Thursday, January 28, 2010

Long Cold Winter

It's been awhile since I have written because I have been uninspired lately. Nothing incredible has really happened to me, but I guess that's a good thing. One thing I have noticed about this winter is that it is one of the longest, coldest of my life. Each day the sun goes down my joy seems to dissipate with it. It is very subtle but quite real. Now as I sit typing in the dark, I am staying afloat by the fake light coming from this computer, the news on TV and the timed lamp that lovingly comes on each day at approximately 4:50, and mostly by the dreams of sunshine and warmth and hope.

The great thing is that the days are getting longer. Today it was still light at 5 pm; and despite, the FREEZING weather, we have had two days of wonderful sun. I cannot tell you how much more joy I experience when the sun is out.

I have begun to dream, instead of just trying to get through the day. Sometimes I dream about a very blurry but aching future, of being with the love of my life, that future someone with whom God has yet to provide me. And of reaching my second lifelong dream, of being a mom. But mostly I just dream about what I KNOW is coming and coming soon, the birth of my friends' babies in just a few short weeks and months! And I am looking forward to summer, this summer particularly. I am scared because I don't know what it will entail.

But anything that is combined with sun, you can be assured I can tolerate it, if not relish in it. I cannot tell you how sun affects me; and how darkness/night radically shakes me. I have a hard time enjoying the sun knowing that darkness will inevitably come.

These days have been filled with more hope. And I know it will keep increasing with each passing day. Soon my fingers will be warm, and dry hands will no longer burn, I won't be huddled in bed at night, but stretched out in peaceful moonlight. I won't hear about horrible snow-related accidents and falls. And thunderstorms, I can't wait for those!

But, then again, I am trying to focus on this moment! The hot baths and the nice-smelling lotion. Warmth emitted by your own body under a blanket. The hot meals and drinks after a cold walk outside. And just the incredible beauty and freshness of winter.

Winter, I will try to love you and enjoy each beautiful moment you give, but I won't be sad to see you go.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Car accidents, earthquakes, and my Job as a Caregiver

Yesterday I awoke to see that I had a missed call from my mom. I remember hearing it ring as I was just beginning to fall asleep the night before. So I immediately thought something bad happened since the call was from 10 pm and my mom knows I got to sleep early. But she almost always leaves a message; this time she didn’t. And when it’s bad news, it’s a sinister voice saying, “Hi honey. Please call when you can.” I’ve heard that voice one too many times. The more sinister and firm, usually the more serious the occasion. So of course, I was nervous. I called and got no response from either Mom or Dad's cell phones, so my head started spinning. I was so worried something horrible had happened. Luckily my mom called a couple minutes later. Sure enough my brother Greg was in a car accident on his way home from work the night before but he is okay. I was still so worked up and anxious I could barely calm down and started crying on the phone with my mom not even noticing. (Ever since Christmas night, tears have come on suddenly, forcefully. When they start, it is like a warm blanket cascading down. So needed and comfortable at first. I have to let out all that pain, that pain so real, raw, indescribable pain. I can’t even put into words. There was no tragedy, just an imagined one, but everything comes back so easily for me. Probably for most people that have had a loss, an almost-loss, or some sort of traumatizing event happen to them. These get relived through little things, like phone calls and voices. They plague and imprint your mind and you can never forget. Add on to that the fact that I simply cry easily and get down extremely quickly. Call it a season. Call it depression. Call it Brittany. Whatever. I go through periods where I am more dried up; now is not one of those periods.)

Anyway, I also called Greg but not on an impulse. It was a carefully planned event. Should I say painfully thought-over. That’s my mind for you: What if he answers? What if he doesn’t? What am I going to be doing while I talk to him? If I don’t do something at the same time, I will be late to work. What if we talk too long? What if I say the wrong thing? But my phone is dead; maybe it won’t be charged enough to talk. Maybe I shouldn’t call him. I’ll probably be bothering him. If I don’t, what kind of sister am I? Why didn’t he call me after the accident?

Finally, I got my breakfast ready and told my thoughts to shut up because they were still going. He answered after the first ring and immediately said, “Hi, how have you been doing?” as if nothing had happened. My brother Greg is always one who gives. When we talk, he hardly ever talks about himself. And, I am one who, when given a listening ear, can never shut up. But today, I didn’t want to focus on this pain. How dare I turn his scary accident into my own problem? Augh! I hate when I do that. So I didn’t mention me, but kept probing about how he was. I knew it was better for me that way. He assured me he was fine so that was good to hear, but I was still so anxious and troubled. He told me a little bit about the accident that involved four vehicles. His car was totaled, and so were some of the others but everyone was okay. I should be praising God, right? I tried to amidst my soft, cracking voice and brewing tears. I could barely eat my breakfast. Before he hung up, he said “Well, I am so glad to hear you are doing okay.” As if I were the one in the accident. But he was positive and I tried to feel it too. Maybe I was okay. If I just talked myself into it…I knew I could change these thoughts, this horrible sinking feeling in my gut. It just got deeper and the nausea grew. But I forced down the cereal and coffee as I said “I love you” to Greg and hung up.

