change, childhood, comfort, death, Discovery, dying, enlightenment, families, grieving, healing, home, letting go, living and growing, mourning, moving on, new life, struggles

“And even in our sleep….”

Have you ever noticed that when things happen in life…graduations, births, deaths, moving….they never seem to happen one at a time? That’s been true for me, at least.  Big life events are crowded into a small time period, often with more than one big thing happening at once.

Processing gets lost in these times. That’s where sleep comes in – assuming you can sleep. Our dreams take over when our waking days fail us. At night, when all is quiet, our thoughts are exposed while dreaming.

And so it has been for me.

I heard a quote recently, that was new to me. It spoke to this experience of pain exposing itself while we sleep.

The poet Aeschylus said, “And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”

And so this season has been just that. Awake, I function.  I laugh.  I enjoy.  I work. In sleep though, that which can no longer be ignored, demands it’s own time.

In sleep, I weep.

The last three months have been so full.  My youngest daughter graduated college. I moved my mother into an assisted living and along with that I have begun the process of dealing with my childhood home. The reality of my mom being gone from my life, some day soon, rests on the horizon. One of my daughter’s will be getting married in less than a year. She will move out and begin a new life. There is plenty to keep me busy.

Looking ahead, In the fall I will begin to work three days a week. I have done two days for the last two years but three feels like a big increase. I will still be caring for my mom…still working….still planning a wedding…still running a household…still being a wife, mom, friend…you get the idea.

But honestly, during the day, I tell myself everyone has to do this kind of stuff, everyone has these experiences….it’s just life. Deal with it. And I do.

But my dreams speak to feelings too deep to express in the light of day. Sadness, weariness, and fear. And loss. Both real and imagined.

Last night’s dream found me in my parent’s house. Lately this is the new backdrop for all my dreams. Realtors were emptying out the house. I had spent two weeks right outside the house, with my mother. I did not want to go inside. But finally I did and I saw that it was almost done. Furniture was being moved out, everything was sold. And I laid down on a grassy area (yes, inside the house!) and sobbed. Curled up into myself, I couldn’t stop sobbing. Realtors tried to talk to me. They offered me already sold pieces of furniture to try and get me to stop crying. I looked at the items but I recognized none of it. I tried to find my childhood bedroom but the entire house was foreign to me. And this made me weep more. Finally, I decided I must stop crying. I stood up, wiped my eyes and left.

Last week’s dream was the same. In their house again but it was Christmas Eve. But not like I remembered Christmas Eve’s to be….this one was complicated, uncomfortable and again, involved crying.

And so it goes.

I know many go through losing parents and perhaps even childhood homes. I know they survive it. But still my heart worries….

I will learn from it. I will get through it and I’m counting on that grace from God that the poet mentioned. And I know that when my mom does die, that my waking world and my sleeping world will merge. The pain will no longer be contained within dreams.

But for now, I’m grateful for the sleeping world as it does its work at opening my heart to the wisdom and grace that change and loss produce. Even in our sleep.

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appreciation, change, clarity and direction, comfort, death, dying, enlightenment, eternal life, families, honesty, hope, letting go, living and growing, Love, mourning, new life, peace, perspective, spiritual growth, struggles

Living in the Valley

I moved to the valley, eleven years ago when my father first got sick.  Six years ago, he died.  I thought at some point after his death I would move out of the valley.  Instead, my mother, after years of caring for my Dad, got sick and my life in the valley continued.

You probably know this valley.  It’s the same one mentioned in Psalm 23….”Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”  Yeah, that valley.

I chose to move here years before I understood where I was moving to.  Back when I was young and had no idea of what it would cost me. I knew I wanted to stay in the same city as my parents.  My plan always was to care for them, when the time came.

