“I’ve been through the beach sand on a shark with no name.” That’s a bad pun on the song, “Horse With No Name” by a group called America, for you youngsters out there. It should be more like “I’ve trolled Destin beaches with a shark who can mame.” Or not.
This is the new man in my life! At least, I think it’s a male. I don’t really know much though. Just what I read on the attached birth certificate.
He showed up on my doorstep in a cardboard box about a week ago, to tell you the real truth. But this is not about truth. This is about happiness, joy and fun. Won’t you join me!?!
As you can see, there is no name yet for this critter who I have taken into my home and my heart. And that is where you come in. I keep wanting to say “him” as I write, so that must mean this is a male. He has his own Facebook page, as I am hoping that his voice can bring joy to those who need it. And I am quite sure that is everyone. Especially right now, with the world as it is.
So I invite you to join us. Me and my nameless shark man friend, for a journey that we can all take together. The only limits looking forward are those we impose, so let your imaginations go and feel free as you follow this journey that I am inviting you on, to ask questions, suggest outings and first and foremost, GIVE HIM A NAME for God’s sake. He was created, after all, and don’t all creations deserve to have a name? I think so.
So far, All I can come up with are Chum, Stitch, as in Lilo’s dog, who was really an alien pretending to be a dog just to get taken in by a family. A family where no one gets left behind. And he won’t be left behind, I can assure you. Not by me. In fact, in just the few days he has been in my life, he has been to the beach, helped pick up groceries and had a pizza.
At the beach, I had to leave just as soon as we arrived because the minute I put him down, he chased after a toddler and tried to eat her. She got away unscathed, but it was scary there for a minute. Who knew that stumpy little wooden shark legs could go so fast!?!
Now for the pizza outing, my no name little shark man was on his best behavior. But I think that was only because there was something in it for him. Most of my pizza! Now he could have easily taken a bite out of the owner of Helen Back, which, well, I will let him tell you in his own words:
(No name yet shark man pet:) “Well, my new keeper, this crazy lady who likes to tell people she is 60 but the zero is silent is quite a trip. She has been keeping me in the corner of her phony beach scene on her rug that she loves way too much, if you ask me.
Anyway, she is not horrible to me, as she has taken me out a few times. Once to the beach, where shere shamed me for being me when I rightfully tried to snag that little blonde girl with the pony tail and scrumptious looking pink swim diaper. Oh well, maybe next time, I can distract my keeper and get a little two legged snack.
Next, she took me to this pizza restaurant. And what a car ride to get there! She drives like a maniac! Something about “ZOOM ZOOM” and her Mazda lead foot. I was getting car sick!
Anyway, she took me to this place called Helen Back Pizza, located at 1826 Lewis Turner Blvd, in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. She’s friends with the owner. I don’t much care for him though. While he knows how to make a superlative pizza pie,(we had the “All Olives Matter,” which proved to be devine all four times we ate it til it was gone), this guy just hurled insults at me. Dismissing my heritage. Calling me a toothy hippo or some crap like that. I’ll tell you what. For someone who claims All Olives Matter, this guy has no respect for us sea critters with wooden feet. None whatsoever! He clearly knows nothing about the difference in Shark teeth and hippo teeth. Shark teeth are far superior thats what I want to tell him, after I give him a bite of my own medicine. I know she will be back there though and if she drags me along, which would not bother me as long as he doesn’t talk about me like I don’t have any feelings, because his pizza is truly that good, (who knew SPAM could be delicious!?! Lucinda told me she lost her SPAM virginity unknowingly when on her first Saturday in town, she ordered the Maui Wowie Pie, complete with SPAM charred or whatever just enough to actually be quite tasty amidst the green onions and pineapple and tomato sauce and cheese.)
Our only other outing so far was to make the grocery run to Walmart on Saturday morning. That poor kid Chad, who thought he was safe in his mask, well I think he was just pretending he was not fearing for his life when he saw my big, strong, flesh eating jaws all up in his face the minute he opened the hatchback. Lucinda spoiled that for me too, when she warned him about me just as the hatchback was opening up to him. I could have had my own leftovers much like that pizza that could have fed me for days. Maybe over time, Lucinda will learn that it behooves her to keep me fed. After all, she does plan to get a doodle puppy one day and I love me some puppy tartar.
