Saturday, July 22, 2017

To See a Rainbow, There Must First Be Rain

Sometimes you have to watch from around the corner while people endure the most heart wrenching pain imaginable.  And, you are helpless to do anything that can make a difference at all....and watch, you pray, you cry, you do whatever little things you can to help...and you learn.

You learn that during an inexplicable tragedy like the sudden loss of multiple lives, there is really nothing else on earth that really matters.  Petty issues, problems, dysfunction, spats, quarrels, hurt feelings and unkind and unthinking words pretty much pale in comparison.  You relearn that any issues you have with anyone had better be taken care of because that chance could be ripped away from you with no warning and you will be left with a whole lot of "things I wish I'd dones" and "things I wish I'd saids."

You also learn than no one owns the corner at the intersection of Heartbreak and Grief.  We all get to travel through there at varying degrees.  Some of us are merely riding through in someone else's vehicle trying to help, while others of us are driving our own car....and often, we feel incredibly alone even when we are not.
I think it is telling of us as humans how we handle the situations where we are unbelievably raw.  Do we take the time to understand that everyone grieves, suffers, and experiences pain in different ways?  Or do we expect everyone to respond exactly like we do?

It is my belief that we could avoid some of the pitfalls of dealing with grief if we could come to grips with whether our own responses stem from sympathy/compassion or empathy, even though those qualities are related.  While they are related they are also different.  Empathetic people have the ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person.  Compassion/sympathy takes those feelings and thoughts and works them into the desire to help.  So does this mean that these two qualities are two sides of the same coin?  I think in most cases it does.  We have to be careful not to get stuck in our empathy and not progress on to how we can best help to improve a situation.  Narcissistic people cannot recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others and in my experience some of those people are rabid empaths.  They feel the emotions at the center of the issue but they assume them as their own and it becomes more about them than anyone else.  They are stuck in their own place, never moving forward or helping in any tangible way.

Feelings of grief are like fireflies.  Even when the night has passed where they have burned the brightest, they sometimes flicker at the most inopportune moments in the light of day.  Some of us need to release those feelings in very vocal ways while others of us internalize, and then one day, we are taken to our knees from the overwhelming weight of what we feel.

You see things everyday on television where people say things like "well she/he never even cried."  Maybe not.  Maybe they never did....maybe they simply just died inside.  Speaking personally, I have a bit of a tendency to under-react the closer and bigger things are to me.  When my mom passed away...I was pretty stoic...I was sad, incredibly tired, and more than a little confused.  But probably my behavior wasn't as overtly grief stricken as some might deem appropriate.  Then a month later, a little dog I cared about was killed and I went absolutely to pieces.  It was about the dog....somewhat.  But, it was more about the fact I had squashed down all that agony over mom and once I allowed it oxygen to breathe it roared into a fire I had difficulty dealing with.

I once had to try to explain to someone why they needed to try to realize that while the death of someone was painful to them, they needed to understand their own place inside the pattern.  In this case it was the mother of their friend.  She had treated them incredibly well and they had spent a lot of time around her and they were suffering, and I knew that.  But I explained to them that to allow their feelings to overtake them when there were others closer to the epicenter of the issue would not be very helpful.  That event firstly happened to the woman, then her husband, children, parents and grandparents if they were still living, and siblings,  then extended family members - aunts, uncles, cousins and then friends and acquaintances.  I had to gently remind my own suffering child that while he loved her a lot, he needed to try to stand strong for his friend who had just
lost his mother.  In that moment, he needed to express sympathy and compassion and find a way to help, even though I knew that he absolutely "felt" that pain.  It was not intended to diminish his own feelings but to try to help move him to a place of positive contribution as opposed to rushing into a burning building carrying a can of gasoline.

In the long run, it is my hope that every instance of grief can serve as a catalyst to repairing relationships, healing hurt feelings, and learning to live life a little better day by day.  To come more and more often from a place of kindness and love.  To look more and more to the creator of us all as our ultimate destination on this journey called life which unfortunately is filled with many rest stops called grief.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Moving Mother

It has been a minute since I shared a mom story, but this one popped into my memory today.

After daddy died, Mom spent a while trying to stay in Amarillo, but she just wasn't happy there.  Since I was her only biological child, she wisely decided she should move closer to me.  Plans began to be made as to how to accomplish such a mammoth move.

At that time, my husband worked for a local company here that often had trucks dead heading back to Arkansas and his company generously offered to let us move mom's household stuff in one of those trucks.  We hired about 5 man power guys to pack and load her belongings and we had someone who was also responsible for carting all the stuff to storage that she didn't want to bring right now.

We had already sourced a great apartment in a really nice neighborhood and location so once her things arrived, mom was soon settled in. 

Several months passed and she let us know that she was ready to have the stuff from storage that she had left behind in Amarillo.  It was right around Thanksgiving time so Roger and I both took off work and told her we would go to Amarillo and get the rest of her stuff. 

Mom assured us that it would all fit in Roger's Chevy truck , so off we went.

We got into Amarillo pretty late so we opted to motel it for a night and hit it hard early the next morning.  November in the panhandle of Texas is usually pretty chilly and that year was no exception but we bravely set out the next morning to the storage complex with our truck, ready to load up and head home.