The funny thing about moving to the valley is that you don’t necessarily realize you’ve moved until you’ve lived there for a while.  The move is both gradual and sudden.  Your loved one ages and you start to help in little ways.  A sudden illness or injury and you help out a bit as they recover.  What you don’t know at the time, is that sudden injury or illness is starting a chain of events that would have overwhelmed you had you ever realized your address had just changed and there was no moving back any time soon.

We all know what valleys look like.  They are low places, with shadows that hang over on all sides..  And these low places are filled with things most of us try to avoid.  Like fear and death. In the valley, fear takes on a life of it’s own…it has a form and a shape and it looks like death.  The threat of death, is always lurking in the shadows.  And then there’s the bone wearying tiredness and overwhelming and sometimes debilitating sense of loss, along with a need to always be on guard for the next problem.

In the valley you learn to fight.  Against ignorance…your own and others.  You fight against your nightmares, which threaten to become reality.  You fight to do what’s right. You fight against yourself when you want to quit and with others when they want you to quit.  The valley can be an exhausting place.

With all the lows of the valley, one might think it is a place to avoid.  Certainly anyone who chooses to live there can’t be right in the head!

But here’s the thing….there is beauty in the valley.  Beauty you can’t see anywhere else. There’s a beauty in the valley that transcends even what a mountain top view can offer. And the company in the valley is the reason for the view.  Psalm 23….The psalm that talks about walking through the valley of the shadow of death, also gives a promise.  And it’s the promise that provides the beauty.

“Yea,though I walk though the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for YOU are with me…..”.

Early on in the valley, I feared evil.  I was terrified by it.  Death was evil.  It was the enemy that you knew would win in the end, but that you would fight against with all your might.  The exhaustion that comes with fighting an enemy that is guaranteed to win is not only exhausting, it’s foolish.

I was controlled by my fears until I met Submission.   Submitting to the reality of our inability to control when someone dies moves you from a very dark valley, to a new valley where there is beauty and potential….right in front of you, that you are now freed up to see.  Submission is not giving up.  It’s not laying down the fight.  But it is recognizing what you can and can’t control.  Its choosing when and where to fight.  It allows you to see who the real enemy is.

Sometimes the enemy is ourselves…Fear is everywhere in the valley.   Left to our own devices, fear can overtake us.  But when I remember that the Psalm promises….”YOU are with me”...the fear is tamed and in the best moments, it is vanquished.

That YOU it mentions, is the Creator of Heaven and Earth.  I don’t just have a good friend or family member with me…..(though praise God when I do)……I have the God of the Universe with me!  He reminds me that even though I live in the valley, the valley isn’t all there is.  I’m choosing to live here for a time, so that the people I love don’t have to walk through this place alone.  Walking alongside someone who is in the valley, has eternal significance.

God knows how we look at death.  He knows how death and the fear of death motivates our choices.  He knows we need him beside us to walk though this valley.  When we freely and willingly go through the valley so someone else won’t be there alone, we are doing exactly what He has done for us.

And that is what love does.  It comes alongside.  It sits with us in the mess that the end of life can bring.  It is a place filled with loss and sadness.  They grieve and you grieve with them.  You grieve for the pain they feel.  For who they were and what has been lost. Their address has changed since coming to the valley and it makes them disoriented.  You remind them, no matter where they live, whether it’s in a place they’ve always known, or a dark valley or in heaven…they are loved.  You are the physical hands and feet of Jesus as they journey to what’s waiting for them, at the other side.  It’s an opportunity to bring light to the shadows and love to dark places.  And that love, makes it all worthwhile.

So these days, if you’re looking for me, you’ll find me in the valley.  I’m not sure how long I’ll be staying, but I won’t regret a moment spent here.  For although the walk is shadowed by death, the path is filled with life and love.

 

 

 

 

 

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appreciation, change, clarity and direction, Discovery, enlightenment, families, inertia, living and growing, perspective

How $25 Changed Me

It seemed so simple at first.  Give each of my (adult) kids and my husband and I, $25 at Christmas time.  $25 with a catch, that is.  We each had to spend it on someone else.  Someone who had a need.   We distributed the $25 on December 1st.  We had 25 days to find a worthy cause to give our money towards.   And we agreed that on Christmas day we would share with each other where we had given the money.

