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I took on an extremely ambitious piece of writing this year for NaNoWriMo. After having to stop just short of my goal the first year due to a broken arm Thanksgiving Weekend and finishing with a product coherent enough to be in the editing process now, this year I took on an extremely heavy task. Half fiction, half non-fiction, the piece chronicled the rocky path of a crumbling marriage in a woman’s mind during her final moments. For those of you who don’t know, my marriage has been a little stressed recently as Hubby and I inventory our issues like LEGOs in attempt to put them back together in a way that works for us both, so taking on this project wa extremely personal and a bit harshly timed. I made it to almost 12,000 words before the emotional weight made it impossible to keep going, but I don’t consider this experiment a complete loss.
For one thing, what I have so far is an amazing piece. I have been adding to it here and there when I can, and when I have the time and energy to put the entire puzzle back together, I believe it will be a beautiful mosaic of words and emotions. I believe in this project, or I wouldn’t have taken it on the way I did.
Next, it was amazing therapy in some ways and an amazing awakening in others. It allowed me to get words out that I felt lost trying to express before, which meant I was able to keep a logical calm tone when dealing with Hubby in emotionally charged situations. It allowed me somewhere to put the often irrational feelings and insecurities that are mine to deal with, things that often cloud our ability to fix the shared problems. It allowed me a story board to map out my experience throughout this marriage and showed me where my own behaviour and thinking may have been the problem without a tone of blame or guilt to get in the way of resolution.
Finally, it reminded me of what I have to fight for, everything we have already fought through, and the strength we have when we fight together for something not against each other. Killing a marriage that didn’t exist helped me see the ways to save the one that does.
So, no, I don’t get the fancy winner badge, which is a shame, because I loved the graphics NaNoWriMo used this year. However, I don’t consider this a loss. Sometimes you need to both something to be able to think outside the box a little. Sometimes you need to fall to change your perspective.
Thank you , NaNoWriMo. I’ll see you next year!
Today is World Diabetes Awareness Day, so I thought I’d share my story. When I was a kid it was “a shame” because I was “so young”. As I grew older it was less tragic and more inconvenient. Diabetes had become so widespread by the time I was an adult that it was not only common but relegated to “nuisance” status by those who had never encountered it firsthand. When I wasn’t being lectured about my diet and lifestyle choices I was being sold ridiculous ideas about treatments and cures that would eliminate my dependency on insulin, from fad diets to a very specific routine that involved drinking hydrogen peroxide. Diabetes became an urban legend that crept into as many conversations as it could. Everyone had an aunt or a friend who had diabetes “real bad” and suffered immeasurably because of their own sad shortcomings. Everybody knew somebody, but nobody really knew much about Diabetes itself. I’m not here to educate. Most people who actually want to know anything about this disease will do some reading. It’s out there. I’m here to tell you what they don’t tell you in books. What happens to your life while Diabetes is doing what it does to your body.
By the time I was diagnosed at age 9 my mom had been a diabetic for over 15 years. As a kid she was given a pretty short expiration date, and how we dealt with diabetes in children was dismal and rare. We knew very few details about how blood sugar and body chemistry worked and even less about how systems in the body interact. We were shooting blind, and we were losing. My mom lost her sight just before I was born, and people had the nerve to condemn her for keeping the pregnancy that would do such a thing. Instead of giving up, she persevered. She learned braille, learned to take care of a newborn, and would eventually go one to be an advocate for people with disabilities and an education facilitator for other blind people.
For me there were few options when it came to routine, but my Diabetes was much different from my mother’s Diabetes. We were beginning to count carbs and categorize food. We knew that there were things other than food and exercise that affected one’s blood sugar, we just didn’t yet have a system for managing Diabetes that took into account a child’s changing body, other conditions, or fluctuating schedule. Instead we were heavily restricted and chastised for not being perfectly regimented. I went to camp for a few summers, but I came home in almost worse shape than I was beforehand. I made some good friends, but they all seemed to be getting it, and I just wasn’t. Around the time I began to take a dedicated interest in my own health I was patronized and treated like I was stupid, so I stopped caring for a long time. If no one was going to help me I certainly wasn’t going to waste any more effort with something that wasn’t working.
