Category Archives: Breaking Point

Breaking Point: #20

I am going to end this Breaking Point series with two stories of grief:  beginning in resistance, denial, anger and a final facing of the truth…and ending in Glacier National Park, a place I hold dear.  And a reminder that nature (or God if that is your belief) can hold us when we can’t hold ourselves.  “Let go and weep.  I will not leave.”  Thank you to all who have bravely contributed and to all who have bravely read and commented and shared with others.  It is Springtime now. 

yrs. Laura

 

Submitted:  by Laurie Wajda who blogs here.  You can get her ebook here.

Tribute to a Friend

It was 4pm. In all reality it was 5, but the recent time change had stolen an hour so the shadows were reaching their peak. I rolled down the sleeves of my jacket as a chill hit the air, and stood in my own eternity looking at the stone. It was 4:02.

The mist that had started to rise as I passed through the gate was growing denser with the twilight hours. It swirled up slowly, engulfing my ankles, and lulled across the grass, around and over and between each epitaph. Surely my imagination, but as the earth’s pores let out its steam, the pungent odor of decaying flesh filled the air. I stood fixated, pulling tight the coat around me as if to ward off some unseen evil.

I patted the two Michelob Lights I’d shoved into my pockets and settled myself directly in front of…it.

It was my best friend’s birthday, and I was bringing her a beer. The sad part?   I brought two, opened them both, and placed one at the foot of her headstone.  It had been two years since I’d been to this place.  I had to laugh as I looked around and said, “Well, kiddo, you haven’t changed a bit.” And then my head hit my knees and I cried like a baby.

I don’t know if I went there that day out of guilt or loyalty: Guess I never will. But nevertheless, there I sat.

“Listen… I know I haven’t been here in awhile. Well, I haven’t been here at all… A few times but … it’s not like I could forget your birthday or something.”  Phil Collins flashed throughmy head. No Reply At All. “Jesus. Listen to me talking to a rock.” I took a swig of beer and waded through my myriad of thoughts.

“Ya know – I read your name on that damn thing and I still don’t believe it. I feel psychotic sitting here but we always said the big 2-1 would be a hell of a party.  Some party…

“It’s not like I forgot you or anything…  It’s just that, well, it all feels so superficial…   I’d come here, drop off a flower and sit and cry… what’s the point?  It’s not like I’m here for a visit with some tea and a chat, right?

Listen, Kate, You were my best friend – always were, always will be. You were the person I talked to and trusted and partied with – and then you just up and died and I had no one to tell.   I can’t come here.  Just to look at a damn stone with your birth-date on it?  I can’t do it… I’m sorry, but I just can’t.”

Before any tears fell I got up to leave. Hands shoved in my pockets, I slowly backed away. I turned my back on that stone, that grave. And then I walked toward the gate, never looking back.  I knew at that moment I would never return.

I left the beer bottles there that day. One full one and one empty one, standing side by side. They stood there together like old buddies saying I’m sorry and I forgive you and Happy Birthday all at once.

When the groundskeeper swept them up the next day, I’m sure his only thought was that a local drunk had left his garbage once again. He would never know that those two bottles stood for years of friendship and laughter.  For vacations and smiles and tears and
understanding. He would never know that those two bottles were a tribute to a friend.

Submitted by: Kaye Dieter  

“The River”

Glacier National Park’s Rocky Mountain Front borders the east edge of the North Fork of the Flathead River that winds its way past my childhood home.  These mountains rise rugged over the grassy, tree-dotted valley that holds this river that has been a friend to me for over 30 years, a friend that listens, always listens.  Even before I sensed it was listening, I was drawn to the river.  Before the sadness.  Before the tear drops would not fall, then carrying the tears that could not be contained, unnoticed and without a grudge, in its welcoming mass flowing cold, clear and comforting, away from where I stood on its rocky edge.

I have come to this place since I was seven years old.  Back then it was pure joy to be a seven-year-old girl with an hour, or afternoon on a hot Montana summer day, with time to be oblivious to everything but what absorbed me from my inner-tube portal.  Tied to a log in the mainstream of the river, my rubber craft allowed for enough interruption in the current that, if I sat silent and still, was usually rewarded by a glimpse of a bull trout lying heavily on the grey-green limestone river bottom.  The inlet, where the water flowed slowly in a clock-wise direction, and the spring glacial silt settled to cover the rocks, is where I drifted facedown, delighting in the newly hatched frogs that hopped from the muddy shore, and the minnows as they zipped, zigzagging through the mesmerizingly spaced grassy reeds.  I was keenly aware of the large water beetles swimming haphazardly, and then colliding bluntly, into whatever happened to be in their paths.  Any innocuous leaf or silent stick that was unfortunate enough to bump into the last 1/3rd of my foot (it required too much effort to keep it out of the glacier-chilled water), was unfairly accused of being one of the clumsy little monsters, and was reflexively kicked at. If the water beetles were monsters, then the slimy green-black leaches were blood-sucking snakes that brought terror into my inlet water world.

From the idyllic age of seven, the dependable nature of the four seasons initiated me into early adulthood sooner, and later than I would have liked.  The river saw it all, and listened the whole time.  When I had to leave the river is when I needed it the most because that is when the sadness became my constant, demanding and meddling companion.

During the winter months of November, December and January the river struggles to flow as the slushy islands of ice glob onto its edges.  By early January it is no longer a black ribbon meandering quietly between soft snow banks, it has become just another cold, hard surface for snowflakes to settle on.  But under the deep layer of snow, on top of the thick glass ice, the subdued river is still listening.  Then, as an 18 year old, I kick and glide, kick and glide down its unobstructed path, the snow greedily snatches the tears falling from my eyes, and the water below murmurs quietly.  I listen.

The river says softly, “Let go and weep, I will not leave. Even though you must leave again, when you return I will be here, and will always listen. I know you and I also feel your sadness. I knew and miss her too. I saw her watching you from the high bank.  Making sure I wasn’t playing too rough with you, admiring my graceful form in the varied shades of light, and paying me the highest compliment by putting my likeness on canvas.  Her protective gazes over you were over me too. So please, let go, weep, collapse, remember, weep some more, and when you are able, remember and smile.”

