Adopt-a-Pillar

I’m picking up on the completely different subject today, one that I feel more strongly on the more I realise how this impacts my life. It might be that you are inclined to pass on by but I urge you to take the few minutes to read. I believe it is something we can all benefit from, that for all of us regardless of the life we live, there is good to come from it.

I invite you to Adopt-a-Pillar.

The image below is taken from my mother’s church, Oxford Terrace Baptist in Christchurch, New Zealand. It is also a place where my grandparents on both sides and both my parents have grown up.

The picture is of pillars outside a new church building opened this year which replaced a much older church which literally collapsed in earthquakes that struck my city in 2010/2011.

The pillars were just a few resurrected from the old church building and stand as a reminder of what has been. I pass by this new building (also the site of the destroyed building) at least several times a week and it reminds me of something of a church that has held meaning for my family for at least a century.

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Image credit: Oxford Terrace Baptist Church, Christchurch, New Zealand

But perhaps of even more meaning is that these pillars have for me is the people who have been in my life who are now old or have passed on from my life. They have been pillars for me.

In the past few weeks, I have attended two funerals for men who have been pillars in my life. All of my life. The first was my uncle and the second a pseudo-uncle (for want of a better term). He and his wife were close friends of my parents and growing up, they were always Aunty and Uncle to my brothers and me.

Both men, one in his eighties and the other in his nineties, were true gentlemen, I had great respect for them, and while they might not always have agreed with what I was doing with my life, they were always interested and encouraging when I saw them. By simply being themselves, they offered me a lesson in how to be in this world.

How can you not have respect for people who have been married for sixty years? I couldn’t manage to be married for five years. They had so much to teach me if I simply paid attention.

Their deaths, so close together, made me stop and appreciate the older people in my life. Appreciate their wives who still live. I have been really fortunate because while growing up I didn’t see much of my grandparents, I did have other older people. I think of Mr and Mrs S, Mrs N, Mrs H, Miss B and more. They were elderly people in the churches where my father was the minister. These people were pillars for me. They stood tall and the encouraged me as I grew.

I know that many have had bad relationships with older people, whether parents, teachers, or relatives. I can understand any reluctance if you don’t want contact with the elderly. And I know that I while I have been so lucky in terms of having parents who stayed together and loved each other, others have not been so lucky.

I have been fortunate to have pillars in my life, supporting me, loving me and simply showing me how to be a good person.

If you don’t have elderly people in your life, go out and get some. Adopt-a-Pillar. Seriously, there are plenty of elderly people out there who would love to be your pillars.

There will be places in your communities that can put you in touch with older people whether in clubs or retirement complexes. There are plenty of elderly people who have no one and would love to have you in their lives.

People who have lived eighty or ninety years have an amazing take on life. They’ve been doing it for much longer than us, and in a world that was not easy on them.

When I drive past the church above and see those five pillars, I see my Dad, those two men who have died recently and others who are or have been pillars for me. I am seriously lucky to have/had them.

I know this is a strange post, but I know that I am a better person for the elderly people who have been, and are still in my life. Because of this, I encourage you to try it. Adopt-a-Pillar.

Thanks for reading

 

Cate

 

 

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All That Glitters Is Not Gold

Back when I was a child, I remember eyeing up the presents under the Christmas Tree. We were not allowed to touch them until the appointed time when the family would gather around the tree and carefully open the presents one gift at a time. Before that moment came though, I (with my brothers) would eye up which present looked the best. Maybe which was the biggest, maybe what gift wrap was the shiniest, a ribbon added for extra effect, anything that would indicate that one might be better than another. I would conclude from this which present I wanted to be for me. But there was no handling the gifts to see who the gift card determined the present to be for. It was very much a guessing game.

Of course, what we thought would be the best, what we thought would be gold, was not always as we suspected. Sometimes that gold was simply gold paint. We were duped. All that glitters is not gold.

