Tag Archive | Hurricane Sandy

My Life is an Embarrassment of Riches

I have been doing a lot of thinking over the past day or two, and it has been a rather eye-opening experience.  (Yes, that is all of the smoke you have been seeing—my brain is smokin 😉 While I have known what I am about to tell you for a while, today I am feeling it all very intensely.  Sometimes it takes a while for important tidbits of information to make the long trek from my head all the way down to my heart.   As much as I am a true “feeler,” I am also highly intellectual, so I can intellectualize a lot of things for years before I actually feel, believe, and know them at the heart level.  I am having a full heart day today.

Today, I am feeling absolutely overwhelmed with gratitude, and love, and pure joy that is simply bubbling out all over the place.  I have the best life in the whole, wide, world.  I know that sounds rather cocky, but it is true.  For me, I have the best life I have ever had.  I am the most blessed person that I know, and I am also the most blessed woman alive today.  Again, I am fully aware of the cockiness of these statements, but for me, they are so inherently true that I literally ache inside with happiness and joy.

Look at that glorious sunrise! Look at those than less than stellar picture-taking skills!

I got out of prison, after a six month stay, on September 15, 2011, so it has been a little over a year now since my release.  While it became very apparent to me while I was in prison that the reason I had to go there had little to do with me, but something much greater that God had in mind, there was still a lot of fear and trepidation coming out of the prison doors.  On one hand I firmly knew that the rest of my life was going to be the very best of my life, and that was very exciting.  Over on the other hand, though, there was a lot of trembling going on.  I was walking out to a child and a car that I could not drive yet and a bag of clothing.

I had a place to stay with some lovely people, but I was technically homeless and penniless.  I was also walking out into the middle of a very yucky divorce and custody battle.  That was a very scary place to be.  I was not especially helpful to open the trunk of my car to get into some non-prison clothing only to find that mice had taken up residence in my car over the time I was away, and much of my clothing was ruined.  I have never cared for mice and this did nothing to change my opinion of them, I can tell you.  I craved a place to call home, but how would that happen?

I will tell you how that happened.  My adult children, anticipating my need, all pitched in and suddenly I was far from penniless.  I had enough money to find a place to live and to get some essentials, to boot.  No mother wants to take money from their adult children, but I knew that this was something that they wanted to do for me badly and it was my job to humble myself enough to accept their gifts.  Before I had even been out of prison a week, I had secured the perfect place for my son and I to live, with landlords that have been nothing but kind to me, even knowing my background fully.

Home!!

I realized this morning, as I prepare to sign the lease for another year, that we have been here now for a little over a year, with another year in front of us.  That is the longest we have lived in any one place since we left my marriage, and the house of horrors.  Do you know how good that feels—to have a home?  It feels absolutely wonderful, that is how it feels!  It also feels absolutely wonderful to know that in the three years since we left, we have never been cold, have always had running water, and a fully functional bathroom, and we have had those things every day since we left.  We had not had those things for a very long time prior to that.  That feels super fantastic, too, as does not having had to do a single load of laundry in the kitchen sink.  Last year, I got many random firewood drops from people just because they could, and they cared.  I was beginning to see that coming out of prison has not made my world smaller, it had made my life become much bigger than it had been in decades.

I had employment cleaning houses almost immediately thanks to a friend and word of mouth.  My writing career, which I thought would disappear while I was in prison, had only grown, expanded, and gotten better.  We have not wanted for one single thing in the past year.  New people to love and care for us were entering our lives at an amazing rate.  These are people who I can call at 2 a.m. for any reason, and sometimes I had to do that due to my inability to drive for 9 months after my release.  The people who I work for were more than happy to pick me up so that I could clean for them, but more than that, they we also happy to take me to the grocery store, or ER with a sick child, or anywhere else we needed to go.  My son now has many surrogate grandparents who adore him and spoil him and treat me like their own child, too.  Love was, and is, everywhere, and that is an intense feeling in the best possible way.

