Health Scare

01/13/2021

You can’t tell from my picture above, but I have sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, out of whack cholesterol, am 150-175 lbs overweight, half Hispanic, and over 50. It seems my blood pressure, which has always been really good, is on the rise and that I probably have what is the very earliest stages of fatty liver syndrome. Apparently, all these factors make me a really great candidate for a heart attack.

When my state went into the “Stay Home, Save Lives” protocols last year…aka quarantine, I was staying with friends. Even though I had my own apartment, I stayed with friends from mid-March through early November. Why? Because a lot of things, but, mostly because I love my family and I’ve worked very damn hard to be able to have a relationship with my adult children that reflects how important family is to me.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2019 my adult daughter’s family became homeless…a few months after she found out she was pregnant with baby number four and had a series of jobs that fell through shortly after she started them. There was remnant rental debt, which had been accrued when she had left her previous apartment to share a house that she genuinely thought and expected to be a safe and stable place to raise her family.

It turned out to not be either safe or stable.

So, her family wound up coming to stay with me and my youngest daughter – who experiences the world through the Autism Spectrum and is in active puberty.

Eight human beings and assorted animals in a small, 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment.

Yikes!

I was finishing up two vocational training programs: Mental Health Peer Wellness Specialist and H & R Block Income Tax Course. The second was to be a “survival/bridge” job until I could get the state certifications and a position for the first. So, I was working face-to-face with the public when the pandemic began. There were three kids under six and an unborn. I couldn’t/didn’t want to risk their health, but I absolutely needed to keep working. So, I stayed with my friends who I would visit on the weekends to give us all a little respite and space.

One of those friends started the year with a stroke in January and blood clots in her lungs in February/March. I wanted to be available for her and her wife, as well. So, it worked. Then, for a couple of good reasons, I left the tax job…I’m really not the one you want going over your finances. I can barely manage my own. It took me another month to find a job in the mental health field that I was qualified for. The pandemic basically ended, for however long, my goal of doing peer work…social distancing and all that.

Four days before starting my new position, my fourth grandchild was born…and her mama nearly died. That was towards the end of April. By the end of May, my friend had two heart attacks within two weeks of each other. The thought that my daughter or that my friend could have died during any of these events weighed heavily on my heart and mind.

In the midst of all of this, I was both consciously and unconsciously “letting my health go.” I’ve felt overwhelmed and out of control. Not having or being in my own space, determining what food comes in, etc. is difficult when health management is primarily about nutrition. There’s a negative feedback loop/cycle that those of us experiencing mental health diagnoses can fall into regarding our physical health. The two are inextricably intertwined. What’s good for my mental health is good for my physical health. What’s bad for my physical health is bad for my mental health. However, like all things in life, it’s not that clear, cut, and dried.

We made it through summer, then, Distance Learning.

My 11 year old child on the “higher functioning” end of the Autism Spectrum was expected to start middle school, doing online classes with the General Education kids, using Zoom to attend four alternating classes, four days a week; Advisory five days a week; and two “specials” a week…as well as expected to do Applied Learning (Independent Study) an additional eight hours a week.

So, I changed my work schedule and dropped my three day shifts for three weekend graveyard shifts. Doing this wound up really messing with my ability to get and stay on track with all my meds. Then, the behavior issues with my kiddo wound up disrupting the household of my friend who’d had all the health events. She didn’t handle seeing and hearing how out of control and physically aggressive my kid could be. It didn’t end well and by the end of the first week of November, I found myself moving back into my apartment.

I love my daughters. I love my grandkids. I value the dad of my grandkids. I tolerate the dog and the cat. However, I really can’t stand living with ANY of them. There’s a super busy and demanding nine month old, a threenager, a five year old supersonic bouncy ball, a six year old happy, gregarious, dance monkey, and an irascible, 12 year old lazy, iPad/My Hero Academia addict with her days and nights reversed. They almost have us outnumbered 2:1 and I don’t think there’s any moment of complete silence in the entire space.

Essentially, my chronic insomnia has gone into overdrive and somewhere, there’s a painting that shows deep, dark lines, sagging, sallow, wrinkled skin and yellowed, bloodshot eyes, with white wisps of hair sticking out of an otherwise bald head that’s showing all the signs you aren’t seeing here of how unwell I actually am. That’s a better explanation for how I look at my age, with my issues than the one my oldest daughter has…that I’m secretly a vampire.

