Wednesday, May 31, 2006

That Time Of The Month

I have a lifelong habit of starting things on the first of the month. That would be tomorrow. I also have a lifelong habit of stopping those things by the 2nd or 3rd of the month. Sometimes I manage to hang in there for a few weeks.

I'd like to know how other people handle stress in their to know of examples where they don't fall into every whim and habit that strikes their fancy. Or if they do, how they manage not to beat themselves up for it. I may only last a few days or a few weeks at best but I can be very predictable about how I will handle stress. I will go to a place inside that feels like a safe cave. And I will hide there while pretending not to. I've been doing that for a while now. Other than maintaining my sobriety, I am madly out of control.

Anyway I am taking a break from blogging and the computer for the month of June. I won't be writing emails either so if I owe you one right now it will be a while before I respond. I have found that the more I blog and write emails the less I write in my journal and do morning pages. I think my last morning pages were penned back in March. I hope that returning to that habit will help me take a more honest look at some of the other habits I am entrenched in. I know myself well enough to know that cutting myself off of the computer for a few weeks means that I will be on here until midnight tonight. Kind of like when I decide I am going to change my eating habits and binge on three chocoloate bars the day before I reform my habits.

I doubt we will have any answers to dearest one's health problems before I return. Yesterday the doctor said that the wait time for a CT had been, until recently, 3 or 4 months. He had heard the wait was less now but he had no idea what less was. With only 2 Internists available for a population base of 100,000 people I think the wait to see the surgeon might be even longer. I find myself in what I call "limbo land" while I wait to see what is. It's a long established pattern from childhood as well. I couldn't handle living in today, I was always living for the future. Limbo land is a place I reside less often but is still often more homey than the present.

I will be travelling next week for my own medical stuff. Actually two round trips of 1000 miles each between now and the end of June for medical tests and appointments with specialists. It's all routine stuff that needs to be done. Today was a no spoons day. I am hoping that the routine tests show there has been no detioration in my body's inability to oxygenate all the blood that makes the loop through my heart. If all the tests come back with similar results as last time I will be thankful.

So that's about it. If you want to read some of my earlier stuff here are a few posts that say a lot about where I am at:

Brewing In My Soul
Trashing Candy Machines
Waking From The Coma
Kissed To Death

It's not all that dark, trust me.

And if you want to read something else here are a few blogs I read all the time:

A New Life Emerging
Motherhood Is Not For Wimps
Coming To The Quiet
Swept Over
Open Book

I am going to dig out my painting supplies and paint. I am going to read again a book that has helped me called Healing the Shame That Binds You. I am going to miss you all between now and when I return. Let's hope for my sake that I last more than a few days away from the screen.

No News Is Good News

Dearest one's ultrasound came back normal. Next step is a CT of his abdomen and a surgical consult for other tests. Last night, after a full dose of pain killers, he was pain free for the first time in a long time. Thank you for praying.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Words To Ponder

This post made me sit here and think OMG. Thank you A. Noel for your continued friendship.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Trusting Vulnerability

I have received a few emails in response to my most recent couple of posts. I wanted to share with you a reply I wrote to one of those emails. Thank you for being gentle with me as I open up my journey to you.

"Thank you.

I have been ever so reluctant to address Satan because of the ways in which I have seen him been used as a dumping ground for people who have no desire to take responsibility for their choices. Father Charlie has talked to me about Satan a few times and I have been reluctant there as well. It has only been since the picture came into my head of being bombed that I have opened up to facing him again.

I did have a dream a few months ago where I was enslaved in a thin layer of concrete - unable to move and Satan was at my ear whispering in it. All the prayers I said outloud did nothing. I recited the Apostle's Creed. Nothing. I plead the blood of Christ. Nothing. But the moment I cried out "Christ have mercy" the layer of concrete disintegrated and I was set free. So free that I woke from my dream gasping from breath because the struggle had been so vicious.

Yesterday at Mass, as I prayed, I felt like Christ was speaking to me of being willing to be vulnerable as He was vulnerable on the cross and continues to be in the Eucharist. To trust that if I make myself vulnerable to my feelings he will join me in my vulnerability and I will be safe. Kind of like that moment in the movie "The Titanic" where Jack and Rose are standing at the front of the ship with their arms stretched outward.

