Walk A Mile In My Shoes

I’ll be honest.

Before Dominic ran ahead to Heaven I could be awfully self-righteous.

I could not understand how some people (notice how I dehumanized them by lumping them together) couldn’t just act right, do right, pick themselves us by their bootstraps and get on with life.

Not anymore.

Now I am more apt to wonder, “What awful thing has happened to this person?” instead of “What is WRONG with them????” when I notice someone acting a bit out of character or not quite living up to their commitments or somehow missing the mark of societal expectations.

Take all this coronavirus craziness.

Some of us are being more cautious.

Some of us consider caution a sign of insecurity or fear or lack of faith.

None of us have enough information (really!) to make an informed decision.

ZOONO3 VIA GETTY IMAGES

Lack of testing, lack of research, lack of transparency and not enough time means we are all essentially guessing what is the most prudent and appropriate individual response to this threat. I’m choosing not to judge anyone’s choices even if they are different than my own.

I’ve felt judged many times in the past six years since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.

People who haven’t buried a child really don’t understand how it changes EVERYTHING. But that doesn’t stop them from offering an opinion or advice or making comments on social media that are clearly intended to correct or shame me.

Now that things are opening up on the back side of blanket stay-at-home orders I’m probably going to be judged again.

What people don’t know about me-what they can’t see and can’t know unless they ask-is I suffer from an autoimmune disease. The treatment impacts my ability to fight off infections. It lowers my white blood cell count. It makes me susceptible to things that other folks never have to worry about.

I had latent (non-contagious and asymptomatic) tuberculosis a couple years ago.

I’m not part of population that would normally be considered “at risk” and only found out about it because it’s protocol to test for TB before prescribing some of the more potent medicines used in treating rheumatoid arthritis. I still have no idea where I was exposed to it.

Eight months of antibiotics with unpleasant side effects later I was disease free.

Based on first person accounts of what it feels like to have Covid19 (not even considering the most dire outcomes) that was a cakewalk.

So I’m not standing in line to try my hand at surviving this new threat.

And I have other, very real, very painful, experiences which inform my choice to be more cautious. I know that regardless of odds, of treatment and of what a heart HOPES will happen, things don’t always go as planned or as predicted.

I know the horror death leaves in its wake. I know the toll trauma takes on a life left behind.

My family has already had to deal with more than I could have imagined and I will not purposely expose them to something else if I can help it.

So regardless of local, state or national guidelines, protocol or recommendations I will be mostly staying home.

Baby Girl Name: Prudence. Meaning: Foresight; Practical Judgment ...

It’s not lack of faith. It’s not fear. It’s prudence based on experience.

You can make a different choice and I will absolutely positively respect that.

Agreement is not a prerequisite for kindness.

Your shoes are not my shoes.

And that’s OK.

Covid 19 And Mental Health

I’ve learned to be pretty good at waiting.

For just over six years I’ve been waiting to see my son again. Waiting for this ache in my heart to be healed. Waiting for a sunrise that brings only joy and no reminder of sorrow.

So I’ve figured out some ways to fill these waiting days. I’ve developed habits and routines to make them count for something other than empty hours ticked off on a clock face.

The pandemic has thrust many other hearts into an unwelcome season of waiting.

Here are some good habits (most of which I’ve employed daily for years!) that make the waiting a little easier and healthier:

  • Get Dressed. Sure it’s fun to hang out in pajama pants when you know the only meetings you might have are online and no one can tell what you’re wearing. But getting dressed signals your brain the day has begun and creates a dividing line between night and day. Trust me, it makes a big difference!
  • Eat Well. Don’t allow yourself to graze all day on snack foods. Make or order real meals. It’s easy to overeat when grazing which will ultimately make you feel too full, bloated and uncomfortable. Fill a plate (even if it’s a paper plate!), sit at the table or a TV tray and finish your breakfast, lunch or dinner then put the food away. Daily rituals help a heart hold on and crafting them around meals is simple and satisfying.
  • Do something creative. It can be rearranging pictures on the wall, placing photos in an album (something you might have wanted to do for a long time), coloring, completing a craft project, sewing fabric masks, or dragging out a puzzle you’ve had in the closet. Anything that helps you think outside the box is wonderful.
  • Stay connected with friends and family. I know it’s not the same. FaceTime, Facebook, Instagram and whatever other social media apps may be trending right now are no substitute for face-to-face meetings and warm, in-person hugs. But they are the best we can do right now. And they are absolutely, positively better than nothing! Take advantage of all the ways you can reach out to those you love. Share funny stories or memes. Let your loved ones know how your day is going.
  • Do your hair and makeup. Well, I might not be the best person to recommend this particular practice since I don’t wear makeup unless it’s a very special occasion. BUTif you wear makeup on a regular basis, do the minimum. It’s another way of helping your brain and psyche draw a line between day and night, work and relaxation. Doing your hair might just be putting it in a ponytail or clip but get it out of your face. At least run a comb or brush through it.
  • Get some fresh air. There is NO substitute for outdoor air. Too much time cooped up indoors makes even the most sane person a little crazy. Walk, ride a bike, run, skip or hop your way around the block or in the park. If moving is too hard on your joints or your balance or your heart, then sit outside in the sun and breathe deeply. It’s a wonderful way to reset your mental attitude and get some Vitamin D.
  • Unplug devices and walk away from the screens! Too often we are stuck in echo chambers that reflect back fear and mistrust of the “other side”. Social media algorithms feed us what they think we want to see. The 24/7 news cycle thrives on half-truth headlines that encourage viewers to tune in for the “rest of the story”. It is possible to learn everything you NEED to know in about five minutes online. Leave the rest for those that enjoy drama, intrigue and worrying about every little thing.
  • Reach out. If you feel yourself falling down a black hole into the pit of despair, tell someone. It’s scary to risk rejection or judgement. But I think you will be surprised to find that most of the time you will be met with grace and compassion.

Another Meltdown

I’ve spent most of this afternoon crying.

It’s beautiful weather and nothing terrible happened today but my heart is heavy and I can’t shake it off.

I try so hard to identify triggers and personal traits that lead me down this path of sorrow.

Sometimes I come up empty.

I do think it has something to do with all the changes we’ve been forced to embrace.

They feel familiar.

Sudden, unexpected events have squeezed all of us into a narrow place with fewer options than we are accustomed to have available. Jobs lost, schools closed and (what is the deal???) no toilet paper.

A life that used to feel like an open vista of opportunity now feels constrained and burdensome.

I’m limiting my exposure to news and social media but there’s no escaping it altogether and it’s affecting my ability to keep a stiff upper lip.

I guess lack of sleep has something to do with it too. And the fact that someone’s dogs got into my chickens and killed half of them. Death-any death-is awful!

Plus Mother’s Day coming up. It will be the first I’ve spent without one of my children and without my own mother being at least a phone call away.

I would normally try to talk myself out of giving in. But not today.

I’m sitting outside in the extraordinary windy day and letting the tears fall. I think that’s what I need.

I miss my mama.

I miss my son.

I miss life the way it used to be.

Faith Starts With Questions

In the midst of this uncertain time many people are asking questions.

That’s a good thing.

Because unlike others who may insist that faith never questions, I maintain that faith begins with questions.

Who needs a God who knows everything if they never wonder about anything?

It’s no sin, to ask, “Why”.

The Psalms are filled with questions.  

Jesus Himself asked, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” from the cross.

God invites us to ask.  

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/04/17/it-is-no-sin-to-ask-why/

Holy Saturday: Living Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection

I think this unprecedented season of fear and uncertainty is awakening more hearts to the hard task of suspenseful waiting.

The world longs for a cure or a vaccine or something to guarantee safety against this virus making its rounds and threatening us and those we love.

In the meantime there’s not one thing we can do to make it happen.

Many of us are hiding away in our homes. Some are praying fervently for provision, for safety, for guidance, for hope while others are simply passing time until whatever happens, happens.

I imagine it’s very much like what the disciples felt when they realized no miracle would deliver Jesus from death and they might well be next.

Holy Saturday, 2020

It is tempting to forget that there were three long days and nights between the crucifixion and the resurrection because the way we observe this season rushes us past the pain to embrace the promise.

But it’s not hard for me to imagine how the disciples felt when they saw Jesus was dead.  It was neither what they expected nor what they prayed for.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2016/03/26/living-between-the-crucifixion-and-the-resurrection/

Memories, Milestones and Melancholy

I’m finding it hard to write these days.

Not because I don’t have anything to say but because I can’t find ways to say it that might make sense to anyone else.

So much is jumbled up inside me, so much is wrapped around itself and I can’t find the end of the string to unravel it.

Ever since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, writing has been my refuge. First in my journals and now in this space.

I depend on words on the page to tell me what I think and feel.

Lately my trusty tool has let me down.

I’m sure part of it is the abrupt end to silent days and virtually unlimited alone time since the coronavirus crisis upended my routine.

Now when I come in from my walk I’m greeted by my husband (a good thing!) instead of only cats. I spend more time making meals and cleaning up after them. I don’t have the quiet moments watching the sun sink down behind the trees and dark reclaim the living room as I peck away at my keyboard.

