Life begins on the other side of fear…


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When I moved to Texas, every mile I put between Indiana and myself brought me closer to a new reality. At the time I thought it was just a move across country. 

I spose if I am to be crazy honest, I knew more was happening. I just thought I had time, and I could try to heal and give my marriage one more shot. That decision wasn’t fully in my hands… There are always two sides and two people with choices to make.

It’s weird. While I asked for a separation, for a year to heal and to see if I could be part of a relationship within a marriage constraint, I was shocked when the decision was taken out of my hands. I’ve been broken for so long I almost don’t have any idea when I felt whole last. I just knew I needed a hell of a lot of time to begin to feel like a person.

People have asked me, “when you say broken, what does that mean exactly?” My immediate response is silence. How do you answer a question like that when you’re so broken that thoughts in your own head are fragmented?

I’m a writer.

Writing is not what I “do” so much as who I am. To go a single day without writing is like forgetting to eat food, to breathe air, to think a concrete thought. I have a plethora of journals, notebooks, a blog. I’ve gone two years without writing more than a handfuls of pitiful thoughts and all pertained to my chronic pain or to my brokenness. I’ve just stopped being a person inside. I stopped being me.

I’ve become an expert, thanks to chronic pain, at faking it. I can make just about anyone believe I’m fine, that I’m having a great time, and that life is going along okay. It wasn’t much of a stretch to cover up all that life was throwing at me either. To a few I would be honest, but not TOO honest. I never wanted to be the kind of person you see across the room and take a deep sigh and resign yourself to getting through the conversation.

I’ve always wanted to be organically and authentically real. The kind of person that regardless of where you meet me, what’s going on in life, regardless of commitments, kids, or circumstances, you will always know that I’m the exact same person, that my smile is quick and genuine, and if there are tears, it’s because life is too painful to be covered, not because there’s a ploy for attention or sympathy. I have an aversion to pity. My life has had some significant challenges and I never want anyone to see that before they see me; somehow thinking I want attention for it.

So I’ve retreated. I’ve not reached out and attempted much in the way of friendships since arriving in Texas. For anyone who knows me, my larger-than-life laugh, my excitement at meeting up with friends, the idea that I’ve kept home, mostly to myself aside from family, it’s probably hard to imagine.

I’m grieving. I’m grieving and learning to voice it. I learning to name it. I’m learning to call it for what it is and not what I have labeled it as. Trust me, these are two very different things. For example: I’m learning to say, “I’m grieving the loss of the idea of being married to one person for my entire life.” NOT “I failed at my 21 year marriage.”  I’m grieving not having the dream life (I never had) but tried to convince myself could still happen if I just put in all the effort in for both of us. I’m grieving not being fought for and desired as I needed. Grieving that I wasn’t enough because I was broken.

IMG_0886.JPGThen I’m grieving the loss of my second home, the one I ran to when I needed to escape the hard stuff life was throwing at me. I would “run away” from home and to the local community theater stage. I’d leave my reality behind and assume a character, and let the kick ass girl who never got a chance to knock around in the real world, loose for a while. I learned to stuff myself down into a tiny pocket so that all the roles of motherhood, illness, troubled marriage stuff and the leash of jealousy my husband noosed me with, and be a version of myself I could only be there.

Once, when I was so broken and felt nothing like the girl who once dreamed of taking on the world, I named that girl so she could still exist. My fear was I’d forget she ever existed if she didn’t at least have a name. I named her Kate. Trust me when I say it was literally a life saving tactic. There were days I would talk out loud to myself, in the car alone, and say, “Kate, you’ve got to take over here. I’ve got nuthin left.” I’d let the tears slip and maybe I’d ugly cry there alone in some parking lot. Before I got out of the car, Kate would firmly be in control and somehow I got through the day.

I tried to explain Kate to some people. No one really ever got it. Some thought maybe I was schizophrenic, probably many thought I was troubled. One person, however, did. Always has, does, and will. I’m blessed beyond belief for that friendship. It’s then I discovered that I wasn’t crazy, I was just compensating for the harshness of reality and protecting, coping, preserving who I was so I wasn’t compromised. I needed to separate myself into two halves, lock off Kate, to make sure she was untouchable, all in an effort to ensure that when the day came and I could actually begin to heal, I’d still have my core left. I spose it’s sort of like a seed bank, where you store away the core heart of your plants so that if they die, they have the means to begin again.

