Wednesday, October 11, 2017

On Anniversaries, Part 4

Do you ever feel as though you have lived three days in one?

I had a day like that recently. I wouldn't categorize it as a bad day or a good day really; it was just a long day. A lot of things shifted and changed throughout the day. Those shifts left me feeling as if the minutes, hours, and days were going, all-at-once, triple time and slow motion.

Time is a tricky thing. 

As I reflect on time and the fact that it’s been four years since my accident, I realize that I have lived a lot of life in these four short years, often seeming more than what the average person lives in the same amount of time. Let's just put it this way, I haven't been bored. 

We cannot always choose what happens to us in life, but we can always choose how we react to it. I feel fairly confident that I have reacted to both the challenges and the greatness in my life, not perfectly, but equally, with grace. I am grateful for my blessings, and I am grateful for my hardships.  

I've said it before and it remains true: I do not wish to give any of it back. The challenges endured these last four years have made me strong, they have solidified my determination and ability to persevere - these things have made me who I am. I don't want to give back who I am today, so why would I give back anything that has been a piece of the puzzle that is me.  

Soon I will celebrate this occasion with Emily, as we have done each year since October 11, 2013. We will talk, laugh, cry, and be grateful - for each other; for our family and friends; for the support, compassion, and kindness that we have been given; and for our experiences - for the weird time shifts in our lives. 

My wish for all of you on this anniversary is that your challenges become your strength - that when time shifts, you learn to hang on and roll with it. I promise you that one day you will be glad for anything that leads you somewhere amazing. 

Here is amazing. Trust me. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

On Privilege

I am privileged in a way that only white, middle-class Americans can be. I grew up in a nice house, went to great schools (elementary through grad), and was always secure in the knowledge that I would have enough... Even in my most challenging moments, I have always had enough: money, freedom, medical assistance, education, safety. Always enough.

Let's take this a step further because I am also privileged in a way that only white, middle-class American women can be. You see, I have been afforded the luxury of being able to play dumb or to at least turn a blind eye to what is going on in the world. I can proclaim it too much to deal with, turn off my tv, and go about my business - I can do this because the things that are going on in our country right now are not directly impacting me. I am privileged.

I cannot change the circumstance of my birth. Quite frankly, I don't really want to. I both acknowledge and am grateful for my privilege.

I think, though, that this quote from Spider-Man is particularly appropriate for what is happening in our country and what I can do about it.
"With great power comes great responsibility."
(I believe that power and privilege are fairly synonymous here so we'll make the substitution for the rest of this blog.)

I am privileged so I have a responsibility to seek to understand those who are different from me; to understand different cultures and ethnicities certainly, but more importantly I should seek to understand experience. Fear has been my reason for not always doing this - fear that my questions would be misunderstood as insensitive. Not acting for fear has not moved me forward on my quest to understand. I will work harder on this.

I am responsible for standing up to hatred displayed around me. I must speak for those who are not as privileged as I. I will no longer give the message that I condone this behavior because I am silent. I will not be silent. I do not want to be part of a group that spews hatred, so I can rid myself of the fear of not fitting in, and speak against what I believe to be wrong. I will do so with the loud, powerful voice my privilege extends me.

My children are also privileged and it is my responsibility to teach them how to use that privilege for good. It is my responsibility to teach them that responding to others with kindness, empathy, respect, and acceptance is how we should respond to all people, not just those that look like us or practice religion the same way we do. I feel like I work hard on this one every day and I can work harder. The future of the world depends on this.

So this is me standing up against the hatred so prominently displayed in Charlottesville, VA recently, and for the hatred displayed at any time.

I am not a better person because I happened to be born white. I will be a better person because I will uphold that all people deserve the privilege that I have received. All people deserve understanding, love, tolerance, and kindness. Not one of us is the same as another. We are all different. This is what makes us great.

I will take my white privilege responsibility seriously. Will you?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

On Knights in Shining Armor

These last four years, I've had a series of... let's call them "grand-scale challenges," with which I have been tested.

I do not think, however, that the test of these challenges has been one to determine strength. I may have been dangerously close to the edge of the cliff at times (maybe now), but I know that I am strong enough to hang on - I am sure of this.