There were no rules, other than you had to see a need and give the $25 away.

Seemed simple enough.

But what I learned through this process was unexpected and transformative.

I thought I would have no trouble giving my $25 away.   I assumed that there is need all around me and that within the first week, the money would be gone.  Instead I discovered that I live a truly insulated life.  That someone with obvious need, is not constantly in front of me, just waiting to be handed money.   I live a comfortable life, surrounded by other people, who even when they struggle, do so, pretty comfortably.

The first couple of weeks went by and I was chill.  I was certain that some type of need would present itself to me.  So I waited.   But nothing appeared.  Sure there was the Salvation Army bell ringers…I ran into them every time I went to the grocery store.  But I already give to them.  I thought about dropping the $25 into the kettle and being done….it’s more than I usually give and I could be done!  But no, it seemed too easy.

By week three, I was really paying attention to the world around me.  I started to accept the idea that I would need to find a cause to donate to instead of a person to hand the money to.  An ad came on TV for the American Cancer Society.  I know too many who have lost the battle to cancer.   This could be a worthy recipient.  But online giving seemed too easy.  So I watched and waited.

During week 4, I saw a program on TV about Yemen.  The children.  The famine.  The heartbreak.  I did more research on Yemen and was reduced to tears.  This was worthy.  But $25 seemed so little.  Ineffective against all they face.  But here’s the irony.   Had I not committed that $25 to give away, I wouldn’t have given anything towards Yemen relief.  Not a penny.  In light of that, I recognized that $25 was pretty good.  It still took me till Christmas Eve day to make my decision.   Yemen would get the $25.

But getting to Yemen, if you will, was a challenging process.   This experience revealed to me how influenced I was by my early years of marriage.  With 5 kids and only my husband’s salary, we were broke.  When you are broke, giving money away isn’t an option.   When we gave, it was usually to a family member in greater need than ourselves.  We were, more often than not, the recipients of people’s generosity.  They saw our need and gave.  We were grateful.  And for that and other reasons, we gave back.  But with no money to give, we gave our time.  And a pattern emerged.   Giving my time became part of the fabric of who I was.  I was generous with my time and gave freely.  Sometimes I gave too much.  But I gave my time because it was what I could offer.

Fast forward 30 years and money isn’t so tight.  There is extra.  Or there could be.   But I still behave like there isn’t.   Extra money gets funneled towards nice things or helping my kids. Until that $25 showed up.   It opened my eyes to the fact that things have changed.   Just being able to hand 8 people $25 and say, “give it away’ is an indication that I am no longer broke.  So what to do with this new insight?

I recognized that giving to family isn’t bad, but perhaps I needed to expand my idea of family.   Those 2 year olds in Yemen, with arms and legs that were pencil thin….my tears were telling me, they are family too.  And I find myself heading into the new year with a broader perspective of need.  A deeper understanding that I could and should do more.  Not just with my time, but with my money too.

As my husband and I gathered with our kids and heard about how they spent their $25, I realized I wasn’t the only one who found the process difficult.  So with anything that is difficult, the only solution is to practice until it becomes easier.   We will be doing this again next year, though we decided Nov. 1st is a better date to start.

In only 25 days, that $25 gave me a fresh perspective.  And it enlarged my heart.  Now that’s time and money well spent!

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families, living and growing

Transforming Love

“It’s been a slow but steady change. Something that bordered on indifference had transformed into investment and caring. An awakening awareness. 6 years ago my Uncle Ed died. His death, which came a year after my Aunt Mary’s death, shattered my father. He was the oldest of 4 siblings. He had lost his youngest brother years ago. But it was the recent death of his brother and sister, that broke him. The man who had always played the role of the big brother had no siblings left to care for and protect. He struggled with the injustice of them going before him. The consummate big brother had lost his purpose.

