But when a painful situation comes into our lives we are blind to see any possible growth or gain from it. Distance is necessary to articulate our perspective, and thats the hard part. The sadness and heartbreak often leave us stumbling for a purpose while we remain unable to grasp the overwhelming anguish.
Most of the struggles in life I wanted to move through quickly, immersed in grief was not a place I wanted to stay. Wishing it was 2 months, 6 months or even 1 year later, I would bargain with the sadness to no avail. I knew this battle all to well and I did not want to consider the long road ahead. Knowing a season would soften the heaviness on my heart, I wanted to rush through it so that life would become tolerable again.
Grief and pain are easier to discuss when we are not drowning in it. Down in the trenches of heartbreak, nothing is right with the world. Nobody understands the pain you feel and life holds little value. As you move forward each day, the fog begins to lift and slowly you begin to recognize the transformation, appearing in moments of peace, then hours, then days. Eventually you begin collecting good days and observe the progression, appreciating each step of the journey.
Within the discomfort from heartbreak is where the real work of grief begins, softening us today while molding us into something new for tomorrow. Formed because of the pain or hurt we have suffered, we start to untangle our grief and reshape our stronger selves.
In Oprah's book, What I know for sure, she tells of a time when she was hurting from rumors and peoples actions and spoke with her friend Maya Angelou through broken tears, Maya Angelou responded telling Oprah to, "say thank you." Oprah repeated, "I don't think you understand what I am telling you." Maya again repeated, "say thank you" because when you get to the other side of this pain you will understand why you went through it, so you may as well say thank you right now...
This resinated with me after stepping out of my own painful season. How much I had learned about myself and others during that hurtful period. Although nobody would ever invite pain into their life, once on the other side with the lessons learned, I too say thank you.
Sometimes the only way we will change directions in life is when our course is transformed for us, leaving no choice but to adapt to the alterations which now remain. In time you begin to see the beauty from all the development and will find yourself grateful again.
Once the dust of another morning routine has settled, and everyone has gone off in a different direction I find myself lost in thought, my attention spinning from what I need to get done and then to Debbie and how her morning is going? Followed by the swelling of anger I feel for the injustice of what has happened to her and how brave she was before the surgery.
A constant thrust of thoughts lurch through my mind, like that of an unbalanced teeter-totter, up then down, anger then sadness, jolting me each time I hit the bottom again. Recalling the days before her surgery, the courage she held was unmistakable, though worry still existed, she pushed it aside ready to take on the burden before her. I had admired her for many things in life, but this one had me in awe.
Fearing the unknown is a normal response for anyone and although I know she was anxious for the upcoming surgery, she was ready to get beyond this segment and begin her life again. Keeping a brave face for her husband, boys and even me, she smiled, joked and shed a few tears before they wheeled her off to the operating room. Hope filled the room with the oxygen we needed, as we helplessly held our breath.
Before all the sadness in our lives, I practically believed that suffering was divided equally, that one family would not share the impact of so much heartache. Or maybe I had hoped my faith would be enough, and not showing my fear would be the kismet needed? How could I allow this false hope to consume my thoughts, anchoring my belief that we were due our happy ending as predictable as a Nicholas Sparks novel.
Now my inner cynic heeds to the famous "life's not fair" mantra, the one so many never suffering seem to rant. One would council me to concentrate on the blessings, and I often do, but there are times when we need an opportunity to step away from the grace we are seeking. Giving ourselves time to shed the necessary tears and once freshly awoken we can set out in search of the light once more.
Currently Debbie does not remember that she had surgery, which could be a good thing, but instead another reminder of all the things absent. Each day a clean slate, beginning with questions about the boys or where she is supposed to be. Currently we are filling her days with activities geared to help her thrive and maintain simple tasks, and many times they exhaust her. Changes in medication and doctors are on going as we continue to navigate through this unknown area of the brain.
While many of the days are a daunting repeat of questions filled with frustration and disappointment, Debbie continues to adorn our time together with her humor. At our most recent TBI outing she recognized the nice looking doctor that took care of her at Mentis. While I was thrilled with her ability to remember him, she added laughter that continues to bubble up in me still.
As the three of us approached the doctor Debbie turned to Gordon and I and said, "You and Tina can go get the car," giving her time to chat with the nice looking doctor. We all busted out laughing as her playfulness fills us up once more...
There are days when things are moving forward and others where I feel I have lost direction...
Bellowing out songs from the seventies station brings about a grin, especially when Debbie serenades with her best "David Cassidy" moves, audaciously singing her rendition of "I think I love you," not missing a beat. Soon my smile fades and the conversation lingers back to the familiar confused chatter.
