When Fear Runs Deep…

20140515_030355283_iOSI opened my eyes as I had already done many times throughout the night, waiting for the sound of the alarm to signal that it was finally the right time to be awake. It had been one of those nights. You know the kind I’m talking about, when your mind won’t get quiet and sleep evades you. It felt as if I had been semi-conscious for the last several hours. Nervous apprehension had replaced every last bit of excitement I felt the previous evening, as I had prepared for this morning. It was to be a big day for me! Another milestone was to be reached. Another step crossed off the list of steps I needed to take on this road to become a half Ironman finisher. My first 70.3 triathlon at the (young) age of 58 was a big deal, one I really was unsure that this body with all of its aches and pains could actually endure. Today was the day to put on that new wetsuit I had packed and go to the lake for my first open water swim. You should be hearing the theme from the movie, “Jaws”, playing in your mind right now.Jaws

Maybe it seems silly to you that swimming in a lake would be a big deal. I had splashed around in the lake as a kid. I even thought my little doggie paddle for a few yards every so often as I played, was actually considered swimming. As a matter of fact, I really thought I could swim, that is until I took my first real swim lesson two years ago. My coach at the time informed me that my doggie paddle was not “real” swimming. I learned that I actually had to put my face in the water! I found myself embarrassed as I was made to practice bobbing up and down in the water at a public pool, to blow bubbles out of my mouth and nose. I had to do it in front of “real” swimmers even! That was six weeks before my first sprint triathlon. Six weeks was not enough time for me to get this swimming thing. That first race was so hard! I was out of breath after the first 50 yards. I had to stop and rest each time I reached the end of a lane. I won’t say how long it took me to finish that little 400 yard swim, but let me tell you, I was slow!

A hamstring injury the week following that first race, kept me out of the pool for several months. That was followed by several months of swimming using the pull buoy, as I wasn’t able to kick. In spite of the injury and lack of proper training, I felt I needed to do a 2nd sprint the following year in order to keep my standing as a triathlete. I signed up for the same event I had done before. That swim was even worse than my first had been!

I really wanted to do this triathlon thing, so here’s where my current triathlon coach enters the picture. Swimming is her strong area. She’s been working with me just over a year now. Believe me when I tell you, this swimming stuff hasn’t come easily for me. I’ve worked hard and I’ve come a long way, but even recently at a master swim session, my coach was laughing over some weird movement I was doing in the pool. Somehow, she always manages to find something to correct, as a good coach should, I might add.

Fear.1I remember many of my early swim sessions with her. Every time I had to do a workout, I fought anxiety and apprehension. I remember times when I dreaded getting to the end of the lane and I knew she was going to have me do another lap, and then another and another. I was so out of breath at times, I felt lightheaded and even in a state of panic. There were a few times I even wanted to cry. Ok, maybe I did cry, but I sure couldn’t let her see that. I imagine I’ve made her wonder if I would ever make it as a swimmer. Even if that’s not true for her, it definitely is for me.

Confidence about my swimming had evaded me as much as sleep had the Strengthnight before this big day. I had volunteered to drive out to the lake that morning. A couple of my team mates were riding along. One was a seasoned open water swimmer. I didn’t know at the time, but our coach had given him strict orders to stay with us and keep us safe. Poor guy! Who would want that responsibility! The other team mate was a near neighbor, a.k.a., my “tri in the hood friend”. We had begun to do some of our training together. She was new to this open water swimming experience, as well. Even though she had been a swimmer longer, she was as nervous as I was. It’s funny to think back to one of our early swim sessions with our coach. I remember her commenting on how she would never be doing any open water swimming. Never say never, right!

 

It had been years since I had been to this particular lake. While the desert landscape was beautiful, the road is narrow as it winds up and down the sides of the mountains. The anxiety was building in my chest and my shoulders grew tighter with each hairpin turn. Of course, our conversation over how nervous we each felt only amplified the tension. I rounded a bend and had my first view of the water. The lake looked huge and the boats so small from our elevated vantage point. It’s good that I had passengers in the car that day, for had I not, I’m sure I would have turned around and high tailed it home!

When we arrived at the lake, several other tri club members were already putting on wetsuits. Trying to get a wetsuit over aged, loose skin that just moves up with the compression of the suit, well, that’s just an ugly story. Having to do that in front of others is down right, humiliating. I’m glad it took what seemed like forever to get the suits on. Anything to delay us from having to get in that water was okay by me. But alas, the moment arrived and it was time.

My “tri in the hood friend” and I had only planned on splashing around a bit to get used to the wetsuit, maybe swim along the shore a little, but certainly not go in over our heads. We were told we wouldn’t drown in a wetsuit, as it makes you more buoyant, but still, the idea of going deep was frightening.

