Learning to Accept What I Can’t Control

***Originally posted on https://lifeinthespectrum.com/.

As one who has minor (ginormous) challenges with slight (immeasurably large) control issues, I have yet to find a way to master my emotional response to situations that don’t turn out according to plan (that I created in my mind regardless of anyone else’s plan or reality). While I am aware of this flaw in my thought process, I struggle deeply with disentangling my personal feelings from the scenarios that upset me even when I recognize that I can’t change them.

A few months ago, we moved to a unique suburban area that offered over-sized lots with a small forest of trees blanketing the back of the yards. My oldest daughter and I discovered a shared passion for wildlife photography (especially of the feathered variety). We have always loved birds, but we were clueless about the vast array of species that would appear when we shared a little space with a grove of native trees.

In addition we have since found countless animal tracks trotting across our yard (inside our entirely enclosed fence). Our family and friends have been entertained over and over again with photos from our game camera as well as our evening animal stakeouts (a.k.a. sitting together in the dark in my room while we all stare out the windows with binoculars in hand and wait for our eyes to adjust and the nocturnal zoo to reveal itself).

game cam1

This level of nature may not be for everyone, but it’s an absolute paradise to my crew.

So when I woke a few mornings ago to the sickening crack of massive trees being felled a few feet behind our home, I felt an indescribable sadness. Our lot backs up to a tiny creek that separates our property from the lots behind us. Despite having a massive lot and a huge amount of space available for any castle / pool / soccer field the a new resident might need, the builders bulldozed tree after tree to the ground. The birds flew madly and many pairs could be heard wailing madly for hours as their nests and chicks were stolen away from them.

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This was the view from our lot a few days prior. We were upset with our own builder for clearing the back of our lot, but we were confident that the green space would be maintained.

To be clear, I’m not an unrealistic person nor do I live in a tree house of my own. I understand that even if it isn’t exactly what I want, many trees may have to come down to make room for a home, pool, and significant yard. But if you buy a massive wooded lot, why in the world would you ever destroy such natural beauty that took decades (or longer) to grow? Why come here at all? In addition, it was a clear violation of everything that we had been told about maintaining the larger trees. Although we rallied with the other neighbors beside us to get the builder involved and stop further mindless clearing, the damage was already done. The builder feigned confusion about the excess of clearing, and the destroyed trees were piled into an 18 wheeler and hauled away.

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This quickly became our view as the bulldozer began to tear through the trees. They did significant additional clearing after this photo was taken, but I couldn’t stomach taking another picture of the decimated habitat.

There was a pair of great horned owls that lived in one of the trees behind us that is now gone. We used to see a thick forest when we looked across our back fence but now see power lines and electrical boxes running along the other street several hundred feet behind our lot. I feel so sad and I don’t know how to let that go. I can’t control their choices nor can I fix the damage they caused.

All I can do is pray that the sadness will fade and that hope will find a way in the end.

I can’t change what has been done, but I humbly ask that you please consider planting a very small native tree or shrub near your home, school, or park. Any home improvement or garden store should be able to offer basic advice regarding appropriate plant species. If not, google might have one or two (thousand) suggestions. People constantly asking us how we get these beautiful species in our yard, and the answer is truly so simple. They just need a little bit of help.

We can’t control the situations around us nor can we go back in time to undo a hurt once it has happened. But we can make better choices when others can’t or won’t. We can rise above the pain. We can recognize that anger may be warranted but cannot define our existence. And we can choose hope and prove that it’s more than an idea.

As Willy Wonka beautifully said, “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dreams.”

And it’s true. Regardless of what is occurring around you, find your song and celebrate your dreams. Never forget that the smallest light can brighten the darkest room. Don’t let fear, hurt, or anger extinguish your brilliant glow. Find that beautiful spark that is an innate part of who you truly are, take positive action of your own whenever you can, and show the world what it’s like to shine.

Hugs to you all. Jo

***Originally posted on https://lifeinthespectrum.com/.

I Remember When

Photo taken on 09/11/2017

I remember when I was a young girl attending the birthday party of a friend. I gave her a shiny red wallet, and in perpetual kid style, her adorable little sister piped up and said innocently, “But Mom!  She already has one like that!”  Her sweet mother was totally mortified and responded instantly with a “Shhh!!!” I was fine. There was cake, and I was at a party. That party was held at her home in the neighborhood shown above. As of today, the whole area looks like this.

