Saturday, January 25, 2014

MS. FIXER

My son told me this week that I'm a "fixer" and he knows this because he's a fixer too, and he learned it from me. If someone calls me with a problem, I think it's my responsibility to help them resolve it.

My husband was not a "fixer." If someone called me with a problem and I was ready to get right out there and do my "fixer" thing, he would say, "If you help them now, you'll have to help them again later. Just let them figure it out themselves and they won't let this happen again." Hummm, I suppose that is true for some things, but what about the mother who needs diapers and formula right now? Wouldn't they just end up with a bare butted hungry child? Believe me, we had a lot of those kind of conversations!

So, we didn't always see eye to eye on helping or not helping but at times we could understand the other's point of view. (sometimes, not always.) Now that he's not here, I find it may be time for me to reel in my "fixer" personality on my own and try to find some middle ground. 

I recently read "The Handbook for Companioning the Mourner" by Alan Wolfelt, Ph. D. It's a book written to help people care for those who are in grief. He wrote 11 Tenets for walking beside the mourner and listening to them without trying to fix or change them. I think they will help anyone with a friend in need, whether mourning, depressed, going through a divorce, or just having a bad day.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is just listen and not say or do anything. The next time I am ready to run out and rescue someone, I am going to read these tenets out loud to myself.

Tenet One:  Companioning is about being present to another person's pain; it is not about taking away the pain.
Tenet Two :  Companioning is about going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.
Tenet Three:  Companioning is about honoring the spirit; it is not about focusing on the intellect.
Tenet Four:  Companioning is about listening with the heart; it is not about analyzing with the head.
Tenet Five:  Companioning is about bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about judging or directing these struggles.
Tenet Six:  Companioning is about walking alongside; it is not about leading.
Tenet Seven:  Companioning means discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it does not mean filling up every moment with words.
Tenet Eight: Companioning is about being still; it is not about frantic movement forward.
Tenet Nine:  Companioning is about respecting disorder and confusion; it is not about imposing order and logic.
Tenet Ten:  Companioning is about learning from others; it is not about teaching them.
Tenet Eleven: Companioning is about curiosity; it is not about expertise.  by Alan Wolfelt, Ph. D

Saturday, January 18, 2014

OUT ON A LIMB

Have you ever went out on a limb for anyone? I did and it broke. 

I recently spent about a month away from home to be with a friend who desperately wanted a chance to change the circumstances in their life.

I never really understood the term "out on a limb" before this happened. But now I do.  

In my mind I can picture a tree, bare of all foliage and covered with ice. There is a bird sitting out on the thinnest limb on this tree, and I am this bird, and this is my story.

I received a call from someone I love and I didn't realize it at the time, but as soon as I answered that call I began to move out on that limb...

I hopped on a plane to meet my friend... I slid a little farther out on that limb.

I rented a car and picked my friend up ... I slid a little farther out on that limb.

I found a temporary place for us to stay...There I go..sliding...sliding.

With every single thing I did to "help" my friend, too many to mention and too personal to speak,  I slid farther and farther out on that limb, which unbeknownst to me was getting pretty thin.

I was extending myself so far financially I should have been able to hear the ice of that limb beginning to crack, but I was ever the helper, helping, helping and moving always toward the sky!

I was finally able to find a permanent home for my friend. In one gigantic leap I was now at the very end of this frozen, crackling limb, but I was holding on.

Since I had done such a great job helping my friend I felt my time there was finished so I boarded a plane for home and by the time the tires of that plane hit the tarmac my friend went back to her old life.

CRACK! I could hold on no longer. What was left of that limb went blowing in the wind!


Why did I sacrifice? Why did I go there? And then, they started, the "IF ONLY'S." And anyone who is a widow or has lost someone they love can relate to those. I had so many "IF ONLY'S" when my husband passed away. If only I had insisted he go to the doctor sooner, or if only I had taken him to the hospital when he was in pain maybe they would have found his cancer sooner and it could have saved his life.  There are no answers to the "IF ONLY'S."

The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13-14 "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." 

Did the apostle Paul FORGET his past? He wrote this from prison and and it wasn't his only imprisonment. He was stoned and left for dead, he was shipwrecked, he was present when Stephen was stoned to death. Do you think he ever asked "Why?" Or, "if only I hadn't, if only I didn't."

