Best Year Ever
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Someone asked me where Day 1 was of the Blog of Missing. I started with Day 20, which is kind of a let-down, right? Where’s the beginning? There should be a Day 1. A way to find the genesis of the heartache.
And there should be words for every day of the missingness. We’ve got all the feels every day, and by we, I mean everyone who misses Jake. A post a day keeps the insanity at bay (except there ain’t no sanity clause….)
I don’t know exactly when Day 1 is. I know the first day he left.
I know the last day someone thought they saw him.
I know the first day, approximately, that I started worrying about him before he disappeared.
I know the first day he stopped talking to me three years ago.
I know the day he started talking to me again. And the day he said he forgave me and that he had been mad for dumb things.
I know the day I dropped him off at Denny’s.
I know the last day he called his dead friend’s phone.
I know many significant days.
Which one is the first?
Today marks 118 days since I knew he was safe, had shelter, and he was talking to me. Now I have hope that he is not dead. I don’t know about shelter, I don’t know his mindset, and I don’t know that he’s safe, but it’s comforting to feel mostly sure that he’s not dead.
This summer two people approached me to ask if I’d been checking Jake’s Facebook. When I said no, they told me that their messages to him in Facebook had been read by someone. I myself have seen that twice. I dismissed it because I believed (and still do) that Jake had sold his laptop. I figured someone had access to his Facebook messages.
I have reason to believe he is at least alive and has access to his Facebook account because I used to be able to see his friends list, and now cannot. A person with access to his account would be indifferent regarding privacy, I think.
You know as much as I do.
I can extrapolate a lot from this info, but I’ve learned I’m usually wrong about stuff when I do that. Too many assumptions.
This. It’s where my head’s at.
I’ve found a website that offers help to those who have been reported missing:
THE MISSING BLOG: HELPING YOU SEND A MESSAGE HOME
Here’s what the page says:
You might not be ready, want or be able to return home at this time, but still want family or loved ones to know you’re okay. You could be scared of how they might react or be worried about a difficult situation you left behind.
It can be very hard to make that first contact or find the words you want to say to someone, for a range of personal and individual reasons. That is why we have developed our Message Home service.
Remember, we won’t disclose your location if you don’t want us to.
Simply talk to us and provide us with information that will help prove your identity to the person we are passing the message on to, such as your date of birth or any memorable information. We will then get in touch with your family and ask if they’re willing to receive a message from you.
After, they will also be given the opportunity to pass a message back to you and we will check with you first to make sure you are willing to receive the message.
We will never pass on abusive, harmful , threatening or upsetting messages between family members or messages regarding legal or financial matters.
Want to talk? We are free, confidential and available 24/7.
Call or text 116 000
You can text us even if you have no credit left on your mobile phone.
Here is more general information for someone who is missing: http://www.missingpeople.org.uk/how-we-can-help/missing-adults.html
If you are reading this, know that there’s help available, and it’s okay if you don’t want to pass on a message. I love you.
I see that gratitude starts with what you look for–and with the effort you’re willing to expend looking for the good. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have to close my eyes and first refocus mentally before I can see beauty with my eyes open.
I read about the Joy Dare here.
Today’s prompt is to find gifts in something written, something sung, and something painted.
A gift sung:
Listen to this and find peace in your afternoon:
A gift written:
By Henry Vaughan
A gift painted:
I recently decided to connect with other writers because I really need to mix with my kind. I need to be around those people who are obsessed with the craft–talking about it, writing about it, learning about it. And I need to connect with people who want to make a difference in the world in any small way. So I have been posting more regularly on Linkedin and Twitter, and one person made me realize that I was on the right path. She’s made me feel appreciated and valued, which has encouraged me to keep doing my small thing in this tiny corner of the universe.
Kristol, you’re a light in the darkness, and I thank you for nominating me for the Lighthouse Award. You’ve made a difference in my perspective in just the short time I’ve known you. Thank you.
Nominees, here are the sweet and simple rules:
- Display the award certificate on your blog.
- Inform your nominees of their award nominations.
- Share three ways that you like to help other people.
