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“The people who say you are not facing reality actually mean that you are not facing their idea of reality. Reality is above all else a variable. With a firm enough commitment, you can sometimes create a reality which did not exist before.” Margaret Halsey
I’m in this godawful weird place where I don’t know how to live my life. I don’t know where to look for my son, I don’t know what waiting looks like, and I still have responsibilities. I just got a reminder that I need to order books for my classes this fall, another reminder that I have to set a date for an upcoming Kiwanis installation, my cat wants food AND snuggles, and I have a pile of things that require my attention. It’s all my stuff. None of it’s bad. It’s just stuff I need to do.
And yet, when I take shaky steps forward, practice being present, small black shards splinter off inside me.
My youngest son said yesterday, “Mom. You forgot that last time Jake cut you off, he wasn’t going to tell you then, either. You found out by accident. Remember?” I haven’t really processed this statement. I don’t even know how. Is Jake being a nomad, or is he dead? Is he all right? Does he have enough to eat?
[See painting and info here.]
Reality is…all the shards.
3/1/2016 1:41 PM to CMTN GRDN/CA (310) 345-#### 1 min.
This line of text kept me up last night. That, and the fact that I didn’t know my son needed to hear his friend’s voice.
Of course he did.
And I didn’t know how to create a space that encouraged him to grieve.
I’m bugging my own self here, now, because his grief is private, is supposed to be private, and I’m putting him on blast while I deal with my own grief, and how fair is that?
I’m opting to do it anyway because the subject is typically verboten in our fussy society. Grief is messy, and no one wants to see your splotchy face and raw emotions. Keep it under wraps, please. I myself am not dealing with anyone putting the stomp on me, but I wonder if Jake did. Or if he dealt with some invisible pressure to keep a strong face…. Or maybe that was his interpretation. Did he feel like he wasn’t allowed to show sadness?
If so, why?
I want to hurry through sadness, or to avoid it entirely.
Sadness, and fear, and unknowing. I’m in the space of all three at once.
Is my suffering caused by my expectation that I should not have to deal with these things? (Seriously, though. I have had enough, I think. There should be a cut-off point, at which time anything that goes over that line should be diverted like run-off to the sea. –> Nope, no room in this drain, off you go.)
Last night I got up after flopping and tossing, and if I could have tucked my ache under my husband like a blanket, I would have, but instead I Linus’d it to Facebook, where I came across a post in my feed that led me to this quote:
If I’m feeling a very difficult emotion, maybe anger, or deep sadness, and I try to focus on my breath, isn’t that a way of avoiding my emotions?
Usually people lose themselves in a strong emotion and become overwhelmed. That is not the way to handle emotion, because when that happens you are a victim of emotion. In order not to become a victim, breathe and retain your calm, and you will experience the insight that an emotion is only an emotion, nothing more. This insight is very important, because then you are no longer afraid. You are calm, you are not trying to run away, and you can deal better with emotion. Your breath is you, and you need alliance with your breath to be more of yourself, to be stronger. Then you can handle your emotion better. You do not try to forget your emotion; instead you try to be more of yourself, so that you are solid enough to deal with it.
- Retain your calm.
- Emotion is only an emotion. Nothing more.
- Be solid enough to deal with your emotion.
This reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, wherein travelers discover that the grass of heaven slices into their feet because they’re insubstantial and heaven is real. The longer they stay there, the more substantive they become, and eventually their feet are no longer pierced. I will stay present.
I get it. I learned young that emotions were unwieldy and threatening, and I can’t think of anyone in my family who learned how to navigate these waters with grace, so I have to learn to *sail this train on my own.
Nothing’s wrong with me.
Something’s got to give.
You know the rest.
*One of Jake’s favorite sayings: Dude. That train sailed. [In other words, Let it go.]
And my song today: Dear Younger Me
I’m constructing a timeline of what I know about Jake’s life from the past year, ostensibly to gain a better understanding of his mindset leading up to his disappearance, but honestly in order to be doing something.
It’s been hard to just get started; I’m afraid of the grief simmering under my skin, and I’m afraid everything will point to my worst fears. Plus, doing this timeline means making phone calls and connecting with people in Jake’s life; it feels so invasive that I have the urge to tiptoe. Does it do me any good to understand his grieving over the loss of his friend? Does it do him any good for me to understand it? Whatever the case, I’ve found a site that helps me: http://www.whatsyourgrief.com.
This page has given me plenty to noodle on.
