Sometimes what I really want to scream out loud is…
Click through my slide show for my spin on this week’s Finish The Sentence Friday!
Enjoy the final set of sTrEeT aRt: Through My Lens.
From those whispered in tiny voices before drifting off to sleep, to those shouted for the world to hear, I tirelessly work at granting my children’s wishes in a world full of “not nows” and “maybe laters.” Some may say I’m spoiling my children by granting their wishes, but I don’t refer to the whiny meltdowns […]
He called the other day. He doesn’t have a phone or at least not one from which he can make long distance calls. The Assisted Living Facility frowns upon that, and I guess it makes sense, but I can’t help but wonder then how all those people living away from family members reach out to someone in that moment. You know the moment don’t you?
I know it.
I’ll be going about my day, some times all is routine, nothing new, and some times as the day progresses and Murphy’s Law seems to be in full effect, I think of how nice it would be to pick up that phone and call a friend. How quickly my day can get turned around with a simple phone call. At times, it’s just about laughing out loud at something and as I listen to the sound of my laughter almost echo in the empty kitchen, I feel the need to share it with someone, hear their laughter too as they smile on the other end of the line. That need to connect with someone instantly must be one that people have experienced for years. Otherwise, why would Alexander Graham Bell have found it necessary to progress from letter writing and long roads travelled to connect with a loved one, to being able to dial them up in that moment when the sound of their voice is something we crave.
And then, there are those other moments.
Through the years, I’ve answered many phone calls from him. Some were filled with grandiose plans of how he would one day rule the world, and as he described his dreams in the utmost detail for me I couldn’t help but wonder if given his intelligence those dreams may have become a reality if not for the fact that the brain filled with such promise was the same one who betrayed him on a regular basis. Maybe his big plans weren’t so much about taking over the world, but more about taking over his mind, allowing him some sense of control of his brain, his thoughts, his life.
I don’t know.
I’m not Bipolar or Depressed or whatever label the mental illness experts have come up with for him. I’ve never stayed awake for nights on end too afraid to close my eyes for even an instant, needing to keep watch lest my own mind betray me in the dead of night, giving life to my darkest of thoughts. I’ve never had to pick up the phone and dial someone’s number because I knew my survival depended on it.
Those particular calls are ingrained in me forever. The times he called because he had lost all sense of control and needed the sound of my voice to drown out the voices in his own mind. At times simply hearing me breathe on the other end of the line gave him a sense of calm. Seconds would turn into minutes as I was equally soothed by the sound of his breathing as he was by mine.
Then, there were the calls when he knew he needed more than my voice to soothe him and the call was simply a prompt for me to jump out of bed, throw on some clothes and go find him…get him somewhere that would provide the help I so desperately wished I could give him, but knew in my heart I couldn’t. Those were the times when I experienced my own sense of betrayal. How could I not help the person before me, the little brother only eleven months younger than myself, the baby who shared a crib with me? What did my own brain have that his needed? And, why couldn’t I find a way to share it with him much the same way I shared my bottle of milk? What was I missing?
Many a calendar page has been turned since I’ve received one of those phone calls and I’m thankful for it. I am on my knees with gratitude kind of thankful. My brother is doing well, on the right meds, in therapy, living a normal life with assistance. He hasn’t had a “crisis” in years and his phone call recently (from my mom’s phone) wasn’t out of fear or desperation.
Instead, he had an idea his therapist had suggested during their last session and he wanted to tell me all about it. It was the first time in a long time I heard true excitement in his voice. I had almost forgotten what he sounded like when he was so pumped about something that he couldn’t wait to share it with me. His therapist suggested he work with me on a book about his life journey with mental illness. I can see why the therapist thought it might be a good idea.
My first book, Red Circle Days, is about those moments in our lives that are imprinted into our very soul. Moments that don’t require a photo album or memory book for us to revisit them time and time again. Some may bring to life the very feelings of sheer happiness they brought the day we experienced them. Others bring the heart wrenching sorrow we spend years trying to erase. These are moments that don’t need a reminder or a red circle on a calendar date, our hearts wrapping around them much like the tiny box on a calendar, keeping them contained only to bring them to the surface each year.
He even threw out a title, Blue Circle Days, and immediately many a calendar day flashed before me… hospital stays, doctor’s offices, the nights the phone woke me in the middle of the night, and the nights it didn’t ring.
As my brother’s excitement travelled across an ocean to me, I couldn’t help but wonder if I am up for that challenge? Is he up for that challenge?
