Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Impatience is Not a Virtue

I feel like I have a fair number of strengths but patience has definitely not been one of them. It took me until I was an adult to realize that I get that from my dad. He is one of those guys that when he wants an answer or needs to do something, he demands an immediate response. He is a gentle and quiet guy though, so it took me a while to figure that out.

I’ve been thinking about it the last 48 hours that I’ve been watching the snow fall in the month of April, feeling the freezing, strong wind. I walk the dog every day and still have layers of clothing along with a winter coat, hat and gloves. I know I’m not alone. Most people have been sick of this typical Buffalo winter since the beginning of March. We have paid up for the last two mild winters in full. When the heck is spring coming? Fine, skip it, but then let summer come.

That kind of impatience doesn’t really hurt anyone except me. It makes me complain about not getting away to somewhere sunny this winter after I promised myself I would all year. It gives me an excuse to give in if the depression knocks at my door. But mostly I only make myself miserable.

Being impatient with others though is a different story. Sometimes, people say I have the patience of a saint. Sometimes, I put up with things much, much longer than I should. I have a very high forgiveness tolerance too. I guess I don’t fall on the evil scale when it comes to the big picture.

But sometimes, I do hurt people with how impatient I am. I am a type A driven person who has learned to get things done yesterday. I have a hard time understanding why everyone doesn’t behave that way. What? You know you have to do that and you didn’t stay up all night to accomplish it? What? You know you have that deadline and you didn’t power through your pneumonia anyway? I’m exaggerating a little, but you get the idea.

I’m heading back for a refresher appointment with the spiritual director I used to see regularly. She was relentless with her acceptance of other people and distributing unconditional love to the best of her ability. I need her to remind me of the big picture and being kind to myself while also fully understanding that I don’t hold the key to the secrets of the universe. She helps me be true to my path, but recognize that other people have their own.

One of my dear friends reminded me today that as a single parent who has handled the myriads of things I have managed over the years, I have had to be tough and uber-responsible. I can’t lose some of those standards and boundaries I have shed so much blood, sweat and tears to earn. But I also want to remember to be kind and gentle, and learn to relax a bit. I’ve made some progress over the years, but life has a way of bringing things back full circle to you.

Moral of the story is, that in some ironic way, I am asking others to be patient with me and my growth, at the same time that patience is so lacking in myself. Kinda nervy, isn’t it?

Well, be patient with me.


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Fence Posts

If you read my first book Bitter and Sweet, you might remember reading about the day a small army of men came and put up a large section of privacy fence for us. Tim’s bucket list was small and simple. He wanted to finish our pool remodeling and that included the required fence. Tim had put fencing up all over our property throughout the years. He just didn’t have the strength or stamina to finish it that summer.

It was a great story. It was a 90 degree blazing hot day, and those men put in over eight hours. We’ve included some of the footage in the second book trailer too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHoO_y2ZZGA It’s a great human interest story.

Fast forward to our crummy, never-ending winter, four years later. Our house took a hit, like many, many others in the area. One of the items? That fence.

Turns out, those well-meaning men didn’t put the fence in correctly. You have to dig the posts a foot below frost line. They were not deep enough. To add to things, this winter the frost line was a foot lower than normal. Double whammy. Third strike? Last summer I purchased white marble rocks to put between the concrete and the fence because the weeds were so out of control. The weight of the rocks was making the fence panels bow in the middle. Without the first two conditions, it probably wouldn’t have been an issue. All three together? Well, let’s just say I had to pay a pretty penny to get 21 posts redone.

Doesn’t change the hearts of those guys who helped us while Tim was sick. They were awesome. But I have to admit, it does put a little damper on the amazing story. Makes me chuckle a little, though. Bitter and sweet.