Instead, perhaps the message for me is that it is okay to accept help, and even possibly okay, to ask for it.

You see, I am not the kind of girl who subscribes to the fairytale - you know, the one where I am a damsel in distress who needs the knight in shining armor to come swooping in to save the day? I'm more of the "I'll do it myself" variety.

And for this reason, I have a lot of trouble not answering the "what can I do to help you?" question with "I'm doing just fine, you don't need to do anything at all." I stumble on the "yes, I need help... here's how..." It just doesn't come naturally - I have to work at it.

Yet, I have very desperately needed help during all of these challenging times. And even in the face of my somewhat stubborn stance that I'm fine, others have pitched-in, in ways that I could not have even imagined that I've needed.

I may be someone who has a contingency plan for most things, but I'll be honest, I did not have one for a tornado. Friends and family have (some quite literally) picked up the pieces of my life and helped me put them back together. I have been provided with shelter, financial help, food, care for my children, a place to store my more important things while my home is being repaired, and even plates, cups, and utensils. And certainly, I cannot forget the immeasurable love, prayers, and support, from near and far.

I still have trouble with the idea of someone swooping in to save the day, but I am getting better at allowing others to work by my side. Accepting help (and asking for it) will likely be something I have to keep working on. I will have to consistently remind myself that it is okay. I think I'm up for the challenge. At least this time, I recognize the message. (I'm thinking that means my next test should be less extreme - just throwing it out there).

Despite this series of grand-scale challenges, I have been given what I've needed to get through them - people who love me and want to help, people who know that I need help even through my attempts to say otherwise.

I am so blessed to have this life. I keep adding to this family I've picked, and I am filling it with truly amazing individuals - you might even call them "knights in shining armor."

I am beyond grateful.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

On Love and Loss

"I used to think time was a thief. But you give before you take. Time is a gift. Every minute. Every second."
- Alice Kingsleigh, Through the Looking Glass

I think love is a lot like time.  

Love is joy. It is happiness and light. It is gratitude and wonder. It is warmth and hope. It is living.

And, love is pain. It is sorrow and darkness. It is fear and anger. It is cold and sad. It is death.

Love is such that you cannot have one without the other - two sides of the same coin. 

Although I know my NanNan, is finally at peace and I am grateful that she is no longer suffering, there is still a hole in my heart.

The hole is there because of the love. It is there because of the forty years of memories I made with her presence. It is there because I loved her and because she loved me. Love is joy and love is pain. 

Despite the sorrow I now feel, I will not give back the happy memories: of standing by her sink in a Bugs Bunny costume, stealing the carrots she was pealing; of the way her eyes lit up every time I walked in her room; of her laughter at whatever joke my brother was telling. I will not even give up the memory of her very seldom admonishments. 

I will live with this hole in my heart because it has been worth it. Every second I feel darkness is worth every second I've felt light. I know the hole will heal. I also know the happiness will never be replaced in quite the same way. I am okay with all of it. Love is joy and love is pain. 

Perhaps this is the greatest lesson: To fully understand the good, we must be vulnerable to the bad. 

Even with a hole in my heart, I believe love is worth it. Love is a gift.
Nan's Legacy

Sunday, January 1, 2017

On New Chapters and New Hope

2016 brought with it great happiness and great sorrow; it brought excitement and fear; it brought change and sameness. And now, 2016 is behind us. We can close the chapter.

With the dawning of 2017, what lies ahead? We don't know. The first day of 2017 is a blank page in a chapter of 365 blank pages waiting for us to fill.

For some, those blank pages bring an overwhelming sense of fear. The unknown can be very frightening - not being certain of the outcome, of the risks involved, of all of the players in the game. When we look at it like this, we can feel powerless; defeated long before we get started.

Perhaps though, we can shift our perspective: What if, instead, we look at these blank pages, this new chapter, as an opportunity? What if we see the power in the ability to author our own futures? What if, with each page, we seek to understand the world around us? What if, with each page, we actively work to make the world better, to make one person's life easier, and to understand that we are all connected?

