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I’m writing all sorts of things, including half-finished blog posts.  And until some of those move closer to done, or until my life hits a lull (ha!), here’s some more information about The Dog.

Remember The Dog?  He’s all cute and sweet and we’re working really hard on training, still (and always will).  He’s getting much better at the speed of his response to a command and the length of time he’s willing to follow a command–especially stay.  There are still a few major hurdles, most noticeably “come.”

The biggest change, though?  He now leans.

Yes, leans.  You read that correctly.  He leans into me to be petted.  He never used to do that.  If you remember, or if you went back and read the letter, you’ll remember that I allege neglect on behalf of his first owners.  He came to me loving people, dogs, children, everybody and not knowing what to do about it.  He’s starting to learn.  He leans into me to be petted instead of sitting an arm’s length away.  He sits on the couch with me, with his head on my lap. Sometimes he attempts a 90 lbs impersonation of a lap dog.  At night he curls up, not just on the bed, but next to me.

He’s learned affection.  I almost don’t care if he learns come.

Almost.

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For Mother’s Day

I don’t remember your voice,
Or what would make you laugh
I don’t remember your hands,
Not really, not enough to count
I don’t remember the last time
I saw you healthy, rather my last memories
are as you live ill and dying,
not what either of us want
I know there were times before
when you insisted on going out
and seeking hidden places
of import to you and dragging us along
Times when we yelled and laughed and cried
but today, 16 years and two months since you died,
what I remember most isn’t what I remember
most clearly or what has faded best
or even all the things I wish I knew
Today I remember that you love me
Which is what I believe you wanted to last
Written May 7, 2011

I still have good days and bad days.  (I suspect I always will.)  The difference between good and bad and better and worse is often one of degrees.  Today my head hurts slightly.  Today I will always know where the excedrin bottle is.  Today I will barely leave the couch.  Today I will only get out of bed.  And similar scales.  Most of my days, thankfully, land on the better and good end of the scale.  I know what it’s like when days tend to land on the other end of the scale.  When the “good” days are the days when you only have to take two naps, one pain pill, can think.   And I know that there are days in the middle days where I don’t want to or don’t have time to or am just sick of talking about being sick and so need to pass as healthy,  as having a good day.  I need to act healthy.  Despite the pain in my head, or my back, or my leg, or whatever.

There’s another time I do this.  I do this after surgery as I become healthy.  It’s actually an important skill then.  Because if I don’t start acting healthy, despite wanting to sit on the couch and sleep, despite better knowing how to be sick, I’ll never really believe that I am healthy.  I’ll never discover that I can make it down the street or up the stairs or do whatever or go where ever.

In the church I think we get caught thinking we are still sick.  Or to put in the terms we use, still dysfunctional, still caught in a prior generation’s way of thinking, still caught up in the way we’ve always done things.  We forget that the world has moved and that we, sometimes, oftentimes, haven’t.  And as this reality catches up with us, we want to take things slow.  To stay on the couch and have committee meetings, to read books, to commission studies, when what we need to do, sometimes, oftentimes, is try getting up and moving across the room.

But sometimes we need to act healthy.  Today.  Even when it seems impossible to believe that it could be true.  Even when our heads hurt or our muscles ache and the people coming to church aren’t the people we thought would come or aren’t coming at all.  Because sometimes when we act healthy we discover that we are better off than we thought we were.  Today.

Technically, no.  I have plenty of creative juice.  It goes into my sermons; it goes into the classes I teach; it goes into the plans I have for my parishes.

But then I come home and I realize that I haven’t written much else–much that wasn’t work related in a really long time.  And that I have been taken pictures.  And that I haven’t been sewing.  Or engaging in my other creative pursuits.  (Although, really, those are the big ones, the ones I’d like to continue.)

But creativity takes time.  And energy.  Not just “sure I can get up and feed myself” energy, that special kind of energy that let’s my brain make those connections.  Those connections that make a sermon spark with the congregation and help a class connect ideas and begin to make conclusions and that give the parish plans hope.

