Tag Archives: pain

The Merrier Me

husbandnolove

When laughing didn’t hurt…

Like a lot of people this weekend
who opted to tuck in front of the fire in lieu of holiday parties, I watched Rudolph, which always stresses me out and I’m not sure why I go, “awwwwwwwwww” when I see it’s going to be on television because that abominal snowmonster still freaks me out and all those sad toys with Rankin Bass puppet mouths, and then Frosty (ditto—he melts!  A little girl cries next to the puddle once known as his former self, and there’s a cloying bad guy that he can’t shake with a weird rabbit helper—I forget what happens in the end.  I think he moves to Brooklyn.)

download (1)And then the healing began.  Mary Poppins.  Two hours of Mary and Bert and tuppence and votes for women and evening govnah and magic umbrellas and bottomless carpet bags and sidewalk chalk painting portals into barber shop penguins and carousels with real horses and hilarious helium tea on the ceiling and and and.  Even though she leaves them in the end and they all have to find their inner Mary Poppins.download

The only thing of it is:  I laughed.  And that is a physical response to emotions I haven’t let myself feel for two months.  The who what when where why how of it has to do with a horse and my tendency to act over-confident when I’m scared.  And a loose cinch.  In short, he zigged, I zagged.  Bottom line:  if you’re going to ride horses, you’re going to end up on the ground sometimes.  You just hope you don’t hear actual bones cracking.  Three of them.  Ribs.

If you’ve broken a rib, you are now making the face I make when I see the abominal snowmonster.
download (2)It suuuuuuucks.  Breaths are reduced to small sips, coughing and sneezing are a delicacy you can only succumb to if you can’t not, sighing is not recommended, sleeping in any position at all is nearly unattainable (I seriously almost bought a recliner and put it in the living room), talking with any animation is ish-y, singing is better left to a dull hum, crying—meh…and laughter?  Laughter is verboten, like the Burgermeister Meisterburger has some sort of hold on you.

You know that kind of laughter that happens at weddings and funerals and graduation speeches that you can’t control?  It has total occupation of your diaphragm?  Well, that’s one of my central goals in life.  That kind of belly-womping primordial caccination.  With snorts in-between.  If you can’t breath deeply, you can’t pull it off, not by any stretch.  So you have a choice:  Laugh your way into scar tissue that will remind you of your stupid horse tricks for the rest of your life when you climb a ladder or reach for your shoes.  Or go deadpan.  Poker face.  In short, I’ve been officially depressed.  I lead retreats.  I needed to go on one.  Just not in my bed for two months, groaning.bdd9bf5f53c4df963b2e91e3a5b2e939

And now that it’s the holidaze, the Kay jewelers people don’t help.  Or those Folgers ads.  Or all the perfect Facebook Christmas trees.  Or the families in matching sweaters on my Christmas cards.  Or the fact that I haven’t gotten a Christmas card out this year and probably won’t.  In my mind, it’s still October.  Thanksgiving hasn’t even happened.  I’m finally going out for a ride on my horse after a grueling fall work schedule.  I’m tired.  I feel sorry for myself.  And I’m going to do something nice for myself, damnit.  He jigged.  I jagged.  And I watched fall become winter from my bed for the most part of two months.

But I’m not writing this to complain.  I’m writing all of this to say that I now know what gratitude really means.  Bless you, cup of tea that took me twenty minutes to make, including the hard launch from bed– the roll, the sidle, the squirm, the shuffle, the sit, and the big one:  the stand…the walk…and the stairs…the stairs, the pick up the tea pot, the fill it with water, the ow ow ow ow ow all the way back up the stairs, back to sit, to the slow timber back into the pillows.  Oh.  And then there’s the tea.  Waaaaaaay over there on the nightstand, a century of inches away.  “Forget it.  Let it get cold.  I’ve just done the Iditorod.”  And there she lay.  Watching the sun move around the house and the moon rise, and all of her responsibilities fall like the leaves she never got to on the lawn, and the snow that’s coming, that came, and all the people she’ll have to ask to help her do simple things and all the shame around one stupid moment on a horse that she was planning on riding every day for eight straight weeks of much-needed horse therapy.  Her new craving:  Epsom salts.  And oh, that cold cup of tea.  If only someone would come in with a fresh steaming cup and fold her laundry…  Still, I have never been more grateful for just being able to get up and make the tea, never mind drink it.

