This Weary Tattooed Body.

I wanted to write something this last week, but I found myself drawing for the first time in over two years, and it felt so good that I just couldn’t take a break to post a new blog. My hands were moving freely, unlike the stiffness I had become so used too. And for four days, I did hardly anything, but play around with my pencils, getting my hands dirty, pushing graphite over stark white paper and spilling my imagination across the torn out page of my sketchbook.

If you draw, paint, or create anything with your hands really, you know what I mean when I say, I had gotten used to stiffness. Where movements that once felt natural, have now become tense and strained. The fingers and wrist are rigid, pushing back against you and leaving little room to create the thing you have swirling around in your mind. It’s frustrating as hell. But, this time, it wasn’t like that, and it felt amazing.  It felt amazing because, in all honesty, my body, mind and heart haven’t allowed for that kind of thing lately. Life’s been harsh and sharp, and some of the most authentic parts of myself had fallen asleep. Laying dormant beneath the ash and rubble of a life once lived, and now only endured.

So when the pencil hit the paper, and things were happening the way I wanted them too, I couldn’t put it down. For the first time, in over two years, I felt a part of myself alive and breathing again. Rubbing my fingers into the grey powder, the metallic smell lingering. Pencil shavings filling my ashtray, smudging line after line, until the shapes began to come to life, impelling the weight to lift from my shoulders, and wander away to the place it belongs. In God’s hands.

It gave me hope. And it validated, that I was still here. That I was alive, and somewhere in this weary tattooed body, I was in there.

So, day after day, in my joggers and baggy t-shirts, one cup of coffee after another, cigarette after cigarette, I created a piece of art that I am proud of. Too some, it may not seem like that big a deal, but to me, it’s everything right now. It’s a piece of tangible evidence that I am not dead. That I’m still rooted in my body and that I can still create something beautiful. That I can DO SOMETHING. That, I still have a loud and passionate soul, willing to expose itself, vulnerable or not, to my fellow-man. To my creator and Father, who shaped these gifts within me.

At the end of the day, it had made it known, that it wasn’t too late for me. As depressing at that sounds, I was tip toeing on that ledge of deep despair, and now I had some hope back in my life. And I think that’s the beauty of creating something, it confirms our authenticity, mirroring our own mystery and showing us a piece of ourselves we may have lost or simply forgotten was there. It is a form of expression that can untangle our own inner web of chaos, simply because of the release that can happen there. Taking down the guard, to liberating something beautiful and unique from within, in turn, maybe even smoothing over those jagged parts that have become so raw. It gives the creator a chance to look at oneself, and perhaps decide, that they still have something to offer, even under the suffocating soot and residue of things past by. Things past by, but at times, and often for myself, relived everyday.

At the end of this post, are a few shots of the piece I was working on all week, if you wanna check it out.

As I said earlier, I needed a break from telling my story. The beginning of the week was rough, and after a few sleepless nights, waking up in tears, I decided I needed help. So, on Tuesday, I found myself sitting in the doctor’s office, mid panic attack, covered in tears, emotional and weak as hell. It took a lot of courage on my part, to expose and vulnerabilize myself to a man I had never met. I’ve never been one to trust doctors, and asking him for anxiety medication was hard. I was embarrassed it had gotten this bad, and I was really nervous about the whole thing. Talking about cancer screening was even worse, and it left a kind of pit in the bottom of my stomach. I’m not looking forward to those appointments, at all. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my Moms death, that she was a young 48 years old, and I’ve unknowingly taken on a deep fear, that the same thing will happen will to me. I’ve even caught myself counting how many years I’d have left with my son, if I died at the same age. Just like my Mother, and her sister, who also died of cancer before the age of 50. I have to stop myself when my mind goes there, sometimes violently, because in all honesty, I’m terrified. And so, these are the thoughts that wake me in the night, my pillow case drenched in tears. Amongst other terrors from within. The old fears, and the new, swirling around my subconscious, creating a circus act of horror I’d do anything to escape. And so, the doctor’s office and the newness that came with it.

I promised I was going to walk you through each and every detail, the details of a fight to save my own life.

To rise to the place I belong.

The fight to tell the truth about what happened to me.

The reality, that on all scientific counts, I should die of cancer within 20 years, and the way that I have chosen to deal with that.