(Lucinda now:) Boy, he’s a chatty little critter isn’t he!?! Who knew he had so much personality!?! I can hardly wait to see what happens next.
Please join us, won’t you? The first thing I need is your help giving him a proper name. So give it your best shot. Click on this link to his Facebook page and share it with your friends who need some joy in their lives. Let’s make this a story that we all write together!
It was winter in early 2019. And I was in pain. I had three vertebrae fused in my neck a few years ago which was a successful procedure, but there is still discomfort with the surrounding muscles, my hips complain when I sit for too long and winter cold and short days can make me depressed.
About that time, I was struck with a random idea. To buy those little stars like we got in school for gluing macaroni to a flimsy white paper plate in art class, and give them out randomly to whoever crossed my path during my day. The goal being to get out of myself and recognize someone else. Period. Because focusing on me when I am hurting can make the pain worse and cause me to lose sight of the fact that there are others out there.
At first, I focused on groups of friends that I hung out with. Large groups for dinners. I would pull out my sheet, go around the table and give each person a star.
Most just received joyfully. There were a couple of people out of the ten thousand plus that I calculated I have given stars to who said no. That hurt the first time. I took it personally. But then I remembered that it was not about me. And that left me just feeling sad for those who could not receive. For whatever reason.
I suspect some people think or have thought I was odd or silly. And to be honest, I stopped giving stars out at the check stand of Walgreen’s to the customer in front of me just because they were there. Some people don’t want to be bothered. How sad to me that being acknowledged could be taken as bother, but that has been my observation on the very few occasions people say no. Or maybe when I was wearing my painting clothes which could look to a stranger like I might have aluminum foil lining in my hat for better reception from my home planet, wearing jeans shorts covered in brightly finger painted stars and hearts, that could catch the innocent shopper off guard.
These are my Tulsa peeps. Friends and co-workers. I feel so much joy just writing this and seeing these pictures. It’s a virtual starring for me here today.
I have to tell you that when I did the math, thinking I had given out a hundred or so, only to see that each sheet has 55 stars on it and I calculated how many packages holding over 400 stars I had bought at my Walgreen’s with the frequency of a mother of 8 buying milk for her kids, I was stunned! Just laying these out to count 550 was stunning to think of that many people I got to engage with. It was at least 5000 stars at first count! This was about a year ago. And since then, I estimate giving out 5000 more.
My star giving seems to have morphed into only doing so when the spirit moves me as to the when and who I give stars to. And that tends to be people who provide a service. Like grocery store workers, wait people and fast food workers, with a few beach going tourists, girl scouts and T.V. reporters peppered in for good measure.
When asked, “What is this for?” I say in all earnest, “You got out of bed this morning. And that takes courage.” I know, first hand, that on some days, just breathing in and out is the best I have. I did that for a year while I grieved my marriage of 24 years. Thankfully, that pain subsided. But in the midst of it, I could not see daylight. And considered suicide.
You never know from the outside with a person what is going on on the inside. And while this all began as something to make me feel better, it became so much more.
I go to a McDonald’s every week for happy meals that I get to share with my art making friends. At this particular store, they employ felons who have done their time. I have looked at faces that were pointed to the floor and watched them change when I give them a little gold star. “This is for you. Have a great day!” What I see after that is a hung head raised up. And a light in their eyes that belongs to that five year old inside. Followed by a huge grin. It’s like watching the sun come out. It sure lifts MY spirit. Times 10,000.
I work from home and sometimes that can get lonely. So I would hop in my car, and head down the block to Whole Foods. Where I buy my dark chocolate bars. I used to drink. Margaritas come to mind. The tequila sure to alter my mood for the better, at first. That usually ended up with me losing things. Like my car in the parking lot. My virginity. A marriage. And almost, my mind. Chocolate is way better. But giving out stars there to Debra Hanigan and the crew, was the BEST high and I knew where my car and my mind were when I left! I swear Debra lived under the counter at register 5. She was ALWAYS there. Smiling and coaching me on the best chocolates to try.