Same neighborhood shown here

I have known that girl all of my life and am blessed to call her one of my very best friends. We have laughed and cried together more times than I can count.  We walked by each other in First Communion as little girls, and we walked (and danced and ran) by each other as we proceeded to break one church rule after another throughout graduate school as not so little girls. And now, even more years later, her childhood home (the current residence of her parents) has been sacrificed to the flood. They can’t even go in for an extensive period of time to salvage whatever remains because of the health risks.  My heart is broken for her and for her family whom I love.

The home above is found one neighborhood over. I remember spending the night at this girl’s house and watching Gene Wilder light up the role of Will Wonka for the very first time.  That movie has grown to be one of my absolute favorites, and I, too, still want an oompa loompa nooooow.  That girl had the meanest cat you ever knew. They literally warned us by saying, “Whatever you do, just don’t make eye contact.”  I did this. Once. And baby, they weren’t kidding. Nothing says awesome like being chased by an insane hissing mini-beast with claws.

That same child attended my own birthday party months later. My parents decided to give me a genuine Texas birthday party, and my father was stuck driving a pack of wild six-year-old girls to a little local rodeo a few towns over.  My parents still laugh at the way that girl jumped out of my dad’s car and yelled out, “Mom he got a speeding ticket!!  He got a speeding ticket!!!” as she ran to her parents after the party was over.  It was true.  He did.

On the way to the rodeo, he first had to drive through one town. Of course I never could have known it then, but decades later, I would own a home there.  Even more years later, homes a few doors down from my former residence there would flood.  The image above would be their view.

This is one of the many shelters set up in the area to house evacuees, but this one held a special place in my heart. This is our local high school, and my own children will be there in a few short years.

My father drove through one more town along the way before reaching the rodeo scene.  Had I been a resident of this town then, I would have warned him.  “Don’t speed here!  I mean it.  The local PoPo won’t dig it.”  Unfortunately for him, I did not live here at that point.  He did speed.  They did not dig it.

I do live here now, and none of us has ever forgotten that event.  My husband had to learn the “seriously – no speeding” lesson organically, but I’m hoping that the message has since been received.  My only concern is that I am taunting fate by writing this paragraph, so I expect to be updating you regarding my shiny new traffic citation any day now.

A few blocks over from here (above), my father took all of us to the rodeo.  I imagine that it was like trying to corral a pack of monkeys for him, but to me, it was a blast, and it was incredibly special.

The little Simonton rodeo closed down several years ago, and I wonder how many people still remember that it was ever even there.  Nevertheless the town continues to grow.  Our kids share classrooms with their kids, and we share our hopes and dreams for them all.  Many of those residents are people we now call friends.  The scene is the same there, too.  Soggy wallboard, sopping wet carpet, destroyed furniture, tattered clothing, and shattered memories all heaped in a mountain on the yard and street.

My heart aches for them all.  I feel such sadness for their loss of all that can never be replaced, and that sense of sadness immediately strikes another chord within me given that it is 9/11.

One of my dear co-workers lost her brother to that senseless tragedy.  She has such strength and tremendous grace in the face of that immeasurable loss.  I can’t fathom the terrible ache she must feel, but she keeps going anyway.  Another darling friend is in the midst of handling everything that goes with learning that a parent is terminally ill.  She is heart-broken, but she, too, is incredibly strong.  She will hurt, but she will keep going as well.  As humans incessantly moving through our lifelong journey, that’s just what we do.

We are perpetually tied together in an intricate invisible web that weaves throughout the layers of time.  Sometimes the sadness seems so heavy and widespread, but we must keep moving forward and we must keep looking up.  There are more sights to see and more beautiful experiences to be had.

Take a deep breath.  Be thankful that you can. Send love to those around you.  And let them love you in return.

Blessings and love always – Joanna

 ***Please note that this post was not written as an effort to garner sympathy for myself, and I ask very sincerely that you don’t send that my way.  I wrote this to show how the people suffering these hurts are not faceless strangers on a sensationalized news channel but rather neighbors and friends we have known for years.  I’m greatly saddened by the challenges they are facing, but my family is not personally dealing with the loss of our home or the death or terminal illness of a close family member.

