Saturday, November 28, 2009

Silent Night

photography by Donncha O Caoimh

I'm waiting.

As I post this, with a heavy feeling that I really should be doing other things on my lengthy to do list, I remember last December when the snow came early… and how it changed things for me then. So, I'm waiting for the snow, and hoping for change.

Have you noticed how much quieter things are after a fresh snowfall. My husband commented to me that everything seems to slow down a little when it snows, almost a subconscious response to the forgiving blanket that wraps its way around our lives.

The panic of the pre-Christmas rush is pre-empted by the need to clear the driveway. Conversations break out with the neighbours as they choose to do the same. Plans are made for future conversations, eggnog dates are set, and people reconnect. Priorities are revised, and humanity wins over consumerism for a time.

The children get caught up in it as well. The X-box 360 and iPod is left untouched as they rush outside to create snow forts, speed bumps in the street, and havoc with well aimed balls of packing snow! I watch them from the window, full of memories. When the time comes, they reluctantly leave their winter playground and come inside for dinner, rosy-cheeked, energised and full of conversation.

Here in Kelowna with its moderate climate, the city seldom shuts down, but back in Toronto where I lived my childhood, things sometimes ground to a halt until the snow stopped falling and roads were cleared. Schools closed, people went home from work early, and streets were strangely hushed as people left their vehicles parked and walked instead.

The very things that happen because of a snowfall, are, to me, the things that are most needful in my life. I need to slow down more often, and be fully engaged in the moment. I need to take time for people, to dig out from under the To Do List, and have a good old conversation with my neighbour, with my kids. I need to step back from the consumer-based version of Christmas and consider what this season is really about.

That is why I love the snow and it’s ability to get our attention. Love it or hate it, it has an impact on us. We can’t ignore it. We can’t control it. And it’s silence speaks.

So I'm waiting… for the first snow fall… for another first silent night.

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sometimes suicidal… really???

As you know, I just returned from a trip to Ontario to visit my folks. It was great… lots packed into a very short time… and I left wanting more in many ways. I miss my family.

While I was there, I showed my parents how to find my blogs, both Sometimes Suicidal Mama and My Grace Notes, as well as the main page to Pink Ink Workshop. I wanted them to see where I was putting my writing energies these days, and I wanted them to, in a small way, affirm that part of me. I know, I know, still trying to get my parents approval!

After showing them my blogs, we got up from the computer and were walking out of the room when my Dad said, 'You know, that name you chose really upset me when I first saw it'… and I knew he meant the name of this blog… and I knew he was upset because he wasn't comfortable or happy to know that his baby girl was 'sometimes suicidal'. The mama part was fine, I guess. And I remember having a conversation with my brother about it a couple of weeks ago, where we discussed what the name meant, and how he might help me illustrate this when I redesigned the look of my blog with him (talented graphic designer brother).

And maybe that's also the case with you? You read this blog, you look at the title, and you think, what on earth is she talking about. Maybe you think I'm making light of the subject of suicide, or maybe you think I'm being melodramatic. It's something I think about… what your reaction is to the title. So it's time for me to come clean on this.

Emotional imbalance and mental illness are not to be mocked, nor discounted or made light of. I am not suggesting that I understand anything but my own experience, and that is what this blog is, a written account of my own experience. As such, I have chosen to be open about what my life is like, and I've written a little about anxiety, depression, hopelessness, doubt, mixed in with faith, hope, inspiration and wonder in my life.

And I have to openly admit that, at times, especially times in the past, I contemplated ending my life. The times came and went, and thanks to God I didn't follow through on those thoughts. But, they were real.

For me, menopause has resulted in emotional struggles too, so when I chose to write my life down at this fork in the road, I knew a part of what I wrote would be about depression.

If I'm going to be real, then I have to admit that my struggles are real. I have to admit that I am less than perfect, do not have all the answers, am a wounded yet hopeful God seeking woman who has been and may again be a 'Sometimes Suicidal Mama'. I hope and trust and pray that this transparency and knowledge encourages you, because I'm not alone in this… am I?

That said, here is an early posting that will help to bring you up to date on where I've come from and what has inspired me to write down my life, openly sharing my humanity with you.

Tell me what you think… I'm hoping for a two way conversation… maybe…



I'm thinking it might help to know a little bit of my history at this point… nothing too detailed, but just a general idea of who I am and where I'm at.
About 18 months ago my menstrual cycle stopped. I was 45, and not expecting to be cold turkey into menopause.

