It Wasn’t Me – Or Was It?

The problem is that unless we OWN our actions, reactions, and behavior – we are giving someone else our power.

 

“The moment you accept responsibility for EVERYTHING in your life is the moment you can change ANYTHING in your life.” ~ Hal Elrod

In the last couple of posts I’ve made the comment to “own” you stuff… your thoughts, your actions, your reactions. What does it mean really to ‘own’? I find that just saying it may not be enough, I find that we often need reminded what it is to ‘own’ because we don’t necessarily live in a culture where taking personal responsibility is front and center. We easily fall into patterns of ‘blame’.

At the turn of the century, the Jamaican reggae singer ‘Shaggy’ came out with a song entitled “It wasn’t me”… he was being given advice to deny his responsibility even though he had been caught red handed. Even the music we listen to seeks to reinforce methods of circumventing personal responsibility. We watch crime shows and movies that demonstrate how to ‘Get Away with Murder’ and we see Oliva Pope ‘fix’ problems that high level officials don’t want to be associated with. While I realize that those are fictitious stories on broadcast television, they seep into our subconscious and weep on patterns of blame whenever there is a chance.

“I can’t be happy because he….”, or “if she would change, everything would be ok.”… I hear people saying these things weekly. My response is always – “what about you?” “What is YOUR role in this?” Relationships are BETWEEN people and so every soul in the interaction has some level of responsibility in the dialogue; some level of input in the collaboration. Relationships by definition, are never one sided. Consequently – even if the only contribution is a RE-action… every person is engaged.

What would it look like if we all took responsibility for only OUR own behaviors?

What would it look like if we all stopped and reflected on what ‘I’ could do better or more effectively?

First and foremost… we have to be aware of what we are bringing to the table. What is it that ‘I’ am contributing to this interplay?

  • Am I being antagonistic?
  • Am I being supportive?
  • Am I being defensive?
  • Am I listening well?
  • Am I validating?
  • Am I being clear?
  • Am I saying what I mean?
  • Am I contributing positively?
  • Am I keeping score? Playing tit for tat?
  • Do I maintain my composure? My tone? My voice?
  • Have I kept my promises or vows?

YOU must be so self-aware that you know – and can admit – your role in any interaction or collaboration.

You must be so self-aware that you can recognize when you are deflecting (changing the direction or focus) – “oh yeah? Well when you ….” Or when you are defensive… “well, I did that because….” And when you aren’t listening – by interrupting. People who interrupt are NOT listening well.

I use these examples because they are usually easier to comprehend when it comes to relationships… we can each see ourselves in an interaction with another and notice when we contribute to the exchange.

In addition, we are also responsible for our own LIVES… no – we don’t control many of the things that happen but we DO control and need to take responsibility for the way that we respond to our lives. We need to OWN the decisions we make in response to our lives. Each of our actions generates a consequence which, ultimately means that we must own part of the consequence.

Ben and Sally went out for her birthday. Ben bought Sally a bunch of ‘shots’ and Sally got drunk. Sally tells her friend – “Ben got me drunk last night”. Ummm… not really. Unless Ben poured the shots down Sally’s throat… SALLY got herself drunk.

Our decisions, our actions, our behavior – determine how we are viewed in the world… they determine how we think of ourselves and they each become a part of our history… things that stay with us, literally forever. Every action becomes a memory that is imprinted on our soul. So… no wonder we may not ‘want’ to take responsibility. No wonder that we may not want to ‘own’ something that has already happened – something that we don’t necessarily want to be there forever…

The problem is that unless we OWN our actions, reactions, and behavior – we are giving someone else our power. If I am a wife blaming my husband for his addictions or blaming the problems in our marriage on his demeanor… I am denying that I have the power for my own decisions… for my own change. I am denying that I have any control over my own life.

What do we need to take responsibility for? We need to take responsibility for our own life… for what happens in it. Did you just get fired? Why? Look at the questions I asked earlier … go through them one by one… could you have done a better job? Could you have been more communicative? Could you have put in more effort? If so… just acknowledge it. Yes –  your boss may have been a dick. The working conditions may have sucked but at the end of the day – it was more than likely the way YOU reacted to it… the way you responded that made the decision.

