Saturday, 23 April 2011

Helping Ourselves

The hand that helps you is at the end of your arm.  I actually find that comforting.  I know at times, actually, many times, in the past, whenever I reached out for help or reached out to share my innermost feelings, I was rejected, told to 'pick myself up' or just judged and told I had done things wrong.  When all I wanted was an ear to listen, someone to vent to, someone to care.

This has been the story of my life for such a long time, and at my age, I am having one heck of a time trying to change.

I once wrote a poem about being a butterfly and that is my deepest and sincere wish.  To not have to hide in my cocoon - out of self-preservation when I was young, to maried life, to motherhood, to my present.  I learned that people were always quick to judge me and therefore made me feel that I had no value.  I picked myself up and brushed myself off and carried on.  Illness in the family made me stronger and also made me realize even more that I had only myself to rely on.  The crack in my armor healed itself and I became who I am.  I know people have told me it was OK to ask for help, or to turn to people for help (even once being told that I was actually honoring the other person when I asked for help).  That may be true in some way - but my experiences have taught me otherwise and I have a very hard time changing after all these years.

I once did turn to people for help, only to be deceived, only to be judged, only to be misunderstood.  So I prefer to keep things to myself now (once in a while, I will open the door of my heart to someone, but will quickly close it).  I hope they do not take offense when I do this.  I was well taught - taught that my opinion was not important, that I was never right, that I had to go along with the 'majority'.  So I learned in the past 4-5 years to keep hidden my true feelings - a couple of times, I did voice the way I felt inside and people took it the wrong way and judged me.  So I closed up that cocoon even tighter.

I will help others should they ask for help (and not look down on them the way I was looked down when I used to ask for help).  Because I know how hurtful that can be.  And I refuse to hurt others the way others have hurt me. 

One day, I will become a butterfly and I look forward to that day.  Today, being the day before Easter, I reflect on death and life.  And what is between - and I am stuck in the in-between time, just as this Saturday is the in-between time between death and new life.  But one day, I will fly like a butterfly and be free of all pain, shame and sorrow.  Unfortunately, I think that day will only come after my literal death.  There are times when I think of my heart problems and do not worry about it the way I used to - for the life awaiting me will be better than what is now.  Then I can rise, soar, and be free.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Good Friday

Some people spend Good Friday by going to church and that is just wonderful.  Today, I honored the day by asking someone's forgiveness and was told I was forgiven.  It was only afterwards that it dawned on me just how appropriate this was.......... to be forgiven on Good Friday.  I had said something not very nice to someone about four years ago and I would, once in a while, think about that and wish that I could somehow apologize.  But that person had blocked me from MSN and Facebook (with good reason) after it happened.  I realized it was all my fault, but there was no way I could reach her to apologize.  There had been quite a bit of stress in my life at that time, but I knew that was no excuse for my behavior.

Then this morning, I saw her name on Facebook and sent a quick private message requesting her friendship and she accepted.  I was then able to apologize and received a 'I forgive you' message.  That made my heart happy.  I know we will perhaps not have much in common anymore and that is OK.  I was able to reach out and be forgiven.

Then it dawned on me - today was Good Friday - a day when we are forgiven.  I am not a religious person, but more of a spiritual person.  I have this saying 'religion is for those who are afraid of going to hell, spirituality is for those who have already been there'.  So I sit quietly today and ponder this mystery of forgiveness and why this should happen on this day.  The irony struck me.  For Good Friday is about releasing us to live as we were meant to.  It is about accepting God's forgivenesss.  And it is also about living with the motto to 'love one another'.  This all happened today.  And I feel released and I feel blessed. 

I also know that it is so very important to hear the words 'I forgive you'.  It is necessary to 'let go' after one apologizes and I can do that - after I have apologized.  But I had not been able to reach out to this person and ask her forgiveness until this morning.  And with ease and understanding, she freed me of guilt.  How like Good Friday that is (without going into any talk about 'religion' or 'faith').  But somehow I was touched in a miraculous way this morning.  And I am thankful.

Earlier this week, I also reconciled with someone else - this has indeed been a Holy Week for me.

So, today (or tomorrow or the day after or whenever you read this) - if there is someone you should apologize to, apologize - it will release you (whether they forgive you or not).  If there is someone that you are holding a grudge against, forgive them and allow them to feel that freedom that only forgiveness can bring.

May you enjoy your own Good Friday in whatever way you honor it.  And then be free to truly enjoy Easter and all it means to you.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Thoughts on the past

I know people say that the past is past, that the future is not ours to see (I do believe that is a song), that the present is a gift and the only thing we need.  That to be present in today is what is truly important.  I believe all this, but can I truly say that I always live in the 'present'?  Not if I am totally honest (with myself and with you - whoever who is out there reading this blog). 

