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Posts Tagged ‘blessings’

I am compelled to write today, for I must think out loud…
Hard work is a blessing that I miss very deeply. Has it been 7 years since I lost my job? It is as if it has disappeared, and now is only a faint image on the side of a discarded old milk carton. “Missing: Julie’s job. Last seen in Westlake Village, California. January 2010”.
I long for the old days of the gift of being cursed with the early morning demands and slowing down in my car balancing my coffee cup in one hand, putting on lip gloss with my other hand as the yellow light looks down upon me with a condescending glance as it dares to turn red just above my head, out of reach.
Today, I quietly carry the burden of longing to have the mental and physical strength to work once more.  I dare not say this out loud because what I desire immensely, really, is to hear about a friend’s day at work and I do not want my truth to leave them with odd feelings of discomfort. “What are you doing? Tell me everything”, I say, as if they were on vacation in a beautiful countryside villa. “What was on the agenda? What did you wear? Who did you see? Where did you have lunch? What did you talk about with the other tourists?” Oh, to be a part of that rat race once more.
Not too long ago, I foolishly pushed my body beyond it’s limitations day after day while I ran in this undesirable race that I miss so terribly this morning. I miss it so much that my heart aches. Somehow, I managed to work for 11 additional years with this horrific illness until my body and my mind gave out and my job was taken away from me. (Twice. Two jobs.)
Chronic Lyme Disease and the co-infections are a tricky foe. I try to hang on tight to this horrific unfortunate roller coaster ride. Free falling. Exhausting. Frightening… I did manage to actually give an attempt to socialize a couple days ago at my neighborhood annual street party, but now I must continue to pay the price for using all of my precious energy. I did not pace myself well enough. Perhaps I still need that yellow street signal just above my head to tell me, “Caution – slow down Jules!”…
Today I have made the decision to accept that I am unable to count traffic lights as they turn from yellow to red on my way to work, instead, I choose to count the blessings that I can see from my bedroom window. 3 beautiful quail, a couple humming birds, another bird being outsmarted as it chases a crazy old moth zig-zagging about, white puffy clouds – and the changing shadows on the ground from the morning sunshine… Soon I will step outside just so I can say I got outside today. I know the familiar fragrance of my own back yard will fill my spirit with gratitude.
Perhaps I will call my son just to thank him (once more) for everything he does for me. No fun for my boy to have had a sick mama for half of his life. I find him to be the most compassionate, caring, funny young man that I know. In fact, if he wasn’t my son, I’d want him to be my friend, you know, I mean, if I met him at work, or something. My son and I both have gotten good at counting our own special brand of blessings and knowing just how lucky we truly are…

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I continue to whisper out loud, I am doing the best I can, of course I will be ok and this too shall pass – I know this to be true. However, with that being said, I just had to share my truth for today with you, my universe outside my window.
 
I do not sleep well, however, last night I slept from 11pm straight through to 11am this morning, until the pains in my body woke me up like an angry old-fashioned alarm clock. Every ounce of my body felt like I had gotten bounced around in a bad car accident, or perhaps I stumbled and fell down a flight of stairs like a lifeless rag doll. This is nothing new and the description of the physical pain isn’t necessarily needed to make my point here… It’s the description of the emotional let down that haunted me since my tear filled eyes opened this morning. As if some kind of a grief for my own body landed heavily on my emotions during my sleep last night. It has not lifted from me for a moment today. A ball and chain wrapped around my emotions along with a king python showing no mercy. An emotional death grip.
 
Yes, yes, of course I count my blessings. Yes, my faith is strong. Yes, I have everything I need. But all around, every tiny crevice of today, was rough. Every movement of my body. Every thought that passed through my brain. Every beat of my heart. Every blink of my eye. Every moment I kept my focus in front of me. Tying the bow on each shoe lace. The hair touching the back of my neck. The lost voice of encouragement. Today. Today was an enormous insurmountable death defying effort as I gently wrapped my hand around the handle of my great-grandfather’s cane. Please, let’s keep our balance.
 
