A feather in the woods

Early last summer, I was neck-deep in the therapeutic process of dealing with my childhood trauma. I was also in the process of dealing with the real-time trauma of my imminently ending marriage. It was during those darkest times that my “awakening” began. As I started to wake up, I realized there was a much bigger picture I was a part of. I began to feel in tune with nature, understand spirituality and realized the universe was more intertwined with everything in my life than I thought it was. I started to see “signs” almost daily. The synchronicities were too many to ignore. The most fascinating ones were the ones with animals. Deer and hawks, to be exact.  I get that I live in an area where deer and hawks live, and understand there’s a chance I’ll see them from time to time, but this was something completely different…especially the hawks. They started appearing right in front of me. They would swoop right in front of my car as I was driving, several times a week. It was scary at first, but as I realized what was happening, I began to feel the peace in it all. Even though I wasn’t sure what everything meant, just knowing it meant something was enough for me.

My soon to be ex-husband thought I was crazy. He would make fun of me and my “signs”.  He even got the kids in on it.  It was hurtful to me. It wouldn’t be now, but back then…I was fragile. I would try to explain the significance of what I had seen, and he would often come back with, “oh, I see that all the time”, dismissing my enthusiasm. I would end up retreating to my room, feeling small and embarrassed.  It got to the point where I no longer shared my “sign” sightings with him. Seeing them made me feel excited and hopeful, and those feelings were so easily ripped away with his off-handed comments. I don’t think he intentionally wanted to make me feel that way, but that’s just how he is. My feelings have never been a priority in this relationship.

One day, I went for a hike in the conservation land on our road with my youngest son. He had gotten in trouble at school and was not allowed to watch TV or video games for the weekend, so I used that as an opportunity to get him to walk with me. Boredom made him eager to get out and do something, even if it was walking with his mom. He’s 13… you know how that goes. Anyway, we had a GREAT time! We took paths we’d never gone down before…got a little lost along the way, and he enjoyed deciding which path would take us back out again.  We came across no other people…just us and the woods. We enjoyed small talk about all kinds of things…school, relationships, careers…we created a heartwarming memory together on that simple walk. As we neared the end, I was really appreciating this one on one time with him…time with no distractions, no electronics….just me, my son and nature. On the final path out, something caught my eye on the ground. It was a feather. Off-white with brown stripes. I picked it up and called out to my son, “Look! A hawk feather!” I was amazed, yet not totally surprised, as the hawks had been making themselves known to me all spring. My son asked, “How do you know it’s a sign, mom?” He said it half sincere and half mocking. Almost like his automatic response was to make fun of me, like his dad did…but part of him was truly curious. I replied, “I don’t know it’s a sign for sure, but it feels like a sign. I know that when I look at this feather, I’m going to remember this kick-ass, quality time I spent with you. This day wouldn’t have happened if you didn’t get in trouble. It’s almost like the universe had you get in trouble so we could spend some quality time together. Every time I look at this feather, I’m going to smile, because I’m going to think of you, and I love spending time with you”. He paused for a second, smiled, and said “oh, I get it”, and led us out of the woods. I was glowing.

I pretty much floated home after that. I felt good. Moments of feeling good were fleeting back then, so I didn’t take it for granted. We walked in the house and my husband was in his usual position, in front of the TV. I was mindful of how I wasn’t sharing any of my synchronicity stories with him anymore. Actually, we had been barely talking to each other the past few days at all.  He had been trying to, but I had been giving him the cold shoulder. I was miserably depressed most days, and I’d had enough of feeling unworthy to him… and the rest of the world.  At that point, he was trying his hardest to not annoy me because he wasn’t ready to move out. Walking in that door, I felt so happy…so good…I figured I’d bite the bullet and tell him the story. Surely, with all that was going on, he would at least pretend to think it was cool. “We had a great time! Guess what we found on our walk? A hawk feather!” I was smiling from ear to ear. I showed it to him proudly. My son was smiling, too. That feather meant something to both of us now. My husband took a few seconds to change his gaze from the TV to me. With the slight condescending tone I’m used to, he says, “Are you sure that’s not a turkey feather?” My smile drops in an instant. “Don’t ruin this for me” I say back to him softly. He looks at me, shrugs his shoulders and says, “well, I can’t help it if it’s not a hawk feather” and turns back to the TV. I felt the tears stinging. My shoulders slumped. My son went up to his room, and I tossed the feather into the trash, went into the bathroom, and cried. He watched TV and didn’t think twice about it.

