When I…

Hello all, I hope that this post finds you all well and staying safe. Thanks for checking out today’s post!

When I think about what is happening in my life and the lives of those I love, I frequently become overwhelmed. Writing helps me make sense out of things that seem nonsensical. Most days during this particular time frame are pretty much nonsensical to me, and I literally end up overthinking every thing. It’s been a tough weekend for me, as are most weekends right now, and I would give almost anything to be able to change things. I’d change things not only for myself, but for the people I love that are dealing with losses and trials of their own. While driving home from visiting my husband in hospice today I realized, for the umpteenth time, just how much being an empathetic person takes out of me. Today, for an hour or two, I would’ve traded myself in for a model that couldn’t feel as much. I’m over that now, but those feelings gave way to so much more than myself. It gets exhausting carrying the weight of so much emotion, and if people like me aren’t careful, we lose ourselves to everyone and everything around us.

When I think about this last week I have to say that it was by far one of the hardest of my life. I never thought that saying goodbye to my son-in-love at the airport would open up the flood gates to so much emotion. I spent the week barely existing, barely functioning. I feel a little better today, but the bruises on my heart will take some time to heal. My heart remains broken, but my mind is a little less chaotic than it was 7 days ago. My youngest daughter and her extended family received some devastating news that set all of us reeling in disbelief and grief. I have spent the last few days praying for peace and healing, for comfort. Healing in this situation will be a very long time in coming, and the acceptance of such news as was received will not happen overnight. So much pain…

When I think about the loss I am facing with my husband, I am so conflicted. So very conflicted. I love the man I have been married to for the past 38+ years with my whole being, yet I am agonized by watching him suffer so. The transition to death is not anything like I think it should be, it’s a very personal and trying journey. The ups and downs of the hospice journey have been confusing, I get angry, I hurt beyond belief, and yet when I don’t receive that dreaded phone call, I am grateful. And I am sad for my husband. My suffering pales in comparison to his, there is no way I can put into words how much watching him writhe in pain hurts me. For him. If I could take it all onto myself, I would. Every damn day. The miracle in all of this will be his freedom from pain, no matter what that freedom looks like.

When I think about the future and what it looks like, I would rather run backwards than look forward. I know I have no choice but to look ahead, as we all know we can’t change the past. Looking forward right now is scary, I know the future holds days of unimaginable grief, struggle and pain. Beyond those things is where I need to focus. Beyond the grief will be healing. Beyond the struggle will be an easing. And beyond the pain will be a new journey that I pray will be honoring to my husband, challenging enough to keep me learning and a new found strength. I already know that I will not be traveling alone, I am surrounded by love.

As always, I appreciate any and all who read this and hope that you find something worth holding on to in my words. You are not alone in your struggles, you matter, and you are loved. Stay safe, be kind and remember to turn your face toward the sun and appreciate its light. And warmth…

Photo by Barb Enos

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…

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

My Heart Cries…

Hi All,

Again it’s been a while since I’ve written, and I have no other reason than I just haven’t been able to share my heart recently. With the COVID-19 virus ravaging the world around us, I have been keeping to myself and feeling the sting of being alone on a daily basis. I have been fearful for my husband, as he and I haven’t been allowed to visit in weeks, and though the possibility of his becoming infected is somewhat slim, I worry about his state of mind. Being in the hospital is hard enough, and then to add isolation on top of everything else makes my heart break for him. And for myself. I am very grateful for the fact that the people he is being cared for by are people I had the chance to get to know before the visitation ban came about. It does bring me comfort to know that he is surrounded by compassion and love. The staff on the Polytrauma Unit at the Richmond VA Hospital became like a family before the changes in routine were put in place, and it helps that I can see him on his phone. He has improved so much since his stroke last year, and without ALL of the people involved from the initial EMT’s in South Carolina to the staff of the VA Hospital here in Virginia, I have no idea how he (or I) would have come so far. We still have a ways to go yet, but we’re getting there one step at a time.

