Trees, Rain and Magic

There is a tree outside our house that can be seen from my bedroom window, the kitchen window and the deck. It is big, strong, healthy, beautiful tree and last week it started to don its fall attire. In one small section. Not even an eighth of its foliage had slipped into crimson colors. Dandelion and pumpkin colors huddled together, like the cool kids in a clique in high school.

Late yesterday afternoon, I took my book and went to my bedroom and assumed my default pre-teen pose: lying on my stomach across my bed, my legs bent at the knee and ankles crossed. I lay the book on the bed, propped myself up on a pillow and began to read.

In the background, my subconscious heard a noise. It was a comforting sound but one I didn’t really pay attention to until I realized that it was the rain. It was raining hard. I popped up off of the bed and went to the window. It was dark at 5:00, very dark. I opened the window as far as it could go and leaned on the frame of the window, my head resting on the screen.

Immediately my eyes were drawn to the tree. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the kaleidoscope of colors, seemingly waving to me.

I thought of Natalie. How I wished she could see this, with me. My chest and heart were heavy with sorrow and I started my own downpour.

The rain was thick and cold. It hit the concrete patio with a slap. Slap! Slap! Slapslapslapslapslap!

“I wish you were here Nat” I said to myself.

Then it happened.

The rain that had been pounding the ground, the earth, the concrete stopped falling down and fell sideways.

It rained sideways.

For a few seconds, it was raining in my bedroom. The water droplets made their way through the screen and pelted my lips.

I don’t know if I’m crazy, well, I do. I am. But that’s beside the point.

I felt like I’d gotten a kiss from Heaven.

Immediately, the rain resumed the course of gravity and I watched a few seconds longer before closing the window.

Today. Today she would’ve been 38. I woke up around 7 and went downstairs to snap a picture of the tree. I wanted to post a photo of magic, but when I got downstairs and looked out the window, the magic was gone.

The colors were still there, technically but instead of brilliant, individual colors they all matted together and made an old rust color.

I wondered if the dark gray sky had made them look more vibrant but there was definitely something missing today…

It was you, Nat.

You are gone and the world is less colorful, less magical.

I know you are still with me and us and I do cherish the signs I get from you… I guess I will always just want more.

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Because I Don’t Feel Guilty Enough…

September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness month. To honor the theme, I checked out the Netflix series exclusive: 13 Reasons Why.

13 Reasons Why starts with the voice of Hannah Baker, (Katherine Langford), detailing the 13 reasons (people) she has chosen to take her own life. This narrative takes place on 13 audio cassette tapes that were given to (or will be passed on) to the 13 people who caused her such distress.

The journey chronicles Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) on his quest to find out what happened to his crush, what he could’ve done and what he can do now.

POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT

The show, co-produced by Selena Gomez and her mother, touches on a lot of tough subjects. It hits hard but does it miss the point? Maybe a little…

The acting is well done. The story telling in engaging and… two things don’t sit well with me.

The first problem I have with it is Hannah Baker takes zero responsibility for her actions.

Even in the end, when she says she’s going to give life one more chance… if so and so doesn’t do this, then it’s over. What? Most people are not mind readers.

This person did this to me, that person did that and no one cared, enough. As if that’s all it took to prevent someone from suicide. I think when a person gets to that place, it’s much like someone with an addiction. No matter what you do, it’s ultimately up to the person themselves to make sure they are safe.

It’s stated a couple of times throughout the show that Hannah is the one responsible for Hannah’s death, no one else. I’m sorry but mentioning that a few times throughout a series when each episode is dedicated to a person or reason for her suicide is not enough. Sure everyone could have done more. And know what? It probably wouldn’t have made a difference. I’m not trying to be pessimistic, just realistic.

Survivors of suicide have more than enough guilt without having the dead loved one come back and point a finger at them.

The part that especially ticked me off was when Clay confronted Tony and asked “Am I the reason Hannah killed herself” and he said yes. What bullshit is that? She even said so on the tape, “Clay you shouldn’t even be on these tapes”.  I guess I have to chalk that up to needing ratings? Cliffhangers?

I understand the stigma around suicide and I’m not saying Hannah should be shamed for what she did but people, blaming everyone else for our own misery isn’t the answer either.

The second problem I have with the series is that when a suicide happens, an explanation is a luxury. Many times there are no answers. I know that in this case, for there to have been a series, there had to be a story but it gives a false expectation of death…

My sister did not commit suicide, she died from an accidental overdose. All that was left was speculation. There was no ongoing relationship, no instructions or list of reasons why she was gone. I understand the difference, she didn’t know she wasn’t going to wake up but this show, it explores in depth why she did what she did and it gave the illusion of being able to work through the problems and make people… be better?

That’s not how it works.

This series was very emotional. Its heart was in the right place, I just don’t know where the brains were.