The next day, I went to a therapy appointment. I wasn’t sad anymore. I was angry. Not at him, but at me. I felt like such a baby for crying over a stupid feather. What the hell was wrong with me? There are worse things in life than finding out a hawk feather is a turkey feather, for Christ’s sake!  My therapist could tell by my scowl that something was bothering me. I didn’t want to tell her. “It’s so dumb. I have no idea why I’m so upset about something so stupid. I don’t even want to tell you, it’s so ridiculous”. I really had no intention of telling her how childish I was being about a stupid feather. “Tell me”, she said firmly, with a protective yet nurturing tone. Reluctantly, I did. I finished the story crying, saying “I don’t understand why I’m so upset about a damn feather!” I was so angry at myself for having those feelings. In her typical knowing way, she tells me “I know exactly why you felt that way. He crushed your spirit.” I looked at her through my tears and asked, “But he’s probably right. It probably is just a turkey feather. He’s probably right about all of my signs.”  My therapist is all about empowering women, and damn…she is good at it. “So what? All feathers are signs.” Really? I did not know that. “And who cares what he thinks? This is about you, not him”. She follows with, “Please tell me you kept the feather.” I told her I threw it away. She shook her head and sighed. As I said it, my head hung down and I felt a little ashamed. She was right. He crushed my spirit, but at that moment, I also realized…I let him crush my spirit. It was amazing how I could spend 2 days beating myself up for how my husband made me feel, and she can make me stop in 5 minutes, just by validating my feelings. I’m telling you….validating feelings just might be the answer to all the world’s problems. 

I went home and immediately dug through the trash. I found the poor feather, covered with wet coffee grounds and some other substances I wasn’t quite sure of. I delicately washed it like a baby in the sink and let it dry. I never told my husband, and he never brought it up. I’m sure the conversation went right out of his head as soon as it happened, while I dwelled on it for days. That’s how we rolled. I’m not sure if he even remembers it when he sees the feather. I’m finally at a place where I really don’t care what he thinks.  I have it in a small bud vase that I filled with sand from my favorite beach. It’s sitting right in my dining room, next to a picture of my son. I look at it every day and smile, thinking of that hike. That feather makes me think of how much I love spending time with my son, just like I said it would.

 

This post was written in response to Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday.

 

 

 

 

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS and #JusJoJan Jan. 28/17

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It never goes away

I’m a nurse. A visiting nurse, to be exact. I travel around town, spending 30-60 minutes with ill people. They are mostly senior citizens, doing what they can to keep the clock ticking. I find the job to be quite rewarding.  My purpose is to help these fellow beings stay home…to keep them relatively healthy and out of the hospital. I’m a helper by nature. It doesn’t even seem like work, most of the time. It feels like helping out my neighbors…which is literally what I did one day last week.

I was assigned a new patient who lived around the corner from me. She’s about 80 years old and suffering from some fairly decent health issues. Two of her children live with her, in her 2 bedroom condo. They take turns throughout the day taking care of her…giving her medication, doing housework, managing her care. This was my first time meeting her, so I reviewed her chart as we began the visit. Her illness has a huge impact on her life, and it’s not something that can be fixed.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she ended up on hospice by the end of the year. I noticed “depression” as one of her current diagnoses. I kept that in mind as I performed my assessment…listening to her lung sounds, her heart beat…assessing her medications. I talked to her, asking questions about how she was feeling, then about her family. I could tell she was worried, just by the tone of her voice. She told me about her children bickering about how to take care of her and how to juggle their jobs and lives while doing so, about how defeated she felt about her diagnosis, about how she doesn’t have the energy to do the things around the house she feels she should be doing. As soon as she opened up, she shut it down. She seemed as though she didn’t want to appear as if she was complaining. Old people don’t want to be a burden. Unfortunately, this situation is all too common with our senior population. It’s just not easy getting old.