If my husband is unfaithful, I can blame him for not keeping a promise but I am the one who needs to take responsibility for how I RE-act. Will I be vindictive? Seek to hurt him the way that I am hurt? Will I go deep into the uglies? Some of that will – of course – simply be a human reaction but if I go there – no matter my reaction – no one is putting a gun to my head and telling me how to behave. ANY reaction is one that I will have to OWN. I will have to remember that when I look in the mirror – it will be there with me.

Be aware – constantly aware – of what you are willing to carry with you – for the rest of your life.

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Escape Route

I believed that maybe, just maybe – a reason for all of my turmoil was to teach my daughters and that – gave me hope.

Continued from Armoured Up

Running away from any problem only increase the distance from the solution. The easiest way to escape from the problem is to solve it. ~ Anonymous

When Abee said she “just needed to be alone” I realized that any progress toward a new beginning I thought existed, was only in my imagination. It was possible that she needed space now that the house was empty and she could privately grieve but I wasn’t convinced. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later when I was investigating company accounting statements that I actually understood. I noticed a number of charges to the corporate American Express card that were made at retail stores for hair products and swimwear. Obviously curious, I checked the dates on the calendar only to find out that it was the day I had offered to hang out with Abee. Remembering back in more detail I recall that Hubby hadn’t been around either. We didn’t tell one another our plans anymore but I was in the habit of paying attention to when he was or wasn’t home. Well, I’ll be damned. He had taken her shopping on the company’s dime…

A few other incidents occurred across a couple of months that forced me to keep very close tabs on how much money was being spent from OUR company’s funds. Also, the time that Hubby and Abee were spending together in public increased as I received frequent ‘reports’ of them being seen out and about. I had to surmise that now Mom was gone, there was no more voice of reason about the impropriety of their relationship. Hubby attempted to intermingle his weekends with the girls into spending time with Abee as well but they were confused as to why Abee was around with their dad, helping him find a new house, etc. No one was being honest and I was getting fired up.

No matter how hard I worked to cope with the depth of the betrayal from my husband and sister, it was constantly in front of me, requiring me to readjust on a daily basis. There was never time to build tolerance as every time I turned, it seemed as if there was another question from someone… “are they still together?” “What does she see in him?” “What do your kids think?” “I can’t believe it!” or something that brought it all back to the front and center of my consciousness. It didn’t matter what coping mechanism I was using at the moment, I had to find another one. It was as if I was building a tolerance to the methods most common and had to constantly find something better or stronger to help me get through the next round of questions or the next battle of nighttime tears from the girls. There were days when I would be driving into school crying out of frustration on how to put that relationship into perspective. There were nights when all of the broken promises bombarded me like slivers of fragmented glass, ripping metaphorically into my already damaged heart. I was tired of hurting. I wanted to escape.

It was a stressful spring all around. I had missed a week of classes while in San Deigo and so I was playing catch up with my classes. I was noticing my mom’s absence daily as I would attempt to pick up the phone and call to ask how she was feeling or to see how her bridge game went. One evening I was sitting on my bed thinking about mom, going all the way back to my childhood. I remembered, even after all those years, the day she had left to join the Army. As a twelve-year-old, I wanted to come home every day to my mom. I wanted her to teach me how to cook and sew (well, she didn’t really sew…) I wanted her to talk with me about girl stuff and play Barbie’s before bedtime. One this particular evening, as I was reflecting on the pain I felt as a child when mom left and the pain I was feeling that night, wanting to turn to my mother for solace… I cried out in deep desolation, for all of the times that mom had forsaken me. The sorrow escaping my body had been suppressed for more than three decades and yet it wasn’t only that, it was for everyone who had left me – intentionally or otherwise. In that one moment, I understood the intensity of my abandonment sentiment. I grasped right then how I had moved through my life from the footprint of rejection and desertion.

I wrote letters that night to Mom, Rocky, Dad, Hubby, Abee, and a couple of other incidental people who had left me or rejected me for what was to them – either nonvoluntary (i.e., Rocky & Dad) or conscious decisions motivated by needs that did not include me. I was able to recognize that outside of death, those people weren’t really leaving ‘me’… they were focusing on what was good for them. They were satisfying their own needs instead of considering the needs of others and while this is what most of us do… many of us are satisfying the OUR need NOT to hurt people we love.

