Where’s the Grace?

I’ve had several confrontations in the last few weeks, all revolving around the same issue, but the connotations behind the words as different as can be.

I have not kept it secret that life has been hell for a while now. I have been criticized for my honesty, but I hate people who pretend that everything in their life is all peachy and perfect. No one has a perfect life. I also know the more one talks about issues such as chronic illness, especially those classified as “invisible illnesses”, depression, suicide, and spiritual discouragement, the less power they may end up having in a person’s life. I think about a young child who is afraid of something in the night. If that child, in his fear, starts to cry, and mommy and/or daddy hears his cries, one or both of them will go to their little boy to find the cause of his tears. They encourage their little boy to tell them what is wrong, and they will say words to reassure him that whatever may be frightening him, it’s going to be okay. If the little child is left alone through that fearful time, ignored, those fears become larger than his little mind can handle.

Depression, suicidal thoughts, fear of the unknown in chronic illness–all these, if bottled up inside a person, can grow to be so consuming that eventually no way out is perceived.

That said, the above would be the ideal when it comes to speaking out about such very personal and emotional issues.

The ideal is seldom achieved though.

Through words sent in text messages or social media messages or voicemails (since talking on the phone isn’t something I do well when I’m not depressed–depression finds me sending all calls to voicemail), I have had to endure some insensitive remarks. When in a better place, I can chalk such words up to lack of knowledge. But in the place I have been in (and continue to find myself), it has become harder and harder to not allow hurt and anger to dictate my actions. I have been told that much of what I am enduring is my own fault. Would anyone look at a person dying from cancer and say to them, “Well, you know this IS your own fault because you spent years eating crappy food.” I HIGHLY doubt it. Would anyone dare say to a mom who lost her son to a drug overdose, “Well, if you had insisted that he be in youth group and other church activities in high school maybe this wouldn’t have been the path he chose.” No. Way. No one would be so callous as to say that. Yet, people have thought it okay to say words to me that insinuate the place I find myself in right now is my own fault.

To be fair, not everyone has acted in such a poor manner. A very small number of people (and by very small I mean they don’t even take up the fingers on one hand) have been loving, supportive, and deeply concerned. They have not accused nor pointed out what I could be doing differently. One person has called me everyday to check in. Every. Day. I don’t answer the phone. Every day the message goes to voicemail. The person asks me to send a text or e-mail update when I can. Some days I have and others I haven’t even been able to do that. Still, the next day at some point, Toes by Zac Brown Band plays on my phone, signaling an incoming call. Again, a cheery message is left. “Hi, Becky, just calling to check in and see how today is going. Hope it is a little better for you and you are enjoying the cooler weather. Give me an update when you can.”

In stark contrast, some have decided to walk out of my life completely. A few have unfriended me on Facebook and left me “to go to hell”.

Most fall somewhere between the two.

I’ve been told that I need to extend grace to those who have said hurtful things to me or left me hurtful messages. Some may disagree with me, but I have shown grace. I have shown grace by not telling them off with words that could cut deeper than the words they left for me to read. I have shown grace by staying out of their lives as much as possible. I have avoided human contact with non family people as much as possible. It is best this way. The question that burns in my mind, though, is why is no grace shown to the person enveloped in the darkness? Why is that person supposed to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, put on a fake smile, and dance through life like no one is watching? Where are the people who claim that “doing life” with others is part of their calling as a Christian?

Oh, maybe doing life only happens among those who happen to be loving life at the time.

This is why I put up walls. Whoever said it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all obviously never had their heart ripped into pieces by people.

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More Shatters

Growing up, I was never a fan of television. On Saturday mornings, I would wander outside by myself, looking for things to fill my time until my neighbor friends would be done watching hours of Saturday morning cartoons. We didn’t have 200 channels to choose from back then. Maybe if I had, I would have found something that interested me.