And still, I miss the other things I did.  That I will do again.  Every now and then I miss them more deeply and have to remind myself that this is only a season of my life.  That it is right and good in its own way.  And that it too will pass.

I made an extra doctor’s visit this year.  I don’t like the doctors.  Truthfully, I don’t know many people who do, but the thought of a doctor’s office has been enough to keep me dealing with pretty severe pain for an extra six months rather than schedule an appointment.  (True story, not one of my better self-care moments.)  So when I say I made an extra doctor’s visit this year, please hear that statement with some impact.

One of my medications had failed.  Spectacularly failed.  Kept me down and from work for the better part of a week failed.  Massive pain.  Barely scraping together the work I did do.  Not acceptable.  So once I’d pulled my head far enough away from the Ibuprofen bottle, the largely ineffective Ibuprofen bottle, and managed to think clearly enough to figure out which doctor to call, I scheduled an appointment.  (And then the pain kept being bad enough that I wound up in Urgent Care just to make sure I wasn’t crazy and they gave me some better drugs.  Bless them.  So I actually saw doctors two extra times.)

I like this doctor.  (I don’t go back to any medical professional I don’t like.)  We went over my symptoms and their progression and talked pain scale.  And then she started to talk about a diagnosis and changed my medication. So far it’s mostly working.

It’s not a great diagnosis, but it’s something I’ve been waiting six years to hear.  It took three years before the symptoms were bad enough to get me to a doctor’s (this includes that six-month period I mention above).  And then three years while the first round of medications worked without a proper diagnosis.

But you can’t go to a doctor with “I think there’s more to my now symptom-less problem.”  So after six years I have a diagnosis.  I can start asking for treatments and medications that will be effective.   I can stop wondering if I’m crazy, if this will fail, guessing about a cloud of mystery.

Because now I know.  Now my doctors know.  Now we can do something.  This is the power of  a diagnosis.

Today is World Suicide Day.

Most people don’t know those of us who have tried or thought about trying suicide.  Most people know about the people who have successfully committed suicided.

I’ve been suicidal.  Most recently, after my second surgery.  I think I’ve mentioned before that that surgery was the toughest one to survive.   And I almost didn’t.  I can still remember sitting in my dorm room looking at the phone and my yellow ribbon card.  I sat there for what would have been minutes but seemed like forever working up the courage, the strength, to reach out.  To fulfill the promise I’d made after the last time I’d been suicidal.  That if this ever happened again I would get help.

Eventually I made the phone call to the campus psych services.  They got me into an appointment, they told me that I was depressed, they put me on my first round of anti-depressants.  They saved my life.

I am once again, and probably for the rest of my life, taking anti-depressants.  (Search this blog for pills.  The anti-depressants are the red pills.)  By now I think I have been through enough trauma that I will be taking anti-depressants for the rest of my life.  Which makes me glad that I live in a country with healthcare, that I have a job with benefits, that I have a background that tells me it’s okay to ask for this kind of help.  It was worth it.  It was harder than anyone who has never been suicidal can understand.

My suicide stories are longer.  But I don’t, this week, have the energy to tell all of them.  So let me say this in closing.

I am glad to be alive.  Making that phone call, living up to the promise I had made to myself, was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

I’ll get back to the stories I mentioned in my last post.  First, there are things that have happened here in my life.  Last week my car broke down.  Really broke down.  Not going to start again broke down.

I live in a big state where even being on the Interstate doesn’t guarantee cell coverage, so that was the first thing that went in our favor. (Roommate who is new to my life and apartment and unlikely to appear here often was with me.)  The next thing was that I have the dealership where that car gets–um got its service done in my cell phone.  So a call to them and they called the dealership in the town closer to us and shortly a tow truck is coming.  Immediate problem #1 solved.  We would shortly not be in a broken down car on the side of the interstate.

We would still not have a working car and be in the wrong town and need to be in the right town by early tomorrow morning.  But those problems would be for later.

The tow truck came, and took the car and us to the Other Dealership.  The nice people there fit looking at the car into their schedule and offered to drop us off at the local mall.  It was going to be a couple of hours.