Anyway, all of this led up to me waking up from a sleep, which didn’t feel that deep or that long, choking and gasping, barely able to breath, and coughing so hard I had an incontinent moment. It took what felt like forever for me to catch my breath. I felt completely enervated and incapable of doing more than walk to and from the bathroom for the rest of the day. I also wound up with a severe headache that the Excedrin Migraine generally knocks right out, but didn’t really touch. I felt achy and mildly nauseated the rest of the day. Since I often feel these things due to the fibromyalgia (which I forgot to mention above) I didn’t really think too much about it. I was kind of too out of it to think about anything, really.

The next day, I started thinking about what had happened and started doing some research. It seems that the symptoms I just experienced could have been nothing other than a momentary reaction to an apnea event…OR they could be symptoms of a “silent heart attack.” It would seem that is a much more common thing women experience than men. The only way to know for sure is to have the doctor run some tests to see if there’s any damage. So, I sent an electronic message to my doctor.

We’ll see what happens next. I’ll keep you posted.

De’ja’ vu all over again: Recreating the past

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Parenting is hard. Parenting a child with special needs is hard. Parenting a girl in active adolescence is hard. Parenting from a place of trauma is hard. Parenting an adolescent girl with special needs when all aspects are points of trauma in your history, is beyond hard.

I feel like I’m constantly falling down, constantly lacking, and constantly failing . . . even though I know I’m doing my best. I know I’m a better parent now than I was seven years ago. I’m a better parent now than when my oldest daughter was the age my youngest daughter is now, 12. I’m a better parent than my mother was able to be when I was 12. But, I still don’t feel like I’m a good parent or the parent my child needs and deserves.

The reality is that I am really struggling. I love my child but I don’t like her. I love her so much and want so much good for her, but I find myself resenting her for things she has no control over. I’m so proud of her and amazed by the things she does and how strong and determined to be herself she is. At the same time, I am so incredibly ANGRY at how her strength and determination flatten and steamroll the people around her . . . like me and her nieces and nephew. I love her but I hate being her mother.

That’s awful. I know it is. But, it’s also my truth. It’s a convoluted truth rooted in the trauma, rejection, and abandonment issues between my mother and myself when I was 12 years old. Issues that I will never be able to work with her on because she died . . . committed suicide . . . when I was 12.

My little girl isn’t so little anymore. She turned 12 at the beginning of December. She’s taller than me . . . mostly because, like many children on the Autism Spectrum, she’s a “toe walker.” She travels on her tiptoes. Walking with her feet flat from heel to toe is like an impossibility for her. There was no physical reason for it and we put her through physical and occupational therapy to try to prevent any negative effects from the toe walking. To no avail. Now it’s reaching the point of discomfort and pain for her to not walk on her toes.

I wish I could let her be herself, with her idiosyncracies and quirks, without feeling so beyond frustrated and annoyed. She absolutely refuses to do anything or engage with anyone other than her preferred activities and people who she wants to be around. I feel powerless, especially in light of the societal expectations, rules, and norms regarding parenting and education, especially with children who have special needs. The thing is she doesn’t appear or seem to be autistic to most people. Even her medical evaluation team had difficulty coming to agreement regarding her autism. She’s lived in emotionally traumatic circumstances since conception. So, there are behaviors and reactions that stem from the autism and there are behaviors and reactions that are rooted in her trauma exposure history. Stir in pubescent hormones, in the middle of a pandemic that has everyone acting off and dealing with various types and degrees of trauma, and I have my very own Katie Kaboom.

If the truth be told, I’m probably as much of a Katie Kaboom as my daughter is . . . or at least I feel like I’m on the verge of exploding with her a lot of the time. There’s this surreal sense of loss of control and imminent danger creating a sense of fear of myself and what I’m capable of.

The last memory I have of an interaction between me and my mother lingers on the edges of my consiousness most of thetime when I’m around her.

I had recently turned 12. It was late June or early July, I think. We were living in an old adobe group of single story apartment buildings that had been built to use as military barracks in the 1940’s. Adobe buildings surrounded by asphalt. No trees. No grass. No shade. It was unrelenteningly sunny. The air was still and stuffy. My mom was working as a night janitor with her brother and his wife, who lived in the building catty-corner from ours. While cleaning may have been her job, it wasn’t something that was a priority in our apartment. We were a couple of clutterbugs. So my mom was embarrased for people to see the condition of our apartment. All the doors were shut tight and windows shuttered and covered so no one could see in.

