With And Without Her: “Abandoned”

A few days away

Hello dear reader, it’s been a while since I’ve spoken to you. I tend to wait until I have something to say. And when it comes to this subject, grief that is, I thought I was done writing about it. Though it is the backdrop today it isn’t the main subject…

I spent the past few days away on a self imposed retreat. I needed time away to pray and hear what God had to say. I’ve been out of work since January 4th, it wasn’t stunning. But it has left me with quite a dilemma… loss of income, health insurance and so on. So there has been a lot on my mind. So much so, that the stress has caused me to have somewhat of a scatter brain. Lack of focus and forgetfulness, the lack of a daily routine hasn’t helped much either. So… I escaped New York in search of quietness. I found it and an answer to a question I didn’t ask. Sometimes the Lord drives me crazy with that. I pray about something, don’t get an answer and he answers something I wasn’t thinking about. Or at least I don’t think I was.

I threw on some quiet piano worship music, I set for a while, then laid back on the loveseat. Fully immersed in the melody flowing throughout the house, I suddenly drifted away. A sobering worship, I felt tears of joy forming but then stopped. One word came to mind, Abandoned. It went from my mind to my heart. So I started to pray “lord… speak, I’m listening” then I read a few verses, pray some more and continued to wait. Once more abandoned can to mind. Mind you, dear reader, I was asking for direction in the many things I need to do. So now I had to ask why “abandoned”. There was no audible voice, no hand writing on the wall, no scroll from heaven. Nope, just a flood of emotions, images and instances of feeling and being abandoned.

The beginning

Now, believe it or not, I’m not talking about me waning “Why is everyone leaving me”. It’s something far deeper. I suspect some of you know what I mean.

I was about 7 when my grandmother died. It was an odd time, she died around the age of 55 or so. Pretty young. I strangely believed, because little kids believe a lot of things, that my family was plagued to die early. A few other family members died in succession after she did, naturally the clan splintered. We moved to the Bronx after that. I was raised by a single mother and a dad that visited on the weekends. It was a really rough time,I didn’t know we were poor (because schools didn’t tell us like they do now) but I knew something was odd and my embarrassment while shopping with plastic money proved it. Yes! In those days public assistance “welfare”, didn’t come in the form of bank like, debit card. It was plastic coins and monopoly like, paper money. But food was always on the table and in our bellies. Clothes on our backs… even if it was borrowed. If there was no more toilet paper and no money, we sometimes used my mother’s Pattern paper,it was made of tissuepaper. She made clothes.

Most mornings she was there when I left for school but not there when got home because she worked. So there was no checking or helping me with my homework. Fast forward… I was about 11 or 12 when my sister left home. Meaning I was now an only child. It also meant there was no buffer when the stress of single motherhood, came home to roost. In my mind my sister left me behind. The flip side was, I stayed. I took it! She was off living the adventure(not true it was hard for her too) and I was stuck dealing with my mother, project and school bullies, massive failing grades, no one to talk to and what I would later come to realize, were panic attacks during my high school years.

Later years

Many things happened to me between child and adulthood, including a failed marriage. I believed marriage was forever and no matter how hard it was, I would stick it out. In other words, I stayed. The other party came and went and I gave chase to work it out. Eventually, like my retreat, I was in the house alone and heard a still voice…”leave this place” just like that. Just like Abraham! It came with a price, shortly before I was seeing a therapist because I suddenly developed Anxiety Attacks. Apparently the stress of the relationship was too much for me or should I say, my body to handle. And my body was fighting back to survive the blows I was unaware I was taking. I would later learn the seriousness of not taking care of yourself…

Dear reader, I developed a very bad habit, of holding things in, fighting back anger. And when I did push back I’d explode with frustration. Kind of like, I needed to be a “good boy” and not start trouble.

Sharol

When Sharol and I got married there was a lot of love, that was evident to all who knew us. But there was also marital stressors. We would battle like two proud and stubborn Klingon Warriors. Our biggest augments were over the kids, see we had a blended family, though we raised them as Christians we made the mistake of not choosing one system of discipline early on. The tension between us in the early years took a toll on me mentally and emotionally. Apparently. I thought it was normal… just like the high stress job I had. What wasn’t normal was my aforementioned way of handling things. Not only did I suffer from severe anxiety attacks I became an agoraphobic. Eventually I couldn’t go out, get to work or ride the train. Nothing! My wife couldn’t hug me, simple tasks like brushing my teeth were agonizing, sitting at the table with all the kids was unbearable. I would have panic attacks a few times a day, sometimes multiples in an hour. As I’ve written before, I lost a year and a half of my life to them.

