Tag Archive: Survival

Three words

I believe you, she said,

and in that moment

the universe stretched,

atoms rearranging,

exhaling open

spaces just for me,

breathing room.

It’s amazing just

how long I went

without speaking

a word of this

to anyone, and how

those three simple

words began

urgently to heal

my unseen bruises

and stitch laces

across the lacerations

I’d sheltered

like children

for so long.

Rough weather

I think it was that day I caught you laughing
in the corner of my eye as I punched angrily
at the heavy bag, unleashing my fury into
something safe, something intentional.
You, arms crossed, leaning and amused
by my clumsiness and bulk attempts
to grow muscle, to dump the dumps,
to gather strength for a storm I didn’t yet expect.
(Although I think now I must have smelled it in the wind.)
It was a light-ening strike, the crackle of it
shooting through my muscles and bones,
setting my teeth and soul on edge.
Yes, I’m certain now – I still feel the shock –
that was the day our bridge caught fire,
though it would smolder yet awhile before
bursting into flames for all to see.

Soooo… hi.

Hey there… I can’t believe it’s been SIX months… How have you been?

Yeah, me too. It’s okay, I understand, we can just sit and not talk for a bit if you like.

Here, check out these sweet puppies while we sit here.

Oscar and Oliver

We’re fostering these two little bottle-fed Dachshunds, orphaned at birth. They’re not yet 4 weeks old. We’re tired, but that’s okay, we were tired anyway. They’re doing great. We’re all coping the best we can, you know? For us, helping the puppies is also helping ourselves.

Oh hey, I have some good, rather astonishing news. My daughter came back into my life after nearly four years. She’s 16 now. She was 12 when, well, when I lost her. It’s been… amazing getting to know her again. I hold back though of course, we both do. Self-protection is a healthy thing, and we’re trying to work forward slowly. I took her to the Women’s March with my step-daughter. Life-changing, really.

What a year, huh? You never know what’s going to happen next.

I think though, it’s really important that we remember some things we do know. There is hope. This world is full of good deeds and redemption and puppies and people who will literally give you the shirt off their back should you need a shirt on yours. Kindness is still a thing, maybe THE THING. We still have each other, well many of us do I guess. I had to burn some bridges, maybe you did too. I miss the easier times when I could just pretend everyone thought the same way about human rights that I do. I wish I could unsee the hateful things I’ve seen, and pretend when I see these people that I never saw those things they wrote.

I think respect is hard for people, I don’t know why really. There isn’t really a benefit of doubt anymore. No benefit at all. So much certainty, so much disrespect. In November a friend posted something like, hey empaths, shields UP! It was wonderful and needed advice. But I don’t have shields figured out yet. I can’t understand how people can’t understand what other people go through. I can’t grip it in my loose and wandering brain. But still, there are moments when you just have to draw a line. And so I drew lines. But I’ll never be the cool one walking away from the explosion without looking back. I’ll always look back. Mindfulness is a practice, and I’m solidly out of practice.

Still, I wish these people who I called friend well, in spite of all the declarations I read about how we’re enemies now. I’m nobody’s enemy, I just can’t take the hate. It vibrates at a painful frequency, I think many of us can feel it now in the air. Or, well, at least on Twitter and Facebook. It smells bad, and it stains our fingers and tongues. I want no part of it. No, I’m not naive, it’s just a choice I get to make every moment of every day. And every moment that I’m capable, I choose kindness and love. That’s exhausting sometimes to be honest. It’s hard to stay in your own movie when the horror films start rolling.

And so yes, puppies help. So does laughing, and thankfully we can always find humor these days. Maybe it’s dark humor, but hey I’ve always liked that anyway. Also, fresh air is good, and feeding the birds, and taking walks out in nature, batteries not included. And moving your body. I forget to do that when I’m glued to the couch, poring over things I simply can’t control. Getting off the couch at all is getting something done some days, and don’t let anyone tell you different. In fact, making it to the couch counts too. Breathing, that’s the place to start. In and out. Repeat with me, there’s more good than bad. We just notice the bad because it’s loud and smelly. We aren’t helpless, but I think we have to help more when we can. Even if it’s just holding the door for someone, or smiling at a beleaguered customer service worker.

Okay, so yeah, this was a nice visit, but I’m a bit tired now. I think I could use a nap or a shower.

It was good to catch up. Let’s try to do it more often, shall we? We really do need each other in these times. I’ll be thinking of you. Look me up, I’ll be here when I can.