Friend who lives in that City caught up with us at a bookstore.  (Being my friend, he was not shocked to find me in a bookstore.)  And the car people called back to say that the car was definitively really broken.  Not going to be fixed today and possibly not at all broken.

So now we had a couple of other problems.  I drive the car.  I take care of the car.  My parents own the car.  (I love my parents.)  And it was now time to call them and tell them the really bad news.  Also, to ask for guidance.  Quickly the game plan becomes convince Original Dealership to come get car and see what they can see.  Which leaves me with the problem of being stuck in the wrong town, now carless, with Roommate.

Remember Friend who lives in the City?  And how he showed up at the bookstore?  In his car?  Yep.

That became Plan A.  (At this time I had two other plans before we wound up calling Roommate’s boyfriend.)  Friend, who is delightful and wonderful, is about to prove how delightful and wonderful he is by volunteering to drive us home.  His conditions: he’d like to eat and change first.  (He also asked for gas money, but I don’t count that as it saved me from insisting.)

We left HomeTown a little after 9 that morning.  We got home at 8:30.  It wasn’t the day we planned.  It wasn’t a great day.  But it wasn’t a terrible day either.

Mostly because I had a little help from some friends.  Some of it I asked for directly.  Some of it was offered.  Some I would keep asking for in the coming days.  Roommate’s comment when we got home was, “You are very good at asking for help.”

I still don’t know what to say in reply.

This happens.  Or at least it happens to me.  When it comes to writing, the writing I post here, the writing I do to feed the part of me that writes, I don’t actually worry too much about writer’s block.  It comes, and it will pass.  But this part of me isn’t compartmentalized.  This creative part of me is connected to my preaching, to my ability to continue to nurture and care for the people around me.  So when the writing stops, not slows down, or just doesn’t get posted, but stops, I worry.  Not that I won’t be able to do the preaching and the caring, but that if I have to start working harder to do them, the energy will have to come from somewhere.  And there just aren’t a lot of somewheres in my life right now.

It’s never that the words aren’t there
Sometimes it’s that they dance just out of my reach
Taunting me with their inaccessibility
Sometimes it’s they way they refuse to string together
Like beads on a string that is too wide
and I have lost the one talent I possess
Sometimes it is merely that I am moving too fast to find them,
Laying hidden amongst the banality of my days
Other times it is the stress or the sleep, or both, that blinds me
Most often, though, there is no reason I can point to,
Nothing I can blame, or know how to change,
For in every situation I would blame, I have, in past days
Written, with emotion and eloquence,
Leaving me with no strategy to find
No method to taking the scraps of paper and words
And coaxing them to communicate with the world, or even me
So I find myself staring at pen and paper, screen and keyboard
Remembering when these were mediums, tools, that I could use,
Remembering when I could write.

written 6-7-2010

It’s not that I don’t know that life is unfair.  It’s just that I often wish that life could be more fair.

Today I want to be mad at God
because I’m really mad at the world
and at bodies that don’t always work
and at unfairness and burdens that are too heavy
and at reality occasionally being an unfeeling bitch
with big sharp teeth and who doesn’t care about
youth and innocence and playing with friends
Because today a friend heard big words that will soon
have more meaning for her than they do for me
but right now I know that bodies don’t always work
and reality is mean and the world unfair
and that if I could be mad at God then
I could yell and scream and know that someone
listened
and God would listen if I yelled and screamed
but it would be for me and after I would still
be mad at the world which will not ever listen

written 4-10-2010

I have moved and am now into the slow process of unpacking.  The slow process of unpacking.  But there is also joy in the unpacking.  The joy of finally seeing my things spread out in my space.  The joy of seeing things that have been packed away years (about six years).    The joy of beginning to settle into my own home.  And the joy of unpacking these:

My Great-grandmother would have left her glassware and china to my mother, except my mother died a few months before my great-grandmother.  So the glassware and the china came to me instead.  And they have been waiting in boxes in my family’s garage for the last 15 years.   Until I started unpacking those boxes yesterday.  Until I was amazed at the beauty of these dishes yesterday.

What a beautiful reminder of my family’s legacy.

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