I was hot. The heat was draining and I had no energy to do anything. I just wanted to breathe and I felt like I was suffocating in the stuffy heat of the closed apartment. I didn’t want to go out in the shadeless parking lot/driveway that surrounded the apartments. We had only lived here for three or four, maybe five months. I didn’t have any friends and didn’t have anywhere I could go. I was restless and listless at the same time. I decided to stand in the doorway, with my face pressed against the doorframe on the right, the door pressed against my left cheek, my stocky body filling the area between the door and it’s frame. Nothing visible from the outside.

She was embarrased, exhausted, and overwhelmed . . . I know and recognize this now, but at that time I only thought she was being controlling and unreasonable. It felt like what I needed and wanted didn’t matter to her, even a little bit. She was yelling at me, trying to get me to close the door. I was yelling back, telling her how no one could see inside. I don’t know how long it went on. Not long, I’m sure, but, it felt like it stretched on for a long time, each of us getting angrier and louder. I can’t remember specific words. But, it wouldn’t surprise me if I had called her names or cussed at her.

Suddenly my head was jerked back by my hair and the next thing I remember is that I’m laid out across the sofa and she was sitting on my legs, preventing me from moving. I was yelling at her and trying to kick her off of my legs. Finally, I was able to sit up, bend forward, and I bit her on her thigh as hard as I could until she got up.

I don’t really know what happened after she got up. I know my uncle burst through the door a short while later to check on me. He had seen me standing at the door, then disappear suddenly before the door closed. He was condemning and critical of her. She was crying. Sometime after that, she signed guardianship of me over to him and moved back down to Texas. A few weeks later we got the news that she had committed suicide.

When I’m dealing with my daughter and she’s refusing to do things like, take a shower, let me brush her hair, login to classes, do homework, or anything that isn’t playing Minecraft or drawing on her iPad I feel a rush of overwhelming feelings swirling around: anger, resentment, frustration, shame, sadness, hopelessness, helplessness. Then she starts laying on the insults and declarations of how horrible of a parent I am and how she loves her dad more than he loves me. If I attempt to remove her iPad, she lashes out at me physically – hitting, kicking, scratching, biting.

The roles appear to be switched with me as the mother. But, on a visceral level I don’t feel any more in control or that I matter than I did as a kid going through what I went through with my mom.

Maybe there’s a clue in that. Maybe it’s a hint that she wasn’t feeling in control or that she mattered. We don’t feel in control or that we matter so we do things that are about taking control and power from someone else, not because we want to feel powerful, but because we want to matter and if we don’t feel like we matter, we don’t feel safe. If I don’t matter to those who matter to me, then I don’t feel that my needs can get met. I’m supposed to meet her needs. It’s not her job to meet my needs. It’s not right or fair of me to resent her for this.

Is the resentment about her or is it about resenting that the person whose job it was to meed my needs and who I was supposed to matter too, oppressed and suppressed me instead of take care of me?

I know now that my mother experienced undiagnosed and untreated mental illness – likely Bipolar I with schizopherenic tendencies. She couldn’t help it and it wasn’t her fault. This knowledge and understanding gives framework and context, but, it doesn’t change the feelings and the child who needed protection and nurture still didn’t get protection and nurture. I struggle to protect and nurture myself and I struggle to provide that for my child.

What does it really mean to be emotionally healthy?

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I’ve been in and out of various forms of therapy since pre-adolescence. I’ve been doing it pretty consistently for the past seven years. Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever going to reach a point of being emotionally healthy.

The PTSD has had deep and lasting impacts on both my brain structure and neurochemistry. Bipolar II Disorder means that my brain structure and neurochemistry were already atypical. Both impact emotional health and affect my capacity for instinctively choosing emotionally healthy behavior.

Ten months ago my faith community stood beside me and supported me in my mental health recovery journey. They chose to pay for me to go through trauma recovery therapy, so I could better deal with the myriad of intense psychological and emotional stressors in my life. Past trauma is something I’ve been minimizing, avoiding, and denying most of my life. Dusting it off, picking it up, looking it in the eye, and examining it is not even close to easy. What is easy is distancing and distracting myself, even as I try to face it.