Cracked

windshieldcrackedLook, you say, cracks are how the lights gets through! We’ve surely all seen that meme…

Ugh I say. I mean, sure, of course. But let’s not forget that they’re also the way things shatter.

My husband and I were driving this weekend to the beach, for a quick and supposedly relaxing getaway at a friend’s place. We don’t get a lot of time together with our schedules and money is more than tight, so we try to squeeze things in when we can. We were grateful to have this chance.

The trip had already been shortened by a day due to our flooring install being pushed back and then taking longer than expected. Anybody that’s ever paid for work on a house knows that’s pretty much what to expect. Still, my work life had been a bit stressful, and then with the floors, I was feeling pushed around and annoyed, and really ready to get outta Dodge.

We were only about twenty miles out of town, just settling into that we’re going to be here a while lull. And then – dun dun dun – a motorcyclist zipped in front of us far too quickly from the passing lane, narrowly missing us, and slowed down even more quickly. Just as he pulled all the way over to the shoulder, a terribly loud WHACK brought me back to front and center. Something had hit the windshield right at my head level, and the cracks appeared immediately on the glass. They were only an inch or two long at first, but we knew they would the type that grew. I was grateful to the scientists who made this glass so much safer than it could have been. Grateful, but also skeptical.

Truthfully, I was filled with slow dread as I watched the cracks reach like very slow fingers for the dashboard. My mind, being already in a fairly dark place, started to wander into questions like “How far down can these cracks go before the whole windshield implodes on top of us?” and “So what would dying by a thousand cuts really look like?” and “Why haven’t I written that damn will yet?” You know, the usual…

I watched with continuing dread as the two largest cracks moved on a collision course with one another. That’s it, I thought, as soon as they hit each other, we’re done for. The entire window will shatter into blades, and with my blood thinners, I’m a goner before John even knows what hit me. It was just a waiting game at that point. Sure, I knew somewhere in the still-smart outer core of my brain that that isn’t how windshields work. Of course the window’s integrity would hold. Of course it would. Except, what if it didn’t? The very soft and silly inner core of my brain made some convincing arguments, and the outer core, knowing when it was beat, went to pout in the corner.

Staring death in the face, I started to focus on the reflections of the sun on the VERY sharp edges in the cracks. If I moved my head around just a little bit, I could make almost the entire edge shine, so sharp and deadly, and kind of pretty too. I mean, death is pretty sometimes, in some sort of cinematic way. Ah, the light was getting in all right, and all I could think about was how much I’m like that too, all damaged and cracked, and I could shatter too couldn’t I? Any time at all. Yes, it was all very pretty, but it was serious too. The edges of the cracks were all shiny and deathy in equal parts. And there it all was, the metaphor looming, no, growing right up in my face, menacing and real.

Broken things hurt. Shiny edges can cut. Of course being cracked means you can shatter, but it hasn’t happened yet. Not quite yet. Waiting around for things to shatter is not the funnest way to travel maybe, but hey, having a destination sure as hell beats standing still. For one thing, there’s the view.

Anyway, the cracks were going to grow now no matter what we did, so we just kept heading for the beach. The paths finally crossed on the glass after an hour or so. I imagined (again and again and… yes again) the center cutout piece just popping into my lap quietly. I would pick it up and hold it in my hands, staring at those shiny edges almost calmly, just before the whole window crashed in on me. Yes, again, I knew it was safety glass, but still, a perfect dagger-sized piece was just pointing right at me. How could I not poke at that in my head? It’s what I do.

Of course, we made it to the beach just fine, and I let it go for a while, swimming in the ocean and forgetting, until it was time to go home. Driving made the cracks grow faster, and this time I was sure that the second time the paths crossed would be it. The end. “They’re almost at a right angle this time,” I thought, “no way even safety glass can resist that!” I contorted my head the whole way home, watching the beads of sunlight ride up and down the edges, seeing myself in the light and wondering at the likeness. Wondering at how cracked I can be, and yet so shiny too.

We are not better off without you

eye and clouds fractal

One of Michelle’s many amazing profile pics

For Michelle, and the others we’ve lost

I’ve been there, standing, breathing in that one terrible thought that really, everyone would be better off if I just left this planet. It wasn’t at all a selfish thought about a selfish act. Yes, I wanted the pain to stop, but I did believe they’d be better off without me. All of them.