 

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Breaking Point: #18

I have been busy writing my novel during this Breaking Point series and so I’ve handed over this platform to you brave souls.  Though I haven’t been responding to your comments, I’ve read every one and I love how people are reaching out to each other with such love and support.  It’s such a testiment to the power of sharing our pain.  You are all amazing human beings.  Hamlet talks about The thousand natural
shocks that flesh is heir to… 
Natural shocks.  Pain is natural.  Normal.  When we resist it, we make it worse.  A deep breath for us all, from this Montana morning.  Thank you to Joy and Karly for today’s brave Breaking Point stories.  yrs. Laura

Here’s an affirmation for you from a GREAT book by David Richo called:  “The Five Things We Cannot Change”:

As I say yes to the fact of suffering, may I accept the dark side of life and find a way through it, and may I then become an escort of compassion to those who also suffer.

Submitted by: Joy Weber

I was 22 years old and lonely as hell. I had moved from Minnesota to upstate New York in hopes of a geographic cure for the pain in my heart.

I was a new RN, working a new job and scared to death that I couldn’t do it. I had very few friends and those I had, I thought I would lose if they ever knew the real me. So I hid in a world of lies and pretended to be whatever I thought they wanted.

And through it all, I drank.

I had been a daily drinker most of my life since I was 15. Sometimes I had to drink in secret. Now that I lived alone, it was easy. I came home from work, closed the blinds, and drank until I “fell asleep” into that desired oblivion.

I drank so I wouldn’t be afraid, I drank so I wouldn’t feel lonely, I drank so I wouldn’t remember my childhood, I drank because it hurt too much to be alive in this world. I drank because I hated myself, I drank, well, because I’m alcoholic. I was completely lost.

And then one night, the alcohol didn’t work. It didn’t take away the pain. I was raw, aching, and desperate. I paced the floor. My chest ached so badly I could hardly breathe. I wanted to die but was too frightened to kill myself. It was 2 in the morning, pitch black in the country, and I was more alone than I had ever been in my life. Morning was still much too far away. My pain and anxiety escalated as I paced. Finally, I stumbled and fell to my knees and something inside of me broke and I began to cry. “Please!” I half-cried, half-yelled to a God I didn’t believe in anymore, “Please!! Help me!!” and the flood of tears finally came.

I wept from the very depths of my soul. Wept all the tears that hadn’t come for years. I cried for the little girl I was who grew up too fast in the face of physical and sexual abuse. I cried with the pain I wasn’t allowed to speak when Daddy left. I cried for all I’d lost and all I’d never had. The sobs wracked my body and the waves kept coming. I cried out my self-hatred, I cried out my fear. I wept for my lost faith which had once been so precious to me. And still I cried through the night with the tears ebbing, flowing and finally, at last, quieting.

The morning dawned with gentle birdsong, glorious orange sunrise, and my heart, for the first time in my life, beginning to know peace.

I went to my first AA meeting that morning.

I am 26 years sober.

 

Submitted by: Karly Pittman, who blogs here.

For most of my adult life, I’ve suffered from various forms of mental illness – over 20 years of eating disorders, 15 years of on and off depression, and lifelong challenges with anxiety. I also cope with several other traits, that while not mental illness, are often shamed by our culture – like high sensitivity, distractibility/ADD, insecurity, and low self esteem.

I’ve felt terribly guilty about these traits, as if I should be able to will myself into being different. (To put it another way, I’ve felt insecure about feeling insecure.)

Yes, I’ve made progress; I’ve seen growth. And yet as the years go by, I’ll be honest – I don’t like the fact that I’m still – after all this work, and all this time – having to cope with anxiety, or depression, or a spinning, stressed out brain. I’m frustrated that I’m still, well, me.

If I examine my beliefs, I see that I approached my healing journey with a very closed fist and rigid, high expectations. My expectations went something like this:  if I do all the right things (forgive and let go and take the high road) and undertake this healing journey (God knows it isn’t easy), then I want a reward. I want a guarantee that all my pain will just go away; that I will be wealthy and happy and healthy and loved.

When I didn’t receive these things, I blamed myself. My pain was proof that there was something very wrong with me. This, my friends, is suffering.

I thought if I did all the “right” things – that if I pray and do yoga and meditate and look at my stuff and surrender and forgive – that I could turn myself into a being of pure light, pure radiance, and all my human messiness would fall away.

It is a subtle, perhaps the most subtle, form of control. In the wake of this control – or rather my lack of it – I feel ashamed. I feel perhaps the deepest shame, a spiritual shame, that I’m failing life 101 and it’s all my fault. I feel like I’ve flunked some spiritual test because I haven’t created my life in the way that I’ve wanted.

We feel so, so ashamed because we can’t control. We can’t control the challenges in our lives, the pain that needs healing, we can’t even control our emotions – they just arise. But this shame is based on a false truth:  that we should be able to control. We were never meant to control life in this way.

Perhaps viewing my mental health challenges, my inherent sensitivity, my humanity itself as something I can control with enough spiritual practice is unkind. Perhaps if I surrendered to it, instead, I may find a much gentler – and wiser – way of relating to it. And perhaps in this kindness, I will find a freedom, a peace even in the midst of anxiety, or sadness or sensitivity.

If I’m honest, I can see that my spiritual seeking was about trying to banish my pain, not care for it. I just hated it. I hated the dark muck of depression, the panicky spiral of anxiety, the wobbly feet of insecurity. I have come to see that as long as I’m relating to my pain from that place – a bargain of, “If I care for you, will you go away?” – I will suffer. I will feel guilty, like I’m being punished, and ashamed, like it’s all my fault.

But to release this suffering means to let go of control. To open my heart and release my expectations, my focus on how my life looks on the outside, my need to have a guarantee for a positive outcome. Big, deep breath.

So as I sat last week, with fresh grief in my heart and tears dripping onto my keyboard, I bowed to my pain. I surrendered. I said, “It’s okay anxiety, I love you. It’s okay depression, I will care for you. It’s okay sensitivity, I’m here.” I stopped fighting against my pain and turned towards it in love and care, allowing it to be.

I think there is no greater love than this – to open to all aspects of ourselves, even our deepest, muckiest, ickiest, most shameful parts, and to wrap them in our arms and say, “I will not abandon you. I will stay with you and I love you.” Maybe my deepest pain, all the mental illness and suffering and food stuff, is just that:  something to learn to love. If I don’t love these parts of me, who will?

