10922565_10152758987102737_4615387465616242253_n

“My place is of the sun and this place is of the dark. I do not feel the romance, I do not catch the spark…. and I will not be a pawn… for the prince of darkness, any longer.”

-Indigo Girls, Prince of Darkness

This week something pretty incredible remarkable amazing happened. One blogger wrote a beautiful piece in response to recent tragedies and atrocities happening in the world. Another blogger was posting about these same events on FaceBook. The two had a conversation that inspired this:

“How cool would it be if we could get 1000 bloggers on the same day to write posts about compassion, kindness, support, caring for others, non-judgement etc.? (Date to be decided.)
We could call it 1000 Voices For Compassion.
Who’s in?”

And thus began a movement. 1000 Voices for Compassion. A call for bloggers to join together on one day to speak out in the name of compassion. To stand up to the bullies and the killers and the harmers and the haters. To make the voices of the good drown out the insatiable voice of negativity and hatred.

That was five days ago.

Within 48 hours 500 bloggers had joined the movement. Today, 690. People are moved by what Yvonne and Lizzi started.

Most of us write because we have to. Often we write about things that move us. Things we care about. Things that we think maybe need to be heard. Some of us have been floundering under the oppressive weight of heartbreak over everything that we’re reading and hearing and seeing in the world. Most of us want to do something.

And what do we do?

We write.

We write, damn it.

Because words matter.

Words change minds and change lives and words have power.

And all of our words together?

Just imagine.

So, this is my plea. If you’re tired of the negativity that permeates the news and social media. If you’ve grown weary of all the violence in this world. If you’re tired of the “us” and “them” mentality and want to be a part of “we.” If you are ready for things to shift, for something to change… then write. Speak. Be a part of this movement.

Maybe it will help.

Maybe someone someone will hear us and feel wrapped in the comfort of knowing that people care.

Maybe someone’s hardened heart will soften just a little.

Maybe positivity will breed more positivity.

Maybe all of us together will be heard.

Maybe we can convince the “us” and the “them” to join.

Because your thoughts might add to the thoughts of others who want to create change. And if enough of us join in eventually we’ll be heard. Eventually those trudging through life will hear our concert of thoughts and lift their heads and open their hearts.

So please, join in. All of you have something to say. All of you can be a part of something good.

Let’s do this.

When: February 20, 2015

How: Write a post about compassion. What it means to you. How has it affected you? How we can bring more of it to those who need it. Really, there are no rules, just as long as it’s about compassion.

Participate: via FaceBook go to this link and request to join.

via Twitter, post and use the hashtag #1000Speak

*If you’re not on Facebook but would like to join you can let me know in Comments, below, and I’ll add you to the mailing list.

c8381a042535ac72677aad5651ce1588

ebola

“You feelin’ alright

I’m not feelin’ too good myself”

-Joe Cocker, Feelin’ Alright

I don’t want to be an alarmist. And there’s already enough hysteria floating around like airborne microbes through a misting fan. But you guys- it was bad. Fever. Puking. Other stuff that polite southern women don’t talk about.

Four out of five Kelly’s were sick. No, it wasn’t Ebola. But I feel like I kind of understand it, from both ends. And no, I’m not being coy, I mean I was both patient and nurse. Because I’m a mom.

Patient # 1: It all started with the little one. So innocent and cute. She didn’t understand what was happening. She peppered me with questions in between yakking. She didn’t understand that correct protocol does not involve breathing directly into my face after emptying the contents of her stomach all over the bed.

Patient # 2: My son. Thirteen years old. Vibrant, strong boy. Which means that he gives new meaning to the word “projectile” as the contents of that night’s dinner make a second appearance. The victim: his bedroom rug. This is when things get really ugly. This is when you realize you failed at containing the virus. This is when it’s time to get serious. Luckily for you, I’ve been through it and I’ve come out on the other side to help you. Hopefully you won’t be affected or infected, but in case you are, take heed.

  • First, you must maintain composure. As you turn for help and see your husband’s retreating back, you realize you’re in this alone. You’ll want to panic. But you can’t. This is it. This is no time to lose your shizzm. The faster you act the better. Don’t allow time to think or smell. Paper towels and trash bags are your friend. Do the best you can with these tools. You will likely realize that you have held your breath and squealed and sympathy-vomited through this stage of cleanup only to realize you’ve barely scratched the barf covered surface. Time to improvise. Grab the oldest towels you can and cover that rank. If you can’t see it it’s not there. Truth.
  • Second, employ those killers of the environment, the plastic grocery bag. Yes, you feel guilty that you have an entire closet in your laundry room stuffed with them. You tried reusable grocery bags and you really liked them, but your husband “accidentally” threw them out and you’ve been too lazy to buy more. Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah. Dealing with children who’ve suddenly turned into Linda Blair from The Exorcist. So yeah, those pesky little bags you’ve been hoarding can now be “recycled.” Line the trash can that you put by your kid’s bed with a triple layer of these. Just like lining a roasting pan with foil. Clean up will be easy.