Dearest one is not well at all. We get the results of the ultrasound tomorrow. He is in pain 24/7 now with the only relief coming when he resorts to heavy pain medication. Even then it only takes the edge off, it never completely erases it. We are hopeful for a diagnosis soon and that it is something easily fixable. We are blessed to be able to talk about our fears, our plans, our future, openly. That we could ever be where we are together on the journey feels like an incredible gift. We haven't lost sight of that.

Thank you for your prayers. I am convinced that the prayers of others, as well as my own, give birth to the breakthroughs that continue to happen, the freedom that continues to beckon, and the true peace that occasionally finds its home in me.

On a lighter note, last weekend before I spoke at the retreat, a group of women sang and prayed over me and anointed me with oil. I felt filled with light. About three quarters of the way through the day I asked God what the heck was that feeling anyway. I felt like God playfully flicked his hand at me and said, "That's what peace feels like." I chuckled to myself and told God I'd take more of where that came from please.

God bless you."

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Random Connections

When I was little I loved doing those connect the dot pictures in colouring books. They started out small with perhaps 10 dots to connect. The really hard ones went up to 100. More than once I couldn't find one of the numbers only to get to 100 and see the missing number and the role it played in the whole picture. Sometimes life feels like a connect the dot picture with missing numbers and the whole picture very blurry. Some days I want to call my life a connect the dot Mystery. I'm sure some of you can barely contain yourselves at times as you try and shout out where I can find the next dot on the picture.

This morning was one of waking after a night of wretched choices. This morning I also made the connection that if I wanted to be free of the things I seem to run to rather than run from, I needed to want the freedom more than the false safety of shitty coping mechanisms. Want to feel the feelings more than I want to numb them. Want to feel alive more than I want to be walking around unaware.

I stood at my livingroom window and admitted to God the whole sorry story. Figured out for what seemed like the zillionth time that I couldn't make this about perfection. That I had to be willing to take a step and trust that if I tripped God would pick me back up again or at least be there when I decided to stand up instead of rolling around in the muck forever. I asked for the courage to feel. I told God how absolutely terrifying it seems to ask for that. I asked for the courage to stop going down tangent road X, Y and Z for comfort and safety and stand up and fight for the freedom which was already mine. I asked for the strength to get through this day without numbing my feelings.

I admit I've never been much of a Satan watcher. Early in my spiritual journey I experienced many people seeing Satan behind every tree, behind every human action they didn't want to own up to and I got tired of paying him any attention. I would much rather spend my time looking for Jesus. But this morning I basically told Satan to fuck off. I have no idea how Satan works. And I'm not real interested in finding out so if you have it all figured out don't enlighten me. I just know I want the courage to stop making choices that are death dealing to my soul. It's time to stand up to the bomb thrower. Father Charlie asked me the other day how long was I going to let myself be bullied before I started fighting back.

So after I had this conversation with God I went to take a shower. I get in there and say outloud, "I can't do this on my own." Hearing myself say those words was like connecting a dot on the page. My next thought was, "Duh, Hope, you couldn't stay sober on your own so why the heck did you think you could face any other addiction on your own?" It was a Step One all over again. As I admitted I couldn't do this on my own I realised I have been making this battle more about will power than I have been making it about God and grace.

I don't know why I feel like I have to apologize for being here on the journey other than I feel like I've been here before. Some days I feel like I am travelling through life in a speeding car and that every so often I catch a glimpse of Truth and I add it to a tiny pile of Truth that sits on the seat beside me. Sometimes I try and write it down here because I am scared I will forget these little glimpses.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Fighting Da Bombs

I am a very visual person. Clean lines, smooth surfaces sing to me. The beauty of a single flower on the edge of the bush thrills me. As much as I love chocolate, I love a bouquet of Gerbera Daisies more. God often gets through to me through images. Yesterday, during my session with Father Charlie I was trying to put into words how I was feeling. This, after telling him not only did I not want to figure out how I felt, but I didn't want to feel at all. It was safer not too.

I said I felt like I was being bombed. Then I remembered an image that had come to me some time ago. Satan was standing on top of a high rise building bombing me with stuff that looked like black ink spots when they hit the ground. Every time he threw one it hit me. I was a red ink spot splattered and he was a black one. His fit over me perfectly. In between us was always a gold layer of light. No matter where I ran I got hit. No matter how smashed up I was, there was always a thin layer of gold between us.

