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…

“Chasing The Elusive Pink Unicorn”

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       The other day my wife and I were helping our oldest daughter home after giving birth to another grandchild. Bags and baby in tow, we slipped into a cab and headed home towards the Bronx. The driver politely ask if the air conditioning was okay. I answered “yes” then he asked about the music…again I replied “yes”. I then started asking questions, which I normally do. Since I know Uber is a hot topic and because I’m naturally curious, I asked about the difference and if he considered driving for them.
    He’d been driving for 6 years and was somewhat happy with it. He has friends who drive under Uber’s umbrella… The big thing though, was just being happy living in America!

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As we continued to talk I as asked what country was he original from. Yes, I do that a lot. I am always curious as to how people view “my” country, it’s one thing to read about it in a paper or have some activist parade about or a non-profit organization tell you. It’s quite another thing to just sit and talk to people and find out for yourself.

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  Well, he’s from Nepal…a farming family. He’s lived in the States for 9 years and driving for 6 of those years. Don’t let someone tell you that we are not an exceptional country, because we are and everyone coming here knows it. Unfortunately, what they don’t realize is how costly things are. We offer great opportunities to ALL Americans, sadly, natural born citizen don’t often take advantage of that fact. Far too many want free handouts and easy answers to success or The American Dream… You know, that Pink Unicorn. However, fresh face, hard working immigrants/migrants are quick to grab the opportunity. Because their American Dream is to come to this country and find a job, save a little money, help their families and own a home if possible. The biggest emphasis on getting a job.

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     I’ll get back to the driver in a moment. For now, let’s think about the pink unicorn.  The early settlers came in search of the New world dream. They wanted to be free to live, own property, have a family, create business and wealth for themselves. They didn’t want to be taxed to death! But wish to enjoy the fruit of their Labour… They were fleeing a corrupt church controlled by a corrupt government and a corrupt government controlled by a corrupt church. The Monarch had many working hard but few had riches, because it was given to the governing bodies. So they ended up poor and in poor health. Heck, I’d run too!
   Freedom and liberty. That was and is, the American Dream. The freedom and ability to work for yourself or someone else and earn a profit from it to live off of. To buy what you need, with a little extra for special occasions and events.

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It’s still the reason why people flock to our country. But many are disillusioned when they get here. You see, their image of America is skewed by celebrities and TV news, that all westerners are well off! But you and I know the truth. That’s just a small segment of our population. Most of us, work darn hard with little but debt to show for it. This is where the pink unicorn comes in. We, believe the Hype ourselves and drive the debt  through the roof! We fawn over celebrities, We seek the latest of everything, even if we can’t afford it, believing we’re entitled to it. Not that we have to earn it and this dear reader, is the wrong message to send to the world. But, whatever, right..?

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Back to my cab driver…
He was from a from a small village in the country, of Nepal. His parents were farmers. With a visa he found a job and started to learn English. His boss sponsored him…he met a woman, the bosses daughter, and romance sparked. About a year later they married. Boom. Instant citizen! They moved from the Midwest to NYC…she’s a nurse and he’s a cabbie. He went back to Nepal recently, though not to frequently, because of the cost to travel.
   In Nepal he’s somewhat of a celebrity. Where as before he was treated as a nobody. But because he lives in America he is now a “big shot”. The U.S. dollar is nearly triple the value it is here, so, with a few thousand dollars saved, he bought his parents a home in the capital city. He’s retired them too. He said, $3,000 would keep them for about 3 years… Going for a visit meant, very nearly going broke too. As friends and family expect a gift from the “rich American”. Can you see the pink unicorn theory at work here?
   His response to me was pretty much like “What can I do, it’s what they expect..”
  Expectations: are ours as great as Dickens novel? Do we expect and now feel entitled to something great or even greater than we can afford? If so, how does this affect the rest of the world?…dare I say, you already know the answer?
   The early settlers just wanted a chance to survive. As time moved on, others came seeking the fortune the new world had to offer the venture capitalist… Businessman. Staking their claims in fur trade, farming and even the slave trade. Nevertheless it was about the freedom and liberty, to be.
  Today, new immigrants coming here, whether legal or illegal are seeking the same basic freedoms. Let’s be honest, if things were so great back in the old country why bother coming to American. Growing up, in my teens years, many of my friends were from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Some here legally, some illegally, some involved in criminal activities, some were good citizens. But without fail, from to time someone would complain about the U.S. “in Kingston…” This. “On the island…” That. Of course I thought..well go back!! Wouldn’t you?! But they wouldn’t do that because they know what they were running from. Irregardless of America’s warts and problems it still offers greater opportunities and liberties. Again, today’s newcomers come saddled with the the western television version of the American Dream. The Pink Unicorn.
   Some are reporting that the dream is dead. No, it’s been replaced with the mythical unicorn… One way it’s been done is with the near cult like worship of celebrities. Everything they have, young and old alike want. We’ve allowed them to dictate fashion, beauty, faith and fitness to us. When they work for us. If you don’t see their movies they don’t get paid. When they fall out of the limelight…they panic then reinvent themselves. Ugly cycle,right?
  Companies tell us what we need…no! Must have…and so on. The end result is that Americans will be happier with all of the things. But…it’s a vapor, mist…a myth! 
  You can sell drugs but for so long, a gang can replace a family but for so far. You’ll end up dead or in prison. You pay for fake hair and nails but for so long. Eventually the money will run out. How many talent shows, record deals and movie contracts can there be?! And add to it, the runway PC culture and you have your usurped American dream, replaced by the elusive pink unicorn. Where no one is happy.
   

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That unhappy discontentment spreads across the globe. Those needing the basic necessities of life, swap out the dream for getting those needs, for getting the pink unicorn they see on TV shows and celebrity news.
   But you and I know that it is only a small percentage that are professional athlete, movie stars etc. There are far more middle income and poor families than there are super rich and celebrities…
   Perhaps, if we Americans clear our vision, we would have less disgruntled Americans and far less disillusioned immigrants.  The Native nations and early settlers had it right…the Nations took, grew and ate what was needed. The settlers wanted to be free of corrupt control. Work for themselves…earn and earn the right to keep what they worked hard for. Yes. Of course they partied like rock stars. When the crops were in! When the days work was completed! When their children married! When the baby was born!   You get the idea, right?
   So now the dream is to get what…?  Famous? A million Hits or Likes? The Patriots would leap from their graves, Board their ships and serve the King, if they could see what their spilled blood has produced. I could see their zombified corpse standing in Constitution Hall ready to put flame to parchment…
   So, is the American Dream dead?  No, I don’t think so but we do have a skewed view of that dream. For me, personally, it’s about doing the job I love. Saving money for my retirement years, getting out of debt before I retire. Hey, that educational debt doesn’t disappear on its own and I highly doubt, social security and Medicare will cover the cost. The dream, is also about enjoying time with our families, enjoying vacations from our daily lives. Sharing stories, life lessons, an occasional visit from neighbors and friends. Talking to strangers and making them new friends. Meeting someone interesting…perhaps, marrying them. Extend that circle with a child…
   Well, I guess that’s just me. Yet, it seems that when we focus on the things that matter most, the essentials of life, we tend to be happy people. Content. But when we Americans allow ourselves to drift from the essentials, the American Dream. We fall for the elusive pink unicorn. A cancerous myth, that spreads worldwide…
   What do you think?  Until next time, dear reader…