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A few years ago I received a gift, a gift that over time I concluded to be gold. It looked so good. All the right words were there. All the right sentiments. What seemed to be the right motivations. It was an unexpected gift. I didn’t go out looking for it, but instead, it just seemed to happen. Maybe I couldn’t be let down by the gift, because I didn’t set out to get anything from it.

But it wasn’t that easy. Nothing ever is. Even when you think what you are getting is gold.

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Image credit: L.L.Musings https://www.facebook.com/LLMusings/

It’s true. Most people in my life thought the gift was a beast. Not gold at all. Many people were quick to judge. Judge it and probably me. Fair enough, I suppose. We all form opinions and sometimes make judgements on only a very small amount of information. Usually wrong information.

I learnt this very quickly when I was spat at for my association with my gift. I had been fortunate enough to have never been spat at in my life. I can tell you that it’s quite a wake-up call.

I realised very quickly that my decision to accept the gift had consequences. Some of those consequences have continued to live on to this day, even though the gift is no longer mine. I lost along the way, in ways that will not be obvious to anyone in my life. I am of no doubt. I lost a very great deal, and in ways I did not expect.

To be clear, this gift that I thought was gold was not without its faults. I could see that. I was going into it with what I thought were wide open eyes. It’s just that eventually the gift turned. It turned from one of gold to one of darkness. One of lies and a lack of respect for me.

In hindsight, I learnt my gift to be one of darkness and pain, but I very clearly believed it was one of goodness. Do you know how cheated I felt when I learnt? I had gone to bat for the integrity of the gift. There was both financial and emotional cost involved in accepting the gift. The air was literally bashed out of my lungs and I struggled to breathe, let alone accept and move on from the gift.

I have learnt a few things in this journey:

  1. If it glitters it probably isn’t gold. While it seemed wonderful for a long time, wonderful was the last thing that it was. It was a con. And it hurt me a great deal, more than I  ever said to anyone.
  2. How quick humans are to judge, usually on the basis of just a scattering of opinions and of course, very big assumptions.  Because while we all know that all that glitters is not gold, we also know that just sometimes, what looks like shit is actually gold. We all hope our gift will be gold. How can we determine either way, on just a few pieces of information? It doesn’t matter anyway because people will already have judged, already have spat.
  3. Not all monsters are hiding under the bed. Some are lying in the bed with us. Others are very much installed in our minds. I encountered all of them. All installed by the gift.
  4. I finally accepted that I am scared of the dark. Maybe not so much scared of the dark as what might be hidden in the dark and is actually right in front of my eyes without me realising.  That is downright scary. So yes, I’m 52 and I sleep with the light on. Actually, I sleep so much better
  5. The only possible way forward from this gift was forgiveness. That’s right. I had to forgive the gift for everything because without being able to forgive the gift, I truly would have been destroyed. I forgave the gift (eventually), not for the gift’s sake, but for my own healing and survival.
  6. I also had to forgive myself. For decisions I had made on the basis of things I didn’t know, for missing/ignoring what was staring me right in the face, for ignoring the gut instinct that warned me without me realising and for simply being me, a person who in spite of all the flaws you could all see in this gift, I chose to see beyond them.
  7. Sometimes we are bound to get it wrong. I might think that gift is going to be so precious to me that it is a soulmate but in fact, is a thief. It just happens and while it seems entirely impossible to survive, somehow we do. We are, of course, only human, even when it hurts like hell.

This isn’t something that has happened to me only recently. Rather it is something that hurt so much, that it is only now that I feel able to write about it. I simply didn’t have the words, and I’m not sure I yet have adequate words. Sometimes it takes other people’s words to explain too, and that is always okay with me.

sometimes we’re silent
because our soul knows
how it feels, but hasn’t
found the words that
the mind can understand.”

 – JmStorm

I felt too, that I owed the gift some privacy in spite of the pain it inflicted on me. I know better now. I don’t owe that gift anything. All that glitters is not gold. And when it’s not gold, you don’t owe it a thing. Sometimes I’m slow to learn but eventually I get there.

