Saturday, December 10, 2016

Always Something

Life has a way of hitting you with things. Small or large, these hits catch you off guard, throw you off balance, and tip the scales against you. It's a normal part of life. Eventually to be shaken off, rebounded over, recovered from, and your footing regained.

However, for people struggling through crisis, trauma, or illness, these normal sized hits can be very far from normal. When your life is already out of balance, and you're struggling to deal with everything off kilter, even the most minor of hits can be catastrophic.

Think of how in normal circumstances, a cold or flu can affect your work week, routine, or scheduled plans. 

Now imagine your health already being bad, existing daily with a pain level that's barely bearable, and physical or emotional fatigue that's truly a minute to minute battle. In those circumstances, a minor cold or injury can literally break your already fragile condition. Something so small compounding into something so large it feels, or can actually be, unrecoverable. 

Think of how an unforeseen expense can throw off your budget or change your plans.

Now imagine finances so stretched by medical bills or a literal inability to earn more during to your crisis. Living moment to moment, paycheck to paycheck where even the smallest unforeseen expense can leave you unable to pay for necessities like medicine, food, or electricity. Suddenly what would seem like a minor hit to most, sets you back and buries you so deep you can't even contemplate how to get out of the hole you find yourself in.

It is hard for most people to comprehend how truly debilitating and life-altering these unbalancing hits can be. Most people just know the stagger from a hit as a normal part of life. But, the people struggling for their survival know how hard and far these hits can you knock down.

When you're fighting for your life, your sanity, your health, your heart, and your peace of mind, just one more blow often has the ability to just kill the fight left in you.

And, when your struggle to survive is long term, you have no reserves left to deflect and bounce back from the blows. You are literally, figuratively, emotionally, and physically tapped out.

It is exhausting, stressful, frightening, and spiritually paralyzing. It also can actually be dangerous and life-threatening.

There is no painless, quick or easy way through it. 

We just have to try to breathe brave, cling desperately to what little hope in us is left, and try the best we can to absorb the weight of our additional bruises. Try to hang on, even when you feel your grip weakening. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Million Dollars

Please give. Support matters and research saves lives.
#BrainAneurysm #RevlonMillion #BreatheBrave

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Relativity of Crazy

During extended recoveries from trauma, crisis and illness, survivors are often faced with the difficult, casual accusations of complaining, whining, exaggerating, and flat out lying about pain and symptoms. These accusations can affect the courses of treatments, altering them to only partially address the complaints while overlooking other aspects.

During the stress of this emotional and physical turmoil, it can be additionally debilitating to suppress the pain and contemplate the symptoms based on these accusations. Survivors can feel like they are going crazy, doubt their own feelings, and lose hope they will ever regain any semblance of their life before.

We look at the walls of the asylum pressing in and begin to believe we, not only belong there, but deserve it.

Today, during a routine appointment, while charting the need for an upcoming test, a doctor, new to me, took the time to really listen to the way I was describing my pain, look at the locations of my symptoms, and review my medical records including old x-rays. 

After five years of pain and numbness in my hand and neck, this new doctor, in less than five minutes, had an eureka moment making a new diagnosis which not only made sense, but included all of my symptoms. This not only explained why I had pain, but detailed where I had pain. It revealed why earlier treatments hadn't worked or had only been partially helpful, and set a course for how new treatments will help me.

Just by listening and connecting the dots, in a way no single doctor had done in the last five years, he gave a solid diagnosis which offered the chance for my future to go from one of life-long pain, potentially to a life without the same level of suffering.

He didn't have new information. He hadn't run new tests. He wasn't looking at current scans or x-rays. He merely listened to me and really looked at my medical history.

In the long run, I don't know if today will have been the turning point in my recovery. I only know I have a name for some of my pain today which I didn't have yesterday. I only know now that, on top of everything else, I have Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, due to being born with elongated transverse processes which were in turn effected by muscular scar tissue from whiplash and exasperated nerve damage from brain surgery. 

But, knowing has made a difference in my emotional well being. 

I am not going crazy. I have real pain. It is not made up or exaggerated. It is not me seeking attention. I am not whining. I am not a liar. It has a name and it has a course of treatment. 