That said, all that woe-is-me managed to loop itself around to a world of hurt that I’ve never experienced before.  I’ve never taken anti-depressants, and for the first time, I seriously considered it.  And then, just as I was thinking this would be my permanent world…I caught myself laughing at something on Jimmy Fallon.  And it hurt…so good.  And I realized what was really wrong.  It wasn’t the horselessness or the shame or the frustration or even the pain.  It was the lack of laughter in my life.  Without laughter, I was living in a colorless world of fair-to-middling.  I had untrained myself out of delight.  Joy.  Unabashed explosions of glee.  And it had to stop.  I am a laugher.  No matter what.  I needed to get back on that horse.  (The other one can wait.)

So on Saturday night, in my eighth week of recovery, my ribs more mended than not, with permission from Mary Poppins and her tea-time wack-wonkery, I let myself laugh.  Ecstatic laughing.  In hee hee hees and hoh hoh hohs and hah hah hahs.  It made LOL look like mere titter.  And man…did it feel good.  My whole being felt light and alive in a way it hasn’t for far too long.  I am so grateful for this simple and essential human ability.  I love to laugh, indeed.  Laughter really is the best medicine.  LOLOLOLOLOLOL!

Now Booking Haven Writing Retreats 2017

February 22-26 (one spot left)
June 7-11
June 21-25
September 6-10
September 20-24
October 4-8
October 18-22

6ee1f68fd040036966b5b656aa1eb33d

***According to Mayo clinic laughter is just what the doctor ordered!

***PS.  In all that lying around, I did manage to write 150 pages of a book.  So there’s that.  #grateful

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under My Posts

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.

 

9 Comments

Filed under Breaking Point, My Posts

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.

10 Comments

Filed under Breaking Point, My Posts

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

3 Comments

Filed under Breaking Point, My Posts

Breaking Point: #6

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.  To participate and for more info go here.

yrs. Laura

Submitted by Alison Bolshoiopera singer

The days staring at the plain white ceiling were so many that I’m surprised I didn’t go mad.  I didn’t want so much time to think about what had happened to me, and too often that white ceiling became a movie screen where horrific images flew at me, playing and replaying themselves like demons.  Because they could.  Because I couldn’t get away.

The people who came in and out didn’t help me at all with the struggle I was having.  They couldn’t.  The only part of my face that was still visible was an inch of forehead over my eyes, and my eyes themselves.  My great grandmother, at 93, came and sat on a high stool, to be able to reach.  Everyday.  At the time this great feat was unremarkable to me, though her two fingers, which she traced back and forth over the one bare inch of my forehead, brought me more comfort than any single act anyone has every done in my lifetime to make me feel better.

I couldn’t tell her.

There are days now that I wish for those cool fingers, and sometimes I wish so hard I can feel them again.  Almost.  There was a mylar balloon, which was new back then.  One of the aunts had written in black marker, “This Too Shall Pass Away” on it.  Because it floated so high, I could see it.   The weird thing about one’s first experience with mylar balloons is how long they last.  This one made it from the seventh through the eleventh surgery.  Yet instead of being a comfort, it made the strangeness of it all much deeper.  Like I was suspended in time, stuck forever with this white ceiling movie screen and this balloon, and no one was going to come and get me out of here.  Balloons only last a day or two.  This was endless weeks.  If the balloon is there though, isn’t it still the first day?  What day is it?

My mother came every day, and I dreaded it.  I wanted her so much.  I wanted her to hold me and stroke me and smile.  To tell me it was over and that we were never going back.  To comfort me.  But she couldn’t.  Instead she would walk in with a smile that never made it to her eyes, which were already crying by the third step.

“This is just terrible.  It’s just terrible.  And I’ve spoken with your father, I’ve fought with him.  He won’t come.  [sobbing]  He just won’t come.  I want you to know that this is wrong.  That he should be here.”  She would turn her back and wipe her face.  And then I would comfort her.  I would tell her that it was all right.  That I understood she tried, and that I understood he wouldn’t come.  Because I couldn’t stand to see her in so much pain.  She couldn’t tell, since she never touched my face, that the bandages around both my eyes were completely soaked, because I was crying too.  I cried because she cried, I cried because I was in so much pain.  Most of all I cried because I knew that the next time I would be dead, and that she actually expected me to go home for that next time.  I was so glad for those bandages.  Glad that she didn’t know.

