What I Would Have Missed

1a

Over the past couple of months, I have not written about my strong belief in angels.  I don’t ask or need for you to believe what I say in this entry, but I can’t share my experience without doing so here.  Not that I would want to anyway.  I owe them my life.

Twenty years ago, I almost died.  There was no accident.  I wasn’t suffering from a terminal illness.  I just didn’t want to fight against my tormented mind and my broken heart anymore.  It wasn’t worth it, and I wasn’t worth it.  I was lost, and I attempted to take my life.

1d

1b

When the roller coaster of emotions was climbing upward, I could recognize that everything would be alright.  I could see possibilities all around me.  But whenever the imminent crash would happen, my ability to perceive the relevance of my existence wouldn’t merely fade – it would disappear.  The darkness would swallow me whole.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had struggled for years with the unpredictability of manic depression.  I read the books.  I met with the doctors.  I took the pills.  But I couldn’t make it stop.  It was as if I had no control over my life or my sanity.  I could see it. but I couldn’t stop it.  I wanted to turn off the noise.  Turn off the pain.  Turn everything off.

1f

I couldn’t hurt myself or anyone else anymore.  I couldn’t stay any longer.  I couldn’t hold on.  I took the pills.  Handfuls of them.  I was blind with confusion and hurt.  I was going under and I wanted to let go.

I stood in the little bathroom with the empty pill bottle in my hand, and I heard a clear voice that was not my own.  “This is it.  You have to do something NOW.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A switch flipped inside me in an instant.  Immediately my head became clear and my mind snapped to attention.  I knew what I had heard, and I understood exactly what it was saying to me.

I had to get those pills out of my body right away.  I tried to throw them up but I couldn’t.  I calmly approached my mother and told her that I needed ipecac syrup or some other medicine that would force me to vomit.  She was terrified but managed to track some down.  I can still envision the countless pills floating in the water.  Even though I had expelled the pills within minutes after taking them, I still slept for two straight days.

1kThat experience changed me on every level.  It didn’t make the ups and downs go away.  It didn’t stop my anxiety problems, my OCD tendencies, or my mercurial emotions.  I didn’t become the easiest person to be friends with nor did I become a dream family member at all times (or even most times, but I really do try).  However my eyes were opened.  I realized that I was supposed to be here, I was not alone at any point, and my life had value.  I didn’t have the slightest idea about the blessings I would receive nor did I understand those I would give.  I didn’t understand my true value, and I suppose, to a very great extent, I still don’t.  But I knew then that my worth was beyond measure.

I matter.  We all do.

There are moments in our lives that can change everything.  Our destinies can be shaped over time or they can be flipped in an instant.  When you have depression, the finality of that choice can be lost when you are in the darkness.   It will pass.1g

There is more light around you and in you than you could ever imagine.  There is beauty and wonder and love and hope and magic.  And there are angels.

Your life is precious, and you are never alone.

Do not give in to the illusion of endless darkness.  There is no darkness without the light.  The sun is always there even when you can’t see it.  Just give it a little more time.1e

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Hold on a bit more.  Let the possibilities of your life become beautiful realities.  Never give up on hope.

You can’t fathom what you would never want to miss.

1l

In love and light always – Joanna

***There are countless photos I wanted to include of others who make my heart smile, but I didn’t need to ask permission from this crew.  🙂

Stormy Weather

I feel relatively grounded on average.  However there are times when I feel life piling up around me, and I lose sight of the sun.  My thoughts become cloudy, and I focus on an unrealistic desire to resolve all pending worries in the immediate moment or else.  When I get into this ultimatum frame of mind, I attempt to remind myself that there is no way that everything will be resolved immediately and seek to access my calmer analytical side.  I ask myself “What does ‘or else’ really mean?”

On 90% of the items, the plain truth is that if those things don’t happen, no biggie.  They just happen later or life goes on anyway.  The remaining 10% are almost exclusively highly improbable, and even if they do happen, will not be improved by torturing those around me.

Despite knowing this, I opted for the “free torture for all” approach yesterday.  Opted isn’t really the right word.  It was more like having my mind invaded by a frenetic wild-eyed doppelganger who looked like me in the mirror.  I needed the pragmatic rational me to kick the irrational “what did you mean by THAT comment” me out of the driver’s seat.  Frenetic doppelganger would still be hanging out in the vehicle, but at least she wouldn’t be driving the bus.

Work was in high gear (nothing new).  I need to have surgery on one of my hands (that is new), and due to various reasons, have to have the procedure done next week.  Thankfully it’s on my right hand, and I’m right-handed.  Also I can type with my toes and allow my young children to create complex spreadsheets whenever they need a break.  Wait.  No.  I’m thinking of the clever octopus in Finding Dory.  I do actually need my hands to type.  I started to worry about this yesterday, and the panic train began its exit from the station.