If you feel called to do so, I would ask that you send your hopes and prayers for healing and peace to those who truly need them.  They are all around us, and they are all around you.  If you are the one in that position of need right now, I send my love and prayers to you.  Stay strong and please keep going.  It will get better.  The clouds may obscure the light, but the sun will always be shining behind them.  Sometimes we just need a little more time to let that light peek through.

Thank you to Heidi, Kristie, Kim and my mom for sharing these photos with me.

Sympathy

The Surreal Life – Moving Forward After the Storm

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Nothing feels the same here.  Chinooks fly over our houses.  SWAT vehicles roll down the streets.  Military trucks and personnel are common sights.  I greatly appreciate their presence, but it’s not something that we ever saw before.  Each time I hear or see them, I remember once more that everything is different.

Given the inaccessibility of the roads, the potential unavailability of the staff, and, in some cases, the flooding of the campuses themselves, school has yet to get started.  Consequently I have enrolled the kids in impromptu day camps that sprung up to avert further local disasters (the kinds that spontaneously occur when your kids have been home too long and repetitively utter that most dangerous of phrases…  “I’m bored.”).

image000000_48 - Copy - CopyWe have been in a collective daze struggling just to remember what day it is, but time has most certainly taken on a new distinction.  There is time before the storm came through, and then there is every moment after that.  Even our weather reports have changed.  We watch river, reservoir and bayou cresting reports.  We know our specific location elevations and where our properties fall with regard to those crests.  We pray for Hurricane Irma to miraculously disappear into nothingness as we can’t even contemplate the concept of going through this again.  It’s terrifying.  Merely typing the thought of it makes my pulse quicken, and I feel myself growing anxious.

I’m angry because I can’t sleep, and although I want to see the news discussing storm predictions, the Weather Channel is showing a fluffy program that sensationalizes storm chasing instead.  I don’t want to search the internet because it will lead me to further sad stories about people returning to their destroyed homes all around the Houston area.  I just want the basics on the current storm predictions.  The other major channels are consumed with gazillionaires yapping away about nothing while laughing at their own hollow tales.

Where is the latest hurricane going to go?  Why don’t they recognize what this will mean?  Don’t they understand what could happen to their family and friends?  Don’t they know that the stats become irrelevant the moment you find yourself living in the impossible?

No.  They don’t.  We didn’t either.  But once you live it, you can’t forget it.  No matter how much you want to, you can’t shake the reality that although it may be unlikely, it could happen again.

IMG_4704I’m waiting for the waters to recede all over town as I struggle to return to regular life via some kind of predictable schedule.  I went to the grocery store yesterday evening for the first time since the storm.  I found myself feeling irrationally angry at the other shoppers casually milling around the isles.  They were loading up their carts like nothing had changed.  I just couldn’t wrap my thoughts and emotions around that most innocuous of moments.  Why were we restocking our refrigerators while our neighbors were busy pulling out sopping carpets and destroyed sheetrock?  Had everyone already forgotten the loss all around us?  Was I the only one who felt that thick ache in my chest?  I plastered on a smile to veil the heaviness in my heart and guard me from the threat of tears.   Maybe they did, too.

Today I began to tackle the work that stacked up in my absence over the past week and a half.  My head felt cloudy, and I struggled throughout the entire day to remain focused.  All I could think about was the relief work around me.  I want to be actively helping families rebuild their lives, but there is a part of me that recognizes that I must also address my own.  I don’t desire to further elevate the trauma of it all.  I just don’t know how to release it.

I’ve never been a big fan of normal, but I now feel like I’m floating through surreality.   I want to clear the haze and move past the confusion.  I want to rise above the heaviness of this moment and fix the pain.  Mine.  Theirs.  All who are hurting.

It comes in waves.  I see tremendous beauty in the strength and unity of my town, state, and fellow man.  But I can’t talk about it.  Not yet.  I can’t get into the emotion of it all – good or otherwise.  I keep the conversation on the surface and seek humor where I can.

I hope that peace will find its way into in my heart and into the hearts of all affected by the storm.  I pray deeply for the safety of those in the path of this and all other destructive hurricanes to come.  They change you.  They change everything.

Joshua 1:9 – “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Much love to you.  Joanna

Elevate
Waiting

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