I still have time on my side. 21 years was a long time, and three kids extra to love, but at 43 I’m not even halfway through my life if my genes get a say in it. I am now free to begin to heal… and to unlock Kate. We can begin to be one and we will strengthen and grow my soul back again. My prayer is that as I learn, grow, and flourish once more, I will bloom and create a life so amazing, I never again will need to preserve a core, locking the precious parts of my heart away.

IMG_8006.JPGAs I stood on a windy, sunny, cloudless ocean beach in October last year, I heard the still small voice calling me to a new life.  I knelt on that beach and let the waves wash me clean. I let the waves dull all senses and fill me with strength.

As soon as I left my revelation beach, I was filled with determination, but the fear set in anyway. Terrified I flew home and made it my reality. I tell my kids that the very best things in life begin on the other side of fear. Without risk there is no reward. I waited a long time before I took this really big risk, but the rewards are already beginning. I have health in ways I never imagined I could ever gain. My chronic pain is changing monthly. I am more whole than I’ve been in 10 years just health wise alone.

There have been now 9 months of hard. Some days are so hard I can barely lift my head off the pillow and face the world. I do though. Every single day I face that day. I’ve had a few days where the physical health was so hard that I gave in. I let the pain talk and dictate. Nine days out of ten, however, I always rise and face the day, no matter what it brings.

If I’ve been silent, and you wondered why, I really can’t tell you… but I can tell you that I won’t be forever. Today I sat down and really wrote for the first time in years, letting my heart outside my chest and onto a page. For the first time in forever, I feel whole.

Divorce, regardless of how hard you try to be kind and humane about it, the process sucks. It’s hard and there is no way to not make it feel like your entire life is being judged and ripped to shreds. It’s bloody. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are lying.

I do not wish my Ex any ill will. I do not wish him harm or strife. I do, however, want to jump ahead 9 more months when this thing will be finalized and the ability to heal completely underway and more possible.

I baptized each of my three kids with the verse from Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the lord, plans to prosper not to harm you. Plans for hope and a future.” I am clinging to these and claiming them over my children as they ache in pain and struggle to work through this. I claim it for myself, knowing that on that beach on the shores of Galveston Island, TX, I heard the answer being echoed back to me as I prayed for Him to hear me and deliver the gift of His promises to us.

I pray over my Ex. I want him to learn from the mistakes within our marriage that drove us apart. I pray he can learn, grow, and push forward and have a beautiful and happy life. I know that it gives me absolutely no peace to wish him anything less. He’s not a bad human. We were a bad match. No amount of me doing 110% of the work to make it work out would ever end in success. It sucks. I wanted it to work. I wanted my kids to not go through the pain that is our reality. I can not do that and It’s okay.

Standing on the beach that day, I’ve never more clearly heard from God. He did not lay a hand on my shoulder and speak into my ear. Instead I have learned to hear Him in ways that fill my emptiness to overflowing. I heard Him in the crashing waves, the foam popping as they receded. I heard Him in the wind, strong and sure. I heard Him as I saw how the wind beneath the gulls kept them high above the waters. He lifted them, as He will and has lifted me. I watched them dive head first into a darkness and come up with fish. He provided for their needs if they just trusted their guts, instincts, and the fact that God had fish when they needed it. I saw God in the dolphins, who arched above the water and blew out hard, sending spray high up, and knowing they took in the life filling oxygen waiting for them at the surface.

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I saw God in the sea shells with little hermit crabs crawling upon the sand, hauling their protection with them. God was in the warmth of the sun against the wind. He was in the rustling of the grasses upon the bluffs behind me. He was in the hidden treasures found as I dug my toes in the sand.

I took my kids back to the exact spot God spoke to me. I asked Him to do the same for them. For them to feel Him there. I asked Him to meet them where ever they were in life and to wash over them peace and comfort. He did, and so much more. He knit the four of us together in ways I can not express in words. He blessed us. We searched for shells to bring home and filled a terrarium with dry sand to be a home for those treasures. We created a whole theme in our living room that reflects the promises God gave to us and the sand, shells, and pictures remind us that he is with us every day as He was on the beach that afternoon, as the sun set brilliantly.

We now regularly go back, and always to our spot. It’s healing. It’s free of the world and it’s our mountain top. It’s where we hear from God and gain perspective. They ask to go often. Being only 45 minutes from our new home, it’s going to be a constant for us. They now all have a “happy place’ to think of when called upon to need one. There is no way to express it. God came through for us in ways we didn’t even know we needed.