My Uncle Ed and my Dad had for many years, lived within a 40 mile radius of each other. They got together often, talked on the phone regularly and were deeply invested in each other’s lives. Each had children of their own and tried to get these cousins together on a regular basis.

Some of my siblings developed, early on, deep and lasting relationships with these “Framingham Convery’s” as we called them. My relationship with them was different. There were six Framingham cousins in all. Three of them were quite a bit older than me, closer to my own siblings ages. But I had one cousin a year older than me, one a year younger and one two years younger. And for most of our childhood we had the type of relationship children have when they feel forced to play with one another. I liked them more than I disliked them and as we all got older we came to like each other even more and let our own insecurities go.

But the overall indifference I felt, remained. Until their father died. Having their dads brother as my dad, I knew what they had lost. I understood the impact. Both men were larger than life. Both left a huge vacuum that time and space could not fill. My dad died just over a year after his brother. And my understanding of exactly what their loss felt like, grew.

And as that understanding grew, my indifference began to be transformed into something new. The indifference had not been born out of dislike but rather stemmed from the busyness of life. For our entire lives, our fathers updated us all on each other’s lives. No real investment was necessary. I could listen as my father would recite to me all he had learned about each of my cousins from his latest phone call. I could smile or be sad for them, whichever was appropriate and then go on with my life.

Until there were no more updates to rely on. And these people, this small band of Convery Framingham’s began to grow in importance to me. Why? Because THEY KNEW. They understood the depth of my loss. We had a shared history that I could no longer allow to languish on the sidelines of indifference. Slowly and surely I began to care. Indifference gave way to curiosity. Not a gawking kind of curiosity but the kind that develops as one starts to see the value another holds.

Each year since their dad died, my Framingham cousins have held a fund raiser around St Patrick’s day to raise money for a scholarship in my uncles name. And each year I have gone. Our dads both loved their Irish heritage and the day that allowed them to celebrate it. It’s a warm time and as the years go by, it feels less and less sad and more and more of a tribute to exactly what those two men would have wanted. The tribute goes well beyond the Irish celebrations because the real tribute is the growing relationships. It would have delighted both of them.

This year I noted a change when I went. I always enjoy it and have looked forward to it from its beginning. But this year, I felt something new. I felt at home. Completely relaxed. No pretense. No walls built up from years of indifference. I felt a deep abiding appreciation and a deepening curiosity. These people MATTER! I need to know more about them. I WANT to know about their lives. I feel that I have been given a gift……a gift stemming from the love two brothers had for each other. Finally I was open to it being passed down in a way that transformed my heart. My cousins have experienced this too…I can see it and feel it when I am with them.

I know my dad and my uncle are smiling down at us….glad we finally understand what they knew, all along. These growing relationships reconnect us with a part of ourselves that was lost when our dad’s left this earth. But connecting with each other isn’t just about holding onto to something we have all lost. Its bigger than that. This connecting transforms us. It takes us off the path of indifference and puts us on a path of deep, abiding love. That’s a transformation worth celebrating and a tribute to the special love that began long ago. A love that transforms.

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clarity and direction, living and growing, spiritual growth, Uncategorized

How to See in the Dark

Life can be blurry.   We can long for clarity and direction yet answers elude us.

I had a dream this past week.   I was trying to find something but fog was rolling in.   It covered everything in a mist that rose about a foot off the ground.   Not only could I not see well, everything felt disorienting.

I forgot about that dream until I went to bed last night.   I have a condition called ‘dry eye’.   Each night I need to use an ointment in my eyes.  It’s consistency is similar to Vaseline.  I put off doing this each night until I have shut off my light.   Once I’ve put the medicine in my eyes, I can’t stand having the light on because it highlights how blurry everything is.  I like to be able to see.