As survivors, we are the only ones who truly know what we are feeling. We are the only ones who know our pain. We are the only ones living with it and enduring. 

We have to believe in ourselves and listen to our bodies, even when others don't. 

We have to keep trying to find the right help. We have to keep trying to make people listen and understand. We have to reach for new treatments, new medical professionals, new shoulders to lean on, and new hands to help us up when we are down.

We are not crazy. We are surviving.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Surviving Freedom, Hatred & Donald Trump

Freedom of speech is an amazing thing.

Survivors, who have to come to terms with their illnesses, crisis and traumas, struggle everyday to have a voice. A voice that rises above the pain, the sadness, the fear, the guilt, and the shame. A voice that speaks for their value and lights the way of their healing. A voice that some days may merely manage the barest of whispers, while struggling not to drown in the depth of their own screams.

Anyone who has ever had to fight to be heard knows that Freedom of Speech is not free. It comes at a great cost. Many have died for it, both figuratively and literally. But, it is a cost worth paying, protecting and fighting for, even when it isn't pretty or kind or easy.

Sometimes the ugliest speech has paved the way for this freedom, solely because it has raged the loudest and offended the most. Larry Flynt fought for it, so did the Klu Klux Klan.

Other times the silenced voices have spoken volumes shining a light on the cost of human rights and personal freedoms. Nelson Mandela did this from a prison cell, while Anne Frank did this from an attic.

In this country, we have the hard-earned right to free speech and you don't have to be a billionaire to have a voice or speak your mind.

However, currently, here in the United States, there is a self-proclaimed billionaire speaking his mind:

By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America - Donald Trump, CC BY-SA 2.0,

"They're killers and rapists." - regarding Mexicans.
"Laziness is a trait in blacks." - regarding African Americans.
"I hate it, I'm a traditionalist." - regarding homosexual relationships.
"Disgusting." - regarding the opposing counsel in one of his trials who needed to take a break to breast-feed her 3-month old baby.
"You have to treat 'em like shit." - regarding how to handle women.

Donald Trump said these things and so much more. You can quote him all day. You can quote him in context or out of it. And, it just takes a few minutes on the internet, on the news, or on a twitter feed to find some other quote to provoke. Words, not just from the current Presidential election race, but spanning back decades.

One quote is a mistake, two quotes is a judgement call, but three quotes, or in this particular case three-hundred quotes, is a pattern.

Sadly, on June 12, 2016 an American walked into a night club in Orlando, Florida and opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle. In a brutal act of hate and terrorism, he murdered 49 human beings and wounded another 53, many of whom have years of recovery ahead of them.

Afterwards, Donald Trump did not call for gun-control or increasing access to mental health treatments or promoting tolerance through education, but instead, again called for a ban on Muslim immigrants, despite the fact that the killer was an American, born in the United States to parents who had legally immigrated here. 

Trump has a lot to say on immigrants, but has selective memory on his own linage. Donald Trump's grandfather, as a teenager, was an immigrant from Germany, who as an adult, actually tried to return to his homeland. But, Germany deported him back to the United States as a draft dodger, since he managed to avoid his mandatory military service in Germany during his years in the United States.

No matter our politics or beliefs, it is time to stop the hypocrisy. Freedom of speech is not the right to loathe or voice outrage at acts of violence, whether organized or random, while routinely supporting hate or bigotry in lesser forms. 

Freedom of Speech is not an act of hatred to murder people because they are different from you or their belief system is different than yours. 
Freedom of Speech is not an act of hatred to kill because you believe your God is more important than someone else's God.
Freedom of speech is not an act of hatred to belittle others because you believe you are of more worth then someone else.
Freedom of Speech is not an act of hatred to destroy other cultures because you value your culture more.

Freedom of Speech is not an act of hatred to spread bigotry and fear in an attempt to justify your cause.
Freedom of Speech is not an act of hatred to victimize others in an attempt to empower yourself.
Freedom of Speech is not an act of hatred to demoralize humanity in an attempt to ram your morals down someone else's throat.

Sadly, Freedom of Speech does not protect any of us from hatred. 
But, it does allow us the right to speak out against it. Loudly and often.

On November 8, 2016, many Americans will walk into voting booths. There is a good chance, in a brutal act of democracy, some of them will vote for hate by casting their ballot for Donald Trump.

