What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tools For Closure

“Is this my 7th and 8th grade shop teacher’s house?” We heard this over and over during the two day estate sale we had this last weekend to get rid of some of the stuff my mom did not want to take with her to her new apartment in an Independent Living Center. We were asked this question probably 20 - 30 times.The answer was almost always, ‘Yes.” These incidents were interesting to say the least and inspirational at the best. Usually I was somewhere in between, remembering some of the bad stuff of the past while being faced with the persona my dad showed the world around him. Some of those stories, the persona ones, are described below.

As I indicated above, one of the coolest things was the number of people who came to the sale that had been students of my dad in his wood shop classes in Junior High. We lived just 4 blocks from the Junior High so there were a lot of students in Dad's classes from the surrounding neighborhood. Many of the former students had their children with them and told their kids that the hammer (or saw or chisel, or power sander or lumber or whatever) being bought for them were tools from his or her shop teacher. Several were actually motivated to start teaching their kids woodworking skills. One guy walked up the driveway looking at stuff. He eventually made it to the garage where we had miscellaneous new and used tools laying out to be sold. Some of my dad's woodworking projects (in various levels of completion) were also for sale out on tables.

This guy's head swiveled around looking at the wood projects and tools. Then he asked my older brother if this was a sale of Mr. Mallos' stuff. We told him yes and then he started talking about having similar cutting board and box -- his parents still use the cutting board! He was a 40+ year old man in a proverbial toy store (the "toys" now were saws, hammers, etc.) Eventually he and his wife decided to buy the two twin beds we had for sale (also made by my dad in his early years of woodworking). He was so excited that he would have this long term connection to his favorite teacher, and he was excited to give his boys new -- handcrafted -- beds.

There were many other such stories. Dad would've been so happy that former students bought his tools. He would have been embarrassed by their repeated kind words. One woman said he was the best teacher she ever had, even through college. She said he was fun, funny, really listened to her, made sense out of the math she kept getting poor grades in by applying it in shop. She said he was "tough but fair." My brothers got through selling dad's stuff (which they had been saying they needed to do since a couple months after my dad's death in 2004) because of these stories. It gave them closure and made the "disposal" of dad's stuff easier. I felt like a little part of Dad was passed on to each person who would now use those tools. He would be laughing (and probably giving away many more things than we did), by the whole event and chitchatting with his former students.

For me, it was one more chance to process and eradicate (or at least lessened) the feelings of pain, fear, and numb from my childhood. It can be, at least in my mind, a symbolic gesture but is also part of the healing and recovery process.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Decisions and Commitments

Making commitments means making decisions. Making decisions means choosing (not choosing is also a decision). Choosing means being willing to look at options. Being willing means using new, learned skills. Using skills means taking a chance on doing things differently, outside the comfort zone.

Even after almost 18 months I am struggling again with renewing the commitment I made in January 2010. In the last 18 months when self-harm thoughts came (especially thinking suicide is an option) I made the decision to turn away and keep my commitment. In December 2010, I made a decision to thrive and not just survive. My commitment is a required component in thriving.

Thriving is hard work. Lately, I have not put the energy or time into pursuing a life worth living, required to live life to the fullest. I am spending a lot of energy on trying to find a way out of my self-imposed darkness and avoiding my responsibilities as an adult. There is the problem. Choosing the darkness and avoidance is staying too close to the fence, looking into the hole, the abyss, on the other side of the fence with longing. Looking beyond the fence is mind numbing, and leaves me detached from a life focused on thriving.

This week I feel stuck at the fence. And I’m apathetic about it. I’m languishing: “lacking vitality, growing weak or feeble.” I am not being forced to remain in an unpleasant place or situation. I am self-imposing my own imprisonment. I can walk out of the situation any time I want. I just have to choose to go, to move. I just have to make the decision to walk – run – away from the fence. I’m not yet willing to do this and the longer it takes to make the decision, the harder it gets.

I’m praying for the willingness to be willing to renew the commitment. Right now that is the best I can do. I will keep praying for the willingness to make the healthiest decision – to renew my 18 month old commitment. I’m not sure at this point what is holding me back.

I do not want to alarm anyone with this note. Being able to “talk” about it with you and with those who are part of my support team is a step in the right direction. Having laid it all out, the decision, the pros and cons, I can begin to see things more clearly.

This article could be filed under “Survive and Thrive” or “Why Write?” or both. I am again made aware of the importance of writing as part of my recovery program.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Indefatigable Love

Indefatigable. As in “[God] remembered to love us, a bonus to His dear family, Israel – indefatigable love.” [The MESSAGE, Psalm 98:3] Indefatigable! Okay, so even with my love of the English language, I could not come up with a definition that would describe God’s love for us. I looked up.

Indefatigable: incapable of being tired out; not yielding to fatigue, untiring.

WOW!! Yes. I am shouting, shouting out with praise and thanksgiving for a God – for anyone in my life – who is never going to tire of loving me. In reality, although I may look for this kind of love from other people, only God can fully meet this need in my life. I know people want to love me without yielding to fatigue, but only God can do it. Let’s face it, I can be very tiring. So can you.

I also know that I am not able to totally, completely, without tiring, love the people in my life. Each person, including myself, has things, quirks, which are very annoying to others. Some are little things like how to fold towels or wash the dishes (my husband adjusted to my way of folding towels; I adjusted to his way of washing the dishes). No big deal. Compromise is a necessary component of all relationships.

