Monday, June 23, 2014

Welcome Back

Saturday morning feeling safe and loved in the world, I am recalling and writing about something new and exciting as I wait for my ex husband to pick me up for a concert and some overnight fun.........


"Welcome back" he said, gazing into my eyes as if he had been waiting at my bedside as I awoke from a long uncertain coma.  He said it spontaneously, as I had just stopped giggling and was wiping the tears from my eyes and looking up at him.  His statement could have been taken more than one way as we have just begun to rediscover our love for each other after almost 2 years apart.  But I knew, he was speaking directly to the spirit of Joyce.  The one who was buried with her son, and the loss of so many dreams before that when their marriage had ended.  The goofy, tap dancing, beer drinking yoga pushing, veggie eating, girl.  The girl who, when something struck her funny, would burst out into a laugh that sounded a bit like Goofy falling down a well was starting to pop out for cameo appearances from behind the heavy black velvet curtains of grief.

Why now?  Could be that he makes me feel safe again or because he truly understands the depth of the pain I have suffered, with real empathy.  If he can smile and enjoy life without guilt, why shouldn't I? At the same time, could be that I have found my way out of a cycle of helping the un-helpable and did the work, distancing myself from a few, I would call "toxic influences" in my life.


Monday morning,  feeling sick, scared and remorseful....

I never get sick!! But here I sit in my bed with 102 fever and a relentless cough.  Why did we drink so much scotch?  Too much alcohol and un-addressed pain, not a good recipe for a nice night.  It started off with the mention of Jake and then my tears pouring out as I lay on his chest.  I cant deny I have been looking forward to this pity party.  A safe place with someone who really gets it.  I let out a gurgling whine of what I think is obvious, "this pain, I just want it to go away, and I know that wont happen until the day I die, sometimes I wish that I would just die, so I wouldnt have to feel it anymore."  Not sure if it was the alcohol, the timing or the words that enraged him, but the next thing I know, he is up, ranting at me.. "you are so self absorbed, you robbed me of the chance to say goodbye to him!"  I am shocked, caught off guard. "Could he honestly believe that I knew Jake was going to die and didnt tell him to get there?  What about Jakes brothers? Did I rob them as well or was I just way too optimistic when I told everyone to hold off and come in a few months when Jake would need them to pump him up in rehab?" With his one comment, the lovely soft rug of comfort and safety I thought I had found to stand on, strong and no longer alone, is yanked out from under me as I tumble down into the rabbit hole of "nobody understands what I have been through" once again. It got ugly, real ugly, as he let the flood gates of unsaid rotting disgust for me sludge out. Of course, what do I do?  Run.  I find myself in a cab at 4am with a dead phone wishing I would have given him the compassion and explanations he needed and deserved.  Maybe I am self absorbed and attached to the idea of finding someone to hand the burden of raising my spirits on a day to day basis and boarding up the abandon mine of of pain and suffering. Perhaps he needs the same from me.  I call him from my bed and he is obviously shaken, sounds to me like he was just as surprised as I was to what was inside that Pandoras box.  We end up agreeing that we need a safe place to express this bottled up, shoved down confusion.  For once in my life, I know it is worth working on.  That I want to work with him and find our safe place together. He spent his Sunday cooking me soup and feeding me vitamins then put me to bed and went home.  I love him.  As deep as our pain is, our love is much deeper.  We shall overcome.  This love affair is something neither of us expected, but neither could resist.  For now, I just dont want to lose the joy I have found having him back in my life.  We have agreed to keep the darkness compartmentalized with a bereavement counselor and give our love the chance to blossom in the light of family and friends.  I am hopeful.

I wish I would have sent him this song months and months ago.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Standing in my truth.

Readers forgive me for I have sinned. It has been 5 months since my last post.  Since then, more interesting and inspiring events have occurred in our families journey through this most interesting forest of healing and enlightenment.

