Tag Archives: Grief

Return from “The Upside Down”

I need to make a confession.  Late last year, I surrendered to the pressure of my classmates and watched the Netflix Sci-Fi series Stranger Things.  It is a Stephen King’ish scenario set in the 80’s.  In season one, a young boy disappears, and his friends soon discover that he has been taken to the “upside down.”  The “upside down” is a parallel dimension to our world; it is a dimension that is a dark reflection of our world filled with monsters and despair.  Spoiler Alert!  The young boy does get rescued and returned to the world as we know it because of the efforts of his family and friends.  However, there were still things that haunted him from the “upside down.”

I could spend some time presenting the spiritual and religious allegories of the show, but I will save that for another time. Several theologians have written about it already.  I am more interested in the “upside down” because I found myself trapped in a place very much like it.   My world had become dark, filled with hopelessness, and haunted by monsters that I didn’t want to go on.  In late February, 31 one years ago, I felt there was no way out.  I decided to end my life. The sermon in church today reminded me of this time in my life.

Much like the young boy in Stranger Things, I would be rescued.  My rescue came from strangers at first, not family and friends. I had driven them all away.  I was really alone, or so I thought.  I knew God thought I was a hopeless case and had moved on to other things.  I had one person who still accepted my calls. She was a friend from seminary days and a pastor of a small church in Maryland. Drunk and angry, I called her at 2:00 am.  It seemed she was finished with me, just like God.  She told me she could not go through this with me any longer.  She made me write a phone number down and promise to call it. Then she hung up.  I was devastated.  I just told her I was trying to kill myself.  How could she hang up on me?  (I had no way of knowing that she had been going to AlAnon.)

I don’t know why I made the call to the number she gave me, but the Hotline counselor stayed on the phone with me until dawn.  It was the beginning of my rescue from the “upside down.” Because of that call, I found my way to a therapist, who after two years of therapy would become my closest friend, confidant, spiritual mentor, and guide for the next eighteen years.  I became part of the fellowship of a twelve-step program where strangers became a family who showed me that God still and had always loved me.

Although I have never returned to the “upside down,” I know it still exists.  Many are trapped there without any hope. I often share my story with others, and I write about it on this blog because I want those who have lost faith to see that there is life on the other side. I want them to hear someone say that God always has and still loves them.

I have been given everything back everything I lost and more. I was blessed for many years with a job working on staff for the same type of Hotline that I had called.  I was able to listen and talk with those who had lost hope.  I am now in college about to finish my undergrad degree, hoping to pursue my masters, and begin a journey to follow where God is calling me.  I am going to begin even though I am not sure where that journey will lead.  I have genuine friendships, a family that continues to grow, and on top of it all, I have peace and serenity knowing that God is with me.

During this time of year, I hold tightly to my faith.  While I escaped the “upside down,” much like the young boy I am sometimes still haunted by memories.  As February ends, and March comes in to welcome spring, I am faced with the tenth anniversary of the death of the woman who was my closest friend as well as the anniversary of the death of Mama Pearl.  Mama Pearl was a second mother to me throughout my life.   While there is profound pain in these memories, there is joy in my remembrances of them.  They will be with me in spirit as I celebrate 31 years of continuous sobriety in April.

I got lost in the “upside down” a long time ago, but God pulled me back through grace and love.      I know I never have to return-even during periods of questioning or suffering.  Anne Lamott wrote, “I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”  God met me in a place of darkness and despair and brought me out into a new life. I am excited to see where God leads me next.

You Will Know Them By Thier … “Label”

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It is time for me to live up the title of my blog/website…Cathy’s Voice Now…and use my voice regardless of how you choose to view me.  I often hold back expressing my views; You see, I want you to like me.  I have written blog posts only to hide them in drafts because I was concerned about how I would be perceived.

Today, I need to say what I believe and share it in this post.  The anniversary of Mother Emmanuel AME shooting, the ongoing story of a man who raped a young woman while a judge thinks it was “boys being boys”, and now the Orlando shooting has hurt my heart.  I can’t hide behind my fear of what you might think of me.

A Sacramento pastor responded to the Orlando shooting that killed 49 people and injured 50 more with praise, stating “they deserve what they got.”  Another statement, “Claiming homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts,” Pastor Steven Anderson celebrated the Orlando nightclub shooting.

