Monthly Archives: July 2013

Oh Happy Day

Standard
English: Downtown Traverse City, MI, USA, as v...

English: Downtown Traverse City, MI, USA, as viewed from West Grand Traverse Bay. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been what feels like a long time in coming, but I got some good news today regarding our upcoming move to Traverse City. I still don’t know exactly when or how we’ll make this happen, but I feel more confident than ever that it is going to happen fairly soon. I got a call today informing me that one of the places I applied to has accepted my renter’s application, and now we’re just waiting for something to open up. From what I could gather, they are expecting openings within the next couple of months.

I cannot put into words how happy I feel about moving us onto the next thing in life. I want us to be in a place where we have access to diverse experiences, a network of support within the recovery community, friends that I don’t get to see nearly often enough, options for schools when it’s time for Jaden to start kindergarten…In a word, freedom. Freedom to make choices I can’t make here, freedom to try and fail at some things, freedom to try and succeed at others, growing stronger and better all the while. As long as I am in what feels like an over-protective cocoon, I have no opportunity to see how strong I really am, or show Jaden what strength in all situations means.

I have been sorting through things over the last couple of weeks in anticipation of this move. I don’t know when we’re moving, but when the time comes, I want to be ready. Taking the steps toward a goal is inviting circumstances to transpire which will facilitate the achievement of that goal. My goal has been to get us moved out of here and to a place in Traverse City, and I firmly believe that is going to happen sooner than later.

There are a lot of things I am looking forward, first and foremost having a space that is really “ours,” where I feel more free to develop our tiny family of 2 as I would like to. I am also looking forward to have a bathroom that has a bathtub. When you have a small child, a bathtub is one of those things that you don’t really notice until it’s gone. I realize that there are billions of people on the planet who do quite nicely without bathtubs, and even without showers, but…I want a bathtub, and I’m looking forward to having one.

I am going to be 38 years old tomorrow. To be this age and living in my parents’ basement apartment with my son feels so…stagnate. I won’t say it isn’t scary to think about getting out there on our own again, but I have to keep in mind that for the first couple of years of Jaden’s life, we were doing just that, and we had less money coming in. Sure, there may be some lean times, but those are the times when we see what we’re really made of and what truly matters. We have learned to live without TV, I got rid of my expensive cell phone plan and instead use a prepaid service, we’re getting rid of material things we don’t want or need. All in all, we are learning to live with less, and those lessons are only better preparing us to face whatever the challenges may be when we’re out from under the umbrella offered here.

My outlook as I go forward is remarkably different from what I’ve had in the past, and I think that is going to make a tremendous difference is the outcomes. In the past, I felt profound fear, always worrying about how I am going to make ends meet, always waiting for the beast of failure to pounce and claim me and my life as its prey. Worry was my ever-present companion, and my fears would manifest in a multitude of ways, assuring that the failure I feared would be mine.

Not this time, though. I know I am strong. I know the universe is generous. I know that our thoughts create our reality, and when I feel the fears begin to rise, I must harness them, tame them, and put them in their proper place. I know that the love of God enfolds me, and where there is perfect love, there is no fear. I believe only good things wait for Jaden and me as we start down the next leg of our journey together, and each step on the way is an investment in a stronger future for Jaden and me.

Taking on something new is always a little intimidating, I think, but it’s a challenge I am ready for. I’d rather be moving forward and feel a little intimidated than be stuck and feel like I’m dying a little more every day.

You Are Loved

Standard
Getup Get God

Getup Get God (Photo credit: prettywar-stl)

I am currently reading “The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out” by Brennan Manning. I have heard much about this book over the years, but ever the cynic, had concluded that if the book is well-loved by Christians, it really must not be that well written. Here is the part where my cynicism must be fully revealed: I tend to distrust Christians as artists, in general. Whether it’s the written word, music, paintings, or whatever the case may be, my years in the Christian community have taught me that far too many “artists” in Christendom rely too heavily on Jesus and not enough on skill or passion to generate their art. I am sure I am not the only person who feels this way, though perhaps I am one of the few who will admit it, knowing full well it makes me look like a jerk. When I hear “Christian” in connection with an artist of any type, I have been known to physically groan.

There are the few, though, who are the exception. Over the years, a handful of artists have challenged my blanket policy of avoiding Christian art altogether and certainly humbled my exalted opinion of myself. Among these artists is Brennan Manning.

Sidebar: Regarding “blanket policies”…

One afternoon, Jaden was having quite a lot of fun spouting off various names for different people that were unkind, in their own childish way, and I told him he needed to call people by their rightful names.

“But Mom, I’m not being mean, I’m just being silly! Mommy Sillyhead, it’s okay to be silly and crazy, CrazyMommySillyFace!”

“Yes, it is okay to be silly and I love to be silly, but you know that if you don’t call people by their rightful names, it is going to get you in trouble at school. So we have to have the same rule at home.”

“But KissyFaceMom…”

“Jaden, I know you’re having fun, but we have to stop calling names, even silly names, so you don’t get in trouble. Let’s just make “no name calling” a blanket policy, okay?”

“A BLANKET POLICY?? MOM, that is so silly! How about we make it a pillow policy!”

And giggles beyond control ensue.

Sidebar concluded.

As I am reading through The Ragamuffin Gospel, I am impressed with one message over and over again: God loves you.

Over the years, especially growing up in church, I think that message has become skewed. For most of us who grew up in church, I think we received the message that good behavior is rewarded by a God who delights in good behavior, and bad behavior is punished by a God who delights in punishing people who behave badly. Not only does God delight in the punishment, but he eagerly anticipates opportunities to dole it out, so it’s best to keep yourself on God’s good side.

I have spent most of my life living in that paradigm. As I get older, I am beginning to understand that, just as fat-shaming usually only leads to more weight gain, attempting to shame and threaten a person into good behavior often results in worse behavior. The harder I tried to “behave” so I could be worthy of the rewards God supposedly wanted to dole out instead of the punishments God seemed to always have readily available, the more despair I felt in realizing that nothing I ever did would be “good enough.” There was always going to be another Jesus follower who was more righteous, more mission-focused, more Jesusy than me, and it is to those victors God would give the spoils of the universe.

I think the way many of the Christians I know were taught to think of God is similar to the way a woman might see an abusive husband. We do what we must to do keep him happy and hold his temper in check, but if our best behavior doesn’t work and he lashes out anyway, we are to assume it’s because we’ve done something to merit his anger, and should therefore tolerate the abuse. After all, what right does vermin have to expect unconditional love? What makes us think we are in any way worthy of it? We should be counting ourselves blessed if we’re even allowed to live another day, let alone feel “loved.”