Fast forward to present day, I’m still not a huge fan of TV. There are some shows, though, that I watch religiously. If I am unable to be home when they are scheduled to air, I make sure my DVR is set to record them for my viewing enjoyment later. Our DVR presently is 84% full. I think every show on there, with the exception of one (The Middle), aired on Food Network. I have hours of Chopped, Guy’s Grocery Games, Cutthroat Kitchen, and Cake Wars. In all of the competitive cooking shows, each participant is asked to give a short description of themselves and their cooking style. In addition, competitors are interviewed and snippets are played during the cooking time. I love to hear how each competitor found a love for the kitchen–a love that I also have. For some, cooking saved them from a life destined for prison or addiction. Many attribute their earliest cooking memories to standing on a chair cooking with their grandmas.

Maybe you can see where this is going…

My oldest child had a special relationship with my parents. They watched him full time when he was a baby while I taught school. We also lived with them for a period of time, and when we did move, we didn’t move far. My kids could stand in our backyard, look across a busy parkway and between two houses to see the front of their grandparent’s house. One time, I left the kids there for some reason–probably a doctor’s appointment–and when I came back to pick them up, my oldest, who was probably seven years old or so, was very excited to show me how he had helped grandma with cookies. My mom had made peanut butter cookies, and when they were cooled, she pulled a chair up to the counter so that my oldest son could dip half the cookies in melted chocolate and then into colored sprinkles. My son is now twenty-six and still remembers helping his grandma dip cookies.

When my first grandchild was born in 2015, I knew I wanted to be the grandma that he would grow up remembering as being in her kitchen. I had visions of teaching him to cook and bake and letting him help even if he made a mess–something that is sometimes hard for mommies to do. I pictured him, like my oldest son, standing on a chair to help his grammy in the kitchen, knowing that he would get to enjoy the rewards of his work when the cookies or cupcakes or whatever we happened to make together were finally ready to be eaten.

It is these dreams that slice into my heart now that he will no longer be living in the same state as me. Yes, I realize there will be visits where we can make memories, but the impact will not be what I had dreamed it would be. I pictured our home being like a second home to him, a place where as soon as they turned onto our street, he would grow excited because he knew he would soon be at grandma’s again.

My heart hurts when I think of it…hurts so much that I am certain I will not be able to stand up under the weight of the sadness. In less than two weeks, he will be put in his car seat, and I will wave goodbye not knowing when I will see him again.

I just can’t take it…

 

Posted in Change, Children, death, depression, Grandma, Grandson, moving, Parenting, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Beginnings of Shattering

Image result for spidering glass

Loneliness has become my new best friend.

It’s probably a good thing, though, since I’ve pretty much lost all my other friends.

Maybe this is how my life has always been destined to be spent.

Alone.

This morning, I counted the number of nights my husband has been gone in the past 3 months. That total was 30 nights. That’s equivalent to an entire month. He loves his job and he is good at it. I’ve tried to tell him he would be better off without me in his life.

I have two weeks left before my world falls apart.

My heart is already starting to shatter. A pebble when thrown from the tire of a passing car causes an innocent looking nick in a windshield, you know that nick is only going to start to spread until the windshield is worthless.

The nick has been getting bigger for a while, yet so many people think they have the right to tell me how to feel.

This morning, I contemplated returning to church. I couldn’t do it. I feel like I don’t belong there and am not welcome there anymore. I retreated to the safest place I have right now–my bed–where sleep provides the only escape from the constant pain and heartache. The two creatures who care the most for me right now, my cats, laid close by, content that I was sleeping away a beautiful fall day–a day that could have held memory making activities.

But when the glass is close to shattering, it’s best to not put any more strain on it than necessary.

Posted in Change, CHURCH, death, depression, famiy, Grandma, Grandson, loneliness, marriage, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

This Morning…This Day

Tired Of Life

My mom used to say that a person can handle anything as long as they had a good night’s sleep. I mostly disagree with that by the way. But this morning was a rough one, and it came after a night of very little sleep.

I have been trying to make sure I sleep well at night. I have a combination of medications that I use to hopefully ensure that my eyes don’t open during the hours they should be closed in sleep. Some of those medications are prescription medicines while others are over the counter medicines. And since some are probably wondering, yes, I do take a combination of them (among other elements) in hopes of falling into a sleep so deep that nothing wakes me. I would be lying if I said there are many nights I hope that the combination I take puts me into a forever sleep. Obviously, that hasn’t happened yet.

