Friday, April 19, 2019


My brother has become a minimalist.  It is something of an irritant for some members of our family.  It is also not quite understood.  I make no claim to truly understand, as we have never been very close, but I do understand, intimately, his need for and response to visual rest.  Minimalism creates the ultimate visual rest in the home.

I sometimes joke that I am waiting to hear that my brother has sold himself.  No!  Not that way!!  By this I mean, he has sold ever so much of his possessions, first downsizing and then minimalizing his home.  He desires empty walls, empty surfaces, and sparely furnished rooms. He could, quite happily, live in a spare room for the rest of his life ... if that room were isolated from the rest of the world.  I do not believe he would enjoy a tiny home, but he would be the perfect candidate for thriving in the space.  Maybe one with vaulted ceilings, space around the property, and a short walk from the ocean.

In his journey, he encountered Marie Kondo and her philosophy of Tidying Up, a combination of downsizing and organizing to free one from home management so one can enjoy a richer, more full life.  I confess that I tuned him out the first few times that he talked about her.  But then I found her series "Tidying Up" on Netflix and watched it.

I admit that I started and stopped the first two episodes several times, because I found some of Kondo's processes a tad ... out there.  However, as I eventually plowed through the series, the repetition of the show's format helped me better appreciate the scope of what she has to offer.

Take the giving of thanks.  Kondo teaches folk to give thanks to the articles of clothing, household items, and other possessions that are being donated or discarded.  Thanking a shirt?  That's just plain silly, I thought.  But then I learned a significant reason behind teaching homeowners to do such:  it helps them deal with the guilt that can arise in donating/discarding things.  Ah!  How smart! I thought, having watched many episodes of A&E's "Hoarders" in years past.

In thinking more deeply upon this concept, I realized that the giving of thanks is rather important in downsizing/discarding!  I mean, you don't have to give thanks to the inanimate when the Author of the gift of those good things you have been using is animate:  God!  I had already been working on giving thanks, audibly, when I realized I had received something good, be it tangible or intangible.  This was just another level of being thankful.

Thinking such thoughts and watching episode after episode, I started thinking, rather deeply, about the Lord's Prayer and what "daily bread" means.  I came to understand it to be mean much more than bread or rather food!  [Go ahead and laugh at me, if you will over such simplicity of thought.]  I began to see daily bread as all that we are given to live this life.  My pausing to give verbal thanks grew in frequency as pondered the concept as I went throughout my days.

Well, recently, I ended up talking about it with a doctor of mine.  And I came smack up against my lack of word knowledge for all my word nerdhood.  You see, as I was talking, my doctor said, "daily bread means sustenance."  No!  I wanted to shout.  That's not what I mean at all.  It is ever so much more.  Instead of shouting, I tried to explain, but my words faltered and confusion crossed her face even as she was trying to encourage me to keep trying.  I covered my disappointment by moving on to a different facet of learning from Kondo's show:  that of joy.

Once home, I tried to write about daily bread in one of my many abandoned blog posts and got nowhere.  It was not until a week or so later that I thought to look up the word "sustenance."  Lo and behold, my doctor was right!  Sustenance means the maintaining of someone or something in life or existence.  Yep!  That is exactly what I was trying to say.  After chasing down the definition of words for several days, trying to figure out where I went wrong, I finally hit upon the word I thought that she was saying:  subsistence.

Subsistence is a minimum level of existence.  That's the difference ... the development ... in my understanding of the Lord's Prayer watching Kondo's show brought about.  I had always thought that, when praying, we were asking for a minimum level of existence to just remain alive in this world.  However, I now believe that the daily bread God provides for us is sustenance level, not substance level.

It isn't just a roof over my head, although sometimes that is the case.  It is this roof at this time in my life.  I needed a higher roof ... and a more spacious roof.  I needed such to be able to move past being triggered 24/7 with my PTSD.  I could talk more about why I believe that my Good Shepherd provided this house for me in how it is helping me survive mentally, as well as physically, but I am shy about sharing such thoughts.  I wonder and worry that they might be veering into the scope of being sacrilegious (or whatever word is the right word there because I am not certain sacrilegious is the right one) and I do not want that.

