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

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

Today…

Hey All,

Today I feel like I can finally write something from a positive place in my heart. Life is hard, we all know that. Life may be harder right now because of COVID-19, but I find that I am learning how to appreciate the slowing down that is being experienced in some ways. I am more appreciative of the people on the front lines of the pandemic. The health care workers that cannot stay home, the grocery store workers that have to risk exposure every time they clock in, the essential personnel that have been trying to keep us all safe and healthy. So many people deserve recognition… Civil servants, police officers, fire fighters, EMT’s. The people behind the scenes that we all need, but rarely acknowledge. Thank you, from the bottom of this transplanted Virginian’s heart, thank you.

I had a therapy session today with my favorite therapist, via phone as always, and it helps to have someone to talk to during these trying times. I am not afraid of contracting the virus, I do fear that the self isolation will grab me by the hand and walk me towards a depression that will be long, dark and most unwelcome. After all the life altering events of the past 2.5 years, walking into a depression seems inevitable, even possible. Not gonna happen to this girl!!! I have been given so many tools to help me cope with any situation over these past months, and I fully intend to utilize them. Feeling sad? Cry, then blow your nose, wash your face and go for a walk. Feeling angry? Scream at the top of your lungs, then take a deep breath and release the anger on the exhale. Feeling alone? Call your best friend, call your mom, call someone and be sure to laugh. Laughter is still the best medicine, it brings a simple joy that is missing in these trying times. Feeling confused? Shut off the TV, stop looking at your phone and pick up a book. Watch an old movie. Listen to your favorite music. We are responsible for our reactions to what is going on around us, and those reactions can be positive. We all have the desire to feel good within us, and we have to tap into those feelings and be resolved to not be defeated by events, people and the world around us. Yes, we will sink from time to time, but bouncing back and becoming stronger can happen if we decide to let it.

People need to know they matter. People are not disposable and love should never be used as weapon, one against another. Sadly, we human beings use love as a weapon every day and we probably don’t realize how often this happens. Think about it, and be honest with yourself. Did you stop talking to someone because the words they said hurt your feelings? I’ve been guilty of this very thing myself and in some ways I still live this. I no longer speak to someone I once loved more than life itself. I know that I never will again as long as she makes it so. This particular person has demanded that I never speak to her and she is having that demand met. It’s a classic situation of being careful of what you ask for because you just might get it. I find that I can no longer fathom speaking to this person, and were the opportunity to present itself to speak to her, I would politely decline. People need to know they matter, and like I stated, we are not disposable. I am not disposable. In defense of this woman, she is not either. I have not disposed of her, but I will never be able to let my guard down again and rebuilding this particular relationship is not possible. Nor is it wanted or necessary. The foundations of the past have been destroyed and the time and determination it would take to rebuild don’t exist any longer. On either side of the fence of life. Closing the door on something is much different than tossing someone out like the scum at the bottom of a trash can, I’ve closed the door. And when I finally closed the door, a window opened. Wide. I am enjoying my life because of the gentle breezes that come through said window, and while I will always miss what could have been, I am moving forward.

Today the sun shines here in central Virginia, but I do see grey clouds on the horizon. Just like life, the grey days come and go. The sun will shine again and we will once again learn to appreciate that which we take for granted. I could continually lament about the condition my husband is in, but I choose to focus on the strides he has made over these past five months. He has had 7 surgeries in the past five months, 2 major, and one just this past Monday. A major one. He did well, and it was terrifying to know he had to have a surgical procedure done with a weakened heart, and that he would be under anesthesia for hours. I was allowed to be in the hospital both Monday and Tuesday, but not since. Grey days are upon me, but not just me, millions of people around the country are forbidden to see their loved ones. Thankfully we live in a time of teleconferencing, Skype, Duo, Face-time, etc… so I can see my beloved. Not all of us are as lucky. Remember that. People need to know they matter, so remind those that you love and care for in any way you can that they matter to you. It’s up to each one of us to help chase away the grey that life brings, not just to us, but to others.