Until fairly recently, my image of God was that of one who is a shady character, to say the least. I envisioned him as something akin to the owner of an elite club who was very particular about who was allowed in, and in fact preferred to let almost no one through the door. However, if you showed up with Jesus, God would still sneer at you and have every inclination of throwing you out, but since you showed up with Jesus, he had to let you in. He wouldn’t like letting you in, but a deal is a deal, and he had agreed long ago that anyone who showed up at his door with Jesus was allowed in, even if it was against God’s better judgment.

In all of this, all these many years of perceiving God as one who is all-powerful and ill-tempered and is held in check merely by the staying hand of Jesus, the idea of being loved never entered the equation. Tolerated, sure, but loved?

When I was in high school, one of the most popular shows on television was “Touched by an Angel.” The stories were corn-cheesy, to be sure, but the ultimate message was always the same. “God loves you.” Now, at the time, I thought…”Sure, he loves you, but you’re not getting anywhere near him if you don’t follow Jesus, and they aren’t sharing that part of the story. They are sharing what feels good, and leaving it at that!”

Yet, the message of grace begins with an acknowledgement of love. If there is no understanding of the notion that God loves us, just as we are, then everything else is meaningless. More than any fire and brimstone message ever could, more than any shaming ever could, more than any threat of punishment ever could, the message, “You are loved,” has the power to effect change in a person’s heart.

I do not believe many of the things I believed as a child, and my views of God and our relationship to him have been altered significantly and irreversibly over the years. However, the message of love is one that I am only just now beginning to grasp, and it is in this mindset that I am evolving beyond the false notions I grew up with.

One of the messages I am working to help Jaden get is that, while I don’t always love his behavior, my love for him is consistent and there is nothing he could ever do that would make me stop loving him. There is nothing he could ever do that would make me love him any less. There is also nothing he could do that could make me love him anymore, because I already love him completely.

I think the same is true of God. The idea of “sin” is, in my opinion, fairly primitive. Life is not so neatly divided into checklists of right and wrong, do and don’t. This doesn’t mean licentious living. Rather, it means adopting behavior that is going to help us best evolve as people and as a global community, for to do otherwise is injurious to ourselves and the world. The punishment for “sin” is built-in, and God doesn’t need to dole it out because the fruit of choices that cause harm are their own natural consequences.

How different the world would be if we embraced the simple message of unconditional, unwavering love, and chose not to make it about whose theology is right and whose is going to send them to hell. If we chose to operate from the premise of love rather than legalism, no longer worried about proving our views right and everyone else’s wrong, what a different place this world would be.

Clean Time, Good Books, and Counting Down

Standard

Yesterday was a fantastic day, and as I’ve not been able to get to sleep just yet, I thought I’d take some time to write about it.  

I have been meaning to get to an NA meeting for…something like…an embarrassing number of weeks. All told, I’ve been to three meetings since I stopped using back in April. I have been to one AA meeting, but as alcohol was not my substance of choice, I didn’t feel like I really “fit” there.

Sidebar: A dirty little secret in the recovery community is that, even though it shouldn’t matter, there is a difference in the way people respond to you depending on your addiction and which meeting you attend. For example, I am a recovering drug addict. I have had a problem with alcoholism, too, but it was never my substance of choice. As there are no Narcotics Anonymous meetings in my little town, it was suggested that I got to an AA meeting. I did. The people were friendly, there is no doubt about that, but it was mentioned to me after the meeting that I may want to tweak how I introduce myself, as in putting more emphasis on the alcoholic part than on the addict part of “alcoholic addict.” Similarly, I have heard from alcoholics that they experienced something similar when they attended a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. I don’t know why we differentiate, as substance abuse is substance abuse, and it is all destructive if it’s not dealt with. Still, alcoholics in Narcotics Anonymous meetings and drug addicts at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings often don’t feel like they are with “their people.” 

Anyway, so I haven’t been to an NA meeting in awhile, other than the one I went to at the conference a couple weeks ago, and that wasn’t quite the same. When I woke up yesterday, though, I knew I had to get to a meeting. The pressure lately has been overwhelming as I’ve been dealing with a lot of stressers and it has been VERY tempting to pop a pill…or even knock back a drink or two…just to feel some relief for a little while. 

Of course, as any recovering addict will tell you, one pill is too many and a thousand is never enough. There is no such thing as a social addict. There is no such thing as an addict who uses “just a little.” If you are in recovery, taking one pill or one drink is all it takes to send you into a downward spiral into a relapse. 

So, getting to a meeting and feeling the support there. It wasn’t extraordinary for anything that happened or conversations that took place, but it felt good to be with others in recovery who can relate to the process. And, I got this: 

Image

 

It’s actually been 112 days, but I missed my 90 day meeting and I wanted my keychain! The keychain isn’t the point, but having something to recognize the work I’ve put into my recovery and the choice to stay the course even when things are difficult. Recovery is by no means easy. Many people have setbacks. Many people relapse and never see another day of clean time. I am grateful to have made it this far, because let me tell you, this early in recovery, it is very tempting to relapse just to end the frustration of learning how to live without the substances to fall back on.

After the meeting, I went to see a friend and we hung out and caught up for awhile. Then, he gave me two of the most AMAZING books I have ever had the joy of reading: “Stuff White People Like” and “Whiter Shades of Pale” by Christian Lander. I don’t want to offer any spoilers, but the books are about things white people like, and as a white person, I can fully agree with just about everything listed in these books, and laugh about it! I am shockingly white, it turns out. 

Tomorrow evening, my son comes home. He’s been gone since Sunday night, and while I miss him, I am feeling some anxiety about him coming home. I need to develop better coping skills, including giving myself a time out when I need it so I don’t get so frustrated with him that I feel I am reaching a breaking point. I also need to attend meetings regularly and get the support of others who have been where I am and can offer insight that others who haven’t been there can’t offer. I know that having him home again is going to present its fair share of challenges, but I also know that I have resources available to me to help me overcome these challenges and I don’t need to be fearful or anxious. 

 

I Believe…I Believe…

Standard

Image

On particularly rough days

when I’m sure I can’t possibly endure,

I like to remind myself that my track record

for getting through bad days so far is 100%,

and that’s pretty good.