Early this week, a friend took her own life. She had a lot of things that might have brought her there, to that place on the edge. She had chronic pain and other things going on that were hard to overcome. But she was always the one asking me on Messenger how I was, asking if I needed help, making sure I was okay. She reached out more than I did, because I’m afraid to let anyone in, and because she was just that kind of person. I kept her, like I keep everyone, at arms length. And so we weren’t close, in spite of her trying, but we were connected, and she recognized the kindred there. And so did I. She was a writer, and she loved art, fractals, weird and amazing stuff. She loved dogs. We talked about bands, and cancer, and surgery, and husbands who are bass players. But we didn’t talk enough. I’m left now, hating on myself for the distance I kept, wishing I’d been there for her, like all of her friends are. We’re all wishing we’d done something. Anything.

We are not better off. We are grieving, and lost. We’re trying to find our way now, you can see it on her Facebook page, where hundreds of people are posting messages and memories*. You can see it in the blank looks we get on our faces, glazed eyes in the middle of a workday, or in the shower, or just driving when some particular song comes on. Nobody is better off. This sucks, it SUCKS. Hard.

We are NOT better off.

I promise you, nobody will be better off without you, even if you feel hated or abandoned. It’s a LIE that sometimes people tell themselves when desperation hits. I know how it sounds whispered like a cool dark cloud in your head, almost a relief. I know the lie, and how sometimes you can believe it. I don’t know if my friend told herself that lie. I can’t speak for her, and neither can she anymore. But I promise you, hundreds of people are hurting, and nobody is better off.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Available 24 hours everyday
1-800-273-8255

* My note to Michelle:

I missed it, the chance to reach out, to tell you how great you are, to say another thank you, to ask you how you’re doing. I thought I’d have time to get to know you better, and I missed it. The last time you wrote, just a month ago, I answered with a quick cool, thanks. I didn’t ask you how you were doing, I’m sure I was in a rush. And I missed it. And now I miss you, and your quirky but disarming sideways smile and soft hair, and the tiny little check-ins you did with me on messenger, which I totally took for granted, just like the art and the weird things, and the beautiful things, and the funny t-shirts, and hanging by the fire pit and all of the other things. I’m glad I got to know you. You made the world better, lady.

We are drunk on horrible things

newtown_victims_700Someone told me we’d forgotten Newtown. I don’t think we have. Someone told me we will never learn. I don’t know if that’s true, but I worry. Someone told me that the “other side” just doesn’t care. I know that’s not true. We are all still carrying the pain of that loss, of all the losses. We just don’t know what we’re doing. We’re drunk on it, the whole nightmarish thing, and we’re stumbling around lost, striking out at anyone who chooses a different way to believe this craziness can be solved.

I’ve been saying “When we’re living in fear, the terrorists win.” I say it a lot. Fear is controlling so many people, and there’s so much anger too. In fact, we can find all the stages of grief, alive and well in how people talk about the Sandy Hook shootings, and all the shootings since then. There’s even conspiracy theorists, literally stalking some of these parents, bent on proving it all to be a hoax. Denial taken to a sick extreme.

We haven’t forgotten. We’ve drunk it in, absorbed it into our beings. We’ve become tired, angry, and less willing to pause and breathe before we react. We are weary, we are sad, we are so very pissed off. And we are helpless, in spite of the arsenals and the concealed carries, in spite of the research on mental health, in spite of the walls and divisions we fight over. In the end we can’t change what happened, we can’t go back to that time we remember when our children were safe. We are lost.

The heartache of that day is mixed up inside of me with the certain knowledge I had then that I was losing my second child to the hatred and fear of parental alienation. I was coming to terms very slowly with the fact that someone I loved with all my heart, and who loved me just as much, had learned to hate me, had become so involved in that hatred, that nothing I did had the power to change her mind. I was already in the dark of depression when the news came about the shootings, and my lack of hope was already life-threatening.

Maybe the shock of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary saved my life. Maybe that’s why three years ago this week I finally told my doctor the truth about how bad it was, what had been happening, how I’d decided the best way to die so that my family would be sure to get my insurance money. I wanted to disappear, to let everyone off the hook. I wanted my children to stop feeling like they had to hate me in order for their world to make sense. I felt they’d be better off in mourning than moving into a life of lies and paranoia. Sometimes I still wonder if that would have helped them more than the choice I made. But I chose to ask for help. Then I chose antidepressants and therapy, and I’m utterly grateful I had that choice.