When I stop judging my insecurity, my anxiety, my depression, and just allow it to be, I feel free. I feel free because I’m not so tense, fighting against myself. I don’t blame or punish myself for feeling sad or lonely, I reach out for support. I don’t feel so caught in, “It’s all my fault.” Instead, I surrender to the wisdom of detachment. As my friend Deidre says,  “It couldn’t have happened any other way.” Another way of saying this is, “You did the very best you could.”

This morning the Beloved whispers to me, “Dear one, you were never meant to be in control. You were never meant to take on so much. You were never meant to carry so many burdens. Let go, dear child. Let go.”

There is so much about life that is not in our control. Do we have the courage to let go, to accept this, and to open to grace? This journey, as all journeys do, comes back to love. Can I love all of me – even the dark, most painful bits? Even my very, very messy humanity – humanity that may never go away?

Rumi put it this way:

Learn the alchemy true human beings know:
the moment you accept what troubles you’ve been given,
the door will open.

Perhaps our brokenness – our humanity – is the call that brings us back to love. We fight against it, try to evolve out of it, hide it, overpower it, and then, exhausted and discouraged, we return to love. Can we just love ourselves, right now, in this moment – where we’re feeling afraid, or anxious, or distracted, or lonely, or depressed? Can we care for our pain, just to care for it – and not for any other reason but that it’s simply a very kind thing to do for ourselves?

May we all remember who we are:  fully valuable, enough and worthy with all our tender humanity. The New Testament says, “the truth shall set you free.” This is what I know to be true:  that each and every one of us is lovable, is worthy, is precious, just as we are – with all our human muck, all our challenges, and all our pain.

We are wonderfully and beautifully made, and we are good; very, very good.

 

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Breaking Point: #17

These Breaking Point stories are twin in their theme and have me wondering about the thin line between a “normal” functioning human in society, and what is considered mentally unstable enough for hospitalization.  I think we all have times when we are so broken open that we feel like we can’t do it alone.  We need help.  And I deeply respect people who go out there and get it.  Thank you Michelle and Daniel for sharing your stories.  yrs. Laura

Submitted by: Michelle Roberts

“You’re not allowed to share food!” the attendant barked.

I shrugged at the patient seated across from me then sat quietly without eating. He had offered me his salad when I explained that morning sickness made it impossible for me to eat my gravy covered turkey. It wasn’t the first time a fellow patient showed more kindness than the employees of the mental ward.

Sorry, they don’t like to call it that. According to the sign outside I found myself in a “Behavioral Health Facility” for the first time. That was my biggest hurdle since everyone was treating me like I’d been there half a dozen times. The rules were second nature to many patients so they assumed I must know what was going on. My meal was the first lesson and I should have ordered that morning. Instead, I was three months pregnant, nauseous and eating nothing for lunch.

The horse tranquilizers they prescribed to rein in my mania were making it impossible to sit still. My legs and arms felt fidgety and I still couldn’t sleep through the night. When I left my room one afternoon only to return a few minutes later, a scary blank faced female patient followed me and held my door closed from outside. Maybe she was as tired as I was of my pacing up and down the halls.

So I spent my days listening to the stories of pain and loss from other patients, making promises to contact the husband that didn’t understand and the son withholding forgiveness. Since I didn’t belong here I might as well make myself useful by helping the ones that did. I came across the names and phone numbers recently along with a poem I wrote about the stress and strain that landed me in the hospital.

In the span of six months I was married, lost my grandfather, changed jobs, moved into our first home along with the weight of our first mortgage and tried through it all to process the tragedy of September 11th. My newlywed husband married a capable, intelligent, compassionate woman and was instead visiting someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He brought me a milkshake that I had to spit out into a sink because overmedication made it impossible to swallow. He signed the stack of paperwork as my advocate but must have skipped the pages about side effects.

When I met with my doctor on the third day, I explained that they were giving me too much Thorazine. He nodded and made notes with the same blank face as the scary door holder. I was called over the next morning to take my meds and was strangled by anxiety, unable to ask the nurse if they lowered the dosage. She mistook my reaction for refusal and said, “If you won’t take the pills we’ll have to give you a shot and it will be worse for the baby.” My anxiety turned to panic but I somehow managed to sign “lower” to her. She nodded that the dosage had been reduced and I took the pills.

All I could think about was the phone call with my father years before. He was thanking me for being the easy child that no one ever had to worry about since my brother and sister had both been hospitalized in the past.

“I reserve the right to fall apart one day, Dad!” I proclaimed jokingly.

He laughed, too, but never expected me to cash in my ticket. This was not the role I was meant to play in our family and no one took it well.

 

Submitted by: Daniel Jacob, who blogs here.

The hardest work out there is changing for the better; it takes a tremendous amount of effort, sacrifice, risk, discipline and much more. However, when you commit to your well being you are able to see and feel many wonderful positive outcomes.  I am so strong, so empowered, and so aware of how to manage my well being these days, and it took an intense moment to show me the way.

In February of 2009 I was working for the second largest school district in the nation as a school social worker.  It was a job that was creating a lot of stress for me, and as a result I was not taking care of myself in a healthy manner.  I am going to direct you here to understand where I was.  My work week was typical, although this week I was taking a red eye to NYC after work on Thursday for a family celebration, set to return to Los Angeles on Sunday, back to work on Monday.  New York represented some defining moments for me. It was the place that I escaped to from my abuse (physical and emotional) when I was a teen. It represented reconciliation with my father who over the years was distant and absent. It represented getting to know a brother and sister who shared the same blood, but not much else.  I wasn’t fearful or nervous about going, I was excited to go. By this time in my life I had done some serious self work and had evolved into a healthy well adjusted man. I was all about creating positive new memories with my family and my wife.

What I didn’t see coming was 6 days of no sleep, a trip to the psych ER for a 5150 (code for a 72 hour hold) assessment, several days of the most extreme anxiety that I had ever experienced (the kind where you can not physically move), and a return back to the hospital for a 6 day stay. Sometimes the unknown has its way of showing itself when it wants to, not when you do.  What happened to me happened because it needed to, and I was ready to deal with it, cope with it, and peel back the layers.  By addressing and understanding a past (that exposed me to much pain and suffering) in a manner that I never knew, it created a new me.