But, I was. I began to experience all of the symptoms that you have no doubt heard about, or even experienced yourself if you are with me in this phase of life… hot flashes (a tingling feeling in my head followed by blood rushing through my body and face - like being embarrassed all over), night sweats and sleeplessness, weight gain (not a lot but enough to be frustrating), moodiness, lack of focus, lack of desire, irritability (yes, even more than usual!), and I went to my Doctor to investigate what next steps there might be for me as I walked through this change of life.

The Doctor said it was just a matter of managing things, and making adjustments as necessary.
OK, I thought, and I did a little bit of research (talked to my Mom and various friends) to find out their insights, what worked, what didn't, and proceeded to make some adjustments to my life, including walking more and eating less, wearing cotton and in layers that I could easily remove when necesary, and lowering the expectations I had for my productivity in lots of areas.

The symptoms came and went, and things were going well for the most part, except for the difficulty in focusing on tasks, or completing them in a timely fashion. And, the overall feelings of anxiety and depression were sometimes quite strong.
And, all this 'mental' stuff was and is going on in someone who is supposed to be filled with hope and joy and all the other trappings of being a 'woman of God'.

It wasn't the first time I've found that depression and faith are polarized, but here I was again… feeling ashamed, on the outside looking in, embarrassed to share the truth of what I was going through for fear of being 'too much' for those around me. So, I began to withdraw from relationships, and spend more time alone. (YIKES - not the best choice really)

Again I sought 'medical' help, and ended up finding some great nutritional supplements that are still helping me to regain some of my energy and vitality again (Macaroot). Some days are better than others, and there are even stretches of good days where I'm not even aware that there is this new reality for me… I feel like the old me those days. But, most days are different and I'm still trying to figure out what my new reality is.

All this to say that I'm tired of pretending that all is well all the time, that I've got it all together, and that being a Christian is the answer to everything.
I need you to also know that God is my foundation in life -- he really is. I believe that God is close by and understands and provides, but that is not a bandage solution for me. I don't think it's fair to the rest of you for me to say one thing and then experience another. How much worse things would be for me without God in my life is hard to say (probably a lot worse)… but to say that all is well all the time would be a lie.

So, my passion being writing, and my purpose being to let my life be an open book, I decided to write my way through this time of my life… sharing the ups and downs and realities of these days with you. If you catch me preaching, forgive me for that, and if you catch me being a wet blanket, I hope you can forgive that too. What I simply want to be is real. I'm tired of pretending, hiding, and making excuses for who I am.

This is me. A sometimes suicidal mama.

This is me with God. A sometimes suicidal mama with God.

Maybe, somehow, my life experience will help you?


Monday, November 23, 2009

Family values

I see by the date of my last post that I've haven't prioritized blogging much for the past two weeks. In the past I would have made excuses, explained myself, and looked for your understanding, and your forgiveness. But this time I'm simply going to say I haven't prioritized it and move on. Because that's the truth no matter my reasons why.

Several topics come to mind for today, but the one I choose to focus on is Family Values… perhaps because I just returned from a lovely visit with my parents and brothers and their families in Ontario.

Inspired by a gut feeling that I needed to prioritize my aging parents and spend some quality time with them, and this feeling confirmed by a program we are currently doing at church called 'One Life, No Regrets', I jumped on an airplane last Wednesday and headed East… to my childhood home. I spent a wonderful three days with family… eating, talking, walking, hot-tubbing, and eating again… and it fulfilled my heart's desire to love them all as best I could in the time I had. Bob and the kids stayed here and managed incredibly well without me. Thanks, Babe!

And it seems that no matter the experience these days, there is this part of me that finds something to be learned from it. Sometimes that can be a little over-analytical. Sometimes I find myself to be a tad tiresome, because of this need to take something other than the pure experience, and learn something from it, or apply a deeper meaning to it.

My visit with my parents was a bit like that, only I recognized it within myself and was able to take a chill pill and enjoy the moments, rather than pursuing my own agenda for deep meaning and deep impact. Thank God I just enjoyed the moments with them.

Another case in point.

A couple of years ago… we were enjoying a bowl of ice cream for dessert after dinner, and one of the kids said to Bob and I, 'Ice cream should be a family value'. Yes, we all agreed. It is something that we all enjoy, and even if it's not entirely healthy to have too much of this good thing, we can enjoy it in moderation as an entire family. What a cool family value, we all thought.

