Friday, August 4, 2017

8/4/17-Transform TBIs and Traumas to Love

It has been almost 6 months since I last published a blog post. YouTube has consumed me. And, not writing has been killing me. So, I will continue my efforts as a creator on YouTube, but I will also allow for more time to write. Balance, ever elusive, always beckons.

I have wanted for some time to get back to writing and give a voice to that which I feel called to do. It is not always easy to follow inner guidance. Sometimes it is downright scary. My friend, David Howard, recently published an article that addresses that feeling and need precisely. It is titled, “Reveal Yourself” and references “Divine Discontent”. You can read it (here).

Another event that happened earlier this week prompted me to write an open letter. Can you guess to whom it is addressed?

Dear ???,

I love you, but I choose to no longer chase after you or mourn your loss of affection. I know that missing you will come in waves, waxing and waning periodically over time, and I suspect the longing for you will often be gut wrenching, but I will shed no more tears.

I have tried for as long as I can remember to have a relationship with you – to gain your love, your trust, your confidence, your friendship. All of my efforts have proven to be futile.

You continue to judge me and put me down – directly and overtly, as well as passively and with subtlety. Most people don’t see this mean, stubborn streak in you. To them you are a loving, nonjudgmental, stalwart person, and an outstanding citizen of the community. To me, you are toxic and hurtful, leaving gaping wounds in your wake without so much as a blink or second thought.

Admittedly, I have made colossal mistakes in my life and I have done some very dumb things – all of which are blatant and easy to trace. I can’t count the number of people I have hurt, nor can I recall the multitude I have let down in one way or another. I try now to live each day in a way that I hope makes up for some of that. But that was then. And this is now. You don’t know me; the real me; the evolving me. And that is on you. I have tried to be close to you – repeatedly, over many years. And I am done.

Today was the last day you punch my vulnerabilities. Today was the last day I cry because you are not able to give me love.

I may cry in the future, but it will be because I love you, miss you and mourn losing you. It will not be because I let you in to hurt me again. As scary and sad as it is, I am going on without you. I will also continue to grow without you. My life is awe-mazing and is only going to get better. Should you ever wish to be a part of it, you will need to honor that, and me, and be awe-mazing too.

Thank you for the lessons you have taught me. I wish for you nothing but the best as well as profound, true happiness. KOKO!

With great love,
Debra, Debbie Sue, Debr

Did you guess family? Well, then you guessed correctly. It was written to most of my family, to be accurate.

My tumultuous relationship with my mother goes way back – my entire life, really. She was abusive plus she married many, many abusive men. My stepfather, John W., who she married late in life, was not one of them. He was a wonderful man and I loved him very much. Rest in peace, Dad. I miss you.

I don’t have a clue about my birth father. He committed suicide when I was 9 months old. There is some evidence my mother killed my father. In fact, she was arrested but never tried. The charges were dismissed based on the coroner’s report. On record, it is suicide – by multiple abdominal stab wounds.

When I took off on 10/8/15 to live in a van fulltime, I made the extraordinary promise to my mother that I would call her every day. We were in one of our “close” periods. I was actually enjoying it, and continued that practice for several months. She didn’t bother to tell anyone though, opting instead to tell others that she rarely heard from me. I found that out only after I called my sister one day, saddened because Mother had asked me to quit calling her every day. It was, in Mother’s words, too overwhelming. I get that. I’m a loner too. So next I tried weekly calls – every Saturday. I did that for about 2 months.

That didn’t work for her either. “Maybe call every now and then. When one of us has something to say.”

I can quote it because I wrote it in my journal. I waited nine weeks for her to call. She never did. Finally I called her, and she began with the usual drama in her fake shaky cry voice, “Oh, Debbie. It’s so good to hear from you. I was beginning to get SO worried.” And she ended the call with the following, as is also her norm (paraphrased), “Stay in touch. Call more often. It’s embarrassing for me to not be able to tell people where you are. I need to hear from you. Okay?”

