Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Life, Interrupted

My youngest daughter just walked into my room and I noticed that there was something different about her. It dawned on me rather quickly that her long bangs now extended from ear to ear. She had cut her own hair. I have no idea what moved her to do this. It's not the first time, and she's really old enough now to know that if she wants a change she can just ask me and I'll help her. But she didn't want to wait for me. She wanted to do it herself. She's stubborn, strong-willed, determined... and all too often she's resistant to telling others when she needs help.

In short, she's a lot like me.

Tomorrow I will be heading out of town without my family. I try and do this once a year. In the past I've done things like participate in events such as the Komen 3-Day, escaped with girlfriends, visited extended family members and reconnected with far away friends. In all of those scenarios I've escaped the busyness of my life only to fill my time with the expectations of others.

So this time, I'm going alone.

The responses and reactions to my getaways have always been interesting. I've had encouragers for sure, but the louder voices have been those who don't understand my choice. In the past the stability of my marriage has been questioned - as if me going somewhere without my husband signifies disunity. People have wondered how my kids would manage without me - as if to suggest that their survival depended on me alone. Women have opined that they could never go somewhere alone or that my independent adventure is selfish. I understand. It's scary to step out of a comfort zone and not always the norm for a person who devotes themselves to taking care of everyone else.

But if you don't take care of yourself, how can you take care of others?

I'm a doer. If I'm being completely honest I have a history of being an over-doer. I will put my own health and sanity on the line in order to make sure that everyone around me feels loved and cared for. I'm a perfectionist that tries to perfect perfection. I'm a hundred times harder on myself than I am on anyone else. My thoughts are constant, often filled with ways that I could have done something better, been more encouraging, been more patient, given more grace. I forgive easily, unless the one needing forgiveness is myself. I get to the point of exhaustion and keep pushing. Sometimes I have no choice but to keep forging ahead. My life is complicated and so are the people in it. My love for my family is all encompassing, the magnitude of which at times overwhelms me. All of this is ok. All of what I do lies somewhere on the spectrum of normal life, especially in our culture.

But at some point something has to give.

And sometimes, in order to keep being the person others need you to be (and let's be honest, the person you like being) you have to take a break. And sometimes that break means taking yourself away from everyone and everything that seeks your attention, because otherwise you'd keep doing.

 I Am Important
 I'm not sure at what point in history it was decided that a woman's role was to take care of others without complaint or concern for self. But that's ridiculous. My needs, my desires, my dreams, my hopes - all of it is important. I am important. My place in my family and in the world is critical. God has me where He wants. God also taught me that sometimes you have to wander the dessert alone in order to reconnect with your purpose and gain strength and understanding for the journey ahead. Putting myself first is being selfish, but not in the way that society defines it. It means I love others enough to love and care for myself.

My Marriage is Important
God knew what he was doing when he caused my husband and I to cross paths. Very few men could handle me, and many have said just that. One reason my marriage works is because my husband doesn't fear my independence or my opinions. He honors my need to have solitude. He doesn't "handle" me. He respects me and the person I am. He doesn't get excited about having to do the single parent thing and he misses me - but he loves me enough to get over it. In order to be there for my husband, I have to first take care of myself. Marriage requires sacrifice but nowhere does it state that the woman needs to be a martyr.

My Kids Need to Learn
My kids learn from what they see. They can only see what I show them. I want my son to see that one of the best gifts he can give his partner is that of support and encouragement. I want him to learn that he will be a better man for being aware of the needs of his wife. I want him to feel secure in his role as a capable father. I want him to not be afraid of being in a relationship with a person who understands the importance of balance. I want him to understand the power of trust. I want my daughters to learn that they can not carry the problems of the world on their shoulders without making sure they are strong enough to support their own frame. I want them to learn that they aren't anyone's property and that being in a relationship does not mean giving up self or independence. I want them to learn that part of being a good mother and wife means knowing when to step back and refuel. I want all of my kids to know that they can do for themselves. I want them to see that their father is competent to meet their needs.

It's Ok To Be Alone
There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. I could be surrounded by every person I care for and still feel lonely. To be alone means to step away from the needs and desires of others and walk into solitude. And that's ok. Is it scary to get on a plane and fly to a place where I am not expected? Where no one is waiting to greet me and share in my time? Absolutely. But sometimes fear leads to growth. Sometimes it is in the moments where we shut out the world that we hear God the loudest. When you are forced to depend on no one but yourself you learn to trust your own abilities (truly dependent on self, not in the "I don't need anyone's help" "No it's ok I got this" when in reality life is crashing down around me way I tend to be when I'm navigating my expected life). I am capable. I am strong. It's when I'm alone that I remember who I was before life took hold - and I like me.

