Monday, September 8, 2014

We love those we love....

I read this update today, written by Anne Lamott on her Facebook page. Anne is my girl. Everything I read from her resonates with me. This particular post was about her brother who fell truly and hopelessly and madly in love with a woman who had stage 4 cancer. They married 18 months ago, knowing how sick she was, and she passed away yesterday. Its a story about loving even when people can't be what we expect or want them to be. Its about no guarantees. Its about gobbling up all the good that we can and not obsessing about what might happen. Its about accepting the good with the bad, the tragic, and being ok.

I feel like I caught a glimpse of something deeper then where I have been living these past months. We love who we love. We get who we get. At least in my world.....I didn't get to hand pick my kids. These four are who were given to me. And I was given to them. Flaws and imperfections and all. We belong to each other. We are each others people. My hubs, I picked. I was so young though...its God's grace that it has turned out as well as it has. Its not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we are each others and that is a good thing. I am beginning to think that everyone has their stuff. I know! I think I have said that.....but I didn't really believe it. Deep deep down inside, in my most terrified place, I thought that there were people who truly had it all together.....and I didn't. People who don't struggle with health issues, or brain issues, or mental and emotional issues. What I think that there are people who hide those issues really well.

It looks like all of my daughters are plagued by the depression gene, along with their mama and their g-ma, and their great g-ma....and who knows who all before that? Thats just the maternal side of the family.

I would be lying if I said I am ok with this, I've accepted it, its just how our bodies work. Its a genetic pre-dispostion blah blah blah. Because this sucks. I wonder if we did something to trigger this in these beautiful girls. Did we mess them up somehow? Did we create the very situation we feared? And the loudest gnawing question of it my fault? But these are the kids who were given to me. God took my genetic make-up and my hubs genetic make-up and he whipped it all together to create....VOILA! Big boy, my girl, Molly, and little one.....each are individuals with their own smattering of the goods and the bads of us and all the long line up of people through-out the generations who are connected to us through our bloodlines.

I remember when I took the NAMI Family to Family class, there was a couple who had done genetic testing before getting pregnant to see what the odds were that their child would be born with schizophrenia....there was an adult family member who suffered and they wanted to ensure their future and the future of their child. Guess what? The tests said all was clear....procreate away! So they did and guess what again....their beautiful, much loved son got to be 19 and away at college on an athletic scholarship and he all of a sudden became very very ill. Very ill. Despite their very best efforts,  their journey had taken a quick turn and begun in earnest.....

My girls are all much better at the whole "its our brain chemistry" thing than I am at this point. As I grilled little one recently, "Is anyone mean to you at school, are we doing anything that hurts your feelings or rattles you, stresses you out?" She looked at me like I was a little slow on the uptake....."no one is doing anything to me mom. Its just my brain chemistry. We knew this could happen."

But I didn't want it to happen. I didn't want any of this stuff to happen. I didn't want substance abuse or mental illness to touch my family. Some things are out of my control though. Most things are out of my control.The only thing I can control is my response to what life hands me. I can turn my head away and tell myself "everything is fine." Or I can look at it all straight in the eye and deal with it as it comes and choose to love freely those who have been given to me. And they get to love me in all of my glorious imperfection and weirdness and craziness. I get to watch so many beautiful things unfold in their lives.....after the ugly, painful times of struggle of course, but yeah....its beautiful as you watch your young people figure out how to take care of themselves and meet their own needs and stand on their own two feet and thrive.

My Molly used to need me to walk her through so she had a rough day. She reached out, told me her plan for a solution, and then went about taking care of herself. I'm a touchstone for her now. Not her anchor or her crutch. She can do it.

I met with a sweet friend yesterday to celebrate her birthday. We live parallel lives in many ways. Kids that struggle in a variety of ways...substance abuse and mental illness being the common denominators. We talked about how it all really puts everything else into perspective. Having a daughter on meth/heroin is tough to beat on the stress meter. If little one misses a history assignment, if Molly tats her whole beautiful body, if I get a flat tire on the freeway.....all recent events, who the f*ck cares? Loving broken people keeps us real. At least I think so.