The experience itself was intense, but by breaking open I was able to make some choices and decisions that have truly changed the quality of my life for the better.  I resigned from my job and committed to a new job, getting healthy and well.  I survived on my savings, and when that was used up, I went on unemployment so I could continue on.  You see, you can’t put a date or time on your wellness.  To be well you must commit to every day for the rest of your days.   What you have read is obviously the abbreviated version, and there is much more to be shared.  In fact, my “Breaking Point” greatly influenced my decision to go out on my own (professionally) and that is a good thing.

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Breaking Point: #16

Today’s Breaking Point stories are about endings.  They’re about having to let go of “the way things were.”  If there’s one thing we can count on…it’s change.  Sometimes that’s good news.  Sometimes that’s heartbreaking news.  We want to cling to the past, to the myths that society spins about where our safety lies.  I have learned that our only real safety comes from within and I think that is excellent news:  because it means that we can feel safe no matter what’s going on in our lives.  Especially when we recieve the present moment rather than resist it, and learn to breathe into its groundlessness.  yrs. Laura

Both of these are about the end of marriages, the first from the perspective of a child…

Submitted by: Stefanie A. Shilling who blogs here.

“The Word”

It would be the last time the four of us crawled into my parents’ bed. It could have been the first time, for all I know, because that was also the day that my childhood not only ended but was erased. I have virtually no memory of my life before that day.

I was 9 years old.

I don’t remember the words leading up to the only word I really remember. I’m sure they told us they loved us. I’m sure they told us that it wasn’t our fault. I’m sure it was probably hard for them.

But they weren’t 9.

They saw it coming. They were witness to their arguments. They felt the unhappiness. They knew long before the day they told us.

I remember feeling completely shocked. I don’t remember ever seeing them argue in front of us. But I guess I don’t remember seeing them hug or be affectionate with each other either.

I don’t remember how, or even if, my brother reacted. His childhood had just exploded, too. He was 13. I’ve only known him to process things internally. I don’t know if he cried much before that day but I’ve only seen him cry a few times since that day.

I don’t know which one of them said the word, but I know the word that I kept yelling:

NO! NO! NO!

No! No! No!

no. no. no.

Of course it didn’t matter. It was another reminder that it often doesn’t matter when a child says no. It wouldn’t be the last time in my life that I said that word…but it was the first time that I remember.

…And the next Breaking Point story is from the perspective of an adult.

Submitted by: Gracie

It was last August and my husband was screaming yet again at the top of his lungs. About  how we were separated (even though we lived in the same house), that he could do anything he wanted, that he didn’t have to consult with me about anything, that everything was over and why wouldn’t I just get it?

I was silent in the face of his blasting furnace of anger and pain. He was a far cry, at that moment, from the man I had loved and been devoted to for 8 years, for whom I had left a husband and a life on another coast, 3,000 miles away from this home of ours in the woods. As I stayed silent and looked at his red face, his clenched hands, his rigid body, I saw that he was completely broken and that it was time for D. and I to go. I could not fix him, I could not reason with him, I could not make him see. He had problems that required the help of experts and professionals, far beyond anything either he or I could do, separately or together. But there was no explaining that to him. He just couldn’t hear me, so I left a few weeks later and took our 3 year old son with me. It was time now to protect him, more than anything else.

I had fought the idea of separating for more than a year. During that time, I forgave (I know people say they do but I truly did) a digital transgression of many months, the existence of which I thought explained a lot of the difficult and painful behaviors happening in our house. But that wasn’t all of it. Not by a long shot. There was more to come, Another 8 months of screaming rages, smashing pans and dishes in the kitchen, hateful invective, and lots of cursing. It hurts even remembering the unrelenting, seemingly inexhaustible tide of anger that rolled through our house. I did not scream in response. Having grown up in a house with a dad who was a crazy screamer, I actually hate screaming, doing it or being on the receiving end of it.

For months, I waited out the rages thinking: soon he’ll find the right meds and feel better. The rage will subside, he will be ok again. But it never came, at least not while we lived there. He cycled through a stack of prescriptions and medical and therapy appointments but nothing worked, until it finally did, after we were gone.

I don’t know why the screaming fit in August was the one that did it. It was no worse than any of the others. It was certainly not anything I hadn’t heard before either. But during this one, as I looked at my husband, I really saw him and I realized in his current state, he was beyond my reach and I was finally done.

 

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Breaking Point: #15

The robins have come back to our little mountain town in Montana.  Every year when I spot the first one, I feel chosen.  I feel grateful that we are something to return home to or at least something that isn’t considered a threat to animal instinct and migration patterns.  Every morning, I open the door to the darkish Big Sky and take three deep breaths.  After a winter of these mornings where we are frozen into dormancy and my breaths sting in my nostrils, now in March I linger on the front porch and look at how winter is coming apart.  The snow is waning in the grass, pulling back to reveal last fall’s detritus; a lost sneaker…a trowel…a deflated beach ball.  And it’s funny, as much as I have longed for warmth and sun, riding my horse in the woods, and the feel of lake water on my skin, now that I know the freeze is behind me, I drag a bit.  I’m not sure I want to come alive again just yet.  I have a novel to finish writing.  I don’t want to deal with last Fall’s lack of yard pick up.  I’m not quite ready to tend the blooms of my garden which will soon come in profusion.  I just want to sleep a little longer.  One more week.

Today’s  Breaking Point story is about new life.  It invites us to see how we resist it, and in the end, if we choose to live, we must welcome it as gift and even rescue.  Even when it’s scary.  yrs. Laura

Submitted by: Tracy McAlister Mackay, who blogs here.

“Nice Is Not True Anymore”

Sunday:

An impromptu lunch: we drive along a quiet sunlit island road and my life stops. A slow/quick whoosh sound/feeling goes through my body, out of the blue. Then black. The lights of my life are switched off.

“I think I am fainting.” I don’t want to scare my children. “I think I need to go to a hospital” I say to my husband who knows I hate hospitals. I hate needles. IV’s going into my veins, I avoided in both pregnancies. I have fainted at the thought. Intermittently, over the years, everyone faints – right?