But, one of the most amazing things about Freedom of Speech is that we have the right not only to speak with our voices from our hearts, but also the freedom and the right to speak with our votes.

We are the roads to our own enlightenment.

As a survivor, I truly know it's an act of freedom to speak up for our own survival and the survival of others. It isn't always easy. It comes at a great cost. But, we must speak up.

I am not telling you who to vote for, what to vote for, or how to vote for it, I am merely speaking up, like I have the freedom to do.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Wish I was there.

Following brain surgery, months of recovery, and the death of my grandmother. my sisters and their families when on a vacation to Costa Rica. During a conversation, before they left, one of them casually mentioned that after the year we had all had they just needed a break. It had not been a long planned or thought out trip, it just kind of fell into place. They sent wonderful pictures during their getaway of laughter and fun. Lush jungles, gorgeous ruins, cool dips in the pool, and quiet moments reading books in an exotic locale. It was truly beautiful, and I wasn't invited.

Don't get me wrong, after everything that had happened: the loss of all savings, the weight of the financial burden of medical care and living expenses during the recovery time off, the lack of any additional vacation time to take off from work, ongoing recovery, and the fact that a lingering side effect to my brain surgery was an aversion to heat where changes in temperature could literally make me physically ill, I truly was in no position to go with them on this much needed vacation... but I wasn't invited (even though no one needed a break more than I did).

Unfortunately, survivors of illness, crisis and trauma, often don't have a lot of options for escape. Beyond the monetary, current health, and time off logistics, there is literally no way to take a vacation from our own bodies and emotional stress. We can't take a break from the inner turmoil. We can't walk away from our own pain.

It is difficult to watch others go on with their lives, have the luxery of such simple pleasures as "down time" and the ability to do something as simple as just take a vacation, when we are trapped in the struggle of our own lives.

It can create feelings of isolation, longing, anger, jealousy, sadness, regret and even shame. There is self-loathing and hatred to feeling this stuck in our own particular crisis. It is impossible to explain or adequately express to others. It can feel utterly hopeless. And, these feeling have a way of compounding onto and compressing down on each other.

Work days can be literally oppressive. But, even our days off can be relentless. They involve collapsing into our own bubbles because we are beyond exhausted, or additional grueling, often painful doctors visits, or struggling to live up to the routine responsibilities of existing, when we are having enough trouble just surviving. 

We don't get any real escapes. 

There are no true vacations during recovery. And, recovery doesn't happen overnight. It can take weeks, months, even years and sometimes a lifetime, long after everyone else has moved on. 

And, a sad truth is that sometimes the longer a recovery takes the harder it can become to recover. The longer someone is down the harder it becomes to get up.

In our own survival, we are not invited or blessed with the gift of escapes. We miss vacations, parties, get-togethers, date nights, and utter relaxation, in general. Literally and figuratively we miss out.

But, we can't blame others for their specific blessings and we can't give up the search for our own healing. We need to be happy for each other, and fight for our own moments of happiness.

Make room to inhale when you feel like screaming. Find beauty in darkness. Steal moments of light. Laugh when you need to cry. Cry when you need to exhale. Take a breather, it may be the only vacation you get. But, a second of grace is better than none at all.

Don't waste time wishing you were there, embrace being thankful you are here.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Our Imitation Game

Recently, I rewatched The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch, about scientist Alan Turing and his work during World War II to break the coding of the Nazis' Enigma machine. Although having read numerous books on the subject, watched a variety of films and television shows depicting the story, as well as a handful of documentaries on this topic, over the years, I realized I had never actually read Alan Turing's paper, "Computing Machinery and Intelligence", in which his Imitation Game is presented amid the topic and debate of eventual digital computer technology and the advancement towards artificial intelligence. 

It surprised me to realize this, as I tend to be someone who initially seeks out the source material well before adsorbing the material which it inspires. But, I rationalized that I had merely circumnavigated my way around this particular source information due to a personal aversion to math. However, I decided it was high time I at least attempted to read this Turing Test paper.

I can honestly say only a handful of things I have ever read shocked, delighted, and inspired me to thought as much as "Computing Machinery and Intelligence" did.