Today I feel as if I could write forever, I feel like the words inside my head just keep coming. And they keep coming. I guess it would be safe to say that I am feeling my feelings up close and personal, and those feelings are mostly positive and good. I have much to be thankful for. I’m part of a family that accepts me and my quirkiness without condition and I have survived being broken, shattered and shamed. I have picked myself up more than once to keep going and am blessed beyond measure. My cup runneth over! I have a husband I love and that is my very best friend. I have a daughter, two sons-in-love, four grandchildren, and a dog that mean the world to me. I have friends that know my deepest, darkest secrets and love me anyway. My circle is small, that’s okay. My circle is at it should be: full of trust, love and compassion. I am very aware of all that I have lost, but I am also very aware of all that I have and thank God every day that I breathe, laugh, cry and love. The older I get the more I realize just how much we unintentionally hurt ourselves and those around us. Because of this realization, I strive to not hurt people intentionally, but I know I still do. I am sorry that this happens, but I am also thankful that I am able to forgive myself. I am big on forgiveness, and I know that granting forgiveness is intrinsically tied into the fiber of who I am. Being able to forgive others is so much easier than forgiving oneself, but forgiving ourselves is just as important.

Today I hope to smile a lot, cry a little, and love without condition. Self isolation sucks, that’s for sure, but it’s not all bad. Maybe it helps bring that which is most important into focus. Tell someone you’re thinking of them. Mail a card to an old friend just because you can. Say I love you to your kids. Hug your spouse and remind them what it is you love about them. Find a way to convey a message of happiness and love, the world isn’t all bad. I plan on watching a little Outlander, cooking something yummy and maybe taking some of my own advice and mailing a card to an old friend…

Be well, stay safe, and smile!!!

Photo by Barb Enos

And it Happens, Just Like That…

Hi All,

And it happens, just like that. What happens, you ask? Life. As you know, my life has been a challenge for a long time, and most days I can reasonably roll with the gut punches, and I was gut punched yesterday. Thankfully I was somewhat expecting the punch, so it didn’t take me by surprise. It still knocked the wind out of my sails so to speak, but I’ll be okay. Yesterday word came to me via the Veteran’s Administration I would no longer be allowed to visit my husband while he’s there, and while it sucks, it’s not about me. I miss him, and he misses me, but this change is for all the patients safety, and I’m okay with that. The COVID-19 pandemic has become personal to me, and I am not going to fight against not seeing my husband since I know the VA is just trying to do what they think is best. I support the decision, I just don’t like it. And it happens, just like that.

And it happens, just like that. Your life seems to be gaining traction in the right direction and something comes along to upend everything you’ve worked for, dreamed of, and had within your grasp. Moving to Virginia was never part of our plan, but it happened, just like that. We had lived in Eastern Virginia in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and we enjoyed our time here. Heck, my favorite place on earth is the Shenandoah Valley, right here in Western Virginia. I plan on taking a day trip out that way soon since I am self isolating, what better way to spend a day than with my camera, my car and the Blue Ridge Mountains? Just because life happens and it doesn’t happen like you thought it would, it doesn’t mean you can’t make the best of whatever situation you find yourself in. I think the ability to make lemonade becomes second nature as we age, and if it doesn’t, keep trying. Lemonade is sweeter when you make it yourself, even if you’re not quite ready to make it.

And it happens, just like that. You begin to believe that you’re making strides towards personal peace and acceptance, and someone decides to that they are okay with hurting you even when you beg them not to. Let it go… It’s on the person that does the hurting, not you. If you made yourself and your reasons clear, if you’ve begged, pleaded, screamed, cried and all other manner of trying to get your point across and the other person still hurts you intentionally, forgive them. That forgiveness is for YOU, because hanging on to hurt and bitterness only hurts you, not them. As Elsa says, let it go, let it go, and let the storm rage on… you know the song. I’m never going back, the past is in the past. Leave it there.

And it happens, just like that. You begin to accept that you can’t keep trying to make someone love you. Sooner or later you realize that the person(s) you are trying to connect with simply don’t want you, or need you, or even want themselves. Keep your face pointed towards the sun, even in the harshest rain storms, because the sun will shine upon your face again. The loss of love is not the end, though it sure does feel like that when it happens. When someone deliberately throws you away, you hurt. Let yourself hurt. For a while. Don’t let the hurt consume you forever, it’s not healthy nor is it worth it. The person(s) whom hurt you, they’re the ones that will reap what they have sown, and even if you never see what happens to them, you can live each day knowing you did the next right thing.

And it happens, just like that. You reach the end of your blog entry and say good day to your readers. I am humbled each time I think about making a difference in just one person’s life by sharing my heart. And my experiences. I ache to get back to the me that felt like I was able to encourage people to get through the trials of estrangement. I want to feel like I am writing again from a place of light, but am not quite there. Be patient with me as I work to repair and clean up the shards of my heart; after so many shattering events it’s almost impossible to pick up the pieces. Until next time, stay well, social distance as much as possible and turn towards the sun if you are able.