As I talked, I told Father Charlie that I would rather be alone and hiding than out in the open getting hit by Satan and protected by God. In my head - in the picture I had been given - there were no hiding places. Even though the high rise was there, the front of it was simply a facade. There were no doors or windows that would open. It was a level playing field....smooth ground, no hills, no caves, just an endless surface.

I kept frantically running around and getting bombed, looking for a non-existent hiding place. Eventually he asked me why I kept running, that my response to the bombs was mine to choose. Could I fight? Oh God, the pain of that thought. Tears rose up in my body immediately and had I been able to let myself go, I would have sobbed uncontrollably. In an instant my spoons were used up. I felt exhausted. I looked at him and said that it took too much energy to fight. He asked about the energy it was taking to keep looking for hiding places.

I told him when I came to see him I always felt like bringing a blanket and curling up in the chair, wishing it was a rocking chair and wishing I could swirl it around and face away from him when my emotions rose too close to the surface. As I was reflecting on this I saw that little girl stand up out of the chair. I didn't have to remain the little girl curled up in a ball forever. In my mind she was still there but the girl who was standing up would protect her for as long as she needed so that she could experience what it was to truly be a little girl. This new girl would stand guard as she learned to play, cry, and simply be so that she could become one with the girl who stood up.

Wow, I thought I would be the girl curled up in a fetal position forever. I never knew there were any other options. We talked about what kind of nurturing that curled up tight in a ball little girl needed, how to nurture her so she could stretch and stand up.

I felt hopeful. I felt I could fight. I could use my energy in a positive way so that I could stop feeling like I was being bombed every time I turned around. I could stop feeling guilty for hanging on to the coping mechanisms that have been my hiding places. I could stop hiding.

We talked about masks. I laughed because last year, when I first starting seeing Father Charlie for counseling, he asked me about masks and I smugly told him I had none. Ha. We talked about masks being the way we protect the little child within.

The masks continue to crumble. The bombs continue to fall. The Light continues to protect me. I continue to grow. Up.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Fragile Rose Season

It's no coincidence that Alberta is called Wild Rose Country. There is nothing sweeter than riding down gravel roads with the windows wide open and the perfume of hundreds of wild roses kissing you as you go by.

Tradition has it that dearest one brings me the very first wild rose he sees. I don't know when this started but long enough ago that I can't remember a June when he hasn't. This man has pulled off the highway in his big truck (18 wheeler) to hand deliver that rose. He is a romantic at heart.

One June during rose season I had been feeling pissy towards him all day. Can't remember the reason.(do we ever?) But as I went to meet him at the highway and he was walking towards me with his hand behind his back I knew he held a fragile blossom in the palm of his hand. Still pissy with him later I was telling all this to a very dear friend. The kind who said to me, "You asshole. I could smack you up the side of the head. Go give that man a hug." I've learned since to let go of pissy feelings if they coincide with rose season. Lots of things in life are fragile and time is too short to forget that.

Rose season has come early this year. Last night dearest one came in from mowing the lawn with something cupped in his hand. I wasn't even thinking roses. After all the May long weekend has just passed. June is still a week away, wild roses normally another 10 days after that. Dearest one tried to surprise me and make me smell them but I was sure he had a worm, caterpillar or bug of some kind in his hand and was trying to scare me. After screeching and trying to keep his hand away from my face three times in a row he finally opened his palm to show me two wild rose buds. Duh. Wrecked romantic moment courtesy his very own Hope.

Dearest one is a die hard romantic even though he is in near constant pain (as he is these days). The man is a saint. He's feeling fragile, his health issues hanging in the balance. We hope they turn out to be something easily fixable, a blip on the radar screen we call our journey. But as I hugged him last night I couldn't help but pray that this year's rose buds, now drying on my open bible on the little altar in my livingroom, are not the last ones he ever picks for me.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Boxing Her In

When youngest son started dating his girlfriend last year I told him I realized (code word for hoped) the relationship was not permanent and if there was one thing I wanted his girlfriend to go away with from spending time with him and us it was to know in her heart that God loves her as she is.