After awhile she would leave, and I would feel so much worse.   I didn’t know why then.  I didn’t know that she was supposed to be comforting me, rescuing me, or that the way I twisted myself in half to comfort her was more painful than watching him, feeling him smash my face in, over and over, on my white ceiling, which became the orange carpet of my room stained red, which became the white ceiling, which became the orange carpet of my room stained red …

But this place, this blank room with the many roommates who came, healed, and left, this time out of time where I had too much time to think, gave me a gift.  The gift came after I heard the boy down the hall who I thought was in worse shape than me.   Who would start to scream at the beginning of the second hour for the morphine that he wouldn’t be given until the fourth.   I couldn’t take his screams.  They hurt me in my chest.  I asked who he was, and my nurse told me he
was a boy my age who had tried to commit suicide by jumping off a five story building.  Problem was he lived, and broke every bone in his legs multiple times.

When I finally could be upright, I asked if I could go see him.  Walking down the hall to his room was a terrible journey of nausea, of the hallway spinning even after I stopped and waited.  But I got there, and I sat with him, and I gave him my teddy bear that my brother had brought me.  It was a Gund and I really liked it.  I told him to hold onto that bear when the pain got too bad.  It turned out that he was seventeen too, and I was told later that he heard me in a way that the doctors and nurses said he didn’t hear them.

I told him he didn’t need to go back to whatever he had lived in that made him want to jump off a building.  That he could go somewhere else and be happy.  And then I realized I wasn’t just talking to him, so I went back to my room.

That night I stared at the white ceiling and I broke away from everything I knew.  I made myself look at a different movie, a movie of a happy life.  My life.  And when the demon movies came, I let them, I bought them a ticket for the seat on the train next to mine, and as soon as I could I replayed my new movie of happiness.  And somehow I knew I was never going back.

9 Comments

Filed under Breaking Point, My Posts

Breaking Point: #5

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.  To participate and for more info go here.

yrs. Laura

Today we have two stories, one of breaking, one of healing.

Breaking Point

Submitted by: Anonymous

In life we all have what we may consider to be broken moments, and certainly when we look back through our lives, we see times which, whilst we didn’t realise it at the time, appear to have been devastatingly painful.  I look back at the last three years of my father’s life and wonder why on earth I wasn’t there to support my parents when they were going through the most difficult of times.  But those times were their broken moments and during those times, I had left home, started my career, married life and a new family.  I lived some two hundred miles away and, I know that isn’t too far, but we get caught up trying to follow our own paths.

My own broken moment which sent me reeling into what felt like myriad broken moments which would never stop breaking me down, happened on Friday 20th May 2011.  My husband of almost twenty-one years told me on that day at about 2pm in the afternoon that our marriage was over.

We were at work, in his office, we work in the same school, he is a teacher, I’m one of the librarians.  He told me that we couldn’t carry on being married, his feelings for another were too strong for him to ignore and that he would leave me and our two daughters as soon as he could find somewhere else to stay.  He had intimated to me a couple of weeks beforehand that he had started to have feelings for this third party but had sworn there and then, seeing my reaction of fear, loss and desperation, that we could try and work out what went wrong between us, that he would be completely committed to trying to find a journey that we could take together in the future and look after our girls.  That commitment lasted for about a week and then, when he saw the object of his desire, he knew that he didn’t want me.  It tookhim a further four or five days to tell me that it was the end.

After this devastating revelation, I was distraught and he took me home.  I was anxious about telling the children and my family what was happening.  The girls, unsurprisingly, took the news extremely badly and we are still very wary of thinking too much about the future and what it brings.  They are trying to rebuild their friendship with their Dad, as well as trust and confidence in him.  They are twelve and sixteen years of age.  It’s difficult to be faced with this situation at any time of life but with one entering puberty and the other about to sit some important exams, it’s been exceedingly hard for them.  Just when we, or rather I (the girls had long since established this fact), had finally accepted that he wasn’t going to return and had established his new life, he was admitted to a psychiatric ward about forty miles away as the doctor was worried he may commit suicide.  What he’d done finally hit home and, realizing that his children no longer wanted to see him or have him in their lives, was too unbearable for him.  I think he also realized what he’d done to me.  He survived this experience and we are currently trying to find a way forward, either together or separately.  We are all still here, thankful for sunny days and trying to enjoy moments which are not broken but fulfilling and peaceful.