Except it’s not. Your methods are necessary but clean up will be treacherous at best. The worst part is the nausea you feel just from seeing and smelling things that can’t be unseen or un.. er… not smelled. But you must forge ahead. The rest of the family is counting on you to keep them safe. Especially your husband who’s snoring from the bedroom. It’s time to disinfect.

  • Before this step you must protect yourself. You have to keep yourself well or things will really fall apart. You know, take oxygen before you assist fellow passengers. I don’t make these things up. You’ll want a face mask. Surely you have these on hand for the impending pandemics that crop up yearly, right? Good. You’ll need rubber or latex gloves. And an old shirt – or your husband’s favorite t shirt – whatever’s handy. If wretching is still in progress (how much did those kids eat today?) you may want a hat or scarf to cover your hair.
  • Now you will need a bucket and bleach. You will need to coat all door handles, light switches, faucets, toilet handles. All of it. Don’t listen to that crap about 2 teaspoons of bleach per gallon of water. You want to show this virus who’s boss, right? We ain’t playin’ around. So you go halfsies. Your eyes will burn and your house will smell like  an indoor kiddie pool with poor ventilation, but that’s ok. The bonus here is that your nose will be incapable of smelling the foul smells that emanate from those towels on your son’s carpet.
  • The next step is laundry. While still suited up in your homemade hazmat suit, grab the comforter your son managed to soil as well as any washcloths and towels that may have been contaminated. But NOT the towels on the floor! DO NOT move those! You will want to shove as many of the offending linens into your washer as humanly possible. Put in extra soap. Lots of it. Wash on highest heat, sanitary setting. Side note: anything that needs rinsing before putting in the washer needs to be thrown out. I don’t care if it’s wasteful. There’s nothing that is so special that can’t be replaced. Seriously, I don’t care if your grandmother’s wedding dress got caught in the cross fire, there are limits to what one should be expected to do. Throw that shizzle away.
  • Sometimes your methods are met with a little hiccup. A little stumble if you will. In my case it was water seeping from under the washing machine. It’s ok. Freaking out about what curse has been placed upon your pure heart is not going to help. Take a deep breath. Backup plans are in place for such breaches. Take all remaining contaminated laundry that has not been stuffed into your washing machine like a Paula Deen pork chop and dump it on to the floor of your garage. It is out of the house, technically, which is the important thing. Until the washing machine gets fixed, your family can practice holding their breath as they dash through the garage to the car. This is a healthy exercise that will only save them from possible drowning one day.

Congratulate yourself on a sanitized and clean environment in which your family can safely ride out this harrowing ordeal. Rest easy as you drift off to sleep with the comfort that you’ve protected the people you love with your knowledge and fortitude in the face of utter grossness. Drift off to sleep with the last few precious hours left before daylight.

Except you can’t. Because you realize that the nausea you’d been feeling wasn’t imaginary. You’ve been infected. As you race to the bathroom to take your turn at the hurling olympics, grab a towel. That tile’s cold and you’ll be laying on it until this passes.

Eventually the fever wears off and the nausea calms to a quiet roar. You emerge from your oddly comforting enclave curled up next to the toilet, to realize that no one realized you were gone. As your son recovers from the worst of it upstairs, your five year old seems remarkably well and full of all kinds of fun energy. The family went about their business in the few hours since you cleaned and painstakingly disinfected. You try not to be irritated that it looks like John Belushi just hosted a toga party in your kitchen. Because look at them. Healthy. Blissfully unaware. This is why you do it. Then you see your husband. He’s looking a little green…

Just turn around and go back to bed. You’ve done your part. It’s every man and child for himself now.

Do stomach bugs freak you out? Have you been traumatized by cleaning up your kid’s puke? What are your tips for surviving an outbreak?

IMG_6061 

“You are the most beautiful thing, I’ve ever seen. You shine just like sunlight rays on a winter snow.

I just had to tell you so. 

Your eyes sparkle as the sun, like the moon they glow. Your smile could light the world on fire, or did you know? 

Your mind’s full of everything that I wanna know,

I just had to let you know.

You’re my butterfly… Fly High… Fly Fly Fly…”

-Lenny Kravits, Butterfly

I get nostalgic and weepy on my kids’ birthdays. I remember every stage of labor…  This time, 11 years ago, my water broke. I watch the clock and think about that day. I drive my kids nuts with my reminiscing. Because I don’t say these things in my head. I say them out loud. To my kids. All day. Every year. They don’t love it.

But this is what moms do, right? We relive moments and cling to our babies at the very moment that we should be letting them go. Because my baby is actually not a baby. She’s 11 years old as of yesterday.

And she’s almost taller than I am.

So I guess I can’t call her a baby anymore. (Though I will. I always will. But that one I’ll do silently in my head.) The little girl who’s turning into a young woman in front of my very eyes. In spite of my holding on for dear life, she’s growing up.

***

She was born an old soul. We could just tell. They laid her on the scale and she stared silently into my husband’s eyes. He still gets emotional if he talks about that moment. The nurse swaddled her up and brought her to me. I wiped my eyes of the tears that were a combination of joy and pain. I held her and started to meet her. Examining her tiny hands, her sweet lips, her intense eyes. They gazed at me in studied  concentration. Searching my eyes. Holding my gaze. She was meeting me. She was checking me out.