But I do know that God does not desire for us a minimum level of existence.  I know this because He did not create a minimum level of existence when He created the world.  I always, always marvel that some of the most beautiful colors in all of creation are in the fish inhabiting the ocean depths man does not see.  I marvel at the varied hues of green in this world, the varied hues of all colors in creation.  I marvel at the beauty of flowers, but also the beauty of leaves.  I am, after all, a sucker for any and all variegated leaves in creation. But it is not just the colors of leaves that causes my wonder.  The shape and texture and structure of them catches my eye and my praise.

ARGH!  I just know that I am fumbling and bumbling my way through what I am trying to say.  Simply put, there is such astounding beauty and almost ineffable variety in creation that there is no way that anyone could describe this world as minimalistic.  It is a world overflowing with ineffable riches.

My daily bread includes medical care.  God has provided me, here in Fort Wayne, the best medical care I have experienced in my entire life at a time when medical care is a great need.  I have doctors who genuinely care about me.  I have doctors who are knowledgable about my conditions that are generally unfamiliar to those in the medical field.  And I have doctors who both understand and are willing to work with my limited means and ability to afford such care.

If nothing else communications the expansion of my understanding, I know know that the daily bread God has provided is a therapist who sees and hears me, who is knowledgable about both chronic illness and sexual abuse, and who does not charge me the $40 co-pay I owe for each visit.  Having one of those would be a blessing.  Having all three is a veritable miracle.  It is certainly far beyond the minimal need and certainly adds to what I need to continue my existence in this world.

I feel like a Holy Roller (something to be avoided at all costs growing up in the Bible Belt) saying, "Thank you, Jesus" throughout my day.  But I do.  I think speaking it and hearing myself speak it is important for me ... for my benefit, rather than the benefit of anyone else who might ever hear me.

I feel like a dolt for conflating sustenance and subsistence and trying to tell my doctor that she was wrong.  More and more, I find myself opening up the dictionary (opening up Google) just to see what the actual definition is of a word that is one that I know.  I do this because I have developed a standard of knowing that requires my ability to define the word for someone else, not just use it in a sentence or understand a sentence in which it is used.  And I do this because my brain is failing.

I am not sure if I have crafted a coherent post about daily bread.  I would not, were I pressed, admit to any such thing.  But perhaps my communication stuttering here is still sufficient to get the meaning across.

I am thankful for my brother and for Marie Kondo, because I am thankful for the impetus to delve into the meaning  (or really the concept) of daily bread.

PS  I will crow that conflate is a new word for me and the first time that I have both understood it fully and been able to use it.  I follow several rather intelligent folk on Twitter and it is a word that has oft been used by many of them.  Although, when I learned the meaning of ubiquitous, back in the dark ages, the teacher using it explained that when we learn a new word it is oft seemingly ubiquitous because we begin to notice the new word when we are reading.  However, it often is not actually ubiquitous because we, as readers, skip over words that we do not know when we can understand the meaning of the sentence from the rest of the words.  In all likelihood, the word has been prevalent in prior reading, too.  I had been struggling to fully grasp "conflate," but having conflated those two words, I finally grasp the meaning of "conflate," as well as sustenance!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Two minutes...

I keep trying to write.  I keep finding myself unable to frame thoughts, unable to finish.  This time, I am finishing even it it means just hitting publish with a broken-off sentence.


It has been two years.  Two years.  It has been two years since I started therapy.  Or, rather, it has been two years since I started therapy again.

I have had pretty rotten experiences at trying to get help.

I went to a rape crisis center, after being assaulted the last time, and was told by the counselor, who listened to a brief history, that she did not believe I could ever be helped.  She refused to even let me have the 10 (or was it 12?) sessions the county offered.  Instead, she said she would help me look for someone on my insurance plan.  Well, that was something that I could do by myself!

There was only one counselor on my plan taking new clients.  He was not kind.  For one, he told me, every single time I paid, which was every single time I saw him, that I needed to thank him, because he was being reimbursed for less than his usual fee.  He would wait for me to thank him before writing the receipt I needed.

He also told me that I was not capable of loving and therefore not capable of loving God, so I should stop wasting my time trying to be a Christian.  He was, however, very much pro-hinduism (or what is buddhism??)  and spent much of our sessions talking about that.  I guess you don't have to love to practice hinduism?

I kept seeing him until I fled Alexandria.

After a year here, I believe, I tried to find someone to help me.  I saw a woman for almost a year, who kept trying to ... well ... there were good things that she did, but she kept trying to diagnose me with "disorders typically co-morbid (concurrent) with being an abuse survivor."  You know, being a surviver of abuse is not actually a disorder or a mental illness.  A lot of folk in both the mental health and the medical fields forget that.