So here I am. I am standing fully inside a ring of fear. NOT fear that God doesn’t have it covered, just fear of the unknown. I try hard to not be fearful. I’m a work in progress. I will get there. I’m just not there quite yet. I spend a lot of time praying. I spend a lot of time sitting on a porch and not doing anything. I spend a lot of time doing what observers would assume is just spacing out. I think maybe it’s mindfulness. Maybe meditation. I’m just acknowledging the thoughts I’m thinking and allowing them to be heard and not stuffed down inside me. For the first time, they have a right to simply exist. 

I think I get the verses that say, “In everything give thanks.” It’s not that I am saying thank you to the hard stuff, per se, but thanks that God is walking it with me, holding me up, and letting me know I am far from alone doing this life thing. I also sense that it’s okay to be afraid. What’s not okay is for the worry and fear to control my heart, my choices, or how I treat others.

Being kind is not a choice. It’s part of who I am and WHOSE I am. So every action, reaction, and choice I make needs to be weighed against that. It’s okay to walk out the door in the morning and have absolutely no idea how I am going to get through the day. Sometimes I only have enough strength for the minute I am in. I’d love a whole day’s worth of strength, heck a week’s worth in one shot; but the fact I can do one minute, then the next, then the next? Well those add up to hours, then days, then weeks.. And before you know it, I’m actually doing it. I’m making progress.

Last week? I wasn’t sure I could do it even minute by minute. I’ll be honest with you. I was on a breath by breath status. 

My oldest daughter tried to die. She still has scars. There are broken capilaries in her face and bruising around her neck. I wasn’t home. She called me in the midst of her attempt and I was not capable of doing anything but sitting in a chapel near where I happen to be taking a class, and just exist. I did that for hours. I just sat there and survived. 

I had to swallow my pride and ask for help getting home. I couldn’t drive. I was stuck, simply putting all my focus on one breath after another. Her decision to try to make an exit is not something unusual or that I’m not used to. Frankly, it’s a part of our lives. Her brother, sister, and I probably have PTSD from living a life where this is a normal thing for us. Suicide watches are just part of what we do. Mental illness sucks. It does not, however, mean I love her less.

Ive been praying for a release from God to leave the person I was behind. She is a shell of a woman. I’ve decided to change my name back to what it was the last time I felt confident in who I really was. I’m going to allow myself to voice the fact I need that. I’m going to claim it. Soon I will change things back to my maiden name and the name I was before I met my husband. I’ll return to “Chrissy Pettys.” As silly as it may sound to someone people I need to do this for me to move forward. It’s actually biblical. When people went through transformations by God, they were given different names. I’m reclaiming myself. I hope you can remember I’m still the same person and not let the name throw you off. Maybe you will understand why.

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If you’ve wondered where I’ve been, why I’m silent, or how life is going in Texas, I share this with you. We are doing good, overall. Texas is good for us. Family is everything. I love finally being near my brother again after 25 years. I have his kiddos to love on and to really become an Auntie to. I absolutely am falling in love with my sister-in-love (“law” seems harsh) But it’s not sunshine and roses. I’m living in a thorny thicket bush and it hurts. I’m not going to stay in the bush though. One day at a time, minute by minute, I will rise.

Thanks for your prayers. Thanks for those who’ve reached out. Thanks for those who’ve given me space. Thanks for just being you and letting me know that I can pop back into life at any point and you’ll pick up right where we left off.  

-Chrissy

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The hell that I’m in…


Hell. A place different for every person, and yet the same for all.

Willing yourself out of a hell-hole is fruitless. You can no more decide to get up, toss the cot depression has forced a deep slumber in, than the ocean can decide to leave it’s bed. Those who reside on sunny beaches do not understand. Lying on a sandy towel is far different than drowning in the sea’s bed.

I’ve not been able to write. For a writer to not be able to write, it is a very specific kind of hell. The way I keep the world from running me over like a Mac truck is to restrain it and contain it with words. Forcing life to conform to a page; insisting that it take up residence within letters, words, and sentences; it takes the helplessness away.

I’ve never written like other people do. I’m kinda an odd bird. Most people have a vague idea what they want to express, feel a burning desire, and then grab a pen and paper or the keyboard to sketch out what they want to say. It maybe only be an outline or a cluster of words or quotes, but they have a clue.