Dominic was so full of life, it’s impossible to think of him breathless and still.

Part of it is the time of year.

Sunday will be six years since Dominic left us and each passing day brings me closer and closer to that milestone. I should be better at facing it by now.

But I’m not.

Last year my faithful companion animal died around this time too. His death didn’t hold a candle to the death of my son but any death-every death-pricks that deep wound and reminds me the world is not as it should be.

Roosevelt, my faithful companion for over a decade. ❤

Last year’s Facebook post:

2:53 4/7/2019  ••UPDATE•• Roosevelt died in my arms without suffering. I am so thankful for the years I had with him. ❤️.

I’m holding my precious companion animal as he dies. I want him to know that he is loved and the last thing he feels to be my hand on his fur.

So today, breathing is enough. 

2:53 April 7, 2019

And this year-well-this year death is the headline everywhere.

Actual death, impending death, anticipated death. Numbers, numbers, numbers that represent real people, real lives, real families left behind.

How my heart hurts!

I try to stay away from too much news, too much social media, too much of anything besides family and close friends.

I’m still up before sunrise and spend time reading, praying, researching, thinking, waiting to hear from my heart.

I wish the words would come.

I’m afraid if they don’t my heart will burst.

When Grief Sneaks Up On You

Dependable routine is one of my most important coping mechanisms.

I like slipping from one familiar chore to the next without thinking.

It keeps my mind busy in an effortless way that leaves little room for random thoughts, little space for grief-inducing memories to sneak in and trip me up.

Change Aversion And The Conflicted User - Usability Geek

Change is really not my friend.

Still, change is upon me (and millions of others!) because of this virus. So I’m doing the best I can to cope.

Instead of a house to myself, now my husband is working from home. Instead of quiet mornings alone, conference calls echo off the walls and follow me out open windows to the yard. Instead of before dark breakfast and early lunch with the kitchen closed by noon, I eat early, he eats later, I eat lunch and he eats supper. Kitchen open til eight.

None of those are things I can’t get used to.

After all, I’m blessed he’s here, has a job and we have not only enough to eat but a wide variety . I like cooking and love finding creative uses for leftovers.

Creative Ways to Use Leftovers - Bites for Foodies

What no one but me knows about all the change is this: I’m walking places I tend not to go-in the house, in the yard, down our paths-and every place I set my foot holds memories I’ve been avoiding.

When we moved an old pen a couple weeks ago for new chickens we found a rusty chain attached to its base. While my husband and son were digging it out to use again I was transported to the day Dominic moved the pen years ago with the tractor. It was just me and him and he was a little perturbed with me that I needed it moved. I saw him in my mind’s eye plain as day on the tractor. I could hear his baritone voice above the trusty thrum of the engine and picture him hopping down from the seat, unhooking the chain and driving off to park the tractor.

It was a flash. Here and gone in an instant. But the rest of the day I suffered from a grief hangover that I just couldn’t shake.

These are challenging days.

So much of the routine I depend on to guide me through has been shredded. So many of the habits I’ve developed over years are unavailable right now.

Image may contain: ocean, cloud, sky and water, possible text that says 'FACEBOOK.COM/ SILENTGRIEFSUPPORT THE GRIEF ATTACKS OF CHILD LOSS ARE so UNEXPECTED. THEY COME CRASHING LIKE A WAVE THAT TRIES TO SWEEP US AWAY CLARA HINTON'

So I’m doing the best I can.

One day and one memory at a time.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Repeat.

Palm Sunday 2020: What If I’m Not Rescued?

This current worldwide crisis has both inspired me to write and constrained me from writing.

There is so much to say but I’m not sure most folks would understand.

Suddenly everyone is living a life they would not have chosen and for most, a life they couldn’t have imagined. But eventually most will resume the life they once had.

Things will return to normal. Kids in school, parents working, social distancing a thing of the past.

But some will never again know the life they had before this virus made its way across the globe. Someone or several someones they love will be snatched from the here and now and transferred to the hereafter.

So what if I’m not rescued?

What if my family isn’t spared?

What if all the faithful prayers lifted on behalf of ones I love don’t stop death from claiming them?

Will I still believe?

Will I still trust that God is a loving Father who is in control and working all things together for His glory and my good?

That was precisely the question before Jerusalem’s Jewish citizens on Palm Sunday and the week that followed. Jesus entered the city to shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”.

The faithful lined the streets and believed the Messiah had come to rescue them from the tyrannical rule and reign of not only irreligious Gentiles but corrupt leaders within the Hebrew hierarchy.

