Apparently I have completely neglected some regions of this fine country of ours. If I had the money, I'd pack my bags & hit the road.
Does it count that I mainly "visited" West Virginia and Virginia by going to that place where the corners of WV, VA, & MD all meet? LOL I really only have memory of that...I know we were staying in MD, so that definitely counts! I was 8 or 9. Not too much can be expected of me.
While I would love to tour the South, and find an Alaskan cruise intriguing, I have no desire to visit Hawaii, which most people don't understand. But if I did, I would probably want to give the beaches a skip. Just not my cup of tea--except for sunset pictures and shell collecting. Laying out? No!!! I also have no desire to visit Florida. Just doesn't call to me as other places do. But I am sure if someone gave me a trip, I would find something charming to do in each place.
As for the other blank states, I'm willing, but the body and bank account are both weak. But perhaps some day I will have the chance to fill in a few more states.
Thursday, November 6
I am an Empath.
I feel...deeply. Not just my own feelings. But those of others. I pick up on the feelings of those around me: people I know, people I don't know--even neighborhoods, or houses, or stores. I don't like shopping in many thrift stores as I smell and feel death and despair all around me. I love touring houses for sale, but can often pick up on whether the family was mostly happy, sad, or violent.
I am an empath. I am not a psychic. I just feel deeply. I can often pick up on the feel of neighborhoods. I can tell if I am walking (literally) into evil (a story for another time--a story of a Halloween past).
I am an empath. I pick up on the feelings of others--in stores, in the work place, in strangers, and especially in friends and family. I feel their joy and their grief as though it were my own. I will feel their injustices as my own. God forbid someone hurt them.
Being an empath is the ability to sense the feelings and emotions of others, without their telling us, verbally, what they are thinking and feeling. Often, someone who is an empath needs to learn basic shielding techniques - otherwise, they can find themselves feeling drained and exhausted after absorbing the energies of others.***
Funny thing is, or perhaps it's because of all this, I have a hard time sorting out my own feelings at times. My mom will point out that I seem pensive or snappy or off--and then I will sit and sort through things and suddenly it will all pour out with the most minor thing coming out first and the heaviest thing last. And it will usually be a build up of things--and they won't just be about me. It will include things about friends who are dealing with things too.
Want a for instance? After being crabby with my mom last night (and telling her I wasn't--LOL), I all of sudden paused the TV show we had been watching and in a flood of words (and tears) told her for an hour all that had been upsetting me:
...my medicare insurance sent me 5 huge books about upcoming changes in the insurance plan I currently carry. Um....I have suffered bain dramage...I mean brain damage...and that kind of paperwork doesn't just overwhelm me--it immobilizes me! And then I have guilt about not reading the pile of crap and not knowing what's happening and feeling immobilized, which makes it worse. And I have to read it and decide if I still want it. And if I don't, I have to research and find a different one. But instead, I'm just going to keep it...cuz, really, seriously, no one can expect me to do all that! Can they?
Ok, yeah, that was fairly minor. All things considered. But those things have been bogging me down since October.
...October. October. October 6th. Huge, deep, shuddering sigh. October 6th was the 4th angelversary of my friend Jill's baby son Joshua. Joshua was diagnosed, in utero with a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) that doctors didn't know if he would survive within the womb, but he did; and they weren't sure he would survive the surgeries needed to fix the heart once he was born. He surprised them by surviving the 1st. But while he was a brave as a lion, his heart wasn't strong enough and he passed away in his mother's arms while his daddy drove desperately to the hospital. My heart absolutely breaks for Jill and her family (not just on October 6th but year-round) as they continue to learn to walk through this life with one of their darling family members not here with them. When Jill grieves, I grieve with her. Deeply. When she talks of her eldest son's grief for his missing baby brother, my heart breaks. Yes, they are learning this new normal, but it is hard. Jill is an inspiration to me, but the things she has gone through, at the hands of cruel 3rd parties, no grieving mother should go through! And yet she has found hope and comfort in the arms of Christ Jesus. She's my hero. She's my friend. And I love her. (She also is the maker of Branwen, the special doll that Teagan & I play with, who is very special to us. She is also the founder of Joshie Dolls: she makes dolls for CHD children/families' with the exact scars that the children have. Absolutely incredible. And very healing for them!)
Isn't Joshie beautiful? Doesn't he have the deepest eyes?