Anyway, last night I took a typical combination of my prescription medicine and some Benadryl, assuming that would be a combination that would provide a solid night of sleep.

But that didn’t happen.

I had a horrendous night. I woke up what seemed like every hour. I played some mindless games on my phone in hopes of getting so tired that I would fall into a much needed sleep. It didn’t work. At 5:00 AM, I reached for my phone and texted my husband to see if he was awake. He responded that he was since he is in a different time zone. I don’t have anyone else to turn to right now, so as much as a text message allows, I poured my heart out to him. I told him of my difficult night and the thoughts that bombarded me throughout it. There is way too much on my mind right now. At 5:00 AM this morning, all those things crashed into a big ball of “I can’t do this anymore”. I told him that. This was a battle that was as intense as it gets. He texted words that tried to reassure me. I knew he needed to start work so I stopped texting him. I fed my cats and crawled back into bed. I was completely exhausted. I managed to get a couple hours of sleep before needing to get up to face the day. My grandson was coming and I wanted to make sure I was as presentable as possible.

The few hours with him went by way too fast. After they left, I ran a few errands and came home to face the loneliness that is all too familiar to me now. I cried as I picked up the toys that he had left scattered in the living room. I know the day is coming too soon when he won’t be here on a regular basis to scatter toys, lose the remotes, and scare my kitties.

And those thoughts tear HUGE holes in this already weary, broken heart.

As each hour passes, I am becoming more and more convinced that one can really die of a broken heart.

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Be Careful With Wishes?

I recently received an e-mail from someone who felt the need to give me some unsolicited advice. The gist of the message was that I needed to be careful with the wishes I make and the words I say. The reasoning behind it, of course, is the old saying that goes, “Be careful what you wish for. It may come true.”

My father used to tell me that when I was a child. I would wish for something frivolous or silly or, in some cases, spiteful. He would look at me with serious eyes and say, “Be careful what you wish for, Becky. You never know when a wish will be granted.”

As of late, the majority of my wishes have been for my own demise. Life has been incredibly painful–both physically and emotionally. I would challenge anyone who would claim that, in a tremendously painful time, the thought of death as an escape didn’t cross their mind. It is why assisted suicide for terminally ill patients is on the rise in this country. It is why suicide ranks near the top of the list as a cause of death across all age groups. Pain, whether it be physical from an illness or emotional from a life that throws punch after punch with no relief, has the power to cause one to not want to take another breath. I have certainly played out such scenarios in my mind. That’s all I am going to say about that. Most often, though, my thoughts tend to go to an extended period of pain relief, such as wishing I could fall asleep and wake up only if and when the pain is gone.

As I read the e-mail, I couldn’t help but think about what would I miss out on if my wish to escape the pain, whether permanently or temporary, were to be granted by some invisible wish-granting-fairy that others seem to allude to when they echo the words of my dad from years ago. I composed a list of some of the things I would miss out on if my wish were to be granted. It is certainly not all inclusive, but it hits the highlights of what I feel I would miss out on should life on earth for me end.

  1. Loneliness: I would no longer feel the intense pain of the loneliness that comes with being an empty nester and wife of a businessman who travels a lot.
  2. Rejection: I would no longer feel the sting of not being wanted or feeling like I don’t fit in with others.
  3. Pain: I would no longer get to experience the physical pain that comes with my disease–the fiery burning of nerve endings that make walking often difficult, the eye pain that accompanies everything I try to read or look at or watch, etc.
  4. Depression: I would no longer have the debilitating depression that has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
  5. Brokenheartedness: I would no longer get to give all of myself to others only to have them turn around and break my heart.
  6. Guilt: I would no longer get to experience the guilt that comes with trying to live out a faith I don’t always understand.
  7. Confusion: Piggy-backing on #6, I would no longer get to wrestle with the confusion that plagues my thoughts.
  8. Anxiety/Worry: I would no longer get to have panic attacks or lie awake at night worrying about what is going to happen with one or more of my adult kids who are going through a difficult time.
  9. Uselessness: I would no longer get to feel like my life has no purpose.

I know there are more that could be included here. To be fair, I also know there are some positive things I would miss…future trips to the beach with my husband, possibly future grandkids, and a snowy day to name a few.