Last week I had a Telehealth appointment, which turned into an audio only appointment because of my dying phone. Since there’s no unoccupied space in my apartment and the sanctuary of a vehicle no longer exists, I walked to a coffee shop that has a large, covered, outdoor seating area. It also happens to be the socially distanced gathering place for the neighborhood dog owners and their dogs to hang out. I sat as far away as I could so as to be heard by my therapist and not heard by the community of strangers. Fun times.

I was telling her what happened the night I dropped my phone. I had gone over to my friends’ house, where I had been living from March – November, to pick up Christmas gifts for my grandkids. While I was there, the woman who had been my first friend from a DBT group I had been part of in 2018/2019, absented herself and had no interaction with me. Her wife indicated that I could try to communicate with her, but I would probably be unsuccessful. The wife is now my primary friend.

I have a lot of sad and mad feelings about this relationship break. However, when I was discussing what happened that night with my therapist, my brain fixated on the broken phone, as if that was the source of my difficult emotions. I was completely aware that’s what I was doing, but couldn’t seem to stop it. So, I said out loud that my brain was wanting to focus more on the phone than the lost friendship.

We discussed that for a bit. We drilled down some and identified some roots in prior relationships with important women in my life, starting with my mother, that ended in rejection and abandonment. Still a lot to unpack there, but both my therapist and I recognize that I’m stretched to capacity to address more trauma at this point. With that agreement in place, the question becomes, “what direction do we go and what do we work on?”

Since I’ve made some significantly bad decisions in the past several months which were decidedly co-dependent, avoidant, and risky and the outcomes of these decisions have increased the emotional, physical, and financial stress on me, thus maxing out my capacity for doing the more in depth trauma work, I figure I need to work on making emotionally healthy choices when faced with situations where my trauma responses have been triggered. I think that’s the only way to clear the path for me to do the deeper work.

My therapist suggested that my lack of emotionally healthy response is more likely rooted in the fact that I’ve never been around emotionally healthy people making emotionally healthy choices and that, while it may be possible for me to come to an understanding of what it means to be emotionally healthy, I may continually deal with an inability to operate with that same understanding. To which I responded that is why I said learning the behavior that comes from being emotionally healthy can be learned, even when the emotions aren’t healthy.

I think of it like reverse engineering good emotional health. Learning to act “as if” I am an emotionally healthy person, might enable me to become an emotionally healthy person.

I think I just found my focus for this year.

2021, the year I become an emotionally healthy responder.

Communication Interrupted and other mishaps

I find myself without a functional phone . . . again. This is the third time within a year.

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I’ve been working on financial independence from the ex. It’s another step in my seven year transition from being completely enmeshed and codependent with him after an 18 year relationship and still stuck with him in my life because we share a child, who happens to be on the Autism Spectrum.

When we split at the end of 2013. . . my decision, not his . . . my phone service remained on his plan because I was 100% reliant on him for financial support and had a lot of reasons to remain dependent on him. The majority of those reasons centered around physical and mental health issues and conditions.

The end of 2019 brought some significant changes in his circumstances and I knew I had to regain financial independence. It took me six months of hard work and accessing community resources to training and employment support services. I finished 2019 employed by a well known tax preparation service. My plan had been to work for them while I completed training for becoming a Peer Support and Wellness Specialist in the mental/behavioral health field. Alas, I wasn’t cut out to work in that industry or setting. I left that position in mid-March 2020, right after COVID social distancing and “stay home, stay safe” protocols were put in place. It took about a month before I found another position. This time working for a behavioral healthcare organization. YAY!

I knew this was the foot in the door to establish a career in the mental health field. I knew I would fight tooth and nail to maintain this job, even though I was terrified that I would struggle with my mental health, as in the past, and not be able to sustain and maintain the position. I was offered a choice between full-time and part-time. I opted for the part-time position. It was the right choice.

One of the first things I did was switch my phone over to my own phone service account. It was a fully paid for device and I was able to enter into the service agreement without a monthly fee for a new phone. YAY! again. Then, a month or so later, I left my phone at a service deli counter at a local grocery store and had to contract with the phone provider to get a new phone. I got the least expensive one with the lowest monthly fee, but still wound up practically doubling my phone bill. Not happy about that.

