The Pendulum Swings

Yesterday was…awful.

Mom called in the morning while I was at work, & told me that Dad’s best friend had passed away. This man was someone I’ve known for practically my whole life. His daughter & I were best friends and nearly inseparable from kindergarten through 5th grade. (The following summer of 1981 we moved to ND)

He and his wife were like second parents to me, as I spent almost as much time at their house as I did my own.

But, he was also the father of the boy who molested me when I was a teenager.

After Mom told me of his passing, I attempted to go back to work at my desk, but couldn’t concentrate. My head felt heavy, & I could hear a buzzing, ringing, in my ears as everything else around me started to fade out.

Then, the panic attack began.

I told my supervisor I had to go home, & bolted from the office before I went into full-meltdown mode. I didn’t want them to see me like that, couldn’t let them see me like that.

It was my worst panic attack yet, save one I had while separated from my first ex (whole other story). 

Tears rolled down my face the whole drive home, but I held my shit together till I got in my front door.

Then – game over.

If you’ve never had a real, full-blown panic attack…you have no idea how frightening one is. I hope you never have to experience it, because it’s…well…I’ll try to describe it.

As soon as my front door closed, the trembling started. I’m not talking about just “feeling shaky”. I’m talking – my whole body went into earthquake mode.  Someone just watching would have probably thought I was having a seizure, or that I’d just gotten out of ice-cold water, I shook so violently. I had to sit to take my shoes off, & struggled with the zippers because I couldn’t keep my fingers still long enough to grasp them.

The cold set in. My house is generally warm, as I can’t abide being cold. I usually have the heat set at 76. But, yesterday, I couldn’t get warm. I wrapped one of my fleece blankets around me as I stumbled through the house to the fridge for my water, & it still wasn’t enough to warm me up. It took 2 blankets & my 2 cats (curled up with me in the chair) to finally warm me.

After taking another dose of my anti-anxiety meds to try to quell the panic attack, it went to the next level. Hyperventilating.

I almost blacked out, so it’s a good thing I was already in my chair when this hit. It dragged on for what seemed like forever, swinging between hyperventilating & hitching sobs. Coupled with the shaking trembles, it most likely would have looked like a grand mal seizure. 

Finally, the meds started to kick in, after interminable seeming hours, and I started to calm. It was most likely just a handful of minutes, but time stretches out unceasingly when in a panic attack, your brain screams fight or flight!! And there seems to be no end, no exit, no rescue. 

And when you’re dealing with this alone, with no one there to comfort you, there’s no surcease of the pain until your body, quite literally, shuts down. The adrenaline of the attack does eventually run out. It has to.

But when you’re panicking, it doesn’t feel that way.

When you’re in PA mode, all you know, all you see, is the black, horrific, panic. It’s a heart attack, stroke, earthquake, flood & mental apocalypse, all rolled inside of your head & body.

It, quite literally, feels like the end, while you’re in it. Logic has no place there. None. It’s not a matter of “just breathe, you’ll be fine”.

You can’t “just breathe”, when every breath has to be fought for.

You can’t “just calm down”, when your heart is racing so fast you feel like a jet engine is going to bust through your chest.

For me, tunnel vision set in, & all I could see was whatever was directly in front of my eyes, but my brain wasn’t truly processing even that. It was in overload.

Once the attack finally crested, & I started to come down, it was like falling off a cliff.

I crashed. 

I slept, weighted under 2 blankets & 2 cats, it was more like falling into a coma, in that I didn’t dream at all. It was just – black sleep.

Today, I am out of PA mode. My anxiety is still very high, but I’m watching it. Keeping quiet, avoiding going out, & taking meds as needed. 

For those of you who do have anxiety & have experienced PA, you know the aftercare, & what I’ve been through. I know another attack could happen, so I’m being careful. Doing all the things I do to relax, soothe & comfort. Reading, to keep my brain occupied on something other than the situation. Wearing my comfort clothes to feel good against my skin. Burning candles and/or incense as needed to use aromatherapy to soothe. Staying away from caffeine, as that can trigger another attack while in heightened stress moments.

And blogging. This helps me, almost as much as the meds. Because this is my emotional outlet, my “scream into the black” of the internet. My way of getting the words out of my head, onto the “page”, & away from my emotional distress.

The worst has passed, and I’m still here…but the pendulum swings. And the moments are tentative & tenderly susceptible to another PA. Hang on, we’re not out of the woods entirely, yet.

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Quality/Quantity

How do you decide between Quality vs. Quantity?

How do you make a choice so fraught with emotions, that, either way, someone will end up hurting?

How do you say, I’m going to live,  really LIVE for a little while, rather than spend months & years with loved ones…but be in pain, sick & tired?

How do you make this choice?

I don’t know.
I really don’t.

I know/knew 2 people who’ve made this choice. Both choosing Quality over Quantity.

And as much as I can say that I understand, even respect, their choice…

It still hurts.

And I know that it’s not my choice to make.

I hope that I am never faced with this choice…because honestly, I don’t know how I would answer the question.