Right before my thirteenth birthday my mom died of complications from her Diabetes. The curse that had loomed over her since childhood had given her twice as long as she’d been promised. For me it meant the one person who understood my frustration when I felt like I just couldn’t get it right was gone, and my teenage year were full of doctors and educators and adults telling me why they thought I was failing. I was lectured instead of taught. I was reprimanded instead of being listened to. I felt like giving up. To this day I will walk out of a doctor’s office and never return the moment my mother’s life and death is used to scare me to health. Did I see what it did to her? Of course I did. Does it help to hold it in my face like a death sentence? Never, and I won’t tolerate it.
By the time I left for college I was floundering. I had researched newer insulins and better routines, but my medical team refused. My driving privileges had been revoked because that same team told the California DMV that I showed nothing but disregard for my own health and safety, and to this day I don’t have a driver’s license. Then I lost my health insurance. Say what you want about the Affordable Care Act, but I know what it’s like to dodge colds like the plague hoping you don’t end up in the hospital. I know what it’s like to get insulin in the mail. I know what it’s like to consider every ridiculous idea that comes to you, because I couldn’t even pay for my own health insurance with a pre-existing condition and the state wouldn’t give me any unless I was homeless and pregnant.
I was lucky to find a job with reasonable health care benefits. I was even more lucky to finally find an endocrinologist who would listen and work with me. Because of her I learned about inflammatory disorders, autoimmune issues, and insulin resistance. Because of her I found something that made me feel like maybe I wasn’t just waiting to die.
When I met my husband he had an insulin pump but little else by way of education. Having been diagnosed as an adult, he had been forced to put himself int he hospital before his doctors would even consider the idea that he might need insulin, a pretty common situation adults with Type 1 find themselves stuck in. In helping him I began to re-educate myself, and therein started my pump journey. It hasn’t made me perfect, but it has enriched my life exponentially. A few years later I would add a CGM, and it’s like a whole new life.
About six years ago my stepson, who was 2 at the time, was diagnosed, and his Diabetes gives me hope that he won’t have the childhood I did. While it won’t be easy for him, we have tried to make it just another thing that he does, not something he HAS to do that will breed resentment. While I know he will have his phases, his ups and downs, and his failures, we are trying to instill in him an open dialogue atmosphere as two adults who know what it’s like to try your hardest and still have a bad day or not try your hardest because you’re human and pull yourself back from it.
So here’s what the books don’t tell you about Diabetes:
It was June, 2001, and it was the first time I had ever felt strong, independent, and capable. Not that my family hadn’t encouraged me to explore my personality. For the better part of seventeen years they had patiently supported my every weird, geeky, alternative, freakish whim, at least the ones I felt comfortable enough to speak about. Here, though, in downtown Nashville, was the first time I was given the reigns of those whims, and I was using it to wander aimlessly. My clothes were way too black and way too hot for June in Tennessee. My self-confidence was an illusion, and my body image issues had no concern for the fact that I might die of heat stroke if I ventured out of my comfort zone of body cloaking drapes. I was, to sum it up, awkward.
I’ve told the story of what came next a few times. I met a boy and his tribe. I made friends with a group of Rainbow Gathering kids and street gypsies, and the experience changed my life and how I would choose to live and love for the rest of it. I would find the courage to follow my heart.
Don’t worry, I’m not telling that story again; I’m honouring the woman who made it possible.
Mrs Judith Flannery. Mrs Flannery throughout my high school career. Judy thereafter.
Mrs Flannery was my college counselor, and her presence lit up Holy Names High School like a Christmas tree. She was always smiling, always encouraging, and always finding new ways to inspire the swarms of girls that filled the halls of the nook of a school perched in the Oakland Hills. To our class in particular, she was the embodiment of Spirit, and even on my darkest days I couldn’t help but smile when she spoke to me.
My senior year a close friend and I convinced Mrs Flannery to agree to be the voice of reason and eyes of supervision on a trip to a week-long country music festival in Nashville. To our astonishment, she agreed. Not only did she agree, but she got excited! It was settled. We got our parental permission and made our plans, and a week after graduation we boarded a plane to Nashville.
I was slightly startled when Mrs Flannery suggested that first day that we each explore for a while in whatever way we wished before meeting for dinner. This was how “adults” took vacation, and I had never been an “adult” on a vacation. Where would I go? What would I do?