To those women who carry the weight of the world, who believe that life will crash down around them if they step away for a little while: It won't. There may be hiccups. You may get frantic calls from a spouse who isn't used to being alone. Your kids will miss you. But you are important. You are important. If you don't take care of yourself, the world will crash down around you but you won't be well enough to do anything about it. Step into the fear.....Face it.... Run to it with arms wide open.

Love yourself.

Say "hi", let her know how much you've missed her, give her a hug and let her remind you of just how amazing and worthy you are.

Friday, May 29, 2015

To Whom It May Concern

This is one of those entries where I've written out an intro and erased it over and over in hopes of finding the perfect words to get your attention. There are so many things I want to say... so many things I want you to hear. My heart is burdened, my soul is weeping. I have a history rich in loving the fringe. I have a life full of walking with others who have experienced great pain and sadness. I know what it means to sit with someone who is grieving the loss of something that was stolen. I know the pain it causes to have people who should understand... who should listen... who should love.. instead ostracize and condemn and blame you in the name of God. I understand.

Initially I was going to write to those who use scripture to defend the actions of abusers and shame people who are different from you. But I'm not sure you will listen. I wanted to ask you why you are so afraid when God is so big. I wanted to understand why you think God needs a lawyer. I wanted to ask you why you think God stands with one political party but not another. I wanted to go through all of the scriptures you pulled to justify the abuse of little girls and explain to you why that is so incredibly damaging. I wanted to provide you with research studies that explain why the predator living in the home is so damaging, and why appropriate treatment is critical. I wanted to blast you with statistics showing the likelihood that someone who acts out will act out again. I wanted to encourage you to visit the GRACE website and educate yourself on what predators normally look like, who their victims typically are, and how they use God as a weapon before, during and after with their victims. But... I'm not sure you will listen.

I considered writing to the abusers. But I'm not sure you will listen. I wanted to explain to you that repentance is more than just words. It's action. It's admitting you have wronged before God and not only changing your behavior, but doing what is necessary to protect others from your weakness. It's not a free pass to continue living as if your choices didn't have consequences. And it doesn't entitle you to automatic forgiveness from those you hurt - true repentance wouldn't expect it. I wanted to have you understand that forgiveness is a choice. It is one that can take time. True forgiveness, in the face of horrible action, comes only when the victim is ready. And that is ok. But, I'm not sure you will listen.

So, instead I am going to write to those who have been hurt, abused, made to feel alone, made to think that God loves you less because of what someone else has done or because of who you are.

I want to first tell you about the God I know and love. He loves you. He loves you so much more than anyone ever could. And to Him you are beautiful and perfect. He created you in His image and He wants you so desperately to run into His open arms. Not because someone told you to, but because you understand that it is safe there - even when there is no safety to be found in the world. When you are hurting, He hurts. When someone hurts you, He grieves. He longs to help you heal. He is patient. He is good. He is love.

It is with tears streaming down my face that I say to those who have been made by man to feel like you are too broken or too flawed or too different to be desired by God, I am so incredibly sorry. To those who have been forced to forgive their abuser or were flogged by scripture, my heart aches for you. To those who have been told that who you love, or how you dress, or the way in which you identify causes God to leave you - please know that God has never left you.

I am broken. I am flawed. I am imperfect.

I am incapable of being anything less than the exact person God has made me to be.

Even if man has decided that I am made for their scorn, their abuse, their mockery...

Even if man has decided that I am not good enough. God thinks I am.

I am no different than you.

And if God can love me, I have no doubt He loves you.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Saying "Yes"

I remember the phone call.

Social Worker: "Would you and your husband be willing to take in a 6 week old baby girl? Just for a week. The foster family that she's with is overwhelmed and she needs to be moved."

Me: "Why are they moving her?"

Social Worker: "Well, she cries a little, but it's not that much. It's just for a week."

Me: "Yes, we'll take her."

It was late at night when you showed up. You were crying. The social worker didn't know what to do. He said he had tried everything, and you just wouldn't stop crying. You'd been crying nonstop for hours.

So he handed you to me over the threshold. And the crying stopped.

You were beautiful.

I thought "Don't fall in love. Don't break the rule of fostering. You have to give her back in a week.".