I did discover one good thing that came from it. I was in session with a couple the other day and it made for an awesome analogy. This guy is approaching his first year of sobriety. Unfortunately, being clean has been less than pleasant for him. He’s been really struggling with finding a reason to keep going. We were discussing the whole alcoholism is a disease debate, and is there a genetic link? Well, he decided that he wasn’t fond of the concept. Makes him feel like he’s a hopeless case then. Why try?

The fence story hit me and I shared it with them. I have no idea if there is a genetic link to alcoholism. I’m not an addictions counselor and it’s not my area of expertise. There are compelling arguments for both sides. But I decided that if there is a “gene,” or at the least a “genetic history,” it is kind of liking having fence posts that aren’t dug deep enough. It’s not “right,” but does that matter? Those fence posts might have never come up. But start with the faulty foundation, add a bad winter, then pile on the rocks. Boom. Now the fence structure is no longer stable and a couple grand later, it needs to be repaired.

Hopeless? Absolutely not. But if you have a family history of alcoholism, then you add some life trauma, sprinkled with years of coping with it by drinking, wa-la! Addiction.

As I’m writing this, it is hard to capture the nuance. But when it was coming to me in session, it felt very powerful. Like I really got it. I think (and certainly hope!) it had an impact on the clients. At least they said it made sense to them.

A lot of times I’m ticked at the “universe” for some of the crap. But this time, the timing of it was perfect. The analogy became something good that came from a costly construction error. I can genuinely say, “thanks”!


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Icicles

I was talking to my graphic artist and asked him what I should blog about. He said icicles because he hates them. The snow and cold is kicking his butt like it is for everyone in this area. He knocks the icicles down and they just come back. But it made me think about things in our life that we have to do over and over again. Here is Frankie and one of the pictures from the Snow-vember storm:
Dave

You might remember the pictures on my blog from that storm. I had water leaks in four rooms. I had the contractor AND the roofer come out and check things out. I thought I was being smart. I knew not to spend the money fixing the interior of the house until the problem was fixed on the outside. BOTH guys told me it was a fluke. There was nothing wrong with the roof and unless there was seven feet of snow again, I was safe to fix the inside.
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That is a photo of the new leaks across my kitchen ceiling. Talk about doing things over and over. Thirteen hundred bucks thrown away from fixing it the first time. I could have screamed. Or fainted. Or both.

I know you have seen pictures of the kittens we got for Christmas. I wanted to add joy and life to our dead house. Well, they have certainly added to our lives. Ringworm, that is. Long-haired Herbie had to go back to the shelter for treatment for three to four weeks. We are treating Matilda here at home and hoping Taffy, the dog doesn’t get it. Did I mention that Frankie, myself, and our dear friend, Karen got it? We are all in treatment too. I won’t send you pictures of that. I called in the reinforcements and several of my friends came and helped me sterilize the house. Vacuumed all three floors. Shampooed all three floors. Washed over 20 loads of laundry- literally. And cloroxed every surface, all three floors. Let’s just hope we don’t repeat that one again. And did I mention that I have the best friends ever?

Just a little side note to add to the Match stories. I was emailing a guy back and forth on Saturday for quite a while. Then he asked me what I was doing. I told him I was sterilizing my house because of ringworm. He never wrote back again. HA! Coward.

But you know what? I swear that acupuncture must be working. It was one hell of a stressful week with truckloads of drama to boot. But I didn’t crawl under my bed once. Not once. I didn’t get admitted to a hospital. I didn’t cry and fear I wouldn’t stop. I just dealt with all of it. All of it.

Poking yourself with needles over and over again seems like a pretty insane thing to do. But I tell you what. I plan to repeat that cycle as many as times as necessary ‘cuz the proof is in the pudding!


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The Winter Season

I saw Bob, my spiritual director, today. He helped me sort through another rough week and added yet another layer to my ever-growing understanding of grief.

This week was the fourth anniversary of Tim’s death. Many times, the anticipation of difficult days ends up being far worse than the actual event. Not this time. The day was tough from the moment I woke up until well after midnight.