Thanks for reading!

 

Cate

 

Other Reading

Grieving For My Red Balloon

Letting Go Of Balloons

 

 

 

 

Here Comes The Sun

This week you may be thinking things look a little different around here. Even though this blog has just begun, I realised almost immediately that things were just not quite right and that I needed to do some tweaking. And so I did.

The theme got changed first. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a theme is going to work until you actually work with it. It didn’t, and I’m hoping the new theme you’re seeing will work for both you and me a whole lot better.

Then I needed to incorporate some new images to make everything ‘just right’. The first one, the wings, is one you will have already seen on my first post. I liked it so much, and some readers told me they did too, so I built it into the look. Remember wings are about flying. Yes, I know you could work that out without me saying it but flying really is my favoured superpower. I want to be sure that those who are giving out superpowers remember which one I want. What’s more, there is nothing better than getting on a plane and flying up above the clouds.

But more importantly, living with chronic health issues does mean taking that extra step, to see if we can fly in spite of those issues. I want to have these wings right in front of me when I’m looking at, and working on my blog. I do have wings. And I can use them.

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The second image I have added is about flying too. I wanted to add this image because it is a picture of a sunrise over the Pacific Ocean, taken in Kaikoura, a little under 200kms north of  Christchurch, where I live. I just love seeing the sunrise from anywhere but there’s not much better than seeing it come up out of the sea. Wow, it really does get my heart rate up and reminds me that I’m alive. I am so lucky that for me it is only a 10 minute drive to the ocean to see a similar sight.

A few years ago I was flying over Australia, heading east towards New Zealand. The flight was actually from Bangkok and it happened to be early in the morning. As a fluke, I was seated on the side of the plane (with a window seat) that enabled me to watch the sunrise – for literally hours. You have no idea the joy I felt. Actually, it was perfect timing because for most of my flight I had been feeling dreadfully sad, having left a close friend behind. It was one of those ‘wow’ moments I will never forget.

It’s not important what you believe about where nature comes from and who governs it, but whoever it is really gave me a gift that morning. I had an almost eight hour long, perfect sunrise. One thing that I believe is that sometimes we get gifts like I got, at just the perfect moment. We get them for a reason. I would soon be facing a great heartbreak (no, I’m not going to go into the details) and even though I had no idea of what was ahead of me this eight-hour long sunrise really was a gift I could hold onto when the going was going to get tougher than ever.

This blog is me. It is my journey with chronic illness. It is my journey of life. While the original images and themes used represented me, I came to the conclusion that wings and a sunrise were so much more appropriate to the theme I was building right from the name of the blog.

I hope you stay with me on this journey. There is much to come.

“At the moment that everything goes dark, the sunset in front of us becomes the whole story. But if we find courage enough to wait until tomorrow morning, we will suddenly come to understand that in reality yesterday’s sunset was only half of the story.” 
― Craig D. Lounsbrough

Thanks for reading

 

Cate

PS. This image of sunrise at Kaikoura, on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, is by Charlie Evans, Nelson http://www.kiwiwise.co.nz

Hopes For Another Year

What are you doing tonight? What I mean is, what are you doing for New Years? The great celebration of New Year’s Eve. It is great, isn’t it?

I’m not so convinced, but then you could just say I’m old, down on myself and I have few friends to spend it with. Any number of those might or might not be true, but for a long time now, I have been less than impressed by the ‘great’ New Year’s celebrations. Please, can’t we just skip to February and carry on as if nothing is different?

New Year celebrations are great if you’re twenty-something, physically and mentally healthy, have money in your purse, have mountains of people you want to spend that occasion with, and while I’m at it, you’re probably an extrovert.

Am I any of those things? The short answer is no. And perhaps that’s my excuse for planning to go to bed tonight, at the usual time (early by most people’s standards) and if I wake (get woken) up at any time while it’s still dark, my cat, Hobbes will have a lot of explaining to do simply because he’s the usual culprit (other than just normal insomnia).