 

“Healing in Relationships”

Submitted by: Don Stifler

All of a sudden we find ourselves in a broken relationship. It could be broken for any number of reasons. We may have caused it or we could be just the recipients of someone else’s issues. Regardless of who initiated this failure, we experience many feelings such as:

Anger

Hurt

Betrayal

Guilt

Loss of Self Esteem

A need for revenge

And too many more to list.

 

Forgiveness is confusing to many of us. What makes it confusing is we think that we need to condone the actions of others in order to forgive. Nothing is further from the truth. Forgiveness rarely addresses condoning the transgression. In fact the person or persons we may be forgiving
rarely understand our ability to forgive. Forgiveness is for the forgiver. We cannot really forgive another unless we can forgive ourselves.

Forgiving ourselves can be difficult if we feel we are the victim and have done nothing wrong.

Christ says “Forgive your Neighbor as you Forgive Yourself.” Boy, this is hard if you feel you have been wronged.

Think about this, “Life is a Participation Sport” It takes two to dance, there must be two to separate. Rarely can you slice a piece of bread so thin that there are not two sides to it.

Looking within can be a good place to start our recovery. Whether we feel we had a part in the failure of the relationship or not we muststart the process of forgiving ourselves. It all starts here with us. It does not involve the other party. We must address what we control and nothing else.

Every minute of every day God is there to love us and forgive, even if we really blew it. Should we do any less? In our humanity we make errors. Even if on purpose, we are allowed to ask for forgiveness. Therefore, this becomes the first KEY to Healing in Relationships.

The ability to forgive ourselves. It is not an option, it is a must. Christ did not say 7 times, He said 7 times 70. It becomes a time to remove our ego and ask for forgiveness of our own deeds known or unknown. A short prayer will start the process.

“Dear Lord, I ask your forgiveness for all that is known and unknown about my situation. Help to open my eyes and my heart to myself and to your love and forgiveness. Help me to accept responsibility for whatever actions or lack thereof that could have cause this riff and give me the strength to move forward in a more compassionate way with integrity and purpose and forgiveness of myself to allow me to offer forgiveness to others. Amen”

Joseph Girzone, the author, of the book “Joshua” and “Never Alone” described a process to help with forgiving. “If you can put yourself in the position of the one who is hurting you and realize the anguish they are going thru in their life at that moment, you can allow Anger to be replaced by Compassion, and with compassion can come forgiveness.

As stated above, when we forgive the person it does not mean we must condone their actions; it just means we forgive for forgiveness sake alone. Forgiveness is really a personal act to allow us to be free. When we forgive we do it for our reasons not the other persons. Often times they do not even understand our act of forgiveness and sometimes if they do it blows their mind.

My brother mentioned this when I was going through a divorce. He said Don do you want to be free. I said yes and he said the only way to be free is to forgive my spouse and her lover, my best friend. I chewed on this and worked through the forgiveness process. I was hurt, angry, felt betrayed. At that point it was not about me and all about them. But I wanted to be free and move on. So I sent each a letter stating my wish to forgive them and in fact I was forgiving them. I wasn’t condoning what had happened but I was forgiving them for what happened and at the same time was forgiving myself for any participation I had in creating this situation. Of course at the time, I felt blameless, but it sounded good. So in reality I had not done the whole job, because I held myself outside the situation.

This played on my mind. As I pondered this forgiveness thing I came to face my responsibility as a party to this situation, simply by not being stronger in developing my own relationship with my spouse. Once I realized this, I could truly forgive. My brother was right it blew their minds but I did not cause that or wish that.

I realized that nice people could make mistakes. These had nothing to do with me personally. They felt bad and guilty. I learned the value of compassion rather than anger. I did not have to take this as a personal attack on me. In effect I did not walk in their shoes.

I learned we do not control another soul. That the only way we have something is to be able to let it go. We can only be a magnet that attracts not one that hold and smothers.

