Thursday, October 12, 2017

Bearing the burdens of one another.....

                                                     

This world! 

Being an empath, being a burden bearer, is a gift...sort of. No, it is. Really. Truly. Most of the time. Ok, all the time. Welllll, maybe just most of the time.

 Its also exhausting and if we aren't careful, it can lead to our wreckage too. Resentments, depression, hopelessness, anger, and eventually crashing into our beds only to come out to pee. 

I spent my first 40 years rushing around trying to manage other people's lives, averting crisis so they didn't have to feel any pain, constantly buffering and soothing, constructing happiness and an illusion of stability with all of my skills and resources, built up onto a tippy tilty foundation. And if I am going to really be honest, it was more about my own comfort than anyone else's. I dont like to see other's pain or discomfort. 

I have come a long long way in the "minding my own business" arena, but I still SEE all of the world's suffering, the discouragement, the fear, and these last few weeks have been full to the brim, to overflowing, with suffering. Peurto Rico, the hurricanes, earthquakes, the Las Vegas shooting, the California fires....whole neighborhoods flattened and charred, in my mom's group I hear DAILY of MULTIPLE overdose deaths. Such sadness and sorrow and grief. Such darkness. 

So I ask myself, what good is it if you see these things and they ruin you, send you into hibernation, make you feel weighted down and heavy? What good is it to possess the gift of bearing burdens and empathy and compassion if you are so debilitated by it you can barely lift your head? 

This morning my long long time best friend reminded me about God. Oh yeah, Him! I am astounded that I can muddle my way along for so many years of working an active program of recovery, a living breathing relationship with God, and STILL fall into the trap of thinking I have the answers to what ails the world. That I can somehow fix something for someone else. For years I have heard, "So and so has a God and its not you!" What?! When the going gets tough, my instinct is to fall back into old behaviors. Worrying, controlling, mind racing with ideas about how I can make things better, obsessing. I get a taste of how bitter that is, and THEN I begin to look to what I know provides relief. Surrender, letting go, trusting, waiting for direction. 

God has given some of us the gift of burden bearing, of walking alongside, of being companions during suffering, but not of fixing all that ails the world. Its too much, too vast. So what can we do? What can I do? For today, I am actively turning my cares and concerns over to the care of my Higher Power...the ultimate burden bearer. For Him to tend to and provide for and direct my steps and lead me where He wants me to be. He can tend to my leaning toward obsession. Practically speaking, I will donate clothes, toiletries, shoes, socks, money, food... I will do whatever I can. The difference is that I will work at accepting that I am just a part of a whole and all of the parts have something to offer. 

I can't fix the world. Not by myself at least. 😉

Love,

 Annette 

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. "For my yoke is easy, and my load is light." Matt. 11: 29-30

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus. Phillipians 4: 6-7

                                              

This hangs in my kitchen... this really is an ongoing theme in my life. Lol as God pries my fingers loose and says "I've got this." 


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Las Vegas

                                                      
The tragedy of the Las Vegas shooting has just been one thing too many for so many of us. It is *normal* that we are struggling to wrap our heads around this heinous event. These types of violence are not supposed to be a part of our civilized world. The horror of what we hear and see played out in front of us on computer, TV, and phone screens is too much for our brains and our hearts to assimilate. The instant information, the sounds, the sights, the reliving of the fear....Molly said, "Think of how afraid everyone must have been." Oh she is so my daughter.....I replied that we can spend hours tormenting ourselves going over what it must have been like for those who were there. To think of people running for their lives under gunfire in our freedom loving, mostly peaceful country (comparatively speaking) is aberrant.  It doesn't compute. Most of us baby boomers and younger have never lived in a war torn nation. Sadly, these bursts of mind numbing violence are becoming so much more common. I will not go into why, or how, or what can be done. I am purely getting my feelings out here and I invite you to do the same in the comment section.....but this is just us processing and grieving for what has been lost.

When 9-11 happened Little One was 6 months old and I looked at her and wondered what we had done bringing a fourth child into this world. Today I watched my daughter wonder those same sorts of thoughts...."we have always felt like we live in a safe area...but really its gotten to be a world where no where is safe, mom."

