Cleaning Out Closets —A Melancholy Chore

WP_20170808_14_51_31_Pro_LI[1]My goal today has been to get the guest bedroom closet cleaned out. I have stored everything in there, old records from a while back (years), wrapping paper, house plans that we got from the previous owner eighteen years ago, suitcases, a sewing notions box that folds out like an accordion, blankets, pillows, and  pictures. There was one long flat plastic box that I had to pull down from the top shelf. It hit me on the head and knocked my glasses off.  Like it really wanted to stay on that shelf.  It had several manila envelopes in it. I started checking what was in them and didn’t get any further than the first envelop after finding a copy of Dad’s funeral sermon and his death certificate.

My heart is thumping now. Maybe it’s from lifting all the boxes, but I really wish I hadn’t stopped to read anything. Especially not about Daddy’s funeral. There were quite a few comments of how much we loved him, how shy he was with his emotions, and how he didn’t handle trying to spare us from his growing old and feeble very well. A lot of the memories came back up of Reverend Pat Srinivas coming over to talk to us before she wrote the sermon–the day after Daddy’s suicide .

Not full on flashbacks.  After nearly twenty years, I think my mind has somehow learned to put a stop to going down those memory trails. Not full on panic attacks either. But my heart rate is high. My chest and throat ache with a dull terrified feeling.

Okay.  I get it now why I’ve dreaded cleaning out that particular closet. I really would rather be outside painting the front porch or going through my bookcase like I did last week. Or cleaning out the garage where I can feel strength in my body and not so much pain in my heart. Too many bones in that closet. I even have the genealogy of both my dad and mom’s families in there somewhere.

Even so, I still have to go back in there and figure out what’s in the rest of the boxes that I pulled out to sift through before that last box hit me. We are going to be moving in a few months.  I wish a friend who would come over and go through these papers and memories for me. Or at least hang out with me to give me some courage.  Decide what to do with all the cards that Alan has given me over the years. Thank God he is still alive. He didn’t die after his open heart surgery. But, do I put the cards from him  in that same box that houses Daddy’s funeral sermon? Reverend Srinivas wrote something about how we should never try to hold in so much that we become over-burdened. I guess that’s what she thought of Daddy’s mindset, that he didn’t want to be a burden in his old age. I never have been able to reason out his mindset at that time. And I probably won’t ask someone to come help me either.  Am I a nut that’s living close to the tree? Or is it just that I don’t want to dive in there again, in all the emotions of my life.  Shit.  They could become a Steven King story, I think.

Thinking you’re a burden on someone is childish. Years ago Mom went through her cedar chest and gave me back all the letters that I sent to her when I had moved to Houston. I had an active imagination even back then and never wanted to burden Mom with the truth of my experiences out there. Instead I pissed and moaned about what others did to drive me crazy. Or I would tell some dishonest story that held a smidgen of truth enough to remind me exactly what was going on at the time. At least I know those are not in there. I shredded those letters and put them in the compost pile in the back yard.  I don’t really enjoy knowing what a childish idiot I was at 25. After getting into recovery from co-dependence, I’ve regretted doing away with those letters pretty often. But right now I don’t have many regrets. I’d hate to read them again after just reading Daddy’s sermon.

I keep thinking once we get moved to our new place and the next time anyone goes through all this shit, it won’t be me.

Advertisements

Why Did We (Buried-In-Like Two Ticks) Decide To Build?

 

I never wanted to build (Alan did).  Believe me.  It is hard for us to decide on what to eat, much less all the decisions that go with building a house.

So first–there was a right knee replacement. My Facebook friends and family who have been through it with me, I guess, would really like for me to just shut up about my knees. It’s been 4 years.  I am amazed everyday what I can do.

When we moved here from Alabama, we took a long time finding the home we wanted.  Not because we are conscientious shoppers—Alan and I just have a hard time making up our minds. I think it’s mostly because he thinks “I want blah, blah, blah” and I immediately think “I don’t want blah, blah, blah.”  I really didn’t want to move but we needed to.  The place I worked for was like a supportive family to me, and I didn’t want to leave.  It was just a year after my dad’s suicide, too. I’d had enough stress already. Alan’s work transferred him up here. After two years of driving back and forth from Decatur, Alabama to Spring Hill, TN, one pre-dawn morning he fell asleep at the wheel and ran off the road on the interstate. That pushed us to get our move on. (I guess you could say it was like when 911 happened and the Democrats and Republicans both agreed to go to war against Afghanistan. It takes a lot for us to agree on something without emotionally holding the other hostage.)