Lately, I have been reminded of events from my past.  Whether it be something I was writing about, something someone said to me or just a picture posted on a friend's facebook.  Memories - the things that we should cherish.  Yet, what if most memories are sad?  How do we overcome those?  Ah, you say, by creating good memories, new memories, happy memories that you can then dwell upon when you lie in bed at night struggling to sleep.  I learned a trick to helping me fall asleep at night and have used it many a time (again even this  brings back memories of not-so-pleasant times).  In any case, to help me sleep, I would imagine in my mind's eye, a blackboard (a whiteboard also works for  those who are younger).  There is a bottom edge to this black/white board - you see it in your mind's eye as well as a piece of chalk (or erasable markers) and an eraser..  You think of this  blackboard and you see yourself picking up the chalk and writing down the number '100', then you see yourself putting the chalk down, picking up the  eraser and erasing the number 100.  Then you see yourself placing the eraser on the ledge of the blackboard, then picking up the chalk again and writing down the number '99' and so on.  When you find that you cannot concentrate very much anymore, stop and let your mind rest.  I can assure you that sleep will come easily.  Your mind is so tired and you have basically 'erased' all other thoughts from your mind.  Depending on what I am worried about, I have been able to fall asleep shortly after writing the number '95' - on very rough nights, I have made it to '85' (remember that it is not a matter of trying to get as many numbers as possible, it is a matter of when your mind is tired of 'thinking') - do not force anything.

Thankfully, I have not had to use this method to fall asleep in a quite a while, because I have not had much that was weighing that heavy on my mind.  But last night, I found myself picking up that chalk - I think I was in the low 90s before I finally was able to relax enough to fall asleep. 

I had seen a picture of a friend's son with his latest Tae-Kwon-Do belt (yellow striped).  It brought back memories of a time long ago, when my son was in Tae-Kwon-Do (hereafter referred to as TKD) and his progress in earning belts.  I don't quite remember which was the last belt he earned, but it did bring back memories of why we put him in TKD (he was very excited about it by the way).  Our son was often bullied in school.  So, we, as parents, thought that TKD would give him more self-confidence and he would know he 'could' defend himself against any bullies, or at the very least, if bullies knew he had taken TKD, they would stop bullying him.  Well, it kind of back-fired because when it came time to progress to the more advanced level of 'spar-ing', our son decided he did not want to continue, he did not want to fight with anyone.  We did not force him to continue, altho we tried to encourage him to at least try.  But he was adamant, and so we let it be.  Did it help his self-esteem?  We admired his kindness and his unwillingness to 'fight', but we wished he could learn how to fight (only to defend himself).  But these were not the thoughts that  kept me awake.  These memories of my past only triggered more memories - of a time that I had shoved at the back of my mind and preferred that it stay there.  But it reared its ugly head last night and I had to once again take out my blackboard in my mind's eye so I could sleep.

It brought back memories of my son's first hospitalization.  Of a time of confusion and horror.  After some odd behavior on his part and due to the fact that he had not slept in over a week, we had convinced our son that he should go to the hospital in order to get something to help him sleep, something to help him relax enough to sleep.  After many hours of waiting in the ER room, we were finally brought to 'that room' and saw a psychiatrist, who admitted our son to  the psychiatric wing of the hospital.  This was so perplexing for us, so confusing.  Our son was taken away and put in a locked unit where we could not go see him.  We were left outside the unit, with no-one to talk to, with no-one to tell us what was happening.  There was one nurse who came over and gave us the telephone number of the unit and told us we could call the next day to see how our son was doing.  So, we left the hospital, scared, angry (yes angry), in tears (I cried  so many tears  that night after we left the hospital), but falling in bed out of pure exhaustion.  The next day, I immediately called the number I had been given in the hope of finally getting some answers.  Had my son finally slept?  Was he OK now?  Could I bring him home now?  All I got was a 'he is resting now' and 'no he cannot have visitors' and 'someone will contact you - either the social worker or his  doctor'.  So another day was spent not knowing what was going on.  No-one called us - I kept calling every morning asking the same question - asking also when someone would contact us to explain what was going on, and being given the same things - someone would contact us.  I could not even get the name of the psychiatrist who was now his 'doctor'.  I did ask if his family doctor was involved in this, only to be told 'no, he is under the care of a psychiatrist who will contact you'.  But when??? 