As for staying in touch with my other family members, I started out sending my entire tribe group texts every time I changed camps. That was very difficult for me to manage. Some wanted to be included only if I sent texts or pics, no videos, and others preferred that I email only. The varied requests were more than I could accommodate. It was more than I could track. My non-family tribe members got it and never missed a beat. They did whatever it took for us to stay in touch and to make it easy on me. I rarely, if ever, hear from my family – at least the ones that are recipients of my open letter. They expect me to be the one that stays in touch with them. Period. That has been true my entire life.

So, when my birthday rolled around this year it was not surprising that my mother called 2 days after my birthday – long after I had gone to bed – and left a voice mail chastising me for not staying in touch better. I guess the underlying message was that I had somehow caused her to miss my birthday. It’s interesting to note that not once in her message did she actually ever say “happy birthday.” She just rattled off all the reasons why she had missed it. Over the years I have come to not expect much for my birthday. In fact, my mother missed my 16th birthday completely. The next year she gave me a cake for my 17th birthday that read, “Sweet sixteen.” In all fairness, I wasn’t living with her at the time so I guess it is conceivable that she lost track. I moved out 2 months before my 16th birthday in order to finish high school, and I was the first in my family to do so. I went on to earn a degree in Biology, but that’s another story.

As for the rest of my family? Well, I guess there could be a myriad of reasons for them cutting me out of their lives. And, as I said in my letter, I have doled out plenty of hurt and agony in years past, but now, especially at this stage in my life, their rejection makes no sense to me.

With my niece, it has always been her way or the highway, and I’ve always enjoyed different roads – so to speak. I don’t really know why, and may never know, but at this time she no longer answers calls, texts or emails. Unfortunately, it means I also lost her children, my great nieces and nephews. That makes me very sad.

Ironically, she’s a Christian and will have her ass planted on a pew most every Sunday, while I’m considered a heathen and will probably be on public lands, out in nature, giving thanks for all that is instead of being in a building following a religion. That, and ALL she does for the family (which is a lot, just ask her) while I’m out “roaming the country” makes her the right one – or at least the righteous one. Evidently.

And in sideways fairness to her, it really must truly be exhausting to be the only responsible, mature, accomplished do-er in the entire family. She honestly has some claim to that. And that leads me to the other side of this … the shift, the transformation.

It would not be authentic to not voice my frustrations, hurt and even the anger that comes up at times, but feelings can always, ALWAYS, be transformed to love. I’m not talking about denial, being disingenuous or faking it. And I am especially not discounting being true to one’s self or self care. I’m talking about transforming caustic emotions to true love and appreciation – for yourself, others (ALL others), the universe and spiritual expansion. Sometimes, most of the time (but not always), the transformation process takes time. The one I am in the middle of and sharing with you here is no exception.

My niece is wonderful. I love her. I would guess that she is as hurt and confused by me as I am her. She has three beautiful children and is an extraordinary wife and mother. She works hard and gives her all – to many, all around her. She is just not able to include me in all of that – for whatever reason. And, it is not her responsibility to make me feel loved. That is between me and God, Allness, Oneness. It is an inside job.

So, in this article, if it seems I am speaking from duality, I suppose that is correct. Because I’m in the throngs of it. But I will not leave my emotions, my heart, my beliefs about my family members in this state. I will continue to process it until there is only love. Love never fails. Love is all there is.

I had the traditional life – a house, career, cars, toys, savings, retirement. It doesn’t take long to lose it all. Trust me on that. Now I live in a van because I have a traumatic brain injury and am on disability. I can’t afford housing. Plus, traveling via a RV was always on my retirement goal sheet – just not this way. This is my only option since I don’t want to live in assisted living. I can’t live with others because of the noise (TV, kids, video games, music, multiple conversations, etc.). I know. I’ve tried … several times, many places. It didn’t work. I was having seizure after seizure, and my health was rapidly declining, exponentially. So, I lived out of a tent until my disability kicked in. Then I bought a used van. My cognitive skills continue to shift, but so far my symptoms are manageable in the quiet and peace of my van, while out in nature. I get that not everyone agrees with my decision, but many do.