I believe Paul made a choice not to dwell on this past but to move forward toward hope in Christ. We can spend the rest of our lives asking God why but it will drain all the energy we have left in us and we probably aren't going to get an answer this side of heaven. And why spend our days full of regret wondering what would have happened "IF ONLY" we had done things differently? If we need to ask a question, let's ask "What?" "What do I do now?" Now that's a question God will answer!

My plan for 2014 is not to dwell on the past but to keep moving forward looking ahead to the life that God has called me.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Is That You?

The other morning I awoke so puzzled. Why would I dream that dream?  It's been almost 22 months since my husband passed away. I thought I was over that...

I was walking down the sidewalk with a friend and about half a block in front of me was my husband walking toward us! He had on a bright colored shirt and khaki shorts, and white tennis shoes. He had on sunglasses and it was hard to see his blonde hair from that distance, but I could tell it was him. For a few short minutes anyway, until he got closer, and I could see that the man didn't really have the same build as my husband, or walk quite the same way. The closer he got, the only thing that resembled my husband was the khaki shorts and bright colored shirt. As a matter of fact, as this person approached us, I realized he was actually a SHE with blond hair pulled back into a ponytail!

Now I can just hear my husband saying "you thought I was a woman?" and this would be a pretty funny story, except at the time I wasn't laughing. In my dream I was sobbing as I was explaining to my friend why I thought this was my husband. I woke up with a tear stained pillow and such a sadness in my heart and a feeling that I had almost seen him, but missed him.

Then I remembered the times, almost forgotten now, when I really did feel like I had caught a glimpse of him for a split second, and then realized it wasn't him at all.

A couple times when I thought I caught a glimpse of him there was actually a man walking down the sidewalk just like in my dream. A real man, with a bright colored shirt and khaki shorts. I would be driving down the road and see him walking down the sidewalk and just for a split second I would think it was my husband and then I'd realize it was just a stranger that resembled him.

The last time something like this happened to me I was driving home from a grief support group and stopped at a red light and noticed a red sports car on the side street that I thought looked like his car. As the car turned left in front of me, it seemed like time stood still as the man drove past me and I saw how much he looked like my husband. He had blonde hair, sunglasses and a round face, and as he passed he turned and looked right at me! I felt like he looked right through my soul. It was an emotional experience.

Why do these things happen? I heard of a person who thought they saw their deceased loved one and yelled out at a stranger in a baseball stadium, and another one who followed someone through a crowd. What causes our brains to play these tricks on us?

I think of my brain as a computer and my grief is a folder that is stored in my computer. Then  every loss I have that's associated with my grief is a file that has to be placed into that folder.  My grief folder would have the loss of my soul mate, my best friend, the person who washed my car, my financial security, the one who cleaned my garage, trimmed my bushes, cleaned the pool.

All these files (losses) just pile up until the folder is so full that it can't hold anymore. Then my computer got a little WONKY for a while. I saw things that weren't really there, I couldn't remember things and felt like I was getting dementia. I was emotional and stressed out!

Not everyone grieves in the same way, but these things are a part of the healing process and although I would like to skip them altogether, there is just no way around it. I had to go right through it. I had to feel it all to heal. If I tried to stuff the hurt from my losses back into those folders (and I did try sometimes), they would just pop up again later.  So, although this journey can be uncertain and overwhelming, feel the pain, suffer through the grief, go to a support group, get counseling, the road you're on will get wider and shorter and smoother.

Which brings me back to that crazy dream I had. Someone told me once that if we have a confusing dream or the same dream maybe we should ask ourselves, is my body trying to tell me something, is God trying to tell me something? When I was in the middle of my grief I kept having a dream that I was coming to an intersection with my grandchildren and the brakes went out on my car and the light turned green in the opposite  direction.  I kept trying to figure out why.  Don't get me wrong. I DO NOT interpret dreams! But I felt my life was totally out of control (like the car) and I could not protect my family just like I could not protect my husband. When I finally said "Okay God, I know I'm not in control of anything in my life, you are. My life, my family, we are all yours," I stopped having that dream.

So when I had this latest dream about almost seeing my husband, I said "God, I can't go back to feeling like I almost had him, but didn't. I almost saw him, but he was gone." And thank God, I haven't had the dream again.

Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."