As I wrapped up my visit, I sat next to her on the bed. I looked at her and said, “You know, it’s OK to feel depressed about your situation.” She stared at me, a little surprised. “Really?” she asked, softly. I took her hand in mine. “Yes, of course it is. You’ve got some serious health issues. Your kids are stressed. You’re stressed worrying about your kids. You have questions that aren’t being answered by your doctors.  It’s OK to allow yourself to feel sad about it. The feelings you have are real… and normal. Some bad things have happened to you “. Having spent the last year in fairly intense therapy, I knew all too well what it felt like to not have your feelings validated, and did not want this woman feeling that feeling. She broke eye contact and stared across the room, as if watching a movie, off in the distance. “You’re right, I have. And it never goes away… being molested.” Whoa! I could not believe she just said that. I was talking about her current medical condition and her stressful situation with her children, and she is remembering being molested. I just stared at her, wide-eyed, holding her hand. “Have you ever talked to anyone about this?” I asked. She slowly shook her head no. “No one talked about things like that, back then. No one wanted to hear it”. Damn. This woman has been carrying this heavy load around for roughly 70 years and hasn’t told a soul. What made her say it now? And to me? Was it having her feelings validated? Is it possible that this is the first time in this old woman’s life that anyone made her feel like her feelings mattered? Anything’s possible. Without thinking, I spoke from my heart… “I was molested, too. You’re right…it never goes away. But you know what? Talking about it with someone trained in these things makes it softer…easier to carry”. I gestured to my chest, and she nodded. She knew what I meant. That’s where your soul is. That’s where you carry it. The guilt. The shame. The fear. The insecurity. The pain. She knew. And I knew. “What if I arranged for a social worker to come see you? You could talk to her about it, and talk about what’s going on in your life. Maybe it would lighten the load a bit?” I saw a little spark in her eye. “Oh yes, that would be wonderful!” She sighed a sigh of relief, and looked around, like she was anxious for the next step. I gave her a hug and went on to my next patient. I didn’t want to. I wanted to sit with this woman for days, listening. I wanted to send her to my special therapist twice a week, just like I got to do. I wanted to teach her how to journal. I wanted to take her to meditation class. I wanted her to receive Reiki. I wanted to fix her, as I had fixed part of my own soul. I thought all these things as I waved goodbye.

I see sad situations every day. It’s just an unfortunate part of the job. This one, though…it’s sticking with me. It’s filling me with questions. What if I never said anything about her feelings? What if I was never assigned to be her nurse at all? What if she died never releasing any of that shame? No one would ever know. What if I never told my therapist? Would I be 80 years old and still bearing that cross, without realizing why? After the year I just had, I don’t think anything is by chance. This happened for a reason. Not just to help her release her pain, but maybe something bigger. I think maybe me going through the painful journey of processing my pain was so I could be a part of whatever this bigger thing is. Or maybe, this is the bigger thing? It is pretty big, to her… and to me. I suppose time will tell.  You can’t truly realize just how important validation is unless you’ve never had it, and then receive it. That’s how I know. It never really goes away, but it softens…

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17 Water Glasses

I’m starting to notice a theme around here, ever since my husband and I separated.  Shortly after he moved out, my washing machine broke. I used the power of Google to fix it on my own. I felt badass. It was empowering to repair something I normally would have relied on him for. Two weeks later, it broke again. I was deflated. Just like that, I lost my badassery. Just as I was about to give in and call a repair man, I figured out how to fix it again, making me badass, once more.