Motivational-Quotes-40I’ll never forget the first time I put my face in the water. It was so cold, it took my breath away. It took several times of bobbing up and down before I could blow bubbles under the water and take a breath when I came up. We swam along the shore a little and stopped to stand up every 25 yards or so. There was security in knowing we could still touch the bottom. I think I was ready to call it a day after about fifteen minutes, but our seasoned team mate seemed determined to be sure we actually got in a little more of a workout. He was able to get my friend to swim out to a buoy. It wasn’t too far off shore, but it was definitely beyond my comfort zone. She was very pleased with herself over having done it and apparently she wasn’t satisfied with me not having the same experience, so now there was double the pressure for me to swim out to the buoy. Not wanting to jeopardize my “tough, old lady athlete,” status, I resigned myself to oblige their request. It was horrible! I forgot to breathe. I choked. I swam crooked and ran into my friend. Each of those things caused my heightened anxiety level to become a complete state of panic. My chest felt like it was being crushed and I couldn’t breathe. I stopped and begged for someone to unzip my wetsuit. Our seasoned team mate told me to keep it zipped. I had to get used to feeling that, as it happens to even experienced swimmers on occasion. I tread water for a minute and tried to calm myself until I could breathe. So much for the tough, old lady athlete! I did make it to the buoy once that day and as you can see, I lived to tell about it.

We had many lake visits over the summer, but there were very few that I

The mass start under Mill Ave in Tempe, AZ.

The mass start under Mill Ave in Tempe, AZ.

didn’t experience the whole gamut of emotions associated with my fear of the swim. It was particularly unnerving when I found myself panicking in the water just two weeks prior to my half Ironman event. That was an ordinary workout day, which didn’t include the hectic frenzy of bodies thrashing about, which is what takes place in a race scenario. I couldn’t imagine how incredibly terrifying it would be to experience that during the race.

One thing I have learned about fear, not that I would deny that I felt it, but the more you talk about it, the more you give it a voice, the more it grows, the more powerful it becomes. I couldn’t afford to talk about it, so I didn’t. That would only feed it.

Another thing that I had learned about fear, I had heard from a speaker one time. They shared an acronym for fear. FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. My fear was ungrounded. Sure, there was evidence. I had panicked in the water, MANY times! And it was terrifying! But it wasn’t real. The facts were, I could swim. I had listened to my coach. I had done my training. I had put in the hours, the distance, the time. And I hadn’t drown, not even “almost”, not even once!

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Packet pick up day! Some of our tri team mates with our awesome coach on the left. Less than 24 hrs. until the big event!

The week before the 70.3 Ironman event, I was amazed that I felt excited, rather than anxious, as I usually felt before a race. I mean I was really excited! Training for this had involved a lot of sweat and tears. I had gone from seriously doubting my ability to even do this, to knowing I would finish. My emotions were running high all week, so it didn’t take much to cause whatever I felt at any given moment to spill out. My coach said that was normal.  In spite of my carefully laid out plan for the morning of the event, it seemed as if everything was going wrong. I hadn’t been able to sleep the night before. I left the house later than was planned. It was raining. Two freeway ramps that I had planned to take to get to the venue were closed, forcing me to exit in an area I was unfamiliar with. I lost my wrist bracelet which I had to have to get into the transition area. Four different people working the race venue, had me running all over the park area to get help with the bracelet issue. When I finally got to the transition area and saw my coach standing there, I felt as if I would explode. She knew just what I needed. After she hugged me, she got in my face and with a gentle firmness, instructed me on what to do next. She was perfect! That minute or two made all the difference in the world to me. I had just enough time to get my transition area set up, stand in the bathroom line, get my wetsuit on and get in line for the swim start. My coach and team mates were there, along with my husband and one of my sons. My son read me an incredibly, awesome text which he had sent me that morning as encouragement, but I didn’t have my phone, so I hadn’t seen it. That made me teary eyed! Ok, everything made me teary eyed at that point, but his text was really special! I could feel slight undercurrents of frayed nerves, but I chose to block out any negativity and stay focused. My strategy was simple. I had borrowed it from the movie, “Finding Nemo”. Nemo and DoryAnd yes, I’m admitting that I even watched the movie that week before the race for inspiration. I was going to take Dory’s advice and “just keep swimming.”

It was time and our group was called to enter the water. We swam out to the start line and waited for the horn to sound, and we were off! The hectic frenzy of thrashing arms, legs and bodies was just as crazy as it had appeared in the triathlon videos. All of the things I had feared, happened. I choked. I couldn’t breathe. I got kicked, swam into and slapped in the face – HARD. Someone grabbed my leg at one point and it felt like they were trying to pull me under, but I just kept swimming. I stayed calm. I was amazed at how calm I felt. I kept focused on the next buoy, then the next and the next. By the time I rounded that last buoy, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, I wasn’t swimming by my own strength that day. Yes, I had trained for it, but I knew I had supernatural help. As it turned out, I wasn’t even the slowest one in our group, which amazed me even more, because I’m always the slowest one. My son and my husband said they were shocked when they saw me run past them, as they didn’t expect to see me for, at least, another ten minutes.

