Wednesday, December 16, 2009
When he was newly sober, I had lived in constant fear of Dad returning to what had become his common pattern over the years, a life revolving around alcohol. I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of him being exposed to alcohol and not giving into his temptation to have just one drink. But as he steadily worked the AA program, he gradually evolved into a man who was comfortable in his own skin. Once I asked how he could go with Mom to parties where alcohol was being served, and he calmly responded, "I just explain that I am allergic to alcohol." I was thrown by the sheer simplicity of his reply, yet this sense of simplicity surrounded his days as he began to grow and change before our eyes. You need to understand that during this time it felt as though I was being introduced to the dad I had never met! Gone were the days of closed drapes that would prevent neighbors seeing him stumbling or falling as he maneuvered his way through the house...gone were the days of trying to help by sharing Mom's unbelievable stress of raising five children while trying everything humanly possible to control her husband's drinking...gone were the days of my brothers, sisters and me having to finally accept and live with the ugly reality that we also had no control over Dad's drinking yet we often had to witness the sometimes scary consequences of that drinking. Looking back, I think we had lived so many years feeling incomplete, that when the sense of unity and togetherness arrived, we each in our own quiet way rejoiced! We were whole again! Having a sober dad felt as though the windows of our life had been swung open and the fresh air of newness was in abundance! It was a new day in our family and we all celebrated this rebirth. Now do you more fully understand the depth of the love we share?
My dad had been an ever-present support on my journey with melanoma...so many follow-up "procedures" to wade through, with not one of them being a pleasant experience. He was not only physically present during these visits, but he was also emotionally supportive. I remember on one these visits, Dad appeared in the hall outside the Procedure Room where I was being prepped for yet another particularly icky surgery that was needed to remove all the affected tissue beneath a mole. The procedure would be long, involved and quite painful. "I'm looking for my daughter's room." I immediately recognized his voice, but that was all I heard before he calmly poked his head into the room and said, "Are you doing okay honey? Would you like me to stay in here with you?" His voice of strength and loving concern was all I needed to feel safe and better equipped to handle the next hours. How could I possibly let go of this man?
Of course I knew he had been dealing with a gradual weakening over the late spring months, but I was in denial about the possible seriousness of his condition until hearing the diagnosis of lung cancer. Even then my sister and I convinced ourselves that post-surgery he would need some extra TLC to help him fully recover, and we were more than willing to provide whatever was necessary to help in this healing. We were not yet willing or able to let go of this man we loved so completely. I know my heart was not prepared for this deep good-bye, so swallowing the bitter pill of this reality was more than I could initially handle. Jessica took a week away from her new job to spend time with the grandpa that had shared his house and heart in the early years of her life...such a close bond...such a heartfelt farewell.
One August morning Dad's doctor called us into the dreaded Conference Room. Gathering in this room was a certain sign that some serious news was about to be given, and this time was no different. He explained that there was no more they could do to help Dad...they had done everything in their power to heal him, and now it was up to us to formulate a new plan for his future care. I remember words like "nursing home" and "home health care" fill the air, before the final words of "possible months of painful lingering ahead"...who would ever want to hear those words, yet here they were hanging in the room around us! It didn't take Mom long before announcing, "I still believe in a miracle." Our miracle arrived the next afternoon when Dad died of a heart attack. No long months of suffering! Safe Home Dad!!
Friday, November 27, 2009
After many weeks of unsuccessful house searching, we found a half acre lot where we could get all of our wants and needs met by having a house built for us. Everything was going so smoothly, even getting our house sold without even listing it. We were riding on a natural high, choosing a builder and a house plan while also making plans to attend Jessica's graduation. It was during this time that my dad's health began to slowly fade, and although he didn't talk about it much, he finally admitted that he was not even feeling strong enough to make the trip to D.C. One thing I knew was that there were very few things that would keep Dad away from Jessica's graduation, so in the back of my mind I wondered if he was downplaying the seriousness of the weakness. He continued to assure us that he was beginning to feel a bit stronger.