Do you fight? Do you go down swinging, even if it’s a slow, pain-ridden ride?

Or do you finish out your time in a blaze of glory & adventure,  knowing that every moment could be your last?

How do you choose?

The Endurance of Memory

My grandmother was a lovely young woman, who has had an extraordinary life.  She is my role model for endurance, the overwhelming strength of her love, and for her willingness to pick up after the storm, and carry on.

The first time she married, she was only 15. 

She had one child, my Uncle Leslie, with her first husband, Earl, who answered the call of service, went off to World War II, and was killed.  I’ve never even seen any pictures of him, but Gram picked up her life, her son, and kept going.

A few years later, Gram met my grandfather, Merle.  From everything that I’ve heard from family members that remember him, he was a total practical joker, with a ready smile and a huge heart.  He adopted my Uncle Les, and he and Gram had 2 more children, my mother, and another Uncle, Marlin.

Then, my Grampa Merle entered into military service.  From family members, I learned that Grampa was totally dedicated to the idea of service to country being service to all the people he loved back home.  He was a man of backbone, as well as humor.

I’ve also had the privilege of reading the letters that my Gram and Grampa wrote to each other during the time they were separated for his training, and they are beautiful expressions of a wonderful relationship, both full of love and hope.

The letters that Gram sent to Grampa when he got shipped overseas, during the Korean War…. were all unopened.  I couldn’t bear to break the seals on those letters, once I learned that Grampa died shortly after arrival.   He never had a chance to read any of the letters.  They sit in a memory box in her home, tied with a red ribbon. 

Gram, having lost a second husband, and now having three children, picked up her life, and kept going.

She married her third husband, the only man I ever knew as Grandfather, Don.  They had one son that didn’t live through childhood, due to a heart problem, and then a few years later, another son, my Uncle, Jeff, that was to be her last child.

Then, when I was 5, my eldest uncle, Les, committed suicide due to emotional problems involving alcoholism.  It totally rocked the family, and there are still some wounds left open by that. 

By this time, my Gram had lost 2 husbands, and 2 children.

Each time, she came back, enduring through the pain and the heartache, and kept her willingness to open herself up to risk the possibility of pain, for the joys of love.

Gram and Grampa Don were together for many years, until one day, when I was 16, my mom stopped me on my way home and told me that he’d had a massive heart attack, and had passed away.

Gram had lost her third husband.  All her children were, by this time, grown and on with their own lives, but she still picked herself up, and moved on.  Still enduring, still dedicated to family, and still willing to love.

And, in her later years, she married again.  To the man who was my grandfather’s best friend in the service, and the man who brought his body back from Korea, Virgil.  They were married in a lovely, non-denominational service, with their children, and their grandchildren there to support and celebrate with them.

When Virgil was diagnosed with cancer, he began treatments, but it spread quickly into his bones, and he passed away a short time later.

Gram has, in her life, lost 4 husbands, and 2 sons.  More pain than most people would be able to endure, surely.  I’m not sure how I would have dealt with so much loss, and I’m eternally thankful that nothing of this nature has happened to me, or my loved ones.

But, the lesson that I learned from this woman isn’t one of pain.

This lesson…. is about the endurance of love, the endurance of life, and the endurance of memory. 

And that not all the old soldiers who survived the wars…  were men in uniform.

And, some who were men in uniform, didn’t survive.  And we need to remember them all.

I never met my maternal grandfather.

But if I had?  I would totally have been a Grampa’s Girl.  I know.

Old Business, New Business, Never Forget the Business

I’ll let ABC News do most of the talking.  I’m busy watching the news.

I would just like to ask… Please, never forget the people we still have overseas, in danger.  I have family in the armed services, 2 of whom were able to come home from their tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, both of them, safe and healthy.  Not everyone has that same blessing, and our troops still need our prayers, love, and support.

My cousin, Joe, during his tour of service.

The old business of bin Laden is over now.  If there are any retaliations, our troops will serve.

My cousin, Jeremy, during his tour.

The new business?

The troops will serve there, too.

And whether I believe in our presence in those other countries…. is immaterial.

I support our men and women in service, and wish them ALL  a safe return home.  We can never forget all that our troops do to secure our rights to live free, to believe as we wish, and to speak out about our beliefs without fear of persecution. 

I am free, to write exactly as I wish, here on my blog.  And I owe that to every American soldier that has ever served. 

I will never forget.

The Value of One Human Life

Today’s post is not a happy one.

Today’s post is about tragedy on a local scale, and on a global scope.

Today’s post is about the death of a 19-month old little boy that didn’t have to die.

On Monday, there was a story floating around our fair city, about a little boy, not yet 2 years old, was in the hospital after police were called to the house because the child wasn’t breathing.  The mother and her boyfriend were arrested, on the charge of felony child abuse.

People actually posted pictures on Facebook, supposedly of a bruised and beaten little boy, lying in a hospital bed.  I didn’t look at them, I couldn’t bear it.

Early Tuesday morning, it was reported that the little boy had died from his injuries.

The adults are now in jail, pending a further investigation, and the charges have been changed to murder.

