Monday, January 23, 2012

Morning Has Broken

Well, I must say that this day was not anything like I expected it to be a couple months ago. Not long ago I did some EMDR and "re-programed" the day of Dad's death. I looked at it not from a caregiver's point of view, but from Little ME's. Don't ask me how, but it took away a lot of the sadness and fear.

To honor his memory, I decided to go to Dad's favorite beach instead of the cemetery. It was an overcast, foggy gray morning. The tide was low enough to drive onto the beach and watch the waves come rolling into the shore. "Only the waves are faithful" my father once said after being ditched by his fiance for a Community Theater cast party. After awhile, standing in calf deep surf, I scattered some of my parents' ashes. Prayers came easily. Along with comfort and grace. Then I went to church, bought myself some sunflowers, and listened to a radio station that plays only Country Music oldies. A perfect tribute, I think, to the man whose presence has been gone for a year, but whose spirit lives and breathes in the walls of this house.

Today was also the first day of an on-line class I'm taking called Breaking into Blossom - moving into an improvisational life.
"What is improvisation to you?" was the first question asked. Seriously all I can think of is Comedy Central where actors are given an assignment like - you're an escaped monkey from the zoo and you hail a cab that takes you to Madison Square Garden. Then of course the talented actor(s) performs a skit dramatizing that very thing without even giving it a moment's thought. I guess that's where the improvisation comes in. He doesn't think. He just moves into it.

I'm still working on the questions how and when do I improvise. I'm sure I do, just not sure I'm aware of it. Maybe going to the ocean instead of the cemetery was a form of improvisation. Maybe taking my Oki bear for comfort, a prayer book for peace and a journal for thoughts were all improvisation as they were the things I picked up as I walked out the door with no thought as to why or what I'd do with them.

Another assignment was to pick one of the instructions from "A Poem of Change" by Pauline Oliveros and watch how it "colors your work, your play." I chose "change with the light."
At first I interpreted "light" as being the opposite of heavy. My thought being that if I can, indeed, take off the mantle of grief, like some old Jewish lady, then my body is sure to feel if not ready to do a jig, at least lighter.

As I headed to the beach, however, I saw how gloomy the sky in the East was. I saw that while it wasn't dark, it wasn't really light either. I sat on the beach and took it all in - the gray sky, the white foam at the tips of the waves, white crests on the sea birds, a couple white clouds trying to break through the fog, and finally the sun glistening on the water. Being there in the moment, seeking light felt right. Is that improvisation I wondered.

After a time I packed up my things and headed for church. I was not even out of the state park before I noticed the blue skies. It was if I was driving from the dark into the light - going from the gloom into the light of what comes next. Waiting for the service to begin I looked over my shoulder and beheld light streaming through a marvelous stained glass window reminding me of the Elizabeth Kubler Ross quote:
"People are like stained glass windows.
They sparkle and shine when the sun is out,
but when darkness sets in, their true beauty
is revealed only if there is a light from within."

I'm not so good at patting myself on the back or acknowledging my good deeds, but I think I can say that in my years of caregiving, even though I cried many a tear and shouted many a curse word, there was a light within me. I didn't always see it or believe it, but it was there.

Change with the light. I will continue to work with this thought as I move into what comes next.

May your light shine,
Merry ME

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Moving Forward

Has it really been 17 days since I last wrote anything. Funny how time flies when you are suddenly hit by a killer kidney infection. For 5 days all I could do was lie in bed and let the war between the germs and antibiotics take place. I can't say my fever raged because it was never much over 100 degrees. But let me tell you, I neither shivered or sweated like that. And talk about ache ... OMG! With the delightful care of my own Frank Nightingale, aka Sweetie, black kitty sleeping partners, and a faithful hound at the foot of my bed I finally began to feel well, if not perky, again. I was ready for a haircut and trip to the mall today.

