A happiness you cannot find alone

I am reading Have A Little Faith by Mitch Albom. There are just parts of this book that are so profoundly wise that I have to pause and reflect on them. I thought I would share an excerpt this morning that spoke to me.
– Still, the Reb knew that marriage was an endangered institution.  He’d officiated for couples, seen them split, then officiated when they married someone else.
“I think people expect too much from marriage today,” he said. “They expect perfection. Every moment should be bliss. That’s TV or movies. But that is not human experience.
“Like Sarah says, twenty good minutes here, forty good minutes there, it adds up to something beautiful.  The trick is, when things aren’t so great, you don’t junk the while thing. It’s okay to have an argument.  It’s okay that the other one nudges you a little, bothers you a little. It’s part of being close to someone.
“But the joy you get from that closeness-when you watch your children, when you wake up and smile at each other- that, as our tradition teaches us, is a blessing. People forget that.”
Why do we forget it?
“Because the word ‘commitment’ has lost its meaning. I’m old enough to remember when it used to be a positive.  A committed person was someone to be admired. He was loyal and steady. Now a commitment is something you avoid. You don’t want to tie yourself down.
“It’s the same with faith, by the way. We don’t want to get stuck having to go to services all the time, or having to follow all the rules. We don’t want to commit to God. We’ll take Him when we need Him, or when things are going good. But real commitment? That requires staying power-in faith and marriage.”
And if you don’t commit? I asked
“Your choice. But you miss what’s on the other side.”
What’s on the other side?
“Ah.” He smiled. “A happiness you cannot find alone.”

READ THIS BOOK! It will be a blessing.

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You Really Wanna Know Mr. Osteen?

I keep getting asked how I am doing. I guess people think that because we are about to hit 18 months into the grief journey that things are just peaches and cream, rainbows and pots of gold. I am actually quite the opposite. I haven’t written on it because I have been trying to sort out this mind of mine that seems to be getting more frantic and loud. But after reading an article a fellow blogger shared about Joel Osteen’s views on grief, I had to share. Osteen believes that after a certain amount of time that grievers are only wanting pity. Well, Mr. Osteen, here is my response.

I am 18 months in this new life that God has dealt me. For 18 months, I have made sure to put others before myself. My children rarely see me cry. I make sure that each day they are not living in the shadow of their brother’s death. My husband and I have struggled to keep this family that was 5 and now 4 as normal as possible. We have struggled to keep our marriage strong when we have no words to ease each others pain and are lost as to how to be partners when our life is broken. I have to the best of my ability, and often failed, tried to keep up appearances at family events. I have tried to go to parties for other people’s children. I went back to keeping children one month after the death of my son. I never missed a school event with my daughter. I made sure my living son knew he was just as important to me as my angel son. If I was asked to do something, I 97% of the time did it. The other 3% I just mentally couldn’t. I never quit putting others before myself. I never said no when asked to do something for the church. I have smiled and tried my best to keep up a sense of the old life I had while trying to learn this new life. I will admit, I failed a lot. I failed my husband numerous times. I have even failed my children. I have horribly failed my sisters and mother. But I did the best I could to try to keep the hurt, sorrow, pain, and aching I felt to myself and not lay it on the shoulders of others.