Believe it or not, I had a pretty good day after that-once I got to work. Yesterday, I worked with my friend Maddie. She is a young woman with special needs who lives at home with her parents and siblings. It has its challenges, but I think it’s one of the best jobs in the world. I knew Maddie would want to know all about my family. She always gets my brothers mixed up (who doesn’t, though?). “How’s Nate doing? Is he the one in Germany?” “Nope remember you met Nate and Kat when there were in town over Christmas.” “Oh yeah! How are they?! They are so nice. I mean so sweet! Can you tell them I said hi?”

It’s hard to hang out with Maddie, take care of her, help her and learn from her, when I am so buried in my thoughts. But, luckily, I force myself to. I take her out to the library, book stores, coffee shops, plays, and her favorite: the animal shelter. I love seeing how she responds to different situations and how personable she is with complete strangers (of course, that can be dangerous, so I’m there to redirect her if needed.) But if I am ever too afraid to ask for something, no worries, Maddie has few inhibitions. She doesn’t worry about what people think of her. I have a lot to learn.

Of course, Maddie is quite vulnerable. I know she gets sad too. In my role helping people with disabilities, I have connected with them probably the deepest when I am sad. I don’t want to say my depression is a gift, but I know that there is nothing like crying with someone and truly feeling his or her pain. Yesterday, we talked a little bit about the earthquake in Haiti. That particular subject had been haunting me the past day and I was still feeling down from the morning occurrence so I didn’t really feel like talking about it. Luckily, Maddie’s soothing chatter turned elsewhere and quickly (which is quite common).

I enjoyed my time with her the rest of the day. And also, at ACR later in which I just did a short shift at one of the two homes where I work. Some people with depression can’t work. I am the lucky one. I work to survive. At least in combination with other much-needed things like a faith and spirituality that consumes me, healthy food, enough water, exercise, psychotherapy and a strong community of friends. In my role as teacher and caregiver, I am distracted, able to put my mind and body to use and not focus on myself and my sadness.

I am extremely affected by sad stories in the news or from family, friends, etc., so with the recent events in Haiti, I have been as down as ever, but not necessarily joyless. Sometimes, I wonder, as I walk into a classroom of bouncy teens, or giggly, squirrelly first graders, or as I look into the deep eyes of one of the residents, Shouldn’t the world stop? How can I be giving a bath or teaching about the Civil War when there are people dying, gasping for air under feet of rubble, crying out for relief. And as Greg Boyd said, will probably never be found because of their lack of resources in that already-impoverished country. But, no, life doesn’t stop. And, as I always try to do, I put myself in the shoes of those I serve. How are they thinking? How can I make life better for them? Life goes and on and will continue to go on in Haiti, but also here. So I need to stay in the moment and be here for these innocent children/adults who are dealing with this tragic news in their own way, or maybe not-maybe they have no idea but I need to make life comfortable for them. How is this possible when I have a hard time caring for myself, that I can be so focused on others? But this thinking is what is actually the most freeing for me, the times I feel most liberated from my depression.

My morning

My head is spinning out of control. With so many ideas. As always. I can't think of one thing to write about, so I will just start with my unusual morning. Well, not that unusual I guess. As a substitute, I am starting to learn the ropes. I have acquainted myself with some of the schools and districts so this morning, I knew that although the call I accepted said to be there at 7:30 I would shoot to be there around 7, since school starts at 7:55. How in the world would 20 minutes be enough time to get ready for teaching third grade?

So I got to this Columbia Heights school at what felt like the middle of the night because of how dark it was. The first wierd thing was that there were hardly any cars there. I wonder why no one is here, I thought. As a Kindergarten teacher in inner city St. Paul last year, I would get to school sometimes at 6:30 (it was always a competition in my own mind to see if I could get there before my teaching partner who lived twice as far away...) and school didn't start til 9:10!