Yesterday, I was livid. Filled with rage. Swearing and angry. I felt ridiculous always spouting out about mercy, grace, and forgiveness....I felt so stupid for believing such simple concepts, that such simple heart conditions if we allow them to grow, can actually affect change in this world.
 I went to a meeting last night and I listened to everyone share. No one spoke of what had happened directly of course...but the topic was "what am I doing with what I have?" Someone shared about not being a victim in her circumstances and looking for and acknowledging her part. In a round about way, I heard what I needed to hear. When it was my turn to share I said, " I have no experience, strength and hope to share tonight. I am irritable and discontent. I am angry, so so very angry. Im tired of being powerless, tired of waiting for my girl to be alright, tired of not knowing if that will ever happen and having to just trust in a power greater than myself."  I was sick sick sick of all of it yesterday! The violence of yesterday was just the straw that broke this camels back.

As I have spent the last 24 hours thinking about what I heard in that meeting, while still unsettled, those words shared last night have helped to ground me. When my thoughts are whirling, I grab onto, "what am I doing with what I have?" "What is my part?" My part is to continue to be kind, to love extra extra right now. To NOT allow acts of violence to change my heart, to NOT let them win by wallowing in my anger and fear and sadness any longer than is absolutely necessary to process it, feel it, and move on.

A friend who lives in Las Vegas marked himself safe. When I went to look at that website, there were HUNDREDS of posts offering rooms in private homes to stay in while people come to visit family in the hospital, food, toiletries, rides to and from the hospital, "where can we donate blood?" I cry every time I talk about this....because THAT is the good, the merciful, the grace, the generous spirits, that also fill this world, even in the middle of tragedy. THAT is what I want to be a part of. So today, little by little I have been getting myself back on track. I have focused on "The Helpers" and not on the destroyers. I have prayed a lot. Give me strength, fill me with YOUR love and mercy for my fellow man, even the ugly awful ones. Heal my waning spirit so that I can be strong and continue to love even when its not easy.

Keep loving, keep extending grace, and mercy and lets not let evil win. My prayers are going up for the families affected by this tragedy, that they too can not allow bitterness and fear to take root in their spirits. That they can find healing and freedom from the evil that was laid over them like a thick blanket on Sunday night.

Always praying for us all......
Annette

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Self Sabotage

                                                   
I think most of us here know that stopping the drug use is just the beginning. The very very beginning of healing. All of the broken parts are now left raw and exposed, nothing to numb that pain or confusion or chaos. Through out the years that we have been traveling this road, there has been a pattern of 3 steps forward, then a plummet. That has been the one pattern that I have come to count on. I hope for something different each and every time I see forward motion...but over and over again I have watched it play out the same way. Progress that suddenly becomes terrifying, painful and deeply uncomfortable, which then turns into frantic efforts to quickly dismantle the ground that has been covered and conquered.

I can only surmise that healing and living a healthy life and the expectations that that might include.....is just too much of a weight to stand under. Staying stuck feels safer, more comfortable, than forging on ahead toward the land of the living. The ferocity of this force, the depth of this pain is not lost on me. At all. Ever.

So this is what we battle today.....this fear, this anguish, this arduous process of healing, of making good choices that lead to new life, when in all truth....the old behaviors, the old choices are what are easiest and certainly most comfortable. Letting go of what has been known and all consuming for the past so many years...I wonder if this is possible. I wonder if we will one day get to the end of this journey with nothing to show for our fortitude and our efforts. Its a risk, that is for sure. It could go that way....but I think the dad and I agree, as long as she is breathing, there is hope for change.

I just finished reading (listening to) a book by Anne Lamott...Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy. Oh I encourage everyone to read this. Living in a place of mercy, grace, compassion, is not about what I am giving to others....its about how I can be ok in my own soul. I am not a happy person when I am holding onto resentments and calculating what is fair and keeping a tally sheet of rights and wrongs, deciding what other's deserve...as if I know! I am far better off when I can let go of these frivolous indulgences of protecting myself and live openly and embrace the risk of being hurt or disappointed as a possibility, but not a probability. When I can leave setting people straight to God, and not my own best thinking.

I watch my girl and her choices are her own. I love her. I watch her battle her insides and her broken brain and all I can do is keep loving her, sending silent messages with my actions that she is worth loving. She is not lost to me or to the God that I serve....though she struggles. The poet Antonio Muchado said, "Anyone who moves forward, even just a little, is like Jesus walking on water." This is true....forward motion is often as miraculous as Jesus walking on water. Hanging on to that forward motion feels a little like it might be rising from the dead. Another miracle.

