I ROSE: On the Third Day

Dear Readers,

When an author goes underground it can mean life is far too dramatic and chaotic to survive it and write about it at the same time.

2017 has been that kind of experience for me. I do not have a clue where to start, so I will start where I am.

It is the third day into the New Year, 2018. I rose, on this third day, from the ashes of a life that had to die. 2017 was the year of death of the relationships I “hoped” I had with “mother” B. and “sister” J. I emphasize “hoped” I had, because I have always known I think, but never wanted to “own”, the truth that relationship with these two has never existed in the Cinderella way I had imagined it to be. In my mind, in my soul, in the deepest place of longing within myself,  I always wanted to believe they cared-that relationship with them was not only real but meaningful. In the end, what I know from where I stand in reflection of 2017 is this, you cannot build a bridge alone. What I know from where I stand today is that genetics does not mean friendship. What I know from where I stand today, is that there are people that need to be “right” more than they need to be kind. What I know from where I stand today, is the hope I have held for relationship with mother and sister for 59 years is dead.

The hope died July 20, 2017. I have been involved in the process of transformation, officially, with professional assistance, since 1987. Unofficially, I think it is reasonable to conclude that self-awareness and growth is my nature-it is who I am, not just something I do. I have shared this with a particular friend I have known since 1975. We reconnected, thanks to the wonder of Facebook, and of course began with sharing the typical “what have you been doing all these years?” I told him how I had finally found my way to the professional counseling world after 35 plus very long years in the health care profession as a Pharmacist. His response was affirming and wonderful. He said, “Jo, you should have asked me what to be when you grew up. I could have told you in 1975 that your best destiny would be in counseling and caring for others.” Interesting, still to me, is how well others know us-better than we know ourselves. That is a story for another day. And it’s a rabbit hole of avoiding the subject at hand. Facing the death of hope is hard, really hard. I have found it more difficult than processing the physical death of my dear daddy in 2005. Some might call me naive. I have been accused of Polly Anna-ism. Perhaps both are true. It’s just hard to be sad, deeply sad. That’s how I have spent 2017-deeply sad.

On July 20, 2017, I made one of the more impact filled decisions I have ever made. I buried the hope of relationship with mother and sister at the cemetery at Jefferson Barracks where my dear daddy lies in state. That particular day was surprisingly easy and quick. I look back now and realize that is because I was in the first stage of grief-shock. Waking up was a bitch my friends. ( I apologize for the “b” word but it is the best word to express the “rest of the story”). The pain of reality was so overpowering that I had to take a solo sabbatical to Fort Myers, Florida for my birthday, August 27, 2017, to figure out what the hell was wrong with me. God, my daddy, and truth, found me in Fort Myers this summer. The trip was difficult, riddled with anxiety, and extremely effective. I came home changed. I returned with a sense of grounding. I would need this grounding to weather the monsoon of emotions the remainder of the year would present. Facing the reality of the death of hope is the deepest wrenching of my gut and spirit I have ever endured. My mind and heart were in two different places often. I had to talk  with dozens of phenomenal people, including my dear, incredible brother, over and over and over until what surfaced was the core belief that in order for me to be a good person, I had to make mother and sister like me. (I believe they do, as they can, love me but I know now that like and love are VERY different things). They have never “liked” me. Today I accept that is not my fault. It just is !

What I also know today is this:

I am NOT and NEVER have been responsible for other people’s words, ideas, mistakes, beliefs, choices of friends and relationships, actions (even towards me), and the consequences of those actions-including and especially mother and sister.

I know I cannot make people change or be anything different than who they are or who they want to be.

This applies to all people, both biologically and non-biologically connected. Accepting the reality of this truth and applying it to the reality of my situation with mother and sister has taken 32 long and consuming years of obsession with them. Those 32 years of longing and hoping for something that not only cannot be but, in truth, never was, has been an all-consuming and immense energy-requiring task for the record books.

THE GREAT NEWS IS THIS:  It is the third day of the New Year and I write today as a free individual, a good person, indulging the joy of the present and looking, with joy, into the future. The torment of 2017 has included death of hope with mother and sister. The torment of 2017 has also provided the ashes from which I rose to learn to glow in 2018.