Of course the side doors were locked so I walked around to the front and opened the doors to hear a blaring country station and a dark school office. Great, it was locked. I couldn't check in, get the key to the classroom and begin planning my day. As often happens, my overachievement is purposeless. So I just sat outside that office. Pretty soon the teachers started coming but they looked rather casual with jeans on and none were carrying endless bags or suitcases like most elementary teachers. I'd been to this school before and don't remember having to wait like this. Many people walked by me; some gave me a glance or a half smile. I knew I was early so I just politely waited another half hour until my head started pounding because of the ANNOYING radio (literally deafening!) Now it was fifteen minutes til school actually started (not that the kids came, that is). Finally I asked someone--a lady who'd walked by me three times now with not so much as an acknowledgment, "Do you know when the secretary will be coming?" She looked at her watch-not too rudely-"She is usually here by now..." and then offered a nervous laugh.

AFter a bathroom run (oh it was warm and the country music was muffled...I should have just stayed in there!) and a lot of wandering, more and more people came by. Every one I thought, as jangling keys got closer and closer, it must be the secretary. This is wierd. And rude. But I kept trying to have positive thoughts. I had waited 40 minutes.

Finally, a lady in purple who I'd seen pulling a paper shredder across the hallway and up the stairs, was now on her way back down the stairs with the shredder. Surely, she will notice that I'm still here (I'd first seen her around 7:10) and she did. She walked pulling the shredder along as if it was her little pet-kind of bent over-and looked up at me with a wrinkled nose. Yes, I am noticed! I thought. "Do you know who you're waiting for?" I said, "Um, yes. For the office to be unlocked." She looked at me with an even-more furrowed brow. I don't think I looked too wierd. I had had my head in my hands so my hair was maybe a little ruffled. So I kept going. "So I can get a room key. I am a sub." Okay, now she was staring at me as if I were other-worldly. "But...there's no kids today." She blurted quickly as if I should have known. "Oh...I was wondering..."

Anyway, it turns out there was no school. So I left, now with a splitting headache. Oh well. I still got paid for two hours! And now I am sitting at my home computer writing on here.

I have a lot on my mind. I was a little mad (mostly because the music annoyed me...I didn't mind the driving and people-observing that much), but now I'm not. There are lot more important things I could be (and am) upset about-like the earthquake.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Comfort Ye Others Just as You are Comforted

Last night I went to get an hour-long full body massage with hot stone therapy at a place nearby my house. I got a half-off deal in the mail! It was amazing! I'm glad I allowed myself to take care of myself that way. When she was doing my neck and shoulders she found I had knots up and down both sides of my neck that went all the way to the base of my skull. No wonder I've been in so much pain!

Anyway, the hot stones were the best because I was so cold, especially my poor bony fingers! I had so many knots and so much tension that she went an extra 15 minutes. I was able to really relax except the lotion she put on was a bit intense for my nose so I got a little headache. But people that are "too uncomfortable" to get massages like this don't know what they are missing!

I don't know what it is about me but I crave this skin on skin contact. I've always loved massage and got my first professional full body massage in high school when we used to have them included on my mom's insurance! I realized immediately that professional massages, just the ambience of it-everything-, was one of the only ways I can completely relax.

To get deep and spiritual, receiving a massage helps me connect with my body and realize again how beautiful I am. Also, just to be taken care of for once, ahhh, so nice. As I lay there yesterday, I thought of how I do physical therapy and massage/lotioning with the guys I take care of at the group home. I'm always worried I am doing it wrong, that maybe he is not comfortable. With the residents, they don't often communicate whether they are or are not comfortable. Because I received comfort yesterday as the receiver of massage, I was able to realize that yes, maybe I DO do a good job with the guys and maybe they enjoy my sloppy untrained attempts at PT and massage. More than that, though, I realize like my massage therapist, my first concern is for the other person.

Probably the best thing is helping my one resident get into bed at night. (Let's call him Cal.) Cal has a Parkinson's-like condition which makes him extremely exhausted and basically unresponsive as the day goes on. I just ache for him because he is so sleepy and often longs for his bed. I know all too well the feeling of being SO tired and having no energy to go through the process of getting to bed. Once Cal is finally all briefed, pajama-ed, lotioned and teeth-brushed, the next task is to get him to stand up from his wheelchair and take a few painful steps toward his bed, open and waiting for him. I, being a lover of my bed, can totally relate to his comfort in finally collapsing. Unfortunately, Cal is so weak that I have to reposition his rigid 150-lb body so that-to me-he looks comfortable and so that I, too, can receive comfort. Sometimes this is tough and requires him to stand and reposition himself a few more times (a process of a few minutes). Finally, finally he is looking cozy and I pull the sheet up, making sure it covers him evenly and then the comforter, tucking it under his droopy chin. I just see the release in his face and I feel it deep within. Rest. I know he's comfortable and at peace and that's the best feeling in the world.