 

If you do feel depressed and need help:

Text- CrisisTextLine

Call- 1-844-550-HERO (4376)

Visit- OnLineChat

 

 

 

International Overdose Awareness Day

I thought I’d share the free write I did on Friday with my writing group. We started off by reading the obituary of Brian Doyle, writer and longtime contributor to The Sun magazine. If you’d like to read the beautiful tribute to Brian, click here.

I felt some measure of pride hearing about how Brian Doyle was unashamed to cry in public. Maybe to tip the scale a little for how much embarrassment I feel when it happens to me. And last night was an ocean of salt water heart tears. Not just for me but the group- everyone at the Overdose Awareness Vigil, there on Crystal beach. Maybe it wasn’t so much embarrassment but the strong desire to wail, unabashedly. Not just from my eyes, not just let the saline trickle from my eyes but to let loose the riptide that roared beneath. The torrent of emotions, the physical-ness of it. Clutching my heart, swaying with the imagined image of her in my arms. The primal screaming at an unjust world, a life too short.

I’d love to “give darkness the middle finger” but right now, it has me so completely enveloped, I can hardly move at all.

A lot of mothers who’d lost children spoke. There was a common theme among them. Their child, whether the world saw them as an addict, a nuisance or a criminal- they were and always would be their little piece of perfection. Perfectly imperfect.

They were, these loved ones lost, when sober were the artists of the world. The musicians, the writers, the painters. The kindest, most generous of souls. The people this world needs most.

After releasing the balloons, we watched them float up, up and…together. Those balloons stayed together, stuck with each other and with one single balloon (Ian Selleck) as the lead, guided the grouping and our eyes, heavenward. We held our candles and a moment of silence but ended on a hopeful note. The facilitators had everyone who was in recovery to stand in the center of the circle and lead everyone out into the newness of another night.

I want to offer a big thank you to Joanne Kittridge and Pam Lanhart for hosting the event, to and Star Selleck for sharing and being apart of so many addiction related events… I know Ian is proud. And to everyone who attended Thursday evening. We are all in this together.

#NotOneMore

Love you Nat.

 

nat_copy
Natalie Nicole Allen 9/11/1979-5/19/2016          9 Months sober

 

 

 

Sorry For the Word Vomit…

I know it’s been awhile and I know I said I was going to stop apologizing when I missed a Wednesday or Sunday post, and I am… (yes, I do know it’s Thursday) I just don’t want anyone to think I forgot about them or this blog.

We moved three weeks ago. (A BIG, HUGE thanks to my friend John and Tetris!) I think by today, we could have the last of the boxes from the garage come inside and find their place, so that’s exciting.

That’s not entirely the reason I haven’t written though. It’s a big part of it… there is more though.

I did get offered the PCA job and yesterday finished with the paperwork and fingerprinting. I’m hopeful about starting training soon.

Babymaking is… getting a lot less fun. A lot more stress and I wonder if it’s the right thing to do anymore. I want to leave it up to God. I keep telling myself I am leaving it up to God but somehow, I keep managing to wrestle it away from him and stress over it some more.

September is right around the corner, which means many things. School is about to start. My fingers are crossed that Tayla will not struggle as she has in the past. At least, not in the same way. September 29th will be my grandma’s birthday and Noah’s due date. And the 11th, of course, is Natalie’s birthday. My eyes are stinging and my throat is closing up as I write.

I’ve been going through a lot of stuff, with the move. I have three jewelry boxes which I find pretty amusing since I don’t really wear a lot of jewelry but in one of the boxes with the bracelet she gave me for being her maid of honor. I remember shopping for her wedding dress with her… the one time she told me I was right (she should’ve gone with the ivory colored dress, the one that made her look like a princess).

The toast she made at my wedding as my maid of honor. The singing, the dancing, the hot tub. Somehow it reminded me of sneaking out on the golf course to go drinking. When she threw that party, had fliers made up and then had no idea how she got busted…

The times she took me along to some event with her friends, forcing me to have fun… ever the older sister in spirit…

And now, I feel so empty and hollow.

How can that be? I have a husband, a daughter, wonderful family and friends, yet the absence of this one particular person… makes me feel utterly alone.

I keep telling myself that once her birthday is over, it’ll get better… but after September, it will be my birthday and then after Halloween, it’ll be all about Christmas and I don’t know if I can handle that right now. I guess I don’t have to. I’ll try sticking to one day at a time.

But maybe not this day… it’s hard to reassure myself that things in my life will be okay when the world around us is in such utter chaos. I don’t have the energy to get into politics but I think we can all agree, we as a nation, are not where we’d like to be and the world right now is a scary place.

On that lovely note, I think I’ll take a nap and hope things look better when I open my eyes again.

Thanks for letting me ramble!

Peace.