She rarely cried. She was a content baby, easy to please. She would wake up in the morning and just hang out in her crib until I would hear her cooing and gurgling over the baby monitor. Her older brother would clamor into her room with me and greet her with his marble mouthed “Hello sunshine.”

I loved her with everything I had. But I didn’t feel like I knew her. She was a mystery to me. I would stare at her, watching her, trying to figure out what was going on inside her head. I had a sense that there was more going on than was obvious to the rest of us. I spent those first few months nursing her, playing with her, singing her songs. Trying desperately to understand her.

This may sound a little crazy. But I need to know my kids. I need to understand them. I knew how my son’s brain worked. I just knew him from the moment he was born. I was struggling with the fact that it didn’t come as easy with my daughter.

At three months old she got sick. It started as a cold and developed into something worse. I couldn’t sleep because I was worried. Something didn’t seem right. She was still smiling, still happy, but her breathing seem labored. One afternoon I watched as her breathing became more raspy. “She’s wheezing!” I yelled to my husband. I packed her in the car and headed to the pediatrician’s office. My heart was starting to race and I was on the verge of panicking. I drove, watching her in the rearview mirror. She looked blue to me. Her breathing was getting worse. Much worse. I made a sharp u-turn and pulled into an Urgent Care.

I ran into the building clutching her baby carrier “I need help, I don’t think my baby’s breathing.” The receptionist stood up to peer over her counter and took one look at my daughter and called the nurses to come get her. As the nurses whisked her into the examining room, I followed in a state of disbelief. I was worried, that’s why I’d brought her here after all. But seeing the concerned look on the nurse’s faces was freaking me out even more. As the doctor whipped past me to assess her, I pulled on his sleeve. “Is she going to be ok? Is my baby going to be ok?”

Her oxygen levels were low but not dangerously so. They wanted to send us to the hospital for chest X-rays and a flu test. They wanted her to stay overnight and be monitored. They offered to have an ambulance transport us but I told them I would drive. They admitted that the ambulance was more for me. They were worried that I was too upset to drive.

X-Rays, tubes down her nose to extract fluid, blood taken. My calm, serene baby was now screaming and flailing, fighting to break free. I held her arms by her head and whispered words of comfort to her.

Soon we were in our hospital room, waiting on a diagnosis. All of the scary tests came back negative. The diagnosis was R.S.V. A respiratory infection. She would be ok. The told me she’d need breathing treatments with a nebulizer. OK. That we could do. They told me that each time she got a cold we would likely have to do the treatments. OK. They said it was not serious and she would outgrow it. Thank god. Relief flooded me.

The doctor and nurse left us to rest. I finally let myself relax a little. I started to come down off of high alert. I was breathing again after holding my breath for hours. I felt the fear start to drain out of me, exhaustion taking up residence where adrenaline had been.

As I was unpacking the diaper bag I heard a noise. I looked up and my daughter was staring at me. Looking me steadily in the eyes, she was struggling to form words. I could hear her little voice, for the first time. Beyond the coos and the gurgles. I could hear her experiment with sounds as she rolled her tongue around and moved her lips. She was trying to talk. She had a look of amusement in her eyes. My three month old baby stared at me and babbled for 10 minutes.

I started to laugh. I walked over to her and caressed her head with both hands as she continued to stare at me and babble. I was laughing and crying with relief. I was weak with gratitude. I responded to her through salty tears. Urging her voice and kissing her forehead. I felt like we had been through a battle together. Just the two of us. We had just experienced some scary moments. And we came through it together.

I cried and laughed. I felt different. All of the questions, all of the searching for the last three months, trying to figure out my daughter. None of that mattered. I knew that she was a part of me. She had a hold on my heart and that was unbreakable. I didn’t need to understand everything about her in that moment. I just needed to know that she was ok. I needed her to know that I would stop searching and would just be. I would let her be and grow into whomever she was supposed to be. I was ok not knowing how that was going to play out. All that mattered was that she was ok and that we would go through the journey together.

***

My daughter just turned 11 yesterday. I’m still trying to figure her out. She’s still a little bit of a mystery to me. I have to be patient with that. She’s brilliant and beautiful and funny and creative. She’s so much more than I ever imagined her being. She’s who I want to be when I grow up. She’s her own person and she doesn’t need me to “get it.” She just needs me to love her. To support her. To be there to guide her when she needs it. And to back off when she doesn’t need it. And to be patient. To be patient with the fact that I’m still figuring her out. She knows that. She watches me. And every once in a while I get that intense soul gazing stare. When I “get her,” when I understand something about her, she gives me that look. It’s her way of saying thank you. It’s her, knowing that I understand one more piece of her that I didn’t get before.

I’m ok with not knowing everything about how her mind works. I don’t think I’m supposed to. I’m just walking through life with her – now just one step behind – letting her make her own way. But I’m watching. Closely. I’m still studying and still trying to figure her out. Only now with more patience. With a little more understanding than yesterday. Some things you have to wait for. Some things, often the best things, you have to wait for. I’ll be waiting and watching and guiding. And I’ll never stop.

