“WHY DO YOU WRITE CHRISTINE?”

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We were in the garage in that moment.

“WHY DO YOU WRITE CHRISTINE?”

There were a million questions behind that single one.

He wanted to know if it was worth it.

He was trying to understand.

“I write for many reasons”. That’s all I gave him in that moment.

 

My voice was taken many times.

This is a combination of experiences throughout my life. If you’ve read my stories, perhaps you will pick up on those times.

These will be my final words to my children.

My kids have experienced death from a young age. I know the questions that come from death. I’ve heard them a thousand times. It doesn’t frighten me. No. Rather, I reflect on how to answer questions my children may have later on. I have one child that will only read my writings upon my death. He acknowledged this. I hope I get to them all. I hope to lessen all their questions.

Sometimes I need to process.

It’s true. Sometimes I simply need to process shit. You may pick up on those times.

I live in a small town.

Small towns are often guarded people. They guard their hearts and their stories. Vulnerability is the opposite of stoicism. Call me crazy, but I still believe there is power in vulnerability.

I’m a psychologist in training.

                How can I expect others to process and own their stories if I cannot do the same? I’ll never throw myself upon a pedestal claiming to be the “all knowing” or the “savior”. I’ve known life too.

I have a story to tell.

                There are many sides to every story. This is my story. These are my experiences. This is my interpretation. This is what I learned.

Writing is therapeutic.

                It’s an outlet of mine. Need I say more?

Courage is contagious.

                I happen to believe that there is power in telling one’s story – when they are ready. I will be forever grateful for the contagious courage.

 

TBC…

© LifeasChristine, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

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She will learn. She will grow. And she will be okay…

23514763_10214453718834808_1116343915_o.jpgI never gave three days.

I decided then that I would figure out why she needed to talk to me – and honestly pregnancy was the last thing on my mind.

There was a reason she hadn’t come to me.

I remember the day she told me she lost her virginity. I remember she cried and told me she was sorry. Looking back, I’m pretty sure that was a hard confession for her. We had a long talk that day.

Looking ahead, I’m pretty sure this also would’ve been pretty difficult to tell me.

It was a Walmart bag in my camping book bag, inside the trunk of her car.

Do you know what was in that bag?

It was a dead giveaway.

Prenatal vitamins.

I was twenty-one when I gave birth to my first child. I had zero idea what I was doing or what I was in for.

I was also married at nineteen.

That’s a piece of it. She’s a teenager, unmarried, still has to finish her schooling.

It’s the unwed pregnant teenager that got me initially. Man, I grappled with this one. Initially, I felt shame.

We live in a small town where people love to talk. It’s part of the reason I left at nineteen.

Many talk and few listen. And vision is sometimes clouded by small towns.

About six months prior, my daughter returned from California. A place I never wanted her to go to. She grew up a lot in California. She experienced more than she ever should’ve and it hurt her more than she knew it would.

When she left, not many noticed. When she returned I heard various comments from people in the village, “Wow. Sadie is soo skinny”.

Unspoken suggestions or truly a concern for a young girl’s weight is yet to be determined.

They all come in different constructs of sentences, but the gist was the same.

Ya know the kicker? For years my daughter would debate me about abortion. We had multiple conversations about it. She had said from the get-go that she never wanted children. She also said that if she ever got pregnant she would get an abortion.

Perhaps it was the freedom of choice that she was ultimately debating with me. I’m not really sure.

That first week I was overwhelmed with emotion. I wanted to run so badly. I needed space to figure out what I felt, what mattered, and how I would act. 

Maybe you wonder why this was so difficult for me.

I gave birth four times and had two mothers during that time in my life. Neither of them showed up for any birth.

In their defense, I never asked.

In my defense, neither did they.

Being a “good mom” was always on my list of things to do well. I question myself from time to time, but it’s mattered to me from the first day I found out I was pregnant.

So how do I do this?

It’s a rhetorical question.

She made a comment to me one night that I didn’t “like” her Facebook status when she posted a picture of the ultrasound.

I sat on her bed and gave her a hug.

“Sade, this is hard for me. I will support you and your decision, but you have to give me a little bit of time.”

I don’t know if she truly understood in that moment.

I told a few people initially. When I got the words, “Congratulations Grandma”.

I wanted to punch them.

I told my cohort and I got a lot of “babies are a blessing”.