My list of things to-do will wait for me. Unanswered Emails will stand by in their inbox. Messages from doctor’s offices on my voicemail will wait. My cat, and my father’s cat, will still nap on the foot of my bed in their perfect harmony. The lizards and Quail will still stop to look in at us through the sliding glass door. The laundry will still patiently wait to be washed. My car will still be there when I feel up to driving it. And the sun will surely rise again tomorrow.
 
Nonetheless, somehow, without my permission, life is passing by too quickly for me. Like learning how to play double-dutch jump rope for the very first time, I am unable to skillfully jump in and join my friends. And my friends, bless their hearts, they continue to play outside without me – and I get that – it happens. But today I opened my eyes and something had shifted like Andrea’s Fault deep below my surface. Today I do not have the energy to be “happy for them“. Today I had a realization of the soul that I have officially missed the last flight to freedom as I struggle to withstand the force of the exhaust that successfully pushed me to the ground on the filthy burning hot runway in the desert.  
I have a grueling fantasy that maybe, just maybe, they are missing out on what I still possibly may have to offer. They are missing out on the beauty of my humble back yard. They are missing out on the nature that unfolds before my eyes as fall begins to get closer to winter in the desert.
 
As I continue to remain at rest in my bed, I look out my large south facing window and see the silhouettes of the trees darken on Tucson, as this particular day of important painful spiritual growth comes to an end. I’ve come to know that, “slow is the new fast”. Why not? It could happen. So, I’ve personally granted the body to take all the time it needs to get as well as it can. And that will be enough for me. And in this moment, as I witness the white stars begin to appear outside my window to the universe, I become acutely aware of what a blessing the life is that breathes in and out of my body. I am blessed – and for that – I am enough.

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cactus heartI’ve missed writing immensely. I just have not been up to it. It’s not because I’ve been on vacation. It’s not because I’ve been too busy throwing dinner parties or something. And it sure isn’t because I’ve been out riding my bike. The reason I’ve missed writing immensely is, well, because I’ve missed me immensely. My life as I knew it – as well as the woman who lived it – seem to be long gone. Not just with my chronic health challenges. But at this moment, it is my truth, that as soon as my 85 year old father was diagnosed with his cancer, something shifted within myself as well. The shift happened deep with in my soul. And since I said goodbye to him the morning of February 20th, 2014, my heart has been missing – perhaps misplaced in Tucson somewhere.

What an amazing lesson I’ve learn as my life was turned upside down in a heartbeat – the greed of both of my father’s ex-wifes came gushing towards me.  Now, I’ve seen cheap. And I sure have seen frugal. But, greed? Never have I seen such a sight. It is quite unattractive in a person. I can see now why greed is included as one of The Seven Deadly Sins.

I’ve had to pull the plug on my dark thoughts quite often. And it sure can come out in my writing. Which is bringing me back to the beginning: I’ve missed writing immensely – it is just too dark to share.  And I miss my father so deeply that it’s completely unbearable. How do people do this? I do not know how they have gone before me, but for that I am grateful. Yes, I am grateful for every woman who has shown me that it is possible to continue living with out their father. I am sorry for anyone’s grief who has walked this path before me. For now I understand. For now I know.

It has been too long since I have felt good physically. No one really can actually know the depth of my health challenges – I believe the reason is that it is so personal. And because what I really need in a conversation is hard to come by – don’t give me unsolicited health advise – give me encouragement. And the only person who filled me with encouragement my whole life was my father. He was not perfect. But he never left me. He did not speak negatively of his ex-wife (my mother) when she walked out on us when I was a child – he gave me encouragement as he himself tried to do the things “the mom” is supposed to do.  He did not offer much advise unless I asked – but he sure did give me encouragement! Someone like that is hard to come by. I miss the lost art of encouraging words. I miss my father… I am grateful and honored that I got to be his voice. And I am grateful and honored that I’ve been given the opportunity to be in Tucson.

As for my heart, it is just misplaced, I’m sure I left it here somewhere. Soon, I will hear God’s voice directing me towards it. And just maybe, just perhaps, it will be better than it ever was before…

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Once I thought that I’d live in California forever. But I didn’t.