Jessica's graduation was an adventure. Jim drove our car out so that he could bring Jessica and all of her belongings back home. Mary had never flown, so she and I flew out to the festivities. She entertained everyone around her with stories about her niece graduating, her dad who had to stay home, her mom who was riding out in a van with her other sister, her excitement about flying for the first time, and the delicious chocolate chip cookies that were served...boundless, pure enthusiasm! After landing, we picked up our bags and headed to the CUA campus, but not before Mary loudly proclaimed to anyone within earshot that the weather was way too cold for her comfort. Yes, the weather was more than unseasonably cold for the end of May, but the rest of us just accepted this fact, added another layer, and moved on with our celebration...not Mary! To this very day, when asked about Jessica's graduation, she will eventually find a spot in the discussion to bring up the cold weather.
Watching Jessica graduate from college was an emotional experience. I felt a deep joy as she received her diploma, witnessing first hand the incredible woman she was becoming. It marked the time I was seeing her as a true adult, a young woman capable of going out into the world, well prepared to continue her journey. Within a couple of weeks she was set to begin her dream job of driving the weinermobile for one year. After training, she was heading to the east coast all set to begin the adventure of a lifetime, totally unaware of what was about to turn the highest of highs into the lowest of lows.
Monday, November 23, 2009
able to conform to whatever space was available at the time.
I wanted to include this photo because I really, really like it...love abounds!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
After giving Jim a chance to talk about his drinking habits and why or why not he thought these habits were a problem, Dad asked me to share why the drinking was a problem for me and the effect I felt it was having on our relationship. He gave both of us an ample opportunity to explain our feelings, and by the end we agreed he had a full understanding of why we were turning to him for help. In response, Dad shared his belief that if a person's drinking was causing a problem to anyone in that person's life, then that person's drinking was a problem. He went on to explain that most people thought that in order to be considered a person with a drinking problem you had to be an out-of-control drinker who had missed work, gotten fired, or experienced blackouts due to drinking, but he knew otherwise based on his own experiences with alcoholism. I was quite surprised by this profound wisdom delivered in such a simple package. After having time to process it for a few minutes, it made total sense...the essence of our situation presented in a straightforward and unpretentious manner. My dad, a man of few words, each of which he chose and constructed with exact precision. Does this give you insight into my dad and why we were comfortable and safe in approaching him for advice?
As we left our meeting, Jim and I were in agreement with the message that had been delivered to us that night. On the recommendation of Dad, we used this newly received idea/meaning as a foundation for our communication...and what discussions we had throughout the following days! That one session was the catalyst for a significant shift in our marriage.
Monday, November 9, 2009
It's hard for me to admit the ways I tried to control his drinking over the early years of our relationship, but I think it's important to be open and honest so that you can begin to realize the deep fear and eventual anger I felt toward this third party in our marriage. I remember feeling that I never wanted to go through what our family had experienced over the years of living with a practicing alcoholic. I needed to do everything in my power to prevent this from happening! I know now how ridiculously desperate that sounds, but that is exactly how desperate I was feeling during that time!