Happy birthday to my artist, to my old soul, my pajama pant wearing, book devouring daughter. My “I’m not a princess, I’m an artist”, “I don’t have time to brush my hair”, my laugh at any thing with the word “balls”, dry humored,  crazy girl. My beautiful spirit, my sweet girl, my baby. I love you.

IMG_0248

IMG_5755

Sittin on top of the world, Sittin on top of the world.

Remember the times we used to play,

We sing and we’d dance all damn day…

-Lenny Kravitz, Sittin On Top Of the World

 

This is an anniversary I never wanted to celebrate. One I wish I could forget or ignore. Fifteen years ago my little brother died.

It’s still impossible to believe. Impossible to adjust. Impossible to ignore.

I don’t want to reflect on that day. Memories will creep back. They always do. But today I won’t let them. Today I will celebrate.

But all I do is sing the blues,

But have I forsaken you, by telling you what you must do…

And all I do is sing the blues,

But I would never lie, let things go by. Leave you in the road to die.

I will never ever say goodbye.

‘Eff you death. Because today I’m celebrating life. The beautiful laughter filled life my brother lived for 18 years.

Never gonna say goodbye,

Never gonna say goodbye…

Today I’m going to remember all the times we shared. All the times we laughed. Because there was always laughter. Even when there was pain there was always laughter. He was amazing like that.

I was eight years old when he was born. I was indifferent at first. I could have cared less about babies. But then I held him. I’d never seen anything so beautiful. I’d never felt love like that. The protectiveness, the awe. The wonder of this little baby who came into our lives and made our family complete.

We had your typical brother/sister relationship. He loved to bug me. But as he got older we became more friends than siblings. We bonded over music. He loved to hear about the concerts I went to. He introduced me to Eminem long before Eminem was on MTV. He loved hip hop. He made me cd’s, mix tapes. Bob Marley, Tupac, Biggie. And Lenny. Lenny Kravitz was our music. We both loved Lenny.

He made me tell him, over and over, the story of my first Lenny Kravitz concert. We were supposed to get hooked up with backstage passes. I was dying to meet Lenny. It didn’t happen. The guy gave them to someone else. So of course me and my friends stalked Lenny after the show. We waited by the tour bus with a small group of die hard fans. Finally, he walked out. A giant crocheted hat on his head, dreadlocks trailing beneath. The crowd was hushed. We had waited for over an hour and no one said a thing. Right as he passed in front of me I yelled out, “Lenny!” He lifted his chin in greeting, “What’s up, ya’ll.” Then everyone went nuts as he climbed on to his tour bus. My brother loved that story. Every time he hung on every word as if he didn’t know how it was going to end. A year before he died we got to see Lenny in concert. It was the only concert we ever got to see together.

Remember the times… that we used to share,

You got to remember the times… that we used to share, that we used to share…

Today I’ll remember that concert. I’ll remember the Halloween party we went to at my friend’s house- that he later told me was the best night of his life. Today I’ll remember how he always had us all laughing. His impersonations. Pecking at his plate like a chicken at Thanksgiving dinner. How he would put his finger up in front of me and my sister and say in the most serious tone, “Hush. No talk-y talk-y.” How it always made us stop whatever big sister lectures we were giving and had us cracking up.

Today I’ll think back on how he invented the selfie way before cell phones were in every hand. He would finish up every role of film on my mom’s camera with extreme close-ups, always making crazy faces. I would always flip through the photos, anticipating the pictures at the end of the roll. The ones that I knew would make me laugh. The ones that were always different. You never knew what was waiting for you at the end of the stack, but you knew it would be funny.

Today I’ll laugh when I think about how he would take baby Jesus out of the Nativity scene my mom set out every Christmas. Every day baby Jesus would be missing. My mom would feign annoyance, but she would erupt in laughter when she would see little baby Jesus perched somewhere unexpected. Sometimes she wouldn’t find him until cooking dinner that evening. Or doing laundry. Or going to the bathroom. It was The Elf on the Shelf way before anyone had even thought of that creepy guy. Baby Jesus was always lurking, hiding. Always some place different. Sometimes completely inappropriate. Always hilarious. A tradition that my niece continues in her uncle’s honor every Christmas.

Today I’ll remember how we got through 18 months of chemo and radiation treatments. How he kept us all laughing through it all. His goal was to make his very serious Oncologist laugh. It didn’t take long. He quickly cracked through the veneer of a man who spent every day treating sick children.

I’ll never forget how he still loved to mess with my mom. He loved little pranks. He would sit at the kitchen table while she would flush out his IV line and right as she was pushing saline into the tube he would scream “It’s burning!” She would laugh every time, right after she had jumped in alarm. He loved to trick us, to pull one off, but he was truly happiest when he was making us laugh.

He had a way of making you fall for the same joke over and over. He would call me at work as he and mom were leaving treatments and doctor’s appointments. He would pretend to be one of my customers. I sold pagers to corporate clients. He would use different voices and accents and call me with crazy complaints, irate fake tirades and real creative scenarios of where he lost his pager. He would always erupt in laughter once he was sure I had fallen for it again, then quickly say “Where do you want to meet us for lunch?” It was impossible to get mad at him.