In Anne's mercy book she talks about broken people, including herself, receiving mercy. Story after story. Its beautiful. She is dear friends with Father Tom West, who just so happens to be one of my favorite recovery speakers. I went to a retreat several years ago, all by myself which was a big deal at the time, to hear him speak at a Catholic retreat center. Across the street was a silent convent. I was fascinated by that....these lovely women all living a life of silence in adoration of Jesus. Not for me.....but I sure admired them! Lol I wonder if they can write out their thoughts. I have to get everything....out. Thus this blog, as you all know.

Ok, we are off to begin a new week. May we all feel the blessings and security of knowing that none of us are alone in this journey of life.
Love,
Annette

Ok and a little spark of joy....he will be 3 months on Oct. 6. It goes so fast!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Nurse Jackie

                                               
Nurse Jackie, for those of you who dont know, is a netflix series that you can instantly stream directly into your home for your entertaining "pleasure." I binge watched all 7 seasons in about a 2 week period of time. I dont even watch TV, but I heard about this from a friend and had to see for myself. It was like a book I couldn't put down. I stayed up too late after work watching episode after episode. I thought about getting home to watch more. I think watching TV on your phone is ridiculous, but I will admit, I was tempted to tune in when I was waiting in Dr. waiting rooms.

Nurse Jackie is an amazingly kind, bold, and compassionate nurse, but she is also secretly (at first) addicted to pain pills. As the seasons continue on her addiction spirals out of control in numerous ways. I think watching this for me, was like the years I used to watch Intervention. It's a form of going back to the scene of the accident and processing what has happened over and over again. I feel like it might be kind of sick...but I had to get to the end and I haven't stopped thinking about it and wishing there were more seasons so I could see how it all turns out!

It presented such a picture of how absolutely wonderful and gifted and talented those we love who are addicted can be, and then how absolutely awful they can be. The lying, the manipulation, the walking over other people, the stealing, but then on the flip side, the kind and compassionate care she would give to her patients. She had a heart for the underdog, for those who had nothing, for those who were broken, for the least of these among us... and she treated them like human beings. Whoever wrote it knew addiction intimately, from some direction.

I dont know that I would even recommend this to everyone to watch. It was a downer. Sad. I was glad to see it end...so I can be free to go bed on time, and read books, and do what I want in the evenings. It grabbed me, thats for sure.

Watching Jackie treat the dirty, the hallucinating, the yukky, with respect and care, made me think of the time my girl was in treatment. She had a day pass and we went thrift store shopping. Outside of the big Goodwill was an older gentleman whose hair and beard were long and matted, his clothes were filthy, he was speaking garbled and disjointed sentences that made no sense. Gesturing with his hands, trying to get someone's attention. We all hurried past, including me, I am ashamed to say....we all, except for my girl....who stopped and listened and said, "I dont understand. Do you want a cigarette?" She handed him one and lit it for him and stood listening for a minute or so more as he rambled on and laughed and smiled. She gave him her time, she met him where he was at and when she walked away she smiled and told him to take care of himself. Oh my heart. There was my girl.

Ive told you about my mom making sandwiches to pass out to the homeless in downtown Oakland on her lunch hour. A single mom, sharing from her single income with those who had less than us. "There but for the grace of God go I, Annette." There is something about those who courageously look so closely at their own personal failures and character defects, encircling those who are still so lost into their humble awarenesses. They dont forget where they have come from, they know that things can change on a dime for them, they are humble and kind to those who are in need.

Anyway, Nurse Jackie....watch at your own risk. She was wonderful and awful all rolled up into one human being.

Love to us all....
Annette

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Aug. 31, 2017 Overdose Awareness Day

Little one and I headed out yesterday morning to our local FED UP rally. She is a junior this year and taking U.S. Government so this was a perfect example of community members making their voices be heard. Of the rights of free assembly and freedom of speech.

Of course, more than that though, our motivation came from somewhere much deeper. I thought of all of your children that I have prayed for through the years of writing this blog, the mom's who have emailed me their stories, and then the email to say, "my child is gone. Their fight is over." I thought of all of us who live with the knowledge that we could be next.

Today was a compassionate voice, one of hope and advocacy for those who can't fight for themselves. For those who remain so stuck. I heard so many good things spoken today. I met several local moms who I have known online from a "mom's group," who bravely shared their stories with the news media that was present.