I felt all loving and sincere and full of warm fuzzies as I said this. Meant it in my heart. I even repeated it to a good friend when she was being very negative about youngest son's girlfriend one day. But as soon as I saw the hold youngest son's girlfriend had on him, my good intentions went the way of the dinosaur. Sure, I wanted her to know God loves her as is, but I sure as hell had no idea how to communicate that when all I really wanted was for her to get out of my son's life. There was a point early on when youngest son said to me that I seemed to believe that we were to love and respect everyone equally as long as the person who didn't share our values wasn't dating someone in the family. Ouch.

After a few months the tension between youngest son and I about his choice of girlfriend was so bad that he decided to go see an old counselor of mine who he trusted to give him the goods on the situation. I wrote about my struggles with his dating life here and especially here.

Between the morning he told me it would be fun to be a dad to the evening when he and I had a frank talk about his active sex life, well, this momma has seen red more than any other colour. No, his girlfriend is not pregnant, although I worry that could become a reality. But I know from experience there is a bond that happens once a relationship becomes sexual. Because of that I know the chances of them going their separate ways now would be much harder and more painful.

They've been dating 13 months. She is only 15 and he 18. And yes, in Canada the whole picture is legal in every which way. Seriously, it is.

If I had to count which has taken precendence in my thoughts and words in the past 13 months when it comes to this relationship I would have to say that anger, control, and nagging beat out any others. A few months ago youngest son got fed up with my nagging and moved in with his girlfriend and her family. I wrote about that here and here.

When I told a group of close friends one night that I had no idea what letting go of this situation looked like one of them responded that thanking youngest son for being where he was in his journey because it was showing me where I was on mine might be the way. The truth can be so painful. There has been no better reality check for me about how I can be when I don't get my way than to be faced with this situation. Of course, I should be concerned. Of course anything less than voicing those concerns to youngest son would be unloving. At one point I told him I didn't want him to come back to me in 10 years and ask why I hadn't warned him he was about to fall off the edge of a cliff.

God hasn't given up on the whole situation. Neither has God given up on me learning to live out what it is to love people as they are. Including youngest son's girlfriend. I'm not sure she has ever experienced unconditional love in her life. I do know she is like a sponge soaking up all the good feelings and positive feedback she gets from us. It has been a long struggle to go from outright hostility towards her to being able to open my heart to the possibility of loving her as she is. Though I have grown to like her I still haven't been able to tell her that I love her. My vision is sometimes clouded by wanting to tell her that I think she has my son by the balls and I resent it.

I have prayed that God would give me a spirit of love towards her. I've learned to hug her and give her encouragement. I've also learned to be direct and honest with her when need be. I have seen her eyes grow from constant wariness in my presence to lighting up when she sees me now. I do feel like I am loving her as best I can. I don't feel very grown up about it. I feel less than spiritual about the whole thing. I know if she was dating someone else I would be less judgemental.

The girl has radar that is so keen I know there is no fooling her. Spirit speaks to spirit and when you have been wounded in certain ways your radar abilities rise to new levels. I may be able to fake it with some people but I know there is no faking it with her. Either I say it when I mean it that I love her or I keep those words inside until they can come from a place of authenticity. I don't know if I long for the day when I can speak them from my heart for her sake or mine.

This past weekend at the retreat a priest talked about the dangers of boxing people in by seeing only one aspect of the truth about them. He said when we did, it became destructive truth. Jesus saw the truth about people but he didn't pigeon hole them by it. The priest said that to see one facet of truth about someone and have that truth enclose and define them with no hope for the greater Truth of who they were, was wrong.

His words challenged me. To see younger son's girlfriend by more than the truths I have defined her by. To see myself by more than my inability to fully love her as she is as well.

I have always thought that I would be some great example of Christian love for the world. Or at least for my world. One of the aspects of this past retreat weekend was that you could receive letters from your family and friends. Notes of encouragement about how they see you in relation to the topics of faith, hope and love. Youngest son's girlfriend wrote to me from her heart. Here are a few excerpts from her letters:

I haven't loved many people and I haven't let many people love me. But I'm glad we have opened up to each other and have an open honest relationship. I love spending time with you and dearest one because I always feel a lot of love from you both. I can't believe I have another family who loves me so much. And I love you with all my heart but I didn't really know how to tell you.

and this

All I want to say is that I hope and pray that we have many more wonderful memories to share. I say it a lot but I also mean it with all I've got but I LOVE YOU. And I can't get over how I can love someone who I'm not related to and who I don't think I'm going to marry - LOL - but I'm glad you are a part of my life.