I believe that hate is fueled when we see others as different from ourselves.  We might believe they have it better than we do or that we are better than they are.  We think our religious views are the only ones with merit. We believe the color of our skin, our gender,  or sexual orientation makes us superior to others.  When we see people as a race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, it is easier to hate because we no longer see the essence or soul of that human being.

I have many people in my circle of friends and acquaintances.  What I don’t have are gay friends, straight friends, black friends, Buddhist friends, Jewish friends, handicapped friends, liberal friends, conservative friends….you get the idea.  I simply have friends.

While many of my friends may identify with those labels, that isn’t who they are.  It doesn’t define the relationship we share.  It doesn’t change who they are in their heart and soul.   If I start identifying them by a label, I lose the person I know.

Here are my labels…white, straight, Christian, old, liberal, intelligent, a writer, an actor, a student, mother, grandmother, a feminist, recovering alcoholic, and more.  In my lifetime, I have also been labeled a drunk, a heretic, fat, irresponsible, just a woman, or stupid.    If you know me, then you know ME, not my labels.

If we continue to label people, we are contributing to an environment of hate.  This time the “homosexuals” were attacked and murdered.  The shooter didn’t see the mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, friends, co-workers, aunts, uncles, cousins, sports enthusiasts, teachers, lawyers, doctors, law enforcement, military, or anything else beyond the LABEL.   Some hate blacks, Mexicans, Muslims, poor, rich, white, women, and a multitude of other “labels”.  They do not look beyond the LABEL.  All they see is “other.”

Maybe next year it will be older white women with blue eyes.  Sound preposterous?  Couldn’t happen?  Are you sure? No one ever imaged hated so deep it could kill almost 6 million Jewish men, women, and children.  No one believed a person could hate enough to walk into a church and kill people in prayers.  No one wants to believe a single shooter hated enough to kill and injury close to 100 people.

Hate knows no boundaries.

And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.   Lin-Manuel Miranda 2016

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Another Empty Toilet Paper Roll!

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” ― M. Scott Peck

toilet-paper

It is inevitable that at some point, everyone will find himself or herself comfortably seated and suddenly realize that the toilet paper roll is empty with no spare roll in sight. This situation has several solutions, although most of them are embarrassing to some degree. The worst solution, in my opinion, would be asking for help. “Um, can someone bring me a roll of toilet paper, please?”

If we are to believe M. Scott Peck, then this could be one of our finest moments. As my friend, Jan F. used to ask, “What is it I am supposed to learn from this?” One lesson may be to take more time in preparation and look next time. Another may be to have a spare roll hidden away for such an emergency. Perhaps, the “truer” lesson is learning to ask for help. (Oh, and forgive the seriously disturbed person who left the empty roll.)

This year has brought more than usual “empty toilet paper holders” to my life, and I have tried to look at each situation with an eye for a creative solution and what lesson might I learn. I will admit that this question is usually the last thing on my mind when something happens. My first reaction is pure crisis mode. I know this about myself, yet in those first moments of what I consider a crisis in my life, I panic. I decide the worst possible outcome to the problem; this is usually an exaggerated worst possible outcome. I internalize first, ask God why He wants to torture me this way, breakdown and talk to someone I trust, and then, and only then I go into solution mode.

Last Thursday  presented one more empty toilet paper roll in my life. I did not create the situation. In fact, I didn’t even know there was a situation. Someone else “left the toilet paper roll empty.”  It seems  all I can do is move into solution mode. This financial crisis took me totally by surprise, and it will be a challenge in my life for the next three months or so.

My mother was the one who taught me most about working in a solution mode. She overcame so many obstacles in her life, and with each one, she became more determined to overcome whatever may come her way. My mother was a unique character. Her solution sometimes included being a steamroller, yelling, cursing, and being a total b###ch!  She would agree with that statement and be proud of it.

I have been thinking about her a lot this weekend. Six years ago, she died suddenly and unexpectedly. While I don’t want to become like her in some ways, I hope I can be as strong as she was in overcoming life challenges. It was only in the end after fighting for so long that she gave up. She never learned to ask for help or to trust people who would help her with those life challenges. It has only been in the last twenty years that I have learned to trust and allow people into my life. I am blessed with family and friends, yet I struggle to ask for or accept help. I am working to step out of that rut and find a different way.