(and her perfectly imperfect tribe)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Living in our truth...

I have a friend, a dear dear friend, who I truly do love.....but I haven't spoken to her in over a year. I'm not mad at her or hurt by her. I just can't do it though. I wrote about her journey just about a year ago. Her daughter got strung out on heroin after a short bout of prescription pill use. Her parents came to get her and forced her to come home and then proceeded to detox her by giving her shots of tequila and bumming Vicodin from friends and letting her smoke pot. Then she was deemed cured and that was that. Again, I love this family....but the dad drinks alcoholically, the mom eats alcoholically, and I feel like I am judging.....but I see what I see and I can't, at this point in my life, watch and act like everything is fine. I. just. can't. I don't have the energy. Thinking about it makes me feel like I am smothering and I feel guilty, like I am the shittiest of friends. But I can't do it.

We don't  live our life in secret. For whatever ungodly reason, I choose to lay it all out there for all to see. I remember when Molly was little and couldn't read yet, but was at the age where she *should* have been able to read.....I knew something was wrong. I knew she didn't learn like other kids and she was starting to feel the pressure of not being on the same timetable as her friends.We started talking about how to handle it. Bless her heart, she listened and she believed what I told her and then she applied it in her little life.....Be proactive. You be the one to let them know you aren't able to read out loud...yet. Don't get caught or found out while trying to hide your reality. Hold onto your power,  lay it all out there and let them know what your truth is." And that is how we do it around here folks. Hiding takes so much energy and if you get caught, if your secret accidentally gets revealed.....its humiliating and shameful. If I share my life with someone, its on my terms.

Today little one and I went to her first counseling appointment. We did it our way. We answered the questions honestly. This was about little one and we kept the focus on her. During my private conversation with the counselor we talked about the long generational history of substance abuse, depression, and anxiety and also my fear of labeling her, conveying that "we all have struggled so quite obviously, you will too!"  This took so much courage for her, my shy, private, little sweet thing, but she walked in and explained what she has been struggling with, she let the counselor know it was a "mutual" decision to come in. She wasn't being forced. When we left the office, you could see the relief in her body.  In the way she walked and carried herself and in the smile and in the statement, "I really liked her."

Sometimes I feel like I want to look away. Its too much disarray to look at, to acknowledge, to feel responsible for. But I know if I do that, I won't be moving forward. I will be standing still, allowing the darkness to hold me captive. I refuse. I pray each morning....God shine light on what I need to see today.

In other news....Molly got a tattoo on her forearm that is really something. Whew! She asked if I was mad...of course not. A little overwhelmed with the idea of this being on your beautiful flawless body until your dying day, but no, I'm not mad. The dad said, "With all we have been through, tattoos are nothing."

My big boy son got a huge job promotion. He has to move across the U.S. but his salary will be doubled and they will fly him home 4x a year, pay his rent for the first 6 months, pay all moving expenses, and he is now the director of the IT dept for the company he works for. His story is amazing... he's only had 3 years of traditional schooling in his entire life. 8th, 9th, and 10th grade. He is totally self taught. Yes, I am proud of him.

My girl has a few sober days, but she left tonight. We will see how it plays out. Her time here is winding down I think. Today sitting in that dr.s office with little one, I thought of my girl and how 11 years ago I brought her into this same facility's  pediatricians office to ask for help and how we DIDN'T receive a referral to the child psychologist, and  how I didn't know to ask for one. Instead we received a firm lecture and a good dose of guilt. I do wonder if she had been dxed earlier and treated effectively, if we would be on this same path that we have been on for so long now? I don't know. All that I do know is that God has a plan. I may not always understand it, but its there and its what gives me any hope at all these days.

Dear God, help me to be gracious and merciful and love people as you do.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A lynch mob mentality....