But it seems like there isn’t a lot to keep me fighting, at least after this month is over. I will continue to fight for seventeen more days, for I want to spend as much time as I can with my precious grandson before he is moved a state away from me. Beyond that, though, I don’t see much keeping me here.

Posted in Children, death, depression, empty nest, Grandma, Grandson, loneliness | 2 Comments

Needed. Not Really.

For a while now, I’ve been enveloped in a thick, oppressive darkness. Each time I think that it just can’t get any darker, something happens to prove me wrong. I’ve stopped thinking that I am at the lowest point I can go. I have written before about my love/hate relationship with Facebook. A few weeks ago, I deactivated my Facebook account. I managed to stay away for roughly two weeks.

I wish I had stayed away forever.

As I signed back on one evening, while on a trip that was supposed to be helping the ever present darkness, I saw news that not only shattered my world, but brought even more darkness to it. It goes without saying that the benefits that were supposed to come from my time away, were washed out to sea with the waves of the tide. Since then, the cold fingers of the oppressive darkness have only tightened their grip around my throat, choking out the little life I had left in me.

As I’ve struggled to survive, I have posted words on Facebook that I probably should not have posted. I have been scolded and rebuked for them. The fact of the matter is, these words are my feelings, and feelings can’t be wrong. They are real whether or not someone else agrees with them or not. Some people chose a different route, telling me I am still needed on this earth.

Pardon my language, but those words are bullshit.

There was a time when I was needed. I’ve written extensively about this in posts describing the difficulties I’ve had adjusting to an empty nest. The reality now is I am not really needed. I’ve been told my kids still need me, just in  different way. Really? What way would that be? Obviously, they don’t need me physically anymore. They don’t need me to cook for them or drive them places. I’m sure if asked, each of them would say they still need me, but when pressed to give specific reasons as to why, they probably would fumble to come up with an answer.

Because the bottom line is I am not needed by them.

Then there’s church. Well, I haven’t been in church in a couple months and all seems to be going just fine there. Most haven’t even noticed that I’ve been gone. It isn’t like I have much to offer there either.

If I had to say I was needed, I would say that in some ways, my husband still needs me. He would most certainly survive if I weren’t around, but he says he needs my companionship. I also have two cats. One is diabetic and needs an insulin shot two times a day. I’m sure if I weren’t here, my husband would figure out how to give those shots, but cats need people to care for them. They aren’t going to get their own food in the morning. I’d like to say my little grandson needs me, but at this point that wouldn’t be completely true. He will be leaving our area soon (and taking with him a very large chunk of my heart). He will still have his mom and dad and will be living around other relatives. He is too young to remember me and all the fun things we have done together. Apparently, he doesn’t need me either.

The problem is, I need him. The day I have to say goodbye to him will be the beginning of the end for me.

I need my kids. I need to know they still care even though they seldom call (unless they need something).

I need my husband. He is the provider for our family since I have no skills to offer anyone that would amount to a decent job.

Maybe I’m just too needy and should figure out a way to be so independent that I don’t need anyone. Maybe then I wouldn’t get hurt over and over again.

Anyone know how to go about getting to that point?

 

 

Posted in Change, Children, death, depression, empty nest, famiy, Grandma, Grandson, loneliness, Parenting, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Shattered

In 2004, my dad died.

And my heart was shattered into tiny pieces.

Somehow, I picked up those pieces, stuck them back together, and found a way to keep going with a broken, pieced together heart.

In 2013, I lost the best pet a person could ever have. There was something very special about Molly. I loved her so, and she loved me.

And again my heart was shattered into tiny pieces.

Somehow, again, I managed to put the pieces together, not nearly as neatly this time, and found a way to keep limping forward.

This weekend, once again, I got news that shattered my heart into thousands of tiny pieces.

This time, though, there is no hope of putting them back together.

This time, my heart will have no way to heal.

And one cannot live with a broken heart.