A friend delivered flyers to the SD police department today, and she was so touched by the response she received that she called to tell me about it. “I gotta be honest with you, Stacy,” she said. “I fully expected to be brushed aside and have the flyers forgotten on someone’s desk, and frankly, I wondered if this was just a waste of our time. But not only did they not brush me off, they pointed me to the precise person to handle this, and that person was kind and worried for Jake, too!”
I’m thankful for those who have helped, and for those who are praying.
It’s because of these people that I am not this:
A lot can happen in thirty days.
We have 30-day guarantees, 30-day cleanses, 30-day health challenges.
One month. The sun has risen, and set, thirty times since I last knew Jake was safe.
Tom and I went to the Rock church in San Diego yesterday. When I realized a football player was going to give his testimony I wanted to be elsewhere. The beach.
I was surprised by how his story resonated in me.
He was interviewed by Miles McPherson, the senior pastor of the church, who also opened it up by talking about 1 Corinthians 1, where Paul states that God uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and the weak to shame the strong. (I am particularly intrigued by this: God has chosen the things that are not, that he might nullify the things that are.) What things are not?
Thinky things are distracting and welcome.
So. The interviewee was Danny Woodhead, and his journey of ups and downs reminded me that God is always working behind the scenes. No one has the big picture. This comforts me (sorry, Danny) because I’m flying in the dark lately.
Later in the bookstore at the Rock, I saw an art print about faith:
Faith is the bird that sings in the dark knowing that dawn will come.
…which reminds me of a song by Bryan Duncan:
Lyrics found here.
The sun rises, all right. Tomorrow will be 31. It rises, and yet it’s dark.
I just want him to be safe, you know.
But I couldn’t ensure that in the days before he disappeared, either. What is it exactly that I think that knowing will accomplish?
I’m tired. So very.
Jake must be tired–where’s he sleeping?
Did he eat today?
Now, every time I see a homeless person, I think, That’s some mother’s child.
I had compassion before; this is different. Before, I speculated and sympathized. Now I know.
How can I build something good from this?
I’ve started something rough–if you’re interested, you can check out the resource page I’ve started. Just hover your mouse over ‘a little about me‘ in the menu bar near the top of this page. A drop-down menu will show the page I’m working on. (When someone you love goes missing.)
Yesterday started out a little cloudy, but manageable, and then I had an encounter with someone who made me cry. It was nothing monumental; he was just not as kind as he could have been, and since I’m raw these days, it doesn’t take much to undo me. It was the culmination of several unmindful things this person has said to me that was my undoing.
My friend witnessed my distress, and told me, “Just because someone hands you a bag of crap it doesn’t mean you have to keep holding it.” The word picture was perfect; I let it go. Because, y’know, gross.
One day later, we talked about the situation, and when she saw I’d taken her advice, she asked me how I was able to let things go because she was still mad at this guy, and then asked if I could just explain the process I go through.
I always think I should say, The Holy Spirit enables me, or it’s all Jesus.
But I believe it all comes down to conscious choice. I choose what I focus on.
I have the Holy Spirit, which gives me peace and guidance, but I have the choice to shut all that out.
I want to be careful here because I am not a mindless automaton, but the Holy Spirit’s power is a real thing in my life.
I guess it’s a matter of surrender and trust. When I choose the higher path, I’m trusting that I don’t need to retaliate or be bitter.
I can’t figure out how exactly God works in us so that forgiveness and grace becomes part of our regular menu, because frankly, I have forgiven some very hard things that I couldn’t have done without the Holy Spirit. But walking gracefully is a choice. (And if you’ve seen me walk, you know this is a figurative statement!)
I promised her I would blog about it, and I half-suspect she’s asked this as a means of getting my mind off my worries about my son. She wants something practical to try for herself; I don’t know if I can do that yet. This will be a process, I think.
First a disclaimer: I have not let everything go.
And my way of doing it is just that: my way of doing it.
Letting go of something is like getting undressed, only your clothes are disposable.
Off comes the shirt(s) over your head, mussing your hair. Hair shirt! Of course. Because you’re the only one suffering when you hold onto a hurt, right? Into the wastebasket.
The shoes and socks and pants–everything, into the bin.
Just like the process of getting undressed is done one thing at a time, so it goes with letting go of what hurts.
You don’t just jump out of your clothes, and it’s rare that you can just shrug a hurt off.
Not only must you take them off, you must choose where to put them. If you put the clothes into the laundry basket, then you obviously expect to put them back on. So: trash.
- Shirt: I take off the first layer by thinking: my stuff or his/hers?
If it’s mine, I own it. (To the best of my ability. Sometimes I get this wrong.)