The whole fam-dam-ily, Christmas 2011

I had all seven of my children with me last Christmas.  I think it was the best Christmas of my entire life.  I will have all seven children home this Christmas, too, plus my new son-in-law, who I love.  I get all weepy just remembering seeing them all walk in the door last year.  I got all weepy then, too.  I love them so much, and they are the best children on the planet.  Smart, accomplished, yes, but much more importantly, they are kind, loving, generous, and funny as all get out!  They are all also safe after Hurricane Sandy, and all I can say to that is Thank you, God!  I love you so much!

My lovely daughter and her husband.

My oldest daughter got married last summer.  She was the most beautiful bride in the history of mankind.  Her wedding will go down in history as the most perfect, fairytale, wedding the world has even seen, and she did it all on a tight budget, too!  My son-in-law is the best son-in-law any woman has ever had, or ever will have—that is until my younger daughter gets married, then I will have the two best sons-in-law God ever created.  The wedding was a blast, and another chance to have all seven of my kids all in one place.

Don’t bug me! I am on vacation!

My little boy and I had a three-day vacation at the beach this summer.  It was a gift to us from one of the women I clean for who owns a little cottage with the most spectacular view in all of  Maine.  It was the best, and first, vacation he and I have ever had together.  We caught tons and tons of crabs who promptly ran back into the water, but when you are seven years old, that just never gets old.

Last night, I took my little zombie trick-or-treating.  There was no random, pick a neighborhood and go there, element about it this year.  We had many stops to make and we had many people we had to see—people who would have been so disappointed if a zombie had not shown up at their doorstep, or their floor at the hospital.  When you are a kid with a ton of surrogate grandparents, you get some surrogate older siblings to stand in for the siblings who are not around to go with you on Halloween.  Life just gets richer and bigger and swells with so much love that I feel like I might burst right open.

Be very afraid!!

Best of all, among all of the glorious, wonderful, fabulous things I see, I see one very happy child.  I see a child who has been through so much in his little life and he has triumphed over it all at the tender age of seven.  It was a hard-fought battle, but everyone sees the triumph now.  His principal at school sees it and tells me how happy he is this year.  He comes skipping off of the bus every day.  He is making friends.  He tells me all of the time now that he loves life.  I think he had the best Halloween of his life last night.

One very happy zombie!!

Last year at this time, I was still very much getting back on my feet.  I did not know what the world would think of a woman who had just gotten out of prison.  I started learning quite quickly that, amazingly, the world could and would think no less of me.  In fact, my world has grown in ways words cannot express, all because I went to prison.  Soon after I got out, I wrote a three-part series for Yahoo! Shine! about my prison experience.  I wrote it fearlessly, as if called to do so.  However, when I shared the first article, the fear did hit, for as many people who knew where I had been for those six months, there were many more who had no idea where I had been.

I did not know how all of those friends would react.  Those people who did not know read that article, and rather than turning away from me, I was hit with a love avalanche unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life…love and admiration.  I think it goes without saying that I have the best friends and family in the entire universe, and more and more keep coming!  The avalanche never ends, but who would want a love avalanche to end, anyway?

Once or twice in the last year, I have had someone who is just getting to know me say something like, “Oh, what a terribly tragic life you have had!”  When I have heard this, inside I was shouting, “Oh, pah-leeze!”  My life is not tragic—not one bit.  I have had some pretty intense life experiences, but God has taken each and every one of those experiences and He has woven them into something magnificent.  My life is an embarrassment of riches, and I would not trade a single one of those crummy experiences for anything in the world.  If that is what it took to get me where I am today, then all I can say again is, “Thank you so much, Lord!  I love you for everything!”

I am the single most blessed woman alive.  You can try to fight me for the rights to that title, but I am not giving it up!  I worked hard to earn that title.  In my world, I am the most blessed woman alive. You can be the most blessed person in your world, and I hope and pray that you are!  You earned that title, too!

Joel 2:25-26

25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm[a]
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.

How to create you own Perfect Storm–Expectations and Self-Care Revisted.