That’s the biggest part of my race story. The rest was just fun. Because of Ironman Runongoing knee issues, I had to ride easy on the bike, just fast enough to make the cut off time. On the run, I kept stopping to try to get what felt like rocks out of my shoe, but there were no rocks. It turned out to be a bigger issue with my foot. I had a killer headache, I think from lack of salt. I had dropped all of my salt, right up front on the bike course. I ended up walking a lot of the run portion, as a result of all of it, but I knew I would make the cut off time so I wasn’t concerned. It was hard and it was hot, but I had a blast! Crossing that finish line was a high that I’ll never forget! It stuck with me for a long time after the race, too!IronmanAZ70.3

I can’t tell you my story without sharing the most important thing that I’ve learned about fear. That is the fact that I don’t have to have it. I can choose to not fear. Real life experience has a way of teaching us things that become rooted deep into the fiber of our beings. That truth for me is that I have a big, powerful and completely, faithful God who always comes through for me. Even when life throws unfavorable things my way, as it has often, God has always, one way or another, worked things out for my good. Helping me with a little swim was easy! When fear runs deep, my faith is deeper still.

You didn't come this farWhat’s next? I’m not sure. I’m grounded from biking and running right now until my knees and foot recover. Yes, there is the thought that it would be really cool to do a full Ironman one day, but right now, it’s hard to imagine it being a possibility with this body. Of course, I’ll never say never, because we all know what happens when we do that, right!

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Embrace Your Joy!

photo 4Christmas is one of my absolute favorite times of the year and it’s obvious when you look around my home.  I’ve just spent the last two weeks decorating, so yes, it’s very evident that I love Christmas!  The holidays bring me great joy!

Joy is an appropriate topic for today’s post because after all, tis the season!  My post is inspired by a few things.  One of those inspirations is Nelson Mandela.  People who spread love and good will in our world are a great source of inspiration and much can be learned from the legacy that this man left behind.  While the world mourns his passing, those closest to him are dealing with intense grief at the moment.  Joy is the farthest thing from their minds.

As a matter of fact, this season is one that many can’t find joy in.  Accidents still happen.  People lose their lives.  Disease is still diagnosed.  Employees lose their jobs.  Bills still come in the mailbox.  Families break apart.  Depression and suicides increase.  Life doesn’t suddenly change to cookies, glitter and snow angels when Macy’s Santa arrives in the Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Transforming my home and singing carols is more apt to cause people in these situations to be even more depressed.

So, how can I write about joy when there is so much pain and disorder around me?  You knew I was going to answer that, didn’t photo 5you.  My own life hasn’t been all happy and joyful, nor have all of my Christmas seasons been filled with gifts and shiny things.  If you’ve read my blog before, you know that.  I’ve experienced Christmas with accidents, loss, illness, no money, bills, break ups and brokenness, so I understand how difficult this time of year can be.  No, I wasn’t happy with my circumstances during those times, but I was able to be grateful for what I did have and look for the bright side of whatever the situation was.  I’ve always found someone or something that inspires me to find joy.

Another source for my inspiration today is a member of the running team that my husband and I belong to.  I’ve photo 5 (2)never met her in person, but I’ve seen enough of her posts on our team website and Facebook, that I feel like I know her and for that, I am grateful.  Honestly, I’m grateful for all of our team as they all are wonderful people who encourage and support each other in all of the highs and lows that come with injuries, recoveries, victories and defeats.  We all need people like this in our lives.  Today, while I am not diminishing the rest of our team in anyway, I want to highlight one.  And here I go naming names again and this time I actually have permission.  My inspiration today is Nancy.

photo 1 (2)Each day, Nancy posts a little personal story and how she was able to find joy in her day, no matter if it was a good day or a bad day.  I’ve come to look forward to reading her, “Go embrace your joy” messages.  I want to share what she posted on facebook last week.  I’ll just copy and paste exactly what she posted, as I can’t say it any better.  Here you go:

“Your destiny is to fulfill those things upon which you focus most intently. So choose to keep your focus on that which is truly magnificent, beautiful, uplifting and joyful. Your life is always moving toward something.” ~Ralph Marston

“A few days ago I shared with you all that after having fallen into a funk in my life I sought the guidance of a therapist–a person who helped me develop the tools to carry me through the obstacles–to change my perspective of this incredible and many times challenging journey we call life. 

There are many who perceive anyone seeking help as being weak or unable to cope. Sadly seeking help for a photo 4 (2)broken bone, a headache, blurry vision, even a toothache has never been questioned by my friends, but the minute they heard that I was in therapy, some friends became quite uncomfortable–giving me a side-way glance or total silence as if my problems were contagious–as if may I have a screw loose or that I am nuts. The truth– I believe the judgment from others is one biggest reasons people do not seek intervention–they don’t want people to think they can’t figure out life on their own. But sadly this perception is so unfair.