My heart cries quite a bit at this time year. With Mother’s Day fast approaching I am reminded just how long it’s been since I’ve been able to talk to my oldest child. I am also reminded of all the hurting parents out there that have been dismissed by their offspring. I’m very glad to be able to say that I’ve been able to let go and continue to live. And to heal. Not everyone is so lucky. It’s been easier since the stroke, but I wouldn’t wish a catastrophic event like we’ve experienced on any hurting, alienated parent. The cruelty of alienation is more than any one should have to handle. The events of last year helped me redirect my focus, and my rage, into the strength it has taken to face each day. I am ever grateful that when each day comes I am able to get vertical. And sometimes that’s all I can do. Then there are days that I can accomplish more than I ever thought possible. I was able to make my bed today, and leave the apartment to run an errand or two, but yesterday I could barely walk my dog. I am not any different than any other person who has been thrown away by an adult child, nor do I wish to be. I just want to help those whom I can by letting them know that they are not alone. Nor are they bad, wrong, evil or less than. If you’re reading this and have been hurt so deeply by your child(ren) that you swear you’ll never heal, please know that you will. It takes time. Your healing may not look or feel like you want it to, but it will come. It may take a long time, or it may happen fairly quickly, every story has its own rhythm. If you had told me a year ago that I would be sitting alone in an apartment in Central Virginia and being okay with it most of the time, I would’ve laughed. Out loud. A year ago I was enjoying planting sunflower seeds in my little backyard in Summerville, SC with my two youngest grandchildren. A year ago I was learning how to let go of a rage so deep that it consumed me 24 hours a day. A year ago I was attending church with my husband and our youngest daughter and reconnecting with people from my past. A year ago I was not the same woman I am now. A year ago I was able to call my best friend and go drink margaritas and eat Mexican street corn whenever I wanted. Life changes, people change, and times change. A year ago I could fall asleep next to my husband (if he wasn’t twitching or snoring!) and now it’s likely we will never sleep in the same house again. A year ago… and I’m almost ashamed to admit this… I didn’t know how hard life could be, and I thought I had pretty much seen it all. Being thrown away like garbage by a child you created out of love, that you nurtured and rescued and prayed for without ceasing is devastatingly cruel. Beyond comprehension. For my husband and me, we know that the child that we raised and cared for has been ravaged by mental illness and that mental illness has taken our little girl away like a tornado can. We had absolutely no warning and no choice but to accept what has become a life without her. If you’re a hurting parent, reach out to me privately if you like, I’d love to encourage you if possible.

My heart cries for the world in which we are all living right now. COVID-19 is a lethal and insidious condition that has exposed the times in which we live in a less than favorable light. I watch the countries of the world come together and am appalled by the lack of action in my home country. The finger pointing, the back stabbing, the blaming… None of it is needed, desired or necessary. I hear people call it “the Chinese Virus” and that makes me sick! And angry. People I know and love are blaming the Chinese people as a whole and that’s not fair. Where is the evidence that Mike Pompeo says he’s seen to prove it was “created?” Show us, prove it! And guess what, even if he does, I still won’t hold 3 billion people responsible for the actions of a few bat-shit crazy scientists. Pun intended! How dare we as human beings think we’re better than anyone else just because we live in America? Just like my government doesn’t represent me, nor does the Chinese government represent all its people either. Government officials in both countries care only about saving face, not lives, and it saddens me to no end that so many Americans blindly follow a man and his minions to the edge of insanity. Wearing a KKK style hood in a grocery store? Storming your state’s capitol building while brandishing swastikas and assault rifles? Shooting a security guard in the head because he was doing his job? Pushing a park ranger into a lake because he had the audacity to try and reason with you? I’d like to think that the world has gone mad, but I know it’s not entirely true. I have recently begun to think that I am an unrepresented American, but it’s kind of okay. I’d rather not be affiliated with, or identified as, someone who doesn’t believe in the goodness of humanity. There are plenty of decent human beings all over the earth, and I would rather be unrepresented as an American and more recognized as a member of the human race that still gives a shit. How people can be so damn cruel to one another is something I am all to familiar with because of my own flesh and blood, I have to decide daily, many times over, to look past the craziness and hatred and noise to find the good. I do this because I believe that we are not meant to be alone on this earth, that we are not meant to be treated with cruelty, disdain or harshness. We should be the change we want to see, we should be the change you we desperately crave and we should be the change that resets the world around us. As you’ll hear in Frozen II, “do the next right thing.” This quote and one other seem to be at the forefront of every decision I have to make these days, whether I want to make them or not. In the world in which we are currently living, doing the next right thing is quite possibly only the next right thing for you, but someone has to try. Why not you? Or me? I do find the darkness that surrounds us all to be quite disturbing, but remember that other plagues and pandemics have come into being and have been overcome. Or at the very least, managed to a degree that we can move about somewhat freely. It’s scary to know how many people are dying alone and are unable to hold the hand of a loved one when they die, to hear the whispered I love you that a family member or friend says, and being scared and alone when death comes for us all is a fear we all have. No matter your belief system or lack thereof, we all fear dying alone. I do not fear death itself, just the being alone, without my husband, or daughter or a friend beside me.