- There is no limit to the number of people you can nominate.
- Don’t forget to have fun!
3 help-y things I like to do:
- I help people find short-cuts. (On the road, I know the route with the fewest stoplights or left-hand turns because I hate circuitous routes. This impatience leads me to find short-cuts in every arena, not just on the road. This, I realize, is also a sign of laziness. And people do not always want to know these amazing short-cuts. lol)
- I help people find their voices in writing. I am able to set myself aside–my opinions, my voice, my knowledge, all of that Stacy-stuff–and I help people express what’s inside them in their own words. I thank God for this gift, and I hope to develop this skill to its fullest potential.
- I help people find THAT book. You know when you’re looking for a book that’s about that one thing, or that book that your sister read to you when you were in 1st grade, or any book that is about [insert your pet subject]? Sometimes I have the book (and give it to you via Bookcrossing) and other times I point you in the right direction, like I did in this post about romance authors’ pseudonyms.
Nothing like committing to do something in public to make you see your own flaws.
My best year isn’t done, and it’s still the best I’ve ever lived, and I’ve been busy living it. Eh, but I’ve been busy procrastinating about all sorts of things. Like posting here. Seems as soon as I give myself a rule it makes me want to break it. Makes me wonder if there’s an app that’ll impose deadlines that make you unable to post after a certain time. (I do this for my students on Blackboard, and as a fellow procrastinator, I understand the value of having a deadline with consequences.)
Some of the best things right now:
- I’m rediscovering Jesus. And praying every day that it doesn’t turn me into an annoying conservative twat. I’d annoy myself. Gag me.
- I am learning a lot about my absentminded habits. Thank God my husband is so laid-back. Couple days ago he said, smiling, “Honey, do you not like bending over?” I gave him a wtf look and he said, “When you lay something down, it stays there.” I–ah–well. That explains a lot. What amuses me is that now, because of that tiny, indulgent smile of his, I catch myself when I lay something down, and I remember that my actions affect someone else. And I don’t lay it down.
- I am writing! I am noodling about scenes, I am plotting, I am creating characters I love, and I am regularly in my writing corner.
- I am actively growing as a teacher. This semester I’m implementing a couple of tools I developed last semester and the feedback I’m getting from students is helping me to make them more user-friendly. (A worksheet on thesis statements and topic sentences, and an online workshop on developing a solid thesis.) Geeky, yes, but fun for me.
From Notes from the Universe:
“The absolute, most sure-fire way
of physically moving in the direction of
your dreams, on a day-to-day basis,
without messing with the “cursed hows,”
is living them, now, to any degree that you can.
And you can.“
My dream is not only to write, but to create a space for others to explore writing, so I’m committing to starting a group for writers here where I live. Instead of waiting to move to somewhere green and cool (O! Vermont!) I’m going to do something now.
Funny. No one really cares what you can do, only what you do.
I got married last year after being in a ten-year long-distance relationship. People regularly express wonder at the length of our time living apart, and everyone asks the same question: how?
For the last 9 months I’ve been shrugging off the question because, you know, we just DID it. It was just the way things worked out for that time frame, and we dealt with it. But today I was asked again, and it finally dawned on me (because I’m quick like that) that people really want to know what it is about our relationship that made it last through ten years of being about 3,000 miles apart.
