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Posted in LiF-Love is Forever, spirituality

Strength from Loss

Hiking Ellijay

We don’t have to give others so much power and ourselves so little. We don’t have to give others so much credit and ourselves so little there is a big difference between humility and discounting ourselves. When others act irresponsibly and attempt to blame their problems on us, we no longer feel guilty. We let them face their own consequences. When others talk nonsense, we don’t question our own thinking. When others try to manipulate or exploit us, we know it’s okay to feel anger and distrust and to say no to the plan. When others tell us that we want something that we don’t really want, or someone tells that we don’t want something that we really do want, we trust ourselves. When others tell us things we don’t believe, we know it’s okay to trust our instincts. We can even change our mind later. We don’t have to give up our personal power to anyone: strangers, friends, spouses, children, authority figures, or those over whom we’re in authority. People may have things to teach us. They may have more information than we have and may appear more confident or forceful than we feel. But we are equals. Our magic is not in them. Our magic, our light, is in us. And it is as bright a light as theirs. We are not second-class citizens. By owning our power, we don’t have to become aggressive or controlling. We don’t have to discount others. But we don’t discount ourselves either.

Mike and I arrived at Ellijay, GA yesterday for Mike to join a group for a “bike ride across Georgia” or BRAG. I decided at the last minute to join him and take in the sites that surrounded the bike ride. Today, I hiked a trail up to Amicalola Falls. It was a beautiful day. As I began climbing my way up to the waterfall, memories of Oliver came flooding back. The last time I hiked a waterfall was in Ithaca during Oliver’s stay in a mental hospital, the first of many visits in a hospital. That hiking trip was full of fear and hope at the same time. Fear that his suicide ideations would be played out and hope that we were getting to the heart of his pain and could now begin the journey to find the help that he didn’t know how to ask for before. Now, as I started this hike up the Amicalola Falls after losing Oliver to suicide 2 1/2 years ago, I felt a strength coming back to me. I sensed my mom, Oliver, and my Aunt Ida with me. It felt as though they brought me to this place saying, “we have you, move forward, you feel what we have all felt, and we are up here working on your behalf. You are strong enough to carry what we couldn’t quite do (and that I couldn’t do before I lost them). We are with you, and you are with us. As I took step after step, I felt them with me and me being carried by them. I am strong enough to carry this forward. I can commit to my current life. That doesn’t necessarily mean committing to a way. It is committing to my family; I can stay AND I can move forward. Staying doesn’t mean defeat or passive. It means making a commitment to family AND speaking up to own my own power. Oliver, mom, and Aunt Ida…. You are with me, and I am with you.

Posted in spirituality

Overcoming

Finding my voice!  Between 2008-2009, I created three embarrassing scenes. One where I was upset for Oliver and confronted a person or persons, one about the 2008 financial meltdown, and one I can’t remember, but had something to do with politics and it was piggybacked on from the earlier scene about Oliver. When I look back now, I don’t have many regrets confronting the person about Oliver, but I don’t blame them anymore either. It came from a place of protection for my son, and now I know why. He was struggling in so many ways, and I felt helpless, not knowing how to help him. The other two came from a place of needing to feel like the smart person in the room while adding drinks to the mix bolstered my unsupported confidence. I spoke too loudly and forcefully about something that I had a little bit of knowledge about, revealing that I didn’t fully understand, thereby showing my arrogance. The next morning from these two scenes, I was more than ashamed and embarrassed; I was humiliated and embarrassed. My very favorite character in all the Disney movies is Mulan’s father in the movie Mulan.  My favorite scene and line is when she comes to him in pain, and he so lovingly and compassionately responds, “Sometimes the last bloom is the most beautiful.” I so admired his quiet strength. And it was a concrete image of something that I aspired to be.  So, in those three concentrated outbursts in my life, I let myself down, and therefore, I felt like I let my family down and I let those moments usher in great shame and embarrassment. And that shame has ruled my life for the past 10 years.  I think I could have withstood one of those episodes, but they all happened in a concentrated time period and hit me very hard. So, after the third event I decided NOT to talk about something that I don’t know very much about anymore. I went on a quest to learn and listen more. And I did that. I got very quiet and hid and decided for myself “who am I to give my opinion about every single little thing to make myself feel important?” and I became a victim of myself and every strong personality out there.  I isolated and lost contact with many people during that time. That is when the “sin” kicked in and when I lost my voice and power and thereby putting out the light that God instilled in me at birth.   I started giving away all my power more than ever.

