Jacques Thillet – a friend and hospice nurse – wrote this on his Facebook today. He was generous enough to allow me to post it here on my blog. Jacques…you are such a great person and great nurse!!
What if you could see your souls reflection? Would your mirror image reflect the intention or would your actions paint a different picture? When a friend is need do you assist without condition, do you need reciprocity or do you require no demands?
What if We walk our journey alone? In our daily walk would we be joined at different parts of our trek by friends, family and lovers? Would we walk in tandem or would our path be Still be our own. Our actions solely ours to own and to embrace.
Our journey of a million steps that for all begin with a single step, the single first step. Through our adventures our first steps unsteady, unsure and wobbly, those steps then becoming natural and a reflex with very little thought. Through our infancy our gait, at first challenging, but developing quickly into trot. Through our life then becoming a Run through the moments, running through the stages, running through from childhood to adulthood until our steps become unsure in our older years. Again the steps unsure and challenging.
What if, ? with each step and each breath we in our life’s travels, breathed with intention, we lived each moment not in a hurry but rather in blissful surrender to the moment. What if we lived with Compassion, not only for others but also for ourselves. What If we could walk with softness, not in leaps to get to our future but rather with mindful observance of all those things we do pass by? What if we could walk hand in hand in spiritual observance of the wondrous love that is life. Accepting of our differences and embracing the gifts those differences truly are.
When I was about 23 years old I got my very first tattoo. It was during my “breakdown”. I went to get an armband tattoo but saw this beautiful dragon intertwined with a Yin Yang. It covers my shoulder blade and I still love it to this day. I wore a Yin Yang necklace – looked for anything that had a Yin Yang. The dragon in Asian culture is a symbol of wisdom, peace and strength. Both of these were the things that my soul was scratching to get back to. The guilt and shame I felt for being so sick, guilt of all the mistakes I made and was still making, guilt of failing myself, my daughter, my family….it buried me. There was not enough sleep or alcohol to make the monster stop. It was eating away at me – so my tattoo – was one of the first strikes I made against it…the war had started.
Now – most would think that I believe that guilt is unnecessary. On the contrary – without guilt we would have no conscious (or we would never had made mistakes to feel guilty about but we know that isn’t going to happen.) You see – we as human beings – lack but strive for balance in our life. Unfortunately when our balance is thrown off – we overcompensate and then slide into the ditch. Instead of turning into the skid – we jerk the wheel and either crash lightly or keep rolling down the hill. What we fail to recognize is first what we really should feel guilty for and then what to do with it.
I feel guilty about many things I have no control over. At the same time I have felt guilty over things I completely have control over – and rightly so. I recently recognized with the advice of a very good friend and mentor – that I “retreat” when things go wrong. If I can’t keep in touch with all of my many friends (that I am so blessed to have) on a “timely basis” I feel guilty – so I either don’t call or just text (wimpy!) If I fail at a project or a goal I feel guilty that I let my team or leadership down – I back away – I retreat (hiding!) If I get my kids to bed too late I feel guilty – like I’m not a good mother – so I brush it off and tell myself it will never happen again (unrealistic!) When I am under pressure financially because of things in or out of my control – I feel like I have failed my entire family and those that have helped me along the way – so I stop balancing my checkbook for a while until forced to (denial). All this is driven by guilt and I handle it wrong.
Things I should feel guilty for – if I lie to someone about something important, hurt someone for no reason, don’t fulfill a promise simply because I didn’t “feel” like it, or just over promise knowing I can’t meet that promise ! We all have the things we should feel guilty for and those things we shouldn’t. But let me tell you what we should actually use our guilt for – an alarm system. That’s it. Put the batteries in and when smoke happens guilt should be our alarm then we have to decide if we need to take action to call the fire department or if it was a false alarm that we could have avoided.