A few weeks later, I did lose my daughter, and she hasn’t been back in my house or my life since. More to grieve. And the shootings have kept coming and coming. We are a broken nation with no doctor. We are at war with ourselves and everyone else. The unimaginable has become, almost literally, a daily experience in this country. And instead of recognizing the pain and fear that overtakes us all, instead of helping one another grieve and recover, so many of us have grown ugly and isolated.

We are full of inner conflict, loaded with misunderstandings, and a bravado around those misunderstandings that has people not even wanting to try to see things a different way. We call each other libtards and morons and worse. And a lot of us seem to be enjoying the vitriol, which is the really scary part. We’re all a little sicker than we used to be, and I think that’s part of the Newtown legacy. We think we’ve forgotten, but really, these things have become a part of us, malignant and growing. Newtown and all the other towns – I don’t think we’ve forgotten, I think we have drunk it all in and become some new Mr. Hyde version of ourselves.

In the last three years, I have climbed mountains in my own soul, and come out stronger and better in almost every way. I have faced demons, myself, and learned how to keep doing so every day while loving this amazing life I have now. My wounds are healing, but just like this country, I have scars. I’m a different person, just as we’re a different nation. To pretend we can go back in time and create a better past is the worst kind of torture we can inflict on ourselves. It makes us take sides, look for someone to blame, to hate. But it isn’t that simple. We have to find a way to try to heal ourselves instead of tearing our country apart.

What I have found in the last three years of emotional heavy lifting is my center, my balance, my ability to pause, think, and react with generosity as often as I can. Do I screw up? Only all the damn time. Sometimes I can be mean too. Apologizing is my new friend. But it’s the trying that matters, the fixing what we can fix, and letting go of what we can’t. I still have trouble with the letting go. I can’t fix politics or hatred or gun violence or race relations. All I can do is speak up and ask people to reconsider what they’re doing and saying, maybe pry open their minds just a centimeter before spouting off. I see the closed-mindedness on all sides, the belittling of the “other,” the cutting down of people who are really just grieving in a different way, but still afraid, just like the rest of us. We all long for safety and belonging. We are all drunk on horrible things.

I can’t fix this. I want to so badly. All I can do is tell you that this world needs kindness more than ever. You can’t fix this either. I’m guessing you want to also. We can’t heal until we realize we’re hurting, and give ourselves room to become something better. So maybe, can you ask yourself a few questions for me? Or at least think about it…

Are you helping people, or calling your friends names for not agreeing with you? Can you do better? Do you really need to pass on that “clever” meme that insults those who think differently? Is there another way to make your point? Are you willing to honor the victims of Newtown, and all the other towns by not giving in to your basest fears without thought? If you truly believe that you can’t convince anyone of your side of things, is there anything else you can learn for yourself? Those “morons” might know something you don’t. At the very least, can you allow that everyone here on this crazy planet is seriously just trying to do their best? The gun-nuts and the libtards, all doing their best! You may think some were dropped on their heads as babies, but does that then mean it’s okay to belittle them? Oh, please, for my sake, and for yours, don’t say yes.

Today I’m still grieving for all that was lost in Newtown and in ourselves. We will always hurt, and we simply can’t forget. But we really can get better than this.

 

It was what it was

serenity

It may not shock you to learn that I’ve spent the last many years feeling that I wasted most of my life. That’s a rough statement, really, but true. Also, I probably did waste a lot of it. I mean, I took my own sweet time in limbo. And so, after years of therapy and deep digging, countless hours of agonizing over pretty much everything anywhere, I have come up with two words to say about that.

“So what?”

So… it really sucks.

“So what?”

So… some people are cruel and their actions and lies have hurt me and mine. Life isn’t fair!

“So what?”

So… oh. Um… Well, I suppose I could learn from it and move on.

“Yeah! You got this!”

Sure I still tell the tales of loss and woe here and there, but it’s just a story now. An origin story. My origin. Not as exciting as “I was bitten by a radioactive spider” as stories go, but you gotta work with what you have.

Everybody suffers. The world can be cruel and harsh, and so many humans are not humane. And so what? We are here, now. Who we are now is made up of who we have been and what we’ve come through. Of course our origin stories help define us. But when it comes to what we can actually DO about anything, all there is now is now.

I’m skating on the edges of serenity these days. I can feel the truth of things flowing through my awareness. I can feel the power of letting go, setting myself free from the guilt and obligation, and even the pain of my past. It is done and gone, and my trying so hard to change it has kept me standing still for a while now. I can learn from that too. Nothing is wasted of my life, I am here, now, because I was there, then.