We go home. It is disturbingly wrong, this feeling. I lie down.  I know how to relax but this irregular, physical, fearfulness envelops me. It takes too long to subside.

Monday:

“We won’t be long, just going for a few tests,” leaving our teenage children at home at the end of the workday.

I am connected to a monitor in a cardiologist’s office. Within minutes he asks me: “Has anyone ever mentioned…electrical block in your heart?” or words to that effect. Instantly, I feel very small and weak. I feel my husband’s look. I quietly say “No.”

I receive news I never want to hear. Admission to hospital is immediate.

“No,” I say in a voice of distress.

‘NO!!’ I hear in my head. ‘NO my children are at home alone– close family are scattered worldwide.’

A wheel chair awaits us. The movie has now begun; I am a character and audience all in one.

“Things like this don’t happen to Tracy,” my sister says later.

The Intensive Care Unit becomes a hotel suite in my mind, ‘I need this, I have been so tired lately’. The signs on the walls, a blur of Greek and English, are clues but we don’t see them, my husband and I.

The needles and IV’s no longer contain fear. I need to sleep, awakened often by alarms.  The heart rate monitor shows numbers that seem very low. I won’t look. I decide to trust.

Tuesday:

A whirlwind trip begins through the streets, roundabouts and highways of my life for 7 years. I lay with the gentle flow of oxygen caressing my nostrils.

‘What’s that noise, Tracy?” my husband asks from a distance, checking in from work, the school run and hospital visit complete. The ambulance siren answers.

My Swedish friend prays, I know… ‘Be still and know that I am God’ sings in my mind, the soundtrack of my new journey. I see streams of cars halted as we race to Nicosia, the capital. I will not leave until I receive my new normal.

Wednesday:

“Are you ready?” they asked, as they wheel me off.

‘NO’ I shout in my head and think, ‘You should be nice, Tracy.’ I stare at my husband and the medics looking back at me. I nod. A pacemaker implant is the lifesaver, they agree. Nice is not true anymore.

Life has taken a tectonic shift. Wires are placed, through a tiny hole in my wrist, into my heart. I doze in and out of this movie that has now become a reality…

The little titanium object is meticulously placed in a pocket above my breast by a cardiologist who stitches the neatest of lines. Needles and thread no longer have the same meaning for the textile artist lying there. My tools of art become the tools to save my life.

It is finished.

“Hallelujah,” I say out loud to my cardiologist, the stranger who now joins the great men in my life. Hallelujah to the new life I will soon discover.

4 months later we built my “Shed with the Chandelier.”

 

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Breaking Point: #14

Today’s Breaking Point story is one of scope, perspective, reason, seasoned emotions, personal empowerment, grace.  I hope it helps people see that what hurts now…can free you.

First, here is a lovely poem from a reader that really spoke to me.  I love that she boxes up her memories rather than trying to erase them.  No one can steal our memories.  Or our joy.  yrs. Laura

Submitted by:  Renee Garner Williamson.

There was a promise made.  A vow taken.
And with a couple of words.  Broken.
I box up the memories.
And walk the halls of where daughters became women.
I close the door on a life of laughter.
And journey to a place where the waves whisper peace.
But in my heart there will always be him.

Submitted by: Stacia Duvall, who blogs here.

“Cashmere or Lace?”

What does one wear when she is off to meet the woman who wrecked her marriage?

Don’t get me wrong.  I am hardly fashion-conscious.  But when I think about being face-to-face with her for the first time, I am stymied.

We will meet at my grandson’s baptism.  She will be with him.  I will be with mine.  We will be cordial and we will be relieved to get it over with.

I will remember meeting her once in my husband’s office.  She was the technician behind the ultrasound machine when I was called back for a second look after a questionable mammogram.   I was vulnerable.

I will remember the slap of awareness when I noticed something amiss on the cell phone bill.  I will remember how calm I felt.  I will remember my mind breaking at the moment he responded to my question.  And I will remember thinking I had not prepped for this altered future.

She will seem young in comparison to me when we meet again.  I will be surrounded by my loved ones while she will have only him.  I will strive to make everyone comfortable and she will try her best to feel comfortable.

And we will move on to this new phase of life.  We will begin anew as a family redefined by infidelity and a 30-year marriage that faltered.

And as I dress for that day I will remember that I have come to know that I no longer blame him, or her, or even infidelity, for the breakup of my marriage. There were patterns developed very early on in a marriage of very young people.   I might have done it much differently if I had known what I know now.

I will remember good times, children, grandchildren, our shared history and what we still share today.

I will keep in mind that I have come to know that the total upheaval of my world turned out to be the best thing that could have ever happened. How the intense anguish steadily faded and how I started feeling stronger, sooner than I might have guessed.  And how free I felt.  Free from the grip of an emotional disconnect that marred an otherwise excellent life.  Free from a lingering unhappiness that hung on like the dull pain of a protracted headache.

I will remember how I never would have left him without stiff prompting because the known seemed far easier than the unknown.  I could envision my life 20 years down the road if I stayed. Without him, I didn’t see much past next Tuesday.

About the time she and I glance at each other from across the room, I will be thinking of how I have been able to forgive him, but not her.   As it is with friends and family known forever, I focus on his good qualities and not his serious faults.  I accept him for who he is because we have a common history and because I know him well.  I know the demons that haunt him and the goodness that is often buried.   I understand him as can only develop through years together.

I do not know her like I know him.  I know her from brief interactions when the marriage was failing.  I know how she looked when I ran into her after I found out.  She was at the video store with her husband and two small children and I was aware that her husband did not know yet.  I recall looking boldly into her eyes and willing her to think of her children and carry on as she should.  This is all that I really know of her.

Divorce is painful for most everyone, no matter the particulars.  What happens when it’s over and done has many versions.  With mine, I found a me that I never knew was there and a me that had long-since been forgotten.  I discovered strength, self-esteem and a person I liked better.  All from the unexpected window that popped open when a door slammed in front of me.

So while I may remain a bit apprehensive about getting over the hurdle of our first encounter, I am happy that my grandson will be surrounded that day with an extended family that still exists, if in different form and connection.   It is not today what I envisioned long ago it would be, but it is still a loving family.

I will wear whatever I feel like wearing that day and not dwell on it.