This is the great dichotomy in which we live really… if we make decisions that make us happy regardless of how other people feel – will we ‘really’ be happy??  If I know that by choosing one direction of happiness for myself means that many others will be miserable… can I still experience the joy I was anticipating? Where exactly is that balancing line? Where do my needs and the needs of others intersect? Why does someone always have to sacrifice?

I considered my own pain. It was quasi-torturous to stay in that house, the one we built together – in the town where we had dreamed of raising our family… to hear people say that they saw my sister and Hubby at the such and such restaurant or driving down the road together… If I moved, I could escape all that. I wouldn’t have to be in the same town with constant reminders or notice the look on people’s faces who knew that my sister, the one I bragged so much about when we hired her to work for us, was hooking up with my soon-to-be-ex-husband. I wouldn’t wonder how many people were whispering behind my back. It would be easier to leave – to start anew but the girls… they wouldn’t want to go; they had been raised here. They were embedded in our community, in scouts, sports, and school. They loved this house, their rooms, and the neighbors. I didn’t want to pull them away from their lives. I could go. But then, I would be just like my mom. Leaving my kids to pursue something that offered me personal relief even if it was going to be temporary.

Funny that my oldest daughter was almost exactly the same age as I was when mom left me. Is this life offering the same lesson? Can I break some kind of karmic string if I stay and stare down the temptation to relieve myself? It was so enticing… the possibility of ending in-you-face-betrayal simply by relocating but I couldn’t do it.

I sat on the edge of Sara’s bed one night specifically to let her know that I was there with them, that I would always be there and that from everything… absolutely everything comes something good if we are patient enough to wait for it. I explained that nothing was more important than self-respect and that no matter what happened in her life, no matter the man (or men) she would meet – that compromising self-respect should never – ever – be an option. I hope she heard me. I believed that maybe, just maybe – a reason for all of my turmoil was to teach my daughters and that – gave me hope.

Decisions

My goal was to stay focused on love. I knew that was the most important decision I could make for myself and for my future.

Continued from Soulful Expedition

“By your decisions, you paint a portrait of Who You Are” –Neale Donald Walsch

The entire year of 2005 felt disjointed… I vacillated between believing that I was making a good decision and wanting everything to go back to the way it was – well, not really… I wanted it to be the way I wanted it to be. I didn’t want what I had but I did want all of the things that we had dreamt about. I didn’t make those dreams by myself. Hubby was right there, using his own paintbrush to create the portrait of our lives together. I thought we had been painting on the same canvas, using the same colors, and sharing a muse.

Existing in the same environment was unbelievably difficult. It fostered an obscure sense of hope during those moments that were like a transparency overlay of ‘normal’ on the reality we were living. I knew when Hubby didn’t come home at night and I couldn’t help but wonder where he was or who he was with. Even though I didn’t want that mania in my life, I didn’t want to be without it – another conundrum that fought to root in my mind. I just couldn’t get myself to a place where I didn’t care.  In many ways, it was like a slow, excruciating, painful death… seemingly absent of an endpoint.

Frank graduated from college in May that year and I made arrangements to take the girls. I had booked the hotel room six months in advance and shared the location with family so I was surrounded by love as Hubby and I shared the first major life event since decision day, partitioned from one another. We had agreed that we would attempt to ‘co-parent’ effectively right from the beginning but this was our first ‘major’ test. We would have to take pictures that Frank could look at for the remainder of his life – a celebration for him – somewhat tortuous for us as we understood the completeness, the totality of the end of our marriage. And yet, we struggled to believe it.

We would occasionally discuss a reconciliation but I had learned how to establish boundaries of steel. Actually, my boundaries by then were made of vertical steel columns and horizontal I-beams… the kind you find in skyscrapers that keep them vertical regardless of violent summer storms. Those limitations included an exit strategy for Abee from our business and some kind of treatment initiative, a long-term – evidence based – plan to eliminate the potential for infidelity to ever again exist in our marriage. I was unwilling to budge from those two ‘deal breakers’. They were my ‘hard limits’ and they represented the dead end of every bridging conversation we attempted to have. He also had deal breakers.