To have that done to you every so often is great. That's why life is so beautiful. I am able to give because of the gifts Christ gives through others, whether it is a professional massage with hot stones, hugging and crying with a close friend, or a tiny child that you've known for less than a minute suddenly put her little hand in yours.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in your patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 2 Cor. 1:3-7

Friday, January 8, 2010

Today

I got one call for subbing today. Technology ed at a local "close-to" inner city high school. And I just sat there staring at the phone and then logged on to the website and stared at it. Pretty soon someone will take it and I won't have to make a decision. Well, I could have a job today. But, of course, in a few minutes, the job was no longer available because of my inactivity. I pictured myself supervising a bunch of young men (and women) doing woodwork or something...it wasn't really fear it was just...inactivity. That's what I do when I don't want to make a decision. Now I don't have a choice.

I am not working today and I am trying not to say, "You should have" every two seconds.

I am in a lot of pain, physical especially. The last three days or so I have experienced lots of muscle tension in my neck and back. Trying to stretch and exercise on Wednesday seemed to make it worse. OF course, the common thought was "You're doing somethin wrong." And then, "You're fine. Suck it up." Then, "What if something's really wrong?" THen I used my roomie Jen's massager and nwo it's really sore!!! So I scheduled a massage (since it's half off) at a nearby place for today at 5! I am excited for that "me" time although I still feel guilty for not working. I hope the massage doesn't make the pain worse. That I am really able to relax.

More on my depression in the next post...since I have the whole day ahead of me...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Live in this World

I wrote this on 1-4-10. It refers to many people who are important to me, including a woman I know at one of the group homes where I work.

Dearest LORD and my closest friend
I am so confused as to how
I can just sit here
My knees capture the sunlight
Coming in from the window
Just sit praising you
How is this changing anything?
But yet I do it
Because I just can't not do it
It is my very being
Who I am
And I don't feel in control now
Your Spirit is coming in
And the Sunlight is You
I'm captured by a real Being
I don't really know anything
Except you want me to do this
Why can't I just do this every day

Spend each day like this
Maybe I'd like life a lot more
I wouldn't be presented with
Screaming and self-induced bloody scratches
On arms and legs
And a mind that can't
Tell herself with words or actions
What she truly Wants
Or others, those that care for her
And the worst is that I can't comfort her
And in that way I am very
Alone and uncomforted
Oh Lord but in this moment I am
Comforted in your Love
And I know she is too
Even in her pain and discomfort

And his heart
Is bleeding out til there's no more
Emptiness
Closed off to love
And so abandoned
He can't even figure out
Who or what love is
He loves her but he is still
Bleeding, fighting, misunderstood
She is so busy and fleeting
Not able to think one way or the other
Because she so desperately wants
And needs love from a man
But a mangled and broken
Heart cannot lover her Even
If he says he does
These are two broken shattered people
And their pain is hard to bear

And I see it in her crystal
Shiny beautiful eyes
Tinted blue oceans
She really looks and will
never let me escape a room
Without those arms opening
And I see it her eyes
She is so broken
But the most incredible lover
I have ever seen
The way she loves is amazing
Yet how could she not love herself
She is longing for freedom
But somehow can't make a leap
She keeps going because Your love flows
out of her and
Her love makes me want to live

Their joy is deep but sometimes
Strained under
The wrinkles of hurt
The things that threaten to tear
Everything
Throw them in a puddle
A useless pool of water
But somehow life keeps going
And now a new year

Will it end the same?
Questions unanswered
A mom who keeps abusing
Awaking to another endles
Day of job searching
Barbing statements about your
Worthlessness
As a single person
As a jobless person
What society and family and even Christianity
can say about you
About your "condition"
Whether it's because you only
Have one hand
Or maybe because you have an actual illness
located in the DSM that is called
Major Depressive Disorder
OR maybe because you are just a "label-less" person
Who feels
Like a nobody

That's why I wish I could sit
Here
And just forget the world
Because no matter how much
Pain I bleed out
It doesn't seem to change anything
I will stay in your presence
As much as possible
Until You teach me how to
Live in this World.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Looking Back on '09

Monday, January 4, 2010
"it's gonna be happy new year..."

2009 in retrospect..

1. what did you do this past year that you'd never done before?
was a bridesmaid in two weddings, taught inner city Kindergarteners, went to The Fray concert, drove with a friend down to El PAso, went on a 2-week long vacation with just my parents,

2. did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I try to make a daily commitment to things otherwise I just burn out. Each day, I try to live fully by taking care of myself, and demonstrating

3. did anyone close to you give birth?
no, not til this year


4. did anyone close to you die?
my uncle Tom was killed on his bicycle in May. We shared lots of fun memories, especially the last few years. Love you, Uncle Tom!