The real estate saleslady told us we were driving her crazy. We’d walk into a house and then go in opposite directions.  We knew we wanted a one level house with an open floor plan.  If we could have twitched our noses and brought the ranch style house we had in Alabama up to Tennessee, we would have been set. We both loved it (rare event).  When we found this place, a one-level open concept with 2 acres and lots of trees, I knew it was home.

 

Front of house from driveway

Alan wasn’t so sure, but there were a lot of perks.  He wouldn’t be driving 200 miles back and forth each workday from home to the then Saturn Auto plant. He wouldn’t be falling asleep at the wheel after a 12 hour work day. This house is about 10 minutes from the plant. And he thought I’d be happy.  He hadn’t seen me happy in a while.

So now nearly 18 years later, we are building a house and moving.  Once again it feels like a forced situation.  My knees were bone-on-bone 4 years ago and I had this horrible feeling I’d be housebound forever because there are several steps to get into the house. (Okay, my mind runs away with me a lot sometimes. Yes, I had my knees replaced, and, yes, I can easily make it up and down the steps.)  My second knee replacement was 7 months later. As I recovered, we found a beautiful lot and started looking at house plans. We hired architects. We dreamed. We tried to work things out so we both would be satisfied. (Hard to do for a Democrat and a Republican living together.)

Depression happens sometimes when you have major surgery or surgeries. I dragged my feet with the architects, couldn’t make up my mind about anything. Argued with or just ignored Alan when he tried to push me on toward our goal. I mean, listen, I spent weeks in a rehab facility where I got a real look at what it’s like getting old.  And I truly felt for a while like I was somewhere around 95 years old married to a teenager.  I cried a lot. After a time of being miserable, I came out my funk.  It was an uphill climb. Finally, we were back on the road to a new home.

Then Alan had what he calls his heart adventure.  Not a heart attack, luckily, but he had high blood pressure which lead him to a cardiologist who found he had 4 blockages, severely in 3. We count our blessings that Alan didn’t have a heart attack. I think he was just days from that happening.  He did, however, have a triple bypass.  We were sidetracked again.

Nearly a year later, he has bumps where they wired his chest plate back together.  And at night, I put my hand on his chest and have memories of those days in the hospital and what his heart sounded like on that monitor day in and day out.  Now, he’s walking at least 4 to 5 miles a week.  I don’t think he’s fallen victim to the depression I went through. He did at first want to give up on our plans, but that was like minutes after the doctor told him he was on his way to Vanderbilt.

We went on a beautiful vacation to Clearwater Beach last Fall and just relaxed.  Both of us.

We are back on track now.

WP_20170510_16_21_20_Pro_LI[1]

Next time, I’ll tell you about how we found our builder.

Love,
Karen

Currently

   We have purchased new property, drawn up plans for a new house and have started the ever-loving ($$$) building process already. And believe me, I have some stories about those things that include two knee replacements and a triple heart bypass surgery.

  I hope to post more about our building process and the getting-ready-to sale process. (With pictures if I can ever figure out how to get pics into the blog.) But I thought I would just start where we are rather than backing up about four years.

   In the house we currently live in.

   Right now, my feet are in this house.  I am working hard to prepare it for sale after we move to our new home. (You know, hiring people to come fix things, especially if sweet-talking or bullying my husband doesn’t work.)

   Everything is here. I know the neighbors and have watched their children grow up. I have cried when my next door neighbors moved, and gotten to know new neighbors with a guarded heart.

   I know the sound of woodpeckers and the color of robins eggs, and am serenaded by mockingbirds on a daily basis. One year during a lonely time thinking about my father’s death, I heard a screech owl singing a terrible and beautiful mourning song.

I know all the trees who live here by name, and some by their growth rings.  I have met the squirrels (they are little mobsters who eat the wires out of your car), the skunks (they have terrorized us with chemical warfare tactics on several occasions), and the snakes (they have slithered into our AC/Heating unit and made us think a helicopter had landed next to our house in the middle of the night). I’m sure when we get to the new place, we will develop friendships (and enemies) with the wildlife there.