You see guilt when held onto is nothing but destructive and actually is the easy way out. We think that if we feel guilty that it means we are actually a good person. If we hold onto the guilt then we are really sorry. I call bull shit (and I call it on myself). We hold onto it because we don’t want to deal with what it was that we did and change ourselves so that it doesn’t happen again. We don’t go to rehab because we just feel guilty and don’t want to talk about it. We don’t talk to our partner about an infidelity because we feel guilty so why would they need to know? But guess what – unending guilt makes us worse. It is harder to DEAL with our problems than to let go of our guilt. It is harder to FORGIVE ourselves than to believe that guilt will somehow hang on a cross for us to rid us of our sin.
Now to the guilt over the things we can’t control. Things we shouldn’t really feel guilty for but do. That is a “false alarm” but it is one that still has to be dealt with. If we let something boil over on the stove – the alarm may go off in your home. Do you just let it continue to go off? Do you call the fire department even though you aren’t in danger? NO! So to continue to feel guilty over something that we logically shouldn’t is like calling in the Army to deal with a cockroach. We need to figure out why we really feel guilty and use that as an alarm letting us know we need to change the situation in a way that makes sense. I, for example, feel guilty that I can’t talk to all of my friends all the time. I am letting them down. Well, you know what? My friends know I have a big family, big responsibilities and that if they needed me to be – I would be there for them and give them a kidney. No I don’t have time to call everyone or even see everyone but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love them just the same. If they don’t know that – then I just need to tell them – oh..just did.
I am sooo not perfect and everyday I realize something else about myself and you know today was the day to DEAL with my guilt and to stop retreating without warning. Its hard – but I’m a warrior and so are you. Use guilt as a temporary feeling, deal with the emotions, change, forgive yourself and others and let it go. Guilt doesn’t make you a better person – it just makes you a person.
I don’t get tired of describing her….bright red hair, spunky, small hands, a bit eccentric – and so loving. I can think back now and hear the sadness in her voice. The sadness that would swallow her in the dark and tell her she was all alone. The sadness that prompted her to tell me to “Never kill yourself – you’ll go to hell”. The sadness that engulfed her some days so much that getting out of bed seemed impossible. The sadness that eventually killed her – took her from me and left me with so many questions. No, I didn’t see it then. She would tell me things about some of the abuse she suffered from her husband and how she cried out for Jesus. I witnessed the breakdown of her and her daughter over how the rest of my family treated them – like outsiders. But I didn’t know then how very lost she was. She did everything she could to lift me up. She made me feel pretty and smart and loved. Other than my parents she was the one that came to my Baptism and my first piano recital. She would be the one to come pick me up in her bright blue Firebird and make me feel “cool” even if just for the amount of time I rode in her car. She brought me the book “Makeup for Blondes” to help me learn how to apply makeup the right way (nix the makeup line.) I still have that book.
The day it happened was surreal. I was 12 years old – I hadn’t seen Sue in about 2 months. I wasn’t sure at the time what was going on. My family wasn’t very forthcoming with anything. My Uncle Danny and cousin Suzanne came to the house to tell us that Sue shot herself. My mom asked if she was ok. They looked at us like we were crazy and said…”No..she’s dead!”. I remember mom calling my dad – Sue’s brother. She had written many suicide notes according to the police, lit the house on fire, put a towel under her bedroom door, played Christian music on her radio then took a gun and shot herself in the stomach. I honestly don’t know if she died instantly. I never saw the notes. I never saw the letter that I knew she wrote to me. All I know is that I lost a woman that I loved dearly.
The next thing I remember is the funeral. I don’t remember the feelings before the funeral or any of the conversations until then – just the funeral. We walked in and I can remember the smell of the lilies – to this day I can’t stand the smell. She was laying in her casket…so still and so pretty. Even in death she was stunning to me. My dad went out on the funeral homes porch and cried. I went out and tried to comfort him. I told him that she was ok and was in Heaven. It didn’t really comfort him – he just cried more. I felt defeated. My family sat in the back pews. I didn’t really understand why then but found out later they didn’t want to sit next to my uncle or anywhere close to him. Three months after Sue’s death he moved in with his new wife – to the same house where she took her life. Very telling.
