Yin-Yang Twins…No, not those guys…

I lost a dear friend this week.  It was a hard shock and my soul is still trying to stop crying over the premature loss of a soul whose very essence screams purity and wholesomeness.  We lived in the same neighborhood when we were middle and high school kids and we went through the same awkward phases together.  It was the early 90s and therefore we lived by the nights of MTV, when it still legitimately stood for music television videos, to watch the latest hairbands release the next big hit.  We spent many nights together listening to music, watching videos, and crushing on the likes of Axl Rose and Bret Michaels. We did silly things like tease each other’s’ hair, try on rad ass clothes, put on bright, powder blue eye makeup, and all the jewelry we could possibly find in her mom’s room.  It was a great time.

Honestly, she was my safe space.  She was the one person on the planet that wouldn’t judge me, hate me, or try to change me.  She was honest in a way that worked for a rebelling teen.  She balanced my yin with her yang, which is probably why we kept the BFF yin-yang necklaces for years.  You remember those necklaces, right?  The ones that started with half heart pieces that looked broken and one side had BE FRI while the 2nd half had ST ENDS…the yin and yang were much, much better options because honestly, who wanted the 2nd half that read ST ENDS, it was like getting the utter and ass section of a two-part cow costume…and who wants to be the ass?  No one.

Yep, yin and yang best friend necklaces in the form of hip chokers were our thing and it just fit perfectly.  She was always the positivity that everyone needed in their life, the shining brightness in an otherwise dark, dark world.  I remember I asked her once how she stayed so happy all the time and she simply said, because it’s easier to be happy than it is to be sad or angry.  It was simple, but it was right.

I remember when she had her 4 wheeler accident and she ended up with some permanent damage.  My mom, God bless her patient self, drove me to Macon, GA several times while she was in the hospital.  It was a scary time and it was some of the longest days until we were confident she would come through it.  It wasn’t long after that when we started to drift apart.  Boys got in the way, more specifically, Mr. Medic got in the way.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t his fault in the slightest, but it was something that happened the way it usually does when a boy enters a teenage girl’s life and suddenly there’s no time for anything or anyone else.  I was completely smitten and mine and her time became less and less until my family moved three states away.  We spoke a few times after I moved and a few times after I came back a few years later, but nothing was ever as close as those middle and high school years.

We met up a few times after I got back and she was still a pillar of sunshine and rainbows on a stormy night, but like with life and kids, time got busy again.  Technology advanced and eventually social media became a thing and we reconnected via Facebook, but we never really reconnected they way we were once connected.  I’ve always regretted that, but then I thought there was time.  Don’t we all think that?  Don’t we all think there’s time?  Time, it’s a fickle thing – you always think there’s more of it, until there isn’t.

So, here I sit in the darkness and silence of my living room with tears streaming down my face – thankful that I know my keys and I can punch these words out without needing to see – and I wonder.  I wonder if she knows.  Does she know?????  Does she know the light she poured into my soul some 25 years ago that has never, not once dulled?  Does she know how many lives she’s touched by just being the angelic, sweet person she was born to be?  Does she know how special she was to every single human being she met?  My guess is that she doesn’t. She saw herself as any selfless person would, just another person.  She was so much more though, she was the person that ALL people who meet her aspire to be more like.

She was unapologetically herself and who she wanted to be.  She strived for happiness and peace when others only dreamed of it.  As I sit here and reminisce over years gone by and time forgotten, I remember her smile, her positive thoughts, and the way she lived her life and I smile through the tears and heartache knowing that I am immensely blessed for having had only a blink of time with her.  I am a better person for just having known her.  I take this time to make a promise to her beautiful soul that I will strive to live in peace and happiness when others only dream of it, and acknowledge that if something does not bring that peace and happiness, that I must let it go and find what does.  She taught me that.  She taught me to be brave. She taught me to love endlessly and hopelessly and it’s time to start living for her.  I will grieve her, I will love her, and I will get busy living in peace and happiness because to do anything else would tarnish the perfect memory of the most beautiful soul I have ever known.  God bless you, Pamombeau, my darling friend and know that you will live on through time and space.  I love you and I can’t wait to see your smiling face again one day.  Fly high and shine bright my sweet friend.

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I remember when

I sit here tonight in the quiet of the house with a heavy heart and fire inside me.  I have a plethora of feelings this evening and so I turn to this trusty place.  I’m staring at the blinking cursor as it mocks me when I can’t think of the words, but I know I have to write.

Do you remember where you were 15 years ago today?  The day before the world changed as we know it?  More importantly, do you remember what kind of person you were then? Who were you, what were your worries?  Did you lose your temper that day over something silly and mundane?  Were you a little too short with a loved one?  Were you a little too impatient?  Did you thank that nice girl at the counter who served you coffee as you rushed off to work, late because of the traffic?  Did you pass judgment on that person sitting at the end of that exit ramp asking for spare change?