Some reasons we have lasted:
- Trust. That seems obvious, perhaps. You HAVE to trust that you’re not one of a long line of people on booty-call speed dial, right? But how do you trust that when you can’t see what the other person’s up to except when you visit once a year? Well, I have to ask why anyone would be in a relationship where this is even a question. If you can’t trust the person you want to be with, look at yourself. Are you trustworthy? Are you asking that question because you know you’re out cattin’ around? Of course, there’s insecurity. I’m human, and I’m pudgy. I worried that he saw a tall, beautiful, slender blonde woman in town who would suit him far better than I did. There were times when I was convinced that I wasn’t beautiful enough, and I realized after a long time that this was my issue, and only mine, but I arrived at there because of …next point:
- Grace. A crap-ton of it. And for a while, much of it was one-sided. Not me! Tom. I am awed by how much I have learned about what love is from this man. I can be a horrid, grudge-holding woman over dumb things. Heck, we had an 8-month break-up because of my stubbornness. He wrote me a letter during the break-up that I did not answer, and when I finally, miraculously, relented and wrote him, he answered immediately. (All of which makes you wonder, uh, why does he love her? Answer: When I’m not being horrid, I’m awesome.) But grace: it is undeserved. Forgiving. Sometimes baffling. And it usually ends in…next point:
- Humor. Not a day passes that we don’t laugh. There’ve probably been days of arguing over the years that we couldn’t laugh, but they’re outnumbered by the laughing days. And the secret here is that we’re able to laugh at ourselves. We both know we can be childish and unreasonable, and we’re safe with each other so we can say, “Oh, wow. I suck, and I’m sorry.” Tom says part of my awesomeness is that I own it when I’m wrong, even if it’s not right away.
- We believe the best of each other. If Tom says something that hurts my feelings, I’ve learned to step back and consider his words in the light of his love for me. I had to wear bracelets for a while to remind myself of this, but the lesson did take.
I get it now.
- Refusal to give up. Tom says I’m relentless. I say I’m determined. Whatever. We’re both thankful. And really, he’s one to talk. It’s he who showed me how to love when it was hard. It’s he who taught me that I was loveable by doing everything he could to make me laugh so I would get over my self-consciousness about my loud laugh. It’s he who called me every day, even when I was mad at him.
- Communication. We talked almost every night. I think we probably talked more than most couples did who lived together. In fact, I’d bet we know each other far better than most people who’ve been married longer. We learned to listen to tones in each other’s voices. And we have a rule: no hang-ups. Hanging up in the middle of a fight is the worst kind of storming off. So we’d have these long pauses when we could not speak because we were so mad and had nothing friendly to say, but we couldn’t hang up so we were forced to work it through till we reached some kind of resolution.
- Commitment to the relationship. We both wanted it to work. This means you have to dump pride to the side, and you have to be able to give and receive grace.
- And now: God. We recognize that God was there all along, but we weren’t paying attention to that at first.
3,000 miles can exist within the same house between two people. Physical distance doesn’t break a relationship; emotional chasms do. Tom and I learned to bridge them while we lived so far apart, and now we are discovering how much we enjoy being together in the same house with no chasms to cross. It’s pretty amazing.
The appearance of things change according to the emotions, and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves. ~Kahlil Gibran
Be ugly, see ugliness.
Be merciful, see mercy.
Be deceitful, see deceit.
Be joyful, see joy.
Whatever we see out there is true within us.
My husband taught me something about love today.
We had a heated argument yesterday in which we showed all our dark colors.
You always! You never!
This morning, upon awakening, he mumbled, “Prayer works.”
I thought he was referring to the fact that I had relented and cuddled up to him in the middle of the night, but that wasn’t it.
He said, “I prayed that something would happen to make me let go of my anger because I knew I was the problem.”
Note: He was not the problem. We both were.
What surprised me was that he had not prayed for God to move my heart, or to change my perspective. He hadn’t prayed that I would relent.
He’d only prayed about his own attitude.
That little act was a mirror: I could see my own culpability, my own inflexibility, my own pride.
I don’t know how all this relates, precisely.
My goal is that the humility and mercy that reside in him will be evident in me when he looks at me.
Sometimes I only have a scent. Ivory Soap. Pine sap. Old Spice. It’s faint, like an afterimage, as Atwood writes in The Handmaid’s Tale.
Other times, I catch a memory when I noodle about something peripheral, like the weather of my childhood.
And other times, I am knocked into a pit by something that happens, like my son telling me he will not be seeing me again. As of this writing, I am 18 hours and 40 minutes from that revelation, and all I can think is, ‘if I’d known it was the last time I’d see him, I’d’ve lingered over dinner. I’d’ve drawn out the conversation, which would have been easy because our conversations have always been interesting. I’d’ve found some way not to be the mother who drives him crazy.’ Okay, nix that last one. I actually don’t know how to do that.