I don’t remember what was said at the funeral, or her being buried. Just her in the casket. For years she had threatened so many times to kill herself before – with aspirin or anything on hand. My dad or someone else would go to the house, wait her out, and be there when she emerged from her bedroom promising that she didn’t really mean it. But this time…the final time…she didn’t call anyone. She just ended it. My family blamed medications (she had just survived cancer). I blame ignorance by others and society and depression. I understand now that she didn’t really want to die…she just wanted it to end. The hatred, the doubt, the sadness – all of it to end because she wasn’t living.
For a while I didn’t want to tell people that I named my first daughter after her. Her full name was Lydia Sue Poole Smith. I didn’t want people to think that it was wrong to name my daughter after a woman who killed herself. It became Sue’s identity for a while – the woman who killed herself. But now…my daughter Lydia is a radiant woman – just like Sue. Sue’s identity was not how she ended her life but by the impact she made in her life. I do not believe that those who take their own lives go to hell – honestly that is ridiculous (although growing up in the Bible Belt it was a question). I know that she is finally okay. I have stopped blaming myself for not calling her (yes even at 12 years old). She was in so much pain – a pain that I too have felt but did not want to leave others with the same questions that she had left.
She was an amazing woman. I only wish I could let her know now how much she impacted my life in such wonderful ways. If she could have only seen that – but the sadness…that dark devil…wouldn’t let her see it.
Mental illness is real – we like to push it to the background and believe that if we are “strong enough” that we can beat it. We can ignore it all we want – but all we are doing is allowing others to suffer. Sue was a wonderful loving person – but she is dead now because she never could see it. She had a veil of darkness that clouded her judgement. A veil that could have been lifted with treatment and understanding. I want to lift the veil – then we can ALL see the light.
I think that many may not understand why I have been using “Pink Warrior” as my title, team name, or anything. I assume most believe I just like pink and I consider myself a warrior. Well both are true, but not the reason for the name. In this name I find strength, understanding, patience, fierceness, compassion, hope, loyalty, honesty with some pink pizazz.
For a good part of my life I fought who I was..who I am. There was a time that I hated being a girl in school – at least one that wasn’t the prettiest, the most popular, or well spoken. I tried to cover my face with more makeup and hide my gapped teeth with my hand when I smiled. I was so sensitive and shy. My feelings would get hurt so easily and my heart ached for others in the same situation. As I got older I started enjoying who I was a bit more – maybe too much. Then a bad marriage with bad things made me once again hate being a sensitive woman so I decided to really toughen her up. I started being “direct” and “emotionless”. I became in a sense “one of the guys” but at the same time used my femininity to get what I thought I wanted but never showing my true self – so for a while – I hated pink. It used to be my favorite color – then it just signified my weaknesses.
Now – I know that Pink is what made me strong. Not the color – but actually embracing who I am. It can be anything for anyone – but for me it was Pink. I learned that being sensitive and caring doesn’t include being a pushover or a door mat. That I am strong because I am a woman – not in spite of being a woman. I also learned to accept people as who they show themselves to be. I may know that inside someone is “good” but I realized if they choose to be the opposite – then I must take that as truth. I have learned that I really do love others – a lot. My empathy as a woman is a wonderful gift that allows me to “feel” other’s emotions and truly help them how I can. My strength has helped me realize I don’t have to become their problem in order to help them.
So all of you – my friends, my Mary Kay Team, my awesome family….this is what I want you to know every time you say you are a part of the “Pink Warrior Team” and someone giggles a little…
A Pink Warrior is someone who…
…falls down and gets back up
…asks for help when they can’t get up on their own
…accepts others for who they are – regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc
…not only accepts others for who they are – but loves them for it
…who works everyday to accept themselves as who they are
…stands up for what is right
…uses whatever he or she is doing for good
…is a leader in one way or another
…can follow without resentment
…cries when they need to
…laughs every chance they get
…allows themselves to become angry
…learns to let go of anger and then to forgive
…serves others even when a “thank you” is never received
…allows themselves to be served – and then thank them for it
…finds something beautiful in everyone they meet
…is bold but not pushy
…makes mistakes – then owns them, learns from them, and fix them when they can
…understand that others make mistakes too
…does everything worth doing – to the best of their ability
…kicks fear in the ass
…kicks self doubt, hate, shame and guilt in the ass
So remember – when you are part of the Pink Warrior Team – It means you are a part of a group who rises above and when we can’t – we have others to help lift us. It isn’t just women – it is everyone that wants to be a part of this. I am Pink and I am a Warrior – and I am proud to be a part of it.