I bet we all did some of these things 15 years ago today because none of us knew that tomorrow we would wake up and become someone different – that we would wake up and our country would be changed.  I remember exactly where and who I was 15 years ago today.  I was one week away from bringing into the world my daughter, The Middle, and I was as miserable as I could be.  I was impatient with anyone near me, I was short-tempered, I was tired, I was swollen, and I was not the person I am today.

Like thousands and thousands of people, I watched horrified that morning as the events unfolded and despite going into labor and my mid-wife instructing me to stay away from the news, I watched for days on end as the aftermath unfolded.  It was devastating; we all remember how devastating this day was.  It was a sight I will never forget, it was a feeling I will never forget, and it was a change in our country I wish we all would never forget.

You see, we’ve forgotten that part.  Every year on September 11th we all put that photo of the towers or the eagle that’s shedding tears on our social media pages and we promise not to forget, but do we actually remember?  Do we remember, as a country, what we swore we would never forget?  I do and I’m sure I’m not the only one, but not nearly enough people truly remember.  Yes, we remember the attack on our country. We remember the horrifying collapse of both towers and we remember the excruciating number of innocent lives we lost on that day, but do we remember the days that came after?  Do we remember how we promised to never forget that we are the UNITED States of America?  That when you attack one of us or some of us, you attack ALL of us?  Do we remember that at that time there were no black Americans, no white Americans, no brown Americans, no yellow Americans – we were AMERICANS.  We were UNITED.  We were one and we rallied behind our flag, behind our country, behind our law enforcement, behind our first-responders, behind our military and behind each other.

I remember when we became brothers and sisters of this country and we promised those nearly 3 thousand innocent souls and their families that we would never forget.  We also promised the assholes who killed these innocent people for simply being American that we would unite and rally behind our flag, behind our country, behind our law enforcement, behind our first-responders, behind our military and behind each other.

Today we are no longer brothers and sisters of this country as promised; we are jaded, separated, and self-proclaimed victims of a society that has done nothing but afford us every possible opportunity for success and freedom.  Today we can claim to be oppressed and show disrespect to a country we all promised to protect 15 years ago.  Today we fight each other to the death rather than the enemy who murdered us for being American.  Today we make excuses instead of change, we no longer hold the responsible parties accountable for the demise of their own lives but instead blame a country who has done nothing but house ideals, morals, and opportunities for centuries.

I remember when we were the UNITED States of America and I pray it doesn’t take another tomorrow to remind us of the promises we made.

The Darkness

I used to be vivacious.  I vaguely remember those days, the days where I was always on the go and in want of someone’s company because life was full of possibilities.  I remember smiling and laughing without force.  Sometimes, when I try, I can even remember what it was like to not have constant darkness standing over me and threatening to pull me into myself.

I’m not that person anymore and I’m left with only memories of who I once was.  I clinically suffer from depression and anxiety.  I’ve only said it or admitted to a handful of close friends and my husband, only 2 people truly believe me and not one really knows what it means.  I should have a shelf full of Oscars for the performance I put on pretending that “I’m fine”.  Today, I’m not fine.

So, what does it mean?  For me, it means pain.  It means fear.  It means sadness.  It means anger.  It means loneliness.  For me, it does not mean suicidal or batshit crazy.  I was spared the batshit crazy gene, thank God.  For me, it’s most definitely NOT “in my head” and I cannot simply choose to “get over it”.  There is no medication I can take and magically feel better.  I take medication to manage this condition, but sometimes it’s unmanageable.

More often than not, I can be in a depressive state or having an episode and you’ll be standing right next to me and never know.  I still show up to gatherings with friends and family because I still show up for my kids and my husband every day and these are the things required of me.

I am a mother, wife, aunt, daughter, sister, friend, and coworker and sometimes that’s really hard for me.  Sometimes that makes me cry from the overwhelming knowledge that so many people rely on me and deep down I know I cannot even rely on myself.  So many days I just want to let the covers swallow me whole and disappear until these horrible feelings disappear.  But, I can’t.  I have a life, I have children, I have a husband, I have a career and all of this means I can’t escape to a corner in my room for days like I want to.

I wish I could openly talk to my loved ones about this to help them understand what I feel, but I can’t.  I can only write.  It’s my mask.  Today, behind my mask, I will try to explain it to those who don’t battle these consuming disorders.