A few weeks ago, my dishwasher broke. Once again, I used the power of Google to fix it on my own, and once again, I was badass. I mean, come on…how many of my girlfriends are repairing major appliances? I don’t want to brag, but I’m kind of a big deal.  However, the theme being what it is…last night, the damn dishwasher flooded again. Except this time, I didn’t let my badassery just whimper away like last time. I brainstormed, and quickly came up with a solution. When I fixed it last time, I unclogged 7 years worth of unscraped food from the drain pipe. I figured the driveway snow marker I used to unclog it was too skinny, so it must have only opened up part of the clog. I imagined that goop closed itself off again. No big deal. I’ll just unclog it better. Piece of cake for a badass girl.

I strut myself down to Home Depot, in search of whatever the tool is that I’m imagining in my head. I was picturing sort of like a toilet brush, but skinnier and longer…something that would really scrub the sides of that drain pipe and rid us of this alien food blob pipe clogging mess, once and for all. I start searching the plumbing aisle, and my toilet brush de-clogging thingy is nowhere to be seen. Reluctantly, I look for help. I find this cute, older gentleman employee and start to describe what I’m looking for. He’s quite adorable, in a grandpa-ish sort of way, so I don’t get annoyed or frustrated when he says he’s never heard of my “tool”.  He seems impressed that I’m attempting to unclog a pipe….you know, because I’m a woman. Anyway, turns out the tool I’m really looking for is called an “auger”, and it’s not a brush, its coiled metal. Whatever.

I pull into my driveway with my shiny new auger, just as my husband is pulling out. He was dropping my son off, and noticed my purchase. Wearing his typical “you are an idiot” expression, he says to me, “you know, we have TWO of those downstairs”.  I hate that condescending “you are an idiot expression”. It’s the one he wears when he knows something and I don’t. He tells me to return it. I say “OK”, but I don’t want to. Sure, it makes sense to return it, seeing how there’s two of these things sitting somewhere in my basement, but I just went to Home Depot and figured out what I needed, sort of impressed the grandpa employee, and really, the whole point of me doing this is to show I don’t need him. I decide to put those feelings away, and get back to the task at hand. I say goodbye and head to my kitchen. Since I just did this same thing two weeks ago, I know the drill. I empty the cabinet below the sink. I unscrew the C clamps holding the pipe to the wall. I turn off the water. I loosen the hose clamp that secures the drain pipe to the Y pipe of the sink (remember, I learned all these plumbing terms last time, so you know…this is how I roll now). I use a paper cup to manually drain the dishwasher and I check the sensor. And by “checking” the sensor, I mean I rub my finger over it 3 times, because really, how do you “check” a dishwasher drain sensor? Do you ask it tenderly, “Hey little Buddy, are you alright? Just checking on you.”  The sensor seems fine. I put a bucket under the pipe and cautiously pull it off the Y pipe. I peek inside the hole, kind of nervously, as I remember the horror scene that was inside there last time. Nervous, but excited. I’m pumped to use my new auger. Wow, I really dig using the word “auger”. I’m pretty sure only badass people use augers. Anyway, I peek in and….damn. It’s clean as a whistle. Part of me feels good about that, because it means I really did successfully clear the pipe last time. The other part of me, however, is deflated. I’m sitting on the floor, surrounded by my tools, staring at a broken dishwasher I can’t fix. It’s 11pm, and I’m tired. Tired and deflated and completely non-badass. I look at the sink, and it’s filled with about 17 water glasses. You know, because I’ve got two teenage boys and they pour a beverage, take two sips, put it down, forget about it, then pour a new glass. All. Day. Long. Yeah, at this point, I’m the opposite of badass. I would write the word down if I knew what it was. Lame-ass? Close enough. As I’m deciding whether or not to wash all those glasses by hand at 11 o’clock at night, or leave them until my boys die of thirst, while simultaneously wondering which repairman I’ll be calling in the morning…I remember something. Two weeks ago, when I first started researching “dishwasher won’t drain” on Google, every site I went on said to try resetting the drain cycle first. I did that back then and it didn’t work, and I guess I just forgot about it. I picked my lame-ass up off the floor, started a wash cycle, hit “stop” two times to initiate the drain cycle (yeah, that’s right…I am kind of a plumber now), and what do you know? It mother effin worked! And just like that, I became a badass again.