I imagine all of you closing your computer screen, walking by your bathroom and sneaking a look to be sure the toilet roll holder is full. You may even go and find some extra rolls to hide away. Just remember that is all else fails, you can always yell for help.

218062_1034694790696_1325238216_81030_4576_nClaudia Haber  October 12, 1935 -September 16, 2008

It Seems Like Such a Simple Word- Mom

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For years, I stood in the card aisle of stores searching for a Mother’s Day card.  Mother’s Day cards were always hard to buy. Pictures of children with a beautiful mother or one of those mom’s who did everything and wore the Super Mom Cape filled the aisles. Written in verse on the inside were phrases like “You’ve always been there for me”, or “You taught me so much,” and “I love you.” On the front, were big bold letters that declared “For My Mom” or “Mother.” I would finally settle on a rather generic card for my mother with a picture of puppies or flowers that read “Happy Mother’s Day-Hope you have a wonderful day.”  Finding one for Grandmother was even more difficult.

I don’t remember much about my mother before she left my brother and me.  I was only four years old. She left me with her mother, and my brother was sent to live with my father’s parents. She came back to visit and stayed with us a few times, but by the time I was six, she had moved across the county.  I didn’t see her again until I was sixteen. Letters and phone calls were all that kept us connected, but my grandmother only allowed one short call a week. I think she would have been happier if my mother had just disappeared altogether.

When I was young, Grandmother would look at me and say, “I love you” in a way that let me know she was waiting for the proper response. I wouldn’t look at her, but I would hesitantly respond with, “I love you- But I love my other Momma, too.”  Grandmother told me I didn’t have to call her Momma, but I knew better. So, I did my best not to call her anything. I would walk across an entire room to get her attention and ask a question, so I didn’t have to say “Momma.”

I didn’t understand what had happened or why my mother left until I was grown. In an old trunk of Grandmother’s, I found the note my mother wrote the day she left. Scrawled on small, yellowed, unlined paper, you could feel the pain and panic of her words: “Please take care of the kids.  I love them more than anything in the world, but they are better off with you. I guess you think I am awful for leaving the kids like this. Me and Joe just can’t get along. I tried to talk to him, but it’s no good. It’s just not good for the kids with me and Joe fighting all the time and him drinking. Please don’t turn them against them. I don’t know if I’ll see them again, but tell them I loved them an awful lot.”

My mother was not only leaving an abusive, alcoholic husband but was leaving behind her young two children; She had just turned 20 years old.   What I soon learned was that he was not only abusive to her, but to me as well.  She was afraid my brother and I would be hurt if she stayed. Sadly, we didn’t fare much better in our new homes.

As an adult, I tried to have a relationship with my mother, but it was hard.  She walked away from me so many times; usually for a man.  When my first son was born, she was supposed to come to my house to stay for a few days to help.  Instead, she left home and never showed up at my house.  Her husband kept calling me looking for her.  I didn’t hear from her for three days.  She used my son’s birth as a way to have time to leave her husband for her new boyfriend. You get the idea?

She was used to shutting people out. She had been hurt by so many for so long. She once told me that she had spent most of her life running away from anything she thought might hurt her.  Many people considered her to be a “hard” woman.  She didn’t take anything from anyone.  However, If you got to know her, you would find that she would go out of her way to help a friend, yet keep her distance emotionally.

I could never bring myself to call her Mom or Mother, but I didn’t want to hurt her feeling by calling her by her given name, so just as I had when I was a child with Grandmother, I tried not to call her anything. Not long before she passed away, I took a trip with her to the place she grew up. She told me stories of her life that helped me understand the pain that made her the woman she was. When we returned from the trip, we sat down to talk before I left for home.  As I was getting ready to leave,  for the only time I can ever remember, she told me that she had always loved me. She paused and said, “You know that, don’t you?” I smiled, took a deep breath,  and said, “Yeah, I know that.”  I gave her a hug and walked to my car.  I took a few steps, stopped and turned back to her.   I said the words that have always come so hard for me.  “I love you,  <PAUSE >  Mom.”   It was the last time I would ever see her. She passed away four months later.

After she passed away, her husband wrote and said, “You were her daughter, and she was so proud of you. You meant more to her than you will ever know. She wasn’t good at telling people she loved them, but you were the heart of her joy before I met her and still so to the end. Her greatest joy was being your Mom.”