But the only way for you to survive

Is to open your heart, it will guide.

You wanna stay in this world of music and life,

You gotta turn around, Spread a little love and get high..

So, today I’m going to laugh. I’m going to remember every funny Todd story I can think of and I will laugh. I’m going to hold all my happy memories close to my heart and be thankful there are so many to choose from. I’m going to go to lunch with my mom and eat a giant cheeseburger in his honor. I’m going to remember his smile. His voice. His easy going nature that drew people to him. Today I’m going to remember the times that we used to share. And I’m going to listen to Lenny all day.

 

 

 

photo: ThinkStock/Comstock
photo: ThinkStock/Comstock

“Darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable and lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.”

-Indigo Girls, Closer to Fine 

Do you know why I hate drama? Aside from the fact that negativity breeds like a voracious beast, it’s just so damn wasteful. So much time and energy can be wasted on drama. And almost all drama is manufactured, created… and life is full of enough hard stuff.

I DON’T DO DRAMA.

Because I know what it’s like to have good days and bad days. I know what it’s like to have a day so bad you feel like you’re drowning. Like you can’t breathe. Like there’s no way out.

I know what it’s like to watch someone you love live in unspeakable pain. I know what it’s like to spend the night with your brother in the hospital. Watching him writhe in pain. Begging you to put pressure on his spine, to do anything to make it go away. To run down the hall begging nurses to do something. Help him. To pull them out of other patients’ rooms. Because those patients weren’t in his kind of pain. Because those patients weren’t 16 year old kids. Because those patients could wait because your brother was in pain.

I know what it’s like to watch the nurses shake their head in sad resignation because the doctor’s orders don’t include the kind of pain meds he needs. And it’s the middle of the night. And without a diagnosis no doctor was going to call in heavy duty pain meds.

I know what it’s like to hear a diagnosis. To steel yourself before walking in to the hospital room to hear the verdict. To send out positive hopeful thoughts. To will good news. To be full of forced optimism and hope. To have that all violently wrenched away from you in one moment. With one statement from the doctor. With a diagnosis. With the words “Stage Four” with the phrase “We have seen some cases of survival.” To run out of the room and abandon your family because you can’t breath and to collapse in the hallway in convulsive sobs. And to be ashamed because everyone else was keeping it together.

I know what it feels like to find out the next day that the point on his spine that you were pressing on the night before… that you were leaning in to with your entire body -sweating and grunting with all your might because he was begging you to- to find out the next day that you were pressing on a bone tumor that was eating into his spine. I know what it’s like to be hit with the sick realization that you were hurting him. To feel the bile in your throat and the panic of understanding. That while he was in more pain than most of us will ever experience that you were adding to it unknowingly. That you failed at helping him. That your brother, eight years younger, who you had always felt so protective of, that you had let him down when he needed you most. I know what it’s like.

I know what it’s like to have a bad day.

For me, any day that the people I love are healthy is a good day. Any day that someone I love is not in pain is a good day. Any day that is not riddled with worry and helplessness is a good day. Any day that you can reach out and hold someone you love is a good day.

Sometimes I need a reminder.

Last year I got a big reminder. One that knocked the wind out of me. I was having a bad day. The kind of bad day made of small, annoying things that seem much bigger. That can, if you allow it, take over and sour your mood. I was grumpy and caught up in whatever petty annoyances were going on in my life. Stuff so unimportant that I can’t even remember what they were.

I was sitting at swim practice grumbling internally and generally feeling sorry for myself.  I distractedly scrolled through Facebook until I realized there was a private message. It was from my high school best friend. She and I had lost touch after college and had reconnected a few years earlier on Facebook. Intrigued, I clicked on the message, expecting to see a greeting, a “How have you been, let’s catch up” type of message. I started reading and I felt like my heart actually stopped beating.

She told me that her daughter had been diagnosed with a horrible, rare disease months earlier. That she is only just beginning to be able to talk about it. On the spectrum of horrible diseases, this may be the worst. And I’m not being even a tiny bit dramatic. It affects young children. It deteriorates their brain. It deteriorates their body and their muscle function. It sounded like a horrific combination of two of the diseases I had always feared most: ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and Alzheimer’s. Except this happens to kids. Little kids. And there was no treatment. No cure. Most kids don’t live past their teenage years.

I was overcome as I was reading her words. I looked at my son swimming his laps. At my daughters sitting next to me. I felt like I wanted to scoop all three of them up into my arms and hold them indefinitely. I wanted to reach through the ether of cyberspace and hold my friend. My friend who I hadn’t seen in years. With whom I’d shared years of friendship and good times and laughter. And now she was going through unimaginable pain. She knew what it was like to have a bad day. 

My friend doesn’t have time for drama. The world looks a lot different from the perspective of grief and fear and survival. You don’t have a moment to waste on whispers of “He said, she said.” You don’t have time to worry about what other people think. You don’t have time to dissect every interaction and analyze how it might have been received or perceived. Because you are fighting. You are fighting to not drown under the incredible weight of fear.

