Slow day? Thank you…

I’m getting a few hours of alone time today, and for the first time in my life it isn’t terrifying.

Don’t get me wrong…I’ve always preferred to be alone. Growing up, I had a rather large number of friends and our neighborhood gang met every single day, without fail, usually on skateboards. When we weren’t skating (or biking, or walking), we were usually trespassing on some landowner’s property…particularly the landowner that owned the long dead drive-in movie theater. We would usually climb to the top of the building that used to house the projection equipment, and there we would sit for hours, doing all the things we were told we shouldn’t do. You know…like smoke cigarettes, drink beer we’d stolen from my uncle and hide when the man that owned the property came out to check on his cows. Yeah, it was glorious.

When I wasn’t doing that, I was alone. I was usually in my room and I was almost always listening to music and/or making music. My dad was great about letting me borrow a guitar or two now and then, and my mom was wonderful about letting me play it. This was back before I took an insane interest in the acoustic guitar, when my only idea of playing well was playing as loud as my amp would allow, and I can never thank her (or my father enough) for allowing me the freedom to be the musician I wanted to be.

At any rate, those days weren’t lonely but at times they certainly felt that way. I didn’t have many friends that shared the same interest in being alone so I guess they couldn’t understand why sometimes I had to just shut the door and keep the rest of the world out. They didn’t get that I just didn’t feel like I was a part of them, or that they were a part of me, or that I was somehow a part of the greater human scene.

These days, however, simply are lonely. Without my children here, and without my guitar, and without any of the things I used to rely on to keep me from being lonely, I find myself exceptionally lonely even when I’m not actually alone. This isn’t me complaining, though it may seem that way. This is me thanking God for the opportunity to learn how to be alone without all the things I thought I needed.

It gives me the chance to rely on Him to make me feel better. It doesn’t change the fact that I really want to hug my children, and it certainly doesn’t take away the itch that begins in the center of my palms when I think about a guitar (any guitar, it doesn’t even have to be mine, but at this point it is particularly this amazing 1939 Gibson acoustic I found at Guitar Center for the reasonable price of only $3900…but whatever), but knowing that I don’t have to feel lonely is something. Knowing that, regardless of what anyone else believes, I do honestly believe I’m never alone. Take that as proof of my insanity if you’d like, because you really won’t hurt my feelings.

Learning to trust Him has been the hardest part of my entire life. I can honestly say that I’m not very good at it. But, I’m trying. That has to count for something.

I guess the point of this whole post is to remind myself, and anyone else that needs it, that no matter how lonely you feel, there is probably a reason. It’s also to ask you…is being alone really such a bad thing? It has taken me nearly three decades to figure out that being alone is kind of a blessing. It’s my chance to be exactly who I am and not have to worry what the rest of the world thinks about it. Not that I care so very much what people think of me. I never have, and I probably never will, care much for the opinions others have of me, and I think that’s mostly because I know what He thinks of me.

So, I’ll take this slow day, all alone, and use it to thank Him. I’ll use it to thank Him for waking me up another day, giving me the strength to crawl from the bed, and blessing me with the peace that I didn’t have yesterday because my own fears and insecurities began to creep in again. I’ll take this day and make it something worth living.

Depression (otherwise known as…life)

There have been too many blog posts, Facebook status messages, Tweets, etc., to give us the general idea that the term “depression” is used too often, many times in cases where it is not true depression. I won’t bore you with another one of those. I will, however, tell you about my struggle with depression. I will tell you about the life I lead in spite of the depression. I will tell you about how I’ve watched others deal with depression. I will probably tell you some other things I hadn’t planned to tell you.

 

Sometimes, I look at my life and think, Wow…it really is kind of screwed up right now. Anyone would assume that it is in those moments that I feel the most “depressed.” Unfortunately, it usually isn’t. In moments like those, I almost feel empowered. I see my life as it stands, and I know that there is a way out. I just have to work towards digging myself out of the screwed up parts, and provide a better future for myself and my children. It’s really very simple. I don’t feel depressed then, because a solution is at hand, and I have faith that the solution (even if I can’t see it right away) will make things better.

 

Then, there are times when–despite the screwed up parts–I really am happy. I’m happy with my current situation as long as I’m making progress towards something better. I’m okay with not having all the answers, and I’m fine with things looking terrible for a while. It really isn’t all that bad. And then, it hits me. No matter how happy I am with the current daily life I lead, there are times when it just isn’t enough.