The area I live in is a relatively small community...we "go into town" which has a population of right around 10,000 people. My little town which is the next town up the mountain from *the* much smaller with maybe 3,000 people. Everyone knows everyone through some strand of a connection. During the last year or so someone created a "watch" page on Facebook. Tons of these pages have popped up now.....homesteading and farming, a chat page, a sound off page, lost and found animals is really an asset, most of the time, until it turns nasty.

People feel brave online, and they say some of the darnedest things. So over the last year I started to get these "watch page" updates. Any crime that has been committed, if the cops are flying down the freeway, someone on the watch page will know where they are going and why. Its a busy-bodies dream! The problem for me started when I began to read references and then huge debates and attacks about the "less thans" in our community....and we have our fair share. The drug addicts, the homeless, the mentally ill.....

Let me add here as a side story:  that we had a legal homeless encampment that was a beautiful functioning community. Oh my gosh, it was such a tribute to peoples resourcefulness and showed that when given a chance they can work together and figure out a way to make something really amazing out of nothing. They had a temporary use permit for a plot of land that they set up their camp on. The community resource center helped them to get portable toilets set up, a cooking station, a dish/hand washing station, a shower that could be used once a week on a rotation basis, and garbage service. Before we knew it the residents of this little tent city were helping one another to stay clean, they gave each other accountability. They took the mentally ill under their wing, making sure medications were taken, dr. appointments kept. People began to thrive as they experienced self sufficiency and progress. It was a beautiful thing is all I can say.

Then mid-winter, their temporary use permit expired and the county wouldn't extend it as it had already done so once or twice before. The camp had become so successful that people were arriving from other states to try to get a spot....there was a strict criteria for behavior at the camp and limited space. When the figurative doors weren't flung open to welcome the out of the area homeless population, THEY took to our streets which became a problem. The camps very success ended up leading to its demise.

The camp was torn down and the residents scattered into our hills and rural areas to set up illegal camps. Now you hear of these camps being broken up and the people shooed away like dogs. During the deep winter months a nomadic shelter is offered.....various churches each host a night a week and a bus will pick up the homeless at the meeting spot and they drive them to that nights church, where they can have a hot meal and sleep indoors in a sleeping bag that is donated to them.

So back to my original purpose of writing about this today....on my community pages I often see the "less-thans" of my community referred to using some really cruel terminology. "Tweaker scum," "Dirtballs," Pollock white trash." (Pollock is a little mountain town near where I live.) It always feels like a slap when I read these things. So one day, I posted a picture that I got off of  FB (of course) that was about breaking the stigma of addiction, reminding us that these lost people weren't always this way and that they are someone's child, grand child, parent, spouse...

So let's be kind, was my point.

Oh my was like I threw a match into a gas can. There were a lot who were supportive, but the one's who weren't were the loudest and most cruel.....and used lots of poor grammar I might add. The anger and viciousness was shocking. The uneducated opinions, the strident defense of their positions, and lots of debate on disease vs. choice, were being hurled all over the interweb! All I could think was that they felt brave because they were online because the people I meet around town, don't act like that.

So here we are a couple weeks after the fact and I happened to read Hattie's blog. Oh. It soothed me. It spoke exactly what I had been trying to say. It took the sting of my communities "hatred" away. I hope you will read it too. I promise you it is one of the finest and most loving pieces of writing I have read in a very long time. I am hoping she will work at getting this published, because it is a message that needs to shouted from the rooftops.

Mercy Works

Much love to All.....

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Giver

Little one and I went to see the movie The Giver which is based on the book by Lois Lowry. Its a young adult book so I don't know how many of you would have read it...."my girl" read it when she was in middle school and was so upset by it. I remember her crying and saying that it shouldn't be allowed in schools, "Its just too disturbing!" There is a part in the story where they inject the "imperfect" newborn babies in the head with a poison that kills them. I had just had "little one" and I think the idea of anyone doing anything to hurt a little baby was too much for her. I remember around the same time, Molly accidentally seeing a horrible story on the news about a 3 year old beaten and killed by his mom's boyfriend. She burst into tears and said, "We would have taken him! He could have lived here with us!"  I think they were all old enough when I had "little one" to understand how fragile a new little life is and how much it deserves to be cherished and protected.