My friend is amazing. She is fighting for her daughter. She started a blog. She published her very first blog post. It was about her daughter. It got Freshly Pressed (a huge honor in the behemoth WordPress world). The next day it got picked up by The Huffington Post. Donations started pouring in. The community came together. People are raising money. Raising money because there’s a trial for a new treatment that won’t happen without money. A treatment that shows promise for a disease that had no hope until now. One that has shown reversal of symptoms in the lab.

A possible cure.

My friend doesn’t have time for drama or politics or any of the things that get us worked up or angry or caught up. She is fighting for her daughter’s life. She and other parents. When time is precious and every moment is to be soaked up and absorbed, she is spending countless hours raising money to try to save her daughter’s lives. When all she wants to do is cuddle with her daughter. To read with her and watch her play, she is organizing and promoting and spreading awareness. She is fighting to have a good day. A day with a daughter who’s healthy. A good day when she can hear the words “She’s cured.”

That’s perspective.

The good days that I, that you, that most of us, take for granted… she is fighting for that. My brother fought for that. While he lost his fight with Cancer, he had plenty of good days. He made good days… good moments… he insisted on laughter and fun even when hooked up to tubes and machines.

So no, I don’t do drama.

Because life is short.

For some it’s unfairly and heartbreakingly short.

Because we will all have some bad days.

We will all feel fear and pain and loss. It’s inevitable. So on those days when you aren’t feeling pain… when someone you love isn’t hurting… when you’re not feeling crippling fear… Those days where you don’t feel like you’re drowning…

On those days… enjoy it. Don’t let anyone or anything take it from you. Wrap yourself up in the warmth of a positive thought in the face of negativity. Cloak yourself in comfort when the world throws obstacles. Protect yourself and treat yourself gingerly and with love. And when you see someone who’s struggling, even if they’re spewing anger… give them a hand. Chances are they’re having a bad day. Chances are they’re feeling fear or pain or rejection or heartache. Chances are they’re drowning. Be their lifeline.

If you want to hear more about my friend’s daughter and their fight:

http://www.gofundme.com/abbygracecure

Bear_Trap_7423

“I’d sooner chew my leg off

than be trapped in this,

How easy you think of all of this as bittersweet me.

I couldn’t taste i,. I’m tired and naked.

I don’t know what I’m hungry for,

I don’t know what I want anymore.”

– REM, Bittersweet Me

I had asked for a sign.

I needed a signal, needed someone to point me in the right direction, tell me what to do. I had been in conflict for almost a year. My relationship was over. I knew it but was scared to leave. Just out of college, trying to figure out “what next,” trying to figure out what life was at this point. And the one thing I had was my relationship.

And now I didn’t want it any more.

It wasn’t his fault. He was a really good guy. Smart, loving. I can’t even say he was an ass. But I was falling out of love with someone I had fallen for in an intense way.

We started dating my Junior year of college. I had obsessed over him from afar and then we met. And I tumbled into a crazy romance. He was fun and spontaneous. I called him my “Bobby McGhee.” A bad boy with a heart of gold. But now I wasn’t feeling all the romance of “riding a Diesel Dan all the way to New Orleans.” I needed something, someone else and I knew he wasn’t it.

For months I turned it over and over in my head.

What if I leave him and he’s the last person I ever love?

I would tug nervously on my necklace trying to decipher my true feelings.

Was I freaked out at talk of engagement and looking for a house together? Was it too much in the post college reality check that is real life?

I felt like the choice I would make would impact the rest of my life. I could see living with him and spending a life with him. We got along well, never really fought. We had fun. But was that enough?

Or I could end up spending the rest of my life alone, mourning my one shot at happiness and love.

I would leave my desk at work and pace around the parking garage, my mind racing, trying to gulp in as much air as possible before going back inside.

I could never get enough air.

Each day brought more urgency. He started to question me, he knew something wasn’t right. I shrugged off his concerns, wearing a mask of normalcy.

All the while I felt my throat constricting.

I would encourage him to have nights out with his friends. I would pour a glass of wine and turn on some Hendrix and sit with my notebook, writing and journaling, hoping the answer would flow from my pen or from the fermented grapes that eased my tension.

No answer came.

I was growing increasingly frustrated. I always lived my life by following my instincts and trusting my gut and my intestinal flora was deafeningly silent. I felt like I was going to make a major life decision and possibly hurt a good person who I cared deeply about and I had nothing to base it on.

I started to pray. And I’m not a pray for things kind of person. But I started to pray for a sign.

Just tell me which way to go. I’ll pay attention, I promise. Just give me something. Nothing. No song on the radio, no major disagreement, no “aha” moment. Thanks for nothing.

I was biding my time and running in place.

Then one night I ended up at a bar with the girls from work on a Friday night. I didn’t even feel like going out, but I couldn’t bear the thought of sitting in the apartment with him all night, pretending. One of the girls left the table and came back “Joe’s coming. I called him.” All of a sudden I was awake. He walked in and smiled the smile that lights up the whole room. I tried to not notice.

We ended up playing pool in a back room of the bar. Somehow he and I were locked in conversation all night. We drifted from bar to bar with our work friends, almost oblivious to all the people we were with.