I am really looking forward to only mowing one place.

Still, it’s hard to say goodbye to what is known.

2016 – Advent: Christmas Memories

One of the thoughts for Advent this year is to share with my family and friends a Christmas memory.  During my life, Christmas season has been hit or miss as far as my being in the Christmas spirit.  That’s because I had Christmas mixed up with something like a Bing Crosby movie with snow and jingle bells or a Norman Rockwell painting of a happy family gathering. I have been cynical about Christmas, never giving the season much of a chance, and always looking more forward toward New Year’s Day.

But God helped me through others learn what the season really means. (Even though I forget, still, sometimes.)

In the eighties—all of which I was divorced and lonely—I spent most of my Christmas Eves with my sister’s family.  My nieces were young, and they loved everything about Christmas.  My brother-in-law was as much about making Christmas fun as I was about wanting to be done with it. He cooked candy during December and he taught the girls to put cookies and milk out for Santa on Christmas Eve. When the girls went to bed, my sister, brother-in-law and I would drink beer, put together different toys and wrap them while watching something like Jumping Jack Flash on television. The three of us laughed and talked about everything. My sister and I always gave each other neck and foot rubs, too, while my brother-in-law checked the outside lights and took a bite of the cookies, drained the milk and left raindeer droppings (tootsie rolls).  Those are such nice memories for me that I hope I can take them with me all the way to the end of my days on earth.

Even though I thought I was alone because I didn’t have a significant other in my life, those were a conglomerate of Christmases I felt the love of the season. And didn’t even realize it for the longest time.

Now another Christmas tradition has to do with the family who adopted Alan and me as their own.  In the year 2000, Alan’s father, Fred, died.  He wanted his organs donated. The man who received his liver, Raymond, was grateful. He told Alan he would love and care for Alan like a father if Alan would only allow it. Raymond was such a humble man.  He and his wife, Jane, lived in Tupelo, Mississippi. Fred’s liver donation extended his life for eight years. We were invitedfor several events, giving us a chance to come to know his family. When he passed away, his wife asked us to share Christmas with her and their adult children and grandchildren and dogs and cats. Bring your dog, too, she said. We enjoyed dinner and gift giving with them, went to church with them the next day, and visited his grave. Alan and I fell in love with all of them, such sweet people. They really have become family to us. (One year Jane’s cat even peed on our coats. That made us feel really at home.)  We have been going back every Christmas since.  Jane passed away last year, and though we won’t be at her house this year, we are still planning to spend it with their children.  We feel so honored by them.

I know this time of the year can be hard, especially to those who are down in their feelings over a divorce, or a death, or even steeped in sadness because they grew up with a not-so-great Christmas history.  I’ve allowed my feelings to hold me back from giving and receiving love during the holidays.  But, I’m so grateful to the people who really know what the season means. They’ve taught me it’s all about the love.  Just like the first Christmas when baby Jesus came.  It’s all about God’s love.

Blessings,

Karen

Goodbye 2015! You sucked for the most part!

I am glad this year is on its last day and very glad for the hope of a brand new year.  This is one last glance before I dust off for 2016.

Even before the year 2015 actually started, Alan and I were moaning with a stomach flu. We sniped at each other because both of us felt like—well, like crap.  Alan had to go to the hospital for fluids. I fumed at him for not drinking enough water. I got over it within about a week. But Alan didn’t. He took antibiotics and came down with C-diff. That’s short of Clostrdium difficile colitis. Goggle it. It’s not fun to have or to live with someone who has it. I turned into a classic germophobe and bitched at him for not eating yogurt, afraid he might die.

That’s how the year started off. I gotta tell you, I am just not great as a caregiver. I’m not sure if he got well, or just quit talking about it.

That situation went on for months. He lost weight. People at church were praying for Alan, and I think some of them were praying I wouldn’t kill him.

When Spring rolled around, we did lots and lots of yard work because we have two properties now.  One we live on and one we have intentions of building a house on in the near future.

I worked on the second draft of my novel and met with a small critique group every other week. They saw me enough on a regular basis to realize I was depressed. They are good friends and are kind to me in every way except, you know, for the critiquing part of why we met.