I’m in a season of ‘not knowing’ these days.  A season of not being able to see how things can or will work out.   Personally and with my kids and with my aging mother.   I just can’t see what to do or where to step next.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I came to grips with the unanswered questions regarding my own life.   When it comes to me, I am again content not being able to see ahead.

But as my kids grow into their adulthood and I watch them make decisions that I worry about, as I watch them struggle, I long for answers.   I long for assurance.  I want to ‘see’ a secure future for them.  But things are blurry.   Very blurry as a matter of fact.   The kind of blurry that (literally!!) makes my heart race.   I feel disorientated.   I can’t see!  And when I can’t see, I start to struggle.

But I’m old enough now, to realize how foolish that struggle is.   Life is blurry sometimes, actually it’s probably blurry most of the times.  Sometimes we are blessed with true moments of clarity.  An unobstructed path that clearly points in a specific direction.   And those times are so comforting, so desirable, that it’s easy to start to want it to always be smooth sailing.   Life is messy though, and fog often rolls in.

I know two responses to this.  My first response:  which is to feel disorientated, to struggle, to feel sad, guilty, frustrated…..overwhelmed….afraid.

But then there’s the second response.   The response that allowed me to fall asleep last night.   The same response that had brought me contentment with my own uncertainties.

That response is prayer.   And relinquishment.  To surrender to God the need for me to see the future, trusting that if He is there, I can relax – whether or not the path is blurry.  It’s an ongoing response though, not a one time thing.   The circumstances that cause me to worry haven’t disappeared.   My concern over them hasn’t vanished.   But there is an answer and it doesn’t need to involve stressing out because I can’t see the answer.

I’m reminded that the second type of response involves depending less on my eyes to see what path to take.  But then how do I see?  I reach up, take the hand of the Lord who loves me, and I let Him lead the way.

 

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addictions, blackouts, comfort, electricity, enlightenment, home, honesty, inertia, letting go, living and growing, peace, perspective, power, struggles, Uncategorized

Enlightened in the Dark

12 hours.  That’s all it was.   Short and sweet, really.   Friends in neighboring towns still don’t have it.   Power that is.   The completely underappreciated gift of walking over to a light switch, flipping it on and getting light in return.

12 hours, that’s all it took for me to appreciate that I am hooked.   Completely dependent on electricity.  The night time wasn’t so bad.   It wasn’t cold out and if it weren’t for my dog barking, I could have slept through the first 6 hours….blissfully unaware.

But my dog did bark, and I got up to check on him.   Flipped the switch to walk downstairs and…nothing happened.   Flipped it again, surely this was just a fluke?  Nope.  Nothing.   At that point, my son, who doesn’t believe in sleeping when it’s dark out, popped his head out of his bedroom and told me, “We’ve lost power.”   Oh.   Hmmm.

Now the nagging questions start.   Has anyone else lost power, why have we lost power, is everything alright?   It’s a little tough to tell at night if your neighbors have power.  But I spent a good hour, spying out different windows looking for a clue.

Then sleep….well, I would have slept except that’s when it dawned on me that my youngest wasn’t home from his shift that ended a t 11:30 pm and it was now 1:30am.  Thankfully after I sent a frantic text he responded quickly and assured me he would be home soon.  And he was.

So sleep finally came and quickly on it’s heels came morning.

Granted I was groggy that morning but still…..I found myself sitting – for two hours, in my recliner, doing pretty much nothing.   Don’t want to use the phone and drain my battery…but what is going on?   I need updates!!!  Meanwhile I continue to sit because somewhere in my head, without realizing it, I had determined I couldn’t do ANYTHING without power.   And it was at that moment I realized how truly dependent I had become.

Really, I could do nothing?   That’s ridiculous.   It was daylight after all.   Open the shades and get something done!  So I finally hauled myself out of my one recliner that is manually operated….did I mention how I also discovered in the middle of the night that when you don’t have power your electric recliners won’t work?   Who knew?!