Back during winter break for example, While Justice was visiting some friends in Arizona, he ran into some navy sailors on the street during a New Years celebration.  Justice, who rarely shares his experience with the loss of his brother, felt compelled to open up. The hugs, and empathy from these men where a welcome and unexpected surprise to him.  I mean, who runs into a group of Sailors in the middle of the desert? When Justice told me this story on his return, the first thing I said was "I guess Jake was there to wish you a Happy New Year!  His response was "thats exactly what it felt like".  While on his trip Justice also text me and said, "guess who is a member of the overcomers club?"  It was his carefree, super positive friend Josh,  I wont violate Joshs family privacy, suffice it to say, that this kid has not had it easy and you would never guess.  But the fact that he shared his story with Justice on this trip was just another sign that we attract what we are or maybe what we need. The interesting question, is do we attract them to teach, learn or both.  Regardless, what a beautiful gift to make others feel that they are not alone and a glorious reminder that we should be gentle with everyone we meet as you never know what may make them cry themselves to sleep.  

With Justice away, and Jojo spending some time with her cousins I found myself alone... for days.  I have been afraid of what this kind of time might bring about in my mind.  What happened was not at all what I expected.  The sweet surprise was the little conversations with my soul, tiny moments of gratitude bubbling up that were finally given permission to appear without distractions and interruptions of our usually busy little home.   Tiny inspirations popped,  "I love my little house, thank you Jacob for this beautiful gift", "I am so grateful to work in my PJs sipping coffee and watching the humming birds outside my window instead of running off to punch a clock"  I found myself taking time to walk in the sunshine, walking slow was challenge, and I noticed it as a bit of a metaphor for the way I live my life, "just get there, take the shortest route, hurry up."  A stroll through the park, consciously keeping a slow steady pace took me hours to master. The exercise was purifying, calming and very enjoyable.  Is this joy showing up?  Hello!  I have missed you the most!

Many people have told me, when I expressed my inability to experience real joy even for a brief giggling moment with the kids, before it was whisk away on a raging river of what ifs and why mes, to put on some good  music.  I finally have started singing in my car and  dancing in the kitchen while cooking!  Which means to me, that the triggers are loosening their grip on me.  It was not long ago that all I would notice only the lyrics that hurt, reminding me of the trauma as I would see the artist on the siruis screen read "artist Train", or "title Die Young Keisha", it was too painful, my soul was too tender.

I am still constantly on the look out for what will bring me strength and help me strengthen others.  I read and watch shows that feed my obsession on the subject of grief or the after life.  One particular interview that impacted me, that I would like share was between Gary Zukav and an audience member who had lost a child, Ryan.

Mother’s question:  “How do I not let this loss and tragedy in my life take it over?”     
Gary’s response:  
“This is a matter of perspective.  Perspective of the personality or perspective of the soul. If you look at Ryan (the baby that died) as a personality who lived for a few days and then encountered tragic circumstances and died then you are looking from the point of view of personality.  If you look at Ryan as a soul, like yourself, your husband, those around us, that left this earth when it chose then you will have a different perspective.
Then you will be able to see the gifts this soul offered to you during its short stay on the earth.  You will reach a place in your life where you are grateful that this soul chose to be with you for however short a time.  If you do not you will live your life in anguish thinking that a tragedy has occurred whenever you see your other son growing up, you will say Ryan should be here, when you see your other son graduating you will say Ryan should have graduated, when he finds his wife you will say, Ryan should be getting married too and through all of this time you will be imposing on your other son a burden to carry because no matter what he does or how successful he is he will be causing his mother pain.
If you look at Ryan as a soul, a great soul like yourself who voluntarily entered the earth school and voluntarily left it in order to be with you and to offer gifts then you will begin the process of fathoming and appreciating and becoming grateful for the power of the interaction that you had with that soul and you will be able to receive the gifts that that soul came to this earth to give you, to give to your husband, and to your siblings and if you do not, you will continually be turning away from those gifts, you will be denying the very wealth of wisdom and compassion that was offered to you by this soul.“