I have been at the computer most of the day, scrolling through 3 months of sent emails prior to my father's death. To think I have several years is a bit daunting. I want to what I wrote about life, friendship, writing, and caregiving in one place and then see if there is a book there.

A book? You? Who do you think you're kidding? Questions my scaredy cat self asks on a regular basis. The flip side to that coin, is yeh, ME, Merry ME, I can write a book. Because a book is just a story. And that's what writers do ... tell their story. For me a journey of 60,000 words must begin somewhere and today was the day. A half ream of paper is now stacked up ready to be culled for content. Nobody ever said writing is for sissies.

The trip down memory lane had another purpose to, though I didn't realize it until an hour ago. Reading about Dad's final months and the struggle(s) we had and the good things we shared was like watching a movie you've seen before and even though you know how it ends, you sit on the edge of your seat and immerse yourself in it.

Monday will be the one year anniversary of Dad's death. I've cried some but have felt surprisingly in control. I do not know how I will honor that day but I will somehow. And I will honor my daughter/caregiver's journey. I don't expect my grief will end because a day on the calendar says it's been a year. My heart will still skip a beat when I am startled from a sound sleep hearing Dad call my name. Or I see his picture, or I shred boxes of papers (once the accountant gives me the ok) or whatever calls him to mind. It will continue to be gentle with myself, feel what I feel, comfort my inner child, and let my Sweetie comfort me. I will remember the past as I begin to FOCUS on the future.

And write. Because that's what writers do.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My Blog-iversary

Five years ago today I started this blog. Five years? How can that be? I barely even knew what a blog was back then. But I did know that I had words inside of me that didn't want to stay bottled up any more. Computer journaling seemed as good a way as any to start working on stretching my writing muscles.

When I look back I am amazed to see how technology has put me in contact with people I would never have known. For instance when I started writing, I only had a few followers and they were all relatives. I didn't know Terri St. Cloud which means I didn't know Pam, or Dani, or Sorrow, or Molly, or Mandy, or Stephanie, or Patty. And I hadn't read Mothering Mother so I didn't know Carol O'Dell, had never been in a writing group before, had never been brave enough to submit my writing for critique, let alone publishing, and I didn't have the beret-wearing friends known as Le Chat Noir. I'd never talked on the radio, never had my name in the author section of a book, never heard people say, "you ARE a writer, even if you don't know it" instead of something more ego-busting like, "go put THAT in your blog" accompanied by a mean face and hurtful look.

So here's to ME! And to writing! And to being brave! And to keeping at something for 5 years. That's a pretty good record for me.

Today was the first day back to the writing group since the holiday break. Remember how before cell phones with keypads that take pictures when you'd start back to school and couldn't wait to share all your new clothes or fancy gadgets. It was the same with us, except we shared about our lives and filled in the blanks of the past month. There was a hush at our table upon learning the death of someone close to two of our members, but mostly there was laughing and heartfelt support from each of us to each of us. I truly am blessed to be a part of this group.

In order to get our thinking caps back in working order, Carol suggested we make a list of things we love. As I crawled back into bed yesterday morning - the coldest we've had so far - after coercing the dog to go outside to pee without me, I made the list in my head. My poor short term memory makes that exercise kind of pointless but it did make for an easy transition back to the land of nod. I'm not sure I could come with 1000 things I love (a la 1000 Awesome Things) but my list wasn't too shabby. Maybe I'll start it here then move it over to my sidebar and keep it going.

Things I Love ...
1. My Sweetie
2. My kids
3. My grand daughter
4. Amazing Gracie
5. My sisters
6. My aunts, uncles, and cousins
7. Silly old hound dogs
8. Kitties
9. Rib eye steak cooked medium rare
10. French bread for dipping
11. Panera's Broccoli Cheese Soup
12. Quilts
13. Books
14. Long hot showers
15. Writing
16. Feeling loved in return for loving
17. High mass with organ music
18. Communing with God in the holiness of the great outdoors
19. Babies
20. John Denver songs
21. Flannel pjs
22. The sound of the ocean lapping the beach
23. Birds singing outside my window
24. Sitting on Buck Bald and taking it all in
25. The Grand Canyon

Okay. I think that's enough for now.

