Bitter Butterfly

So many things have happened in the past week. You took me to a drive through zoo. I really enjoyed that. I enjoyed every place you took me to. I soaked up every moment in my bones and flesh, and they seeped deeply inside of my heart and made their ways into my soul. I found security inside of you, I peeked around your mind and saw so many wonderful things. They were things I could relate to on molecular levels. Chemicals and protons and wires, I felt like they all connected so well. And then I discovered it was all a web of lies. You were reaching for something else. You took energy from me and formed a barrier between us. You used my strength to benefit your weakness and my weakness to gain your strength. You tore me from limb to limb and opened every pore and smeared charcoal and salt into my interior. I became bitter and black because of your wickedness, and somehow, allowed you to remove my heart to keep as your pet. I spoke to my mother and she said, it’s like we willingly give them all of what we are- our whole heart and our guts and insides. They put them on the counter to rot. Flies pick away at the fleshy mess until they corrode into something unrecognizable. And that is how I felt for the longest time when you were around me. I was just waiting for you to see what damage you have done and the damage you were still causing in and around me.

Around us.

But there is no us. And there never was. I was not your smart, funny, pretty girl. I was your play thing. I was your muse, some of the time. I was your paid bills and free meals and free shelter. I was your access to peace, freedom from judgement, escape from your painful past. I was your support through hard times, the shoulder of your burdens, the crutch for your insecurities. I was your something when you had nothing. And now that I discovered the truth behind my screaming gut, the gut that you mangled, I will be used no more. You will not make me your victim. You will continue to suffer and until you change for the good, you’ll find another crutch to con. Shame on you. I still pray, though… for you… every day. Just as I have. And there in my prayers you will remain, but only there. You are no longer welcome in my heart.

But there are things I’ll cherish. There are lessons I’ll hold on to forever. I will always miss the little things… from our dogs down to our sunflower seeds. But there are other things I’ll remember without wanting to try. Your lack of care and attention. I bet you didn’t even finish that movie. Your selfishness. Your deceitfulness. Your anger. Your way.

Whoever you really are in there, I hope love is something you discover one day, once you have finally discovered yourself. And when you find it, don’t waste her.

 

Miracles

A few years ago, I read C.S. Lewis’s book Miracles. I later found it received a lot of criticism and negative reviews, but I found the book in of itself a miracle to me at the time, because it contained powerful lessons I needed at the exact moment I opened it.

Lately, I’ve been anxious, worried about the future concerning recent events regarding my grandfather, my boyfriend, and my dog. I have also been praying. A lot. Here’s a story about that-

Last week, my dog Marley stopped eating his food. He began vomiting. He was given medicine to treat ulcers. Marley continued avoiding his food bowl, continued vomiting, continued losing muscle mass, continued being lethargic and pitiful. Finally, our Vet told us yesterday afternoon to bring Marley in to the office first thing the following morning for surgery. This would make it the second incision from his chest to his lower abdomen to investigate his condition. We hated the thought, but we also wanted answers, because this little boy wasn’t getting any better.

I’ve always been taught to pray. My dad used to have us kneel beside him with heads bowed at our bedside before we were tucked in. I never fully comprehended the power of prayer until I was much older and wiser, but I am a firm believer in it these days.

Last night, we shed our tears and mourned over the possibility that our baby would not be okay- that something would remain in his system, causing him to suffer, until the day eventually came that… well, you know… The thoughts were disparaging, and I held my baby’s stomach and paw, and whimpered while my forehead rested on his. I started to think about my recent thoughts of dealing with loss, and how I wasn’t ready to do that yet– “I am still unprepared. I don’t want this. I want him to get better and enjoy a full and happy life with us.”

So I closed my eyes with my head still bowed above his, and I silently spoke. You can call it meditation, prayer, self-talk… whatever. I pleaded with my Maker last night. And when I finished, I felt better. And I felt like He heard me. He listened. So I slept, and the following morning- this morning- Marley ate a little bit of his food. I left for work. While on my morning commute, my boyfriend called me.

-Marley just pooped probably two feet of rope. It’s shaped like his small intestine.

I was ecstatic. I felt confident about our dog making a full recovery. When I got to work, I sent a text to my boyfriend.

-I feel so much better knowing Marley did that this morning. I prayed over him so hard last night, and I thought- I just want his pain to go away… I’m relieved.