My heart cries for the children that have no idea why they can’t have a birthday party, or the HS senior that will have no graduation. It breaks for the front-line workers that are spit on, mocked and made fun of. My heart breaks every time I drive down Rte. 10 here in Virginia and see the long, long line of cars waiting to be served at the county food-bank. My heart also rejoices in a small way when I see that same long line because I know my neighbors are helping one another and children are not going to bed hungry. I am a firm believer in seeking joy in any situation, seeing the good in people and embracing the community in which I live. I don’t seek recognition for acts of kindness, it’s not about me. I try to give back when can, I pay it forward often and I look for the joy, the silver lining if you will. I believe that we should never take more than we give, that we should speak up when someone needs us to, and I believe that you should find and live your passion. I know that living our passions change direction many times over in the course of every life, but as long as we’re willing to not live with our heads buried in the sand, we can have a rich and rewarding life, no matter the circumstance around us. I am almost two years out from the alienation cast upon us by our child, and I can tell you without shame that these past two years have yielded moments of excruciating, exacting pain and joys beyond measure. I have watched my husband knock on the door of death twice in the past 6 months, survive and thrive. I have ached for my beloved sister-in-love who lost her husband, my husband’s next oldest brother, very unexpectedly in February of this year. I have spent countless hours praying for her to feel comforted and loved by those who love her. I have come to accept that bad things do happen to good people, and there is no rhyme or reason as to why. I’ve learned to stop asking why, sort of. Most of the time I am able to not overthink or over analyze why things happen, but then a morbid curiosity takes over and that same curiosity tries to run me over in my own mind.

My heart cries for all the unnecessary pain each and every one of carries in the darkest recesses of our hearts. That private, locked away pain that we share with no one. I write when I feel the dam about to burst, I walk, I hide, I pray. I will continue to pray and to write and walk, and I will try not to hide too much. I hope to write again soon, it truly helps me make sense of my minds musings and my heartache. Be well, dear ones, stay safe and seek joy!

Photo by Manuel Alvarez on Pexels.com

Rambles…

Hey All,

It’s been a really tough three days for me, this week has not been at all what I hoped it would be. I did accomplish something on Saturday past by getting my beloved Boston Terrier back from his foster mom after almost 6 months without him. I had been so focused on getting him back for so long that I truly had no idea what it would do to my emotional state. I feel elated and defeated all at once. Elated to have my constant companion with me, but defeated because I have nothing left to look forward to right now. Monday was so hard, I cried my way through the day suffocating in my loneliness and despair over missing my husband. I hate not being allowed in to the hospital to see him and feel so left out of his life every day. I know I am no different than millions of others not allowed to visit their loved one in a hospital, but that knowledge provides little comfort. Logically I understand, emotionally, well, the heart wants what it wants. I know I can’t be with him, but that doesn’t make me feel like I shouldn’t be there to support him. My heart breaks for the thousands upon thousands of people who are having to say a permanent goodbye to their family members who are dying alone. It’s so sad, more sad than anyone should ever have to be. I know that death is not something that any of us escape, but having to die alone because of this damn virus seems unusually cruel. I pray daily for the world to begin healing, and also that we be a kinder, more compassionate and loving society when all of this is over.