 

I had enough money to cover my bills, and I had food in my belly. I had a place to sleep, clean clothes to wear, and I got to spend time with people I love. I was able to do a lot of things I wanted to do, and see a lot of things I wanted to see. I was blessed with more than that, and even that wasn’t enough to keep that monster away. Even smiling, I could feel it creeping in. That depression monster just kept coming.

 

That, for me anyway, is depression. It’s that monster that creeps in whether you’re happy or not. It’s that terrible feeling of…Well, who really cares? Oh well, I don’t…regardless of the actual climate of my soul. It’s that thing that keeps me awake, even when I had an amazing day. It’s that thing that makes the bad times worse, and makes the good times pale somehow. It’s that part of me that I just want gone. I want to fight it. It’s just too big. How do you fight a monster you can’t see?

 

Worst of all, I’m watching someone else struggle with it, too. Like a mirror reflecting my own demons back at me, I’m watching the monster slowly eat away at the happy times of another human being. I’m watching, daily, as that monster grows. I’m watching as nobody but me cares. I can’t fight that monster because my own monster won’t get off my back. Like these two monsters are feeding off of each other, it goes back and forth. One day, my monster is stronger. The next day, the other monster is stronger. Sometimes, they’re both as strong as they can get and we’re left feeling empty from the struggle.

 

My family watched it destroy their lives…over and over. My grandmother watched it destroy her marriage. My mother and her siblings watched it take their father away from them. Other families watch as this monster takes people away too soon. Sometimes they know it’s happening, and sometimes they have no idea that the monster even exists. Again, how do you fight a monster you can’t see?

 

What do you do when the medication doesn’t work? What are you supposed to say when medication isn’t even an option? How do you cope when the monster grows stronger than you? What plan can be made for the day when it finally wins out and rips you apart? There are no easy answers. For each person, that monster has to be starved a different way. Combat strategies will vary because people vary. Their demons vary. The struggles they face aren’t the same as the struggles others face, regardless of what others would have you believe. We’ve all been on this, “We’re all human and dealing with the same issues,” kick lately…and that’s simply a lie. Even if you’re dealing with the same thing I’m facing, our struggle is different. Our experiences are different, and our feelings are different, therefore our reactions will be different.

 

The point? There isn’t one. That’s kind of how depression feels in the lives of those that suffer from it. There is no point. There is no reason it should be happening. There’s no reason to be unwell, and yet you clearly feel unwell. You know there’s something “wrong,” and yet…you get up for another day and fight another battle.

Back at it…

Sunset in Lake Wales, Florida

(c) 2014 Jennifer Welch

Getting Healthy

It may have taken me longer than expected, but finally…I’m on the road to recovery. I finally have medication that seems to alleviate the majority of my seizures, and the ones I do have are not nearly as bad and don’t last as long. It’s nice to finally be able to get through the day without the awful feeling of being unwell. I still have trouble now and then with communication (something that isn’t exactly good for a writer) but for the most part, I’m able to get my thoughts out verbally without having a mental breakdown from the inability to vocalize the overwhelming sensations caused by my temporal lobe seizures. The absence seizures are almost gone, and as I said, even the ones I have aren’t that bad. They last less than a minute (so I guess they aren’t technically classified as seizures…I could be wrong so don’t quote me on that). Anyway, the point is…I’m healthier than I was, it’s just unfortunate that this couldn’t have happened sooner.

Personal Lives Exploding

My personal life exploded around me at the end of April. Without sharing the details, I can give you a general idea of the situation as it stands now. I’m sure some of my family and friends are wondering what in the world happened, but it isn’t as simple as picking a place or time where things collapsed. It was a series of instances that finally gathered into one pile of crap that I just couldn’t ignore any longer. I’m aware that everyone will have their opinions about this whole thing, and rest assured that I respect and value your opinion. However, simply put, you weren’t there. You don’t have the necessary information to assess who is right or who is wrong, and honestly it has nothing to do with you. Even more important, I don’t want you (or anyone else) to decide who is right or who is wrong. It’s irrelevant. This isn’t about right or wrong. It’s about two people that simply can’t be together. As I’ve said from the beginning, I don’t want anyone picking sides. It isn’t fair to him, or me, or you. So just don’t do it.