Here she was saying the words to me that I have been unwilling and unable to say to her. I cried as I read these letters. I never thought the person I was being challenged to love unconditionally would be the instrument God would use to show me that I am loved as I am.

After the end of the closing Mass for the retreat youngest son's girlfriend elbowed her way through the crowd at breakneck speed to get to me and hug me. I was able to tell her that her letters to me were the most meaningful of all I received during the weekend and that they had made me cry. She was instantly concerned that the crying was a bad thing until I told her it was a good kind of crying.

I have no idea if youngest son and his girlfriend will be together for life. I know the odds of it are slim. Not many stay with the partners they had as young teens. There are obstacles galore if they marry as there are for any of us. But if nothing else youngest son's girlfriend has shown me what it looks like not to box someone in by destructive truth. I have much to learn from her.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Finding God

Hope is a beautiful thing. Sometimes we get only a glimmer, sometimes a full and running over cup of it. Sometimes we have none. It never disappears forever though and for that I am grateful.

Dearest one hasn't been feeling well for about a month now. Nothing we could put our finger on until last week when he lost 7 pounds in 4 days due to lack of appetite, nausea and pain in his abdomen. Dearest one is a registered nurse but he tried to convince me this was all normal, especially the nausea bit. I said, "Ya, right, if you were pregnant!" He joked back that well, he hadn't had his period for quite a while. The man does have a sense of humour. I picked up the phone to call our doctor's office. Dearest one thought I was making a big deal about nothing. After his apppointment yesterday he walked out with a requisition for an abdominal ultrasound to rule out a pancreatic mass. The test is next Tuesday and it will be a week before we get any news.

Please pray for us. I wasn't going to post about this unless something further had to be done but I knew I couldn't clear my head to write about anything else unless I did.

I will be away from the computer until Tuesday. I am one of a dozen speakers at a women's retreat this coming weekend. My talk is about finding God in the midst of everyday life experiences. How grateful I am to know God's there, in everything.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Privilege

"At least I will know what it's like to be a mother, even if it's only for a little while." That's what I whispered to myself when I was newly pregnant with only daughter. Due to severe STDs when I was single, the doctors told me there was no guarantee I would ever conceive. It took nearly a year to get pregnant the first time. I miscarried twice before I got pregnant with only daughter.

When I was in the hospital being treated for STDs my mother tried to convince me to get my tubes tied. After the second miscarriage she told me I was never meant to be a mother anyway. Shortly afterward my granny wrote how worried everyone was about my health and why didn't I adopt instead of try to get pregnant again? I wrote back that if everyone at home (700 miles away) didn't stop giving me such a hard time about wanting to become a mother they weren't going to find out I was one until labour was over, thank you very much.

When the home pregnancy test came back positive (at 5 AM, patience isn't a virtue of mine!) I wanted to wake up the whole town and let them know the good news. I kept the pregnancy a secret from my mom and most of my family though until I was past the 12 week window of risk of miscarriage was over. I remember going about my business on my lunch break from work absolutely thrilled to be pregnant.

I have always known that motherhood is a privilege.

I'm not sure what happened with my body but conception was never a problem after only daughter was born. With both of our sons though I nearly miscarried. Hearing the doctor say I was threatening to miscarry but there was nothing they could do to prevent it was devastating. Every time I went to the bathroom after that I was fearful that there would be blood. Every twinge, every cramp could signal the beginning of the end. I counted the days and heaved a sigh of relief when I got past the stage where if premature labour started, the odds were in favour of the baby's survival.

Early in my pregnancy with youngest son I had an ultrasound because there was a hole in the placenta. Seeing his beating heart at 8 weeks gestation jolted me into realizing that the other babies I lost were in fact, babies. (The grieving of them came so much later though.) Ironically those same sons whose lives hung precariously in the balance for a good portion of their in utero lives both ended up being born after their due dates.

With oldest son I hemorrhaged at home when he was 10 days old. With youngest son I did so right on the birthing table and when I passed out from losing so much blood they called a code. I came to surrounded by the code team and hearing the nurse at my side say my blood pressure was 60/40. It's truly a miracle I made it.

Motherhood was the vehicle God used to get my attention.

