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

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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…

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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.

HAVE YOU NO COUTH? …

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“Hello?”

I was worn out; physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. It was a rough 6 months…hell it was a rough year.

“Christine, I just heard he died…Oh my God…Oh my God…” she wailed into the phone.

When I realized who it was, I wanted to scream,

“HAVE YOU NO COUTH? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?”

I wanted to unload on her. I wanted to put her in her place and tell her where to stick it. I wanted to tell her I never wanted to speak to her again.

I said none of that.

“Yes. He died.”

“How? What happened?” she asked through tears.

I gave her the blunt details as I thought about her last call to me a few months prior.

She had called me a few months prior, though I never did find out how she got a hold of my phone number. She was angry. He had hurt her and she wanted to get even. He left her; hooked up with one of her friends and went to Louisiana with her looking for work. I wondered if she was surprised, but I never asked. I knew she was hurting. She offered to help me. The irony of the situation was almost more than I could bare. I declined her “assistance”.

“It was quick Rachel. He didn’t suffer…” I went on to briefly explain what happened.

I gave her the facts. I knew she needed closure.

I hated being put in this position. I hated that she had called me. I hated that I had to be the one to tell her and that she didn’t think twice about calling me. I guess people only know what they know and to a degree, I knew where she was at and I tried to meet her there. It wasn’t easy I can assure you.

I took control of that conversation and ended it as soon as the details were covered. I was not interested in forming a comradery with her.

It was the 2nd phone call from her, but it wasn’t the last. She called me a few weeks later. She wanted to know about a necklace she had given him.

“Yes, I know what you’re referring to. It was given to me with his belongings after he died. He must have liked the necklace; he was wearing it when he died. His blood is on it.”

She gasped. I gave more than I should’ve and I knew it. I predicted her next words and I knew my response before I uttered them.

“Can I have it back?”

“No, I’m sorry, you cannot.”

She got angry with me. She told me she had his wetsuit and all his dive equipment. She threatened to sell it with justification of how much he ‘owed’ her.

“Rachel, you do whatever you need to do because in the end, we all do, don’t we? I’m not giving you the necklace and you can sell his equipment if it brings you a dollar and makes you feel better. That choice is yours.”

© 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.

Live a good life: An open letter to my oldest son…

An open letter to my oldest son Jonathon…

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You called me the other night and forewarned me, “Mom, this is deep, but important and I want an answer”.

I heard you out and finally responded, “I will get back to you on that”.

Roughly a half an hour after hanging up the phone with you, I received your text, “Don’t forget!”

Remember what you said?

Remember how you justified it?

A few months ago you said, “Why would God give me this mind if he knew I was gonna question. I’m probably not a good follower because I question too much. But didn’t He know I was gonna be like this?”

You know how I sometimes grab my phone and start typing in the middle of conversations? It’s usually because I’m making a note and quoting words that I hear because they hit me profoundly and I want to remember them. I want to think about them later, long after the moment has passed. I made note of that remark.

First off Jono, you don’t need justification for wondering about the things you wonder about.

One thing we definitely agree on is that it is curiosity serves as a catalyst for searching for knowledge, understanding, learning, and wisdom. The greatest of these is wisdom. I will leave it up to you to figure out the difference and why that is the most important.

I know that you have thought about death from a young age and all that it entails. I think most of your siblings have experienced this as well. As I believe that the majority of individuals who experience death of a loved one start to grapple with the concept… what it means to live, die, and all the stuff in between.

You never needed to justify your question to me. I know you well.

WHEN YOU DIE MOM, I WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU WANT US TO LIVE OUR LIVES. AND IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN IF WE ARE HONEST. AND HOPEFULLY YOU DIE BEFORE US, BECAUSE THE ALTERNATIVE WOULD BE TRAGIC FOR YOU AND AGAINST THE NATURE OF HOW THINGS SHOULD WORK. I WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU WANT US TO REMEMBER YOU. I WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU DEFINE A GOOD LIFE. I WANT TO KNOW HOW YOU WANT US TO CARRY ON WITHOUT YOU.

First off, Aaron knows this part, but maybe you should be aware as well. If given a choice, I want to be buried in the back yard. If the back yard doesn’t suffice due to obstacles – find me a field, close to a river bank, or babbling brook – someplace weeping willows thrive. Do not spend money on a cemetery plot – that’s just plain weird to me and I don’t want to be buried in a cemetery full of people I never knew.  Having experiences with funerals, NO ONE is to buy me a $7,000 casket. I don’t care how pretty it is. I want you all to gather together and build me a pine box. It will give you all a chance to laugh, grieve, and work together as a team processing through stuff together. What you do with it and how you all make it, is up to you guys. Flowers can be picked from a field. Plant a willow tree over me. Years later, when the willow is strong, hang a swing, build a tree house, or do both. Don’t forget the hammock.

