Aug 30 2012

Death and taxes…

“…But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

-Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789

I would have to add to that short list.

Change.

I think change is certain. Empires rise and fall. Flowers bloom and fade. The years tick away, absorbing our youth and elasticity. Says the woman who just had a birthday.

Change seems to be as certain as death and taxes. We all live on the cusp of change. And it doesn’t really matter what the change is. Change just is. It happens often and in varying degrees. The addition of a child, the loss of a loved one. A new address, job, direction. I’ve spent some time recently, struggling to embrace the excitement and heartache of change. And I’ve discovered that change hits me in one or all of the following areas.

Change disrupts comfort.

Last December we moved to a new house in a new city. Not far from our old house but definitely far enough away to leave me looking for a new grocery store. And finding a new grocery store is obnoxious. It sounds petty but you know I’m right. Walking into a giant warehouse size space with no idea which direction to go to find mayonnaise. It can be intense. Not to mention moving away from people you love. It’s uncomfortable. Then I’m reminded by that annoying often faint voice of reason that maybe the pursuit of comfort is not the highest or noblest ambition. I doubt Mother Teresa was concerned with her comfort. I hate that voice sometimes.

Change disrupts control.

I’ll admit it. I’m a control addict. There’s a certain high that comes from watching a great plan come together. But trying to control life is like holding water in your hands. Even if you are strong enough to sustain it safely in your cupped hands, it will eventually evaporate. Loosing my grasp of the circumstances around me means I’m back to controlling what I was meant to control. My tongue and my attitude.

Change disrupts confidence.

There are no guarantees. The inevitable “What if?” What if it doesn’t turn out? What if I fail? But those aren’t really valid questions. Those are surface questions. I’m not concerned that things won’t work out. They always do. My concern is that things won’t work how I want them to. (See paragraph above.)

Change.

The leaves on the trees change every year. It’s just around the corner. They burn with glorious color to celebrate the sublime summer. This year, I intend to take a cue from them. As this season in my life ushers in change, may I be engulfed in vibrant hues of celebration for what has been and what is waiting for me around the corner.

What change is happening in your life right now?


Aug 23 2012

WHAT?

Telephone.

Remember that game? Everyone sits in a circle.The beginning of all riveting games. One person whispers something into the ear of another person and it travels the circle. Usually, what is spoken at the end is a far cry from the original statement. Something gets lost somewhere in translation.

I like to call this marriage. Minus all the people in the middle. Unless you have children.

For example, I say one thing. My husband hears something all together different. (All right, and vice-versa.) Communication is challenging. But in our house, there’s another factor in the mix.

The language of law enforcement.

After years of having a toddler or two underfoot, I’m pretty fluent in tantrum and exhaustion. And likewise, my husband’s experience among the less than virtuous in our society has made him fluent in his own language.

Here are some examples. The first statement is something I might say. The second statement is what my husband hears after a lightning flash translation in his head.

Outing to the park. Translation, “ER visit.”

Grocery store. “Potential abduction.”

Solicitor at the front door. “Home invasion.”

The language of law enforcement.

This translation issue came to light again recently. I was returning from a weekend away. (My husband is awesome.) As we got on the freeway, I asked my friend to send a text to my husband so he would know were on our way. He likes to know these things, but maybe that’s another blog. Long story short, the auto correct feature kicked into high gear and the text that was sent was not a correct representation of the situation. It was kind of funny, I thought. So did my friend. We laughed and she asked if I thought he would decipher it. Within seconds, my phone was ringing. My husband was calling. His take on the message was that I had been kidnapped. He was not laughing. Between him dialing my cell phone and my friend answering, he had worked out which office he was going to call to roll out the rescue squad.

The language of law enforcement.

I used to think my husband was paranoid. Or that he didn’t find me competent. Those opinions made for some lively marital conversations. But I’ve come to discover that my law enforcement husband simply speaks a different language. And as I take the time to listen to the incidents that have transformed his thought processes, I find it much easier to give him grace. He loves us. And he fights to keep us separate from the horror he’s seen.

He took an oath to serve and protect. He takes that oath seriously every day. And at the top of that list are the one’s he loves. He doesn’t sit atop a white stead with shiny armor.  Somedays it’s a grungy uniform with just a shiny star on his chest. But the bottom line? I’m trying to learn his language. It’s one way I can show him I love him too.