When I came close to dying on that birthing table I realized the Christian life was not something you played at. Either I paid it more than lip service or I didn't, but I could no longer fool myself that bearing the name of Christ meant diddly squat in my day to day life. There had been this diamond like transparent form in the corner of the ceiling of the birthing room trying to suck me into it while I lay there bleeding to death. I remember telling dearest one that if I passed out I wasn't coming back. Between coming back and being rushed off to emergency surgery, too weak to speak outloud, I had a conversation with God while I lay there. Those kind of moments one never forgets.

The three months between youngest son's birth and my first day of sobriety were hard. Oldest and youngest son were born 20 months apart and having two children in diapers full time is enough whatever the circumstances of your life. I have foggy memories of a never ending pile of diapers to fold. I remember telling my mom those dark circles under my eyes she saw in the pictures I sent really weren't as bad as they looked. In truth those months are a blur.

Through the intervening years God often used motherhood to get my attention. Kids watch every move you make and then promptly imitate you whether you want them to or not. It's enough to make anyone run for the hills or at least want to pretend who you are is not who you are. When only daughter asked me if there were two sets of rules, one for kids and one for adults it was only by the grace of God that I answered her honestly instead of telling her to shut up. We both know today that moment was a turning point in her life and mine. I had to walk the talk or admit when I didn't. Either they could call me on it or they couldn't. Which was it going to be? Sometimes I thought I was going to permanently grit my teeth while owning up to my actions.

It's so much easier to call anyone else on their inconsistencies than face up to my own.

Having adult children isn't much easier. Motherhood remains one of my quickest brought up short routes to God. I still have moments of wanting to grit my teeth when I have to be an adult with them instead of dissolving into a two-year-old like tantrum. I still want to pretend I'm right all the time and have them believe it. I know I pay Christ lip service much less than I did 18 years ago. But more than all of the duck and hide tricks I am capable of pulling, I crave intimacy with God.

One day I will be a distant memory in the lives of my descendants. I can't believe how badly I want to be remembered. What I want to be remembered for most is that motherhood continually brought me face to face with God. And that face to face with God was where I wanted to be found more than anywhere else. For them to know that God uses the circumstances of life to get our attention and how privileged I feel that God used motherhood to get mine.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Terrifically Hard Work

Learning to trust feels scary and wonderful. Soothing. Good. A miracle. It doesn't seem to matter just what issues rise in my life, God is there to meet me in them. They are healed in stages, most are still unhealed. I am simply thankful for progress.

Of course the next time an issue raises its ugly head I will recoil and think, "Oh shit" and want to run fast down that oft worn path called denial. The energy it takes to resist dealing with what is often feels safer than the energy it takes to accept reality.

The more I face life head on, the better it gets. How weird is that? Peeling away layers and being known by God, letting the pain rise to the surface and sitting with it, puts me in a better heart space than all the wrestling I do to avoid it. It is terrifically hard work. I can hardly believe the continuous inner diaglogue necessary to challenge the lies I have long accepted as fact. Thank God life is not a solo experience.

Oh, this all sounds so wonderfully sappy and far from reality. I have a strong aversion to sappy thoughts. They make the resident cynic within wake up and spout off. But this morning I feel like I am suspended in air and there are little multi coloured lights dancing all around me. So for today I'll take sappy over cynical.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Waiting At The Eastern Gate

It was only fitting this morning to see the odd snow flake intermingled with the rain. Two years ago today my brother-in-law was killed in a freakish accident. It was the day before Mother's Day and I answered the phone to hear my husband's great aunt say, "Dearest one better get over here because his brother is laying dead on my driveway." By the time we got there snow was beginning to cover his body. It still makes no sense that the police let every family member cross the yellow ribbon barrier to make their way to the house and in doing so, walk right past his covered up body. There were several days before we knew his death was most likely accidental, not murder. The man responsible for his death is still awaiting trial. I want to shake him and tell him that all I really want is for him to sober up and not make brother-in-law's death a waste. I know this man, a friend of my brother-in-law, carries much pain within him every day of his life. I cannot fathom the depth of grace he must understand before he can reconcile himself with what happened.

Mother's Day was spent at the funeral home. All the siblings and their spouses who lived in the community gathered with dearest one's parents to plan. That 8 children, their spouses, my brother-in-law's partner, his ex wife and his sons could all gather and plan without fighting, no disputing, just calmly and kindly plan is really a miracle. I wonder why we can grasp what is important at the time of death but are often unable to do it in life.