In June, Don, my brother-in-law passed away. I say he was my brother-in-law; he and my sister had divorced a few years before; they stayed friends. He and I were friends. Don had had health issues for several years, but his death was sudden. I loved him.  I was proud of how my nieces handled his memorial. Proud of my sister being there for him and for their girls. I thought about him a lot this year and my heart ached for my sister and nieces.

In July, Alan went for a regular health screening at work for his insurance.  His blood pressure was at stroke level. He went to the doctor and got meds to get it under control. It stayed above normal.

In August, he went for a stress test. Afterwards, we did yard work at our new property.  The doctor was calling Alan while he was weed-eating the back side of the property and I was mowing. Alan never checks his phone. The day went by.

He rode his motorcycle in to work the next morning. The doctor’s nurse called our home phone first thing, saying that Alan really needed to see a cardiologist that day. His stress test showed he had ischemia, low oxygen to his heart. I got a hold of him at work through instant messenger and told him I would come pick him up.  He told me if I wanted to come, I could just follow him back on his motorcycle. How do you argue with someone who might have a heart attack any second. I followed him home.

So…there began a wild and powerless experience as I stayed in the hospital with him when he had open-heart surgery.  One day about a week after he was home, he fainted in the bathroom because his blood pressure went too low. That day scared the hell out of me. Between weight restrictions, so many pills, a new diet, and his not being able to drive that first month he was home, I was too busy and too frightened to do much for myself except maybe brush my teeth.

I can’t believe how sweet people are. New friends who live next to our new property mowed it for us for the rest of the year. One of Alan’s friends at work came and helped us around the house, lifting things I couldn’t, trimming the yard after I mowed. People watched after us in all sorts of ways. I really believe God watched after us through all our friends. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to everyone who was there for us during his hospital stay to the days at home later. I know Alan feels the same.

The day of Alan’s surgery, a close friend of ours, Jane Kellum, had a stroke.  She died two days later. We missed being there for her family whom we consider our extended family. We did celebrate the holiday with most of them a week before Christmas. The first thing they said to us was how sorry they were for not being there for Alan when he had his surgery. We sat and talked about our different experiences, and somehow those conversations healed us. We really love the Kellum family.

This month our dog chased a damned skunk and got sprayed by it, again. (It’s the third time she’d been skunked.  Twice this year and once a few years ago.)  She twisted all over the ground trying to get the smell off her. Alan and I gave her a bath outside and made her stay in a room by herself.  Then we cleaned the house because smell followed her in.  As the weeks went by, our little Zee started exhibiting a lot of pain when she went up and down our stairs. Long story short, she had a compressed disc in her neck and arthritis in her hips. She just kept getting worse no matter all the things the vet and we tried. We put her down a couple days ago. Her death is a heart-breaking period to this year’s continual stress.

Goodbye 2015.  I have learned some great lessons from you.

  • One lesson is something I seem to learn over and over again. I can’t control anything except my own attitude, and more often than not, I can’t control that.
  • Eat healthy. We were fat and salty until August. Our diet was so full of sodium, I think we may be preserved forever and need no embalming when we die.
  • Heart surgeries don’t just happen to the heart patient. They affect the family and friends and they are traumatic events.
  • Just let go and work at living life on life’s terms. I don’t have enough time in my future to fill it with strife and fear anymore. Make gratitude lists instead of resentment lists.
  • Relationships are priceless.

The Beast Within

Running Lion

The terrorizer is in the near distance.

Do you feel it getting closer?  Maybe it’s all in your mind, but can’t you feel it with your skin hair twitching in the air?

Imagine it coming after you.  Getting closer and closer.

lion 4-13-2015

Take a long look at the picture above. Stare at it. Zero in on its terrorizing face. It’s readiness to kill. Stare at it till you believe the thing’s real.

Now check, if you can, your physical feelings.

Is your breath irregular? Rapid? Or are you unable to catch your breath? Maybe you even want to pant?

Do you feel on full alert? Ready to run? Or are you frozen in place?

Imagine you believe you live in a society that says you’re crazy if you react. You believe you must pretend you are fine when you are not fine.  Now you need to hide both —the beast and your fear.

Presto_Pressure_Cooker

You go about stuffing the monster and your fear into a small pressure cooker. One that sits within the cavity of your rib cage, just under your heart. You cover it with ice cold water, hoping if not to freeze it to death to at least drown it. You lock the lid. Tight.

