Saturday, June 17, 2017


I've been pressing repeat on Imagine Dragons' "Believer".  The main refrain tells 'pain' to "break me down and build me up" and "make me a believer."  Then "My life, my love, my job, they came from pain."  The word 'believer' is left ambiguous.

I've had many conversations with my younger brother about the yin and the yang, how nothing can be complete without it's opposite.  The conversation was always a little too metaphysical for my taste, but here I am recognizing that recently, for every laugh I have, I will have 20,000 tears hours later.  The tears empty out my heart so that laughter can surface again, and the laughter is so much sweeter after the tears.  So which one is better?  Is it actually possible to have a better?  As long as the pain does not become chronic and unable to manage, it is simply the darkness to the light, the empty to the full, the deep to the shallow.

Pain grounds us at times, and it inspires us to create art.  Some of my best writing has come from pain I couldn't keep inside.  It has a purpose. 

Embracing pain and putting it in the necessary-for-life box is new to me, but it feels healthy.  The walls I usually build around the pain to keep it from spreading also keep out the laughter, so then I'm left feeling nothing.  Just a person constricted by walls in a maze of numbness.

Break me down and build me up, I'm a believer.  


Saturday, June 3, 2017

The things I would have said and done.

As usual, the only way to stop the thoughts is to put them on paper.  I do not believe in an afterlife so it is odd that I should try to tell you things, but I can't  stop thinking them and the thoughts are making it hard for me to go about my day.

If I had known you were going to take your life that day, I would have said:

There is nothing on this earth that can't get better.  Try therapy, try meditation, try medication, try quitting a job, try trikking across country, I don't care.  Just try anything to make it through the hardest time.  Suicide is such a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

I love you immensely.  Dad loves you immensely.  Drew and Heather.  Your kids.  So many people.  Can that be enough?  It has to be enough.

I'm driving over there.  I will slap you, hug you, get you drunk, take you to the hospital, bitch at you, tell you beautiful stories, cook for you, trikke with you, ANYTHING to make you not do this.

You are an imperfect human being.  We all are.  We have made so many mistakes.  Those mistakes do not define us.

I'm sorry.

You are good enough.  I would not say it if I didn't mean it.

I'm not above guilting you.  You will devastate this family.  Trent will not understand, and he will wonder about his Uncle Chad.

Now that you are gone, I have these thoughts:

I have enough education to understand self-determination, hopelessness, and mental illness.  All the education in the world doesn't make this easier, and in fact, it might be impeding me because I analyze every thought and feeling.

I've been hopeless at different times myself, but when the act is complete, it leaves a trail of destruction behind you.  I'm not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but you have left this mess behind.  And I'm angry with you.  So angry.

I shouldn't feel guilty and I know that.  But I do.

I interviewed for an amazing fellowship a few days ago.  I didn't get it.  I blame you because my heart and mind is elsewhere, and looking back, I probably blew the interview. 

My career has stalled because of this.  That makes me feel even guiltier, as if it is all about me, but that is how I feel. 

"I CAN'T BELIEVE" was your and his joke.  I will probably never hear it again.  I'm not sure I want to.

If you had seen the amazing people that came to your say goodbye at your funeral. You were loved.

There were things I believed about you that weren't true.

Trent didn't like most of Universal, but I keep wanting to tell you about the parts he did like.  I keep waiting for you to comment with a Jesus meme or corny comment.  I wait and wait.  

I can't follow one of your directives.  I'm trying and I'm sorry, but I can't right now.

Hasn't this family suffered enough?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

To Chad, With Love

You held me not long after I was born.  There are pictures of your goofy grin and the awkward way your arms cupped my body.  You lost your only child status when I came along, and I have no doubt you resented me, at least a little.  But you likely kissed my head and said "awww, baby sister."  You were 4, and I was your baby sister.  

We sat on a porch and ate wild blackberries with sugar and milk.  There is a picture of us and our mouths and teeth are deep red, but we are tremendously happy.  You were 5, and I was your baby sister.  

You were going to school and I wasn't.  I imagine I cried on mom's lap, wanting to ride the yellow bus too.  You were 7, and I was your baby sister.  

You sat next to me Saturday mornings, watching Thunder Cats, Sheerah, or He-Man.   We ate cereal and lamented that other kids had cable and could watch cartoons anytime they wanted.  You were 9, and I was your baby sister. 