People were so kind. We had been on welfare and were using the foodbank for about 7 months when he died. Stretched to the limit emotionally, spiritually and every which way we had already seen that when people give of themselves they were sacrificing. Whether it was an encouraging word, a bag of groceries, paying our rent or simply making sure we could find the strength to face another day we knew they were sacrificing. They could have been doing something else with their time, their resources, their very being. They could have walked the other way until our life's circumstances changed.

I stood before the picture of Jesus on my wall that day and with tears streaming down my face said, "God is good." It felt like the words were being pulled out of me one by one. I thought of all the times I sat in church and heard the congregation respond to the statement, "God is good" with "all the time". I don't think there was once that I ever believed it. I thought to say it meant I had to like everything that happened in my life and I knew I didn't. God is with us in our circumstances but is not the author of them.

I've been sitting here for ten minutes trying to decide what to write about my brother-in-law so that you can get a glimpse of who he was to me. Writing him a letter seems to be the only way I can gather my thoughts.

Dear brother who loved and knew my dearest one like no one else ever will,

What I would give to look you in the eyes one more time. To hear your gravelly voice. To see your smile. To even have you say for the umpteenth time that I was pissed off at you because you were drinking again. To hang up on you because you woke me up at 5 am. I wish for the chance to be graced with being able to say I believed in you and that I loved you when all I wanted to do was beat your chest because you were numbing the pain.

I know you got grace. I wish I could have honoured that in you instead of being threatened by it. Accepted you as is. There were times, especially when you were drinking, that you spoke the truth so clearly that I flinched.

When people drink they become unpredictable. I hated how my heart speeded up when you showed up drunk. Maybe the problem was that every ounce of pharisee within me came to the surface when I saw you. Maybe I couldn't stand to see myself so clearly so I projected it all onto you. You were always a no bullshit kind of guy. When what came out of my mouth and what was in my spirit didn't match you called me on it every time, sometimes without saying a word. There was an authenticity within you that's rare to find in people. The thing I was most uncomfortable about around you was that being in your presence showed me at a gut level that I was wearing so many masks and you knew it.

I sit here and think about the time we went to court with you. The look on your face as they led you away to jail. How scared and trapped your eyes looked. The tears of the young boy behind us who had a glimpse into his future if he didn't make different choices. When sentencing you the judge was speaking to the hearts of all those young people there that day too.

I think of you every time I get up and the first thing out of my mouth is not "good morning." I remember how I came out of the bedroom one morning and started in on oldest son, telling him this and that. You looked at me and said, "You could at least say good morning first."

I think about the time you came over and we spent the evening around the campfire reading the bible. My big headedness because you were so impressed I knew so many verses and where to find them. I could spell grace real well but living it was another thing. You saw God in places where I didn't even know to look. You got grace. It was all those messages in your head from childhood that said God could only be found in one religion that fucked you up again and again.

I had fuzzy boundaries when it came to you. I'm not sure I would be any better at it today. It's one thing to have fuzzy boundaries, it's another to be able to love the one who continually shows you that you do simply by being themselves. I tend to avoid people who make me aware of those places in my life where I stumble and fall. Being loving to you was awful hard. Funny, I never felt like loving me was hard for you.

I wanted to see your sobriety stick. I know now that you wanted it too, more than any of us. I'm sorry I judged you so harshly for numbing your pain in the only way you knew how. You remind me to hold the pain of others to the Light, not beat it with my fists and stomp on it as if it doesn't matter, as if it doesn't enter into the equation of their actions.

The last time you talked to dearest one before you died you told him to remember your agreement that whoever got to the Eastern gate first would wait for the other one. I know you wait in anticipation.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

No Fear

Some women have large purses - I have this tote bag that I throw everything in. I think right now it has at least 5 (small) books in it, never mind the wet wipes, the headache medicine, the bandaids, kleenex, rolaids - oh and my wallet. I am continuously losing my keys in this mess so yesterday I set out to find a bigger key ring that would make it easier to find the keys to the van. Something so I wouldn't have to resort to shaking the tote in order to hopefully hear the jingle of keys in its depths.

