Grief and Loss, Memoirs, Mental health, Relationships, Self-help, Uncategorized

Starting Over at the Beginning

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Painting of Lizzie and Reggie commissioned for Xmas 2010 for Audie
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First picture of Lizzie Roberts – the day Audie adopted her in 2005.

“Don’t you want to leave the painting here? Why do you want to put it in storage? You said you wanted to keep it here last summer because you were worried something would happen to it…” I said to him as he took the painting of Lizzie and Reggie and wrapped it in bubble wrap, along with the photo of Lizzie he took the day he adopted her.

Then he put them away in the box, taped it shut, and said he wanted to take them with him now.

“But they might get damaged in storage…”

“No they will be fine…”

I wasn’t prepared for the panic I felt when he took those keepsakes of Lizzie and Reggie off the shelf: the painting I gave him for our first Christmas as husband and wife, the photo of Lizzie, and Grey Kitty – with her urn – and the funny door hangers I bought him with Frenchie and pug heads, respectively.

Before he left, he took one last look in every space in the house, to make sure he had not left anything behind.

And that was the end – all of his things – were gone.

Last night, at midnight, I knelt down in front of Lizzie’s and Reggie’s pictures.  I placed a hand on each of their urns .

“I would never have known you if I’d never met him…”

And then- it all came crashing down on me –  I gave into the sorrow and the tears came. Hard and fast.

“You’re all gone! All four of you are gone!” I cried – looking over my shoulder at Toby’s pictures and then back at Lizzie’s and Reggie’s. I gripped the edge of the table.  I let out the pain I try so hard to hold in and hide from everyone – this void that I am ashamed to talk about – because I don’t understand.

Why can’t I get over him the way he has gotten over me?

It’s as if the last 10 months didn’t happen – I am right back where I started that night he was packing some of his clothes and personal things.

“I’m not going to bring a lot of stuff with me. I don’t have a lot of room.”

And when he walked over to the shelf, he held the painting, of Lizzie and Reggie, and that look in his eyes, I’ll never forget, as he said, “I don’t want anything to happen to this. It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever gotten.”

Last night, he said the exact same thing as he packed it away: “This is my favorite thing I’ve ever gotten.”

It was not all he said that night in June…because he thought, maybe, if his feelings changed, he’d come back, before December 31st – if he felt a spark at all, he said, we wouldn’t sign the papers.  And he’d come home.

I held onto that hope for dear life, day after day, for a long time – it took longer than that for the reality to set in after he told me, five months early, that it was over.

Now, I’ve had 10 months.

But, yesterday – it was as if he had left all over again – as if I was right back there in June – back to that night when he left.

How is it possible that my feelings are right back where I started at the beginning? The last 10 months – how could it feel like they never happened – when I know very well that they did.

I thought I would be all right. But I wasn’t. I thought because I prepared myself ahead of time, for what I might feel like yesterday, that I would be okay. But I wasn’t.

And I’m not.

Since he left last night, I have been feeling claustrophobic in this house. I feel like someone’s hands are around my neck, gripping it, and choking me.

I feel lost in this house.

It suddenly feels empty, and larger than life.  And the loneliness is overwhelming me.

I cry as soon as I come into the front room, and see their painting is gone, and the pictures are gone.

I hurry past the ugly brown desk that I asked them to move into the dining room after they removed his beautiful table. I can’t even look at it. The curio is gone, and the coffee table, and all of his things. All of them, every last one.

There is so much emptiness – the spaces where his things were – I suddenly can’t breathe.

I didn’t realize it would feel like this. I didn’t realize that I was holding onto the things he left in the house as a way of unconsciously holding onto him, and our marriage. There must be something wrong with me – it makes no sense.

Except – grief doesn’t make sense. It never does.

I’m sitting in my green chair, looking out the window. In the room where the dogs’ photos and keepsakes are – it is the only room left that feels safe now. Safe from the agony that is gripping me. My classical music is playing – the newly-sprouted leaves sway in the wind. The lush trees dance as the trunks move from right to left. It seems like winter was never here…

I know that there is no way I can explain to him, or to her, or to anyone, why I feel this way.  I am ashamed that I still feel this way.

Only someone who matters to you can make you feel anger…or joy…or pain…or…love.