Yet there are some things for which no compromise is available. Loving another while being faced with major changes in the scope and nature of the relationship is tiring, and loving the person and/or situation is beyond us. Thank God, His love never fails. Thank God, He can shore us up and give us the love we need to love others. Thank God, He stood by my husband, kids, friends, siblings, and parents, loving them as they tried to love the “new but not necessarily better” me.

Mental illness. Acute mental illness. Definitely a major change affecting every relationship. Adjustments were needed in every relationship and in dealing with the effects of living with a person struggling with Bipolar Disorder. Sometimes, often, I am not the “same” person my husband married: confident, organized, resourceful, able to multitask, creative, and stoic. I’m not saying those characteristics are never present in my life, but sometimes I need help to even get started on a project. A major adjustment was/is required by my family and all other relationships. Yet they still do their best to love me, and God is there, untiringly, not giving into fatigue, to help them. And more importantly, God loves me with complete abandon, no matter my quirks.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Hardest Step

I am not going to finish my story on playing ball this week. Maybe next week.

Something made me think of hope. When that happens, I pay attention.

I was reminded of hope, true hope based on the assurance that God will do what He said He would do. In spite of myself, and my emotions of late, God reminds me that He will not let me go – He never has and He never will.

On a recent local evening news broadcast a woman-reporter was standing on the 21st floor of the tallest building in Lansing, Michigan. Actually she was “standing” outside an open window on the 21st floor. A camera was attached to her helmet. We were able to see what she saw. Looking up was a little bit of the building and a lot of blue sky. Looking down . . . it was a very long way down to the cement-covered earth below. Looking out may have made this assignment worth the challenge – Lansing, with the sun shining off the Capitol Building dome, and the crisscrossing sidewalks between and through large areas of green grass and flowering bushes. Everything looked beautiful and safe and clean.

Against that backdrop, the woman hung on for dear life to a rope. Suspended over the edge of the window in a canvas harness, yellow helmet, and thick gloves. What was she thinking? She told us: FEAR. I’ve heard it before when people (including myself) are at the edge, building up the courage to take the first step off the solid structure. When the rappel is done, the comment I hear most often by the brave souls willing to trust a rope for their safety is, “The first step was the hardest.”

That’s how it is with my Christian walk, in my relationship with my Higher Power, Jesus. I can choose to stay on the solid platform, relying on my own abilities, my own strength. Or I can take the first step away from the familiar. I can trust God to keep me from harm. I can look around me and see all the things God has made available to me. I can catch a glimpse of what life is really like from this new perspective, a view I cannot get when I am unwilling to take the first step and trust God.

If a human being can trust a mere rope, how much more worthy is God of my trust! I can trust God. He said He would not let me fall. God’s love reaches out to me and I cannot be harmed. I can take the first step into the unknown, knowing a trustworthy God is holding onto my lifeline.

From The Message, Psalm 94:18 says,

If God hadn't been there for me,
I never would have made it.
The minute I said, "I'm slipping, I'm falling,"
Your love, God, took hold and held me fast.

The first step may still seem like the hardest, but the reality is by trusting God we can see and feel Him taking hold and holding us fast, unharmed, confident in His love and care.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Play Ball!

“Catch this.” “Roll it back to me.” “Good girl.” “Do it again.” “Yeah, Sweetie.” “Good job.” “Roll it to me again.” “Oops!” “Go get it.” “Try again.”

Playing ball, in its simplest form. Parents, older siblings, older others encouraging the basic give and take needed to develop basic social skills. And, prepares future ball players to cooperate with each other to achieve a common goal. Winning.

“Watch the ball.” “Figure out which foot.” “Kick at it.” “That’s okay. Let’s try again.” “Here it comes.” “Keep your eye on the ball.” “Good try.” “You’ll get it next time.” “Here we go. Watch the ball.” “Yeah!” “Look what you did!” “You kicked it!” “Run!” “Run this way!” “Run to first base before they get you out!”

New skills and new rules as players grow. Developing eye/hand (or in this case, foot) coordination is part of the game. It is about playing as a team and learning to run the bases. Learning to run as fast as you can and cheering on teammates are now a part of the game.

“Hold it this way.” “Okay, but put your hands like this.” “Put your feet like this.” “Hold the bat up here so you can swing it.” “Good. Let’s try one.” “It won’t hurt you to get hit by it.” “Alright. Keep your eye on the ball.” “Swing!” “I know it can be tricky when the wind blows the plastic, holey ball.” “Let’s try again.” “Okay. Watch the ball. Here it comes.” “Swing!” “ALRIGHT!” “Let’s try it again.”

Developing a good bat swing takes practice, a lot of practice. Now the game is looking more familiar. Three bases, a plastic bat, a ball (even though it is plastic and has holes in it), running bases, throwing people out are all involved now. The good thing about plastic balls: they rarely break anything when a wayward ball flies off the bat.

“Be careful of the cars.” “Let’s play.” “I pick you.” “Rules: Must land in the street. Pitcher is out for first base. Only two outs.” “I’ll pitch first.” “Batter up!” “You can hit it off a bounce.” “Okay. Here it comes.” “Hey, batter, batter, batter. SWING.” “Good hit!” “Catch it on the bounce!” “Chase the ball down.” “Throw it in!” “Hurry. HURRY!”

The ball is a little heavier now even if the bat is still plastic. The green tennis ball plays tricks on the fielder as it bounces and skids along the concrete street. Better eye/hand coordination is needed to catch the ball. Determination is a requirement for chasing down the “long ball” and those that get by a player and roll, swiftly, down the street.

What comes next in the development of a ball player? More next week.