Then it dawned on me. Anything I wanted.
The introvert in me smiled to herself. The latent explorer in me leapt with joy. We were free!
At dinner I told Judy about my encounter with the cute street kid selling hot dogs in the parking lot, fully expecting a lecture or tighter reins. Instead, her response was, “Well, why don’t you go? You have a room key. Just call me if you’re not going to be there when I wake up.”
Really? I had never been trusted not to get myself killed in my life! In retrospect, I may not have been proving that by following a group of strangers around Nashville at all hours of the night, but I returned unscathed each and every time, so Judy continued to encourage my little tryst in Music City. She even looked the other way when they snuck into one of the concerts we attended. They were charming. Even Judy was enchanted, or at least tolerant enough to act like it.
The day we left Nashville I trekked downtown alone to say my goodbyes. The trip home was quiet and bittersweet, and even I had no idea what I was carrying back with me that day. A sense of purpose. A sense of self. A confidence. An awakened heart and spirit. Judy didn’t need to. She never asked. She simply sat next to me at the airport and hugged me for as long as it took for me not to feel lost. As she had done for the previous 4 years, she made everything seem like something I would not only survive, but really live through.
We kept in sporadic touch over the years. Facebook can be a blessing that way. I was always happy to tell Judy how my life was going, and she always had some words of support or wisdom and a bright, cheery story to tell me. I know things weren’t always sunshine and flower in Judy’s world, but you would never know it. It was inspiring.
I write this today because the friend with whom I took that trip informed me last week that Judy had passed away.
Before I could message back, she added, “the first thing I thought about was our trip to Nashville”.
I was touched with an unexpected sadness, but overwhelmed by the feeling of how blessed I was to have known Judy and how grateful I am that she was a part of my life. Without her, who knows how I would have been introduced to my soul.
Thank you, Judy. From the bottom of my inspired, free, open heart.
(Apologies for being late…WordPress obviously didn’t save my post scheduling. )
As the Harvest Moon passes and Mabon approaches, I feel my spirit beginning to reach for the balance that comes with the season. Summer has been a time of adventure, love, and growth, and now it’s time to slow down a little bit and prepare for what the dark season brings.
Preparation. What have I been continuing to spend energy on that just isn’t being fruitful? What am I still clinging to that’s just taking up space. (Remember this post?) What and who do I want keeping me company for the cold, dark, introspective time ahead? The answer to these questions make a huge difference in how I emerge in the spring. The most important question for me to answer is just that, How do I want to emerge in the spring?
At Mabon, the second harvest, we begin to see exactly what we will have with which to move forward. We’ve all heard the phrase We reap what we sow, and this is the harvest where we can no longer hope for anything other than what we have. All we can do is accept what we have created and give thanks, yes, even for what we don’t want. Why? Because every failure is a chance to celebrate a success, every step back is a chance to thank what has helped us move forward, and every downswing is a chance to know that balance is soon restored. Every weakness we weed from our crops is a chance to remember how strong we can be, that this is not the first or worst winter we will ever face. Every year we face the darkness, and every year we emerge. The harvest of Mabon decides how we will nourish and reshape ourselves in that time.
The time between Mabon and Yule is the window through which we feel the strength of the sun diminish and begin to build up our inner strength. At least where I live in the Northeast, it is usually the post Yule part of the wheel that is the most harsh weather-wise. Genreally this is how life flows as well. The joy, social glow, and distraction of the holidays will be over, and cabin fever will begin to set in. We become frustrated with the cold, with each other, and with the state in which life has been frozen solid, knowing we’ve still got a few months before the warmth returns. This is where our true strength is integral to our survival, here in the thick of winter. This window between the two seasons is the place where we build up that strength and prepare ourselves. This window is where we decide what makes us strong and what makes us weak, and we act accordingly.
So take this day to celebrate and give thanks, then take some time to visualize who you want to be when you emerge in the spring. Decide how to manifest that you in the interim. I have all the faith in you.
There is a saying:
It’s not about the years in the life but the life in the years.