Your daddy slept on the couch with you that night. You couldn't sleep unless you were wrapped up tight in a blanket and being held. Otherwise you thrashed around and screamed... a byproduct of choices that weren't yours.

No one knew the depth of pain you were experiencing...

We just knew to love you through it.

And still...even today...we love you through it.

One week turned into two. Two weeks turned into three months. Three months turned into a year.

One year turned into three.

Three years turned into nine.

I fell in love. And you stayed.

And all it took was saying "Yes". And just in case you ever wonder - I'd say "Yes" all over again.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

My Response to the ER Nurse in Texas

Recently someone on my local Ehler's Danlos support group posted a blog that was written by an ER nurse in Texas. She made a list of people who shouldn't come to the ER. People who waste her time. People who she doesn't believe have legitimate reasons to even be in the ER. She called the people on her list idiots. She declared that whatever was wrong with them was their fault.

She wrote with disdain. Disgust.

If you did a quick search on Facebook you could find her. If you scrolled down you could see where she posted the blog to her personal page. If you clicked on the comments you could see that fellow nurses chimed in. One nurse has a problem with you if your bra and underwear don't match.

All of them cheered her on. Encouraged her. Congratulated her.

There was a new blog posted in the last day or so. I think perhaps a result of her hospital being notified of what she wrote. She insisted that the list of patients that she hates to treat was pure sarcasm.

Nurse humor she called it.

She asserted that those who were hurt by it just didn't understand. She talked about how much she loves her job. How she appreciates the patients she can quickly help.

I don't doubt that she loves her job. I don't doubt that she gets a rush from the criticals that come in. I don't doubt that it's hard when she looses a patient.

But I doubt she's really sorry about what she wrote.

And I doubt that she really understands the impact of what she said.

But I'll still show her compassion, and grace, and mercy anyway.

And I'm also going to tell all of you why what was said was so hurtful. Because it's not just some ER nurses that decide some people deserve empathy while some don't. It's prevalent in the medical community. And sometimes it's even prevalent in the families of these patients.

Do you know what it's like to live in pain? Real, legitimate, pain? Pain that is constant?

Do you know what it's like to see the pain scale and try to determine where you fit - because at a 5 you still find the ability to smile? Because 5 is your normal.

Do you know what it's like to live in pain but NOT be able to take pain meds because if you do you can't take care of your family? Or work?

 Do you know what it's like to take a Tylenol, not because it will touch your pain, but because you're just hoping it will take the edge off a little?

Do you know what it's like to get confused, to not be able to think of the right words to say, and to just play it off as ADHD so people don't think you are dumb?

Do you know what it's like to forget simple things at the very moment when you are being expected to retrieve them?

Do you know what it's like to wake up from 9 hours of sleep, and to feel like you didn't sleep at all? To wake up and pray that you can find the energy to just roll out of bed and start the day? To find the nearest clean clothes and just hope they work together and that no one pops by to say "hi"?

Do you know what it's like to be sitting as the passenger in a car, and have the driver hit a bump too fast, only to have your hip shift out of place... and to not say a word?

Do you know what it's like to know that the next cardiac pain you feel could be the one that ends up killing you?

Do you know what it feels like to have a terrible headache and not knowing if the connective tissue in your brain has finally given up? But being too afraid to go to the ER again because it could just be nothing...again... and the last time you went in and it was nothing the staff treated you like you were just over reacting? Even though your treating Dr. has made it clear that you go if you have a bad headache or any cardiac pain... because it's that serious.

My guess is you don't. Because if you did you wouldn't have written what you did. You wouldn't mock the patients that come in looking for help because they are scared and worried.

You know how many times I've avoided the ER? Lots. You know why?

Because I'm afraid of ER nurses like you. I'm terrified of being judged.

I'm more afraid of how you might treat me then I am of dying.

But you were just being sarcastic.

You want to know why most pain patients smile while describing their pain?

Because we if we don't smile we cry.

And if we give in to the tears the pain won.

The fear won.

And the pain can't win.

The fear can't win.

That's why we came to you.

I know that I'm not as heart pumping as a code, or as interesting as a break. But I came to you because I'm scared. Because I'm hurting. Because I need help. Because for me, it is an emergency.

And you know what? I agree. It's not your fault.

And I won't treat you like it is.

But it's not my fault either.

So don't treat me like it is.

And if you get a chance, reread the Nurse's Code of Ethics developed by the ANA.

You might want to start with Provision 1.

The one that talks about human dignity.