He is lucky. He is no longer affected – not negatively, not positively – there is nothing. It is just a blank. I am invisible. I am mute. I am a phantom of a love story that I am beginning to doubt was ever real for him at all.

All I know for certain is that I don’t want to feel this way – the only person that I’m hurting now is myself -not him, not her.

I do not want to hurt either of them – not that I can – only someone who matters to you can hurt you.

But I know that I am hurting myself, not intentionally.  Pretending like I’m fine, and more importantly, acting as if I’m fine, is so much harder than I thought – and I have not been able to do it as well as I wanted, or needed, to.

I tried so hard to be perfect, that inevitably, I failed to do so, when I had to.

It is just too hard to be perfect, and to never make a mistake – especially in this, of all things – losing the person you love most in the whole world, that you love more than you’ve ever loved anyone.

It is too hard to be perfect -watching them leave you – watching them run toward someone else – because you were not enough.

Because no matter how hard you tried to fix what you did, and said, that was wrong – you can never make it right. Because the love was not strong enough to withstand your mistakes. Because all he can see…are your mistakes…

“You’re a good person, but a wife is something special.”

He was sitting at the dining room table – I’ll never forget.

It was the last thing he said to me, in August, before he told me, two days later, “I do not want to continue our marriage.”

It took me two more weeks to fully process that our marriage was really over.

And now, I’m back there again, as if it just happened. And I don’t know how to stop the hurt.

One of my best friends in San Diego called last night, out of the blue, thankfully, to check on me. I told him what happened, what I’d done – what I’d said – last night after he picked up the phone in his car. I heard a ringtone that I didn’t recognize, he looked at me, and I knew, I knew who it was. And then he answered the phone.

We were at the Starbucks drive-thru – on our way back home from his storage unit.

I was so mad at myself (I still am), but, the hurt was so strong, what I said, it just came out.

I had come so far with him – to the point that I almost thought he was not stressed around me anymore.

And then the reality of the two of them – right there in his car – hearing her voice, and  him talking to her – it just – it was too much for me – on the hardest day – the last day – the day he was taking the last of his things from our home – the absolute end of our decade-long life together.

At that point, I could not think straight. It was just too much for me to hold inside.

I’d held the pain in for 3 weeks, hidden away, and in that moment, it pushed its way up to the surface – all the pain of losing him, for good,  to her.

My friend told me to stop being so hard on myself – we’d spent so much time together in this house, the house we shared, in the last few weeks, it was understandable, he said, that I’d feel like this. He also told me that he’d known me for long enough (19 years) to see how far I’ve come, how much better I am – he told me 5 years ago, and 10 years ago, he never could have talked to me about what happened like he did last night. I would not have been able, or willing, to listen to him. And now I was, he told me.

I told my friend, “5 years ago I was with Audie, and that’s what happened. I couldn’t listen to him tell me these kinds of hard things.”

I was thinking an hour ago, as I was thinking about when she called, and about what happened after that conversation – that it was a good thing, in a strange way, because it made me think about her in a different light than I had since I found out about their romantic relationship, about a month ago.

I understand why she feels the way she does about him. I don’t know much about her life, but the little I do know, I admire and respect.

It is unfortunate the way she and I have this man we love, in common, now, but I think, I sense, from what happened in his car, that she doesn’t wish for me to be hurt.

For me, I think, in other circumstances, if I were anyone but his soon-to-be former wife, I would admit that I know that this isn’t easy for her, either, and that she’s doing the best she can, in this awkward situation, just like I am.

Falling in love with him, is something we have in common, and there’s no way to navigate that easily – no way whatsoever. But I don’t feel angry at her, strangely. I did, for a while, but not now.

I understand – when you fall in love with him, you just want to be with him – you don’t want to have to wait for the final chapter of his previous life to end, in order to begin the first chapter in yours.

He would not have such strong romantic feelings for her, or be so drawn to her, if she were not a wonderful person, too, in her own unique ways. I’m sure of that. And I’m sure she’s trying her best to be fair, too, in her own way, under the circumstances.

It gives me peace to think the best about her, and I want to continue to try to focus on wishing happiness for him, even though I am grieving for the loss of our future together.

I know it is not going to be easy, and I don’t know how long it will take. My friend said I will never completely stop loving him, and I know that’s true – he was my husband and we were together almost 10 years.