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The Perfect Storm (Part 3)

 

Image result for storm clouds in distance

I’ve read that all change, both change for the bad as well as for the good, causes stress. I doubt there are many people who would dispute that well known fact. Bad change, such as losing a job or a loved one, can wreak havoc on the world we once knew. The degree varies of course. Losing a parent, spouse, child, or other loved one doesn’t compare to losing a job, but the bottom line that stress is induced by bad change remains steady. Change for the good also causes stress. A new job or moving to a bigger and nicer home induces stress as well. A new baby is a wonderful joy, but I can honestly say that each time my husband and I added a new little one to our family, it upped the stressometer a ton! The latter part of 2013 was filled with stress for me as I tried to figure out what was next for my life while dealing with the learning curve of a new chronic illness diagnosis. The storm clouds grew a little more intense in the early parts of the following year as I experienced one of those good changes that brought with it stress I couldn’t have predicted.

I actually got the phone call in late August of 2013. It was late at night (for me anyway) so a ringing cell phone sent initial waves of panic as I saw my older daughter’s name appear on the screen. I shook the grogginess of being awakened from sleep and swiped to answer her call. She was crying. The waves of panic grew a bit. But then she told me the reason for her call. Her boyfriend has just proposed to her! She had been waiting for that proposal for several months and was crying tears of joy when she called. She was the first of our kids to plan a wedding and I was so excited to begin all the festivities that come along with weddings! They decided on a May wedding, giving us nine months to plan the celebration. That December, while the two of them were visiting for Christmas, they decided that there were too many obstacles in place to be married in May. They announced they would have a Valentine’s Day wedding–this was a day they both despised so getting married on that day would give them reason for celebration in the future. They also decided they didn’t want a big wedding. Instead, it would be immediate family only with a reception following at some point later in the summer. Suddenly we had six weeks to plan a wedding. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t unbelievably stressful moments planning even their small scale wedding, but in the end, it all came together. Valentine’s Day arrived with a fresh blanket of new snow and temperatures in the single digits! Their outdoor pictures are stunning, my daughter’s beautiful white wedding gown against a backdrop of clean, crisp white snow. The two of them were happy with all the decisions they made and how the day and evening went. The next day, I wasn’t expecting to get hit with the raw emotion that came with realizing that my baby girl’s last name no longer matched mine. As they headed back to where they were living, three hours away, a part of me knew things would not be quite the same again. It was a good change–we love our son-in-law so much! But remember, even good change can cause stress.

It was a few months after their wedding when two more good changes hit my life. Our third child, a son, was finishing Bible college and had an internship over three hours farther east than the school he had been attending. As we dropped him off and got him settled in his first ever apartment, alone, my heart was broken. This would be the first summer in his twenty-one years of life that he would not be home. I would miss his singing, his joking around with us, and his conversations with me that regularly took place after his dad had gone to bed. Not only that, he knew no one in the town he was living. He didn’t know his way around. He didn’t even have a vehicle. We left him his dad’s car to use for the summer. His girlfriend was living and working three hours west of him. He had met the pastor he would be interning under a couple times, but for the most part, he was alone. By his second week there, he called me, homesick and lonely. My heart was broken for him. I wanted so much to make his world perfect, but that power was no longer mine. We drove to hear him preach his first real church sermon. I couldn’t have been prouder. He eventually settled in and became very close with the senior pastor, his wife, and their adorable two year old girl. He even babysat on occasion! One day, as I was getting a haircut, I received a text message from him. It contained a picture of an engagement ring! He would be proposing sometime that summer. That proposal came in June. We would have another wedding to plan!

More good news came in October of that year. Our daughter called and asked when we would be able to come see her and our son-in-law. We planned a weekend and made the three hour drive. We were barely in the door of their apartment when she announced she was pregnant! Our first grandchild! I was beyond ecstatic! Of course, when we paused and looked at the timing, it couldn’t have been more stressful. Little man was due five days before our son’s wedding. Our daughter was torn. She has always been super close with her brother (they believed they secretly were twins since they are only fourteen months apart) and desperately wanted to be at his wedding. That wedding, though, was going to be in Indiana–thirteen hours from where they were living. As it turned out, our grandson decided to arrive three weeks early. The new little family did make the trip to Indiana for the wedding. It was insanely stressful, but he won’t remember any of it.🙂

In the midst of all the good change, there were two big changes that did not rank on the good scale. The storm clouds got darker and darker, and the winds began to intensify. I began to suspect a major disturbance coming, but honestly had way too much on my plate to prepare for any of it.