Can you relate? What languages are spoken in your home?

 


Aug 16 2012

D is for…

Most pictures say a thousand words. But this picture screams one simple word.

“Dauntless.”

I was drawn to this picture. There was something about it. So I bought it. My husband and I had stopped for food and a break a couple hours into a routine nine hour road trip. After hour 13, the routine faded into torture. Our eyes crossed or threatened to shut completely and exhaustion permeated the air like a heavy fog. We wanted to quit, but we weren’t where we needed to be yet. We weren’t home. So we kept our behinds in our seats and we kept driving.

When we finally got home we kissed the ground and then pulled the picture out of the car. As tired as we were, the irony was not lost. We had just lived a dauntless moment.

Stalwart Resolute. Indomitable.

We still joke about that trip and the picture. But as soon as I thought about my journey with PTSD and how I would put it into an acronym, I knew.

D is for dauntless.

It’s one thing to convey an emotion at a pivotal point in the journey. It’s another thing all together to impart a word such as dauntless. I’ve rewritten this post about five times now. As I try to describe what dauntless looks like, it keeps coming up grey and lifeless. Much like the painting. D is for drudgery. Just keep getting in the boat. Day after day.

But I wasn’t drawn to the picture because it evoked a feeling of drudgery. From the first moment I saw that photo, I felt hope. The picture doesn’t show each man bravely taking their place in the boat. It shows them in open water. Moving. Embarking on an adventure. Unshrinking to the challenges that may lie ahead.

The whole point of my last post was choosing to get in the boat. Dauntless has to mean something more. And I think back to the road trip. What about that trip demonstrates dauntless? Was it the drudgery of driving? And then I see it. Yes, there was drudgery involved. But dauntless is overcoming the drudgery in light of the port of call. We fought fatigue and committed to driving for the comfort of home. We looked forward to sleeping in our own bed. We were traveling toward a destination.

D is for dauntless.

I’m staying in the boat. I’m all in. That’s “S.” But more than that. I’m looking forward. I’m resolutely believing that good days are ahead. That an adventure awaits.

It is challenging to believe that the sun will ever shine again after days of endless rain and the darkest of nights. But dauntless means indomitable hope. Stalwart expectation. It’s not just repeating the vows and the commitments. It’s remembering what you believed in those moments. I fell in love with my husband because of who he is. Through the course of the ups and downs of PTSD, I fight to remain unshrinking. To remember the man I married. To boldly love my husband as he is. And to be audacious in my belief that an adventure awaits.

D is for dauntless.

That’s what dauntless looks like to me. What does dauntless look like to you?


Aug 9 2012

S is for…

Should I stay or should I go?

This blog needs to start with a preface or some sort of disclaimer. I doubt this is concurrent with blogging protocol but some things must be done. So here goes.

I am not trying to offer advice or counsel. This is simply my journey. If you have a similar journey, I hope my words resonate with you and encourage you as you discover you are not alone. If you have an altogether different journey, I hope this gives you a glimpse into the scenery from a different path.

A swift and tragic death is ugly. I’ve shared how there are days it wafts into our home like the faint smell of decay on a spring breeze. You expect to smell the wisteria outside the back door but instead…a fowl stink sends shivers running down your spine.

For so many years I didn’t get it. I pretended it was my imagination. Or it was just part of the territory. I was so blind. So blind to what was really going on. I saw the man I married turn into a different guy. I thought that was all there was to see. And that change ticked me off. And being ticked off lead me to a defining moment. A question.

Should I stay or should I go?

It didn’t take me divorcing my husband to leave. I was ready to pack my emotions in a carry-on and take the next flight out. Intentionally disconnecting and distancing myself from him. Pretend that everything was okay. Go through the motions. Discuss the day to day business of running a home and a family and leave the relationship out of it.

The way I saw it, it was about survival. My survival. Should I stay or should I go? It sounds a bit melodramatic. And I guess when you make a relationship all about yourself, you’re bound to find a bit of drama.

Our relationship had hit a place in time where I felt I wasn’t getting what I needed. And it’s one thing to say “for better or worse.” It’s an entirely different thing to live it out. My marriage got difficult and I wanted to disconnect.

And then I got hit in the head with a two by four. Metaphorically, but it hurt just the same. I was sharing my frustration with a friend and she summed up my situation in a poignant statement. “So, you are upset because he is human.” Going, disengaging, distancing myself was my way of saying that I was better than him. Healthier. And how dare he be human. How dare he be scarred and wounded.