I am no meteorologist, nor am I a magician, but I can still conjure up The Perfect Storm, right in the comfort of my own home, too!  How do I do it, you ask?  First, I take a strong storm front of high expectations and I allow it to get bigger.  I work more than I know suits me and my personality and then I expect myself to be all things to anyone who seems to need me.  After I have allowed the extra high expectations of myself to become a twisting mass of worry and frustration, I allow another front to come in from the north.  This other front is called poor self-care.  These two front meet at high altitudes and mingle and begin to feed off of each other until it all looks like something impossible to pinpoint, but  potentially extremely destructive.  Toss in a few unplanned events like very real Hurricane Sandy and let the fun begin!  It is my own, perfect, personal, Frankenstorm, and I made it myself!

The damage done by a little wind storm to the little cottage we lived in three years ago.

A few weeks ago, I started to work more, which is all good because more money never hurts.  However, I was not being as careful as I generally am to limit how much, and when, and what I do.  I was working on the weekends when I should have been enjoying some time alone and just plain doing nothing much.  I am an INFJ–I am a true introvert and I need an inordinate amount of time alone or I wear out quickly.  INFJ’s are puzzles wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in a blanket of mystery.  As I told a friend last night, I am an odd combination of one tough cookie and a very delicate flower.  It confuses the heck out of most people.  Anyway, I was not getting enough solitude when I should have been getting a little extra.  At the same time, there seemed to be people with pressing needs all around me and I was doing my best to keep up.  While I was not aware of it at the time, everyone was getting what they needed, with the exception of me.  I was getting worn out, but I am a trooper, so I kept plugging on although I did note that my usual perky mood was flagging a bit.

Wham! Almost a direct hit! Left a nasty hole in the porch, too!

I was feeling just the tiniest bit crabby around the edges and people’s requests were beginning to irritate me a fair amount.  Of course, I was too much of a chicken to say to these various people, “I know that this means a lot to you right now, but I will get to it when I have time.”  One night, this left me trying to counsel a young woman dealing with drug addiction while simultaneously trying to fill out an online form to become an Avon representative for my cousin.  Do you see something wrong with this picture? Do you see priorities a little out of whack? I sure do…now! I imagine you are also getting the “trying to be everything to everyone” thing by now, too.  Ah, but you do see the boundaries blurring?

It just kept on like that and the next thing you know, along came storm system number two, poor self-care.  I usually love to cook and eat very well.  I love my veggies, but now I was loving on sugar a lot, and while I made meals, not much was sounding good to me but cookies and chocolate.  Everyone else had a clean house, but mine had not been really cleaned completely in two weeks.  Simple things like washing my face before bed disappeared.  All of the sudden, I really did not want to do a darned thing, but I kept on trucking because that is how I roll and while I rolled, more people needed things, and I became more tired, and more irritable, and suddenly I was like a Bounty paper towel—super absorbent, just like back in to bad, old, days, when I let everyone else and their needs take precedence over my own.  Still, I had very limited awareness, of course, because once I get on a roll like this one I may as well be deaf, dumb, and blind.

The poor shed died a tragic death that fateful night!

When I said that I had become as absorbent as a Bounty Paper towel, what I mean is that I was, once again, taking on the emotions of all of the people around me.  That is another thing about the INFJ personality.  We are highly intuitive on a couple of different levels.  We know things about people even before they know them.  We feel it.   We sense it.  We do not even know how we do it, so do not bother asking.  Also, even though this may seem like a really cool super power to have, it is a blessing and a curse depending on how you deal with it.  I used to be like one giant sponge walking through life, absorbing all of the emotions of the people around me.  I was very soggy most of the time and usually quite off balance.  So, I gave that up for Lent one year recently, even though I am not Catholic.

What had really happened is that I had actually figured out where I ended and where other people began and then I stuck some boundaries in between me and everyone else.  I thought I was fairly impenetrable  now, but I was wrong.  Old behavior, back sliding, call it what you will. To any counselor it would look like classic relapse symptoms, but drinking was, and is, a repulsive thought to me.  Yet, one can relapse in other ways.  If you are busy looking for my boundaries at this point in the story, they are a very thin, blurry line –and weakening by the minute.  I tried to push the fragile, little line back into place.  People kept pushing back and I let them.

All we heard all night long, as we sat in the dark, was the sound of the wind, and trees snapping all around us.