Jaden has been with my sister and her family for the last few days, and it wasn’t until he was gone that I realized how exhausted I really was. I have spent a lot of time resting, too physically drained to do a whole lot of anything. There are a lot of things I would like to get done in this time, but I realize that getting some rest and some quiet, without interruption, is critical if I am to be ready for him to come back in a few days.

Parenting is an exhausting venture, even on a good day. When you have a child who is “hard to parent,” and you are also trying to focus on recovery from addiction, parenting goes from being exhausting to being almost completely overwhelming. I have been hangin’ on the best I can for the last couple of weeks, but there comes a point where something’s gotta give. In this case, I was grateful that my sister and her family were able to take Jaden for a few days, because I was worried that the thing that was about to give was my recovery.

I have never been one to doctor shop, so the option of going to a doctor to get medication isn’t something that ever crossed my mind. There is one health care center in my small town, and with my well documented history of substance use and abuse, there is no way I could ever go there and say, “Yeah, so this whole ‘clean time’ thing isn’t exactly working out as I hoped it would, and, um…oh yeah! my back hurts!…can I have some drugs?”.

Until recently, the idea of compromising my recovery is something that didn’t occur to me. However, I have hit the point in the process that every recovering addict eventually faces, and that is the end of the miraculous, non-drug-induced high that can come with the first 90 days of clean time, when the euphoria lifts and you are left to deal with life without the crutch of pills to pop when things feel stressful. Detoxing is easy. Getting through the first 90 days of recovery is not without challenges, but still comparatively easy. It’s everything that comes after that…the kick in the teeth that happens when you realize all the coping mechanisms you’ve used up to this point are gone and you have to learn new ways of dealing with the stress of life…that’s when the real work begins.

With my sweet boy gone for a few days, I’ve realized a couple of things. First, his presence makes my days worth having. As much as I have enjoyed the quiet and the solitude, I also see that it would be very easy for me to slip into a really dark place in my mind if I didn’t have him to bring light and energy to my days. Even though his presence in my life was utterly unplanned, even though being a mother has not been without its incredible challenges, there is no denying that he has made my days more colorful, and he gives me someone besides myself to think of every moment of every day. He is a gift.

A friend on Facebook posted a little picture for me with this quote on it:

I am your parent. You are my child. I am your quiet place. You are my wild. I am your calm face. You are my giggle. I am your wait. You are my wiggle. I am your dinner. You are my chocolate cake. I am your bedtime. You are my wide awake. I am your lullaby. You are my peekaboo. I am your goodnight kiss. You are my ” I Love You.” – Maryann K. Cusimano

And every bit of that is true. Children, whether they are our own or they are children that we are privileged to have in our lives through friends, family, our vocation, or simply meeting them along the way, are the incredible, miraculous beings that make this world a happier, lighter, brighter place just by being a part of it. Children tether us to the wonderment of existence, reminding us that life is not meant to be taken so seriously all the time and that there are worlds within worlds within worlds to discover. When I look into my son’s eyes, I see glimpses of those worlds, and I know that I have only just begun to get to know him.

It is because he is such a treasure in my life that I have been giving serious thought to what is best for both of us as I get through the difficulties of adjusting to “clean” living. The truth is that for his whole life, up until … what is it, 15?…weeks ago, I had never been totally without drugs or alcohol. It isn’t something I’m proud to admit, but this blog is a no-holds-barred glimpse into my life, and being an addict has been a significant aspect of my life for several years, and it has been a major influencing factor in Jaden’s life since the day he was born.

As I adjust to parenting without pills, I find myself feeling more frustrated with my son, unable to deal with his strong will and brilliant mind when all I want him to do is just go to bed, or clean his room, or stop whining, or just give me five minutes of silence so I can THINK, or…or…or… I do not have the coping mechanisms to deal with these frustrations very well, and it becomes more and more evident as I get further into my recovery and have to face life outside of the protective fog of morphine.

Last week, during a particularly heated battle of the wills, I got angry and clenched my fist. I didn’t strike him, but I so easily could have, and don’t think I don’t feel like a rotten mother for even having the clenched fist in the first place. It scared me, which is why I asked for help. I was at a point where I didn’t feel safe having my son in our home, and I just needed a break. I suspect he needed a break, too.

I miss him. I miss his sweet laughter and his brilliant mind and his snuggles. As much as I miss him, though, I also realize that I still need some time before I am ready to have him back. I have given some thought to what I will do when this weekend comes and Jaden comes home. I know I will be glad to see him. I know I will hug him and kiss him and listen to his myriad stories that always begin with, “Mom, guess what…,” and I will savor the way his light fills our home again.

I also know that the time will come when we will disagree on how our little world should operate, and it is in that moment that the real challenge of having him home again will begin. As much as it is an adjustment for me to learn how to parent clean, it is an adjustment for him to have a mom who is present and authoritative, and he isn’t sure yet how to navigate his world with this new mommy.

I talked with a friend yesterday who has been exactly where I am. After a lot of talk about the importance of not obsessing about how we got here, not rehashing all the woulda-coulda-shoulda thoughts about how I might have prevented this, it becomes important to simply accept where we are and find a constructive solution for dealing with it. Should I check in to rehab and have Jaden placed into a temporary foster care w/structured visits for us, counseling for us individually and as a family, help through rehab in learning how to cope with life in recovery…? Should I stay home and go to outpatient treatment while Jaden is at school, getting connected with a counselor to help me get healthy? Should I ask our family intervention case worker for help in finding a program that would provide safe and healthy temporary placement for Jaden so I can focus on recovery, relocation, and restoration? What should I do?

I would like to say I have clarity. I dont have it, though. I know there are a lot of options out there, but all of them involve doing something I don’t feel at all ready to do, and that is letting go of my son for awhile. Even though I know it would ultimately be in his best interests, and in mine, it is something I can’t bring myself to think about too much, except perhaps in the most fatalistic terms.

I have considered if he would be better off without me entirely, perhaps in my sister’s custody permanantly, or in the legal custody of the friends who would take him if something happened to me and my sister couldn’t take him in. I have considered that just maybe…just maybe…that would be the better solution all around. Maybe he would be better off with someone else, now and for the duration of his childhood.

You see where my mind goes when I don’t have him here?

