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.