What I have learned over the years is, if I already knew everything I could about life, than there is nothing more I could learn. There would be little or no reason for me to change, to evolve to transform my life. Unfortunately, unlike your car, we aren’t born with an owner’s manual to guide us through the trials–what to do when our own internal check engine light comes on. We learn to do what we have to do just to survive–that is what we are wired to do. 

With each passing year I worry less about what others think of me, something that I spent way too much time and energy doing in my past, electing to focus more on what I think of myself and the nurturing friendships that bring me joy. Am I a good person? Am I a compassionate person? Am I kind? Loving? Giving? Do I bring joy to others?

The truth is–not everyone will like me–my goal in life is not to give up who I am to be loved by others, to be liked by others–as long as I am kind and respectful, you get me in all my whacky doodle ways. I love to have fun–I find being happy and joyful takes far less work than being miserable and angry. And as I have come to believe there is joy to found every day–sometimes you have to look far and wide for it and other times it’s right before your eyes. 

HAPPY SATURDAY FRIENDS–GO EMBRACE YOUR JOY!!!!”

Nancy started writing her posts about joy when her therapist gave her a homework assignment to find at least one thing that bringsphoto 2 (2) her joy every day, even on the dark days.  She said that some days, it was just finding a penny on her run, or seeing a rainbow after a storm, or a smile from a stranger.  She wrote this about finding joy in another one of her posts.

“Finding joy is a choice– it’s about rewiring our brain to move from negativity that can became such a part of our lives, to finding joy in the simplest of things. Certainly I would love to take full credit for my epiphany, but life in all its ups and downs is meant to be shared. More times than not, the joy does not lie in others, but is buried deep within our own hearts–we just have to open our eyes, hearts and minds to this amazing gift.”

This blog is named what it is for a reason.  It’s my own quest to become more of a real person, not one who puts on the socially accepted mask, flashes a fake smile and pretends my life is like living in a rose garden every day.  While I do like shiny things and I’d like to make you think that if it were even possible that I would ever pass gas, I would emit tiny puffs of glitter, we all know that’s not really how it is.  I want to share in the real life journey we are all on, because we all need support and encouragement.  We all need the encouragement of people around us during the difficult times, like my running team does for me.

photo 3 (2)Nancy is being real.  She’s sharing what is uncomfortable, but what she is really doing is encouraging others to be better people.  Because she chooses to be authentic, I’m encouraged to listen.  Her words speak to my heart, therefore, I’m encouraged to grow and I too, can find joy.  Maybe she’s not doing it on the scale that Nelson Mandela did, but she’s doing her part to spread love and good will in our world.

The past several days, we’ve been privileged to hear more about Nelson Mandela’s life and what he stood for.  We’ve also heard many inspiring words of wisdom that were uttered through his lips.  They were really an overflow of his heart.  This particular quote got my attention.

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.

If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
Nelson Mandela 

photo 1Nelson Mandela was authentic, the real deal.  He spoke in a language that could be understood by all, because he spoke to something that is buried deep in the hearts of all.  It’s love and goodwill that speaks to us.  That’s the language of the heart.  So in this world where all that glitters isn’t gold, where it’s hard to find the true meaning of the season in the frenzy of activity and plastic trees, I’m hoping more of us will open our eyes, hearts and minds to look deep inside ourselves and others for those real gifts that are real and authentic.  Spread some of that love and goodwill around.  Go embrace your joy!

Thanks Nancy!

Naming Names…

friendsBefore my family and friends panic thinking I’m writing about them, let me just say most of you can calm down.  While I may be writing about you, there is only one person that I’m going to name today.  The person I’m naming is a long time friend, warm, caring, soft spoken, just beautiful inside and out.  If that description doesn’t fit, you can relax, but if it does and your name is Denise; buckle up, put on your listening ears and hear me loud and clear.

I hope all of you have had the privilege of having a “Denise” in your life at some point.  I was a single mom, not many months out of an abusive marriage when I met my Denise.  I had just given birth to my second child and found myself living in yet another new place.  This, not so quaint new community was called Silver Meadows.  I soon learned that it was better known as Silver Ghettos.  It was certainly misnamed.  There were a lot more copper pennies than silver to be found here.  I was surrounded by loud neighbors, criminal activity, police sirens and more abuse happening within the walls of those who lived around me than what I had ever known.

I did discover that my new ghetto had a silver lining though.  Her name was Denise.  I lived in a third floor apartment and she lived friends3on the bottom floor.  We both had little boys the same age.  They quickly became buddies and played together while we had our morning, afternoon and evening coffee or shared a meal.  Thankfully, she loved babies and she would rock my baby girl, giving me a little break from the stress of an often crying, colicky baby.  I didn’t have a car back then, well not one that you could drive.  It did take up a parking space, but that’s about the only thing it could do.  Denise would take me grocery shopping or to doctor appointments for the kids when I needed.  Needless to say, Denise and I spent a lot of time together.