Nevertheless, we continued to show up – separately – at swim meets, school, and scouting events but didn’t sit together. I wasn’t there yet. There were times when I could feel his eyes seeking mine but I refused to give in and glance back. I was insanely stubborn and unyielding, refusing to be flexible. This is the result of betrayal. It was the only way I knew to ‘fight back’ and the love I had for our children was bigger than the disdain I had for him. I put their interests first to the extent that it wasn’t complete and total disrespect of myself. I had finally learned to put self-respect first.

After being deceived by Hubby and Abee, our therapist fired them as clients but I still went. I was learning a lot about myself although I admit I was still a bit lost. I was directionless. I knew I wanted to share everything I was learning – about life, life lessons, love, God, spiritual growth, I knew there was a message there but I had no credentials other than my life and I was in the middle of some big stuff. I credited my therapist for being the map reader for me … helping me to lay it out and observe the roads, to help me decide on the destination and to plan the route there. I wanted to do that too… I decided that summer that I would become a therapist and was almost immediately dismayed at the expanse of the journey. Five years. I would be fifty. Shit. I felt defeated and bested. I was in the middle of a divorce; how could I make that happen?

Right after Frank graduated from college, I started. I was scared to death of Behavioral Statistics and even more so when this tiny, petite, old (really, she was 70 something) woman walked into the room wearing a full suit with a high collared blouse, buttoned to the top. It was 80 degrees outside and for some reason, there was no air-conditioning. She spoke in a low monotone voice and cleared her throat every 5th word. The chick behind me started texting a mile a minute (I could hear every button push) and I knew I was in trouble. Within a week, I understood that if I raised my hand, asked questions, and demonstrated (well-deserved) respect for my elders… It would all be ok. More than half the class had dropped but I survived. I got a B.  I was encouraged and so I registered for a full semester of Psychology classes, French, and Women’s Studies beginning in September. I had only a few months left before I became a full-time student.

I used that time to educate myself in a different way. I was more fortunate than many, many women like me… I owned half of a company that had some value. I was still married to a man who generated a healthy income and continued to pay the bills so I didn’t ‘have to’ work – not right then at least. I had to believe in divine direction because at any other time before, the circumstances were different, the resources less abundant, and so now… I had options. The timing of the reality provided the capacity for me – with much diligence – to investigate and navigate what would be in my (and the children’s) best interest. I was a hawk. My eyes and ears were everywhere from business evaluation to support allowances. I became an expert traversing Google; discovering resources and precedent for situations like mine and I waited.

With each passing day, I garnered strength. I used my support network, built new alliances, and got informed. I kept my finger on the pulse of the finances in our business and stood up for my rights as co-owner. I will comment again on how difficult it was to walk away from that part of me. The internal struggle to push through it and go to work even if it meant I had to be around Hubby and Abee versus letting go and observing it in action was at times, maddening. On the few occasions that I did drop in for one reason or another, it was like breaking through a barrier betrayal and disillusionment, like what football players do as they enter a stadium for a game rematch each week. I finally had to decide that constant exposure to such painful energy was simply unhealthy for me, keeping me tethered to the shadows of my soul. It was my first true experience of ‘letting go’ that I consciously practiced and it was laborious; a daily endeavor.

My goal was to stay focused on love. I knew that was the most important decision I could make for myself and for my future. I was tempted, so tempted to give in to my anger, my contempt, the humiliation, and sorrow… and occasionally I did, in the form of vile language directed at Hubby or the disparaging conversations I would have with friends or in my thoughts; my ugly thoughts. I am only human though and I knew that love was more dominate in my spirit and so I learned to forgive myself and to keep going.

Only Darkness

Everyone went back to their own lives and I was left to face each sunrise and each sunset in a way that was unfamiliar to me; unwanted.