At one bar there was a guy with a guitar and a galvanized metal bucket for tips. I turned to Joe. “We should request a song!” He agreed and I told him I wanted to hear “Lola.” He dropped a generous amount of money in the bucket as he leaned in to speak to the singer and walked back to the table with a satisfied grin.

Soon the group was breaking up, some were going home, some going to dance. Joe asked if I wanted to go grab a beer and talk. We sat at a sticky booth in the only quiet bar in Buckhead and talked about nothing and everything. As he drove me home I started to get nervous. This had started as an innocent night out with friends and ended up feeling like a date.

And now I was going home to my boyfriend.

As soon as he parked the car, I leapt out and shouted a quick “Thanks” before sprinting for the door. Blessedly the apartment was dark and quiet. I crawled into bed and feigned sleep while my heart raced frantically.

The next morning I awoke to laughter. I sat on the couch as casually as possible. I felt like I should be wearing a scarlett letter on my chest.

An Andy Kaufmann special was on t.v. All of a sudden, the room felt like it was pulsating. The t.v., his laughter, it was amplified. I started to sweat. I tried to focus on the show and distract myself. But the t.v. kept getting louder and louder. The voices sounding more manic and my mind racing frantically. My breathing got more shallow and raspy. I got up and started to pace around the living room. I went outside into the parking lot. The fresh air did nothing to alleviate the weight pressing on my chest, the tightening around my neck. By the time I went back inside I knew I needed to go to the hospital. Something wasn’t right.

I don’t know if I stayed conscious during the car ride. By the time we got to the E.R. I was pretty sure that something horrible was happening. I imagined some obscure allergic reaction. I talked, in between gasps for breath, giving instructions.

You have to tell my family I love them. Promise me you’ll tell them. I thought I was passing along my good-byes by proxy.

They ordered XRays of my chest and my throat. I was floating in and out of consciousness when the Doctor returned to talk to us.

“You’re fine.” I was fine. “Physically, you’re fine.” Oh. Ok. No one’s ever made that qualification to me before. But ok.

He proceeded to explain that I was having a severe panic attack. He explained the power of the mind to make the body feel very real sensations. I felt like my worst fears were coming true, I had always had an intense fear of mental illness. As a young girl I had visions of living life strapped to a bed, a life spent contorted in a straight jacket or watered down on pills. I lamented the lack of a physical ailment to explain my symptoms. I was kind of freaked out and in shock. I know what I felt was real physical feelings.

My throat was closing.

I couldn’t breathe.

But it was all in my head.

That night I insisted that he go out with our friends. I was too tired from ingesting my first taste of Ativan and experiencing a perceived near death to do anything. He insisted on staying with me.

Why does he have to be so damn nice?

But I made him go. I needed to be alone to process the day.

I craved solitude.

Thankfully he acquiesced.

I sat in the silence of the apartment trying to sort it all out. What the hell was going on with me? How did this happen? I started writing in my notebook. I let my hand take over, writing the words, shaping the phrases. I didn’t even know what would show up on the page, I just let it happen. And there it was. I need to leave.

I needed to leave. Not because he was awful. Not because he was bad. But because it wasn’t right for me. What had once been so right was completely wrong now. And I needed to leave. My body had been screaming at me for six months. My throat had been in a vice, tightening a little more each minute. And I ignored all of it. I searched, I prayed, I listened for the silent voices. All along I was forsaking the only voice that mattered. The voice that was getting muffled with each day of trudging on, with each day of looking somewhere other than the one place the answers resided. The voice that would stop my breath before it let me ignore it. The voice that I would realize, so many years later, was more vital than water.

 

“Lola” The Kinks. ‘Cause who doesn’t love this song?

 Have you had issues with anxiety? Have you ever ignored that “inner voice” that speaks to you? What were the consequences? Do you have a favorite song you request?

wave-150x150

“You were fighting every day

So hard to hide the pain.

I know you never said goodbye,

I had so much left to say.

One last song,

given to an Angel’s son.”

