Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Where do I go from here?

I am at odds with myself. I’m ok. My job provides a stable, livable income, and wonderful benefits. I do things that are meaningful in the eyes of others. I draw and paint and read and write.

The thing I’m having trouble articulating is, why is it not enough? I realize fully that this is not the end of my journey. I’m not going to be where I am right now forever. One day I will have an advanced degree and what I’m doing now will be an excellent foundation for where I want to go. I just feel stuck. Every moment drags on, each day feels as if it will never end.

There’s no difference between working and not working for me. 
Essentially I go from my paid position at a hospital to my unpaid position as a live-in advocate at a shelter. I’m on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 
Sure, I take weekends/days off to spend with my family. I’m able to get in a relationship with somebody, go on dates with them, and I ALWAYS have Wednesdays off. But, even when I have the weekends off, even when I have Wednesdays off, I’m still not able to shut myself off.

Wednesday is my recovery day, the day I have therapy and group support and monthly appointments with my doctors. The weekends, even if there’s NOTHING going on at the shelter, I’m still not able to just get away for the day without clearing it ahead of time.

I’m sure my wanderlust has to do 
with my constant transition from thing to thing to thing. From the time I was 16 until I was 24 I never lived in one house/state/appt/barracks for more than a year.  And then you look at my jobs. I have held a total of 25 jobs in my lifetime. Not including working in my parents shop before I was 16. That’s 25 jobs in the span of 11 years. The longest I have been at one place was when I was active duty air force. I was in the military for a total of 26 months and I spent a majority of the time trying to get another position/get out. Besides that, I’ve only been at a job more than a year twice: this job, and one I was in 5 years ago.

I don’t know how to reconcile my past with my ‘here and now’ and I know that it’s a necessity in order to thrive. I’m tired of just surviving. But, where does one start to dig in order to uncover the root of a behavior/action/attitude? What kind of shovel do you use? Do you start with a shovel? Or with something able to make more precise engravings, like a spoon?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

When I grow up

Want is a fickle word. Especially when affixed to what one wants out of life. What we want and what we need are completely different.

For me, what I want out of life is fairly conservative. I've done too many twists and change of course to want anything extravagant. For me, I wanted to be a linguist, but I needed to be a civilian. I wanted to be a nurse, but needed to mature. I wanted to finish my degree in an appropriate time, but I needed to sort through issues in my life more. Even though the changes were a necessary evil, as more of these accrue, the grief over losing the want gets a little more engrained. 

But, I must also realize to not dream small, just in case they come true so here's my prayer: "Disturb me, Lord, when my dreams come true only because I dreamed too small. Disturb me, when I arrive safely only because I sailed too close to the shore. Disturb me, when the things I've gained cause me to lose my thirst for more of you. Disturb me, when I've acquired success only to lose my desire for excellence. Disturb me, when I give up too soon and settle too far short of the goals you have set for my life."

I aspire to make a difference during my journey. To impact others through my actions and words. I want my words to be powerful and remembered. I want to be healthy and strong. I want to run races and travel to unseen places. I want to keep an open mind and believe in new things.

I know, in due time, I will finish my degree. I will help people through my profession. I will write a book. I will get married and have a family. I will be strong and reliable to them. But, these are more like milestones in the journey and a lot of them will be achieved 
through the process of refining my attributes.

I must also remember that everyone's journey through life is different. The pace and timing of getting to and onward from milestones is never the same. One person cannot be compared to another.

Friday, August 26, 2011

One Year Later

One year after my dad’s death I am 365 days stronger. I am familiar with heart-breaking acts of compassion, acts of love, forgiveness, and grace. I know what it means to have a father and to have a male figure to hold my hand and just sit with me. I miss my dad. I miss the time we spent together. I’m glad I was able to do the things for him my other sibling’s would/could not do for him. Having to take care of his affairs made a young woman grow up rather quickly. We were mad at each other, for far too many years. But, if only for necessity, all was forgiven. For three weeks we shared hurts and joys and meals.