I want music – all the music that drove you guys nuts while growing up that reminds you of me that you begged me “Not this again”.  Let it be, Roll me away, I need a hero (you will all laugh remembering me yelling ‘Wooo” at just the right moment), Tiny Dancer, Lose Yourself, Runaway Train, etc.

I want food. Lots of good food – no chicken!

And at the end, I want you to blow off fireworks (if available). There’s just something about fireworks that I have always loved. They remind me that I am alive. They bring awe to me. I want you guys to remember that you still are here and to see the beauty in the darkness. I really want fireworks – just make sure you warn the neighbors, in the event that one may be experiencing PTSD.

I want lots of stories, lots of laughter, lots of hugs (good hugs – not those crappy one-handed-so-called-hugs), sharing of memories from those you don’t know, and honest eulogies. God, do not put me on a pedestal. Be careful, because sometimes we do that when we lose those we love – I’ve not only done it, but have witnessed it occurring from others.

So how do I want you all to live your lives after I’m gone? The same way I want you to live your lives while I still breathe.

I want you to question things your taught, not defiantly, but critically thinking things through. Never feel stupid for asking what others say are silly questions. Ask whatever question you need in order to come to the answer you need. But, know that sometimes you can ask all the right questions, and there is no answer. There are some questions in life that you will never get answers to – or the answers that sit well with your heart. When that happens, learn to LET IT BE. There are just some things in life that we will never know answers to. Maybe it comes down to “I don’t know”. Maybe it comes down to faith. Maybe it comes down to acceptance. It may be a combination of factors, but regardless, you all have to be okay with unanswered questions, because they can and do happen throughout life.

Remember when you were little over at the house on Durfee? Remember when we were coloring? I told you when you color, you didn’t have to stay within the lines. You could color outside the lines and you could use any color you wanted, even if it didn’t make sense (i.e. pink elephants, blue flamingos). You were not limited. I want you to understand there is a time and place for coloring outside the lines. It was not a metaphor for going against all rules or lines set before you. It was a lesson that coloring was a time for flow. It was a place and time for you to lose yourself, while gaining yourself at the same time. It was art therapy and never, ever underestimate the value of it. Some do this by yoga, some by running, some by weight-lifting, some by hiking, some by boating, some by music, some by gardening, etc. The means differ, but the results are the same. There’s a mental balancing that occurs. Find your yoga… whatever that may be. You all will need this many times throughout life – life demands balance.

Evaluate your values. Every single one of them. Take an ethics class (you will struggle mentally, but it is so worth it)! This will help all of you really get to the nitty gritty and decipher the difference between ethics, moral, and values. Your values are things that not only I have taught you since you were little, but things that experiences taught you. Critically think and evaluate them. In order to stand for something, you need to understand why you’re standing. Also, remember your values can change or shift throughout life – they are not always set in stone.

When you find yourself selling out, remember your values, and back-track. It’s okay if you screw up, you are human and you are gonna falter, but recognize it, and remedy it – ASAP.

DON’T QUIT!

God, please don’t quit! Life can get very challenging, even down-right hard, do not quit. Get oxygen when you need it, but hang on and don’t you quit.

Understand what your meaning of success is. Personally, my meaning of success does not equate to society’s standard. I’m okay with that. You need to each figure out what success means to you and go for it. You do not need to defend it to others – just live your lives accordingly. Obviously, don’t be idiots with this and look for justification where there is none. Don’t hurt others for your own gratification, etc.

That brings me to the next thing… at the end of each of your lives, will you be able to say you learned through your mistakes? Will you be able to say I did better when I learned? Look up the poem “The Man in the Glass”. I gave it to someone once and it was one that made a big impact on me – around the time when I was where you are at – questioning my life and what it meant to live. At the end of every day, at the end of every mountain climb, at the end of our journeys, it all comes down to us. Every choice and decision we made – are we okay with our choices? If not, turn around, or side-step. Whatever you need to do… do it. Doesn’t matter if we had the perfect story or not, we create the ending…make it worthy!

Never strive for happiness. Happiness is a fleeting emotion that comes and go. Strive for content. You can have a shitty day and not find happiness in it. However, you can have a shitty day and still be content.

Be a shelter for your siblings, family, or friends that need it. Light the way and bring them home if they get lost. Do this for each other because it matters. This is written metaphorically, so you will need to read between the lines and apply it appropriately. Follow your heart when it comes to this.