He says he believes his stories will help others out there, and I believe sharing them alongside the perspective of someone who loves him and shared in the journey would likely help many families who have stood where we’ve stood, afraid to take another step for fear of what comes next, knowing at times the only comfort comes from listening to each other breathe.
And yet, as I wrap up this post if not my thoughts, I can’t seem to catch my breath.
Also in Mental Illness by Little Miss Wordy:
He cursed the traffic as he stepped on the gas and swerved left into the gas station. Another hectic morning awaited him at the plant, and he was already running late due to the baby having been up most of the night. His wife had nudged him awake every time the baby cried with no consideration to the fact that he had to go to work in the morning. Of course, he was too exhausted to make it to the gym…third time this week!
The lady behind him honked her horn yet again as though willing the cars lined up before her to magically disappear. Don’t people realize the sound of a horn doesn’t encourage someone to move out of your way? It’s not really what it was designed for, yet commuters seem to use it for solely that purpose. It’s about as effective as yelling at the drivers around you to “Move your ass!” or “Step on it!” How many responses do you think drivers have gotten when they angrily spit out the question, “Where did you get your driver’s license, a Cracker Jack box?”
Shaking his head he headed into the convenience store to pay since it seemed the option to pay at the pump wasn’t an option for him this morning. It was definitely going to be one of those days. Even the sound of the door jingling as he entered added to the quick escalation of his sour mood. Aren’t those annoying bells intended to hang on a cat not a door?
Heads turned and although people made eye contact with him, not one of them smiled, as though they couldn’t really see him. Cursing under his breath at the sight of the long line to the register, he took his place and sighed. Was he the only one in a hurry to get somewhere today? And, what was wrong with these miserable people? This was turning out to be the kind of morning he wished he hadn’t gotten out of bed for.
Consumed with anger and impatience, he looked around the store as he waited. Looking up at the front counter, he caught a glimpse in the mirror. Wondering how effective those mirrors were for catching shoplifters, he studied the back of a man’s head who was quite clearly balding. He thought, “Hmmm, it could always be worse I guess. I could be that guy with that large, embarrassing bald spot on the back of my head. Glad that’s not me.”
Shifting in line as forward progress seemed to move at a snail’s pace, his eyes travelled back to the mirror and he suddenly gasped. He slowly turned around to find another mirror set up in the back of the store which could only mean one thing. His day had just gotten worse. That balding man in the mirror wasn’t some random guy. It was him!
As he looked at the people around him, he took in the woman dressed in a business suit digging in a diaper bag for her wallet while trying to balance her cup of coffee. A young boy with a sleepy look couldn’t stop yawning and he remembered a co-worker mentioning it was college finals week. The clerk behind the counter looked frazzled as she apologized profusely for the computer system being slow this morning.
In that moment, he suddenly realized that seeing his reflection was more eye opening than he thought. Obviously, he had a hair loss issue, but that wasn’t his only problem. Why was he complaining about getting up with his own child at night or feeling sorry for himself for not being able to get to the gym? His wife was just as tired as he was and it had been months since she had been able to do anything for herself.
And, normally he was one of the people honking and yelling at other drivers for not moving fast enough for him. He was the one encountering people throughout his day, yet never really seeing them, so self absorbed in his own misery. It took his own reflection in the line at the gas station to show him who he really was, and as shocked as he was that he was balding it was definitely something he needed to see.
It’s never “us” until we see a reflection of ourselves. Whether, it’s about how much weight we’ve gained, how we’ve let ourselves go, our attitude toward others, and even our parenting skills, we are quick to judge others not truly seeing our own reflection in what we are criticizing.
Have you ever had a moment when you were surprised by an unexpected revelation of yourself?
Take a look at your reflection. Really look at it.
After you’ve taken in the physical, look a little deeper.
Now, be honest with yourself.
The next set will be the last in my five part series, sTrEeT aRt: Through My Lens.
It has been so much fun hitting the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico
and capturing these talented creations with my camera.
Also by Little Miss Wordy:
I watch them from the sidelines as they stand side by side on the edge of the field. Every so often they turn and high five each other, throw an arm over a teammate/friend’s shoulder. With the short attention span of little boys, a couple of them roughhouse with those standing closest to them until the coach reminds them to focus on the game. In these instances, I catch glimpses of their faces and can’t help but wonder if I’m catching a glimpse of their future as well.
My eyes methodically travel down the line, and come to rest on each jersey, seeing more than just their number. These boys already exhibit certain characteristics that will become prominent as they grow into men.