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
― Mary Oliver

I was a widow.  Prior to this moment I was mostly untouched by death; the very old grandmother of a childhood friend and my own grandfather that I had barely known.  One day we were talking about more babies, going to school, buying a house, and our next vacation – two weeks later I was picking out a coffin and planning funeral music. It was the most surreal experience of my life. Please people…. Pick out your own coffin!! Make your own funeral arrangements!! Do NOT let your loved ones have to do it…

How does one coffin shop?? A funeral director ushers you into a room full of them and explains the benefits of one from another. This one is particle board covered in velvet – it’s the least expensive. This one is Brazilian Cherry and lined with satin. This one has 7 layers of steel with a lead core to survive a nuclear explosion. This one has a time capsule for DNA so the body will never have to be exhumed. Are you f***ing kidding me? I want my husband back!

I left my body. I was aware of sounds and people. I was aware of where I was but I became someone else. It was as if I was back in high school, on stage, playing a part. Rocky wasn’t the velvet type… maybe Cherry… it was warm looking. I wanted him to be warm.  I saw something with a flannel interior and chose that one.

Do you have a favorite reading? Do you want someone to sing? What kind of music? When? Where? How? Who? Holy shit… shut up people. Leave me alone! My soul was screaming but my voice was deciding. He loved Journey and Little River Band – play those songs. Yes, On Eagles Wings – that’s nice… Sure, she can sing it. I floated above it all remembering our wedding night when some fool packed the car air vents with flour so that we were blasted as soon as the car was started and looked like two old people checking into the hotel. It was apparently, not… a vision of our future. I was remembering our first kiss… it was some kiss! I was remembering the sight of him holding our son for the first time… such love. So many dreams, not enough memories.

My sister-in-laws took me shopping for something to wear. I wasn’t so concerned about being stylish or fashionably chic, nor did I care about how well my purchase would fit. My primary concern was finding something that I ‘felt’ beautiful in, not for me – for Rocky. I wanted to be beautiful. I was searching for something that felt calm and comfortable yet highlighted my best features, perhaps the color of my hair. It couldn’t say happy but I was adamant that it did not shout sad. It could not be black, navy, or brown. It shouldn’t be too short or too long; the fabric not too thick or too thin. I was not sure if it should be one piece or two, and I was undecided about the sleeve. We were in hunting mode, searching for just the right thing. Eventually, I settled on a light peach linen suit and an ivory blouse with satin buttons and a round collar. It was feminine, soft, and quite respectful. It worked with my strawberry blonde hair and most importantly, it didn’t scream funeral.

I dressed up and showed up at the funeral home on the night of the private viewing. It was for family only. I did not go into the room where he was on display. I was unwilling to see my husband as a dead man (ultimately a mistake). I was told that the funeral director did a fantastic job with makeup, etc…

That’s nice ~ with a southern slur**

I was still detached. Existing on another plane where I was safe and not alone and loved.  In reality, I was surrounded by so. many. people. Rocky’s large family had all flown in. My dad and step-mom drove in along with a few other relatives. His co-workers, mom’s friends and neighbors whom we had started to know. I don’t know where Francis was… I seem to remember making a decision to keep him away from the ceremonial affairs because I didn’t want him to be negatively impacted by all the emotions, but I can’t remember who had him. I logically know many of these people loved – and still love – me. It’s just that, well – they weren’t HIM.

I got through it. We all did. Indeed – there were lots of funny stories and laughter that goes with them. There were tears – lots.

I couldn’t go back to the house where we had been a family; it was too much for my spirit. His brothers went through things so that I didn’t have to. Someone moved our stuff into storage. I kept a pair of 501 Jeans (because his butt…well, it was so HOT in them!) and I kept his Navy whites. I don’t really remember making all of those decisions and I’m sure some of them were made on my behalf, out of compassion and concern. I’m not sure any were made out of understanding; even my own. How does one understand the death of a 23 year old whose whole life was yet to be lived – or the wishes of his widow – or the lonely cries from his child? How?

I know I was not the only one struggling with these impossible questions but I was so deeply immersed in my personal loss that I was unable to really consider the experience from the perspective of his parents or siblings. It took me years if not decades to be willing to look in that direction. At some point, everyone left. Everyone went back to their own lives and I was left to face each sunrise and each sunset in a way that was unfamiliar to me; unwanted.