By opening up to the prospect of forgiveness and compassion in any situation allows one to be very free. People want to be around me because I respect their freedom and space. This process was not without pain, sorrow, loss, but it was with tremendous growth and allows me to be the person I am supposed to be. Healed, loving and happy. I am a better person today. I learn from life and grow. The world of would of, could of or should of does not exist in my life. This is the moment. Learn from the past don’t live in the past.

Finally, my relationship with a loving god has made this all possible. I would not pretend to be able to do this alone

DJS

 

 

8 Comments

Filed under Breaking Point, My Posts

Breaking Point: #4

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.  To participate and for more info go here.

yrs. Laura

Submitted by: Elizabeth Gaucher at Esse Diem

“The Regret Story”

Alice was a beautiful young girl at a 4-H camp where I was a counselor one summer. She and her brother were both campers that week, and even back then I recognized in them a fragility under their good looks and strong sibling bond. Alice was needy, and shy, and desperately wanted to be liked, but she did weird things. She clung to her brother when other kids wanted her to socialize with them, and she carried a baby doll everywhere she went. She slept with the doll, changed the doll’s clothes, even introduced the doll as her friend.
The other girls were snickering about Alice’s insecurity and rolling their eyes over the baby doll, but I didn’t think there was trouble brewing.
I was wrong.

One morning I heard peals of laughter coming from the community bathroom. “Come in here, Elizabeth, you have to see this. Oh my God, this is hilarious!” I can still see it. My heart is pounding right now as I write this, and I feel sick to my stomach.

I walked into to bathroom to see Alice standing alone, crying, with a circle of girls around her laughing. She was trying to reach something, and the others would not help her. The others had hanged her baby doll naked from a shower curtain, noose around its neck. They tortured and killed the only friend Alice had at camp with the exception of her brother, and then they laughed in her face as she cried for help.

I remember being frozen. It was one of those terrible moments when your mind and your body refuse to connect. It felt like an eternity before I could move or speak. I told everyone but Alice to get out. I reached up to save the doll, and then put it in her arms. I think I told her I was sorry that happened, but I don’t know that I did. My memory is that I wanted the whole thing to go away as quickly as possible.

I could have done more to prevent it from happening. I could have done more to reprimand the girls who did this awful thing. I could have done more to comfort Alice, but I didn’t. I moved on. I wanted it to never have happened, and I acted like it never did.

How I failed Alice is the only thing I define as regret in my life. I knew she needed a friend, someone who would do more than just take the doll down, and that those other girls needed to be held accountable for what they did. When I read about bullying episodes nationwide, I see that others are there, others are aware, but they do not get involved. Why? It is terrifying to witness this kind of psychological violence against another person. If you have never seen it in action, it is hard to understand its power. It isolates and harms the direct victim, and it paralyzes the witness in a cloud of desperation. Talking about it seems to keep it alive.
That’s how it seems, but how it is is that not talking about it keeps it alive. It would be convenient to say, “I know that now,” but I knew that then. I didn’t do what I should have done, and what I knew was required.

I don’t know why this event out of hundreds of life events haunts me the way it does. If there is an afterlife, my vision is that I will encounter a healed and whole Alice, and that she will forgive me.

8 Comments

Filed under Breaking Point, My Posts

Breaking Point: #3

 

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.  To participate and for more info go here.

yrs. Laura

Submitted by: Elin Stebbins Waldal

Two Excerpts from Tornado Warning, A Memoir of Teen Dating Violence and Its Effect on a Woman’s Life

Breaking Point: 

What started it was the picture I drew of myself. I decided to draw a
self-portrait, after I literally stared at my reflection for almost thirty
minutes.

I pulled the mirror off the wall and put it down on the ground and without
really examining myself I just started to draw. It’s when I finished that I was
startled enough to stop, put the paper to the side, and stare.

I hardly recognized myself.

Last fall I checked out one of the cameras from school to try taking
pictures. The one thing I noticed back then was looking through a lens is
really different from just looking. The lens is so small that it forces the one
eye to choose what it sees. Then, with precision, the hand needs to focus the
lens so that the camera actually snaps what you want it to. This is what it was
like for me today looking in the mirror. While I was drawing I was just part of
the reflection but once I put my pencil down and looked at the drawing, then
the captured image all came into focus.