If you know me, or if you have followed my blogs for any amount of time, you know I have been blessed with an exceptional quality and quantity of support people. Sometimes I have conversations and experiences with them that challenge my thoughts and beliefs, and sometimes I just plain end up disagreeing with them. And that is okay.

I went into Bob’s office today with a specific question in mind, based on some of the conversations I have had this week. If a person is truly grateful- i.e. really, honestly understands on a deep level- for the blessings in their life, is it possible to remain sad or depressed?

I knew my answer was yes, because that is what I am experiencing. I know enough, however, about human nature, that sometimes we are blinded to truths that are painful for us to accept. I wanted Bob’s unbiased opinion. He was quiet for a moment or two, so I knew I had asked a difficult question, one that was more complicated than it appeared on the surface. When he gathered his thoughts, he very confidently answered that yes, most definitely you can experience both at the same time.

He is a man who has experienced plenty of grief in his life. He sometimes shares some of his stories with me. Today we talked about the frustrations of complicated grief. He said that we do the “work” of grief, whether or not we are even conscious of the fact that we are doing it. He mentioned how there are times when he feels sad or angry (or both) and doesn’t know why. Then he puts two and two together and remembers it’s an anniversary date or a particular time of year that is historically related to his grief.

I kind of jumped at that. I have had that happen, too. But I pointed out how when you ARE conscious of why you are sad or angry (or both), then sometimes the criticisms come out. (At least it feels like criticism.) If you KNOW you are at a difficult time of the year (or whatever), then suddenly you are dubbed as having a negative self-image. You are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. You are not “letting it go.” You are holding on to your pain. I swear, you just can’t win.

I go out and preach all the time about being willing to hold opposing truths in your heart and soul, even though it’s difficult. It didn’t click with me though, until this session that this is another one of those deep paradoxes of life. Yes, I can absolutely be grateful for my home, my healthy children, my amazing friends and family. I can be completely aware of how lucky I am in regards to those things compared to other people. But that doesn’t mean for one second, that the test of that gratitude is how happy or depression free I am. I can be grateful, and yet still be knee-deep in grief and depression.

I have no idea where grief ends and depression starts or vice-versa. I don’t even know if there is a difference. And I don’t even think it really matters.

I received some gifts on the 14th, which were intended to help lift my spirits. Was I grateful? Yes. But truthfully, I had a long talk with the gift-giver about how I was a little uncomfortable with it. It was a day to grieve. Opening gifts was in opposition to that. And me being me, it created a sense of guilt. I felt pressure to be happy and grateful, when I was anything but that. After my session, I felt more secure in the fact that it might actually be just fine to feel that way.

Bob says I am in a very, very long season of winter. It is what it is. It does not seem to be going away any time soon. But he also stressed that I AM NOT STUCK. I am alive and moving. He also said not everyone will be able to wade through the journey with me.

I was hurt by a guy who wasn’t able to be there for me on the 14th. I know there was an element there of him not wanting to be bothered, which is just plain disappointing. But Bob pointed out that for most men (sorry, guys!) there is also an element of fear. Men don’t connect with their emotions as readily as women do. To sit on a couch with me while I was so in touch with my sadness, would be a place that some people (men or women) just couldn’t go to. I had to admit that is most likely true. And while genuine caring is still there, sometimes people try so hard to help, because they can’t stand their own pain of watching someone else suffer.

It’s two days after the 14th. I’m feeling a little better than I was on that day. I’m glad for that, but I am very aware that I am still deep in winter. Just know, that when people like me are there, we are not “choosing” to be. There isn’t a formula to follow that will change it. No amount of saying “positive” phrases or focusing on blessings is going to erase it. That doesn’t mean I still won’t try, because I will. But I have made a promise to myself to try not to add guilt and judgment to my sorrow, and perhaps it’s a good reminder for you support people out there, too when you are watching me (or whoever).

It is what it is. And it is winter.