A friend took me to her parent’s beach house for a week. We took the kids too.  Then a week later, I went back to work because there was nothing else to do. I didn’t know how to be a widow. I was so very pissed at the world. This was NOT supposed to be my life. I thought God and I had agreed that me – as a single parent – was off the table. Rocky and I had mapped out our lives…. there was going to be three children, a house, and a career by 30. It was planned. It was imagined. If that wasn’t going to happen – what was? What was in store for me?  For our son? What did the universe want from us?

Each morning when I opened my mind – there was only darkness.

**That’s nice ~ with a southern slur** – My mother told a story about a proper southern woman who believed it completely unladylike and immoral to curse. And so, from time to time you could hear her say “That’s nice” with a gentle smile and a slight nod of her head. When asked if she ‘really’ thought it was nice?? she replied “Why no darlin’ – that’s how us Southern women say “FUCK YOU”.

Photo credit: Infomastern via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

No Coming Back

It was my deepest, darkest, most shameful secret and I just couldn’t hold back – I had nothing left to protect myself with.

This is a continuation of the the post A Yellow Kite

In those first minutes, the blur people speak of became my reality. Life was happening all at once and had completely stopped simultaneously. I could hear the Life Flight helicopter approaching as I saw Rocky attempt to stand and Jack yelling at him to calm down. Someone had enough where-with-all to think that he was probably in shock and they were attempting to wrap him in blankets. They wouldn’t let me get close.

Where did all those people come from? We lived in the country – out in the middle of nowhere but the dirt road was lined with trucks and cars and people. The only real sound came from inside my head where screams overlapped with how? What? Shit! Oh my God! – his name on repeat between the sobs. Where was my baby? Someone had taken the children someplace and part of me didn’t care. I couldn’t think. I wanted my mother. I remember she was on the phone trying to tell me to get in the car and she would meet me at the hospital. I have no idea how I got there. I have no memory of the hour long drive. I’m pretty sure someone else drove.

As soon as I gave my name in the ER I was ushered into a private room where my mom and stepdad were waiting. They were with a doctor and I was convinced he was telling them that Rocky was dead. I buried my face in my mom’s chest as she wrapped her arms around me. I intentionally cried loud enough not to hear.  I wanted to fold into the floor, to go back to that morning, to say yes and steel five minutes of sexy time, to go even further and walk past the kite instead of buying it. I wanted to go back to anywhere but there.

He’s alive they were all saying. It’s bad but he’s alive. After minutes of deep breathing I could hear again. The doctors were trying to tell me that he’d been taken to surgery; that after electrocution, time was of the essence. He had been microwaved. They explained that the electricity entered through his hands (which were thrust up to his chest) and then exited through his feet and buttocks as he fell to the ground. The entrance wounds where the worst. They were going to have to cut away the badly burned parts if they were going to have any hope at preventing infection. I gave my permission. My parents had seen him as he came in off the chopper and told me he was conscious. One of the medics had even shared that while in flight – he had discussed his low blood pressure as being impossible since he was awake and alert (Rocky had been a Corpsman – medic – in the Navy and was headed to nursing school that fall). We all waited.

Eventually we were told that amputations had been completed on his left hand and most of his right arm. Over 80% of his body had been badly burned. He had a 90% chance of dying. Due to the massive amounts of fluid they needed to give him, we would notice swelling – extreme swelling. When I finally got to see him, sometime in the middle of the night, his head was the size of a basketball and his eyes were completely encased. He was bandaged from head to toe practically. He was on a ventilator but could hear me they said. I was simply numb. I was completely cried out. All I could do was sit there and go inside my head to that place where it was just us, where we were looking into one another’s eyes with passion and intensity and we knew that we would always be.

….