I wanted to puke.

I wasn’t feeling celebratory. I wasn’t feeling blessed.

One friend had recently lost her daughter. Initially she said “Congratulations”, but she followed it up with “better than a funeral”.

That hit me – hard. Talk about perspective.

I went out the next day and bought two little onesies and a sleeper.

It wasn’t much, but it was a start.

A few weeks later, my daughter had a melt-down. She sat on her floor in her bathroom and sobbed.

“Mom, I’m not ready to be a mom. I don’t know how to be mom. I don’t know what I’m doing. Alex isn’t ready to be a dad. I’m so scared Mom”.

It’s hard to describe what that moment was like for me.

I hugged her and I reassured her. Hell, I have never met a mother yet that knew what they were doing from the get-go.

I told her she will learn. She will grow. And she will be okay.

That was hard, but that was needed. Maybe for both of us.

I helped her find a mid-wife. I went to her first appointment. I set her up with a program where she can ‘learn to earn’ baby necessities. And later on, I will be her birth coach when the time comes.

There’s another angle.

When I became pregnant with my daughter, it was baby #4. I wrote about it in Friendship, Strippers, and Rainbows…

Not many were happy about my pregnancy. I had just given birth to baby #3 prior. Life was difficult.

I stood alone. It was beyond challenging.

I never regretted my choice. Not once.

And later, others thanked me for standing alone. Had I not, Sadie would not be here and they would never have had a chance to love her.

I never want my daughter to feel that. I never want her to stand alone.

I don’t always agree with the choices she makes, but I will always believe in her. I will always love her. And I know she has great things to come.

 

© LifeasChristine, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I never gave three days…

125806194609612954500101197_Life_PRETRAILERMy oldest son called me as I was on my way home. He was living in Vermont at the time.

“Mom, you need to have a conversation with her”.

“I am always having conversations with her”.

“Maybe just tell her that if there is something she is struggling with, she can come to you – no matter what.”

My first thought?

Doesn’t she already know that? After everything…doesn’t she know this?

My second thought – Drugs.

Oh bloody hell. Seriously??

I recently attended a funeral of a friend who lost their daughter from heroin addiction.

It was unimaginable from a parent perspective.

“Just tell me what is going on. I don’t want to play private detective. I hate playing detective”.

My son’s final words: “Mom, if she doesn’t tell you in three days, I’ll tell you. But ya gotta tell her what I said first”.

Turns out I played detective.

I never gave three days.

I searched her car instead, looking for clues.

I found nothing inside the car, but in the trunk, I found my camping book bag.

That’s odd.

I wondered why that is in her trunk.

I peeked inside and saw a Walmart bag. I never looked in the bag, but instead flung the book bag over my shoulder, closed the trunk, and headed in the house.

I set the book bag down on the kitchen floor, unloaded my school book bag, and my purse. I glanced over at the camping book bag.

I looked inside.

My heart sank.

A million dreams I had for her shattered in an instant.

I put the bag back down, grabbed a wine glass, and poured a glass.

I grabbed the Walmart bag out of the book bag and my glass of wine and headed to the couch.

I sat there for a minute just processing.

I slowly sipped my wine. I didn’t want this moment to be happening. I didn’t want to be processing this. I didn’t want her to hide this from me. I didn’t want any of this.

I slowly sipped my wine.

I searched for wisdom in that moment.

I took some long, deep breaths and I drank my wine slowly contemplating my words, processing my feelings, and trying to make sense of all of it.  

When I finished my glass of wine, I called her downstairs.

“How long have you been pregnant?”                                                          

“About six weeks”.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because I thought you’d kick me out of the house.”

“Duh. Have I ever kicked anyone out yet?”

In her defense, I have kicked one out – not my own child.

“I’m sorry. I was scared Mom. I’m still processing.”

That was the first answer that made sense to me. I understood her in that moment.

From then it was a whirlwind of information being thrown at me.

I stopped her when she said “…emergency room last weekend…some word that started with ‘a’…a cyst…”

“What word that started with ‘a’?”

“I don’t remember”.

It was this moment that my stomach began to hurt. My baby is having a baby.

I explained to her what to say and why it was important.

She called the emergency room that she visited the weekend before.

After numerous transfers and three phone calls later I finally got on the phone with radiology.

“We cannot rule out ectopic pregnancy”.