I found a rack that had male and female key ringajigs. The kind that have names on them and say for ages 4 and up. No luck finding one bearing my name so I was going to settle for one that said "angel" on it. At the last moment I thought 'no'. I went back and started going through the male selection of key fobs. I found one I liked - I traded my pink and white girly one for a black and red one that said no fear. As soon as I picked it up I thought of the many times it says in the bible "Be not afraid". As I type this I wonder why there wasn't a feminine key fob that said no fear.

This week I painted a picture of the painful path in front of me as I saw it in my head. A sandy coloured background with a deep, red, thick line of paint through the middle. Fine little black dash marks went down the red line and every so often they went off the path and into the sand yet eventually looped back to join the path. Some black tangents went quite a way off to the right and others looked like a small circle. I like symmetry and wanted to paint tangents off to the left of the picture but they didn't appear like that in my head so I settled for having off balanced detours. When the picture came into my head I was instantly pissed off at God for showing me again that my path went through the pain.

I cannot see transformation happening in my life but I have a sense that it is going on deep within. I have been at the this painful place before and have let fear divert my attention. Always. Today I stand and say "no more". I want what waits for me on the other side of the pain. I want it enough to risk giving up my towers of fear for something better.

Many of my fear issues have to do with my sexuality. You mess with a person's sexuality and you mess with something in their core being. I have built walls of fat to keep safe. I have gone looking for sexual distraction to keep from true intimacy. Anything to keep from being known, from exposing the paper thin veil of my soul.

Last week I had a startling revelation when I verbalized to dearest one that I really only understood sex in two basic ways. From a position of power or one of being used. Bleck. The truth is startling sometimes. For sure there have been times of deep intimacy - when the veil has parted and vulnerability has been possible. But voicing my understanding of sex, saying it outloud, made me want intimacy more than any distortion. For over 25 years I have let these two ways define me sexually. Not because anyone else told me that was how it worked but because that was the only grid through which I could make any sense of sex.

I am standing on the path saying good bye to them. The desire for something healthier outweighs the need to hang on. You may wonder why I am sharing such details. But for those of you who have read this about my journey, this post is another step in a line of many little steps. Maybe sharing what the process looks like for me will give someone hope of their own. Often in Christian community all we hear is the after everything is said and done version of life. Entering into another person's pain is not something we are privy to very often. Hell, we don't want to enter into our own pain let alone one another's. We want tales of victory, not struggles of valour.

I have a sense lately that I am saying goodbye to sexual addiction too. Not that I am free of the temptation but simply gaining freedom from the compulsion. Intimacy and addiction do not make good bedfellows. And I want, am willing to risk everything that has felt safe to me, to gain intimacy.

I don't know how our warped views of how things work get cemented so tight in our beings that we go 20 plus years without challenging them. I know I have let fear of how I think men are short circuit the process all along. No matter how much logic told me dearest one was not like the men of my imagination, I couldn't get past the warped ideas in my head.

Along with these realizations comes a feeling of not being hell bent on getting anywhere. I cannot count the times in the past few weeks when it has come to me that all I need to do is be where I am. To feel the chair I am sitting in, to feel my feet connected to the floor, to the earth, to something so much bigger than me. I don't think there will ever be a post where I declare I am forever free of sexual temptation any more than there will be one saying I have arrived. I know I am willing to keep walking on the path to tomorrow. All the detours - all of them - are part of the journey. I will take the revelations as they come and know I may never get another one. I feel strangely at peace about that too. My prayer life has morphed into something I don't recognize. All I can say is that I feel like I am learning to be present to God a few seconds at a time.

Do I feel scared? Yes. I haven't been willing to walk past this point on the path before. I thought walking through it meant losing everything. What man would wait while I said I can't be with you in that way right now? I have always short circuited the healing journey out of fear that no man, my man, would get tired of being married to a women who was so wounded that she couldn't, wouldn't, until it came from a place other than fear. A man who would wait until she trusted the price of healing did not inevitably mean being alone. To walk through this part of the path involves trusting in a way I have never been willing to risk before. All I know is that I know I will be okay as I surrender to the process. It's not about the outcome here either.

When I look at my new key fob I feel no need to declare I have no fear. If I get real still I know that I am having moments of being scared shitless. It's more important that I give voice to my feelings, honour the truth than be at some other place on the path. "No fear" simply reminds me that when I am scared I will be picked up and carried.