In fact, I had many wonderful people that contributed to a Go Fund Me campaign so that I could get solar on my van and remodel the inside. What a huge blessing! For me, it was life-saving, and kept me out of assisted living. Which, for me, right now, would feel like a death sentence. What my contributors did for me in van modifications was no less life-changing and life-enhancing than a wheelchair lift would have been for someone else with a different disability. Thank you all again!

To my knowledge, none of the family members that my letter is addressed to, contributed anything to my campaign. In fact, I’m quite certain they instead rolled their eyes, laughed at me, and judged me. I know this because my nephew told me that my great nephew made a special trip to his house one evening to show him the campaign on the internet. He exclaimed, “Have you seen this!?!” As my nephew told me the story, he shook his head and laughed. He was standing right there in front of me so I can only imagine the conversations that took place at the time. Plus I have a long history of similar events to base my assumptions on. They not only didn’t contribute, they evidently did not even morally support me.

So I guess it should not have been a big surprise for me to learn this week that my mother has been critically ill and in the hospital for 2 weeks after a major, emergency surgery. Actually, the only way I found out was that my step-sister texted me, thinking I knew. My sisters or even my brother-in-law did not contact me. Actually, he hasn’t talked to me since I sent them a laptop. His last words to me were, “What am I supposed to do with it?” My sister has always wanted a computer and she recently was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I explained that my hope was that she could use it for as long as possible. Sensing his tone, I told him he was also welcome to gift it to someone else if he preferred. I never heard anything back – not a thank you, nothing, and since then they also no longer return my calls, emails or texts. What the heck?

Remember that duality I am in the middle of? It applies to my sisters and my brother in law too. He, like many others in my family, is earning his angel wings. I would be remiss if I did not mention that. He and his wife (my oldest sister) took care of our physically disabled sister while she lived with them, and now that she is in a nursing home, he visits her every single day. As I mentioned, his wife (my oldest sister) has Alzheimer’s, and he takes great care of her. He is a good man, a godly man. And for whatever reason, I’m no longer a part of their lives. It hurts. I’m angry. And it is still my job to own and transform my own feelings. That responsibility is mine and no one else’s.

When I got the news about my mother’s critical condition, I texted my nephew, expressing my disappointment that no one contacted me. I probably could have worded it a little better, but this was the result.

Me: “I am trying my best to accept being cut out of the family by most others, but seriously …. YOU could not have told me that mother was in the hospital or had surgery? I have been calling  and finally [my step-sister] let me know what was going on. Wow!”

Him: “Because I work too much I’m a little disconnected also, I haven’t been to see her and I didn’t know that You didn’t know or care for that matter”

I’ll leave it there. As is the case with anyone else I’ve mentioned. I love my nephew very much, and I believe he loves me. He is awesome, hard-working, and fun. There’s just no room or time for me. Evidently. I need to accept that there never has been, and most likely, never will be.

That concludes what I want to say about the family members that I am addressing my open letter to on my mother’s side of the family.

I have also lost family members on my father’s side of the family. What’s really sad is that I didn’t even find them until a few years ago. Actually, they found me. It was glorious to meet them and to know I had family on my father’s side. Shortly afterward, my diagnosis took a turn for the worst. I was told that I “might” see 2016, but I probably wouldn’t know it. Then the calcification, the scar tissue that had been growing, slowed or stabilized. The reality today is that it could start growing or building again at anytime. I won’t know right away if that happens or not because like many cancer patients that choose to forego chemo and radiation, I no longer go in quarterly for testing. The last neurosurgeon that my Trustee and I visited confirmed what the others had said, “There is nothing [more] that can be done for her.”

So, with my Trustee’s blessing, I hit the road on 10/8/15 to do as much of my bucket list as is possible.  I get that not everyone agrees with our decision, but I am convinced that being out in nature and living in the peace and quiet of my van has prolonged my life.

Because of that, some family members on my father’s side reportedly felt duped. Their words, not mine.

I can’t help but wonder if that also means they are disappointed I didn’t die. Whatever.

I hear my harshness, even the bitterness in the words I write. I really do believe in love and Oneness. Really, I do. And I refuse to allow negativity to linger in my life. All is well, always, and this too shall pass and be transformed. But not by the time I publish this article.