I went outside tonight to look at the moon. I missed Jaden especially in that moment, because that is something we like to do together. When I first went outside, all I could think of is why in the world I was even here at all. I wondered how people who live with psychic pain find the courage to carry on day after day, week after week, year after year, until the sweet release of death finally comes knocking. Where do we find the courage to get up and face the world all over again, every day, choosing to believe that today will somehow be better than yesterday, making it all worthwhile? How do we humans do it?

I told God I wanted out. I imagine his response to that was something along the lines of, “Nope.”

As I looked at the moon and marveled at its glow, I recalled a prayer I learned a few years ago when I attended the Unity Church.

The light of God surrounds me.

The love of God enfolds me.

The power of God protects me.

The presence of God watches over me.

Wherever I am, God is, and all is well.

This prayer is known as the Prayer for Protection, penned by one James Dillet Freeman in 1941. I could only remember the first two lines, and the last line, so I began praying… “The light of God surrounds me, the love of God enfolds me, wherever I am, God is, and all is well.” I walked up and down the driveway, the moonlight feeling watchful and protective, and prayed that prayer over and over again. I was reminded of a conversation I had with another friend in which she advised me to live in the moment…and in that moment, pacing the driveway and bathing in the moonlight, everything was okay. There was no need for the anxiety I was feeling, because all was just as it should be in that moment. I prayed and I made the effort to be present, and eventually, despair gave way to peace.

I still don’t know exactly what I will do when Jaden gets home. I am going to call our case worker later today and give her the unsanitized version of what I am dealing with, telling her in no uncertain terms that I need help as I work out living this new life. I am trusting the process and believing that simply telling her I need help, and telling her exactly why, is going to be enough for her to use her position to open some doors for us. If it means I need to be away from my son for awhile so we can both be stronger and healthier, it will be with a saddened but hopeful heart that I will embrace what needs to happen.

This is not the end of our story. I think it is so easy to mistake the middle of the story for the end when things get difficult, particularly when they are so difficult that the odds seem absolutely and irreversibly stacked against you. I refuse to believe that our tiny family cannot be saved, and that we cannot be made stronger and healthier for the experience. I refuse to mistake the middle of the story for the end. The plot has thickened, certainly, but there are still connections to be made and answers to be revealed before the final page is written.

I am still looking forward to the day when we can look back on all of this, and sometimes it is only the anticipation of that day that makes me want to keep trying and make the effort to get things right. I have made a lot of mistakes. I have at least as many skeletons in my closet as my readers have, and perhaps more. The one redeeming factor in all of this is that I know that the things I am going through can eventually be used to help others who are facing odds that they think are insurmountable. We are not victims, and our stories need not be tales of defeat. We are stronger than we know, and our strength is revealed not in epic shows of indomitible will, but in the steady pace of living each day with the courage to carry on even when things seem to be pushing us beyond what we think we can endure. We can’t mistake the middle of our stories for the end. There is much yet to be written.

“Everyday create your history.” — Michael Jackson

Truth.

As to the title of this blog, it comes from this little video, which makes me smile every time I watch it because it reminds me that our world, our reality, begins with belief. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Standard
SuperMom, in all her packaged glory

SuperMom, in all her packaged glory (Photo credit: happyworker)

As of today, I am 15 weeks clean. It feels good to be able to say that, especially when I think of the incredible challenges I’ve been facing as I walk this road. On April 5, when I decided it was time to get clean, I never could have perceived that the hard part of living clean was not giving up the drug and detoxing, but learning how to stay clean when the hard stuff of life comes at you and popping a pill to make it all go away would hold an allure like never before.

The area in my life where I am seeing the most challenges to my clean time is my relationship with my son. My son is at once the best and worst thing that ever happened in my life. Before anyone misunderstands that and thinks I’m a horrible person for living in that dichotomy, let me explain.

I love my son tremendously, more than I ever thought it was possible to love another human being. Certainly, I have loved before, but when I gave birth to my son, it was as though I was experiencing love in its purest form for the very first time. I had no expectations of him, realizing that my job was to pour unconditional love into his life, and his job was simply to receive it. He could give me nothing in return, as he was fully dependent on me for everything needed to sustain life. His job, if it could be said that he had one, was simply to teach me how to love better.

I loved my baby, everything about him. From the start, he had a mind of his own, He had a preference for how I held him, where I stood and did the maternal sway as I held him, where he slept, and so on. Newborns are far more aware of their environs than we give them credit for, I think. At the tender age of one day old, my little man knew when his bassinet was too far away from my hospital bed for me to be able to reach over and touch him, and he would essentially say, “Mom, I am too far away from you. Can you fix that, please?”.

As he gets older, his strong will and keen intellect continue to be his trademark, evident to people who meet him only in passing as well as to those who are a part of his daily life. I love that he has his own mind and his own way of seeing the world, and for the most part, I roll with it. He insists that he lived in Africa at one point in his life, with his grandmother and his sister, and that he had a best friend named Nefelenabobo. To my knowledge, this is all but completely impossible. He is an only child, my mom has never lived outside of the U.S. and his other grandmother has never met him. I also think I’d remember if I gave birth to a daughter at some point in my life.

I love his imagination, though. When he talks about his life in Africa, it is as real to him as his life here with me, and I encourage him to share his stories with me. Accordingly, he has told me of his adventures with his sister and his best friend, and these adventures often include seeing zebras and elephants. I cherish these stories, and I never want to quash his love for letting his imagination run and spinning a good tale.

As he gets older, though, I am also realizing that managing his strong will is something that is incredibly difficult to do as a single parent, particularly a single parent who is still early in recovery from drug addiction. While 15 weeks clean is a monumental amount of time for an addict to stay away from their drug of choice, it is still “just” 15 weeks, which is a small amount of time in the larger scope of things. As with a 15 week old human baby, a person only 15 weeks into recovery is still discovering an entirely new world, seeing with new eyes, experiencing all of life’s guts and glory without the aid of a drug to either make the highs higher or make the lows go away entirely. Trying to be a good parent in the middle of it all is a daunting task, and damn near impossible.

“Intervention” has long been one of my favorite shows. I enjoy seeing people face their demons and allowing themselves to be vulnerable so their healing may begin. The show breaks my heart every time, because the struggle with addiction is profound and raw and human, and it is not to be the stuff of entertainment or tabloid fodder. It is real, life and death stuff, and “Intervention” puts a human face on the struggle. The people who agree to be part of the show are very brave, even if they don’t realize they are about to face an intervention. Putting all the ugliness, all the broken-ness of addiction out in the open for all to see is no small thing.