He and I feel differently, but I know that’s how I feel, and if I can give myself permission for it to be okay to love him, as long as I keep trying to move forward, and to continue to heal  – then maybe there’s nothing bad, or wrong, if I do not get to where he is at.

We are different people – I don’t know if it really means it was never real – because he feels nothing now at all – but I think it is okay if I do feel these things.

As long as I can somehow find a way to re-open the gap between June, and now, that suddenly closed completely, when he was here in this house, our marital house, ending our life together for good.

I know that because I had to be perfect, I couldn’t be. It was just impossible for me. I wish it had been enough to be better, to have come as far as I did, but I couldn’t be perfect.

I know he needed me to, but I couldn’t do it. He told me many times that when he’s in love with someone, they don’t have to be perfect, and I was far from perfect.

I’d like to think that there were many things about me that were perfect for him – he used to say to me, “You’re perfect for me.”

He said it many times, those first two years, but he also said, if he’s not in love, and the feelings are gone, all the things that would never bother or upset him before, now…

I do not think he is unusual that way. I think being in love, we have blinders on. Maybe that’s why it is so easy for me to focus on his good qualities, and it’s always been that way. Even when I got upset, I got over it so easily, because in the end, I loved him so much, I only saw the good.

Even now – I still only think about the good.

I guess that’s not a good thing – especially now. But, it’s not a choice. It just is.

I wasn’t prepared to start over at the beginning, but I’ve been told, it won’t take as long to get back to where I was – to full acceptance and being able to bear the pain, and the grief, without it taking me down like it has today and last night.

I don’t know how to stop being so hard on myself – he told me there’s no point in beating myself up for what I did.  And yet, we fell into that conversation loop I thought we’d put to rest, after she called, and he reminded me of the reasons why I lost him –  how do I not beat myself up for that?

He told me he’s not angry. I believe his connection, his feelings, for her, have a lot to do with that. I’m glad he’s okay. I want him to be okay, even if it’s not with me.

I think my friend is right. Up until he took the last of his things, I was okay living alone in this house. Through Lizzie’s death, Reggie’s death, I was okay in the house.

But now, I feel like it’s a gravesite – because it is – it is the gravesite of my life with them, and I have never, ever felt so alone in my entire life. I have never ached for anyone the way I ache for all of them.

I do not feel like I want to go back to San Diego the way I did in the very beginning, and this is so sadly ironic – I left my last home to be with him, and now I think I have to leave this home to heal from losing him.

It feels like I’ve come full circle – back to the beginning – leaving one home for him at the start, and now leaving another home for him, at the end.

After last night, I realized that I have no choice. I have to try my hardest to find a way to be at peace with his new dreams with her, and to lay to rest, once and for all, the dreams I had with him.

The first day after a death is the hardest – the shock is real.

I must be in shock, I suppose, but I don’t feel numb. I feel the pain of everything.

Today, I was thinking back to four years ago. This weekend is the 4-year anniversary of the weekend I came back home – to him and our dogs.

My mom was very ill for a long time, and when I should have been here, I was in San Diego, in 2012, and 2013, and then for almost 5 months in 2014-2015 when she was acutely ill.

During that time, she said something to me, that I can’t stop thinking about today. She said, “I just want to be normal.”

On February 3rd, the last day I saw him before he began moving out, he said to me, “I understand. You’re just different.”

Normal is not different.

I think she found him at the right time in his life, and I found him at the wrong time. And sometimes, sadly, that’s just how it is. It just comes down to luck and timing. But, also, sometimes when it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.  And when you know, you know.

I believe, that’s what’s happened between them – I may be wrong, but that is what I believe. A casual friendship, over the years, led them to reconnect at the right time in his life, when he was ready – he wasn’t looking for it, he told me. That’s usually when it happens.

Ironically, he said the same thing to me ten years ago, when we met, for the first time, but he must not have been ready then – his life is set now. He has fought the hard fight and come out on the other end. I imagine it’s the same for her, though I don’t know, but I think so, the little I know, it sounds like it. And that’s usually when people are able to make it work – when everything else has come together for them first – and then, the relationship feels effortless.

I wonder – my friend told me that I will always have to live with and cope with the part of me that led to the difficulties I had in my marriage. That is something that I am finding difficult to accept. I hope I can.

I am grateful he also reminded me that I am a wonderful person. Last night,  I needed to hear that.