When we arrived at the storage place, I took the key mom had provided and soon learned it.was.NOT.the.right.key.  So now we have quite a conundrum.  Between Roger's pockets, my purse, the key ring mom had given me, the glove box in the truck and the console we had probably seven sets of keys.  We tried each one of them one by one.  Wonder of miraculous wonders, one of the keys on one of Roger's key rings worked!  How?  I have no idea.  God took pity on us.

We were elated.

It was short lived.

When that storage door rolled up, we were met with a solid wall of Rubbermaid tubs, boxes, barrels, and loose household furniture.  In short, we were about a semi-truck short of the needed equipment to get it all home. we went to U-Haul to rent a trailer....oh, and have a trailer hitch installed because the one on our truck would not work for the trailer we rented.  That all took the better part of a day.  By now, I can see my husband's patience is starting to fray.

We decided to not continue, but to load up the next day and head home.  So, we spent another night in a motel, something we were not  financially well prepared for at that time.
The next morning was freaking freezing and the wind was blowing straight out of the north at about 50 miles an hour.

We loaded as much in the truck as we could and started filling up the trailer.  Each item that went in to that trailer made me doubt that we would find room for everything in the storage unit.  We were quickly running out of space.  So we decided to double stack the truck and tarp it.

We found a Walmart out in the middle of Nowheresville, literally sitting all by itself out there on the prairie in Amarillo.  We bought a tarp, some rope, a pair of scissors and began the task of securing our load for a long drive back to Arkansas.

Trying to wrestle that tarp in gale force freezing winds could easily become an Olympic event.  Roger finally made me get in the truck because we were both freezing and I know he was probably muttering profane statements regarding my he didn't want me to hear and take issue with.

So, I'm in the cab of the truck with the heater blowing, teeth chattering, watching to see if he signals for help.  As I'm watching, he lays the scissors down on the edge of the truck bed to secure the tarp with rope and the wind lifts the scissors and blows them OVER the truck.

At that moment, Roger opens the truck door, crawls inside and says "f this, we are going home."  This is not his usual preferred I knew that the patience had flown and I needed to tread carefully or I might too.

And so we started for Arkansas just in time to travel in a freezing rain storm that ended up laying a solid sheet of ice on the highway.

We must have been quite the sight...flapping tarp, piles of useless junk and pulling a U-Haul.  Each attempt to find a place to eat devolved into pulling into places that had no power due to the ice storm, or simply had no food.

I honestly can't remember how long it took us to get home, but it wasn't a quick or pleasant trip.  But, mom was happy to have her stuff and she was wildly unapologetic about our trials and tribulations to make that happen for her.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

And Now a Word About Bullying

Bullying.  Was this a thing back in the day?  I'm pretty sure at some point in our lives, we have all been technically bullied.  Or......we have been on the pitching side of some pretty nasty behavior to others.  I seem to remember people calling me a loud mouth (that hasn't changed), some even called be a word that rhymes with witch (again, still appropriate), and I was often told I was too skinny (would that I had that problem today, too freckled (those faded...or were eaten by wrinkles), and also that I was just down right ugly (that one hurt because I thought I looked like my mom and I thought she was the most gorgeous thing ever).  But, I also remember in elementary school being part of a nasty little set of "mean girls" who mercilessly picked on a girl someone deemed "less than."  I am to this day not sure why I did that because I actually liked the girl and had spent the night with her a time of two and every now and then, her brother was my boyfriend.  But, I did it and it wasn't until a teacher, my favorite teacher who I thought probably went home at night and unfolded her angel wings, pulled me to her side one day and told me how disappointed she me.

It killed me.

In any case...I don't think bullying is new and I don't think it is worse than it's ever been.  And, I know it is an important subject and of great merit as a teaching moment.  And, I also know that for probably at least 5 years now, it has been front and center of a lot of teaching, preaching and in some cases over reaching.

My flakes are frosted over the grown people in this country who are daily whining, crying and having to seek out crayons and play dough because some other grown up "bullied" them.

To my way of thinking the overuse of the "bullying" tactic is basically making it increasingly ineffective in the areas where it should really matter.  Children, the aged, the handicapped, the infirm and the otherwise challenged individuals for whom we should all make a stand.

When a grown man says a female "bullied" him - I cringe.  Maybe I'm not terribly evolved but I mean really dude?  Just how big of a "baby" are you?  I am proud to say that there isn't a single man in my acquaintance who would resort to emasculating himself in this manner.  They would either smile and walk away noting to themselves, that you, dear, are a horrible human being or they would call you out not as a bully but as an awful person, and let the chips fall where they may.  If you were another male, their response would be different and could possibly involve fisticuffs or pistols at 50 paces, but call you a bully?  Nope.  Not even.  They might call you something else, but they would never relinquish that inherent maleness by slapping a "victim of a bully" label on themselves.

When we, as a society, decide to verbally needlepoint trendy buzz words on our feelings pillows, those words lose their meaning and their strength little by little.  Plus, in resorting to always feeling like we are the victims of bullying, we are depriving ourselves of the opportunity to utilize our people skills, our powers of persuasion, our finesse, and our intelligence, some cases even our attractiveness to the opposite sex.  Yes.  I went there.  But ultimately, we deprive ourselves of the ability to "rise" and show just how tough we are in a crisis.

Can we please save the word "bullying" for the playground
Or for those among us who truly need a strong voice advocating for them against real bullies, real threats, real dangers and real problems.

Merely getting your "feels" hurt or your proverbial panties in a twist just simply isn't enough.