We were in the yard making mud pies, which were filled with grass, twigs, and maybe rolly pollies.  The pies dried in the sun and we watched the process.  My kids have never made a mud pie, and I need to remedy this problem.  You were 10, and I was your baby sister.

Your friends came to spend the night, and I wanted to play too.  But you said, "Mom, tell her to leave us alone."  And I cried, "But mom, I don't have anyone to play with.  It's not fair." She told me to ride my bike.  You were 12, and I was your baby sister.

Your friends came to spend the night, and my crushes began.  I hid in my room most of the time but snuck glances at your friends from across the table at breakfast.  You were 14, and I was your baby sister.

We were in the living room, and I was jealous of your report card, your time in the woods with dad, and that you were older than me.  Everything about you made me jealous.  You were 16, and I was your baby sister.  

You got in a car accident, and I was worried about you.  I also took a small amount of pleasure in the fact that you totaled our parents' car and they were angry with you.   You were 17, and I was your baby sister.

You graduated high school and began college.  I was proud of you but jealous again.  You were 18, and I was your baby sister.

Mom became sick and you were living in Baton Rouge.  She died as we sat on her bed next to her.  I'm not sure we ever talked about that exact moment.  You were 20, and I was your baby sister.

You found out I was no longer a virgin and that I was drinking heavily.  You were furious with me.  You said girls shouldn't act that way and wait for marriage, and I told you "mind your own fucking business."  You were 21, and I was your baby sister.

You danced at my wedding with a broom decorated with a dress and wig.  You did it without any sense of shame, and I adored you for it.  You were 22, and I was your baby sister.

You found out I was getting a divorce, and you supported me.  I didn't want you to mind your own business because I needed you.  You were 24, and I was your baby sister.

You found out you were going to be an uncle, and you were happy. You were 25, and I was your baby sister.

We had both finally found the love of our lives and had children.  You were 27, and I was your baby sister.

My family was in the middle of Hurricane Katrina, but I still had cell service.  I called you and told you the water was coming into the house, and I thought we might die.  You remained calm and told me you loved me. You were 30, and I was your baby sister.

I had Trent, and you sent me poems, stories, and videos about Down syndrome.  You told me I was chosen for Trent.  You became an advocate for people with Down syndrome.  You were 33, and I was your baby sister.

My family went to Disney with your family, and I remembered how much I liked having you as a brother.  You were 37, and I was your baby sister.

Your sadness overtook you.  You were 42, and I am your baby sister.   

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

If I Don't Write It Down, The Thoughts Swirl Too Fast

I have not been secretive about my dislike for the state of Mississippi.  Most people know that I am a blue bleeding heart in a red state, that I am an atheist in the Bible Belt, and that I prefer progress to stagnation even if the progress is only for progress' sake.  It does not matter that I have many diverse friends here in Mississippi and down I-10/I-12 into Louisiana, and it does not matter that some aspects of southern culture will always be in my blood.  (Namely, y'all and sha baby will always be in my vocabulary and southern food will always be my favorite.)  The truth is, I do not fit in here, and I do not have the energy, time, or knowledge to fight for Mississippi.  Going to the capital with my picket sign, outrage, and loud voice was awesome, and I felt powerful...but then I felt defeated.  When Mississippi consistently ranks last in all the good things and first in all the bad things, I feel defeated.  I have a friend with a daughter with Down syndrome who has already fought with our school district, and trust me, this mom is a grizzly for her daughter, but she received slammed doors in her face at every turn.  I can't.  I really can't.  

None of this, however, is really about me.  This is about Trent, Layla, and Devon.  Mostly Trent.

There is a list of the top 10 states for people with disabilities.  (The list also mentions the bottom states. Mississippi has placed last three years in a row.)   I can no longer allow Trent to grow up here, where resources are scarce, inclusion is not the norm, and the entire state's education is dead-last.  So when I graduate in May, we hope to move to one of the states on the top 10 list.  There are, of course, cons.  We will be taking Devon, Layla, and Trent from the only home, friends, and school district they have ever known. We will be moving away from friends and family who give us love, emotional support, babysitting, fellowship, meals on Saturday, fun...just so many perfect moments.  Trent's heart will be broken when he can no longer see his Pops, Golgie, Little Man, and Maggie, and their heart will break as well.  We will no longer be a few hours from my father and my siblings.  My heart will break for my kids as they move away from extended family.  They do not understand that the services we get for Trent now will help his independence in the future, which is beneficial to all of us.  Then there are logistics:  selling or renting the house, jobs, moving.  