Having something to look forward is paramount to maintaining our sanity, no matter what is going on in the world around us. I have decided to take solitary road trips in my car to different areas of Virginia where my husband may possibly be moved to for further rehabilitation. I can’t sit within the 700 sq. feet of space I call home and only take my dog out. Or watch TV. Or cry. I may not be able to go inside the facilities, but I can at least get some idea of the surrounding areas, learn my way to and from, and get out of the apartment that all of a sudden seems too small for me and my dog. It’s not, it’s fine, but I guess I just need to expand my horizons as much as I am able right now. Life is so hard when it’s “normal” (normal is nothing but a cycle on the washing machine) I feel like I am making my own life harder by not only living in this apartment, but by living in my head… A dangerous place for any one of us to dwell too long. It’s time for me to push back against the noise in my own head and do something that needs doing. Get up, get going, and push forward.

Since my husband’s stroke I can’t remember being this down. I’ve cried and raged and prayed and begged for so many things, none of them for myself. I had been so solely focused on him and his needs that I pretty much put myself up on a shelf and shoved me into the shadows. The past three days of self imposed darkness have been the hardest days I’ve experienced in such a long time, especially since they seem to be so self induced. Sure, the circumstances surrounding the separation between my husband and me are completely warranted, totally understandable, and necessary, but even knowing this doesn’t help all the time. People tell me to be strong, I’m trying. Even the strongest among us have breaking points, I think I reached one of those breaking points on Monday. Now I start the daunting climb to reach a place of light, and I know that it won’t be easy, but it is doable. A little determination, a lot of faith and a ton of tenacity is all it should take. I possess all of these traits and more. I decide what determines my course, and I just need to re-focus, re-group and look to the light. Where I am now reminds me of the darkest days after losing my oldest child because she decided I wasn’t to be a part of her life anymore. Those first months were horrible. I survived. Losing my grandson is still so damned painful, but I manage it. Our child’s cruelty does not get to define us, no one does. I miss our grandson, our step granddaughter and our son-in-love, but I’ll be okay. My husband needs me to be okay. I need me to be okay. I’ve survived and carved out a decent life for myself since May of 2018, in spite of all the loss and heartache experienced, and I can’t let a few dark days erase the years of progress. I won’t let that happen.

When you find yourself sliding down that steep slope into the dark pits of your mind, I hope that you can recognize the decline and put the brakes on. I pray that you can stop the fall and find your way back up to a happier place. To peace. It’s hard, and every single one of us does it differently. That doesn’t matter. Do whatever it takes to find peace and happiness. It’s beyond difficult, the struggle can be excruciating. What works for me may not work for anyone else, so keep trying until you find your way. People are not meant to be unhappy all the time, and learning to make yourself happy, without depending on someone else, is really tough. It’s also really rewarding. When I sit and write this blog, I am making myself happy. If what I write makes just one other person happy, or shows someone that they can live through the darkest of times and smile afterwards, that’s more than enough for me. I am not a materialistic person, and the longer I live the more this serves me well. So much has happened in the past 29 months of my life that I look back and see where the lessons learned got me to where I am tonight. Many of those same lessons have helped others. Where would I be if I hadn’t shown myself some grace and given our marriage another chance? Loving my husband is the easy part of this chapter in our life together, but it’s also beyond painful. Not being able to touch his face, hold his hand or laugh with him is troublesome, but I still have the opportunity to do so. I think of my sister-in-love every day and how heartbroken she is since losing the love of her life. She will never get to see her beloved again, or hear his voice, nor feel his touch. I ache for her, and she knows this. Knowing that others feel like this doesn’t take away the sting of death, though I hope knowing does bring her comfort. Life just isn’t fair… We can seek fairness in most any situation, but it’s just not easily found.

In closing, I ask that anyone who has taken the time to read this knows that I appreciate it very much. I don’t claim to be an expert in any area of life, I just share my heart. It’s hard to admit to a world full of so much negativity that I feel defeated by the same world, but it’s also important to me to share what helps me get beyond the negativity and find hope. Without hope we have nothing, and without hope what’s the point of being here? I continue to remind myself to seek joy, and I just wish I had reminded myself of this on Monday instead of letting the noise and darkness take over. Another lesson learned… I hope.

Morgan
photo by Barb Enos