All I really need wear that day is a smile.

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Breaking Point: #13

After reading this hopeful post, the words of the poet Wallace Stevens came to me:

Only this evening I saw it again,

At the beginning of winter, and I walked and talked

Again, and lived and was again, and breathed again

And moved again and flashed again, time flashed again.

May we all flash again with the coming of Spring.  yrs. Laura

 

Submitted by:  Robin Dake, whose ebook is available here.

Painting My Nails

I painted my toenails last week. At one time, I kept red polish on my toes – bright red, happy red. I had tried other colors, but kept coming back to red. At one time, I sparkled. But somehow, in this last year, as my 18-year marriage crumbled, cleaved, then ended, I lost my sparkle and I stopped painting my toes.

At first, it was just putting off the repair. I noticed a few chips on the edges and thought, ‘I need to fix that,’ but never got to it. The chips got bigger and my toes now needed a full-out re-do. They needed to be stripped down to bareness, filed smooth, then lovingly repainted. By summer, the nails themselves were raggedy, but I didn’t have the energy to lift an emery board, much less gather the polish remover, lotion and cotton balls.

In yoga class – the class I joined to learn to breathe in the year there was no breath – my chipped and sad toes mocked me. They shouted that I must be a failure because I couldn’t even keep my toes neat and presentable. I couldn’t hear it then, but
there was another voice speaking softly, saying, ‘it’s okay, love your raggedy toes now and know you will be okay.’

As the months went by that voice did get louder and I was able to accept that I was a girl whose toes were no longer painted red. I could do downward dog without trying to avert my eyes from my toes and I found myself looking at polish colors in the drugstore aisle. In October, I unearthed the toenail clipper and neatened things up. I stripped away the last of the red and left it at that. I wore patent leather shoes to court that day, but underneath the shine, my toes remained unfiled and naked.

The cold that came in during the last part of November made me keep socks on my feet almost all the time. They were thick, fleece socks – blue with polka dots – that muffled the cold snaking around my toes. I only caught a glimpse of them as I showered and dressed before I sought out that fleecy warmth and protection again.

A friend gave me perfumed lotion for Christmas, and after a moment of listening to the inner voice that loves me, I slathered it on my feet and ankles, enjoying the luxury and softness. And finally, I dug out the polish. I gently filed and smoothed those nails, then put that polish on stroke by stroke.  My toes wiggled with contentment.

The polish is not fire engine red, but instead a soft, pearled pink.  It doesn’t sparkle, but it does glow. Today, I breathe again.

I may not make it back to fire engine red, but I suspect one day, I may just try purple.

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Breaking Point: #12

Today we have two teen Breaking Point stories– one of eating disorder and one of depression.  Perhaps you can relate personally or as a parent.  As I read these entries every morning, I at first feel a resistance to the experience of empathy and pain.  Yet with each one, by the end, something is released.  I hope it is the same for you.  Submissions are closed, but I encourage you to write your own Breaking Point story as a healing exercise. 

yrs. Laura

Submitted by: Natasha Kasprzyk , who blogs here.

“When You Know That It’s Real”

There was only one good thing about going to St. Juliana’s: Noon release on Fridays.

Early release from being teased at recess while the slap of jump ropes smacked on the blacktop, the stares of indignation when I, the Jew, dared to ask a question in Mrs. Lidgus’s Religion class; the hiding between the toilet and the back left corner of the bathroom stall, focusing my tear-filled eyes on the spit wads clinging to the ceiling, while Chris Flosi told Mary Fahey what an ugly fat slob I was.

In other words, release from (insert sign of the cross here) Hell.

Of course, early release meant trekking over to my mother’s office for the afternoon, because god forbid I actually get four hours of peace and be by myself in my own house…well, my mother’s house, that is. It wasn’t mine, I was reminded on a regular basis.

My one saving grace, one area of neutral territory between this version of jail and that, one place where I could seek solace was watched over by a benevolent little girl, face doused with freckles and topped with vibrant red, braided hair.

Wendy’s.

Every Friday, I stood in the winding line, waiting to approach the counter where I could spend MY money on MY lunch, as if the grease and cheese and starch and carbonation could transport me into a world without judgment, if only for a few, high-calorie minutes.

Kathy always worked the register on Fridays. Tightly cropped curls framed her face, and at the time I thought she wore an expression of focus, but now I wonder if it was resignation at what her career had become. She smiled when she saw me in line, as if I were an old friend who had come to break up the monotony of her day.

One afternoon, I knew I needed to make a change. This lunch just wasn’t doing it for me anymore. Whether I ordered my burger with extra ketchup or lettuce-free, it no longer brought me the pleasure it once had. Something was missing. And I decided that something was a second hamburger patty.

I finally arrived at the front of the line, ready to give Kathy my order, and in return, she would validate my existence for the week.

“Welcome to Wendy’s. How may I help you?”

Oh, Kathy, I thought. Enough with the pretenses…you could drop the formalities with me!

I smiled, cleared my throat, and said, “I’d like a combo meal, please…with a double cheeseburger.”

The corners of Kathy’s smile fell into a thin line, her lips held together tight until the right words were ready to come out. She looked left, checking to see if anyone would notice she was about to break character, leaned forward, and said, “Honey…do you really think you need that much food?”

Did she really just say that? Kathy, my one oasis in the middle of Hell?

I looked down to hide tears of embarrassment, put my money in my pocket, set my straw, two napkins, and four ketchup packets on the counter, and slipped out the side door.

I wasn’t hungry anymore.

 

Submitted by:  Mary Novaria

Her blog, A Work in Progress, is found here

Also on Facebook — www.facebook.com/mimsy811

A call from the school is rarely a good thing. When my phone rings and I see the caller ID, I resist the urge to let it go to voicemail, my thoughts wavering between now what? and impending doom.

“I have Hannah in my office,” says Mrs. K, the school psychologist. “She’s in a pretty dark place. Can you come to school so we can talk?”

“Of course,” I whisper calmly, although I am not calm.

Senior year. Until now, Hannah has attended school in our neighborhood. Less than a block away, I can see it from my kitchen window. It ‘s quicker to walk there than to drive and find parking. Wanting a fresh start, Hannah has transferred to a new school ten miles away.