Posted in Change, death, depression, empty nest, famiy, Grandma, Grandson, marriage | Leave a comment

A Perfect Storm (Part 2)

While on occasion a storm will hit out of nowhere, that is most often not the case. Usually, there are warning signs. Meteorologists study wind and weather patterns, such as the jet stream and El Nino, in order to predict what the weather might be. Most people on the Atlantic coast in the southeastern portion of the United States know that June is the typical beginning of hurricane season. A hurricane does not simply hit the coast of Florida without warning. On the contrary, meteorologists had most likely been tracking the storm as it began to form hundreds of miles off the coast. As the storm moves and intensifies, it is named, and its track is projected so that any in its path will have ample time to prepare and even evacuate if necessary. This past spring, my husband and I spent a weekend at Cocoa Beach. On one of our days there, we drove from the beach inland to Orlando to meet family. I noticed signs along the highway we were on that indicated that road was an evacuation route.

The current storm in my life had warning signs as well. The rustling of the leaves indicating a change in pattern began about three years ago. It was August of 2013, and after twenty-three plus years as a full time mom, I had worked myself out of that job. It was that month that my “baby” turned eighteen. I remember wondering how my life would change now that not only was I finished homeschooling, but I was also no longer legally responsible for anyone but myself. I look back at journal entries from that month and realize now that it was these months that contained the building of the dark clouds that would eventually grow into a storm so fierce that survival would be doubtful.

Those early clouds, though, were far off in the distance. There were days that I enjoyed the freedom that came with no longer having to plan school work, grade school work, fight over school work… I packed away school things and thought of all the time I would have to read and garden and spend with my husband. I was, at this point, four months into my MS diagnosis. I struggled some days with fatigue and dizziness, but most days were manageable. The storm had not yet fully developed. Plus, I still had two adult kids who lived at home, so there was still many loads of laundry to do, meals to cook, groceries to buy for two picky eaters, and bathrooms to clean. My nest was not empty yet. There were many days I wish that it was though. Having adult children living at home was not always easy. I was in uncharted territory as a parent. Could I still impose rules, such as curfew, on them? Did I still have a right to ask them where they were going to be and who they were going to be there with? Did I have any grounds in asking them to do household chores or keep their rooms clean or be home at a certain time for dinner? I just didn’t know the answer to these questions. In addition, the two adult kids who were not living at home full time occasionally came home to stay. Summer brought one home full time each year and other times of the year, another would come with a boyfriend for a holiday visit. What authority did I have in their lives? In the midst of all this confusion, I found myself noticing the building storm clouds off in the distance. And while I paid some attention to them, wondering if maybe I should be preparing for something big that would happen, mostly I woke up and did the life that was before me each day. I did laundry, cooked meals, went to church, cleaned what needed to be cleaned, and enjoyed, for the first time ever, the opportunity to travel with my husband as he went on business trips…one of the perks of having adult children at home to watch the pets.

This would all change, of course.  Hindsight is 20-20. I wish I had been able to see what would eventually turn into a raging, dangerous storm. Perhaps I would have been better prepared for it when it hit with force beyond anything I had experienced in a long while. The clouds I noticed, but didn’t feel pressed to deal with, would eventually build into a major storm. That storm, though, was still way off in the distance.

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The Perfect Storm (Part 1)

It was a hot and humid summer day. A typical summer day in July in Western New York. I was oblivious to the scorching heat of the sun and the oppressive thickness that filled the air. Although both surrounded me, I could not feel them. I was in my happy place. As I hoisted myself out of the pool onto our wooden deck, I shook some water out of my ear. I took a deep breath and jumped into the cool, clear water once again. I felt my body hit the surface as a splash went up around me. My back touched the bottom of the pool–my cue to unfold my legs to propel myself to the surface. Holding my breath, I placed my feet firmly against the bottom of the pool and pushed with all the strength my nine year old body had within it. Like a slow moving jet, I was propelled up through the four feet of water into the open air. I breathed deeply, my lungs thankful to know they could work once again. I started to go through the entire scenario all over again, as I had been doing for probably an hour. This time, as my feet landed on the deck, I heard my name being called through the kitchen window screen.