-Yes I did, too. And I’m almost 100 percent sure that was the problem…

I realize a lot of people do not believe in creation, a creator, a heaven, a hell, or the power of prayer… but sometimes, despite the skepticism and all that anxiety that comes with it, you gotta have a little faith. Because miracles, believe it or not, happen every day.

 

The Little Things

Life is full of challenging events, some that might be overwhelming. We get comfortable in situations or settings and then something happens that might make us question things- even to the extent of our very existence, or purpose. People enter and exit our lives- seemingly on a whim- whether we welcome them or not, and whether we like it or not. We don’t always get our way, and sometimes we might focus on the little things when we need to focus on the big picture, while other times we might focus on the big picture when we need to observe and appreciate the little things.

It’s difficult to find the balance between the good and the bad in our lives, our world, or our circumstances at times- especially when a series of unfortunate events cloud our blue skies. Or perhaps we’ve never experienced a truly blue sky and we were dealt a difficult hand from the beginning, being forced to deal with one traumatic event after another. People who have lived this way might deal with circumstances differently than, say, someone who has lived a comfortable, cushioned life and is suddenly faced with a major life crisis. Either way, both of these individuals might be unprepared or unwilling to take on the challenges that arise because they are either exhausted and feel they have reached a breaking point, or because they haven’t had the experience and do not feel they are equipped with the right tools to handle the situation.

Everyone has issues. Everyone faces challenges. Everyone experiences loss, grief, panic, fear, heartbreak, and so on… However, more and more studies are conducted regarding human behaviors and the mind, and with that, more and more research has shown that the individual’s perception– or outlook- on life or the situation or the future, is what determines the extent of how the unfortunate event affects or impacts that person or his or her routine or his or her future. For example, a person cares X amount about another person, the two break up, and depending on the person’s outlook on a variety of things, that person will either grieve for a short time and start making adjustments accordingly, or will wallow in their grief, mourning the loss daily, to the extent of allowing the loss to control his or her life and future, and potentially allow that event to affect relationships with other people, or cause him or her to avoid relationships altogether.

One scenario is healthier than the alternative, and while things are not black and white, or limited to this way or that way, there are options available to help those- everyone– in need to satisfy the individual and help him or her cope and move on with their life.

As the saying goes, life goes on

One method I like to use to help me cope with challenges each and every. single. day. is to express myself in a variety of ways that work for me. I sometimes feel the need to vent to my people verbally and am always encouraged when I do so. That is something I take comfort in, because it helps me focus on the good people I have in my life. Or, when I want to reach out but am unable to for whatever reason at the time, I vent by writing. An example would be- my dog is still sick and I am worried about his health but have the responsibility of going to my job an hour away. I would love to cry on my boyfriend’s shoulder, but am currently unable to, so I’m using my creative outlet instead, and taking pleasure in the little things– being able to vent through writing while I am also at work.

I remind myself that I am thankful for this job and my ability to be of service to those in need. While my contribution is smaller than that of the Psychiatrist’s, I am comforted in knowing that I can and do make a difference. That is another little thing I can reflect on and it helps me to maintain focus and remain in- and appreciate- the present, regardless of what might be happening in the background.

So while the big picture is there in all its mystical glory, it is sometimes the little things we should take comfort in during troubling times. There are calms before and after the storm and we need to remind ourselves that avoiding the situation, avoiding our needs to get us through the situation, or avoiding the feelings, people, or lessons associated with them, is not the healthy choice in handling life.

Appreciate the little things and take comfort in the possibility that the current circumstances are shaping your outlook and future for a more fulfilling and meaningful life. A hard lesson could blossom into a found purpose. 

 

 

 

A Young Mother

At the time, I was eighteen years old, and my hair was emerald green. I had just moved back from Ft. Lauderdale where I attended art school for photography, and I was living in a rural community in Alabama, walking into Wal-Mart, eight months pregnant. People noticed me. They noticed my hair first, and then my round belly.

Then they scowled. Or frowned. Or quietly whispered. Or waved a hand gesture in disapproval.

It was never very difficult for me to be a mom. It still isn’t difficult. My job was easy. Still is. I’m not saying there haven’t been challenges, but I was lucky to be able to stay at home and take care of my daughter the first three years of her life. Due to that and a number of other factors, I have been blessed with a child who simply does what she needs to do and has no alarming trouble in any areas of her life. She excels in a variety of things that interest her and her talents and abilities never cease to amaze me. I could not be a prouder mom, and that is something I have always felt.

