“I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor.” Victim means a casualty, a sufferer, an injured party, or being wounded. The word victim is all about ongoing suffering, pain, or injury. Survivor has to do with staying, sticking, fighting, and being tough. The word survivor indicates an injury has occurred but there has been no defeat. There could be lingering, unrepairable issues, but nothing able to take you down. To be a survivor doesn’t necessarily mean the pain has ended, it means the pain no longer matters. A victim can only be pitied for their suffering, while a survivor, admired, for putting suffering behind them. Even though I didn’t choose to be a victim of my husband’s death, I do have a choice to either remain a victim or become a survivor. I can keep bumping into the huge ball of crap placed in my way and become comfortable with pity, self or otherwise, or I can figure out how to deflate it down to pocket size, where possibilities exist to either carry it with ease, pull it out when it needs a good stomping, or toss it into the trash for good. I’m going to find a nice big pin!
In the book March, a brave man is described as quaking with fear, sweating, with bowels betraying him, but in spite of all this he does the very act he fears. The word cowardice covers the first three portrayals and if there is no more, a coward is what you’ll be. The final step turns cowardice into courage, making it possible to conquer that which you dread. But what makes the final step possible? I believe it’s pulling courage from the strength you know, rather than feel; choosing to BE brave. I’ve experienced a very great fear, not just the single event of his death, but of each and every day after life, its certainty or uncertainty, hits me full force. I avoided the physical signs of fear, doing things to cover it up, like the comfort of company on weekends, and being busy with work and projects all week. But avoiding isn’t conquering. After reading this description of being brave, I realized I could have conquered my fears much earlier. I’ve said it’s OK not to be brave, BUT not forever, so I’m taking the final step, choosing to BE brave, willing myself to believe I’m stronger than I feel.
My granddaughter kicked, screamed, and threw herself on the floor yesterday in protest to an action of mine she didn’t like. After we picked out a couple of books, I took her hand to head to the couch, but she decided she wanted to stay. Since I’m bigger, I just picked her up, sat down on the couch, and started reading – everything was now fine. Adults don’t react that way to people they disagree with; instead they think unkind thoughts and use unkind words, and all because those people think, look, or live differently. I’ve come across tattooed people with purple hair, gay couples, and brass, pushy women – so many people very different from me and I think why should any of those differences bother me? Each, a person, just like me, whose only “crime” is making different choices than mine. Nothing wrong with laying out and exploring choices in order to make the best choice, but the choices people make are up to each person, not me. My life is based on the choices I make, not the choices others make. So I’ll choose to love instead of judge and make my life a little bit happier.
“Your speed doesn’t matter. Forward is forward.” A quote in great contrast to our whirlwind world where thoughts and actions tend toward how fast I can get this done so I can move on to something else I need to do. A lifestyle I created, at first through responsibilities, and then demanded by an intense need to fill up my day, so I wouldn’t feel. It seems counterintuitive, but my recently discovered slower pace in daily living has made a huge difference in moving my life forward. I had stopped setting crazy deadlines for the things on my daily to-do list. I was laughing more and felt a new kind of peace. A restfulness, a quietness in my heart, mind, and spirit, a take my time pace, and a do it well attitude. Life isn’t about how fast I can spend it or about piling on a boat load of busy, which is moving, but not necessarily forward. It’s about seeing how far I can move my life forward, past the difficult, over the obstacles, around what seems impossible. It’s taking time to breathe, wonder, and adjust to all that living entails. Slowly forward is looking good to me!
I wonder if I’ll see the day when a person is just a person. When there won’t be a magazine cover stating this is the first black man to be on the cover, or an awards nomination stating this is the first woman ever nominated, or a campaign stating this is the first transgender person running for president. When will we see a nurse, not a male nurse, or a cop, not a white cop? When will it be more important for employers to hire the most qualified person, instead of the most qualified person from each of these different labels? Labels that keep reminding us of worthless differences. I’m wondering if it’s possible to get past color, religion, race, and gender and only see a person; a person no different than anyone else in what matters. When will we realize we need to help every person achieve as much as they can and therefore accomplish as much as they can, no matter their social status, what they look like or believe? I don’t care if you’re blue or green, have the same beliefs, or 100% different from me. I hope you matter to you, because you matter to me.
