite word, though it is factual. It’s true that my purpose is not exactly clear to me at this moment in time, but I keep pushing through the darkness. I get vertical. I pray. I walk my dog. I call family and friends. I hear the sweet voices of my SC grand-kids and my heart melts. There is purpose in the melting. I give the shoulders that bear so much weight to my daughter and let her cry on them when she needs to. I am a mother. There’s another purpose. I hold the hands of another hurting mom I know and while we hold hands virtually, she knows I am there for her. There’s purpose showing up again. Not being able to care for my husband on a daily basis has wreaked havoc on my mind, and I’m strong enough in my weakness to admit that I’ve let that havoc wreaking happen. I know I am not banned from seeing him because of something I’ve done, but guilt and loneliness have found fertile ground in which to grow because of the ban on visitation. Something completely out of my control… Purposefulness is something we all need to feel, and when it hides from us for long periods of time, it’s hard to rediscover. Writing this blog entry today became a purpose and I’m glad I took time away from the things I NEED to do to do something I WANT to do. It helps me immensely to put the words in my heart out there and know that someone else may benefit from them. Encouraging others = purpose.

In closing I’d like to say thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I have much to be thankful for, and hope that you do as well. Yes, life is hard. Darkness and strife are all around us, but so is joy. If you’re feeling off, call a friend, or your mom, or anyone you trust and just say hello. Let the conversation flow naturally. Share your heart, laugh, cry and remember always to be kind. To others and especially to yourself… until next time…

Eastern North Carolina shore
photo by Barb Enos