I’m not really sure how to do that. Writing possesses me, not me it. Authorship dictates what I have time for; what priority my time and obligations get to number in rank, deciding what I will do, in which specific order, to secure my release. Sometimes it can be freeing and heavenly. Sometimes it can be an impatient beast, moody and demanding. Regardless, I live within the parameters that it calls upon my soul in order to keep this life thing rolling along.

keyboard-1176257_960_720Usually I sit down, place my fingers at the keyboard, and I relax. I don’t look at my screen. I stare out the window, maybe watch a bird or a squirrel do their thing. I let my senses loose; let them carry me away while slowing my heart rate slows to a crawl, and, like a burst of life giving breaths, words spring forth and I begin to write.

Now is not the “usually” time in my life, not by a longshot. Now is hell.

Mother’s crave quiet. Mother’s crave the beauty of stillness.

Authors fear the stillness of fingers on a keyboard and the quietness of their minds.

The ability to not be able to write has not just squashed my voice, it’s murdering my wandering soul. I am no longer able to think. I can’t breathe. My lungs have a mountain of hopelessness sitting atop them.

Exhaling. All I can do is exhale. Panic rises with each bit of air that leaks out.

What happens when there’s no more air to release? Tears, sweat, then blood.

Blood begins to take the air’s place. Life giving blood pours out every crevice. Every drop empties me of the will to even try.

There was a time that words were like grains of sand. They flowed from my fingers, escaping regardless of whether I wanted them to or not. Now? What once was life giving, the act of putting words to the page, has turned on me, and, for every word that goes untyped, it punishes me.

I’ve become hollow, empty, depressed. I fell into a hole and I cant climb out.

I’m in a bottomless, wordless, hellish pit that light refuses to enter. The entrance is  sealed with nothing but a password and I can hear the mocking laugher, mocking the fact I have no words to offer.

I must escape. Much longer in this wordless hell and this damned place will become lethal. the last words that will be written will be, “The end.”

Sometimes sitting in the mud is the right thing to do…


Watercolor, art therapy, by my daughter, Lindsey, 16. Used with her permission. Her personal take on living with bipolar disorder, anxiety, OCD and depression.

 

I’ve been rendered completely wordless the last few weeks. I’ve been in a dark place; one with a lot of ugliness and not a lot of sunshine. Some of it is legitimate and understandable. I’ve got some real crap and sometimes crap just stinks. No use calling it by some flowery name. Just like a rose is a rose by any other name and still smells sweet, crap by any other name is still crap and it’s gonna really stink when you go to wash it off, especially if you really dig in and do the dirty work of cleaning it up.

Some of it is me throwing a pity party, I may as well own that. Some of it is weariness, exhaustion, and fractures in my life where I wasn’t quite broken; places that used to be held together by sheer will, but the the bonds of my “will” wore off.

I fell apart.

It is what it is, and justified or not, I’ve dug myself in and wallowed.

It occurred to me I feel a lot like a little girl who fell in a mud puddle in her new pretty dress. I first was in utter shock and horror. Oh NOOOOOO!

…Then tears of not just sadness rose up, but anger; intense, hot, all consuming… of which a person could be either torched to ash or refined by the fire. This was NOT happening!

…Next? I was so angry I refused to get up. What was the point? The dress is ruined! Nothing can ever make it white and new again.

…Furious, I splashed the damned puddle, as if beating the crap of life was somehow gonna get back at it. Laughing at me, it got even by leaving me feeling more livid as the splashes got me mucky where I had actually still been clean.

…Eventually, anger spent and rational thinking returning, still a bit drippy, a whole lot dirty, sheepishly getting up from the mucky pool around me, this girl will go about figuring out how to do what’s next. It wont come easy. “She” will be still mad and muddy, she will still be dealing with the stink for a while, but moving in the right direction, a good cleansing cry and maybe a little rain will right some of it. Later a good long hot shower will wash away the remaining ick and a fresh perspective and dry clothes will allow “her” to carry forward, maybe even better than she began.

Right now? Right now I am still sitting and I’ve just finished a good splashing fit.