Over time both of our situations changed.  Denise and I both found ourselves moving to new places and into new relationships.   I moved out of state and remarried but that didn’t last long.  After a short blip in the screen of life, I was back in my home state and on my own once again with my two kids.  Denise had married, as well, but she was still there for me.  I worked a lot of hours, but always found myself at her house on my day off.  She had a daughter by now, so both of my kids had a friend at her house.  Denise was my rock.  We would talk about everything.  She kept me sane and grounded with her wise words of advice.  She was the friend who had my back.  I don’t know what I would have done friends5without her.  Her husband was also gracious about me hanging around for a whole day at a time.   He was a stylist, so he cut my hair when I needed and he did my car repairs or showed me how to do my own, which saved me a lot of money.  He taught me how to do tune ups and even how to work on my brakes.  It was empowering for me as a single mom to know that there were things I could do myself.  I needed that.

Denise and I lost contact for many years, but thanks to facebook we’ve been able to reconnect.  A lot of life passed under our feet during that time and many of those years weren’t kind to my friend, yet I’ve seen her be strong and rise above the hard stuff.  She’s still a rock, and I want her to know that.  She is still that light that was shining for me on the dark paths I walked back then and I never want her to forget that.  She still supports me, encourages me and I know she still has my back.

This morning as I was journaling, I was remembering Denise, as well as several other friends like her who have been there for me friends4during tough times.  I’m so grateful for relationships like the one we share.  You know what I mean.  Who is your “Denise”?  It’s fitting during this Thanksgiving season to celebrate those who have stood by us, supported and encouraged us through thick and thin, therefore I proclaim this day to be “Thank your Denise Day”, so get out there and just do it!  Thank you to Denise and all of my other friends who support and encourage me.  You make my world a happier place to be!  ❤

My Open Letter to a Friend…

tearDear Jane,    (Name has been changed.)

I really don’t know where to begin.   You’ve been on my mind a lot lately, as I do indeed understand that your circumstances are overwhelming.   In just a short span of years, you’ve lost your parents, your husband and pets that were like your children to you.  If dealing with these losses weren’t enough, you have a daily struggle with the disease that has been the cause of way too many paramedic visits to your address.  Add to that, the loss of balance that has resulted in several falls, causing multiple breaks and surgeries to repair your broken bones.  I know what follows surgeries; long recoveries, physical therapy, many follow up appointments and bills.  If all those things aren’t overwhelming enough, add the fact that you do all of this alone now.

You’ve felt abandoned by the little bit of family that remain.  Your days and nights are spent alone in your recliner.  Your wheel chair stays at your side for the short trips to the kitchen and bathroom because you’re still recovering from a broken bone.  Yes, you have your one remaining pet, but for the most part, your little house is quiet.  Voices that once filled your walls are now gone.  One voice remains though, that won’t stay silent.  It’s a taunting voice that brings torment.  It plays like a tape on constant rewind.  It tells you over and over again, “I can’t do this anymore” or “I don’t want to do this anymore” or “I have no reason to keep on living”.  What’s scary to me is that you’ve listened and started to believe that voice.

I remember the days when you were very different.  Your life was full of activity, full of family and friends.  You had many people surrounding you with love and you loved them back with your kindness, encouraging words and generous gifts.  You loved giving gifts to people around you, but your greatest gift was your compassion and your laugh.  I loved hearing you laugh.  Yes, you still had to deal with that childhood disease, but that didn’t stop you from opportunities to enjoy time with family and friends, opportunities to live.

But yes, you are different now.  Circumstances have caused rooms that were once filled with light to become dim and even dark.  I stillgrief hear the laugh at times, but it’s not the same.  The laugh begins to emerge for a moment, but it ends abruptly as if it’s stopped by an invisible wall.  Each time the laughter ends, the invisible wall is quickly revealed.  It’s a memory, memories of what’s been lost.  So much has been lost…

In place of joy, there is sadness, anger and bitterness.  You’ve built yourself a little refuge, surrounded yourself with this invisible wall, each brick being a memory of someone or something that has hurt you.  Somehow you feel safe in there, alone.  So you keep building, but the reality is that you’re cutting yourself off more and more from family and friends.  The wall isn’t invisible anymore, either.  You’re isolating yourself, one brick at a time.  Your wall may keep others from seeing you, Jane, but I can see.  I still see you in there.

You used to like pretty colors, but these bricks don’t make for a pretty room.  Unfairness, injustice, sadness, anger, death, disease, backstabbing, lies, betrayal; yes these are the bricks that life and circumstances have given you.  These are the bricks you were given, so you used them to build your refuge.   I’m no interior decorator, but this is not the room that I would picture you happy in.

No one would dispute the fact that life has been unfair to you.  Anyone would readily affirm that you have good reason to be depressed and angry with your circumstances.  You have indeed been repeatedly dealt some knockdown, drag out blows.  Not just once or twice have you been hit, but over and over again.  Of course, you would seek refuge from the onslaught.  Who wouldn’t?  Anyone would seek a safe place.   So bruised, bleeding and eyes swollen shut, you did what you could and stacked your bricks, one on top of another.

bob wire wallYour refuge is not as it appears to you, though.  The reality is you’ve built yourself a prison with these bricks.  You’ve let me and a few others peek over those walls, but I’m afraid for you, Jane.  I’m afraid that if you keep using these bricks and build your wall any higher, I won’t be able to reach you anymore.  No one else will be able to either.  Your prison will grow totally dark, completely quiet, and you will be intolerably alone.