I did have to hunt down Sara Cunningham though. As her co workers started to accumulate stars on their nametags, she was not on the front lines and therefore had yet to get a star. So like Allen Funt of “Candid Camera”, I gathered intel as to what aisle were the Sara Cunninghams on, tracked her down and gave her several stars to make up for the lack.
Since March 2020, my stargiving has greatly reduced for obvious reasons. Frankly, I was afraid to touch someone in order to hand them a star. I pick up my groceries curbside at WalMart and those people are busting ass busy as the world has a new order for safe procurement of food goods. But I found a way. I would put the star on the edge of my side view mirror and they would take it from there. And I got that smile and enthusiasm in their voice as they thanked me.
I spent all of February alone in Florida. Giving out stars there gave me a sense of community. Of course, there was a woman named Star at the grocery store there!
I will leave you with my favorite story. As I was leaving my meeting place one night where I go for spiritual food, there is much going on at the church where we meet. The Tulsa based program of Women In Recovery was hosting their graduation at the same church. Women in Recovery (WIR) is an intensive outpatient alternative for eligible women facing long prison sentences for non-violent drug-related offenses. Operated in partnership with the George Kaiser Family Foundation, WIR works closely with the criminal justice system and various community partners to ensure program participants receive supervision, substance abuse and mental health treatment, education, workforce readiness training and family reunification services.
The church parking lot was full for their graduation, so I had to park a few blocks away in the neighborhood. As I walked back, there were about five or six women who were sitting and standing around the bus stop. I was moved to give stars, which I did, seeing that same sparkle and shine in their eyes. My feet did not touch the ground the rest of the way to my car.
Fast forward a few months, and I am checking out at a Dollar Store where I had never been before. It was my second Dollar Store stop to pick up the remaining glass star shaped dishes to make 20 total, for centerpieces that I was making for a big dinner at my meeting place. When I gave the girl a star, her face lit up. “You gave me one already!” Puzzled, I replied, “I have never been in this store before.” Not taking no for an answer, the young woman excitedly grabbed her key chain, revealing a key tag with the letters NA on it. And over that was a well worn silver star. “I graduated from Women In Recovery six months ago! You gave me this at the bus stop! I have nine months clean!”
You never know what a random act of kindness can do for a person. I know what it does for the actor. It keeps me going at times. And without fail, it always lifts MY mood for doing it.
I am reflecting on my life. Surrounded by boxes waiting to go to Florida after living in Tulsa, Oklahoma for most of my 60 years on the planet, it seemed fitting to share my thoughts out loud.
I graduated from high school at Monte Cassino School in Tulsa. At the time, it was an all girls school. It was May 1977. And this was our senior song:
The Circle Game
written by Joni Mitchell
“Yesterday a child came out to wonder Caught a dragonfly inside a jar Fearful when the sky was full of thunder And tearful at the falling of a star And the seasons they go round and round And the painted ponies go up and down We’re captive on the carousel of time We can’t return we can only look behind From where we came And go round and round and round In the circle game
Then the child moved ten times round the seasons Skated over ten clear frozen streams Words like, when you’re older, must appease him And promises of someday make his dreams And the seasons they go round and round And the painted ponies go up and down We’re captive on the carousel of time We can’t return we can only look behind From where we came And go round and round and round In the circle game
Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now Cartwheels turn to car wheels through the town And they tell him, Take your time, it won’t be long now Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down And the seasons they go round and round And the painted ponies go up and down We’re captive on the carousel of time We can’t return we can only look behind From where we came And go round and round and round In the circle game
So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty Before the last revolving year is through And the seasons they go round and round And the painted ponies go up and down We’re captive on the carousel of time We can’t return, we can only look behind From where we came And go round and round and round In the circle game.”
My years have spun by 60 times. And the majority of those have been here. In Tulsa, Oklahoma.
I arrived at age 12. Not real happy to be here either. I was born in New York where I lived until I was 5. Then we moved to Connecticut where I lived from 5 to 9 and where, at age 7, my dad died unexpectedly at the age of 42. He was my first best friend. Two years later, my brother and sister were out of the house and it was just me and my mom. She liked the song “You and Me Against The World” by Helen Reddy for us, as it was just the two of us moving forward.
