Thank You…

Hi everyone. Another day is upon us all and I want to share my heartfelt thanks to all of my readers, followers and to the world beyond. I don’t have the most successful blog out there, but it’s okay. I want my blog to be something I look forward to writing, I need that more than ever right now. I wish I had the desire to write every day like I did in the beginning, but my life has changed so much since then that I’ve had to completely shift my focus.

Thank you. Those two words never seem enough to say, though most times they’re all we have. There are so many people I wish I could say thank you to in person… I would love to say thank you to the Polytrauma Unit staff in Richmond, Virginia at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center. The amount of love, compassion, patience and expertise poured into both my husband and myself while we were there goes way above and beyond “work.” We were cared for like we were family and the time spent there will forever be a cherished memory. As human beings, we’re not meant to spend our lives alone, and we were not alone there. Though Covid-19 kept me from physically being with my husband during his last three months there, I knew that I was there in spirit. I was included in his life daily and saying thank you just doesn’t seem enough.

Thank you. Those two words have been said more in my heart and mind than anyone could ever know. I have known more pain in the past 2.5 years because of other people’s actions, and if I could, I would say thank you to those very people that hurt us. I know that sounds weird, but the pain inflicted on me and my husband served a purpose that I’m sure was unintended. The most painful thing I’d ever experienced was nothing more than the pouring of a foundation on which to stand against that which we now face. The fact remains that we still feel the pain of estrangement, but the pain of watching the man I love slip away from this earthly life far outweighs the pain of being abandoned by our daughter. We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it and incorporate lessons learned into our present and future.

Thank you. I am grateful to God that I have been blessed with the ability to forgive others. And to forgive myself. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we forget the wrongs committed against us, it means that we accept what is and that we choose to lay down the weapons of anger, resentment and confusion. I have been able to walk through the angst of what life throws at me because I truly believe forgiveness matters. I’ve had to forgive myself so many times throughout my life for things I’ve said and done, and I know I will continue to do so. Forgiveness towards others is easier for me than self forgiveness, but I still believe in it. When someone wrongs you and you hold onto that bitterness and anger, it hurts you, not them. Forgiving isn’t forgetting, not at all. Forgiveness can help you find peace within if you let it.

Thank you. A simple phrase that packs such a punch. Being thankful and having an attitude of gratitude, even in your darkest times, can bring light to your heart. And life. Am I sad most days right now? Sure I am. I also know I will be for some time to come, but that in time, I’ll be okay again. I’ll be different, I’ll change over the course of time but I’ll try to remain positively changed. It’s impossible to not be changed by the pains life gives us. In the long run, over the course of our lives, pain defines and re-defines who we are and who we will become. I accept this. I try hard to learn from the situations that cause me pain, and since life is nothing more than a series of lessons, I know that what I am learning will have great impact on me. I don’t seek pain or painful situations, but I don’t hide either.

Thank you… for reading this. For sharing my journey. For lifting my husband and I in your prayers. I hope that no matter who you are and what you’re facing that you’ll find encouragement through my journey. The only thing that will save us all is all of us, humankind can save humankind, and I am ever hopeful that we will do so…

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Wondering…?

Wondering? Why? Wondering why…?

I’m sitting here on the deck of a friend’s house where I am house/dog sitting and enjoying the quiet sounds of nature all around me. On occasion the quiet is interrupted by the aforementioned dog(s) practicing their vocal skills, but it’s still a beautiful evening. A light rain is falling, I’m sitting under the umbrella of the table on the deck and I am appreciating the earth and all it gives us. I think about the darkness that surrounds us all, but am choosing to focus on the light instead. The soft evening light, the soft, gentle rain and the crickets singing are the music of my life at this very moment, and I am not wondering why. Simple things to be appreciated are not always easy to find, but they are out there if we seek them.

Wondering? I do that. A lot. I wonder why did my beloved husband have such a debilitating stroke at such a young age? He was 57. 57. We had a happy, simple life and now all that is gone. It’s different. I am no longer the wife and mom and MiMi I was just 10 months ago. I am broken, battered and bruised, but I go on. I wonder why. Why should I go on and try to salvage what life is left when my husband can’t join me for the adventure? Wondering can lead me to some very somber places, places I don’t need to visit. The human spirit is so resilient, but there are times when resilience is the last thing I want. Or need. Sometimes I want to hide. I want to deny the pain in my heart. I want to stop wondering why.