Then, another month or so later, I engaged with someone who I allowed to scam me, wound up with an exorbitant bill I couldn’t afford and had to give up my phone plan, with my phone not fully paid for. So, once again, I was without phone service. It took another few weeks before I was able to purchase and unlocked phone and go with a pre-paid phone service provider. Thank God I bought the warranty because I dropped it face down on a concrete landing and the screen shattered on Christmas Eve. I can get a refund or replacement, not sure which they will do, but, I have to send the phone back first. It was still functional, so I decided to slap a screen protector on it to keep it from shattering more and protect my fingers from the broken screen.

On New Year’s Day I discovered that the charging port of the phone was damaged. Now it’s basically dead and I can’t charge it enough to do a factory reset on it before sending it back. I can’t afford to get a replacement at the moment. Which means I’m out of communication with significant people . . . for the second time since October.

That’s not the only sad saga on my journey of independence. Transportation is the other.

I was staying with friends when the shelter-in orders came down. Basically I became one of those unintended, long-term houseguests. These friends had two vehicles and generously allowed me to use one or the other of them and gave me rides whenever I needed them. I was living with them when I obtained my current employment. It was becoming a burden on them to help me get to and from work. I reached out to my faith community and was gifted with a used but well cared for 2002 Ford Focus. They knew there was an issue with the cooling system and that the radiator had to be frequently refilled and told me as much. But, they didn’t know for sure what the issue was.

The first time it overheated on me and stopped working was on a freeway on-ramp. One of the friends I was staying with rescued me and referred me to her long standing mechanic. He examined it and found out it had a bad thermostat. Simple fix. Less than a week later, another issue came up and it overheated again. He didn’t charge for another diagnostic. At that time, he found another, more in depth repair that needed to be made. I can’t remember the specifics. It cost me $300. Fortunately, the Employment Specialist I was working with managed to get it reimbursed.

When he completed that repair, he kept the car an extra day so he could really test drive it and make sure that all was good. It wasn’t. It turned out it had a cracked head. A $1,500 repair. I managed to come up with the first $500. However, all the money I planned on putting toward the remainder, kept getting spent on urgent (and not so urgent) expenses. So, my car is sitting in his back lot. Thankfully, he’s a good guy and isn’t charging me storage fees. It’s been there since the end of May or so.

Fast forward to November. The long-term houseguest issue was fine until I wound up having to manage my youngest daughter’s distance learning while in my friend’s home. My child is beyond challenging. Not only is she on the “high functioning” area of the Autism Spectrum, she also has Oppositional Defiance Disorder. She regularly becomes verbally abusive and physically violent with me. This put a strain on things. Add to that fact that my friend is the stoic, hold it in, don’t talk about an issue until the molehill is a mountain type. So, things came to a head and I wound up having to move out and back into my apartment. So, I lost access to transportation and I don’t know when I’ll be able to . . . or if I’ll be able to . . . do relationship repair.

Why hadn’t I moved back into my apartment sooner? Well, my oldest daughter’s family of six had lost their housing right after Thanksgiving 2019 and didn’t have anywhere to go. So, they had to stay with me. Eight people and a couple of pets in a small 2 bedroom apartment wasn’t working out because my autistic child wasn’t safe to be around my young grandchildren due to her violent tendencies. She had gone to stay with her father in February. When she and I had to move back into my apartment with my other daughter’s family it was a strain.

Fortunately, one of the strains that was lifted was transportation because my adult daughter had a van I could use to get to and from work and grocery shopping.

Then, she lost her job. So, she and I started Door Dashing on December 1st. This went on until we got into a car accident on Christmas Day. Now, her van is also living at the mechanic’s lot, along with my car.

No phone. No car.

Happy New Year.

Transition to 2021

It’s been almost six months since I’ve written anything more than a tcb email, text message, or FB update.

The external world happenings of the pandemic, the national BLM protests & subsequent riots, and the 2020 election cycle combined to create a devastating backdrop for everyone’s life that I know. In many ways it feels like the birthing signs of civil war, here in the USA.

My personal world has seen the birth of a fourth grandchild…and the near death experience of my oldest daughter; a failed job/career as a tax preparer; professional certification as a Mental Health Peer Support & Wellness Specialist…in a pandemic context which prohibits face to face interaction; the transition to employment in a healthcare setting supporting people experiencing mental health challenges in maintaining housing…and exposure to people who don’t necessarily comprehend and/or comply with mandated social distancing and mask wearing; sheltering with friends for eight months…and the impacts that unexpectedly sharing living space has on friendships; online distance learning for my child with autism in her first year of middle school…coinciding with the hormonal & physical transitions of puberty; and moving back into my apartment already occupied by my eldest daughters family of six…eight people, a dog, and a cat in a two-bedroom, 1 bath apartment.