My girl met us there and sat and listened to the stories, to the compassionate voices that were acknowledging the fierce battle that those with an addiction fight every single day.

The opiate epidemic is unlike anything we have seen in our history. It is changing the face of recovery. Today Melinda, the director of  Harm Reduction Services, which is where my girl and I received our Naloxone and training, said that "recovery is a spectrum." We need to broaden our sense of what recovery is. It is often someone just fighting to stay alive. She shared that when she was stuck in her addiction, homeless and living on the streets, "her body was not her own." Life didn't begin to change until someone told her she was worth saving, she was worth living a different life and that it was possible.

Another young man shared that medication assisted treatment must become more accepted in the world of recovery when its needed. That we have to stop shooting our wounded and keep working with them.

It made me think of when I first walked into Alanon....I was a different person than I am today. I came in paralyzed with fear, broken in spirit, I felt so much shame that all of my efforts to pull my daughter from this disease had failed.

Today, thanks to working a program for the last 12 years, thanks to those around me reaching out and extending a hand and saying, "I get it," to those who listened and didn't correct me, but let me figure out my own path, thanks to each of them, I have learned about living in a place of acceptance, of surrendering my will, of giving my girl her dignity, of letting go of my fear driven control, I have learned how to live more gently without judgements and finger pointing and blaming. Yes, none of us can do it "right" or well in the beginning but people who are farther along than us, keep working with us. They don't shame us for making mistakes, they dont treat us like we are a lost cause because we trip and fall. Just like someone coming in off the streets or from a long term addiction....recovery is a long process. It is not a one time decision and they have it. It is a million decisions made over and over again and sometimes they lose their footing. The important thing is to encourage them to keep coming back. Brush yourself off, come back, let us walk with you, you are not alone. Love someone when they can't love themselves.

Some of the things the FED UP coalition is working for is funding for research and treatment, for Narcan to be readily available....if someone is prescribed an opiate it is accompanied with Narcan, for immediate beds to be available. Expecting our heroin addicted kids to wait for 3 months for a bed to become available, to call every day, to show up at this office and put your name on a list, is literally impossible for so many of our kids who are homeless, with no money, without transportation and a phone. Its easier to just take their chances and keep using!

I remember right after we brought my girl home and she was applying for a medi-cal bed after she had aged out of our insurance. There were so many hoops she had to jump through....her therapist said, "These obstacles are too challenging for her at this point. I dont see how she can do this on her own." I knew then that this was a kind and realistic man who was on our side. I also felt like I had been given permission to HELP her! He wasn't going to lecture me about co-dependency and enabling... he got it. He understood how grave our situation was. I was so grateful and felt so validated.

Our addicted kids need love and encouragement and so do we. Our kids need affordable, easily accessible, appropriate and lengthy medical and psychological care. Desperately. We all know the multiple layers to our children's addictions that all must be addressed reliably and tenaciously. All of us, our families, our kids, our state leaders, doctors, are finding our way through the most unfathomable situation, but we must keep moving forward in kindness and banish these underlying messages of failure and shame and worthlessness that are so often perpetuated.

God bless us all as we go about just doing today. Much love to my parent readers....my heart is always with you.                               Annette


Friday, August 25, 2017

Choosing Happiness



Things here are challenging. No crisis...just a rough couple months. Lots of things are playing into it for my girl and I can't do anything to change them. Only she can and does she have the energy, the determination, to do so? I don't know...but I act as if she does. We view the things we offer her as harm reduction. We are keeping her alive, hopefully staunching further damage and providing medical and mental health care to someone who would have none. It. Is. Not. Easy...and its very expensive. Which is a head nod to how broken our mental health care system is.

But life continues on and I refuse to miss out on the good parts. Such as baby Landon who I want to gobble up! Someone told me that that feeling we get of wanting to bite their cheeks, or nibble their toes, or eat them....is a real thing. It goes back to our primal beginnings. I dont know....I just know that I soak that baby boy in anytime I get to see him. He has lots of chub already that makes him especially delectable!


Landon's wonderful parents, have set their wedding date... June 23, 2018. So wedding plans are being made. We have our venue, the photographer, the dress, we will probably do flowers and decorations ourselves, we have an idea for the food....a caterer that did a mutual friends wedding. Pizza, salad and beer and wine. A dessert station, a coffee, ice tea station, lemonade station. I love that they are are so laid back, that the day is being viewed from the perspective of what they want, what will be fun and comfortable for them and their people,  and not what will really make a statement and impress all of their friends. Two such authentic beings, these two.