Wait, I hate that, oh, I still want to fight that in my heart, because I want to agonize and hate my past forever, and light furious fires over so many injustices.

But no. The simple things are true. I’m here now because I was there then. 

It was what it was.

And now my feet are facing forward, and I can move ahead. That, all of that, the past, was what it was. Now is time for what is, and for thinking about what will be, if I choose to make it so. Now I feel the power, because I am creating my own life. I may not be Spider-man, but I am mighty.

I am mighty, hear me… meditate?

So yeah, serenity and peace can be hard, especially with all the chaos around us right now. But if ever there was a time for us to be kind to ourselves and one another, this is it. It is what it is because we are making it so. We can choose to waste our time (is it really wasted?), or to see things differently, or to set healthy boundaries, or to shake things up in our own way. We are not as stuck as we might think we are. We can change every moment that follows this one.

The past was what it was, and I’m slowly and gracefully (or not) becoming who I want to be, with at least a touch of serenity.

Going under

ship_bw_pe

The reflections are broken

But I can see you there

Glaring at the surface

As my hand breaks the water

Pleading for help.

 

And I see in your face

You are stuck on the shore

Angrily assuming

That I already blame you

For letting me drown.

 

~ Liesl Dineen

(5-day poetry chain challenge, day 1.)

Gah!

rope_Iván_Melenchón_Serrano_MorgueFile

I lie all the time. I tell people I’m fine. Dandy. I mean, sure, there are some hard times, but you just gotta breathe. Go with the flow. I seem so wise, right? I mean, even *I* believe that I’ve got it together sometimes.

Well, that is until my tooth hurts so much I can’t chew, or let any water flow to that entire side of my mouth, and the dentist, who I took two weeks to call, says well dear, you’re cracking your molar from clenching your jaw shut all the time, that’s very bad. And then I get fit for a night guard, and told to use it during the day too when I can, because this isn’t just a night thing, hasn’t been for a while now. And the dentist, who FINALLY pronounces my name right by the way(!), says wait, your kids are all out of the house, what do *you* have to be stressed about.

And so I lie again, and say absolutely nothing that I know of should be stressing me out, I can’t understand it myself (which wasn’t really a lie, because I’m just dumb sometimes). And I go home and my own guts start to try to kill me with (ahem) very unpredictable and unpleasant behaviors. So I wait another few days, miss a day of work, and finally get my butt to therapy, where truth happens in spite of my best damn efforts.

Headaches, jaw clenching, gut issues, messed up shoulders and neck. Hmm, what do we have here? Well, it might just be stress. Let’s look deeper, shall we?

Oh my, the stress isn’t just simply daily stuff getting to me, it’s me trying to hold back anything, no, everything unpleasant, which works fine for a little while until the stuff all builds up and I’m trying to dam the whole ocean, which is really a terrible idea as it turns out. Scratch the surface of the dam and I start to leak, and please pass the tissues and just hold on tight because this might take a while. And I’m drowning in sorrow which is NOT depression (phew, for now), but still sort of just, well, awful. And it’s all this close to Mother’s Day when strangers ask about your kids, and friends ask about your kids, and why is this stupid holiday a thing anyway?!

I miss my kids, all of them. But mostly, I miss my girl, because I can’t even say hi to her and get a hi back. And I miss the promises life made to me when I pushed and pulled her out into the world, the ones that said I’d have a hard time with this one, she’s stubborn, and I was excited to suffer the future because I could raise her in love, and it was an adventure and I was up to it. I was, and I am. I was ready for the work. I wasn’t ready to lose the chance, and I’m lying whenever I say I’m fine about it. I’m not fine. But I’m okay. Or I will be okay. Or I’m lying again.

Either way, doctor’s orders, I’m working on a self-care regimen. My go-to method of coping is to not cope. I don’t know how to focus on myself for very long, and it makes me all weird and self-conscious. I don’t know if I should be around people or alone. I don’t know if I should write, read, or just watch re-runs. I don’t want to get a pedicure and I don’t think it will help, but oh I really do need a decent haircut. And some clothes that fit this stress-fed body. But but but I don’t know how to start. Also, where the hell did I put my night guard?

Treading water

Day 25: Write an across the sea poem

Treading water

 

If life is an ocean then I need swimming lessons
Because my head keeps going under
And I’m not the biggest fan of salt
But I’m still out here treading water
And breathing deeply in between the waves
Wondering if I’ll know when I’m ready
To just let go and feel my body wash ashore

 

~ Liesl Dineen 2015

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