There are many word pictures people use when they are in this space. I am using the mud puddle because I am at a full stop, and I feel really mucky and angry and I am in a place where I don’t even WANT to get up. I’ll get there. I know me. I just need to sit here long enough to really hate the mud. Once I really hate it enough I will get up, wipe off the bruises and clean off the mud, I’ll look for scratches on me and tears in my dress and begin to not just wash up, but mend the wounds and fix the rips.

I already know it’s gonna be okay. It really will be. Wanna know something? I don’t want to hear it. So, don’t explain it. I just need to sit here a while. I need to do this.

Here is the thing about mucky places, once in a while they need to be sat in.

Don’t tell me why I am wrong. I’m not. Sometimes you need to sit in the muck, really look around, take it in, acknowledge that it is exactly what it is, mucky, dirty, crap; then intentionally say, “Yeah, so, now what?”

The feelings are real. They are valid. They show up, as they always do, for a reason, and at some point the reason will refuse to be ignored or stuffed back into the closet or under the rock it came out from. So feel it. let yourself live in the now, in the moment, in the mucky place and say, “Wow, it really sucks I fell in this mud and I am really damned angry I got mucky and tore my favorite dress.”  Forcing a smile and saying a fake, “No biggie, It’ll wash,” only works for so long.

Sometimes sitting in the mud is the right thing to do. Sometimes getting right back up, brushing yourself off, and bouncing back right away is the right thing to do. How do you know the difference? Eh, you’ll know. Just remember, ultimately, it really will be okay, and you can get to that end game in many different ways. No path is wrong nor right.

Sucking at being me


Here’s the thing, I am not all that great at being me. Oh I may fool you well enough, but the fact remains, I’m kinda sucking at it.

Before you go all, “You are NOT sucking at being YOU!” on me, let me just explain. Can you at LEAST let me do that much? I do have a reason for saying it.

I had this delusional assumption that by the age of 40 I would really have a handle on who I was, and I would even be kind of an expert at being this kick ass version of myself. I’d not only feel comfortable being in my own skin, I’d also WANT to be in it. I’d know what I need to do by now, and aside from the fact it may not always be fun, I’d really have no issue getting up each day, do THAT, and be awesome at being me.

These are the facts here: Jr. High is far behind me, I long ago stopped answering that, “what do you want to be when you grow up,” question, (you didn’t seriously just ask yourself what that was did you?) and to top it off, I got a crew of kids of my own, two of whom exited their OWN Jr. High years already. If for no other reason than THAT, being me should be a tad bit easier right? I mean, I’m a full adult, not to be confused with that twenty something period of time where you can kinda get away with still being a kid, nor that early thirty something time where often you get treated like a kid, getting told how to raise your own incessantly, even though you’ve had a lot of life under your belt. Now the 40’s means you just plain are old enough to be, well, old enough for whatever. Name it, you are now old enough. I mean, right?

Wrong.

10406520_10208216250350408_555694893439241058_nI turned 41 in a couple months ago. I have zero “numbered-birthday-issues.” I frankly am proud of my age-to-wrinkle ratio. I’m WINNING at that, and darlings, it really rocks like an old school rockstar.

I just thought, unrealistically, that things got easier the older you got. I thought somehow I would stop feeling like a complete novice at this life thing if I DID add a few wrinkles and stubborn grey hairs. Reality can be harsh.

I am not loving feeling like a newbie parent as my kids turn new corners and I find myself learning anew how to catch up to the crazy kid-rearing-train that isn’t stopping or even slowing down.

I sent two girls off to high school, who both appear for all the world to be women hell bent on breaking the world’s hearts. My baby enters into a Jr High season of his own, manhood lapping at his heels. I just got used to what it meant to be a mom of toddlers and somewhat unwillingly moved on to that of tweens. But hey, I figured it out and I had a real handle on it. Now? It’s all new and I’m back to feeling all thumbs. AGAIN.

I get up every morning, try to arm wrestle an upper hand on the things I’m to do and be, and by the end of the day I, for all the world, feel like I am drowning and flailing around, pretending to be me. I want the world to believe I got it covered, I mask up real good and with enough make up I don’t even appear as tired and haired as I am. It’s all a lie though. I’m faking it. I’m like the live version of photoshop… all pretending and no reality.

Wait. Is that what being a grown up is? Pretending you got this? Do we ALL do this?

Seriously?

Did you just nod your head?

Crap. Well, at least I no longer have to feel like I am sucking at being me. I guess I’m doing pretty well at that. It’s just not the version of me I was hoping for. Maybe someday. Maybe ten years from now? No? Oh, okay.  Well, how about 20 years?