The addicts that really get me are the women who have children, who seem…at a glance…unable to understand how their addiction is impacting the lives of their kids, who are but innocent bystanders caught up in the mess of someone else’s epic battle. I have to admit, when I see what some of the women put their kids through, I sometimes think, “Well, at least I’m not THAT bad!”.

Except, I am.

My choice to get clean has impacted my son’s life in a multitude of game-changing ways. Many of those ways are good. I am present and aware with him in the time we have together. I am better able to participate in his life rather than simply standing by the sidelines with a dopey grin on my face. We are experiencing the give and take of life together.

I know, however, that it has not been easy for him to adjust to his “new” mommy, because up until April 5 of this year, I had never been clean during his lifetime. My use varied in its degree of severity over the years, but until 15 weeks ago, I was “Jaden’s Mom, On Drugs.” As I was that person, the boundaries and expectations I had of him were malleable, as I was so mellow that I could just roll with whatever was happening at the moment. If what was happening at the moment was my son deciding he didn’t want to do what I asked him to do, or do what I asked him to do only after he did everything but that, or whatever the case may be, I was not gonna make a big deal about it.

As I continue in my clean time, I am taking the reigns away from him and becoming the parent in this household. I have taken steps to establish firm boundaries and expectations of him, with clearly defined consequences if those expectations aren’t met. I’ve learned what his currency is, and I use it regularly as I establish my place of authority in his life.

This has been a tough turn of events for both of us, and I think I can speak for him when I say that we both hate how incredibly difficult this has been, although likely for different reasons.

Days like yesterday remind me of how very much of my role as a parent I sacrificed on the altar of drug abuse. The four years of my son’s life that I spent sowing the seeds of criminally mellow attitudes are now reaping a harvest of incredibly stubborn will and a blatant disregard for my role as the parent in this household.

It is days like yesterday that cause me to wonder if getting clean was really worth it. On one hand, I know that of course it is, but on the other hand, life is really hard when you’re awake and aware.

The last few weeks have been marked by tremendous power struggles in our home. Many four year olds are looking for ways to establish power in their lives, and this yearning is usually satisfied by offering them the choice of a blue shirt or a red shirt to wear for the day. Give them that choice, and they feel like they are ruling the world.

Not so with my son, though, as he has been ruling his world as a sovereign authority for his entire life. I was there to provide food and shelter and warmth and tenderness, but the choices he made were his to make, because his doped up mom was too checked out to care all that much, so long as he wasn’t burning the house down or torturing animals.

The battle to establish myself as the parent, though…To say it’s been difficult is an understatement of massive proportions. Yesterday, after I told my son it was time for a “quiet time,” he asserted his will, making it clear he didn’t want a quiet time and fully expected me to support that choice, and told me, “You’re mean! You’re ugly! i don’t like you! I am gonna punch you in the face and kick you and hurt you and keep doing it until you say ‘fine’!”.

Clearly, throwing my arms up in surrender and saying, “Fine!” is his cue that he has achieved his goal and been given his way. I don’t recall doing this very often, but I apparently have done it often enough that it is the result he expects to achieve if he puts up enough of a fight.

However, I kept calm and carried on, and we ultimately did have a bit of peaceful quiet time. Yay for me! Except that I also realized that I cannot continue having these battles with him, because with every battle we have, I feel less and less competent as a parent, and less and less willing to stay clean. The pain of realizing utter failure as a parent is profound and eviscerating, and it is a feeling I don’t like to experience.

After his quiet time, he spent the rest of the afternoon with his Papa, and I spent my afternoon choking back tears and wondering what I was going to do because I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing.

I am blessed with very sensitive friends that I talk to via social media, and one of them in particular reached out to me. After giving her a terse, “I’m not okay, but I will eventually be okay, and I don’t want to talk about it,” I eventually did talk to her about it, and shared with her that I thought I had reached a point of being unable to take care of my son and continue staying clean. It’s too much to do all at once, especially with a child whose mind is constantly working, whose energy level never wanes, and with whom the jockeying for a position of authority has become exhausting.

I felt such shame as I shared with her that I had reached this point. Her response, if it could be morphed into a person, would have been dresse to the nines for its brilliance and compassion. Bascially, she told me that I was right, it was time to get a breather and work on myself and let someone else take care of Jaden for awhile.

Say what you will about friendships developed and maintained on social media, but I see them as absolute godsends. There are people all over the world that may “get” us when those we see on a daily basis may not. Perhaps it is the clarity that comes with objectivity, or the fact that we are all human and we all struggle and our connectedness with each othe isn’t limited by physical perimeters. Whatever the case, my friend helped remove the stigma and shame from the place I found myself in  yesterday, and encouraged me to be brave and do what had to be done for Jaden’s health as much as my own.

So, yesterday evening, through many tears and some raw honesty, I asked my sister if she and her husband could take my son for awhile, adopting him into their little family while I sort some things out. It was not easy to ask. I was glad to be holding my sweet little nephew as my sister and I talked, comforted by the tiny angel resting ever so sweetly in my arms, reminding me with every breath he took that life is precious and it is worth fighting for.

I have heard it said that hell is other people. Sometimes, that means especially family. However, heaven can be other people, too, especially family.

My sister responded with deep compassion and said that, while she had to talk it over with her husband, she was sure they would be able to take him for a little while so I could work on myself. I told her I felt like such a failure for not being able to care for him the way I need to, and I never wanted to be one of those addicts who reached this point. I told her that it is really difficult to see your child have so many issues to sort out, and to know that those issues are present because you chose to use.

She reminded me that I also chose to get clean, and that this road is going to be rough for awhile, but we’ll get through it. The day is going to come when this will all be in the past, and we’ll be better for having gone through it.

Right now, I’m just looking forward to looking back on all this.

I am broken. Deeply broken. I have a lot of work to do in healing the wounds that led to my use in the first place, and then healing the wounds that my use inflicted on others, most especially my beautiful son.

I never meant for the numbing of my pain to cause him any injury. Yet, at 4 1/2 years old, he believes he is responsible for my happiness and to blame for my sadness, neither of which is true. I am thankful that children his age are notoriously resilient and there is still time to make this right and lay a strong foundation for a healthy life for him. Yet, the guilt I feel is profound. I was entrusted with an innocent, pure life, and I’ve managed to screw it up pretty well.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Of all the ways that nugget of wisdom could be applied, seeing it from the angle of being a parent seems to fit perfectly. I’m not a superhero. I don’t have the ability to do anything that would merit an entire comic book series based on my awesomeness. However, being a parent does give me great power in my son’s life, and with that power comes great responsibilty. With a look or a touch or a tone of voice, I have the power to alter my son’s world irrevocably. That’s a lot of power. It is therefore my responsibility to recognize when I am overwhelmed by the burden which comes with having such power, and I have reached my limit and I need help.