Today I'm grateful for blog friends I've never met face to face but who have encouraged and inspired me. I'm grateful for my writing group buds. And I'm grateful to Weneki and Just Jenni who convinced me I should try blogging.

Wishing for you an opportunity to do what you love,
Merry ME

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I Get To ....

"Organizing is what you do before you do something,
so that when you do it, it's not all mixed up."
A.A. Milne

I haven't gotten too far into my stack of Christmas books. However, I did pick up The Awe-Manac, A Daily Dose of Wonder and read through the first few pages. In her own words, Jill Badonsky says,
The Awe-manac, [is] sort of like an "almanac" but with that sublime state of "awe" instead of the overwhelming state of "al". Awe in this particular awe-rena, means the wonder and cultivation of the mind's possibilities.
I stopped on page 5 to marvel at how the universe is already reminding me about my word, focus. There is was plain as day, item #1 on a list of things the Awe-manac will You Do ...
retain your thinking to focus on thoughts that make you more confident, creative and joy-filled.

A rather large mission for a book, don't you think? But, even if I don't do anything but look at all the pictures I think I will be on my way to adding more joy to my world and maybe, while I'm at it, get a little more focused.

In her directions on how to use the Awe-manac, Badonsky suggest using the "I Get to" spell. The point being, " to energetically shifting to looking forward to your day rather than dreading it." I tried it before I went to sleep last night. I said to myself, "Self, tomorrow you get to organize your half of the office." I kind of wanted to add, "because it looks like a tornado blew through and you can't tell what's what and the clutter is driving you crazy, so why don't you get in there and get to it." I refrained from this self-defeating harangue as I thought it totally ruined the "I Get to Spell."

So this morning, which was really closer to afternoon than morning, I walked into the lion's den and got started. I should have taken before and after pictures to document my work, but I don't think you'd be able to tell the difference. My kind of organizing is kind of like shuffling cards, just rearranging the clutter. I know I've made some progress, though, because there is a full trash can beside me, my shredder has whirred itself to a grinding halt, and several notebooks are now labeled with articles I've saved neatly filed by order of date. Alas, there are also piles of papers to be put somewhere else. There are calendars and note pads to send to the Seaman's Institute. There are papers I don't know what to do with but can't bring myself to toss out just yet.

In the midst of all this sorting an old, faded, sepia-toned picture fell down from one of the shelves above my desk. I don't know where it came from and for quite awhile I had no idea who might be in the picture that I might know. It is a group of men, perhaps a high school graduating class, all in suits, backs straight, hands neatly folded in front of them, hair combed with a touch of pommade. I suspected my grandfather could be in the mix though it's hard to see any of the faces. So I got out a magnifying glass and scanned the rows for someone that looked familiar. To my surprise I found a young version of my father in the back row. I was going to toss away, because really, what's the point of keeping a picture of people you don't know. No one in generations to come is going to know who is in the picture either. But now I look at it, and see the man my father once was - handsome, dark haired, without glasses. There is a hint of the man I knew as Daddy, but the eyes seem to be searching rather than resigned, a touch of wanderlust perhaps, as if he's ready to make his mark in the world. I've gone through several boxes of photographs and slides in the last year. Things I can't bring myself to get rid of, yet I wonder who really cares? Keeping them in a box for someone to go through when I die doesn't make much sense.

The picture now lies on top of one of the new piles, next to a box of staples, and papers that still need to be organized. I guess that's where they'll stay til tomorrow when I "get" to continue making my little corner of the world just a little bit neater.

Today I'm grateful for a fabulous facial and neck massage. I'm not sure it get's much better than an hour of pampering.

