Using my wisdom for a change.

I started to write about some of the following: unemployment, eating disorders, social status, raising a sensitive child as a sensitive adult, middle school-the weird, cool, nerdy, and lame, letting people down, and the writing life.
All of these things are important to me, but I couldn't hone in on any of them. Every word felt forced, as if I was writing for a cheesy parenting magazine in which I fake being the "expert."
The truth is I am not an expert in any of these things. I have a doctor in my home and Google at my fingertips and while that might seem like a boon to some, let me tell you I feel just as uncertain as the next person. But at 45, I have gained some wisdom and here is one truth I know:  transitions are hard. We happen to be going through several. I am getting used to be the main parent again. I am helping my daughter through some difficult times, I am prepping my son for the onslaught of middle school, and I am contemplating my own future and goals.
I was gifted with two younger women in my life who were listening to me weigh in about various ramifications to the decision I am facing. I talked through it and they nodded and finally one looked at the youngest of us and said, "See? This is what age does. It gives you perspective and you realize no decision is truly the end of the world. I am just now learning this."
I was struck by how someone has credited my age for something (in this youth-obsessed culture, age seems to be a major minus) and how I must have sounded more confident than I felt as I weighed out the pros and cons. Later in this same week, I was voicing another concern about this same opportunity and my companion at the time said, "Well, this won't be a problem for you because you have experience with life. You get it."
And I am really trying to own all of this because they are right.  At some point our experience equates to wisdom if we allow ourselves to see it and acknowledge it and claim it.
And so in a startling change of pace, I am not letting these transitions and choices beat me down. I am riding them. I am letting the river of chance and opportunity and change take me knowing that wherever it leads, I will be just fine. My record of landing on solid ground, so far, is pretty good.

I received some flowers yesterday for no reason from a friend I met on this blog. I was touched and humbled by this small act of kindness and when I look at these flowers I am thinking of the people in Fergusun. I am thinking of James Foley and his family and all journalists risking their lives to tell the truest stories they can. I am thinking of  every single victim of a senseless shooting. I am thinking of my little town struggling to find ways to make a dent in the mental health issues plaguing our young adults. I am thinking of so many parents who lose their children to suicide. And I am thinking of how the summer of 2014 became the summer of the ice bucket challenge for ALS. I am thinking of those who suffer from ALS, a debilitating and heartless disease that shows no mercy. I am hoping against hope that with every single bucket poured and every dollar raised, those afflicted and those who are caregivers can feel the love and compassion. It is truly amazing to watch the simple act of pouring water turn into a viral cause that has raised millions of dollars. It is a bouquet of humanity in a desert of so much sadness.

These flowers are speaking a certain truth to me. They say, "I care about you. Thank you for being you. I am here for you." The truth is not always so pleasant, however. When we tell the truth with our words and actions, people don't want to listen. The truth is that racism still exists. The truth is some people are heartless and cruel. The truth is that ALS is so ugly people don't want to hear about it. The truth is that some people will take their own lives and we we will never understand why.

What is also true is that some people send flowers for no reason. The truth is that one small act can create a chain of similar actions that brings national attention to something previously ignored. The truth is that when I speak the truth, some people may not want to hear it because it isn't convenient to them. The truth is that I, too, don't want always want to know the truth because it hurts.

So we take in what we can. We listen and digest and turn over and set aside and move forward or hide out and some of us act. We often feel our little acts mean nothing but then I think of the ice buckets!

And probably more than anything, that is what I do. I think. I think of a victim or a senseless act and in that moment, I want to believe I am somehow lifting up the suffering. I hold the name of a person or place in my head and heart for just a few seconds on a continuous cycle and I want to believe that these seconds add up to minutes and hours and days and months and since time is never-ending no one is ever truly forgotten.

Little actions like flowers and pouring ice water on your head or holding a thought may seem small in the context of our overwhelming problems. But small is good and we are good and we can do these little things and we need to keep doing them. Just keep doing them.

Hard Stuff

The small town that I live in has experienced it's share of youth suicides. In the last three years, 3 young men have taken their own lives for reasons we will never know. The recent death of Robin Williams has everyone talking about mental health and as horrible as it all is, talk is good, so very good, because it keeps us thinking and watching and listening and searching for better answers and more help.

I had a moment in Camp Empowerment last week when we were discussing how we make choices. One girls suggested that pro and con lists always work for her. I wondered out loud if the answer you wanted was ever different than the answer that can appear on the list. Another girl chimed in with this, "Well, I have wanted to kill myself, but I know that it isn't a good idea. People would miss me. It would be hard on them."

Right then I started to sweat because I am not a trained counselor or specialist in any such thing. I have never worked for a suicide hotline or have any claim to being expert in the field.

Yet I do know how it feels to be down. I know how it feels to be so far down that you can't really see up. I have lived with my depression like many live with it and that is really what you choose to choose to live with it.

And so that is what I said, "You know deep down ending things is not right so you make a choice to live through the hurt."

I used to spend a lot of time thinking there was something terribly wrong with me. Of course there was and yet I also spent time thinking I should be able to change it if I just did this and that and this other thing. So when I finally sought treatment after the birth of my son, a kind nurse gently saved me with these words, "It's not your fault, honey. It's chemistry."

I got some meds and I was able to pick my head up long enough to look around and examine more closely what I needed to do.

Medication is not magical. It does not solve everything for everyone. It does not cure that restless and sometimes hopeless and persistent feeling all of the time. What my medicine does for me is give me the ability to put forth the effort to do all of the other things I need to do to stay on top of or ahead of the cloud, the monster, the hole.  I need to walk and talk and write and connect and move and see a counselor and cry and write some more. Without medicine, not only do I not do these things, I don't know I need to do these things.

I have never contemplated suicide. My down is either a low grade solid gray or an amped-up and overwhelming red anger that makes no sense to me when I am well.

And that's the thing. When I am sick, I cannot imagine being well though I know enough to understand that I have been well and the sickness is not what I want to choose.

It takes constant vigilance, constant monitoring, constant attention.  Self-care is not a weekend at a spa. It is a daily walk, time to write, a deep breath in the middle of a tense conversation, an evening meditation, a visit or two or three to the doctor to manage medication, talking to therapists and friends, yoga or pilates, and books upon books upon books. It is a quiet room and the shades drawn and petting my cat and loving up my dog and more deep breathing and healthy food and reaching out to my husband and not comparing my journey to anyone else's. It is the work of my life and sometimes none of this works. And so what is left is to wait it out, let it do it's thing before that storm passes and I can see the clouds roll away and I can step out into the light again. That's what I do. I try to always step out into the light.

It will be controversial so say I get why people choose a different path. There are so many who are hurting more than I ever have and if that is true, then I get why they seek relief. Many will say it is selfish, but that is not true. It is, at their weakest moment, their only version of self- care they can think of. What I want to say is that you just alwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalways have to go toward the light. It is there. It is waiting for you. It can be yours for a minute and then another and then another. Minutes stack up to hours and it is soon a day and then another and you get to live and work and fight for a better way.

But it is a fight and sometimes people lose. And so, all I want to do is help people with the fight. I want us all to be helpers, lovers, watchers, listeners, encouragers, hand-holders. Let's be fighters with big hearts and warm hands and tender gentle ears. We can all do that. I know we can.