In the same way that a marriage is between two people, a divorce is also between those two people. If you weren’t in the marriage, how can you possibly understand the divorce? I’m comfortable taking responsibility for this, so don’t think that I’m going to spout some “we decided…” crap at you. Let me make this perfectly clear so there are no misunderstandings later: TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE, HE DID NOT WANT THIS. I wanted this. I needed this. It was a decision I made with God’s guidance, and whether you believe that or not is irrelevant. I knew my relationship with God, and my husband, when I made the decision. So, WE (my husband and I) didn’t decide to divorce.

No, we didn’t decide anything. Unfortunately, that’s part of the reason I chose to leave. Suffice it to say that I finally made a decision though…it just wasn’t the one anyone was expecting. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I expected this decision either. I almost didn’t realize I was leaving until I was gone, but once it was done (and my heart was finally done) there were no regrets. I don’t regret walking away. I don’t regret following my God away from something that I knew wasn’t pleasing to Him. He called me for something better, and I was ready to follow Him and find out what that something could possibly be; and I’m so glad I did.

Moving On…Not Like I Expected

God seems to have a sense of humor, and I don’t think anyone can argue that point with me. When I walked away from my marriage, I truly didn’t know what to expect and I knew that this was going to be a journey unlike any I’d ever experienced. I spent the first few days reflecting on my life, learning more about myself in those few days than I thought possible. I tried to help my children understand what was happening, I prayed a lot, and tried to build a home at my mother’s house for myself and my precious babies. I knew it still wasn’t enough.

I got a job with a friend I’d made during the previous month as I’d been searching for answers from God that He seemed unwilling to give. Like most people I’ve met in my life, Warren fell into my acquaintance and became my friend before I’d even made the decision to be friends with him. I started working for Warren (he owns Warren Cleaning, and if you’re in the Tampa/St. Pete or Polk County, FL area and need a cleaner, I highly recommend him) within days of leaving my husband. However, it simply wasn’t going to be enough, so I had to search out other employment options as well.

I called on another friend, and that’s where the story starts to get interesting. He’d offered me a job before I left my husband, but for various personal reasons this situation wasn’t going to work. I declined because of these personal reasons and never gave it another thought…until Warren told me, “You know, this is only going to be for a couple of days a week, so you might want to look into another job as well. Maybe one at night…” He just confirmed my fears that this job was not going to be enough for me to support myself and the four beautiful creatures depending on me. That’s when I remembered the job I’d been offered before. It was 7 days a week, technically in my chosen field (for a newspaper), and the work was done at night. I could do that job and still keep my “day job.” So, I came home that day–the last day of work for that week–and started trying to call my friend, Andrew.

What was intended as a job opportunity turned into so much more–and I’m perfectly okay with that. Just two weeks after leaving my husband, I came to realize that Andrew was quickly turning into more than a friend. We’d hit it off as friends so quickly that now I don’t see how I didn’t realize the potential was there for more way before it ever started. I know there are people that will try to say that Andrew is the reason I left my husband, and while those opinions are not going to cause me to lose any sleep, I want to publicly address the issue now, before it gets out of hand.

So…Here’s Where We Stand

As of today, I am separated from my husband. I am writing. I’m seriously healthier than I have been in the previous ten years of my life. I miss my children, but I’m hopeful because my God is with me. I’ve moved out of the only home I had left in my hometown because of some circumstances beyond my control that I can’t share with you until after my divorce is finalized. I’ve moved to Gainesville, Florida where I’ll be starting classes at Santa Fe College as soon as my transcripts arrive. I’m living with a couple that opened their home to me when they didn’t have to, showing me more Christian kindness than I’ve met with in a very long time. Yes, I am dating Andrew. No, I never saw him in that role prior to my separation. If you don’t believe that, I don’t care. God knows. However, if you need proof, I can point you in the direction of half a dozen (probably more) witnesses who can and will attest to the fact that prior to my separation I had made it clear to this man that he didn’t have a shot–and I was usually really mean about that fact when verbalizing this to him. He never had a chance. I’d told him on many occasions that he would never have a chance with me, we were only friends, and we’d only ever be friends. Apparently, God thinks that is the best place for a relationship to start.

I’m following my God, learning what REAL relationships look like, and I love it. I’m starting with Him, and letting Him show me where everyone (my parents, my brothers, my children, and even Andrew) belongs. I’m done trying to figure things out without Him. I think that was kind of His point all along. He had to get me completely alone before I’d let Him lead the way. I’m stubborn, but we already knew that, didn’t we?