So what does this have to do with abandoned? Well, it’s not as simple as I thought. But as set on the loveseat I had an urge to kneel so I did. That’s when all this came to mind. The feeling that I have always “stayed” while others found freedom to leave or let their emotions go or take over. I’ve never felt such freedom. I was left to “hold the bag”. That’s when anger crept in during prayer… “when do I get to say ef you?!” When do I have the chance or freedom to say this or that pisses me off, without feeling guilty or the need to apologize for my actions… this sort of abandonment Is more like betrayal or dissertion. When Sharol died I didn’t want to get angry at God. How could I? Death is part of life, right?. But there was a day…I was on a street corner talking on the phone. I started crying then got really mad. I was mad that my wife left me alone. Alone to bury her… it was a strange feeling. I forgot I was on the phone. I can’t remember what I told the person but I hung up then went upstairs. I wanted to run as far and fast as I could after her passing. I never did I stayed to picked up the pieces as best I could. Immediately going back to work to keep my sanity. Wouldn’t know…? As deaths does… the family split down the middle. The kids are older with families. Each moved on and away. But I stayed, at the same job, in the same apartment, looking at her clothes and so on. Never angry… but apparently my heart had been speaking to God, what my mind and mouth failed to realize. Or was willing to say. Like the panic attacks were my body’s way of recognizing what I didn’t. Weird huh…?

A few months short of the one year anniversary of my wife’s passing, I purchased a Nissan Murano. It was intended for more than just two people but as I mentioned earlier, life does it’s thing. My youngest daughter and I have taking to the road. Camping, short east coast roadtrip and last year we add hiking to our adventures. Yes, it’s time spent together before she starts her own life…but more than that, it’s my chance and time to leave. To go anywhere and everywhere. It’s a bit late in life and I don’t expect anyone to understand. But I feel alive and free out there, unrestricted. No sir, I’m not dragging the kid along she’s the one that suggested we drive across country. “Let’s go to the states no one else goes to… all the places no one else heard of”. It is entirely possible that, wanderers and outdoor enthusiast are running from death, pain, life changing events, but we are all running towards something too. Life! We are enjoying life as much as possible, with as little strings attached to us like puppets. Healing is also part of the process and adventure. I know many who have become healthier because of the great outdoors. If I didn’t subconsciously feel abandoned I would have never left, nor saw the beauty of God’s hand in nature. The beauty that draws me closer to him and what I needed to help in my process of grief. If Sharol didn’t live, I would have never written a book. If she didn’t die… let’s just say, her death changed me as much as her life with me did.

You see, dear reader, God didn’t answer my pray about a job or at least not at that moment. He answered the cry of my heart. I was left with, “I haven’t abandoned you” the other thought…”come to me and I will give you rest” Still in need of a job, but I’ll take a God answer in any form any day. What about you, dear reader, anything you haven’t realized about yourself?

Until next time…

“Becoming Unglued, When The World Looks Different”

unglued 3

I was thinking about what to write about last Friday. I had a couple of choices at the beginning of the week then I read a Facebook post that reminded me of something I wrote.

In my book there is a story called Kaleidoscope, it’s a story about a family dealing with a member’s mental illness. Henry and Nicole Jackson‘s son Jacob suffers with Schizophrenia. He is a talented football player on the rise to NFL stardom…that rise however is interrupted. Henry discovers that Nicole’s family has a history with this particular mental illness. The couple must now, like other families in america, face a hard really…

unglued 6 I wrote the story for a psychology class. I studied many forms of mental illness, I found that schizophrenia was the most perplexing. It was that thing that as kids we saw displayed most often and the people with it were “crazy people”. Schizophrenia is indeed the classic definition of crazy. Some people here voices, see things that are not there and they respond to them. Of course anyone looking at such a person can see that they’re talking to no one.unglued 4  Unfortunately, the illness causes many to be violent towards others. Think about it, if you saw something scary and thought it wanted to harm you what would you do? If you heard voices that were not your own, how would you react? Now, multiply that by the lifespan because that’s how long a person must live with the mental illness.unglued 5  Yes, there are medications and treatments and facilities for people to have help. But they must still live with it. Some medications make people feel better, normal and after a while they stop taking their medication. The end result? They spiral down.unglued 7