I was promised a move to Ft. Lauderdale, where I was to go to school with children from all over the world, only to find my mom detouring to her old home town of Taylorville, Illinois and then Springfield, Illinois from the age of 9 to 12. And from there, we moved to Tulsa to be close to family as my siblings were in college in Oklahoma City and one of my dad’s brothers and his family were in Tulsa.
I was not happy here. I loved the beach as a child. Learned to swim in salt water at the Larchmont Yacht Club in New York and played at not getting caught in the undertow at Jones Beach. Toe headed blonde with a constant sunburn and smile, I was a beach baby. And while Oklahoma boasts the most shoreline in the US for it’s numerous lakes and such, I am a salt water snob. When people ask why I came to Oklahoma, I like to say that my mom made a wrong turn on the way to Ft. Lauderdale.
Don’t get me wrong, Tulsa people have been good to me. My complaint is one of geography. And as I age, the winters are hard on me. Between the short days and colder weather, I suffer with chronic pain and seasonal depression that just get harder each year during the winter months here.
My first brief exit from Tulsa was to Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas at the age of 17. I had big dreams of finding myself, making lifelong friends and living happily ever after.
None of that happened. After four weeks total, I withdrew from school. Because I was ill prepared for the realities of life away from home in a fast lane of sex and drugs and alcohol and academia that was way over my head in a matter of days. I was afraid of the partying, I was a virgin and while my test scores showed my intellect worthy of admission to this prestigious private college, my practical skills lacked when I tried to apply myself.
When reading became crucial in my prep school where I was for most of my high school, I know today that I was not able to learn by simply reading from a book. I could not pay attention. The science and math and history all just bounced right off my brain when I looked at the page. They suggested speed reading as my grades began to suffer, but that was not the solution. I now know that I have a different learning style and an attention issue. I learn by experience. There are now schools called demonstration academies for people like me who require a different way to be educated. Sadly in the 1970’s, they only had so much information and boy did I suffer for the lack of that. I have a brilliant mind, based on ACT and SAT testing, but I could not access most of it with the conventional styles of learning. I have spent most of my life feeling stupid and hopeless for that.
Looking back, I now know I was in the grips of a severe attention deficit disorder that had never been labelled or addressed, a crippling anxiety disorder that made walking to class excruciatingly frightening, coupled with a burgeoning eating disorder that I had honed all summer, losing weight to “fit in.” What I couldn’t do anymore was fit in to my swimsuit bottoms because I was entering anorexia and they were falling off at the pool.
At 17, I returned to Tulsa barely able to function over dreams dashed and I began my career of being a floundering human being and drinking and eating to relieve the pain. I got really good at all of that. I waited tables to survive, drank a lot and at 19, I escaped Tulsa for the second time to the mountains of Colorado. My private school friends had all been skiers, and I had never seen the mountains, so I decided the best way to see what that was all about was to move there.
One year in Colorado and lots of fun times skiing and drinking when drinking was fun led to a summer from Hell in Lake Tahoe working at Caesar’s where there was an even faster lane than college. It was 1981 and cocaine was all the rage. I was a pit clerk in the casino. Keeping track of the high rollers who played with house money. Hailing from Mexico City and San Francisco, these people had credit lines of $500,000 to $2 million. And when they came to play, the big boys from the cat walk above me came down to the pits to breathe down my neck while watching the big money players.
The mafia is alive and well and I wasn’t, so I moved on to Houston, Texas for two years, got pregnan the first time I had sex, had a miscarriage, got married, then moved to Austin and hit bottom with my drinking and ended my brief first marriage to my first wusband. All of this Texas drama took place within four years.
It was from there that I crawled back to Tulsa in my first year of sobriety. I was newly sober, freshly divorced, unemployable due to crippling depression and I was just 25.
I stayed in Tulsa then until I remarried and we moved away to Pennsylvania for my second wusband’s job when I was 32. That lasted a year and while we aimed for Austin to get out of the Dutch Country where they only like you when you don’t bring a moving van, the jobs were in Tulsa, so it was back to living on Tulsa time one more time.