And then I lost Oliver. Why?  What was my role in Oliver’s suffering? Everyone had always told me what a great mother I was. Within five years, I lost both my identities…someone who was kind, level headed, a leader in some sense and a great mom.  Today, in many ways I feel like Oliver sacrificed his life so that I could find mine.  When I lost Oliver, I promised him that I would search for my role in his suffering. So, I have been actively doing that for five years now.  Through his suffering and death, I have learned the power of humility, empathy, listening, what we have power over, and what we do not. I have learned the power of asking questions for clarity of something when I don’t understand, and I have lost the need to be heard and admired just for the sake of being heard and admired, and I don’t just chime in so that I can sound important. I have learned what living really looks like. It isn’t holding back and playing safe. It is putting your very best forward every day and commit to life and those you love and being thankful for every day! It is risking “butting in” and “making waves” to tell the truth in love and to check in on people because you care. It is showing up for people and pouring time, interest, and love into their lives. It is doing something each day to make this world a little better.  I want to say that my ego has been crushed and it has in many ways, but when you feel very small and ashamed and embarrassed, I believe that the ego is still there and roaring. I believe that when you can speak your truth in love and kindness without a thought of the repercussions, then the ego has been squelched and the concern of man no longer rules over your spirit. So, this is where I am now. I want to contribute a loving and life-filled voice now. Ironically, I was never known to be the quiet one growing up. I was known as the talker in my family and in my elementary classrooms, so losing my voice is a new phenomenon to me, but I didn’t lose it. God transformed it from the ashes. I lost my voice to shame and isolation. God changed and renewed it through losing Oliver and my mom into a voice that speaks in love and truth.   Now, with God’s help, I am at the crossroads of learning and practicing of when to be quiet and when to speak up. I feel my mom’s and Oliver’s presence and suffering more than ever as I think that their two biggest sources of pain were that they were not able to speak their truths. They did not know how. Given how strong my voice was growing up, I can’t believe I am writing this, but I understand that now. And I have got to get to the place where I can speak in truth and love and not give a thought to what man thinks. I have got to find my voice again and I have got to share that voice, if not for me, then for Oliver and my mom. 

Posted in spirituality

Daniel’s Song

Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane
I can see the red taillights heading for Spain
Oh and I can see Daniel waving goodbye
God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes

Writing is my freedom.  I so often struggle with speaking without considering its impact on the other.  I am often too aware with how the other is feeling and how much they can hear.  So, here is where I come to write and share freely. It is where I can share about my precious Oliver. When planning Oliver’s funeral, the pastor told us that when you lose someone to a death, you end up comforting the visitors instead of the other way around.  I find this too be true.  I can often visibly see people’s discomfort when I speak about Oliver. Often, I stop any more talk about him so that they don’t have to be uncomfortable.  This rings true within my own immediate family which includes my other two children, Oliver’s brother and sister, and my husband.   I understand their feelings; I have been that person.  I also understand that everyone has grief and joy in their life, it is not unique to me.   Richard Rohr talks about living our lives within the tension of sorrow and joy. And now with my own heightened awareness of this truth, I try to honor others tension within their own lives.  So, this is my freedom.   My freedom to talk about my very very precious son without constraint, or all sorrow, or all joy.  It is the freedom to share the tension between the joy of having him in our life and the lessons I have learned and the unthinkable pain that I have felt since the day he told me that he knew he would die by suicide one day; and then did.  People are free to come and read if they would like, I am not burdening them with my constant talk of Oliver, but I can express the thoughts of Oliver that permeate my days much more than they could ever imagine.  “God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes”. 

Posted in LiF-Love is Forever, spirituality

Five Smooth Stones

Daring to minister is as necessary as preparing to minister, for it’s when we are in the valley of confrontation that we’ll look down and see five smooth stones waiting to be put to God’s use. —-A Pillar a Day (1 Samuel: 17)

I have been experiencing deep, deep valleys of confrontations for the last five years now. During these confrontations, I journaled, read, prayed, journaled, read and prayed some more. I shared and spent time with friends and family….. and journaled some more. Journaling has always been my way to heal and process. The suffering within my life these past five years has often been fierce and sometimes crippling, and yet in the most profound way it has also shown me the way toward life. And just as Forest Gump decided it was time to stop after months and months of running. Or how David picked up the stones to conquer Goliath, I felt it was time to stop sitting and dare to be put to God’s use. The last two valleys of confrontations ( I will reveal these in a later post) prompted me enough to look down and, indeed, see five smooth stones. One of the stones is to start this blog, moving my journaling from self to community. This blog is a place for me to share with intention. An intention to take a step forward into life to share my musings, reflections, and wonderings while revealing a life lived within the tension of suffering, beauty, and joy. I am using a second stone to intentionally build the connection and community that we have lost in the name of efficiency and technology. I have come to believe that two of the most significant gateways for overcoming the Goliath’s in our lives is through community and connection (it has been said that connection is the opposite of addiction). I consider this blog as an invitation to come to visit and sit on my porch with me. #LiF