Schizophrenia is one of dozens of mental illnesses…Depression, Panic attacks(anxiety attacks), Bipolar and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) are all forms of mental illness. Like  broken bones, there are many types of Fractures, simple, compound etc. Likewise mental illness has many levels and layers. Over the years some have been declassified and reclassified…Anxiety attacks to Panic attacks to Mood disorders, one can hardly keep up. But the point is that, for many it’s a hellish existence for 60 or 70 years of life. If they make it that far, too many like Robin Williams, take there own lives…unglued 10

I know all too well what it’s like to feel yourself slipping away. To know that you know the face in the mirror yet you don’t recognize yourself or the feelings you have. It’s like smelling the pizza, feeling the pizza, putting the pizza in your mouth but tasting nothing! I lost about a year and a half to severe panic attacks. It was a gradual decline starting with feeling uncomfortable on the crowded train…now I live in NY and I know tourist think that squeezing in a train is fun. But most new yorkers Hate being pressed together like sardines. My feelings weren’t the typical annoyance we strap-hangers feel, I was suffocating. I felt the same way at home when we ate together or in large wide open spaces. I would often jump off the train at the nearest stop just to relax, which caused me to be late. Then on day the flood gate opened…I was on the R train headed to Queens when I felt the train car close in on me, like the curving street scene in Inception. It was just as the train was in the middle between Manhattan and Queens. A sudden fear took me, one I’d never felt, I kept picturing in my mind the water crushing the car. The more I tried to shake the image the worst things got for me. My heart raced, my head began to swim and I could no longer control my breathing. I did all I could to stand up and not cave in to the feelings…thankfully the stop came.

What followed was days and months and soon a year of descent into a pit of despair. The sound of water, talking, loud noises, vibrations, touch…anything would send my body into a panic! My head/brain felt like it was floating away, I wore a hat all day just to comfort myself. Brushing my teeth was near impossible because I felt like I was choking, the same with eating which caused me to loose a ridiculous amount of weight in a short period of time. All of these things and more brought on feelings of my death, which made everything worst still!… To add insult to the injury I received such expert advice! “Why don’t you just…”, “Not enough faith to be healed..” “What are you scared of…?” “It’s in your mind..”  As if the person doesn’t already feel crazy! unglued

You see dear reader, you can see a broken window, arm, leg, a torn shirt, a leaky pot but you can’t put a bandage on an internal injury like a broken mind. You can see the effects of the injury, some more than others, but there is nothing physical for the outside world to see to say “Let me help you with that” No one will reach out to carry your bags of groceries. They will stand aside and whisper…  I am not writing this piece this week as an expert or with stats you can find or supplying a number to a helpline. I am writing as someone who has experienced the pain of becoming unglued. I am a christian, so I put my hope and trust in the words of the bible and Christ Jesus. You may put yours elsewhere and that’s fine.  For me, I had a praying wife that got me through, who held my hand in the hospital, who drew close to me even though she was terrified of loosing her husband, who kept watch over me when I couldn’t sleep, eat or sit for more than a minute. She was and is my teammate through that time. Many marriage fail in a crisis like this but we were pulled closer, we had no others…It’s been 13 years since that lost time.

    I write this week, to encourage you dear reader. Think about that family member, neighbor, co-worker, anyone you may know or whom you may be caring for…with Love. It’s not just a word, it’s action. It encompasses compassion, empathy, insight, a willingness to help, the capability to hold on and let go, to hug or the patience to wait to be able to hug…and much more. It all demonstrates Love. unglued 2 Dear reader if you feel anything like you’ve read about reach out to some one for help. Don’t wait for them to come to you, they can’t see what you feel. One last soapbox thing, that friend or helper shouldn’t be offering you anything that would make matter worst.     Until next time…

                  33 I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” -John 16:33(HCSB)