Once I thought that my dad would live forever. But he was not able to.

I never ever thought that I’d live in Tucson, surrounded by my father’s memories.

But suddenly, I do.

I’ve never known the depth of this grace.

I’ve never known this level of humbling fatherly love.

My gratitude is bottomless. My blessings quiet me.

My love is deep. Therefore my grief is deep.

I am a lucky girl because I am my father’s daughter.

the little road to my refuge. I never thought it would be a place to begin to heal, but it is...

the little road to my refuge. I never thought it would be a place to begin to heal, but it is…

I am just going through the motions day after day, missing my father immensely.

But it is with these motions that I will persevere & find my way & a new life.

Because this is how my father taught me to live.

Keep on pushing until I reach the top of the mountain.

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20140217I am forever eternally grateful that I listened to my heart and still was in Tucson, and not in LA, when my father suddenly took his last breath. Dad was my entire family on his side of the family. Gently, yet tightly, I held him as I looked at him with his perfect haircut he had just the day before.  I carefully, gently, slid my hand underneath the back of his neck and shoulders so I could hold him for as long as I needed – no one would dare ask me to let go of my dad. I intuitively knew that he could still feel my love, protection and admiration. My tears, endless, as I softly spoke into his ear, “You did good Dad. I’m so sorry that you were sick.  I understand that you were sick. You did good – please know that.  Please know that I understand.  Know you are incredibly brave, strong and sensitive to my feelings all in the same moment… I love you Dad… You did good. You did a good job raising me and my brother.  You were the original full-time single dad and you did a good job on your own with out help. God is with us.”…. As I slowly lifted my head off of the crook of my father’s neck, one of my gigantic tears had dropped to the inside of my glasses.  Ironically, my vision blurred. So hard to focus.  To take it all in. The moment important. The pain unbearable.  My dad so handsome.  His features resembling my grandmother so much that, momentarily, it startled me.

me Tucson trails

My heart has been so painfully broken since that morning on February 20th, 2014, that I am worried that I will never be my self again. It has been 3 and a half months and it seems I have lost my true voice. The voice I hear is not the old Julie I once knew. I don’t like to talk on the phone. I don’t like to talk to people when I go out side.  My body continues to decline from chronic pain and bone crushing fatigue.

What I especially don’t like or appreciate is, on the 9th day after my father passed and I saw him for the last time, I was coldly, cruelly and bluntly greeted with being told I must now get out of my home of 5 years. Who was this self-seeking self-loathing mean old woman who believes her own life of lies? The impostor drill sergeant stepping on landmines waiting to explode in the depth of her self imposed victim’s pot of poison –  orders screamed with ugly eyes of misplaced rage and envy, a block of black ice where a heart never ever was to begin with. Was it blood that I witnessed dripping from the black crevices of her empty soul? A clearly planned betrayal with the absurd transparent demand to immediately give up my familiar surroundings upon my return from Tucson and to say good bye to my many neighbors who had become my supportive friends.  I especially don’t like that I was forced to move away from my precious, precious little neighbor-friend Emma, who, once a week for 2 years, helped me with chores I had become physically unable to do myself.

I don’t like that the majority of my belongings, my few pieces of furniture, my comforting photographs, my old books of recovery I’ve read over & over for 27 years, sentimental knickknacks and all my clothes except for the suitcase I packed in my haste, are all in storage somewhere, I do not know where, but in Northern California somewhere, while I find myself suddenly living in my refuge, my safe haven, in my father’s guest room in Tucson Arizona. Along with my cat and my father’s 12 year old cat.