Then there are pros: we are looking at states where people with Down syndrome are valued.  Better education, inclusion, job opportunities, college programs, clinics specifically for Ds, a workable budget, and then for Tony and me, careers with advancement opportunities.  Higher ranked schools for Devon and Layla.  

Here is the crux:  No matter what option Tony and I pick, we are hurting someone.  If we stay, Trent's future is on the chopping block.  If we go, his future becomes brighter, but everyone else experiences emotional pain.  As any mother of a child with special needs can attest to, the child with special needs becomes the focus of the world, and because of this, everyone else's life is altered for the betterment of one.  If I'm going to write out these feelings to stop the storm in my brain, I need to be honest:  There is guilt in these waters, and I fear there will be resentment as well.  Resentment of me, Tony, and most devastatingly, Trent.  

I cried about all of this today.  There are underlying disability, social justice, and cultural themes that make it much more complicated than what I can write here with the time I have allotted myself, and it doesn't really matter because I'm not willing to battle the entire state of Mississippi.  

The words that keep circling, either because I'm trying to convince myself or others:  I cannot sacrifice Trent. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

On Atheism and Humanism

I received a lovely compliment today.  My Christian BFF told me that she tells family members her BFF is an atheist AND one of the kindest people she knows.  I like being described as kind; I think kindness is very underrated and should be practiced more often.  She also said that other members of her family who have met me and then learned I'm a non-believer, stated, "Wow, she is such a sweet person."
It saddens me that, in general, atheists are thought of as unkind, angry, and immoral.  But you know what, I readily admit that there are angry, unkind, and immoral atheists.  There are also unkind, angry, and immoral Catholics, Baptists, Christians, Muslims, Wiccas, blacks, whites, males, and females.  No one group has the market on bad behavior.  Furthermore, some atheist are not really angry people, just angry about certain things.  This is a good comprehensive list and I agree with most of it:
 So anyhow, I'm fairly certain I saw a post comparing atheists to Hitler today and that hurt me.  Here I am, just a 30-something mom trying to get through my days like everyone else. I work, clean house, feed my kids, feel a wide range of emotions, put my pants on one leg at a time, and poop and pee, but it doesn't seem to be enough.  The only difference between me and others is I don't believe in Zeus, Ra, Hera, Allah, Thor, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Odin, the Christian God, or any of the other thousands of god worshipped by mankind throughout history.  I also don't believe in wood nymphs, purple unicorns swimming in the ocean, or Santa Clause.   Not one single unprovable being do I believe in.  It is not personal and I'm an equal opportunity non-believer.  If I don't see evidence of it, my brain doesn't allow it, which is to say that this is not a choice I made.  In the past, I had faith and I believed.  Then I had doubts.   I tried to ignore the doubts, then I begged, pleaded, and attempted to pray for them to go away.  After awhile, I figured I better start reading and researching so that I could find peace within my own brain.  With the reading, the doubts evolved, questions were answered unsatisfactorily, and I stopped believing.  It was never a choice.   More like my brain, with its powers of reasoning, came to a conclusion.  If anyone that doesn't understand this point can force themselves to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster as the only true god, please let me know and I'll begin forcing myself to believe in a god as well. 
As to what I do believe, I consider myself to fall under the label of Humanist.  For clarification, not all atheists consider themselves humanists but most humanists are atheists.  Wikipedia defines:  "Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or faith (fideism.)" 
Like most things, there is debate if that is the best definition.  I like it and use it as a mission statement.  To me, it means I use empathy to decide how I should behave and the way I want to interact with the world.  It has served me well and I often feel that I am having a positive effect in my small slice of the world.  
I have no desire to change anyone's beliefs.  However, I have some desire to change the way many see atheists, as though we are horrible people just chomping at the bit to commit genocide, rape, and theft.  Which brings me to the idea that if a belief in a god is the only thing preventing someone from committing atrocious acts of hurting others, wow, we better hope that person never loses their faith. Maybe, just maybe, I don't need a belief in a god, any god, to be a good person.  Maybe, just maybe, if there is a hell and I'm going to it, that will be between me and whatever god decides to send me there.  If I'm wrong and all my research and logical thinking condemns me, in all seriousness, so be it.  I will not apologize for my brain, with its awesome powers of reasoning and decision making, coming to a conclusion.
I sincerely wish all of us peace and happiness.    