I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, teacher or football star. I am not one that enjoys others’ pain, I don’t like mistakes, I don’t find gain from others’ needs of my help. I’m NOT perfect, I’m NOT able to JUDGE anything, I am NOT God. What I am – is human. Simply and completely human. I have a gift – because of the things in my life that I chose to grasp instead of sweep away – to connect with others. I love that people who may have never talked with someone before about a “secret” find they can talk with me. The reason being is that I don’t keep those kinds of secrets. I pour them out to the world for all to see. My mistakes, my blunders, my successes, my strength and my weakness – all made me become who I am. Shame heals no one.
I am now opening up my “advice” column. Again – I can only give you what has worked for me, from wisdom that I have asked for from all the things in life. If you only give me a partial problem…my answer will only be geared toward what I know. I can’t fix your life – no one can…however maybe your road can be turned from shame, pain, or “crazy” to one that branches out like a tree with roots that are deep and fruit that can feed others in their weakness.
This isn’t about politics or religion – just issues – life issues. If any post is hateful, rude, vulgar it will be immediately deleted and never posted. I will not argue or give anyone the chance to argue here. All posts have to be approved before they are seen. You can remain anonymous… I will never post your name – just the issue and my answer.
So have at it…ask me anything…my advice may not be perfect…but I promise it will be real…
I got up that night crying and praying. I was so sick of thinking about the same thing over and over. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t make it stop. I thought maybe I’m just weak, or crazy, or making a big deal out of
nothing. At 14 years old I didn’t know who to really ask if it was normal – thinking about the same thought from morning till night. When I thought of something going good…it would come. “It” was its own entity. Creeping in to steal any joy from the day. I prayed – even hoping that my Aunt Sue could hear my dilemma from heaven (at least that is where I hoped she was). I finally broke down and told my mom about it – well some of it. I didn’t let her know how long or how often – just that it was bothering me. She could only give me advice based on what I told her…”just think of something else and pray about it.” Oh God if it had only been that easy! The thought…for the past year…everyday…was DEATH. I couldn’t escape it. If I thought to myself…”Wow I did a really great job on _______” the next thought that intruded was “But you are going to die one day so it really doesn’t matter.” Yes all day, everyday. I was so tired of it.
It hit me one day while talking to my boyfriend about dying. AIDS had really just started scaring the pants off people (no pun intended) and it made me think, really think about dying. From that day – us standing in the sun after church – the thought got “stuck”. I kept waiting for it to fade…go away…something. But no – it just built a little nest in the back of my good thoughts and I hated it. This was far from counting to 8 when the refrigerator door shut.
Two years prior to that my Aunt Sue had died very suddenly. I remember her vibrant, red hair. Her wonderful smile and her petite hands. She had fire in her belly and she would take me and walk with me as often as she could. Sometimes confiding in me things she shouldn’t but I’m now glad she did. I had no idea up to that point she had suffered from severe depression her entire life, threatening here and there to take her own life with aspirin. When we got the news…then it was very clear that she had struggled alone with much of it. She shot herself…in her home after lighting fire to the kitchen. I was and am still devastated. I will elaborate on this much more in depth later…but I feel this was a trigger for me to an already fragile mind because of self esteem, past family history, and current living conditions with my alcoholic father. So…I had hoped she could give me wisdom…from wherever she was – she always did.