(He is not suicidal.) (And he doesn’t read my blog.)
There’s more to it. There always is. But that is not what this post is about. This post is about how present events harken back to old wounds.
I often identify old hurts by rooting around in the new ones (when I have the clarity to do so.) Today, in this fresh hell, I can identify the pain of many old things, but I will name only two:
1) giving my son up for adoption almost three decades ago, and
2) my mother washing her hands of me when I was 11, and again when I was 19.
So my next question for myself is, which pain am I feeling?
Here’s the thing: I have seen enough of life to understand its cycles. The grownup in me knows that nothing stays the same. So the enormous pain I feel is not just about my son walking away.
So what does this mean? How does the current issue illuminate the past hurt?
I see that by linking them I am telling myself the old story of abandonment, and that’s a story I’m done with. Being abandoned means I have no power. I’m not an abandoned waif, I’m a grownup, and I will not be undone by grief. I do leave my arms open for him should he return. But I also accept that it could be years, even decades, before that happens, if at all. My mother was dead ten years before I understood some things in our relationship, things about her.
I’m writing this because I am devastated and I have to work through this or go crazy. I have to be back at work on Monday and I can’t be dissolving every time something reminds me of my son. I have to see some meaning.
Still working on that.
What I do know is that I can model the grace I now recognize for myself. I can be thankful that he has new-found faith and that he is seeking his own right path. And I can trust that everything will be okay. Mostly. Still working on that, too.
“According to Jungian Jolande Jacobi, in psychic inner reality the archetypal Shadow is a symbol for an aspect of the self (1959). When we cannot find a way to work with our shadow through our dreams or in other ways, it becomes a symptom in our outer world. ” From http://www.eupsychia.com/perspectives/defs/shadow.html
In the compilation of shadow essays called Meeting the Shadow, M. Scott Peck writes,
“If evil people cannot be defined by the illegality of their deeds or the magnitude of their sins, then how are we to define them? The answer is by the consistency of their sins. While usually subtle, their destructiveness is remarkably consistent….
A predominant characteristic, however, of the behavior of those I call evil is scapegoating. Because in their hearts they consider themselves above reproach, they must lash out at anyone who does reproach them. They sacrifice others to preserve their self-image of perfection….
Scapegoating works through a mechanism psychiatrists call projection…. Since they must deny their own badness, they must perceive others as bad….
Strangely enough, [they] are often destructive because they are attempting to destroy evil. The problem is that they misplace the locus of the evil…” (178-79). (see here for more info on the book)
I think that when we cannot accept a certain aspect of our selves, we are then on hyper-alert for that aspect in others. This is why politicians and other public figures should shut up. I’ve lost count of how many prominent figures have loudly decried sexual misconduct and then have been found guilty of that same “sin.”
We are loudest about what we hate in ourselves.
And the only way to combat this effectively is to accept those parts in our selves which cause us to be ashamed.
But we can’t if we don’t have a safe space to be vulnerable.
So not only is the accusing person hiding secret shame, he is in an environment which fosters such deceptiveness.
Where is grace?
Why is grace so difficult to give?
I’m noodling on grace because my mother was unable to receive it.
And because of that, she couldn’t give it.
I wonder if that is true across the board. If you haven’t ever received unconditional acceptance of who you are, right to your marrow, can you give that to anyone? If so, how?
I am also still formulating what my definition of grace is.
I experience it on a daily basis from my husband. I make mistakes. I get psycho/neurotic/depressed–and there he is, accepting that I am in a particular space, but I am still the beautiful girl he adores. This means, usually, that he walks with me through that valley all the way through to the other side.
Humility. That’s the key to grace.
And you can’t be truly humble if you don’t accept all parts of yourself, and you can’t accept them if you can’t see them, blinded by pride as you are.
This week I’m reflecting on all the ways I experience grace, and I’m looking for it in Mama’s life, too.