Photo by u5609u6dc7 u5f90 on Pexels.com

Spring is upon us…

Hello again,

Now that I am about 90% settled into my new place, I am hoping that I am inspired to write more frequently. Being settled is just a small part of my new life here in Central Virginia, but small and settled is so much better than the chaos, turmoil and uncertainties I have faced over these past five months. So. Much. Better.

Today it has been three weeks since we lost a beloved family member and my heart is sore. It aches for my sister-in-love, her girls, and the entire extended family. We miss you, dear one, we always will. Just today your baby brother said he wasn’t the same without you. None of us are. Even when the miles separate people physically, the heart connection is ever present. It should be this way… Memories are the gifts you left us. It shouldn’t be this way… You should be here, loving your wife, hugging your daughters and making people smile with your quick wit. Life is a little less bright without you here, but we are beyond grateful that we had the chance to love you, that we have the laughter and joy to remember you by. We will never forget…

Everyday I drive about 15 miles to the Richmond Veterans Medical Center, and for the past two weeks I have been watching Spring make its’ way into the greater Richmond area. There is a section of Hwy. 10 that I drive every day and it reveals a gorgeous and tangible reminder that life not only continues on, it blossoms, grows and keeps reaching for the sun. I’ve been watching the trees go from bare, to bud, to white, flower filled branches. Now the flowering branches are turning a luscious green, and it appears to be snowing when the breeze blows. I love knowing that the Earth is waking up again, it reminds me that nothing is impossible. Even when I feel defeated by circumstance, all I have to do is go for a drive on Hwy. 10 or 288, or just look out the window of my husband’s hospital room to know that the promise of renewal is within reach. Heck, just watching my husband work so hard at his recovery is more encouragement than I deserve. He is a champion, he’s my champion. He is the epitome of spring. He’s been cold, dormant and withered; now he is standing (with assistance, but standing,) he is regaining memory and he is reaching towards the sunlight. I am reminded every day that renewal is possible, even if the season of our individual winters last much longer than the winters of the calendar.

I’ve been told countless times by so many that I am strong, and though I don’t feel it, all I have to do is look back to October of 2019 to see my own strength. My strength is not my own to claim, it belongs to so many. It belongs to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It belongs to the love between my husband and me. It belongs to our younger daughter and her family. It belongs to my best friends, to the friends I’ve made here in Virginia. It belongs to the staff at the VA who have held me while I’ve cried, to the therapists that encourage us and to the Chaplain that prays with us. So many people have helped make me strong and without them I wouldn’t be able to find my way. I am so grateful to the paternal Gma to our oldest grandson. She is a strong and wonderful woman who has not only let me cry, rage and rant about the unfairness of everything, but she has fostered my beloved pup since NOv. 2, 2019. Her love and devotion inspire me. To all of the people that have held my hands, driven moving trucks, carried boxes, unpacked boxes and made sacrifices in large and small ways, thank you. Thank you so much.

Spring is a promise of growth, a time for refreshing, and an opportunity to reflect on the darkness of the winter, all the while seeking the light and warmth of the sun. I have lived in such a dark and dank place these past five months, though if I am to be totally honest it’s been more like 2 years. We were shunned by our oldest daughter almost two years ago, though that pain pales in comparison to the events of the past five months. I truly thought I would never hurt more than I did when she threw us away, but I have. I still hurt from time to time over her and her disregard for her parents, but I really don’t have all that much time for that hurt anymore. I pray for her peace of mind every day, that’s all I can do. I don’t seek, expect or even want reconciliation. Reconciliation would require trust and trust is not possible anymore. I am focused on the fact that the Spring of 2020 will bring growth and restoration for my husband’s brain and body, the rest of what I think about will have to wait for now. Spring this year is full of the goodness of God, and of love, therefore I will not open myself up to something that I know will hurt me. I am learning, as always, to protect my heart from that which I know will hurt it. Like spring plantings, I will plant the tenderness of my heart in the richness of the soil of love. Life is too short to plant your heart among the weeds and thorns that want to strangle and hurt you.