Yes, life handed you these bricks.  They were the closest ones to you, the easy ones to grasp.  The thing is, just beyond those bricks were some other bricks, bricks that were much prettier colors.  I know they seemed too hard to reach, but they were there for you to choose.  Yes, they took more effort to get to; I mean a lot more effort.  You would have to use what little strength you had left to crawl over the ugly ones to reach them.  They do have rough edges and sharp corners that could and probably would hurt you more.  It’s hard to see with eyes that are almost swollen shut, but just over those bricks are the pretty ones…

Life is full of choices, opportunities.  We may not get to choose our circumstances, but we get to choose how we respond to them.  I’m not just saying this lightly.  I know it’s really difficult to choose sometimes.  The constant battle of the voices in our ears is truly like we’re in the middle of the argument between the images of good and evil on our shoulders.  And then there is the battle of the will and emotions, fierce warriors they are!

I’ve seen you in your warrior mode before, though.  Living with disease all of these years has given you a strength that many lack.  That in itself has made you a strong warrior.  But I’ve seen you made stronger by other things, too.  You’ve used your determination and strong will to win, many times over.  You may not think you have what you need to make it through all of this, but I know you do.

I miss my old friend.  I miss the warmth and joy that was once there.  I miss her smile, her humor, her laugh, her love of people.  I’m asking for her to break free from her prison.  Jane, come out from behind that wall, please…

I know it’s not going to be easy, but I know even more that you can do it, Jane.  The first steps are going to be the hardest of all and only you can take them, because right now, we can’t reach you.

First of all, stop building with those ugly bricks.  Stop rehearsing all the negative memories over and over in your mind.  You may not choose what thoughts come to your mind, but you do choose the thoughts that get to stay.  When the memories of betrayal, lies, and all those ugly bricks come, kick them away.  They have no place around you.  Lift up your head and look at the light.  Instead of using your inner strength to build a false fortress, use it to crawl over that prison wall.

That’s what we have to do when we’re down.  We have to get up, even if we can barely crawl, we have to choose and make ourselves doLet go on hand it.  The farther you crawl, the closer you get to the beauty that once surrounded you.  Keep your eyes focused on all the colors just ahead.  As you crawl forward, the bruising will fade, the bleeding will stop, the swelling will go down and your eyes will see clearly again.  You will come to a place where you will be able to reach out your hand for help and allow others to touch you once again.  Yes, there is risk involved with that.  You could and probably will experience some hurt along the way.  But it’s better to hurt with friends who can help you heal, then to slowly bleed to death inside a lonely prison.  With each effort, no matter how strained, weakness will be replaced by strength.  Darkness will become light.  Hope will take the place of despair.  Bitterness will be replaced by forgiveness, anger replaced by peace and sadness replaced by joy.  Love will once again rule your heart and fill your life.

woodsYour life isn’t over, Jane.  There is a chance for a new beginning, starting today.   There is hope for your future!   Say yes, Jane.  I miss you.  Many of us miss you.  Choose life.  Please, choose life.

You know I love you!  Your friend, Bobbi

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

If  you find yourself in a place of despair, hopelessness and helplessness or have thoughts of suicide, please use the courage you have to seek help and wise counsel.  Here are some numbers to call:

Crisislink – 1 703-527-4077 / 1-800-237-8255

National Suicide Prevention Line – 1-800-784-2433 / 1-800-SUICIDE

http://www.crisislink.org

What About the Parents???

I hope you aren’t expecting a light hearted, carefree, easy going or humorous post today, because that’s not what I’m feeling.  I am not even sure of the direction that this will take, but I’ve had some thoughts stirring that needed to come out on paper, so here we go.

I am a parent.  It’s one of the roles that many often dream about even when they are very young.  I was one of those dreamers.  I remember at a very young age pretending to be a mommy to my baby dolls.  I couldn’t wait to go to Kmart to spend my allowance on things for my fake babies.  I was so good at parenting as a five year old.  It was so easy!  I just knew that I would grow up to be the best mommy in the whole wide world.  Three kids, two boys and a girl to be specific, a husband, house and a van, that was my big dream!  What I ended up with was four kids, three boys and a girl to be specific, three husbands (not all at the same time), a few houses over the years and several cars, which included the van.  But what happened to the most important part of the dream, being the best mommy in the whole wide world?  Well, it just wasn’t as easy as I imagined it would be.

