Sunday, March 27, 2011

So Big Love

I'm sitting in my brother's cozy kitchen, far from home (in Minnesota), listening to classical music and using his wife's laptop to check into Words Paint for the first time in several weeks. Can I even begin to write about my feelings and the events of the past two weeks? Where to start?

Family... my family in two parts.... my biological father... leaving my mother, younger brother and me so suddenly, a car accident taking his life 5 days after my fifth birthday. We were in California then, along with our grandparents and the extended family. Mom went back to college, thinking it was the only way she'd be able to support two kids; brother and I went to live with our paternal grandparents.

In college, Mom met Ed, who two years later became our step-dad. We packed up the car and moved to Minnesota, where Ed had just gotten a job teaching at the University. There started the second part of the family... Three more kids and down the road 4 grand kids and just recently a great grand kid.

Ed, bless his beautiful heart, died in 2006. Mom, missing him terribly after 59 years of the happiest and most congenial marriage I've ever seen, started to have health problems, which eventually lead to a need for nursing home care. Last January mom turned 94.

Two weeks ago, she developed pneumonia (again) and a high fever. They started her on a round of antibiotics and for a while we thought she might recover as she has in the past. A week ago Wednesday morning, my sister-in-law called to say her fever was down. But later the same day, it spiked again, higher than before. By Thursday evening, it looked like Mom might not make it. She was not rousing at all and her breathing was labored. Friday evening, March 18th, she died without waking, one of my brothers and his wife at her side.

I was not there. I have some mixed feelings about that, even though they tell me she seemed to be unaware of anything from Wednesday through the end. We don't know, do we? We just don't know what a dying person knows, what awareness they have, through which of their senses... Did she know all of the Minnesota family members, her grand kids and even the great grand baby, were in her room the day she died, holding her hands, wiping her brow, talking to her, stroking her cheeks? We don't know if she felt the love we all have for her surrounding her during this final journey. I don't know if my thoughts and prayers reached her.

Mom and I have always been close. We're alike in many ways. We look similar and have many of the same mannerisms. We share many interests... always have. Even in my rebellious years, I always got along with her. Or maybe I should attribute that to her... SHE got along with me... I've always admired and respected her, everything about her. I can't even begin to think how much I will miss her. I haven't really been able to go there yet in my mind.

Wednesday I few "home" to Minnesota to be with the Minnesota part of the family and to attend the memorial service which we had on Friday. I am so grateful to be here, to have had the opportunity to share this family time of grief and mourning. We've cried and we've laughed together, held onto each other, looked at pictures.

But under it all, I feel numb. I recognize that I'm holding back my emotions; not totally feeling my feelings, staying in my head, not allowing much of my heart to show. I've been eating a lot... not my abstinence foods, but much more snacking and larger meals than my plan allows. It doesn't seem to matter to me right now. Comfort. I'm looking for comfort and finding it partially in food, partially in sticking close to my siblings.

I'm the eldest family member now, at least on my parent's side of the family, a 68-year-old matron of the clan. I think at least three of my four siblings look at me that way. I don't know how I feel about that... I can not fill my mother's shoes, that's for sure. Dearest Mother, if only I could.

One thing I do know for sure... My mother's love surrounds me somehow... it is with me wherever I go, forever. And my love surrounds her too, wherever she is, forever. That part is absolute.

So tonight, with gratitude that she didn't have a long, suffering, painful departure, I send her a kiss and a soooooooooooooooo big love.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chip Alert Level: HIGH

Eating out of fear.
Fear as a major root of self destructive behaviors.

Fear is the subject of this post. Not for the faint of heart...

For starters, my husband and I are watching a Great Courses lecture series, Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition. A few nights ago, we learned about Thomas Hobbes, who asserted that people are ruled not by reason but by passions, especially the desire for power and the fear of violent death.