This time, for 28 years, which leads me to now. As I aim my car south, the phrase “Never say never” comes to mind as I see the pattern of returning to Oklahoma from wherever I go.
I am pointed to Destin, Florida. The Emerald Coast. And for good reason. Or I could be corny and say for God reason. Because that is what it is. I am led by my spirit to go live at the beach.
In September, I was grieving a romantic loss and I found myself spending four days at a work retreat on the beach of Miramar in the panhandle of Florida. Literally in a house on the water, I found great healing in those few days at the beach where I become right-sized just by opening my eyes and ears to the wonder of the sun, sea, sand and horizon. And these beaches are white and go by the name of The Emerald Coast because of the emerald green waters. As an artist, I see teal and sapphire and periwinkle and pink in those skies and waters. My favorite palette to make art with.
When the winter hit a couple of months later back in Tulsa, I was not happy. The short days coupled with the cold weather which made it hard to go outside without hurting just made me bitchy and sad. “Go get it out of your system. Find out if it is meant for you to live there.” Wise words from a friend over dinner at Christmastime as I was dimmed by the lack of a charge to the solar panel in the top of my head. This was made worse by the fact that the relief I get from my chronic pain comes from being outside in nice weather and moving.
So I went on a pilgrimage. Rented a tiny house three blocks from the beach at Miramar, Florida (which is basically Destin,Florida) and off I went with the back of my SUV packed with art supplies and belongings.
I spent every morning at the beach. Two hours, give or take, in most cases just me, with maybe a dozen or so snowbirds from up north who would be there when God turned on the lights. I took dozens of pictures, communed with the sea birds and wrote my gratitude in the sand. I even made a sand angel in the sand. Like when we were kids with snow in Connecticut, only way warmer. I laughed as I lay there. Flapping my arms up and down. Mindful to be sure that I pushed hard enough to make an impression. The beach patrol drove by and gave me a wave as he smiled real big. Their version of winter worked for me as my daughter sent photos of her freshly built snow woman, complete with hot pink spray painted boobs from my back yard in Tulsa where I was happy not to be.
I now understand why people move to Florida when they grow older. Their bodies ask them too. At least that is what mine has done. And so has my spirit. In fact, I did not want to uproot myself without being sure it was divinely ordered as I try to live by whatever my God has planned for me. I do believe there is a plan for me. My job is to listen for what that is on a daily basis. And when I pulled back into my Tulsa street on March 1 after a fourteen hour drive back, I felt a resounding “This is not your home.” As if God all but spoke the words.
I have plans when I get to Florida to help female felons perhaps get their own businesses going. I am moved in my spirit to do so, using my talents with furniture painting to teach those women who have done their time but can’t get a break because an F word follows them for the rest of their lives.
I also plan to finish writing my book. Something that I have also felt moved to do. With the intent of offering hope to the hopeless for things I have endured and survived and live to tell about which when I do share, I have been told that I help people.
I got really into writing during my #covidvacation, learning that sitting for great lengths and remembering can be painful. So I will return to the writing with breaks to paint and play at the beach once I get settled in my new place.
It’s funny. I started this meaning to pay tribute to Tulsa and my experience here. And this is what came out on the keyboard. I am just a channel. It really is not up to me.
And while this time feels different, I know that Destin, Florida is my next stop, but my intuition says it may not be my last.
So Tulsa, I won’t say goodbye. Instead, since my daughter’s current return address has a Tulsa zip code on it, I will simply say “See you later.”
Since this is the only day I get, today I decided to choose Joy. All day. And I’ll be damned if that has not been what the day has been filled with ever since.
It started with me waking up, thinking about staying in bed after going to bed, struggling to fall asleep, vibrating from the news of the day. Then realizing I actually had things to look forward to, so I got up.
I went into my routine. Writing three pages, reading devotionals, meditating with Deepak for 26 minutes. (He comes to my living room every morning. For free!)
When writing, I was identifying various feelings like excitement, sadness, fear and joy.
Excited because I get to move from landlock status in Oklahoma to Emerald Coast Gulf of Mexico status in Destin Florida a month ahead of my original September 1 escape plan.
Sad that this means I will have one less month in the same house with my favorite person on the planet, my daughter.