You leave it there, shivering. But, you don’t realize until it’s too late, something triggers a flame beneath the cooker. That something could be anything, a breeze, a tap-tap-tapping noise you remember, a song shared, a verse read—anything.

DSC_3348-warthog-mud-bath

While the cooker heats up, you are irritable, aggravated, and angry. Osmosis monster steam gets in your blood system.  Makes you feel ugly. Sometimes makes you act ugly.

Then you are at work in a meeting, or in the middle row of a theater watching an action packed movie, or chatting with friends at a party, or in church listening to someone speak on the wonder of God’s love. Maybe you are making love –when the pressure cooker begins to steam and whistle.

You panic. Hoping the beast will stay in the cooker at least long enough to get to the car, to get your house, or even to a bathroom stall before the lid blows off.  Maybe in the screaming whistles, you can hear the monster talking to you. “I’m going to eat you up,” it whispers so only you can hear.

Sometimes you make it out of the meeting or out of the movie or get away from the Sunday School class. Make it out, breath some air, calm down and re-adjust the lid. And turn off the flame for now.

buffalo-lion-1

Sometimes you don’t.  And you cry. And you sweat. And you hyperventilate. Or you fight the thin air.

But when you don’t get away in time you are always, ALWAYS, afraid someone will take you to a psych ward afterward. You are sure you are crazy. You are sure you’ve hurt someone’s feelings. You are sure that you are a very bad person.

Don’t trust those things you are so sure of.

It’s only the monster’s shit.

A boat load of it gets all over you when that pressure cooker explodes. Sometimes you need help getting it off.  There are people who specialize in such clean ups.

That’s the beast of PTSD.

Shit, Hell, Damn – Negative Thinking Stinks

Last week I went to a Codependent Anonymous meeting because I am codependent. (If you want to know what that is, check out my blog post What is Codependence?)

There’s a specific format of how a meeting starts out. Documents are read: the preamble, the welcome, the steps, the traditions, the sharing guidelines. We lay the documents on the floor, allowing whoever wants to read choose and pickup whatever they want. Last week I read the welcome.  A sentence touched me. “Our sharing is our way of identification and helps us to free the emotional bonds of our past and the compulsive control of our present.” Then the meeting opens for sharing.

I listened to others share the things they’ve learned about themselves, what they’ve learned about being powerless over others, what they think feeling feelings means, what they’ve found about the nature of their Higher Power, how they describe the joy of just living in the moment.  We are free to share whatever we feel or think.

I have been pulling inward lately.  Doing a lot of retreating, a lot of not feeling free to be myself. I didn’t really want to share, but reading that one sentence about identification in the welcome gave me a little push to speak up. I told how I’ve been feeling throttled-back these last few months, disappearing emotionally, as if my skin was turning invisible.

Then I got quiet because I couldn’t put words to my feelings.  This is how depression feels to me, no words, just dark feelings of worthlessness.  The group listened to me, even in my silence, and their attention gave me courage. “I have been going to a Bible Study for nearly three years, being around a group of loving and lovely individuals, but I don’t feel as free to be myself with them as I feel here. You know, not free to cuss because—my God, shit, hell, damn, what would they think of me? I have been involved in a small writer’s critique group for a year, and I think they think my writing is shit. I have been trying to give long-distance attention to my mom, and I think she resents it. I have been trying to be nice to my husband, and then end up in an argument over the stupidest things.” My voice croaked like a frog over these words. Even my lungs hurt.

Just after the meeting a friend sat with me. He said he wished I’d stop being hard on myself.  If the people in that bible study don’t like you, he said, then so what? Be real. The God of your understanding loves you.  If someone in the critique group doesn’t like your writing, then so what? Be real. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you. He said listening to someone cuss about something truthful feels real to him. And being open with my realness is a gift to others who stuff themselves down in that same kind of dark hole.

I’m smiling now, thinking his words as a reminder of something I knew, but just forgot. I let my feelings get out of hand, let them grow shameful in their wrong conclusions. Negative thinking is a horrible, cancerous thing.  It grows in the dark, and it’s impossible for me to change without help. Speaking my truth without blaming others is a way of shedding light and healing.

Love,

Karen