Being motherly comes very naturally to me, and I have always enjoyed playing the mom role to children. I love nurturing them and getting on their level to identify with them and help them to find their unique space where they’re comfortable and free to express themselves and do what they love to do and have fun. This has always been a part of my personality, and it comes so naturally that often while I’m in public, if I see a child, they see me, too. And they smile. And I melt

What has always been difficult, however, are the perceptions that people on the outside feel compelled to share with me, whether I like it or not. I realize that the statistics are overwhelmingly stacked against me, but I take great pride in being a young mother. I have wisdom beyond my years, and have always trusted my instincts and heart. No, not every situation goes in my favor, but my daughter and I have an unbreakable bond and it’s honest and loving and there is nothing that stands in the way of that. An open line of communication is important, and that takes trust. And we trust each other with everything we are. Bravery is also important, because again, while the odds aren’t stacked in my favor, my strength, wisdom, and brave spirit keep us safe and happy because we are always making the best of whatever situation is thrown our way.

We rely on each other often, but she knows I’m still mom.

But enough validation, I digress from the point. The point is, none of this is truly any of your business. I only share these things to hopefully bring awareness to the obvious and utter disgust that society holds in regards to young parenthood.

So with that, here are some honest questions for the college graduated, respectable career, one marriage on the books parents:

Do you enjoy people openly judging you for your level of income or your position in our society?
Do you notice others cutting their eyes at your children because they turn their noses up at kids who appear to be less fortunate?
Do you appreciate when some stranger smirks when your child rolls his or her eyes at you because you have zero authority over them?
Do you become uncomfortable when your child openly expresses his or herself in some way that you and/or society would deem inappropriate or unusual?
Do you feel warm and fuzzy inside when someone else connects to your child with ease while you have difficulty doing so?
Do you enjoy other people who could not possibly relate to you constantly giving you advice that you know would not work for your particular situation?

Things to think about next time you judge a hard working single parent who has been dealing with countless obstacles since her teenage years. And here are some pieces of advice I would like to share with those who might be able to relate (or not):

If you do what is right and treat others with dignity and respect, your child will notice.
If you take good care of yourself, your home, and other things around you, your child will notice.
If you express yourself freely without fear of judgement, and stay true to your morals, your child will notice.
If you take care of your responsibilities, but still make time for fun and activities that engage the participants and help strengthen bonds, your child will notice.
If you maintain a positive attitude through troubling, challenging, or difficult times, your child will notice.
If you make an effort to reach out to those in need even when you yourself are in need, your child will notice.
If you smile at strangers, go out of your way to pick up a piece of trash, or stop what you’re doing to actively listen, your child will notice.
If you create art, laugh loud, skateboard, write poetry, and continue learning even as an adult, your child will notice.

I could go on… but I’m leaving this here with you now:

Being a parent is always a learning experience. It doesn’t matter how much money you’ve made, how many degrees you’ve earned, or how many years you’ve lived on this earth. What matters is where your heart resides. How much effort, time, care and dedication are you putting into your parental duties? Are you willing to admit to your mistakes and learn from them? Are you being a good example by the choices you make and the way you treat yourself and others? Are you a patient and kind teacher? Are you capable of connecting and communicating effectively with your child? Are you able to stick to your guns and enforce your rules fairly? Are you giving as much respect as what you demand? Are you able to have fun while maintaining a secure environment?

When people meet my daughter, or see her accomplishments, they are amazed, almost to the point of disbelief. I used to question my abilities as a parent because I sometimes felt self-conscious about being so young, “uneducated” and poor while raising a daughter on my own. Now, I get it. But I also get that despite these higher standards of self accomplishment prior to bringing another human into the world, I am a proud mom to a daughter who is also proud to have me as her mother. I couldn’t have asked for a greater accomplishment personally, and our society couldn’t have expected a greater contribution from me. So, in short, you’re welcome.

 

First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:5

 

 

Marley Jones and Barney Miller

Marley Jones

Never saw the movie Marley and Me, but I know it’s about a dog that people loved, and I believe the story involves the dog dying. I heard it was sad and I heard that nobody should ever name a dog Marley again.