Nana had both. At 100 years old she had seen, done, and lived through more than any of us can imagine. How different life and the world have become in the past 100 years, yet this tiny woman faced it all with enough spirit, love, strength, and faith to carry five generations of family on two coasts for most of that time without missing a birthday, holiday, or special event in any of our lives. Many of the things we learned in school as history, these things were her life, and she could tell you where much of it was wrong. To really sit and have a conversation with her, even recently, was to take a journey through time. You might not learn about the Great Depression or her days as a Rosie the Riveter, but you would hear about a lifetime of love and joy.
This is not to say she didn’t have heartache or problems, but she rode the waves and kept going. I won’t say she never said a bad word to anyone, because we always knew what was on Nana’s mind. She was stubborn, like most of the women in our family, but she was strong, and there is not a single picture of her that shows her doing anything but enjoying life, because she knew that the secret to life is to live it and leave the rest to…well, life.
Life. Nana’s attitude on life can be summed up in one sentence she said to me right before I left for college in 2001. While the advice I got was mainly about taking care of myself and calling home to check in, Nana’s words were short and sweet. “Be safe, but have fun.” Those words have come back to me every time erring on the side of caution turns to limiting myself with worry or insecurity. Every time I’ve thought things hopeless or finite, I’ve heard her voice saying “eh, we shall see” or what would eventually become her catch phrase, “God willing”.
Life. Nana imbued life into our family like a vein. Her house, and later her rooms, were wallpapered in pictures of family, both old and new. The last things she asked for were her cross and a picture of her family.
Life. Even towards the end she was still asking about my family and my life, because to Nana life was what mattered. All of ours. People she met. People she loved. People she believed in. People with whom she shared her life, all 100 years of it.
Life. It is because of Nana that I continue to choose the beauty, joy, and love of life over the struggles we face daily. It is because of Nana that I am not afraid to stand my ground and make my voice heard no matter how small I feel. It is because of Nana that every birthday song I sing is followed in my head by a tiny voice adding “and many more”.
And many more.
Go now, Nana. Safe crossing. Thank you for sharing your life with us all.
I know this is a couple of weeks late, but life has a way of getting chaotic around Lammas every year.
As with any harvest festival, at Lughnasad we tend to focus on celebration and gratitude for bounty. Indeed, we should be extremely grateful for the boons bestowed upon us and celebrate the rewards of hard work. There is, however, a much more important side to this harvest. This is where we begin to tear up the plants that are no longer producing fruit in order to plant late summer crops. This is where we sort the unusable from the produce worth keeping. This is where we make decisions about what we can store and what needs to be thrown away.
We tend to be a modern culture of acquisition and fear of loss, which leads to hoarding, surplus, and waste. We do it with physical possessions, people, and emotions that no longer have a place in our lives. It’s hard to let go for fear of starving, but holding on to everything indiscriminately means risking the whole lot being spoiled or there not being enough room for what’s good and healthy. This can be a painful process. The wrong choice can be devastating, but even the right call can be tough at first.
This year has been one of, quite frankly, too many goodbyes. What started as a fruitful year all too quickly fell fallow and began to rot, and the only way to survive has been to make some terrifying sacrifices. I pared down my commitments, simplified a lot of my personal life, and cut ties with people who were detrimental to my growth. There have been deaths that touched me personally and a second chance that blossomed into a beautiful friendship only to be pulled from the ground like a weed and left for dead.
All of these things have weighed me down when there are so many things for which I should be grateful. All of these things have cast a shadow on a season that should be full of light, music, and celebration. There is too much rain, too little sunshine, and no way to know what will survive enough to see me through the dark season. I imagine this is how Lugh felt throwing a funereal feast for his mother who became an agricultural goddess. Imagine mourning the loss of a parent while exalting her gift to the Mother Earth and her people.
As anyone who suffers from depression knows, there’s a constant dichotomy at play. We must try to keep pushing forward, We must try to keep finding joy in the every day. We must feel our sorrows, move on from them, and keep looking for sunshine. On Lughnasad I am reminded that this is only the first harvest. There is more to come. There is more to eschew, but there is also more to grow and store in my heart and spirit. Not everything is lost. Not everything has dies. Not everything is gone, and that which is probably needs to be. These fields will not be fallow forever unless I stop cultivating.
Go now, cultivate and know the sun is shining, even if you can’t see it.