So…I dealt with it, I cried over it, and finally it really just faded away over the next few months. Its like a storm had come and passed. I didn’t speak of it anymore…but what a warning it was for events to come. I was just happy it stopped so I didn’t think too much on it after that. No one knew that they should think about it for me…
I remember walking into the shelter that day after seeing her picture online. As soon as I saw her photo with her sad blue eyes I knew she was a very special dog. Can’t tell you why – I just knew. I thought she may be deaf because she was pure white and with those light eyes the probability was high. I already had a soft spot for deaf doggies because of Dazy – a story for another time. My daughter and I were led back by one of the workers, got her out of the small cage and let us spend some time with her. She was as special as I thought she would be ((turned out her hearing was just fine). I knew then that her name would be Angel – and she would not be euthanized that day. It was her last day and we were there. Her spirit was so gentle and loving. She loved the workers there at the shelter and they felt the same about her – her tail just wagged when she saw any of the workers or people visiting.
To finish the adoption process they had to take Angel back to her cage as I signed the paperwork. I then had to go back to where she was to officially identify her as the dog I wanted to adopt at which point they would transport her to the veterinarian’s office to be examined, spayed and micro-chipped He led me through a set of large, gray doors only to quickly close them – but not before I saw all the animals lying on a table that had just been euthanized. They had been gently laid down, all next to one another. My eyes got big and he turned and apologized over and over. He had a sad look on his face and said he thought they had all been cleaned up. Surprisingly I wasn’t as upset as I may have been several years ago – I understood. For the one dog I was adopting that day I saw several cats, kittens, dogs and puppies all brought to the shelter. I had only made room for one more. In less than an hour so many animals were brought in but I was one of two there that came to adopt. For all of the rescues in our area that work hard everyday to rescue animals then to try and find homes for them – double the number they save are brought in every day! My mind, in that moment, was changed…
We all think that the kill shelters are doing this horrible thing. We want to blame government or someone else for the animals that die in shelters. Well – that is garbage. It is every person’s fault that does not report a stray animal, that doesn’t have his or her animal spayed or neutered, that just lets strays wander thinking that they have a “chance” because the shelter will just “kill them”. We think we need more rescues – no – we need more educated people on what our shelters do and can’t do and what we have to do in order to really save these animals lives.
A starving animal isn’t happy. An animal that keeps having litters and litters is not happy. An animal that has to dodge traffic, wild animals, and cruel humans is not happy. An animal stuck in a cage at a rescue facility for months is not happy. An animal at an animal shelter isn’t happy either – but the unhappy time is at least limited. They aren’t trapped for months, they aren’t starving – and when not adopted they are put to sleep when necessary. What is their alternative? Well – is everyone that hates that animals are being put to sleep going to go and adopt at least 10 animals a month? Are we going to start taking the strays and having them altered so there won’t be more? Are we going to take every animal to the vet when they need to go? Are we going to actually stop when we see an animal hit by a car that is still alive and take it to the emergency vet? Probably not. This is what I do know.
First – if you want a cat or dog go to the shelter first. For a fraction of the cost of a rescue group your new pet will be spayed/neutered, have all of its shots up to date, micro-chipped and saved. For everyone we adopt the rescues don’t have to go in a save them.
Second – if you own an animal – and yes the cat you feed that is the neighborhood cat is your responsibility too – have it spayed or neutered. There are low-cost spay neuter clinics all over the country (I’m talking $40-$100 max and many are free!) There are so many programs available now that are really trying to reduce the number of unwanted litters. Click here to find these clinics in North Carolina.
Third – if you are facing a financial hardship and you think you may have to give up your pet – there are also programs available out there that help you keep your pet! Do your research! Start with your local animal shelter – trust me they want you to keep your pet.
Fourth – Know the numbers…in 2011 in Gaston County alone – 4151 dogs were brought to the shelter – of those 1459 were euthanized (35%). 2234 were adopted out and 395 were returned safely to their owners. 3835 cats were brought to the shelter, 2518 were euthanized (65% – a huge difference from the percent of dogs), 1182 were adopted out and only 57 were returned to their owners (2011 Shelter Report). For every female cat that is spayed, approximately 18 kittens are prevented from being born into unwanted circumstances (North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association).
Fifth and finally – Be kind to the shelter workers – volunteer to help – donate money – but don’t just sit a criticize if you are doing nothing to help the situation. They have a job to do because so many of us have not.