Last week, together with her therapist we attempted to aid Debbie in understanding how to follow written directions. It was heart wrenching to witness the confusion she felt when unable to untangle a word in her brain, or complete the action which was asked because it did not make sense to her. The reality check pushed us both, Debbie to frustration and me to masking the tears that were building inside and the concern, "will she ever get better?"
What she has gone through since her surgery is distressing to observe. The struggles she endures DAILY challenge everyone, often leading to both physical and mental exhaustion. Simple tasks are overwhelming and frustrating, and finding a new way for her to learn is on going. Often her words are tangled or even lost all together making any conversations grueling.
The following day my daughter and I went to lunch, while sharing Debbie's day with her, my eyes filled with tears, that candidly slid down my face. As I cried, Chelsea began crying too, broken both for her aunt and for me, we found our selves in the place where heartbreak brings you together. We gently began wiping away the tears and broke the melancholy with a giggle, imagining what the people surrounding us in the restaurant thought?
The ebb and flow of life prompted me to consider the blessings I have. Blessings that include lunch and tears with my daughter, a drive to Michigan to share life and laughter with friends and a place to come home to where the friendships with amazing women help mend your broken pieces.
Filled with trials and triumphs and paths that lead us in many directions while molding us into someone new along the way. With each struggle we expand our knowledge, growing into a more tender being. In time the tears soften and light surfaces, faintly at first, like a ship distant in the ocean, eventually flooding in with brilliance and encouragement to keep propelling us forward.
Each new day, another opportunity to learn and grow. Working through the challenging things while pausing to appreciate the beauty in the process. A dance that is ever changing, with new music and movement, slowly guiding us on our journey of life.
The sounds of annoyance escape her breath as she plunges into the couch...
Bitterly, she abandons her attempt to put on her sock and looks around frustrated. Resentful of her abilities, or the lack of, she struggles with what was once a simple task. Tenderly I take the sock from her hand and kneel down in front of her to help. "Thank you," she quips in an exhausted tone, and again my heart breaks for her.
It was not always like this...
Each day a new journey, with more obstacles to climb in an attempt to find our bearings, with Debbie enduring the toughest battle of us all. The life we once shared is a distant memory, gone without warning, changing us all into these new beings, a challenge we grapple with each day.
Nineteen months post surgery, the life we knew interrupted, the future uncertain. The hope we once clung to, depleted, with our expectations sinking. I search the neurologist eyes while I inquire about her recovery, he replies with a gentle tone, offering no false security to her future. The concerns of what may make a difference, even he hesitates their promise.
For a moment it is quiet as the doctor leaves the room, we are left with no definite resolution for her recovery. Debbie begins to weep, with her confusion searching for answers, believing they have given up and her life is ending. We attempt to clear her confusion, but the tears keep coming back in a continual loop of doubt.
She is in there some days, like a magic act she appears piecing together stories of her past. Bringing laughter to the moment and reminding us all of the person she was before the surgery. But soon the laughter fades, the confusion steps into its shadow and darkens another moment of the seasons we share with Debbie.
The desire to be creative, crafty and helpful still fill her mind with the same excitement that once existed, but the patience and stamina are no longer present, leaving mastery at some tasks fleeting, and too difficult for her brain to be enjoyable. Comparable to the difficulty with socks, leaving her overwhelmed, frustrated and often abandoning the task.
The extremes of her personality and memory conflict with the abilities and traits she once mastered so well. Once armed with a to-do list that filled her calendar, she thrusted through the happenings of a day. Today she is filled with the belief of accomplishing those same tasks in her day, when it is non existent.
Our once cheerful shopping adventures have forged into a new battle, one where she is armed with novice toys and plush trinkets for the boys that are not age appropriate, something she would have never picked up in the past. Cautiously I try and defuse her purchase, usually deflating her joy back to frustration as I once again reveal how old the boys are.
A charade of mystery consumes our lives, the obstacles Debbie will face each day on this journey will lead us on a continued search for answers. The brain, such a complicated organ, conjointly leaves many doctors perplexed but will continue to motivate us towards solutions in making her life better.
When someone is mean, it is usually because they are hurting in some way. My mother has never been a mean person, in fact she never spoke up for herself, even when it would have been understandable.
Throughout life we meet people we think are friends, and find out, sometimes the hard way that they are not, discovering their toxic ways when they hurt more than help. While a dismal relationship, we learn a lot from toxic people, and in the end gather sympathy for them. Why? Because they are hurting, sad and lash out to protect their own hearts instead of opening up and letting themselves be vulnerable.
But how do you handle it when someone impaired with dementia acts angrily or mean? When it is your family and you are trying to do positive things for them, and they in turn are acting like a child. Why is this so much harder than that toxic relationship?
Usually when people are toxic, you can remove yourself from them, but when it is family and they are ailing, you are left with few choices.