There are words that push me over a precipice when I’m upset. Mainly “It’s OK”.
It’s OK. Wait, it’s OK? Well, then, I guess all this snot and crying is for nothing! I might as well just stop this instant.
No, friends. It’s not OK, hence all the snot and crying, and it makes me livid to hear these words used to comfort me.
When did we become a society that devalues being upset? Why are we so afraid of raw emotion? What makes us say anything just to make it stop? When women are upset they’re hysterical or histrionic. When men are upset they’re unstable or weak. Why should human emotion make one a pariah?
It has always been stressed during group rituals that there is a serious rule about interjecting when someone gets emotional unless there is an obvious emergency. Why? Because to interrupt is to rob someone of an integral part of the experience. Granted, being sad and going to someone for emotional support isn’t a ritual experience, but it is still very important to see it out. I’ve told Hubby in the past that I don’t ever expect him to fix my problems, I just want to know I’m not alone while I process them.
Being upset is a sign. It means something in our life is important enough to be upset over. It’s an impetus for change and growth. It’s a push to rid ourselves of what’s holding us back so that life can heal us the way it’s meant to.
I know most people mean well when they say “it’s OK”, and most of the time what they mean is “it’s going to be OK”, but it’s a cop-out to the obvious. Instead, what anyone who is upset and reaching out for comfort needs to remember is, “it’s not OK, and that’s alright”.
Eighteen years ago tomorrow I melted into the couch trying to disappear while I processed the fact that my mother was dead. I didn’t want everyone gathered around me. I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to react in front of anyone. I just wanted to soak into the beige cushions and have my moment, but at 12 years old everyone expected something different, something extravagant and wild that required taming and tending. I didn’t. I absorbed the information and took a shower, because it was the only place I could go and not be followed. I spent the next several days trying to gauge what was expected of me. I helped plan a funeral for the first time. I went with my best friend and her mom to buy something nice to wear with no idea what acceptable mourning attire for someone in my position could possibly be. I settled on a navy blue skirt with flowers on it. My goth stage wouldn’t flood my life with black until a year or so later.
Eighteen years ago today, however, was a very different experience. One of life.
You always remember the last time you heard someone’s voice before they leave your world. I remember her laughter and her words. I remember mine. I have since had to uproot my guilt over not going to visit as I had promised and how nonchalantly I threw in that last “love you, bye” as only adolescence can cast. She was coming home the next day. I was excited, but I didn’t feel any particular need to drag it out over the phone. This would change how I handle phone calls, I-love-yous, and anticipation for the rest of my life, because the next day she simply didn’t come home.
Yesterday I took a walk around the cemetery to clear my head. Eighteen years after the last time I hugged her my mom is still the best friend I go to for guidance, as I’ve developed a habit of laying on the grass under the tree she’s buried near and telling her all the things I can’t articulate anywhere else. It’s the only place I can reach the voice inside me that has answers, because the part of her that lives within me is something I wasn’t capable of recognizing as a preteen.
One of the things I inherited from my mother was her capacity to see the good in people. Whatever she called it, that woman embraced the spirit of Aloha in the very air she breathed. No one was ever turned away from her heart, and to those she gave pieces of it too she gave everything. For a long time I tried to run from that part of myself. I tried to cage it up, wall it in, and silence it for good. I hated it. I hated myself for it. I struggled for years with the very thing that makes me who I am, because I had let it shine only to have it ripped out, held in front of me, and tortured before my very eyes. I had watched something beautiful be eviscerated in the name of love, and I couldn’t fathom anything worth experiencing that again. The lesson from my mother’s last day had not yet sunk in.
So let’s go back to that week.
My mother’s funeral was the first I had ever planned. The first at which I had ever spoken. The first I had ever attended. The first time I had personally shaken Death’s hand had taken from me the most important person in my life, and the seeds of this lesson were planted. Since then I have been to more funerals than I can count, spoken at many of them, and helped plan seven. Family, friends, children. Old, young, unborn. Sick, sudden, at their own hands. Loss. Loss is something you never get used to and something you can never truly plan for no matter how hard you try. Loss is where the seeds Death planted the day my mother said, “if you’re not coming today, don’t bother, because I’m going home tomorrow” and I chose to stay home instead begin to sprout. Loss is where those sprouts blossom into regret and sadness every time one of those last conversations is replayed in the back of my mind. Loss is where I gained the strength and courage to let the part of me which my mother tried so hard to cultivate within me finally be free, because the only thing that can grow taller than Death’s crops in my soul is love.