After a year, when her non-profit agency treatment limit was reached, suddenly I was too disturbed for her to help.  She asked me to meet in a different room.  I was told I was this, that, and the other, even though I did not meet the diagnosis criteria, and that she was out of her depth.  I needed to see someone else somewhere else.

It was a long time before I tried again.
The thought of starting again was overwhelming.

Then, I went to a women's organization.  Surely, a woman's organization would know about being a survivor of abuse, right?  Well, the first counselor with whom I worked was promoted.  I had to start all over again.  When I got up the nerve to do so, that counselor took another job.  I didn't think that I could try a third time.  When I did, the kindest thing that I can say about that counselor would be nothing.  But I will say that counselors should not yell at you, give you gifts, or go out with you.  Counseling is not about being friends.  I am still wounded from some of the things that she did and said, but I can recognize that she was not professional.

I thought I was done.

But then something happened that hurt me deeply and made me feel as if I was being trapped, made me feel as if I might never escape.  Among other things, I felt as if I might never escape the labels that are all too frequently put up survivors of abuse, even by folk in the medical field.

I tried one last time.

One thing that I have learned is that this is the first genuine therapy that I have ever had.  I have learned that, despite my history, I am not hopeless as far as the potential of therapy.  Nobody is.  I gave learned that being able to love is not actually a requirement for being a Christian and that whatever faith I choose is not contingent upon not being an abuse survivor.  I have learned that payment, or lack thereof, is not a guarantee of the quality of therapy.  I have learned (by experiencing) what professional behavior by a counselor looks like.  And I have learned that I am capable of change despite my own fears and deep-seated beliefs.

However, I have also learned that I am, in many ways, only at the beginning of therapy.
That is frightening.
And frustrating.

After two years, I am finally at the point where I can begin real work.  It is not that I haven't been working during the past two years, but I have, primarily, been learning that her office is a safe space for me and that it is okay for me to be ill.  It is okay for me to desire the things I desire as someone who is chronically ill.  However, most folk are either uncomfortable with illness or unaware of what to say/do or both.  Often, it is both.  Plus, it is just plain easier if you have cancer.  People at least understand cancer as a general concept of being ill.

I have learned to be brave in saying what is on my mind, even if it takes a few sessions to raise the topic or speaking takes 10 minutes to get out a single sentence.  That is a terribly difficult lesson, since a fear of trust is one of the 12 Life-Impacting Symptoms of Complex PTSD in the article I have tried to share with friends and family and others in my life.  I absolutely stink at trusting.

A doctor I saw recently said that she had shared the article with 45 patients, as well as with other doctors and with professionals in the mental health field.  My therapist has done the same, though she has not given me numbers.  It is a life-changing article.  It is a freeing article.  It can be a conversation starter, a door-opener, and it can be an effective tool for education, coping, and/or healing.  It is certainly eye-opening.

One of the ways that it has helped me is that I am more aware of some of my symptoms of PTSD and, as a result of that, I have started to identify some of my triggers.  One example is that I am much more aware of when I am muscle-armoring.  Whilst I am not always good at identifying why I might be doing so, I am aware, at that time, of how the muscle-armoring is affecting the other symptoms plaguing my body.  Muscle-armoring pretty much makes everything worse.  Trying to relax my muscles, to focus on doing so, helps both the PTSD and how I feel physically, to some degree.

One of the greatest blessings that God has provided me is bringing me to a therapist who is also a nurse (practiced years ago).  She understands the profound and overwhelming impact chronic illness is having on me, especially since being diagnosed with Sjögren's Syndrome.  She gets it.  And she never, ever allows me to belittle or dismiss that suffering or that burden the way I am wont to do since that is a stance I have oft experienced by others.

You could say that I have spent the last two years getting to a place where I can begin to look at the impact my ill health is having on me without flinching.  But I flinch a lot.  I am, however, far more able to communicate my ill health without being crippled by shame and waves of certainty of my unworthiness.  All you need to do is friend or follow me on Facebook and you will see that!  Yes, my FB wall is not peppered with all that is sugar and sweet.

Although I do like sweets.
A lot.
Maybe too much.
Can there be too much liking of sweets?
Maybe not if you are ill.
Especially with Sjögren's.