I wanted to write a post but there was no time.  I wanted to search for a low-key vacation spot in the area but again there was no time, no cash, and no freedom since we are chained here by the looming possibility of a house showing.  Thinking about the possible showings had me thinking about the house and the cleaning worries began.  The mental to do lists were already cycling.  Once more I remembered that I needed to work before any of that could be tackled.  So I worked as the panic increased and the noise in my mind grew.

Tech turn off time rolled around.  Those of you who live in an area with hurricanes have probably seen the way these storms can stall over water for a short period of time before moving along their paths.  It seems as though they are taking a leisurely respite, but in fact they are often building in strength and becoming disastrous destructive powerhouses.  Yesterday’s tech turn off was analogous to this storm stall period and ultimately led to a category 3 Hurricane MoJo.  Bless my poor kids and husband.  They all opted for duck and cover or just ran whenever I got within range.  I swear I heard one of them tell another, “Serpentine!!! Serpentine!!!”

Thankfully that particular storm blew through the area within a few hours, but all affected residents are still under watch for ongoing heavy emotional floodwaters and scattered hot messness.

I just get completely overwhelmed with it all sometimes.  Work worries, house worries, family worries, health worries, money worries, worry worries.  It can be incredibly hard to stop it all from circling my mind once it gets going.  Second verse…  Same as the first…

Tech turn off was hours behind me, and I was tethered to my laptop once more.  My tidbit teeny kid came in and wanted to help me work.  Language can be subjective, but I feel like she and I have widely divergent interpretations as to what the word help means.  To me, help means help.  To her, help means jack up my spreadsheet beyond repair.  Semantics are funny like that.

So when she offered to help, I said, “Don’t even think about it lady.”  Being her mother’s daughter, she had no interest in heeding my silly warning and climbed into my lap anyway.  Damn she was good.

Next plan.  Turn on music.  What can I say.  The kid likes to shake her bon bon and typically can’t resist a beat.  It is a solid deterrent to kid destroying behavior.  Cheese also works, but I had no cheese.  So music it was.  And then she started to sing.  She’s two.  She doesn’t always get her own name right.  I had no clue that she knew the song at all, but she absolutely did.  Admittedly it was totally her own version of the lyrics, but if you know the song, you know where she is going with it.

In a matter of seconds, she made me smile – really smile – that big fat make your cheeks hurt smile.  My heart sang with her as she sang into her flashlight (that had randomly appeared) and shredded the lyrics.  I turned off the work right then, parked her little hiney in my chair (at a safe distance from the aforementioned computer), and recorded a video of her in action.

It was the smallest moment, but there was such tremendous magic in it for me.  I never cease to be amazed at the way life feels like it is hanging by a thread, but then suddenly, in the blink of an eye, reminds you that you are where you need to be.

Nothing had changed from one moment to the next.  I still had the same items on my list.  Work, surgery, house, family, etc.  But there was clarity around them.  I could even see unexpected blessings in some of them.  Knowing that I will likely be limited in what I can do for a week is forcing me to seek more help at work.  We have done a lot on cleaning the house, but some of it will just have to be whatever it is.  Oh well.  Maybe we can’t do a vacation away, but we can look at little day trips.  That’s totally doable.  And then there’s family.  They love me even when I’m certain that they can’t stand me.  I do the same when they form their own personal hurricanes.  Their love is boundless.  So is mine.

As much as I seek to avoid them, I learn so much about myself and those around me during and after these storms.  I am terrified of leaving a path of destruction instead of following a path of enlightenment.  So often we feel like we have to be on one road versus another.  We decide that there can be no shared space between the two.  No commonalities.  No crossover.  But what if there aren’t two paths at all?  Maybe the difference lies in recognizing that your choice isn’t about the path but rather how you let it shape you.  We are where we are supposed to be right now.  Sometimes it feels like we lose our way, but we are never lost.  Not really.  We get so focused on where we want to go that we forget where we are.

I pray that we see the benediction and grace along our paths even when they appear to be lined with anything but blessings.  Find the magic in the moment, and remember where you are and who you are.

Blessings to all of you.  Joanna

(Day 20)

Disastrous

Nature, Nurture, and Not Sure

 

Garden

I love pallets.  They are heavy but free and have endless possibilities.

In my youth, I dreamed of being a stunt woman or / (ideally) and a rap video dancer.  As fate would have it, Run D.M.C. must have lost my number because that call never came.  The next most obvious option was for me to go into finance, so that’s where I headed.  I’m very good at it, I help many people, and I am valued at my company.  That’s what I do to pay the bills, and there is something oddly soothing about the black and white nature of calculations – either your numbers are right or they are wrong.  No gray areas.  However what I love to do is anything but black and white.  It pays no bills – actually it adds to them.  I adore creating things – gardens, murals for the kids’ rooms, random wood items, written pieces, etc.  I find it to be tremendously fulfilling to give life to something originally housed in your imagination even if it’s something simple.

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My murals tend to be light and make an appearance when I want to spruce up spaces like this toy closet.  This was inspired by the adorable children’s book “The Pout Pout Fish.”