There are times when I doubt. There are times when I’m told that opening myself up to love this way makes me weak and vulnerable. There are times when I’m told it’s ignorant and ugly to let my heart be naked this way. Not everyone appreciates it. I’m called crazy, overwhelming, and naive every time I put my heart at risk, but to me this risk is far more acceptable that the one that someone I love never knew it. In this lesson my mother’s voice lives on. In this way her heart continues to love. In this way I am showing her every day how much I loved her and how important she was to me, not just as my mother but as the fire that burns within me.
I’ve written about it before, the reasons I love the way I do. What it all boils down to is that love is something you can’t do halfway or there’s no point in doing it at all. It can hurt. It can burn. It can tear you apart when you least expect it, but so can regret, fear, and doubt. At least my way I also run the risk of being happy and loved in return, and that’s the secret my mom knew.
“What would you say,” a friend posed to me as I sat at his table, “to a friend who had just told you what you just told me?” We had been discussing certain decisions coming up in my life and what I should consider when making them. He was right. If I took the sentiment and nostalgia out of the situation the answer I was looking for was right in front of my face. I just didn’t want to accept it. I tried to take what he had said to heart, and in the following days I gained such a powerful sense of clarity that I felt foolish for not having seen it before. I knew what I had to do, but I also knew that this meant fortifying my relationship with myself.
Then there came this night. A night when all the love and support in the world was gone, and everything was quiet. A night when loneliness took over, and my only option was to learn to stand up in the darkness by myself. You know what? In that moment I learned what it was like to become my own best friend, to really trust myself to be available for me when I needed a little extra strength and love, and to actually do so.
Don’t get me wrong, my outer support circle is fantastic, but they can’t be with me all the time. I cannot allow myself to become dependent. I also cannot allow myself to become self-destructive when left to my own devices. I must learn to thrive and enjoy being alone, and this is a very fresh lesson. I must learn to do this myself or it will overpower me. The darkness, the silence, the solitude. It all comes from within, so it is from within that it must be overcome.
What would I say to a friend? Nothing. She already knows the answers. She already has the seeds of change within her. She just needs a friend. It’s up to me to be that friend.
My last post, quite aptly the one about patience, was my 200th post for Pearls and Pentagrams. Wow, has life changed since the very first. It was 2009. My health was in shambles, and my goal was strengthening my body. Through the years I have met and exceeded everybody’s expectations where it comes to my health and life in general. I have ignored everyone who told me to give up, to go on disability, and to forsake the life I have already wanted. Since that first post I have gone through transitions I never thought I’d pull through and made changes I never thought possible. I’ve healed wounds from my past, I’ve acquired some new scars, and I continue to grow and change. It seems only fitting that 201 would come in a season full of game changers. It also seems fitting that today I encountered the Star Trek TNG episode “11001001”, which if you don’t know is 201 in binary , which wraps up with the comment “some relationships just can’t work” (An interesting tidbit about the number 201..it’s binary sequence with a period added after the second digit is an approximation of Pi, which is also an important number in my life.)
So now that I’ve gone off on that tangent about numbers and such, what does it all mean. I won’t go over the whole episode or what’s happening in my life currently, but what it boils down to is that sometimes how life looks and acts changes in one moment of clarity. The last five years have made me a completely different person, and it has changed the basic makeup of my life. I’ve tried my best to make it stay certain ways, and I’ve tried my best to change it in certain ways, but I cannot change fundamental programming.
This is where I ask you all for patience. Look for huge shifts coming down the line friends. Not all of them are positive, but all of them are for the best, even if I don’t know what that end result looks like yet. I went through some of this last year, and I found excuses why it wasn’t right. It wasn’t. But now is. Life, friends, cannot always be calculated, nor can we hold on to parts of it we wished would hang on forever if they’re just not there anymore.
I can’t tell you how the blog will change. I can’t tell you how I will change. I can only promise this is how growth happens.
Go now…look back over 5 years. How have you changed?