I don’t know either of the people involved and charged in this crime.

I never met the little boy, or any of his family.

But I weep, nonetheless.

I know, murder happens everyday.  Child abuse, neglect, they all happen, all over the world, every day.

I’m not saying that this one is more important than any other, nor that this one is worse than any other.

I simply weep.

For the value of this one human life, this innocent child, was ignored.

By his own mother.

She threw him away, broken.

And it can never be the same.

Butterfly in a Jar

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge-
That myth is more potent than history.
I believe that dreams are more powerful than facts-
That hope always triumphs over experience-
That laughter is the only cure for grief.
And I believe that love is stronger than death.”
~Robert Fulghum

 

*One of my favorite things is butterflies.  I love, not just the colors, and the varieties of shapes, but the silent grace of these creatures.  Butterflies are a welcome sight, no matter where you go, people are happy to see them.

Moths, their cousins, are seen as pests.  They are reputed to *eat clothes* and people stock up on mothballs to put in their closets to keep them away.  They are not often seen as lovely, delicate, and silently graceful. 

I dare you to tell me these creatures are not just as beautiful.

Yes, they flutter more frenetically, at least the smaller ones do, and yes, they will flock toward a light-source, whether it be a lightbulb, or a candle’s flame. 

But they can be just as gorgeous, just as graceful, as their daytime counterparts.

They too, might sit delicately on your hand or arm, licking the salt from your skin, gently fanning their wings.

In my experience, moths are simply butterflies that prefer the darkness to the light.

They are not as showy as their cousins, preferring to keep their colors more muted, subdued.  They also tend to be smaller, except for this behemoth, the luna moth.  My personal favorite.  We used to see these occasionally where I grew up in Iowa.  Not often, just enough to keep me fascinated with them.

So, you’re asking now, why butterflies and moths, in the middle of winter?  What do these have anything to do with snow, with the holidays, with ice and cold?

Not a damn thing.

I’m tired of feeling like a creature, caught and kept in glass.

I found a Butterfly in a Jar in one of the local stores this weekend.  I instantly wanted it, but had to forego buying it.  No, it’s not a real butterfly.  It’s electronic, a beautiful, fake thing on a wire, that flutters around the jar when you tap on the lid.

I still want one, not so much because I have any desire to capture a real live butterfly, I prefer releasing them to capturing.

No, I want one – to remind myself that even though people may stare, may tap at the glass, and may even shake it up now and again – the butterfly you see inside the jar is not real.  You can’t hurt it, you can’t kill it.  The batteries, or whatever it is that fuels this electronic critter, will eventually run down, but it will not die.

The real ones are still free.  Still beautiful, still graceful in all their silence.

And sometimes, they’re not even butterflies.  Sometimes, they’re moths.

 Tonight is Yule.  It is also the night of the total lunar eclipse.  If it stops snowing, even for a moment, around midnight, I’ll get to see it.

And, like those moths, I will flutter toward it, yearning for the light, and the renewal that comes with it.

Lessons Learned.

My friend, Mckenzie had a great idea today.  Now that it’s coming down to the last few days of the year, it’s time to look back on what I’ve learned.

Here’s my list:

1.  You can teach your kids, you can try to guide them, and in the end, they will do what they want – no matter what you say.  This is a natural progression of life, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

2.  When you meet people that make you feel better about yourself, say thank you, and appreciate them.  NEVER take them for granted, or they’ll go away again.

3.  Give back when you can.  Even if it’s just a little.  Every little bit helps.

4.  Pay it forward when you can.  Even if it’s just a little.  Every little bit helps.

5.  Just because you share some of the same DNA, doesn’t make them any more special than those you choose to be with.  Blood is not always thicker than the alternative.

6.  You need to find a reason to get out of bed every morning.  It won’t always just happen.

7.  Stop saying “someday, I’ll”.  Do it, or at least – Try. 

8.  Keeping things bottled up, causes explosions, often at the most inopportune time.

9.  The people that love you truly, will always love you – truly.

10.  Giving yourself a hard time is truly a waste of time, other people will happily do it for you.

11.  Your faith is yours.  It’s personal, and it should be that way.

12.  Life really is short. 

13.  So make memories whenever you get the chance.

14.  Make sure that the people you love, know it.  Say it.  Out loud.  To them.  Often.

15.  Reading can be the perfect temporary escape.

16.  Shit happens.

17.  Shit also washes off.

18.  It’s not about how fast you get to the finish line, or how may toys you bring with you, it’s about enduring through the marathon, and simply making it.

19.  Mindfulness doesn’t mean you always have to be happy, it just means you must be aware.  Be present.

20.  Balance is temporary.  So is chaos.  It keeps things interesting enough to stay awake.

21.  You’re allowed to not be happy. 

22.  Emotions are there for a reason.  Acknowledge them, figure out why you’re having them, and be honest about them.  You’ll be better off. 

23.  Leave room for laughter.

24.  Sometimes, the best thing you can give your kids, is space.

25.  Leave a night-light on.  It can get awfully dark some nights.