The moment in time, where two people stand before friends and family and declare their eternal love, had faded into the past. Now, two people stood in a living room, staring into each other’s eyes and not seeing the other person.

In between the day we shared our vows and the moment in the living room, a great deal of living had taken place. A great deal of conversations and choices. And I had been just as much a part of those as he had been. But now I wanted to blame him. I like to think that I didn’t cause the PTSD but I can honestly say that for many years, I didn’t help it. I ignored it. But now, with it all out in the open, with wounds ripped open and hearts laid bare, a whisper of hope hung in the air.

Could I stay and be part of the solution? Should I stay and support him? Would I stay and own my stuff too?

I’ve heard it said that the hard choice and the right choice are often the same choice. Aghhh!

So I stayed. Physically and emotionally. I hoped and prayed. I cried a lot. I felt really lonely sometimes. But I chose to stay. I chose to love him as best I could. I don’t deserve a medal. I’m not looking for a pat on the back. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not trying to judge or make a social statement. This is just part of my journey.

I read this today. “…We are each called to love three people in our spouse–the person we loved first, the person we love now, and the person we are loving into being.” (Heather Kopp, SoberBoots.com) Loving someone in the now and loving them into who they are becoming is sometimes a painful journey. But my husband has done the same for me. So I guess that makes us even. But who’s keeping score, right?

There’s one more letter to go in our PTSD acronym. So next week “D is for…” Can you guess?

 


Aug 1 2012

T is for ticked off

That seems fairly obvious doesn’t it? I mean, do I really need to spell out what being ticked off looks like?

The small child in the grocery store. The tantrum thrower, lying on the vinyl flooring, arms waving and feet kicking. Unintelligible shrieks and sobbing noises come from the flailing body. We pretend not to see them and confine our comments to internal dialogue. “Oh, my yes. That’s a tantrum.” And we somehow manage to pat ourselves on the back for being far more evolved than that.

But are we? Okay, I won’t throw you under the bus. Am I?

As soon as I picked the acronym P.T.S.D., I knew the “t” stood for ticked off. A large part of my journey with my husband through the dark and intrepid waters of PTSD has involved anger. My anger. At him. At the world. At life. And yet, now that I’m sitting here, I don’t want to write about it. I didn’t kick and scream in the candy isle because my mommy wouldn’t buy me a chocolate bar. Because that’s absurd. But there was much shrieking and flailing internally. And really, what’s the difference?

 I got angry. “Why do I have to deal with this? This isn’t what I signed up for.”

And then I would hear it. That little sarcastic voice in my head that thinks it’s okay to parent me. “So when you said, ‘For better or for worse, in sickness and in heath,’ there were qualifiers to those statements?”

To which I repied, “Well no. But he isn’t living up to his end of the bargain.”

“So you are mad at him for being human?”

And then I would get angry at that internal voice for being right. Yes, my husband had some things that he needed to deal with. But my response, my internal kicking and screaming demonstrated that I had some things to deal with too. We are both human.

Shortly after our son was born, I started taking him to the park. Normal right? And I would get a call from my husband. Still normal.

“How’s it going?”

“Good.”

“Where are you?”

“We are at the park.” Wait for it.

“Are you watching Isaac?”

Seriously?

“Nope, I dropped him off. Since he can walk on his own now and I thought I would run across the street to the 7-11 for a Slurpy. I’m mad thirsty today.”

That’s what I wanted to say.

It ticked me off that he would have the audacity to believe that I would be that irresponsible with our son. I’m not looking for mom of the year here but a little credit would be nice. What was intended as concern came across more as gigantic votes of no confidence.

I saw enough to realize that he meant well. So I ignored it. Or at least I thought I did.

Anger is like cheese. It doesn’t turn fuzzy and green overnight. But eventually, it does turn fuzzy and green.

And here is the irony. I was mad at him. He was the one ruining our family. It was his behavior that caused me to feel the way I did. He was making me so angry.

And then that exasperating voice, “No one can make you angry just like no one can make you love. They are both choices.”

Blah!

I could choose to be angry or let it go. But that wasn’t the choice I wanted to make. I was ticked off and I thought the choice in front of me was “Should I stay? Or should I go?”

But I’ll save that for next week. When you can read “S is for should I stay?”