So Mr. Osteen, do you really wanna know where I am at today in my grief? I am worse off today than I was the second the doctor’s gave me a time of death. I am worse off than the day we put my boy in his grave. In fact, 18 months of faking it and trying to be strong has taken a toll on me mentally and physically. I spend most nights tossing and turning. Releasing a days worth of built up tears. I do not want to attend any family events at all because my family is the broken link. I spend most days waiting on the clock to strike 5 so that kids go home and I can start my new rituals. What new rituals you ask? Well, Joel, can I call you Joel? I used to be very OCD about my house and life. The birth of my children’s half sister quickly let me see that this curly haired little toddler was winning the battle of messes. Now the OCD is back and I have the belief that if my house is spotless nothing tragic will happen to us again. My house was a little messy when we got the call of Richie’s accident. In fact, everything bad that has directly happened to us has come at a time when the house was a little untidy. I have been cleaning the house completely. Each room has been getting a deep cleaning. I dread having to get up in the mornings to take care of others. Nothing to do with them, I just can some days barely guide myself much less others. I hate answering the phone. People start conversations with “how are you?” I text very few people. Only the ones I can be real with get them. (A very short list) I am no longer the one at church that speaks to every single person. I sometimes fake reading something so that I do not have to socialize on Sunday mornings. I am exhausted by the end of Wednesday night Bible study because I have to fake happy on the bad days. I do not watch the news because it sends me into a tailspin of PTSD. I hate FaceBook because people seem to not understand that seeing wrecked cars and kids in the hospital bring back images that haunt me every single day. The sound of a train horn makes my heart leap into my throat. I only watch movies after they have been cleared by others for my broken mind to watch. TV holds little interest for me. The Travel channel is safe I have found. I hate 6:44pm on Sundays and the 29th of every single month. I feel as if I have won the lottery if I make it to 3:30pm on the 30th or a Monday and my living children are still living. I cannot eat chicken, mashed potatoes and corn in the same meal. Tried once and had almost had a nervous breakdown. I have started panicking about where my deceased son’s belongings are. Even though I know they are safely packed away in my guest room, I still have to go see they are there. I do this numerous times a day. It is all I have left that is tangible of him. I now get up numerous times to see if my living children are still breathing as they sleep. (They are 18 & 20.) A scratch on one of them has me thinking that the limb will be amputated and they will die. I text them constantly to see if they are safe. I text their friends if I do not get a timely response. I hate leaving the house other than once a week grocery shopping and church. I have certain things that we can not do on Sundays because if we do, one of my children will die. I am failing as a friend to the ones that are closest to me. I can’t remember when I last wished someone Happy Birthday when I was the one that was always the first. I cannot concentrate on tasks that are dear to me. I start projects and quickly lose interest.I spend some days pretending so convincingly to myself that Richie will be coming home that afternoon that by 4pm I feel like I lost him all over again. Sometimes I think that I put myself back into shock just to shut my mind off.

Even worst than the mental effects is the physical ones. I constantly have stress and tension migraines. I break out in bumps and itch like crazy if one thing starts getting out of the “new normal” I am enclosing myself in. I feel tired all the time but cannot sleep. And the absolute most terrible thing…. My heart constantly feels like it is constricting. It literally hurts all day every day. I believe my heart broke the day they told me Richie had passed. Since then I can feel it 24 hours a day. You really never know your heart is there until you experience a loss so gut-wrenching that you cannot even fathom it until days later. Then you are fully aware of its every beat. Every bloody thump against your chest feels like you are being stabbed. Do you understand the heart hurt Mr. Osteen? I am constantly on high alert, waiting on the next terrible thing to happen so my muscles are always sore. My nerves twitch. I have developed little ticks of nervousness. Some others never notice. I just feel like I am always in pain yet have no sickness.

Mr. Osteen, I have done it your way. I have not asked for self pity. I have hated conversations that revolve around me and my loss. I have put others first. I have not wallowed in my pain shutting myself off from the world. Where has it gotten me? It has gotten me no where. I am worse off than I was 18 months ago. I took care of everyone else and did not take any time for myself. So what am I to do now? Do I tell others that I need time now all this time later to be alone and grieve with no responsibilities? Do I continue doing what I am doing and hope it gets better? Quite a predicament I am in. There is no time limit on grief. Some parents lose a child and have another in a year later. Some can never imagine another child in their home. A wife can lose her husband and marry 6 months later. A husband can lose his wife of 60 years and pass away silently that night in his sleep from a broken heart. There is no book on grief. I hate the self-help crap people have been sending me. It would help to shove it up their wazoos. (I forgot to add the part about my quick temper being even quicker.) So please, Mr. Osteen, what do I do now that the way you wrote about does not work? You can email me your answer at mrsjschell@gmail.com. I will be awaiting your response.