The very next day I got on my computer and made a lovely little poster with the word 'Ice Cream' as an acronym for all the important yet slightly hidden values of our family… values of character and action, values that we aspire to. Suddenly the family value of 'Ice Cream' had taken on a much deeper meaning for me, and I saw the opportunity to engage the family in a life lesson or a launching pad for deeper things.

So, I posted my meaningful bit of writing on the fridge, and showed it to the family and experienced… a very lukewarm response.

But wait, wasn't the point simply to enjoy a bowl of ice cream together, to make sure that ice cream made it onto my grocery list? Was our son's thought of making ice cream a family value really about the deeper meaning at all, or was I making something out of something for the purposes of what? What I needed and what they needed were two entirely different things!

I remembered this experience the other day with a smile, because that piece I wrote about the 'Ice Cream Family Values' is not on our fridge anymore. Yet, there is still ice cream inside the freezer, and we still enjoy a bowl together as a family quite often.

And, we still consider ice cream to be a family value… plain old often vanilla ice cream… no fancy toppings or deeper meanings required.

And that's OK with me. Just like visiting my parents can be just that… a lovely visit with my family.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Time and attention is something I can give

Seems I'm not the only one, not very surprising to me or any of you, I'm sure. The more I become transparently real in a 'Velveteen Rabbit' kind of way, the more I come into contact with others who share similar stories with me.

• Topic… emotional struggle.

• Biggest challenge…
feeling alone, feeling rejected.

• Biggest need…
understanding within a loving community.

And at times these interchanges are helpful for me and the people I meet, at other times overwhelming as we go beneath the superficial. It's heavy stuff.

Again, yesterday, a connection with someone who is burdened by deep emotional pain, struggling to keep it together enough to take care of loved ones, and here I am wondering, "But what can I do"? It always becomes personal for me, and that's the biggest challenge. Because I know I can't be or do it all, for everyone. And it appears that the world, and in particular my world right now, is full of walking wounded.

I see them, these beautiful hurting people, through several sets of eyes. First, I see them through the eyes of my personal understanding and empathy because of similar experiences. Second, I see them through the eyes of recognition that an empathetic interchange is not enough… that relationship is required, and I know I have to take action. Third, I see them through my own wounded, foggy perspective that most always sees what I want to see, and the fixer, encourager, righteously indignant rescuer in me kicks in. Fourth, I see them through the eyes of Jesus, who reminds me that I cannot turn away except at great cost.

And I'm trying hard to not turn away.

So I'm beginning to think that knowing what "to do" isn't really necessary. I'm thinking that it is more about learning to pay attention to my fellow travellers, and spend time listening. I can give that… my time and attention.

Perhaps many of these burdens and problems have no solutions anyway, and who am I to think I can fix anyone (God complex?). But, I can be there. I can make myself available. I can do little things like make a phone-call or an extra batch of spaghetti sauce. I can look into their eyes and linger in conversation rather than running away. It's messy stuff… complicated, painful, dark, messy stuff. I'm trying hard to not be afraid to go there with these fragile creatures.

Because that's what I desire too, this fragile walking wounded creature called Lesley-Anne Evans, simply wants to know she is not alone in this world. I want to know that I have a listening ear or a broad shoulder whenever life just gets too much to bear. Being a Christian doesn't mean I don't struggle… it's just not a band-aid for all the mess, no matter what some people might say. God knows that about me, and many times he has sent skin-on 'angels' to help me when I'm at the end of my rope.

Like the time many years ago, when I was at home with three little kids, and trying desperately to make canned peaches, crying in the kitchen of our little house because I just couldn't figure out how to do the mothering and the canning at the same time. And then the back gate creaked open, and my neighbour May popped in and rolled up her sleeves and stayed until we had finished the job. I believe God sent May over that day, and has sent many more 'angels' to me over the years.

We are not alone. The living, breathing, hurting human beings that we pass every day on the street, in the mall, at the school, in the church lobby… they all matter to God. They should also matter to us. That's not easy for me to say any more than it is for you to hear. I'm a bit of a recluse, low on the need for social interaction. I like my own company best. But I'm learning to push myself outside of this comfortable place… bit by bit. I just can't love my neighbour any other way.

Time and attention…

I believe we are all worth that investment.




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