Along comes Ms. Frankenstorm to make matters worse.  I do not like wind storms.  I live in a cottage surrounded by tall pines, and those babies snap at the slightest provocation.  However, I am good at storm preparedness, so I went right out and bought water, and non-perishable food items, and flashlights, and candles, and I began sawing up trees that were already down.  At first, it looked like we might get a direct hit from Hurricane Sandy, but then it shifted.  We will still get a good storm, but now that darned thing is heading straight for four of my adult children.  I began sending out mass emails to get assurance that they would prepare and I got a boatload of pithy, and truly hysterical responses, but I am a mom to the core.  While I laughed at their wit and cleverness, I was crying inside and scared.  Sigh.

Yesterday morning, I woke up and I felt awful.  I hurt all over and I just wanted to cry and yet I could not think of one thing going badly in my life that would provoke such intense feelings.  I worried that I was getting depressed.  I wondered if I might suddenly have become gluten intolerant.  One of my elderly friends told me it was probably “The change.”  Well, I finished changing two years ago without one mood swing.  Menopause was the easiest thing I have ever done in my life, so I could not figure out why mood disturbances would start now.

I tried my “Move a muscle, change a thought” trick.  I cleaned out my fridge and took my trash to the dump.  I cut up another tree, which usually invigorates me.  I felt worse.  I felt like throwing up.  I felt like I was wrapped in a thick fog of stupidity.  So, I went to bed and I prayed and I slept soundly for almost three hours.  When I woke up, I felt great!  I said to myself, “You were just tired.  Whew.”  Did I just relax for the rest of the day?  Heck, no!  I felt terrific, so I cleaned my entire little house, sawed up another tree or two, and took a shower.  I hate a dirty house during a power outage.  By the time my son left with his Dad last evening whatever happy high I had gotten from my nap had vanished.  I started reading more about Hurricane Sandy and felt the need to leave teary messages on each child’s phone pleading with them to flee NOW.  There was obscenity involved.  There it was—Frankenstorm wrecking havoc far and wide.  My own personal Perfect Storm.

Snap, snap, snap, all night long…in the dark, with no power.

As my adult children began to call me back and talk me down, I began to see the whole picture of what I had allowed to happen to me in the last couple of weeks.  I had allowed myself to become completely and totally emotionally exhausted.  They laughed at me, in their usual, loving way.  I laughed at myself.  I felt better, but I also realized that those boundaries I though were now immovable are, under the right conditions, still a little weak.  Today, I am sand bagging them with solitude and self-care.  As my own mother used to say, very tongue in cheek, as she was a language arts snob, “Your mama didn’t raise no dummies.”  Well, I didn’t raise no dummies, either.  To say that my children are bright would be a gross understatement.  They are brilliant, and they are in God’s hand.   They will take fine care of themselves.

There lies the most crucial bit of awareness.  It is not my job to take care of the whole world and everyone in it.  I am not God.  I spent a lifetime trying to save everyone from themselves and almost killed myself trying to do so.  As another one of my elderly friends told me this morning, “Experience is a great teacher.”  Yes, it is, indeed.  Living through a whole lot of tough experiences has taught me all of my best lessons.  I cannot go back.  I cannot lose sight of myself in the hubbub of everyone else and their needs.  I cannot save everyone from their misery, and why should I even want to do that?

Were it not for my own times of misery, I would not be where I am now, which is happy, healthy, and content– as long as I take good care of myself, and leave the rest to God.  Why would I want to rob others of those hard, but valuable, experiences so they can grow and bloom on their own?  Sometimes I behave as if I have all of the answers for everyone.  The truth is that the only person that I have all of the answers for is me, but if I stop listening everyone in my sphere suffers in some way.

I am upright today, and peaceful, and even though I may go cut up a few more trees, this weekend is about rebuilding my own boundaries in the wake of my own personal Perfect Storm.  This weekend is about shoring up my boundaries and resting, and taking good care of me.  Yes, I am still a little scared of Frankenstorm, but I am prepared, and when all is said and done, God has got this one.  He has had it all along.  As long as I take care of myself, come what may, I will be fine.  I will be praying that you are all safe and fine, too.