Life=Mankind 101

Life. Let’s break it down.

Life (yours specifically) can be broken into smaller stories in several different ways. First, you were an infant. Then, you became a toddler. After that, I’ll bet you probably became a child. At some point, childhood drifted away and you moved up in graduating class at Life University. Eventually, you become a teenager, and this is where we run into some problems. Some grow out of that, and some don’t. Some people seem to drop out of life around this age, while others seem to keep trying, but in some areas they lag behind and never reach the next set of courses. In each set of divisions, we begin to see more and more “break-downs” of humanity. We don’t just have children in the world. We have children that are healthy, some that aren’t, some are girls, and some are boys, but the point here is that each human being is tasked with the lessons and experiences that were specifically designed (in this writer’s opinion) for them.

Understanding the goal.

When you enter high school or college, there is one goal. Graduation. The thing we forget sometimes is that we didn’t just graduate from a high school or university. Before that, some of us graduated from preschool. Then, we finished elementary school. Middle school was next, and this is where most of the people I know were introduced to the idea of graduation or commencement. Some lucky people were graduated in formal ceremonies from preschool and beyond, but this is a practice that was rare until recently (as standards for preschoolers entering kindergarten were raised, a celebration of their achievement was introduced). Unfortunately, we tend to forget that regardless of the number of degrees you hold from Life University, we’re all studying for the final exams, the final degree…Ph.D in Death.

Live to learn, learn to live.

If we focus our attention on our studies, we’ll be able to look back over our various degrees when we finally stand at the front of the class to accept our Ph.D in Death and be proud of all that we accomplished. There will be no mourning the loss of time and attention, we won’t wonder if we might have been something greater and we certainly won’t care about the mistakes we made during “class” or the exams we failed. It won’t matter that you didn’t learn how to fold a fitted sheet, and nobody will care that you never learned how to speak another language. It won’t matter one bit if you didn’t make it all the way to Paris, and nobody will contest your right to the Ph.D in Death just because you didn’t vote Republican in that one election. Your choices don’t make you who you are, contrary to popular belief. Your reaction to life is what makes you who you are, and if you aren’t learning something from the coursework of your life, then you might be facing regrets later on, and making the rest of your coursework more difficult.

How to earn extra credit.

The easiest way to earn extra credit at Life University is to study individuals while you study Humanity 101. We all have to learn about humans. We learn that some are wonderful, some are terrible, some love power, some love people, some don’t care about anyone but themselves, and the list goes on and on. There are more than seven billion distinct individuals in this world, all with a different set of challenges to complete before they graduate to the next level in life. Pick one. Help them achieve the next goal. Help them study, and watch them graduate to the next set of courses. Don’t do anything that would hinder their progress. Offer help when you can, encouragement when it’s needed, and don’t forget to ask lots of questions. Asking questions is how we all learn. Also, remember that just because someone asks you a question, it doesn’t mean you’re obligated to answer. However, our overall goal is to learn, and helping others do that by being a study buddy is the best way to earn extra credit. It won’t help you get that Ph.D sooner (but really…who wants it soon?) and it won’t make you better than anyone else, but it’s an extra lesson. It’s more learning. It’s more experience to enhance all those degrees you’re carrying around. What’s the point in having a degree in fishing if you never have a fish fry with your friends? Why earn that degree in sewing if you hide that sewing machine and never make a blanket for a baby in need? Be intentional about being in people’s lives, and you will be exercising the skills you have while building a new skill set. Not to mention you’ll make some friends along the way, and your mutual studies will help both of you in the end. In other words, be a teacher and a student. We’ll all get further that way.

Humanity 101 and you.

Be aware of what your story (your life, choices, reactions, etc) teaches. At the end of the day, people are learning something from you. Whether they learn how to overcome or how to fail at life is entirely up to you. Pay close attention to what you say, do, think, feel, and how you behave in every situation. Learn to deal with your emotions in the appropriate ways, and learn how to use your struggles to strengthen yourself and others. When you make mistakes, learn how to share those as well, because sometimes the easiest lessons we learn are the ones we learn from other people’s mistakes. For example, I watched my father struggle through drug addiction. This persisted through my entire life. I learned early that I didn’t want that. I bypassed the practical exam, and took the written test instead. However, I am pleased to add that my father is now clean and sober. He’s healed, after years of abuse…because someone shared their story. Someone helped him finish that course in Life University. He put in the hard work to complete it. [Congratulations, Daddy. I’ve always been proud of you, but now I have proof that my dad is a rockstar…because he beat addiction’s butt.]