And then October rolls, inexorably on into November. November.
The funny thing is autumn is my favorite season. The colors change--yellows, reds, oranges. The rain comes. The grass gets greener than you can believe.
I love November for all that.
But at the same time, I hate November.
...November...November...November 11, 2007 was the birth of the Madeline Spohr. I started reading her mama, Heather Spohr's blog, The Spohrs Are Multiplying back 2008, I think...after I had had to stop working due to illness and could just sit and read this fun blog. I freaking fell in love with Madeline (and the Spohr family--doggie Rigby included)! This spunky lil baby just captured my heart! She had been a premie who kicked statistics in the butt and went on to pretty much thrive. Notice I said pretty much. Because she was a miraculous premie, Maddie always had lung issues. Getting a cold was no simple thing with her--it was something to be avoided at all costs. Pneumonia could be deadly. Frankly, a cold could be deadly. And in April of 2009, it was. On April 7th, that incredible ray of sunshine was gone. It was such a shock. Of course to her parents, but also to the readers of Heather's blog--I mean WTH?!? Babies are not supposed to die!!!! (Though, of course, I knew they did as a former colleague of mine experienced the horror of child-loss through still birth just months before, in December 2008, actually, when my sister was heavily pregnant, scaring me to no end. The service was so sad, so horrible seeing that little tiny casket, seeing that empty armed mama and then Aaron not knowing what to do--there was his grief to deal with and hers--he wanted to comfort and protect her while not knowing what to do with his own grief.)
I've watched the Spohrs go through this process of grief for 5 years now, little knowing that they, their blog about their lives, would be paving the way for myself just a few months later. Through them I met Kristine (see below), and through Kristine, I met Jill. Six degrees of separation. The worst kind of separation. But I've watched them form a "new new" and seen them be blessed with 2 more incredible children...and loss another child to miscarriage. Heather also lost her best friend to brain cancer. Her best friend who had stood by their side through everything and had been their lifeline lost her own. I grieved so heavily, yes for Jackie as that time came, but mostly for Heather and also for Mike (Heather's husband) as he was once more grieving his own loss Jackie was also his friend, after all) while trying to comfort his wife during this traumatic time. I am an empath. I feel these things deeply because, as odd as it may sound, I've bonded with Heather, someone I've never met in person and I feel for her deeply. And, no, I'm not a stalker. November 11th, Maddie would have been 7. Jackie would have been 36 on the 13th. Days that were supposed to be happy are now bittersweet because the person is gone. Permanently. Maddie only had one birthday ever. One big party and one private little celebration with her mom & dad. They had cream puffs. We always have cream puffs November 11th in honor of Madeline.
Again...gorgeous eyes!! And that smile! Sunshine!
...November...November...November...Five years ago, November was supposed to have been such a great and exciting month for our family. Earlier in the year my sister & brother-in-law had just given birth to her 1st born and that November my brother and his wife were expecting their first born. The cousins would have been a fun 9 months apart. Instead...instead....without ever taking a breath outside of the womb, on November 12th, 2 days before his due date, my nephew Demetri passed away in utero. He was born the following day via (induced) natural birth. He was born the day after he died.
Our Little Angel
Our family's world was turned upside down. The grief was unbearable. No one was prepared for this disaster. No one could have foreseen. No one should have. But life went on. The "new new" as we learned it was called. We are still learning about it. There have been joys along the way--we were all blessed a couple years later with the birth of Demetri's little brother Dante. He is a joy and a blessing and a sweetheart! And he and his older cousin Teagan are thick as thieves! We all love seeing them together.
But grief is a process--a long one. But you start traditions that help get you through. My mom & I planted rose bushes for each of the grandchildren/nieces&nephews in the yard of the house we purchased together, but it started with planting a special rose bush for Demetri that we planted while at our rental house. It is a climbing rose bush, its branches reaching towards the heavens. It's a Josheph's Coat--the roses have many different colors--yellows, oranges, reds, and pinks of all different shades. I save and dry rose petals every summer. Each year on the 13th, we to a park near to where we live. It's beautiful there. It's a park--not a playground (though there is one of those there too). A river runs through it. There are trees, birds, plants, ducks, nature, all around. There's trails for walking, biking, etc. And there is an arched bridge over the river. Each year we go there together and quietly meditate and silently talk to Demetri and scatter rose petals into the river. I take pictures. Of us. Of the river. Of the petals. Of the changing trees. And it brings peace. The empath in me needs that.
