September 12, 2014

A Moment's Sunlight

Last week, I chanced to hear Edward Hirsch on Morning Edition, sharing about the loss of his son.
Three years ago, his son died unexpectedly at age 22. Grief kept Hirsch from his work. For months, the poet could only write private words, trying to chase down every detail he could about his son's life.  To catch that moment's sunlight before it faded…. so  that Gabriel would not be lost for all time.

 All this past month, I have felt like tearing myself apart,  felt the need to "capture" my friend K's essence.  No she was not a child whose life I was responsible for creating. I only got to meet her once. 

Alive and present, and living life fully despite chronic fatigue syndrome, her voice was always strong and just a phone call away.   
I miss the alto sound of her spirit, the wry humor always always audible. She is just out of reach of memory and description. The trace of our correspondence is all I have of her.  I am glad that Edward Hirsch found his way to share his son, and put grief into words for others like myself who have so much less to work with. 

The NPR interview is poignant, because he shares deeply an experience we typically feel "should" be private, so I must share it: 

Before you heal, you have to mourn 

Yes, I have experienced others quickly wanting me to move on from grief.  I learn and learn again, how I cannot leave grief behind until I've felt my Beloved's whole meaning to me and put it in words.  

Mr. Hirsch, yours is an act of courage to stay the course long enough to publish something so personal. How dare you share this intimacy--a printed elegy--one long poem of your experience? 

Indeed, I must thank you Mr. Hirsch, for sharing Gabriel and the universe of grief, with us.

September 10, 2014

She's Gone and I am Here...

Last year at this time, I was wanting to be an active part of overlapping circles…. in Alanon and in my primary program.  

I talked with K about how much need I saw in each organization, and how small I felt in the face of all that demanded to be done.  

One adventure took me to a town in my state that is a town of meaningful coincidence, being named after my mom.  After I showed up to that state meeting, I spent time trying to understand why I was so unhappy.  It was K who told me that meeting sounded like no fun to her!   And then I realized.. I was needing to be part of something, not force something to happen. Not put on a happy face, when others were trying too hard to make something bigger than themselves--work. 

Talking to K, I realized I did not want to be in service to any organizations that wanted me to keep THEM alive. I knew I would not know how to draw boundaries with organizations that sucked at their grassroots. And shamed them, and gave them endless lists of things to do and manuals with charts in them I could not even understand.

I gave back the service manual for Al-anon. I gave my resignation for the other trustee position. I did it the easiest way possible--in an email. Yes, I felt guilty. I had thought I wanted to serve. I had said a cautious yes to one commitment for a year, and had put in my name for two year service. I thought I had time and love and commitment to spare.

But after I went to the town named after my mother, I realized my vision was not the vision of either of the organizations I had hoped to serve.

And it was K who helped me see clearly.  A year ago and six months before she knew that she was being called home.

In that conversation, she told me about the first new dog that came into her life.  That is the side of the conversation I wish I had paid more attention to…

I guess I can be grateful K witnessed me because today I would be serving the organization she and I were devoted to… and I would likely be one confused girl, grieving and serving at the same time. Confusion would be my first, last and middle name. And I would be preparing for a conference in the midwest, instead of preparing for a retreat a little closer to home. 

Frankly, I am less and less of a conference girl, and more of a program monastic.

August 28, 2014

A Mentor and a Friend

Let go and let God seems to be the message for me, and for our family.  Some joy, much grief, and even the distraction of anger.  In the midst of all this, we have sold the home we lived in for over a decade.  It's all been quite full and quite a blur, really. 

My friend K did pass, during the first days of this month. I learned the news from her husband of 27 years, while I was in my old hometown, preparing our home for sale.  

It still amazes me how I keep encountering the hole she seems to have left in me, despite the fact that we never lived in the same town, and only met one another twice. I am still in awe that she was my friend. 

She is my friend, still.  I am sure having a hard time keeping her spirit close to me. I was not sure if feeling joy at our house sale was "right," but then I realized if I resisted, I was not being present to life and in that way, I was not honoring who she was and still is. 

I am not sure about the anger with which I approached a curriculum problem at my school. Nearly EVERYONE wanted me to let it go, from the very start, except the friend who is a lawyer. She had a peaceable path for me to take, but it involved showing up to meet the superintendent.  So, I chose to do a crab-walk sort of fight.  Even talking to the school district in our old home town.  

It led nowhere and so I gave up and bit the bullet, enrolled my kid in a review course, which all the administrators agreed he did not need. 

So, wait, where does my friend, K, fit in all this? I think she would still love me, even when I am mad and depressed at my inability to make things "right."  

I want them to be right, though, inside me.  And she was just the kind of friend I could have talked about this very problem with. With her I could have been my best self, before I ever went off to tackle the school administrators.   I know that I would have heard my best options, just because she listened, without any kind of fixing. Without any kind of alarm at any mistake I might make.  Because that is who she was. 

She also would have applied the ointment of kindness, and not judgement, when the principal called me last week and I had (I thought) no choice but to fight again.

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.