New Year's Day is my favorite holiday for just this reason. It is new hope, new opportunity, and new capacity to take action.

We get to write a whole new chapter, creating with each blank page our response to the world around us.

We do not yet know the lessons that 2017 will bring, but we can be determined to learn them well.

We know that each year brings challenge and joy, so we can choose to face challenges with courage and to open our hearts to focus on joy.

There is a great likelihood that we will falter along the way, so we can forge new friendships and make old ones stronger, thus ensuring we have support when we need it.

No one has yet told us we can't, so we can be confident in our belief that we can.

Life is always good - even when it is hard. Be open to possibility and start your chapter this year with hope.

I wish you all the best for 2017 - I am confident it is going to be the best year yet.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

On The Family I Picked

When I was 15 months old, I was given a powerful message: blood relation is not the only family that matters.

When I was 15 months old, my dad picked me (and my mom). Technically that makes him my step-father, but he is my dad through and through.

He wasn't the only one who picked me and became my family, though. His parents became my grandparents; his brothers and sisters became my uncles and aunts. Never once have I ever felt anything other than a great sense of belonging. I am theirs and they are mine.

So, it has been with this message, deep in my heart and on the surface of all that I do, that I journey through life picking people to add to my family. It is with this message, that I hope to provide my children a roadmap to forming their own families. 

And what an amazing family I have - it is wide-spread; it is diverse; it is filled with love. 

This family of mine has loved and supported me in my darkest times and in my happiest of moments. I am secure in the fact that they will continue to do so - just as I work to do the same for them.

Family is fierce in its loyalty, in its love and support, and in its ability to endure. The love of family cannot be replaced, but you can always add more.  

I may not see all of this family I've picked all of the time. Always though, they are in my heart. And always, I am grateful for their presence there. 

As the chaos of holiday season ensues, stop a minute... think about your family - not only the family you were born into, but the family you've picked along the way. Think about why you've picked them and be grateful for what they've added to your life. Be grateful for what you've been able to add to theirs. And, keep searching for that next member of your family. 

I wish each of you the happiest of holidays with the greatest family one could ask for, one made up of blood relations and those you've picked along the way. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

On What If I'm Not Enough

As we get closer to this day... the day that Simon is to be discharged from the hospital... this is a thought that keeps running through my mind: what if I'm not enough?

What if
I am not enough to help the boy I love so much... my first baby?

What if all the love I have to give doesn't make him happy, or healthy, or safe?

What if everything I've done up until now has been wrong?

What if I will never be able to make the world better, or safer for him?

These thoughts are self-defeating. And, these thoughts are real. I cannot pretend that I don't have them.

I would imagine that all parents must feel this at some point, for some reason. It seems a shame that we do not always seek to support one another during these times of doubt, but perhaps we have to admit we have these feelings in order to receive that type of support. So, here I am admitting these thoughts - these doubts so prominent in my mind.

And please know, I am so grateful for all the support we have received. I would not have made it through this without it.

I will allow myself these thoughts because even if I try to ignore them, they creep into my mind and make me ill with worry. What if I am not enough?

And then, after I have sat with this thought that makes me sick, I will let the logical part of my brain take over. I will remind myself that I can only do my best. I can only fight my hardest. And, I can know that I do both.

For both of my children, I will fight, not to make life easy for them, but to give them the tools they need to be successful and to teach them how to use those tools.

For both of my children, I will share with them the lessons I've learned, even though I know that the lessons heard mean so much less than the lessons lived. And, I will support them as they learn their lessons the hard way.

For both of my children, I will be an example of kindness and compassion. I will show them what it means to seek to understand rather than to judge. I will do this so that perhaps they will, in turn, do the same.

What if I am not enough?

Reality is, I cannot possibly be. No one person will ever be enough. I have to let go of the ideal. I will remember that I have so carefully and purposely constructed this network of people - this network that is my family's village. So, instead of wallowing in my self-defeating thoughts, I will add to my village.

And, I will hope and pray: that the kindness of others, that the support of those that love them, that access to resources, and that love surrounding them, will be enough to help them through this really hard thing called life.