Well our dog’s name is Marley. He is a pit terrier mix and we suspect he has some catahoula somewhere in that mix due to his coat colors and patterns. His “spots” are in the shape of hearts, and he is devastatingly handsome. His pupils are very strange, unlike any I’ve ever encountered. His eyes are marbled with bright light blue and dark brown. He is water and earth. His demeanor revolves around love, and he is playful, protective, and often chill, but overly excited when Mama walks through the door. He especially loves when his oldest sister Echo- my human daughter- plays with him. And his master, his best companion, my human mate, is his numero uno. He watches him and follows his lead curiously, always learning, always wagging.

Marley has had stomach issues for months now. We have placed him in our Vet’s care on numerous occasions, with no real solid leads as to what might be causing his sensitivity to food. He often experiences vomiting or diarrhea for no apparent reason. He underwent a surgery a couple of months ago when he stopped eating for days and couldn’t keep the fluids from his IV down. He hasn’t been back to “normal” since the surgery, and we still had no real inkling as to what the underlying issue might be.

My boyfriend took Marley to the Vet for another check-up yesterday (day two in a row) since he hasn’t eaten his food in a few days, and is still sick with an upset stomach. Yesterday we learned that kidney disease is the likely cause. Marley is still not eating, he is still lethargic, and still vomiting and having diarrhea.

I love my dog. And my dog loves me.

Loss is something I’ve always experienced, unwillingly. Loss is something I try with my might to avoid. Loss is something I will always have to deal with, and prepare myself for… The older I get, the more I realize that it’s coming, ready or not. I’m never ready to lose someone or something I love. But I understand that this is the cycle of life.

Barney Miller

I also learned yesterday that the mightiest and most invincible man in the world has lung cancer and will have to go through another biopsy procedure to determine if the cancer is malignant or benign.

My papa has always been a real hero to me. A Korean War vet, a member of the Georgia Country Music Hall of Fame, a deep-sea fisherman, an AC repair man, a guitar builder and instructor, a cameo role player in My Cousin Vinny and Lawless, a metal worker, a husband who flirts with his wife (still- in his upper 80’s), a father of five, a grandfather of eight, and a great-grandfather of four.

This man can do any damn thing. This man backed out of selling acres of his land after learning that the forest areas would have been demolished and developed. This man told stories out of this world with humor, animation, and heart. This man played the dobro unlike any other on this entire planet. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but his flaws made him all the more legendary. And his disease makes him all the more human. But despite this, he is still a seemingly god-like creature, immortal in spirit and full of life.

I am unprepared for what is surely to come. And my heart is shattered into a million pieces, it seems. But I know I have to be strong, strong like him… strong enough to fight as hard as I can, like my grandfather and my dog.

It’s important to have a shoulder to cry on, and yesterday, we cried. We snotted. We trembled. We tightly embraced. And we were okay. We knew despite everything, we would be okay.

The River

We’d had our biggest fight yet. Everything from our hearts crashed down on our heads.

I exploded.
I jerked something I’d made for you off the wall and threw it to the kitchen floor. It broke in half, ricocheting into your knee.
You exploded.
And then we broke each other. We slept in separate rooms for the very first time. I felt like this was truly the beginning of the end. Hopeless despair filled my belly and I emptied the contents into the toilet. I felt weaker than I’d ever felt in my entire life. This is it, I thought. This is the last time I pour my heart into a man. 

Oh but what a profoundly beautiful innocence that resides in this imperfect man…

It was 5:30 AM. I was unable to sleep all night, so finally, I turned to social media for distraction. I saw a friend talking about her desire to let friends go who she felt like did not make an effort to speak to her. It saddened me, because I felt like I was one of those friends who had let our bond dissolve over the past few years. I decided to send her a text message and tell her I love and miss her. I was happy to hear back from her immediately, because she and her boyfriend had experienced a similar situation, fought, and then fought for each other. I asked her for advice, just as she had asked for mine a year prior. She told me that forgiveness is a good thing, but to also be strong and stand by my conviction. I knew at that point what I needed to do.

I got out of bed. I fed our dogs. And then I opened the door, and walked outside. I walked and walked. No phone, no note, no coffee, no water, no food, no real worry in my head. I just wanted to feel the freedom I had sacrificed for so long only to feel this bleak emptiness in the end. I wanted to regain my strength, my wisdom, my self.