Fear. The usual suspects. Money, having enough, not having enough. Making friends, not dying from Covid or the next beer truck I don’t see when I’m crossing the street. Same shit. Different day. Blah, blah, blah. Exactly that. I write the same list of fears as if it is part of my diet. And I am sick. Of that!
So using my year of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy fact checking, I realize:
I have a lot
Going for me.
To be grateful for.
Of talent that can be monetized.
Which brings me to the topic of THIS day. One in a series of which all I get is this days, and I choose. JOY.
That doesn’t mean I won’t feel other things.
I am feeling a lot in the department of growing pains because I am doing a lot to grow in many areas, so I am good with that.
What it DOES mean, however, is that my focus as of 9am became this. “The JOY that is God guides me NOW.” Today. All day. This is my mantra.
And here is my report so far.
9 am. Decision to choose Joy begins after declaring it to about 30 witnesses.
9:30am. Went to dentist to get a crown. They didn’t give me the one I asked for, the one with the sapphire in the middle that I was gonna wear on my head, but oh well. And while I was there, I had a blast. Because I was focused on Joy. Each engagement from the front office to the dental assistant to the doctor, who has been filling the holes in my head for over thirty years was a total gas. Minus the gas.
We laughed and talked about Florida and dating sites and cooking and kids and jewelry and parenting. I left fully sated. Social outing number 1.
Next stop, alterations for my daughter’s work pants. And once again, being focused in joy, the encounter was joyful. The woman who owned the shop and I (me through my cute mask with the puppy smile painted on it so that when I put it on I look like a happy dog person hybrid because I hate not being able to show my smile in public) had a delightful exchange. About pants and hems and daughters and enjoying our conversation right while we were having it. She even said that the last person she had in her shop and she had the same conversation. About how much these little exchanges of routine errands are now mid pandemic social treasures!
Now to get the eggs. I have put this off, so puppy mask on I go to the grocery store! Get the eggs, look at the humans. Not unlike an eager puppy wanting to lick their faces and get petted, but that would have been weird. And socially inappropriate. Instead, I gathered eggs, hair and nail vitamins and shower apples.
And this is what I told the sweet lady who at self checkout with the boring blue mask, reduced the cost from organic shower apples at $500 a pound to the rightful insecticided shower apples price of $1.29 a pound.
“What is a shower apple?” She said. “I’m glad you asked. A shower apple is one of the many dining experiences that happen in my shower when my daughter is using it. I know, because I harvest shower apple cores during my showers on a regular basis.”
Time for lunch. And a delightful phone call with a fellow creative who dismisses her gifts a bit and me giving her an on the spot pep rally in her ear about life.
Then, a phone call. Money coming to me for work that comes easy to me. So much joy!
Now for more joy! I filled out my application for my next home to be. A lovely apartment with a fountain view just off a Florida bay. One with the desired natural light in the form of a wall of windows in my living room, a window in the adjacent patio wall as well as another window on the next wall above the dining space! If you know me, you know I am solar powered and that my current picture window is something that I will be leaving behind. So yay for new windows and more joy!
Next up, a conversation with a beautiful young woman. One riddled with the Universe playing pranks on us. In a good way. We were reading something written decades ago, but the relevance on the page was talking about world events just like those we are having today. We laughed at the irony as the book we were reading is one that the Universe uses to prank many people all over the world.
Then, I met with my shrink. She has been providing care for me for over two years. With a clinic that has met my needs since 2013. This includes ten stays in the psych ward. But that was not all. They could only go back to 2011. And that was not my first psych ward rodeo. That story, in its entirety, will be told later.
For thirty years, I have been under the care of a doctor for what has been at times a very cruel brain chemistry. And in that time I have become something of a mental health care connoisseur. Also, an unofficial psych ward concierge. During my last hospital stay in 2018, and I do mean LAST, the staff there knew me and my history. They had participated in saving my life and getting me back to functioning many times. One day, a young woman in her thirties came in for her first, and I suspect only psych ward stay. When she arrived, the nurses asked me to “show her around.” So I did. I told her, “You’re going to do great here.” Words she chose to have tattooed on her chest and the last time I saw her a few months ago, she was doing great. Engaged, building a home and successfully running her creative business.