Last year I was sick. Too sick to go. I seriously couldn't move out of bed, due to pain, for over a week. I've felt guilty for a whole year about that. Which is really stupid. Because Demetri wouldn't have cared. Had he lived and had it been his birthday party that I had had to miss, he would have been sad, I would have been sad, but neither one of us would have felt guilty for a whole effing year, for god's sake!!! If the party had been at our house, he would have come upstairs for a cuddle & a kiss & that would have been just fine. Why do I carry stupid, useless guilt like that around with me? Why? Don't know. But I did.
And besides our own grief over losing Demetri, there was also the grief of watching his parents grieve--or try to grieve...to try to continue to breathe...continue to live...to make the motions...to eventually find a new normal for themselves. Losing a child is the hardest thing a couple can go through. In fact, most couples who lose a child eventually divorce. It may not be immediately. It may be a few years down the line. Losing a child changes a person, sometimes so radically that a marriage cannot survive. If there were fissures in a marriage prior to child-loss, the earthquake of child-loss can cause the structure of marriage to topple. Not always, but often. Heather Spohr wrote about child-loss and marriage:
This time, in this case, it toppled. Not immediately. But after years of living separately together, Demetri's parents are divorcing. [See how I distanced myself there?] My brother, my sweet, darling, baby brother (who of course is a grown man!) is going through another loss: that of divorce. Whether you want the divorce or not, it's still another loss. And I don't just feel his pain. I feel her pain too. She may have wanted this--but as I said: loss is loss and divorce is not an easy thing. And what does one do with the previous 13+ years of relationship? That cannot simply be tossed away. They have memories that belong only to them--both good and bad; they are theirs and no one else's.
Additionally, our families have melded and that isn't easily undone--and frankly, shouldn't be. Because despite a marriage coming to an end, there is, always, two children common between us all. And one is still here and needs us all. And needs us all to be at peace with one another.
But in the meantime, it sucks, but that's the way it is. I think, sadly, it is hardest on Dante. I could say a lot of what I see him going through trying to figure it all out, but I won't. Let's just say, I carry it for & with him, as well as with my brother. I have a hard time talking with my brother. I don't know why. But I would, quite literally, die for him, if need be and to see him struggle with all of the hurt and pain of the past years has shattered me. He is an incredible parent and I wish he had both his boys with him, but I am so very, very glad, for Dante's sake, that James is the daddy he is. I am so glad that they are together full time. They need each other. They are good for each other. They, them together, are the part of this story that makes my heart sing!
Look at the absolute love there!
But overall, the journey from the initial horror of grief through to the new normal to relative healing (because it's all relative) has be good for all of us...though our love and desire for Demetri never leaves us.
...November...November...November 30, 2009, a pretty little girl named Cora was born. She was perfect in every way. Every way except for her undetected broken heart. A simple pulse oxometer test performed prior to leaving the hospital after she was born might have caught it. Instead, she died in her mother's arms in the middle of the night, 5 days later. Her mother, Kristine, was the 1st person whom I really connected with after Demetri died. She didn't care that I was his aunt, not his mom. We would be on Facebook for hours talking about the horror of sudden child-loss. Cora was her 1st born. Kristine, in her grief, in her daughter's name, has gone on to do incredible things for our nation in regards to saving the lives of infants. She got a law passed in her own state, Cora's law, that mandated that all hospitals, and all home births, be required to perform a pulse ox test not just after birth but 48 hours after birth to check that the oxygen saturation levels in the baby's blood--if they are low, tests can be performed to check on the child's hearts and lungs. A simple pulse ox test, non-invasive, in-expensive, life-saving. I love that she did all that while in the depths of despair. She also helped others get this same law passed in their states too. And much, much more.
Kristine has done amazingly well, especially as of late, in her journey through grief and healing. But still, every year, as these anniversaries roll round, birth and death I feel her loss anew. One can move on in life, but one never, ever, ever forgets or gets over the death of one's child. EVER.