The girl I drew…I don’t know her. She is worn like leather, joyless, spent,
ancient. I forced myself to look at the mirror. The thing of it is…it’s not as
if I am frowning and angry. What is scary is I look vacant, gone, dead.

And that’s when it crept into me…he really can’t kill me…well, he could, but
that’s not what I mean. What I mean is, he actually already has, because he’s
killed my spirit. This is what it means to be alone, really alone…because there
is not a living soul who I can tell.

I hardly tell myself. He must feel me slipping because he has asked me a
million and one times if I really understand he won’t live without me.

Now that I know I am dead, how can I care about his life? After all, he is
the creator of what I see staring vacantly back at me.

I had to stop. I found a small blanket in the hall closet and covered the
mirror. Then I had to leave my room. I was trembling. I walked to the kitchen
and grabbed a snack, then I mechanically went into the living room and sat down
by the huge window that looks down the Mianus River. I drank in the view…all
the deciduous trees are bare naked. And that’s when it hit me with full force.
All those beautiful trees, they shed everything that makes them gorgeous and
they endure the long harsh New England winter and then just when people almost
give up hope, they sprout their tiny little buds. A month or so later they have
leaves; some have flowers too.

I am 19 and I am the tree. I am almost unrecognizable, yet underneath the
twigs and sticks and bark there is a strength. I can feel this strength. I
don’t want to be dead among the living. That tree would no sooner refuse to
sprout then fall over if I pushed it. Maybe….at the core….maybe I am still
here.

So I got up and went back to my room, pulled away the blanket, and sat back
down and again gazed into the mirror. My eyes are green…somewhere in the pool
of black squarely centered in all that green is a path back to me. If I stare
at it long enough maybe just maybe I can see deep inside and find my core, my
strength, my light, my spirit. It’s winter but sure as day will turn to night,
spring will come.

“I am alive….I am alive…I am me and I am alive.”

 

On Healing:

“New questions skip through my bloodstream like a pebble on still water. Do we really “get over” wrongs that have been done to us? How do we know we are healed? The diameter of the rings created by the stone grows wider in my blood lake. I can almost see the ripple beneath my skin. Maybe “healed” isn’t the objective. What if it is “healing”—as in ongoing, like the ocean in a constant ebb and flow? The rolling of the waves begins to settle over me, giving way to a more lucid view of the past that has shaped me. It is as if introspection serves as a ceremonial ablution and through that ritual the choke hold of shame is rinsed clean and makes room for me to see that I am not a victim. I am a survivor but there is more. I need to thrive, share, prevent. I can no longer stay quiet in this world. I have a voice and I feel it reverberate off my internal walls, making its slow climb upward until its melody can be heard all around.”

8 Comments

Filed under Breaking Point, My Posts

The Breaking Point: An invitiation to share your stories


When you record your pain on the page and people read it…something happens. You tap into something that is bigger than your pain. Bigger than pain itself. You are in total truth and by being there…you actually begin a conversation with healing. You invite it to happen. You invite other people to heal by being totally unattached to their healing. You are simply telling your story and your story has power. Your truth has power. Healing power.

I was once at a funeral. A boy had died suddenly in our community, and we were all rocked by it. Most of us had never dealt with death. Maybe a grandfather. But not a peer. Not someone that everybody adored, who was right in the middle of his happy childhood. A family member got up to speak and just held his breath until he coughed tears. The minister went to him, put his hands on his shoulders, and said, “Thank you. You give us all permission.” The whole congregation wept then. I looked around at all those faces of my youth: teachers, schoolmates, store owners, mothers, fathers…everybody was weeping. We needed to weep. And we needed to weep together.

At the end of winter, I invite us to weep a little here. It will be a gathering of scenes from our most broken moments. What they felt like, smelled like, tasted like, looked like from the inside out. 400-600 words. You can include your name and any website link info if you want. Or you can be anonymous. Your truth might be another person’s relief, knowing that we are in this beautiful and heartbreaking life together. Your broken open moment might be another person’s permission to weep. And heal.