Wishing for you opportunities to create joy,
Merry ME

*The Awe-Manac A Daily Dose of Wonder, Jill Badonsky, Running Press, 2008

Monday, January 2, 2012

Public Service Announcement

"For any mental disorder (including substance disorders), the lifetime prevalence rate is an astonishing 57.4 percent. That’s more than every 1 in 2 Americans. If you don’t think mental illness will impact your life, you’re sadly mistaken. If it doesn’t hit you, it’s going to hit someone you love or are close to."*

This may not be the happiest of ways to start a New Year's blog. But I think it's important. Ever since the Beyonce Rooster story from a few months back I have followed Jenny Lawson, aka "the bloggess." Sometimes her language makes me cringe, but almost always she makes me laugh. In the past she has written about her anxiety disorder, but until tonight, I was not aware of her fight with depression.

I have had my own struggle with depression. I've been battling it for almost 45 years. I came out of the mental health closet years ago, but I never really thought about wearing a ribbon. But you know, Jenny is is right. There are colored ribbons for all kinds of diseases and causes. As well as 5K runs and telethons and address lables in the mail donation requests. I'm not sure I've ever seen one for depression or bi-polar disease, or life altering anxiety, or cutting, or hoarding.

If you ask me, the Bloggess is not the person I'd have picked as a poster child for depression. It just goes to show you, how well depressives fight to keep the disease at bay. Like Cinderella at the ball listening for the clock to strike midnight, I could put on the face of a PTA parent, or supportive Navy wife, but when I was home in the safety of my room I would lie in bed and alternate between sleeping and crying. There were times I felt so rotten about myself that I believed I couldn't even "do" depression right. [One day on a locked ward was enough to scare me into holding onto a piece of sanity that I knew if I lost I'd be gone forever.]

Here's part of what Jenny posted tonight. Please read it and go to her blog for the rest of what she had to say:
The fight goes on.

If you follow me on twitter you already know that I’ve been battling off one of the most severe bouts of depression I’ve ever had. Yesterday it started to pass, and for the first time in weeks I cried with relief instead of with hopelessness. Depression can be crippling, and deadly. I’m lucky that it’s a rare thing for me, and that I have a support system to lean on. I’m lucky that I’ve learned that depression lies to you, and that you should never listen to it, in spite of how persuasive it is at the time.

When cancer sufferers fight, recover, and go into remission we laud their bravery. We call them survivors. Because they are.

When depression sufferers fight, recover and go into remission we seldom even know, simply because so many suffer in the dark…ashamed to admit something they see as a personal weakness…afraid that people will worry, and more afraid that they won’t. We find ourselves unable to do anything but cling to the couch and force ourselves to breathe.

When you come out of the grips of a depression there is an incredible relief, but not one you feel allowed to celebrate. Instead, the feeling of victory is replaced with anxiety that it will happen again, and with shame and vulnerability when you see how your illness affected your family, your work, everything left untouched while you struggled to survive. We come back to life thinner, paler, weaker…but as survivors. Survivors who don’t get pats on the back from coworkers who congratulate them on making it. Survivors who wake to more work than before because their friends and family are exhausted from helping them fight a battle they may not even understand.

Regardless, today I feel proud. I survived. And I celebrate every one of you reading this. I celebrate the fact that you’ve fought your battle and continue to win. I celebrate the fact that you may not understand the battle, but you pick up the baton dropped by someone you love until they can carry it again. I celebrate the fact that each time we go through this, we get a little stronger. We learn new tricks on the battlefield. We learn them in terrible ways, but we use them. We don’t struggle in vain.

We win.

We are alive.

If you are one who suffers from this dis-ease, know this ... you are not alone, there is help. Whether you've been depressed or lucky enough not to have these demons, please, please, look kindly on your fellow traveler. Your smile, or shoulder or ear may be the life jacket that keeps someone else from drowning.

Tonight I'm grateful for others who speak their truth. I'm grateful for the quick and efficient care my Sweetie got in the Emergency Room last night, that he has vertigo not another heart blockage.

Wishing for you, good health and good cheer,
Merry ME