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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Magic is believing in yourself. If you can do that, you can make anything happen." ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

For the past year (or more), I've been feeling the weight of reality. The result of this is that my previously exultant view of life became nonexistent. My belief that I could accomplish anything (because I'm magic, of course), faded as I recognized the enormity of my life and my inability to alleviate the stress of it. Within a few months I became incredibly, undeniably, mortal.

There are advantages to being mortal. It allows one to admit failure, and weakness, and makes allowances for one to stop trying. After all, the human body can only withstand so much before it collapses. The human spirit sometimes follows suit...

I have mentioned how, in recent months, there have been days when I was desperately unhappy, when I felt I could not manage one more moment with my life in its current state. I've talked about how even taking a shower or getting dressed in the morning felt too difficult. I've mentioned that each night I was giving thanks just because I had made it through one more trying, agonizing day.

I did not know, until Tabitha was placed in a managed care facility, how worn down I was. In fact, I had become emotionally ill--to the point that life felt beyond my ability to live it. I was completely exhausted, emotionally depleted, physically weak, and hopeless. I was unaware that I had become so. I was simply going through the motions of life.

I lost a job--one I wanted to keep. I knew it was going to happen. I had not the strength to continue in my current state while meeting the expectations of the job. I watched as my performance slipped lower weekly. When I was notified that my contract would not be renewed, my only response was to apologize and acknowledge the need to terminate my services. I sent a very brief explanation of what was happening in my life, thanked my supervisor for the privilege of working for the company for two and a half years, and accepted the decision. To my surprise, after my termination was final, I received a personal email from that supervisor. She told me she was very sorry I would no longer be working for them, and said she appreciated my professional and graceful response to the situation. Then she thanked me for my service.

I've never lost a job before. Since that day, I've felt unable to seek work. That didn't stop me, of course. The day my contract was terminated, I contacted people who have known me for years, who know my music background, and I procured a couple of part-time jobs accompanying at the university. The pay rate is very high, but the hours are short. Darrin said I needed something like that. Then he told me how worried he's been about me--too many work hours, too much Tabitha stress. He said he felt that I've been slipping away.

I dismissed his worries, saying I was fine.

Last week I began to be Samantha again, and in the process I recognized that Darrin (and every other person who has expressed concern) was right. I wasn't fine. I was slipping away.

Today, for the first time in more than a year, I found myself dreaming about my future. I thought of things I want to do, not with wistfulness because I knew they could not happen, but with the omnipotent certainty I've felt most of my life. I forgot for a moment, that I'm not twenty, I'm probably a little old to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics, and I might not be able to pass the physical test necessary for me to become a firefighter--yet.

My parents have a crabapple tree in their yard. The springtime blossoms are bright pink. This time of year tiny red crabapples cover the branches and the leaves begin to turn the same color. Last week I noticed that amid the autumn leaves and fruit, some very confused branches were pink with unseasonal blossoms. The larger than normal flowers bloomed right beside the apples--the scented mixture of ripe fruit and pink blossoms was beautiful. I need to take a picture. If I remember to do so, I'll post it here.

I feel a bit like that tree, coming unexpectedly alive with blossoms. The frost will soon nip the crabapple blossoms, turning them brown before they fall to the grass, but I have become impervious to the lifefrost that might try to stop me from returning to my natural state.

I am Samantha, and I am magic, and my life is incredibly beautiful.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thinking About Tabitha

I realized yesterday that I don't want Tabitha to come home. I miss her a great deal, but the thought of dealing with  the a child who is unpredictable and extreme brings me nothing but dread. Adjusting to her absence was awful. I believe I cried for days. But now I have adjusted. Daily life brings an empty spot where Tabitha used to be, but it's sane and predictable.

My house is no longer covered with her messes..."Tabitha droppings," my mother used to say, for everywhere she went, my daughter seemed to leave a pile of unexplained "stuff." At some point I will have to clean her room. I'll probably do so this week. Before she left, Tabitha packed much of her clothing and belongings in boxes, as we had been considering relocation to a smaller home. That hasn't happened yet and Darrin has stopped talking of it. We'll see if it comes to pass in the next few months.

It's quiet here. Adam and I do chores, work, read. We are very much alike in our need for silence and solitude, but at the same time, we crave companionship from people who allow us to be ourselves. Adam now accompanies me to the store and helps with dinner, taking the Tabitha-time I allowed for my daughter when she was here.

I find myself avoiding television programs and movies both Tabitha and I enjoy. I don't go upstairs (where her bedroom is located) unless I have to. I try not to think of her or talk of her.

I think all this is temporary and part of learning to regroup and heal from the horrifying stress of dealing with a suicidal teen. I believe I probably do want her to return, but I don't ever want to go back to the situation that existed before she left.

