Thursday, February 27, 2014

a minute for my heart

i wear my heart on my sleeve. 

this has been true about me for as long as i can remember and probably even before then, too.

and i hate it. 

because the thing about wearing your heart on your sleeve is that it gets hurt more easily than if you hide it behind a protective barrier-- like your chest cavity or your emotional walls. 

i texted one of my best friends earlier bemoaning my condition (yet again) and she said:
"Well, someone has to."

when i told her she would have to explain that one to me, she responded:
"Well, my dear, there isn't anything brave about leaving the important unsaid
Or downplaying its importance."

so, i may be brave, but i also hurt.

and i hate it. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

a minute to say something

i'm trying this new thing where i try to say what i feel instead of bottling it up inside.
sounds easy enough, right?

say what you mean,
say what you think,
say what's on your mind,
say what you feel.
but it is so much harder than that. 

because i am confronted with all these things, like:
  • the fear of the reaction(s) i will be met with
  • all the reasons i shouldn't say what i feel (like: i shouldn't feel this way, what right do i have?, that's not appropriate, what will people think?, i will upset someone if i let them know i feel this way, etc.)
  • those feeling don't matter/aren't valid (why are you even feeling this way in the first place?)

let's just assume everyone knows what happens when people bottle up their feelings and ask endless cycles of unrelenting questions internally (or worse, spin in never-ending shame-spirals).

so, let me start this blog post by saying, i have been struggling for the past month and a half.

i have been sad.
for no reason.
i have beat myself up.
for many reasons... that i convince myself are legitimate reasons, but are probably not.

and for several weeks, i simultaneously wanted to tell everyone--wanted to scream at them, don't you see how sad i am? don't you notice?-- and keep it a secret from everyone--nope, everything is normal over here. see how happy i am (not)?

i mean, what did i have to be sad about? no one in my family is sick or dying. i have a full-time job doing something i love and am passionate about. i even have health insurance. i am happily married. i have two dogs. i can afford a comfortable apartment and food to eat. i even have a nice vacation planned.

but i was still sad.
for no reason.
and i still beat myself up.
inside of my mind.

so, then, i finally told someone (my husband):
i'm not happy.
"have you been taking your vitamins?"
no. not consistently. (internal beating-up of self)
"well, you should. you know they help. remember last year?"
yeah. fine. but i think it could be more than that...
"well, try taking your vitamins first."

and i told someone else (a friend):
i haven't been myself lately. i think maybe it's SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
"well, the weather has been terrible."
yeah. (i simultaneously wish it was more than that and that it was that easy---let's blame the weather!)
"have you been exercising?"
no. i've felt like hibernating all the time. 
"haven't we all? but maybe you should try exercising."

great practical solutions. things i had been telling myself for weeks. i felt a bit better, but it wasn't enough somehow.

so, at church, when my priest announced he would offer special healing during communion, i thought about going over. maybe this was what i needed.
   but do i really need special healing or prayer because i'm sad?
   is that really worth praying over?
   look at the line. i bet people have problems far worse than mine. 
   maybe i just won't stop.

but i stopped.
and i waited.
and i reflected. i mean, what exactly would i say?
then, my turn came:

i've been struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder, and i just...i need help. 
wait. was is really that simple? 
as he placed his hands on my head and prayed, i felt tears forming.  
(they are forming as i type this)
so, i just gave in:
i let him hold my head and say the words i couldn't.
i let myself take a deep breathe and say "amen."
and when i stood up, i felt...better.

no completely prayer-solved-all-my-problems better
but better somehow.

because i had admitted i was struggling
(which was a step further than saying i was sad),
then i asked for help.

i hadn't been able to do that before.
i hadn't been able to say i needed help.
i wanted to solve my own problems.
but i wasn't.
i wanted to fix it.
but i couldn't.
and that made me feel like something was wrong with me.

but it's not.
i'm just struggling a little.
and that doesn't make me wrong.
or mean that i need fixing.
that makes me human.
that means i am me, exactly as i am.
and i am OK.

so, here is what i have to say:

God, the universe, my dear friends, my precious family,

sometimes, i am sad.
sometimes, i don't know why.
oftentimes, i don't want to talk about it because it frustrates me. 
that doesn't mean i don't want to talk to you 
   --although it may mean i don't have the energy for long conversations.
please don't take it personally. 