2020 was a year of me trying to gain financial independence from the ex, the father of my youngest, autistic child. I attempted tax preparation last January – March. I’m not the one. I can learn and understand the basics of simple tax-preparation. I can learn to use and follow tax software. What I can’t deal with is what feels like predatory policies of the most common tax preparation services people go to in person. I also couldn’t deal with how I was being trained to think about and manipulate the clients.

Of course, I’m probably what is known as a “bleeding heart liberal” aka “socialist” which isn’t compatible with my country’s economic systems. So, I found a job more in alignment with my personal experiences and ideals working for an organization providing “whole health care” for people experiencing mental and behavioral health challenges, as well as substance use disorders. I started working there in late April. Made it a little over 8 months. The role and responsibilities I currently have aren’t exactly what I want to be doing the field. However, working for this organization in this entry level capacity is the perfect stepping stone and foot in the door. When the pandemic is managed and the new normal is established, I’ll be in position to move forward in Peer Support Services and utilize my certification as a Peer Support and Wellness Specialist.

Behind the scenes I’ve been dealing with the loss of an important friendship and I’m feeling completely overwhelmed and inadequate to deal with the parenting issues with my now 12 year old daughter who experiences the world through the Autism Spectrum. Co-parenting with her father (whose world-view is a Bizzaro World juxtaposition of mine) challenges my grasp on my mental health stability with every encounter. There remain significant trauma responses and patterns that I’m still entrenched in seven years after we split up. Her starting middle school in the midst of the pandemic and having to manage her education when our housing situation has been so unstable and overcrowded and while I continue to work on my own mental health and emotional stability has just about done me in.

I’ve reached the point where I feel torn by the societal and systemic pressure to keep her in the completely screwed up and broken educational system currently in place and work harder than she ever will for her to “succeed.” Her needs and desires to focus on the things that fulfill her and she’s gifted at, while also doing things that feed my heart and soul feel so much more necessary and life-giving for both of us.

So, starting on Monday, I’ll make sure she’s logged in for her classes. I’ll encourage her to work with her Educational Support Specialists to do as much of the assigned work as they can help her with. But, I’m not going to spend anymore negative energy, waste precious time, or damage our relationship for the sake of making her wavy shape fit into a square space carved out by other people’s expectations.

I’m going to help her set up the Picasso Tab art/drawing tablet I got her for her birthday. I’m going to get her logged into and working on learning digital art and related technology that I paid for at the beginning of the school year and was trying to use as incentive for her to perform academically. For myself, I just signed up for a blogging course through WordPress. I’m signed up for a book group with my faith community that I actually want to follow through with this time. I’m also going to get back to writing on a regular basis, even if it’s just writing a post about nothing in particular each day.

Happy New Year

False Positives

There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven:  a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot;  a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh;  a time to mourn and a time to dance;  a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;  a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing;  a time to search and a time to count as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 HCSB 

As a nation, we are in uncertain, uncomfortable, painful, scary, and confusing times. Many of us are experiencing the same kinds of times in our personal lives. We don’t like the anxiety, anger, and sorrow they are generating within us.  Maybe we’re feeling out of control and overwhelmed by it all. Perhaps we’re starting to feel a slide down the slippery slope into depression. 

Underneath all of this, we may be feeling unjustified guilt for feeling these things. We may feel like we need to find ways to be cheery and hopeful when what we’re really feeling is grief and sorrow for the things and people that are changing or that we’re losing. 

While it’s true that we need to mitigate symptoms of anxiety and depression lest they get us so far down the rabbit hole we see no way of getting ourselves out, the truth is, it’s okay to feel the dark feels. They’re valid and minimizing or denying them will only cause us more problems in the long run. 

We are in a time of weeping and mourning. We are seeing things that need to be torn down and uprooted being called out and demanded with some good results and some terrifying repercussions. We are in a period where hate feels like it’s overshadowing love and where we feel on the brink of war.  