Tomorrow I will again drive east towards Richmond and take notice of the growth of the trees lining both sides of the road. There will be less white and more green, and I will be reminded by that green to keep reaching towards the sun, and the heavens, for my own renewal and growth. May you find moments in your own day to welcome the warmth of the spring sun into your own heart, and may you know that spring is a time to shake off the cold, the grey, and the heaviness of your own winter.

Until next time…

Photo by Louis on Pexels.com

I’m Still Here…

Hey all,

I’m still here in Richmond with my beloved and continue to pray for healing and progress. Progress has come to a halt this week as he has a terrible infection that has affected his good hand and he can’t grasp anything with it. The infection is a pus filled sack on the first knuckle of his right hand and is slowly creeping up his arm. He had to have the hospital ID cut off his wrist today as the swelling is pretty significant. No one seems to know what happened, and with the brain injury he’s dealing with, he can’t really shed any light on what has happened. He’s in terrible pain and it breaks my heart to see him so. With everything else going on, he really doesn’t need this…

Today there was a “gun rally” in Richmond and I stayed as far away from downtown as possible. The media spin on what Virginia is doing is pretty inaccurate as far as the truth of the legislation is written, but no one seems to know how to hold a civil conversation about any type of hot button issue anymore. I am not a gun person, but I honestly have no issue with anyone going through the proper channels to own one of their own. Criminals are always going to find a way to break the law no matter what, and the idea that Gov. Northam is trying to take away anyone’s legally owned guns is spin. Fox News says one thing, MSNBC another, CNN still another… Enough already!!! Common sense gun laws? How about just common sense? Be kind, stop the hate, love your neighbor, and stop all the crap. America really is morally corrupt, be the change this country so desperately needs. Enough about politics.

I’m still here in the same place my heart has lived over the past three months, and I am still broken. The loss of my husband as he was is ever present and I miss hugging him. I miss holding his hand, I miss him driving. I miss the man who I’ve spent my life loving, but I love the man that is. He has the sweetest nature (when he’s not in pain,) he loves me still and we will get through this with each other and our village. I am physically alone here in my room at the Richmond Fisher house, but I am never truly alone. I am loved by my family, my friends, my husband and by my Father. I lean not on my own understanding, because I don’t understand any of this. How is it that the man I love is here, but not? How is it that I can still smile, even with a shattered heart? How is it that I am not bat shit crazy by now? I don’t know the answers, but I do know that I don’t have to know the answers. I have learned over these past three months to take one step at a time. It’s not one day for me, it’s one step. One step is as much as I can handle and one step at a time gets me through the days as well as one day at a time. It’s all the same at the end of the day… I have become more patient in many ways, though I’ve also learned that I have little patience when it comes to things that make no sense. I don’t waste time on that which drags me down, I can’t. I don’t have the mental fortitude for frivolity and bullshit, they serve no purpose. At all.

I’m still here in terms of seeking joy, though I am not as able to find it in every day as I was before my husband’s hospitalization. I look for joy in spite of my pain, it’s a deliberate action. If I fall off the path of seeking joy, I hurt myself more than my life and its trials do. I refuse to give in, and I will not give up. I want to give up at least a hundred times a day, but I will not. I deserve better. I am better. I need to have something good in my life and I am responsible for my joy. No one else is. I flat out refuse to give up. I have been beaten down, rejected, accused of horrible things, tossed out like the most disgusting trash, yet I refuse to give up. Just because other people may treat me like I am less than, it doesn’t make it true. I am a daughter, a mother, a grandmother, a wife, a friend, a neighbor and a woman that still loves with a bruised and battered heart. Those who would seek to malign me would do well to remember that how they treat me (or don’t treat me) is nothing but a reflection of how they feel about themselves. I am not defined by any one other than myself, and my heavenly Father, and because I know this, I am still here.

I’m still here to hopefully encourage even just one person somewhere in this great big world that they matter. I don’t have any answers as to how to make this world a more kind place, I just believe in being the change I wish I could see. I believe in asking if someone needs help. I believe in holding the hand of the person sitting next to me if they need a friend. I believe we are meant to love one another, even when it’s not easy. I believe love means forgiving those that hurt us most. Love doesn’t hurt people, people do that out of pain and hate and anger. Love forgives. I forgive. I move forward against the storms of the past three months and I turn my face to the sun, seeking warmth. I’m still here… and I will be here again tomorrow. Be well, friends. And be the change you want to see, because in that change you will find joy.

selective focus photo of gerbera flower
Photo by Manuel Alvarez on Pexels.com

Getting Vertical…

Hey World,

So, I’ve started this blog post without a title and hope to come across it somewhere as I type out my heart’s musings. Today was a decent day, the weather here in Richmond, VA was sunny, cool and a bit breezy. I love when the sun shines in the wintertime, it always feels so good to face the sun, close my eyes, and lift my face towards the warmth it gives. I love soaking in the vitamin D. Winter is my least favorite season, I always get more melancholy and these days, melancholy is not what I need to invite into my life. I have enough on board already.