My body gravitated towards a river he had taken me to while he was still interested in showing me the new and spectacular wonders I had never experienced before. The place he knew, and knew I would love. I thought in my head, if he comes looking for me, I’ll try. If he doesn’t, I’ll know. A Bob Dylan song, my favorite Dylan song, popped into my head.

We never did too much talkin’ anyway, but don’t think twice, it’s alright…

You just kinda wasted my precious time, but don’t think twice, it’s alright.

I hiked. The unkempt trail had been neglected and I preferred it that way. No traffic, no worry. I took a crooked stick and wound spiderwebs in it as I walked. I never tripped, as I usually did. I was regaining my confidence, I was feeling alive. Approaching the bridge that made things easy, I decided to avoid it. So I placed the webbed stick on the ground for a spider to enjoy a future feast, and walked down to the river bank. I took my shoes off and tied the strings together and slung the shoes around my neck. I stepped onto the stone and looked around. I saw a blue heron. I saw my reflection. And I reflected for some time.

I looked around for a walking stick. I began wading through the water, carefully. I was timid at first, unsure of the creatures that might lurk below. I soon realized it was just me, the earth, and the river. The sun shewn bright and the air was crisp. The water was clear and perfect- not too hot or too cold. I could see the rock formations below, and found it rather easy to navigate downstream. Approaching a wider and deeper area, I decided to immerse myself under the water. I came up, cleansed and refreshed. Rather than crying as I surely would have before the thing that happened the night before, I smiled. I laughed then. I had forgiven myself, and followed my forgiveness with the extension of more forgiveness for him. My man.

My mate.

I never felt so strong. Despite having no sleep, no energy, no food, no fuel, and no safety net, I felt so alive. I had guessed (correctly) that a few hours had passed since I had closed the door behind me without saying a word to anyone, so I decided it was smart to make my journey home. I climbed out of the water onto the rock. I threaded myself through the briers and foliage and easily found the trail. My heart was singing, so I decided to let the song escape my lips.

I walked home. I pictured him flinging the door open and running down the driveway to receive me with open arms. I wanted him to embrace me and stroke my dreaded hair. I wanted him to notice my wet, dirty body- my ruggedness- first, and my newly revealed cleansed, happy soul- my gentleness- last. I wanted to say “I forgive you”, regardless of whether he had been looking for me or not. But as I approached the cemetery, I saw his truck. I stopped as I watched to see which direction he would turn at the intersection. I thought he would turn right, towards the river… towards me. But the silver Sequoia with black rims turned left. I was relieved, I wasn’t ready to see him yet. I didn’t want him to find me here, so alive among the dead. I was unearthed. But he wasn’t there as I’d pictured in my head when I returned.

You can’t always get what you want. And this is life.

She found the keys in the other Sequoia, her mauve with factory rims Sequoia. He always locked the doors to protect the preciousness that was inside, but always thoughtfully left the keys for her somewhere, and she always instinctively knew where they were hidden. And just like every single time before, she was greeted by happy, slobbery faces and wagging tails.

I loved on each of the dogs, feeling more grateful than ever before to have them. I unclothed and stepped into the steaming shower. The water opened my pores and he walked through the door. I couldn’t speak, and neither could he. We both weren’t sure where to begin, but we both knew what we wanted to say without hesitation.

I love you.

I got dressed and put on the coffee. It was 10 AM then, the latest I’d made coffee in a very long time. We sat down and sipped from our mugs and talked. Only this time, it wasn’t the usual “So what do you wanna do today?” It was deeper, like me and, yes- like you. And we knew everything would get better over time. We knew we would have to take things day by day, just as we had been. And rather than me opening up about my insecurities and my doubts, and getting the usual “It’s all good”, you listened.
You
understood.
We talked for hours that day. And that night, we held each other and slept peacefully. You dream of rainbows and I dream of tornadoes, those symbolic dreams we’ve shared with each other before, only this time mine was different. This time, I dreamed of both, and the ever lingering tornado engulfed the rainbow, and the rainbow transformed into a colorful lightning bolt, bursting with energy inside the tornado.

For the first time in a long time, I felt “It’s all good” was something actually attainable, because it was something I knew took work. Now I could see you had finally realized the same. And one day, when we get to that bridge, we’ll either make our leisurely stroll across, or we’ll make a detour and find our own way- down the river… together, just where we want to be.