All the feelings running throughout our bodies and brains, our minds and spirits are completely understandable, justifiable, and valid. It’s important that we honor, accept, and respect these things which lie within ourselves and not minimize or deny by forcing ourselves to be positive when it’s not true. 

We are in the time we’re in and it’s hard. However, a time is coming when things will be better. If we don’t allow ourselves to experience the darkly challenging and difficult feelings which arise during this period, we won’t be able to authentically and genuinely celebrate the good times when they arrive. 

From Darkness to Light

‘Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.’ 1 Corinthians 15:58

I don’t know about you, but, I suspect that, like me and many others I know, you might be tired. I mean mentally, emotionally, and physically fatigued. With everything going on in the world around us, that alone is enough to bring on the fatigue.

Just when things were on the verge of or starting to open up from the restrictions of the pandemic, there’s a spike cases and hospitalizations. Now things are tightening down again, as Oregon enters it’s 14th week of sheltering in and wearing masks. As a result of these pandemic related things, the national and local economies have been increasingly depressed with businesses closing (small business the most) and people losing their jobs, and the national unemployment at the highest it’s been since 1940. The protests for Black Lives Matter are entering their fourth week, having just passed Juneteenth, the celebration of the Emancipation of the slaves. Not to mention the victories and losses for our LGBTQ friends, family, and neighbors. Plus, the Presidential election cycle and the polarized politicization of both the pandemic and the BLM movement.

It’s overwhelming and absolutely exhausting. Then you add in whatever is happening for you and your loved ones, as well as how these national events are affecting you on an individual level.

So, there’s a lot of confusion. There’s a ton of conflicting information and even more conflicting opinions. The focus of the news and the media is sensationalized and focused on the painful and negative. There’s very little constructive dialogue and there seems to be a constant, false dichotomy of “us vs. them” everywhere you turn.What do we do with all of this? How do we get some relief, some clarity? How do we get some rest, other than avoiding the media and becoming turtles withdrawing into our shells? How do we decide where to place our focus?

The passage that the verse above comes from is Paul speaking about Jesus and all that he did for us to have life and to look forward to. He’s offering us a foundational reason to keep moving forward and to keep doing good in this world, even when what is good seems to have gone on vacation. Even though the issues and things around us may seem too big and too much for each of us as individuals to make a difference in, anything we do to bring the light of Jesus and God’s love into the lives of the people around us is not in vain.

‘Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith. ‘ Galatians 6:10

But, before we can do any of that, before we have anything to give, we have to allow ourselves a chance to rest, recharge, and fill up on that light and love ourselves.

‘“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”’ Matthew 11:28-30

Now is the time for rest, recharge, and renewal, so that we can reenter the world’s arena and face the things around us with hope and love to share.

‘Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.’ Philippians 4:8-9

It is imperative that we look for the good in the midst of the bad. It’s there. Look for the stories of those who are giving of themselves, the stories of the peacemakers, the stories of those who are offering comfort, and even those who are offering happy and joyful things in the midst of the sorrow and the tragedy. Many may argue that now is not the time for levity and laughter. I would argue that now, more than ever, is the time for us to take a break and seek these things out.

‘A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. ‘ Proverbs 17:22

If we don’t take a break from the darkness around us and seek the light, our soul dies bit by bit and our spirits become broken. That’s no way for anyone to live. That’s not the legacy that Jesus left us. He left us God’s Spirit to live in us, so that our spirits can live and thrive, and that so we can share that life with those around us.Take a break. Get some rest. Find a reason to smile and laugh. Then, take that out with you and reenter the fray so you can help others to have a break, take a rest, and have cause to laugh and smile.

“Not being a racist” is not enough

If you support Trump, then you are allowing his racist attitudes and comments to bolster racists systems and people who are knowingly and actively racist. In turn, he knowingly accepts and thrives on the support and financial contribution – pure and simple.

If you tolerate it because you don’t want to support opposing candidates, for whatever reasons, you are tolerating racism and racist systems which jeopordize the health, safety, freedom, and economic security of an entire segment of our fellow American citizens.

It is not enough to see your personal acceptance, tolerance, like/love for the BIPOC you know as non-racist. If you support someone with the power, ability, and charisma to influence, whether purposely, with malice, or unintentionally/incidentally, then, believe it or not, you are complicit when racist actions damage and destroy the lives of Black and brown people.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

It is not enough to “not be a racist.” In order not to be complicit, you must be anti-racist.