My emotional nerves are raw. My heart is broken. I feel like I have failed in every way that matters. But…I feel a small ebb and flow of serenity even in the midst of this maelstrom, knowing that the day will come when I will be able to be the mom I want to be, and all of this will be in the past. It’s only a small comfort right now, but it is something, and I’m holding onto it for dear life.

For Cryin’ Out Loud

Standard

When it all comes down
And it all falls apart
And there’s no way to win
And you’re left with a broken heart

And you can’t look down
‘Cuz it’s too far to fall
And you can’t look forward to nothing
‘cept looking’ back upon it all

Look up, and cry out
Don’t be afraid to rage
Don’t be afraid to shout
Look up
For crying out loud
You’ve both been waiting for this day
For a long time now
Long time now

When you can’t stand up
And you can’t sit still
And you can’t get through the night
Without a sleeping pill

And the days drag out
And the nights never end
And you’re tired of talking it out
On the phone with all your friends

Look up, and cry out
Don’t be afraid to scream
Don’t be afraid to shout
Look up
For crying out loud
You’ve both been waiting for this day
For a long time now
Long time now
Long time now

Beautiful People

Standard
Beauty im Hotel Legenstein

Beauty im Hotel Legenstein (Photo credit: Hotel Legenstein)

A couple weeks ago while looking through my old blog, I came across some of the pictures of myself that I felt needed to be uploaded and preserved on the internet for all of eternity, to be enjoyed by future generations who may be wondering what a single thirty-something woman looked like back in the day when people didn’t know how to communicate soley through telepathy and didn’t travel by teleport.

As I looked through these old pictures, I had a realization: I was at one time a relatively attractive woman. Maybe even, perhaps, beautiful. I had nice skin, my smile was more radiant and I didn’t have the embarrassment of a chipped tooth to try to hide when I smiled. I was…pretty.

As I looked through these and felt a longing to return to those pre-cancer days when my skin was aglow, I didn’t overheat from blood messed up by cancer treatments, and so on, it occurred to me that we probably overlook our own beauty all the time. Before cancer and all it did to me, before drugs, before having a baby, before stress, I never would have looked at those pictures and thought, “Wow, I am actually kinda hot!”. No, instead, I was as consumed then as I am now with thinking I am unattractive, perhaps even ugly in some ways, and I will never be “pretty enough for…. (insert Disneyesque idealism regarding what possessing physical beauty can do for a girl).”

I wonder how often it is that we completely miss our beauty. Not only our physical beauty, which is subject to changing and fading away, but our beautiful selves simply as people. How often do we fall into that ugly trap of saying we’re not good enough because…? I know I fall into that trap frequently.

Yesterday, I took the greeting cards I have been working on and went to a couple places in town to peddle my wares. When I am making my cards, I am often quite pleased with how they turn out, until I consider that someone else can probably make them ten times better because they don’t have a chipped tooth to contend with, or a body that overheats and doesn’t cool down well since having radiation therapy in 2007, or is still early in recovery from addiction, or…or…or…

When I took my cards around, I sold just about every card I had made in the last week or so. The great sales not only gave me a bit of a financial boost, but also helped me feel good about the work I do. I take pride in the things that I make, and I know on some level that I make pretty things that people want to have. Yet I am still surprised when I actually make sales.

Perhaps it’s a lot like when I look at those old pictures, and I realize that despite what I may have felt at the time, I looked pretty amazing. Despite my lack of confidence, the things I make or write are pretty good, sometimes even approaching amazing, and is it really any surprise when people show appreciation for it?

Why are always so surprised when we do well, but seem to accept it as par for the course when we do anything poorly? Who told us that being a failure is our “thing,” and we should therefor be properly shocked when we actually do something well and people like it?

Who told me I was ugly? Well, in that regard, I could name names, but I won’t. I will only say that this paradigm so many of us live in which says that we are somehow inferior to others, less worthy of abundant living than others, less worthy of being celebrated than others…is a lie. We are all beautiful people who are well deserving of celebration, and the beauty we possess in our souls by far outshines any temporary and fragile beauty we may exude with our frail exterior.

Another lesson learned today: Celebrate true beauty, and don’t get hung up on the beauty that is fleeting. Even after our physical bodies have been through much wear and tear and left us worse for it, our soul’s beauty is only made brighter by the trials if we allow that to happen.

Lately, the following lyrics come to mind repeatedly. It’s a good personal reminder about what makes a person beautiful. Jesus is by far one of the most beautiful people to ever have walked the planet. If I can shine with his radiance, I don’t see how beauty can ever fade.

Beautiful You

by Considering Lily

You may have dyed your hair a shade that freaks your mother out
It may be green but it looks clean did you try to rinse it out?
You may grill meat at Burger King for a part time job
And you may have your father’s name and that name maybe Bob
You may have pierced your body parts one too many times
And have a huge collection of those Japanese wind chimes

Beautiful you all of the time
Jesus in you makes you shine
Beautiful you Beautiful you

You may drive a panel van you painted by yourself
You may have a chess club trophy sitting on your shelf
You may wear flannel everyday and every night to bed
And you might like to always wear a beanie on your head
You may have a rat named Rover for a little pet
Speakers bigger than your bedroom now your deep in debt

Beautiful you all of the time
Jesus in you makes you shine
Beautiful you where ever you go
He sees your heart we see your glow
Beautiful you Beautiful you

Do you see the light in me?
Do you see the joy upon my face?
I only want to be like Him
I only want to hear somebody say

Beautiful you all of the time
Jesus in you makes you shine
Beautiful you where ever you go
He sees your heart we see your glow
Beautiful you all of the time
Jesus in you makes you shine

Beautiful you

Beautiful you

Beautiful you

Beautiful you

There Is No Try

Standard
yoda

yoda (Photo credit: jprdgz)

Today was one of those days…You know the kind. Those inky black days when you can’t get away from the shadow hanging over you, no matter how much you want to get into the light. I had a productive day, creating lovely things that people seem to like and perhaps fancy sending to their friends in the form of the now antiquated postal service. I enjoy creating these things, and it was in those moments of creativity that I felt the most light and warmth today.