As I’ve written before, I try to not get religious when I write, so if this post seems too religious for you, please forgive me. I have been to three different church services in the 13 days we’ve been in Richmond, and all three have been quite different. The first was on Christmas Eve, the day after we arrived here. There were easily 600 people in the auditorium, every single one of them a stranger. I cried through the entire service as the pastor spoke about “something missing.” For me that something was, and is, my husband. He was lying in a hospital bed across the city, he was my something missing on Christmas Eve. I still raised my hands in worship, because I was moved to do so. Without my faith, I would become a shell of who I am, and having been that shell just a year ago, I don’t want to go back there. Not ever. The second service I went to was the first Sunday we were in Richmond and I went to the hospital chapel. That service was very different for me as I had never been to a chapel service in a hospital. The chaplain focused on the word “yet.” YET in this storm will we believe? YET in this trial will we hide? YET in this time of our life, we will still trust? My answer to these questions is yes, but that yes is not said with ease, confidence or assurance in self. I have lost so much of myself these past nine weeks since the event that has altered so many lives. Today I went to a church on the northside of Richmond and it was a beautiful blend of traditional and contemporary worship styles, and the congregation is a beautifully diverse group of believers. The pastor is from India, is a Princeton educated man and so humble. He spoke about the blessings we are afforded when we come to Christ with an open heart and mind. He spoke about loving all people, being inclusive as a nation and living peacefully. I cried again when the people in front of me prayed for my beloved husband and again on my way back to the hospital as I thought about how thankful I am that someone invited me to attend. In a city where I know not a single soul, I felt welcomed, safe and filled with the Spirit. It was just what I needed. I felt hopeful, and at this point in my life, hope keeps playing hide and seek with me. I will be seeking hope again next week at this same church and listening for the voice that gives me that hope.

We never know what lurks around the corners of our lives and when things happen that have a catastrophic effect, we usually have no idea how to react to said events. My husband’s stroke has changed our lives, and the lives of so many people, right down into the DNA of who we all are. And were. I miss my husband, yet he is still alive. How can I miss him? How can I not is more the question. We were living the life we had long looked forward to, and now that life is gone. We were simply happy in our little house in South Carolina, we had our beloved grandchildren close by, our daughter and son-in-love, friends and a community that we loved. So much has changed, and so many more changes are ahead. I hear you should never ask God “how much more can I take?” and I believe that wholeheartedly. In just two years we have as a couple endured a separation, a reunion, months of therapy both together and individually. We have lost a daughter and grandchildren. We sold a home and relocated to be closer to our youngest daughter and her family. We bought a home that I actually loved, but I know that’s because we left the spirits of hate and discontent behind us when we sold our home in NC. We were so happy in our new home in SC. I found a job I loved while Steve quit his job and dabbled in the retired life. He was going to go back to work not a week after his stroke and we were both looking forward to making plans for our 40th anniversary (2022.) Now we look forward to completely different things, as he can’t remember the plans we had started for going to Alaska, Ireland and England. Not all at the same time, but we were making plans nonetheless. Now my plans are to find an apartment I can afford, feel safe in, and that isn’t too far from the VA Hospital here in Richmond. MY plans. My husband isn’t able to process the information that so many of us take for granted anymore. I am beyond grateful that he is still alive, but he is not the same. He can’t help me make plans, he can’t process the thoughts it takes to make plans and he can’t enjoy the joys those plans would’ve brought. He may be able to some day, and I pray for that healing every day, but reality is what it is and today, at this moment, he is just not able.