I’m Sorry, I Stink

Seriously. So bad. It started in my car.

Yesterday I took Tayla to school. When I unlocked the car and opened the door, I was about knocked on my ass. The stench of rotten eggs wafted out.

“Where is that coming from?” Tayla asked.

“I don’t know. Dad probably farted, then slammed the door shut and let it bake for us…”

We got in and I rolled the windows down and let it go.

But the stink didn’t leave.

I wondered if something was wrong with the car, or maybe I ran over a skunk and it was caught on something under the car…

So when I was done with my errands for the day, I parked next to the dumpster and started to investigate.

Immediately I found the culprit. Last Wednesday, Don’s mom sent him home with a big bowl of spaghetti. Guess who forgot about it?

I chuck it and figure that’s the end of it.

Nope.

Today, Don took Tayla to school and when he got home he said “Your car smells so bad that when Tay and I opened the doors, we both puked.”

“Seriously? You BOTH puked in my car?”

“No, just outside. It was instantaneous…”

“I threw away the spaghetti…”

Later in the day, we have to go to Mary’s to take care of the cat. I start walking toward my car (cue horror movie music) and my stomach starts to tighten. I reached out a trembling hand and pulled the door open.

“Sweet baby Jesus, wtf died in here?!”

“I told you it was bad” Don said.

“Yeah, but it was bad yesterday…”

“I got it. I found out what it was. It wasn’t the spaghetti. Remember Friday when we went to Hy-Vee and bought that frozen rotisserie chicken? It fell out of the bag and under the seat.”

“FRIDAY?! It’s Wednesday! It’s been in the 80’s!”

“Now you know why it stinks.”

I have NEVER in my LIFE smelled anything as heinous as rotting chicken. It smelled like a slaughterhouse full of diseased cattle. It smelled like Satan’s burnt asshole. It smelled like maggot riddled intestines…

I thought I was going to puke… I had to breathe through my mouth for awhile. Then, I made him stop at every gas station we passed so I could buy more air fresheners. The first place we stopped, I ran in and asked the two cashiers “what is the strongest scent you have?” They both pointed to the “Black Ice”. I told them I’d take two. As I was reaching for my wallet though, I had second thoughts.

“What if this smells worse?”

“Worse?!” Don looked at me incredulously. “It cannot possibly smell worse”.

“I mean, what if it’s scented with black licorice… I hate black licorice…” but the thought of getting back in the car, having passed up the opportunity to even TRY anything different wasn’t going to fly.

I grabbed the two Black Ice air fresheners and headed back out into the heat. I approached the car cautiously as if it were a feral animal, ready to pounce. I grabbed the door handle and notice a man walking into the gas station. He’s a big guy. Like a football player, he was wearing a Viking’s jersey too. He passed me right about the time I was opening the door and as soon as I did, it was like he walked into a glass wall. His head snapped back real fast like he’d been slapped and was turning around to see who did it. Since no one was within slapping distance, he just eyed me suspiciously and shook his head quickly, trying to shake off the vile encounter.

I got back into the mobile death trap trying to make the lemonade out of these very rotten lemons.

“Hey, we could stop the war! Save the soldiers, we can just drive this down the dirt road with the windows down and they’ll drop like flies!’

We cracked a few jokes, tried to ignore the stench that’d had only grown with the air fresheners (in case anyone is wondering, it’s not black licorice, it smells like a dude who took a bath in cologne) and my perfume that Don had sprayed vigorously before I got in… I had to hit him for that. He does it at home too… instead of changing the cat litter, he sprays my perfume… Hello? I’d like to wear that again and not think of cat shit…

My final thing of the day was to meet Ryan and my mom for coffee to celebrate Natalie’s sober date.

I was feeling good about going, I wasn’t too late and then, I was horrified. The car smell had permeated my clothes and purse! OMG. No one said anything but it wasn’t long before the odor reached from my t-shirt to my nostrils and I had to get out of there! Actually, I had to be home before Tayla went to bed because she has to get up early for school… but ugh.

Gross. So, if anyone has to see me within the next couple of days to a week- I’ll probably reek. I’m sorry!

Why We Need to Stop Comparing Addiction to Cancer

First, I think we need to acknowledge there is a difference between drug use and drug abuse. Some people can use substances recreationally, not everyone can. People are hardwired differently. I don’t know why some people don’t have an issue with having one glass of wine at dinner, while others struggle.

I’ve been noticing the growing argument for “addiction is not a disease” along with some form of an analogy about a kid with cancer. “That five-year-old didn’t ask for cancer”. Ok, I get it. I do.

And I think it’s a poor comparison.