I could blame these overshadowing days on a lot of things. I could blame it on post-acute withdrawal syndrome, as I am closing in on 15 weeks clean and this is about the time that PAWS sets in, according to the experts. I could blame these days on the fact that I voluntarily stopped taking Zoloft, as it made me feel disconnected from myself and my world and I believed it had outlived its usefulness in my life. (I know I’m gonna catch hell for that from some of my readers, and that’s okay.) I could blame it on the fact that I never got the Pepsi soda dispenser thing I asked for EVERY CHRISTMAS for the latter part of the 1980s, and I never got it. I could blame it on a lot of things.

I think the biggest reason, though, is…me. I am my own worst enemy. For as long as I can remember, I have been stuck in a behavior that is just as addictive, if not more, than any drug I’ve ever put into my body. I get stuck on the high of feeling low. I have lived in a place of self-loathing and self-destruction for so long, my brain is wired to create thoughts and generate the chemistry needed to bring me down, no matter the circumstances in my life. Life could be perfect…I could be a size 6 again, I could have a nice home for my son and me, I could have an ample income so paying bills wouldn’t be a problem, I could have a wonderful man in my life who loves me just as I am, and loves my son, and wants us both around for the duration, I could have written multiple bestsellers and toured every independently owned bookstore in the nation to promote my book, stickin’ it to The Man by catering specifically to the small business owner and telling the big box bookstores that I don’t need their business, thank you very much, because I am doing MORE than fine by peddling my wares in the small “mom and pop” bookstores and I’ll be damned if Barnes and Noble or Walmart is going to undersell my beloved independent booksellers…I could have all of that, and I would still manufacture reasons to be desperately unhappy.

As I often do, I watched documentaries while I worked on my cards. I chose to watch segments of “What the BLEEP Do We Know!?,” as there are certain segments of that movie that tear me apart in all the best ways, deconstructing my perceived reality and forcing me to carefully consider how I would like to rebuild it.

The first segment I watched is the one that gets me EVERY TIME, because I can relate to it so well:

I know very well the pattern of looking into the mirror, studying my reflection, spewing vile things at myself and getting high on feeling low. I know what it is to want to destroy the reflection, feeling and hearing the mirror shatter as I strike at the woman looking back at me, as though destroying glass could somehow destroy the woman. Seven years bad luck be damned, that reflection, that symbol of all I love and loathe about who I am, must be destroyed.

I’ve only ever destroyed one mirror, and not in nearly so dramatic a fashion as depicted in the film, but I understand the rage.

The next segment I watched was this one:

This segment destroys me, because I am reminded of how powerful my thoughts really are. My thoughts can make or break me faster and far more efficiently than any source outside of myself ever could. That is true for all of us. I think many of us are zombies, walking death, destroying ourselves long before our physical demise ever occurs because we feed ourselves with thoughts that equate to a soul death.

As I watched these segments, I slowly began to wake up from my funk and realize, again, how much control I have over how I perceive and experience the world, and how those perceptions can effect a reshaped reality.

But this wake up call came after I had all but completely, epically failed.

It was a great day with my beloved son until around 9 o’clock in the evening. At that point, I did the unthinkable and asked…no, told…him to go brush his teeth and get ready for bed. He cheerfully skipped off to the bathroom, and I got lost in stamping some cards. I don’t know how much time passed, but I realized it had been quite a bit longer than it should have been since I had seen my boy’s bright and beautiful face, so I thought I’d better go see what’s going on.

And that’s when it happened. I knocked on the door and went into the bathroom and found that he had taken his toothpaste and emptied nearly all of its contents into the sink, and proceeded to mix that with water. I was a little stunned at first, and then I asked him what in the world he was doing. He explained to me matter of factly that he wanted pink water, and the only way to get that was to use his toothpaste.

In the larger scope of events, I suppose the fact that there is one less tube of toothpaste in the world is not big deal. Even the fact that there was whole lot of it everywhere around the sink was probably also not a big deal. There are a whole lot of things about the scenario that are not a big deal.

However, I didn’t see it that way at the time. A power struggle ensued.

“Get ready for bed!”

“NO!”

“Get READY FOR BED…NOW!”

“NO! I’m gonna hit you!”

“YOU DO, AND THAT WILL BE THE LAST THING YOU DO TODAY, I PROMISE YOU THAT!”

Oh boy, was it ugly.

It’s times like this when I really, really wish I had another person co-parenting with me, so I could defer to him because I have just had ENOUGH. I would love to be able to say, “Will you please come here and deal with your son?!”. Of course, ideally, I wouldn’t have to prompt him, and he would be such an excellent husband and father that these power struggles wouldn’t be happening in the first place. Dream a little dream…

Anyway, lacking a husband, I dealt with it the way I tend to do when I am stressed beyond what I can handle at the moment. I walked away and gave myself a “time out.” No, just kidding. I yelled. And Jaden yelled back. And I yelled more. And Jaden told me again that he was going to hit me. I spanked him. He cried. I felt horrible. I hugged him and kissed him. And then, he broke my heart.

“Mommy, are you happy with me again now?”

I really think it would have been less painful if someone had run me through with a pitchfork. What have I done to my son to plant the seed of inadequacy within him? What have I done to give him the belief that it is HIM I am unhappy with, rather than his behavior?

Considering that I was on dope for all but the last 14.5 weeks of his life, I’m sure I’ve done plenty. None of it done with the intention to be hurtful, none of it done with malice, but all of it done as a result of my choices. I am seeing the direct impact of my choice to use drugs and disengage rather than be fully present with my son, as well as the impact of my choice to parent clean for the first time ever. It’s tough stuff. And it kills me that my son is feeling the brunt of it.

I know he probably didn’t “get” most of it, but I did the best I could to explain to him that it is never HIM that I am unhappy with, but it is his behavior that I am unhappy with sometimes, because I know he is good boy and I want to see him behave as a good boy.

Hashtag: MomFail

After snuggles and kisses and chocolate milk and prayer, Jaden was tucked into bed and fell asleep soon after. I proceeded to wrestle with my self-loathing, which had been reinforced by the evidence of my bad parenting. And I don’t mean BAD in the good way. I mean bad in the bad way. When I say I am one bad mother, I mean it. At least, tonight I do.