I ache for the life I had just 3 months ago and I want it back more than I want to move forward alone. Moving forward alone is not what I want to do, but it is what I will do. I have many people supporting me, so many people I can call and cry with, or rage with, or just talk, but at the end of the day I go to bed alone, and I wake up tomorrow, still alone. I remind myself over and over and over again that I am never really alone; God is with me. Even when I can’t feel Him, hear Him or see Him, He is there. Without this assurance I would be so much more of a basket case than I am currently. I know that the Lord is watching over me, that He is with my husband and that He is with all of those I love. I miss my family so much, and not being near our daughter and her family is beyond painful. I miss my friends. I miss hanging out at our favorite Mexican restaurant and eating esquites, drinking a margarita and just enjoying each other’s company. I want to watch my youngest grandson run to his Poppy with abandon, not hesitate because Poppy is “different.” We have all lost so much. Our daughter has lost her Daddy, the strongest and most loving Dad she could have asked for. I have lost my husband as he was. My protector, provider, and lover. I want to hug my husband again, and feel him hug me back. I haven’t hugged him fully since October 5th, 2019, and I may never be able to feel him hug me like that again. My mother-in-love has lost her baby boy, but I am ever thankful that he did spend a month with her right before this happened. Time is lost, love is forever different and life holds little joy right now.

I pray that someday, and someday very soon, I regain my positivity and my strength to keep moving forward. I know that there is a reason for this, but I can’t see it through my pain. I don’t really try to. Getting vertical each day is about as much a task as I can handle and I find myself battling with my mind on days where I am determined to stay in bed and feel sorry for myself. Feeling sorry for myself is not going to help in the long run, but damn… I’ve run more marathons in the past 9 weeks than the most experienced runner I know. As I learn more about the human brain and what it can do, I am encouraged. Getting vertical happens because of that encouragement and because I still breathe. Some days that’s all we get… I’ll take it. Tomorrow brings joy as the grands and their parents will be in Richmond, so I’m going to work hard to be fully present in the joy and not dwell on the fact that they have to go home to SC. Some is better than none and I will take a few hours with them over zero.

In closing, I hope that my rambling hasn’t gone on too long. I am trying to “shine brightly” as the name of my blog states, but the clouds are dense and heavy right now…

sea dawn nature sky
Photo by Nuno Obey on Pexels.com

Humbled

October 20, 2019. This was the last time I took time to write and I’ve missed having the time ever since. Ten days later, on October 30, my beloved husband suffered a catastrophic stroke and he’s  been hospitalized since. As I sit and compose this entry, I am saddened by the turn of events in our lives, but ever grateful that the man I have loved all my life is alive. He’s very different, but he’s alive.

My husband left our home on October 5th to drive to New England to visit one of his brothers that had been in the hospital and I stayed behind in South Carolina. I was working and encouraged him to go without me. His mom is still alive, though elderly, and I thought he may see her as well. He had no restrictions as to returning to SC, so being in New England was all about what he needed, and wanted, to do. The last day I blogged was the same day he called me to tell me he had an excruciating headache for no apparent reason. I begged him to go to an emergency room, and I mean no offense by this, but being that he’s a man, he just blew it off. And again the next day, and the next… you get the picture. He left New England around noon on the 28th of October, drove 1000 miles south, and made it home on the 29th around 10am after getting lost in NYC. That’s a post for another time…

As I read back over what I had started 10 days ago, I know that there is a story to tell. I have since closed up our home in South Carolina, moved to Richmond,Virginia and started over. Again. Seems these past two years have been all about starting over. I’m currently sitting on an Amtrak train heading to Washington, DC to spend time with family, and my beloved husband is back in Richmond at the Polytrauma Center of the Ricmond VA Hospital. He will know I am gone, but he won’t be able to discern for how long. I miss him and I desperately miss the man he was. I feel cheated in many ways, robbed of a future that included us being grandparents together in the most simple of ways. We had planned to be the type of grandparents that took our babies to a zoo, to the beach, to the movies. Now I am a MiMi on my own in all the ways that matter. Two of our four grandchildren are very young, they won’t remember their Poppy later on down the road as he was, just as he is now. He’s unable to walk, his personality is altered and he has no filter when it comes to speaking. He can turn mean in the blink of an eye, rage without cause and is prone to aggression. So much has changed…

I have been told over and over and over again to take care of myself, and I try, but I am consumed by guilt, grief and anger. Guilt because I have the ability to keep living a joy filled life, and I feel terrible for leaving him in a hospital bed. Grief, because the man I love is not the same, and anger… Anger over many things. Why didn’t he go to the doctor when the headaches started? Why didn’t he quit smoking? Why was he so freaking stubborn? Why? Why? Why? So many unanswered questions. I am learning to move forward, though the steps I take can’t even be considered baby. I cry, a lot. I pray constantly and I write. Finally, I write again. Though my original intent was to make this blog positive in nature after surviving the loss of our daughter, I don’t feel very positive right now. I know it’s important to look for the silver lining, I am… I just haven’t found it yet.