Whichever side of the disease vs willpower side of the controversy you’re on, please know that addicts don’t choose to be addicts either. I understand no one “held a gun to a drug users head and made them inject drugs”. On the other hand, do you understand that when you’re cancer free, you don’t have to work every day to stay cancer free. You don’t have the temptations surrounding you or when the stress builds up or a family member dies and you need that relief, you don’t think “man, I could really use some cancer right now”.

I once heard someone say that if there was a cure for cancer half way around the world, nothing would stop that person from getting their treatment but if there was a pill that could cure depression sitting on the table across from someone who is depressed, they might not be able to get up off the couch to get it.

Depression is a chemical thing. Addiction is a chemical thing. How terrible is it that the affliction some people deal with destroys the mind to logic out? It doesn’t seem like a matter of willpower to me. It’s more believable to me that there’s a glitch in the brain.

Comparing addiction to cancer doesn’t make any sense. They are not the same thing.

It’d be a little easier to compare it with diabetes. Type two diabetes can be passed on genetically or a person can live a lifestyle that leads to diabetes. That person wasn’t asking to get sick. Sometimes it’s possible to make lifestyle changes that will help get blood sugars under control but that person has to be very aware of everything they put in their body.

I know firsthand what it’s like to have unmanaged blood sugars. I have made many changes and in turn, my sugars are lower and I am getting healthier. I also know how difficult it is to maintain those changes. Sometimes I just want handfuls of chocolate. Or cheesecake. Or pasta. Sometimes I indulge. A lot of times I don’t.

Addiction runs rampant in my family and I lost a sister to a lethal mix of rx drugs and heroin. Four days before she died, we had an intervention for her. She looked into our eyes and told us she was done. She wanted to be clean (and had recently celebrated 9 months of sobriety before this last relapse). She knew her lifestyle could kill her. She did it anyway. I don’t believe it was simply a matter of willpower. It’s not right to think that had someone stayed with her that night, everything would’ve been ok. She needed 24- hour supervision. Sometimes it’s not a “day at a time” it’s a minute or a second at a time. Do you think anyone in their “right” or healthy mind would conspire and lie to loved ones just to be able to essentially kill themselves?

Addiction at the very least is powerful, can we all agree on that? It’s killing people and it needs to stop.

Can we stop comparing it to cancer? Trying to claim there are no “victims of addiction”? I’ve never done heroin and it’s ruined my life. Because the bottom line is, blaming people doesn’t help anything.

Natalie’s On My Mind

I don’t know if she’s here because I’ve been thinking about her so much or I’ve been thinking so much about her that she’s here… It doesn’t matter I guess.

It probably has a lot to do with the writing I’ve been doing. The sister piece last week and dealing with her loss for another project due Friday…

I had a dream about her last night. I don’t think it was a visit. It didn’t feel like one. I saw her, I hugged her, I yelled at her for making us all worry ourselves sick. Turns out she’d been lost in an oil field for 14 months (???) I cried so hard with relief and then, Justin (my brother) went missing. Once I noticed Justin was gone, Natalie was gone again too.

When I woke up, I had that moment or two of not knowing what was going on and that fleeting feeling that she was still here. I actually told my brain to keep it down because if I was allowed to fully think out that thought, I’d know it wasn’t true and I couldn’t pretend. Ugh.

Last night we didn’t go anywhere to see fireworks. Tayla didn’t care that much and I’m not dealing with traffic and mosquitos for myself. Don was actually home, I don’t remember the last year the three of us were together. We were watching Spongebob when the noise got SO LOUD. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw flashes of light. I went out onto the deck and we basically had a front row seat. There was a line of trees but there was a dip in the middle, right where the fireworks were! They were beautiful. I even saw a few red hearts! I’ve never seen those before… and there were four. Not all at the same time but still…

Today we continued to pack. We did the front hall closet today which was filled with jackets and vests of Nat’s. Tayla and I tried them on and boxed them up. I can’t bear to part with them yet. Not even the ones that don’t fit either of us or neither of us would wear. There was a wave of sadness.

Onto my desk… I have a corkboard attached to my desk and a lot of pictures hanging up. I started to unpin them and put them in a photo album. Flipping through the pictures, there were more of Nat and me as little girls than I remembered… Another wave.

A song on the radio. An old card she’d sent. Memories. Wave after wave. I couldn’t get away from it. Even when we went to Don’s mom’s house. “Johnny Dangerously” was on TV. She loved that movie and we would quote it a lot.

God, I miss her so much.

I’m supposed to write about persisting and overcoming and I feel like a hypocrite whenever I start to write. I don’t feel like I’m overcoming this grief. I wonder every day if this will be the day and get swept up in the waves and carried away… I am persisting, I guess. I don’t feel very triumphant but I probably never will. Not when it comes to this grief. I’ll never overcome it or get over it… I’ll just have to continue living with it. Hopefully. it will lessen. I’m sure it won’t ever go away and I don’t really want it to.

“Grief can only live where love lived first”.