Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sharing Space - sneaker waves

We all have those friends.
The friends who listen. 
The friends who support. 
The friends who accept without needing to understand.

 I would drop everything and go find them if they asked me to.

I answer their call in the middle of the night and on my day off. 
 (and that’s saying something)
I text them in wee hours of the morning when tomorrow is just too far away and I’m tired of being alone.

One of these people is my Amy.  Currently Amy lives two hours away from me.  She didn't always, but she does now.   She is first on the list of “safe to call/text/msg when overly inebriated and prone to say things I'll regret later." It is a very short list.

I don’t pretend that what I do changes the world. 

Amy changes the world every day.


She’s one of the strongest people I've ever known.  Daily she's bent to the point of breaking, slogging thru the flaming hell that humans are capable of inflicting on others. At the end of the day she goes home, sleeps and gets up the next morning, to do it all again. 

I know that sometimes life is so overwhelming that the only way to process is to share it. 
She can’t share it.  She can’t share the horrid details.  Even if she could, she doesn't want to burden the people she cares about. 

I listen.  I listen between the lines. 
I don’t need to know why the week was hard.
I just know it was hard, and I give support however I can.

Last week it killed me that I couldn't physically hug her.
(‘cause sometimes (hugs) just doesn't cut it.)

She calls, texts, whatever. 
I listen. 

I know that I can’t fathom what she deals with, but it doesn't matter in the least.
She gives selflessly.  The least I can do is be a shoulder to lean on, a safe place to be, an escape from the hard.

As with any good relationship, it is not one sided.   She's been there this whole time.  

Usually by the end of our conversation the supporter has become the supported. We both smiled at some point, and for a brief moment it’s all okay and tomorrow at least has the possibility of being better. 

It’s not all the crap that we share.  She grins with my joys and I relish her triumphs.

Amy is also a very talented writer, in a completely different style than my own.  Despite our different styles we both process our hurts, stresses and joys the same way.  We write them out. 

She’s seen how it has benefited me to write and edit – distill – my thoughts down to something suitable for public consumption.  But she’s not ready yet to commit to writing routinely, she’d like to see if the format works for her.  She asked if I would be willing to let her guest post here once in a while. 

Obviously, I said yes, but I do not say it lightly or general I don't like sharing personal things, and this space is very much my space.  But, she is one of the three I would say yes to. 

So, she’ll be posting here occasionally, starting tonight.   


sneaker waves

  When I asked Kristin if I could guest post here, I knew instinctively that she would say yes. For that I am immensely grateful, not only for her willingness to share this space with me but for the grace that comes with having a friend who knows me well enough to understand why I’m asking without needing an explanation. That is a rarity.
            My world is expanding rapidly these days. With a second niece or nephew on the horizon, the classes I am chomping my way through on the way to a new career, and some friendships that have unexpectedly flourished, I am consistently surprised. I am learning to speak up for myself more, learning to make chances when they don’t appear, and learning to be grateful for what I have. And oh, do I have so much. So much. It is astounding. When Ramona (first niece) rolls over in her sleep, snuggles up to me, and places a hand on my arm just to make sure I’m still there, it’s kind of like the sky explodes.

            I had no idea I could love another person so much.

When she pillows her head on my shoulder during a walk, when she asks to read the story I wrote for her, when she wants to dance in my arms—were there nothing else but the page and her, I would be content. And there are so many other joys in my life. 

I have also been knocked over repeatedly by these sneaker waves of terribly reality in my job. I wish I could talk about them in detail, I really do. But I can’t. Suffice it to say that sometimes parents do horrific things to their children. More often than I would have ever imagined; more often than I ever want anyone I love to know about.
There are bruises and scars.
There are kids who never get the chance to be kids, who cover for their parents, who are raising their siblings before they themselves are grown.
There are abandoned kids.
There are suicidal kids.
There are kids who have emotional and psychological wounds that will never fully heal.

There are the kids we lose.

We had one of those recently, and there are no words for it, not really. I, who considers herself to be above all a wordsmith, cannot find the right ones. I am left trailing behind this loss with the stark realization that that hunt will forever be fruitless.
I got into this line of work because I wanted to make the world a better place. How cliché. But it’s true. That’s why any of us in my job got into it. There’s no glory in it. It’s dirty and raw and violent. The hours are long, the pay is low, and you never quite feel safe.
I have learned through the hardest of lessons that sometimes I have to settle for making the world better by simply showing up.

Those are the hardest of days.