Life will go on.

As you journey from one class to the next, from one set of trials and tests to another, just remember that your “grade” doesn’t matter. What matters most is what you took from the lesson. Did you learn something? Did you help someone else learn something? Do you know now the things you need to work on so you can accomplish that goal and graduate that class the next time your cosmic teacher (in my case…God) hands you another pop quiz? Keep learning. Keep living. Don’t give up. If you miss a lesson now, it could hurt you later (think of trying to do algebra if you had never learned to count). If you aren’t learning and growing…you are missing out and asking for trouble. Keep going forward, and grab a few hands along the way.

 

Watching stuff means learning stuff.

I’ve spent the last three days having seizures. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. I’m running on something like auto-pilot, and I’m sick of it. It’s annoying. It’s frustrating, and if you cross me the wrong way right now…we’re probably going to fight. I’m not going to feel anything anyway. I’m numb approximately 85% of my day, so you’re not going to hurt me, and as for any pain you may inflict when I can actually feel my skin and stuff, it certainly cannot be worse than what I’m already feeling.

Image

When I started working yesterday, I started with coffee and some of those delicious tea biscuits you see up there. I had to plan a last minute meeting with the newest member of the Writing Compulsion staff. I’ll introduce him properly in another post, but for now you just need to know that he exists. His name is Jesse Moore, and he’s one of the weirdest guys I’ve ever met. That’s how I’m positive he’ll fit in around here.

The meeting was planned, I set out for the evening to go to this meeting, and I start having more seizures. Now, I understand the difference between a seizure that is going to render me incapable of driving a car and one that will merely pester the crap out of me until it goes away. This was an annoying one, so I wasn’t exactly worried, but the possibility always exists that this thing (seizure) will spread to other parts of my brain and then WHAM, I’m out. I know when I’m in trouble though, so I keep an eye on myself (weird figure of speech) and continue towards the meeting.

Jesse needed a ride. Then he didn’t. I can handle that. I didn’t want him to walk in the rain, but if he found another ride then that’s less gas I have to burn. I get to the meeting. Jesse, of course, isn’t there. I suddenly have no signal on my phone. I can’t get in touch with him. Great. Hey! At least the seizures were gone by this point.

I finally contact Jesse, and find out why he’s late. He needs a ride. Of course. I set out to retrieve the Jesse. I meet Jesse at Publix. That’s kind of his thing. That’s where you’ll usually have to take him or pick him up. It works for him. In this instance, it works for me. It’s time to work. You know, after Jesse sighs and complains about having a meeting. You get to be around me, Jesse. I don’t understand the problem.

Every meeting runs over, right? No. Not mine. I plan for an hour when I usually only need about fifteen minutes. Why? Because the Jesses of this world are plotting against us. That and I’m always late to stuff. I figure if I schedule for 11 PM, I might get started around 11:30 PM. When you factor in the Jesse variable, we’re looking at 11:45 PM. We speed talk anyway. Meeting ends by midnight, and as it always does…concludes with some good, old-fashioned, life talk.

It’s important to me that the people in my life understand that I’m there for them. It doesn’t matter what it is. If you need to vent, I’m here. If you need to punch a cactus, I’ll be there with you. If you feel like you just need a few minutes of peace and you have nobody to watch your kids, I’m your girl. I look for ways to improve the lives of those around me, but sometimes it’s hard to focus that attention and I’m running all over the place trying to help everyone.

This is a rare instance where I can focus all of my attention on my brother. He’s my friend, and he needs to talk about what he’s going through. I decide by the time this meeting is over and the personal side of our friendship is tended that Jesse seriously needs some prayer. I can’t imagine the things he’s going through, but I try…and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I drive home a short while later feeling sad and disgusted by the state of the human heart these days.

I get home and collapse into bed next to my wonderful Hubby. I should have finished this very blog post and I should have tried to study a bit (forever a student), but I was numb, I was achy, and I just wanted to let go of all the troubles and worries that had been added to that. If those around me need to unload their burdens on me, I’m okay with that. I’ll take some of the weight they can’t carry, if it helps them grow stronger and keep fighting through this life.

At the end of the day, I know where to lay every burden.