Why

I’ve come to discover that the toughest question there is is a simple and short one… Why?

For 2 reasons, in my opinion – as always…that’s the only opinion I have, after all…

First, and most easily to be understood, is the fact that the answer to Why? is inherently elusive. It is a subjective question which lends itself to the ability to be answered only by the person who it is being asked of. Which, ultimately, extends to the fact that its answer may very well not be understood by the person asking the question.
Secondly, and far more difficult to expand on, is the fact that is you are asking the question….you can’t answer the conundrum you find yourself presented with by the usual what or how so you are now seeking the “why” to try to make sense of something that is not immediately able to be comprehended.

So let’s add in the factor that the situation is death, and by suicide. You now have the impossibility of not being able to grasp and understand an inconceivable truth and event that HAS happened factored with the reality that the only person who CAN answer the questions is no longer alive to do so….and ….voila! Now we have the day by day existence of the survivors of losing a loved one to suicide.

Loss

It’s not just the loss of the him and the physical sense of him being gone….

It’s the sorrow that comes when you start to believe that you will never smile again and have it not shadowed by sadness

The loss of the belief that life CAN be ok again

The loss of joy and the accompanying feeling of hopelessness that you will ever feel joy again like you did before

The lack of belief that the universe makes sense….

Gifts

Not the physical gifts that we think of when we see or hear that word but something else entirely.
Gifts that sometimes can’t be recognized as such until later when we look back and realize that something that seemed like a curse was instead a blessing.
From mid November until late December 2011 Willie was hospitalized for mental health issues; specifically suicidal thoughts and intentions.
During that time there were endless trips back and forth from the hospital. Visits in his room on the ward, visits in the cafeteria when he couldn’t go off site and so many long car rides with him back and forth when he was finally allowed home visits. Sitting on his bed in his ward room while he paced and talked, chattering quickly and randomly from subject to subject. Moods swinging between hopefullness at getting released to despair that he would be kept longer. I would sit and watch him, listen to him and try to get a glimpse of what it must be like to be in that mind. I would watch the way his body would move. The twitches as he paced, the way he glided from side to side and moved with such grace. Long legs and arms, all gangly and skinny – just like any other 16 year old boy…but so different inside.
The cafeteria visits. Bad coffee for me, pretzels and a Gatorade for him. Him always wanting to stay a little longer before he had to go back to his ward; locked in and left alone. Him walking ahead or behind me in the hallway…depending on the mood…never beside me.
Those car rides were at times hostile and at times insightful into what was going on in his mind. I would drive and watch him with quick glances. What his hands did…the way they twisted and turned in his lap, the way his knees jumped and the way his feet would tap; restless and anxious….his body unable to move freely so the little movements taking over. His chatter moving from subject to subject while I sat most of the time and just listened or nodded, adding the odd voice of agreement or dissent. Many times I would open up and we would talk…really talk. About choices, about life, about nothing and everything.
All the hours spent in therapy sessions with him…watching him, listening to him…trying desperately to understand him to be able to get an understanding of how to “fix” him and make him better.
Looking back now….those weeks were such a blessing…a gift of such enormity! Through those hours and hours of listening and talking and being alone with Willie I was allowed to get to know him in a way that I don’t know if I ever would have, had he not become sick. With 4 children it is always challenging finding time to spend one on one with each of them! Through this, Willie and I were pushed together, alone, for hours on end! Because of the brutality and honesty that comes of dealing with mental illness the barriers of what to say and what not to say were shattered. We shared information and thoughts and fears beyond what would have ever been deemed “ok” in a “normal” life. I shared with him and him with me about fears and hopes. How scary it is to be unsure of what comes ahead and also the truth that even if we didn’t know, we would be able to figure it out together. He would agree but always there was a closing remark of hopelessness – of knowing that his path would not be what I hoped for.
While it hurts so bad to have him gone, I know that I was given the most beautiful gift of being able to see my son for who he was. In the midst of those weeks I wished so much for them to be over…for him to be better, to be released from the hospital and to be well. I had no idea at the time that those weeks were my blessing of being given memories to hold and cherish forever.
I have recently come to the clarity that it’s easy to be grateful for the good things….not so easy to be grateful for the hard, seemingly wrong things in our life. But even those things teach us; the biggest lesson being that they just may be a gift after all and not a trial or a curse.