I have started a fundraising initiative to raise $1000 to be donated to the Gaston Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic. This could help alter up to 50 cats and prevent up to 900 unwanted kittens from being born this year. I have started with cats because they are the ones most euthanized in shelters because of the extreme overpopulation. Please click the below link to donate – for every $38 donated you will receive a Mary Kay Satin Hands Set. If you want to donate the Satin Hands Set I will take them to the shelter and clinic so the workers and volunteers will feel valued as well.
So – Angel was saved that day – but so many more were lost…I want to prevent that from happening.
It’s funny to me how people always talk about the long road to recovery from mental issues. They describe it as a long, drawn out, painful, seemingly impossible feat. It doesn’t matter what they are recovering from really – addiction, abuse, depression, obsessive disorders, etc. What they talk about is very true don’t get me wrong – but I rarely hear them talk about the road to the actual thing they had to recover from. Most people don’t wake up one day and think, “Man – my life is great – I think I’ll go ahead and get addicted to Meth – who needs teeth” or “I’m so happy all the time – great childhood, great life – let’s change it up..I’m going to be really depressed today – so back to bed!” No – it doesn’t happen that way (usually – there may be that odd ball statistic out there that says otherwise – but I’m going with my gut on this one.) Typically – as it was with me – it is a very long road to what I lovingly call “crazy”.
Crazy is what I claim. I know – there are all kinds of people out there really trying to get rid of that word because they believe it is too derogatory. Well guess what – I’m going to print a t-shirt that says – I’M CRAZY BUT I TAKE ZOLOFT SO I’M COOL. Do you have any idea where that comes from? My defiance to bottling it in some “pretty” label? It comes from the fact that I am so very NOT ashamed of my mental issues. I have no problem with the fact that I had a nervous breakdown, that I struggled with severe anxiety and obsessive thoughts since I was 6 years old, that it took me years to finally find the right equation to fit my life to equal sanity (or my definition of sanity). Why you ask? Because mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of – but it is something to face head on – take seriously – not hide – and something we must actively work on so to keep our minds as healthy as they can be. You see – shame doesn’t help anyone to be healed or deal with their issues. Actually it’s just a tool to keep people down. Shame sucks. So I threw it out the door – screaming.
My “road to crazy” started when I was born. I was born into a family where both my father and mother’s family histories were wrought with stories of severe mental illness, addiction, abuse, suicide, depression, etc. Now I’m not going to argue whether or not it is inherited completely. I’m not a doctor. However as much as my parents tried to shelter me from all of the issues of our family and their own issues – the “crazy” crept up on me – slowly. The earliest thing I remember was trying to count to 8 before the refrigerator door closed – and if I made it to 8 – then the rest of the day was going to be ok. Most could brush that off as a silly thing a little 6 year old girl might do for fun – I did it every day for quite a while – but at that age I didn’t know that I should probably let someone know that this was the way I would get through my day. 8 comforted me I think because I loved music and singing – so counting in “4’s” seemed natural. Crazy right?
Flash forward 15 years when horrible, unwanted thoughts were crowding my head. It was like a cloud of Hell over my head and in my soul. The “real me” was there – fighting and exhausted. I withdrew from the ones I loved for fear of hurting them. From morning to night I had the same, awful, intrusive thoughts over and over and over. I stopped caring for my 3 year old daughter when it happened so my parents had to take over. They didn’t understand why I couldn’t just “snap out of it”. However I didn’t tell them how vivid and terrifying fears had become. How I couldn’t even imagine giving the little girl that I loved so much a hug because in my mind my hands and arms became razor blades. So even imagining being near her was terrifying. I drank to make my mind slow – had sex to numb my body. All I really wanted was to be the mother I was before I broke completely.
Now from 6 years old to 21 years old – I didn’t live this perfect, untarnished life. It was my road to crazy – a very long one. One that I will share bits at a time. My recovery however was a leap onto the highest mountain – screw long roads – sometimes you just gotta take a bull by the horns.