I don’t know if Audie believes that, too, but even if he did, I know that it is too late now. It would never be enough.

Starting over from the beginning was so unexpected, and I have new regrets now. But, I hope I have not undone whatever good I did when I was able to choose the high road these last several months. I wasn’t perfect, neither was he, but, it truly is hard to be perfect in a divorce. I think that might be impossible, actually.

Every journey begins with the first step.

For now, I am determined to do what I set out to do – to be helpful,  to be brave,  to be gracious, and thoughtful, and mature – and considerate –  anything that I can do that makes me proud – to be me.

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Audie, Reggie, Lizzie, Toby and me: my former family. In Balboa Park, July 27, 2011

 

 

 

"Me Too", ADD, Child Abuse, Gratitude, Grief and Loss, Memoirs, Mental health, Recovery, Trauma, Uncategorized

“Courage Does Not Always Roar…”

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“…Sometimes it comes in a quiet voice that says, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'”

 

When I was in my late twenties, I started collecting a lot of posters from the Successories store in University Town Center in San Diego. Some of them have been destroyed in one of my many moves since then, but a few have survived and now hang on the wall in my home: “Passion: Nothing in the world has ever been accomplished without passion,” “Perseverance: Our greatest glory lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall,” “Integrity: Integrity comes when character is tested; keep true and never be ashamed of doing what is right,” and…”Courage: You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.” (This last one came directly from Aristotle and the quotation from Perseverance is my signature mark on this website because for years, that quote has sustained my resilience through my life’s hardest falls and seen me pick myself up and start over again through sheer will and…perseverance).

In 2017, a therapist that I saw a few times while I was searching for the right one on a permanent basis said to me, “The only way out of the pain is through it.”

That was the last thing I wanted to hear – who among us ever wants to hear that we have to walk through the physical, spiritual and emotional feelings of pain in order to exit on the other side and start over…from the beginning…when we never wanted to lose what ended in the first place?

But that’s how it is…I am finding out…the hard way.

The only way out of the pain is through it.

During one of the last visits I had with a counselor whom I miss greatly, she shared a story with me about two arrows: the first arrow that pierces the heart is the initial pain.

The second arrow…the one that does not have to be…comes from the suffering on top of the pain that we bring upon ourselves.

I know that the cure for the second arrow is radical acceptance…and breaking silence.

There is no one definition of courage – for some, the courage to be silent is as worthy as the courage to speak out.  Life is not black-and-white.

Neither is grief. Neither is healing.

Neither is the way out of the former onto the pathway to the latter.

I have realized, or learned (or both) in the last few years, but most acutely in this past year, that trauma hibernating in the dark corners of our memory – waiting to be awakened without warning, is a silent killer – it is not courageous, however, its remedy is the epitome of courage.

The problem is that trauma is stealthier than the most silent and cunning of predators, and make no mistake, trauma is a predator – of the worst kind. It lies in wait in the recesses of your brain – for years, sometimes for decades – and strikes before you ever have a chance to prepare yourself for it, much less fight back.

Trauma’s greatest ally is fear. Its adversary is breaking the silence.

Human beings, with the best of intentions and/or the primal instinct to protect ourselves, are unwitting perpetrators of keeping the silence.

Sometimes it is the individual. Sometimes it is within families.

Sometimes it is simply our unconscious brain trying to cope.

Recently, the TV sitcom, “Mom,” has brought the silent shame of adult women with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) into the spotlight, and I am so grateful to them for bringing this into the spotlight – if nothing else to bring those suffering in silence out of the darkness and out of their prison of shame.

Just like heart disease manifests itself differently in women than it does in men, so does adult ADD.

What was even more noteworthy and a revelation to me was tackling the connection between ADD and Trauma.

When I did further research later (to confirm it was not just sitcom writing for the bells and whistles of getting higher ratings), I discovered that it is true:

ADD manifests as a coping mechanism for surviving trauma.

I won’t get into all the details in the blog, not today at least, but I do encourage anyone who suspects they may have ADD (men or women, boys or girls) to read more and learn more.

I felt like a weight had lifted off my shoulders when I first read this and then I could not stop reading about it – I was starving for more knowledge, more explanations, more research and case studies to connect the missing pieces of how ADD and all its life-altering symptoms go back to the brain shielding itself from feeling the agony, the abyss of buried trauma.