After licking my wounds for a sufficient length of time, I decided to watch “What the BLEEP: Down the Rabbit Hole.” As I watched, I felt soothed, realizing …again… that I could make things right. This was not the end of the road for Jaden or me, and I still had time to develop healthy habits with my son and to repair the damage done by the years of detached parenting. The road to health and healing begins with my thoughts, and persisting to dwell on the thoughts of how awful I am does nothing to help Jaden or me.

I have been keeping a journal for Jaden since before he was born. I am on my second journal for him, and also have many letters that I wrote to him while he was still in the womb. Preserving these moments of relection about my son, my hopes and dreams for him, the amazing things he does and says, all of it, is important to me. Writing about this ugly, awful night was important to me, because I think he needs to know the road we’ve traveled together. I am never afraid to admit my shortcomings, and I believe I owe it to him… especally if he’s going to be in therapy later in life, which could easily happen… to tell him that I realize I’ve not been the perfect parent, but I am making the changes necessary to do better.

As I wrote about my choice to do better as a mom, I stopped short of saying, “I’m trying to do better.” A wise Jedi Master once said, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Thank you, Yoda.

I realized the implication of saying “I’ll try,” is that I am leaving room for the self-defeating tendencies to creep back in and give me an excuse not to do better. Giving me an excuse to remain stuck in the paradigm of failure, pain, and stagnation that has marked the last few years of my life. Worse, it gives me an excuse to inflict pain on my son, even if it is done without me realizing it at the time. To say, “I’ll try,” is to say that I don’t really want to change, I have a million reasons why I can’t change, and to remain a victim of the perceived obstacles. There is no try.

Sometimes, the thing that seems to hunt and haunt us, that nondescript inky black shadow that hangs over us from time to time, can teach us more in its insulating protection than we could ever learn in the light. Eventually, the inky black lifts and we see things clearly again, if we just hang on long enough. Yet, sometimes, the cloud hangs so heavily that we must take the initiative to extract ourselves from its embrace by the force of our own thoughts and will. Sometimes, waiting for the clouds to break so we can see the sun again isn’t an option, and we have to reach for the light that lives above the clouds, and trust that we’ll be pulled out of the darkness.

The lessons learned on these inky black days are not to be forgotten once the light shines through. Addiction can come in many forms, and an addiction to thought patterns that feed our self-destruction is as powerful as an addiction to any other substance. It’s an addiction that alters the brain’s chemistry and function, altering perceptions of the world, thereby altering how we interact with our world and the realities we create. As with many others, this addiction has derailed and destroyed countless lives.

As difficult as today was, the lessons learned are precious. I impact every aspect of my being and my reality by the thoughts I choose to indulge, and the reality which exists for me is directly interconnected with that of my son and multitudes of others. To say that I will try to do better is not enough anymore. I am beyond the point of “trying” being enough. I will do better. I AM doing better. I will effect positive change in my life and in my world. I will do the hard work of staying the road of recovery, and moving us to a place where we both have access to the support networks needed to build a healthier life. I am done trying to do better. I AM doing better. There is no try.

No Words…Almost

Standard
Trayvon Martin Protest - Sanford

Trayvon Martin Protest – Sanford (Photo credit: werthmedia)

Last night, Jaden and I went outside to see the fireflies. For some reason, we have a lot of them this year. In the 20+ years that I’ve lived here, I could count on one hand the number of fireflies I’ve seen, until this year. For the first time that I can recall, the fireflies dance their moonlight rhythm in abundance, treating us to a spectacular show every night. I love fireflies. They are tiny miracles, little pieces of the heavenlies that dwell among us, as if they brought starlight with them when they arrived.

We were also treated to a show of bats charting a path from treetop to treetop…no doubt looking for fireflies and other little beasties to feast upon. Nature, with all its gentle savagery, is a wonder to behold. Our nightly excursions are helping me teach Jaden how to be gentle with these ordinary miracles.

We spent time with the moon, wished upon the stars, walked as far into the woods as we dared so we could be surrounded by the lightshow of fireflies, and savored the moments. Our “goodnight” walks are every day wonderment, and I cherish them.

When we came back in and I got Jaden to bed, I went to Twitter, and suddenly my soul felt deflated. As Jaden and I had been breathing in the fresh air and dancing with the fireflies, a jury had returned the verdict of “not guilty” for George Zimmerman. I was crushed.

This verdict hit me hard. It seems to have done that for many people. We have seen senseless violence play out before. We have been left with multitudes of unanswered questions time and time again. I think this is different because we are aware of the many, many things that could have been done differently by George Zimmerman prior to his killing of Trayvon Martin. If those things had been done differently, a boy just trying to walk home might still be alive today.

His family wouldn’t be grieving his loss. His mother could still hug him. His friends could still laugh with him. We wouldn’t have the dark connotations that are conjured by the two words, “hoodies up.” The nation would not be in stunned grief right now as we try to understand how a man who admitted to profiling, stalking, and murdering an unarmed child was allowed to walk free.

Yes, there are those who believe Trayvon was complicit in his own murder and the jury got the verdict right. Good for them. I do not share that belief.

I think Trayvon Martin’s murder and the acquittal of his confessed killer has stirred people to righteous anger. The system failed. People who had lesser charges and lesser evidence to support those charges have been convicted and made to do serious time in prison. The message Florida is sending is that Trayvon Martin’s life didn’t matter. He was hunted and killed, and it doesn’t even register on the radar.

I think many people are sad and angry and want to do something…anything…to make this right for Trayvon and his loved ones. Unfortunately, Trayvon Martin’s killer had his day in court, and walked away a free man. His only prison now is his own fear and paranoia as he looks over his shoulder for the rest of his days, wondering if someone is going to do to him what he did to Trayvon.

It may not be right, but it is the nature of things.

As I think of what I can do, what any of us can do, all that comes to mind is that each of us has the power to infuse peace and justice into our broken world. With our thoughts, our intentions, our actions, we can impart to the world the things that are missing. Many of us know within the deepest part of ourselves that mankind is a dying species because we have forgotten how to live peacefully, we have forgotten how to use our resources without abusing them, we have forgotten how to love each other and be stewards of what we’ve been given. We have forgotten that life matters.

As I think of what comes next, all I can think of is this:

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

Rest in peace, Trayvon Martin. Your life matters, and your death is not in vain. Thank you for the lessons you’re teaching us, painful though they be. Sometimes our hearts need to be ripped open, the pain keenly felt, before we can recognize the need for repair of what’s been long since broken. God be with your loved ones.