When I am being screamed at, or attacked in court, or consoling a devastated toddler, I am still actively working at it, digging my heels in and doing my best to change the flow of the world. But the days when I simply have to accept that I will do no good beyond standing up, those are the days when I am most disappointed.

It is in the bigness of the challenge where I find the best lessons. That’s what it’s all about, right? I mean, in the end I won’t be able to help these kids at all if I can’t see where it could be better and go to that place, go and do it better. These ‘Calvin’s dad’ lessons, as my brother calls them, can’t be overlooked. They cannot go unrealized.
It is in the bigness of the challenge where I find the utter desperation. There will most likely never be a time when I hurt for a job in the child welfare field. How devastating that realization was! My hope, nonetheless, is that we will whittle away, little by little, at the generations of dysfunction and abuse, until one day the caseloads will be empty and the reports won’t come in.

I will hope forever, knowing that I will always be just a little disappointed.

Lately I have begun to embrace the Buddhist principle of the boddhi satva. While I am not religious in the slightest, I am learning that comfort is found in the most unexpected of places; if I want to continue this work I have to make peace with the things people do to each other and with my role in this system.

So, the boddhi satva?

At the most crude of levels, which is really where my understanding lies, a boddhi satva is one who has a desire to free sentient beings from the continuing cycle of death, rebirth, and suffering, someone who is there with others in their pain, someone who delays their own enlightenment to do so.

I’m not big on enlightenment. I mean, that’s probably not gonna happen in my lifetime.

For me, I have distilled this notion down to mean someone who is simply present with another person when they are in pain. When they are hurting. When they are dying. In witnessing another’s grief and suffering, in being there, perhaps I can mitigate just a bit of their burden.

Perhaps, even more valuable, I can take a bit of it onto my own shoulders. On those days when I have to accept that the only thing I could possibly do to help is to just show up, I try to remember that in the vein of the boddhi satva, sometimes that is in fact enough.

Someone has to actively note the pain that these kids and families are in. Someone has to bear witness.

In my job, daily, I am surrounded by people who embody this role, this boddhi satva; I am doing my best to follow their example.

Nothing more, nothing less.

So today, like every day, I will get up.

I will shower, brush my teeth, and put on my warrior clothes.
I will wear who I am like armor.
I will walk through the doors.
I will have the hard conversations, make the hard decisions, and continue to fake it until I make it.
I will work to my limits and sometimes beyond.
I will hug Ramona and sing and run and find sunshine.
Maybe I will cry.
I will wrestle with the angels.
I will wrestle with the demons.
I will emerge on the other side, every day.

I will have no shame.  


Thursday, April 10, 2014

do it. tell them. if it helped, tell them.

What I write here is my story.  Obviously, I don’t live in a bubble, and I do interact with the world, so my story touches other stories.
But, this is my story.  

My post about October was the first time I had posted a direct memory of an event.  I actually wrote that not long after it happened.  After I posted it, I realized I am now friends with the person who sat next to me on the stairs, and it would probably be a good idea to let him know I had posted and he was in it. 

He knew I wrote a blog, but I’m pretty sure he’s only read it once..

One of the harder messages I’ve sent. 

Mostly because it was a simple, unimportant thing that he did, and it meant SO much.  It helped SO much. Way more than it should have.
To put that much weight on such an insignificant thing… that’s…hard. 

Especially since at the time I really didn't have an opinion of him other than a cute young college kid who never said his few lines loud enough. And hadn't smiled cheesily enough in the last show.

But I did.
I sent it.
And waited.

I seriously have no self-esteem when it comes to my writing ability/style and people's opinions of me as a human and I was sure he was going to think I was a complete moron, or something to that effect.

Of course, he didn't think that. 

A few days ago I had the opportunity to ask him in person why he found me and sat down.  It was one of those things I was totally curious about.  I mean, who does that?  And how did he know it would help?

It was kind of a random question, as I watched him drill more holes in my wall to remount a tv bracket, which he was having difficulty with.  

Ever notice that asking odd questions seems to be easier when the person answering is completely distracted at failing to do a super simple task. (which was hilarious, by the way.)

His response? “You needed it.”
When I asked why he was so silent, “I didn't have any words to say.  Usually I do, usually I have the right words, but then I didn't.”

Obviously, because I needed the silence more than any “right” words.

The moral of the story?

Tell them.  
If someone does something, and it helps, tell them.  Even if it as simple as sitting quietly, utterly failing at remounting a tv bracket exactly where you wanted it, or leaving dirty hand prints so high on the wall after hanging a curtain rod that there is no way in heck you’ll ever be able to clean them, even if you stood on the top of the ladder.