I think the next time I’m feeling deflated, like I can’t do anything, like I’m helpless…I’m going to remember this. I’m not helpless. There’s always going to be road blocks in my life, things that make me feel like I’m taking two steps backwards in this process. I just have to remember that I’m still me, even when I don’t feel like me. Even if I hadn’t been able to fix it, I’m still pretty badass for trying, and I think that goes for everything in my life.

 

This post was written in response to Linda G Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS and #JusJoJan Jan. 21/17

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Pretending and the process

 

Pretending. It’s amazing how much of your life is spent pretending, and you don’t even realize it. Once you do it enough, you become so good at it, even you think it’s real. If you’re lucky enough, you wake up. You catch a glimpse of reality and find a path to the truth. If you aren’t lucky, you stay asleep, pretending…blissfully unaware. That’s a funny choice of words. There’s nothing blissful about sleeping through your life, hiding from what’s real…pretending. You just don’t realize it until you stop.

The problem is this: living and speaking your truth…it’s painful to get there. You peel off the layers like onions. It burns. You cry. It feels raw. Then you start to heal, and realize it’s worth the pain, because getting past those layers is so freeing. You start to enjoy not having to pretend. You enjoy living and speaking your truth. You feel empowered. You begin your awakening. Then, out of nowhere…another damn layer appears. What the hell? I already DID that layer! I’m done…aren’t I? It doesn’t seem quite fair to have to go through challenge after challenge, after all the work you’ve done. Shouldn’t this be getting easier, instead of harder?  Several times, I’ve complained in despair to my therapist about feeling horrible for having yet another challenge in front of me. “I’ve been going to therapy for months now, I’ve processed everything…when will I be done?” I was feeling ashamed for not being able to “fix” my life correctly.  Each time, she would smile compassionately at me, saying “You’re trying to rush it. It’s God’s time, not your time. Trust the process”.  She’s right. She’s always right.

A friend of mine is studying to become certified in Reiki. She found this in her manual, just today…”You should also be aware that the higher you journey on the spiritual path, the harder the lessons get. Some think the lessons should get easier, but they do not; beginners get beginning lessons, advanced students get advanced lessons. That is how we grow”.  Yes, this is it, exactly.

It took me some time…actually, I still sometimes don’t get it…to realize this journey has its own path and I can ride along with it or I can choose not to, but I can’t control or predict the work. Just when I think I’ve finished the challenge, another one appears. At first, I thought they were setbacks…but now I know better. A lifetime of work is better than a lifetime pretending. I think I’ve become an advanced student. Not an easy thing to accomplish, and something that causes both great discomfort, yet great enlightenment, both at the same time. Well, not at the same time. The discomfort comes first. Then the enlightenment…maybe. Or maybe the discomfort sticks around for a while. You don’t get to decide that part. You only get to decide whether or not to do the lesson work, not decide on the lesson. I know I’ve got quite an advanced lesson coming up with my dad. Right now, I’m choosing to not open that lesson book. Not just yet. I’m not sure when I will. Maybe someone else will open it for me and hold it right up to my face so I have to partake in it. I’m not really sure how it will go down. Either way, it’s painful. Choosing, not choosing, learning, not learning…it all hurts. The whole situation just plain hurts. Not fair, but it is what it is. It definitely can be discouraging… but you know what? I’m trusting the process.

 

 

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS and #JusJoJan Jan. 14/17

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Divorce and the dishwasher

 