Number 17 stands still, eyes directed at the field and his fellow teammates in action. He watches each play intently, tuning out the more restless boys on either side of him. Will he grow to be the kind of man who is focused and driven, eyes on the prize at all times? Will this cause him to neglect those he loves most, not understanding they need his love and attention more than his paycheck?
Number 23 is just as focused on the game, but expresses his enthusiasm not only for each pass completed. He also jumps in the air, his little cleats stomping the grass as he yells “Good job guys!” and “That’s the way we do it!” Will he be that guy who always encourages and supports those around him? Will he be the go to guy when someone needs a little push to overcome life’s obstacles or will he be the man who hides his true emotions behind a facade of smiles and cheers, always giving others, never sharing of himself?
Number 4 is more focused on the blades of grass at his feet as he pulls one, twirls it in his hands as though he’s seeing it for the first time, oblivious to the activity surrounding him. Will he grow up to be a man who takes pleasure in the small things in life? Will he appreciate all the parts that make a whole or will he get so caught up in the little things, that he misses the big picture?
Number 32 can’t stand still as he shifts his feet this way and that way. He alternates between watching the game and watching his teammates goofing around beside him. Will he spend his adult days always on the sidelines, watching but never truly participating? Or, will he be the type of man who tunes in to everyone around him, always fully present for each?
Whatever these little boys turn out to be as they grow into the men in our lives, our daughter’s lives, and our communities, I hope they take the lessons they are learning today and hold them close to their hearts.
The field may be a tough place at times, full of surprises, wrought with confusion, and a place of decisions both instant and well thought out, but isn’t that life? I hope these boys take their commitment to their friends and teammates today and turn it into commitment to their significant others and family in the future. I hope they apply the same drive and determination they display today to the things they are truly passionate about as they make their way through life. I pray they hold on to the pleasure they currently take in the small things and truly take the time out to embrace the little things that will tend to be harder to see as they get older. I wish for their future self to be the guy who encourages others from the sidelines when necessary, but also the guy who knows when to jump in and make things happen. More than anything, I hope they will be ever present in each moment life presents for themselves as well as those around them.
We, as a whole, spend so much time complaining about our youth today and the mistakes they make. We try to find a way to mold them into what we think they should be or what society needs them to be when they are all grown up. And yet, our children already hold admirable characteristics that they are applying on a daily basis, in sports, in the classroom, at home. They are exhibiting admirable qualities every time they help someone up, cheer someone on, show up for practice, commit to an entire season, and hang on to a belief that won’t let them quit. It is our job, as parents, teachers, coaches, to support and guide them from the sidelines, help them embrace the great qualities they already display today, because one day the little boys standing on the sidelines will take the field.
She broke the silence. “I can’t do it. I can’t sign those papers.” The young woman shifted uncomfortably in her seat, never taking her eyes off her husband who sat across the mahogany conference room table, his own pen in hand. As silence hovered like a cloud of uncertainty over them, the gentleman in the three piece suit occupying the end of the table rose and leaning both hands on the shiny wood surface said, “What do you mean you can’t sign? This is what you want. You were so sure of it.”
Tip #1: Do not let someone else tell you what you feel. You know what you feel. You alone can fully understand your feelings. Uncertainty can be a gut feeling. Don’t dismiss it.
Eyes locked on her husband’s steady gaze, the young woman took a deep breath, the kind that starts in your stomach and fills your lungs and whispered, “It doesn’t feel right.”
She couldn’t explain why it didn’t feel right. She knew it must seem crazy to others, but she couldn’t shake the discomfort that had taken root in her. She knew. She just knew it wasn’t right.
Tip #2: When a nagging feeling is persistent enough to linger, don’t ignore the feeling. Don’t try to explain it away or justify it. Examine it. Let yourself really feel it.
She tried to silently convey all of this to her husband whom had been by her side for so many years. They had been together since they were just a couple of young college kids, but they weren’t young and naive anymore. They had each grown individually and matured into the person they each were today. Their marriage wasn’t a young marriage anymore either, having recently celebrated their fifteenth wedding anniversary. In those fifteen years, the man across the table had become all too familiar with her “gut feelings” and as they locked eyes now she hoped he not only recognized what she was feeling, but somehow agreed with her. She silently pleaded with him as the gentleman between them cleared his throat and realizing what was happening, leaned closer into her and said, “You’re making a mistake. You may come to regret this if you walk away. Don’t be rash. Impulsive decisions don’t tend to pay off in the long run.” On and on he went, but she tuned him out and focused solely on her husband.