In my last post, I referred to my past – to my childhood and adolescence, specifically – and that I am a trauma survivor, like so many other people out in the world who hide it, or try to, behind the face of normalcy and perseverance and yes…courage.

You may have heard the expression, “Be kind. For everyone you meet is experiencing pain you know nothing about.”

It may or may not be true about everyone you meet, at any given time, but I do believe, to one degree or another, it is true about everyone.

It is one reason I live by the idea of “there but for the grace of God go I,” and try to be compassionate to everyone, for, truthfully, I do not know what sorrows and what pain they bear behind their smiles, or frowns, or words.

I recently came to some realizations about myself, some of the most painful ones I have ever had to face, and from what I am reading, and have learned so far, the source of all of it is suppressed trauma, some of which I remember, some of which I don’t – and maybe, I never will.

Believe it or not I hope I do, for as I said in my last post, I know that the trauma has dictated – against my free will – things I have done and said that I wish I could take back, now that I understand, now that I know what I know now.

I wonder, if I were to share, if my speaking out, would help someone, anyone, to have the courage to do the same.

If nothing else, I do not feel that I owe it to the memory of the perpetrators, now deceased, to protect them, or what they did.

Some perpetrators are still alive, out there, and maybe they read this blog, maybe they don’t. I don’t really care. I no longer wish to be controlled by the fear of what they will do to me if I break my silence.

But for now, I will leave them alone, except I will say, about one of them, the one from 2006-2007, whom I found out no longer lives in San Diego (thank God) that: ever since the “Me Too” movement raised its voice in courage in 2017, I have felt the guilt of the previous decade rise to the surface, and that voice, “Why didn’t you say something? Why didn’t you report what he did?” screaming at me again.

I know why I didn’t say anything.

I didn’t think anyone would believe me.

And I also knew, he was capable of killing me if I did.

How many women have felt that way?

How many children like me, were told, by an adult, a grown man – bigger, stronger, louder than us – that if we told anyone what he did to us, he’d kill us (or in my case, he would kill me and my mother).

I felt guilty about not reporting the man in San Diego because I knew that I was not the first and I knew that he would do it again, to other women.

When the “Me Too” movement came about, I actually tried to find out if I could report him – that’s how courageous I felt in the wake of the wave of women’s courage and their voices speaking out – and it was also how guilty I felt for not speaking out right away, when I knew where he was, and when I might have been the one to stop him from doing it again.

By the time my therapist had helped me unblock the trauma through EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), the man who assaulted me in my bedroom when I was 6 years old – my mother’s boyfriend – in a home invasion – had been dead for many years.

He was also Jewish, like us. He was a doctor, a prestigious cardiologist. And he lived in Beverly Hills – a place most Americans know about because of pop culture and Hollywood.

And I was just a 6-year-old girl whose parents had recently divorced.

I still don’t remember everything that may have happened. But I remember most of it, more than I wish I did. And it’s the reason why, to this day, I’m terrified of strangers having access to my home.  Something that irreparably hurt my marriage  in the winter and spring of 2012.

But, I didn’t know I had post traumatic stress disorder. I didn’t know I was reliving the trauma of that home invasion – or, more accurately, the fear of it happening again – when all of a sudden a real estate agent threatened to give strangers free access to me and my home – one month after I’d moved to Georgia, before I’d even finished unpacking my boxes, much less gotten my land legs after the first relocation of my life, from San Diego, CA to Athens, GA.

Every day, I wish I could go back to that time and do things differently (which I would – knowing what I do now and why I could not stop the terror and the behaviors in me it triggered).

But, having opened the door to the effects of one trauma on the rest of my life, I have found the courage to face the other traumas, the ones I remember at least.

In other posts, I will speak out, in the newfound courage I am finding to break the silence, but for now, I will leave it with this:

If there are any little girls or little boys out there, who are afraid to speak out, to tell your parents, or anyone else, that someone has hurt you, please do not be afraid to tell someone.  There are people who care, who are there to help.

You do not deserve to lose your childhood, or any part of your life, to the fear of retaliation or any other abuse from someone who is such a coward that he or she would hurt an innocent child.

Trauma is the silent killer of truth and of happiness – do not be afraid to stand up to it and slay it through its heart.

Truth is your sword – trust that you are not alone.