For anyone who has Alanon's daily reader Courage to Change, July 30 really got me. It was about happiness being an inside job. About how we often determine and commit to choose happiness but then we become discouraged at the first sign of trouble and abandon our resolve to live in a place of contentment....because of what is going on around us.

The last sentence for the July 30th reading was this...."When I make a choice and then stick with it, I teach myself that my choices do have meaning and I am worthy of trust." 

I have spent a lifetime convincing others that I am trustworthy...but not myself. You know that familiar story. We are always our own last priority. I am worthy of trust. I am worthy of following through on my commitments to choose happiness and find joy in whatever I can.....and fortunately I am easily pleased! Lol I remember in my early years in Alanon hearing someone say, "My happiness can't be dependent on how others around me are doing." I thought that was horrible! How can I dare be happy if people I love are miserable?! I have since found a way. Desperate circumstances require desperate measures. Lol I am learning to trust myself to take care of myself. I am finding the balance of being present, respectful and kind to my chronically ill child, but being present and joyful with my other children who are living their lives and deserve to have a mother who shares in their joy. I am taking the time to binge watch Netflix (I rarely watch TV...only if the dad will rub my feet) and read real books and go on walks during the week. I hurt my back a couple weeks ago...years of lifting people is catcing up to me....but I had to accept instruction and help from the dad. I had to rest my back. I dont like to "need." But I think he loved being able to give....maybe I need to stop that and let it become part of trusting myself to care for myself.

Lets all commit to trusting ourselves to take really good care of ourselves just for today. If it works today, we can try it again tomorrow. ❤️

God bless us all....our children are still in my daily prayers.
Annette


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Color blind

Yesterday Little One flew home from 3 weeks in Lousiana with Big Brother and Beauty.  Even though she is 16, it's a big deal for her to fly alone and to have layovers and to switch planes and find her way around the Dallas/Fort Worth airport on her own, but in her own quiet way she manages and as she gets older her nerves are calming and when she got home she sat on the couch and told me all about the connections she made along the way.

There was the woman with the baby and the preschooler and full arms who couldn't unfasten the car seat. Little one asked if she needed help and sat her stuff down and helped her to get settled.

There was the woman who complimented Little One's drawings....I asked what she said, "Those are amazing!" What did you say? "Thank you.....what else would I say?" Lol

Then there was this story.... Two little kids sat next to her who were flying alone. A 10 year old girl and her 8 year old brother.

The girl asked Little One, "Excuse me, how do I get the flight attendants attention?"  L.O. showed her the button to push. Then the little girl asked, "Will it make a loud noise? HOW will it get their attention?"
L.O. explained, "No no, a light will flash right up here," pointing to the overhead panel. "There is no noise."

As the flight began the little girl started to talk to L.O. About her drawings.

 "How do you know how to do that shading? How do you know which parts should be light and which parts should be dark?" My quiet peaceful girl explained her methods, and then offered to share her supplies with the little girl and her brother and they spent the 3 hour flight drawing and talking and comparing.

 L.O. explained that, "The little brother was only interested in drawing his own way, but the little girl asked me to draw an outline of a face for her and she would do the shading herself."

She wanted to give it to her mom, "but I will tell her you did the outline and I only did the shading." Her sweet honesty....making sure L.O. knew she would not be taking credit for any part that was not honestly her own work.

The story went on for awhile, the plane landed and L.O. sent them home with a care package of pencils, paper and smudge sticks,  and I loved hearing it all and then she ended with...."they were the most adorable little black children." The color of their skin was not part of the story, it was not relevant to anything, other than to describe them to me, someone who wasn't there to see for herself.

How powerful is this today, after the unfathomable violence we all witnessed in Virginia yesterday? While a white supremacist drove his car through a crowd of protesters, killing one and hurting many others, Little One was sitting on a plane sharing her life with two children, two human beings who were interested in what she was doing, who found a way to calm their nerves of flying alone, to make the time pass, to connect with one another...and this is as it should be. This interaction is not special or because Little One is special. This should be our "norm." It should be what is expected... that we love our neighbors, that we extend a hand when we see anyone in need, that we come along side one another...simply because we are all just people.

 How on earth in 2017 is the color of one's skin STILL an issue?
Jesus have mercy.
Annette