Right. Okay. I’ll stop asking.

I remember that essay I wrote back in high school, “Where I see myself 10 years from now.”  I am laughing at that now. I actually thought I would have my act all together in ten whole years! Like that was enough time to fix my insecurities and get myself into mental shape; figure out what I wanted to do and be and then go DO that. That would have made me a whole 27 years old. I graduated at 17.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

I’m sure some people do that. But it’s not me. Know what? That’s okay.

I bet my life is a bit more interesting than the tame life I had thought I’d have. But tame? Who wants that anyway?

Certainly not this redhead, and it wouldn’t suit my curls, quite frankly, either.

It was the conversation I DIDN’T have that terrified me…


Today is National Suicide Prevention Day, Week, Month… It’s a harsh topic. Already some of you are cringing because this is not what you want to be reading about. It’s not fun, fluffy, and I guarantee it wont make you laugh.

Well, man up. It needs discussed.

16920_10207943717737263_5034557815060099013_nThere’s a viper that threatens to convince my daughter that suicide is the only choice that makes sense. She goes to the front lines daily to do battle with it. It’s cruel and mean. For her, she has an invisible illness that brings on her suicide battles. Her illness has a name that makes many flee, almost as much as trying to talk about suicide does. She is a courageous young woman who daily chooses to do one more day, while her mental illness rears up and tries to taunt her, hound her, chase her down and exhaust her.

I can’t prevent the attacks, but I can choose to fight along side her and refuse to let her do it on her own. As hard as the battle here is, it’s frankly the easy kind. Why? Because it’s reared it’s venomous head and shown itself. I know it lurks here. I take precautions. I’m on guard. I fight for her when she is too weak to fight herself.

The kind that’s a real killer is the kind that no one sees coming. I like to call them the “pressure cookers”. A silent, deadly battle is being waged, just like with my daughter, but this time there are no signs, no warning; it’s flat out of the blue. They’re terrifying.

It’s important to talk about suicide, if for no other reason, you never know who is thinking they aren’t worthy of one more day, or who believes they can’t fight the battle one more time… because they think they are alone in it.

Then there’s this kind: The kind where it seems someone is getting help, things are bouncing back, when really it lies hidden, waiting; waiting for the chance to strike.

There is one suicide I think about every single day; my dad’s. I think of it each time I look into my daughter’s eyes.

Oh, no, you’re right…He’s still here. My dad din’t commit suicide. I am one of the lucky ones. I know two friends who were not as lucky as I. Their dads did commit suicide. Watching the hell they went through… geez, there are no words. I had none to give them then, none that worked, nor did anything to dull the pain. I even walked away feeling guilty, in some odd way, because I realized I was thanking God that somehow my dad saw through his pain, to a fraction of a moment of clarity, sought a ragged edge to cling to and held on for dear life.

My dad had a plan of how, and when, he even had a couple plans, but he didn’t go through with it. I thank God for preventing it. I can do that. Really though? Dad had to make that hard choice. He had to choose to do one more day. He had to want it, enough to do it for just a little bit longer.

He doesn’t know it yet, but this tattoo on my left wrist? It’s to honor him as well as my daughter. He’s the period, she’s the comma that makes up the semicolon. (I have my reasons. I never get a tattoo that doesn’t hold great meaning.)

He was one of the lucky ones who had people who heard cues and noticed changes in behavior and were MORE stubborn than he was… and insisted on help.

Not everyone is as lucky as we were. Some people show zero signs. It’s true. Then there are subtle ones that if left alone and unchallenged, to them it looks like that green “go ahead” light when right there on that edge, barely hanging on.

Me age 4 with my dad, 1978

Me age 4 with my dad, 1978

My dad has been a minister all of my life. I am 41 years old. I was born into a life where the phone ringing at 2 am meant a crisis and my dad would be moving in pastor mode instantly. 40 some years of some very intensive situations, counseling, funerals, church politics (every bit as nasty as the government kind), and yes, all the joys thrown in too, it all adds up to some really exhausting mental overwork.

My dad is a chronic workaholic. The good kind in that he is always pushing/needing to do more for people. He sees how he can do one extra thing, so he insists to himself that he do that. Truly it’s wonderful… but intensely taxing. At one point he was so mentally tired he simply burned out. He was so tired he could not even decide what to eat for lunch. It broke him. It broke him in a way that scared the hell out of me.