I take a tremulous walk across the right-brained left-brained tightrope every single day.  My older kids, however, seem to be firmly planted at opposite ends of the spectrum.  They are both fantastically creative and wildly clever in their own ways, but their directions seem so clear.

Fighters

Good vs Bad – this is his way (and his drawing)

My son is my eldest, and as is the way of many first born children, is all angles and clean lines.  School is easy.  There is right and there is wrong.  No middle ground.  Thankfully he is incredibly kind-hearted and dreams of helping people when he gets older.  I celebrate his natural tenacity and pray that it remains coupled with a conviction to change the world for the better.  He’s the kind of person that could do it, too.  He is misunderstood so often by kids his own age, and while that hurts my heart beyond words today, I know that this is a necessary part of his journey and that my boy is destined to shine.

Dragon Nursery

This is her drawing of a dragon nursery.  She has created enough dragon drawings to fill the internet.

My older daughter, on the other hand, is a fairy trapped in a human body.  She lives for all things magical, and art is her natural language.  School is much more challenging.  Most of her grades are good, but she has to work hard for them, and it definitely isn’t a labor of love.  Her tests come home laced with doodles and scribbles.  Her notes have dragons zooming between the words.  She doesn’t just enjoy creating things.  It’s who she is.  Last night we finally opened up a pack of modelling clay we have had for months.  She instantly constructed these wonderful funky critters and many more.

Jellyfish

So adorable, right?  So sweet, yes?  NO.  It’s a trick.  This kid will turn on you in an instant.  We have already been suckered in past the point of return.  Save yourselves and don’t fall for it!

And then there’s the tidbit.  It’s too early to tell exactly which way she will lean, but everyone in the family agrees that she will be prominent in the field of world domination.  DON’T TRUST THIS KID.  Her cuteness is the sneakiest facade you will ever see.

They are all so different yet so wonderfully awesome in their own ways.  I am in awe of their authenticity.  I envy the way they are who they are – no apologies, no excuses, no doubts.  I am proud of myself for encouraging them to embrace their natural gifts, but I wish that I could borrow a hint of the certainty they convey.

Even when you are born on the tightrope, finding your footing remains a delicate and tiresome balancing act.  I dream of picking a side and being able to trust that a net will be there to catch me when I do.

***MoJo***

 

Landing the Chopper


Being accused of being a helicopter mother (one who perpetually hovers) is irritating beyond words and doubly so when you know that it’s true.  I prefer to think of myself as more of a Millennium Falcon kind of mom who swoops in to save the day with swagger and a tall hairy guy by my side.  In my version, the hairy copilot is my husband, we don’t ever have to hide out in a giant trash compactor, and my kid refrains from delivering me a swift death a few years down the road.

Earlier today I was walking through the house and heard a high pitched “cheep cheep cheep!” out one of the back windows.  Alarmed at the sound of distress, I rushed over to look and confirmed that there was a baby bird flailing around one of the plants in my garden. What was I to do?  I hadn’t hunted for worms and grubs since the local Wal-Mart had opened, and despite my newly acquired upper arm wings, I had yet to master the fine art of flying.  I’m not a licensed ornithologist (thank heavens because I’m sure that people would comment on that ID photo as well), but extensive reading has led me to suspect that my inability to fly may have something to do with the combined effects of gravity and my being a human.  So I stood there worrying immensely for three whole seconds.

And then the mama bird made her appearance. She looked about as worried as Snoop Dogg in a smoke shop.  That bird was chill fo’ shizzle.  She dropped off a bug and headed right back out.  Immediately thereafter the chick checked himself (before he wrecked himself) and got situated on a branch.

The baby bird was fine.  He was fine the whole damn time!  He was just testing out something new, and, unsurprisingly, it was unnerving for the little guy.

I keep replaying that scene in my mind and find myself heavily contemplating the clear lesson with respect to my own parenting choices.  I have come to the only logical conclusion one can reach after experiencing such a simple yet profound occurrence.  I’m going to have to hire the mama bird to raise my children as soon as she boots her bird kid out for good.  Between the two of us, it is obvious that she is the only mother that has figured this parenting thing out.

I, on the other hand, am immeasurably less chillax about my own children and their attempts to spread their wings.  Every inch of my soul wants for them to take flight, but it often feels like I’m screaming “Fly fly fly!!” while maintaining a death grip on their ankles whenever they attempt to do so.  They say, “I want to do XYZ,” and my immediate reaction is to steer them back toward ABC in an attempt to protect them from potential disappointment.  The bitter irony is that their efforts are rewarded with disappointment right out of the gate, because I never really allowed them to try.

So as I said previously, I’m going to have to hire the bird mom.  Or maybe…just maybe…I can learn a little something from the wisdom I saw today and give my own little chicks a chance to spread their wings while I release my grip (veeeery sloooowly).  Perhaps I can tie a string to their ankles and let it out millimeter by millimeter (like kid kites).  Clearly I don’t have the details worked out.  I just know that my kids are ready to soar, and I need to summon the strength within myself to allow them to do it.

***MoJo***

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