Which reminds me… listen to your head, but follow your heart – with almost everything: Relationships, marriage, parenting, friendships, strangers, career, etc.

Say what you gotta say. Even if it doesn’t end the way you want it to. This isn’t a free pass for being hurtful or rude, but don’t let things fester. Throw it out on the table and go from there. Sometimes you will have great conversations, sometimes you may be misinterpreted, and sometimes it may end badly. Say the words on your heart – and Jonathon, don’t let alcohol consumption alone enable this for you. Work on that one. Being vulnerable is strength, not weakness.

About vulnerability…. It’s scary as hell – I get it. But those ‘perfect’ people who never show vulnerability… they are a freakin’ mess and as unreal as they come. Maybe you are particular with who you show vulnerability to – that’s okay… but don’t run from it. Denying it leads to a host of issues… In the quiet corners of ourselves, we are all vulnerable and it’s what makes us human. For the love of God, be human – don’t try to be a super hero or stoic!

In regards to stoicism, ask for help when you need it and it’s okay to cry. There will come a day when you need help with something – nobody is good at everything. Drop your defenses and just get help with what you need help with. And if you need to cry – CRY. Scream at the corn if you need to. Ball up in a corner and give yourself a hug if you need. Point is, don’t stay there – refer back to ‘don’t quit’ and go get assistance. Whether it’s assistance with getting a mortgage, having a baby and being scared out of your mind, marriage, a lousy job that you question if you made the right move, or a fight you had with someone, etc. – seek wisdom and guidance always. Never be too proud for this. And listen, mull it over…

Moderation. Everything in moderation. Enough said.

Find and understand faith. This I cannot spell out for you. It has to make sense to each of you or it’s moot.

Always give grace – especially when it’s hard. This is especially important for it has been grace that has sustained me when all else failed. I hope you all come to understand this concept for yourselves and recognize what it is and the value therein.

Forgive – even the unforgivable. This isn’t about them – it’s about you. It doesn’t matter if they ever admit to wrong doing or hurting you – forgive them anyways. There will come a day in each of your lives when you will be standing at a crossroads – forgive or not forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to be an idiot and subject yourself to being hurt time and time again, but forgive those that do you wrong. Because honestly, you’re going to wrong others too – and we need forgiveness from others as well. If you don’t forgive, you will find bitterness growing in your hearts. We have spoken about bitter people in the past. They distance everyone from their lives because their bitterness takes over their hearts and lives – do NOT become bitter. Learn to forgive. If you don’t, you will grow old alone and… well, bitter. Miserable. Figure it out and forgive.

There are probably a million more things I could come up with Jonathon, but honestly it boils down to each of you. I believe we are ultimately responsible for our own choices (past a certain point in life) and we have to be okay with the choices we made. Not being okay with our choices – well, therein lies depression, anxiety, etc. And I’m not saying that you need to live perfectly without screwing up. My God, you’ve already screwed up – all of us have. The point is to learn as you go and make those lessons mean something. You know?

Live a good life.

You will each come to decide what a good life is and what it means to each of you.

And this answers your question.

I want each of you to live a good life.

What does that mean to you?

Figure that out.

You know the lessons I have taught you. You know what matters to me, but I am not you and you are not me.

We have to each come to this on our own.

It’s our own unique journey – this gift of life.

You only get one shot.

Make it a good one.

PS – I love you. And I’m proud of all of you. You all got this – this thing called life. You know what you need to do, even when it’s hard. Even when it’s challenging. Even when you have questions. I believe in all of you.

Love,

Mom

 

© 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.

 

 

 

 

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‘Gazoola Bird’ and ‘Hairball’ were used most often…

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My father once told me when I was young that I was looking for love in all the wrong places. I remember exactly where I was standing when I heard those words. I remember the circumstances. I remember the feelings.

I never told him then what I thought about his words, though I had a lot of thoughts on that idea. After many years, my thoughts became clearer.

The men I have dated and/or chosen throughout my life were not all shining examples of what fathers would want their daughters to date or choose. Growing up, my father had many synonyms; though ‘Gazoola Bird’ and ‘Hairball’ were used most often. You see, my father didn’t swear when I was growing up, nor did he use vulgarities in his vocabulary. I heard him say the word ‘piss’ once when I was a teenager. Maybe it was a result of his chosen vocabulary that he used creativity to express his disdain, I’m not sure.

There were quite a few ‘Gazoola Birds’.

I often wondered if I saw what he did not. But there is another angle to it.

He is not so unlike most of them.