The month of August was tough on me last year. I flew out to New Mexico on August 1st to see what was ‘really’ going on. My step-dad had been dying for years and it was my siblings and my understanding that this was another ploy for attention from his estranged children. The next day, while my dad was seeing his primary doctor, I went up to the oncology ward, and I found out, I knew our time was limited. From then until he found out on Friday I had a heavy heart. Our time to make up was no longer a day to be put forward. His time was now a finite commodity…the time to forgive was now.

His sentence was 4-6 months. And our journey to find each other started. During the day I gathered paperwork, made cremation arrangements, arranged for siblings and family to visit. I urged them that this was pressing, that it wasn’t a lie that he was going to die. At night I would stay up with him, get his insulin, take care his needs. We would watch TV together. He would tell me stories about Vietnam. We opened up to each other.

We talked about our anger. Unforgiveness that had been brewing for over 9 years. I talked to him about why I moved out. How my mother’s struggles were affecting me. What their relationship was doing to me. I was too young to do all that he asked of me. He had forgotten why I moved, but never forgot the hurt. I had been forgiving him for a long time for the comments, the hurt he caused in my own life. But, as soon as he denied, or a new disservice happened? I was having to forgive him all over again. During that time, I was able to just throw those things out the window. With only 4 months left I knew if I held on to the hurt we would both lose

Eventually, I flew back home and jumped back into work. I worked everyday to try and save money in order to take time off in a couple months and go back to New Mexico. I applied for a southwest card so I could get a free flight. I called him everyday.

After only 9 days my mom had called me sobbing: they were taking my dad to the hospital by ambulance. She gave the doctor my number so he could explain what was going on, my mom wasn’t able to convey all that was happening. And the doctor called. He explained that my dad wasn’t breathing on his own, that his blood pressure was dropping, that he was on medication in order to keep it up. That night I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t. Instead I thought about my dad. I struggled with whether or not I was going to fly out. The next morning the doctor called and said he was on the maximum dose of three medications. They weren’t going to give him anymore; he might not make it through the night.

So I flew back to Albuquerque. In the bed, with all the medications and fluids they were pumping into him, in order to keep him alive, he had swelled up 50%. My dad was unrecognizable. I was strong, I didn’t cry. The only time I broke down was when I told him I would make sure we followed his will. My sisters flew in, and we gathered around his bedside.

The next day, August 28th, I told the doctors to take him off the ventilator. My mom couldn’t tell them to take him off of life support, to let him die. By 12:30 he was gone. A few days later my dad was in a shoebox. For all the life he lived, his death left him in something that could be placed in a closet and forgotten. I brought my dad back with me when I flew home. My dad wished to be with his mom in Ohio. Security had to ask what was in my bag. On the plane I couldn’t handle another’s luggage on top of my box. My senses were acute. I was hurting and afraid.

Thanksgiving I used my free flight and I did take my dad’s ashes up to Ohio. My sister and I spread them where he desired. Well, the portion that my disobedient self did not spread in the Hudson.

My dad’s death hurt me. A lot. I was forced to do many things out of necessity. I also gained sisters I had lost. I gained strength. I gained insight. Part of the insight was how much I would have loved to be able to send my dad a father’s day card. Because of the unending anger I never did. Isn’t it sad, when a person is gone is when we wish to have the ability to be sentimental? To realize that he will never walk me down the aisle and he will not be able to hold my children. But we also had a wonderful three weeks.

Dad, on the anniversary of your death, I want to say thank you. Thank you for your forgiveness. Thank you for trusting me with your final wishes. I know how much you love me and I’m grateful. Most of all, thank you for teaching me such a true lesson on dying, on grief, and on growing up.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


When I was a child I knew no bounds
There were no limits to where I could fly
The sky was full of dreams to be lived
And lessons to be learned.

When I was a child
I wanted to be an artist, a rock star, a violinist, and an astronaut.
When I was a child
I thought I could be anything.