And so we waited - waited 4 long and anxious days until finally, at 11 p.m. four days after he was brought to the hospital, we got a call from the hospital telling us that there would be a Tribunal the next day  at 9 a.m. and would we be interested in attending?  Of course we would!!!  Thankfully at that time, my husband was not working and where I worked, I could easily call in sick the next morning.  But what exactly was  a Tribunal?  We had no idea.  I googled it on the internet and there was very little information - just that it was some kind of a hearing.  What sort of a hearing?  My son had done nothing unlawful.  At least not before being admitted in the hospital.  So I slept fitfully, but made sure that my  alarm was set for 6  a.m. so I could (1) call in sick at work; (2) take a shower; (3) get dressed; (4)  have enough time to be at the hospital by 8:30 to ensure we would be in time for this Tribunal.

We soon found out what a Tribunal was.  It was comprised of a lawyer, the head nurse in charge of the psychiatric unit, the psychiatrist in charge of my son, and a patient advocate.  I was told that my son was not well enough to attend.  The first thing that happened was the psychiatrist telling us that our son had been given a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.  I tentatively asked 'what is that?' and he said 'it is an incurable illness and he will be on medication for the rest of his life'.  I started crying.  When I was able to regain my composure (as quickly as possible as I knew that I needed to get as much information as possible - my feelings were not important at this time - I could always cry later).  So I wiped those tears and said 'I am fine now' (altho I was far from fine).  They said that my son would be held for 30 days and another Tribunal would then be held to see if he was better.  All I could think of was 'but we just wanted him to get something to help him sleep.......'.  But I did not say anything.  They did ask about our son's history - we told them what we had told them when he was admitted - that he had not slept, we told them of  the strange behavior and distorted way of thinking, but we attributed all this to lack of sleep.  Was he still not sleeping?  The lawyer asked us about his childhood.  We told him how our son was a kind person, he excelled in school, he had a few close friends, and he had been bullied a lot.  The lawyer looked me straight in the eye and told me I should have enrolled him in boxing classes..   That kind of came out of the blue.  All I could think of was '...but we had him in TKD'. 

Needless to say, we left confused and feeling a bit guilty.  Maybe if we had enrolled him in boxing instead of TKD, it would have made a difference.  Maybe if  we had insisted he stayed in TKD and forced him to 'spar' it would have helped. 

That was in 1995..  Today, 6 years later, we have educated ourselves on mental illness, and our son has not been hospitalized in almost 4 years.  We are blessed. 

And I thought I had things pretty well under control and could help others now.  Yet when I saw the picture of my small nephew with his TKD yellow striped belt, all these memories came flooding back and I again found myself being unable to sleep, doubting my parenting skills when he was younger and finally reverting to my 'tried and true' method of falling asleep. 

Funny how a single thing, a simple thing, can bring back memories that one would prefer to forget.  So many memories came flooding back, so many questions of 'why', so many feelings of how helpless I had felt.  I wanted to cry. Yet tears did not come as they used to.  For I have not cried in 4 years (not even at the death of 2 of my siblings during the past 4 years) - People say that crying is good for the soul, they release tension.  I have even tried to cry, even tried to force myself to cry - watching sad movies that are 'tear-jerkers' do not help and I wonder:  Is it possible that one can actually run out of tears?  That all those tears prior to 4 years ago made my heart hard and froze any tears that might remain.  I do know that every so often, I have to get my husband to put eye-drops in my eyes, because they hurt from their dryness.  I have seen my eye doctor who has assured me there is nothing wrong with my eyes.  Maybe what is wrong is that tears come from a place within me that I dare not go to.  For that place is too painful to revisit.  I had a slight glimpse of that place last night - thank goodness for that blackboard.  It erases memories and lets you sleep.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Another Exercise from Wordplay Workshop on Thursday

We were asked to find 20 words from dictionaries, books and/or magazines then write a short poem about it (10 minutes to do so).  This is what I came up with:

Random Words

Castles, Build, Wonder, Health, Free, Future, Existence, Youth, Ignored, Culture, Value, Dreams, Pain, Love, Cautiously, Soul, Hope, Mind, Importance, Bright

My Soul Dreams Cautiously
Of Love overcoming Ignored Pain
Where Health will prevail
And Culture will change
The Future will become Bright with Hope
And the Wonder of my Youth
Will Build Castles in the sky
And my Mind will be Free to see the Value
Of the Importance of my Existence.

What is Creativity?

Creativity is something I crave

Realism stands in its way

Emotions create heaviness of mind

Althought in my soul, a creative sparks strives

To get out, to emerge, to be heard

I look within and leave all problems aside

Vowing that I must let my true self emerge

Inward emotions are trying to free themselves

To all that is possible

Yearning to unleaash what is in my soul.


A big thank you to Deborah Carr for unleashing a bit of my creative self at her Wordplay Workshop last Thursday.