July 28, 2014

Honoring the Journey of a Friend

"Let Go and Let God?" 

Is that a trite Program mantra right now? The kind I would not advise to someone I love?  

Right now a dear friend, whom I have shared my heart with some  twelve years, is facing the end of her life.   

My family and I just got back from a week camping. 

The time away in North Carolina's mountains gave me a tiny bit of acceptance and lots of reflection time so I can share a bit here, and not fall into tears.  

I've known that losing my friend was a possibility always, I guess.  Dying is a part of life. Yet, day to day, we ignore it for the most part.

 I, for my part, would build the bridge between us even if health limitations kept us from meeting up and spending time laughing in each other's presence.  Her health was full of mysteries that she alone could navigate. One was an emotional health concern, one that brought us together. 

Her wisdom as we talked about that part of our shared lives,  always helped me to soldier on, and never ever give up. (She was my bulwark through many challenges since I was re-diagnosed with a chronic mental illness.) 

The second health issue for K set boundaries for her that no amount of positive thinking could overcome. She tried to push against these boundaries, with her indomitable spirit.   In the end though, chronic fatigue delimited her ability to travel, do the work she loves to do: out-of-doors and on the properties she managed over the years.   CF made K's energy unarguably limited, and she had to pace herself. 

The heat of summer affected her energy, setting her back several months a year. 

I can relate to her need to escape from summer heat.  Our family really values our time in the mountains, when the endless summer of the Southeast sets in. 

But my friend's health concern is more chronic.  She's had to apply program to herself in new and creative ways, as she has learned to accept that her energy dips require her to rest, often for days, and to putter around and take small bites out of larger projects. 

I always thought my K would age very well, once she got the acceptance piece down… 95%.

This past March I was reaching out to K, in a role reversal, to check on some recent stomach pains she had developed. 

In the weeks that followed, my friend faced into her cancer diagnosis with determination. Together we focused on life. Not on statistics, but on her own power as an n of one. 

The end of her road came up to meet her when the chemotherapy zapped her energy to the point where life had no appeal. She chose to end the chemo in late May.  Now, I face into the fact that she is in hospice. 

I hear of people that "graduate" from hospice and surprise everyone with their resilience.  I want that for her. But I do not want her to linger in pain, trying to live for any of us who love her. 

I want her to live if that is God's will. I want her to let go, if that is her will.  

So maybe, just maybe… "let go and let God" is not a worn out slogan but a prayer.. that I can allow God's will do its work… and for her to surrender to the flow of the river, wherever it may lead.

So yes God:  Thy will, not mine, be done…  

April 22, 2014

Listing my Life

First, let me say, I don't have a conventional program. With my nearly slip-sliding away after taking some strong medications to prevent tetanus and infection, I am back at square one in my thinking. Not a pretty place!

My unconventional approach is to list all the things bothering me. Because I need to put these all down and keep living, one day at a time.

First, I have a significant tummy problem and cannot eat many foods without reaction. Second, our teen is withdrawing to his room and computer and I am not in a place to engage him happily with my life. I am boring my husband and I am calling on friends out of town to buoy me up. It is not working. My mom friends are all very busy this time of year and coping with the fact that school is racing to its consummation, just as I am. I don't yet have good friends in my life and my best program friend (a super listener) is wrestling with a larger health issue, cancer whose prognosis we don't even look at. Much less judge her by.  

My friend needs positive, and I have been, sad to say, circling round the drain. 

I saw my psych doctor about all that I was experiencing physiologically (and at the time, with no medical doctor in site that I could trust yet in my still-new home town) and he did not know what to do with me except argue that validation was not what I needed from him. I have come to him "well" for so long that all he could do was shrug his shoulders. I tried to give him my story in a written form, succinct. But it was too big for him. It would have been too big for anyone. And it was not a crisis, yet.

Trying to put my program on "all this" feels like putting a vest on a camel.   

But I do think I am onto something, with listing. In the privacy of my home I can continue to add to my list until there is no more. And if I notice myself talking the list out loud (or in my head) I can remind myself, I completed that work. 

And ask my HP, "What is the next right thing?"  For my program to work I can and will need to live at peace with some of those problems. Without ignoring or minimizing of course.

April 21, 2014

Starting from Where I am

It is likely my pre-occupation with the past is keeping me from enjoying the present.  Just can't quite see what it is exactly I am doing wrong right now. 

I know I need people.  I know that my "relevance" in my strongest online community has diminished, and it has come because I don't participate as regularly there. It may be an excellent time for someone else to be nurtured in this community and for me to step out.

There is grief in this, and loss, and I so wanted to leave on a positive, affirming note. Feeling good.  

I am missing my friend, K, with whom I have spoken by phone through thick and thin.  I feel so needy myself, and so ashamed for that need!  I care for her and so want her full recovery.  Of course, I grieve our loss of regular contact, and know it is I who can and will initiate encouragement.   I know I need to stay away from pressure  in phone calls, so I  email or text intermittently.  I have a contact with her husband, AND am loathe to press him for information.  She is my friend, and he is her mate. 

Gosh, when I feel good, I know what to do. I know how to  draw near my Higher Power in prayer and meditation. I sometimes feel that to do program well, I have to show up being well….  But wait, my HP does not demand that of me. Why do I demand that of myself?

Can I accept that, just for today, I am broken? And pick myself up from the purple puddle on my floor? 

April 15, 2014

Can I Be a Companion On the Path?

Back last spring, I got myself sidetracked in my program, with emails in which I was acting protective towards (what I thought was) a group conscience.  I wanted to see folks able to be open and discuss problems they had in Sponsorship. I  knew that folks did this successfully in mature AA groups, face to face. I thought our online group had built trust and could do the same.