For many years, I rarely used the word love except with my children.  I lavished it on them.  Honestly,  it was a word that scared me.  After getting clean and sober and being in therapy, I was able to use the word more honestly. My kids and grandkids hear it all the time.  I don’t use the word lightly or freely.  If I tell my friends and family, “I love you,” I really do.

I didn’t tell my mother I loved her very often.  I wish I had told her more.

Random Thoughts on A Winter Storm

bildeIce covers the trees in front of the Dorchester County Human Services Building Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 in Summerville. Paul Zoeller/Staff

A second unusual winter storm named Pax (Yeah, I don’t know when they started naming winter storms) blanketed my southern hometown of Charleston, SC with ice. Unusual is a rather mild word for this historic weather event.  We typically deal with hurricanes and tropical storms, not ice storms. When we woke this morning, the ground was wet with rain, but everything above 2 feet was frozen.  Icicles filled the tree branches where leaves once flourished.   As time moved on so did the ice in the trees and bushes until everything was beautiful, yet frightening shade of white.   Loud cracks and booms filled the day as branched broke and fell to ground shattering ice like broken glass on the ground.  Reports of power outages began filling social media and the news.  By early afternoon, we lost power at our house along with most of our friends in the area.  Schools, business, and bridges closed for the second time in just a few weeks.

The magical wintery scene outside my window was stunning as well as alarming. As I sat and watched the trees and branches bending under the weight of ice and blowing wind, I thought about my mother.   She spent most of her adult life in California and Nevada.  She claimed and cherished our Native America heritage and loved to share her knowledge.  When I lived in Nevada, we experience snowstorms frequently and ice storms from time to time.  When ice would cover the landscape, my mother would remind me of the Native American story of “pogonip”.  Pogonip is a Shoshone word meaning cloud or ice fog.  They also refer to it as “white death”.  The Shoshone know the dangers of people who become disoriented, get lost in the ice fog, and die from exposure.  The early settlers believed they could inhale the small white crystals into their lungs causing death. The beauty of the high desert when it was covered in the white crystals and the stories, fascinated my mother.

In the next day or so, the white cover of ice will melt and the Winter Storm Pax will become a memory to share with family and friends.  Each winter when the weather calls for snow or ice, we will talk about the year we had not one, but two icy winter storms. We will share pictures and memories, talk about the hours we spent without power in our houses, and debris covering our neighborhoods. We will even recall the beauty of a winter wonderland in our bit of the South.

The same thing happens when I think about my mother.  I remember her life and share pictures and memories.   I have been thinking about her more than usual the past couple of weeks.  September of this year will mark six years since she passed away.  I have often heard that grief touches grief; one grief event will trigger others.  This week in the same year my mother passed away, my childhood friend’s husband died unexpectedly.  Just a couple of weeks later, my best friend passed away unexpectedly, and a few weeks after that my childhood friend’s mother (my “other” mother) died.

The first part of March, I will be participating in an audition for LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER: CHARLESTONThose chosen will bring their original, true accounts about motherhood to the stage.  I haven’t finished my piece for the audition, but in preparing, my thoughts have turned to my mother, and to others who became “mothers” to me during my life.  Just as I will with this year’s winter storms, I look back and remember those who touched my life,  sharing them others and telling the stories one more time.

Just Thinking

questionmark“It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.”
Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

Last week,  a friend’s 9 year old son died.  It was very unexpected and took everyone by surprise.  He was one of those kids you read about from time to time.  He was an exceptional athlete, he cared about people and his community, he was a very good student, and he was loved by  many people.  I know that children die everyday; some from illness, some from abuse or violence, and others from accidents.

For me personally, the death of child seems the most difficult thing to accept.  It also brings up questions that can’t be answered in a way that makes sense to me.  I know many people who have answers to the most difficult questions and that works for them.  I don’t have answers but I do have acceptance.  I accept that life is filled with things I can’t understand-at least not yet.  I understand the concept of evil and sin and all of the theology that gives us reasons why there is pain and death in our world.   It doesn’t mean I understand why my best friend died or why this  young man died so young.    It doesn’t mean I understand how people can be so cruel to each other.  It doesn’t mean I understand the tragedy of a tornado destroying a town or someone shooting a school full of children, or bombing a group or people gathered to watch a race.