The flip side, the duality regarding these family members is that they are some of the most loving, accepting, genuinely good and honest people I have ever met. That and to have experienced their unconditional love, even for just a little while, makes the loss hurt more. The wound is deeper and may last longer. They’ve cut me out of their lives as quickly as they came into it, and I don’t know that I’ll ever figure it out. I thought I finally had family I could truly be a part of. I loved them with all my heart – and will get there again – even if I never see them again.

Perhaps they have stopped all communications because I borrowed $500 from one of them and was supposed to pay it back (with interest) when I got my tax return. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a tax return! I made an error on my filing and the IRS kept the money to cover it. It was a good thing that there was money to apply toward what I owed, but it meant that my cousin had to wait for me to pay him back. I immediately began making regular monthly payments to him out of my disability check. I repaid every penny, plus adjusted interest, but maybe that wasn’t good enough. I don’t know. That was the last time I was able to attempt something like a tax return on my own. I can’t do more than basic math now. I have a brain injury, but I guess that one mistake was a heinous crime. (Yes, more sarcasm. I’m working on it.)

I’m sure there will be fallout over this post. Which means that I may lose even more people in my life, but my days are numbered. I suppose all of our days are, but my knowing and acceptance of it is imminent. That makes “the end” seem up close and personal instead of something I will have to face “one day.” I’m tired of not following my heart. I don’t have it in me to play it safe anymore. As David wrote in his article mentioned above, I must listen to spirit and do what I feel led to do.

I will grieve each and every loss that occurs in my life because I love them. It wouldn’t hurt or matter if I didn’t, but my path is narrow and I have to choose carefully where to spend my energies. I literally don’t know when my last minute of cognitive functioning might be. It gives new meaning to “here today, gone tomorrow” or “the lights are on, but nobody is home.” That moment may come at anytime.

Or not.

Living in the moment and focusing my energies on what I feel spiritually led to do (and say) are areas of growth in my life that are gifts of my brain injuries. Yes, plural, multiple brain injuries. I’ve never really shared that out loud. The first that I am aware of occurred at age 5 when my then step-father purposefully tripped me so he could see me tumble down the stairs. Who knows what they were told in the ER. I remember a nurse bending over me as she kindly, gently told me to “be more careful from now on”. My head was wrapped in bandages for a very long time and it was longer yet before I could see out of my swollen, bruised left eye. An eye I would once again severely damage many years later after my third brain injury. I currently also have a gap between my two front teeth as a result of that childhood “fall.”

That was a very long time ago. Clearly I have a tumultuous history that goes way back prior to the culmination of current events.

So you see dear family members. You know who you are. I’ve waited a lifetime to have a relationship with you, to win your love, and your approval. Now it’s time for me to move on and build a life where it no longer matters nor is needed. I have overcome a lot, and yet this may be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I will miss you beyond belief – even though really you’re already gone. It hurts to give up on hope of a relationship with you. It hurts that you gave up on me.

I have wonderful, AWEmazing friends that I consider my tribe, my family. They include me in their lives – they send me texts, pics, snaps, and tag me in social media. I know when they are going on vacation, how they are feeling and what their children are up to. They travel miles to see me, and they call me. There’s a concept. I truly appreciate the few family members I have that also fall in this realm. I love you all. I am grateful. And I am blessed.

So this last insult was just that – the last one. I bid you adieu. I have a brain injury – several as a matter of fact. I live in a van and am on disability. And I am complete.

To others that may have a brain injury, or who have suffered trauma or abuse in your life…

Don’t you dare give up. And don’t stay in the negative. Build a life of love, peace and joy with a foundation of appreciation. Write a gratitude list every day. Start with 3 things if you have to and build up to listing 10. Start with listing oxygen, or blinking or swallowing if you have to. Yes, swallowing made my list many days when my brain wasn’t even cooperating enough for me to do that without choking.

There is always, always, always something to be grateful for. Give TBI and trauma THAT voice.

Life really is good, always. KOKO! NMW!

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