My big thought today is, “What about the parents?”   Many very disturbing events have made the news recently.  I don’t think that you can find a corner anywhere in the world, that news of the shootings in Tucson, Colorado and Wisconsin hasn’t touched.  Of course, we think about the victims first, then the actual shooters themselves and then the parents.  I can’t help but try to imagine myself in the parent’s shoes on these occasions.  How devastating it would be for a parent!  To find out that one of your own children, that once innocent baby that you held in your arms, had committed such a horrendous, senseless act.   It’s simply unimaginable!  My heart is broken, not only for the parents of the victims, but the parents of the shooters, as well.

I’m thinking of the mom who posted on Facebook this morning.  Today is her daughter’s birthday and it was a year ago today that she hugged her daughter for the last time before she went to prison on drug charges.  How my heart hurts for her and her daughter.

I’m thinking of the single mom who lost her child to a drug overdose and my heart hurts.  I’m thinking of the parents who lost their bipolar child to suicide.  Many had passed judgment on these parents for their children’s behavior during the short years of their lives.

I’m thinking of the struggles between children and parents that I’ve witnessed in an office complex where I once worked.  The children were often very loud and aggressive and those working in the complex were put off by the behavior and registered complaints with the complex management.  Insensitive signs were even hung in the common restrooms by someone who thought the kid situation needed to be addressed.  Did the person who hung the signs not know that these children were visiting the complex for therapy because they were autistic?  Yes, my heart hurts for these parents too, and their children.  So many scenarios we could talk about, all heartbreaking.

Many are quick to jump on the parents and point fingers.  Certainly the parents have done something wrong in their parenting that caused their child’s behavior, or addiction or suicide.  Is that fair?  Why are we so quick to place ourselves in the role of judge and jury and pass sentence on parents?  It happens all of the time.  Who hasn’t been in a grocery store or a restaurant and seen someone’s child act in a ridiculous, unbecoming way and we’ve thought or maybe even said, “They need to do something with their child”, or “If I were those parents, I would (fill in the blank)”.

Granted, parents do make mistakes and I am not saying that all parents are innocent and haven’t had a role in how a child turned out.  I’m not talking about parents who are abusive or are alcoholics, addicts, criminals or horrible examples here.   I’m talking about parents who do all they can to raise their children in the best way they know how.  None of us have our parenting skills 100% perfected.  We all have flaws of some kind.  Go ahead and admit it mom and dad.  You’ll feel better.  That perfect super parent cape is a heavy weight that will keep you from flying anywhere, so take it off!  Easier said than done, right!  Expectations are high for parents and as a result, we often carry a huge amount of guilt.

It’s easy for those who have not had children or who have had perfect children to make flippant comments about or even to other parents.  Yes, I am speaking from experience here.  Before I had my perfect kids, I knew exactly how to be a perfect parent and I’m sure I passed judgment on someone along the way.  But now I know the flip side.   I can still remember comments regarding my parenting that were made to me over the years that were so insensitive and hurtful.  You see, I didn’t have the perfect kids that you did.  How would you judge me if I told you that I had raised an addict, an alcoholic, a criminal, a child with mental illness or all of the above?  Certainly, you would wonder about my child’s upbringing.  You might even want to dissect my parenting ability or debate about parenting styles.  You might even consider unfriending me on Facebook.  Was my child’s behavior my fault???

Of course, I know that I’m exposing my own feelings of guilt here.  Every parent who hasn’t had perfect kids feels guilt, sometimes massive amounts of guilt.  I’ve worked on resolving my own guilt issues and I’m not here to debate what was or wasn’t my fault.  I’m addressing two groups of people here.

To group number one, the group that still has not had children or that never will, and the parents of perfection; to you I say, give us imperfect parents a break!  Ease up a little.  Have some sensitivity and compassion.  If you haven’t walked in another parent’s shoes, please don’t be so quick to throw stones.  There is no “Super Parent” cape, so if you think you’ve been wearing one, you’ve just been running around naked or sporting some really ugly spandex.

To the group of parents who have known the heartbreak of your children not growing up and following the beautiful dreams that you’ve envisioned for them; to you I say you’re not alone.  It’s not all your fault.  It’s time to let go of the guilt and if you can’t do that, then get help.  You deserve that for yourself.  And for any mistakes you did make, there is forgiveness here.  You deserve to be free to fly!

This world can be a cold, dark and lonely place.  Parents need lots of support during the hard times.  When you see a parent friend having a really difficult time, don’t pull away because the situation looks to overwhelming.  When the going gets tough, instead of pointing fingers, extend a hand.   Get involved in being a part of the solution and consider it an investment in your own future, because it is.  Even if you don’t have the answers, you can still be available to stand with and for your friend.  You’ve heard it said and I do
believe that it truly does take a village to raise a child.

Holes in the Clouds

One week ago today, our family lost someone that we loved very much.  It was my father in law.  My husband and his brothers lost their dad.  My mother in law lost her husband.  Our children, nieces and nephews lost their grandpa.  His siblings lost their brother and on it goes.  This past week has been a whirlwind of activity, but the one thing that stands out to me is that family stands together through all of it.

