Memory Postcard 2 – My Mom and me.

Mom and me

I decided to make another memory postcard, but this time with a picture of my Mom and me. I find it interesting that in both of these memory postcards my face is hidden, and water is involved. In the one with my grandmother, my hair is wet because I’ve been swimming in the pool at the Holiday Inn. In this one, I’m totally wet because I’d been swimming in the ocean.

More like near-drowning instead of swimming. I wasn’t a very good swimmer. I’m not a great one now, but I know enough to swim only in pools with lifeguards nearby.

This picture really tugs at my heart. It is really hard for me to look at, because of the look of love in my Mom’s face. I can tell that all of her being is locked right into me in this moment. It has been twenty years and I still miss her.

I felt like I had a great childhood. Some anomalies are rising up, though, that let me know it wasn’t that wonderful. I obscured a lot. I forgot a lot. I also didn’t know what I was missing.

What I was missing was some education. My Mom didn’t teach me how to take care of myself. Gardening, cooking, keeping house, sewing, – she did it all and kept it to herself. I don’t know why. Some of it might have been her attitude of “It is easier to do it myself”. I have some of that attitude. I need to work on it.

I’ve started to talk with my Mom and make peace with her while I bake. I bake banana bread every week as part of our breakfast. We connect this way. It is our time together. In a way, I’m teaching her what I needed to know. I’m becoming the Mom to my Mom, while re-parenting myself.

I mounted it on art paper that was made using dried flowers. I’ve had this paper for at least ten years. This is the first time I’ve used it.

Here’s a shot of the stamps.
mom2

I used a lot of stamps because I feel like it is a long way between her and me, and it needs a lot of postage. I put the one with the Queen first, because Mom was English. I like this one especially, because the building looks like it is Mont-St.-Michel, which is the original of St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall. I visited there when I took Mom’s ashes to scatter. She couldn’t decide if she wanted her ashes in the backyard in her garden or in England. Cremation is easy. You can do both.

I’ve since moved, so I can’t visit or tend her garden. I have only visited England that one time.

I put a rose stamp because her ashes are mixed with the ashes of her parents and grandparents in a rose garden in Manchester. I put a morning glory stamp because it is beautiful and temporary, and they grow wild in my yard. This links there and here, where I am. This also reminds me to appreciate beauty wherever I may find it, and right then, because it won’t last long.

Here’s a close-up of the two of us together.

Mom3

Such a shining smile she was giving me. I probably didn’t see it at the time. I was probably freaked out by the ocean. There are way too many experiences with me, my Mom, and uncontrolled water in my life.

Top left corner –
Mom6

“A fond memory will soon lead to a renewed old friendship.” – I’m learning how to see my Mom as a friend and a guide. I’m learning, slowly, how to forgive her.

Lower left corner.
Mom4

“Rely on long time friends to give you advice this coming week.” She advises me, now.

Lower right corner.
Mom5

“Now is a good time to call a loved one at a distance from you.” You can’t get any further away than where she is, yet she is as close as my thoughts. I have to remind myself to keep the connection open.

“A friend will soon reveal an exciting secret to you!” – I felt like this was relevant. Perhaps prophetic?

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Poem – Naked before God

We have heard reports of people who have died
and come back to life
that there is a long tunnel
and a light at the end.

This sounds
exactly the same
as when a child
is being born.

When a child is being born
it goes through a tunnel
and there’s a light at the end.

Death and birth are the same.

They’re simply changes of consciousness.

They are steps from
here
to
there.

The soul does not die.
The soul is a piece of God.

The body is mortal, and decays.

When it is done, we discard it
like last season’s coat.
It no longer serves.
It no longer fits.

The weather is different
in the afterlife,
the other life.

We need shorts, or a skirt, or a sweater.

We have different shoes
for different places we go, too.

Hiking, boating, rafting, work
– all have different shoes.

There?

We need to be barefoot.

This is holy ground.

Except there, we not only
have to get rid of our shoes,
but also our clothes,
but also our bodies.

We have to take it all off.

It is that holy.

Only when nothing separates us,
when nothing is between us
and God
can we really be ourselves
with God.

Recovery, auto-pilot, and Jesus

I keep trying to worm out of being a servant of Jesus.

So, should I visit my mother-in-law, who is in the hospital? Jesus says yes, that is on the list of things I should do. No question about it.

But what if I really don’t like her very much? Jesus says to love your enemies.

What if I just intend to visit? Nope, doesn’t count. He’s pretty firm about this.

And I say that isn’t fair. It doesn’t take my feelings and needs into account. She’s really not that easy for me to be around. It isn’t her physical sickness that is the problem. It is her life-sickness, and I don’t mean the fact that she is dying. I mean the fact that she never lived.

I’m not very good around people with problems. Sadly, that is a lot of people. I can barely put up with my own problems, much less carry someone else’s. I have taken classes on how to be around sick people in a healthy way – a way that is safe for them and for me. I still don’t know what I’m doing.

Sometimes sickness isn’t just germs. Sometimes it still spreads anyway. Sometimes a person’s mental sickness can drag you down just as surely as a drowning person is a danger to a lifeguard.