Today was a pivotal moment in that I will only meet with my doctor one more time. Before she goes on with her career in the state of Texas and I move on with my life to the state of Florida.
As a teaching hospital, they would assign me to a resident psychiatrist for a one year period during which they provide me with medication management and in this case psychotherapy. And along the way, there was always an attending physician to oversee the training. This offered me some degree of continuity, which was helpful considering one of the residents I got to see for a year once laid her head across her arm on the desk during our session. Kind of like a little kid who is too tired to hold their head up. I’m hoping she chose pediatrics.
But in my case with this resident, I had the privilege of being in her care for over two years, as I was quite ill when she came on the scene. My marriage of 24 years had come to an abrupt end and I got very sick in the throws of my grief.
During the two plus years, using a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and medication, she helped me get well. And let me tell you, the before and after pictures, if there were any would have had you questioning if the person in the before was the me you see today.
Today, I got to thank her and the attending, who I was just going to joke with when he came in at the end of the session. I do say to my friends that I suspect they feel good about their jobs as they have seen me go from 7 medications to 2 and being unable to leave my home or feel anything at all to the livewire contributing member of my life that I am today getting ready to start a new life at the beach.
But what happened instead was a flood of emotion. Gratitude. For these doctors and this clinic and hospital that has been at the center of my mental health care inpatient and outpatient for the last seven years. I was moved to tears and the attending even said he needed Kleenex when I finished telling them how grateful I was for the care they had given me.
So, yeah. I’m gonna dare to say, that now at 7pm, I have successfully had a day filled with joy. And I still get to hang out with my daughter.
As for my mantra. “The JOY that is God guides me NOW?”
It was and is my truth. AS long as I choose it. Every step of the way.
I write three pages every morning, 99% of the time. Along with that, I have a dedicated time for prayer and meditation from which I get up and go into my day. Lately, I have noticed that those are the best two hours of some of my days.
So I decided today in writing those three pages to try something different. Because lately, I have had some dis ease in my days after those two yummy spiritual and safe hours parked in the corner of my gray couch looking out my picture window.
This morning, I wrote to my God. Starting a conversation. I like to think talking to my God is a prayer. One that my God is always at the ready for. In fact, I am almost certain that for my entire life, my God has been waiting eagerly for me to engage. In a relationship.
So, if I apply the things I do in my human relationships, the ones that I nurture with time and conversation and listening, I thought to myself, “Why don’t I have an ongoing conversation with my God today, starting with these three morning pages?”
I strive to live my life in 24 hour increments. I believe that those things we call days were set up to have a beginning and an end with rest as a key part, in order to survive some of the events that take place in that 24 hour period in the world we live in. My God is clever that way. Setting up a finite timeframe in which to live my life.
I say “my” God, because I don’t want to suggest that there is only one God. I mean, there may be. Or maybe there is not. I do not know. But for me, I choose to say my God so as to not confuse my belief system with some that are associated with the word God where people have been harmed in that setting. I respect ALL beliefs of whatever a person chooses to pray to, worship, believe in, surrender to. Also, it really is not my business to judge anyone because I don’t know much.
“So God, what do you want from me today?” I opened it up right away. Requesting marching orders. Opening myself up for an assignment. Which I got. I went on. “Please show me as I go. I really want you there. I know that you have always been there. The times I did not feel your presence, were the times that I was shutting you out. I am sorry God. Forgive me. And thanks because I know that you do.
You are so kind and generous too. I have noticed this. I also see that you are not pushy. And man, are you ever patient. Sitting there. Open to my call. And if you are in a place called Heaven and there is a Phyllis Bunn there with you, the one who hosted me for 9 months before I launched into the world, I am quite sure you have sore ribs. From her elbow. Digging into them.” “Ok God, my kid is there and she is not looking to you. She is living in her head again. Maybe you could use that Facebook thingamajiggy and put one of those memories in her face. You know, the ones where she WAS talking to you and reading from books that made her mindful of you and then she shared them on the Facebooks!’” I am pretty sure that if there is a Heaven and a God that lives there, that God is taking naps because of my mom. Constantly nagging for her kids on earth to get in touch. Be cared for. Things that she failed at through most of her life as a mother.