So anyway, back to The Giver.....I loved it! It was such a powerful story about a community that has had all feelings, memories, color, emotions, socioeconomic status removed. They created a community where everyone was the same, so there was no jealousy, no harsh feelings or criticisms or judgements. It was a perfectly controlled and "safe" world. Each morning the residents received an injection that took away their feelings. No falling in love, no sadness, no joy, and no fear. 

A young man, Jonas, was given the position by the elders to become the receiver of memories. The Giver (Jeff Bridges) was an old man who would transfer the memories over to him. He chose Jonas because he saw a hope that Jonas would be strong enough to do what it took to release them from the burden of this perfection that they lived under. This burden of nothing being real, not feeling, nothing being authentic. However, the head elder (Meryl Streep) was terrified of losing the control. Of opening up the world of feelings to the community members and risk something painful happening.

Jonas began to see the beauty in all of the memories he was being allowed to see. The pain, the imperfection, the vibrant colors, the joy, the messiness, and he realized that they all had been missing something that was vital to their lives, to them each living a real and unique life. Not just existing.

I won't tell you the ending.....

Little one and I talked about it all the way home....ok, it was me talking and her listening! Think of all the ways we numb ourselves and take away our ability to feel. We build emotional walls around ourselves, we distract ourselves with being too busy, with looking at the flaws in other people's lives instead of our own, we use drugs, we drink alcohol, we spend money, we exercise like fanatics, we eat, we watch TV, we do everything but stop and take a good long look at our reality. We MISS out on all of the beauty in the broken parts because we are afraid the broken parts will hurt too much, so we avoid, we dodge, we look away.....and we miss out on so so much because it feels safer to us than to stand still and just feel the broken shards stabbing into our flesh, into our spirits. We don't understand that if we will only look at it, feel it, experience all of what it holds over us,  it will only be temporary. The pain will subside. The broken parts will be stripped of their power over our lives because we shined light on them, we stood up boldly and acknowledged their presence and said, "Yes, there you are, but you do not make up all of me. You are only a portion of what I am made of."

Life is so messy. So imperfect. So not what most of us expected. However, to experience the good, we have to be willing to live through the bad. Not just exist with eyes squeezed shut, but to really live through it and feel it. The only way I have been able to be even remotely successful is to let go of other people's lives and let them live out their own choices. The truth of the matter is that I understand that head elder. I get being so afraid that everything will fall apart that you would rather live in a rigid, black and white, no feeling world. I have had enough years now of learning how to embrace our brokenness and allowing my God to be my comforter and putter back together-er that I see a lot of color these days, a lot of love and compassion, and room for imperfection without it meaning that my world is coming to an end. But heading back into my hiding place is always an option if I let it be. Today I choose to close the door on that place of perceived safety....big brave talker that I am. lol 

Much much love to you all.....
Annette (who is always praying for all of us.)

Friday, August 22, 2014

So much to say I can't find the words!

Does that mean I am speechless? No....of course not!  There are just some things that I can't put into words right now, so I am not going to even try.

Last night the dad and I claimed a night for ourselves and went to see a guitarist in a small cafe. You would not believe the obstacles we faced just to have a few short hours on a Thursday night. But we pushed on and we went and we had fun. Even if it almost killed us! The young man is my clients nephew and I have to say that it was so nice to see this young person, up on stage sharing his own personal compositions with us and telling us about his life in college where he majors in music. He shared his plans for after graduation, to get his masters and become a professor of music. It was just so awesome. He has a passion, and a plan, and he is motivated to make it all happen. No one is leading him along....he is doing it! He said he goes to sleep listening to classical music. He gave up his football career/full ride scholarship to follow his dream. I just loved it all so much.