To not only heal, but to overcome in a way, that the story of my life represents a truth I would die for. The truth that, not only can each of us survive absolutely anything, but that God can take the cruelty and suffering each of us has endured, conquer it in all His strength, and wrap them up into stepping stones towards a life that would baffle the enemy. Stealing away his efforts to destroy us, and instead, building a house of truth over his lies. A house, a life, that represents what trust in God looks like. Free, and beautiful, and overflowing with gardens of abundance. Loved.

I believe God can do that in my life and I believe He already has. Even in the tears, through the panic attacks and the sleepless nights. Through the death, and in the worry. The dark, and back to the light, through prayer, where I always reunite with my authentic self. Because that’s where Jesus is.

And so, tomorrow, I’ll go back to the place I was before, and continue telling my story. Until then, I thank you for being my friend and for reading.

“Although the world is full of suffering, it also full of the overcoming of it.” Helen Keller 

 

 

Getting used to my pencils again.

Getting used to my pencils again.

Coming together.

Coming together.

Hit it with some graphic overlay and editing, and voila!

Hit it with some graphic overlay and editing, and voila!

 

She Was In There.

I cried all night, the day I published my last post.

It was September first, and one year prior, to that very day, was the day I lost my Mom to cancer. It happened at Elizabeth Bruyere, the palliative care building located in a beautiful area of downtown and  my husband, myself and my son, were the only family left to visit that day.

Somewhere, deep inside my gut, I knew she was going to die that day. I knew, in the same way, I knew it would rain. How you taste that cool breeze in the air, and even though the sky is bright blue and the sun is beaming down on the flesh of your shoulder, that coolness running over your bare skin, tells you the truth. I knew it in the same way as this, and I tried to put it away, but could not. And when my Grandpa left  that afternoon, shuffling away, with those sad, heavy shoulders of his, I knew I would be the one to call later, and have to tell them him truth. That she had died.  And I was right.

She had been in a morphine sleep haze for two days now. The little machine laying at her side, the tubes pumping a never-ending supply into her veins. The tumors in her cervix had grown so large, that she was now unable to relieve herself, and go to the washroom.  They had spent hours trying to insert a catheter two days before, but the tumor was just to big. There was nothing more they could do, and we had nothing to offer her, but the small comfort of our presence.

The doctor informed us that because they could not successfully help her relieve herself, that this would cause the urine to back up into her kidneys, and that she would eventually pass of kidney failure.  It was a peaceful way to die, they said.

“We recommend you say your goodbye’s and do your best to make your peace with this.” The nurses were kind and understanding.

There was so much to say, I didn’t have the words. I still had so many questions, so much anger within. And the contrast between my love for her, and my hate, was almost too much to bear. You see, during the Spring that had just passed, I had come to learn a dark truth. One that, stole away all the seeming  innocence of our relationship and the morsels of trust that had been left. Not that there were many.

She had known what they had done to me, the abuse I suffered. And she had not only turned her back, no, she had not only turned her face away. She had once..

It’s been almost an hour since I typed those last three words. Every time, I  begin to finish that sentence my mind goes blank and I find myself staring at the screen. Repeating it over and over again in my head. She had once….participated. She had once….participated. She had once…participated. I’m stuck here, and it hurts. A lot. I can hardly remember what I began this post with, because just having this thought run through me, is enough to bring me to my knees in tears. I love my mother. And, I hate my mother. It has made my grieving process a terrible and confusing thing, and every single day, my heart wails in pain at how much I wish things could be different. That I could say goodbye to my mom in peace, without the constant tug of war between these two opposing feelings. How my heart contradicts itself equally on both sides, is disconcerting, even though I understand it. 

Moving on. 

She had not only turned her face away, she had once…participated. That memory resurfacing itself just four months before I got the phone call. And so as I sat there at her bedside, with the sound of the beeping machine, of it pushing the drug into her veins, I knew this. The crayons in my son’s hand dragging over the white paper on his lap and the soft weight of my husbands strong hand tracing the lines of my back, I knew.  The smell of food wafting through the halls, the elevator opening and closing again. And as I listened to the sound of my mothers breath, so strained and forceful, I knew what she had done. Cringing internally at the phlegm rising up and down her throat from all those years of smoking and rattling within. That terrible sound. My internal chaos and pain, for the now, and the then, mixed with the soundtrack of this all too painful reality, that my mother was dying.