I wrote a little about Shenpa in 2012, but I didn’t have a lot to say because, while I recognized it, I didn’t really understand it. I’m not sure I do now, but I’m going to write about it anyway. I’ll share the same quotes:
Shenpa is what Pema Chodron calls the hook. We each have different hooks but we all get hooked by attachment to outcomes, expectations, or regrets. It is emotionally painful and we suffer. Whatever the hook is, I have to let it go. I must remember that 100 years from now when I am dead and gone, it truly won’t matter. It won’t be important because all my actions will be in the past. Just as they are now while I am living, from moment to moment. Why hold on to the negativity? What matters now is being kind, forgiving and loving towards myself and others. ~ Loran Hills ♥
I was just telling myself this yesterday: next year, it will not matter, these hurt feelings. I will be over them because my perspective will have changed. So why not fast-forward through the struggle and forgive NOW? Trust that my perspective will eventually have more understanding, that even if I don’t have it now, it will come, and I will not have caused more damage with resentment and hurt? Why hold on to it? Why am I attached to the hurt?
I don’t know why I’m attached to hurt feelings. I’m less so now than ever, but still. I recognize that staying in that space is a choice, and all I have to do to get out of it is to ask myself how much I want to be happy.
Here is an everyday example of shenpa. Somebody says a mean word to you and then something in you tightens— that’s the shenpa. Then it starts to spiral into low self-esteem, or blaming them, or anger at them, denigrating yourself. And maybe if you have strong addictions, you just go right for your addiction to cover over the bad feeling that arose when that person said that mean word to you. This is a mean word that gets you, hooks you. Another mean word may not affect you but we’re talking about where it touches that sore place— that’s a shenpa. Someone criticizes you—they criticize your work, they criticize your appearance, they criticize your child— and, shenpa: almost co-arising.
Trying to root out shenpa is like trying to force a paradigm shift. You know you’re in a box, but you can’t find a seam to force your hand through.
It’s an irresistible itch. You get that your partner didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, and you get that in the grand scheme of things it’s insignificant, but those hurt feelings…they’re more comfortable than happiness and peace because they’re familiar. You know what to expect, and the hurt fits the paradigm of abandonment and neglect and disillusionment.
Never mind that it’s been YEARS since you were abandoned.
I think shenpa is like the old rusted bike that got leaned against a sapling and was left there for the tree to grow around.
The only way to dislodge that bike is with an axe and chainsaw, and then you destroy the tree.
In dislodging that hooking point, it’s necessary that some part of ourselves is destroyed, but it’s only the part that doesn’t serve for the good.
I became aware of the tightening during my various attempts to quit smoking. I was trying to figure out why I smoked, and I discovered that I did it to shut my mouth. Better to inhale poison than to say what I thought. I was afraid that if I quit smoking, I would offend everyone around me when I said what I thought.
I quit smoking over a year ago, and I’ve offended people and I frequently wish I was more skilled in diplomacy, but I’ve also learned that not speaking is my choice,not something I have to force myself to do.
I’ve given myself the same permission to speak that I gave my children.
You know how in movies when a mother is hiding from the enemy and she has her child tucked tightly against her, and her hand is on his mouth to keep him from crying out? I think that when Mama silenced me when I was little, in some ways it was for my protection. This is how we do things in this family. We do not say what we think because it endangers us because the adults react. The tightening is both taught and embedded in us at an early age.
I will have to come back to this again.
I’m very interested in your thoughts about this shenpa….
Silence has been my project lately, and the hardest time for me has been over the last few days. My original post had this:
- Silence–Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
I decided to do silence for week 3, and to focus on serenely shutting up. Humility is its companion because staying silent means I’m giving space to the words of others.
Sometimes being silent means not saying what YOU need to say, but allowing space for another to speak. It means it is not your turn. It means that when you do speak, you speak love and grace and nothing else.
Do you know how hard that is? Shutting up does not come easily to me.
Obviously, since I’ve been trying to do it for three weeks. Gah.
I am wearing an industrial-strength bracelet for this–it’s made of a rope material that, if unraveled, can be used as a survival tool. I love the symbolism in that. And I love that I’m learning to be a better person, even if the process makes me want to gnash my teeth.
In silence, of course. lol