i have learned that while i seem extroverted
   --and i thrive on the energy of those around me--
i need recovery time
   --more of me is introverted than i previously thought-- 
i need to recharge.
sometimes, i need to do this completely alone.
sometimes, i may need you there. 
just to sit there with me. 
in silence. 
maybe you will even play with me hair or hug me...
maybe you won't.
and that's ok. 

sometimes, i am sad.
sometimes, i need help.
but don't try to fix me
   --try to be there for me instead.
let me feel your love. 
and i will be ok.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

a minute for life and death

this post began more than a week ago as "a minute for dads" but, through my delay in writing it, has morphed into something a bit more.

you see, two weeks ago, two of my good friends lost their fathers (one dad was 90, the other was 75). and, i didn't know what to say to either of them (i still don't) to make them feel better-- because how can anything anyone says to you make it better? i was talking to my husband about how i wished i could do something but i couldn't think of anything right and how that made me feel worse (because i am a natural nurturer), and he said-- very well intentioned-- "you've been busy. i mean, life gets in the way."

"life gets in the way." 

i'm not sure what my external reaction was-- probably something along the lines of "that's no excuse"-- but it certainly gave me internal pause. it seems as if i had heard this sentence many, many times in the past two weeks. i think i had even said it myself, but on friday, i really stopped to think about it.

"what exactly does life get in the way of?

i mean, i know that the saying means something like
"the things we have to do to keep up with our every day living get in the way of the things we want to do but cannot seem to find (or make) time to actually do.
but does life actually get in the way-- or do we put it in the way as an excuse?

now, before you go thinking that i'm about to write one of those "live every minute as if it is your last" posts, i'm not. or at least, i'm not trying to. despite the name of this blog, this is not what i am trying to say. i'm more interested in preserving the minutes we live-- both the ordinary and the extraordinary. 

last Sunday (in the first minute of quiet i had all week), i had a mini-panic attack at the thought of losing my own dad. the busy-ness of my life was no longer in the way of my processing the news of the week, and my brain was working overtime: what was happening to all of the dads?! was mine next? these thoughts made me feel selfish, but they also made me feel scared.

in my humble opinion, i am incredibly blessed to have the best dad in the world, and i cannot imagine what life-- and the world-- would be like without him in it (i frequently have the same thoughts about my mom, too-- it's no secret, losing my parents is one of my deepest, darkest fears)

and then i realized, this is probably exactly how both of my friends feel. they now have to live in a world without their dads. and they have never had to do that before. it's something unfathomable until it becomes your reality. and although i have tried (for over a week now) i can't seem to properly articulate my thoughts because it makes no sense to me. i haven't lived it. i don't know. my mom knows. my husband knows. several other good friends know... and now two more friends are going to have to learn to live a new life without their dads. how are they going to do that? and how could i begin to help?

the deaths didn't stop there: this week,

  • one of my students (a fourth grader) lost her father (again with the dads!); 
  • my brother-in-law lost his grandmother (why is this one somewhat easier to process?); 
  • just yesterday, a co-worker suddenly lost her husband (again, i am at a loss).

bringing up the questions:

  • what do i say to my student when i see her wednesday? is it worse to bring it up? should i pretend i don't know? is that insulting? will she even be in school on wednesday? wednesday is audition day, so do i just give her a good part if she misses auditions?
  • what do you do at a funeral where you don't know the person? and why do you go? i went to my brother-in-law's grandmother's funeral, even though i didn't know her. i went to support the person i love. he's my family. this is what you do for your family. you show up. going is an act of support and encouragement-- and you don't have to have the"right words," you just show up. 
  • what do you say to your co-worker when you see her in the office? what is appropriate? what is enough? 

and i think the answer to all of my questions is this:
small kindnesses. 

  • a hug-- or a well meaning hand (on the shoulder) when a hug may be too much.
  • showing up to a funeral or wake or visitation (if you can)
  • sending a card or a text to let them know they are in your thoughts
  • giving them time to process without having to explain or justify


honoring their stories. (this is where i bring it back around, i hope)

what are the small stories you remember from those people that you have lost? those minutes-- both ordinary and extraordinary-- of life. take a moment. really fix them in your mind.

do you have them?


instead of talking about "life getting in the way" or using life as an excuse, let's put those minutes of life-- the minutes remember with our loved ones-- in the way of our mourning and our sadness and our life, for one minute, to honor their lives.

and maybe that will help.
just for one minute.