Years after helping break the Enigma codes, Alan Turing wrote this paper, at the height of his career, when he was thirty-eight years old.

And, far from being an inconceivable, convoluted scientific text, only someone with an advanced doctorate could comprehend, it is a concise, provoking, witty, open-minded, often humorous, philosophical and clinical debate, mixed with personal ideology, on what constitutes thought, humanity, intellect, consciousness, extrasensory perception, Man, God, and machines. 

Scientifically, the paper's ideas are still debated today, proving to have been both highly influential and widely-criticized. But, for me, beyond the science, there is a genuine and powerful humanity to Turing's thought process.

Uncomplicated and simple in its presentation, the paper is frighteningly insightful in its forethought and computer advancement predictions, with an underlying depth in applying what are basic human beliefs and assumptions to the complexity of the idea of computers and the eventuality of artificial intelligence. It's revolutionary in its basic philosophy and rather mind-blowing to discover its relevance almost seventy-years later.

All one would have to do is pick up a paper or turn on a news channel these days to be struck by the increasing levels of violence, terrorism, intolerance, and hatred becoming commonplace in our world. Within that truth and current mindset, my thoughts have been drawn again and again to a particular passage in Turing's paper:

" 'The consequences of machines thinking would be too dreadful. Let us hope and believe that they cannot do so.'
This argument is seldom expressed quite so openly as in the form above. But it affects most of us who think about it at all. We like to believe that Man is in some subtle way superior to the rest of creation. It is best if he can be shown to be necessarily superior, for then there is no danger of him losing his commanding position. The popularity of the theological argument is clearly connected with this feeling. It is likely to be quite strong in intellectual people, since they value the power of thinking more highly than others, and are more inclined to base their belief in the superiority of Man on this power.  

I do not think that this argument is sufficiently substantial to require refutation. Consolation would be more appropriate: perhaps this should be sought in the transmigration of souls." 

Turing was plainly dismissing Man's idea of supremacy in the context of facing artificial intelligence, through his "Head in the Sand" argument. He also speaks in his paper about solipsism, the view that the self is all that can be known to exist. 

But, the same theory applied to our current humanity's behavior is equally relevant. 

We are killing other people because we believe our rights to be more important than someone else's rights. 
We are bombing other people because we believe our God to be more valid than someone else's God. 
We are shooting other people because we believe our sexual orientation to be more normal than someone else's sexual orientation. 
We are electing and empowering fear-mongering people because we believe our fear to be more righteous then someone else's fear. 
We are raining war down on other people with our hate because we believe ourselves to be more important than someone else.

The basic premise of Turning's paper is the contemplation of the question, "Can machines think?" and justifying his arguments about how to better answer and test the underlying theory of that question. 

But, maybe for us, in our current climate, the larger contemplation should extend to "Has Man forgotten how to think?" 

Alan Turing wrote a paper about a digital world of intelligence that was only beginning to be imagined. He would die four years after its completion, before seeing the actual scope, of that computer intelligence, grow in leaps and bounds. But, he had the foresight to know this and concluded his theory with this simple statement:

"We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done."

Those words are profound in their simplicity and relevant beyond his theory's intent.

As the survivors we all are and are attempting to continue to be, we need to stop fearing the danger of losing our commanding positions, overwhelmingly accept the rights of other people's positions, and individually learn to embrace that there is room for all of us. Room on this Earth for all of us to struggle, to share, to love, to contemplate, to theorize, and to believe without seeking to destroy another's belief.

We have take the time to stop and look. If we do make the conscience choice to see with better eyes, we all have the potential to see clearly that there is plenty there that needs to be done.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Now Showing

In a Disney movie, if the main character is not already an orphan, there is a good chance they are going to lose a parent in the first few minutes of the film. A more dramatic movie will rely on a parent successfully fighting to save their child from impending danger. If the film is about a psycho killer and the main character has a dog, there is a good chance the pooch doesn't make it to the end credits. In action pictures, the supporting character black guy usually dies, and in horror movies, they tend to kill off the secondary slutty, white girls. 

There is a predictability to these formulas. Despite people's protests about the lack of originality and bias in their creation, every year a great many movies following these formats experience overwhelming success. Cliches are cliches for a reason.