I wrote a story once about how I judge all other men on the value I hold of my father. And to some, this may seem… judgmental. Perhaps. I try very hard to remain without judgment, but truth be told, as a human being – I question if that is possible. Most human judgment lies in human error, a lack of understanding many angles. And we often criticize what we do not understand. Even I am guilty of this, but that is a story for another day.

I have heard the stories of his youth. I would not be surprised to learn that other fathers were leery of him dating their daughters when he was young.

I have heard the stories from others, I have been a witness to mistakes, and yet to me he remains a diamond in the rough. Some see this. Others do not. Perhaps it is what we choose to see.

I have known many diamonds in the rough. To see beyond a rough exterior and search a heart is not always easy, but I do find worth within.

I disagreed with his statement so many years ago.

I was looking for love in many places, but I don’t believe they were in all the wrong places. I was trying to understand what love was. Many touched my life and contributed to my learning and understanding of what it is and what it is not. I have chosen some that others considered unworthy. And yet, I wanted to understand why. What makes one more worthy than another? Who casts the ‘worthiness’? If I saw what another did not, did that make it untrue? Who among us can decide worthiness?

I went on my own journey to understand what love was. It’s not always been a pretty road, but it did give many lessons and a lot of understanding. And honestly, I don’t believe I am done understanding this. I believe love is a life-long lesson.

© 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.

Knowing our regrets is not to imprison us, but to free us…

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“Live life with no regrets”

That asinine quote has taken over the internet. There are articles upon articles instructing one how to live a life with no regrets, how to die without regret.

Scary.

You know who lives life without regrets?

Narcissists and sociopaths.

There is a big difference between wallowing in regret, understanding one’s regrets, and having no regrets.

In order to regret anything, one must reflect to some extent.

And I get it, not everyone reflects. Not everyone can look in the mirror.

To take a good, long, hard look at one’s life and truly acknowledge regrets requires honesty with oneself.

If one cannot be honest with oneself, how then, can they be honest with others?

Mull that over for a while.

Our regrets are very personal to each of us. They tell a story, there is often a lesson, and there is often change involved – not always, but often.

There is a reason for regret, yet too few understand this.

One of the questions I often ask people, when I’ve passed the pleasantries stage, is if they ever regretted anything. I don’t expect details or stories. Though stories should be shared, because it’s how we learn from each other, but I get it, some are not sharers.

You know those people that say, “Nope, no regrets here. I live life with no regrets.”

It is almost immediate… I close up shop. I don’t trust those with no regrets.

Do you know why?

Because there is no human that has ever lived a perfect life. There is no one that ever made every right choice or did not hurt another human being.

Regrets require a process in order to have any ‘learning’ come from it.
We have to be able, in the quiet corners of our self, know our regrets.

Growing as a person comes when we understand what they are and why.

Growth leads to change.

Knowing our regrets is not to imprison us, but to free us.

© 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.

I pray for weird things maybe…

Four times in the last few years I have heard the words, “You saved my life”.

Those four words brought a mix of emotions.

For the longest time I believed I wasn’t enough to save a life.

I tried once.

I failed.

At least that’s how I viewed it for a long time – as a failure on my end.

I’ve done a lot of reflection and soul searching on that experience.

Can we save people?

I’m not sure it’s black and white, but what it is… is a heavy topic and a loaded question.

I am able to look back on my life and know exactly which individuals threw me a flotation device when I needed one. Does that mean they saved my life or were they merely in the right time, at the right place, with the right words?

Were they a vessel?

I wonder if I could tell them that I wasn’t trying to save their lives. I didn’t know their lives needed saving. And honestly I don’t know how to save a life. I’m good, but I’m not that good. I learned this a long time ago, but that is a story for another day.

I do know that I met them where they were – even in the darkest of places.

I sat with them as long as they needed.

I wonder if they would be surprised to learn that hearing those words brought me humbly to my knees.

For a very long time, I have prayed.

I pray for weird things maybe.

I pray that I am always in the right place, at the right time, with the right words.

The ‘right place’, ‘right time’, and ‘right words’ are without a doubt questionable and can be debated from a million different perspectives. And yet, it is neither here nor there, because in the end, if a life was saved – a life was saved – period.

Most of these conversations took place over the telephone.

If you ever read the day I got the call, you may find irony in the telephone life-saving-scenario.

I was at a loss at a very challenging moment in my life. I had no idea what to do. I was on auto-pilot big time.  A miracle occurred at the precise moment when I felt like I was drowning. I received a phone call. She didn’t take me out of the water, but she threw me a flotation device.

I will never be a savior, but I hope that I will always be in the right place, at the right time, with the right words. I hope that I am given the opportunity to throw a flotation device. And if given that opportunity, I will throw with all the strength that flows within me.

 

© 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.