 Through the struggles of growing up
Lack of structure
Lack of molding,
My childhood dreams kept me     

 I miss seeing the world as I did as a child.
Where challenges were hurdles, instead of brick walls.
And fears were meant to be overcome,
Not something that boxes you in.

     My happiest memories were when I attended a small charter school. Everyone was the same kind of ‘different’ so no one was singled out. All the bullying and family struggles stayed outside those walls. Friendships were built, trust was made, secrets told. I never wanted to go home but this was the first time that I actually wanted to stay at school. I didn’t call out sick; I would try and hide being sick if I were at school already.

     In the 8th grade the 7th/8th grade class went on a weeklong trip to San Diego, CA. It was a week away from my parents, spending the time with friends, being free. The trip was educational, for sure. The best part of it though was seeing a world bigger than my own. To put my feet in the ocean for the first time and really comprehend that I am not alone. There is so much life to be lived. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

My dad

         I have one memory of my father. It was at my sister’s ninth birthday party. It was held at an old roller-skating rink with dingy eggshell-white brick walls; the kind of place where the whole building reeks of old roller-skates worn too many times by people that probably have foot fungus. I was wearing a red onesie, with untamable, curly-short hair. When he came in I was on one side of the hallway and he was on the other. I saw him and I went running towards him screaming,” Daddy!” He must have been running also, because I didn’t have to run very far before he scooped me up into his arms.
Someone took a picture at that point; I know because I’ve seen it hidden in boxes I wasn’t supposed to see. I knew no hurt then, only love and I loved my father so very much. By now the image has faded some in my mind’s eye, but his smile and the love I felt is still very clear and vivid. I guess, maybe, that’s why it hurts so much, because I knew his love. Now there’s this hole in my heart where his love and his presence should be. Time will never heal that wound

         My dad died a short time later and I spent most of my childhood and early twenties angry at my dad. But, I’ve grown up a lot since then and I’m no longer angry with my father. I just feel this immense sadness when I think he felt he had to die. My uncle took me to my dad’s gravesite, for the first time in 2004. It was awkward because my dad doesn’t have a gravestone, you know? He really amounted to nothing, even in death; his life has amounted to a grave without his name. I wonder how deep of a depression he had to have been in, how alone and forsaken he had to feel to think he had no one to turn to. Most suicide attempts say they felt the deep longing to live immediately after they take those pills, kick over the chair, or jump off that bridge. It’s sad to think my father also felt the longing to live in his final moments of life. His death has left so many “what ifs?”
         Realizing I am not like my father, that my family does not see me as a failure has taken time, tears, and many falls. It’s in getting up from the fall and persevering that separates me from my father. Having and seeing in my family the emptiness my dad has left behind is all I’ll ever need to have the determination to keep going. I’ve learned to be grateful to my father for giving me life and I’m going to live. Because of my father I am both broken and whole. I’m caring and understanding of other’s plights, but above all else, I’m fiercely driven to make a difference, to leave something more than pictures and broken hearts behind.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

How did I get HERE?!?

     I currently reside in a crisis women's shelter as their resident advocate. It's been an amazing opportunity that has made such a difference in my own life, even as I'm impacting others. But, I wonder, how did I get here?
     I mean, really, which decision was the first stone laid down to this place? I don't think it was joining the military, or the other 25 jobs I've held thus far in my life. I'm not in a crisis situation, so that didn't land me here. The first stone could have been my background in psychology, but I don't think that's it either.
     Really, when I compare myself to these women, the only difference is sometimes happenstance. I've quit jobs. I've done things so dark and depraved I, almost, couldn't live with the shame. I've had issues with follow through. I've lost those close to me. Been in bad relationships. I have my own internal battles that make it hard to get up in the morning at times, and harder to breath at others.
     I think, maybe, it's all of these things that have brought me here. Because, while I don't always see the connection of who I was to who I am now, each choice/circumstance/heartache was a stone laid in the foundation of who I am now. Failure does not, truly, exist in my life. For while I may have been inadequate in so many areas of my life, those experiences are the ones I pull on now to make an impact.

Here isn't such a bad place to be.