Jim was a wedding photographer when we met, so this meant that he would regularly work at a wedding on the weekends. Every wedding has a reception, and almost every reception has some type of alcohol...you can probably tell where I'm heading with this, right? That's correct...after the photographs were finished and all the obligations had been met, Jim would often be invited to stay for the end of the reception festivities, and usually that would include drinking. Oh yea, I believed that if I went to the weddings with him, then I would be able to control his alcohol intake. How silly was that? Sad but true. (Yes, Thom, that's how I ended up in your wedding photographs about ten years before even meeting you.) There were many weddings that I didn't attend with Jim, and on one of those occasions Jim called, inviting me to come and listen to the great band at the reception. Of course I went because then I could control, control, control...but by the time I appeared, Jim was already beyond any control I could offer. I arrived to see him dancing with one of the bridesmaids. I wish there was a word that could begin to describe how I sick I felt as I stood there in the darkened room, because using the words hurt and angry only describe the tip of my emotional response. Would I have had the same emotional response if he had not been drinking? I truly didn't know the answer to that question, but I gradually began to understand that his drinking was concerning me to the point of causing a problem in our relationship. I don't want to give the impression that he drank all the time because that is not true, but each time he did over-indulge, I had the same fear-based response. Eventually when Jessica was in college and Jim and I spent more time going to social events together, I knew that I had a decision to make. I either had to seek a solution for dealing with this third party in our marriage or I had to find a way of living with that reality...without letting it consume me and our relationship.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I enrolled in a calligraphy class which quickly engaged my creative juices, I joined a Bible study group that Suzanne offered which fed my spiritual hunger, and I began to meditate which gave my overly active mind a chance to experience a new-found quiet. All in all I was experiencing life in a fresh, expansive way that tasted quite remarkable. Did I continue to miss Jessica's daily presence in my life? Absolutely! But I was gradually able to move toward a place of acceptance of this new and different phase in my life and thereby become open to the growth and change it offered me.
During this time I knew there was an area of my life due for a tune-up...our marriage. Since Jim and I then had the time, maybe we could both focus some of that time and energy on our relationship because merely sharing a physical space does not a marriage make. So many people described Jim as a "great guy" and that description was absolutely true. He was a good guy through and through, and I loved him dearly, but something that concerned me was the lack of quality time we spent together. We often chose to spend our free time in totally different ways, but it became my hope that we would find some mutually satisfying activities that we could enjoy doing together. To be fair, I must admit that this lack of quality togetherness bothered me much more that it bothered Jim. He felt we were spending quality time if we sat in the same room and watched an evening of TV together...me, not so much. I was hungry for something more, but I didn't know exactly what that meant or how to achieve it. As Jessica was growing up it seemed as though the time Jim and I spent with each other was usually for family-centered activities rather than just the two of us spending time as a couple. I had never been aware of this fact during that time, but believe me, it became clearly evident after Jessica went off to college! There was nothing like lots of available free time staring me in the face, and not being able to find a suitable way to spend time together, so we'd settle on going out for dinner...if only we could agree on a restaurant. Are you getting a sense of my struggle? Hindsight is wonderful because I am able to sit here over twenty years later and smile at our crude but terribly sincere attempts we both encountered along the way of discovering togetherness...
Friday, October 9, 2009
After making it safely back into our car, I had to admit that all the unleashed outpouring of silliness was exactly what I needed in order to shake off the emotional upheaval of the previous twenty-four hours. I felt like a dog who just had been given a bath and needed to shake free all the annoying leftover water dripping off its back. I was no longer burdened by the emotional release that had taken place within the confines of our car for the last fifteen hours.
When we finally made it home, we slept for the rest of the day. There was no way I could spend my first day of school exhausted, so sleep was a necessity. It felt strange that we didn't need to ask Jessica to turn down her music to help give us the quiet we needed. Instead, our house already seemed too quiet. Is that how our "empty nest" was going to sound without the activity and energy of a teenager? It was most definitely a time of transition in our marriage, and I wanted us to take this transition slowly, hoping that going slowly may take away some of the "sting" of loss and replace it with new possibilities for us to explore. Yikes! Jim and I having more one-on-one time together...oh my!
Thursday, October 1, 2009
As we left Washington and throughout many of the seventeen hours traveling back home I continued sobbing, surprising even myself with the depth of sadness and loss that I felt. I needed to understand that there were two simple realities forming the foundation for my sense of loss and grief. First, my "little girl" and I were on the threshold of entering into a brand new phase of our relationship, a strangely different and totally unknown connection in which we would both participate as adults and secondly, from that day forward whenever Jessica would be at our home she would be a visitor. While watching my daughter as she had become that tiny dot, she had turned back to her dorm, entering it as a young adult who was independently living on her own in the great big world. I had comprehended this transition back in Madison as I had spent the previous year mentally preparing for her leaving, but living through the realism of this transition was especially more difficult for my heart to accept. This was a bitter pill of reality for me to swallow...indeed.