When my Grandmother was in her final days, the nurses had taught us how to remove the extra phlegm that had spilled into her mouth,

(gross, I know, but I wouldn’t tell you unless I had too)  

…with large kind of que-tips, teaching us to remove the stuff not only because it was needed, but because a person could choke this way.  The thought of my grandmother choking to death scared the shit out of me, but they reassured me how normal this was, and that it happened to almost everyone in those final days. Normal or not, it still scared the shit out of me.

So when my mom began to choke, I knew this was why. It was such a terrible sound. My heart falling to the pit of my stomach, and I ran out into the hallway for a nurse. The attending nurse grabbed this kind of large glass jug, with measuring cup units in red print up along the side of it and followed me into the room. She began to lift my mother’s head in her hands, at the same time asking me,

“Do you want to stay for this?” Breaking me out of my own haze of disbelief and plugging me back into life. I look down at my son, only five years old.

“No, no I won’t stay.” And she gets to work as the three of us head towards the hallway, and into the elevator. It felt like I smoked an entire pack of cigarettes in those fifteen minutes. My hands shaking, my heart screaming, the sound of my mother choking like that. The walk back to the elevator was entirely surreal, the bell ringing as the doors opened on my mother’s floor. The slow walk down the hallway, turning the corner with the thudding of my own heart, and Landon’s little five-year old hand in mine. My husbands strong, warm hand in my other, and I see her. I see the nurse standing in the hallway, and she’s crying. She’s shaking, and she’s crying and she looks up to see me there.

“It was horrible,” she wails, “It was so horrible.”

And all I can do is look at her, because I don’t know what she’s saying to me. And she’s still crying, as she lifts her hand to her mouth, and this look of shock comes over her face. And she says to me,

“Oh my goodness, you’re her daughter! I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry. Your mother has just passed away, I couldn’t clear her airway, and she asphyxiated. She could not breathe. I’m so sorry.” And that was it. As I turned my head towards her room, the tears rimming my eyes with heat, she was in there. Still and lifeless, and gone.  I held her hand and played with her hair until her skin started to get cold, and with that, I kissed her forehead and said my last goodbye.

I love you Mom.

“Someday, you’re going to look back on this moment of your life, as such a sweet time of grieving. You’ll see that you were in mourning and your heart was broken, but your life was changing…” ~Elizabeth Gilbert

Call Your Bluff.

It’s been a really long time since I wrote anything, and because of that, this entry will probably be far from elegant or perfect.

I haven’t touched a piece of paper or keyboard, in hopes of sharing my heart, out of fear and hurt for far too long now. No journal entry, not even a note in my phone, and for a little while,  I thought I’d never write again. For a writer, to say, I am done with this, is a form of death. And to leave behind every creative outlet in my soul, felt like a kind of death.

Since my last entry, I lost another baby, this time I was four and a half months pregnant, and gave birth to a little lifeless boy, in tears on my living room floor, before rushing to the hospital.  Nine Months later, I found out my biological Mother had terminal cancer. She lost her battle to the disease, on September first, of this year. At that point, I had come to a total stop. Grief had made its way through me, devouring my hope and faith. I’m not saying I didn’t love Jesus anymore, or that I had taken my life back from Him.  I’m saying, I was not strong enough, to overcome it this time. I had been fighting too long, and too hard, to stand up against it anymore. Take in mind, I was also still healing, from learning that I was horribly abused and molested as child. The repressed memories had pushed themselves through, and surfaced that same year. The battle against the nightmares and hatred still raging strong. I can say, even in the safety of my own home, and the love of my husband and son. this was one of the hardest parts of my life. I guess I can say, I’ve gone though worse. Even if that’s hard to believe. The difference with this time, and the times before it, were that I had become weary in a way I had not before.

I fell into a state of detachment, and because that was so far from natural to me, I felt almost dehumanized. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a joke. When I searched my heart, I felt like a joke. My body, a useless vessel that could not hold life. My heart and soul, unseen, unappreciated, and discarded. My hopes and dreams….garbage that no one but myself cared about. And I didn’t have the strength to fight for them anymore. Every time, I picked myself up again, by the grace of God, something would come and slam me back down to the ground. For while, I felt like I had a target on my back, and I often still feel that way. How can one life hold so much pain? the searing question being…when will this finally stop?