“Becky. Becky!”

I turned my head toward the window, my mom’s signal to continue what she wanted to yell to me.

“Get out of the pool and dry off. There’s a storm coming and I don’t want you coming in the house all wet.”

I looked over the pool, across our neighbor’s yard, over the fields behind our neighborhood, and into the western sky. Sure enough, there were big, dark thunderheads forming. Their contrasting dark gray color against the bright blueness of the sky told me we were in for a good summer thunderstorm.

Storm clouds. They are an indication that whatever weather one may be enjoying, it would soon be changing. You know how it goes. The stillness of the hot and humid summer air is interrupted by an increase in the breeze. The leaves on the trees begin to whisper, warning that a change is about to take place. The whisper turns into a voice which in turn grows into a yell as the branches of the tree are pushed every which way by the incoming storm. As the wind increases its warning, the sun is swallowed by the fast moving dark clouds as they swirl and overtake the blue sky. In the distance one can hear rumbles of thunder. Raindrops hit here and there. It doesn’t take long for those dark clouds to release the moisture that has weighed them down. Like a bucket being turned upside down, those raindrops that were few and far between suddenly multiply. There is nowhere to escape them save for a structure with a covering. If no such structure is available, those raindrops will soak anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in them. Depending on the fierceness of the storm, one could find themselves in a quite precarious situation. Lightning bolts threaten life. Hail hurts as it pelts the human body. High winds can send debris flying through the air. Tornadoes can be spawned from the dark clouds overhead.

Few storms come without warning. My mom only needed to look to the western sky to see that there was potential for danger. Television and radio (and now the internet and smart phones) serve as warning platforms to keep people safe. Some days, one just knows the potential for storms are there. High heat and humidity and/or the right wind direction certainly set up conditions ripe for a summer thunderstorm in Western New York. Occasionally a storm will bubble up unexpectedly and any not housed in the safety of shelter are caught in its wrath.

As a young child, few things scared me as much as thunderstorms. I didn’t like them during the daylight hours. The storms that came in the darkness of night, though, when I was safely in bed and already asleep, did more than scare me. They terrified me, driving me into the sanctuary of my parents’ room. When I got old enough to “know better”, I would ride out those nighttime storms with all the blankets I could find covering my head to block the flashes of lightning from my vision. My hands were pressed hard against my ears to hopefully silence the crackling and booming of the thunder. My dog, as scared as I was of the storms, would take refuge with me. Only when I was absolutely certain that the storm had passed would I come out from under the stifling blanket tent. My lungs, in a similar fashion to how they felt as I went from underwater to fresh air, would breathe deeply again.

I have weathered many thunderstorms in my years on earth. They no longer terrify me as they once did. I am not as much of a fan of them when my husband is out of town for work, but even then I am not the shaking mess I was as a child during a storm. Now, though, there are other kinds of storms to endure. It is in a fierce storm that I find myself now, and what I hope to write about over the next several days. I have titled it “The Perfect Storm” for I believe that all the conditions came together in just the perfect way to send me into a mode of struggling to breathe and even survive. I write in the midst of the storm, for it is not passed yet. Just the opposite–it is raging as strong as I have seen it rage. The clouds are still black, there is no blue sky in sight, the battering from the hail hurts, the thunder is deafening and the lightning blinding. The rain has overtaken my world and on several occasions I have been certain I would drown–often I wish I would. To escape the relentless pounding of the storm is all I can think about. My days in the pool taught me how to hold my breath until there was air to breathe. I hope that skill carries over to my current storm. How long can I hold my breath before succumbing to the depths of the waves?   Perhaps, I try to reason, by writing about it, the storm will have less power. I fully realize that just the opposite could happen. The storm, fueled by my own thoughts and words, could intensify to the point where I am overtaken by it. At this point, though, I feel I have nothing to lose. If I die in the storm then it must have been meant to be. But, if by writing about it, the storm loses some of its force, then maybe, just maybe, blue sky will show its face once again. It’s a risk–a gamble–but I’m going to roll the dice and see how it all ends.

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