It was the first thing I thought of when I heard “some word that started with an ‘a’”.

I admit, I silently prayed for an ectopic.

She wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready. None of us were ready.

I poured another glass of wine.

I called my best friend. She was an expert on ectopic pregnancies.

She walked me through what tests would be needed. She gave me all the info. She ended with, “You have to take her now”.

I had Sadie drive.

I called another friend, she asked me, “Mom, do you have to?”

I did.

I needed a person to ground me. I explained this and she understood.

My girlfriend met us at the hospital.

My husband met us when he got out of work at nearly 1:30 am.

Around 2 am, the staff came in and explained that it wasn’t ectopic, but the ultrasound from last weekend did not pick up a heartbeat.

More tests needed to be run.

I sat there thinking for hours that my 18 ½ year old daughter would either be having a D&C due to a baby with no heartbeat or an operation removing her fallopian tube because of an ectopic pregnancy.

I thought – Okay, this is will all be over shortly. It won’t be pretty, but it will be a lesson.

I was wrong.

Around 3 am, the nurse came in and told our small clan that they found the heartbeat, it was in utero, and she was about 12 weeks.

My heart sank and a million scared thoughts ran through my mind.

This was really happening. It didn’t matter if she or anyone else was ready. It was happening.

The second question I had asked her in the living room was, “What’s your game plan?”

“I’m having the baby Mom”

To be continued…

© LifeasChristine, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you measure strength?

a conceptual image representing a focus on strength

STRENGTH.

There is power in that word, but without much of a definition. It’s subjective to interpretation, isn’t it?

How do you measure strength?

It’s an interesting concept…

How do others define it?

Physical strength may be among the easiest to measure, but even that is not black and white.

We’ve all said it, or at least probably most of us, at some point in our lives or another, haven’t we?

“I’m strong!”

Or perhaps we thought it.

Or perhaps you viewed another and deemed them strong.

Why?

What is it about them that makes you see strength?

What is it about yourself that makes you see strength?

Can you conceptualize it? Can you define it? Can you put it into words?

I went on a quest recently to understand this.

It originated because I heard:

“You’re the strongest person I’ve ever met.”

“I hope I can be strong like you.”

“You are so strong Christine.”

I heard this when I felt anything but strong. It made me mad to hear those words in the moment. I felt expectations were on me.  Expectations I didn’t want. Expectations I didn’t know if I could fulfill.

I didn’t feel strong. I didn’t want to be strong.

I know I can hear another’s story and measure what I view as strength. I can build on this strength with them. I can harness their strength. I can help empower, encourage, and promote growth.

But to put that into words, is tough.

Recently I started asking people: “How do you measure strength?”

These are some of the responses I received:

“…when life deals you the shittiest of hands and you’re still able to play the game.”

“…the ability to know what battles are worth fighting for. Sometimes it means fighting for what you want, while other times it means being strong enough to let something go.”

“…the strongest thing I ever did was forgive my sisters for what they did to me…they nearly ruined me…in fact they did ruin me. And I forgave them when they never asked for it…[that] was strength.”

“I think that strength is the ability to see the beauty in life regardless of the mountains we are climbing. I also believe that strength comes from the ability to view one’s own struggles in perspective of the struggles of others.”

“I think strength is being able to fight your battles, but knowing when to call for backup.”

“I would argue that strength is being able to view the mess of your own life in terms of feeling fortunate, rather than self-loathing.”

“Strength is the ability to be grateful when the mountain gets steep and we aren’t sure if we can make it over.”

“…knowing you’re going to lose the fight, but still standing up to your opponent and giving it your all.”

“…never giving up.”

“Strength is watching someone else do something, handle something, go through something, that you don’t know if you could do.”

“Genuineness.  If someone is honest and truthful that tells me they have a lot of strength because it takes strength to be vulnerable. I measure strength for one’s ability to be open and honest. Complete genuineness and vulnerability.”

“If people are able to work through tough times, do what needs to be done…”

“People that have endured hardships in their life and were able to get through it, making them a better person…going through bullshit and coming out of it with a positive outlook intact.”

Powerful isn’t it?

There are themes within.

Perseverance.

Endurance.

Forgiveness.

Wisdom.

Gratefulness.

Vulnerability.

What do you see?

I am hesitant to call myself strong. I know this. Seems the minute I do, life asks, “Oh yeah? What about now Christine?”