I have backed out of my girls life. Not a shunning or a rejection, but a stepping aside and letting it all play out the way it will. The dad is not able to do that yet so when she leaves for days at a time he is texting her and calling her and wanting to know the plan. I know what it feels like to be so afraid and to be grasping at any little thread of control you think you might see. I suggested that we stop calling, texting, and waiting for her and just let go and let it all play out. Then we can make a decision based on the true outcome of her choices, not on her behavior that has been pushed and manipulated and molded by our constant attempts at controlling her. The dad is really struggling and is not interested in my "help." Imagine! So I am treading lightly and doing my own thing. 

I have been meeting with my new sponsor and I just love her. She is comforting and understands and brings so much clarity as we talk things through.

My son invited me to go on a hike with his new-ish girlfriend last weekend. I have only spent little bits of time with her so far.....but I just adore her. All I can say is that she emanates peace and calm and I think that is what attracts my big boy to her. Things have been strained between he and I so it was really so special that he sought me out and initiated the day together. I wouldn't have missed it for anything! We went on a 9 mile hike to this house.


 It was such a beautiful day.... We walked 4.5 miles along the left side of this bay, that led us to the house and the beach where we had lunch. Then back out again. Only some rolling hills. No mountain climbing. It was so great.....I wish I could go out and do that every single day. Think of how thin I would be! lol Its a great escape though!

Keep praying for us.....we need it desperately, and I am praying for all of you.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

I'm still here.....

Just working like a busy bee and school started yesterday for little one. Will update soon. So much is going on in our world....thank God for my anti-depressant! lol I feel so much better than I did a month ago.

Bless us all and lets keep hunting down our serenity and resting in it as much as is possible. ;o)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Facing ourselves

Facing ourselves isn't just for our addicted loved ones. Its for all of us. I think we all at various times go through the peeling back of layers that shows us what is underneath our actions and our feelings and as horrifying and painful and frightening as that can can also be what leads us to our liberation from the bondage of self.

If I live my life relying on my best thinking I end up so lost. I get myself mixed up in other people's business because it makes me feel important, like I have a purpose to serve. Someone needing me feeds my waning self worth and all of a sudden....I matter! That is ugly, weak, putrid....but I bet I'm not alone.

When I can look head on at the things in my life that didn't turn out the way I thought they would, I can feel that heartbreak, that disappointment, guilt, shame, responsibility....I can feel all of that, I can put it all into perspective and find the reality of the circumstances, whats really my part and what I can let go of? What can I make amends for? Can I forgive myself? Can I let go of the grudge I hold against myself for not knowing how to make all of this better? How to be better? Can I begin to take steps to learn new ways to do life? Better ways? More healthy for myself and those I love? Can I look at the facts of our circumstances and acknowledge whats mine and whats not? Because there are parts that are not mine to carry. I think as the parents, especially the moms, we love to carry as much as we can because then we feel useful. We are doing SOMETHING to save our kids, our family. So we burden ourselves down with an impossible weight of responsibility. "But look! I'm doing everything in my power to save your life!" Poor martyr me.

There is freedom in looking at ourselves and being honest about what is there. Not dwelling there, not building a cave and burying ourselves there...but looking at it all and then *letting it go.*

Today I will do better. I will love myself despite my imperfections, despite my character defects, despite my flaws and poor judgement at times....and I will ask for help to see a clearer path. The healthier I become, the more attention is focused on my own journey and maintaining my health in every way...the more free my family becomes to focus on themselves and their own health. We become co-travelers....not just a tangled up ball of arms and legs and jabbing elbows and big feet rolling all through town causing chaos everywhere we go. We can walk together, allowing each one to go at his or her own pace. We can respect each others journey. Even when its not pretty or not falling into the parameters that we deemed correct and acceptable.

But first we have to face ourselves.

Help us God. Give us the courage and bathe us in your grace and acceptance.
Always praying for all of us.