Anxiety makes me feel everything all the time and at one time.  It feels like suffocation.  It feels like drowning.  It’s consuming.  It’s scary as hell.  I feel like I’m losing control.  I can’t catch my breath, I can’t see my way through my own fears and I just want to find a dark room.  Hearing my loved ones tell me to breathe or calm down or take a pill only adds to these feelings.  I feel like they’ve just pushed my head a little further under.

When the anxiety starts to fade and I come out of the suffocating fog, depression is there to latch on and its hold is so strong and so hard to get away from.  Depression knows that’s when I’m at my weakest and it twists and turns like smoke and smothers everything that is good in life.  My doctor once said that depression is an emotional paralysis.  He’s right, it really is.  Depression lies to me, fills me full of thoughts of how worthless I am, how much I have failed myself, my family, my friends, my coworkers.  Depression steals any ray of light that reminds me I am loved and worthy of being loved.

When the smoke of depression begins to pull back, it leaves me with anger.  Anger at myself for falling victim to this disease.  Anger at myself for being so miserable.  Anger at my friends and family for not seeing through the fake persona I put on so that no one sees just how weak I am.  I just want to scream “I’M FUCKING DROWNING, DON’T YOU SEE ME??”, but instead I smile and say, “I’m fine”.

Depression is exhausting.  Once the anger subsides I am too tired to care.  I am too tired to get up and cook dinner for my family.  I sit and I cry because I know I have chores, I have duties, I have kids to feed, dogs to feed, clothes to wash, a house to clean and I just can’t.  I’m so exhausted.  I’m emotionally drained and I just need to lay down and cry and cry and cry.

These are my bad days.  These are the days when I succumb.  I can be like this for a few days and then not again for several months.  It sneaks up on me and I’m never prepared when it hits me.  Depression is a sneaky bastard.  It’s an evil I never knew existed and then when I knew, I never fully understood what all it was.  Now that I live with it, I know all too well that depression can be debilitating and suffocating and incorrigible, and I hate it immensely.

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. 
Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.
– Oscar Wilde

With respect,

The sadness in his eyes breaks my heart and when his smile doesn’t fully reach his eyes, one of the best parts of his smile, I know. I know something is wrong.  Still, I welcome him home after a long 12-hour shift and make his plate for dinner.  He has in tow a box of donuts for the kids’ breakfast in the morning, a bottle of my favorite wine, and a 4-pack of his favorite Dogfish beer (not a beer to take lightly with its 9% content).  These things don’t often happen, you see.  I can count on one hand how many mornings the children will have donuts for breakfast as it’s a very special occasion treat that we give them.  He mentions how The Little recently spoke fondly of his love for sprinkled donuts and there it was, that sadness in his eyes deeply rooted.

I made meatloaf for dinner, a favorite of his, and he eats it with an obvious heavy heart.  There are often times when his shifts do not go well, which I presume is the case for all EMTs and Paramedics, and sometimes I’m not sure I want to hear what tragedies he has had to endure.

He continues to eat and I ramble on and on about insignificant wifely and motherly duties I’ve done or dealt with throughout the day.  A typical Sunday for me, my biggest complaint is that of annoying children visiting ours for play-dates.  The television is on, more so in the background than for us to watch, but on the screen is a tribute to an actor who passed away this year and I see his eyes well up.  It’s alarming and breathtaking.  I’m nervous.  What could make him cry, especially since he doesn’t often do it?  In 20 years I’ve seen him cry only a couple handfuls of times.

I ask him what’s wrong and the pain I see on his face, deep in his eyes, shutters me to a stop and I know.  It’s a child.  Whatever horrible day he has had on his ambulance today, it involves a child.  He tells me it’s nothing, though we both know it’s a lie.  He tries to protect me from the horrible things that he sees knowing that my nerves/anxiety and irrational fears often cannot handle it.  I have to be strong, I have to be supportive.  He reminds me there are people with whom he can speak.  I find comfort, always, that he has a support team but today I can see he needs someone now.

I ask a few questions and slowly he begins to talk.  He goes through the last part of his shift, how he thinks he’ll be called in early, how he’s talking lightly to another medic who’s off today.  Then the call comes in.  It’s the worst kind of call and yes, it’s a child.  (I won’t go into details out of respect for the family and for my husband, but I will say the baby was not breathing when they got on scene and it’s a horrible accident that happened at their home)

The husband recalls the scene, what transpired, what he can see now that he’s left it, recounts things that maybe should have been done differently – though in truth there was nothing that could have been done to change the outcome.  He sobs and my heart shatters.  I cannot fathom this loss; I cannot understand the terror and hurt of not being able to bring back such a young life.  We cry together and I hold him tightly, words escape me.  There’s nothing I can say, there’s nothing I can do to soothe him.  It’s one of the most helpless feelings I’ve had in quite some time.  So I just cry as he cries and I pray.