I think I’m being tested. Is it normal to need this many major appliance repairs in the span of 2 months?  My husband moved out on October 23rd, and since then I’ve had to repair the washing machine TWICE…and now this.  Am I crazy to think he’s sneaking in here and sabotaging my appliances to make me appreciate him? This is what I found this evening, of course…AFTER my son had put away all the dishes (so, I guess I might have to re-wash everything we own now. You’ll understand later). At this stage of the game, I’m not one to waste time. I head straight to YouTube. I learn how to remove that round filter you see in the middle of that milky mess. But first, I had to take a paper cup and manually remove all of that nasty water. I’m chuckling, because at the time, I thought putting my hands in that water was the gross part. Fool. Anyway, I drain the water and pull out the filter. Apparently, you are supposed to clean this thing as part of your regular maintenance. That in itself is funny because, really…who performs “regular maintenance” on their freaking dishwasher? So, this filter is beyond disgusting. It’s a cylinder made out of metal mesh, like a screen, and completely coated with a pinkish-hue film of slimy gunk. I clean it out, and check the sensor. What the hell is the sensor? I have no clue, but YouTube told me to do it, so I did. I sort of rubbed my finger over it to “check it”, and then checked the drain hole for blockage. There was none. I searched the internet a bit more, and saw videos explaining how to check all sorts of things under the control panel. Things like switches and pumps and plumbery stuff like that. I bust out my new tool box (my sister thoughtfully bought me one for Christmas, after my washing machine escapades), removed the panel, and immediately noticed signs everywhere warning of electric shock. I realized I would need to figure out how to shut of the breaker before attempting any of the videos I watched, and really, I have to draw the line somewhere. I want to be independent around here, but I also don’t want my kids to find me fried on the kitchen floor, so I put the panel back on and start thinking about calling a repair company. I’m disappointed, because all I can hear in my mind is my husband saying to me, “You’re going to miss me around here, you know. When something breaks and you need me to fix it, I’m not going to be around”… like I’m a helpless, dependent nothing. I’d rather call and pay for a repairman than call him, admitting my helplessness. I was frustrated, because I’d spent so much time working on this and thought for sure I could do it. Before completely giving up, I took a chance and called a friend for help. He’s pretty handy, and knew exactly what I was talking about. My friend guided me to the drain hose that leads to the Y valve in the pipes under the sink (don’t I sound so freaking mechanical right now? I just learned these words tonight). I unscrew the C clamps that are holding it up against the wall and unscrew the ….damn, I forgot the name of the other clamp, I guess I’m not quite the plumber I thought I was a few minutes ago. Anyway, I pull the hose off the pipe, and this thing is FILLED with this…this…substance. No, substance is not right. It’s like a rubbery, snotty, liver-looking, clotty, gelatinous yet meaty…organism. No, it’s not alive, but it could be, maybe on another planet. This is what I’ve been using to wash my dishes. How on Earth are we still alive? Apparently, this “clog” is 8 years worth of wet food, and it’s blocking almost 3 feet of this hose. I grab a bucket and look for something to unclog it. All I can find is a campfire marshmallow stick. I shove it in there and I can feel it in the sludge of this moist food alien baby byproduct. I pull it out and it’s like I lanced a giant wound…coated with the innards of this poor, suffering alien. Unfortunately, it’s not long enough to clear it. Each time I poke it in, I feel like I’m slowly killing someone in there. It feels fleshy. “So, this is what it feels like to stab someone”, I think to myself. My friend brainstorms and suggests I use a snow marker from the driveway, and by golly, it worked. I sloshed it around in the baby alien body (sorry, but this thing really did take on a life of it’s own…I came THIS close to naming it) and turn on the drain of the dishwasher. You know those gross videos floating around the internet of people lancing these giant cysts on people’s bodies, and they explode like 2 ton zits…like the old play doh hair dresser toy that would push it out like a sausage machine? That’s what it was like, but grosser. Picture diced up liver, lightly tossed in diarrhea. I’m pretty sure I just performed a medical procedure on this hose. It’s entire infected gut product ended up in the bucket…like a back alley colonoscopy. Blood everywhere. It was completely disgusting to watch it ooze out like a giant pimple… yet somehow, oddly satisfying. Anyway, it worked! I ran a cycle and it drained, smooth like butter.

So, it wasn’t completely independent appliance repair, but still way better than paying Sears a couple hundred bucks to come over.

My new motto as head of household, “Fix it yourself, or find someone to teach you how!”

 

This post was written in response to Linda G Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday. The prompt was “coat”. Thanks, Linda!

The Friday Reminder and Prompt for #SoCS and #JusJoJan Jan. 7/17

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