I “hide” people from my newsfeed on Facebook who are very needy and broken. I can’t read about their constant boyfriend troubles, or addictive behavior, or sinus headaches. I think, save the whining for something real, like a broken leg or a divorce. Constant complaining isn’t something I can handle.

If a friend is constantly saying how drunk they are or how they couldn’t stop themselves from eating a whole bag of Lay’s sour cream and onion potato chips and two Oreo Blizzards from Dairy Queen, they get hidden. I don’t want to read this. Because the next posts are always about how sad they are that they have gained weight, and they don’t have a boyfriend, and they feel miserable.

I can’t watch people drown.

It reminds me too much of myself.

I remember those days. I remember feeling lost and stuck in that cycle. I remember feeling like life just happened to me, that I was a passive agent. I remember not liking myself very much.

I’m grateful that I started to wake up and take care of myself. I’m grateful that I learned what it took to build up my flame.

I’m far enough into my recovery that there isn’t a great risk (there is always a risk, don’t fool yourself) of a relapse. Recovery isn’t just about getting over abusing drugs. It is about getting over abusing the gift that is life. Not exercising, eating poorly, feeling like life just happens to you – these are all addictive, mal-adaptive behaviors. These are all ways of not dealing with the situation at hand, and the situation is life.

Someone who is new into recovery can’t really go into a bar safely. Someone who is long in their recovery could go in for a bit, but there is still a risk of taking a drink.

Being around needy, broken people is my bar.

I want to fix them. I feel helpless watching them fail and fall. I offer advice, and they don’t want it, they ignore it, they get angry at me. I want them to be free of their pain. I want them to live.

My addiction is sometimes named codependency. It manifested as not taking care of myself. I smoked pot so I wouldn’t feel other people’s pain. I had started to take it into myself, to name their pain as my own.

Some people would say that my problem is that I’m empathetic. How is that different from codependency? If I feel that your feelings are my feelings – that isn’t just empathy. That is a lack of boundaries. That is codependency. Even if the other person isn’t “dependent” on a drug, you can still be codependent with them. If you feel like you are responsible for their feelings, happy or sad or in between, then you have a codependency problem, not an empathy problem.

Mislabeling someone as an “empath” just delays the healing, because the disease is misdiagnosed.

So back to whether I should visit my mother-in-law.

I want to rescue her, to give her healthy attitudes towards death. She’s dying, really. She may or may not have come to terms with this. I doubt it, having noticed her prescription for an anti-anxiety drug recently. Sadly, that is the Western medical way of dealing with anything – there’s a pill for it.

I was the one who counseled my Mom on death, who talked her through it. I was her midwife for death. Thankfully, God had lead me to read certain books the year before I needed them, before we even knew she was going to get sick. Thankfully, I had the balance in my head and in my life that I could talk her through how to land this plane that is life – how to land it safely on the ground and not crash.

Because that is what this is.

So many people fly through their lives on autopilot. They get in, and they go where everybody else is going because they haven’t thought about it. They do what everybody else is doing because they haven’t thought about it. Then, when things get so real that they can’t ignore them anymore, they go up to the cockpit and learn the pilot is gone.

They have to fly the plane themselves. And they don’t know how. They’ve spent their whole lives letting someone else fly their plane. Now it has gotten real, and now they are on their own.

They often freak out. Sometimes they manage to figure out how to work the radio and call for help. Nobody can fly their plane for them, but they can talk them through how to do it, as long as they are calm and focused.

Sometimes they have enough energy to fly on their own, to fly to safety. Sometimes they have enough energy, enough power, to fly anywhere they want.

But sometimes, the plane is almost out of fuel, and they have to land.

Death is landing. You can either do it easy or hard. You can coast in gently, or you can crash and burn.

I had to do this for my Mom. I had to talk her through this. I had to be the person in the radio tower. I had to because I lived with her. It affected me. Her freaking out spread a foul odor throughout the house, colored the air, set off air-raid sirens.

But this lady? I don’t see her. She isn’t here. I’d have to go into that battle-zone. I’d have to voluntarily enter into that lion’s den.

And she hasn’t called for me.

She cries that I don’t visit, but not to me. Other relatives think I should visit, should “make peace”, but she hasn’t asked me to visit. They don’t say anything to me, but to my husband. Nobody is talking to me. But that makes sense, because nobody has been listening to me all along anyway.

There isn’t a war. I just can’t be around this madness.

Over a year ago, when she was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, with a year at most left, I asked her what she wanted to do.

Her answer? “Live”.

I said “Of course, but that isn’t an option. Say you were going to go on a vacation for a week, and there were all sorts of things you wanted to do, but only time to do ten of them. You have to pick what you want to do. Your time is limited. Think about what are the most important things you want to do, and do them.”

There is a difference between being alive and living.

Her answer? She wanted to decorate the house. She’d spent her whole life decorating her house. There were over forty cans of paint left over – gallon cans – when she and her husband moved from Georgia to here.

I gave up.

Over seventy years old, and she has nothing to show for it.

What else does Jesus say? “Let the dead bury the dead.”