Birthdays and passages

I have a friend who has a birthday approaching this month and he is not too keen on celebrating it. 41 is not, to most people, considered over the hill or old but for some reason it is not sitting well with him…Got me to thinking about age and the negative way that we view the process of growing and maturing and experiencing life.
Personally, I turned 40 last November. The year before that birthday I was very open with everyone that I was going to spend the whole year leading up to my birthday celebrating it – you only turn 40 once! I had “private” pictures done to mark the year of my 40th birthday; a gift to myself to remind me to love myself, as I am, physically – a lifelong issue for me. I talked about going away somewhere for a little trip…somewhere warm, with beaches and fun drinks with umbrellas in them….maybe taking a plane to get there! My closest friends know I don’t travel by plane, scared to death of them! And I never go anywhere…always some reason not to; money, time off work, kids, responsibilities…the list goes on and on, as it does for all of us.
So in the midst of all this chatter about my fast approaching leap into another decade the hammer fell in my family life and Willie became tormented with mental illness.
My 40th birthday was memorable…the day was spent doing intake interviews and sessions with psychiatrists and social workers and care nurses for my son at the Adolescent Psychiatric Unit; a locked ward we had him committed to the day before. Not a mention was made of my birthday and to be honest it would have passed for me without notice had it not been for the love of my sweetie who had come to visit and help me through the ordeal of that week. He was there, sitting in the chairs in the hallway of the hospital when the day was done and I stumbled out, exhausted and drained and despondant that I was leaving my son behind. He was there to take me out for a “celebratory” dinner and spent the entire time holding me in the booth while I cried too hard to even eat…he was there to tuck me in at home and hold me while I wept again and eventually cried myself to sleep.
I now have a very different view on birthdays and the passage of time in general…the day we were born is significant but it’s just another day in our incredible lives…every day needs to be celebrated and given the same reverence and honour as the date of our entry to this life. A very dear friend at work who is now well into his 70’s remarks that “every day on this side of the dirt is a great one”! Truer words were never spoken.
We hear all the time the saying that we aren’t promised tomorrow, that we don’t know how much time we have….and it’s true…sometimes it takes losing someone so close it hurts like you have died yourself to realize the truth in those words.
I know people who are chronologically young but old souls and brimming with insight and maturity… and we all know the flip side to be true as well! May we all find the balance between maturity and wisdom with a dash of childish giggles and wonder and joy!
Age doesn’t make us old…fixating on the number and the years behind us piling up take our focus off the fact that, with luck, we still have years AHEAD to live….
As we all start to process and deal with the grief and mourn Willie’s decision, it is becoming increasingly clear that his death has struck a nerve with so many that we need to wake up and stop going through life on auto-pilot.
For Willie, his birthdays end at 16. For the rest of us, we get the chance to celebrate every day that we wake up as the blessing it is. Experience the joy that we deserve and enrich someone else’s day every chance we get.
Never mind waiting for a celebratory “Happy Birthday”… make the best of every day you’re on this side of the dirt 😉

Glances down and a steady gaze forward

Morning run today….I find running a moving meditation for my spirit. It is when the chatter in my mind quiets as my body moves rhythmically and almost independently of my wishes. The mind settles and the thoughts flow and ebb as they will… it has taken years to cultivate this but it now takes just a few minutes into a run before that feeling of release settles in and my body glides and I hear my inner thoughts start to gather and wiggle out of the corners of my mind , ready to be finally attended to :)…as the day to day mind-numbing “to-do” lists and worries (some trivial, some very real) subside, the deeper more provoking thoughts wander on out to have their time at the forefront of my attention. Yes, there are runs that are simply physical but today was one of those magical times that it all settles and I just go….

I love just watching and listening to my thoughts, without judgements or direction from me, just observing and hearing “me” come out without the usual filters that I impose on my Self.

Today, as I ran, I made a loop through all my previous places of residence in the past 12 years … yes, lots of moves but all within an 8 km loop! I’ve done this loop more times than I can count but today was with a more present conscious look at each place and taking time to reflect on where my family was at that time and the journeys we have all been on as we moved from place to place. Our family growing and changing as it went…sometimes seemingly for the better, sometimes seemingly not, but always changing.

Part of my route takes me down some trails and there are a couple of kilometres that are just trail and a bit muddy and attention needs to be paid to footing or you run the risk of hobbling the rest of the run home rather than gliding! About half way down the trails I noticed that my mind had shut off…it was quiet…my focus was so intent on not slipping on the mud or tripping on tree roots or rocks – and a very loud voice in my head said “look up!” . I snapped my head up just in time to see that I was headed straight on for a massive mud puddle in about 2 steps…. I swerved, slid and regained my balance but not before I thought “damn, that was close”. Funny how lessons can be taught ….

Life is so often lived with staring down at the little trials and trip ups that we are navigating daily as we wander through what needs to be done and taken care of. The day to day mundane tasks that are necessary, the little things that seem to be so important and so affect us. Getting the groceries, paying the bills, oil changes for the car, housework, dentist appointments…the lists go on and on…all important things and items of life that need to be dealt with. The problem is that we live FOR those things. Those are the glances down to see what we need to watch out for. Never, or rarely looking up and forward to see where you are heading – or even where you ARE already.

2 years ago I separated from my then husband it was after many months of living head down, dealing with the day to day hell of a marriage that was in its last breaths. When I finally looked up, my first thought was “How the hell did I get here! This is NOT where I want to be”. I had been so caught up in “life” that I forgot to live true to what I wanted and needed. I made a vow to myself then that I would take the time to actually find out what it was that I did want – yes, I was that disconnected with “me” that I didn’t know. I just knew that where I was in my life was not making me happy. Half the battle of figuring out what you want is knowing what you don’t want. The next year and a half were a time of reflection, growth and understanding of myself and letting go of the pre-conceived notions of who I should be or what I should want. Acceptance of my likes and desires and releasing the self-doubt and the notion of limitations that I placed on myself.

Balanced throughout this was the realization that first and foremost my joy and my place is as a mother to my boys. My life is committed to them as much as to myself. All these thoughts and realizations and truths were settling last year as the summer came to a close and I was moving forward with a decision to make a move that would bring me to where I felt was right with my life.

As we know, life sometimes tosses a curve that we don’t see coming. As Willie became unwell last fall and the focus shifted back to the tree roots and mud so we all didn’t stumble, the steady gaze forward was lost. That’s ok…sometimes you need to have all your attention on your footing or you will end up face down and broken. The key is to know that even when you need that tight glance down you still need to occasional “heads up” just to keep on track.

Today’s lesson for me was very much that it is time to run forward with my gaze to where I am and where I want to go … with a little glance down to keep an eye out for trip ups but the focus has shifted to the bigger picture. The last thing we want is to get to the end of the run, look up and say “this is not where I wanted to end up…”