Wondering is not for the faint of heart. Wandering is not for the faint of heart. I’ve always had a place inside my heart that has both wondered and wandered. It’s the changing of one letter that changes the meaning of both words so profoundly. Is it possible to wander without wondering? I wonder “where does that road lead?” So I wander down that road… Sometimes it leads to a place of breathtaking beauty. Other times it leads to a dead end. The spirit that lives within me has never been afraid of wandering to seek wonders. Nor of wondering to find that the wandering was worth it. Wandering to the edge of the shore is to see my happy place. Wondering what lies across the ocean stirs the urge to wander in the deepest parts of my spirit. I have always had both a wanderlust and wonderment for life. My heart has never been tamed and I pray it never is. It has been shattered because I trusted someone else with it. Or because I put myself out there and broke my own heart. It really doesn’t matter. With every breaking and/or shattering of my heart, beauty is revealed in the ashes. It may take me days, weeks or even years to see the beauty, but it is ALWAYS revealed. ALWAYS.

Wondering… I wonder how it’s possible that I can look back over the past 3 years and see beauty in the ashes. I’ll tell you. Three years ago I was making plans to leave my husband and our marriage. I was halfway through those plans in mid August 2017 and working hard to get out. The why of those plans no longer matter, but they did then. Are you wondering why? Suffice it to say that my husbnad couldn’t “see” me anymore. He couldn’t hear me. Even though I was right there, I was invisible. I’d had enough of being so, so I laid out a plan to leave. It took me twelve weeks to get out, but only seven weeks to go home. I broke him, but in the process of that breaking, I broke myself as well. I had no idea that I needed to broken, I was so hurt about being invisible that I never wondered what would happen if my plan actually worked. I wondered what would happen to my husband, but I had become invisible to myself as well. Let’s just say that in OUR brokenness, the beauty of our long term marriage was revealed. I wandered 1000 miles away from my husband, only to find that he was always wandering with me in my heart. We rebuilt the foundation of our marriage from the ashes of the burning house I’d left behind me and we were happy. And strong. And that strength sustains me still.

Wondering… can take you places in your mind that you probably shouldn’t go. When you start to wander down the dark, recessed roads inside your head, you need to be ready to face whatever is revealed. Revelations that come out of wondering and wandering can have some pretty heavy consequences and those consequences are not going to disappear. Sure, you can shove them down, ignore them, or pretend they don’t exist, but they’ll always find a way back to the forefront of your wondering/wandering mind. My heart and mind are always burdened now with the weight of my husband’s condition, but I am learning new ways to let my wanderlust and wonderment find their way along as well. It’s impossible to be “strong” every damn day. It’s impossible to not feel guilt or despair or defeat on a daily basis. It’s not impossible to pick yourself up and start over. It’s exhausting, not impossible. Wondering how to do that? Wondering why you should even bother? You should wonder why and you should bother because you ARE worth the effort. You. Are. Worth. The. Struggle. I am worth the struggle.

Wondering… What does it take to move forward when the wandering spirit you know so well seems to vacate the space inside your heart that it had so comfortably occupied? Take it from me, I’ve learned over these past 10 months since my husband’s stroke that moving forward is not something you can do alone. Your pride may tell you differently, but don’t put much stock in the voices inside your head. My pride was my constant companion during the plan making process to leave my husband, but I threw it out the window when driving back to him on I-81 in November of 2017. I haven’t reached for it since. I was shattered in May of 2018 when our oldest daughter left our life and took our beloved grandson away from us. I learned that no matter how much you love someone else, it’s never enough. I learned again in October of 2019 that I couldn’t stop the re-shattering of my barely healed heart when my husband had his stroke. I have reached far outside of my pride for help and I have found it. There is strength in numbers, and it has served me well to remember that. Wondering if you have the strength to make it through your darkest moments? Don’t. Save yourself the wondering. Reach out and ask for help. And keep reaching until you find it. Wander the fields of your friendships and familial relationships until you find what you need.