...I will be forever grateful to Kristine, Jill, and Heather who accepted me, a grieving aunt, into their world--that of child-loss grief, as I felt my nephew's loss so deeply and felt I had no where to turn. There aren't really support systems out there for aunts. And you see, I've come to fully realize that during this time, I don't just grieve Demetri's death, I grieve my loss at never getting to be a mother, as well. From the time I was about 12 or 13, I have carried with me the deep desire to not just be a mother but to carry a child within me. I had been considering IVF when I got sick and learned that my brain was so fragile, that had I become pregnant, it would have killed me (yup, seriously, straight from the neurologist's mouth!). So yeah, that sucked. I found that out in 2008. I went through a lot of counseling concerning this. We lost Demetri in Nov 2009 and because of the health issues that came with my fluctuating hormones, I had a full hysterectomy in March of 2010.
On the one hand, it was the best decision I've ever made: no more hormone fluctuations; no more migraines, no more useless internal organs. I thought it would stop my yearnings. I thought I'd gone through enough counseling. But I think because I'd had these desires and yearnings for something like 26-27 years, it's not like you can just blink and the feelings will go away. Proverbs 13:12 says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire is fulfilled it is a tree of life." (King James 2000 version). It is hard to get over a permanent deferred hope. I find that, for some reason, I really grieve over this in November. Perhaps it is because a really dear friend of mine really hit the nail on the head when I called to tell her about Demetri when she said that she knew I was going to feel this loss as though it were my own. She was so very, very right. I do and then I feel my own loss. The loss of my own dreams and desires. I may no longer have any of the organs necessary to conceive, but the longing has never gone away. I wonder if it ever will? In the meantime, I grieve my loss of a child I never had in November (and at Mother's Day).
...So, yeah: October & November are a heavy months for me. And those are the expected things. Then there comes unexpected things:
*a friend who thought she might have breast cancer (false alarm, thank God!).
*a birthday notice from Facebook for a friend who passed away from cancer last spring (ugh).
*one of my mom's oldest and dearest friends battled breast cancer over 20 years ago. It came back a couple years ago. It's spread. This time it's winning. And I hate it. I grieve for & with her. And her husband. And her kids. And my mama who is there for her friend. She knows that when Judy needs her, she needs to just go! I'll be here praying (& crying).
*my sister's mother-in-law has been battling cancer for some time now, and it moved into her brain. While she came through one open brain surgery well, the surgeons couldn't reach it all, and now it has spread, not just in her brain but to other places in her body--she can actually feel a couple in her leg. I freaking hate cancer. I hate that Mama Sue is going through this. I hate that Papa Tom is going through it--but love how he is standing by her. I hate what each one of her children and each one of their spouses is going through. And then I think of their 11 grandchildren--really 12 because Dante calls them Mama Sue and Papa Tom too. I hate the idea of Sue potentially not being at family gatherings. I grieve for each one of them--Sue, Tom, their 4 kids, their 4 spouses, all those grandkids, all those extended family members (like us!) and friends. Sue's love is far-reaching.
...So, I guess I've had a lot on my mind. On my internal shoulders, so to speak. And it takes me a long time to sort through all that and put it into words. And I guess what tipped me over the edge was that someone near and dear to my heart was at our house last night and said something snippy and rude to me that hurt my feelings. Guess it was the last straw. It was something stupid. But it was enough. Plus she phrased her insult with the words, "Your mama said...blah, blah, blah about you & your behavior." Double slap. (Even though I knew my mom never would have said such a thing about me because a) she doesn't gossip and b) the comment was true, but still...)
So yeah.... I am an empath. And last night I had a bit of a breakdown. A fairly mild one, considering. Just a few tears (one tissue's worth), a lot of words. And a lot of sorting through all of the above.
*** If you want to read more about empaths, I liked this article. Keeping in mind that most articles I've found tend to put "empaths" in categories with pagans, wiccans, and psychics, please note that I am using this new, trendy term for something I came to understand about myself years ago: I carry other people's feelings so I can pray for them: I am not just an empath, I am an intercessor. While in the ministry, I also participated in counseling or inner-healing, which is actually referred to in this article, but Jesus was always the focus.
He still is. I rely on him to get me through everything in my life: my illnesses. My own disappointments. My own griefs. My own joys. And, most definitely, the joys & griefs I carry for/with others. As I've said before: He's not my crutch; He's my stretcher! I've tried to learn how much I can carry without being completely unbalanced in my own life. So, unlike this article, I no longer deal with the imbalance of all of the items listed, though I can certainly relate to almost everything on her list. I may feel the heaviness, at times, (like now) but it is because I choose to, not because I cannot help to.***
Some of Demetri's Roses, 2014