Trauma, illness, and crisis follow no such formulas. The innocent get hurt, the healthy gets sick, and very bad things happen to very good people. Life is extremely different from films. The good guys do not always win and a fight well fought does not always turn out victorious.

Predictability goes right out the window. During these times, twists and turns, altered routes and unexpected outcomes become our new normal. There is no decent way to prepare and no way to know how or if it will end. 

However, these life-changing events have something in common with movies. 

They often leave us in the dark on the edge of our seat. The price of admission is much higher than we want to pay. And, we all desperately long for a happy ending. We are along for the emotional ride.

In the end, we may not have chosen the journey and we may not control the outcome. But, we have the ability to give voice to our own scripts, pick our own soundtrack, interact with the characters who matter the most, and share our unique stories. We don't have to sit alone in the dark. We can turn the lights on.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Four years ago today, I had brain surgery for twin aneurysms intertwined around each other.

In these years since, I have born witness and fallen victim to the Four Horseman of My Personal Apocalypse.

The White Horse, the Horse of Conquest and Pestilence -
Four years of illness which has spread out to affect every part of my life, from body to bank to soul. Spreading like a plague into every hidden and exposed niche of a life. Battering all parts od me simultaneously and compounding on itself leading to a overwhelming weight of issues at once.

The Red Horse, the Horse of War -
Fours years of wretching internal and external conflict. Of devastating emotional revolution. Violent division in circumstance and future. War of the flesh, war of the mind, and war against each setback and every obstacle. War against myself and those around me. Wounds without end amid unrelenting, endless waves of onslaught. 

The Black Horse, the Horse of Famine -
Fours years of loss of health, loss of finances, loss of support systems, loss of control, and loss of hope. Losing the ability to love and accept love. Loss of being able to recognize love in the minutia of the greater whole. Losing sight of myself and losing dreams of what could be.

And the last Horse, The Pale Horse, the final Horse of Death -
Fours years of hope, love, visions of the future, health, and healing slowly dying. The horse of loss, loneliness, and despair. The horse which takes tomorrows and the dreams that reside in them. The horse hardest to bounce back from. The horse hardest to share and hardest to survive alone.

It is hard to celebrate survival when brutally being stomped on by such a relentless herd. 

It is hard to share the losses with others, when the burden has been so great for so long. It is hard to put into words the depth of ongoing struggle in this journey. It is hard for there to be true understanding and to find the support I need. It is hard to need and keep asking.

It is beyond difficult to stop crying and harder to realize the tears are so far from done.

Four years ago I hoped for but couldn't truly imagine reaching this day. Today, I can not believe I dreamed of this.

So much more I wanted to have done, so much more healed I wanted to be, so much more shared than I have gotten to share, and so much more whole than the pieces that are left of me. I wanted to be so much less alone instead of being more alone than ever. I wanted to give love and get love, not fight being so utterly hurt by and numb to it.

I believed in a someday that is today.

But, what happens when that day arrives and nothing you believed in, waited for, and held close is there?

Four years ago, against all odds, I survived. 
A year ago today, I started Survivor Jewelry to help myself and others surviving trauma, crisis, and illness. 
And today, I find the only thing I can cling to is that somehow I manage still to breathe. 

Maybe that in itself is brave enough. 
Maybe tomorrow, braver is only a few breaths away.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Help, Fire!

Police and crisis advisers often tell woman not to holler "Help!" when being attacked, since it doesn't always elicit the desired response. They coach instead to yell "Fire!", since that brings people running to help.

Survivors in crisis often reach the point where they have screamed both "Help!" and "Fire!" so many times that not only does no one respond, many times the screams aren't even acknowledged at all or recognized as screams any longer. So many times that the Survivor may not even have the strength, will, or voice left to scream anymore.

This occurs because trauma, pain, crisis, and healing often takes far longer than support can last. It can linger well after the emergency response teams have finished their jobs, packed up, and left the scene.

But even when whispered softly from darker corners, if we pay attention, we can see the signs of the enduring distress if we take the time to try. 

It may live in a downcast look or a hesitant touch. It could hide in a subject deflection or an avoided conversation. It might harbor in a slowness to laugh or an insincere smile. It could appear in a change of appearance or lack of participation. It might lash in a quick emotion or inappropriate response. It could cascade in a single tear or quiet sigh. it might just come with the realization that the person you once knew is not who you see when you look at them anymore.