I have many to thank for helping me survive 2017. I would not be breathing, I would have given in and given up, without ALL of you. I hope to list you all. Thank you God, Leo Joseph Appelbaum, Jr., Ken, Lauren, Brian, Addie, Lincoln, Carolyn, Brandon, Flynn, Leo, Linda, Kathy H., Colleen, Donna, Maureen, Jeanne, Steve, Paula, Dennis, Perri, Greg, Toni, Claudine, Ginger, Clarence, Karen, Larry, Fran, Jolene, Danu, Al- Anon, ACA, Bill A., Melinda, Beverly, Irene, Eileen, Cindy, Michelle, Michele, Alex, Krista, Becky, Jon, Debby, SCC Singers, Priscilla, Sierra, Beth, Frannie, Fr. Freddy, and anyone and everyone who has encouraged me to keep walking or even so much as smiled at me and brightened my day. I rose because of ALL OF YOU and I celebrate 2018 with all of you. An interesting special thanks goes to the lovely Salvation Army bell ringer( whose name I will never know) that sang Christmas Carols with me outside of Dierbergs this Christmas Season.

To anyone who listened, smiled, understood, loved, hugged, patted my back, grabbed my hand, survived their own muck as an example for me, to, MOST IMPORTANTLY, God-I owe you. I rose because of you. I stand on this cusp of this New Year loved because of ALL of YOU.

I rose and I stand where I am today because good people love me and I love good people. Family is not required to be biological. Family is the source from which your soul can drink. And my cup overflows thanks to all of you.

Love is what I need and God makes sure I get that gift. The sources God provides surprises me, and probably will continue to do so. I write to all of you today to extend my deepest gratitude and love.

Until Again,

JO

 

 

When it hurts too much to cry: finding REALITY

Dear Readers,IMG_7922

It’s been a rough journey for me lately. It feels like something is in the water that makes me sad. My heart hurts, my soul is empty and my eyes are tired of crying.

What’s goin’ on? Will someone tell me please? What’s goin on ’round here?

Every now and again life is harder. Now is one of those times. I learned recently that I grew up with a devious destructive thinking and behaving pattern leading to making all choices, large or small, from the perspective of helping someone else. To be clear, helping others, is a wonderful thing. It can morph into a harmful thing if you never let the “someone who is helped” be YOURSELF !  I have. All my life. All 58 years worth-and counting. I was in session today trying to make some sense of what the hell is going on inside of me. I have had one of those spiritual awakenings that you pray and pray for, then when it comes to you, you immediately want to scream ” TAKE IT BACK”.  It hurts too much. Let me explain a little more about the situation.

I have been struggling with food as a numbing and soothing agent for pain since I was a child. I still do not understand completely how or why food is such a powerful and “temporarily” extremely successful soothing agent-but it sure is! For me it is, anyway. The  right combination of fat, salt and sugar sends me into glorious comatose and zoned out places where I really do not feel. Once the food digests and the coma wears off, however, the crash back to reality is awful. And until about 5 months ago, I could not endure reality without numbing it with food. What changed? I am not at all sure about that either. What I do know is this: I reached a “no turning back” soul corner and turned it. I found reality. I found it in an emergency room where I sat with my mom and sister on a cold day in January. Mom was admitted to the hospital to find the source of unexplained bleeding. She is 81. She has had diabetes for years and congestive heart failure. By all statistical evaluation measures, she does fairly well at 81 considering her health history. On that cold day, the last day in the month of January though, everything changed. I saw my mom-REALLY SAW HER for the first time in years!  She is slowing down quickly. She struggles to remember facts and absorb information. She looked like a helpless child who just wanted someone to hold her. It was a dose of reality I knew was coming-just not yet. Yet is now here! And it hit me hard. Maybe that event forced me to look at the woman who mothered me, now no longer in the “mother”seat, and decide what to do next. The tables were turned, without my permission or consent, and I had a choice to make it- Live in reality or run from it. Reality hit me hard. I chose to look it square in the eye.