I had cared, and loved, and fought and stood for so long. And because the chaos seemed never-ending, I lost myself. The saddest of it was , even if the urge to feel hope again walked towards me, all the other bullshit pain I carried, ate it up before I could even hold it.  I kept a brave face for my son, but inside, I was terrified I would never be me again.  I knew how pathetic it was, or at least it was pathetic in my opinion. I hated myself for feeling this way. After so many years of climbing the mountain of faith with Jesus, look where it brought me. To a dead-end, and I felt like I was being mocked by my own hope. My feelings and beliefs about my God had not changed, what had changed was the idea that I could follow through with His will for my life. I stopped believing I could, and I think, out of everything, that’s what hurt the most.

As for today, I feel less like a joke, but I still fight with it every day. Because I lost so many people close to me this past year, rejection still burns me on a daily basis. I have to tell myself everyday, that I am seen, even if it’s not by the people I want to be seen by. I don’t feel as pathetic anymore, because I know, I’m a powerful and strong, and wise person. I know, I was being very mean to myself with those thoughts and words, and I need to re learn how to be kind to myself once more. I know that bad things will still happen, and I’m slowly starting to understand, how beautiful it really is, that myself, and my little family, are still standing strong in the name of hope, in the name of Jesus, and in the name of all things good in this universe. Even though, at times, it appears we are all crawling, it means the world that we are still moving. I still cry almost every day, and I’m still very afraid of whats to come. But, for the first time in a while….I’m willing to say,

This WILL NOT take me out.

To the enemy, to the darkness that took over my heart and mind…… I call your bluff. And if you have anything to say, you can take it up with Jesus.

“I will persist until I succeed. I was not delivered into this world in defeat, nor does failure course in my veins. I am not a sheep waiting to be prodded by my shepherd. I am a lion and I refuse to talk, to walk, to sleep with the sheep. The slaughterhouse of failure is not my destiny. I will persist until I succeed.” ~Unknown 

Through My Tears, I Will Rejoice For You.

Holding onto the hand I’ve known so well, the morphine drip clicks over, delivering another dose of the powerful drug through her tired veins. It is quiet and warm in the bedroom, save for the voices of her daughter and husband down the hall way and of the nurse filling out paper work, outside the bedroom door. We’re surrounded by photographs of all her family, gold and silver frames stocked with the people she loves, the people she’s spent her time here, taking care of. Memories of a life, most of us would envy. A life filled with adventure, travelling, loss, war, and overcoming old world tragedy. My Grandmother, who’s helped raise me from the moment I was born, a two pound little baby, and we’ve loved each other with all our hearts since.

She is wearing her pink flannel sleeping gown, the one with the back cut straight down the middle, so it doesn’t bunch up underneath her, the folds in the fabric send pain through her body, if she lay on top of them for too long.  She can’t get up and fix it on her own anymore. She’s too exhausted. The cancer spreading through her body steals the small amount of energy she has left, and a part of me, with a heavy heart, looks forward to this coming to an end, for her. So she can finally see the face of Jesus. She’s has always asked me to tell her the story, of when I saw Him, when He came to me, and filled me with His spirit. She listens, over and over again, her eyes filled with loves light, and a vulnerably beautiful hope. A wondering of the man, the truth, our God she loves so much.

I want to curl up in bed with her, and close my eyes. Have another moment, where we can hold each other, like we used to when I was kid. But, I’m scared I might hurt her, or overwhelm her some way. So I don’t, just hold her hand as she comes in and out of morphine sleep. Run my fingers through her perfectly white hair, and watch her chest heave in and out with each breath. Listen to the machine humming beside her. Relieved she has something to soothe the pain, and bring her some kind of comfort.

I’m eased by the fact, she can be at home for this, instead of shoved into the cold confines of a hospital room. There is always something to be grateful for, and I’m just grateful for her, right now, in this moment. My Grandma has never left my side. Not once. Not when I was in jail, not when I lived on the street, and not when I was in rehab. Not when I drank all her liquor, and manipulated her for money. Not when I ignored her, and treated her like she didn’t matter. She’s always been there. Hoping for me, having faith in me, and helping me build the life I have now. Without her, I would not be where I am today. It sounds cliché, but it’s the only way I can put it, and it’s true.

I owe her more than I can express, because words fail me right now. I can only repay her, by living my life through honor and love, and I will do my best with every opportunity I am given, because she has done so for me. And so has God. My heart tells me, that this is a life well lived, to pay it forward at all costs in the name of Jesus, the name that defines love.

Don’t be scared Grandma, the face of Christ, will be the first face you’ll see. And through my tears, I will rejoice for you.