PS: this also applies regarding the Transphobic, Homophobic, and Non-Gender Conforming policies

What to do with the grief of others

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. ~ Romans 12:15 HCSB

How can we show up in the midst of pain and grief for our marginalized siblings in the world around us, when we have no idea what to do or say to them and what we CAN do feels futile in the face of the vitriol and intentional ignorance? How do we not wind up making our sense of ineffectiveness and futility more important than their experiences of violence and suffering?

The answer is to BE with them in their grief. Acknowledge and validate their anger. Learn why they fear the things we don’t. Share and celebrate the things and people they celebrate. Be willing to set aside your “stuff” to show them they and their “stuff” matters. In other words, treat them the way you want to be treated.

It may be challenging to look away from our own issues, circumstances, and experiences in order to look and see those of others, much less step into their world and be with them. But, it’s very much worth the effort to do so. We also have guidance on how to do this.

‘He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. ‘ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 HCSB

How do we receive comfort from God? Sometimes it’s an internal sense of peace or a lifting of the spirit, maybe a lessening of the pressure on our chest or the lessening of the restriction of our throat. Maybe it’s through a song, a poem, a meaningful writing, or piece of scripture. Perhaps a video or show. However, there are times when it is another person and their words, actions, or just them being present with us which contributes to the feeling of being comforted. Those are the things we can do and share, if they are something the person grieving is in a place to receive.

‘The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord ’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the Lord to glorify Him. ‘ Isaiah 61:1-3 HCSB

Jesus came to do these things, show us how to do these things, and teach us to do these things so we can share and demonstrate the love he shared and demonstrated to us. This is how we can learn and know how to show up in the midst of the pain and grief, anger and fear, our marginalized and brutalized brothers and sisters experience.

Fight for the Oppressed

‘Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy. ‘ ~ Proverbs 31:8-9 HCSB

There is no way to avoid the fact that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are dispossessed, oppressed, and in need of justice, along with economic and social equity. We also know (or are coming to realize) the realities of white privilege, which is, ultimately, at the root of systemic and institutionalized racism in our nation.

The verse quoted above is the advice of a mother to her son, the king, the ruler of the people and the highest authority in the land.

‘It is not for kings, Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine or for rulers to desire beer. Otherwise, they will drink, forget what is decreed, and pervert justice for all the oppressed. ‘ Proverbs 31:4-5 HCSB

We have been witness to, perhaps even complicit in, the perverted justice of the oppressed by the way we have supported or allowed the “rulers,” the people in power in our country – whether they be police or politicians corporate heads – the billionaires and millionaires, to manipulate, dictate, and enforce the laws and the tenets of Constitutional rights. Over the past week, especially the past few days, we have seen the evidence of this perversion of justice by the man who would be king, if he could.

‘“But woe to you Pharisees! You give a tenth of mint, rue, and every kind of herb, and you bypass justice and love for God. These things you should have done without neglecting the others.’ Luke 11:42 HCSB

As Jesus followers we have to be careful to ensure we are not placing things above people. Yes, we are to take care of things and steward them responsibly. That’s just what we’re supposed to be doing in the course of daily living. However, we are called to go above and beyond that and make justice for people, a form of loving God, a priority.

So, how do we do that?

Some of us have little to give in terms of material wealth and possessions. Some of us have compromised physical and/or mental health to be able to engage in “active” ways. Some of us are overwhelmed with the daily responsibilities and obligations we experience. Some of us are fighting for our own survival in ways we may not have shared with others.

In these instances, it may feel like we have little to nothing to offer. The truth is, we each have something to offer and something we can do.

First, we can educate ourselves. Research BIPOC writers and authors, filmmakers and educators. Find their books, blogs, movies, and classes.

Second, we can speak out and up on whatever platform we have, whether it’s on social media or in conversations with others.

Third, we can shop and eat at BIPOC owned businesses in support of their communities.

Fourth, volunteer. Whether it’s to make phone calls, write letters, sign petitions, or even provide office support, even if it’s only for an hour a week, it matters.

As always, we can pray. Pray for justice, equity, and protection of our BIPOC brothers and sisters. Pray for justice. Pray for the community, governmental, and corporate leaders to make the changes in themselves and in their areas of influence.

Here are some places to start:

 

Book Reading list

Netflix Anti-racism Movie Calendar

Netflix movies for anitracism