In my conversation, I found myself expressing my gratitude. It just came out that way. It was not even my intent, yet. “God, thank you. I know that all those time when I was afraid, you really were there. When I had breast cancer, you saved me. Twice.
The first time when you spoke to my gut that while I had a garden variety breast tumor, I needed to seek treatment 1400 miles from home. In Costa Mesa, California. And that because of that, when I returned home to do the recommended chemotherapy and that doctor greeted me with the news that my cancer had returned, was incurable, that I could be made comfortable for two years. And you dropped the mic God when she went on to say that the chemotherapy medication she had planned to give me was the one mentioned in the only bit of scientific fact I remembered from the frightening journey through cancer that the drug she was recommending did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in those tests to kill those cancer cells.
So thanks, God, for saving me twice, as I listened to your inner nudging from my place in a ball on the floor of the lobby of St. John’s Hospital in Tulsa, OK. There on the phone, that doctor who took the tumor out an left it somewhere in a dumpster in Orange County said “I have no confidence in what that doctor is telling you, “ followed up by a whole week in California, scanning every inch of me, only to find that there was no cancer recurrence.
You saved me God from the malpractice that could have killed me.” I need to remember these things, even though writing them down brings some strong feelings of remembering the terror I felt at that time 17 years ago.
“So God, I have noticed that when I go into my days lately, that I feel less in touch with what you want for me. I strive to do what is my purpose, but the connection to you just gets so remote, like the farther away from my morning time, the farther away you become. And I see that it is me who allows that distance to come in. So I am happy for the anxious thoughts that have plagued me here lately. Over my future. Short term and long. Because it is a direct signal to me that I need to be in better contact with you. And talking to you via writing is a great way for me to do that. So thanks. For the gift of the awareness that when things become difficult, there are actions I can take to change that and that you are all over it. Whenever I simply reach out.” Just writing this is centering for me.
I am amused at the fact that the things I worry about are just my perspective. And that worry is a choice. But more than that, today I decided that worry is more than a choice. Worry is an insult to my God and all that has been done for me to date. It is dismissive of the many times I have lived when I should have died or killed someone else for my choices and actions. I drove drunk many times. More than I can remember because most of the time that I chose to drink, I would black out and do things that I did not remember until the horrible recounting of those who were with me at those times.
For that, I could have been a felon. Killing someone with a moving vehicle. Or killing myself.
If I look at my life from the perspective of how many times I could have died, I would be a cat to the infinity power. Way more than nine lives have been gifted to me. These are just four. In my book they each count for way more than one lifetime.
Sober from the disease of alcoholism
Recovered from the disease of Anorexia
Cured of the disease of breast cancer
Healed of the chronic desire to kill myself on multiple occasions over half of my life.
I have been accepted! Into the gifted program. Yup. Me!
Gifted with life. Repeatedly. When I was ready to throw it away. Gifted with a creativity that is a direct connection to my soul. Through writing, painting, making people laugh. Making people feel valued. Inspiring others to tell their truth by sharing mine.
Gifted with time.
Gifted with energy.
Gifted with a voice.
Gifted with money.
Gifts not to be squandered but to be spent wisely. So just for this day, I will do that. And with that, I am going to stop for now. Because I get to go outside in the beautiful sunshine. And breathe because I can. And walk because my legs work. And straighten my house. Because I have been gifted with shelter. And fold my laundry. Because I have been gifted with clothing. And cook my daughter dinner. Because I have been gifted with her and a kitchen that has electricity and appliances and food in it.
And tonight, I get to bake cookies. Because at my house, after 90 days of social distancing during a pandemic, cake and cookies are now a food group. And these cookies, I will get to share. With someone I love. Who does not live here, but who is alive and who I have a relationship with today that I never thought I would.
One last thing. I challenge you. As you read this. If you are feeling hopeless, look for one thing in your day. To be grateful for. Even if it is just that you can’t find something to be grateful for. Be grateful for that. Because I can promise you that if you just keep breathing and showing up, that can change. For the better. And that hope can be a part of your life.