I was useless in the shared driving department because it seemed as though each time I would begin feeling peacefully calm, the tranquility would be abruptly interrupted by a flash of remembrance that would begin the flow of tears. There would be no advanced warning, simply heartrending sadness that had no boundaries. I don't think Jim had much fun on that trip home until we came to a truck stop in the Chicago area. You see, when we left Washington it was around eighty degrees so we were dressed for that weather. We had no clue that the Midwest was experiencing a sudden drop in temperature, down around forty degrees! Can you imagine our surprise when we exited the car to fill the tank with gas? We felt as though we were dressed for Florida and ended up in Alaska. With our lack of sleep along with all the emotions swirling around inside our car for the last fifteen hours, we both needed some comic relief, and this frigid weather provided the perfect humorous material. I thought Jim looked funny as he filled the gas tank because his whole body was shivering from standing outside in this ridiculous weather, and he was laughing at how equally silly I looked in my summer outfit... and that's how it all started.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
We stopped at a MacDonald's on the way to Jessica's dorm, and we were greeted as we got out of our car by a police officer who was wearing a bullet-proof vest and acting as an escort for people like us who were "new" to the neighborhood. He suggested that next time we may want to choose a different location for getting a meal. Now there's something I had never seen in Madison! Is this giving you an idea of why I felt like a fish out of water? Soon after that, we had to wait for a very l-o-n-g time in the hot sun for another police officer to arrive because we witnessed a car accident...remember the crazy driving I mentioned?
After finally getting Jessica settled into her new home, we became typical tourists as we went out for an entire day of sightseeing, taking in all the major highlights found throughout the city. We even went to the top of the Washington Monument where Jessica was able to point out the CUA campus far off in the distance. This was all a fun distraction, but in the corners of my mind I was keenly aware of the real reason for being in DC...we were there to transport our daughter to college, release this mature young lady from childhood, and set her free to continue her grown-up journey to adulthood. Those were some heavy duty responsibilities which would challenge me more than I could have ever imagined!
Thursday, September 17, 2009
During this period of waiting, I would smile as I recited my version of the prayer for gaining patience...Dear God, please grant me patience and I want it now! That sums up how I was feeling about needing to wait, save money and find the time in order to go on a week retreat with Francis. I also needed to accept that the timing wasn't wonderful since Jessica was looking into colleges, which meant that we would have four years of financial commitments. Paying college tuition could certainly affect my ability to put money aside in a retreat fund, but I was focused on saving money, no matter how small each contribution may be.
Jessica was in her senior year in high school, which was an interesting time for our family. She was very involved in student council and this commitment kept her busy and happy with all that she was able to accomplish. I was involved in preparing myself for her departure from home to college. The two of us had been a solidly connected duo for so many years and the thought of her leaving Madison for an indefinite period was beyond my comprehension. It literally took me the entire year to gradually process that this was a natural time for her to venture out on her own, as well as the natural time for me to willingly open my arms and send her off on her journey as an adult. Intellectually I understood this to be true, good and healthy, but in my heart I was sad and full of my own natural uncertainty about how my life would look and feel when she was far away in Washington D.C. I had difficulty envisioning my daily routine for the next year, a routine that would not include our time spent together at the end of each day sharing the highs and lows of our day. It was our nightly ritual, and one I treasured. So many other holes...so many questions. Who would be able to go clothes shopping with me and share an honest opinion? Who would go to Door County with me and enjoy doing all the things that we both considered fun? Who would sit and talk with me about everything and nothing at the same time?
I learned that growth and change can be quite painful, even knowing that this was the best time for us to naturally separate didn't lesson the degree of loss and pain.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I was carefully drawing the distinct image of the yellow cab that had carried my little body to the hospital to meet Dr. Reese. I saw me looking up at the highest skyscraper I had ever seen. I remember trying to capture the deep impotence I was feeling during that cab ride, but I quickly let go of trying to control the look of the image, and instead I was connecting with every emotion I remember experiencing at that time. With the arrival of each emotion came more tears, and I mean more tears. Both sleeves of my shirt were soaked and my nose was then actively participating in the release of my previously imprisoned emotions that had remained all these years in the darkened corners of my memories. I hope you are able to appreciate the image of me drawing an image of me while all sorts of bodily fluids are escaping my body, and I only had my tongue, hands and sleeves to keep these fluids in check.