I breathlessly sign in at the front office, a security measure that annoys me since I am in a mad dash to get to my daughter who doesn’t say much, but lets me hug her. We follow Mrs. K into a classroom and sit around a table with Hannah’s guidance counselor, assistant principal and gifted education teacher. They are concerned and sympathetic. Hannah looks small and pale. She’s huddled in a jacket with a sweatshirt pulled over her head, a state her dad calls being “hooded.” Hannah’s ever-present hoodie has become a security blanket, although it seems to make her more separate than secure. A symbol of retreat, the hoodie is a silent decree: Leave Me Alone. But a mother just can’t leave a troubled kid alone and neither can these educators who, although they’ve only known my daughter and our family for a few months, really seem to care.

“We are worried that Hannah isn’t safe, that she’s going to hurt herself.”

No one uses the word “suicide” or the phrase “kill herself” but we all know that’s what we’re talking about. The room begins to close in on me yet, somehow, also seems too cavernous for such an intimate discussion. High ceilings, fluorescent lights, institutional furniture… an assistant principal with tears in her eyes.

“I just want to get out of here.” It’s the only thing Hannah says.

“Before you can go,” Mrs. K says, “We need to be sure you’re not going to harm yourself, Hannah. Can you tell us you won’t?”

She can’t. Or she won’t. One thing I know about my daughter is she detests being on the spot. If she is backed into a corner she will dig in her heels and there will be an epic standoff. For the next hour, each of us tries to get a guarantee from Hannah that she’s not going to carry out some dark and deathly plan. I am grateful this isn’t my battle alone. Hannah knows exactly what she needs to do to escape this intervention and she won’t do it. It is a quiet and indirect cry for help.

“Hannah, I’m going to ask your mother to take you to the hospital…” Turning to me, Mrs. K asks, “Will you do that, Mom?”

“Yes. I will,” I say, aching from my tensed, furrowed brow to the knotted pit in my gut.

“No! I won’t go!” Hannah says defiantly.

“Then tell us you’re going to be safe,” someone pleads.

Silence.

We’re not making progress. The adolescent psych hospital is not far away.

“They won’t admit you unless they feel it’s necessary,” I tell Hannah.

I am glad someone else can decide. This is the fifth time in the last year Hannah has had a hospital assessment related to her severe anxiety and depression. The first resulted in a week-long day program. The most recent was a six-week inpatient treatment center 2,000 miles away. Now this.

At the hospital, Hannah still won’t articulate a safety plan and is thought to be a danger to herself. She is admitted. She is furious. I want to take her home but I am too scared. She was gone over Thanksgiving. And Christmas. Then, finally, home for New Year’s. We had a fresh start, a new beginning, a healthy girl, hope.

That was three weeks ago.

 

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Breaking Point: #11

We are rounding the bend toward Spring.  Each year at this time, I remember what gratitude is…in tiny things like being able to see the driveway again.  The call of the red-winged blackbird in the marsh behind my house that tells me we’re still worth returning to.  Open windows that blow out my Winter dormancy and wake me up with a wind that feels balmy, even at 45 degrees.  Each year at this time, I  feel myself losing that Winter brace against the cold.  And I re-learn that gratitude can’t be felt without a willingness to receive.  As we finish this Winter, I invite us all to actively receive the newness and hope of Spring.  We have another week or so of this Breaking Point series.  I am so grateful to all of you who have participated.  I’ve closed submissions due to time constraints, as with the first day of Spring (March 20th) I would like us to move out of whatever pain we’re in, and step into healing.  Or, you could look at it like this:  we can choose to use our pain to create emotional freedom by breathing deeper into it past fear and ideas of wrong and bad…and in-so-doing…let it go.  However we choose to view pain– teacher, guide, enemy…I want us to feel the power of the present moment with all its promise and abundance.  In other words, I want us to dance in the rain.  Thank you for sharing your stories and thank you for reading them.  We are all in this together.  yrs. Laura  

Today’s Breaking Point is from: Kat Holland at thebreakupguide.com.  (This link goes to a guest blog piece I wrote for them.) 

To go to their main page click here.

The “M” Visions

Intuition is the one thing we are blessed with – never ignore what you know inside.

My belongings are packed in a 10×10 storage unit and I’ve left my job and my community behind. As I wait for my plane to take off, I wonder what happened to my life. I had it all – a cabin in the mountains, a husband, a dream PR job and loyal friends. Why didn’t I see my life crashing…or did I?

I married a New Zealand man with disheveled sandy blond hair and a slender athletic build. He looked like Jude Law, only hotter. He was a great cook, charming and smart…or more like…a smart ass. He was a lawyer turned bartender because he wanted to live out every man’s dream of being a ski bum. You know…the kind of guy who wakes up, smokes a bowl, hits the powder in the winter, frequents the golf course in the summer, then attends his very part-time job. His profession didn’t bother me, as long as we were both happy. I loved and supported him and looked forward to growing old with him. I accepted his drug habits and his carefree lifestyle. He was my husband, the man I chose to spend the rest of my life with – I adored him and he adored me.

We had been together for 10 years, but in February 2006, my life suddenly spun out of control. I thought I had vertigo– my head whirled as if caught in a tornado’s vortex. It was my first anxiety attack. I was 38. Then, insomnia interrupted my shut eye, and when I did sleep, my pleasant dreams turned into nightmares. They were vivid and sexual. I questioned whether or not I was getting enough sex, which I wasn’t.  I witnessed my husband kissing and then thrusting himself into another woman and it became a re-occurring dream. It was never the same woman – she was faceless, and the sex appeared methodical and meaningless.

Hanging from above a cloud, I watched them in disbelief. When he saw me, he continued thrusting into her with a shit-eating grin on his face. Then I lunged forward like a tiger and bit his cheeks. My teeth sunk into his flesh and I chomped down as if gnawing on a rubber band. I hoped that I had caused him great pain but soon realized that the opposite was happening – he was mocking me. What I thought would hurt him, gave him immense pleasure. He looked me straight in the eye and laughed. The more he laughed, the harder I chewed, until I woke up.