If it’s the other person’s, I toss it, and move to step 2.
- Pants: I seriously consider the other person. What path is this person walking? What’s going on in his/her life that would prompt what s/he did or said?
- Shoes & socks: I put myself in that person’s shoes. How would I feel in similar circumstances?
- How would I want to be treated? Do I want to be forgiven when I’m a jerk? (yes, please. lol)
Dear beloved friend: if you were trying to get my mind off things, you done good. It worked. Thank you.
And I’m going to take time every day to focus on something I have control over. Thank you for that, too.
Today’s a bit of ok. I’m gliding on the surface, not dwelling on what freaks me out. I’m dwelling instead on this:
“Beneath the garments of the world is joy.
A miracle is a gift of light, not a gift of worldly goodies. It shines through the world I see. Each new crack in the scenery tells me there is something else going on behind this play I think I’m in.”
–Hugh Prather, Spiritual Notes to Myself
Beneath the garments of the world. Huh.
I find that incredibly moving.
I was reading back over my journal from the past year, and this date last year I was grieving over the rift in Jake’s and my relationship. Here, incredibly, is what I wrote that holds true right this second, if I could just remember it:
“Here is what I know:
I am not in control here.
He’s God’s, not mine.
I can trust that whatever happens, I will be ok, and so will Jake.
I don’t know where the wind blows. I know tiny human things.”
What finally gave me peace: Matthew 9: 16-17.
Our old relationship could not work. We must be transformed in God’s image.
Last year at a Mother’s Day banquet, a speaker said, “We mothers get in the way because we don’t let go.”
I’m sick with worry for legitimate reasons, yet I recognize he must find his own path without me.
I do not like this place I’m in, Sam I am.
Last year for Mother’s Day, Jake dropped off flowers when I wasn’t home. He told Tom, “Give these to your wife.”
I did laugh. I was delighted to be remembered. He came by! Scowling and sullen, but present, if only for a wee moment.
And when he apologized for the past two and a half years, he just kept bringing me flowers. I’d already forgiven him.
Eventually he got it, I think. I don’t know. I hope so.
More than ever I understand that the past doesn’t matter. Only right now matters. I am in the perfect place. I can’t be anywhere else. I ache with mother empties. I don’t know what’s wrong with my son. But.
Everything’s led here, and if I truly believe God has this, then all is well even in the tumult.
It’s weird how some things stall you in your writing, and other things rip you wide open.
When my son disappeared 20 days ago, the first report I wrote for law enforcement was three pages long. It had bullet points for easy reading, but still. Three pages. But how can you know how to properly track someone if you don’t know the little things?
It took me several drafts to pare it down to the essentials so I could fit them onto a flyer with his picture.
Along with a physical description:
Missing. Gave all his things away. Call me.
I continue bleeding words onto a page of updates. I don’t know who gives a crap about what steps I’ve taken–I’m not really sure I myself care–but I’m compelled to keep track or I will feel like I’ve done nothing.
The words are a trickle on my Facebook page now, and now, well. Here I am. The list is maybe not so important. But this has substance.
This, I think, is better than sending emails to the ether. Better than Facebook messages to my son that withhold that precious “seen” checkmark. Better than editing the updates page with TO DOs and DONEs.
At 1:06am today I woke with a snap, Jake’s slurred voice in my head saying, “Where are you?”
I got dressed and drove to the house where he was staying before he vanished. Convinced he had spoken to me in a dream, in a stupor, helpless.
Shined a light in the window.
Sniffed around the window and front door for a dead body odor.
I’m not crazy, but that’s crazy behavior. Who sniffs windows?
And why? Dead people don’t slur.
Reminder to Stacy: You have no control over things you can’t control.
In all the encounters I’ve had over the last 20 days, only two have been negative.
One man lectured me via text about children who don’t want to talk to their parents and how we need to accept that. I engaged at first, then realized I don’t care what he thinks he knows.
Another man messaged one of Jake’s friends on Facebook, saying that my son was found living in my basement.
Someone actually did that. Part of me accepts that this is just a dopey person who doesn’t realize how callous that was.
Maybe thinks he’s funny.
The other part…well.
Perhaps he will call me with his theory and we can talk.
It’s only been 20 days.
When does it become valid?
Why does it seem invalid?
I make it by grace.
Grace, by U2
Grace, she takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name
Grace, it’s the name for a girl
It’s also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything
Grace, she’s got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She’s got the time to talk
She travels outside of karma
She travels outside of karma
When she goes to work
You can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty in everything
Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things
Grace makes beauty out of ugly things
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:
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.