Francis had again asked us to jot down any words that arrived during our sketching. Oh my, how surprised I was with the flood of words that appeared along with the continuing flood of tears. Overwhelming, the unknown, fear, why me?, alone, so-o small, God?, where am I going?, scary new area, and cancer? were the thoughts and feelings that blanketed the image. With all the physical and emotional release that surrounded me, I look back and think about what had actually kept me seated in my chair. Why hadn't I simply melted into a puddle of tears with a side order of exhaustion?
By the end of that retreat I knew four things for sure...I knew I was grateful for receiving the opportunity to attend the retreat with Suzanne, I knew I needed to save my pennies so that I could make reservations to go on a week-long retreat in California with Francis, I knew that I had been gifted with a loving, safe, spiritually grounded woman who could help me on my journey of growth and change, and I knew that my life would never be the same after those three days with Francis. Thank You God!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Francis invited each of us to think back to the innocence of our early youth and get a mental picture that embodied that time. She asked us to sketch the image and while drawing, write down words that described our memory of this time. I quickly began attempting to illustrate the tricycle that I had dearly loved as a child. I had a smile on my face and in my heart as I remembered the freedom I felt while riding up and down our street. It was the first mode of travel other than walking or riding in a car that I experienced and it had offered me pure joy and excitement, and these were the words I wrote around my beautiful trike...joy, freedom, pleasure, fun, excitement, friends and nothing can stop me. Did I forget to mention the set of extraordinarily fancy streamers that fluttered in the wind as I flew down the block as fast as my little feet could pedal? Those blue streamers were like the proverbial cherry on the hot fudge sundae! I felt so sassy and free...what fond memories. If only the exercise had ended on that delicious note.
While I was sitting in the lightness of my memory, Francis asked that each of us then shift our thoughts to the time in our childhood when our innocence was lost. Well, that took me about a nano second to identify, and I bet it didn't take you much longer to remember back to my busy travel schedule taking me back and forth to New York. I may seem casual as I mention it now, but as I sat at the retreat, listening to the directions, I felt almost sick to my stomach. Then I remembered that not one person at the retreat knew anything about my childhood days, so it might be possible for me to fade into the blandness of the walls and slip out at the end of the afternoon without being noticed. I quickly determined that I could mentally drop a veil over the depth of my feelings, like the invisibility cloak of Harry Potter, casually drawing a sketch with little or no emotional attachment...proving once again that old habits are indeed hard to break. However, this honesty was not about to be ignored or silenced!
With the gentle music playing, Francis invited each of us to breathe deeply and wait patiently for the image to emerge. Her next suggestion challenged me immediately because it seemed as though it had been crafted especially and exclusively for me. I almost believed that she may have been privy to my mental dialogue involving the possibility of a clock. She instructed us to trust the image that appeared, not judging it or changing it...merely sitting quietly with it while noticing the details.
I closed my eyes while trying to be open, calm and ready for a picture or impression to appear. I was immediately aware of the most accurate image. My initial fear encouraged me to quickly open my eyes, causing this specific image to disappear...but then I was reminded of the concept of trust. Was I ready for this degree of trust?? How could I ever remain in this room with all these people surrounding me while I would be attempting to sketch and get in touch with the feelings that this image evoked? I instinctively knew that now was the time to honor and trust the truth of this image, but how could I accomplish this? Picking up the markers and pencil, I noticed a heaviness seep into my heart as I felt the first gentle tear slide down my cheek.