Rocky’s parents and siblings began to arrive as quickly as flights could get them there from the Mid and North West. Together we were a force that pretty much took over the Burn Unit waiting room. Everyone took shifts except me. I stayed. They tried to get me to go home but I can be pretty stubborn and I wasn’t leaving my man. Mom brought me clothes and the nurses allowed me to shower in the unit when no one was paying attention. People brought food, coffee, books, magazines, and sat with me. We laughed a lot and we cried a lot. Some people prayed. I wasn’t exactly ‘praying’. I was demanding. I was telling God what to do and when to make it happen. I was mad at God. Time continued to tick by. By Wednesday (the accident was on Sunday) it seemed that he was stable. I knew that our friends were keeping Francis and that he was safe and happy. I just really needed a night’s rest in a bed so I agreed to go home for the night – I went to moms. At 2 a.m., someone woke me because the hospital was on the line. Rocky was in respiratory distress. They had been doing blood gases every 15 minutes and they were not stable. I’d better come back. I knew it. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to leave. I knew he would know if I wasn’t there. I was pissed at everyone who tried to tell me otherwise. I didn’t care that they were trying to take care of me. I needed to take care of him and I did that by being there. To hell if I would leave again.

On Friday the swelling had gone down enough that he could open his eyes. We taped a photograph on the ceiling over his bed so that it was the first thing he saw – his wife and son. As soon as I knew he was alert they allowed me in to see him. He had the most beautiful blue eyes… they were open and looking at me.

They were not hopeful eyes. They were sad eyes. They cried soft tears that slid down each cheek and my heart slowly broke into a gazillion pieces. He was trying to talk but was still intubated. I attempted to guess his most pressing concern and started to play 20 questions but he was quickly frustrated because I would NOT go where he was going. I begged him to settle down and heal; to be strong for us; not to leave us. I begged him.

We were interrupted by nurses taking him in for debriding (removing dead tissue), which had to happen every couple of days. He was given anesthesia but I was told it was excruciatingly painful. As usual, we collected in the waiting room and allowed time to pass. It was an intensive care unit and we had become used to Code Blue announcements but your heart always skipped a beat or two when they were announced over the PA system. This time, a Unit nurse walked into the doorway of the waiting room and looked at me with silent, big, sad eyes. I lost it. I began screaming No!! No!! God No!! with my hands over my ears and my eyes closed. I put my head in my mother’s lap and refused to sit up.

Someone peeled my hands away long enough to tell me he was still alive. They had resuscitated him. He was still alive. Oh. My. God. It felt as though everything that was solid under my feet had been turned to mush. I had been hysterical, Rocky had died and then come back, it felt as though my life was completely upside down. Nothing felt real.

More hours and days passed. Doctors decided to skip the next scheduled debriding in an effort to give Rock’s body more strength. He had not regained consciousness since he coded in the OR. Actually, the neurologist suggested that he probably had sustained brain damage during the cardiac arrest and may not come back. I was in denial. It was now Monday – the 9th day. It was absolutely necessary to debride again so he was taken back into the OR. I just couldn’t stay there I couldn’t wait there again and wonder if every code called would be his. I left the floor and found myself in the chapel in another part of the hospital entirely.

I sat there in fear. I needed to beg God to save Rocky but I didn’t deserve anything from God and I knew it. I cried. “Please God, I need you, please.” I was crying harder and much louder than was appropriate for a chapel but I was alone; or so I thought. A Chaplain came and slowly sat down beside me and put a hand on my shoulder. I leaned into him until we were engaged in a full on embrace.  He was holding me and I felt as though I could have absorbed as much – if not everything – he had to give. I settled down and caught my breath. We began to talk. I shared the events of that past week and the current circumstances. I was – there – the most vulnerable I had ever – ever been. I was broken and humble and stripped of defenses. I told him about an abortion I had at the age of 19. It was my deepest, darkest, most shameful secret and I just couldn’t hold back – I had nothing left to protect myself with.

The Chaplain was compassionate and loving. He was accepting and consoling. I felt stronger when I left and headed toward the Burn Unit. As soon as I walked into the new part of the hospital I could hear my name being paged over the PA system.  I knew it. I had taken a life from God and now God had taken a life from me. I ran.

Rocky had coded again – he had let go – and there was no coming back.  My first thought…

“Who’s going to love me now?”

Notes:

I will discuss abortion in more detail in another post – THIS post is not about Pro Rights or Women’s rights – it is about my shame and my loss. Please be respectful of that if you wish to comment.

There is no rational element that I can point to today for the thoughts I had then. I am simply sharing the experience of where I was and I will ultimately share how I got to a new place.

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Intentions

I am remembering that I – Leslyn – know my intent. I hope I am appropriately demonstrating it to you.