I didn’t know this young man well.  I know his parents.   I remember when he was born.  I have met him.  I have watched all of his accomplishments on his father’s facebook page.    Yet, this touched me deeply.   I have a friend who says that he believes grief lives in a special place in our mind and heart and anytime there is grief in our lives, that grief touches the other grief we have known.   This young boy’s death took me back to the summer I was almost 7.   My best friend was a young boy named Jerry.  He was accidentally killed while playing on a rope swing we had in the trees near our house.  I won’t share the whole story because it is a very difficult story to tell.  In fact, I have only shared the whole story with a couple of people in my life.   That has been on my mind the past few days.  Even now, more than 50 years later, it still causes sadness for me.

I don’t know that answers would make things better.  Would knowing “why” make it hurt less?  I don’t think so.   I often wonder if God will answer all of these questions when we get to Heaven?  Maybe, we won’t need answers when we get there.  I don’t know.  I only know that death, pain, loss, tears, and sadness are all a part of this thing we call life.  But, life is also filled with love, laughter, friends, family, and faith.  Those are the things I hold on to when I have questions and don’t understand.  I hope that my friend and his wife can grab hold of those things as they face the journey ahead of them.

The WordCount Blogathon

Broken Hearts

The fact is: Heart disease kills one in three women each year – that’s approximately one woman every minute. But it doesn’t affect all women alike, and the warning signs for women aren’t the same in men. What’s more: These facts only begin to scratch the surface. To learn more, click here

In 2003, the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute took action against a disease that was claiming the lives of nearly 500,000 American women each year – a disease that women weren’t paying attention to. A disease they truly believed, and many still believe to this day, affects more men than women.

Stemming from that action, National Wear Red Day was born. It’s held on the first Friday in February every year to raise awareness about heart disease being the No. 1 killer of women.

From time to time I write about an issue that is important to me.  Many of my friends support issues that have touched their lives in some way.  One friend who gave birth to a premie supports the March of Dimes.  Many of my friends support suicide education and prevention programs.  Other friends support causes such as MS, MD, Cancer Awareness programs, and AIDS awareness programs.  I have two issues that stand out for me.  One is mental health (including alcohol and drug awareness) awareness programs.  The other is the American Heart Association.  National Wear Red Day is a reminder for women to check health checkups, take preventive care when it comes to heart disease, and know the signs of a heart attack or stroke.

Before March 7,2008 I never really thought much about heart disease.  It has always seemed like an issue for old men. None of the women in my family have ever had issues with their heart.   My father died from complications of heart disease, but he was a man after all.  Truth is, I didn’t really know many people who had died from heart attacks.

On the morning of March 8th, 2008, a phone call changed my life.  My friend’s voice cracked as she told me that my best friend had died the night before.  I didn’t understand.  She was only 57 years old, just a year older than me.  She died from a massive blockage in the arteries of her heart.  An ambulance was called but she died before they could reach her.

I have always heard that you can’t die from a broken heart.  I thought I might for a long time after that.  She did die from a “broken” heart. No one really knows why or how her heart was in such bad shape.   She dealt with many health problems over her lifetime and had undergone gastric bypass surgery a year earlier.  She had lost a lot of weight and was leading a more active lifestyle that she had in many years.  It just didn’t make sense.

I share this story with you today because there is something we can do to help ourselves and other women. We can support each other when we are dealing with the stress of living life. We can encourage our friends to eat better, exercise, quit smoking, and get yearly check-ups.  We can share information about health checkups and about the signs and symptoms of heart disease and stroke.

I still miss my friend more than I can tell you.  I don’t know if some test might have found her problems or if she ignored signs of a pending problem.  I only hope that sharing this information will help keep the women in my life heart healthy.  imagesheart

Rambling Post To Get Unstuck

I am stuck! I mentioned that in a recent facebook status update. I mentioned that I was not posting to the blog that day because I was stuck. A friend suggested I write about being stuck and my plan to get unstuck. Great idea except I don’t know what it will take to get unstuck.  Writing professionals and teachers tell you to just keep writing and eventually you will find you way back.  So, I am going to give it a shot.

I seem to be stuck in my life as well.  I have made huge changes over the past couple of months.  A divorce and leaving the place I had worked for many years has offered new experiences and new opportunities.  I get excited and then confused about all the choices.  When I don’t know what to do, I often do nothing.