Monday, September 7, 2009
In early spring Suzanne asked if I would be interested in attending a weekend retreat in Milwaukee with her. She explained that her spiritual teacher came from California two times a year to lead retreats. I didn't need to give it too much thought before telling her that I would definitely want to attend. That illustrates the level of trust I had developed in Suzanne. In the past I would have been more cautious and reluctant about being open to an experience that was new or different, but at this point I was intrigued with the possibilities that the retreat may provide for my spiritual development. Absolutely nothing could have adequately prepared me for the life-giving explosion that awaited me on that glorious weekend!!!
Greeting participants at the door was Francis, Suzanne's spiritual teacher and the retreat leader. I was wide-eyed with wonder as I first met Francis because I didn't understand the concept of spiritual teacher, and I was beyond curious to meet the woman that made Suzanne glow each time she would speak about her. My first impression was filled with adjectives: gentle, calm, safe, happy, peaceful, and inviting. Who wouldn't love that? I was attracted to her energy and I couldn't wait for the retreat to begin. Francis opened the retreat with a quietly enthusiastic welcome that even made this newcomer feel at ease. At one point she asked that each person bring plain paper and colored pencils, markers, paints or chalks for Saturday. I was intrigued even though I was far from being an artist. Maybe it was because I already felt a level of trust with Francis, but for whatever reason, I was not concerned or worried about the activity we would be assigned the next day. What I did know was that Suzanne and I needed to do a bit of shopping for Saturday, and we did not leave the event until 9:00 that night. Where would we be able to locate a store that late where we could buy our little art supplies? Don't ever underestimate two women focused on a mission.
Yes, we arrived the next morning with art tools in our hands. I also came with a sense of uncertainty mixed with anticipation for the upcoming activity. I was on the verge of being presented with one of the most treasured gifts of my life, and I wasn't even aware of it!
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
About halfway through my speech I noticed a few strands of hair that had fallen across my forehead into the upper corner of my eye, and for some unknown reason I felt the immediate need to brush those pesky little annoyances away. Much to my astonishment, I saw this wobbling, fear-enhanced, out of control hunk of flesh (aka my hand) come sweeping into my view, as it ineptly attempted to clear those wisps away. So many thoughts flooded into my mind as to how to best handle this very obvious show of fear...forge ahead and ignore was the solution that came through loud and clear. That was the one shot I had to keep my mind focused, with whatever level of confidence I could exude after that "bump" in the road had challenged my composure to its core.
I smile as I tell you that after all the silliness, I received an A for the speech and an A for the class. Wonders never cease, it's true. Maybe to me what seemed like a show of obvious fear, was not as obvious to those listening. This memory was held onto quite tightly as I began my journey to a new and different podium and audience. The team of adults who would be sharing their stories throughout the retreat met several times in the evening to practice presenting in front of real people. For me, that experience felt as unappealing as walking on a bed of hot coals. Since it was mandatory, I practiced along with everyone, though I don't have any memory of the feedback I received. I just had this deep belief that each of these steps led me closer to my final goal of surviving the event.
The retreat was a powerfully significant time for the students and adults. I felt a vibration of growth and a deepening connection with my faith flow throughout the weekend, and I was able to enter into the fullness of the experience until Sunday morning. Since we were all sleeping with our groups in the classrooms around the school, a good night of sleep was a far stretch of our imagination. But I awoke that morning extra early with a knot the size of my fist in my stomach. I knew it was fear rearing its ugly head, and it took every ounce of self-awareness to keep it from taking control of my body.
I took a walk around the school to calm myself and I ended up in the quiet of the chapel which was located at the far end of the building. I stayed there throughout the time for breakfast . The peace and stillness welcomed me in and I simply sat and breathed in the sense of total wellness surrounding me, until it was time for me to return to the group and give my presentation. That environment in the chapel was a gift I will never forget. On that early Sunday morning I learned an essential key to living ...some of our most beautiful presents don't come wrapped in the distraction of shiny paper with big bows.