Tip#3: Tune out everything around you, take a deep breath, and allow yourself to focus on what caused you to feel uncomfortable about the situation. Find the triggers. They exist.
It was then she saw the recognition in her husband’s eyes, the clear focus as a fog was lifted. He slowly lowered his pen and gently set it down. He pushed the papers slightly away, never taking his eyes off her and as she released the breath she didn’t realize she was holding, he simply said, “You’re sure?” With tears in her eyes, she nodded.
Tip #4: Act on your gut feeling. Even if you can’t pinpoint the trigger in that moment, something caused you to not feel right about the situation. Do not dismiss it, but remove yourself for a few moments, a few hours, a few days until you can comfortably make a decision.
That young couple did the right thing no matter what outside forces were pushing them to do otherwise. I know this because I was/am that young woman. It wasn’t a divorce attorney in that room with us. It was a realtor. My husband’s position had been eliminated a few months prior and the company had offered him another position that would require us to move. We weren’t strangers to relocation, but this particular one didn’t feel right. We had gone house hunting and not a single house had felt like it could be a home for our family. Amidst the whirlwind of house hunting, school visits and discussions with moving companies, we had finally settled on a house. Notice I say settled.
Tip #5: If you feel like you’re settling, it may not be the right choice. If you’re going through motions that don’t seem genuine to who you are, chances are your gut is telling you something.
We kept plugging along, justifying and convincing ourselves that this was the right move…until it came time to make it official . Much to that realtor’s disappointment, I couldn’t sign those papers. I’m lucky to have a husband who is so in tune with me and my gut feelings. Two days later, my husband received a call out of the blue inviting him to interview for a position that was the right one, the right move for his career and our family.
We’ve all been there…that moment when an uncomfortable feeling begins to take over each cell of our body one by one. It swirls through our head, around our neck, travels down our spine and around our body until even our toes tingle with it. It finally comes to settle in our gut…hence the reference to “gut feeling” and too often we ignore it. All too often, we find a way to justify it or explain it away.
Next time you find yourself in a situation that just doesn’t feel quite right remember to go with your gut. Do not take another step in a direction you’re not completely comfortable with if you’re not sure what’s behind that door.
Do you remember the last time you felt that gut feeling?
How did you respond to it? Did you remain silent or did you speak up?
Street Art around San Juan, Puerto is quite the experience.
I’ve been in awe of the raw talent displayed on sides of homes, businesses, empty lots etc.
Here is the second set of my series StReEt ArT: tHrOuGh mY LeNs.
You can find the first set here.
All around the United States, temps are dropping and snow is falling. In these moments, I feel quite lucky to live on a tropical island with an endless summer. I have an undying love for summer, and being in such close vicinity to the ocean I often replay a beautiful love story and my personal favorite. It is the kind of story you curl up on the couch with, the kind that urges you to grab the Kleenex along with the popcorn. It is without a doubt the kind of love story you can’t wait to share with others.
It is also an excerpt from my book, Red Circle Days.
Grab a copy and share the love!
MY SUMMER VALENTINE
She’d been in the world only a year and spent her days in a high chair only feet from the checkout counter at her parent’s “mom & pop” grocery store. He was twelve and his family spent their summers in the same sleepy little beach town. She was a picky eater. He loved a little snack on his walk to the beach and a little something refreshing after a swim. Her parents loved his visits and he always stayed a little longer than necessary, asking about their day, sharing a little something funny he heard, but mostly he delayed his swim to help feed the picky little eater and keep her amused during a busy morning at the store. The little girl came to look forward to his visits as well, and each summer as she got a little older and more mobile she went from waiting in her high chair, to waiting by the door, to eventually meeting him halfway up the block. He started taking her along with him to the beach. She would climb on his shoulders and dive into the ocean, surfacing in a wave of giggles. The boy became a teenager and often had a female companion on these outings as well, but only one girl always held his undivided attention…she made sure of it!
Eventually, the boy grew into a young man of eighteen and shared a sad goodbye with the little girl who captured his heart and provided summer memories to last a lifetime. He was off to college and would no longer be spending his summers at the beach. Summers came and went, they never wrote, and though she listened to the locals at the store for any word on how he was doing she never picked up much.She grew into a beautiful seventeen year old lady who still spent her mornings helping out at the store, but reserved her afternoons for a swim with friends. One summer afternoon as she enjoyed the sun and sand with her girlfriends and gossiped about boys, not far down the beach a young man was enjoying his first summer day at the beach catching up with old friends. Neither group went unnoticed by the other…but two particular people took special notice. She asked her girlfriends who the “new guy” was at the same time he was asking his buddies who the “beautiful girl” was and it wasn’t long before both groups came together to surprise the two with a revelation that took them back to many a summer afternoon at that very beach.