She will die someday. We all will. However, I know now that her day to die is closer than it has ever been in my lifetime. There is something powerful about death that forces you, if you are willing to enter its truths, to take a good, solid look at living. I have been in the process of doing that since that last cold day of January. What I found within myself knocked me to my knees and the fall was hard! I found the “me” that has never taken care of ME! I realize I need to proceed with caution here as it has become both fashionable and fad to talk about ME-me time, what about me, where is the value and care for me? ME. ME. ME. I want to be clear here that this is NOT about that-not in a narcissitic manner anyway. What this IS about is the rising up out of the ashes of death of never taking care of myself because I have first, until recently, always thought about every single decision I make from the perspective of needing permission or getting the “okay” to take care of personal and serious needs of my own ONLY IF it does not inconvenience someone else’s life. After living like that for 58 years, I am totally, utterly, completely drained and exhausted. There is nothing left within me to give to anyone. That, my dear readers, is not living. That, my dear readers, is cohabitation of my mind with everyone else’s thoughts and plans for living EXCEPT my own. A dear friend of mine asked me Sunday, “Jo, do you, have you ever done anything just because YOU wanted to do it?” She continued, “Not because the church needed you or your husband wanted it or it served another, but just doing anything because YOU enjoyed it alone and completely indulged that thing for a few hours of pleasure.” I had nothing to answer. I could not even tell her what I would pick to do if given the time to do “said” thing. I was devastated, empty and lost inside my own body. And for the first time I did not numb the reality of the pain with food. I just sat and cried and let it hurt. That was Sunday and today is Tuesday. It still hurts dear readers. And in my session today I shared how empty and lost and lonely I really feel. I FELT REALITY-perhaps for the first time in my life.

Here is what my mentor had to say about that: “Reality can be extremely painful. When you finally decide to live emotionally and totally present to every experience “as it is” you feel everything. Sad things become intense. Happy things too.” When you stop numbing emotions and feel them as they are, raw and open and exposed, they have strong energy.” That made sense to me and described with precision what I believe is happening to me.

I understand now why people use drugs and drink alcohol and eat a whole carton of ice cream and drive insanely  and shop compulsively and run away from reality. Reality is painful. The choice to numb it has challenges of its own, however. Numbing emotional pain instead of facing reality does not take it away-it merely delays it. A past employer of mine, when I was young and in college lost his father to suicide. My employer was 30 at the time. He said to me, “That is one hell of a way to force you to grow up.” I understand that from the inside out now and with the collected wisdom of a 58-year-old. Reality can be a “beast” of a teacher! So what now?

Well, I will talk about it-thus this sharing with all of you. Write about it. A suggestion that came from session today is to read a book titled, “The Comfort Queens Guide to Life” by Jennifer Louden (available at http://www.amazon.com). Breathe. Breathe. And breathe some more. Mediate. Pray. Read Scripture. Ask for hugs and support from those I trust. I also took a baby step to find a “something” to try that I can do alone, for no other reason at all but to enjoy it, alone. I signed up for a creative writing class hosted at the local community college and taught by the adult education Learning for Life program. I also have a fantastic friend I have known for 40 plus years who has clung to the food crutch the same way I have and avoided reality. My friend and I have vowed to let go of our food crutch together and reclaim life as a team.

I don’t know where I am going, but I sure know where I have been! And I cannot go back there. I want to move forward. I want to live in reality and when I say YES I want it to mean YES and when I say NO I want it to mean NO. I want to be honest with myself and with others. I am saying “enter reality into me” whatever the cost. I am coming out of the dark into the light. I shall be free. I believe there will be a light and a reward coming. I believe this will be a better road, eventually. And I will share it with you dear readers.

Do not be afraid I am with you. I have called you each by name. Come and follow me, I will bring you home. I love you. You are mine. You are my friends. You are my cheerleaders. You are my sojourners on this same path. I have a proposal. I would like to invite each of you to join me in spirit and joy and story and become real. The Velveteen Rabbit did it. It was not easy but worth it. I believe it will be worth it for us too.

Come and follow me, I will bring you home. I love you. You are mine! And I am humbly and tremendously grateful!