My run this morning was at about the same time as last Wednesday when my mother in law and I were huddled close together in the hospital, having just been told that the one we loved didn’t make it.  It was cool, breezy and overcast this morning, much like it was that morning.  The clouds were pretty thick at the start of this day and blocked out the normal beautiful sunrise.  I couldn’t help but notice that there were holes in the clouds as in a slice of swiss cheese.  The rays of early sunlight were shooting through the cloud holes in every direction and it was absolutely beautiful.

Clouds are often associated with sad, dreary times, and we have good reason to feel sad and dreary right now.  But nature this morning sent us a message.  It was a reminder that no matter how dark and thick the clouds may be, the sun is always shining.  It’s light will find a path through the thickest, darkest cloud to light our path and allow us to feel it’s warmth.

Each beam of light I saw this morning reminded me of something to be thankful for.  I started thinking about all the many things I’ve experienced in just this last week that I am so grateful for, most of all, the abundant love of friends and family.  By the end of my run, my heart was overwhelmed with thankfulness and tears spilled onto my cheeks.  They were the good kind of tears, both cleansing and healing, all brought on by light shining through a hole in the clouds.

We all love you dad…   

Letter to Santa…

Dear Santa, 

It’s me again.  Of course, you remember me!  We’ve shared many Christmas letters over the years.  I’m not saying how many years, because you already know how long it’s been.  I’ve tried not to be too naughty this year.   I think I’ve done pretty well on the nice part, too, so if those are the qualifiers with you, I should find all of my wish list items under my tree, right!  That is the way it’s supposed to work.  At least that’s how your marketing department promotes it. I heard on a TV commercial for Macy’s, I just have to “believe” and my wishes would be granted.

My list is a little different this year.  I actually think you’re going to have to do the “Miracle on 34th St.” thing to make this all happen, but from what I’ve heard, that’s not a problem for you, right?  Here goes.

1.  Someone I love is trapped in the prison of addiction.  I need him to be free, free for good and you don’t have to wait until Christmas for this!  You know who it is, because you’ve been watching, right?

2.  Someone else I love is in jail and may be sentenced to prison again.  It’s alcoholism that keeps getting him in trouble.   I’m not sure what to ask for him, but I need whatever is best for him to happen.  You know who this is, too.

3.  There is another who has to do everything on her own, I mean taking care of her child on her own and trying to make life work, without a spouse.  She needs help with so many of the issues that come as a result of being a single parent.  I need you to send her all of the help that she needs.  You know who she is and you know how much I love her, too.

4.  Then there is the one who needs to know which way his life is supposed to take him.  There are so many options and so many obstacles that may look too big to overcome.  Can you give him a road map for his life, or at least point him in the right direction?  You know how much I love this one, too.

5.  And then there are the many that I love that need help in their finances.  The bills just keep coming for them and the pay check doesn’t stretch that far.  Maybe you can help them win the lottery or something.  I really care about them.  You know who I’m talking about, right!

6.  I can’t forget the ones who are close to me that are dealing with serious health issues.  They need to be healthy and whole again.  You can do this if I just believe, right?

7.  I have a whole group of people that I love and care about that lost people they have loved this past year.  This is their first Christmas without them.  Moms who lost children, kids who lost parents, those who lost a spouse…  The grief is excruciatingly painful for them right now.  They need more than a giant hug from you.  I’m really trying hard to believe you can give them what they need here…

8.  Wow, so many situations come to mind.  There are the ones who are lonely, the ones overwhelmed with life pressure, dangling at the end of their rope, those whose hope has run out…

Santa, I deeply care for the people who are trying to live with all of this really hard stuff.  Please Santa, can you make these wishes come true for Christmas this year???

Santa, I need to make a confession here.  We both know that there have been many times I had things on my Christmas list that never made an appearance under my tree.  I was really good those years, too!  And in the early years, I did believe, but honestly, I can’t trust you with these things anymore.  You are a really swell guy and you’ve been fun and all, but I’m afraid this will have to be my last letter to you.  You see, the things that are really important to me are the people I love.  You just don’t have the kind of power needed to do what I’ve asked for this year.  It’s time for you to face the fact that even you need a far greater power than yourself to tackle the serious issues life throws at us these days.

Seriously, Santa, you might as well know now, I have my trust in another love.  He’s a far greater power than you, and really, the only hope for any of these wish list items getting done.  I can hope you bring me everything I want, but I’m old enough to know, hope without God, means no hope for my wish list.  I know this for fact from my years of experience.  God has already made, like a million wishes come true for me.  I know you might be sad to have to hear this, but it’s really good news for you, because, surely Santa, you must have some pretty hefty wish list items of your own.

Just know Santa, I will still have fun with you every Christmas.  That will never change.  But when it comes to my serious wish list items, I won’t be putting a letter in the Macy’s mailbox for you anymore.  I’ve learned that anything Santa can’t do, God can do, and He does it much better!

Merry Christmas, Santa!

Your Friend for life,

Bobbi