The rest is history really…my history actually. My parents may have been from different backgrounds and the age difference alone was enough to keep them apart, but true love finds a way no matter the odds. As a kid, I loved hearing their love story and never doubted the two main characters were my mom and dad because I saw their love story continue to play out on a daily basis. I don’t remember my dad sending a big bouquet on Valentine’s Day or chocolates on their anniversary. I don’t have any memories of big flourishing romantic moves by either of them. Maybe it’s because my memories consist of my dad stopping to hug my mom from behind while she was cooking, or her never being able to pass by him without touching his arm or giving him a peck on the cheek. They always held hands, never sat on opposite ends of the couch, and loved to lay side by side talking into the wee hours of the night. My mom tells me after my dad was diagnosed with cancer, those long pillow talks became that much more meaningful to them. I wasn’t privy to the trials and tribulations they faced as most couples undoubtedly do, but I do know whenever they did argue, it didn’t last. One of them would eventually find an excuse to be in the same room again and as soon as their eyes met across the room, love took over much the same as it did when their eyes met across the beach that summer afternoon.
As a child, I pleaded with my mom to share this story with me as often as any little girl’s favorite fairy tale. To me, it was more than a fairy tale. Their expression of love wasn’t limited to one day a year. It was tested through the years during a move to a foreign country, raising three children, through financial crises and illness. It was apparent in their every move and while their love story began on a beautiful summer afternoon, I’m sure it wasn’t always a day at the beach. In my eyes, that’s truer love than any prince charming and fairy princess could ever hope to experience!
Her stockinged feet scurried over the linoleum floor into the kitchen to double check the stovetop knobs were all turned to the off position. She carefully carried the empty glass milk containers out of the kitchen, through the living room, and set them down on the floor beside her feet. As was customary at this time of year, the temperature was dropping at an alarming pace and she braced herself for the cold blast that was sure to hit her when she opened the front door. She took a deep breath, turned the knob and was jolted by a frost that seemed to wrap it’s cold limbs around her and seek to pull her right through the threshold of her warm abode into the frigid unknown of night with it’s dark shadows and nightly sounds. She quickly set the milk bottles outside and closed the door as a cold shiver ran through her. Turning back to the living room, she turned off the television and slid around the room flipping off lights. As she made her way back to the kitchen, she could hear her mom’s movements and knew she would find her standing in front of the kitchen sink washing the few items that always seemed to make their way there long after the “kitchen closed” each evening. Curls bouncing as she picked up her pace, she snuck up behind her mom and hugged her tight. “Want me to finish that?” Leaning back into her daughter’s arms her mom responded, “No need…I’m almost done.”
This exact scene had played out night after night since she was a little girl. This was their usual bedtime routine. Her siblings had already headed to bed after a little coaxing from their mother, but she always lingered for a bit to ensure she helped her mom with the nightly rituals. She effortlessly pulled herself up onto the kitchen counter, recalling how years back climbing that perch took a bit more effort when a chair was required as a bit of a stepping stone. She watched her mom as she finished the dishes, telling her the lights were all turned off and milk glasses were set out. Suddenly, she jumped off the counter, startling her mom as a spoon clattered into the sink. “I forgot to turn the front porch light on! Be right back!”
Every night for as long a she could remember, her dad worked the night shift at the local car manufacturing plant and never arrived back home before 2am. Her mom always made sure to leave the front porch light on for him, and it had become part of the young girl’s routine as well. Full of curiosity she had asked her mom years ago why it was so important to leave the porch light on for her dad, why on occasion, she had left the warmth of her bed and traveled through the house to make sure the glow of the small lamp flooded the porch. Why was it so important?
Her mother replied, “We want your dad to know that while we might not be awake to welcome him home, our last loving thought before ending our day was of him.”
It’s been years since my father passed away, and longer still since I was that little girl who lit that porch light, night after night. And yet, I still find myself leaving a light on, even when my husband and children are at home with me. I find comfort in the ritual and am forever warmed by it’s glow.
Who do you leave a light on for in your life? Is it someone who comes home to you? Is it habit? Is it for someone you know will never arrive? Maybe it’s not even for a person, instead for something in your life you still hope for?
Do you recall a ritual from your childhood that you still carry out today? If so, share it here. I would love to hear about it.