It can bum you out when your intentions aren’t, like, translated properly. ~ Kesha

Right Kesha??!!

I had lunch with a friend the other day and talked with her about my decision to write this blog. She’s known me for 20+ years and has shared many of my deepest pains. She’s actually the first one that allowed me to feel safe being imperfect – at least consciously. “What do you want to accomplish” she asked and I had an answer ready but I’ve been rethinking it these last few days. I’ve been digging deep to be sure that my motive isn’t attention seeking or purging prior hurts that I haven’t processed.  I believe I have done the work or at least all that I am aware of. If, through this process I discover that isn’t true I can stop and reevaluate.

I am extremely confident that my goal is to share HOW I got here, to this place where comfort and vulnerability coexist – at least most of the time – in an effort to demonstrate how others can take that journey themselves. If no one reads it, well then – it will be a well documented historical gift to my children and future grandchildren. They will ‘know me’ via my writing. I kinda wish I had that gift from my mother or grandmother but I know that both of them would have rather gotten run down by a train or dragged by a team of horses than to air any weaknesses or personal shames. After all, they were the voices I spoke of in my last post – the ones that encouraged me to ‘put on my big girl panties and carry on’ versus process a painful / shameful experience. My grandmother in fact, once attempted to teach me that I could stand on a hill and simply observe the beautiful green grass on the neighboring hill instead of tramping through the garbage dump in the valley to get there. “Don’t look” she would say – “it’s only garbage”.

Knowing how we became ‘who we are’ is paramount in understanding how and what to change – at least in my *humblest* opinion. I don’t have any pretty empirical evidence to support this claim and I haven’t recently researched specific psychological theories that point to verification for this perspective but in almost a decade of private practice and several decades of personal discovery, it is clear that true change doesn’t take place without attending to the origin of the problem.

In the early years of my journey, I would attend therapy to hear a counselor ask “what my ‘problems with living’ are.” I would explain how fearful I was that I was really unlovable that people didn’t ‘really’ love me. Sure guys wanted to have sex with me and for a few years I believed that meant I was desirable – good looking – pretty – sexy, etc. But we KNOW, I hope all females KNOW that is NOT true. It wasn’t true in the 70’s or the 80’s or ever…. Horney does not equal desirable. I wish females were born with that knowledge!!  What I soon discovered is that it takes a counselor interested in the INFECTION not the symptoms. Treating symptoms only is just asking for another flare-up down the road. It wasn’t until I found someone who DUG and forced me to look deep that I began understanding why I thought / felt the way that I did. Having said that – we all have to be WILLING to go deeper. I remember a therapist asking about my childhood and what it must have been like when my mother left to join the Army. I said ‘it was good. I got to play grown up and they were all better off.”  It took some time before we both really understood the dynamics and consequences of that decision.

So, here I am – a middle aged woman who became a mental health counselor in after 40. I made that decision because it was the only way I could think of to find meaning from the pain that I had experienced in my own life (future posts). I believe that everything happens for a reason or at the very least that there is value in each experience. My goal in returning to school and investing in graduate school during a tumultuous time in my own life was to find a way to make that pain make sense. I believe that sharing some of those experiences helps people who are working to find their own way.  I share when it is appropriate during sessions with clients. I am often told how helpful it is to know that “they aren’t the only ones”. That sense of ‘universality’ is understated – in my opinion.

That’s why this blog has been in my head for so long… it’s the print version of what I share / do in my counseling practice. It will be the complete version – the whole story. IF it is helpful, great! If not…. Move on. I am daring here; daring to expose myself to the world in an effort to let people know that they are NOT the only ones. That personal growth happens from our pain IF we are willing to do the work. IF we are willing to see the garbage in the valley or clean out the closets where we have shoved our pains.

I have fear. Fear that I will be criticized and ridiculed for sharing deeply private thoughts and experiences. I have allowed fear to direct far too many decisions in my life. Here, I am pushing through fear of being mocked and unaccepted. I am remembering all of those people whose opinions truly count. I am remembering all of the people who have told me my story was helpful for them.  I am remembering that I – Leslyn – know my intent. I hope I am appropriately demonstrating it to you.