Life has a way of questioning our definition of strength. Or perhaps redefining or even refining our definition…

I’m still working through my own definition. I know for me, it is many of the things that others mention, but it is more. Truthfully, I think it grows with life experience, through hardship, through joys, through life….

To be continued…

© LifeasChristine, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A piece of my heart got out of the car and told me goodbye at 4:54…

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The time was 4:54 as I backed out of the driveway. I will never forget the moments and days leading up to the time.

A piece of my heart got out of the car and told me goodbye at 4:54.

About a half an hour earlier, she had finished packing up the car. She had one suitcase and a duffel bag. She had multiple boxes that were to be shipped out later. She came and told me she was ready to go. As I got into the car, she said, “Mom, don’t cry” I never responded. I couldn’t.

As I pulled in the driveway where she wanted me to drop her off, I put the car in park and pulled out the plastic baggy I had stashed in my purse while she was loading the car.  I had kept that baggy in my jewelry box for many years. It contained the diamond earrings from her great-grandmother who had passed away many years ago. I leaned over and put them in her ears one by one, telling her always to check the backs to make sure they are tight, not to take them out unless she gets a second hole and move them there, and never, ever sell or lose them.

I then handed her $100 and said, “If you ever get into a bind, you call me.”

She responded, “I will call you anyways Mom”.

She reached across the seat towards me. I grabbed onto her and lost it.

This surreal moment was happening. She was leaving early in the morning on a plane out to L.A. She was flying across the country.  She was going to a place I did not agree with and staying with people I am unsure of. She was going against my wishes. She was leaving school. She was leaving everything behind her. I felt like she was walking into the lion’s den and it scared the shit out of me.

She too lost it and she cried, “Thank you Mom. Thank you for everything. I know you still believe in me and that’s the only thing that keeps me going. Just thank you Mom. I love you more than anything.”

My heart broke in a million pieces in that moment. I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to lock her up in her room. I wanted her to finish high school. I wanted my little girl back.

I did not scream at her. I held her tighter in that moment that I had her. I was the last to let go. I knew from the first day she told me what this was going to be and how it would play out.

She told me a few months ago that she was leaving home when she turned 18.

Originally, I told her over my dead body. I certainly wasn’t going to make it easy for her. But in my heart, I knew what she knew. She was going to leave and I couldn’t stop her. I had to let go. And I couldn’t burn the bridge with her, nor did I want to.

No, I absolutely do not agree with her choice in her life right now. Out of everyone, she knows this best, and she knows why. But she also knows that no matter what I will always believe in her. I will always love her. And I will always expect great things from her. I expect her to dig deep. I expect her to remember her roots and all the lessons I taught her. I expect her to make it. I expect her to ask for help if she needs it along the way.

And I also hope that she finds what she is desperately searching for. I had a million dreams for her, but perhaps those dreams were mine. I still don’t totally understand all why she needs to do this. Perhaps there is a part of her that needs to understand herself and what she’s made of. She told me she feels “stuck” here in this small town.  And honestly, there is a piece of me that understands that feeling. I too have felt that before at a time in my life.

I hope she learns herself as she needs to. I hope that God will keep his hand upon her. I hope that she will one day return, wiser, still thankful, and with growth.

I hope she receives grace along the way and can fully recognize and appreciate it.

And more than anything, I hope she gets what she needs when she needs it.

© LifeasChristine, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Christine, I hope that if I’m ever in your father’s shoes…

put_yourself_in_someone_shoes

Today, I had supervision during practicum. I rarely write in the moment, but I’ve found myself reflecting on this quite a bit, long after the conversation concluded.

It was technically supervision, but today, it was just life we talked about. Life in the moment.

“Christine, I hope that if I’m ever in your father’s shoes, one of my kids will be what you’ve been for your father.”

It stopped me. Frankly, I never expected such an honest and vulnerable admission. Yet, it wasn’t something new I have heard.

“It’s not about deserving, you know”

He asked me to explain. I did.

I spoke about how we as people are constantly giving worth and taking it away throughout various situations and with people throughout life – those that cross our paths and those that don’t. It’s almost like we have this innate, annoying tendency to measure who is worthy and who is not. Who deserves what and who does not.

I further explained that my father was never perfect.

“Show me a man that claims he is and I will show you a liar”, he responded.