In closing tonight, I hope that the struggles, pain and honest feelings I share here help you in some small way. I don’t have the answers that you are wondering about, I can only offer encouragement. Don’t give up, and know that somewhere in New England there is a broken woman that wonders why. She wanders when she can and she is proof that both wondering and wandering is not as scary as it can seem.

Until next time…

Remember to be kind, know that you matter and know that life is beautiful, even with the pain.

The Eastern Shore of Northeast North Carolina
Photo by Barb Enos

A Love Letter to 1988…

Dear daughter,

February 12, 1988, was a chilly Friday morning in Hampton, VA. Your maternal grandmother was at our apartment helping your soon to be “big sister” ready for school and the dentist. Daddy and I were going to Hampton AFB Hospital to welcome you into our arms and introduce you to the world. You were so loved and we were ready to grow our family for the final time.

You were born after 11 hours and 56 minutes of labor, though not all hard labor. You were very small for a full term baby, sort of blue, and screaming once the doctor got the cord from around your neck. You rapidly turned pink and had a set of lungs that would continue to give you issues throughout your youth. You were jaundiced, laid under the lights in the hospital and then in the sunlight streaming through our patio window once you came home. We loved you so. We still do…

You were an easy child to raise but a difficult babe to carry. I was very sick the entire length of my pregnancy with you. I’ve often said had you been born first I never would have had another child, but I would have. Especially if that child was like you. I remember being so sick your Daddy would cry from not knowing how to help me. Every single day of sickness was worth it because we have you and we love you. So much…

I don’t know how to tell you how much your love has meant to both Daddy and me. How do you tell someone that they’ve been your guiding light? How do you express a love so deep that to think about it brings tears of joy and pain at the same time? Joy because you are a wonderful person. Pain because we miss you so much. You had so many physical challenges to overcome as a young child, and you did. We loved you through all of it, we still do…

You were young when you said to us that you would never hurt us like your older sister did. You never have. I know you miss her, we do, too. Your determination to stay out of trouble and do well in school has led you to a wonderful life full of love, learning and stability. You set the kind of example for your children that shines brightly and they have the most amazing mom. Ever!

There are so many things I would change for you if I could. Your Daddy wouldn’t be sick. We would still be in SC being hands-on grandparents and enjoying being so close to you and your beautiful family. I wish I could give your son back his Poppa. I wish I could hold your daughter’s hand and see her new Hatchimals in person. I miss you and love you, so much. We both do…

When people tell me that they’re amazed at how strong I am, I tell them that I don’t have a choice. I’ve had to be strong. With you I can fall apart and cry and rage and hide… and I appreciate that more than you will ever know. I’ll be honest and tell you that I am weaker than ever, but in that weakness is beauty and resilience. With each day that passes and we cannot be together, I want you to know that I pray for you and your family. I pray that you all know how much your Daddy and me love you all. I pray for your safety. I pray that your children know how much they are loved by their grandparents. I give thanks to God and the universe for the gift of you. As a mother that has known the pain of losing a child, I can tell you that the joy of loving you has been a healing and soothing balm to my broken heart. Thank you for loving me, for loving Daddy and for being the daughter that you are. You are my heart. Always…

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The Man Without Us…

Hi all, I hope this entry finds you all well and staying safe…

I write a lot about how I feel because it makes sense to me to write what I know. I know how “I” feel. I woke up this morning feeling like I usually do. I wake with the light and since the light comes early on the East Coast, I wake early. Not a big deal. This morning I woke and my first thoughts were of my husband as they always are now. This morning I woke thinking how each day passes and how alone he must feel without us. How alone he must feel without his brothers, his mom, his daughter, his sons-in-love and his grandchildren. How alone he must feel without all of the people that love him being allowed to see him everyday.

The man without us is a man of broad shoulder, barrel chested, sports a military buzz cut, and has blue eyes that shine. My husband stood at 5’11” and carried himself with the discipline and pride instilled deep within by the many years of service to our nation. He was a larger man, with a solidness that made his hugs the best ever. A Teddy Bear in private; a fiercely loyal and protective man all around. He served 24.5 years in the military and it was an honor to serve beside him. It wasn’t easy then and it’s not easy now, but we made it through all those years, surprisingly intact, and I am grateful for the opportunity we had to make a life together.