Until again,

I am sincerely yours,

JO

 

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My Dear Friends, It has been far too long since sharing with you. Perhaps, like myself, you have been engulfed by the undertow of negativity and sadness and division that is so public and hurtful currently. Perhaps you are amidst life changes that have called your attention to tasks that are new and overwhelming. And […]

via The Greatest of these — heart beats live

The Greatest of these

My Dear Friends,

It has been far too long since sharing with you. Perhaps, like myself, you have been engulfed by the undertow of negativity and sadness and division that is so public and hurtful currently. Perhaps you are amidst life changes that have called your attention to tasks that are new and overwhelming. And then again, it might be that you are marching along to your sweet drum beat as you always have with contentment and joy.

Wherever and however this writing today finds you, I am being called with love to join you within your world. How are you out there in “your” world? Is there anything you would particularly like to share and discuss that we can address in this world the internet calls “blogging”? I was asked to give a proper answer on a computer skills test to what exactly “blogging” is and how it is appropriately defined. I was given a choice of four answers to choose from, one of which was supposedly the correct answer. I do not know if I chose the correct answer or not because, truthfully, I am not sure there exists “one” correct answer to what blogging is or is not or can be that is universally true for all. For me, blogging is a source of comfort and joy. Writing brings me clarity. When I can read my own heart in words of print, I believe I understand my heart better. When I write about my life, I believe my life becomes clearer to me and my deep prayer is that because that is what happens to me  it also often happens for you. In the moment when we come together via the written word  our energy shares love and perhaps a cyber hug or an inner smile because I know that even now as I sit before this keyboard someone will eventually read this when it is complete. In that moment, after I finish and in the space when, where and how you read it, we  will magically become one in the spirit of the struggle or joy that the writing expresses from me or elicits in you.

And, so it is, my dear friends, that I come back to you today with my spirit greeting your spirit simply because it does good things for the soul.  From that perspective how can I “not” write then? I must. I will. I am.

Again, the greatest of these…reasons to do what I do in my blog is YOU ! How are you doing out there? What have you done to celebrate breathing again today? Are you sad? How can I hear your sadness and help you walk through it? What are you celebrating? What joy or longings have been fulfilled since our last visit? I  believe that this earthly experience is rarely meant to be walked solo. I am spending more time now, in my “official” retirement from a “paying job” world, alone than ever and some days I really enjoy it. Other days, I find I miss very much the inclusion of hustle and bustle and buzz of the world of “work”. What I am learning slowly, and when I say slowly I mean S- L- O- W- L- Y…Like “SNAIL PACE SLOWLY”….is that the energy and love that is “the greatest of these” that we share as fellow sojourners on earth in the year of our Lord, 2017, is the reality that we are all still here together-whether we are physically able to be together or whether we are together in spirit and heart. You are still there. I am still here. Together WE still are and we are breathing and we are trying and we are walking one foot in front of the other to live. And that, my dear friends, is an absolute gift of immeasurable proportion. Let me repeat that so you hear it clearly.”The mere knowing that you are there and I am here is an absolute gift of IMMEASURABLE proportion”. And for that gift I must humbly and most graciously thank you.

Perhaps the greatest gift we give to those we love, and sometimes even and, maybe especially, to those we find difficult to love, is for them to know beyond any doubt that we are still, in fact, here for them, with them, and in their lives for a reason.

The greatest of these my friends, is US!  The greatest of these is us. We are a “we” and that matters. It matters alot!

Please let me know what you would like to discuss or if there is any particular topic you want to share in this forum. It is my blog. It is your blog. It is our blog. This is a place where we can be one in spirit and heart and that is a worthy and lofty agenda. It is an agenda and gift I plan to take better tender care of and pay more loving attention to in the future weeks ahead of us as we live this year of 2017.

KNOW you are loved today. KNOW you are cared for today. KNOW that you matter today.

The greatest of these is…US!  The greatest of these is…YOU!

Until again,

I AM,

JO

 

MILES AND MILES OF WHAT?

saint louis peace photo

Dear Readers,

I come to you today with so many thoughts whirling inside my very busy head. The graphic I chose to accompany this blog was an image from earlier times in our metropolitan area here in Saint Louis and was posted for a different reason. I find, however, that its core message, “May Peace Prevail”, may be the simplest and most direct way to share what is the highest priority in my heart and soul as I write to you now.