Athens, Georgia, Dogs, Gratitude, Grief and Loss, Memoirs, Mental health, San Diego, California

Three Times the Gratitude

It’s easy to be grateful when life gives you lemonade instead of lemons. That sounds cheesy, doesn’t it? I just made that up – I like the saying: when life gives you lemons, turn it into lemonade. It works, and I’ve recently been reminded by one of my best, most honest friends: “Jill, you are the most resilient person I’ve ever known.” (Thus, my home page header with the Emerson quote on perseverance).

The point is that gratitude can take work, effort and willpower if life consistently gives you lemons, and it’s even more challenging if you are born with DNA cells made up of lemons instead of the proverbial lemonade.

I fully admit that I have much to be grateful for, even in this dark time in my life, darker than most, actually.  Contrary to what people believe, fighting negativity takes work if you are not born with a brain filled with the “feel-good” chemicals reproducing themselves without drugs, exercise, meditation, or a charmed life filled with endless good luck. And, if you grew up in a nuclear family with healthy boundaries and strong role models, mixed with a lot of love and laughter (no family is “normal” or “perfect” but some come pretty close) then your cup of lemonade will forever runneth over.

For the rest of us, we have to work at it, constantly, every day.  Not because we don’t have an inherent love of life (I do), or gravitate toward the silver linings in the clouds (I do), but only because life handed me (and millions like me) a deck with several of the key cards missing – and just ask my grandma who taught me all I know about card games – you can’t play the game the right way without a full deck of cards.

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Grandma and me circa September 2003

The game of life is very similar to a game of cards.

Back in 2006 when I lived in Santa Barbara, California for a brief time, I took a class through the city’s free continuing education program called, “Coping with Grief and Loss.”

It was one of the best things I ever did and it cost only $5 for 12 weeks.

Marilyn Grosboll, one of the most inspirational and insightful motivational speakers/social workers I’ve ever had the good luck to encounter, taught the interactive workshop. (I also took her other class, “Building Self-Esteem,” which was another gem).

Marilyn recommended the book, Life After Loss, as a companion to the material in the class. I read it that summer and it delivered what she promised it would.

The other day I dug that book out of my boxes of old books. It’s time to re-read it.

But, I’m a slow reader these days…so…in the meantime…I’m refocusing on the main lesson I learned from Marilyn’s class: wake up every day and go to bed every night writing down three things you are grateful for that day, and keep them in a journal. When the grief hits you so hard you can’t breathe (that happens to me a lot lately), go back to the journal and re-read what you have written. Say it aloud. If you think of more to add, write those down, too – even if it’s not first thing in the morning or bedtime.

I remember the doctor I was working with at the time said to me, coincidentally, “Some people are born with a natural joy for living. They feel happy every day, no matter what happens to them.”

Must be nice. I wonder if they take that for granted. I hope not. That would be something to be incredibly grateful for – the world would be a peaceful place if everyone felt that inner peace and happiness 24/7, would it not? I bet that it would and people would have much less to fight over.

I remember I felt insulted at the time, or criticized, at least, by what he said, in the context of our conversation which centered around why my depression was not getting better and why I couldn’t just pull myself out of it.  Yes, doctors who treat depression, or some, at least, have that attitude about their patients. When the people who are professionally trained to treat the illness judge you, that’s pretty messed up. And it makes it harder to get well – note to the mental health professionals. It sure doesn’t help the stigma, either.

But, thirteen years later, I’m grateful that he said that. Yes, it’s true. I am. Because it gives me perspective now: there’s nothing wrong with me that isn’t wrong with most of us. The majority of people do not fall into this category of “Pollyanna positivity” that is elusive to the rest of us.

The majority of us, to one degree or another, have to work at that inner peace and joy.

We have to remind ourselves to be grateful for the good things in our lives: past and present – and to be hopeful about the future.

I think based on what my friend said about my resilience (which I know is true), I fall somewhere in the middle on the spectrum of positivity: somewhere smack dab in the center in between severely depressed and pessimistic, and that 24/7 innate joy that nothing, and no one, can put asunder.

In other words, I’m your average human being.

Not black or white, but many shades of gray, or I prefer, rainbow colors – they’re much prettier, and who doesn’t love all the colors of the rainbow?