When I emerged from the dream, I saw visions of an “M, but the name was never clear. The “M” appeared in all my dreams. It was an unusual “M” name, almost like a Mona, or Monique, though I never grasped the name completely. The dreams of my husband having sex with another woman were frequent, at least once a month. I began wondering whether or not I was losing my mind. In my heart, I couldn’t fathom that he was having an affair. He wouldn’t be unfaithful, would he? He confirmed that he loved me daily and boasted “I was his Heidi Klum.”

One day I woke up from the nightmare and confronted him. “Are you having an affair?” I explained all the details.

“No, of course not,” he said calmly.

“But, I keep having these dreams that seem so real. Are you sure you’re not having an affair?”

“Absolutely not,” he said adamantly. “You probably miss Marley.”

Marley was our 18 year-old black cat who had died a few months before. I adopted her from my best friend. She was a feisty cat and if you blew air near her face, she would jump up and bite you. We weren’t exactly sure why, but we believe smoke was blown into her face as a dorm kitty.

“You’re right, I miss Marley.”

Eight months later, my husband announced that he had been having an affair since February. I was furious because he betrayed our trust and I didn’t follow my intuition. The dreams now made sense, because the “M” was the first letter of the name of his mistress.

At the time, I knew my spirit guide (which I like to think was my cat), was yelling at me to wake the hell up and live a more conscious life. I was so caught up in being an overachiever, that nothing about me was awake. Not my spirit. Nor my soul. Nor my mind. And my identity had disappeared.

Now, as I sit here on the plane, I’m grateful to embark on a solo adventure around the world and discover a new ME. After months of being buried in the rubble and crying my eyes out, I’m in gratitude and I have found a new sense of balance. Life has thrown me a twist of fate, a new beginning. It’s a daunting journey because the “we” has vanished, but I’m about to discover who I am, what I love, and why I’m here.

After Kat’s travels, she created TheBreakupGuide.com, a blog that enriches, empowers and restores people’s lives after a break-up.

 

 

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Breaking Point: #10

I am hosting an end-of-winter series featuring stories from the trenches of pain.  My hope is that in sharing these breaking points, we will feel less alone.  Thank you all for your bravery.  You are helping the world to heal.  

yrs. Laura

Today we have two Breaking Points.

One of desperation…

Submitted by: Victoria, in London

Sitting in the hall way of my small modern flat.  Just me.  Although the walls were bright, it was dark with no natural light.  The walls were moving in.

What were my choices, there must be choices.  Swinging my straggly hair and becoming aware of an odour I wondered when I last had a bath.  Did I need to do something?  It didn’t matter.  I could not do anything.  I would sit and wait.  And wait some more. Something would happen, it always did.

I could hear the buses in the road and was aware that life was carrying on outside.  Buses, bikes, cars, people bustling, on the way to and from the shops, the bus stop, the park, the library.  But nothing was changing.  It was still the same.  No one was coming to rescue me.  No one was going to knock on the door and solve everything.  If the phone rang I would not be able to ask for help, again.  I cannot ask.  Who would understand?

And what if I tell?  The look of pity and incredulity at my words would be the last pebble that made the earthquake begin.  And it may never stop.  Not ever and this may be the end of the world. The world which is my world which is the only world that I can know.  How am I supposed to know another person’s world, how is that possible?  Which brings me back to here.  And the walls and my bad hygiene because I have no energy to go the bathroom not 3 steps away.

Get the clothes and bury myself, pile them on myself and hide in them so that I do not exist, no one could see me if anyone was here.  Finally, I am not here I am sorted out and I am just a blouse, or a towel or a piece of fabric and no one can tell that I am in the pile of things so I can stay here forever, un noticed.

But no one is here.  And there is no one to see that I am not here.  I know that I am here and I still feel the same.

Nothing has changed, nothing is better and I cannot do this any longer.

And one of healing

Submitted by: Merris Doud

God helps us in times of need even when we want nothing more to do with Him. In my case, He used my dogs to help me through the days following the death of my daughter, Sarah.  I never blamed them, never questioned their love for Sarah or me, never felt anger towards them. They were the perfect instruments for God to use. In the split second that it took my brain to process the words “Sarah took her own life,” my world lost all meaning.  My husband, Mike, had taken the dogs to be boarded.  When I was able to move – to speak, I asked him to bring them home.  As I lay on my bed, feeling a brand of pain that I could never have imagined, the dogs ran in and excitedly jumped on the bed. They immediately sensed that something was horribly wrong and quietly settled, lightly molding their bodies against mine.   Soon they slipped into their afternoon routine, gently snoring as they napped.  They didn’t move; they didn’t speak; they didn’t cry.  They were just there, warm and alive and touching me. And it was comforting, so much more comforting than being told that Sarah’s death was God’s plan, that time would take the pain away, or that Sarah was now in a better place.

Throughout the months that followed, I moved through my days vowing never to love anyone or anything again.  The dogs were always there, either laying on the bed beside me or collapsed like speed bumps on the floor beneath my desk where I tried to work.

I begged anyone who would listen for an explanation, and it infuriated me when they shook their heads looking through me – offering nothing. I felt no such rage towards the dogs.  I asked them no questions; they gave me no answers.  I didn’t expect that from them.  They looked at me in the same way they always had – no pity in their eyes.  Nothing had changed in our relationship, no awkwardness – no impatience for me to get up and carry on.

One morning I woke up to find Maggie, the abandoned pup that Sarah had brought home, standing over me.  She cocked her head to the right then to the left. I swear she smiled as if to say, “There you are. I’ve missed you.”  And I felt something other than pain for the first time since Sarah died. Encouraged, Maggie bent over me, wagging her tailless backside with such vigor that she nearly toppled over. Then she began showering me with wonderful, wet kisses, her sweet puppy breath warm against my skin – awakening my capacity to love. Watching this action from the foot of the bed, Annie, who Sarah had rescued from an animal shelter, jumped up and joined in, happy that we were kissing again.

I believe that was when I started to heal.  Not then, but now I see that in that moment , God revealed to me that there was still joy in my world – not joy as pure as before,  for it would always be filtered through the pain of losing Sarah, but it was there, nonetheless. Both Maggie and Annie are gone now, their purpose fulfilled.  They were special dogs whose lives began as unwanted strays and ended as the esteemed channels that God used to touch me and give me a glimpse of hope.  For without hope – without love, we’re just passing time – waiting for the lights to go out.

For Annie and Maggie

I miss you guys

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