You've already figured out the ending to this piece of my journey, haven't you? More important than my survival of the speech was the deep understanding that I can touch into the stillness that is always available.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Remember me? I'm the one who had created my own version of Pandora's Box for the explicit reason of avoidance. Rather than confront an uncomfortable conversation, occurrence, or feeling, I would simply make a deposit into the box and move forward in my life, or so I thought. I realized much later that I wasn't truly moving forward. How could I have been moving forward when in truth, I was stuck in a pattern of boldly familiar avoidance? It was finally time to free myself from that old established fear, and break the evasion pattern! As a classroom teacher, I was accustomed to formulating a lesson plan, but when I tried to create a plan to accomplish this goal, I had no idea where to begin. Too bad that Nike had not yet invented their now famous slogan, "Just Do It," because I could certainly have gained wisdom from that advice. In fact, after experimenting with a variety of unsuccessful attempts using other ideas, this was exactly what I discovered...just do it, inch by inch, step by step. Such a simple concept with many convoluted predecessors. The power of those three words was almost lost on me due to the sheer simplicity of its message.
I spent days crafting a my talk, speech, presentation or whatever you want to call it. All I know for sure is that I had never put so much time and energy into writing. Throughout my college years I would certainly put quality effort into the assigned papers, but those were education centered, not personal accounts of a relationship. It felt as though the more I wrote, the deeper I connected to my years spent with Jon, giving me new insight into our time together. It gave me a more profound understanding as to why our relationship had little chance of survival unless I had been willing to deny my core value system. Reflecting back all these years later, I was grateful for having the courage to face this task because it allowed me a much needed clarity concerning the demise of our marriage. Now if only I could get a stand-in to present my
material to the high school students. Since that was not an option, I wanted to create a daily mantra that would keep me focused on a positive message. Eventually I chose, " I know I can do this, I know I can do this..."
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Do you recall the kitchen duty I had very willingly volunteered to perform? Well that safe plan blew into many tiny pieces on the day I received a letter from Suzanne offering me an opportunity to give one of the speeches at the retreat. What?! What?! Me give a talk in front of a group of high school students? She should have known me well enough by then to understand that there would be absolutely no possibility of me accepting her invitation! The letter asked if I would write and present to the group my story of the effect of love vs. infatuation in my own personal relationship. After the initial shock subsided and my heartbeat returned to normal, the first coherent thought was that I would immediately need to call Suzanne and gently explain to her that I was not prepared to openly share the experience of my private relationship, marriage and divorce from Jon, and definitely not in front of Jessica and her peers. I was sure she would understand my reluctance and put me back on kitchen duty where I would feel safe and secure.
It didn't take me long into my conversation with Suzanne to realize that my negative response to her request was not going to be an easy sell...for every apprehension I shared, she had a reasonable argument for me to reconsider. My unconvincing facade of inadequacy was quickly falling to pieces under my close scrutiny of the courageous trust that Suzanne presented for me to process and consider. I was left with an unmistakable truth that I finally had to confess to myself. It was challenging for me to own this fact, much less declare it out loud, even though I was only admitting this reality to myself. The only obstacle in my way was fear, fear, fear...that nasty, ugly shadow that I had done almost anything to avoid, yet there it was, staring me in the face. I knew there was only one way for me to handle this, I needed to face the fear and walk through it with dignity and courage! How does a truly frightened person accomplish this feat? I think I was about to find out!
Saturday, August 15, 2009
All the hours of carefully opening and examining the rancid contents of Pandora's Box with my trusted therapist was beginning to help me understand the profound price I had paid for my avoidance of facing conflicts and my fear of sharing honest emotions. I was deeply into the process of clearing the air surrounding me by identifying and working through the years and years of dead stagnant energy, unfulfilled dreams and insincerity that had kept the exterior of many relationships superficially connected. I was well aware that in order to continue making positive steps forward I would need to step into an authentic world of communication, a world where I would most definitely be an awkward novice. I was open to walking through this new form of communicating because it felt like this would be my way to rediscover the brighter shades of possibilities.