Send your stories to Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com and I’ll post according to your request to be named or not. This invitation will last until the first day of Spring. Aptly.
Yrs.
Laura

15 Comments

Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, My Posts

Memorial Day Re-visited

Every year Memorial Day gets a little easier. My father died on this day, May 31st, seven years ago. He would have been an old man by now. He would have been miserable. He couldn’t stand it that his 86 year old body wouldn’t let him skim down the stairs at the Northwestern train station in Chicago anymore. He couldn’t stand it that he couldn’t figure out how to “work a computer.” He couldn’t stand that all of his years of service to the freight car industry was not hailed, but rather, that he was quickly being lost and forgotten, even though he went into the city five days a week to try to do what he considered, good work. When his younger, more techno savvy business partner died suddenly of a heart attack, it was no coincidence that my father went home that night and had a stroke. He died a month or so later. We were all there. We helped him die– with opera and weather shows, Marx Brothers movies and family stories. He had to go and we all knew it. Like I said, he would have been a miserable old man.

I’ve written a lot about my father in my book, so I won’t repeat it here. But I will mention a bit about grief. I have learned that it is as physical as it is mental, and the emotion of it feels at times impossible to control. I talk a lot about powerfully choosing your emotions. That happiness is a choice. That freak outs are a choice. But grief? Maybe you can teach me something about grief, because to me, it doesn’t feel all choice. It feels like its own category, both visceral and emotional. Sort of like fear.

In the first years after his death, it was like my adrenal system was engaged in fight or flight. Like if it wasn’t for my adrenals, I would have died in the trenches in what seemed a certain war. Year by year, it has become less so. It feels more like fighting a cold now, than fighting an enemy. I write that pain can be our guide, and I believe this with all my heart. Maybe what I have learned about the pain that comes with grief has to do with welcoming it. Not resisting it. Knowing that it is going to be part of life now. Death doesn’t go away. The loss of the physical presence of my father will not go away. I can’t call him. I can’t tell him about my day. I can’t ask him how he is. He isn’t.

Last night we had the neighbors over for a Memorial Day picnic. Usually I talk about my dad on this weekend. I raise a glass, tell a story, look through old photos. This year, I didn’t want to. Instead, this year, I wanted to be quiet about it. I wanted to keep my grief for myself. We sat around the fire and listened to the frogs in the marsh and the owl in the woods and swatted mosquitos, and did our annual burning of the Christmas tree. That hot roar was what met and blessed my grief. That was enough.

And in the night, while I slept, I had a dream. I was in my childhood bed and my father came in and sat on the edge of it as he often did for storytime, only he was gasping and saying, “Lord Jesus” over and over again. And I knew I couldn’t save him. It was between him and his God. Instead, I held him while he died in my arms. Maybe another year of grief died in my arms in my dreams last night. Who knows what the fire did when it roared its heat. But this morning, on the actual day of his death, I feel like I finally let him go.


Addendum:
Here is a poem that struck me so hard just now. I called a dear friend today wanting to somehow cry a little, and he sent me here, to these words. There are no coincidences…

Fathers and Sons
I will walk across the long slow grass
where the desert sun waits among the stones
and reach down into the heavy earth
and lift your body back into the day.
My hands will swim down through the clay
like white fish who wander in the pools
of underground caves and they will find you
where you lie in the century of your sleep.

My arms will be as huge as the roots of trees,
my shoulders leaves, my hands as delicate
as the wings of fish in white water.
When I find you I will lift you out
into the sun and hold you
the way a son must who is now
as old as you were when you died.
I will lift you in my arms and bear you back.

My breath will blow away the earth
from your eyes and my lips will touch
your lips. They will say the years have been
long. They will speak into your flesh
the word love over and over,
as if it was the first word of the whole
earth. I will dance with you and you
will be as a small child asleep in my arms
as I say to the sun, bless this man who died.

I will hold you then, your hurt mouth curled
into my chest, and take your lost flesh
into me, make of you myself, and when you are
bone of my bone, and blood of my blood,
I will walk you into the hills and sit
alone with you and neither of us
will be ashamed. My hand and your hand.

I will take those two hands and hold them
together, palm against palm, and lift them
and say, this is praise, this is the holding
that is father and son. This I promise you
as I wanted to have promised in the days
of our silence, the nights of our sleeping.

Wait for me. I am coming across the grass
and through the stones. The eyes
of the animals and birds are upon me.
I am walking with my strength.
See, I am almost there.
If you listen you can hear me.
My mouth is open and I am singing.

Patrick Lane

Witness: Selected Poems, 1962-2010
Harbour Publishing

12 Comments

Filed under My Posts