Hobbes' philosophy resonates with me a bit, getting me to think about fear... fear of making a mistake, fear of not being worthwhile, fear of being the first to arrive at the scene of a terrible automobile accident, fear of being alone, fear of falling, fear of terminal illnesses, fear of loss and being lost. This list could go on an on. If Hobbes is right, our fears lead us to seek security. For me, food is a security blanket which can temporarily warm me against the deep chill of fear.

What other defenses do I have?

Thursday night my husband checked, seeing the first reports of the tragic events that are still unfolding in Japan. We turned on CNN and watched in dismay as the visual impact of the destruction of life and property by the earthquake and tsunami grew ever more frightening.

After about an hour, I said, "I need some chips." My husband said, "Me too." He brought out a large unopened bag of chips and we both dove into it. Handfuls of chips were stuffed mindlessly into a mouth by a hand that was oddly disassociated... mine, but not mine... and consumed with minimal awareness while I remained glued to the TV screen.

In fact, rarely have chips been a problem food for me. I prefer sweet. But I'm abstinent on sweet. So that night, it was all about me using chips in an attempt to ward off fear.... What was that fear? Wasn't I witnessing our total and complete lack of control over our destiny? So then, is the mother fear, the fear under all the other fears, about not having control? Seems it might be.

Since then, more chips have found their way into my hands. Not a huge amount like the first time, but not on my food plan either. I want to stop my hands and ask their cooperation in exploring fear, to invite fear to expose herself fully to me, to allow fear and lack of control to sift through my body, to feel my feelings.

Back to the question about what other defences I might have against fear. What are some possibilities?
-- prayer, especially the Serenity Prayer
-- actions directly related to the fear
-- writing
-- community
-- shift of focus
-- anti-anxiety meds
-- living in the moment
-- making a bucket list
-- doing things on my bucket list
Well, that list contains more antidotes than I thought might be available to me. I bet there are even more.

Chip alert at the end of writing this post: somewhat lower.

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Today's gratitude: neighbor's chickens, time to sew, OA meetings, human generosity, my sisters-in-law

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sisterly Thoughts at 2 AM

I'm a night owl... always have been. I love the wee hours, the darkness and the quiet, a time when I can get things accomplished, when work happens quickly and efficiently.

My sister is like that too, maybe even more inclined than I to sleep in daylight hours and play at night. Fifteen years ago, when I lived in Seattle and ran a small bead business, she used to come to my house after she got off work at her second-shift job and we'd weigh or count, package and price beads I had bought in the Czech Republic. Good times, good memories of us chatting and working together from midnight until 3 or 4 AM. Her help and companionship were blessings to me in so many ways.

I always trusted her to know when to ask vs. when to make decisions on her own. She had an uncanny ability to question my decisions exactly when they were dubious. If I had a regular business with employees, I would hire her instantly and pay her top dollar.

Sadly, we've grown apart since those fun times together. She's married now with a grade-school-aged, adopted son. We still live in the same state, but not within easy visiting distance. I miss her, miss the closeness we had in beadland.

I'm the eldest in the family; she's the youngest. Sixteen years between us. For a long time, I was almost a mother figure in her life, maybe still am. Our mother worked full time, leaving me as her day-time babysitter during the summers. Often people thought she was my child.

After graduating HS, she moved into my home as a roommate, which sort of worked OK, except that we still had aspects of mother/daughter in our relationship. It wasn't until those nights of bead-sorting together, working together, that a more sisterly relationship finally emerged.

Both of us have food addiction issues. Both of us have struggled all our adult lives with obesity and diets. A few weeks ago when we talked on the phone, she said she needed to find a way to make a change, that her health was poor in several significant ways because of her weight and dismal eating habits. I told her about OA and suggested she give it a try.

I don't want to push her, knowing full well that it won't do any good. Yet, I love her so much and want the best for her, want her to find her way back from the death grip of addiction. I wish I knew how to help her.

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Today's gratitude: 53 degrees - yahooo, first motorcycle ride of the year - double yahoooo, my sister, my husband, deep purple crocus