What happened next was serendipitous. Don't you love when life gifts you with someone or something totally unexpected and yet deeply needed? It all happened so innocently. You see, it was time for Jessica to be confirmed, so it was natural that I would I attend the first meeting with all the students and their parents. Each family was given a questionnaire asking what type of volunteering opportunities parents would be willing to participate in throughout the year. I quickly signed up to help during the weekend retreat that would take place later in the year. I offered to help prepare the food, serve the meals, clean-up and assorted other kitchen duties throughout the entire weekend. It felt like that would be a safe yet useful way for me to help. Suzanne was the pastoral minister in charge of running this retreat experience each year for the teenagers. I had met her briefly during church related events and I was immediately drawn to her positive energy and authentic interactions with the adults and students. She was a role model for how I would love to be able to communicate with the people in my life. Not only that, but she was bright, funny, creative and very loving. Yes, she was the gift that was delivered to me at exactly the right time and place for where I was on my journey. I gave many prayers of sincere gratitude for her arrival, but little did I know that she was also going to offer me invitations to grow and change in ways that both excited me and scared the shit out of me!!
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Sit back and enjoy another addition of photos. I had to look through boxes and boxes of old family pictures in order to assemble this assortment, and I ended up organizing and sorting as I went through the process. It took me weeks to accomplish this task, or I should say partially accomplish this task, as Jim informed me yesterday that there are still a few more boxes...
Jessica is only four months old, and we're out on an early spring day soaking up the fresh air and abundance of nature. How do you like my long hair? Remember, these were in my hippy days of making candles in our basement to sell on the UW Library Mall. Jessica would come with us and we'd throw out some blankets on the ground in the mall and sell our homemade candles. Looking back, I wonder what made me comfortable with living day to day with little sense of the responsibility involved in being a parent and a lack of focus on future income potential. Maybe that's the definition of hippy.
Who needed fancy toys when you could play with your mom's hair? Our needs may have been quite simple, but we did share an abundance of love.
Good-bye to my hippy days and hello to the more responsible side of my life. I got this new haircut a short time after my divorce from Jon...it just felt like the logical time to manifest outwardly the changes that were occurring inwardly.
This picture brings a big smile to my face because it captures the glowing essence of Jessica's true personality...open, honest, alive with wonder and curiosity as she confidently shares her thoughts, feelings, questions and beliefs.
Kindergarten in Chanhassen, Minnesota. This was the year Jessica questioned me about getting back together with Jon. We have certainly shared a rich history of love, growth and trust.
This school picture shows the mole that was malignant. Look closely on the side of my neck...I think it looks harmless. The picture was taken about three months before my surgery.
We were on our yearly family vacation when Jim took this picture. I had recently stopped wearing turtlenecks, so I wasn't sure about having a photo taken, but Jim can be persistent. I think I was still trying to talk him out of it when I heard the click of the camera. What was I so worried about?
Jessica and I have always shared a profound bond. I think all of our years together as a two person family helped solidify our deeply rooted love.
Do you remember the joy-filled family Christmas mornings I wrote about? Well, here one is in all its chaos, mess and love. You can't see me, but I was sitting next to my brother-in-law, Greg, about two feet away from Jessica and out of the shot. Those of you who know our family will notice that there is indeed an interloper in our midst...maybe because he/she wanted to bask in the obvious love we shared. Who is able to spot and name our uninvited guest? A little aside to my friend Susie...does the bookcase in the background look at all familiar?
We gathered for the fiftieth anniversary of my parents, and that's the special occasion for which I wore a skirt. We celebrated for the entire weekend...love, love, love was omnipresent. I truly treasure the love I share with my brothers and sisters, and the foundation of our connection was grounded in the relationship my parents modeled for us.
It's always fun to see a picture of the five of us because time goes by so quickly, with each of us looking different with our hairstyles and fashion choices...the changes make me smile. Do you notice how our dogs are an integral part of our life? These are Tyler and Muffles, our very first dogs who brought unconditional love to our lives for many years...such a gift.
Here's our whole family. Jim, being the official photographer, would casually arrange all of us, set the timer on the camera, and then quickly jump into the shot. Do you notice that this is the same living room from the photo taken many years earlier when I was quite young? Look, no more yellow rose-filled wallpaper.