5. what countries did you visit?
Mexico! I visited my friend Becca in El Paso and we spent some time in Juarez, Mx where she works with children in a children's home!

6. what would you like to have this year that you lacked last year?
more patience and understanding for self and others, how to see myself as a beloved person, the way Christ sees me and a willingness to trust Him more than I ever have

7. what date from this year will remain etched upon your memory, and why?


8. what was your biggest achievement of the year?
graduating from DBT (dialectic behavior therapy), making it through a tough year of teaching, being more open to God's involvement in my life in the smallest things

9. what was your biggest failure?
not being renewed as a teacher at the school I was at (even though I was going to resign anyway), or getting recognized by principal (which was kind of impossible), not getting a teaching job


10. did you suffer illness or injury?
normal every day battle with depression and migraines once a month or so

11. what was the best thing you bought?
I didn't buy a lot.

12. whose behavior merited celebration?


13. whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?


14. where did most of your money go?
paying off loans; food; gas; rent, the normal!

15. what did you get really, really, really excited about?
Umm...probably when two of my friends got pregnant!

16. what song will always remind you of this year:
Any of the Woodland Hills worship songs, especially "Lead me to the Cross," "At the Foot of the Cross," "Jesus Draw Me ever Nearer", "Still"--Reuben Morgan (Hillsong) "Shadowfeet" and "None but Jesus" by Brooke Fraser (Hillsong),"The More I Seek You"--by Karie Jobe

17. compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder? Both in different ways, but I don't really like those terms


18. thinner or fatter? same


19. richer or poorer? I am richer in a lot of of non-monetary ways. God is teaching me to see people the way he sees them and that is a true gift. I have become a more open-minded and loving person (but also experienced more pain because of it, I think). This year has made me a richer person simply because I lived.


20. what do you wish you'd done more of?
Writing, volunteering or missions trips, traveling

21. what do you wish you'd done less of?
Complaining, obsessing, COMPARING MYSELF TO EVERYONE

22. how will you be spending your birthday? I don't know


23. how will you be spending the holidays? probably the norm, I don't know


24. did you fall in love this past year? with life a little more than last year


25. how many one-night stands? none


26. what was your favorite TV program? Law & Order: SVU, Everybody Loves Raymond, but I kind of stopped watching TV


27. do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
no

28. what was the best book you read? When Bad things Happen to Good People by Harold s. Kushner, PRacticing the PResence of God by Brother Lawerence, and Beautiful Boy by David Sheff (a memoir of a journalist's son's addiction to meth)


29. what was your greatest musical discovery? Brook Fraser of hillsong


30. what did you want and get? jobs


31. what did you want and not get? a FT teaching job (I don't know if I really wanted it, just wanted to say I got it, and also for security/benefit reasons)


32. what was your favorite film of this year?


33. what did you do on your last birthday, and how old were you?
25, nothign much celebrated with boyfriend and close friend


34. how would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?


35. what kept you sane? worship music (Woodland Hills and Hillsong), other favorite music and singing, close friends, WRITING and reading, crafting

36. which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?


37. what political issue stirred you the most? probably economic difficulties after our church's sermon series called Compassion by Command


38. who was the best new person you met?


39. tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009: Be Still and know that I am God. Lately I have been bearing the pain of everyone around me. It's like an addiction. God is teaching me that I can't do that, to say it simply, or I may die (seriously)--like the pain is so great sometimes, I just feel like i can't live in this life. god and I talk and he tells me things like, "It's okay to just breathe. Rest against by chest and just breath. Be still. Know that I AM. I am God."


40. quote a song lyric that sums up your year: None but Jesus--brooke fraser

In the quiet, in the stillness
I know that You are God
In the secret of Your presence
I know there I am restored

When You call I won’t refuse
Each new day again I’ll choose

There is no one else for me
None but Jesus
Crucified to set me free
Now I live to bring Him praise

In the chaos, in confusion
I know You’re Sovereign still
In the moment of my weakness
You give me grace to do Your will

When You call I won’t delay
This my song through all my days

All my delight is in You Lord
All of my hope, all of my strength
All my delight is in You Lord Forevermore

The More I Seek You--Kari Jobe
The more i seek you,
the more i find you
The more i find you, the more I love you

I wanna sit at your feet
drink from the cup in your hand.
Lay back against you and breath, here your heart beat
This love is so deep, it's more than I can stand.
I melt in your peace, it's overwhelming