It is this kind of wisdom, this way of changing perspective, that inspires my soul to make it through the day, and perhaps even inspire others to change the way they are looking at a difficult situation in their life.  I am then more open to see the blessings and the angels that show up in the most unexpected places and ways.  I have been working with a personal trainer who, I recently noticed had obviously been a "cutter" in the past.  Noticeable hash marks scattered up and down is inner bicep replicating a mini version of a punished prisoners back torn upon from a lashing whip and now healed over.  He shared his pain with me, then I mine with him, both in a very "elevator speech" abbreviated style, yet we understood one another deeply in an instant.  This kind of pain, you cannot hide, scars are not only visible on the skin, but in the the very being of the person.  To get back to the workout, I said something along the lines of "you gotta look for the blessings" with a big grin.  My trainer looked right through me and said, "I know there is much more behind that smile"  He is right!  Aha!  Yes, I wont deny that I wish this never happened, that as many gifts as I can see that I would never have encountered had it not been for the death of my son, It goes without saying, I would rather have made it through my whole life with the title of mother never having the ugly word "Grieving" being plopped down in front of it!  Yep! There it is, I do not resist acceptance of what has happened, I resist the idea that I will never, ever be my old self, "the old Joyce" died with her son.  Thats a hard pill to swallow as I know no other Joyce, and finding out how to be a happy joyful person again in a new way for new reasons is an awful big request for little tiny lady.

Still I do think it is not only possible but I am seeing it manifest a little more everyday.  As always I find much comfort in the young friends of Jakes and now his friends of friends.  Imagine my pleasure when I noticed an event I was invited to on Facebook thrown by his friends band to benefit the Jacob Sportsman Memorial Plaza.  I was just a guest, had to do nothing, they just took it upon themselves, Got a spot on the news, promoted the event and we had a great time with all his old friends raising money and our glasses in toast!

That being said, we cannot deny we have all changed from this experience.  I have been made painfully aware that it is not only I that live with the unfortunate awareness that something tragic can happen at any time to any one.  That know one is truly safe in this world, not matter how good a person you think you are, no matter how safe you play it, tragedy can and does strike when, where and whom you might least expect.  Poor Jojo, so sad is it that after trying to keep it a secret for a week that Steve was in the hospital in a coma, fighting for his life, I decided I would try to tell her in the most gentle way,  all I said was, "I have to tell you something"  She immediately, clutched her chest, plunked down in the nearest chair and turned as white as a sheet.  I knew exactly what was going through her young mind.  and I said, as quickly as my tongue would allow, "oh no baby, nobody died"  She took a deep breath and already with tears filling her eyes, looked up at me and said "GOOD, Cause I am sick of that!"  She is 12.  Doesnt seem fair does it?  

Over the next few weeks, fighting back the flash backs at Steves bedside with the familiar tubes, beeping machinnes and devices, keeping him alive, barely alive, as they did Jake, I just knew I could not bare another loss.  Another death that I would surely find a way to blame myself for.  How can I make it through this, he has to make it.  For his kids, for his mother and so I can hold on to the one shred of hope that not everyone who finds themselves on the edge, will fall off into in abyss leaving us behind to try and make sense of it all.  

Thanks to all the powers that be, all the love and kindness meditators, prayers, doctors and nurses, he made it.  Against some pretty bad odds, he has been given another chance to live.  He was saved and so were so many others from what I sometimes think is a worse fate than death.  Being left behind to pick through the garbage, of regret and what ifs. We should all be grateful because this time, we all dodged that bullet.

For whatever reason, he was meant to stay here and Jake and Kris were not.  Who knows why that is, I am sure it will all make sense when we come to the end of this journey and begin our next.  But for now, as long as Steve is still here, he must know that someone needs him, that there is something he still has to do.  I think he knows that, I see the look of "Aha!  I get it now!"  in his eyes and I hold out more hope now for him to live a purpose and passion filled life than I did before he was stricken down.  

I only wish I could say the same for Josh, Jakes big brother seems to have his mind made up that life is not really worth the work.  That he is all alone here and no one cares.  I finally drew my line in the sand with him.  Not because I dont love him, but because, I could no longer allow his bad habits to hurt me and the rest of my family and disrupt the peace I work daily at keeping present in our home.  I have told him I want zero contact with him until he is sober and taking care of himself as a 26 year old man.  He was very very
mad, and said a lot of hateful things, that I chalked up to the tantrum like noise of an addict who has lost his source. I have pushed him away before, but always as a form of "tough love" hoping he would wake up because of it. This time is different. This time I did it for everyone else, including myself.  I can see how this might seem like a bad thing to people.  But I recognize it as one of the many strengths I have found in my spirit as I work through this mess.  I would never have had the capacity to stick to my guns with Josh, had I not experienced real pain and overcome so much.  Knowing now that I am much stronger and have made it through more than I ever would have thought I could, empowers me to stand up and stand strong in my truth for myself and those I love.