Tell them. People like to know that the little things matter, that the little things help.

So thank you.
Thank you Sir, for helping me change the last few things in the house that no longer belong here.  Thank you for the added holes in the walls and the hand prints.

Dammit, now I need to tell him I posted about him.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Intuition and Premonition

Both of the above concepts have no scientific research to support that they exist.  Yet, you will find people across the globe who have experienced both. They may not admit it, but they have.

Intuition is accepted, while premonition is scoffed at. Why is that? Both concepts are based on knowing something without rational thought or conscious reason.

So what makes them so different? 

Intuition is knowledge based; I can accept that my brain can work faster that I can follow; leading to knowledge that I consciously didn’t give any thought to.

Premonition is event based.  Is it possible that my brain did the same series of leaps across my memories to arrive at a conclusion that a specific event will happen?  This one is harder to swallow.  Events are people interacting with the world.  People you have no control over, therefore, how is it possible know that a specific event will happen?

We learn from our own history.  We learn from our own mistakes and hurts. Yes, we learn from triumphs and happiness too, but the sharper lessons come from the unpleasant consequences of failure.

Should we dwell on those mistakes and hurts, continuing to poke at them like a half healed bruise, re-feeling all the ugliness? 

No. It happened.  You learned. (at least I hope you learned something)
Move forward.

But don’t forget.  Never forget.

Forgive and forget is a joke.  Forgive yes. But forget?  Never.
Hold a grudge like it’s the most precious thing in the world? No. that’s not healthy either.

It happened.  Do you know why?  Maybe.  Faced with the same circumstances in the future, would you make the same choices?  Maybe.

Hurt me once, shame on you.
Hurt me twice, shame on me. 

I’ve burnt myself many times.  On the stove, the oven, a campfire; regardless of the type of burn, it hurts.
A lot.
Yet, standing outside a burning building would I hesitate to dash in to save one of my loves? Hell no. In a millisecond my head and heart weigh all the possibilities and I make a decision before realizing I’ve actually made a decision.  

Physically putting yourself at risk is one thing.  Emotionally putting yourself at risk is quite another thing entirely.   

We don’t listen to ourselves. We continually ignore signs and signals from our hearts and heads because it’s all internal. Easily ignored and pushed aside.

We don’t stop to listen.
We don’t stop to hear.
We get lost in the sea of emotions and we don’t stop to breathe.
We get lost in the mucky mud that are the lows. 
We get lost in the starry skies that are the highs. 
You can’t un-know something.  You will always know 2+2=4.  You never forget how to ride a bike. Apply the same concept to your mind and heart.

Is it possible that evolution has given us the ability to unconsciously sort through our personal histories to guide us through the future?

Intuition and premonition.

Two very personal internal processes that we are afraid to listen to.
Afraid to believe the negative is going to happen.
Afraid that the positive won’t happen if it doesn't happen now. 

How could I possible know about what’s going to happen when I have no control over anyone but myself?

A slight uneasiness in your gut? Something not feel right?  
Listen to your heart.  Continue along your path, after all, you have no “real” reason not to. 

But.  Stop.
Take a moment - late at night, while you’re mindlessly folding the endless piles of laundry, or while you’re stuck in traffic, to look at those feelings. Why, in spite of all the awesomeness in your world, do you have the foreboding sense that it’s about to crash down around you? 

Then.  Weigh it.  

Continue on or make changes.

It’s just like the snap decision made before dashing into the burning building. Only, now, there is time to make a choice. 
You. have. to. choose. 
You know what? Even choosing to ignore the feelings is making a choice.
Not making a choice? Still a choice. You are choosing to not make a choice.

At the opposite end of the spectrum. It hurts so terribly when your head and heart scream at you that that, over there, is right......
.....but right is just not gonna happen.

You want to be happy.  But, unfortunately, you have no control over anyone but yourself.

So, stop. 
Take a moment. Then, let it go.   
Yearning, chasing, mooning over a right that is out of your reach is a waste of time. 

Accept that, yes, that is right. So right it hurts.
Every bone in your body knows that that is right.

Then, accept that right is not right, right now. 

There is nothing more agonizing than to see a right, walk toward it, and pass it.
without touching.   
Is that the only right that you will ever stumble upon?
Maybe. maybe not.

Remember two things:

timing's a bitch.
today is not tomorrow.