Off the top of my head, as I sit down to write this week’s post, a plethora of things to be grateful for come to mind for me, and since I haven’t been writing in my gratitude journal the last 12 years, I have some major catching up to do. Though, I’d like to be more creative here – rather than list the obvious (my innate gifts, family members, home) – it’s a good time for me to reflect on some of the small, and large, moments in my past that I’m grateful for, and especially for the mountains I have already overcome. (On a recent episode of “Mom,” Marjorie had a great line: “When we look at the mountains ahead of us, we forget all the mountains we’ve already overcome.”)

So here goes…

I am grateful for:

In September 1990, I bought a $1 raffle ticket for free parking on campus and a reserved parking space in the parking lot closest to Muir College residence halls for the entire school year at UCSD. Out of thousands of students, I won that raffle.  With a single $1 ticket.

 

On January 5, 2011, our dog, Reggie (yes, the one I blog about so often), ran away. We left the front door open (unbeknownst to us) while we were preoccupied and just like that, he was gone. We searched in the dark for several hours, but we didn’t find him and we lived near a busy road…the next morning we put up flyers that we created the night before, but no one had seen him.

19 hours after we realized Reggie was missing, Audie got a call from the vet in Washington that the PetSmart in LaJolla had contacted them from the microchip company (Chip your pets!). Someone had found Reggie the night before and took him into PetSmart but Audie had not registered him in San Diego yet (easy thing to forget about, trust me) so it took them longer to locate the owner. At first, they called Addie, his ex-girlfriend, whom Reggie’s chip was still registered to in Seattle. Long story short, we got Reggie back. A couple of nice students had “Lucky” (his original name, not changed either with the chip company) and kept him safe and sound overnight in their apartment, just a few blocks from our condo! He didn’t get that far, thank goodness.

Audie gave them a $200 reward (he’s always been a very generous person, I love that about him) and our contact information so they could visit Reggie when they wanted to. They were very grateful – they had already bought him a bunch of toys and dog food from PetSmart. I felt bad for them, I knew how they felt. They were so excited to have a dog. We did hear from them once more, about four weeks later, to tell us that they adopted their own dog. So in a way, maybe Reggie did a mitzvah by running away: spending one night taking care of him motivated the students to give another rescue dog a forever family.

On July 1, 2015, I tried to change lanes on Oconee Street near downtown Athens, GA, but  I didn’t see the black Lincoln Continental in my blind spot. I sideswiped their car in the right lane and then pulled back into the left lane as soon as I hit the Lincoln.

I was sick about it. It was such a stupid thing and I had a perfect driving record. I felt my body go numb as I drove to the Church’s Fried Chicken parking lot a block or so down the street, followed by the Lincoln. As I parked the car, I felt faint. I couldn’t think straight – it must have been panic – panic attacks do that to me. I don’t sweat, I get lightheaded and feel faint and it’s a scary feeling. I sat in the car for about 10 minutes. Finally, I exited the car and a young girl (probably a UGA student) was waiting for me, leaning on her car.

I apologized I don’t know how many times, and of course, admitted it was my fault. Showed her my license and insurance – we all know the drill.

And then, something amazing happened. Never happened to me in California, that’s for sure.

She looked at my car, and at her car, and told me most of the damage was on my end and her car looked fine.

“Let me call my dad and ask him, okay?”

“Take your time,” I answered. (I was afraid to look at the damage on the right side of my car just yet, so I took her word for it).

She took a few minutes to call her dad while I waited by the undamaged side of my car.

When she came back to talk to me she said, “It’s okay. My dad said it’s fine to let it go since there’s no damage.”

“Are you sure?” I asked. “I was at fault. Are you sure you’re okay with that?” (I really couldn’t believe anyone would be so nice about it. Anytime I had a fender bender in a parking lot in Los Angeles or San Diego, people were out for blood, even if there was barely a scratch, much less a dent).

“Yes, my dad said it’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”

“Thank you!” I said. “You are very kind.”

She smiled and left. I walked over to my car at that point and saw that I had paint damage and a pretty deep dent above my right front tire.

But, I could breathe easier again.

I’m still in disbelief to this day as I write about it.

And…extremely grateful to that young lady and her dad for their kindness.

Ha! Even as I am writing these three memories I am grateful for, the feel-good chemicals are buzzing in my head!

Marilyn’s right. Gratitude uplifts us when we are grieving.

And helps turn those sour lemons into sweet, delicious lemonade.

lemonade