I wonder how many miles of text I could create if I began talking about everything that is “non-peace” directed today, October 5, 2016? I could mention just one word at the moment, “election”, and create miles and miles and miles of negativity with a mere copy and paste of the majority of content of opinions, media statements, current internet articles, many individual’s personal sharings via social media and even use quotes from recent conversations I have either listened to or attempted to participate in during the last 3 days of this current week. That is a lot of tension and negativity swirling among, within and around us my friends. And what does any of that negative energy accomplish? Most certainly NOT peace. I remember one gift Jesus made sure we knew he was going to pray we had after he left our physical world-that gift is peace.

In my younger days, I thought that was odd. We just played jump rope and tag and red-rover and did homework and watched TV-so what in the world about that life would require a needed gift of peace ? My younger self, and perhaps your younger self, did not worry about the need to “create” peace. It just was. Sure, there were the everyday scuffles of the growing up phases of life. For example, who is going to get to sit by the window in the car this trip out? She cheated and did not wait to take her turn in line and jumped ahead-unfair! Why didn’t I get picked to be homecoming queen? The mean boys are picking on that same sweet girl again! The world had, will and shall always be “troublesome” and perhaps my increasing age has much to do with my current perspective, yet I do know and remember a time of existence on this earth and in our world when shooting and shaming and guile and human degradation DID NOT fill a television screen or highway signs or newspapers and magazines or our visual input exposure images all day long. And the “work” of creating peace seemed not only probable but real. What are we doing to each other? And why? How far OFF the PEACE SCALE have we fallen? What will it take to shake us at our core to somehow come to a place of unity where peace is a desire in all hearts?

I am not sure one little blog can begin to address the enormity of that very big question. One little blog can, however, seed some thoughts and hope into both my garden and yours, dear reader. One little blog can propose a different path that is maybe not so new or different at all.

I read a piece this morning by Fr. Richard Rohr describing St. Francis of Assisi, the father and founder of Richard Rohr’s Franciscan community. Did you know that simple Francis talked to flowers and honored them with the same respect he did people? I did not know that until today. Flowers! Francis is best known for his love of all creatures great and small, particularly animals, but I was delighted to find out his love of creation meant love of everything–EVERY SINGLE THING! He loved even flowers! How many miles of text could I generate if I begin a gratitude listing of EVERY SINGLE THING that creation has put in my path in the last week, month, year, decade to honor all those things for how they have helped me as Francis did in his everyday living? And how different would the emotions and spirit that the grateful thinking and perspective  produces be compared to the negativity energy lists of messages abundant currently? How much closer to PEACE PREVAILING could we get as a household, city, state, country if we started listing all the simple yet wonderful “things” of creation we see, touch, smell, hear or feel daily? Maybe we should attempt such a list?

I am grateful for:

  • fingers to type this
  • a keyboard to type on
  • no pain in my hands or fingers as I type
  • the batteries in both my mouse and my keyboard powering this process
  • the computer screen I see my words appearing on
  • the eyes that work that help me actually SEE the words I am typing
  • the wireless connection that is powering the internet right now
  • the health to be able to sit in a chair upright for an hour
  • a healthy brain that generates words
  • the English language that I am using to convey thought
  • wordpress.com as a site to write such a blog
  • the internet to spread this blog all over this place
  • the food I ate to nourish my body to create my energy to think

……….

I don’t know about the rest of you but I am noticing the list has the potential to create text for miles and miles and miles once it gets rolling…and how do I feel? Peace filled. Happy. Grateful. Calmed. Optimistic. Altered. Better.

St. Francis is “on” to something folks!  You get back what you put out there. You see what you are looking for. You feel different when you look for the good. You treat yourself and others with more kindness when you are looking for EVERY SINGLE THING in every single moment that is contributing to helping you move forward to take another breath, sing a next song, read a second book, love the next person, cherish the newest memory.

I think I feel hope and more joy right now than I did when I began writing.

I certainly pray you do too.

What kind of “text miles” of content in conversation and action and interaction will you create today?