This morning I was feeling very guilty about not wanting Tabitha, wondering what that said about me, as a mother and a human being. At the same time, I couldn't feel any desire to interact with her. I received permission to write to her two weeks ago. I've not done that yet. Last night I finally made myself sit down and write to my daughter. I sent the letter today--but I didn't want to. Part of me wants her to stay away.

The weird thing is, there is another part of me that still weeps because I miss Tabitha. Sometimes I want to hug her and laugh with her. I want to hear her singing. I still shop for clothes for her even though I don't buy anything. I find myself eating foods I don't really like because Tabitha enjoyed them.

So, probably I miss her. Maybe I miss her so much that the feeling of not wanting her is a defense mechanism to help stop the pain. Who knows? I feel sort of confused and messed up today, but better than I felt yesterday. I wish I had more answers.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I love to celebrate birthdays--

--just not my own. There are valid reasons for my distaste for my birthday, most of which have been explored annually on this blog, and the one before it, and the one before that...

The last birthday I remember anticipating was when I was five. I'd been riding a bicycle for more than a year, which meant I would steal my older sister's bike while she was at school. This created a number of problems my parents didn't want to deal with, so I'd been promised a bike of my own for my fifth birthday. And I got one. And it was lovely.

Then, for some inexplicable reason I still do not understand, my father switched the seat from my new bike, put it on my sister's, and fastened her old seat where the new one had been. I'm pretty sure it had to do with size, because I was tiny and the new bike came with a larger seat than my older sister's bike, but it still felt like I'd been given something amazing and then my father ruined it. I think I probably cried for weeks about it. And I continued to steal my sister's bike.

In subsequent years, the pattern of forgetting my birthday and remembering six days later when my sister's birthday rolled around, became set and predictable. By the time I was twelve, I no longer anticipated my birthday, hoped anyone would remember, dropped hints or wrote it on calendars. I was resigned to the fact that I would be forgotten. That's just the way it was.

Which doesn't mean it didn't hurt. I wanted my parents to remember. I wanted my siblings to celebrate with me. I wanted a cake that wasn't a mess because my mother remembered at the last minute and tried to throw one together with disastrous results. The disappointment was dreadful.

So I began to pretend my birthday did not exist. When I was asked about it, I would mumble something and change the subject. When the day was forgotten, I would console myself with a walk in the mountains near my home, or cuddle with our dog, or reread a favorite book while hiding in the hayloft of machine shed--making sure I could not be found just in case I decided to cry a tiny bit. I did not want anyone to know that I felt anything about being forgotten.

A few years ago, under Therapist's advice, I sat down with my parents and explained to them the reasons why it bothered me when they forgot my birthday. I told them I didn't like the oversight being treated  as the family joke and I thought it was disgraceful that they wouldn't celebrate the day their daughter was born. I explained I didn't expect anything special, just a phone call or visit (since I only live three blocks away from them), wishing me a happy day. That was all.

My mom felt incredibly guilty. My dad tried to brush it off. I didn't allow it. I told him it was hurtful that he made no effort to remember when I was born. I was his daughter. He apologized, but it didn't change anything in the following years. My mom tried, though. I have to give her credit. Usually she remembered around 10:00 p.m. on my birthday and I would receive a frantic phone call or rushed visit. And sometimes she brought me a card or small gift. But I still felt slighted. No one wants a guilt gift. I wanted her to remember because she was happy I'm alive, not because she was afraid I'd think she was a bad parent.

For six years I tried to stop hiding my birthday. I wrote about it in my blog. I told my friends the date. I celebrated it with Darrin and my kids. But I hated it, and I dreaded the day. I was always relieved when it was over.

This year, however, about a week ago, I was sitting outside in the sun and it occurred to me that my birthday was coming. And for the first time in my memory, I found myself looking forward to it. There was no reason. I had nothing special planned. I just wanted the day to arrive.

I wanted to have a birthday.

When I recovered from the weirdness of that sensation, I waited. I wondered if it would recede and be replaced by the familiar dread. It didn't. A couple of days later, I even told a friend about it, just to see if that would trigger the ugly feelings that generally accompany the realization that my birthday is approaching. The anticipation continued.

And so, two days ago my birthday arrived, and I was happy. It didn't matter whether anyone remembered or not--I was glad to celebrate me. Darrin got ready for work, kissed me good-by and wished me a happy birthday. A little later, two of my sisters texted birthday messages to me. Around noon I started to leave and Adam asked where I was going. I told him it was time for my birthday adventure. His eyes got very large as it dawned on him that he had forgotten (Adam has never forgotten my birthday before) and he apologized a bunch of times, then asked if he could join me. I almost said no, because I wanted to have an "alone" adventure, but I changed my plans and told him we were going to find a restaurant at which we have never dined and have lunch. In our small town, that's a very difficult challenge.