In recovery we talk about doing the next right thing and doing the foot work and see where God leads.  There are also a lot of slogans we throw at these problems.  “Let Go and Let God”, “Willingness is the Key”, “More will be Revealed.”   I learned that each slogan offers a solution.  They take on different meanings at different times.  I am not sure what they mean in my life today.

I am happy and excited about my life. I am looking forward to Christmas more this year than I have for the past few years.   I am also feeling lost.  I have incredible support with family and friends, but I feel very alone.   That is the part I am not talking about.  So I am sharing it with you today.  Please don’t tell anyone else.

I can see I have confused you.   “How can you have wonderful family and friends and great support, yet say you feel alone?” you ask.  You see, I thought at 60 something years old  I would be settled down.  I thought I would have my own home and a husband I loved and cherished to share my life.  I thought I would be financially secure and able to enjoy retirement.  I thought I might be a published author. I imagined Thanksgivings and Christmas in my home with all the kids and grands.  I guess I bought the whole fairy tale ending thing.

Instead I have a bedroom in my daughter’s home.  I am what is considered a “single.”   My kids are grown with their own core family. I have only one friend who is also a “single.”  She became a widow a couple of years ago.  We talk about being the proverbial “third wheel.”  I am not published because I haven’t finished writing even one book.   I am far from being financially secure.  My fairy tale ending is “stayed tuned for the next adventure.”

Our family don’t do the traditional Thanksgiving.  Everyone does their own thing that day for a variety of reasons. Like many families, the holidays are spent dividing time with different families and kids going between their divorced parents.   Christmas gets a bit confusing.  My grandson is with his father on Christmas eve.  My daughter’s home is host to her father’s side of the family on Christmas eve. Since I live with her this year, I will be finding other activities for the day.   Christmas morning I share with my daughter’s family and Christmas afternoon my son’s family comes to join us.

Let me clarify that I love my kids, grandkids, and friends.  None of them have ever made me feel unwelcome or like an outsider.  They open their hearts and homes to me.  Yet, I still feel that small twinge of loneliness at times.  The holidays seem to put a magnifying glass on that twinge.  And that twinge seems to scream and tell me I am less than, I am not worthy, I am a failure.

This is not the blog post I wanted to write.  I don’t want to admit any of this to you.  But it is what is in my heart and head.  It is what is keeping me stuck.  I am following my friend’s suggestion and writing about my stuckness.  (Yes, I realize that is not an actual word.)  It isn’t a great plan to get unstuck, but it is all I have for right now.

Have you been stuck in life or your writing?  What have you done to get past it?

Move Number 56

No, not 56 moves in my life, just since I was 18 years old. The moves include 7 states and 25 different cities.  I don’t know how many there were before 18, but I did live in the same house from the time I was 7 until I was 18.  And before you ask, no, we were not military.

My first husband changed jobs or went to school just about every year.  After my divorce and time being a practicing alcoholic/addict, I moved several times.  Recovery brought new challenges included major moves.  Divorce added to the numbers.  Some moves were temporary while looking for a place to live. Looking at the number of moves, you might say all were temporary.  Moving from a temporary situation to a longer term place was exciting.  The dream was always the same; I wanted to live in a place long enough to have the Christmas tree up a second year.  It didn’t happen very often.

Moving to a new city was the most frustrating.  Finding the grocery store, new doctors, registering kids in school, feeling isolated were all part of the move. Up until the past few years, calling family and friends long distance was expensive so calls were on Sunday afternoon and kept to ten minutes.  Letters were the best way of keeping in touch before email.  I made the decision to make acquaintances and not friends. It was too difficult to keep starting over.

There were some moves that were devastating.  I moved from South Carolina to Baltimore, Md. after a divorce where my husband had physical custody of my children.  I was heading towards my bottom with my alcoholism and addiction.  I left to escape the pain of living and with the smallest glimmer of hope that I could change things.  It would be four months before I found my way to recovery.

Leaving Baltimore after three years in recovery was overwhelming.  I was leaving the people who had become more than friends.  They had helped me get and stay sober.  They had cried with me, laughed with me, watch me grow, and supported me in so many ways.   I remember standing at the doorway as I left my therapist office for the last time. The tears were burning my face as I struggled to catch my breath.  We hugged one last time and I walked away.  My daughter had come back to live with me and I was moving to provide a better life for her.