I continue to pray for him while he tries to come to peace with what happened.  I pray for all of the first responders, for I cannot be more grateful of their gift and place on this earth.  I pray for the little one whose time ended entirely too soon, and for the family from whom the baby was taken.

This post, it may not mean anything to anyone, but this man, this husband of mine is one of the greatest souls I know.  We’ve been through some trying and very difficult times in our marriage and we’ve come out better because of them.  Nights like these remind me of how special a human being he is, how courageous and precious he is, and how very lucky I am to have him as a husband.  Being a wife of a first responder, an EMT in my case, is both prideful and heartbreaking.

Strength

Strength is one of those words whose meaning changes with each person and each situation.  I have overcome a lot in my lifetime; some would probably even consider that I have strength or gained strength because of the adversities.  Looking back, I cannot say the same.  I remember praying for strength at an early part of my adult life.  When I consider what events unfolded after, I chuckle.  I’ve always been told by the wise women in my life that God answers you in ways you wouldn’t foresee.  For instance, if you pray for patience, you don’t become patient – you are presented with an opportunity where patience is needed.  If you pray for love, you aren’t given a knight in shining armor but instead a situation in which you either give or receive love.

I prayed for strength when my oldest son was born.  I shortly thereafter became a single, twenty-year-old mother, working three jobs, and living on our own.  I found the need to be strong, not strength.  Strength, I later realized, was inside me all along.

After a conversation with someone who is quickly becoming a very, very dear friend to me and someone I value a great deal, I began to think about those times of prayer.  It’s something she said to me after a heartfelt conversation, ‘when it’s time you’ll know’.  She’s right.

I’ve come to the conclusion that God gives us the qualities we pray for on the day we take our first breath.  He has already gifted us with these abilities and rather than conjuring them at the opportune time, He teaches us by putting us in situations in which we need to use these gifts to our fullest advantage.

Today, I chuckled after beginning a prayer to receive answers and strength.   I laugh out of fear.  Fear that not only do I possess the answers I request, but also because I know I have already been given the strength needed when I hear these very same answers.  It’s what I decide to do with the answers that define where my strength is most powerful and as I’ve been told once today….when it’s time I will know.  I find a bit of comfort in that when I know, I’ll be strong enough to overcome and close another chapter in my life.

Life is chaos, love, chances, decisions, heartaches, and strength.  Life is also as short as a baby’s breath.  I intend to live it to the fullest while I can.

Life is a journey

I wrote this in 2008.  I find it as relevant now as it was then.

‘Life is a journey’; what an understatement that seems to be.  In and out of our lives come people who will inevitably change our entire demeanor; our entire existence as we know it.  Albeit positive or negative, who we meet and the issues with which we deal alter us most profoundly.  As ageless as time comes love; it speaks volumes to us in loud, dramatic screams and at times in sweet, erotic whispers. The choices we make are generally set in stone as it is in human nature; never willing to change, never willing to falter; we are creatures of habit, pride, responsibility, and nobility.

We find ourselves drawn to remaining true to ourselves as well as our decisions.  In an instant, our world can change, forcing us to reevaluate our previous actions and often times – our own selves.  At which point do we understand that our decisions, if true to our soul, are ultimately right?  At which point do you find yourself along the way and learn to live more selfishly and less self-sacrificing?  It’s the point when we find someone else who alters us so entirely, so permanently that we realize we would give our own life as we know it to spend an eternity with them just to make them smile; this is that point that we let go of our former self.  Someone whose love is so intense that we find it difficult to breathe without it, difficult to see the light of the sun without the presence of the other.  This love defines you.

From the wonderful words of William Shakespeare comes the truth in all our lives:  The sun itself sees not til heaven clears.  Not fate, not destiny but instead love and decision – this is what drives us and this is from what our decisions should be made.  We hold our fate in the palm of our hands, able to turn it, exchange it, or embrace it.  We are the masters of our own fate in order to aptly make reason of our destiny.  We are the owners of our own soul, able to share this with whom we choose.  Logic and reason no longer play havoc on our minds when love is present.  Love is not just a feeling that lives in our metaphoric heart; it’s a choice to give yourself over completely.

Know that if the love you have is true, all decisions based on it will undoubtedly be the correct path.  Love is natural, it should never be difficult or reluctant, it should never be hard to keep or something on which needs constant work.  Cars need work, love needs only to be given and returned.  If indeed it is true to our soul – it finds us, alters us, and never leaves us; hence logic and reason disappearing completely.  When two souls join as one nothing else can matter and nothing can stand in the way.  Love freely, be guarded less, embrace your happiness and care not who else this affects.  Life is a journey?  No, life is a series of short stories until we find the one who writes the never-ending novel.