The details are long, complicated, and not important. What is important was one conversation he had trouble having. It was a conversation we frankly DIDNT have. It was what wasn’t said that was so terrifying. He took me to lunch one day on a break from my job. Pizza buffet. He didn’t eat. He picked at his food. Stirred his Pepsi with his straw. Swallowed his words. He clawed his way through that conversation, words fleeing in distress. What little he did spit out was fragmented. His eyes were hollow but watery. Haunted. He started and stopped so many times; I already knew. I knew what he couldn’t say. But he NEEDED to say it.

If I can ever give advice, because truly I know nothing, I give this one thing. Just listen. Shut up and listen. Why? Because more times than not it’s what’s NOT said that you need to hear…

“I thought about just getting in the car, just driving. Not stopping.”  I just looked at him. I had no response. I’m not sure if I was supposed to.

“There’s this one bridge…I’ve thought about driving off of it. ”

“Wonder what that would be like, to drive off a bridge.”

Any hunger I had was long gone. Did he know I didn’t know the right words to say? The ones he needed to hear? I was pregnant with my oldest. My redheaded and freckled, Lindsey. My very first baby. I went from the pure joy and happiness of knowing she was there with us, to the thought of my dad never seeing my first child… It nearly undid me.

That moment was the first time suicide touched my life. It was the first time it became real. It wasn’t a statistic, or a story someone told, it was live, before me, and I didn’t have any answers.

I said something ridiculous. I am sure of it. I spent more time internally praying my heart out over my dad than I did voicing words aloud to him. I just let him talk. I don’t know if he walked away that day “feeling” like he could do one more day or not, but he did. Then he did another. Then another.

Later my dad would tell me that it partially was Lindsey coming into this world that saved him. That knowing that he would miss out on being a grandpa, holding that first baby, my newborn child, to look into those brand new eyes and see an untouched soul…he knew he would keep doing one more day till he could do that. Then he would decide from there how to do the rest of the days.

He is still here. It’s now 17 years later, and he is now helping me do battle for my daughter and saving her from herself. Someday I pray we have a story to tell about what her “one more day” moment was.


This tattoo on my wrist? It also has a shadow effect. It has hidden meaning for me. For every person who battles the thought of doing “one more day” and wondering if it’s worth it, there is someone who needs to stand up and say, “I got your back.”  My middle child, and second daughter, Allison and I both have shadows in our tats. Lindsey’s is singular. We have her back. We’ve got her, no matter when she needs us. I had my dad’s back. He knew it, even if it was hard for him to ask for what he needed to hear. He knew just looking into my eyes that I saw him. I don’t know. Maybe that was enough, that day.

If you are ever even considering suicide, I promise you, there is someone who wont want that… someone will have your back too. Don’t tell me I am wrong. Just trust me on this. Reach out, even if it is to an online group, make a phone call to a hotline, or just find someone who has kind eyes, tell them you know this sounds crazy, but you somehow know you are sposed to talk to them. Please just do that first, before you do something else. Okay?

There’s a suicide prevention/awareness group called “To Write Love on Her Arms.” They are a non profit organization that raises awareness for those who self harm and struggle with addiction and thoughts of suicide. My daughter struggles with self harm and in addition to the semi colons we got, we three got tiny hearts on our arms… because I wanted to write LOVE on my girls arms, so that they always knew that no matter where they went, how far they go, my love is always going to be right here for them, never ending, no matter what. I will always have their back. It will NEVER change. I don’t care what they do… They can always depend on me being that one person they can be sure will aways want them around, one more day.

For more information, please check out these amazing organizations:

To Write Love On Her Arms: https://twloha.com/learn/

Visit their blog over @ https://twloha.com/blog/

The Semicolon Project has gained a huge following. Check them out over @ http://www.projectsemicolon.org

Check out their blog @: http://www.projectsemicolon.org/blog

On being a “TERRIBLY” supportive mother


I’m a terrible mother. Horrible. There, now that we got that out of the way, let me tell you why I am a terrific one.

Our Project Semicolon tattoos

Our Project Semicolon tattoos

Today I took my daughters over to the local tattoo shop and we got matching tattoos. Yes, yes, TERRIBLE mother. I thought we established that already? Sheesh.