Before I go on, it’s important to point out just what would happen if I didn’t do that, if I stayed up until 12.05am, or even say, 2am. I would be very likely to spend at least the next few days in bed in an unreasonable amount of pain, not to mention fatigue. And my brain would turn even mushier than usual (brain fog).

It’s just not worth it to stay up that late and have a change of routine. I have to spend too many days in bed as it is, the last thing I want is self-inflicted New Year celebration pain/fatigue/numerous other symptoms.

Health has been a determining factor in New Year activities for more time than it should. But that’s not about to end. My chronic illness is in it for the long haul. But even before that, I struggled with this occasion.

It’s really hard to celebrate yet another year when you’re suicidal. It’s even harder when mental illness has turned life to hell and getting through the next day seems impossible without facing 365 more days. It’s just not even a bad joke. It’s beyond thinking to consider that another year is ahead, and because you might be depressed in amongst other illnesses, you can’t bear to have another year like the one you’ve just had.

I saw a meme on Facebook yesterday that loudly proclaimed that 2018 would be a better year. Really? Who said? How do you know that 2018 will be a better year? Yes, I guess we can hope. And hope is all important, especially on this occasion, but what if 2018 is a worse year? Who’s to say it won’t be?

In her (and my) younger years, my mother used to like greeting her family first thing on New Year’s Day morning with a chirpy “Happy New Year”. That’s fair enough, isn’t it? I should add that she wasn’t out late celebrating the night before, and she didn’t drink so wasn’t nursing a hangover.

Lots of people will be saying ‘Happy New Year’ on Monday. I admit that I cringe every time I hear it. The first year I was suffering from Major Depressive Disorder and was quietly (I mean I hadn’t admitted it to my parents even though I was staying at their home) desperately suicidal she was a bit stuck. And so for the next following years (too many to count), she would skip the “Happy New Year” and give me a “Well, I hope next year is better than last”. You can’t argue with her thinking, but I didn’t want to even know I was facing another year. “Mum, can’t we just skip this and get on with breakfast?”

My mother hoped that the next year would be better, and I can look back and be thankful that she hoped on my behalf because hope was completely beyond me. It’s funny (okay, well not really at all) that I am left thinking about the year ahead in terms of both my mother and myself. This time I need to hold the hope for her.

I can say with certainty that because of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2018 won’t be easy on Mum. It’s a disease that just keeps getting worse. There’s no chance of recovery and there’s no chance that 2018 will be a better year than the one we’ve just had. The disease will continue to destroy her, bit by bit. There will be less and less of a functioning brain. How do you celebrate New Year when that is ahead of you?

My hope for Mum is that her suffering is eased by the love of those around her, even those who she no longer knows. My hope is that she won’t feel alone or scared. My hope is that she will have peace.

I’m inclined to think that those hopes were something of what Mum has hoped for me, particularly in my many years of disabling mental illness. What is sad is that Mum and I didn’t have, in those years, a relationship in which she could share that with me. We weren’t close, and she and I both knew that much of what she might try to say usually ended in harsh words. It was safer to keep the silence between us. Thankfully, our relationship has changed, although too late to have those conversations.

Mum no longer comprehends that I struggle with illness of any sort. When I can’t visit her, I tell her why but she doesn’t remember the past years nor the journey I have been on. That’s probably a good thing (if any good can be found in her suffering). Maybe it means that she can join in the New Year celebrations at the dementia care facility where she lives. If she can have hopes, maybe she can hope that 2018 is better for both of us. She doesn’t understand that illness deems that unlikely.

But hey, if you’re going out to celebrate New Year with friends or family, have fun. Be safe. And take a moment to think about what you hope for in 2018.

I leave you with a quote. I read this today and was inspired by it. Maybe you will be too. I guess it is my hope for myself for the coming year. To be nobody but myself in 2018.

“To be nobody but yourself in a world
which is doing its best day and night to make you like
everybody else means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”
― E.E. Cummings

Thanks for reading

 

Cate