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mental Illness

I realize I haven't spoken of the girl's story in a while. Robin William's death, with the subsequent talk of depression and mental illness, brought it to my mind. More about that soon.

The girl has a new diagnosis. Bi-polar II. It is different from Bi-Polar I in that the manic stages tend to be hypomanic and depression is the more frequent pole of the two poles.

It took the girl decades to get this correct diagnosis. Some doctors and counselors suspected it before but didn't ask the girl the exact right combination of questions to sift through all the depression episodes and find what lied between.  What lied between was that for all her beautiful life and loving family,  beyond her smile and laughter, despite her sense of humor, her life passed in stages of behavior.  Her love of writing only showed up every couple of months, thundering like a waterfall before drying up to dust. Her days of laughter were limited to a week before turning bitter and fake. Her sleep requirements ranged from 6 hours one week to 11 hours the next month. Her passionate obsessions that people found smart and endearing could just as quickly turn to apathy.

For the girl, the hardest question on a silly internet quiz was always "Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?"  She could never answer that question because the answer depended on the week, day, hour, second. Perhaps if a therapist had asked,"Do you have trouble answering introvert/extrovert questions on silly internet quizzes?" she could have shouted "YES!  I feel crazy because I have no idea what kind of person I am. I love and hate people all at the same time!  I am a walking, talking, writing contradiction!  To compensate for this, I put on a happy face. Overly happy. Overly friendly. I play the part of the extrovert at all times because it is so easy to fake a behavior that I truly have occasionally...I mean when the mood strikes just right.  And I make people laugh. But shit, I'm really fake.  I'm all over the place and I don't know why."  (New medication has worked wonders for the girl. Those that know her best see the most improvement.)

It is no one's fault technically. She didn't know what to say and therapists were doing the best they could with the information she gave them. But what about society?  Does society make it easier or harder for people like the girl and Robin Williams?  People who are suffering mentally, but are outwardly so happy and gregarious?  It is so hard to believe, isn't it, that a person so full of life and talent and humor was also miserable enough to seek death? Perhaps that is what society needs to understand about mental illness. It does not play favorites. The people that seem the happiest may be among the sickest.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Reincarnation, in a movie.

I'll admit right off that I know very little detail about reincarnation, nor how differs in each religion that believes in it.  I plan to learn more for the sake of knowledge and because the movie Cafe' de Flores has not left my mind since watching it two days ago. 

Without giving away to many spoilers, in 1969 Paris, a mother of a child with Down syndrome loves him fiercely.  Almost obsessively; he is her entire life.  She bucks society's rule about placing him in an institution.  Instead, she places him in music, speech, boxing, any class and activity that will help his cognitive ability.  He attends a general education school. One day, a girl with Down syndrome begins attending the same school.  The children fall in innocent love immediately.  Their parents have to literally pry them apart at the end of the day.  In the end, the mother makes a drastic, horrible decision because love has become too painful for all three of them.  
(There is something about the love portrayed between the mom and son that tore at my heart, but that is a post for another day. Or not.  It is complicated.)

In present day Montreal, a man deals with his guilt over leaving his wife and children for another woman.  After so many happy years with his ex-wife, he didn't mean for the marriage to fail, but he and the other woman feel fated for each other.  He wonders if a person can have two soul mates at a time.  The ex-wife begins having nightmares and sleepwalking.  The love triangle is too painful for all of them, and there is a clear chaotic spiral taking place.  

At the end of the film, the reincarnation is revealed.  Forgiveness is asked for and given.  Peace comes for all. 

So, I have no idea if that is the classic theory behind reincarnation or not, but I like it:  That the people we love, really love, and who really love us, form this continuous circle where all involved must make peace before the soul is allowed to move on.  Or maybe not move on, but then perhaps stop meeting the same loved ones' souls in the next life. 

It is a beautiful thought.  That perhaps the people I love the most, and subsequently hurt the most, will be there next time.  We can perfect our love and take out the hurt.  We move from being the mother and son, father and daughter, whatever to being siblings.  Or husband and wife.  Or best friends.  We just circle each other life after life until we get it right.  

It is a beautiful thought, but I don't believe it.  

I believe we have this one time, this one life. No afterlife, no karma, and not much time to get it right.  

The chances for peace, forgiveness, getting it right, are unlimited. Until death.