It didn’t take long for them to give up hope and call for His crucifixion.

He didn’t live up to their expectations. He didn’t act according to their timetable. He didn’t rescue them from persecution and suffering.

So they discarded Him.

Six years ago I woke to Palm Sunday wondering why my family wasn’t spared, why my son wasn’t rescued, why death had crossed our threshold and taken up residence in our home.

I had to decide if Jesus was Lord of all or if He was Lord at all.

I came face to face with the fact that God doesn’t need my permission to run the world according to His will. He doesn’t require my consent to do (or not do) anything.

But a God that needs my approval is no God at all.

I went to church that Palm Sunday, lifted my hands and voice in spite of my broken heart because I knew Jesus had not abandoned us.

He is Messiah.

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

How’s Everyone Doing? No, Really.

This thing is really dragging on, isn’t it?

For many folks it’s the first time in their lives they’ve been forced to come face to face with the truth we really have little control over anything.

Some of us can’t leave our homes, most of us aren’t supposed to.

Stay Home Save Lives - DesignByStavri - FACEBOOK by Stavri ...

Some long desperately to hold grandchildren but social distancing means only a long distance wave (if you’re lucky) or FaceTime on a screen. Some want to visit parents or grandparents in eldercare facilities but are forbidden lest the virus be ushered through closed doors and run rampant down the halls. No local gatherings. No play dates for kids. No school routine (who thought they’d miss nightly homework battles!). Work from home or no work at all.

Parents are suddenly with their children ALL DAY LONG. Some children are suddenly imprisoned 24/7 in unsafe homes-no escaping to school for a few hours respite.

And toilet paper. Lots and lots of toilet paper (for some, apparently) and none for others.

Image may contain: possible text that says 'If you need 144 rolls of toilet paper for a 14 day quarantine you probably should've been seeing a Doctor long before COVID-19'

The people who are supposed to have the latest, best information seem like either they aren’t getting it, reading it and digesting it or they really don’t know what they are doing.

Social media is allowing some front line workers like doctors, nurses and paramedics to publicize snapshots and give commentary on the inside of ambulances and hospitals and it’s truly frightening.

Image may contain: 7 people, people standing

And oh, by the way, if your person gets sick enough to be wheeled away from home and inside those big doors, you can’t follow. No matter how sick they are, you can’t sit by the bed and hold their hand.

Is it any wonder many of us are not only stir crazy but crazy sick with worry, fear and anxiety?

So, my friend, I want to know-really truly know-how are you doing?

How are you managing under the stress and strain of unwelcome change you can’t control?

What is helping you hold on?

What is making it harder?

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I know some who gather in this space are not praying people and that’s OK. I’d like to share a prayer anyway, if you’ll let me.

Because that’s how I hold on. ❤

PRAYER:

Father God,

This is such a fearful time.

Too many changes too fast and more coming every day. An invisible enemy is stalking those I love and there’s really not much I can do about it except to follow the best advice being tossed out by people who are supposed to know but who don’t really inspire a lot of confidence.

I’m afraid of what I know and afraid of what I don’t know.

I’m petrified someone in my intimate circle will fall ill and I won’t be able to be with them. My job may be in danger too and I might not make my bills. My kids are confused and I wonder how all these months of no school is going to play out next fall. The list could go on and on.

Help my heart hold onto hope. Help me find a bit of joy-the rose among the thorns-each day. Sandwiches on paper plates with the whole family. A breath of fresh spring air through open windows. A funny meme sent from a friend far away so we can share a laugh even if we can’t share a cup of coffee.

Let every sunrise remind my heart that the world is still turning and no night lasts forever.

Amen

Offering Space Instead of “Fixing”

The world is upside down and inside out and hearts are hurting.

Suddenly everyone knows what it’s like to be stuck in an alternate reality, hoping, hoping, hoping that one morning they will wake up and find it untrue.

When the sun rises day after day after day and nothing changes, it’s oh, so easy to give up hope. And when unhelpful words are tossed at fragile hearts it adds to the burden.

What I say and how I say it (especially NOW) makes a difference. It can be the difference between going on or letting go.

❤ Melanie

I didn’t realize until I was the person who needed comforting how unhelpful and sometimes painful my own past comments were to my suffering friends and family.

There are many important and necessary conversations going on right now about how we talk to and talk about our fellow humans.  I’m thankful folks are learning that words are rarely (ever?) neutral.

They build up or tear down. 

And we are responsible for them.

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2019/04/01/instead-of-fixing-offer-space-to-share/