Sometimes people have survived too much for too long that the ability to ask for help or seek understanding is no longer left in them, much less actually managing to find the breath enough to scream for it.

If you really love someone, if your desire to support is sincere, don't offer help or understanding, actually give it.

Really think on that statement for a moment.

It may seem very simple, but offers of help and understanding are easily given, however actually following through on them is infinitely harder on the offerer and much more important to the survivor then we could ever realize.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Ten Things You Never Knew About Brain Surgery

Brain Surgery is not a luxury item. You don't window shop for it or decide to purchase it as an impulse buy. (And, even if you want to later, the purchase can not be returned.)

Brain Surgery is priced like a luxury item. The average cost is $157,000.00, but that is just for the surgery, surgery treatment, & initial hospital stay. 
It does not include pre-op or post-op treatments, or medications, or any kind of ongoing or complication costs, or the every 18-month followup angiograms, or any rehabilitation or therapy costs, nor does it include the living expenses for the average 3 - 13 month recovery time. 
If you include all that, the total costs can average well over a quarter million dollars.
That is almost $50,000 more than the price of this two bedroom luxury dreamhome in Bali with beach and mountain views. (But a lot less fun or relaxing.)

Just merely saying the words "I had brain surgery," makes friends, family and complete strangers flinch like you bitch-slapped them, and instantly view you differently, even though they never underwent any type of brain surgery themselves.

Craniotomies often involve something doctors lovingly refer to as a "Cookie" being cut in your skull (due to the cookie size and shape of the hole). But cutting into the flesh to make the skull hole will initially leave a trench deep enough to fully place two fingers in once "the cookie is replaced". Certainly something Cookie Monster never talked about on Sesame Street.

Brain surgeries often involve skin flaps, which is a medical way of saying if they need to get at your brain in the front, they will peel the skin of your face down to gain access, but Neurosurgeons frown when you call them Leatherface or Hannibal Lecter, and everyone else looks nauseous when you tell them they peeled off your face. Go figure.

After brain surgery, you can feel the screws and bolts under your skin with your fingertips for the rest of your life, which makes you interesting to pet at parties, like the Terminator in a toupee.

Brain surgery patients often hear a soft, continuous, audible clicking inside their heads during the first year of recovery. Although technically not an actual noise, the brain doesn't exactly know how to process the skull bone healing after suffering trauma so it processes it as a sound. The clicking stops when the bone completely heals, which is down right freaky after a year of annoying sound effects,

Despite the dramatic depictions in movies, after brain surgery doctors rarely bandage your head or wound. It must be allowed it to breathe to prevent dangerous infections. In fact, they request you severely limit any time in a hat or a hoodie, down to only a few minutes at a time. Which makes it rather hard for people to look at you when your head is gashed and stapled like a fairly melodramatic horror movie.

Brain surgery can seriously affect your ability to sleep, so sometimes during your recovery you have to trick your brain into resting by zoning out while awake. It is often recommended to watch something on television you are utterly uninterested in to allow your brain to drift away during it, so it has a similar affect as a REM sleep cycle, which is very strange when the credits roll hours later and you can't recall a single thing you just watched.

You get sent home with stronger pain medicine with almost any other surgery or injury. Brains don't feel pain, so most people go home with the same types of meds as someone who sustained a hairline fracture and got a couple of stitches. 
Let that sink in... I know, right?!?!

Certainly not the kind of Top Ten you want to have to participate in. And, only the beginning of things you will get to know if you have to have brain surgery. First and foremost though, brain surgery sucks, but so does the alternative.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Sorry Excuse

Trauma, crisis, and illness, compounded by the pain, fear, and grief they bring, can lead to a lot of apologies. These apologies can come from all sides for a variety of both valid and less than surefooted reasons. 

Survivors, and the people who love and survive with them, apologize. 
Back and forth, we apologize:
for being a burden. 
for not being able to do more or be more. 
for the hurt we are causing
for the hurt we are witnessing. 
because we don't know what else to say.
because there are no right words to say. 
because we can't be fixed.
because we aren't able to fix someone else.
to avoid truths.
to end debate.
to console each other.
to ease guilt.
as a way to connect.
as a way to escape.
as a way to believe again.
as a way to remove doubt.