I told him we recently cracked his safe. I found those power of attorney papers, the living will, and the healthcare proxy forms.

I told him about his living will.

“He wants to come home. No matter what…he wants to come home.”

I wondered aloud in his office. I wondered if it was about reciprocity.

Do we do what we can with where we are and what we know?

Or perhaps it’s all about learning what we value and standing up for those values?

I’ve heard “You’re a blessing to your father”, “You’re father is lucky to have you”…etc.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge, I’ve been a pain in his ass.

He has also been a pain in my ass.

We butted heads while I was growing up. We wanted different things for me. I challenged his beliefs and he challenged mine. He later changed his beliefs and I challenged him on knowing what he stood for. Throughout my 20’s and early 30’s, we have had many thought provoking and emotionally-charged conversations. For a guy that doesn’t like to make himself emotionally vulnerable, I knew what this meant for him.

And I do know, that he’s always tried to meet me where I was and I’ve always tried to meet him where he was.

Can we do that for our children?

Can we do that for our parents?

It’s not always easy. I’ll give anyone that. And I get why.

I too have wondered what if I was in his shoes. Would they advocate for me? Would they fight for me? Would they lose patience with me? Would they take it personal? Would they grieve for what they lost, but carry on with what they have? Would they push me? Would they wonder if they made the right decisions? Would they find gratitude? Would they get what they needed when they needed it?

Or maybe this is about him realizing that he can be imperfect and still be loved and worthy?

I’ll never forget the day the neurosurgeon said to me, “If you’re father is the kind of person that is only happy living a perfect life, now is the time to say goodbye”.

Maybe it’s about me not being ready to say goodbye…

Maybe it’s about grace…

© LifeasChristine, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

If you haven’t been knocked down yet, be aware, it will come…

falling-down-and-getting-up

If there’s one thing experience has taught me, it’s that life is gonna knock you down. And sometimes it will kick you while you’re there. 

It doesn’t care about your race, gender, educational level, or the amount of money in your bank account.

It doesn’t care if you come from a dysfunctional home or a “healthy” home. It doesn’t care if you have a support network or you’re all alone. It doesn’t care if you have protective factors or already present stressors. It doesn’t care if you have time for it or whether you’re prepared for it.

If you haven’t been knocked down yet, be aware, it will come.

I have been called upon many times throughout the last few years. A common theme in the questions I hear is ‘what did you do when life knocked you down?’ or ‘how did you get back up?’

The short answer… I figured it out.

The long answer…depends on what the knock felt like.

Part of my resolve is my personality. I am a fighter, but one word cannot describe me. I am also a seeker. I have sought answers, mentors, wisdom, a hand to hold, a comforting or encouraging word – but if I find none, or it’s not enough, I look within.

I’m a reflector. A muller. A dissector.

I know myself well, though I’m continuously learning more. I don’t think that’s a process that ever stops – nor should it.

I know that I’ve been knocked down hard throughout life. And yes, there were times that I contributed to that fall. I’m not too proud to own that.

I don’t like being knocked down, though does anyone? I doubt it.

I do enjoy the journey though… not necessarily the falls, but the walk and especially the rise. That initial feeling you get when you look back over your shoulder and think, “Holy crap. I did it!”.

 And I want to keep walking because if there is one thing I know for sure…this life truly is a gift and despite the challenges and falls, I’m gonna keep walking. There are some beautiful moments along the way.

I’ve never lost that.

Throughout all the times I’ve fallen, I have gotten up.

I didn’t always jump up. Trust me. There were times I resembled a newborn calf trying to get to their feet – all wobbly and shaky. Again…depends on how hard the knock was and what it felt like.

And I’ve used many different tools in assistance – I haven’t always been able to get up with the help of my own knees straightening.

There were outstretched hands along the way. There were encouraging words (in print and spoken). There were hugs. There were listening ears. There were even challenging words that motivated me (in print and spoken).

There were times that I felt all alone and had none of the above.  There were times that those things were not enough… those times were not about what I had, but about what I needed to understand about myself. Those times I looked within. I learned to know me better.

Maybe being knocked down is about learning who you are…learning to know yourself better. It’s not always easy, I’ll give anyone that, but I’d argue it’s worth it. There is an opportunity in every knock and every fall throughout life. Perhaps recognizing and embracing that opportunity is also a part of it.

© LifeasChristine, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.