While my kids wanted their devices, I wanted my FRIDGE!  Two weeks prior, someone left the door to my fridge open and in the morning I had the depressing job of throwing everything I had just bought the night before…out.   And here I was again.  Two weeks later and again, I had JUST gone food shopping.   But whatever!  I was use to this.   But the freezer too?   Man!   And no hot water, no oven, no curling iron (this was getting serious!) no washing machines, no, no, no, no……goodness, does everything plug in these days??   When you don’t have power it seems like it.

Even my land line disappointed me!   Like a dinosaur from times past, I have doggedly held onto my land line.  Because everyone knows when you lose power, only the land line works.  Except in this case, where we had lost our phone service too.

And then the magic happened.   A few beeps throughout the house….and voila!  Microwave clocks again tell time, TV’s work, phones can be charged.   Ahh, all is right with the world.

And I realize, I need to break this addiction I have to electricity.   Toughen up!   Kick it old school and go off grid!   I don’t want to feel this way again!   But as my refrigerator happily hums away, in my warm and well lit room, I find myself thinking maybe I’ll just get a generator…..

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addictions, decluttering, diet, healing, hope, inertia, letting go, living and growing, mourning, moving on, new life, peace, perspective, struggles, Uncategorized, will power

De-cluttering – Letting Go of the Inertia

Why does inertia have so much influence over our lives?   What is it that can make us want to do something for a long, long time and yet we just don’t?   I blame inertia but I can’t seem to put my finger on what causes the inertia.   Sometimes it’s as simple as a bad night’s sleep.   The next day is spent just trying to stay awake.   But other times, when lack of sleep isn’t to blame, why don’t I do the things I say and think that I want to do?

Some of the things are simple….pick up that piece of trash on the floor….umm, no, thanks…I will instead choose to walk by it 5, 10 or perhaps 25 times before I finally decide to take the half of second it needs for me to deal with it.  But as soon as I take care of it, I feel better.  Funny that such a simple thing can bring relief yet I don’t choose to simply pick it up, the first time I see it.  What gives??

Then there’s the bigger things….projects, jobs, dreams….I get where some of that inertia comes from.   These things require time and effort.   They may require skills I don’t yet have, connections with people I don’t yet know.   Maybe I don’t want to start one more thing that I might not finish.   Maybe I’m afraid I’ll fail.  Maybe deep down I don’t really want to do it or maybe I think it’s not worthy of my time.

I’m trying to de-clutter my life these days.   Honestly, I started the process 16 years ago but with five small kids at the time, my attention was often diverted elsewhere.   And as kids grow, de-cluttering means getting rid of the past.   That’s hard.  For a long time I found it impossible to let stuff go.

So over the last year I started looking at de-cluttering in a different way.   It wasn’t just about getting rid of stuff….although I have doggedly been doing that.  I started in January with de-cluttering addictions.   First to sugar, and most recently caffeine.   Controlling the will and ultimately changing what the will wants is a long slow process.  It takes a lifetime.  But I’ve learned it is possible.

Then I challenged my lifelong distaste (bordering on hatred actually) of exercise.  I started exercising most days, last summer.   But then the cool weather kicked in and I quit making the effort.   I started again this past summer and learned the difference between doing something because you should and doing something because you want to.   The longer I did it the more benefit I started to see and slowly, very slowly, I began to want to do it because it makes me feel better.

With each victory over my old stubborn will of downright refusal, I felt lighter….slightly less cluttered.   But inertia is still the enemy.   It whispers how busy i am – there can’t be time to exercise….how deprived I am…so many foods you can’t eat!   It tells me other things matter more.  Some days I listen to those whispers.   Most days now, I listen a lot less.

All this makes me wonder….has inertia ever been a problem for you?   Do certain circumstances provoke it in you?   How do you move beyond it?  I’d love to know.

 

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