So Adam and I finally found a place and had a fun lunch and spent some time together. When we returned home, someone had posted a birthday message on Facebook (which does not advertise my birthday because I don't want it to), and several people had seen it and added their greetings, as well. Tolkien Boy even wrote a birthday poem for my Facebook page. He called me that afternoon and we talked for a few minutes before a neighbor stopped by unexpectedly. She brought me a card and small gift. It was very unexpected and sweet.

TB found me later online and we continued chatting. He presented me with a beautiful email and another, more serious poem which recalled one he had written a few years earlier. I was delighted, but when it comes to TB's writing, I'm easily won.

Darrin, Adam, and I had a nice dinner and a quiet evening. I thought about going to a movie, then decided against it. I just wanted to sit and enjoy the feeling of loving my day. There was something amazing about being happy to celebrate me. And there was no hint of defiance that has accompanied my determination to enjoy my birthdays the past few years. I felt free of resentment and anger.

Today my parents called. My dad said, "I think I missed your birthday again." I said, "You did." He said, "Can I take you and your family to dinner for a late birthday celebration?" I told him that would be nice. And it was.

I was born on September 6th. I had lots of very black hair, olive skin, and eyes so dark it was difficult to see the pupils. I weighed six pounds and was nineteen inches long. I was one day overdue. And I believe my birth--my life--is something to be celebrated. I know that I'm very happy to be alive. I believe others are happy to have me here, as well.

This year, the gift I received from myself was a release from my past. I cannot change the birthdays filled with disappointment and unfulfilled wishes, but I have many more to look forward to. I plan to enjoy each one. Perhaps one day I will heal enough to throw myself a party. Let me know if  you'd like to come. We might dance or play charades or just watch the sun set--but the food will be wonderful. I promise.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Why I hate this with all my heart:


First: Kudos to the person who made the text look like a tree. That's clever. It is also the only nice thing I have to say about this particular arrangement of words. And now to business.

I've been a leader of young women and young men in some church capacity for most of my adult life. And I hate these things. They're everywhere. Someone has a creative idea which is supposed to let our youth know they're to keep themselves pristine or whatever--and it conveys messages I'm certain the author of the idea never intended. So today, because this "tree" makes me feel incredibly grouchy, I'm debunking some of those messages.

1. Girls aren't like apples. They're people. They have thoughts and intelligence and ideas and talents and potential and beauty, and the concept that they're simply sitting on a tree waiting to be consumed by boys makes me want to scream a tiny bit. It's a stupid comparison which demeans all that young women are and can become.

2. "The best ones are at the top of the tree..."  Since when have we started sending the message that some people are better than others? I have been taught that God is no respecter of persons, that all are alike in his sight. I've read this in the scriptures, as well. I've never read anything in the scriptures about really great girl-apples hanging at the top of a tree.

3. What does this say about the majority of boys? They like rotten apples? Or, if we follow the metaphor, they simply exist so that they can take advantage of "easy" girls. This is an unfair and rather nasty stereotype rearing its ugly head. In truth, classifying young men and women according to their sexual appetites is a huge disservice. As teens, they go through so many physical and emotional changes that even they aren't sure who or what they are.

4. "They just have to wait for the right boy to come along..." Okay, Sam...deep breath.....  I cannot even begin to express how much I hate this statement. To any girl who might stumble across my words today: Don't you dare wait for "the right boy!" Get out there and live! Dance, sing, get several degrees, travel the world, adopt orphans, run for public office, buy a house, teach others, write books and poetry, run marathons, enter bodybuilding contests, be a part of Doctors Without Borders or Habitat for Humanity! Do whatever you want, but DON'T WAIT FOR ANYONE! You have one beautiful life. Figure out who you are and celebrate that. I promise, if you do what I've said, regardless of whether or not you meet and marry someone, you'll have fewer regrets and your life will be amazing. Also, people who explore and expand their potential tend to attract other people. There's a good chance that while you're becoming wonderful, you'll encounter someone just as amazing as you are and the two of you will decide to spend the rest of your existence together. But don't wait. You are not an apple.

This nasty-cutesy tree has been posted repeatedly on Facebook for more than a year. It's always accompanied words similar to this: "If you're a parent of a young woman, you need to read this!" I agree. Read it, retch a bit, then tell your daughters (and sons) all the reasons things like this detract from who they really are, why such things should never be spread (like diseases), and then let them know in real words what point the stupid tree should be trying to convey:

"All young women are wonderful in the sight of God. All young men are, as well. It's great if they make it to adulthood without contracting STDs or having teen pregnancies or just engaging in sexual behaviors which are demeaning to their partners and undermine their own self-esteem. But if they don't, they can recover. The Atonement is for all people and it brings us all to the same level in God's sight. And no one is going to finish this life without making regrettable mistakes and hurting other people unless they die within their first 12 months. Try your best to treat yourself and others with respect. Learn self-control and remember that one day you'll be old and sex will only be on your mind 95% of the time. And if you want to climb trees, don't do it because you're trying to find a mate. Do it because it's fun."