Until Again,

I am,

JO

 

 

 

Hello-is it me you’re looking for?

Dear Readers,

It has been a long time since our last get together–too long. I have no explanation to offer nor does there seem the need to offer one because the JOY of being back far surpasses any remaining remnants of regret from our time apart.

So, where are we all today? What new thoughts have come your way? I can tell you my road has been an adventure. Death, drama, illness, summer fun, giggles, swimming down the lane, more swimming down the lane, prayers, answers, questions, heat, rain and sleep.

Life, really, has happened in all its glory and struggle. Summer is coming to its natural close and soon school and structure will return. I find myself consistently intrigued by my magnetic connection to  the “school and structure” element. I have not “been” in school for years. It has been even longer since I have had children in school, and thus, a life schedule, governed by the school schedule for children. And yet, this yearly ritual of buying crayons and pencils and markers and Kleenex and new socks marks time for me-it has for as long as I can remember. School-the word itself conjures as many images as there are experiences of the world of school. Something within me still finds the return of the pattern of this schedule unexplainably comforting. The one thing I will treasure thanks to the unpredictable nature of this summer for me is that the pattern of a schedule, while helpful, does not insure peace. A patterned and predictable life schedule is not a necessary component to finding peace amidst chaos. This summer has taught me to find peace amidst chaos, with or without, the ritual and comfort of a school schedule-of any schedule. Let’s talk more about this, shall we?

This summer brought with it discomfort in all arenas of my life.  I have been asked to watch and help support some very important people in my worlds of relationships, and social life, and spirituality and physicality. My own emotions have taken a seat alongside many struggling this summer with job worries, injury, death, illness, absence of a loved one, change-lots of change. Change always changes me, primarily. The world, I am finding, ticks and tocks to a natural hum and beat of its own “ritual and schedule”. The beat of the earth is my true attuned balancer. When I am attuned to nature, I am attuned to myself. When I am attuned to myself, I am at peace. Perhaps an even simpler way to say this is that when I am living IN EACH MOMENT exactly as each moment unfolds, I am so totally present to THAT moment that the beat and hum of my ritual and schedule IS that moment. And when I am alive and participating in THE EXACT MOMENT that I am actually inhabiting, peace abides. I don’t know how or why and I don’t care. What I do care deeply about is that I have learned a bit more about acceptance of whatever is or comes. I have learned that often, mostly, always, honestly, change comes to me at ITS desiring, not the other way around. Going with the flow, rolling with the tide, and a dozen other cliché ways to say this expresses the same idea, yet this summer, for me, those clichés have become more than words on a page. They have become a new, strange, unplanned, sometimes unwanted, “ritual of schedule” that has served to bring me to a deeper place of loving what is- Looking for the good- Finding a way to remain hopeful and kind amidst chaos and darkness. I have found a source of grounding that defies the human marking of time.

Make no mistake, I am still deeply in love with new pencils and crayons and Kleenex and socks and patterns, rituals of change that mark time. The summer has taught me to look deeper though, within, inside nature, inside spirit, inside me.

As the year continues to unfold, I will be sharing more about this new and deeper place of kind compassion towards myself and therefore, to all others. The mystique of this new sense of peace has come from a rough road of self-discovery and to the many out there, you know who you all are, that ride this crazy life with me, I am constantly grateful. You have listened, and suggested, and prayed, and sent music and lessons and let me cry and hugged me and encouraged me-and in return, I have reasons to hope I have done the same for you. I suggest our ritual and schedule rewriting our lives in these latter years could be leading to greater things than any of us can or might dare to imagine. Since we cannot predict how things will go anyway, I  propose WHY NOT imagine that rewriting life, at any stage, can bring us to an experience of living that is more than we could ever imagine. It could happen. It might happen. As it does, let’s talk about it-TOGETHER!

It’s so great to be back. It’s so great to know you are still here with me. It’s a privilege to share life with you all. Let me know” how goes life in your parts?” How has summer been for you? There are rises and falls every day, every season, and that they come is really not a big surprise. What matters most, I believe, in the end, is that you learn to ride the ups and downs and risings and fallings in a way that makes your world work for you! Let’s talk about that!

Until again,

JO