As I sit in the kitchen of my oldest brother-in-law’s kitchen, I find myself feeling way too much to be able to share everything in my head about this subject in one blog post. Can you imagine what any patient in a skilled care facility must feel on a daily basis because of the restrictions of visitation due to Covid-19? Granted, the restrictions are in place to protect the health of patients and employees, but when you’re dealing with compromised patients, they aren’t always able to process rules and regulations. They see limitations as cruel, and hurtful, and beyond their comprehension. My husband was a smart, logical man before his TBI, but now he’s like a little boy that just “doesn’t get it.” He cries, he rages and he aches for the loving touch of a hug, a hand held, and a kiss on the cheek. He deserves that. We all do. Imagine having that taken away from yourself with no warning, no comprehension, and no end in sight? This is the plight of hundreds of thousands of people across the country. We are being told that we can visit our loved ones by appointment only, but that we can’t touch them, we can’t approach them, and we can’t hug them. It’s torturous from no matter how we look at it. People mean well when they say things like “you should be grateful that you can see him.” They tell me to be patient, that “this too shall pass.” Or, “You should…” You need to…” “I want you to…”

The man without us doesn’t care that other people “think” those of us that love him “should.” He doesn’t care that the reasons for the limitations on visiting are in place to try to protect the most vulnerable among us against a silent virus that spreads like wildfire. He cares that he’s lonely, that he feels abandoned and that he thinks no one cares. I love my husband beyond my own life, I would take the TBI onto myself and set him free of all the pain and loss and loneliness. I can’t. What I can do? I can carry my share of his heaviness and do it with as much grace, fortitude and determination as I can muster on a daily basis. Some days it’s easy, some not, and then there are the in-between days. The days that start with tears, but end with smiles. The days that rain without ceasing and you swear that you’ll never see the sun again. The days where the weather is the stuff of dreams… I know the man I married all those years ago is gone, but he’s not at the same time. Until you experience the challenges of an event like the one that changed our lives, and the lives of so many around us, you’ll never quite understand the struggle. I pray you never have to understand the struggle.

The man without us is safe, he’s being well cared for and he is loved. At my darkest times I cry out to God for the strength to make it through another day. I cry out in my pain and beg the universe for peace, and sometimes I find it. I think back on the happiest times we had as a couple and relish the feel of my husband’s arms around me. I can hear his voice saying “baby, take your glasses off, you’ve fallen asleep reading.” I can picture him playing Matchbox cars with our two youngest grandchildren. Or fishing with our oldest grandson. I can see him encouraging our oldest granddaughter to hit the softball. The man without us is not without us, he is always with us. In our hearts, in our minds, in our every day lives.

The man without us would want those of us that love him to continue pressing onward toward that which brings us joy. He wants us to live, and love ,and never forget that he loves us. He is a Poppy, Opa, Daddy and Dad to so many. An uncle, brother, brother-in-love, and friend. He is strong even in his weakness and he is loved beyond measure. He is my person and I am not without him, no matter what happens. I hope that his life and the trials we face together and separately help others know that life after a TBI is possible. It’s very different, but it’s possible. The love shown to me by the man I married in 1982 is pure of heart and simple in nature. That everyone would know that such love exists is possible, and seeking it is worth the effort. When you wake up each day, I pray that you find joy in greeting the new day, even if the struggles you know you will face seem unbearable. If you cry each day, don’t despair. Learn what you can from your pain and sorrow, and give the gift of yourself to someone else.

The man without us is not alone in spirit and for this I am beyond thankful. He prays, he sings and he talks to his Lord in his own way. I am comforted by this. I believe differently than he does, and that’s okay. Knowing that we’re not alone is sometimes all we get, and learning how to be grateful in the small moments makes the larger ones less scary. I miss the man that was, I love the man that is, and I pray for continued safety for us all.

Until next time…

Stay safe, be well, and remember to always be kind…

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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

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

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