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Tuesdays with Morrie

As I said, this summer I will be spending my time reading. I have now read almost all of Mitch Albom’s books. I wanted kinda of review or say a little something about each one. I do not think it will be so much as a review but as the feelings each book gave me. When you lose a child and then read books that speak of death, afterlife and such, it makes you think beyond the story. Remember this is the view point of a housewife/babysitter that mainly gets to read when in the bath, on the toilet or nap time. If I am lucky during a movie or at bedtime.

So I started with Tuesdays with Morrie. I have heard it referenced in many TV shows and when I found it in goodwill, I picked it up to see what all the fuss was about. I started with reading the inside cover and found that this was a “true story”. It is about his college professor Morrie Schwartz and his battle with ALS. He visits him every Tuesday for weeks until Morrie’s last day. Morrie shares with him the wisdom he has gathered throughout his full life.

The book is filed with pearls of wisdom. On how to deal with living, loving and dying. How to be a decent human being. How to relate to others on an emotional level. I could fill this blog with my favorite quotes from the book but I absolutely recommend that you read it yourself. You will get much more out of the book by reading it than looking at a few lines from it.

This book made me think long after putting it down. What if we knew we were going to die? What would you do? What wisdom would I have to pass on to my loved ones? Have the things I have done in my life mattered enough that someone would want to visit me every Tuesday until I died? It really makes you of the meaning of your life and how you have impacted others thus far. I have sat and thought of the things that I could say to others. I could give advice on parenting in divorce. How not to totally crumble in the death of a child.How to overcome having a loveless Father. How to make the absolute best strawberry cake you will ever eat. But is that enough? Is that what people will want to hear from me? And who would visit me? Will it be a family member childhood friend or someone I met along the way? Have I been the best me I can be to where I would have droves of people wanting to see me one last time?

This book is more than sharing the life lessons from a truly remarkable man. One that I feel like I have missed out on. It is a book that make you think about your life. How you have impacted others. And the biggest of all, have you learned anything of value to pass on to others.

I give this book more than two thumbs up or five stars. I think every school should make the senior class read it and study it. I think every parent should read it and learn from it. I just want everyone to read this book.

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Unplugging Update

It has now been almost two weeks since I have started “unplugging” my life. How is it going? Well, to be honest, I am loving it! I haven’t got to do everything I wanted to do because we have been so busy with graduations and other things. But I have really enjoyed not having what I now refer to as a “bright screen” headache. I haven’t gotten nearly as many of the headaches I used to and I am thinking it had something to do with looking at lit up screens all day. Phone, Tablet, computer, TV. So that is a major plus.

I have also realized that I really do not miss FaceBook all that much. My sisters or Jeff will ask me if I had seen such and such on FB and I can gladly say, “No I haven’t!” The ones that are a part of my everyday life text or call me when something is going on so I have not missed the important stuff. Now I do still get on there here and there. But I have been very good at limiting myself. What was no more than 10 minutes a day has now became maybe 10 minutes every 3 days. Now don’t be mistaken, I still love the Instagram!

I haven’t got to read as many books as I have set my goal too. Nor have I written as much. I have written more letters than I normally get to and that is the best bonus so far! I have converted one of the extra bedrooms as a little getaway reading room/guest room. I have the bookshelf filled with books that I want to get read. My comfy rocker that I have had since Richie and Luke were little. There is a bed in there for when I want to curl up and read until I fall asleep. Yes, I could do this in my room but there is nothing but a tiny TV and DVD player in this room so no electronic distractions. And with it not being a regularly used room in the house, no one goes in there much. My bedroom is like the gathering place for everyone lately. (Which I do not mind)

I have noticed that while unplugging, I am more attentive to my children and husband. It makes me sad to realize how much time I took away from them. They deserved more of me than I was giving them. The down-side of this realization is that I have noticed how plugged in the are and how little time I get in return with them now. Catch 22. I am trying to get them to unplug more without them realizing it.  Another down-side is I am finding that I becoming a little OCD again about things around the house. What took years to tame is now coming back. But I have seen that I was slacking on the housework.