I hope those of you reading this will know that I appreciate you and taking the time to read. I am hoping to write regularly again as I am settling in to my new life, the writing and sharing is such a release for me. I hope to not only inspire others, but to encourage others through the pains and trials of life, and share the joys and triumphs along my way.

In closing, please accept my most sincere wishes for a happy and safe start to 2020! May you and yours be blessed and all your dreams come true…

Hunter Holmes McGuire VAMC Richmond, VA

Why would I want to say thank you?

Good morning! It’s a crisp, autumn morning here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and I am so thankful to take my dog out and not be instantly wrapped in humidity. What a wonderful change! It brings to mind the words that have been rattling around in my head these pat few days and it’s time to get them on the page…

Why would I want to say thank you to someone who has hurt me to the point that the pain blinds me and tears me apart? I would tell this someone thank you for showing me that I am not who or what you seem to think I am. I am grateful you hurt me and gave me the opportunity to learn and grow from the decisions about MY life you made. I am a constant work of progress, strong, broken, and far away from that which you cast upon me with no regard to the long term affects your actions would cause. You taught me that I am not alone, even when I am physically alone. You gave me back the desire to forge a deep and lasting relationship with the God of forgiveness. The God of love. The God of patience. I believe again because of what you did to me, so thank you!

Why would I want to say thank you to someone who feels the only way to “win” is to deny me a relationship with them? I would say thank you because I have finally come to realize that whatever this person thinks of me, it’s not really any of my business. I learned that chasing people isn’t what I want or need to do, it’s not healthy. I mourn the loss of your presence in my life, I finally accept that it is YOUR decision to shut me out. It hurts to know that you are too busy for making time for me, it hurts to wait and wait and wait for a promised response, and it hurts to accept that the response will never come. With that acceptance comes healing, and healing is paramount in the desire to live joyfully.

Why would I want to say thank you to someone who has been so cruel, not only to me, but to others I love? I would say thank you to this person because I see traits in them that I work hard to erase in myself. The cruelty cast upon me isn’t exclusive to me, it has a rippling affect on those whom I love with all my heart. So, thank you for being cruel and showing me that kindness matters so much more than cruelty ever could. Thank you for helping me recognize that cruelty breeds bitterness and that bitterness breeds destruction. I will not allow bitterness to destroy the compassionate heart that beats within my chest.

Why would I want to say thank you to someone who has essentially left me in the dark? I would say thank you because I have learned that the darkness, no matter how dark it gets, or how long it lasts, is only temporary. There is a light at the end of every single dark tunnel, and the sun does rise again after the most tumultous of storms. The darkness you tried to leave me in led me to the most beautiful of lives. Even though I left pieces of myself back there in that dark tunnel, those pieces were left willingly. I left behind the pices of a pride that was much too heavy to carry. I left pieces of the most profound sadness I have ever know. I left pieces of hatred, rage and selfishness as I walked toward the light with the smallest of baby steps. Baby steps eventually led to larger steps, and larger steps to a comfortable stride. Because you tried to leave me in the dark, I walk with confidence. So, thank you!

Why would I want to say thank you to someone who thinks I don’t deserve love? I would say thank you because what you tried to accomplish actually failed. I have found love that is pure, unfettered and given without expectation. Expectations unmet kill love like a wildfire can consume the hills of southern California, and the loving relationships born out of your actions are the firefighters of my heart. I am grateful to you, beyond measure, that you helped me find people that will stand beside me, hold me up when I fall, and celebrate with me when I am filled with joy overflowing!

Why would I want to say thank you to someone who remains stuck in their own life at the precise moment they tried to destroy mine? I would say thank you for teaching me how NOT to be. I have lived a bitter, angry and rage filled life just like everyone else does from time to time, and those negative aspects of being human still rear their ugly heads. When those times visit, I have learned that I do not want to be like you, so thank you for that. I pray for you, I pray that you find peace, and that you let go of the darkness. You will always be on my mind and in my heart, and therefore I will pray that someday you will see the light that shines for you. It’s hard to change course and let go of your pride, I know this to be true. I also know that you can do it if you want it bad enough and are willing to keep moving forward…