Listen, I know this place, I know the owner. It’s a clean, decent, reputable establishment that is not in some dark alleyway. Give me some credit will you? Listen to the reason and you will agree with the terrific part, (or not) but it’s what you SHOULD have done if you were me, living my life.

If you haven’t heard of Project Semicolon, then let me educate you. It is quite literally a full out movement of hope, all begun by one woman who was simply intending to honor her dad. It is a tattoo or even just a sharpie marker tattoo of a semicolon on a wrist or other area. Simple, small, and yet crazy powerful. We’ve done the sharpie version. We are ready to commit to a permanent version.

The website www.projectsemicolon.com says it this way… “A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.” They are a faith based movement dedicated to presenting hope and love for those who struggle daily with depression, suicide, addiction and self-injury.  Their sole existence is to bring awareness to mental illness and to encourage, love and inspire those who live with it or even just love someone who does.

The semicolon is a conversation starter. You see a tattoo of a semicolon on a wrist and you say, “what’s that about.” The door is now open to discuss what our lives here are filled with. It’s filled with hard things, messy things, scary things, but more than anything else, it’s filled with choices that include getting up each new day, moving forward, pushing on, and knowing that each new day is not a day done alone, but surrounded by a supportive and loving family who “gets it.”

Linds watches as she has her tattoo done. She wanted to be the first to go, since today was for her.

Linds watches as she has her tattoo done. She wanted to be the first to go, since today was for her.

My daughter, Lindsey, struggles and battles Bipolar Disorder and OCD along with some anxiety and a personality disorder. Each day is a hard day. photo 2That’s just a fact. But she is still choosing to get up each day and face it. Her sister and I both love her in ways that only a sis and mom can. It’s a girl thing. We have a wicked tight bond, the three of us, and when I introduced this website to Lindsey her whole face lit up. Her sister was indignant that she was left out and she demanded to be a part of it. I told her I never intended her to be anything but included. I just hadn’t shown her the website yet!

For warriors, support is critical. It’s for important to know someone has their back. Lindsey will never wonder if her sister and I have her back. She will look at her hand and she will see her tattoo and know that the three of us are connected in a special way, remember our day of bonding, needing only to trace it to gain some needed strength.

photo 3Along with the semicolon tattoo, I am gifting each girl with a little heart, about the size of a pinky finger. It is to be placed anywhere they want it, but in a place they can readily see  I used to use a sharpie and pit one on their hand or arm when they were scared about a test, school, or when they just needed a “mom hug” to take with them as they went off on their day. This time we are making it washable and forever. It’s a personal reminder that they ARE my heart; that they carry with them my unconditional love everywhere they go. I love them forever, always, and that there is NOTHING they can ever do that will make me stop loving them. Simply NOTHING.

Alli distracts herself with her phone while she is inked. Nothing compares to broken bones and the pain of soccer injuries and physical therapy. This was nuthin.

Alli distracts herself with her phone while she is inked. Nothing compares to broken bones and the pain of soccer injuries and physical therapy. This was nuthin.

It’s a visual reminder that they can come home, no matter what choices or mistakes they might have made in life, and to know that I’ll have their backs. Life is messy. Choices are hard to make. Sometimes we make the wrong ones. Come home, anyway. I’m always gonna be there. I don’t care if they are 18, 28, or 58. That tattoo won’t wear off and neither will my love for them. If at some point they need me, and I am no longer here residing on this green earth, then they only need look at it to know I’m still only a heartbeat away, loving them from above, still supporting them.

Yes, I took my two daughters, who are 15 and 16, to the tattoo shop and we got tattoos, but the question wasn’t ever, “how could I,” but instead, “how could I NOT?”  My beautiful girls are here and this is not in “memory” of anyone. This is to strengthen us and to empower us to do hard things, because we are still alive to do them.

There is a beautiful song I will play them. An amazing friend sent me the link the other day and I have been in love with it ever since.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OCUzqbAZq3E

The refrain goes like this:

This is not the end of me.

This is the beginning.

Hold on.

I am still alive…

As long as we are alive, we are going to live like it. We are going to remember that this is just the beginning, choose to not end our sentences, to just hold on tight, get through the night, and believe that this is not the end. No one has to get it all perfect, or get it all right, we just have to get up each day and try. Put one foot in front of the other, hold on tight, ride the ride, let the day have it’s way, and best of all…come home again.

I love you girls. We can do this. We’ve got this!