It is part of both the genuine and the polite interactions of humanity. It is integral to how we communicate with sincerity or regret. It is vital to our sanity and respect. It is part of how we heal and grow together.

Everyone makes mistakes and during heightened emotional times of crisis even little errors can feel like life-altering events when so much is exposed and at stake. Apologies help. They allow safety and comfort.

We also forgive. It comes with the territory. All sides forgive. We forgive A LOT. 

Some of the things we forgive are easy while some are exceedingly not. It is part of loving someone. It is part of surviving together. It's a beautiful and complex thing.

However, in crisis, often our choices are made for us and our hands are forced. Other times, we make our own choices and those choices have an genuine impact. Trauma is traumatic and when grappling with finding or providing hope, fighting through grief or guilt, and providing or seeking sanctuary from the fear, we can find ourselves promising more than we are actually willing to give. We can overreach in trying to lessen our own or another's pain. It can come from a deeply sincere place or a more shallow and casual one. It can be accidental or precisely planned. It can be meant to protect from or prevent more trauma.

We all make choices, but when life closes in too tightly and the dark makes hope fade, sometimes we apologize too much. When overwhelmed and desperate, we can sometimes forgive more as a desperate measure to stay connected then from a contented place of peace and understanding.

Over time, trauma can lessen the power of an apology and taint the ability to forgive. There can be too many apologies which can lead to too little forgiveness.

Hope is beyond fragile during crisis while fear is often truly overbearing in its debilitation. So, we have to be careful with our promises to each other. We have to be sure of our choices before voicing them or acting on them. We have to understand the depth of each other's situations before offering to act on each other's behalf. 

We need to respect hope and be aware of hope's boundaries. We need to recognize when it is being struggled with or genuinely fading. We need to offer only the support we are capable of giving and being honest about our own limitations, even as we continue to grapple with them. 

Trauma creates an environment for too many choices and too much sorry. Crisis is unforgiving in its very nature. But, it is no excuse for the opportunity of love or compassion missed. Our choices truly matter to each other and we need to be honest enough when we are making them so we do not add to the hurt. 

There is more than enough fear and hurt, that we truly need to be tender in our actions as to not inflict more pain in hearts already overwrought with far too much.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Dancing with Dominoes

Life often is about cumulative events and chain reactions. The cause and effect that is the ebb and flow of all existence. It is natural and part of life for all living things.

However, for survivors, there is a unique Domino Effect in which it is all too easy for the pieces to fall with a devastating chain reaction which can wreck havoc like an emotional avalanche with debilitating physical effect. For when we are at our weakest and most vulnerable, we exist very tentatively, holding on by the merest of threads. This leaves us with a loss of ability to cope appropriately when the thread even threatens to unravel.

When we survive with pain, even a subtle change in our pain level can knock us down without the reserve strength to get up again. When we struggle with sobriety, even one additional trigger can blindside hurling us completely off the wagon. When we struggle to handle crisis, even a single added stress can strip us of the power to hold on. When we face illness, even the smallest setback can throw us utterly offtrack.

One domino slams into the next compiling on top of each other. The momentum can be relentless and beyond our control. The dominoes falling too quickly to rebound from burying us beneath an ever increasing weight.

It is hard to focus on one domino when all of them start to fall. 

But, it is important to remember the core physics of a chain reaction, for it only takes a single domino, being even slightly out of line, to stop the domino effect in its entirety. 

Do not stare into the vortex of your swirling avalanche paralyzed by the weight of the effect. Do not fight the cumulative reaction in its full strength.

Inhale. Focus on just one or even the tiniest corner of one.

We need to attempt to alter, cease, or change, if only the path of a single domino, to the smallest degree to stop the reaction of falling.

We may not always believe it, but we are the change which alters the outcome. 

Let go of the idea of perfection or total control, they are unrealistic and un-achievable. Remove the ideal of a future optimal result when the focus needs to embrace the chance of changing the overwhelming present.

Take it one domino at a time. 

We can clean up the mess later. We can sort through them and try to stand them up again, one at a time, when we have refortified. 

You have the power to affect the effect today and can face rebuilding anew tomorrow.