Now is the time.  Now is the time that I have been given. The opportunity to find out just what I am made of.  How deep does my courage run?  How strong is my faith?  Will my love and belief carry me though this time?  Am I steadfast and true as I allow God to continue to lead my way?  I continue to demand that my voice be heard. My vision is still as blurry as the morning my tear drop landed on the inside of my glasses as I leaned to hug & kiss my father goodbye…

I become mindful of my father’s words to me when I was a young teenager.  We were back packing  the switch backs up a particularly steep mountain in the High Sierras. I was looking up and feeling defeated as I was taken in by the gigantic mountain that was still in front of me.  It was looking down on me, daring me to come closer.  I did not like not knowing how much further I had to push myself before my father set up camp for the night. Exhausted I stopped and reached for my canteen that my father had hooked on my belt for me hours earlier.  Being acutely aware, my father gently held my shoulders and said, “Turn around Julie, and see how far you’ve come.” As I turned, with my father’s hand guiding me, I looked down behind me at the path we had just climbed.  I was overwhelmed by the dense beauty of the vast Sierra. The view before me was breathtaking and magnificent.  And it felt good.  I had done good and my father was able to prove it to me… Today I can turn around again, and see just how far I’ve come from LA.  It was not in my best interest to remain in my home – because home is where the heart is. No heart to be found there. I do not need to double check this lesson from long ago. This stage of this journey of mine remains in God’s hands.  And His plan is too brilliant for me to see right now. I look forward to that day when I will once more “turn around and see how far I’ve come”.

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me, my big brother and my dad. michigan 1959

me, my big brother and my dad. michigan 1959

My father peacefully passed away 12 days ago.  I have vivid dreams of him almost every night.  While my grieving has been quite unbearable and I do not seem to have the energy to answer my phone – I am comforted to know that perhaps my father has finally found my brother. My dad would be so happy to see him again. . . I love you Dad.  I know  you promised that I will be happy again – but I just don’t think that it will be today. . .  but maybe tomorrow. . . 

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I’ve been staying in Tucson longer than I originally anticipated. 9 weeks ago I arrived with endless hope and energy.  As today comes to a close I feel the weight of endless sadness – reckless sleeping has pushed down my weary shoulders and clouded my eyesight. I am amazed at the amount of tears that continue to fall many times a day.  I duck into an empty bathroom or I sit in my car, or suddenly I can not hold myself up as I am standing alone washing the dishes in my father’s empty home.

Is this the way life is now?  I am unable to see out.  Suffering from serious sleep deprivation as I make endless decisions for my father’s care.   I find myself with the suprising and distracting task of convincing caregivers that my father is in their facility to recover from throat cancer and chemo – not die – recover!  I have learned the hard way that because my father is quite thin and is on a feeding tube many false assumptions have been made.  My hope and faith is tested as I take someone aside to explain that my father is already a miracle!  can’t you see that he is walking unassisted?!  He was in a wheelchair only 2 months ago. PLUS he has gained 7 pounds since he went on that feeding tube.  I am quite clear on my hope.  I am quite clear I am spreading a positive force of healing thoughts. I am quite clear as I share my admiration for my father’s unwavering determination.  Yes, his confusion is heart breaking – however – he is tenacious and healing!

Caregivers giggle when he makes a face like a frog with a wide turned down mouth. Then he makes a face like a fish and puckers up.  “Ga. Ga. Ga!” he says with his broken raspy voice. “Ka – ka – ka!” He says with a sly smile and wink.  “Wow! Good ones Dad! You’re really improving!  Keep up the good work!” I tell him with a gentle hug. “Your throat exercises are making a big difference Dad!  I can tell.  I just know it to be true.  I catch a couple caregivers tilt their head with sudden understanding.  They ask questions. So my father teaches them what he is doing to rebuild his throat muscles.  The tumors that were at the top of his throat and airway are gone now.  He speaks highly of both his oncologist as well as his Speech Pathologist who visits him on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Yes, it is another day in the life with surviving throat cancer.  But the good news is, my father’s hard work, combined with hope and my private tears and prayer is paying off in baby steps. The Speech Pathologist gave him 3 sips of water yesterday and then 3 sips of apple juice. He did not cough. He did not choke.  He swallowed – he drank them. It was magnificent.

And the best news of all is that my father’s alma mater, Michigan State, won the Rose Bowl.  All we can do is the very best we can do.  Half measures avail us nothing.  It’s another blessed day in Tucson.  It is the recovery that comes from hope. Tears are allowed with hope. Confusion is allowed with hope.  Sleepless lonely nights in an empty house can still have hope and blessings in every corner.Tucson Sunset

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