This move was different.  I was ready to leave a difficult marriage.   I moved into a home with my daughter and son-in-law.  We have lived together before and are comfortable together leading our own lives in the same space.   I don’t have a three bedroom house with all my stuff.  I have given up and let go of a lot.   This is home now and I am at peace and comfortable.  I haven’t been able to say that for a while.

I have lived in many houses and apartments over the years.  Some of them were home while others where just places to eat and sleep.  I grew up in a house with my grandparents.  It was never home.  I spend a great deal of time at my friend Carol’s house.  That was home and that was family.

I spend a good deal of time with my friend and her family.  Her home is a place I call home as well.   Her family is my other family.  When I leave her house at night or she is driving home from another destination, we have always text each other.   A couple of weeks ago I texted her and said, “I am home…no I am at my house.  I just left home.”   Perhaps a cliche but we both agreed that “home is where the heart is.”

I feel blessed and grateful to have a place to live that I can call home.  I have adult children and grandchildren that I call family.  I also have my second home and family.   I have a circle of other friends and a church family who make up a larger community in my life.   I hope I don’t have to move too many more times in my lifetime, however I am sure I will move again.   I just hope it isn’t too soon.

Open Hand

“We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.”
C. JoyBell C.

I am moving into a new office space.  I have been in my current office for three years and moved everything from another office occupied for about six years and another one for about three. If my math is correct, I have almost twelve years of accumulated stuff.  I will assure you that everything in my office is of great significance.  At least it was at some point and time.

This morning I discovered the following items:

  • One very large binder filled with evacuation and resettlement information for Hurricane Katrina and Rita.
  • Four different training manuals for the same training that have changed each year.
  • Information from a committee for the years 2002-2010.
  • Every piece of paper from conferences over the past twelve years including schedules, class times, presenter information, ..you get the idea.  Conferences included Atlanta, Jacksonville, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Litchfield Beach (3), Charleston (3), Columbia, and Greenville.
  • Emergency Preparedness plans for the years 2003-2010.  They change each year too.
  • A Volunteer Administrators Guide that was created by our local board for a group.  The guide has not been used for at least eight years.
  • Business cards from people who no one remembers.
  • Three video cassette tapes..yes tapes.  One is labeled and the others not.  I don’t have a video cassette player.
  • Spanish for Office Personnel Book from a course I took eight years ago. I remember very little of it.
  • Six old calendars because they have pretty pictures.
  • 8000 pens (OK that may be an exaggeration) Most don’t work. But they have logos from somewhere.

I haven’t finished going through my office yet.  A friend is coming to help me.  She is very efficient and throws away everything.  I started before she arrived because I wanted to hide a few things from her. When I moved into a new house in 2002, she came over to help me and things started flying into bags and boxes.  I kept protesting but they kept disappearing.  I don’t remember any of the things we gave or threw away.   I didn’t even remember many of them the first time I found unpacking.

One of my favorite books is “God on a Harley.”  Yes, it is a sappy little book that can be read in about an hour or so if you are a fast reader, but it is filled with bits of wisdom.    Here are the rules for living from that book:
Rules To Live By

1. Do not build walls, for they are dangerous. Learn to transcend them.

 2. Live in the moment, for each one is precious and not to be squandered.

 3. Take care of yourself first and foremost.

 4. Drop the ego, be real.

 5. All things are possible all of the time.

 6. When someone gives, it is an act of generosity to receive. For in giving there is something gained.

 When the protagonist Christine was told to clean out her closet and house to move into a smaller place, she balked at every step.   She insisted she needed to keep size six jeans that hadn’t been worn in years because of the memories.  They weren’t even good memories.   She had to learn to let go of the old before she could receive the new.

I find that to be true in my life.   I have to let go of the old fear, the old anger, the past, the old haunting memories.  It isn’t easy to do.   I remember doing an exercise where I held a penny tight in my fist.  I then put my hand into a jar of change.  I was told I could keep as much as I could pull out, but I couldn’t let go of the penny.  I came out with the just the penny.  The next time I was told to let go of the penny and I was able to pull out many coins.

Maybe that is the lesson I am supposed to learn right now.  I am in the process of letting go of two very important things in my life.  It is painful at times, scary at others, and yet in moments I catch just a bit of excitement and wonder at what is to come next.

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