From the book March: “There was a time, not so very many years distant, when my mind possessed no thought I did not share with her.” I never thought about it before, how my husband and I shared every thought, except for the few things I kept confidential, between other people and myself, when asked to do so. Thoughts came in and then out fairly quickly. Often enough that their weight, excitement, or difficulty was shared. They were no longer just my thoughts, or his, but ours. If I kept mine too long, I’d find the weight becoming too heavy to carry, the excitement too much to hold in, or I’d be wrestling with issues long enough to make my head hurt. Understanding thoughts requiring action, comes quicker when put into words. Sharing exciting ones brings joy and sharing heavy ones, relief. I find now I must keep a few friends in my back pocket, ready to pull out and share my thoughts with. If it’s late, I’ll write them down, to get them out, so my mind can rest. Kept to myself the heavy ones will crush the joyful, the only thing keeping the difficult ones from becoming insurmountable.
Life’s circumstances can be beyond my control, but allowing them to control me is not. I get to choose my path after I’ve ended up in a place, no matter what brought me there.
Nature’s Choices/Life Matters
- Can the mayfly say to the wind, don’t send me to the river
- where I’ll get eaten by a fish?
- Can the pine cone say to the spring rain, don’t force me into this crevice
- where my growth will be limited to the nutrients you send me?
- Can the seed say to the bird, don’t drop me in this thirsty place
- where I’ll prosper then struggle over and over again?
- Can the maple tree say to the storm, don’t disperse my seeds near the city
- where trees are cut down to make way for new highways or homes?
- Can the acorn say to the squirrel, don’t bury me where the sunlight can’t reach
- where I’ll struggle all my life?
- Life begins, not knowing where it will go,
- what forces if will encounter, or where it will end up.
- If there’s a choice, choose wisely; if not, survive.
- Life, no matter the length or ease, matters. You matter.
Healing and time go hand in hand. There are schools for someone who loses their sight, to train the rest of their body to prevail against that loss. When a soldier loses an arm, they’ll spend months in rehabilitation to train the rest of their body to prevail against that loss. They might get a new arm, which can do amazing things, but won’t ever be as perfect as the one lost. It’s easily understood by others that it’ll take time to adjust when such losses occur, and easily encouraged that school or physical therapy is needed. Once in a healing program, the person enduring the loss, will need to work hard and be patient in order to recover as much as they can. There are no such schools or rehabilitation facilities for those who lose their spouse. My loss is unseen; physically I am still whole. How then do I train my heart and mind to prevail against my loss? How then do I rehabilitate, or recreate, my entire being to live when half of me is missing? I must take, and be given, time to adjust before filling that void, making time my friend instead of my enemy.
This week’s This is Us mentioned life getting in the way regarding discovering a heart problem. I thought about similar unforeseen events or circumstances that come into my life and what it takes to get past them. There are also the ones I create when I get in my own way. If I become very overweight because I choose to eat badly, my weight problem is me getting in my own way. Other people can get in my way and cause problems, but their actions create re-actions from me, even if it’s doing nothing; I’m still doing the choosing, so it’s still me. Life’s problems are not always avoidable, but getting in my own way problems usually are. It takes thinking about my choices, trying hard to avoid the wrong ones. Once in my own way, it takes vision to see what’s wrong, and determination to set it right. Although I don’t get to choose when life gets in my way (not if, because it certainly will), I do get to choose my re-actions. Life may push me around a while, but I can choose to be determined from the start, to figure out how to get through or around.
A couple in the stores yesterday sadden me listening to how they spoke to each other. Their words, over deciding on something to drink, were condescending, critical, or downright mean. They appeared to be in their early 40’s. If they have children and speak to each other in front of them like they did in front of me, it would take my sadness up a level, asking what are they teaching them about being married? Their words flowed easily for 10-15 minutes or so, making me think they’ve had lots of practice; long enough to make me want to act like a parent and have them sit across from each other until they could smile and say something nice, something my Mom had us do when we were kids and were unkind. I’ve said my share of such words to my husband. Looking back I see they were not necessary or helpful. They only added to the stress of the situation and didn’t solving anything. It is possible to find kind, considerate, or respectful words for every situation if only I can reach past the ones that bubble up first and grab the ones at the bottom of the barrel.