But, I suppose, I have digressed and the hours are passing as I am trying to write this.

Why did I start this post? Tonight, I watched something that was sad.  Amos looked up at me, as it was ending, and then left his comfortable position atop three pillows (being King-of-the-Mountain is one of his great loves) and I told him, "Yes, momma is sad."

And then.

And then I said, "I'm never going to be a mother."  Hearing the words in my ears, those words spoken by me into my ears, gutted me.  I burst into tears as I felt them.  I am never going to be a mother.  I sobbed them as tears flooded my normally desert-dry eyes and began streaming down my face.  For all of a mere two minutes, I felt those words.  Then, my mind and my body fled from the feeling.  And I let them.  In the next minute, I had disassociated and my mind and body stilled.  At four minutes, my face was still rather wet, but my eyes were dry and I was calm.

But, you see, for two minutes, a veritable eternity to me, I felt.  When I tell my therapist, she's going to struggle to hide her joy and happiness for achieving such a massive milestone.  I only had to tell her once that getting all giddy over something I did is very hard for me causes me to shut down.  This past week, I told her about making a new friend, and she squashed down her giddiness in a rather impressive manner before I could finish blinking.  Though, my therapist could not keep a twinkle from her eye when she asked me questions about said friend.

Even I was a tad ... happy?? proud??  relieved?? ... that I allowed myself to feel for two minutes.  I know my therapist will be giddy beyond measure.  However, her very first question will be:  "What were you feeling?"  Ah, crap!  I stink at identifying feelings.  I tend to give states of being instead of feelings.  And, in this case, that is what I have:  grief.  I was grieving.

I still fantasize about being a mother.  I know that my body will never make me a mother.  I mean, I still have no signs of menopause, so, perhaps, with lots of medical help, I could achieve pregnancy.  But I doubt that my body would carry to term.  And I highly doubt any doctor would agree to put me through the mental trauma it would take to inseminate me or risk what a pregnancy would do to my health.

The truth is that I still fantasize about being a mother through foster care.  I know that I cannot be a mother of a baby or any child who would need to be picked up or carried.  I am too weak for that now.  I mean, I am really only able to do so with Amos because of 1) his weight and 2) his preference for being up on my shoulders.  I am fairly certain it would be impossible to put a baby up on my shoulders or any young child weighing 22 pounds or less.

And then there is the whole fainting and nausea and pain situation.  I need to be a foster mother whose charges are able to clothe, feed, and even get themselves to school in a pinch, rather than need 24/7 care.  I need charges who need a place of safety and a freezer full of mason jar meals.  I need charges who are still in need of parenting, but who are testing the waters of independence.  Basically, I need teenagers to mother.

But no one in his/her right mind is going to put a foster child, even a teenager, in the house of a chronically ill person.  All those fantasies aside, I am never going to be a mother.  For many women, that is a devastating realization, married or single.  For me, it is the death of a hope I have harbored most of my life:  the hope of the kind of family I long for, the hope of a chance to do things right.

I try to tell me sister more frequently now that her mothering is a marvel.  She loves her children fiercely and is affectionate with them.  She is proud of them and tells them so.  She goes to school and sporting events.  Although a single, working mother, she tries to be involved in schooling and sporting even if in small ways.  She takes time off of work just to be with them, not because she has to do so.  She thinks of her children often and lets them know that.

To me, it speaks VOLUMES to me that both of my sister's teenage sons will talk to her about their struggles, even if getting there with the one with autism can take longer.  And it is unfathomable to me that she continues to reach out to and try to help her adult daughter, a daughter who has yet to take responsibility of her own life and often wounds my sister in what many would say are unforgivable ways. To me, my sister is selfless in her mothering, even if some of her family say that she holds her boys too closely and I wish for her boys to have a few more experiences than they do.

I know that my family has strong feelings about my sister as a mother, but she has not been supported as such, respected as such.  How difficult that must have been for her all of these years! Nor did she have a strong parenting experience herself.  In short, my sister mothers in a way she was not mothered.  She got the chance to have the kind of family she wanted.

I never will.
I will never be a mother.

How does that make me feel?  I have not a clue.  I know that it was a powerful emotion(s).  I know that that my emotion(s) came from a place of grief, at least.  And I know that my emotion(s) was too much for me.

But I remained present in that grief.
For two minutes.