-Sevendust, Angel’s Son

I never said goodbye. It’s taken me 14 years to realize it. I remember so much and so little about that night. Certain memories stand out like a bad dream on a loop that I can’t pause. I remember sounds. The shrill ringing of a phone. The sound of my breath. Raspy. Shallow. The inexplicable calm in my mother’s voice. “You need to come.” I stayed calm until I hung up the phone. Then I lost it. I didn’t want to go. I can’t do it. My hands trembled uncontrollably as I pulled on my pants. I was frantic and stalling at the same time. I want him to save me. Tell me I don’t have to go. Tell me it’s all some sick cruel joke. He took my hands and steadied them. “You have to go. You have to do this.” I nod quickly, more times than necessary. I manage to find the keys. “Are you ok?” he calls out. I nod one more time and shut the door behind me. If I talk, if I hesitate, I’ll break. I must move forward or I’ll crumble. I remember the sound of the keys. Clanging like a frantic jester in my trembling hand.  My teeth chattering. Nerves had taken over my body and I was shaking. I remember the audacity of a beautiful night. Warm. Breezy. In defiant contrast with everything I was feeling. I don’t remember driving there. Mom met me on the sidewalk to the house. She’d come out to give me the details. To let me know what I was going to see. Dear god, I just saw him two days ago, what could have changed in 48 hours? I tried to follow her into the house, but collapsed into her arms overcome with fear and anguish. I collapsed. I knew I was supposed to be strong for her, but I couldn’t help myself. I was ashamed, but I succumbed. I let her guide my limp body into the house. She sat me on a chair and comforted me. She comforted me. I knew this wasn’t the way it was supposed to go, but I felt more out of control than I’d ever felt in my life. When I finally calmed down and the sobbing subsided I went into the living room to see my brother. He was asleep, but not asleep. I realized quickly that the last time I saw him, only 2 days ago, was the last time I would have a coherent conversation with him. And what did we talk about? I don’t even know. Probably some bullshit. Probably me trying to be stupid and make him laugh. Did he know? While I was rattling off stupid one-liners, did he know that it would be the last time we would really talk? Was he annoyed with my oblivious idiocy? Did he want to scream at me or shake me and tell me to shut the fuck up? To be real? Did he want me to say goodbye? I’ll never know. I’ll never know if my self preservation robbed him of a real moment, of getting to say goodbye to me. He was always so protective, he wouldn’t want to upset me. He would have put my needs ahead of his. He would have hidden his disappointment. And now I’ll never know. That night passed like a dream. I remember some things so clearly. I remember feeling the most desperate panic I’ve ever felt in my life. I wanted to leave, to escape. My mind was screaming inside my head while the world moved in slow motion. I remember disbelief. I had been so hopeful. So optimistic. And still we were here. I remember worrying that he was suffering. I was so intensely scared that he was suffering and couldn’t tell us. I remember feeling guilt. Guilt because I laid on the floor and closed my eyes and drifted in and out of a tortured sleep. Guilt because my sister sat by his side the entire night. Not budging. Guilt because she was having to be the strong one and I reverted to a scared little girl who just wanted to shove her thumb in her mouth and rock back and forth. The details of that night and the next morning are sacred. We were all there. My parents. My sister. Her husband. Me. Joe. We all were there for a moment that is indescribable. It was beautiful and wrenching and I’ll never be able to put into words watching someone precious die. I think we all knew it – that moment. And I still didn’t say goodbye. I held up  afterwards. We all did. The house felt obscenely quiet. We were all in shock. I went through the motions. We all did. I still had wedding stuff to attend to. I still had to plan for the happiest day of my life that was to follow, only ten short days, after the worst day of my life. Planning seemed so superficial. So stupid. I didn’t care. I didn’t want a wedding anymore. I would have been happy with a signature on a piece of paper to make it legal. But my family wouldn’t have it. They convinced me that the wedding had to happen. I had to do it because it’s what he would have wanted. He knew, even before I really knew. He knew that Joe was the one. He told my parents, after I’d brought Joe home the first time,”That’s the guy she’s going to marry” So of course I had to keep on keeping on with the wedding. He would have been pissed if I’d canceled the biggest party of my life. But now, all these years later, I realize I never said goodbye. All these years later, when that realization hit me, it was like someone had cut my legs off. How did I sit by his side for hours upon hours, knowing it was goodbye, yet never saying goodbye? Was it selfishness? Was it denial? I have been told I should write a goodbye letter. The mere mention of that left me open and seething. A wound, this particular wound, that I didn’t even know was there for fourteen years, was now bleeding. I operate between two worlds. In one world I go about my business and tell myself that I’ll see him soon. He’s traveling. He’s busy. That’s why I miss him. This is feasible. The other world is on a more spiritual level. I know he’s gone, but I know he’s here. He’s with me. I know he was with me when I walked down the aisle on my wedding day. I can tell you the exact moment he showed up during the births of my three children. There have been times, random times, when I hear his favorite song and I know he’s with me. I feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I have felt him here with me when I’m writing about him. I still don’t want to say goodbye. But maybe I’m still being scared and selfish. Maybe saying goodbye is the right thing to do. So here goes… How do you say goodbye to someone when you don’t want to let them go? I don’t want you to go. I know I can’t put a cap on this, I can’t fold this up and put it in a box. But I do want you to know some things. Your life was a gift to us all. You brought laughter. You brought art. You brought joy. You made us, this hodgepodge family a real family. You gave each of us a part of you. Your smile that could light up a room. Your laughter that could soften the hardest of souls. Your humor that could cut through any moment and bring sweet relief of laughter. You could make me laugh when I didn’t want to laugh. And is there really anything better than that? Is there any greater gift? I want to hold on so tight, my jaw clenched in tight determination, but I also need to release. I am not going to tell you goodbye. I just don’t believe in it. But I will tell you all the things I wanted to say so badly. All the things I kept to myself because you weren’t giving up and I didn’t want you to think I was too. I want to tell you that I love you. I want to tell you how much better you made my life, everyone’s life. I can’t imagine a world without you, so I just imagine you’re still in it. I miss you. I miss you so bad I feel it in every bone. I hope you’re good. I hope you are happy. But I’m not saying goodbye. I’ll never say goodbye.