To any who saw the tree and loved it, I recommend you watch Johnny Lingo. I'm guessing people of your intelligence will miss all the misogynistic undercurrents, and love it, as well.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"If you judge people, you will have no time to love them." ~ Mother Theresa

Both of my grandfathers died of Alzheimer's disease. I know. This could possibly mean that 40 years from now I'll be making the same new friends repeatedly. However, there are worse things, and I refuse to worry about it because at that point in my life it will be more a of a bother to people with sound minds than it will be to me. I won't even know.

I bring this up because at one point, when my paternal grandfather was becoming more and more difficult for my grandmother to care for, my father was very upset because Grandpa always seemed hungry and Grandma cooked tiny meals and wouldn't provide snacks for my grandfather. There were some judgmental words said, and some hard feelings, and Grandma ended up in angry tears.

I wish I had known then what I know now. I wish my father had the knowledge then that he has gained as he cares for my mother who is slowly losing her mind. There are some things I have learned as I have cared for Tabitha through her crisis moments, with the added complication of my physical health problems, which have given me insight to the life my grandmother led at that time.

Two months ago getting up in the morning was difficult. Choosing what to wear was an effort. Going to work seemed impossible. Add to that the stress of grocery shopping, planning and preparing meals, and my days became disastrous. I was filled with nonstop panic, depressed, and my energy seemed nonexistant. Had I not had convenience foods, a husband, and willing teens to help me with mealtimes, I'm not sure those would have happened at all.

I think of my sweet grandmother. She was in her late 70s, her physical health was not good, and she was living with a spouse who would continue to deteriorate daily. At the time of the skimpy meals, grandpa had to be locked in the house because if he was able to escape, he would try to drive the farm equipment. A wall of the garage had already needed replacement due to his belief in his driving skills. Grandpa had also forgotten how to find the bathroom inside the house, so when he needed to void, he found a corner of whatever room he was in, dropped his drawers, and soiled the carpet. Poor Grandma spent her days wondering what she would have to clean up next, hiding any implement with which my grandfather might cause harm to himself or his surroundings, and weeping with depression as she recognized the ultimate outcome of the situation was the death of her husband who was also her best friend.

I think of the exhaustion I felt when I tried to make meals for my family over the past year. I remember wishing occasionally that the food would just magically appear and I wouldn't have to think about it. I remember it marking the pinnacle of my frustration and stress. I cannot imagine how Grandma felt as she tried to babysit an adult with a toddler mind, while struggling to put together meals. And she was nowhere near my age. She was very, very tired.

I wish I had known. I wish, when my father had told me of his anger and surprise, when he wondered if my grandmother was trying to starve Grandpa to death, when he thought maybe something was wrong with her mind, as well, that I could have told him that emotional exhaustion is invisible but so much more difficult to deal with than physical exhaustion. I wish I had been able to describe how it makes one feel ill, immobile, and desperate--how it is permeated with irrational thoughts and intense sadness. I wish I had lived close enough to help my grandmother through an incredibly difficult time.

Today things are different for me--better. Tabitha is doing well and getting needed help. And while I don't know if we'll ever recover from the financial disaster of hospital visits denied by our insurance company and loss of my job as my performance slipped lower due to Tabitha's increased  needs and my waning physical health, still, things are better. I feel better. Dinner is no longer a horrible chore. It has become, once again, bonding time as I prepare a meal with Darrin and Adam (and DJ, when he visits).

I'm not sure things ever got better for my grandma. Even after Grandpa was placed in a care center where he passed away after a month, Grandma lived nearly eight more years in sadness and depression. She missed Grandpa. She had a hip replacement which did not heal correctly and lived in chronic pain. She no longer wished to live. I think, sometimes, she felt that way because no one understood. We didn't understand the emotional pain she had been through and we had no way to attend to her invisible needs.

Today is a beautiful day. We're having abundant sunshine with a cool breeze and the day will be comfortably warm. The flowers which mysteriously appeared in my garden continue to bloom abundantly. Fuzzy bees and white butterflies enjoy the flowers even more than I do. Pale golden leaves announce that autumn is just around the corner and the sky is a thousand shades of blue.

My hope on this very lovely day, is that I can bring happiness to someone who might not feel well--emotionally or physically. I want to remember that no matter how a situation might appear, I don't see the invisible parts causing pain or distress. I want to remember that there are many things I don't understand and instead of judgment, I hope the people I encounter today find only love from me. I think my grandma would like that.