I was wrong.  There are probably many reasons. One of which is that in an online group (without video or voice), words can fail. Intentions can be attributed to a person, no matter how careful the wording. And believe me, my wording was careful.  

But I also spoke up several times sharing  my experiences with Sponsorship, trying to be keep the discussion alive in  the spirit of learning, together.  Yes. I went there…  And in this group, folks carefully avoid conflict, to the point that a lot of stuff goes on privately, behind the scenes. We don't learn together much. Not on the open forum. Which is why I kept my communication almost entirely public.

While others did not. And reported me.  Yep. Then I got read the riot act, when the only mistake I made was to care. Yes. Perhaps too much.  I wanted us to show each other we could have a civil conversation openly, and well, I failed to demonstrate that…

And in the end, I was censored and the person who had issues with me, left our community.

I stayed, went through moderation, and six months later, this person is back. 

I wonder whether the best thing is for me to leave.  When I think about sharing in this community, I have this sense I will be walking on eggshells… and that others (who actually think I was bullying this person)…. are going to spot me doing something wrong. Complain about me for things I share…. unless I watch my every move…

I am afraid that I will get into trouble again, or trigger the person without meaning to.  Just by being me.

That's just fear speaking, I see that.  But it speaks loudly, as I have been burnt by this person too. I know we are both different sides of the same coin… but I have lost my faith in being able to communicate that, to her.  

Facing West… into Life, with K

I need to share that my friend, K, is facing the challenge of cancer. 

I am very grateful to know that our calls, and occasional texts, are not an intrusion.  For me, each one gives me a chance to realize my own, more minor health concerns, are exactly that. Minor, and passing…

I face whatever parts of her journey she wants to share, or has stamina to share.   It is all on her call, and her time framework.

 Last week, she shared honestly with me about the details of chemo treatment. So, I know she wore her treatment pack to bed with her. (Of course, I am using my own language to say this, and it will be full of errors). I picture her finding comfort that this medicine is fighting a battle for her, while she sleeps. If I understood correctly, the chemo is going to be done in a few days every two weeks. My friend has been told she likely won't lose any hair. But she is beyond all that. She wants life, and can let go of her hair, for now.

Still, I like picturing that she may keep her locks. May she keep her smile and her humor… and prevail... 

March 25, 2014

Friends in Limbo

I'm not speaking to my friend K much, lately.  Not because I don't want to, but because I am afraid to.

Calling her, right now, means butting into the most challenging journey of her life. I think.

Calling her has been a comfort, a balm, a reassurance, for years now. How many years? I am not sure where to begin counting. She and I have only met once, face to face, long enough to say hi and to exchange a hug. She has told me that I am like a little sister to her. I think I finally  know what that means. Even though I have never had, nor been, a little sister by birth.

K calls me, of course, though not as often as I call her. Because she is the closest person to a Sponsor that I have ever had in my program walk.  (I suspect, Sponsees call more often than Sponsors do, as a rule.)  

But K never took on that "assignment." She always tells folks who ask if she will sponsor them, that she prefers friendships. And she means it.  In the best way.

So now, my Sponsor Friend is navigating one of those kind of cancers that only get attention when they are well on their way. Quiet cancers that show up suddenly, and cause all kinds of havoc. 

I can't imagine not calling K, at the drop of a hat (but before seven in the evening her time, she's an early bird).  I can't imagine not calling her spontaneously, because that is the only way she would have it. Nothing prearranged.

But now it's all changed. Now I wait on a reply to a text (when I dare) and try not to be an intruder.

Today she met her oncologist; he feels like a good guy to her. Soon, there may a diagnosis to go on. I am praying for the universe to its healing work...

March 24, 2014

Beginning Where I Am

This first part of my year has flown by!

My focus has been on  a writing course and on the "coincidence" of several deadlines at the very end of February. It brought me so much joy to be in the swing of my passion, writing.

As that ended, I switched my focus to Spring break and a rendezvous with friends in Georgia, exploring the trails and historical footprint of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the days before (and after) he sought treatment for the polio that attacked his lower body in his late 30's. It is a miracle that the man went back into politics, at all, to return to New York to become governor. And then,  use what he learned about the Depression (ravaged soils, poor families, no electricity on the farms) from folks in Georgia, who were living the worst times ahead of the rest of America--to help bring Americans together when he was president during 30's and 40's of last century.

I have something to say here, that I cannot share easily, that is personal and involves a dear friend. That friend has never been my Sponsor (she does not believe in that role, for herself), but she has been a big sister to me for almost a decade. We have only met once, but I call on her for things big and small, that affect how I deal with emotional upsets and with sharing my program walk with others. 

My friend is in the process of being diagnosed with cancer. It is not one with great statistics.  It is in one of those more silent organs that often only gets our attention, too late.  I am so wanting to stay in touch with her and support her, but I know that her challenges limit her energy even more than usual.

I've no wish to burden her with my more petty mundane problems. Nor do I wish to play Pollyanna. Asking how she is doing … seems like it could get old. 

She is so important in my life!  But I don't know how, exactly, to be "normal" with her and do the small talk thing (which she is actually gifted in).  Right now she needs to take care of herself. She also needs to stay positive, and ignore the statistics. 

I feel so blessed to have seen an email response she shared on a forum to which we both belong. I have not seen her there in weeks, so even her short post (not at all focused on herself, giving no glimpse of her health concerns) gave me great joy.  

I loved K's  simple signature quote: "I am a statistic of one, no more, no less."  I love and cherish her spirit!