My greatest challenge in dealing with dementia and my mother is patience. After a day fueled with angry outbursts you find yourself drained in ways you never knew possible. When this person who was once your mother can no longer string enough words together to form a sentence, yet pulls her hair and yells when she is confused, you want to walk away.
All the things she once thrived at, now leave her baffled and awkward. From decorating a room to picking up a paint brush, she stands childishly disorganized. In an attempt to stimulate her mind I present crafts and projects which often leave her frozen, afraid to make a mistake, leaving me in a state to pull out my own hair.
Apparently patience is a trait I am lacking, something God sees I need work with, and I agree. It is hard to supply patience to an existing relationship. One where they once understood and now they do not. When you find yourself repeatedly saying remember, then realizing they don't. When the family that was once your foundation is now in need of your support, selfishly you feel abandoned.
I never knew having a daughter could be so amazing...
We had always guessed Deb was supposed to have a daughter. She would love playing with a girls hair and trying different styles.
25 years ago today we were all shocked when the doctor exclaimed "it's a girl"
Born at exactly 7am in a birthing room at Southwest General Hospital just as the television blared "good morning america" and I couldn't have agreed more!
Hard to believe twenty-five years have gone by!
Having Chelsea in my life has saved me in ways I never knew possible, many times by just being there. As a child when we lost Ryan, she gave me reason to keep going. Through her teen years, she gave me reason to teach lessons, lots of lessons...
But once she left for college our relationship bloomed into something even I had never imagined. Each of us there for one another, through all the rough spots, and treasuring all the good we were privileged to share.
She never stops amazing us with all that she accomplishes with her life
She was the reason I began running, a loyal friend, giving in every way and so darn funny, even when she's not trying to be!
Happy Birthday Sweet Girl! You have been a blessing to us all!
February 01 - Today I am grateful for a good book, puppy training with Joel and time to unravel, my favorite chicken meatballs and fireplaces.
February 02 - Today I am grateful for getting my hair done with Amanda, planning favors for Debs birthday, finishing another book, Zach ordering pizza!
February 03 - Today I am grateful for my morning coffee, time with Chelsea, Chai tea, our library.
February 04 - Today I am grateful for my morning coffee and quiet time
February 05 - Today I am grateful for facials, Amanda, wine and creative time
February 06 - Today I am grateful for Debs birthday celebration with some awesome women and another with family and friends
February 07- Today I am grateful for my husband and all he does, celebrating his birthday, running 5 miles in 43:47, craft time with mom, wine bars
February 08 - Today I am grateful for books to get lost in, melting snow and silly dogs
February 09 - Today I am grateful for getting back to yoga, library time, running my fastest 3 miles in 25:04, getting more organizing done
February 10 - Today I am grateful for time with my sister and daughter, finishing another book, writing time, training with Chelsea, a clean house.
February 11 - Today I am grateful for Chipotle, gym time with Deb, evening spin class
February 12 - Today I am grateful for gym time, library time and finding propel
February 13 - Today I am grateful for a 3 mile run, date 2 with Lisa at Mapleside Bliss event
February 14 - Today I am grateful for my husband, date night with friends at Jilbert, staying warm indoors, Chelsea and Anthony winning Valentine contest
February 15 - Today I am grateful for the love of reading, finishing another book, running 6 miles and staying warm indoors
February 16 - Today I am grateful for 50 push ups, pushing myself, market district grocery store, silly animals
February 17 - Today I am grateful for 3 mile run, girlfriends, book club
February 18 - Today I am grateful for day with Deb and fun night wedding tasting
February 19 - Today I am grateful for finding my dress for wedding, lunch date with Chel
February 20 - Today I am grateful for heading away from these cold temps, sleeping in car but not on highway like many people had to, early morning breakfast.
February 21 - Today I am grateful for awesome weather in New Orleans, skorts and street actors, great food, new adventures, writing
February 22 - Today I am grateful for educational seminars, warm sunny climates, history of New Orleans, The court of two sisters for dinner.
February 23 - Today I am grateful for my sweet boy Ryan, visiting the superdome for first time, JLG party, rental show, Payton Manning keynote in day and Archie Manning speech at night, time with hubby.
February 24 - Today I am grateful for Ruby Slipper for breakfast, shops in New Orleans, finding a hotel when we needed one,the pleasure to visit this great city again.
February 25 - Today I am grateful for missing the snow storm that came through Alabama, getting home to see kids and pets, home sweet home, sleeping in my own bed
February 26 - Today I am grateful for my morning coffee, lunch with my daughter
February 27 - Today I am grateful for a clean house, craft time, feeling better,
February 28 - Today I am grateful for spending time with my sister, girlfriends, finally the last day of February