I have also noticed that electronics were part of my insomnia. Before I was lucky to get a good 2 hours of sleep. That was without sleeping medication. With meds, I would get maybe 4. Now, I can fall asleep just sitting still. I am thinking that all the lack of sleep is being caught up on. I went to bed last night and was asleep on my own by 10pm! Can you believe it???? I am sleeping again!

So now school is out. Graduations are about over. Only one more weekend is booked on the calendar until July. I will now get into a routine with the little kids that will be here for the summer. I will read, write and just be peacefully unplugged. Try it, You will feel better!

Unplugging For The Summer

I am going to do it! I am going to unplug from all unnecessary electronics, TV and other digital devices for the summer! I have a plan and I am sticking to it.

This includes, limiting myself to 10 minutes of Facebook a day. If it doesn’t show up in my feed in that amount of time, then I didn’t need to see it. It is a good way to keep in touch but I need human contact. I will use the time I would have spent on the site to call my friends, write letters and visit for a glass of sweet tea.

I am going to limit myself to 2 scrolls a day through Instagram. I love Instagram more than Facebook so this one will be extremely hard. I love seeing all the pictures from my nieces and Godchildren. Pictures of high school friends children. Oh how I love the pictures without the Facebook drama!

TV will be put on the back burner. This one may be a little hard since I have a “Real Housewives” obsession. How will I live without my Lifetime TV? Thank goodness that Grey’s Anatomy will be on summer break! Yes, this one is going to be tough!

There are other little things I will unplug from but those are the ones that I find are taking up the most of my time. This is going to be like weaning a baby off of a pacifier. I can do this!

What I will “Plug” into are the things that we used to do before the electronic age. I will spend more time with the family and friends around me. How unique will it be for my table to be the only table in a restaurant that is not looking down at a phone? I will stay away from the ones that can’t unplug for quality time. Phones, TV and computers are the biggest problem in my family and marriage. We will see if this family can survive each other or not.

I will read more! I have a whole list of summer books just waiting to be opened. I cannot wait to read the rest of the Mitch Albom books left on my list! I have a ton of Max Lucado and Beth Moore books to read. Not to mention, Fannie Flagg, Paulo Coelho, Beverly Lewis, Michael Phillips and my secret obsession, V.C. Andrews! When I run out of books from my stash, I will go sit for hours in an old musty used book store and bask in hours of endless words and adventures!

I am going to write more! Blogs, journals, letters, cards , even e-mails! I am happiest when I am writing things and getting them out of this hyper-active mind of mine. I am also going to read more of my fellow bloggers writings. I have not been the best blogging friend I can be. Some days, I just post mine and go back to the world. The things I want to write about. I may even decide to write a little story that has been popping up in my quiet time. Letter writing will become a daily ritual. I will send letters to friends, family and maybe even get a penpal. One of the greatest forms of therapy I have had since D-Day is the penpal friendships I have developed with other Moms like me. I will reach out to more and help them as others have helped me.

I will use the extra time to work on a flower garden, remodel the house, and all the chores that are never done. I will cut down trees and make a memorial garden for my son. I will have a small vegetable garden and harvest like my grandparents did. I will take walks in the evening. I will sit on the deck soaking up the sun during the day with one of the books I want to read.

I will visit my mother more on her days off. I have been lacking in that area due to work and car issues, but I will make it a point this summer. I just need to be around my mother.

But mostly, I want to read my bible more and just listen to what I need to hear. I want to connect to God more. I want to build my faith and work hard at being closer to him.

So I am unplugging, starting today. Thank goodness my blog automatically posts to Facebook. Today I will start living for me and what is best for me. Who knows, I may never plug in again.

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